Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Elizabeth Debicki

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Yeah, I don’t know either.

It’s the 28th century, and special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevigne), whenever they’re not working together to maintain order throughout the human territories, are also trying hard to figure out just what they’re doing together. Are they in love? Do they want to get married? Or do they just want to keep on doing what they’re doing, because it’s easy, simple and not all that made for dedication. Whatever the answer to their dilemma may be, it doesn’t matter, because they soon gather an assignment from the minister of defense (Herbie Hancock), to embark on a mission to Alpha, the ever-expanding metropolis where diverse species gather to share knowledge and culture for a hefty fee. But both Valerian and Laureline realize that something is off about their discovery and because of that, they’re hunted from all over the place, forcing them to run all over space and hop on different planets, where something odd and interesting is happening just about all of the time.

Blade Runner?

So yeah, Luc Besson is clearly going completely out of his way to ensure that the world gets a dose of Valerian and because of that, the man deserves some credit and above all else, respect. Word is, he not just put took a pay-cut on this one, but even went so far as to put his own money in the project; it’s currently the most expensive independent flick ever made and it shows. The movie is, for lack of a better word, beautiful; the CGI-team must have been hard-at-work, day and night, without any sleep whatsoever, trying to make sure that every piece of this crazily original and wild fantasy world was explored and shown to perfection.

It also does help get us past the fact that the movie’s story and script are troubling, to say the least.

But it’s obvious what Besson is doing here – clearly it’s been over two decades since we got the Fifth Element and because of that, we’ve got something of a new one for Generation-Y. In that sense, the movie can be pretty fun, because it’s so willing to be as ridiculous and as nutty as that movie, but at the same time, it doesn’t always work out. For example, the central romance between Delevingne and DeHaan, while somewhat cute, never works in this great, big universe where crazy, ugly-looking creatures show up left and right, spouting gibberish. It’s as if Besson wanted to have it both ways and because of that, the movie doesn’t always work and never quite figures out what it wants to be.

Uh, Avatar?

But Valerian is also a fun movie, that enjoys its own zaniness. It doesn’t have to always make sense of its universe, its characters, or even its central conflict – all it has to do is offer enough weirdness and electricity to remind us why these kinds of sci-fi movies, especially from Besson, can be a joy to watch. The movie doesn’t always figure out what it wants to do, what it wants to say, or hell, even where it’s going, but it does move so quick, it’s hard to always care.

And yes, the movie is almost two-and-a-half hours and somehow, yeah, it does go by.

Granted, there’s rough patches all throughout, but that’s expected here. Valerian may not be the cleanest, or smartest movie out there on the market, but Besson seems like he truly adores and cares for this material, regardless of if anybody else does. He’s putting it all out there on the line and while it may be too hard to ask for someone to pay for his water, or electric for the next month, I don’t think it’s too hard to say, “Hey, go check it out.” It’s weird and it’s supposed to be, so just get a little used to it and try to have some fun.

Please. Do it for Luc. He needs us all now, more than ever.

Consensus: Big, bright, loud, and ambitious, Valerian is certainly an original, but is also certainly uneven and a bit messy, making it feel like a cluster of a lot of different things that don’t always come together, but still somehow compel.

6 / 10

Surfing U.S.A. Or wherever the hell Luc’s got ’em at.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Advertisements

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

American

After the events of the original brought them all together, the Guardians of the Galaxy are back to doing what they do best: Ehrm, guard the, uhm, galaxy. Right? Anyway, things aren’t so different this time around with everyone – Quill (Chris Pratt) still loves himself and thinks everyone else does too; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) still can’t stand him, even though, deep down inside, she wants to maul him like a bear; Drax (Dave Bautista) is still saying uncomfortable things; Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is, well, still being Groot, but just a baby; and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), when he isn’t getting on everyone’s nerves, seems to be trying his hardest to prove himself as the best of the group. Basically, they’re still a rag-tag group of n’er do’wells who understand what they were put together to do, and while they don’t always get along, they like causing all sorts of havoc. And they get to do that, again, when they come face-to-face with a mysterious man named Ego (Kurt Russell) who, better yet, also happens to be Quill’s daddy. But yeah, there’s something off about him that just doesn’t sit right with the group and threatens to ruin them, as well as the galaxy, forever.

