The Great Gatsby–brings Fitzgerald’s words to life!

TheGreatGatsby2012Poster.jpg

Baz Luhrmann has done what many tried and failed to do–bring F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s classic to life.  And although it is not perfect and it may run a bit long, I still liked more in The Great Gatsby, than I disliked.  If you are a fan of the novel, as my daughter and I are, I can not imagine how you can be wholly disappointed.  Baz does more right than wrong with this almost literal adaptation.  His vision is a gorgeous and spectacular, in true Baz fashion.

And this IS a Baz Luhrmann film–through and through.  If you do not know what that means check out his other projects–my favorites?  Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Australia.  All of them…vibrant–raw–striking–bold…I can go on and on.  What I love so much about Baz is his unique style and voice.  There is also always a very distinct line between the audience and the “play”–he purposely reminds us that what we are watching is a “NOT real”.   With the use of strong imagery (the sets here are amazing) and creative music he is able tell his stories like almost no one else.  And if you come into Gatsby as a fan, you will not be disappointed.

Side note:  I am not a 3-D lover or hater, but I usually go good old-fashioned 2-D and this time my daughter convinced to try it with the glasses.  “Baz?! In 3-D?? C’mon!”  😀  Boy, was she right!  This was a great experience.  The confetti.  The flowing curtains.  The flowers.  Everything.  Beautiful.  It was not gimmicky–just a submersion into the environment–very cool.

great-gatsby-

Luhrmann, a big fan of Fitzgerald, co-wrote the screenplay with Craig Pearce and it is actually very faithful to the novel and manages to finally incorporate Carraway’s narration, successfully.  I loved that constant use of words on the screen–an ever constant reminder of the novel.  There were scenes exactly like the novel described them and some sections were verbatim from the book.  I like how they chose to focus on the “love story” and then use them as representatives of their social status and in that way, each could be compared to the different aspects of era that Fitzgerald was criticizing.  Very clever and well done.  But, this is where the problems also lie.  At 2.5 hours it feels bloated and the pace starts to drag by the third act.  I went from being totally lost in the sights and sounds to looking at my watch and thinking how much I had to go to the bathroom.  Yeah…they lost me.  I came back, but still–a good 15-20 minutes could have been shaved off easily.

gatsby-was-originally-set-in-the-midwestnot-new-yorkaround-1885

Now, on to the impressive cast.   Leonardo DiCaprio is incredible (as usual) as Jay Gatsby.  He is able to be elegant, worldly and confident and then still be awkward, vulnerable and unsure.  Beautiful performance and exactly how I pictured Gatsby in my mind.  Carey Mulligan is Daisy.   She exudes innocence and fragility and yet, there is that core of entitlement and shallowness–Mulligan gives a nuanced turn here.   My only slight disappointment is Tobey Maguire, who works as Nick Carraway–yet, I am not sure he has enough depth to play the part as well as it could have been done.  Maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  Just sayin’…

the-great-gatsby-3

I can not end this review without mentioning the music.  WOW!  I love it.  Listening to it now.  😀  Lana Del Rey‘s Young and Beautiful (co-written by Baz) is hauntingly beautiful.  And again, Baz creates a modern soundtrack for a period piece–it is infused with a cool, techno 1920s feel and I love that it also helps propel the story forward.  Very creative.

So, as you can tell–I liked The Great Gatsby and will say it was the most faithful adaptation of the novel yet.  It could have been a little tighter with time and not all the roles were perfectly cast–but I was impressed with Baz’s vision and loved Leo and Carey’s performances.  I think F.Scott would have enjoyed it and appreciated that the essence of his novel was captured and that it was so beautifully portrayed.

“Young and Beautiful” – A Tribute to “The Great Gatsby” – YouTube

 

Fast Six. YES!

FastandFurious6-teaserposter.jpg

You know what to expect if you are familiar with this franchise and this latest installment will NOT disappoint.  Fast Six is a fast, fun, popcorn-eating  summer blockbuster!  Low on realism and high on fantasy.  I dare say this is summer movie greatness.

Okay.  I must admit I love The Fast and The Furious series!  LOVE IT!

All of the films–(except for 2Fast 2Furious and 2Horrible -_-)–are a total adrenaline,  fun-filled rush.  Maybe, it could be my love of American muscle cars (yeah…they’re awesome!)–my love for creative action sequences and fist fights–or maybe my love for Vin Diesel’s voice…hell–my love for ALL of Vin Diesel!  (And yes.  I can’t wait for Riddick!)  So for many reasons I was giddy and bouncing with excitement about The Fast & Furious 6.  I knew it was going to be silly, unrealistic and corny–but I also knew it would have playful, humorous banter, badass action and beautifully orchestrated car stunts (Lin has some serious skills!  Can’t wait to see what he is going to do next…).  Yeah.  Giddy as a schoolgirl.

