The Lego Batman Movie ****

For those worried the Batman might lose his clipped, gravel-toned, conceited edge after the success of The Lego Movie (2014), fear not: Will Arnett gives his little black-clad Lego character an even bigger presence once again in an equally funny but far darker film, The Lego Batman Movie.

Bruce Wayne – aka Batman – must deal not only with Gotham City’s criminals and arch enemy The Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), but also a new police commissioner (Barbara Gordon, voiced by Rosario Dawson) with different ideas to his own crime-busting and an orphan child he ‘forgets’ he’s adopted (voiced by Michael Cera). Is Batman going soft in his old age, and will he and his long-suffering butler and ‘surrogate dad’ Alfred (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) finally get the family unit they crave?

While Batman revels in his notoriety on screen, DC and Marvel aficionados are thrilled by the blatant mockery of the Batman-related characters from over the years, accumulating in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight versions (for example, Bane). While the first half hour of the film is sheer glee for the adults, the kids are equally thrilled by the whirling colour, jarring movement and crackers pace as they see the Lego come alive. It’s a win-win for family entertainment this half term.

However, be warned: there are some very dark moments and characters in peril that might upset younger viewers. That said everything else is fairly tame, as expected with Lego, so there is no guts and gore, but little bricks flying all over the place. Kids will always love the explosions and mayhem, as adults marvel at the evolving creativity in front of them. A lot of the best lines are in the trailer, such as why does the flying Batmobile only have one seat? Answer: last time Batman checked he only had one butt. However, there are plenty more scattered around the film to enjoy, so you are either continually smirking or laughing throughout. That’s not to say there are not flatter moments where the same jokes are over-peddled, having seen their sell-by date, but the momentum is so erratic, you are propelled onto the next scenario to truly care.

Also, from a family perspective, there are morals aplenty to subconsciously be embedded in your little one’s psyche. This film is all about the importance not only of family and not being able to do it all on your own, but also (eventually) mutual respect – so important in today’s political environment. However, you don’t feel like you’re being bombarded with condescending messages like in some Disney flicks to the point of nausea. Little orphan Dick – who becomes ‘pantless’ Robin – is so adorably chirpy and excitable that you can’t help but be swept up in his gratitude as Batman gives him a chance in life. Of course, there are lots of delicious moments to savour as Batman tries to adapt to fatherhood while Alfred tries to control his ward’s inner child – cue wrong PC password moment that will have you rolling your eyes in recognition and in stitches.

The Lego Batman Movie is a Lego rollercoaster of a ride with highs and lows, and perhaps too many characters than it can handle on one screen and use to full comedic potential. Nevertheless, it is a marvel of an animation with a good pounding heart – plus you’ll all be quoting Batman in Arnett’s gruff tones for days to come.

4/5 stars

By @Filmgazer

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LFF 2015: A Bigger Splash ****

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Fans of Jacques Deray’s 1969 film La Piscine will be curious about this English-language remake by I Am Love’s Luca Guadagnino. The cast alone is a major draw, with Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson and Matthias Schoenaerts centred around the pool in question. This time, the simmering tensions play out on the Italian island of Pantelleria off the Sicilian coast, instead of the South of France.

Swinton (I Am Love) plays retired international rock star Marianne Lane who is recovering from losing her voice and living in self-imposed exile at a villa retreat with younger boyfriend, former documentary film-maker Paul (Schoenaerts). Both are taking time out – with Paul getting over an attempted suicide, when their sanctuary is rocked by the arrival of brash ex-music producer and Marianne’s former lover Harry (Fiennes) who brings along his Lolita-looking teen daughter Penelope (Johnson) that he’s just reconciled with. Harry has designs on getting Marianne back while Penelope is interested in Paul. Sexual tensions brew as dark clouds form over the whole unsettled affair.

Guadagnino’s palette changes with the film’s moods to entice us while warning us of impending danger. It’s like watching a stage production unfold under deliberate lighting changes, as the setting is as much a lead character as its actors. The telling first scene of change to come sees Marianne and Paul content as ‘pigs in mud’ – literally – as Harry’s plane flies overhead, casting a shadow over the couple. From that moment, Guadagnino uses light and shade to set the stage, dictating how we should feel to impressive effect.

