FlixChatter Review: Coriolanus (2011)

Coriolanus is one of the renown playwright’s lesser-known works that Ralph Fiennes has played on stage back in 2000. It’s sort of a passion project for him so naturally he knows this character inside and out. For his directorial debut, the British thespian translates the story as a modern wartime film set in a ‘place calling itself Rome.’ So the story is not set in the Italian capital city but a model of an urban war zone complete with tanks, machine guns, and camouflage. The media coverage and TV talking heads reveal a society in turmoil. Grain is scarce and its people impoverished and hungry, unsatisfied by the way the government, particularly its General Caius Martius, treats them.

Fiennes set up the scene using found footage of people looting, rioting, demonstrating, carrying banners of their general with a big red ‘x’ on it. From the exchange between Martius and the people, it’s clear that he has no regard for them. Martius is a warrior, a man of battle, but not exactly a man of nor for the people.

Even in the time he goes to the people to appeal to them and ask for their votes, Martius (who’s now called Coriolanus as an honor following the battle in Corioles) does it reluctantly. He’s not keen on the idea of promoting himself, and the idea of political campaigning repulses him.

The second act is much more politically charged, quite a contrast to the vehemently action-packed first act. The battle scenes between the Romans and the Volscian army, led by Tulus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) are reminiscent of The Hurt Locker as it shares the same choreographer, Oscar-winner Barry Ackroyd. The knife fight between the two arch nemesis is brutal and very, very bloody.

Just like most of Shakespeare’s work, its hero shares complicated relationship with the people around him. His relationship with his mother Volumnia is one of the film’s major themes, brought to life by a pair of strong stage performers, Fiennes and the great Vanessa Redgrave. A conversation with Martius’ wife reveals that Volumnia has raised her son as a soldier that bred such an extreme conviction on his part…

Had I a dozen sons, I had rather eleven die nobly for their country than one voluptuously surfeit out of action

The person who believes in Martius the most is Senator Menenius (Brian Cox), he’s practically his biggest cheerleader in his quest for political life. But the rest of the senate, led by the two Tribunes Brutus and Sicinius, rally against him and their schemes of manipulating the crowd gets Martius banished from the city.

From then on, what follows is the electrifying scenes between Coriolanus and Aufidius, as he appeals to fight Rome together with the Volscian army. The two sworn enemies hate each other, surely, but there is deep mutual admiration between the two. Aufidius is perhaps the kind of leader Coriolanus wishes to be as he’s courageous, but also loved by his men and his people. The homoerotic undertones is quite palpable here, and Fiennes revealed in the commentary (and in this article) that it’s what Shakespeare intended it to be, though more to suggest an obsession than a literal romantic attraction.

The political relevance of the world we’re in today and all the maneuvering and manipulation that’s going on is as thrilling as the action. Fiennes has proven himself a capable director here, surrounding himself with a massively talented cast and crew, starting with John Logan (Gladiator, Hugo) developing a taut script, and filming on locations in Serbia under Ackroyd’s capable hands as a cinematographer.

He’s also able to cajole great performances from his cast, and he’s assembled a wonderful set of actors to do the job. The critics praised Redgrave’s performance left and right. Indeed she was marvelous and also Jessica Chastain in a small role as Coriolanus’ wife, but I was mostly taken by Brian Cox’s performance as the seasoned politician Menenius. How this Scottish thespian has never been nominated for an Oscar is a travesty. “Coriolanus has grown from man to dragon…” his character said in one heart-wrenching scene, and it’s palpable that Coriolanus’ betrayal cuts deep into his soul.

Fiennes himself is at his most effective, delivering his lines with sheer clarity and intelligence. Coriolanus is a tough character to sympathize with, but Fiennes gives a fascinating look into a flawed antihero. He’s also chosen the perfect actor as his adversary. In interviews Fiennes said that he had wanted a ‘warrior’ to play Aufidius and who could be more fitting than King Leonidas himself. But just like in 300, Butler is just as efficient in the action scenes as in those that demand emotional intensity. The highlights in the film are no doubt the fierce face/off between Fiennes and Butler and the two men seem to relish in them. The knife fight apparently took two days to film and it’s as cutthroat as one can get. There’s barely any music playing during a lot of the action scenes, it feels authentically gritty and realistic, almost documentary-like at times but without the overused hand-held style.

