The classic tale of love, lust, living the life, and throwing a great party in the 20′s, all to the sweet and soulful tunes of Jay-Z.
Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is an aspiring artist who searches for inspiration and passion when he decides to leave the Midwest and travel to New York City, where all of the hustle and bustle is a-foot. Nick finds himself there, looking for his own taste of the American Dream, but also lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Jay just so also happens to be across the bay from Nick’s cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who’s with her d-bag-of-a-hubby husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Nick soon finds himself drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, deceits, passions, ways of having fun, and most of all: their secrets.
Believe it or not, The Great Gatsby was one of the very-few books that I have actually had the pleasure of sitting down, taking time out of my day for, and read to the final page. It was a hard piece of literature to get through, but thankfully, I had the bragging-rights and all to say that I was able to conquer it, as well as being able to say I knew what the “big surprise” actually was. Can’t say that about many books (mainly because I haven’t read many), but it still had me wondering just what could be made of with this material, if it were ever made for the screen one more time.
And Baz Luhrmann was definitely not the first choice I had in mind.
Actually, that last statement is starting off on the wrong-foot because I can’t say anything bad against Luhrmann’s direction, or what it is that he tries to do with this material. If anything, the guy tries his damn-near hardest to get past the fact that this is just dry material, made for the sake of reminding everybody how freakin’ awesome the Roaring Twenties actually were. Despite the gimmicky 3D aspect behind this movie (trust me, not even worth the watch in that extra-dimension), the movie does look very purrty and once again, you can tell that Luhrmann really put his heart and feel into making this movie look like it exactly reads out. Loud, lavish parties filled with extraneous amounts of glitz, color, glamour, and loads, and loads of champagne. Being able to match the look I had in my head of what the setting actually looked-like after reading the book, I realized that Luhrmann had a bigger-imagination than even myself was graced with, which makes the movie all the more visually-outstanding.
However, pretty colors, pretty things, and pretty people can only go so far. And in Luhrmann’s case: it’s sad to see. You can jump-start this material with as much exuberance and energy as your little heart desires, but if you can’t get to the heart of the story and feel what it was like to live in this period, then you have all but lost me. That’s exactly what I felt like when I watched Luhrmann try whatever it was that he could to make it seem as if he had actually read the novel, and/or still remembered it to this day. Instead, it just seems like he SparkNote’d the hell out of this thing, went through the motions, and stamp his own trademarks here and there. You know, just for show.
But it’s one of those shows that’s obvious and it lost me about half-way through, once I realized that this movie didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Granted, I wasn’t on-the-edge-of-my-seat considering I knew how the material would play out, and what characters would be doing what in certain situations, but I was still interested in seeing what Luhrmann could pull-off to surprise the hell out of me. Sadly, nothing really seemed to make me fall back in my chair and wonder how he pulled it all off. Everything seems so cut-and-dry with character’s emotions and dilemmas; the “big reveals” are nowhere near being subtle, as they were in the novel; and everybody else here, feels as if they just got out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, but have a fancy-schmancy accent. Okay, maybe the characters aren’t that bad, but they are pretty damn dull. A real shame too, because the cast working with these characters really seem to know what they’re doing, it’s just that the direction isn’t there to help them succeed.
Tobey Maguire plays our narrator for the whole, 2 hours: Nick Carraway. Maguire is alright in a role that doesn’t ask for much, and doesn’t get much back in-return. It’s just Tobey, being Tobey, and whether or not he’s acting like this, or this; you don’t really give a shit what else he’s doing. All you want him to do is not be distracting by how geeky he is, and he wasn’t. Good job, Tobes! New-comer Elizabeth Debicki actually walks away clean with this movie, as she’s the only one who really feels as if she would have been the gal to beat around this period of time, and reminds me of the older-days of Hollywood, where the dames seemed to run rampant all throughout the town. Sort of reminded me of a younger-Kristin Scott Thomas, minus the French and nudity. Pretty bummed out by the latter aspect. Damn you, Baz! Couldn’t “up” the rating to at least a soft R? Bastard.