As Swinton commendably acts as much as one can when your character has no voice, still invoking the required emotion at any one time, it’s down to Fiennes to invigorate and stir the emotional pot. This has got to be one of his finest performances in a long time. Harry is such a free-willed man tornado who throws caution to the wind that you are both delighted by and troubled by his presence in each of his scenes. His flippant remarks either have you scoffing or laughing out loud, or wincing with embarrassment or pity. The beauty is, Harry is equally bruised by past regrets that you cannot simply dismiss him. He’s the film’s devilish catalyst and anti-hero.

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Harry paves the way for Johnson’s Penelope’s unhealthy interest to grow. In fact, you could argue her character merely awakens the status quo from their stagnant slumber, as no one is actually happy, regardless of the stunning surroundings. To be honest, their imperfections are nothing compared to how the local law enforcement comes across in this film, including caging boat migrants in the town’s local immigration camp – a controversial political statement of our current times, if ever there was one. This feels like a deliberate red rag by the film-maker, but also acts a convenient comparison between haves and have-nots – the former still not getting it completely right with the whole world at their feet.

The film is perfectly cast, including Johnson who is usually ‘vanilla’ in performance, but always seductive (unintentionally sometimes) and easy on the eye though. Her laid-back delivery works in her favour here, as she and all the other characters play their cards close to their chest, keeping you constantly wondering as to their real motives. The only clues are Penelope’s reading material, making her less of a closed book. This goes to fuel the friction and distrust, leading to inevitable tragedy. It’s deliciously infectious, like watching a beautifully executed ‘whodunit’ developing in paradise.

Rolling Stones fans will also come in for a treat with lots of music, reminiscing and nods to their heroes, as Harry revels in fond memories of his former hell-raising lifestyle. It’s all retro hip – including the villa itself. Whereas La Piscine had a blue-bottomed pool, this one is a sheer piece of art in itself, formed like a natural sunken bath that’s both inviting and later constricting and broken-looking as it takes its casualty.

The inherent problem with the film is its ending and who is left that make for a damp squib of a finale after the emotional rollercoaster. There is also a strange tonal aspect that involves a final, semi-comical turn by local plod. It cheapens the emotional dynamism of the former. In fact the triumphant character we are left with is not necessarily one we care about the most. Therefore, there are no winners, leaving you flat in emotion.

Nevertheless, A Bigger Splash is must-see viewing for those who like a modern-day tragedy of forbidden longing, both in acting and setting. It could have been perfectly envisaged with a rethink of the ending to keep the momentum from fizzling out too early, even with the necessary ‘calm after the storm’. That said it is a successful English-language remake by a great emerging feature-making talent in Guadagnino – who has honed his skills in short-film-making – that rightfully stands alone.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Spectre ****

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The year’s most hotly anticipated film is finally out. Spectre pays homage to many Bond outings before it, with fans recognising elements from previous films that made them so memorable. While Spectre has something for everyone, it does not have that dark, rich emotional pull of Skyfall (2012), which saw the demise of female M (Judi Dench). It does have a couple of surprises though, sure to give those fond of Skyfall a thrill.

A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond, 007 (Daniel Craig) on a rogue mission to Mexico City and then Rome, where he meets Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful widow of an infamous criminal Bond was after in Mexico. In turn, Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation known as SPECTRE led by shadowy figure Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).

Meanwhile, in London, the value (and cost) of the ‘00’ spy operation is being called into question in favour of surveillance tech in a new Centre of National Security (CNS) housed across the river from the now derelict MI6 HQ. This puts M (Ralph Fiennes) at loggerheads with the CNS’s head Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott). 007 must covertly enlist Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to help him find Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of his old nemesis, who may hold the clue to untangling the web of SPECTRE.

From Bond’s breathtaking rooftop sprint while Mexico City’s ‘Day of the Dead’ festival is in full Gothic swing below, to octopus-tentacle-tickling opening titles sung by Sam Smith, Spectre sets out to thrill from the start. It’s slicker, sexier and better (and more impacting) than any glossy car ad before it – complete with a new pair of stunning wheels and another exhilarating car chase. This is how we expect our Bond to be served the last decade plus, from Casino Royale (2006) to now, like a Bourne action flick – the case of the chicken or the egg? The uncovering of the SPECTRE organisation is pure latter-day Bond in style and fight choreography too, with a touch of retro 007 in production design.