My only gripe is that the scenes between the politicians and the people often feel overly-simplified. I understand that the timeline perhaps isn’t as swift as depicted in the film, but it just feels like thing happen way too fast how Coriolanus goes from hero to scorn exile. I’m not too keen with James Nesbitt’s performance either as one of the tribunes, he feels somewhat miscast in this role. The scenes of the Roman politicians with the crowd also didn’t seem to work as well, perhaps it’s more suitable for stage performance but it just didn’t feel right on film. Coriolanus as a character also isn’t as compelling because there’s barely any reflective moments that gives us insights into his motivations and why he despise the people the way he does.

Those are minor quibbles however, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and apart from the first act and the very last scene, it’s thankfully not as violent as I had thought. The use of Shakespearean language in modern setting is tricky but I think Fiennes and the cast pulled it off brilliantly. It feels a bit odd at first but after a while I enjoyed listening to it. I’m glad I ended up watching this on Blu-ray so I can turn on the caption however, as it helps me grasp the story a lot better.

Final Thoughts: If you’re looking for an intriguing political thriller filled with great performances, then this is the film for you. Once you get past the Shakespearean language, it’s surprisingly accessible and its themes are eerily relevant to our world today.

It’s been nearly two years since I first heard about Ralph Fiennes’ passion project. Well, after appearing in my most-anticipated list for TWO years in a row, I finally bought the Blu-ray. I’ve actually watched it twice, one with Fiennes’ commentary and one without. If only the special features had been more robust though, it’d be nice if it had more scenes of the on-location shoot in Serbia like I talked about here. Still, it’s certainly well worth the purchase.

4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen CORIOLANUS? Do share your thoughts on the film.

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Monthly Roundup: May Movie Watching Recap

Happy June everybody! Summer is officially here, yay! Summer blockbuster months are definitely upon us. I think starting this weekend there’ll be a movie worth seeing on the big screen practically every weekend!

But this month is quite lackluster for me. I only went to the cinema once the entire month, and even catching up on newly-released movies on Blu-ray has been slow. But like the last one, it’s a busy blogging time with no less than three blog-a-thons, as well as some other list-related posts I did. Here are some in case you missed them:

Ok, and here are the [paltry] list of movies I saw this past month…

Movies I haven’t seen before:

Re-watch:
Yes I know, it’s very depressing indeed, especially after seeing Eric’s and Ryan’s lists, I mean just look at all those awesome movies they watched! Hopefully I’ll have more time to watch a lot more movies this month, as this weekend alone I’ll be watching three new films starting with Coriolanus which I watched last night. I can tell you that after waiting nearly two years to see it, I wasn’t disappointed, full review coming next week. This evening we plan to watch Snow White & The Huntsman, and I also got the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus Blu-ray that my pal Vince lent me. I’ve been curious to see Heath Ledger’s last film.

Favorite May Movie:

Shouldn’t be a surprise to you eh? I still haven’t seen it again a second time, but we might do that once this arrives in the discount theater.


So, how many films did you get to watch this month and what’s your favorite?

CORIOLANUS official poster and report from Empire’s BIG SCREEN event

One of the biggest movie event in the UK just wrapped up last week. My friends Scott Lawlor and Claire Packer were lucky enough to attend the festivities. Click on the link to their respective blogs to read their reports of the event.

Now, one of the panels was Lionsgate Studio, presenting a bunch of movies including Coriolanus. I asked Claire to give me a report on it and she kindly obliged. So here it is below:

From boxing brothers to the legendary Sigmund Freud, the films showcased at the Lionsgate panel at Empire Presents… BIG SCREEN were a very mixed bag. Held at the O2 in London, BIG SCREEN was a three-day event giving film fans the opportunity to see new films, meet the stars and take part in all manner of film-related things. During the event I had my picture taken with C-3PO and R2D2 as well as taking part in a Padawan training session!

But, back to Lionsgate. Included in the trailers and extended footage were Abduction, 50/50, A Dangerous Method, Warrior and Coriolanus. Starring three of my favourite actors, I am very much looking forward to A Dangerous Method. Viggo Mortensen takes on the role of Sigmund Freud while Michael Fassbender is Carl Jung. Keira Knightley plays Sabina, a young woman rumoured to be having an affair with Jung.

Before I put up the report for Coriolanus, first check out the newly-released official poster (literally just hours ago):

Whoa, I guess we definitely can expect tons of mano-a-mano scenes between these two intensely macho Brits… like this bloody knife fight perhaps? I must say I’m a bit nervous about all the gruesome violence that will no doubt fill this film… but I’m still looking forward to it nonetheless.