They’re Groot.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was, honestly, one of the better Marvel movies to have come out in some time, for many reasons. One, it was just weird and so different, that yeah, it worked. It wasn’t trying to be like all of the other Marvel movies, it wasn’t trying to tie-in to anything, or anyone else, and it sure as hell wasn’t setting itself aside to make you feel pleased and as if you are a part of the joke. It was its own beast that, despite actually being a product of a huge, overly-budgeted conglomerate, felt like a bad-ass, smart, witty, and self-aware monster that wasn’t afraid to tell you where to shove it.

And some of that, unfortunately, seems to be gone with Vol. 2, however, it’s not nearly as soulless as you may think.

But such is the case with most big-budget, blockbuster sequels, everything that worked so well and felt fresh in the first, sadly, gets overdone here a bit too much. The humor, while still definitely funny, also feels like it hits some lame notes and is just forced for the sake of being humor; the character-stuff, while appreciated, often times feels meandering and as if it’s not deep enough as it likes to be; the plot, while simple and understandable in the first, sort of seems to be overly complicated and covered in exposition that, once again, doesn’t seem to go anywhere, or do much of anything; and oh yeah, the run-time. At a little under two-and-a-half-hours, Vol. 2 does feel long and it shouldn’t – it’s the kind of movie that should constantly zing and zag along, proving to be the most perfect diversion for anyone looking for some sort of action-adventure, pseudo-superhero fun.

And while it sort of is, the movie’s also very long and feels like there’s almost too much going on, without a clear end in sight. James Gunn is no doubt, a very talented writer and director, and is perfect for this material, but even he gets a tad bit carried away; the fact that there is literally five mid-credits sequences should already tell you enough about the length to which this movie goes on till and puts into itself. But then again, when you have a good product, is it a problem to go a little overboard?

In some cases, yes. And Vol. 2 is, as much as it pains me to say, one of those cases.

Then again, the movie’s still a good time, all things considered. It could have definitely done with some trimming in both the writing, the filming, and the editing department, but overall, it feels like a solid piece of its own pie that also, somehow, still exists in the Marvel universe. It still isn’t playing by any sort of pre-conceived rules and it still isn’t trying to please everyone, and for that, it deserves a whole heap of respect. That it’s also a very popular franchise in the first place and a clear money-maker for the already very wealthy Marvel, just goes to show you that there are people out there who will accept and reward creativity, even when that creativity is made for the billions and billions of people out there in the world to buy a ticket and see.

So yeah, Communism rules at the end of the day, right?

He’s Groot.

Anyway, Vol. 2 works well because, by now, we’ve gotten the origin-story out of the way and we can finally, thankfully, get to know who these characters are a bit more and dig in deep. While there’s some questionable character bits and pieces throughout, the bulk of them all work in helping us understand who these colorful cartoons actually are, identify with them a bit, sympathize with them, grow close to them, and oh yeah, also get a little worried and sad when their lives seem to be in danger.

Take, for instance, Michael Rooker’s Vondu who, in the first movie, was a stereotypical villain, with terrible-looking teeth, a mean, grizzled Southern accent, and oh yeah, Michael Rooker playing him. He seemed like a one-and-done kind of character, that would be easy window-dressing for the second, but somehow, he comes close to being the star of the show and with good reason; not only does he have something to offer, in terms of his meaning to the overall story, but he’s actually got a bigger heart and soul than you’d expect. I don’t just chalk this up to Gunn’s solid writing for him, but also Rooker playing to his strengths as an actor, where he’s able to be mean and dirty, but also kind of a softy once you get to know him.

Then again, what can’t Michael Rooker do nowadays? Seriously?

And he’s not just the only character who gets the spotlight a bit and watch it all pay-off. Everyone else from the first, as well as a few new inclusions, all get their time in the sun, and while it may originally seem like overkill, the final-act puts it all into perspective and makes us realize, oh wait, this is about everyone here. Not just Quill; not just Rocket; not just Baby Groot; not just Gamora; not just Drax; and definitely not just the Avengers – but everyone. Needless to say, there’s a final-act here that absolutely worked, as it not only brought tears to this cynical viewer’s eyes, but made me want to watch these characters more and not leave their sides.