For those who crave yonder years Bonds, 007’s first encounter with Ms Swann harks back to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, for example, in a snowy location – Seydoux herself, a Sixties-styled leading lady, not to mention the traditionally curvaceous lady in Bellucci as the widow with a price on her head. Even hefty henchman Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista) has all the subtly of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker’s Jaws.

The big reveal will have Bond baddie aficionados either cheering from the seats or groaning in unison too, as director Sam Mendes and writing team John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth make a (tenuous) link between Ian Fleming’s characters, all leading to one infamous puppet master. Tying in nicely with this back home in London is the all too sad, real-life fact that spying is going the way of police profiling and CCTV – prevention first – as budgets get slashed. This is a very nice touch that gives Spectre an air of credibility, as times of austerity have finally caught up with the Bond franchise in plot only.

The cast of Spectre does a grand job of their respective roles, with Waltz being the only one who disappoints a little as he doesn’t have the opportunity to really channelling enough of that sinister Inglourious Basterds’ Landa malice that we come to expect. His character is rendered more comical and caricature-like than is possibly intended, even when his serious link to Bond is fully spelt out. In this respect, there is a vague ‘familiar’ similarity to Mendes’ Skyfall final scenes.

Spectre has its niggles and perhaps, as with every new Bond, high expectations to meet. However, Mendes does try to please everyone here – and does so on the whole, so it’s a definite hit as the chickens come home to roost and Craig hangs up his tight-fitting suit.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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The Grand Budapest Hotel *****

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Director Wes Anderson’s mind is a fascinating one, managing to engage us with imaginative characters and locations that have a warm but barmy feel to them. The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception, as theatrical and slightly obsessive as his others, but charmingly told. Ralph Fiennes has morphed into many characters over the years, and his delightful turn as camp, legendary concierge, Gustave H is one of the most splendid in some time.

The story begins in the ‘present day’, where a young writer (Jude Law) visits the notorious European hotel and meets with the current proprietor, Mr Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) to discuss how he came to be in such position. Jumping back in time, the story unfolds around about the time between the two World Wars, centring on Gustave H (Fiennes) and his flamboyant but attentive nature that won him many fans and lovers among his guests. One influential one is the neurotic, wealthy widow, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), who he has a close relationship with.

At the same time, a new lobby boy starts, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who is put through his paces by Gustave but soon becomes his most trusted protégé and usual companion. After news of the sudden death of Madame D., Gustave and Zero set out to visit her home then hear the will read by her lawyer, Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum). The consequences of which set them on a perilous adventure that sees them entangle with the late Madame’s hotheaded son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody), his henchman Jopling (Willem Dafoe), and police chief Henckels (Edward Norton). Meanwhile, a budding relationship begins between Zero and his sweetheart, patisserie girl Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).

The cast alone is a mightily impressive draw – as the trailer shows, but in Anderson’s brilliant storytelling fashion, each character is not squandered but has its place and curious significance, like a well planned, well written fairytale; you never get to learn everything about each one but enough to make them individually intriguing. There is an eager pace too, that never tires, even when Gustave is sent down in midway through. Everything is precisely choreographed. An understated comic genius is the vein running right through, with a delivery like a latter-day Groucho Marx production. With this witty underpinning, all lurid subjects (sex, murder etc) are effortlessly dealt with, without losing their impact or shock value – it’s a very clever balancing act. All in all, there are layers of fun to be had within exquisite design and palette.

The film flows beautifully, thanks to Fiennes as Gustave who is meticulous and as proud as his establishment. The wonder in watching Fiennes/Gustave is the gentile comments that are often fully loaded and his decorum that never slips in any provocative situation but also feels wreckless and almost self-deprecatory. This contradictory façade hides a very dark side that may just materialise at any moment, as well as an implied bisexuality. Anderson gives us a delicious, multifaceted character to indulge in while Fiennes proves how much of a natural he is at comedy.