Ok, back to Claire’s report:

Coriolanus is one to look out for, too. Starring and directed by Ralph Fiennes, it is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy. Three lengthy clips from the film were shown at BIG SCREEN. The first one showed some intense scenes of Fiennes – who takes on the titular role – and the army quelling a group of rioting civilians. The second clip showed Fiennes squaring up against his sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). The final clip saw Fiennes receive the honour of the name ‘Coriolanus’. Among the assembled dignitaries are his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and wife (Jessica Chastain).

Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia

What I failed to mention is that in each of the clips the characters were using Shakespeare’s original words – quite surreal considering it is set in modern day Rome. With this in mind, I would suggest reading up on what Coriolanus is about. I’m an English graduate but have always struggled with understanding Shakespeare!

Apart from the fact that Fiennes was in each one, each clip had something else in common: a sense of brooding and unease. To be honest, I’m not sure how easy it will be to watch – it does hold an R rating. The riot scene was very graphic and in the clip where he square up against Tullus, Fiennes’ shaven head was covered in blood – no doubt someone else’s.

With an all-star cast, Coriolanus is definitely one to keep your eye on. It’ll be out 2nd December 2011 in the USA and 20th January 2012 in the UK.

Report by Claire Packer – Follow Claire on Twitter


Well again thank you Claire for the awesome report! I can’t wait to see this even more now.

So what do you think of Coriolanus and the new poster? Share your thoughts below.

THIS JUST IN! ‘Coriolanus’ Trailer starring Ralph Fiennes & Gerard Butler

WAHOO!! What have we got here! I’ve been waiting for this movie from Fall of 2009 when Gerard Butler was first cast, and finally today we’ve got a trailer! I’ve blogged about it many times before, and even posted some behind-the-scenes pics from Serbia, as well as a guest review from BERLINALE earlier this year.

CORIOLANUS is a modern retelling of a Shakespeare political play, Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in the title role as the banished hero of Rome who allies with a sworn enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to take his revenge on the city. The rest of the cast includes Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, James Nesbitt and Jessica Chastain from a script by John Logan (Gladiator, Last Samurai, The Aviator).

So I won’t keep you waiting any longer, take a look:

WOW, that was intense!! I guess from some of the movie stills I saw months ago, I knew it’s going to be pretty bloody, and it’s quite eerie to watch given what’s been going on in England. I am so stoked to see this, and I expect great performances from everyone involved. “Coriolanus is grown from man… to dragon.” Yikes, that’s about sums up just the extend of Coriolanus’ lunacy that even his mother has no choice but disowns him.

Just a bit of trivia, though it’s one of the least known work from Shakespeare, both Fiennes and Butler have played Coriolanus on stage before, though this time Butler will be playing the nemesis. Fiennes’ decision to set it in contemporary setting but use the classic dialog is going to be interesting to see. It’s perhaps not the most ‘accessible’ films but given the stellar cast and the relevant subject matter, this is definitely one to watch for the big screen!  I hope this will be playing near me come December 2nd, 2011.


Well, what do you think, folks? Intrigued?

Exciting news updates for Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher!

I just want to share exciting news in regards to two of my highly-anticipated movies of the year: Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher, both of which will be released in time for Oscar season!

I’ve talked about both movies several times already, but here’s the quick summary on the plot and cast:

Coriolanus

A modern retelling of a Shakespeare political play, Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in the title role as the banished hero of Rome who allies with a sworn enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to take his revenge on the city. The rest of the cast includes Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, and Jessica Chastain from a script by John Logan (Gladiator, Last Samurai, The Aviator).

The Film Stage reported that The Weinstein Company will release the film on limited release on December 2, 2011. I sure hope it’ll make its way to Minneapolis on that time, too, as I definitely would make my way to any theater in town on opening night!

I love what my friend Sheri wrote on her blog JHMO about the story and the casting:

I’ve read the play (although it has been many years since I have done so.) It is a story filled with passion and violence and politics and themes like ambition and familial devotion, friendship, and betrayal. While some may instantly grimace at the idea of sitting through a filmed version of a Shakespearian tragedy (and I fear some of those people will never be able to open their minds to the possibility,) there are parallels to be found in current world politics and if done right, will resonate with a modern viewer.

It is my hope that this film will not only serve to prove that Ralph Fiennes has successfully joined the ranks of a mere handful of actors who have transitioned from in front of the camera to behind it and back again, but also to prove what a small but vociferous bunch of us have known for a long time, that Gerard Butler is a very talented actor.  More talented than his recent foray into romantic comedy and action adventure would have indicated; the talent that seemed evident in much of his earliest work and seemed to want to break out of the constraints of a caged serial killer.