As Nick’s cuzzy, Daisy, Carey Mulligan looks exactly like the character I imagined in my head when I read it all those years ago, but seems slightly-dull in the way she prances around character-to-character, throughout the whole story. The only thing she wants in this whole movie is to just live a peaceful, happy life, but yet; she’s still stuck with the bastard that continues to cheat on her, right in front of her nose. And to make matters worse, she then decides to mess around herself. Pretty smart girl if I don’t say so myself. Playing that philanderer of a hubby, Tom Buchanan, is Joel Edgerton who seems to take a whole box of delight chewing the scenery with his thin-mustache, but it goes nowhere. Instead, it seems like the guy never has anything good to say, morally-right to do, or even brings any happiness around him. He’s just a miserable, sad-sack of a dude that lacks no moral-understanding of what’s going down. In the novel, there was more to him than just a dude looking to get revenge. But, once again, Baz didn’t seem to get that part of the novel. All he saw as an opportunity to get a bunch of people to beat around the bush with one another about who’s sleeping with who. Gets old, real fast.
Thankfully, the only one who saves these characters and this movie is the man himself: Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. Right from that definitive-shot where we first meet him, Leo seems to be having the time of his life as Gatsby. He’s living the life of a billionaire that looks handsome, wears lavish-colors, likes beautiful things, and always holds hospitality at his upper-most important factor of being a person. He’s everything, any person in their right mind would ever want to be, except there’s more to this dude than you may think. Leo is great at playing the cool, charmer of a man that Gatsby shows-off to everybody around him, but is even better when it comes to peeling-away the layers of who the hell this guy just might be, and whether or not he can be trusted. You never know with this guy, and Leo is very good at keeping us guessing as to when he’s going to just lose his shit, and at what velocity he’ll lose it at. If it wasn’t for Leo, this movie would have fallen down the drain, but with him: it survives by a hair. A relatively longer-than-usual hair, but it’s still ready to be cut-off at any second.
Consensus: Baz Luhrmann knows what it takes to make The Great Gasby‘s fourth, and hopefully, final big-screen adaptation as beautiful and eye-appealing as ever, but all of the effort he puts into the look of it, doesn’t translate well into the drama, the message, the characters, or the overall-feel that the novel originally had. Yup, somehow Jack White songs just didn’t cover what it meant to be a flapper during the 20′s.
6 / 10 = Rental!!
Apparently the sun never comes out in this alternate history, either.
Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) live in a world and a time that feel familiar to us, but are not quite like anything we know. They spend their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. When they leave the shelter of the school, the terrible truth of their fate is revealed to them. It ain’t pretty, trust me.
I have never read the original novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, and to be honest, that may have been a good decision on my-part, since I didn’t really know what was happening and also the fact that I had no idea what type of mood it was going to put me in, because damn man, it’s a total downer. No, I mean it. It is a REAL downer.
However, let’s not talk about all of that sadness that goes on here, let’s focus on the finer things with this flick (and in life) considering I’m not ready to walk into traffic just yet. It was really cool to see director Mark Romanek back after all an 8-year hiatus from movies and take a subject matter like this because he fits it’s feel and style very well. This whole film, from start to finish, is absolutely stunning and beautiful to look at. The whole look has this very dry sense of color the whole time, but it also ended up giving some of the most beautiful images of this movie such as onne image that stands out the most in my mind is the shot of a beach and a little old tugboat was lying on its side in the sand, with the orange sunlight just barely shining over it. That’s one-shot from this film that really stayed with me and made me understand just the type of world I was placed-in with this flick. It’s a dark piece of material we have here, but with Romanek on-board, beauty still finds it’s way of climbing back into the story and presenting itself the whole way through.
