SPECTRE (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 28 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Action and Violence, some Disturbing Images, Sensuality and Language

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Directed by: Sam Mendes

Written by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Jez Butterworth

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes & Jesper Christensen

SPECTRE just might be the hardest review that I’ve had to write this year and that’s not for reasons you might expect. While I’ve revisited many franchises over the course of the summer movie season in order to prep myself for certain reviews, SPECTRE lurked over me like a giant mountain that I had to scale. Before the month of August, I had only seen one 007 film (2006’s CASINO ROYALE). So I found myself going through a long (sometimes painful) process to watch/review fourteen entries in this behemoth of a movie series. This resulted in me gaining a newfound appreciation for the iconic secret agent character as well as a love for (most of) the series. To quickly recap on the Daniel Craig entries: CASINO ROYALE is one of the best reboots to ever grace the silver screen, QUANTUM OF SOLACE was a lackluster follow-up, and SKYFALL is my favorite Bond film of all-time. Where does SPECTRE fit into Craig’s stint as 007? It’s not as good as CASINO ROYALE or SKYFALL, but it’s definitely miles better than QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Though the early word-of-mouth has been mixed, I imagine that many Bond fans will find a lot to like in this film.

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After causing an international incident on an unofficial mission, James Bond has been grounded by M. As we all know, Bond has never been one to respond well to authority and takes it upon himself to complete his unfinished unofficial mission. What should have been a simple visit to a funeral becomes something else entirely as 007 discovers a massive international criminal organization known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). The leader of this secret society is the author of all of Bond’s pain (as he so eloquently puts it). Soon enough, Bond and the daughter of a former Quantum agent find themselves hunted by S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as he tries to stop a diabolical plan that would cripple the 00 program and the world as we know it.

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Like the other Craig entries, SPECTRE is remarkably well shot and scored. The cinematography and gorgeous locations kept me invested in the film, even during the less exciting portions of the story. Speaking of which, SPECTRE is definitely the first Craig film in the 007 cannon that’s heavily relied on the stereotypical Bond formula. By this, I mean there’s a world-ending plan, a cat-stroking villain with a penchant for evil monologues, a seemingly unstoppable henchman with a weird quirk, a clichéd Bond girl, and some one-liners. Those elements aren’t necessarily bad things, but this is a definite change of pace for a rebooted series that seemed to be going out of its way to humanize the iconic character and deliberately throw cogs into the predictable formula.

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The plot for SPECTRE isn’t anything groundbreaking or surprising. You’ve seen this kind of Bond movie before with Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan. This just happens to be Daniel Craig’s turn to play the game. You can easily predict certain plot developments that are pretty obvious within the first third. It doesn’t necessarily lessen the fun to be had, but I do wish the script had kept a couple of these twists hidden. Running at well over two hours, SPECTRE just might be the longest Bond film to date and you can tell. As action-packed and exciting as most of the movie may be, there’s a noticeable patch in the middle that drags.

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As far as the cast is concerned, Daniel Craig is comfortable as ever in the skin of Bond. This might be his final entry in the series and I’d be happy with him going out on a high note rather than sinking to the embarrassment of Brosnan’s final entry. Lea Seydoux (BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR) is a serviceable Bond girl, though she isn’t exactly given much to do other than be a heart-throb for James. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris all do well in reprising their roles as M, Q, and Moneypenny. Meanwhile, Andrew Scott is appropriately hateable as a cocky character with a very punchable face.

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The best characters of SPECTRE are definitely the villains. Christoph Waltz is having a field day as the main baddie. This man was born to play a Bond villain. Though it takes a while for him to really dominate the screen, he’s a ton of fun to watch. I loved every second that he was on the screen. Meanwhile, Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) serves as a formidable Oddjob-like henchman. Though he doesn’t have any dialogue, the chases/fights between him and Craig are a blast to behold.

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SPECTRE is definitely not on the same level as SKYFALL or CASINO ROYALE, but it’s certainly an enjoyable fourth outing for Craig’s 007. The film’s problems stem from a predictable plot and pacing that drags in the middle. However, the returning characters are just as fun as ever, while the new additions really sell this film. The action scenes are exciting and I left the theater more than a little happy. If this had come out before SKYFALL, then I think the general reaction to it would be more positive. As a whole, I really enjoyed SPECTRE and it’s on the upper level of the 007 pantheon for me.