I’ll post the trailer as soon as it’s available, but in the meantime, check out more details and on-set pictures of the project, as well as BERLINALE review.


Machine Gun Preacher

I don’t know if this happens very often as I don’t have much knowledge in Hollywood business dealings. Lionsgate apparently couldn’t accommodate director Marc Forster request to have the film released this year due to its full lineup, so Relativity Media stepped in to distribute the fact-based drama in the US this Fall (per Deadline) and possibly making an Oscar push for this flick! There is no official release date announced yet, but most likely it’ll be sometime this Fall.

I read some snooty remarks from some sites (one of which is a very pompous site in general) in regards to hearing Gerard Butler’s name and Oscar in the same sentence, but as you know, I’ve long believed the Scot is soooo much more than his 12-pack abs in 300 and or what you see in his recent rom-coms. I always think he’s a talented and versatile actor with varied roles in the past 10 years, as I’ve outlined in my post of top five Gerard Butler roles.

The film is inspired by the real-life preacher Sam Childers in his book Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan, a former drug-dealing biker tough guy who found God and became a crusader hundreds of Sudanese children who’ve been kidnapped and pressed into duty as soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.). I recently read Childers’ interview in Vanity Fair, and he’s definitely got a story worth telling. The caption under the photo on that article reads, “I found God in 1992,” says Sam Childers. “I found Satan in 1998.” The reference is to Joseph Kony, leader of the outlaw L.R.A..

Childers & Butler at the Have A Heart For Children charity event

In addition to Butler, the rest of the cast is an impressive one as well: Kathy Baker, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon (the soon-to-be General Zod) and Souleymane Sy Savane, the Ivorian actor who received rave reviews for his performance in Goodbye Solo. I’m also a fan of Forster’s work, especially Stranger than Fiction and Finding Neverland (Not crazy about Quantum of Solace but it certainly wasn’t terrible). I share Sheri’s sentiment about Forster on her JMHO blog entry on this project:

I’ve had a really good feeling about this one from the moment I heard Marc Forster was directing. He’s a talented and versatile director who manages to pull the best out of his actors. Monster’s Ball was brilliant and he not only got an Oscar -worthy performance out of Berry, but he got amazing performances out of Heath Ledger and Billy Bob Thornton as well.A nomination for Johnny Depp was among the seven earned by  Finding Neverland. Hell, Will Ferrell was nominated for a Golden Globe for Stranger Than Fiction. I’m a fan of all three of these films. I’m also a fan of Forster’s much-maligned Quantum of Solace.

Filming locations took place in Michigan and South Africa. Check out these on-set photos of Butler last Summer with his biker getup, complete with the mullet :D

Now if only the Weinsteins and Relativity Media would grant us trailers for these movies real soon, I’d be a happy camper!!


What do you think folks? Does either one of these movies interest you?

FlixChatter’s Most Anticipated 2011 Movies – Part II

Here’s the second part of the movies I’m anticipating this year. Again, I only list those that I’d most likely be seeing in the cinema. The release dates information is courtesy of Movie Insider and The-Numbers. I will update accordingly if there are changes, as the information becomes available.


AUGUST

August 31 - The Debt
Synopsis:
Twenty years after World War II’s end, three Mossad agents learn that a Nazi war criminal is still alive and set out to pursue him across Europe.

I’ve been anticipating this movie for a while since I saw this intriguing trailer, oh and what a cast! Relative newcomers Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain are quite privileged to be acting alongside seasoned thespians like Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds. Chastain who’s also in The Tree of Life and Coriolanus is quite possibly one of the hottest (and luckiest) young actress working today! I was afraid this movie would go straight to dvd when Miramax went kaput last year. Glad it ends up getting a theater release.

 

SEPTEMBER

September 1 - Straw Dogs
Synopsis:
James Marsden as a Hollywood screenwriter who accompanies his wife (Kate Bosworth) as she returns to her hometown in Mississippi. Her ex-boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard), a former high school football hero, sees her return as an opportunity to reclaim glory.

Wow, September is a slow month indeed, I kept looking at the list and the only one that I’m somewhat interested is the one above (as I like James Marsden). He’s back together again with Bosworth, who was his love interest in Superman Returns. Depending on the reviews, this could be worth seeing in the theater, but I’m waiting for the trailer/reviews first.

The only other one I might be interested in is Brighton Rock, a UK gangster-themed thriller starring Helen Mirren, John Hurt and Sam Riley, which probably will get a limited theater release here in the States. It’s got mixed reviews when it opened in the UK and premiered at last year’s TIFF, so it could be more of a rental-quality.

