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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.
Many were concerned that Disney’s revisit to the story of Jungle Book would find it hard to be as fun or as magical as the original. Luckily, however, with an excellent voice cast and an impressive array of visuals, The Jungle Book is something of a technical marvel which manages to retain the heart and the essence of the story’s long-established roots.
Mowgli (Sethi) is a young boy - a.k.a ‘man-cub’ - who was found abandoned in the Indian jungle by a panther named Bagheera (voiced brilliantly by Kingsley) when he was only a toddler. Brought up by a wolf pack - led by leader Akela (Esposito) - Mowgli has been accepted as one of the jungle’s own.
However, there’s one member of the jungle who’s not so keen on having a human living in their midst; vicious Bengal tiger, Shere Khan (the absolutely magnificent Edris Elba), worries that the boy will soon grow into a ruthless man who will bring nothing but destruction and devastation to them all. Coming to the conclusion that it’s in everyone’s best interest if he leaves, Mowgli embarks on a journey through the jungle where he meets and quickly befriends a friendly bear named Baloo (the always excellent Bill Murray) who convinces the young boy to stay, as he finds himself returning home to face Khan.
Infusing the story with plenty of heart and an incredible sense of visual grandeur, director Jon Favreau and writer Justin Marks pull together elements from both the Disney’s 1967 animated adaptation and Rudyard Kipling’s original collection of stories to great effect. In addition, there are refreshingly darker, less happy-go-lucky moments throughout the film, with Elba’s chief antagonist, Khan, being astonishingly affective as the villain of the piece, while Johansson’s Kaa is just as hair-raising.
The brilliant voice performances, which give their gorgeously rendered and astonishingly real-looking CGI-generated characters plenty of personality, charm and wit, is definitely one of the strongest aspects of the story, with Elba and Murray coming out on top as the most scene-stealing of the bunch. Sethi is equally wonderful as the young Mowgli, filling his character with plenty of genuine childlike wonder, while Walken is absolutely superb as the singing Gigantopithecus, King Louie.
Wonderfully told and gorgeous to look at, The Jungle Book is not only a marvellous technical achievement in filmmaking, but a commendable and surprising achievement in storytelling.
Pretty Woman director, Garry Marshall, returns to the big screen with the star-studded but helplessly formulaic ensemble comedy that is Mother’s Day; a mindless and unintelligent onscreen debacle which ends up delivering its uninvolving and forced storylines with a heavy-handed serving of cheep and cheesy sentimentality.
Meet Sandy (Aniston); a happily divorced housewife and mother of two whose ex-husband Henry (Olyphant) suddenly announces his marriage to young bombshell Tina (Pretty Little Liars’ Shay Mitchell). Her friend, Jesse (Hudson), is married to Russell (Mandvi); a man of Indian origin whom she has a son with but, hasn’t yet told her parents - Flo (Martindale) and Earl (Pine) - whose Texan roots and conservative nature doesn't sit well with their union. Her sister Gabi (Chalke), meanwhile, is in the same boat, with her marriage to Max (Esposito) – who happens to be a woman – also something that might not go down very well .
Meanwhile, Bradley (Sudeikis) - a widower whose marine wife (Jennifer Garner in an excruciatingly syrupy karaoke singing cameo) was recently killed in combat - is trying his best raising their two daughters, who are at the gates of puberty.Then there’s Kristin (Robertson); a young mom who is not sure whether she can commit to the father of her child, Zack (Whitehall), and finally, there’s Julia Roberts – and her wig - in the role of Miranda; a multi-million dollar shopping network mogul who's seemingly been shoe-horned into the plot.
Although Garry Marshall’s recent, similar efforts with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve have been almost unanimously panned by critics, one must say that even though they’re far from what you might call award-winning cinematic achievements, there’s always a comforting sense of predictability and familiarity.
Mother’s Day, however, overworks its interconnecting plot whilst trying to juggle far too many characters at the same time, without so much as pausing for affect. The jokes are painfully weak and sometimes even quite offensive, while all of the conflicts – if you can even call them that – are resolved far too easily to matter.
The only performance worth mentioning is that of Aniston, who manages to sustain a level of charm and likability for most of the story, whilst Roberts’ Ana Wintour-type wig remains as one of the film’s biggest highlights in a what-the-hell-was-she-thinking kind of way.
Sappy, disengaging, unrewarding and ultimately lifeless, Mother’s Day takes the occasion-based ensemble rom-com idea into territories that it may never recover from. Who knows what day they’ll tie into a film next – Halloween? Easter? How about Martin Luther King Day? Enough’s enough.