Grade: B+

SKYFALL (2012)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 23 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Violent Sequences throughout, some Sexuality, Language and Smoking

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Directed by: Sam Mendes

Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & John Logan

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Lim Marlohe, Albert Finney & Ben Whishaw

To me, Daniel Craig is James Bond. Though the original Bond series had its ups and down, the momentum and fun was officially slaughtered by one really crappy Brosnan entry. The resulting box office returns and backlash from fans and critics alike forced the studio into rebooting the 007 franchise. This was a cinematic blessing. 2006’s CASINO ROYALE stands as one of the absolute best Bond films we’ve received to date (sitting ahead of GOLDFINGER for me). However, 2008’s QUANTUM OF SOLACE was a mediocre follow-up to that film. All cinematic sins have been repented for in 2012’s SKYFALL. This is a stunning return to top-notch form and stands as my favorite Bond film thus far (making me ridiculously excited for SPECTRE in a few months). Going in bold, new directions, SKYFALL is a 007 film unlike any other. Considering that it’s the twenty-third installment in the official cannon, that’s an impressive accomplishment.

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After a mission goes wrong in Istanbul, James Bond seizes an opportunity to fake his death and leave MI6. Enjoying an early retirement, Bond is forced back into duty when a cyber-genius psycho steals a list of undercover agents. It seems that the evil hacker has a bone to pick with M (Bond’s boss) and is doing so by revealing five names every week (getting agents killed in the process). Bond goes on the hunt for this cyber-terrorist and in the process uncovers a darker plot at work. That’s all I’ll say, because (unlike many other Bond films) SKYFALL packs a lot of unexpected twists and turns in its formula.

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It doesn’t bear repeating, but I’ll say it anyway. Daniel Craig is the perfect Bond. He brings humanity to a character that was once a one-note (though extremely fun to watch) charismatic ladies-man/action hero. Craig shows that there’s pain behind his tough persona and that occasionally seeps through. However, the most remarkable thing about this script is that it forces M (played once again by Judi Dench) up front and center as a main character. She mainly served as a side character who seemingly only showed up to berate Bond, but that’s not the case here. She’s developed into someone worth caring about and shares a solid chunk of screen time with Bond. Meanwhile, Javier Bardem is absolutely astounding as the villain. I won’t reveal much about him or his motivations, because I don’t want to spoil anything. What I will say is that Bardem played this psycho in a manner that no one else could have. He’s simply amazing to behold in the role. Finally, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw are introduced as two side characters who will be showing up in future Bond installments. Fiennes is a welcome presence as M’s superior and Whishaw is the new Q (and provides just as much comic relief as the older Q’s).

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SKYFALL is extremely well-written and not just for a Bond film. Instead of revealing the threat to us right away, the film takes its time to develop the story and we don’t see Bardem’s villain on-screen for almost the entire first half of the story. However, that doesn’t mean that the build-up and mystery isn’t compelling, because I was fully sucked into this movie for its entirety. The building, quiet tension only makes each of the plot revelations (including Bardem’s spectacular villain reveal) that much more sinister when they arrive. The action works perfectly and moves from creative set-piece to set-piece. My favorite of which involves a chase through subway tunnels between Bond and Bardem’s baddie. Especially praise-worthy is the final third which goes into territory that no Bond movie has ventured into before. It makes for a terrifically exciting climax and more than a few surprisingly emotional moments. The finale hits all the right notes and left me wanting to experience this movie all over again the second that it ended.

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Risk taking and a brilliant script elevate SKYFALL into being my all-time favorite Bond film (with CASINO ROYALE as a close second). SKYFALL takes the series into a new, exciting direction that is executed flawlessly. What else can I say about Daniel Craig other than he’s my definitive James Bond? Judi Dench’s M is fully developed into a main character this time around. Javier Bardem serves as a delightfully insane villain. SKYFALL is less jokey than previous Bond installments (with only a handful of one-liners that I could spot), but manages to be far more enjoyable, entertaining and resonates more than a majority of the franchise. SKYFALL is my favorite Bond film and I am giddy with excitement to see where SPECTRE takes us next.

