The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby

Release Date: May 10, 2013

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire

Runtime: 143 min

An astounding adaptation of a novel is rare. Some notable greats include The Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club, and recently, Life of Pi. There are bad ones, like every other Stephen King adaptation (that isn’t handled by acclaimed directors or starring great actors). The newest book-to-movie adaptation is of The Great Gatsby, where Baz Luhrmann decides to stay faithful to the source material, and this turns out to be a great adaptation of a highly-acclaimed book.

Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is a Midwestern war veteran who moves to Long Island, and he soon becomes attracted to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Luhrmann takes a unique stylish approach to the source material, and there’s enough substance to keep movie-goers satisfied. The odd scene feels empty and rings dull. This is most notably the interaction at the barbershop between Wolfsheim, Gatsby and Carraway. The audience does the feel the emotions they’re supposed to feel, and they become invested in the few characters (Gatsby, Carraway) that are actually likeable.  The symbols of the Green Light and the Eyes of of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are significant enough to the story, that they begin to become characters in themselves; and they begin to feel more likeable than some of the characters. Luhrmann achieves his fantastic vision, while still keeping Fitzgerald’s classic themes – love, hope, dreams, the past, wealth, prosperity, the American dream – intact.

Simultaneously, he achieves the Fitzgerald-like vision, and I think F. Scott Fitzgerald would approve of this if he were alive. I like to think I comprehend the cultural significance of the source novel, even if it is a boring book. I’d rather re-visit this movie and not the book, and that might be because I think listening to big words is easier than reading them. The movie is just as slow as the book itself, but if it were any quicker, it would feel rushed. A rushed movie wouldn’t leave such a lasting impression. It’s a great adaptation because the viewer feels the same way as if they were actually reading the novel. The thought-provoking feature is handled so well and it is very well-made. It’s always intelligent and rarely boring. If one reads the novel, there’s no way they could imagine set pieces so lavish and magnificent as this. I think this is quite the great achievement.

The extravagant set pieces, production design and costume design truly capture the essence of the 1920’s. This movie will make you fall in love with the time period all over again. The contemporary music surprisingly fits the amazing parties that are thrown, as well as the movie’s style. The contrast between the rich lifestyle of Long Island and the slum-like lifestyle of the Valley of Ashes is fascinating.

The introduction of each character is refreshing, and each star captures the significance and mystery of each character. The cast is a great ensemble. Joel Edgerton brings some fine intensity and spot-on arrogance to the despicable Tom Buchanan. If there’s any role to make Edgerton a household name, it’s this one. Jason Clarke and Isla Fisher are the right choices to capture the poor, paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle of the 1920s, as George and Myrtle Wilson, respectively. Elizabeth Debicki rocks her big feature film debut as Jordan Baker. Carey Mulligan (who is almost always fantastic) is delicate and stunning as the irritating Daisy Buchanan, but she really embraces the foolishness of the character, and she performs superbly.

Tobey Maguire is adequate as Nick Carraway. He’s the character that has to keep everyone’s secrets. Maguire’s range of emotions isn’t wide. There’s some obvious emotions of regret, contempt and anxiety when he’s writing about Gatsby; and he always seems intrigued and in awe in Gatsby’s presence. He’s a better presence when he is narrating. The pairing of Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio reminds me of the Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman pair of The Shawshank Redemption. Everyone will praise the latter, and the former will get the shorter end of the stick. Every person who walks out of the theatre will be discussing the latter performer first.

DiCaprio truly captures the essence of Gatsby, a man of hope, of mystery, and delicacy, a man who rose from ashes to be, like Jack Dawson of Titanic, “king of the world”. He is an intriguing character, it just feels right to hear DiCaprio say “old sport” so much in one movie. After watching this great man portray Gatsby, it’s hard to imagine anyone other actor in the role. He gives one hell of a performance, and he is one of the best things about the film. He draws the viewers into the picture more; and the movie truly takes flight right when the essential introduction of the mystery host comes about. It’s really a refreshing introduction to an intriguing character.

Luhrmann surprisingly stays faithful to the novel. He maintains the intelligent themes, takes some really boring material out, and throws some fresh material in. The movie is long and it feels that way, but everything unfolds in a visually compelling way. It’s rarely boring, and Luhrmann truly makes classic literature feel sexy. The utilization of 3D makes the sets even cooler, and it feels like it adds a whole new layer. This is a very good adaptation of a novel hailed as one of literature’s greatest books and tragedies; but sadly, and unsurprisingly, it doesn’t translate into one of cinema’s greatest films.

82/100

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Fight Club (1999) Review

Fight Club

Release Date: October 15, 1999

Director: David Fincher

Stars: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter

Runtime: 139 min

Tagline: Mischief. Mayhem. Soap.