I also felt that the mood that Romanek set for this film was just the right way to approach this material to begin with. I don’t want to get into too much about what goes on in this flick and how it all happens, but the fate these kids are left to live are pretty damn sad to begin with and Romanek doesn’t try to gloss that up with any unnecessary humor or themes about the joys of life. No siree, instead he makes this a flick about how we as humans, are supposed to live out our lives and be happy even though it may not always go that exact-way we want it to be. Then again, I highly doubt that that is what the central message of this flick is all about, but it’s what I could get underneath all of the sadness that Mr. Romanek used so well.
The problem was that there was also a bad-side to that depressing mood as well. This flick is so based on being a total debbie-downer, that even the parts where the flick tries to bring some little moments of being happy, they don’t really do much because you know that no matter what happens, the violin score will just come right back on and thus bring on back the sadness that we thought we escaped. There’s no problem with a film being sad the whole time, especially if that’s what it’s mood is conveying straight from the start, but it’s a real problem is when it seems like that’s the only thing that the film has any time to focus on and rather than just giving us something to smile and at least be happy about for the meantime, we are instead treated to total and utter depression. I guess I don’t quite get it since I didn’t read the original source material but I seriously could have only imagined how bad that must have been.
What really brought me into this flick though was the performances here by this young and attractive cast that have all proved themselves in their own respective bouts, but come together here and do a nice-job with some dull-ass characters. Carey Mulligan is great as Kathy H., and once again shows that she has the emotional chops and presence to pull off any character and have you know she is always around. The new Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield, is also nice to watch as Tommy and feels like a real kid who just doesn’t know how to act around girls, or anybody for that matter. Then again, he also got jipped out of being the co-founder of the largest social network of all-time so that may add a bit of insult to injury as well. (teehee, Facebook jokes rule) The real stand-out here may be Keira Knightley though, who is very one-dimensional as the bitchy and manipulative chick, Ruth, but is very good at it unlike anyway we have seen her before. However, her character does end up starting to change and show some real humanity by the end of the flick and was probably the only character I could actually feel something for once everything was said and done. Which brings me on to my last and final problem with this flick.
I get that these characters are here for a reason that I won’t say, but something just felt off about them to the point of where I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel for any of them. Since there was so much depth to the sadness of this whole plot, the characters themselves are sort of just left on the side and are there for you to care about if you want to or not. The film can be a little stuffy, but it barely let me feel anything for them and then when their fate is finally said to them, it was weird how I didn’t feel any emotional connection. Now it would be hard to say that I could ever relate to anything that any of these characters have been and are going through but I still think as a film, there should have been more emotions centered at the characters rather than just their surroundings. Maybe I was supposed to feel this emptiness or maybe I wasn’t supposed to feel anything for them, maybe it was just for the whole situation itself. Maybe. I don’t know really.
Consensus: If you are in happy mood and want to keep that going, then don’t check out Never Let Me Go, because it is sad, empty (in many ways), and doesn’t have any real moments of shining suns in the sky, but it is also beautiful to look at, a very moody piece that can really put you into its setting, and features a fine young cast that does a great job with all that their given.
Apparently being addicted to sex isn’t fun. Dammit!
Michael Fassbender stars as Brandon, a sex-addict who is constantly bedding women almost each and every single night. However, his sister (Carey Mulligan) soon comes in to live with him and gets in the way of his life-style even though he continues to get worse and worse. Family and sexy-time just don’t really mix.
Other than almost seeing ‘Blue Valentine’ last year when it still had the rating, this marks my first time ever seeing an NC-17 flick, even though it weird is that I didn’t get carded. For some reason they have just never been my thing because they are usually always porno flicks that try to do something, but end up not doing anything. However, this is a flick that I’m glad to say deserved its rating and doesn’t hide away any pee-pees, ta-ta’s, or…well…you know…lady parts.
Writer/director Steve McQueen (no, this one) goes for the guts, or should I say wieners, and keeps this dreary and freaky mood where everything is dark, disturbing, and just not right. There isn’t a real driving force behind this narrative but to see the ways this guy goes about his days, popping b’s left-and-right still made me feel like something crazy was going to happen next.