Grade: A+

SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Language, some Sexuality and Actuality Violence

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Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: Steven Zaillian

(based on the novel SCHINDLER’S ARK by Thomas Keneally)

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall, Embeth Davidtz & Malgorzata Gebel

Of all the atrocities in human history, the Holocaust certainly makes an argument for being one of the most depressing and depraved acts of evil. However, in times of unspeakable evil, goodness can always shine through in the kind actions of caring individuals. German businessman Oskar Schindler put his life on the line and went above and beyond to save 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. Schindler’s heroic actions are brilliantly brought to stark life in SCHINDLER’S LIST, which also serves as director Steven Spielberg’s finest hour. This film is a masterpiece that is absolutely essential viewing.

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The time is WWII and Jews are systematically being stripped of their basic human rights. It is no wonder why Oskar Schindler has come up with a pretty ingenious, crooked plan to run a new company by employing Jews. Schindler is profiting off slave labor and reaping all the financial benefits. His Jewish assistant, Itzhak Stern, uses Schindler’s company to employ as many Jews as possible…much to Schindler’s dismay as he sees his business as a business instead of a safe haven. Though Schindler starts off as a uncaring businessman, he finds himself changed as the war continues and circumstances get more dire for his workers. This film tells Oskar Schindler’s story in beautiful and tragic detail.

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SCHINDLER’S LIST is ambitious epic that spans the duration of the Holocaust, detailing each significant step in that horrifying genocide. Despite being made in 1993, the film captures WWII Germany as best as it might ever be captured on the silver screen. There’s no possible way to bring all the real-life horrors to the screen, but Steven Spielberg definitely nails a suffocating atmosphere of despair that most certainly hovered over the concentration camps. Black-and-white cinematography lends to a timeless feeling, but also doesn’t shy from graphic visuals. Be warned, this movie is hard to watch in many places and frequently disturbing, as it should be considering the subject matter. At its heart, this is the story of one good man who did his best to save lives in the face of insurmountable wickedness.

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Liam Neeson is astounding as Schindler. Before Neeson became the unlikely action star that he is today, there was a quiet dignity around him. This quality shines through in Neeson’s Schindler going through a wholly believable transformation from cold businessman to unlikely hero. You grow to care about Schindler and appreciate every ounce of goodness this man contains in his bones, especially when he explains to skeptical Nazi officers why children and the elderly are essential to his company (thus saving their lives). Ben Kingsley disappears into his role as Stern who gradually becomes a best friend to Schindler as the years go on. Ralph Fiennes dominates his scenes as SS-captain Amon Goeth. Molding his portrayal based on actual testimonies from concentration camp survivors, Fiennes is scary and stone-faced as the Nazi. War can bring out the worst in people, but Goeth seems to have been an utter sociopath enjoying the benefits of killing without repercussions. Scenes between Neeson and Fiennes give some of the heaviest pieces of dialogue in the whole film, including a discussion about what makes real power.

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SCHINDLER’S LIST encompasses a lot of strong emotions. Oskar Schindler’s journey and selfless actions are inspiring and beautiful. The Holocaust imagery is harrowing and heart-breaking. I cannot think of one single moment where I was ever bored as this film covers a lot of ground with a steady pace that manages to capture years of sorrow in a running time of just over three hours. A scene involving the showers at Auschwitz is an agonizingly intense sequence and the ending is one of the biggest tear-jerking cinematic experiences that I’ve ever seen (I wound up nearly sobbing as a result).

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SCHINDLER’S LIST is deserving of every single accolade, bit of praise and award it has received since it’s release. Though Spielberg has laid down many cinematic corner stones in his career, this is the masterpiece that he’ll always be remembered for. War certainly brings out the worst in people, but also manages to bring out inherent kindness of genuinely good human beings. SCHINDLER’S LIST is a classic that deserves to go down as one of the greatest films ever made and one of the most important films that you’ll ever watch.

Grade: A+

My Top 10 Films of 2014

List by Derrick Carter

2014 has been a solid year for cinema. As with every film critic (freelance or professional), there comes a time of decision-making as to what the best movies of the year were. This list is all opinion based (like my reviews) and I can understand why people might not (and probably won’t) completely agree with every choice. In deciding how to rank my top 10 of the year, I noticed there was an equal amount of independent/foreign fare and big studio hits. This was unintentional, but is a nice detail that highlights how balanced this year really was for cinema all around.