They’re just too fun to be away from for so long.

Consensus: While the writing isn’t always there, Vol. 2 still works because of its fun, well-written and exciting characters, to go along with the beauty and excitement of the visuals and action.

7.5 / 10

Yup. We’re all Groot.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Everest (2015)

Staying at home is fine, too.

Mount Everest is considered to be one of the greatest snowy mountains to climb up and sights to see, ever. That’s why, in March 1996, there were a few commercial expeditions all getting ready together and prepared to climb the mountain, even if they knew it can sometimes be rough and not so lovely, even if you do reach the top and complete the trip. One group in particular was lead by Adventure Consultants’ Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who, with his latest group with the likes of Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), who’s dealing with some marital problems of his own, as well as mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who is apparently using the trip as a way to prove himself to his wife, as well as some sponsors of his. However, these two are just a slight few of the many who decided to travel up the mountain, reach the top, and achieve their goal. There were plenty others like traveling journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) and Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal), just to name a few, but no matter how many there were, they still all faced the extreme weather conditions and storms that would soon sweep their area.

If Everest can take these three on, it can take on anyone!

If Everest can take these three on, it can take on anyone!

When all is said and done, all Everest really has to say about climbing and traveling and all that fun stuff is, that well, “it’s really hard to do”. For one, you have to have a whole lot of money to actually get the right treatment. Secondly, you have to train and prepare for it so much that, it comes to an eventual point where you don’t know how to live your own normal life, in normal society. And then, of course, there’s the risk-factor where, any wrong turn, slip, slide, or move in any way, can actually result in your fatal death. And while Everest can sometimes work as a way to get more and more tourists up there to check out the mountain for what it is, at the same time, that’s not at all the truth.

Because as the movie tells us, people die there. In fact, a lot of people.

And that’s about all Everest really has to say about this one particular, if true, story. People got cold, people got swept up in the huge storm that began to form right over them, and yes, people died. Of course, it’s very sad and there is no way of shining any sort of light or hope on it, however, there is something to be said for a movie that presents these deaths in a surprising manner, but also doesn’t shed any thought on them. It’s almost as if every character in Everest who dies, was around not to just die, but to also show us that hiking up a mountain like Everest is as scary and as terrifying as you’d expect it to be.

Which is a huge shame, because the cast here is pretty well-stacked and great. One can only assume that this great deal of talent got together in a movie like this because the paycheck was nice and there wasn’t too much heavy-lifting needed to be done, but still, you can tell that everybody here is trying and giving it their all. Jason Clarke finally gets a chance to shine and be charismatic for once, here as Rob Hall – somebody you just feel so incredibly safe and comfortable with, that you’ll almost forget your climbing one of the biggest mountains in all of the world. Though we get to see that he’s a generally nice guy who takes care of his free-loading buddies, picks up those that have fallen down, and loves his wife, it’s really Clarke who does most of the work here and shows just what he can do with such a limited-role.

Because frankly, everyone else’s characters don’t get much to do, either. And once again, it’s a total shame.

Josh Brolin gets to show us some semblance of humanity as Beck Weathers, the character we expect to be “the villain” of this whole story, only to realize that he’s nicer than expected; John Hawkes’ Doug Hansen is a bit of a corny character, but Hawkes is so likable that it almost doesn’t matter; Michael Kelly’s character feels like he serves more importance to the overall story, but doesn’t really get to stretch any of that out; Jake Gyllenhaal is hardly here as Scott Fisher, someone who is constantly drunk, miserable, tired, and hopped-up on some sort of drug, which Gyllenhaal works fine with, even if we don’t get any sort of background as to why; Emily Watson and Sam Worthington stay in the safe parts of Everest, for the most part, but still show enough humanity as much as they can; and Robin Wright and Keira Knightley are mostly downgraded to “wife roles” where they sit at home, watch over the house, and have occasional conversations with their spouses.

That snotty Keira, all tucked away and cozy in her warm home.

That snotty Keira, all tucked away and cozy in her warm home.

