Film Studies: This Week at the Movies

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In Focus: Coriolanus

Coriolanus—the directorial debut of actor Ralph Fiennes and the newest adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy— tells the story of a man twice betrayed: once by his own people and again by his own government. Though that may sound like the professional development of just about any politician these days, Fiennes adheres to Shakespeare’s original dialect but moves the story to a modern setting, much like Baz Luhrmann’s fantastic adaptation of Romeo + Juliet.

The film opens in a barren, war-torn town “calling itself Rome” as street protesters march down to a royal complex, demanding that Caius Martius, leader of the Roman army, answer for the hard times he’s responsible for in the country. Much like the occupy protests (minus the tent of dreams), the protests echo our country’s rising civil unrest, and Fiennes’ directorial approach utilizes many modern techniques to capture that essence. Hyper-real documentary-style, handheld camerawork, and staged CNN news reports of civil unrest give the film more of an authentic contemporary feel than most modern Shakespeare adaptations.

As Martius is publicly castigated by his countrymen, his nation is at war with the Volscians, a neighboring country led by Tullus Aufidius. Martius, a soldier, is more concerned with fighting his bloody war then dealing with the unrest in his country, and eventually betrayed by his own government and family and banished from Rome altogether. Broken, betrayed, and alone, Martius eventually teams up with his old nemesis Tullus to exact his revenge on Rome.

Fiennes’ Coriolanus captures the Shakespearian essence and expertly updates it for a contemporary audience, while still remaining true to the source text. A captivating and invigorating story in itself, Fiennes’ accentuates it with stellar action sequences and intense scenes of sordid violence, while maintaining a somewhat grounded sense of realism. Fiennes also stars in the film and is supported by a talented cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Gerard Butler (actually giving a somewhat worthy performance in a somewhat worthy movie), Brian Cox, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Coriolanus is a rare kind of film that manages to break conventions while still honoring the source material, and considering the great performances from not only Fiennes, but Jessica Chastain and, particularly, Vanessa Redgrave, it’s kind of astounding that the Oscars overlooked it. Still, Coriolanus is certainly the best Shakespeare adaptation since Romeo + Juliet, and probably one of, if not the best, film released thus far in 2012.


Also Opening:

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: Oh SH-T! Nicolas Cage is back in action fighting demons by turning into a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle, or something. Unfortunately this movie was not screened for critics (gee, I wonder why?), but judging from interviews, it’s still unclear if Nicolas Cage actually thinks this movie is his life.

Recommended for: Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Cage fans, and skeletons on fire.



This Means War: C.I.A. operatives Chris Pine and Tom Hardy wage war over Reese Witherspoon’s heart in this exceedingly drab romantic action/comedy. The only thing more disturbing about this terrible-looking movie is how much Chris Pine was paid for it. Still, his eyes. Sweet Jesus, those eyes.

Recommended for: Lovelorn C.I.A. employees, Reese’s withered spoons, fans of Chris Pine’s eyes.

The Secret World of Arrietty: The latest film from the Japanese studio responsible for such celebrated animated features as Spirited Away, Ponyo, and My Neighbor Totoro is already being hailed as a new animated masterpiece from the likes of The A.V. Club and The Washington Post. Considering the otherwise dreary competition opening this week, this film may be your only hope.

Recommended for: Tiny humans, animated humans, any human, really.

Local Pick of the Week- 2012 Global Glimpses Film Series:

See all 5 Best Foreign Picture Oscar-nominees in a special weekend-long series at National Geographic’s headquarters. It kicks off today with a screening of Ashgar Farhadi’s A Seperation, and continues through the weekend with screenings of Bullhead, In Darkness, Footnote, and Monsieur Lazhar.

Click here for show times and ticket info.