Great comic support also comes in the shape of Swinton as haggard old dear Madame D. with OCD and a walnut-whip of a hairdo – as much a manipulator as Gustave. There is a sense that the only one without an agenda is stalwart Zero, exceptionally acted by feature-film newcomer Revolori. The actor must own a lot of the mise-en-scène close-ups without moving much of a facial muscle. Goldblum, Brody, Norton and Dafoe play panto parts that instinctively compliment the tale and its eccentricities. Anderson has coaxed the best out of his cast, including Ronan sporting a cool birthmark. There is a real sense of total belief in the success of the film from all involved. It combines, comedy, theatre, murder and mystery in one hoot of a time. It’s an Anderson delicacy, much like the tale’s baking, to taste and savour.

5/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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LFF 2013: The Invisible Woman ****

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Ralph Fiennes makes each new directorial project feel like a burning passion, a chance to reveal new elements to an infamous character. His Charles Dickens in The Invisible Woman sheds new light on a renowned author not so famed for his private life. In the title role, Fiennes strips down the celebrity into a humble, creative man full of flaws and temptation, throwing the full weight of his acting expertise behind the character. He does this with due care not to upstage the main subject, Nelly (played by Felicity Jones), and her harrowing life story. Fiennes’ Dickens merely illustrates the journey of one independent woman’s life but his huge influence on that trajectory.

The story is told from the perspective of Nelly, an educated young woman from a travelling, all-female family of actors who meets and forms a relationship with a married Dickens at the height of his blossoming career in both theatre and writing. She becomes his secret lover until his death.

Fiennes does well to establish his heroine in a scene from the offset, reminiscent of Jane Campion’s Ada from The Piano in her striding figure across a beach. This image alone tells us all we need to know about Nelly and her fiercely protective nature over her background. Jones is fully believable in the role, adding poise, elegance and a flicker of fragility to Nelly. The wooing game is gradually played out as we watch the standard confinements by the etiquette of the time saddled on Nelly’s young shoulders while Dickens reels her in with his carefree spirit and easy affability. It makes for an intense mating dance that feels as dangerous as it is rousing; like a moth to a flame. There does seem some lag before the consequences to the Dickens family are felt though.

Fiennes deliciously portrays Dickens, warts and all, forever toying with our opinion as Dickens moves between perfect host and brilliant writer and callous cad and adulterer. However, these different personas are skilfully blurred as Dickens retains our empathy at his own restrictions in then-society. The result is a love tragedy that feels out of control but ultimately ironic as both are victims and successors at different times. Abi Morgan’s screenplay accentuates this equilibrium, as Rob Hardy’s (A Boy) cinematography creates the right ambiance in the more intimate moments.

The Invisible Woman feels like a more approachable and mainstream offering than Fiennes’s art-house and theatrical Coriolanus. It is a true and solidly acted period love drama that British filmmaking is so skilled in effortlessly delivering. It is compelling as the characters flex their muscles in a constrained environment full of creative passion. It serves its purpose in exposing new intrigue in one of Britain’s great literary authorities too. Fiennes knows his strengths and returns to them full flow.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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LFF 2012: Great Expectations ***

Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell’s take on the Charles Dickens’ classic Great Expectations is a safe, play-by-numbers affair that neither excites nor bores but simply picks off key moments and retells the tale with some of the cream of British acting crop, plus some extravagant set design that you would expect from a big-screen budget.

The problem is this cinematic adaptation comes too soon after the BBC’s Christmas TV special so there is understandably an instant feeling of déjà vu when the opening scenes of the Kentish marshes roll, rather than something fresh to whet the appetite.

Pip (Toby Irvine and Jeremy Irvine) is an orphan living with his greedy, overbearing sister (Sally Hawkins) and her downtrodden blacksmith husband Joe (Jason Flemyng) who takes to Pip like his own son. One day Pip is invited to visit the mysterious mansion of the equally mysterious and wealthy recluse Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter) who seems to want a ‘play thing’ for her beautiful adopted daughter Estella (Helena Barlow and Holliday Grainger), but later reveals more sinister reasons for her sudden interest in him. Having had a taste of the high life, young Pip soon gets his chance to reinvent himself as a gentleman in London, courtesy of a mysterious benefactor.

