It's another big week at the UK cinema.
While War Horse crowded out all other comers at the box office last week, this week sees a much more diverse bag of offering, from Shakespeare, to martial arts, via royal romance and American political biopic. Here are our picks of this week's releases:
Coriolanus - 122 mins
Ralph Fiennes takes on double duties in his directorial debut. He also stars in this classic Shakespeare military tale - that of a Roman general who, despite winning many a battle in the name of Rome, cannot pretend to love the people in it. In return, they soon banish their hero from the city, and he plots his revenge.
Despite making no modern concessions with the script, this epic manages to be completely contemporary and accessible - due to in-your-face camera work, alert editing and a wealth of good acting - from Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain and Gerard Butler, a revelation as Coriolanus's longtime foe, Tullus Aufidius.
But it is Fiennes as the proud fallen hero Coriolanus who once again proves why he appears so often in such serious blockbusters as these - his sad, serious face, elegant voice and uncompromising intelligence shine through in a role he was evidently born to play.
W.E. - 119 mins
Madonna has striven for years to bring this story to the screen, and her close affiliation with Wallis Simpson - passionate, defiant, often ostracised, always prejudged - becomes increasingly evident as the narrative unfolds.
We see Wallis's story through the eyes of an unhappy Manhattan housewife (Abbie Cornish), who soaks up the romance of the royal story through an auction exhibition. But, when we revisit Wallis and Edward in flashback, it becomes clear that such passion comes at great cost, with Madonna wanting us to rethink who of the pair made the bigger sacrifice? W.E. is visually colourful, and sometimes indulgent, and the young co-stars Andrea Riseborough and James D'Arcy shine. W.E. also asks questions about how passion and purpose can ever harmoniously co-exist, and is a fresh angle on a very unroyal bride. Despite the brickbats that greeted Madonna when she first presented the film in Venice, this is no Swept Away.
J Edgar - 137 mins
Leonardo DiCaprio plays complicated, closeted FBI chief J Edgar Hoover, with Dame Judi Dench as his all-controlling mother and Armie Hammer as his never-acknowledged lifetime companion, in this long and linear biopic.
DiCaprio puts himself in the hands of director Clint Eastwood, and it's a good combination. Eastwood's calm mastery of understatement provides a firm, old-fashioned framework for DiCaprio's scenery-chewing Herculean efforts of character transformation. Not many stars can take on the lifetime role of a character ageing from '20s to '70s, and co-star Hammer's distracting prosthetic appearance as a French'n'Saunders-type old man in the later scenes is testament enough to his leading man's comparative skills. The undeniably talented Leonardo DiCaprio must wonder how many of these isolated, complex, charismatic, quirky, real-life characters he has to portray before he finally gets his hands on Mr Oscar. The answer seems to be... at least one more.
Haywire - 93 mins
Mixed martial artist Gina Carano was apparently bloodied and bruised from a fight for her first meeting with Steven Soderbergh. And he gave her the job.
It's easy to see why this made her a credible fit for the role of Mallory, some sort of deeply-embedded special agent, whose circle - all male - turns on her a few minutes in. She is meant to be dead and accounted for. Instead, she's gone rogue and champing on revenge. Haywire doesn't pretend to be anything other than a pared-down heist thriller, all twists and kicks, with a refreshingly properly athletic woman front-stage, knocking the smug grins off the faces of Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor - worth the price of a ticket alone.
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