What I liked about McQueen’s direction is that he actually doesn’t try to spell-out anything, except for the sex of course but even that to an extent is somewhat thought-provoking. McQueen lets us see this guy for what he is and what he’s suffering with and when things go from bad to worse, it’s hard to take your eyes off of the screen mainly because you know that this story is just going to get crazier and crazier. I never felt any emotional attachment to this story but I thought the way that McQueen showed this form of addiction, in it’s sad and dark haze, was very gutsy and he didn’t back down from showing anything, which I thought needed to be done to get the full experience of this film.
Where McQueen really nails this film down is in his way of filming, because being an artist himself, he shows that you can make anything great to look at. I love tracking shots and how McQueen keeps them going on for scene-after-scene was really great because it made me feel as if I was there and it was pretty nice to actually see somebody create tension by using just one shot the whole 5-10 minutes. There are a lot of memorable moments here where McQueen doesn’t cut away once such as the dinner scene he had with his co-worker, or when he’s jogging through the streets of NYC, or when he’s just standing there spying on his next sexual prey. McQueen really added a lot to this film other than just a bunch of really dirty sexy-time scenes, he made this feel real.
However, where this method fails is when he takes a little too long with certain scenes that I think should have been cut right away. I think anybody reading this knows what scene I’m talking about. The scene where Mulligan absolutely butchers the song “New York, New York” played on for way too long and instead of just trying to show us something that these characters share, it made me wonder just how much longer could this damn scene go on for? I mean it wasn’t that long of a song in the first place, right?
Another problem with this film is that the film does start to lose it’s own sight by the end, even though it always stayed interesting. I felt like this film really struck a cord with me when it came to its story, but how everything played out in the end seemed a tad predictable and unfocused. There were certain moments where an idea would pop into my head and I would imagine if what I was thinking, would actually happen in the flick, and 9 times out of 10, it actually happened. What I’m trying to say is that the last 30 minutes were predictable and I could tell what was going to happen next, even though my eyes were still glued to the screen.
The reason why this film felt unfocused by the end too was because there were a lot of characters, situations, and questions that were around within the first hour of the flick, but somehow found their own ways of leaving as soon as things start to get a little crazy. There were questions about this brother and sister on whether or not they actually had incest, and to be truly honest I think they did. However, I can’t be too sure because this film may sort of gives hints to that whole idea, I still think that there were a lot of questions about that and many other certain elements that this film brought up as well. Hey, I liked how McQueen didn’t try to spell it all out for us, but I still think he should have at least left us with a bit more answers.
Once again, Michael Fassbender owns in a role that needs him to do so. Take it for granted, he’s pretty much doing a Christian Bale impersonation right from the start but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deliver like you would expect a sex-junkie to do so. Fassbender really does let it ALL hang out and with a performance like this, it’s easy to see why he can definitely be an Oscar winner because he’s able to show so many emotions without even barely moving his face. He’s a sly dude when it comes to him getting the ladies, but when he has to show off some real emotions, Fassbender nails it and gives us a glimpse at a guy that seems trapped by his own demons which makes him ultimately vulnerable. This is a very physical and emotional performance for Fassbender, and one that I think he does a superb job in even though he probably won’t get nominated for an Oscar because it’s “too racy”. Besides he should win an Oscar just for being able to piss on camera, which is something I have never seen on film before and since I can’t even pee with somebody standing right behind me, I got to give some props to a guy that can do it in front of a whole film-crew. Carey Mulligan is also pretty good as the foul-mouthed sister of his, but when it comes to being Fassbender’s sister in this flick, you kind of get over-shadowed big-time.
Consensus: Shame ends up leaving more questions unanswered than we would have liked but the vision of Steve McQueen and the unrelenting performance from Fassbender, makes this flick a dark and dreary story that gets crazier and disturbing as it goes on, but with a lot more emotion still left in-tact.
This guy would make a killing at delivering pizzas.
Driver (Ryan Gosling), a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, is lured from his isolated life by a lovely neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. His newfound peace is shattered, however, when her violent husband is released from prison.