Before I get into my actual list, it bears mentioning that I have not seen/reviewed every single film from this year (I plan on covering FOXCATCHER, INHERENT VICE, and AMERICAN SNIPER eventually). I’m only one man after all, so my selections come from the films that I’ve watched and reviewed this year. That all being said and without further ado, here are my 10 favorite films from 2014!

Honorable Mentions: BOUND BY FLESH, UNDER THE SKIN, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, FURY, THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2, and A MOST WANTED MAN

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10. BIG BAD WOLVES: I wasn’t terribly impressed with Aharon Keshales’s and Navot Papushado’s directorial debut, RABIES. BIG BAD WOLVES serves as a drastic improvement. At first, the story seems relatively simple. However, the diabolical screenplay toys with the viewer in injecting a pitch-black sense of humor that works wonderfully and a dark tone that isn’t the slightest bit funny. Things aren’t as simple as they originally appear and a haunting conclusion ensures that this film will stick with you. I originally saw/reviewed it in January and it has held up on multiple viewings throughout the year. If you’re up for a disturbing tour-de-force of horror that defies expectations, BIG BAD WOLVES should be on your radar!

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9. THE LEGO MOVIE: On New Year’s Day, I was chatting with a friend about how much I thought THE LEGO MOVIE was going to suck. This concept seemed doomed from the beginning and I was reluctantly dragged to the theater at the urging of my younger siblings. In all of 2014, I have never been so happy that I was so wrong about a film! Blending meta-elements, rapid fire jokes, and a hilarious storyline, THE LEGO MOVIE is 2014’s biggest surprise! The animation (which appears to combine stop-motion and computer graphics) is stellar. Tons of jokes are present so that it takes multiple viewings to catch every little piece (pun intended) that the movie has to offer. LEGO MOVIE is not only the best family film of 2014, everything about it is awesome!

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8. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST: The X-MEN movies have a good vs. bad ratio of 5 to 2. Those are fantastic odds for any blockbuster series. DAYS OF FUTURE PAST delivered the best entry in the mutant saga to date. This much-anticipated comic book storyline was fantastically brought to life by returning director Bryan Singer. In lesser hands, FUTURE PAST could have become a standard blockbuster with the gimmick of time travel used to combine both casts of the franchise. Instead, this film was a delight to sit through for myself and many film goers this past summer. Easily the best comic book film since Christopher Nolan graced the silver screen with his take on Batman. Definitely count me in for APOCALYPSE in 2016!

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7. NIGHTCRAWLER: Scarier than any true horror film that I saw in all of 2014, NIGHTCRAWLER is a truly disturbing movie. Disappearing completely into the main character of Lou, Jake Gyllenhaal delivers an award-worthy performance that creeped me out to the point where I was wriggling in my seat as he manipulated everyone around him. In a sense, Lou is a vampire sucking the moral decency out of everyone he comes across. As a dark, disturbing, and unflinching masterwork, NIGHTCRAWLER serves as cinematic nightmare that I can’t wait to revisit in the near future.

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6. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: This was the summer blockbuster that delivered on every possible level. It had grand action and amazing effects (those monkeys look so real), but also incorporated them into a smart story and complicated characters. While RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES was a huge surprise for everyone, DAWN has cemented itself as my personal favorite APE movie. DAWN blended spectacle and a fantastic plot so perfectly that it makes me shake with anticipation for the newest upcoming APES film (Summer 2016). Having seen RISE and DAWN, I’m more than prepared to bow down to our future primate overlords. This movie rocked!

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5. THE RAID 2: I watched the original RAID at its Sundance premiere and thought it was an impressive action flick, but a tad overrated in the end. This exhilarating sequel pulls out all the stops to one up the original in every possible way. While APES blended spectacle with an intelligent story, RAID 2 blends an intense gangster thriller with mind-blowing action scenes. I was exhausted by the end of this film and that’s the biggest compliment I can give any action movie. Each fight scene has its own unique spin so none of them blended into one another. A few that stick out in my mind are a prison yard fight, one of the most intense/realistic car chases that I’ve ever seen, and a stunning confrontation between two highly skilled, deadly men. Those are just a few of the phenomenal sequences that this epic-length modern action classic has to offer. It plays like THE DEPARTED had a baby with a Bruce Lee movie. It’s friggin’ nuts and I loved every second of it!

