Monthly Archives: May, 2013

Movie: The Great Gatsby (2013)

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Rating: 3/5

There are two ways that a Baz Luhrmann-directed The Great Gatsby could have gone, and either way would have been acceptable. First, Luhrmann could have oversaturated the film with his usual pomp and intense style. The result would have been a visually-appealing, highly unique take on the Fitzgerald novel. Luhrmann could have used this tack to highlight the disgusting grandiosity and veneer that Fitzgerald highlights. Another way would have been for Luhrmann to tone down his style and focus on the narrative of the novel, the personal narratives of the characters who were so representative of that time and that society. This would have been acceptable as well, a less showy but equally damning social commentary.

The main problem with The Great Gatsby is that it took the middle ground, and by not fully committing to either stances, became a movie that failed to be either glamorous or emotional. By trying to be both, it instead presented a confusing film, neither here nor there. While still enjoyable, the film lacked anything to make it stand out.

There are a number of things that still work in Gatsby’s favour. The set designs are truly incredible. Some of the directing decisions by Luhrmann worked quite well. Performances by Leonardo di Caprio, Carey Mulligan and Jason Clarke were spot-on. But none of those could have helped the movie capture the magic of the book, especially in such a disjointed effort.

Ultimately, The Great Gatsby is a noteworthy film that is sure to enthral both those familiar and unfamiliar with the novel by Fitzgerald. However, it fails to live up to its full potential due to uneven directing from Luhrmann which contributed to confused messaging and imagery. The film would have been better served if Luhrmann had fully committed to his high-intensity, dazzling style rather than fearfully reverting to straight-up storytelling at some key moments.

 

2013 Films

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

2. Frozen

3. What Maisie Knew

4. Requiem for a Dream

5. Star Trek: Into Darkness

6. The Way, Way Back

7. American Hustle

8. The Spectacular Now

9. The Croods

10. Sunshine Cleaning

11. Stuck in Love

12. The Descendants

13. Blue Jasmine

14. Iron Man 3

15. Wreck It Ralph

16. Now You See Me

17. Philomena

18. The Place Beyond the Pines

19. Gravity

20. Junebug

21. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

22. Nebraska

23. Win Win

24. Before Midnight

25. Don Jon

26. Rust and Bone

27. Pacific Rim

28. Rise of the Guardians

29. 12 Years a Slave

30. Fruitvale Station

31. The Book Thief

32. 500 Days of Summer

33. Virginia

34. Prisoners

35. Disconnect

36. Reservation Road

37. The Host

38. An Education

39. Frances Ha

40. Unfinished Song

41. The Great Gatsby

42. The Right Kind of Wrong

43. Man of Steel

44. Super 8

45. Beautiful Creatures

46. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

47. Elysium

48. We’re the Millers

49. The Butler

50. Percy Jackson and The Sea of Monsters

51. Thor 2

52. People Like Us

53. The Fifth Estate

54. The Wolverine

55. Oz The Great and Powerful

56. How I Live Now

57.  Jesus Henry Christ

58. Parkland

59. Salvation Boulevard

60. The Internship

61. The English Teacher

62. Zero Dark Thirty

63. Adore

Movie: Iron Man 3 (2013)

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Rating: 4.5/5

Tony Stark is one of the most unique superhero protagonists in the genre and the main reason why last years Avengers did extremely well, being built almost entirely on his character. Iron Man 3 is as much an ode to this character and to his brilliant portrayal by Robert Downey Jr.

Iron Man 3 is also an ode to the technological and innovational fun of the Iron Man series. What it isn’t is a complex, heartfelt story, despite the attempt to do so through Tony Stark’s difficulties in handling what happened in New York and his relationship with Pepper Potts. While I understood the necessity to put these in, I felt they were unnecessary, complicating and bogged down what I believe to be the true strength of Iron Man – the fact that it is so unabashedly fun and tongue-in-cheek.

It is in this, along with Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, that Iron Man 3 really shines. In particular, the storyline between Stark and a young boy from Tennessee was incredibly well-played, absent any cloying sentimentality between the two. Most films that include kids in their story lines have a tendency to over-sentimentalize it and push for a major shift in the protagonist because of the kid. I fully enjoyed the fact that Iron Man 3 did not go in that direction and this storyline actually became one of my favourite threads in the story.

Without spoiling too much, I also enjoyed the twist to the Mandarin storyline that was employed. I’m not sure if others enjoyed it but I liked how it was pretty reflective of some more serious truths in our world nowadays while also adding very Iron Man-esque comedy into the film.

Iron Man 3 is  a brilliantly witty, fun and entertaining film with plenty of laughs and great Tony Stark one-liners. While it occasionally induced eye-rolling during its unnecessary and trite emotional scenes, they were thankfully very limited. Iron Man 3 succeeds because it doesn’t take itself seriously and clearly prides itself on what it’s good at – having a unique, careless protagonist. This self-awareness alone helps make Iron Man 3 the best film of the year so far.

2012 Films

1. Hunger Games

2. Silver Linings Playbook

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

4. Argo

5. Avengers

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Movie: The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

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Rating: 4/5

The Place Beyond the Pines is a film that is deeply aware that it is trying to send a message, and then tries to thump it into the audience’s head for the next two hours. Luckily for it, Derek Cianfrance has written and directed a deeply moving and engaging film that hosts superb performances, in particular from Ryan Gosling and Dane DeHaan. Both of these combine to allow it to rise above other, traditional melodramas that have hit theatres. Its flaw only really becomes apparent in the heavy-handed, flimsy third act, which is only really injected with life by DeHaan.

At its heart, The Place Beyond the Pines is a story about fathers-and-sons (while two generations are featured in the film, the impact of the older generation of fathers is an integral part of the story) and how their actions impact each other. It is even more greatly highlighted by the presence of Kofi and his interaction with his stepson. I thought that the film portrayed this realistically and gut-wrenchingly. It aptly brings up the question of how to get this particular relationship right. In the context of what the film was trying to achieve, it was easier to stomach, although not ignore, the lack of any kind of legitimate female presence in the film other than as sideshows. Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne, while doing what they could with their roles, had absolutely nothing to work with.

I enjoyed the way that Cianfrance shot his movie. It was captivating and showed an awareness of the story the film was telling. There was no pomp or gratuity – Cianfrance clearly wanted his story and message to stand on its own. This allowed me as a viewer to feel the reality of the situations the characters were put in.

While all performances were good, I sadly felt that Bradley Cooper was overmatched by Gosling. He wasn’t bad, but he just wasn’t as believable in his role as Gosling was. The same can’t be said for the younger generation. Emory Cohen, who plays Bradley’s son later in the film, was actually laughably bad. He is easily overshadowed by DeHaan (easily) and I’m still unclear as to whether this is a slight on Cohen or a ringing endorsement of DeHaan. To be fair, he probably had the least complex, most one-sidedly irritating roles in the film.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a deeply dark, tragic film with little to really feel good about. The messaging is too heavy-handed at times. But solid storytelling from Cianfrance, other than the weak third act, and gritty performances from its actors make it a must-see.