With such a grand, theatrical literary work to hand, it seems this 2012 cinematic version missed a trick in teasing out the flamboyant melodrama that the Dickens’ work is well known for. Perhaps this is part of the problem: the sheer wealth of material in the novel requires far more daring than One Day writer David Nicholls has demonstrated to stay faithful to the story while spicing things up a little. This version lacks the creepiness and threatening nature of Victorian Britain, if nothing else.

Even the assured, impeccable acting from Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes as the dishevelled and (supposedly) frightening Magwitch does not instil a menacing fear or render you in awe of each iconic character’s next thought and move: both seem a trifle anaesthesised in their theatrics. Admittedly, Bonham Carter does well not to mimic her deranged Harry Potter character Bellatrix Lestrange, but a little more twisted malice would have been welcome, rather than her glazed-eyed, bug-eyed state in this. This was a part made for the actress, allowing her to draw on all her past character attributes.

Fiennes portrays a more quirky and emotional misfit than expected of the escaped convict, with a dreamlike back-story of bemusing blurred visions, but has none of the rough and ready persona of Ray Winstone’s TV version. Still, Fiennes’ more amenable take allows Newell to explore the intriguing paternal angle between fatherless Pip and Magwitch and the effects on Pip’s fragile psyche, which gives this film in its latter scenes a harrowing, melancholy feel.

Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Grainger are far more commendable and suited to the roles of Pip and Estella than the BBC’s poster boy Douglas Booth and bland Vanessa Kirby. There is certainly more fight to Irvine’s portrayal and tragic lost soul, and Grainger injects greater spite into the womanly Estella than Kirby ever did. In fact, there is a more believable element of ‘damaged personalities’ at play to their individual performances that makes their search for love and happiness all the more heartbreaking to witness. This has got to be one of the earliest ‘child grooming’ stories to date, in a sense.

Newell’s Great Expectations is not the version to top all cinematic versions, not coming close to the atmospheric high drama of David Lean’s 1946 outing. However, Dickens fans will be appeased by the splendid cast at their disposal, minus weird and mind-bending dream sequences aside – an excuse to gloss over relaying key emotions and happenings in the novel, and will find the remainder an admirable watch of highbrow production values.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Wrath of the Titans (3D)**

For a sequel bursting and ablaze with special effects and offering far better 3D this time around – as it wasn’t done haphazardly in post production, director Jonathan Liebesman’s take on Greek mythology is surprisingly bland. Unfortunately for him, it’s a combination of bland script and even blander lead in Sam Worthington. Worthington is like the Nigel Mansell of the acting world; performing adequately and a rather likeable chap but never setting the world (or screen) alight.

It’s as though Liebesman relies heavily on his effects to inject excitement into Wrath of the Titans (3D) as the rest is a confusing and often eye-torturous visual muddle that smacks of the hell-fire visuals of Lord of the Rings – and you expect Frodo to pop up at any second and save the day too.

In the sequel to Clash of the Titans, and a decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, demigod Perseus (Worthington), son of god Zeus (Liam Neeson), wants to live a quiet fisherman’s life with his son, Helius (John Bell). But a struggle for supremacy between the gods and the Titans and a weakening deity devotion from humanity sees a deadly alliance form between Perseus’s uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and estranged brother Ares (Édgar Ramírez) to resurrect their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades and Poseidon (Danny Huston).

After Poseidon’s death, Zeus is captured and his godly powers are siphoned to bring Kronos back from the dead. It is down to Perseus to save his father, the gods and humanity, with help from his wayward cousin, demigod Agenor (Toby Kebbell), Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and toolmaker to the gods Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), before the Titans’ strength grows stronger.

The sequel is all about its visual glory, and is perfectly suited to an IMAX screen for grand, eye-goggling effect. The downside to this is Liebesman’s choice of frenetic camerawork (by Ben Davis) in the first attack scene to depict utter chaos sets off a bout of motion sickness then has you playing catch-up afterwards as your sight attempts to return to normal. It’s near impossible to decipher any detail at this moment, which is a shame for getting a sense of the terror to come – and there are some interesting, two-headed beasts sent from the underworld to attack, but you have little time to register exactly what Perseus and townsfolk are up against before careering into the next shot.