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4. WHIPLASH: How do you turn a protégé story about a young man trying to be a successful drummer into a nail-bitingly thriller? Apparently, you get Damien Chazelle to write and direct it. Though he is a young newcomer, Chazelle struck gold in this fantastic and deep drama. I didn’t like Miles Teller before watching this movie and now appreciate that he has some serious acting chops on him. J.K. Simmons, usually a side character or background actor, is given room to be the most intimidating antagonist that I saw in a film all year. He plays a conductor, but Simmons is downright scary as hell and entertaining to watch at the same time. Well shot, well written, well acted, and all around well constructed, WHIPLASH is a masterpiece!

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3. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: The evening that I spent watching this magical film was an enchanting experience. Evoking a sense of classic comedies and a fairy tale color palette, Wes Anderson’s GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL sucked me into its oddball world from the first frame. Ralph Fiennes’s Gustave H. and Adrien Brody’s villain had me breaking into hysterical laughter throughout this whole film. Besides the humor, there’s a unique sweetness to BUDAPEST as well as a compelling storyline (background happenings reward repeat viewings). GRAND BUDAPEST is sincere in its story, humor, honest emotions, and ridiculous nature. Cinematic heaven!

GONE GIRL, from left: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, 2014. ph: Merrick Morton/TM & copyright ©20th

2. GONE GIRL: Going into 2014, there was one film that I was highly anticipating. That was David Fincher’s adaptation of the best-selling mystery, GONE GIRL. The novel is acclaimed, for good reason, of having a nasty sleight of hand that trips up the reader’s preconceived notions. Fincher masterfully transfers that level of Hitchcockian suspense onto the screen in this deeply disturbing and haunting thriller. I didn’t spoil anything in my review and I won’t spoil anything here either. If anyone does try to give away the plot, slap them in the face before they can give away any detail. Though it’s really your fault for having not seen this film yet. Go see it! Seriously! It’s the smartest, entirely compelling and most intense thriller that I’ve seen all year. Once you’ve seen GONE GIRL, you’ll know why everyone is raving about it so much.

BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE), (aka BIRDMAN), Michael Keaton, on set, 2014. /TM

1. BIRDMAN or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE): What do I even say about this film? When I saw the trailer for BIRDMAN, I felt iffy on it. This looked to be a quirky comedy that could potentially be good, but might rely far too much on the gimmick of having a washed-up former superhero actor playing a washed-up former superhero actor. Nevertheless, I walked into the movie theater hoping for a good flick. In less than 10 minutes, I was under the film’s spell. This wasn’t just good or funny, this was fantastic and amazing. Telling the story in a stylistic choice that appears to be caught in one take (through various hidden cuts) and containing some of the best performances that this entire year had to offer, BIRDMAN is an extraordinary piece of cinema. I’ve bad-mouthed Michael Keaton for a couple of crappy movies he did earlier this year, but his performance really is something to behold in this film! There’s never been anything quite like BIRDMAN before and there’s never going to be anything quite like it again. BIRDMAN is perfection!

2014 was a solid year and produced a lot of phenomenal films. I hope 2015 is even better!

CORIOLANUS (2011)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 3 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for some Bloody Violence

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Directed by: Ralph Fiennes

Written by: John Logan

(based on the play CORIOLANUS by William Shakespeare)

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, John Kani, James Nesbitt & Paul Jesson

Shakespeare’s last recorded tragedy, CORIOLANUS, has never fully gone on to receive the acclaim of HAMLET or MACBETH. There are quite a few reasons for this. The biggest of which being that this play is not the easiest story to read or watch. The original text suffers from some of the same issues that RICHARD III and ANTONY CLEOPATRA have: far too many scenes that serve as quick exposition and lead for a longer running time than necessary. Ralph Fiennes wisely decided to take on CORIOLANUS as his directorial debut, as well as performing as the title character. Screenwriter John Logan and director Fiennes turned a very complex play into something accessible. The story has been relocated into an alternate present day Rome and modern technology has made its way into the war scenes. Action movie elements and a gritty atmosphere make for a thrilling experience that will delight Shakespeare fans and possibly intrigue those who don’t exactly care for Shakespeare.

