Moview Review: The Great Gatsby

I didn’t get a chance to see The Great Gatsby when it hit theaters this past spring. I was anxious to see it. I really love Baz Luhrman’s work. It’s over the top and visually stimulating, and always good about pin-pointing a period of time with a subtle weave of modern day accessibility via score and soundtrack. Also, I am a huge F. Scott Fitzgerald fan. A few of the story nuances may have gotten tangled in that cobweb filled, lit-obsessed mind of mine, but the story is synonymous with everything I love about his work:  the decadence, idealism, and excess of the Jazz Age, coupled alongside impractical and incredibly tender and eloquent stories of youth and love that is often suffocated and tainted by the greed filled society that surrounds them. (Phew, wish I could have summed up my words like THAT in college).

I will admit, I wasn’t a fan of the 1974 film starring Robert Redford. The man is gorgeous, of course. I mean, stunning in the way J. Gatsby should be. But the film always failed to bring out the opulence of the Jazz Age, and Mia Farrow’s Daisy Buchanan always appeared dingy and flighty, not self centered or narcissistic in the way those of us who have a love/hate relationship with Fitzgerald’s Daisy imagine her to be.  Check out the original trailer below, you will see what I mean.

Stark contrast to the high energy, totally stunning, reel you in trailer from Luhrman:

Farrow’s Daisy  also wasn’t nearly as stunning as Carey Mulligan’s Daisy. I know movies have changed a lot in the past 35 years, so maybe some of the look in feel of the film and its characters were transformed in a way now, that they couldn’t be, then. But Farrow’s Daisy was always off and that ruins a movie for me…when you can’t love/hate the character the same way on the screen as you do in the book because of bad casting. (You hear me Kristen Stewart??)

People can say what they want about Leo DiCaprio, but I happen to like the actor. I think he has gotten unfairly overlooked by the Academy over the years. Some of his films have been incredible – Blood Diamond and Inception to name a few. But I feel like no one has ever really given him a fair chance since Titanic. To this I have to say come on! You gave Kate Winslet a chance to move past the film, people really should let Leo move on, too. And he didn’t look too bad. His “old sport” was a bit irritating, but they were in the book as well. There is actually a point in the movie where I am so in love with the both of them (Caprio’s Gatsy and Mulligan’s Daisy), they look that good together, that I almost forget Daisy is a self obsessed snob and he, nothing but a bootlegger.

Luhrman was careful not to forget to focus on the exquisite writing of Fitzgerald using key moments in the film to underscore the brilliance of his work by bringing the words to life on screen, including my favorite line from the book, uttered by Nick Carraway: “I was both within and without.” Poetic. Every time I read the story it gets me. Every. Single. Time.

Last but not least, I want to say a hearty well done to Jay Z for his work on the soundtrack – an effort he brought to life through collaborations with many amazing, talented artists that I happen to love including Lana Del Ray, Florence + the Machine, The xx, and Nero, to name a few. Who cares what this rambling review from the Village Voice says. It’s fabulous and I am only sorry it took me four months to discover it. I love it that much. Don’t trust me? Check out the following tracks: Lana Del Ray’s “Young and Beautiful,” Florence + the Machine’s “Over the Love,” The xx’s “Together,” Gotye’s “Hearts A Mess,” and Nero’s “Into the Past.” Of course Jack White’s cover of U2’s “Love is Blindness” — as heard in the soundtrack — is incredible. But I would have loved to have heard the two collaborate on that.

I’m not a huge Tobey Macguire fan, but he plays a pretty good clueless Nick Carraway and Isla Fisher has little screen time as Myrtle.  Joel Edgerton is a solid Tom Buchanan. I really liked him in The Odd Life of Timothy Green . He’s an actor I am going to pay a bit more attention to in the future.

All in all a film I really, really, really enjoyed and the beautiful architecture of the Jazz Age captured brilliantly in the films many, many, many marketing pieces such as the cast photo below.

“The Great Gatsby” is now out on PPV and DVD and Blu-Ray.

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New life for Les Misérables

I have never been a fan of Les Misérables – not the novel, stage or movie adaptations. I’m sorry, but yes, while the stage version created some of the most memorable melodies, it was always too heavy a read and as such, made for too heavy a movie and musical. One might argue as one of the greatest novels of the 19th century it should be nothing more than heavy – knocking the breath right out of you. But for me, it was always just ugh…too much.

When it was announced a new adaptation of the movie was hitting theaters this Christmas I bristled. Another version, why? And as a musical? Mon dieu! The previous screen adaptation with Uma Thurman and Liam Neeson was bad. Another would be surely, no? But then I read Anne Hathaway had signed on to play Fantine (love her) and Amanda Seyfreid as Cosette (love, love her) and for the first time ever I thought, ok. Maybe it won’t be bad. But I did say I wouldn’t see in the theater but wait for it to hit PPV.

