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Coriolanus: Updated Shakespeare Tragedy
Taking cues from films such as Baz Luhermann’s Romeo + Juliet, Coriolanus is a Shakespearean tragedy, set in modern times. It may require a bit more concentration than regular films but it’s a treat hearing the prose just roll off of the tongues of trained actors.
The film takes place in Rome and tells the story of an army general by the name of Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes). Stern, violent and anti social, he was nonetheless considered a hero by the people of Rome. When he decided to run for Consul however, his detractors used his rigidity against him and sparked a riot that had him banished from the city. In revenge, he teams up with his mortal enemy, Aufidius (Butler), leader of the Volscian army, to wreak havoc on the people who dared deem him a traitor.
Maybe because he isn’t hidden behind a ton of makeup and because this time around he has a nose, but Fiennes is more deranged in this role than he was as Lord Voldemort, and that’s saying something. He has an intensity that poor Butler, as his adversary, just can’t hope to match even though he does do a pretty good job regardless. In fact, the acting here is uniformly strong, but Fiennes is simply phenomenal. The only people capable of going toe to toe with him are Chastain, who plays his wife, and Redgrave, who plays his brutally chilling mother.
On the one hand the film analyses the connection between what the public wants from their politicians and the personas that said politicians present to them. Unlike every other politician in Rome, Coriolanus refuses to sugar-coat his words and openly declares his loathing of the people. His stubborn, idealistic nature greatly complicates his transition from the battlefield to the senate much to the chagrin of his mother - who’s probably even colder and more terrifying than he is. He’s a very ambiguous character and it’s this that gives the film much of its depth. He’s a bloodthirsty tyrant just like his mother yet also a bundle of intense emotions, be it love or disdain.
The film is a complete blood bath which shouldn’t come as a surprise in a film about an army general, but the intensity pervading the film takes the fights to another level. The Romans and Vulscians have a ‘fight or die trying approach’ to war directly inspired by their leaders’ complete contempt for their own lives. And while the cinematography captures the fight scenes really well - Aufidius and Coriolanus’ one-on-one fights are particularly thrilling - it does even better with the rest of the film. The protest scenes feel utterly contemporary and give the film a sense of immediacy; no mean feat when you’re speaking in Shakespearean English.
It’s not a perfect film but it's close and the acting, Fiennes in particular, is as close to perfect as you can get. Despite that though, the film’s main strength lies in the fact that it updates the play and makes it completely relevant to modern audiences. The themes that the play covers are ones that play out in our political arenas every day and it makes for absolutely riveting viewing.
If you are in the mood for an uncomplicated, lighthearted and a feel-good romantic-comedy viewing, then Nancy Meyers is the one to turn to for help. Known for movies such as Private Benjamin, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday, the 65 year-old writer-director – who is often referred to as the female version of Woody Allen – always delivers and she does so again with The Intern: a likable cross-generation comedy that is kept afloat by a dependably engaging script and a couple of amiable lead performances.
Set in New York City, The Intern is centered on Ben Whittaker (De Niro); a 70-year-old widower who has become frustrated with the retirement lifestyle and is desperate for something to fill that ‘hole’ in his now, mundane and predictable everyday existence. Luckily, his prayers are soon answered, when he comes across an advertisement for a senior internship program at an online fashion company, founded by the high-strung CEO, Jules Ostin (Hathaway).
Ben applies and is soon accepted, ultimately landing a spot as Jules very own personal assistant. However, Jules is not so keen on the idea and doesn’t really know how to deal with the unusually well-mannered senior, deciding its best to keep him at an arm’s length. Nevertheless, Ben – an extremely patient man who may not be particularly tech savvy but knows a thing or two about life– soon finds a way to get closer to his boss and offer her the much-needed support, just in time when her career and position of power is at stake.
There is something awfully comforting about watching a Nancy Meyers film, as not only are her movies pleasing to the eye –her movie sets have ended up wondering onto the pages of numerous decorating catalogues over the years – but there is also something terribly gratifying in knowing how her stories will turn out in the end. Straightforward and extremely likable, the same goes for her latest directorial effort, a movie which may not be on the same creative level as Something’s Gotta Give perhaps, but still has plenty of its own harmless charms – no matter how far-fetched they may seem – to earn a warm viewing recommendation; a stamp of approval aimed mainly at a slightly older audience.
Stuck somewhere between a buddy-comedy and a romantic drama, The Intern is not entirely flawless and Meyers seems to have had a little trouble in setting out an even tone throughout; additionally, the subplot involving Rene Russo – who plays the company masseuse– is never really looked into or explored. However, it’s the two leads that keep The Intern from falling apart as both De Niro and Hathaway bring so much heart and chemistry to their respective roles that it makes it awfully difficult not to be drawn into their white-collar world.
Easygoing, likeable and perhaps a little too safe, The Intern is not Meyers’ best work to date but, it’s reliable and entertaining. What more do you need?
Despite the familiarity in The Gift’s conventional, and somewhat predictable, stalker-thriller setup, Joel Edgerton – who writes, directs and stars as the lead – has managed to deliver a quiet and lingering psychological drama that isn’t all bad.
Tired of Chicago and its relentlessly cold weather, Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) have decided to move to Simon’s hometown of Los Angeles and make a fresh start. Purchasing a modern and uniquely designed home, Simon – a sales executive working for a computer security firm – soon begins his new corporate job, while Robyn – an interior-designer dealing with a case of mild depression – works from home and take care of their dog, Jangles.
During one of their shopping outings, the pair runs into Gordo – short for Gordon - (Edgerton); a socially awkward high-school classmate of Simon’s who wishes to reconnect with his old bud - and his wife - by showering them with gifts and unexpected house visits. Robyn is instantly intrigued by Gordo’s peculiar ways and wishes to get to know him better while, Simon is annoyed with his presence and wants nothing to do with him. Uncomfortable with the way Gordo is smothering Robyn with attention, Simon soon confronts him and asks him to leave them alone; however, Gordo is not willing to go away so easily.
The Gift marks the directorial debut for the Aussie actor, Joel Edgerton –previous screenwriting credits include 2008’s The Square and 2013’s Felony - who successfully handles the job at hand and delivers something that is both intriguing and beautiful to watch. Maintaining a sense of surprise and a hefty dose of stalker-induced tension, The Gift is far from an original piece of storytelling – Edgerton is happy to borrow from other similarly told thrillers – however, even though if the plot plays out as expected, there is still a certain element of surprise and allure to keep everyone engaged.
On the downside, however, the idea to incorporate the cheap – sometimes relatively effective – jump scares Blumhouse Production is known for, is what downgrades The Gift’s initial potential, while a couple of subplots are left totally unexplored. Luckily, the commitment from all three actors is what helps keep The Gift with its head above water at its with both Hall – as the somewhat lonely and insecure woman dealing with anxiety – and Edgerton – as the subtle and terrorising weirdo - coming out on top. Bateman, known for his deadpan humour, is given the opportunity to showcase his more dramatic side and for what it’s worth, he does so brilliantly.
Anchored by a few strong performances and an intriguing central story, The Gift is certainly not without a fault, but it’s got enough about it to leave it lingering in your mind after the credits roll.