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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.
As far as buddy-comedies go, you can do a lot worse than Etan Cohen’s – not to be confused with the other Ethan of ‘Ethan & Joel Coen’ – partially entertaining and exceptionally raunchy Get Hard. Written by the director himself – along with the help of Jay Martel and Ian Roberts – the latest Ferrell & Hart coalition is promising of a few laughs, but, it’s definitely not for everyone.
The story is centered on a cheerfully unconcerned multimillionaire trader, James King (Ferrell) who is unexpectedly arrested for the suspicion of fraud and embezzlement. Outraged and willing to fight for his innocence, James soon finds out that his ‘type of people’ – you know the white-collar ones – are no longer protected by the judicial system and he is soon sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison.
Scared and worried at what awaits him, James – who has been given thirty days to get his affairs in order - soon comes across Darnell Lewis (Hart); a straight and hard-working African-American who runs the car-cleaning service in the garage of James’ firm. Determined to get as much help as he can get, James turns to the only man he believes knows a thing or two about prison. However, what he doesn’t know is that Darnell – who is more than happy to accept the thirty-thousand-dollars payment – is just as naïve about life in prison as he is.
Get Hard is not original nor is it exceptionally funny. Its lack of creativity shows and its love for conventionality is at times a little hard to bear. However, in the midst of all the vulgarity it so shamelessly finds itself in – the prison-rape jokes as well as sexual assault humor is a little on the excessive side but plenty funny if you allow it to be - there is still enough room for laughter. The jokes – which involve a lot of ‘back-door’ talk and other seemingly offensive behavior which some viewers might find a little hard to sit-through – don’t always land where they’re supposed to but, when they do, the results are rewarding.
The one thing that keeps the movie from falling completely flat on its face is the genuine chemistry between the two leads who have managed to pour in some of their best work into the mix. Ferrell is well, Ferrell and his oblivious and not-as-annoying-as-you-may-think man-child works well against Hart’s snappiness and fast-moving energy and the duo, although, not the most easy-to-love characters, succeed in delivering the laughs.
It’s stupid, funny and rude. It works, almost.
Aimed primarily at young teens – or anyone else who thinks that watching Mean Girls is the next best thing since sliced bread - Kyle Newman’s latest entry comes in the form of an inexpertly created and awkwardly told teen-spy-high-school-comedy-drama, who’s painfully characterless and senseless ways are probably better off left unviewed.
Working from a script written by John D’Arco - previous writing experience includes a relatively successful romantic short story titled, A Grocery Story – Barely Lethal is centred on Megan Walsh (Steinfeld); a talented teenage special ops agent who was raised and trained in a special spy school for orphans called PRESCOTT. Taught and brought up by the devoted and no-nonsense trainer, Hardman (Jackson), Megan – along with her fellow orphans - including Heather (played by the Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner), never really knew life outside the agency so, she spends most of her days dreaming of what it would be like to leave her current life behind and be a normal sixteen-year old American girl.
Luckily, she soon gets the chance to do just that and when a mission goes wrong and she is marked as MIA; seizing the opportunity, she quickly fakes her own death and enrols herself in high school as an exchange student. However, it turns out that life as a spy-assassin is a lot less complicated than a high-school kid, especially when a viral video exposes Megan to her arch-enemy - ruthless assassin Victoria Knox (Alba) - who is determined to wipe her out for good.
With a cast that includes the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Jaime King, Jessica Alba and least but not least, Hailee Steinfeld – the talented actress who was nominated for an Oscar for her biting performance in 2010’s True Grit – it would only be natural for one to expect more from the proceedings. Unfortunately, Newman’s inexperience shows as Barely Lethal – a movie that tries to combine the teenage-spy genre with the appeal of a superficial high-school comedy– doesn’t seem to know how to get the best of both worlds, resulting in one disjointed, clichéd and forced piece of entertainment that lacks flavour and character.
The action – excluding Ms. Steinfeld’s superb physicality, combat skills and manoeuvres – is riddled with a cheap and shallow T.V quality-like special effects and not even the presence of someone like Mr. Sammy J – who to be fair has had some questionable roles in the past – can help keep it grounded. Everyone seems to be game, including Alba as the pitiless killer however, the story just isn’t strong, smart or witty enough to handle the pressure.
This is yet another movie that should have gone straight-to-DVD; it says its Barely Lethal, we say it’s barely watchable.