And then the trailers started to hit. And as trailers tend to do, generated a flicker of excitement.

And now the buzz is growing around Anne Hathaway’s performance as a sure Oscar contender, as well as insights around the adaptations production. Check this out — the actors didn’t prerecord tracks months in advance, perfecting every lyric, so they could act along to them as is often the practice. They sang fresh, every time, allowing the music to guide their acting – a Streisand-esque approach. Yes even Russell Crowe!

I don’t know folks…. I won’t see it on Christmas Day, that day is reserved for jammies. But dare I say, I think I want to see it.  It still would take a mighty good trailer to make me want to crack open the book again, however.

 

Movie Review: Immortals

image from Film Filia

I hate it when a movie has a great story but directors rely on special affects to tell it, failing short on story execution. So is the case with Immortals.

If you like I were a fan of 300 then you were excited when buzz starting building earlier this year when trailers were released for Immortals. While the same producers are behind both movies, director Zack Snyder’s high octane, visually stimulating 300 — based on the epic story of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas and 300 Spartans that fought to their death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army, as well as graphic novel of the same name — a great film. Immortals falls short of 300 excellence.

There’s no doubt director Tarsem Singh was onto something when he chose to frame Immortals around the story of Theseus, one of Greek mythology’s most beloved hero’s and founder-king of Athens. Greek Mythology is rich with stories and characters that can create some incredible movies. But the name Theseus is just about all the movie got right. If you know Greek mythology then you know the story is loosely based and incredibly so, which when you’re a fan of both mythology and movies, is enough to drive you mad.

First, according to the movie, Theseus was a man chosen by Zeus to lead a war against the evil king Hyperion who wanted to free the imprisoned Titans from Tartarus to bring about war on man. By releasing the tyrannical Titans it was Hyperion’s belief that Zeus, because of his love for man, would intervene leaving the door open to overthrow the Olympians.

But, and this is a big but – that entire arc, the premise for the movie, is INACCURATE.

Hyperion wasn’t a king but a Titan. Yeah — like one of the crazies imprisoned in Tartarus — and it was Gaia (Titan and Goddess of Earth) that wanted to avenge the Titans by freeing them from their prison deep in the mountain, not Hyperion. If Immortals was following this story correctly Gaia would have been the antagonist instead of Hyperion and Heracles (son of Zeus) would have been the chosen hero, not Theseus.  Heracles was in there somewhere, but I think he was killed? Or tumbled into an ocean or something? I’m not sure.

Second, Theseus wasn’t a bastard, but a demi-god – son of both God and mortal –Aegeus, a primordial king of Athens, and Poseidon, brother of Zeus and God of the Sea. (Apparently it’s possible to have two baby daddy’s in Greek mythology – Maury Povich would be so proud).  This is huge, because Gods are known to come to the rescue of their offspring, even though they’re not supposed to. And we’re led to belive Theseus is Zeus’ son, not Poseidon.

But that’s just two of the inaccuracies. Well, those that bothered me. The others …The Oracle Phaedra, played by the lovely Freida Pinto, did in fact bed Theseus as in the movie, but as his wife. And Theseus’ son was not born from their union, but that of Theseus’ with …oh well never mind, you get the point.

Now look. I know story lines get twisted and manipulated and looked at with a different point of view for the sake of creating a great movie. Look at Inglorious Basterds. I think we all wish Hilter’s demise would have come about that way. But paired with Tarantino’s phenomenal ability to make the impossible seem plausible, using music, narrative, characters and an approach to cinematography like any other, it works. I loved it and didn’t pick it apart for its historical inaccuracies. But taking Greek myths and characters and twisting them beyond recognition, while pairing them against visually stimulating special affects, just doesn’t work. The story, while complex, falls short because there are just too many holes for the sake of the film.

There were some good scenes, like Twilight’s Kellan Lutz diving into the sea as Poseidon to come to Theseus aid, or Mount Olympus, I am always a fan of seeing how director’s envision the throne that resides in the clouds, looking down onto man. And hey, Henry Cavill is not bad to look at. True (side tangent), I wasn’t excited about a Brit being cast as one of America’s most beloved iconic superheroes, Superman. I mean, really, some things should just stay baseball and apple pie. Harry Potter got to stay British, let Superman stay American. But he did a good job and provided just the right amount of Ancient Greek eye candy and sword throwing. But all that aside, I was disappointed. I think I am going to pop 300 in today and watch to remember the better of the two.

Next up – Breaking Dawn, Part 1.  Seven days, let the countdown begin.