The design in the film is pretty spectacular, recreating the earthy look and feel of ancient Greece, but again, you can’t help making comparisons with LOTR and Gandalf the Grey and Saruman when Neeson and Fiennes appear on the screen, confronted with the scorching, volcanic presence of Kronos. Even the usually captivating evil that the real-life, gentle Fiennes seems to offer up on tap – after Voldermort and other such characters – is sadly missing in this. It’s all rather camp in fact, with big names in tunic fancy dress. Oh, and just exactly why Kronos is so dangerous to gods and man is never fully realised too, in all the time it takes for his rocky presence to awaken.

Kebbell and Nighy provide the intentional comedy factor, but mumble off into the distance with their lines all the time, like sorry and forgotten Life of Brian extras. Pike provides the glamour and sense of purpose and strength – taken over from Alexa Davalos in the last film. Indeed, the choice of cast is a fitting one, but it just goes to show how a bad script can spoil an affair. However, Worthington, though a calming presence in the midst of visual bedlam, just falls short of the mark of being a convincing hero and worthy victor – he’s just too laid back to rally us together at the sound of the war cry, and it’s left to Pike/Andromeda’s leadership and determination in the battle scenes to get the juices flowing.

For all its obvious faults, Wrath is still highly entertaining though, because of the latter and the silliness and camp factor. It’s a lesson in producing effects for the even bigger IMAX screen too – and when is best and best not to use frenetic camerawork and choppy editing values. Expect an action-stuffed 3D extravaganza with very little subtext to it – minus eight-legged horses and double vision of the 2010 film, and you’ll come away with a smile on your face but strained eyeballs and a queasiness in the belly.

2/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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LFF 2011: Coriolanus ***

Part The Hurt Locker meets Shakespearean war documentary, debut director Ralph Fiennes thrashes out the sound of conflict with a war of words in his cinema adaptation of his acclaimed stage play, and the British bard’s tragedy, Coriolanus.

Refusing to pander to popular rule and the wishes of his dominant mother, Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), celebrated Roman general and war veteran Caius Marcius Coriolanus (Fiennes) is thus banished from Rome and takes his revenge on the city by siding with his sworn enemy, the Volscian army, led by Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). Fearing for the destruction of Rome, the failed politicians send Volumnia and his wife, Virgilia (Jessica Chastain), and son to plead with Coriolanus. His mother succeeds, and Coriolanus returns to the Volscian to declare a treaty between the two sides, only for Aufidius’s men to kill Coriolanus for his betrayal.

Coriolanus has been played by such greats as Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton and Ian McKellen, but with his resounding success on stage in close friend Jonathan Kent’s production at the Almeida in 2000, Fiennes is the obvious fit in the film’s lead role, having already made the part his own and knowing it inside out. Again, the usually shy and nervous actor draws out such power and pose, reaching into his darker being like a Shakespearean Voldermort, that you cannot help but watch him in awe. He injects such focused meaning into the Shakespearean word adapted by John Logan that it becomes a visual weapon itself, rather than the result of the words spoken alone.

However, much as the contemporary setting is fitting for the volatility, what with instability in and popular discontent with government in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region, there is still an sizable element of adjustment as you try to marry the war-torn combat imagery with the older verse. This might leave some alienated and playing catch-up with the storyline – or worse still, turn the viewer off completely, after being lured by the big names. Again, those resigned to letting the power of the word and general ideals of populist revolution rise to the surface will find this enthralling.

In addition to Fiennes, some British acting elite helps turn this into a cinematic gold. Redgrave gives one of her career-defining performances in the harrowing mother-son confrontation scene. Butler growls and dominates the frame, drawing on his battle-hardened 300 characteristics once more to thrill fans. The only rather odd factor is a brief on-screen news report from Channel 4’s Jon Snow that feels totally out of context in the contemporary Roman/The Balkans environment.

In conclusion, Fiennes brings Shakespearean passion to the masses, reiterating that the Bard’s word is still as relevant in today’s politics as it was back in the 17th Century. Coriolanus roars its way into cinemas with full gusto and without taking any prisoners – like witnessing Fiennes going into thespian battle.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ****

It’s the battle to end all battles, the finale to end all finales after a successful ten-year film run, with a cast who have grown into their roles and made the J.K. Rowling characters their own. A lot of the emotion felt whilst watching Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows stems not only from events whipping you up into a frenzy for the ultimate standoff – Potter verses Voldemort, but also because it slowly hits you that it’s an end of a era that has shaped lives of all ages. Only fans will get the full impact – anyone else just wouldn’t contemplate watching it, unless forced to. As for the 3D, it adds very little to the overall viewing pleasure, almost hindering it in places because it’s a converted 2D film (and shows in areas), so you don’t need to fork out more to gain any added value. Enough said there, really.