OCTOBER

October 14 – Three Musketeers
Synopsis:
A modernized re-imagining of the classic novels written by Alexandre Dumas that follow the story of a young d’Artagnan, who longs to become a great musketeer — one of the personal guards of the French crown. He encounters and befriends the contentious Athos, Porthos, and Aramis — three musketeers of legend and folly.


I’ve always had a thing for this classic tale, I mean one of my favorite guilty pleasures is The Man in the Iron Mask. Most likely I won’t be as enamored by this d’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) than I was with Gabriel Byrne in the titular role, but I quite like the cast of the three musketeers themselves: Brits Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans and Matthew Macfayden. I sure hope this won’t be as bad as the other Paul W.S. Anderson‘s films and at the very least it’d be a fun swashbuckling entertainment worth a cinema ticket price.

October 21 - Contagion
Synopsis:
An action-thriller that takes place in a worst case scenario of a deadly virus.

I don’t know much about this Steven Soderbergh movie but check out the cast: Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne and recent Oscar nominee John Hawkes. I’d watch just for the amazing cast. The premise kind of reminds me of the Dustin Hoffman movie Outbreak, but I’m curious what Soderbergh has in store for us in this one.


TBA - The Rum Diary
Synopsis:
Based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson with the same name, Depp plays an American journalist named Paul Kemp, which is loosely based on the author’s own life journey. Kemp moves from New York to the Caribbean with the hope of finding adventure, but instead finds himself tangled in love, jealousy, and violence, amongst his alcoholic American peers who staff the run-down newspaper.

This movie was actually in my 2010 most anticipated movies list, but it just kept getting delayed. Not sure what the problem is, can’t imagine a Johnny Depp movie not getting a distributor?? The premise sounds interesting and tailor-made for Depp, especially his connection to Thompson. I also like Aaron Eckhart who’s his co-star in this movie. Check out some of the on-set photos that my co-worker shot whilst vacationing in Puerto Rico. Hope the trailer will be released soon.

NOVEMBER

November 11 – Immortals
Synopsis: A mythological tale set in war-torn ancient Greece where the young warrior prince Theseus leads his men in a battle against evil that will see theGods and Men fighting against the Titans and Barbarians.

Freida Pinto as Phaedra with Theseus in the background

It’s like Clash of the Titans but Kraken-free and hopefully much, much better. Indian director Tarsem Singh first came to my attention when I saw the visual feast that is The Fall, which was filmed on location in 18 countries, including Bali for the Kecak dance sequence. I have a soft spot for the leading man Henry Cavill (the new Superman) and coupled with Tarsem’s knack for a glorious visual spectacle, this is definitely one to see on the big screen.

 

TBA – Coriolanus
Synopsis: A modern Shakespeare historical thriller on a banished Roman hero (Ralph Fiennes) who allies with a sworn enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to take his revenge on the city.

Coriolanus greets his mother Volumnia as Menenius looks on

Despite Vanessa’s dismal review from Berlinale, I’m still hugely anticipating this. Yes, I’m a big fan of Butler as y’all already know, but I’m also curious to see Fiennes’s directing debut and all the fuss is about Vanessa Redgrave’s performance as Coriolanus’ mother that there’s already talks of Oscar nomination for next year. I also love Scottish thespian Brian Cox who plays Coriolanus’ mentor Menenius.

Check out the behind-the-scene photos and additional stills and info about the movie. The screenplay is by John Logan (Gladiator, Last Samurai) so I’m still hoping the dialog would at least be pretty solid.

DECEMBER

December 23 – The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Synopsis: Tintin and his friends discover directions to a sunken ship commanded by Capt. Haddock’s ancestor and go off on a treasure hunt. Based on the Belgian comic series The Adventures of Tintin from Georges Rémi, a.k.a Herge that is beloved all over the world (but largely unknown in the US).

As a huge fan of the comic books that I still even read from time to time in my native language, I’m beyond thrilled that this is getting a big screen treatment, from Spielberg and Peter Jackson no less! I realize the motion capture thing can be a concern as it did with the ‘dead eyes’ problem with The Polar Express, as Darren pointed it out on his blog post about it. But I’m cautiously optimistic that it’ll be a huge improvement from the previous motion capture films and it’d look more realistic like Avatar.

TBA – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Synopsis: In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6′s echelons.