Vote Tyler Durden for President.

An internally angry office worker insomniac (Norton) joins forces with a slippery soap salesman (Pitt) to create a shocking new form of
therapy that channels primal male aggression. This therapy is to beat
the hell out of each other, but the first and second rule of Fight Club is that you cannot talk about it. Their concept becomes popular and soon catches on in every town worldwide, and they become a secretive household name. When an extremely eccentric woman (Carter) creates tensions between the two, which in turn ignites a violent out-of-control spiral toward oblivion.

Fight Club offers one heck of an experience that is original on all levels.

It really is difficult not to fall in love with the atmosphere the film offers.

It’s easier for the male demographic to enjoy, but that doesn’t
mean females shouldn’t at least give a try. It’s darkly funny, wonderfully dramatic and uses themes of anarchy and mayhem extremely well. This film owns just about some of the greatest and most unique cinematography I have ever witnessed. It is so great and stylish, that it’s really hard not to appreciate. David Fincher is a great director in his finest hour that brings a unique style to this great film. I love writers and directors that can create atmospheres like this, and create comedy in the most intense of situations.

The direction, the cinematography, the editing, the writing, the
acting, the visual effects (must I go on?), are all amazing. Chuck
Palahniuk, the writer of the novel that this film was adapted from, has stated this film is an improvement on his novel. I wouldn’t know about that, but I’d like to give the novel a read.

Both Norton’s and Pitt’s characters are so fascinating. They are both fairly troubled, which makes for great characters. They are also
wonderfully developed. Their legacy of Fight Club started an eventual violent revolution, and you simply must see it unfold. And then watch it again. And again. Why not another time? Seriously though, it really is worth the second watch. You’ll pick up on things that you may have missed.

All of the other supporting characters, like Marla, are really cool, also. I mean she may get irritating, but she has a great sense of humor, and she’s played well by Carter. Each character has a sense of humor, and some sense of philosophy. Especially Pitt’s, he’s one fascinating character. Each actor performs quite well, no matter how small the role. There are some darkly hysterical scenes, dramatic scenes, sexy scenes, vivid and visually beautiful scenes, intense scenes, strange scenes, stylish scenes, violent scenes, twisted scenes*, and each scene is memorable in its own right.

Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier and Jared Leto star in this film.

Fight Club is a daringly original cinematic experience that offers one heck of a dark, hysterical, and flawless experience. The
atmosphere is great, and the visuals that are offered are quite stunning. It really is an incredible cinematic achievement. If you didn’t think it was good, or even a little funny, you may just have a tumour called Marla.

* and one scene, two scenes, red scenes and blue scenes, a little Dr. Seuss for you.

100/100

American Beauty – A film review by Daniel Prinn

American Beauty

Release Date: October 1, 1999

Director: Sam Mendes

Stars: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch

Runtime: 122 min

Tagline: … look closer.

 American Beauty is a depressing, but beautiful, insightful and profound look at the life of a dysfunctional suburban family; making it one of the greatest films of the 90s and 1999 (It’s hard to pick my favourite for 1999, I mean it was such a great year for films – this, The Sixth SenseFight Club, The Green Mile, etc.).

Lester (Kevin Spacey) and Carolyn Burnham (Annette Bening) have it all: they’re a perfect husband and wife, have perfect jobs, have a perfect family, a perfect home, all in a perfect little suburban neighbourhood; that is, on the outside. On the inside, Lester is a depressed man who reaches a breaking point in that middle-age crisis when he becomes attracted to his daughter’s friend, Angela (Mena Suvari), and vows to change his life – in a way to woo the heart of this young woman. All the while, the daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), is trying to find out who she really is, and she is going through those usual adolescent phases. She also strikes up a kind friendship with a shy boy who documents his everyday life, Ricky (Wes Bentley) next door who lives with his headstrong homophobic military father, Colonel Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper).

American Beauty is a sophisticated, entertaining and profound analysis of the so-called American dream gone sour.

I really like this one because it has a great sense of realism, because many families try to present themselves as perfect and beautiful, but they are really rotting and extremely dysfunctional in some ways on the inside.