In case you couldn’t tell, that’s a lot of characters for a two-hour movie. So, it’s probably no surprise that a good handful are just left to act for a scene or two, and leave it at that. Most of them are effective, but overall, you can tell that, had the screenplay been more with their interest at-heart, something special would have happened.

That said, Everest is still pretty hard to look away from and get discouraged from, mostly because it does the job right in painting this storm as one of the most terrifying ones ever.

Director Baltasar Kormákur obviously didn’t set out to make some sort of thought-provoking piece of drama, but instead, wrap us in on a suspense-ride from beginning, to end. And honestly, it kind of works. The movie not only looks beautiful, but truly does make you feel as if you’re there at Everest, watching as each and everyone of these characters grapple with each one’s lives and try their hardest to stay the hell alive. Honestly, once the storm kicks in, which isn’t until about an hour in, is only when the movie really gets going, but it’s so enriching and compelling, that I was able to forgive it for all of the missteps it made before.

Even if the cast gets wasted on roles that are way too limited, there’s still the feeling that, deep down inside, Kormákur wanted to chronicle this tragedy. Sure, he went about it in such a manipulative manner, but he’s a film-director – how could he not want to make a little bit of money out of other people’s suffering?

Consensus: Despite not feeling as if it’s fully up-to-par with the extreme talents of the ensemble, Everest still works a chilly thrill-ride that keeps you enamored with the spectacle, so long as you don’t try to look too deep enough.

7 / 10

"Yeah, it's uh, it's pretty cold up here."

“Yep. Still pretty cold up here.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Macbeth (2015)

Insanity, vanity, and wine, don’t always mix well.

Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) and Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) are married and, at one time, were at least happy. Now, after having lost a child, they are not – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want the same thing. Though Macbeth supports King Duncan (David Thewlis), Lady Macbeth still convinces that it is his time to take the crown and get rid of King Duncan while he still can. And get rid of King Duncan, is exactly what Macbeth does. This leads him and Lady Macbeth to become both King and Queen, where they are not only given each and everyone’s respect and adoration, but generally seen as people you should not try to double-cross. That’s why, when it becomes clear that Macbeth himself is going a bit mad and losing control of, not just his mind, but his empire, people start trying to bail and escape from Macbeth’s rule. Obviously, Macbeth is not too happy about this and decides to use his power to take matters into his own hands. Eventually, people start to get so tired and angry with Macbeth’s psychotic tendencies, that they start to get together and form something of a rebel alliance – one that will ultimately prove to be Macbeth’s undoing.

aaa

Not Game of Thrones with Fassbender, but wow. How amazing?

Among many other things, of course.

So yeah, it’s very hard to make a Shakespeare adaptation nowadays without making it seem like you’re just taking up your time to make a movie and because, well, you could. In a way, everything’s been done by now and unless you have a truly unique, interesting way of telling the story, your adaptation won’t do much except just make people actually want to go back and read the original-text. Because as everybody knows, people love Shakespeare, and if there’s something they love more, it’s a good Shakespeare adaptation.

Something that Macbeth sort of is and sort of isn’t, but that’s sort of the point.

What director Justin Kurzel seems to be doing here is give everyone that kind of Macbeth adaptation they expected to see, yet, at the same time, still find ways to make it even more bleak and unrelenting than ever before. Clearly, for anyone who has ever read the original story or seen other adaptations, it’s clear that this is a pretty hard task, but it’s one that Kurzel seems perfectly equipped with handling. Kurzel’s last film, the Snowtown Murders, was basically an adaptation of Macbeth, but not really; while it was clearly based on a true story that’s as grim as anything in here, it’s also, at the same time, a tale about how evil can take over one man to make him do terribly inhumane things that no sane man in his right man would ever think of committing.

And with the story of Macbeth, that’s exactly what Shakespeare is trying to say. While he was obviously a bit more subtle with it than I may be making it out to be, that idea of one man losing all control of his mind, while still clearly in power over a large group of people, is still here and obvious in every shot, frame and scene. While it may get a tad repetitive with Fassbender just constantly acting out like a nut case and just making everyone around him feel genuinely terrified and scared for their lives, Fassbender’s still good enough that it’s easy to get past. Though this isn’t his best work we’ve seen him do this year, it’s still hard to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on the screen as he commands just about every scene.

aaaa

That look, those eyes, so French.