I’ve always had a thing about retired spy being called back to mission again, hence the protagonist in my first fantasy movie pitch Hearts Want. So the premise based on John le Carré’s novel intrigues me even before I saw the cast. But when you’ve got this kind of lineup: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock Holme), and Ciaran Hinds, it’s hard not to include this in my most-anticipated list. Oldman plays George Smiley, a middle-aged, taciturn, perspicacious intelligence expert in forced retirement. He is recalled to hunt down a Soviet mole in the “Circus”, the highest echelon of the Secret Intelligence Service (info from the Wikipedia page of the novel). There was a BBC miniseries back in 1979 starring Alec Guinness, so if any of you have seen it, I’d love to hear what you think.

I’ve been waiting for its release for quite a while but finally I heard news a few weeks ago that Universal will distribute this in the US (perhaps the fact that Colin Firth took home an Oscar had a lot to do with it?). A bit of casting trivia, Michael Fassbender was originally cast but was replaced by Tom Hardy. Not a bad trade, no, not bad at all :)

Maybe:

December 16 – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
I quite like the first one (read my review), I thought Guy Ritchie did a decent job adapting this with a modern feel and keeping it light and funny. I’m not a Holmes’ purist so I didn’t mind Ritchie taking a lot of liberty with the material. I think having Robert Downey Jr. as the famous character is inspired casting, and his rapport with Jude Law is Ritchie’s bromance at its most entertaining. So I might check the sequel even just to see them back together again.


Well, turns out there are more movies I want to see in the second half of the year. There might be a few I’m missing here but I’ll update this list periodically.

So, any one of these movies you’re eager to see? Do share what movie(s) you are anticipating that are not on this list.

Everyone’s a Critic: Reviews of Coriolanus (2011) and Laura (1944)

Welcome to another edition of Everyone’s a Critic! Today we’ve got two special reviews from two different genres, one is a Shakespearean modern adaptation, straight from its BERLINALE premiere (thank you Vanessa, you lucky gal!) and the other an Otto Preminger’s acclaimed classic noir (Preminger was nominated for Best Director Oscar for this film). In regards to Coriolanus, you’ve probably read some of the more positive reviews I posted here, but my friend has quite a different impression about it. Anyway, read on:

CORIOLANUS (2011) – Berlinale Film Festival review

– by Vanessa Weinert of TheMovieNess

A modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play Coriolanus, this film is set in the Rome of today. It is not the beautiful Rome that is usually seen in movies, but rather the run down parts of the city where broken houses are plastered with graffiti. Grain is sparse and “the people” are on the streets protesting. Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes, who also directed this film) is supposed to be the hero of this city but he despises the people. After long demonstrations, he is banished from Rome and finds refuge with his mortal enemy (Gerard Butler) who he fought with, almost to the death, only months earlier.

It is not surprising that this is one of the lesser known Shakespeare plays. The story is all about war and politics, not people. It is also difficult to get involved with any of the characters: Coriolanus is extremely unlikable, his wife and son are weak and boring, his mother too dominant and controlling and his mortal enemy becomes his close friend without a moments hesitation. This leaves us with “the people” but they are too easily manipulated to be taken seriously.

The mix of the modern setting and the old language didn’t work for me in this movie. I think a total adaptation would have been better. There is a huge focus on media. Cell phones and cameras are constantly seen in shots which seems unnecessary. We get that it’s not 400 B.C. It also felt strange seeing Coriolanus being banished from Rome because that just wouldn’t happen today.

Usually I think Ralph Fiennes is a terrific actor but apparently he needs and outside perspective and directing himself was a bad idea. He is giving a theater performance which just looks over the top and silly on screen. What we end up with are two hours of rage and arrogance, which gets boring pretty quickly. Butler has a surprisingly small role in this movie. He looks amazing (of course) and doesn’t overact like Fiennes does, but he is also in a constant state of fury. Overall there is just too much rage in this film.

With a cast like this it is pretty difficult to make a bad movie but Fiennes unfortunately managed to do so. As much as I wanted to like Coriolanus, it didn’t grab my attention at all. The only reason why anyone should see this movie is Vanessa Redgrave’s performance as Coriolanus’ mother. She brings some beautiful moments into this otherwise dull movie. I am not surprised that plenty of people left the cinema throughout the screening.

2 out of 5 reels


LAURA (1944)

by Vince Caro

I had recently watched Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island – with Leonardo DiCaprio (playing a federal marshal) as a somewhat cheap imitation of Dana Andrews’ famous role of detective McPherson down to the faux New England accent and authoritarian scowl. But in sharp contrast to Dicaprio, Andrews could look relaxed even in the tensest of moments (with the help of a little hand held game). While Shutter Island is a respectable technicolor homage to 40s film noir, I couldn’t help but go back to Otto Preminger’s classic whodunit in all it’s black and white glory.