The weird thing about Drive is how this is being advertised as a slam-bang, action thriller with a Fast & Furious look of cars. But that is far from the truth.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson) has a great knack for making incredibly bloody films, seem so beautiful. The film reminded me of an 80′s noir with it’s synth-crazy score, the hot pink title cards, and even the colorful as well as gritty look of the under-belly of LA that had me reminded of a Michael Mann film. There are some real great scenes where Refn brings out this very dark mood within the material with the way he films and the way he makes it all sound.
The problem with his direction is that I feel like too many times he doesn’t let the story tell itself at all, and just wants to basically remind people that he’s the one directing here and every shot is shot with his artsy-fartsy trademark. This didn’t bother me that much but when you have a script like this it really does get annoying after awhile.
I thought that the script had its moments where it truly wreaked in awesomeness but then other times, I just felt bored and bothered by what this film was doing. Almost every scene where these characters talk to each other is just filled with some awkward pauses and very slow responses that would have any person trying to leave the conversation as soon as possible. About the third time that I heard Gosling breath and Mulligan sigh, I just about had it about up to here with it, and relied on the action for my entertainment.
Oh wait, there’s barely any of that either. The action here is very short but done so well because of the way Refn creates the tension and keeps the bloodiness packing on up. He also adds this extra colorful flair to every scene, so when some guy is getting his head smashed in, not only is it bloody, but it’s also bright and colorful. This I liked and even though there’s only 2, that’s right, 2 car chases, I still liked them.
However, my problem lies within the fact that I just wish they actually gave us more of the awesome action rather than focus on these boring and awkward conversations that didn’t make me laugh, or really feel any more of an emotional connection to the story, it just annoyed me. I can see why Refn wanted to focus more on the story and visual flair rather than the action but when you got some writing that’s as boring as this is, you start to get pretty annoyed.
The real reason to see this film though is indeed, Ryan Gosling, aka one of my top man-crushes. Gosling plays The Driver and is quiet, calm, and relaxed throughout the majority of the film, but when it comes to him flipping shit, I was totally scared in all the right ways. Gosling plays both sides of this character believably well so you believe the subtlety that he has and the physical anger he projects from his character. I mean I was intimidated by Gosling here and every scene he is in, he uses that look on his face and his body language to convey a sense that his character is feeling every scene and it works so well. My man is on a roll!
The rest of the cast is also pretty good too. Carey Mulligan is good as the sweet Irene, although I think her and Gosling could have really projected some great screen chemistry given the right material; Bryan Cranston is gritty in his role as Shannon, the guy who brings Gosling into the world of crime; Ron Perlman is entertaining to watch as Nino the Jew, and I know this because they call him the name about 12 times; and Oscar Issac and Christina Hendricks have some pretty good “blink or you miss em” performances here as well. Albert Brooks as Bernie Ross is probably the most surprising of the whole cast because he has a presence that’s so powerful and ruthless that you actually can believe him as this violent mobster, rather than the voice of Marlon.
Consensus: Drive has moments where it absolutely works with it’s stylish direction from Nicolas Winding Refn, great performances from the cast, especially Gosling, and some bloody and thrilling flashes of violence, but too much of it feels slow and features conversations that are more boring than one you would have with a wall.
23 years later and money is still messed up.
Trader Jake (Shia LaBeouf) tries to mend the broken relationship between his fiancée, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), and her father, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), while avenging the fate of his mentor, Lou (Frank Langella), by getting close to Wall Street’s new megalomaniac, Bretton James (Josh Brolin).
After seeing the first Wall Street, I realized just how much things with money in today’s world hasn’t changed at all really. However, it seems the cheese factor for this type of material hasn’t either.
Director Oliver Stone has always been a favorite director of mine because he always knows how to make any story seem interesting with his great use of style but here he shows that those skills are starting to fall apart. Stone relies too much on montages, almost the same ones we saw from the first one, and quick cuts that try to bring off some sign of rapidness in the Wall Street world but overall none of it actually works.
