Watch the Bard Week: Coriolanus

Coriolanus is currently available on instant Netflix

One-Line Review: Excellent updating of Shakespeare’s play.

CoriolanusCoriolanus (2011) – Rated R

Actor Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut with this modern update of Shakespeare’s tale about the arrogant general who is banished by the republic he has protected at all costs, provoking him to ally with former foes and wreck a bloody revenge.”

He that will give good words to thee will flatter beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs that like nor peace nor war? The one affrights you, the other makes you proud. He that trusts to you where he should find you lions, finds you hares; where foxes, geese. Who deserves greatness, deserves your hate.”

We initially started to watch Coriolanus some time ago but had to quickly stop it because of our granddaughter. We had not noticed the R rating when it came on – be assured this movie is quite violent and not for the kiddies. We finally got a chance to watch it recently, sans child.

During the 90s, Ralph Fiennes quickly shot up the acting charts, landing the romantic lead in Wuthering Heights and being nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. He received a Best Actor nomination as the romantic lead in The English Patient and this would normally have cemented him as a leading man. Unfortunately the science fiction epic Strange Days and attempted blockbuster The Avengers (1998) were complete bombs at the box office and Fiennes was relegated to smaller films, smaller roles, and voiceover work.

In 2005, he landed the plum role of Voldemoort in the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately, when he was cast as Hades in Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans, they essentially made him redo Voldemoort. Perhaps this is what caused him to move into directing with Coriolanus.

Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s more obscure plays. Fiennes updates it, making it a modern conflict and using the play to say a lot of things about politics and the media. In this it succeeds quite well, once again showing the Bard as relevant as ever. The combat is handled impressively, albeit on a small scale. Coriolanus has a nice crowd-turning scene a la Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar.

Ralph Fiennes is quite impressive as the arrogant Caius Martius Coriolanus. Gerard Butler acquits himself nicely as his foe, Tullus Aufidius, in both the action sequences and the dialogue. Brian Cox, James Nesbitt, and Paul Jesson engage as politicians. Vanessa Redgrave shines as Volumnia, mother to Coriolanus. Jessica Chastain has less to do as Virgilia, Coriolanus’ wife.

The majority of Coriolanus was filmed in Serbia. If you read the credits, most of the non-speaking roles are filled with names ending in ‘vic’. It is somewhat ironic as Coriolanus details strife between the Romans and the Volsces. The industrial look found in most Serbian films is found here as well but it works quite well in context.

Fiennes’ direction is assured. Cinematography is excellent. Action sequences are exciting and Shakespeare’s marvelous language survives intact. This is the counterpoint to Taymor’s dreadfully campy Titus Andronicus.

Coriolanus has been on Netflix for a while so catch it before it disappears.


Nip/Tuck – Bad Doc, No Biscuit! week

After a solid month of horror movies, I feel like I should get back to something a bit more grounded. Sadly that will not be the case as the family and I are currently working our way through the sheer depravity of Nip/Tuck.

Nip/Tuck (2003-9)

A little shady deal here, a little ethical entanglement there — it’s a way of life for Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon), Miami doctors who own an exclusive plastic surgery clinic that generates as much trouble as it does cash. While shameless playboy Christian sometimes enjoys his female patients a little too much, family man Sean struggles to keep his home life off the rocks in this Golden Globe-winning series.

I really don’t know how to feel about Nip/Tuck. It is compulsively watchable but utterly ridiculous. The operations seem very realistic and are quite gory for television – not to mention squirm-inducing (so much for not mentioning it). Yet when policework enters as a serious subplot, you will tear your hair out screaming at your TV that that could never happen. It is like trying to buy Glee as a serious simulation of high school. Not coincidentally Ryan Murphy is the creator of both shows.

WARNING: The Carver subplot starts out promising in Season 2 but is maddeningly moronic in Season 3. Honestly it results in more than one of the most disappointing TV episodes I have ever seen.

If you are at all offended by sexual oh let’s say variety, then this is not the show for you. Male and female homosexuality, transsexuals, bisexuality, prostitution, pornography, marital aids, menage a trois, cradle-robbing, sexual blackmail, sexual dimorphism, rape and even bestiality are covered in this show. The sex definitely sells Nip/Tuck and is a large part of what makes the show so watchable.

Obviously a program about plastic surgery in Miami features beautiful people. Julian McMahon does a great job of playing Dr. Christian Troy as well as having the most perfectly groomed chest hair I have ever seen. It appears to be in his contract that he will be shirtless every second episode and have his butt shown every third. Dylan Walsh is fine as his upright/uptight partner Dr. Sean McNamara but strangely Christian the womanizer seems a more sympathetic character.

Even though the two men are the focus of the Nip/Tuck, the women often steal the show. Joely Richardson is wonderful as Sean’s wife and has piercing blue-eyes. Her real-life mother Vanessa Redgrave appears as her mother in several episodes. Dr. Liz Cruz, as played by Roma Maffia, is easily the funniest and most sympathetic character on the show.

Having grown up in Miami, I love shows that are set there. Sadly Nip/Tuck doesn’t take as much advantage of the setting as say Dexter or even CSI:Miami. Still the settings are pretty, the people are pretty, the cars are pretty, the houses are pretty. This is definitely a waste of time show but a very fun waste of time.

People Watch: Wow! There is an absolute parade of guest-stars in this show (mostly in the later seasons). Season 4 alone has Brooke Shields, Larry Hagman, Jacqueline Bisset, Sanaa Lathan, Alanis Morissette, and Rosie O’Donnell – each of them in significant multi-episode story arcs.