Laura is unique in that it starts off with the title character already dead – murdered in her apartment by an unknown intruder. The film opens with David Raksin’s haunting and memorable score and we see our first glimpse of the beautiful Laura Hunt (played by the stunning Gene Tierney) – a vanity portrait as the main credits roll. In classic noir fashion, we hear the narration of Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb in an Oscar-nominated performance) setting the tone – announcing Laura has just been murdered and he feels to be the “only human being left in New York”. Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is investigating the murder with a slight suspicion of everyone within Laura’s circle. This includes fiancée Shelby Carpenter (nicely played by Vincent Price) as the disreputable playboy engaged to Laura.

The film begins to gather steam as Waldo offers McPherson recollections of how he and Laura met. These scenes are shown in vivid but dreamlike flashbacks. We see Laura as a young gentle ad artist, who charms Waldo out of his cruel and arrogant demeanor. In effect, McPherson paints a portrait of Laura in his mind – a beautiful, doe-eyed, naïve girl and begins to fall for her. He obsessively continues the investigation until a bizarre twist turns the whole case upside-down.

Dana Andrews & Vincent Price

In almost Rebecca-like fashion, the charms of the deceased Laura Hunt go way beyond the grave. The difference here is that Preminger leaves nothing to the imagination, instead serving us the picturesque Tierney, who I’m convinced is one of the most beautiful actresses to ever grace the screen. It is Tierney that keeps us involved in the picture and Webb providing its weight and legitimacy with his high-brow, curmudgeon and darkly humorous performance. Andrews is our everyman in this picture – hard-nosed, blue-collar and an outsider, somebody we would hope Laura would fall for in the real world. With that said, DiCaprio’s emulation of McPherson is honorable, but I can’t see Laura Hunt falling for it. Too much color perhaps?

4.5 out of 5 reels


Any thoughts about either or both of these films? Do share ‘em below in the comments.

New pics from two of my most-anticipated 2011 movies: Coriolanus and Jane Eyre

Happy Superbowl Sunday! I saw these on Friday but just finally got time to post ‘em. Now, these are the movies I wish I’d see the trailers during the Superbowl. These pics just made me anticipate these movies a whole lot more (if that is even possible).

CORIOLANUS

Coriolanus Russian poster

Thanks to gbGALS on Twitter, we got some additional pictures of the Ralph Fiennes-directed modern Shakespeare historical thriller Coriolanus. Fiennes also stars as the banished hero of Rome who allies with a sworn enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to take his revenge on the city. The stellar supporting cast includes Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, James Nesbitt and Jessica Chastain. Screenplay by John Logan (Gladiator, Last Samurai)

Next week on Valentine’s day, the movie is premiering at this year’s BERLINALE film festival and the Fiennes’ debut film is also eligible to compete for “Best First Feature.” There’s no info yet when this movie will open in the US but last Thursday, Deadline reported that the Weinstein Co. is in talks to distribute Coriolanus. Harvey Weinstein has distributed two of Ralph Fiennes movies before, The English Patient and The Reader.

Check out the photos below courtesy of this JMHO article and this post for some on-set pics in Serbia. Now all we need is a trailer!

Click to see a larger version (Top: Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave)

Click to see a larger version


JANE EYRE

At least for this one I only have about a month to wait as it’s coming out on March 11. The trailer of the Charlotte Brontë’s Gothic romance has been released last November and it looks really, really good. Soon to be A-lister Michael Fassbender has since been cast in Ridley Scott’s alien flick Prometheus and he’s also in another highly-anticipated flick X-Men: First Class. The strong supporting cast includes Judi Dench, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins and Imogen Poots. But what I’m anticipating most is to see Fassbender’s interpretation of my favorite byronic hero, Edward Rochester!

Photos courtesy of Ropes of Silicon

Click to see a larger version

Click to see a larger version (Top: Jamie Bell & Mia Wasikowska)


Anybody else anticipating either or both of these movies?

Photo Updates to Coriolanus & The Expendables

Woot, woot! What have we got here? Back in early May, I posted some photos of the Ralph Fiennes’ modern-day Coriolanus adaptation with the cast on the set in Serbia. Well, thanks to Collider.com, we’ve got some new stills from the movie.

Photos courtesy of KinoGallery.com

More stills available at the KinoGallery.com site

In the second pic, we have a glimpse of Brian Cox as Menenius, a slick politician (well, is there any other kind?) and Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia (Coriolanus’ mother). Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd is back to familiar territory after winning some kudos for The Hurt Locker, that last photo is definitely reminiscent of that movie.

