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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.
With many Americans still picking Thanksgiving turkey out of their teeth and others already embarking on Christmas shopping, Jimmy Hayward’s Thanksgiving-themed, animated comedy, Free Birds, is the first of what will almost certainly be a production line of hastily put-together films capitalising on the festive season.
Meet Reggie (Wilson); a nonconformist turkey who has always been viewed as an outsider for his ‘radical’ thinking. The idea of having himself – and the rest of his fellow-turkeys – fattened up for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, is a notion that doesn’t sit too well with Reggie. He continuously tries to warn everyone of their imminent slaughter, but his warnings go unheeded. That is until they realise the stark reality of their situation and throw Reggie under the bus to save their own necks.
However, much to his surprise, Reggie ends up being the White House’s ‘pardoned turkey’ and is soon sent off to Camp David to live the good life; lots of TV and a great deal of junk food.
One night, he’s approached by Jake (Harrelson); a cheeky and rebellious turkey who informs him that there’s a way of travelling back in time to the very first Thanksgiving, where they can take Turkey off the menu for good.
Intrigued and fascinated by the possibility, the duo soon find themselves jumping into the secret government machine, named S.T.E.V.E (voiced by Takei), and travelling back to 1621. They quickly learn, however, that becoming ‘free birds’ is going to take some serious work.
While the idea behind Free Birds might sound solid on paper, the final result is not. Essentially, this is not a film that holds the wide appeal of the likes of Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Kids will love it, though adults will probably find the cutesy humour and inattentive storyline difficult to engage with. Moreover, the endless-parade of product placements and tiresome references to other, unquestionably better, films only serves to undermine it.
The film’s only redeeming feature lies with its two leads. Owen, in his usual carefree and offhand style, injects the character of Reggie with enough likeability, while Harrelson approaches his character with conspicuous willingness and excitement. The rest of the cast is equally deserving of praise, especially Poehler – voicing Reggie’s love interest – who brings zesty and feisty personality to her role.
Despite Free Birds’ good intentions, this underdog story – or in this case an underturkey, if you will – would have been a lot better if it spent a little bit more time in the oven.
Based on a true story, The Frozen Ground comes from first-time writer and director, Scott Walker. The film focuses on serial killer, Robert Hansen; the man who brutally murdered between 17 and 21 young women during the late 70’s and early 80’s in Alaska.
With only two weeks away from his transfer out of the icy wilderness of the town of Anchorage, State Trooper Jack Holcombe (Cage) finds himself being pulled into the case of Cindy Paulson (Hudgens); a young prostitute who was discovered screaming and chained up in a hotel room, after an unpleasant encounter with local bakery owner, Richard Hansen (Cusack).
Much to the annoyance of his wife, Allie (Mitchell), Holcombe extends his stay to offer his expertise, especially since the local authorities seem to be getting nowhere with the case. Determined to help, Holcombe takes the troubled teen under his wing and examines all of the evidence at hand.
Despite having an alibi, all evidence points in the direction of Hansen – despite his reputation as a family man devoted to his community. But the deeper Holcombe digs, the more macabre the investigation becomes.
While Cage’s most recent career choices might not have been the wisest ones – see Stolen, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Trespass – the veteran actor proves to be a solid, reliable lead. His reserved and unforthcoming approach is refreshing, and with his hair relatively intact, Cage manages to stand strong in the face of a rather unfocused and fuzzy script.
Cusack – who last shared the screen with Cage in the 1997’s Con Air – is equally sound, as he manages to capture Hansen’s physical characteristics and threatening aura. Disney star, Hudgens, meanwhile infuses plenty of heart into the story as a young, damaged girl.
Despite the film’s relatively strong cast, Walker’s direction is a stumbling mess in comparison. Portraying a real-life story is often a challenge; audiences invariably know the outcome, so creating and maintaining a suspenseful plot is all the more tricky.
Unfortunately for Walker, the suspense and intrigue is weakened by gaping plot holes, needlessly gruesome detailand poor dialogue, which all ends up severely undermining the heart of the story.
The Frozen Ground is neither chilling nor as unsettling as it should have been. Although the film makes good use of the striking, wintry Alaskan landscape, it fails to both utilise the skills of its accomplished cast and, more importantly, it fails to bring what is a chilling true story to life.