Marion Cotillard does the same, however, her role is a whole heck of a lot more subtle than Fassbender’s.

For one, everything she’s thinking or feeling, at any given moment, is displayed on those huge, bright eyes of her. Cotillard is known for giving these kinds of small, subtle performances where you have an inkling of how she’s feeling just by looking at her beautiful face, but here, it especially works because you know that, deep down inside, she’s the heart and soul of this story. It’s a pretty dark heart and soul, but a heart and soul nonetheless, which is why it’s great to get the scenes with her when it’s just her trying to calm her hubby down, or at least try and make sense of his madness.

As for the rest of Macbeth, it’s, as expected, some very gut-wrenching and disturbing stuff, most of which, is actually beautiful to watch. Kurzel layers his film with a certain code of orange that’s not just interesting, but occasionally, distracting; there’s so many shots here of beauty that, really, it seems like overkill and almost as if the ones behind this movie knew exactly that they were making something beautiful and had to tell the whole world about it. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike the film for trying to look good, but there was a small feeling that, almost every time some pretty shot was seen on the screen, that those behind the camera were just absolutely pleased with themselves.

Nothing wrong with liking what you’ve done, but you know, relax a little bit.

Instead, what Kurzel does is just tell the story, as it was, in some ways, originally presented. While there’s certain lines and/or scenes that are missing, the general idea is that Kurzel’s going to keep the native tongue and try his hardest to make us roll along with it. Because of this, the movie can sometimes be a bit difficult to read into or understand, but because the performances are so good from just about everyone, they help spell certain things out. And then, after awhile, it’s easy to just remember that, eventually, every scene is going to lead into someone or something getting stabbed, slice, or killed in a disgusting, disheartening way.

Just how Shakespeare liked it, clearly.

Consensus: The performances from Fassbender and Cotillard are so good in Macbeth, that they make it easy to get through some of the more confusing parts of it, as well as see more than just a bunch of blood, gore and violence, which ultimately, this story can just be all about.

6.5 / 10

aaaa

Hail to the king, baby.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Secret spy agents have never been so cheeky!

Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is a post-WWII antiquities smuggler who gets recruited by the CIA to help catch the baddies and put himself in dangerous positions that no pencil-pusher would ever even dream of being caught in. His latest mission, however, may test him to his utter limits. An East German mechanic by the name of Gaby (Alicia Vikander), has a father who was a former rocket scientist for the Nazis and may be currently developing a nuclear bomb for a bunch of shady fascists. Because the mission itself is so complex, Solo’s boss (Jared Harris) assigns him to work with KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer); somebody Solo already has a bit of a rivalry with as is. This leads to constant tension and bragging between the two where they sometimes find that they are at odds with one another, rather than with the enemy. But while Solo is busy fighting off whatever pretty honey that comes his way, Kuryakin is trying his hardest to not show off any sort of emotional feelings for anyone, especially not for Gaby, who has now been assigned to use cover as his fiancee. Will all of these personal problems get in the way of the mission? Or will Kuryakin, Solo and Gaby combine their forces and beat the villains, so that all us citizens can live a happy, healthy, and care-free life?

Still not Kristin Scott Thomas, even though my brain keeps making me think so.

Still not Kristin Scott Thomas, even though my brain keeps making me think so.

Love him, hate him, don’t care for him, or hell, don’t even know who he is other than the dude who married Madonna, Guy Ritchie’s got style. And no, I’m not talking about the way he dresses or acts in real life – I mean the movies that he makes. While some may get tired and bored of his energetic and frenetic style, to me, Ritchie feels like the kind of director we’re very lucky to have. None of his movies (even his really terrible ones), can be called “horrid”, “stupid”, and “annoying”, but they can’t be called “dull”. This is because Ritchie refuses to let a movie of his get made without some form of color or fun thrown into the proceedings.

And if anything, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the perfect example of this.

What makes me most happy about U.N.C.L.E. is that it’s the kind of action-thriller that likes to have fun. What was that word? “Fun”? In a current action-thriller, you say? Well, funny that you may ask because yes, U.N.C.L.E. is indeed a fun movie that doesn’t try to frown or grim too much; more or less, it’s concerned with kicking-ass, stunts, guns, babes, booze, spy-gadgets, fancy cars, and most of all, humor.