In early May, a writer of The Guardian was on the set to observe the shoot and interview the actor/director Fiennes. The article states that Coriolanus has been described as Shakespeare’s least sympathetic tragic hero. Banished from Rome, he turns renegade and joins with Aufidius to march on the city, and that fact is actually what draws him in. “I kind of like his unlikability,” Fiennes says. On Butler’s casting, Fiennes said he wanted an actor with physical charisma. Someone the audience would believe as a contender. “People need to think he can win. Is Aufidius going to beat the s*** out of Coriolanus?”

Judging from this on-set knife fight still below, looks like this is going to be one gritty and bloody adaptation… not to mention explosive!

Writer Andreas Wiseman also posted his on-set experience and experience in the 30Ninjas blog. Looks like they’re going to use the Shakesperean words/dialog a la Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Sweeeet!

Coriolanus: “I’ll fight with none but thee, for I do hate thee.”

Aufidius responds with equal disdain: “We hate alike.”


Speaking of gritty and bloody, not much else conjures up such thought than The Expendables. Most of you probably have seen the poster I posted here, and now we’ve got the one featuring the full main cast. Funny how they start with a bald dude and ends with a bald dude :)

In case you’re at all interested about the plot:

THE EXPENDABLES is a hard-hitting action/thriller about a group of mercenaries hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator.  Once the mission begins, the men realize things aren’t quite as they appear, finding themselves caught in a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal.  With their mission thwarted and an innocent life in danger, the men struggle with an even tougher challenge – one that threatens to destroy this band of brothers. (per IMDb)

Looks like Sly pulls all the stops in the action stuff and the level of brute force one can jam into one movie. And if this photo of Jason Statham below is any indication, preposterous action sequences should be the order of the day!

How does one even get up ther … oh, never mind, just BRING. IT. ON!

The Expendables is out August 13.

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: On the set of Coriolanus in Serbia

Thanks to GBGals via Twitter, we’ve got some cool on-set pics of the Ralph Fiennes-directed Coriolanus in Serbia.

GB and Minister Sutanovac

Here’s an excerpt from this online forum (translated from a Serbian news outlet) on the on-set visit of Serbia’s Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac on April 28:

“I am very pleased that we have helped take this movie, which promotes Serbia,” said Minister Sutanovac, and he expressed hope that Coriolanus achieved notable success in film festivals around the world. He noted that the Ministry of Defense in recent years helped in the implementation of a number of film projects in Serbia and will do so in the future. “This is the promotion of the whole country, and all that is good for Serbia, it is good for the Army. We believe that such activities, inter alia, contribute to the promotion of military call and we are extremely pleased that participate in them.”

The shooting that day took place at the Military Museum in Belgrade.

Click to view larger versions

As I’ve mentioned in my previous postCoriolanus is Ralph Fiennes’ directing debut in which he’d play the title role and Butler is playing his arch enemy Tullus Aufidius. You can see GB in his military uniform, looks like he’s got his Leonidas’ buff physique back! :)

So, why Serbia? Well, just last month, Fiennes has this to say (via 30Ninjas blog): “Serbia and Belgrade work for us creatively and financially. It’s been a challenging film to raise money for and there were obviously business interests to consider as we wanted to make a film of some scale. The shooting costs in Serbia are comparatively low and we’ve had considerable assistance and support from the Belgrade authorities. A key location, for example, is the Serbian parliament and its main Senate chamber.

But more importantly than that is Serbia’s grittiness – the bruised battered quality of some of the locations. There are great contrasts in Belgrade between weary Austro-Hungarian architecture, the old communist style and early 20th century neo-classicism.”

Last month, the action flicks-focused blog also posted these two pics of Ralph in full military gear directing the movie.

Fiennes' dual roles as actor & director

The shot below involved tracking the angry crowd as they marched toward the vast grain depositories, carrying protest banners, anti-Coriolanus flags, pots pans and improvised weapons. On arriving at the heavily policed entry gates they beat their weapons on the rusted steel and started chanting: BREAD, BREAD, BREAD! The cry surged through the crowd.

These definitely conjures up images of The Hurt Locker (which Fiennes had a cameo role), though I think the only similarity is that it shares the same cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd.

This modern-day retelling of the Shakespearean play is shaping up real nice. With a cast that also include Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave and a script by John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), it’s poised to be a powerful indie flick to be reckoned with. Can’t wait to see the trailer soon!