Having this film set in the time of the 2008 financial crisis seemed like a perfect move for this story but it doesn’t really actually explore that nor does it actually try to explore the relationship between Gekko and his daughter, or any other story for that matter. Basically all the little sub-plots here and there seem totally forced and actually muddled in the end since it doesn’t really seem like Stone knows what story to focus on the most or which one will have the most effect. So what he does is just have all the stories play out at once, but to no effect whatsoever.
With the first one too, the film showed a lot of the dark and mean sides to having business on Wall Street but none of that was really even here to glue me in by how gritty and bad everything is. The one-liners also don’t have the zing they once used to because it all seems so dated as if Stone were just trying to do what he did with the first one but none of it was actually funny or even catchy, just lame and at times just totally forced.
However, my only real favorite thing about this film is the actual performances from the cast. Michael Douglas seems like a natural in his role as Gordon Gekko and plays the anti-hero here rather than the villain but still makes it all work. Douglas knows how to make bad seem cool in so many ways and it’s good to see him do what he does best here. The sad thing though is that it really just feels like him playing the same character, just a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and a lot more grumpier.
Shia LaBeouf is the real star here actually playing his soon to be son-in-law Jake, who works on Wall Street and just so happens to be in a relationship with a Wall Street legend’s daughter. I actually liked Shia in this role because I think he handles a lot of the financial talk really well and gives us that idea that he really can hold a film on his own it only matters if he’s given a good enough role. Carey Mulligan is good at displaying any emotion just by using her face as Winnie; Josh Brolin is good as this dickish rival hedge-fund manager, Bretton James; and Frank Langella is also very good in a small, but powerful role as Lewis Zabel, a man way past his time. There’s also a small performance from Susan Sarandon here as well as Jake’s mom that doesn’t even seem meaningful to the story at all but more just to have an Oscar winner on the set.
Consensus: The cast may help this get through most parts, but Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has a crappy title (obviously), really piss-poor writing that doesn’t have any actual emotional depth or any connection to the characters, and has no real swift style that Oliver Stone has shown in many of his other films, especially the first Wall Street. A huge disappointment.
Sounds like a Pink Floyd song.
Jenny’s (Carey Mulligan) Oxford-bound teen life is undistinguished in 1961 London until she’s given a different kind of education after being immersed in the beguiling but hazardous world of cultured and much-older David (Peter Sarsgaard). Even Jenny’s father, Jack (Alfred Molina), is intrigued by him, but her school’s unimpressed headmistress (Emma Thompson) works to keep Jenny’s entire future from crumbling under David’s influence.
Set in 1961 London, “An Education” tells the all too familiar tale of a high school girl seduced by an older cad. The girl in question is tops in her class and bound for Oxford. She repeatedly beseeches the adults around her to give her a compelling reason to go to Oxford rather than run off with the cad.
The film isn’t so much about the relationship, and surprisingly isn’t terribly sexual with its PG-13 rating. It is actually more about Jenny, and how she is finally introduced into this new world, that she was so sheltered from due to school. This is about discovering a new part of the world, after being sheltered for so long.
The film is depicted in the 60′s and I really did feel like I was in it. You could feel that slight bit of change in the culture. Like honestly why were women getting an education in the 60′s, because there weren’t any options open for them after they got their degree.
The one thing that got me with this film is that it doesn’t quite hold up all the way. The dialogue is a bit implausible, and that does start to show by the third act. I’m not going to say that I knew what was going to happen but I will say I kind of had a feeling that all of this was too good to be true. I feel like a lot of the writing does add a lot to the uncomfortable level in this film, and that I had a problem with at times.
The real saving grace from this film is the amazing lead performance from Carey Mulligan. Mulligan gives out the definition of a star-making performance, because the role of a girl losing her innocence and going from wide-eyed to sassy know-it-all, it is not an easy role, but she is spot on. Peter Sarsgaard is perfectly cast here, I find him super creepy and also very charming and likable, and I never knew which one of those things he is.
Consensus: The dialogue may run out of steam by the third act, but An Education blossoms with its great coming-of-age themes with a new twist, and a star-making performance from Mulligan.