Each of these characters has problems, and most are played quite beautifully. Lester Burnham is very depressed, unmotivated, but often comedic, middle-aged man who learns to change his life around and start to stand up for himself more, and try to be happier with himself despite his utter lack of care for the world. He is also wonderfully and flawlessly played by Kevin Spacey who brings his great dramatic acting and sarcastic comedic delivery to his character. Carolyn Burnham is really the dictator in the Burnham family, when she’s actually home, because she is so dedicated to her career. She’s a needed character but she’s very, very irritating. She’s the most irritating when she just randomly screams to the heavens. It’s cringe-worthy. She is one of my least favourite female characters, ever. She just offers a ridiculous amount of conflict to every single situation. Annette Bening plays a really good bitch. Jane Burnham is a pretty good character. She is trying to find herself in this mixed up world and just doesn’t understand how sometimes the world of high school works. She is played fairly well by Thora Birch. Angela is an okay character. She’s extremely inappropriate and immature, and she struts her little stuff all around town and brags about all of the guys she gets together with. Mena Suvari portrays the character fairly well, not great but not too bad. Ricky Fitts is (played well by Wes Bentley) is a good character. He’s just trying to understand the world, too. He is an interesting character that has a unique view of the world. Colonel Frank Fitts is played very well by Chris Cooper, and he is a very dictatorial and homophobic character that is ultimately very interesting.

While you’re watching it, even if you’re not thoroughly enjoying it, you can tell that it’s a well- made film with a beautiful message and a great story. It is just flawlessly and originally penned by Alan Ball (creator of TV’s True Blood).

There’s one great thing about this film, even if you didn’t like it – you can say, “Hey, my life isn’t all that bad compared to these guys; my life’s gravy if I stood next to these dysfunctional people.” It’s a depressing experience, but in the end it is thought-provoking and it is a pick-me-up because you’ll probably see that your life isn’t all that horrible. Though, don’t run to this film if you’re the happiest you’ve ever been – because a lot of it is really quite poignant, not really feel-good, and often darkly humorous.

American Beauty has it all, a great cast, extremely memorable scenes; it’s sometimes funny and it has a great and sophisticated story. It is well-structured and it takes great turns and has a great narrative by Kevin Spacey when he often adds his insight in voice-over. Looking back, I can hardly think of any flaws. It’s inappropriate and very sexually suggestive, but I can’t take points off for that. While the film may not be for everyone, it is great for those of you who can appreciate it. I think it’s a film everyone should see. You may not like it by the end of it all, but it’s quite worth the check.

100/100

August 28 Birthdays

There’s a few celebrity birthdays today: Jack Black (43), David Fincher (50), Sarah Roemer (28), Jennifer Coolidge (51) and Daniel Stern (55).

Jack Black

This comedy actor just turned 43 today. He’s been in School of RockTenacious D in the Pick of DestinyTropic ThunderNacho Libre, and he’s been the voice talents for Shark TaleKung Fu Panda, and in Ice Age; he’s also a pretty good dramatic actor, showing those abilities especially in King Kong. I haven’t seen Bernie just yet, but I heard he was pretty good in that. I like this guy’s funny antics and his ability to be a pretty good drama actor as well as a silly one.

David Fincher

This guy right here’s one of my favourite directors. A lot of his films are just so pleasantly dark and I like the atmosphere of them. When I collected films and didn’t really pay attention to directors, I found out that I really liked this guy’s movies as I had most of them. The only flick of his I don’t have is Alien 3. And the only films of his I haven’t seen is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Alien 3.  A good director to me is when they really bring a signature atmosphere and also when I have a really difficult time picking my favourite by them. His other films include Seven (a.k.a. Se7en)The GameFight ClubPanic Room, ZodiacThe Social Network and the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

 Well, there isn’t a lot to say about this one. She’s a pretty face, who’s a pretty good actress, who just turned 28. I’ve only seen her on a few things, being the TV show The Event, and the films Disturbia and Fired Up!

           Jennifer Coolidge

This picture doesn’t do her a lot of justice, but I didn’t feel like finding another. She’s best known as Stifler’s Mom in the American Pie (original cast) films; and she’s also known as the wicked step mother in that Hilary Duff flick, A Cinderella Story.

Daniel Stern

 This guy’s best known as the idiotic burglar, Marv, in the first two Home Alone films. That’s really all I want to say about him.

Edward Norton turned 43 yesterday

Image

Edward Norton turned 43 yesterday, I know I’m late but he’s one of my favourite actors and I think he should get a birthday shout-out.

 You can catch Norton in theatres in the movie The Bourne Legacy or Moonrise Kingdom. He also plays in such movies as The Illusionist, where he plays magician in late nineteenth century Vienna; 25th HourThe Italian Job, a Hannibal Lecter film Red Dragon, and the pretty bad Death to Smoochy.

 He often plays characters that are usually very intelligent, but have troubled sides to them, like the films American History X where he plays a former neo-nazi skinhead, Fight Club and especially when he portrayed The Hulk in The Incredible Hulk

 Norton has been nominated for two Oscars, for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his work in American History X, and Best Actor in a Suppourting Role for his work in Primal Fear.

 Happy late birthday, Norton.