The forces of good and evil clash at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, turning the much-loved school into a battleground, and putting all in danger. The pupils rely on Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) to lead them to victory, but are tested to their limits, emotionally and physically, by Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) advancing army that lies in wait for attack. But it’s Potter who may be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice as he attempts to kill the Horcruxes and Voldemort, with the final one possibly leading to his own demise.

Director David Yates, who brought the last two Potter films to the big screen, does not disappoint at all, giving us what we’ve waited for; a highly emotive, moody visual action spectacle as the dark clouds draw over the battleground that’s full of witches, wizards, werewolves, dragons, stone armies, tolls etc, resembling the deeply turbulent battle scenes from LOTR: Return of the King. He has us zooming in and out of the action and flying objects, barely allowing pause for thought in some cases. The sheer destruction is striking, but the overwhelming camaraderie and love delivered by the characters making their stand stops you weeping into your popcorn at the cherished institution’s crumbling demise. Some panoramic wides do allow you a proud moment of reflection though at what you have been party to all these years, bringing Rowling’s pages fully to life.

But long before the clouds form over the school and the Potter Army reject Voldemort’s chilling demands, we have a brief catch up with the current situation of our three heroes; Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) that reconnects us with the actors after last year’s more subdued and very lengthy Part 1, and vitally re-establishes the importance of obtaining the last of the Deathly Hallows – the Elder Wand to take Voldemort out.

Yates instantly sets the trio on the trail of the last couple of Horcruxes, which includes a fascinating imitation by Helena Bonham Carter of Hermione/Watson as Bellatrix in Gringotts Bank. We are then treated to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom escape ride through the cavernous vaults of Gringotts Bank that sets the epic stage for the action to come.

It’s obvious that Yates and co are keen to get to the Horcrux if the story, so the whole of Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) back story about his estranged relationship with his brother Aberforth (Ciarán Hinds) and sister Ariana (Hebe Beardsall) and his dubious past antics are briefly touched on but not explored, either because it would delay the finale, or it just didn’t work well on film. Some fans may be disappointed that they don’t get to experience elements of Dumbledore’s darker side in this, and it doesn’t really adequately explain Aberforth’s sudden change of heart and defiant appearance in the grounds of Hogwarts, fighting with Potter.

In fact, the film shows each character’s good and bad points, which is important in the soul-searching conclusion. The most fleshed out is the story of Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) and his vital memory that makes the big reveal of Potter’s purpose. Thankfully, the filmmakers do not dwell visually on Snape’s death, but it doesn’t make Nagini’s attacks any less frightening, so some children may have trouble watching these – hence the 12A.

Watson and Grint fans get to see their heroes embrace and snog in what feels like their last hours, but both are more supporting cast in this episode, like Potter backing players, once they get to Hogwarts. The Weasleys’ time is also played down – including the Molly (Julie Walters)-Bellatrix clash – as to not overshadow the plethora of other characters and their importance in the saga, perhaps?

Yates and team do well to give each of their characters the screen-time deserved to round off their journey, and for us to say goodbye, and each learns the valuable lesson of love and family coming first, including Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) who is pulled every which way, emotionally, allowing Felton to give some fine moments.

As for the Potter-Voldemort confrontation of wands, it’s a magical show of lights, sounds and engaging camera-angles, offering an incredible wow factor, but interrupted by a couple of important celestial scenes with some crucial Potter supporters.

Those left in mourning at the end of the film can be buoyed with a renewed sense of hope by the final scenes that stay relatively faithful to the written word of the book. And it’s a great sense of hope and affection that you’re left with in the end, regardless of J.K. Rowling’s recent hints of an eight book on the cards. Let’s hope she gives in to writing temptation as there is a sense that this could go on and on with a new generation characters and fans.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Watch highlights from the World Premiere HERE