‘Macbeth’, a masterful rendering; Off-the-shelf action mulch with ‘Boy Kills World’; Scrumptious French period romance in ‘The Taste of Things’; Quirky arthouse pleaser with ‘Fremont’; Helen Mirren rules in biopic ‘Golda’

Smashing it: Ralph Fiennes in ‘Macbeth’.

SHAKESPEARE’S MACBETH ***1/2 (154 minutes) M
One of the great things about The Bard is how enduring and brilliantly plotted his better works are, however novel or traditional the adaptation. That certainly applies to this masterful rendering of Macbeth, a work so full of murder, mischief, ambition and bloodshed you can see how deeply it has influenced modern cinema (with Alfred Hitchcock arguably owing him a huge debt). In a photographed live performance, Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma absolutely smash it as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, with Varma putting a distinctive edge to her portrayal of one of the most magnificently manipulative bitches ever conceived. Fiennes plays Macbeth as a weak-willed, pussy-whipped regal aspirant, his valour on the battlefield collapsing before the whims of his wife. Character motivation is particularly emphasized throughout, with the performance of Ben Turner as Macduff galvanizing audience empathy in the tale’s final act. William Shakespeare heads will relish it, as will anyone interested in learning the principles of how to structure a dramatic thriller.

THE TASTE OF THINGS **1/2 (135 minutes; subtitled) PG
However full you might be as you enter The Taste of Things, odds are you’ll feel famished by the end credits of the latest lushly photographed French period piece to drop in our midst. Written and directed by Tran Anh Hung (who gave us the splendid The Scent of Green Papaya and Cyclo) we spend most of the film in the presence of Eugenie (Juliette Binoche), a skilled chef whose employer Dodin Bouffant (Benoit Magimel), a special friend who openly pines for her to marry him. There’s some romantic drama here, especially as Eugenie pretends her regular fainting spells are nothing to worry about, but much of the film is dedicated to the elaborate preparation of vast meals that are so lovingly filmed, with special emphasis on the symphony of all the associated sounds, you’ll want to take a bite out of the screen. It is a slight affair, to be sure, but it certainly hits the mark as a foodie film.

BOY KILLS WORLD **1/2 (111 minutes) MA
With a few jokes thrown into the mix, Boy Kills World plays like an off-the-shelf boom-crash action comedy, full of elongated fight scenes involving plenty of bone-crunching martial arts – whatever happened to the display of skill with movie fights? – chattering automatic weapons, muzzle flash and a higher body count that an episode of Aeon Flux. (Perhaps the film should have been called Boy Kills World – And Everything Else He Sees.) It’s more cinematic empty calories with a negligible story designed to kill time and slip from the memory before the credits end. Stars Bill Skarsgard (It) and Famke Janssen, who some might fondly remember as the wonderfully named Bond villainess Xenia Onatopp from GoldenEye.

FREMONT *** (91 minutes) PG
A pleasantly quirky, straight-faced arthouse comedy, Fremont follows the small dreams of Donya (Anaita Wali Zada), an interpreter for the US forces in Afghanistan trying to settle in the titular Californian town. She’s working at a fortune cookie factory and has trouble sleeping, though her doctor (a very good Gregg Turkington) wants to psychoanalyze her rather than just prescribe her some pills. Shot in black-and-white in square format, the film isn’t in a hurry to get anywhere, preferring to burn lots of time inside some dryly funny dialogue exchanges. It’s a meandering, inconclusive, yet oddly satisfying little morsel, with lovely lead work from Zada.

GOLDA *** (100 minutes) M
On par with Anthony Hopkins’s performance in Freud’s Last Session, veteran Helen Mirren literally disappears into the skin of her charge, Israeli prime minister Golda Meir as she leads her team of ministers and commanders in the history-altering 1973 Yom Kippur War. Unrecognizable under several layers of prosthetic make up (nominated this year for an Oscar), Mirren is outstanding as the cigarette-loving chief whose strategic acumen was matched by her conscience, which bore the burden of casualties heavily. Given the state of the Middle East at present, the film boasts an unintended topicality, dealing with the human cost of war and the moral compromises that come with the quest for victory.