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Whedon’s take on ‘Much Ado’ updates look, keeps dialogue

Fran Kranz in a scene from “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Fran Kranz in a scene from “Much Ado About Nothing.”

A modern take on a William Shakespeare tale tops this week’s new DVD releases.

“Much Ado About Nothing,” B: William Shakespeare. The mere mention of the Bard’s name has been known to send shivers up some spines. It conjures images of exotic landscapes, outlandish costuming and dialogue that bounces off our ears like a drop of morning dew doth slip from a fading leave.

That’s why you need to brace yourself. Joss Whedon, the man who made blond high school girls cool as vampire slayers and gave “The Avengers” its might, has opted to adapt Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” to the big screen. Whedon dids not chang the dialogue, something you just don’t do when dealing with Shakespeare. The downside is that the devotion to the original text doesn’t allow Whedon to show any of his own word skills.

The biggest oddity is that while this is a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s work, the film is shot in black-and-white. The hueless images may end up more off-putting than any concerns about keeping up with the Bard’s words. It’s a minor flaw in what should be an introduction to Shakespeare for those who have feared his work.

• “After Earth,” D-plus: Will Smith stars. M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi tale of a teen, Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith), and his military-minded father, Cypher (Will Smith), who get stranded on Earth 1,000 years after all humans have left for higher intergalactic ground.

Looks spectacular, but the direction feels like another Ice Age has arrived. And Shyamalan, who wrote the screenplay, has created a story that’s rife with cliches, full of contradictions in its literary allusions and loaded with performances that are a half-heartbeat stronger than a coma.

• “The Hangover Part III,” F: There is a certain amount of raunchiness, absurdity and juvenile humor expected from the “Hangover” films. The name itself makes it clear this isn’t a Mensa tea party. The name might suggest low-level hijinks, but “The Hangover Part III” never delivers.

If there were ever a movie made just to bleed a few dollars more out of loyal fans of the series, it’s this badly written, painfully paced flotsam and jetsam of the film world.

Also new on DVD:

“Transformers Prime Beast Hunters – Predacons Rising”: The 90-minute offerings wraps up the battle between the Decepticons and the Autobots.

“The Best of the Original An Evening at the Improv”: Features Milton Berle, Mort Sahl, Howie Mandel.

“Monster High: 13 Wishes”: Howleen gets 13 wishes from a genie.

“Europa Report”: Mission to find water on Europa turns deadly.

“Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series”: Includes 52 episodes of the animated series.

“My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas”: Minty will do anything to save Christmas.

“Power Rangers Super Samurai: A Christmas Wish”: Rangers are stuck in Megazord’s cockpit on Christmas Eve.

“Frat Brothers”: Coming-of-age drama about creating your own legacy.

“Complicity”: When a party goes horribly awry, a group of teens must decide their fates.

“Dancing Ninja”: An orphaned boy discovers his true destiny.

“A Day in the Life: Seasons 1 & 2”: Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s behind-the-scenes look at life.

“The Middle: The Complete Third Season”: ABC comedy starring Patricia Heaton.

“90210: The Final Season”: CW series about West Beverly graduates after high school.

“Doctor Who: The Terror of the Zygons”: Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) investigates destruction of oil rigs in the North Sea.

“Alpha and Omega 2: A Howl-iday Adventure”: Holiday movie featuring unlikely pair of wolves and their new cubs.

“2000 Yankees World Series Collector’s Edition”: A look at the battle between the New York Mets and the Yankees.

“Curse of Chucky”: Latest installment in the “Child’s Play” series.

“Thomas & Friends: Santa’s Little Engine”: DVD includes five frosty episodes.

“Shiver”: A serial killer gets more than he bargained for when he attacks a young secretary.

“Drawing with Mark”: Teaches children of all ages the fundamentals of drawing.

“1984 Detroit Tigers World Series Collector’s Edition”: Collection features complete TV broadcast of every 1984 World Series game.

“Bratz Go to Paris: The Movie”: The girls hit the runways of Paris in this spy spectacular.

“Zombie Hunter”: ’80s B-movie-inspired horror/action film epic stars Danny Trejo.