In today’s day and age where Bond seems to be losing his smirk as each and every movie goes by, or where every hero’s trying to be the next Bourne, U.N.C.L.E.‘s characters all have lovely personalities, seem to have some bit of fun in their systems and, most importantly, have a good joke to end a sentence on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all jokes and play for Ritchie’s characters here, however, even when they do get serious and melodramatic, it isn’t at the high cost of the movie where all of the exciting and fun times are over and now we have to get all stern and cold.

Ritchie doesn’t care for those kinds of thrillers and it’s way U.N.C.L.E. works as well as it does.

Some of this has to do with the fact that the setting (post-WWII, Cold War-era) just screams white-blooded nostalgia right at you, but a good portion has to do with the fact that Ritchie seems interested in this story all around. After all, it’s his fault that a TV show from the 60’s is being brought to the screen where half of the audience who watched that original show may not be alive, or even remember it, so if he screws this up, it’s off with his head. But Ritchie seems absolutely enthused to be giving these locations, these characters, and this decade the light of day and it’s hard to not get caught up in all the good vibes going around.

After all, it’s getting to the end of the summer, so it’s better to get out with a happy, healthy bang, rather than a down-beat, depressed and down-trodden whimper like some of these blockbusters have been this summer.

But perhaps the best thing about U.N.C.L.E., isn’t that it’s filled with plenty of cheeky humor, or impressive set-pieces, but is that it makes you want to see more of these characters in whatever the next adventure it is that they’re getting involved with. While Henry Cavill may be seen as Superman for quite some time, he’s very charming here as Napoleon Solo – who is basically Bond, except that he’s got a perfect chin, hair, body, and cheeks that makes you wonder if Ritchie too thinks this guy’s handsome as hell, too. This gives me hope that whatever side-projects Cavill decides to do away from being Kal-El, that he chooses to take ones that test him as an actor a bit, but also show what his strengths are as an actor.

Doesn't get anymore British than him.

Doesn’t get anymore British than him.

Same goes for Armie Hammer who, after the Social Network, hasn’t had the most lovely career. None of that really has to do with him, because even the crappy movies he participated in, he was at least fine in them, but there is something to be said for a person when they just become a one-hit wonder and you wonder whether or not they’ve actually got some sort of acting-skill in their soul, or are they just another good-looking. In Hammer’s case, he’s definitely the later, but here, he shows that he’s got skills as an actor and is at least able to make this stiff character funny and engaging to watch.

Of course, the whole joke surrounding him is that he’s all too serious and emotionless for his own good, but what Hammer does well, is that he shows that there’s more to this character than just what’s presented on the surface. This is what makes the later-portion of this movie actually interesting, because Hammer and Alicia Vikander have good chemistry between one another where it seems like their characters would be perfect as partners in life, as well as in work. It should be noted that Vikander is great here, too, and is another female character we get this summer that seems like she’s there as nothing else but just a damsel-in-distress, but soon shows her true colors and turns out to be smarter than her male counterparts.

But I’ll save my praise for Vikander for a later-time, considering she’s got plenty of more movies coming around the bend.

Consensus: Stylish, colorful, and whimsical, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn’t just an entertaining action-thriller, but one that signals why Guy Ritchie is one of the better directors we have working today; he just needs to be given better material to work with.

8 / 10

Please, movie audiences: Let us see these three again.

Please, movie audiences: Let us see these three again.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Great Gatsby (2013)

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.

"Don't worry, Carey. Baz didn't mean it when he said that that folk shit doesn't deserve to be played in his movie."

“Don’t worry, Carey. I STILL like Mumford & Sons.”

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.

The Tobe-meister, once again wondering just how Gatsby does it the way he does it. Aka, the same face he has on the whole movie.

The Tobe-meister, once again wondering just how Gatsby does it the way he does it. Aka, the same face he has on the whole movie.

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!!

If you look closely, you might be able to see Joel Edgerton's left hand prepare for the twirl of his mustache.

If you look closely, you might be able to see Joel Edgerton’s left hand prepare for the twirl of his mustache.