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Times are tough in Rome due to a war with the nearby terrorist-like Volsci. Civil liberties have been revoked and food is being withheld from citizens. One general in particular, Caius Martius, despises the ordinary citizens and is very public about his low opinion of them. Being sent yet again into battle, Martius confronts the Volscian commander Tullus Aufidius, whom he has encountered on numerous occasions. After coming back home wounded and victorious (despite losing a whole lot of men), Caius Martius is awarded the official name of Coriolanus and runs for consul in the Roman Senate. Unfortunately for the newly named Coriolanus, public opinion is largely negative of him and he is soon betrayed by his own people. Banding with the now disgraced Aufidius, Coriolanus lays siege to his once proud country on a quest driven purely by revenge.

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Deciding to tell a Shakespeare play in a unique setting can play out brilliantly (TITUS, RICHARD III) or have a few negative connotations (ROMEO + JULIET). Luckily, CORIOLANUS is brilliantly executed. The incorporation of modern technology serves as a nice way to give exposition in a far more interesting fashion than a stage production or a traditional telling. For example, key information (delivered by messengers in the original text) is glimpsed in news broadcasts giving enough details to further along the plot and not diminishing any momentum. Another stylistic choice used is to play two separate scenes (one of which comes far before the other in actual play itself) at the same time. This means we cut between a relatively interesting conversation between two side characters and Coriolanus on a bloody battlefield littered with explosions. Far be it from me to criticize the work of one of the most celebrated writers in history, but this version of the story plays out somewhat better than the original text.

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The cast includes a variety of names that are a little unexpected to see in a modern version of Shakespeare, which also lends to the enjoyment of watching this performers have at it. Ralph Fiennes is astounding as Coriolanus. His character isn’t necessarily meant to be a sympathetic or likable person. Fiennes does lend real human emotion to the man shaped from both war and his domineering mother (played by the great Vanessa Redgrave). Brian Cox and Jessica Chastain are welcomed additions, even if they don’t receive a ton of screen time. Cox gives the most emotional and cynical performance of the bunch, jeering at his idiotic peers and feeling great sadness at witnessing Coriolanus transforming into an all-out monster. The biggest mixed bag is Gerard Butler. In moments, especially the battle scenes, Butler does what he does best in yelling and acting like a bad-ass. In the more quiet and subtle moments, he’s a bit flat.

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It’s not as if the film is loaded with action, but there’s a decent amount of on-screen bloodshed and implied violence. These war sequences are extremely well-staged and feel like a genuine modern epic mixing with Shakespeare. Shaky camera work botches a couple of otherwise cool moments, one knife fight is almost confusing as to which character is lunging and which person is being hurt. The biggest compliment I can give CORIOLANUS actually goes to the bard himself. It regards how shockingly relevant this story is in today’s world. It’s not as Shakespeare already hadn’t tackled universal themes (power, love, revenge, guilt, etc.), but there are huge political and social issues brought to life on the screen here that are possibly more prevalent now than they were at the time. The most obvious being the “glory” of war and the debate of dying for those who use you as a pawn. There’s also a not-so-subtle view on classism too. Props to both Fiennes and Logan for revamping an already relevant old text in an even more compelling setting.

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CORIOLANUS isn’t going to convince someone who already doesn’t care for Shakespeare into automatically loving the man’s work. It’s an interesting take on a lesser known play that will delight fans of the bard and interest people who are indifferent to old English literature. I’d argue that the film is worth watching purely to see Fiennes and Butler firing guns at each other while shouting Shakespearean dialogue. It’s pretty awesome that an adaptation like this still can be made in modern times and be absolutely compelling. There are a couple of problems (Gerard Butler’s mixed bag performance and some shaky camera work), but Fiennes dominating role and the fantastic social commentary far outweigh them. The story of CORIOLANUS holds up far better today than it probably did in Shakespeare’s era. This film comes highly recommended for those interested in this sort of thing.

Grade: A-

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