Director Justin Lin‘s last addition is a fitting farewell to the characters and universe he helped to establish.  The story brings everything full circle.  You have the complete arch of all the characters and in a way, it kind of ends Lin’s tenure and leaves it open to start a new chapter.  I love that this started as an underground racing film with some stiff acting and cool premise and now it has grown into a half way decent adventure for these characters.  By Fast Five they were in  full-blown heist mode and now in F&F6 it comes back to family and what’s really important.  Besides fast cars.  😀

Diesel is the heart of this franchise and he wears Dom Toretto like a comfortable jacket.  Stoic and quiet he is the leader of this band of drivers and everyone else bounces off  his presence.  Paul Walker grows up a bit in this one and seems to bring O’Connor to a  maturity lacking in the others.  It is nice to see Michelle Rodriguez again and I even liked how they brought Letty back.  Clever and effective.  As for the crew, my favorites are Sung Kang‘s Han (always) and Gal Gadot‘s Gisele and they bring this doomed pair to a satisfying conclusion.  And of course, you have The Rock and newly added Haywire’s Gina Carano (she is incredible and facilitates some cool girl fights…) who make a dynamic fighting duo.  😀

I will have to give F&F6 the best villain award.  Luke Evans is perfect as the baddie Shaw.  I am excited about this because I have watched Mr. Evans career since seeing him in several, not so good films (The Raven–Three Musketeers) but enjoying his performances.  I am happy to see him shine in this.   I loved that they did not make him a mad, rash psychopath–but a controlled, calm psychopath–which is much more fun.   Make sure you stay after the credits to see a sneak peek at baddie for #7–very promising.

Bottom line?  It’s fun.  Period.  Yes, there are “yeah, right” moments and “No, that would never happen”–but if you are sitting in that chair watching a Fast and Furious film–you have to know that is part of the package.  What I love is that this series has NEVER taken itself seriously.  This is meant to be badass and frivolous fun.  And you know what?  That is how I like it.

Fast & Furious 6 Official Trailer #1 (2013) – Vin Diesel Movie HD – YouTube

Star Trek: Into Darkness is a worthy sequel

The poster shows a flaming starship falling towards Earth, with smoke coming out. At the middle of the poster shows the title "Star Trek Into Darkness" in dark grey letters, while the production credits and the release date being at the bottom of the poster.

I enjoyed the ride, that is Star Trek: Into Darkness!  It is a rollicking good time–full of humor, action and enough Trekkie geekiness to satisfy most of us fans.  But, it is by no means perfect.  And yet, you don’t seem to mind that much because you are having such a fun time visiting with the characters and the pace is so fast and vigorous, it is over before you can process most of the slight problems.  If you enjoyed J.J. Abrams‘ 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise, then you will love this worthy sequel.

And this is Abram’s film, for sure.  I like JJ–really, I do (Super 8 was my favorite and loved Alias) and appreciate his talent.  He is a gifted storyteller, yet he stays true to what I call–Screenwriting 101.  Predictable and simple structure, that  relies on the use of plot devices and coincidences (remember Kirk’s 2009 exile to a remote, isolated planet that just happens to be where Scotty lives?  Yeah…stuff like that.)  Not, that he can’t be effective and entertaining, it’s just an element you must learn to accept as “his” style (that and his love for blue lens flare ;)).

The simple structure does lend itself to focus on the true theme of this installment–Kirk and Spock.  This is their bromance–continued.  STID solidifies the friendship between the Captain and his number one (mixing shows here ;)) and shows how they find the balance they each need, with the other.  And this is where the film shines.  Chris Pine seems to be born to play James T. Kirk and there is a moment that I felt, “There it is.  That IS the quintessential Kirk.”  And Zachary Quinto is the perfect Spock, who is now embracing different aspects of his nature far more rapidly than the original Spock and I love that.

And I love this cast!  The characters and the performances that bring them to life, are the real reason to watch STID.  As a fan of the franchise (hard-core ST: TNG fan and I’ve seen ALL of the 12 films), I have a special relationship with these guys and this cast is spot on!  I wish we could spend more time with each of them.  But, hey…we have action to serve up–so everyone gets their tiny moment.  Have to give shout outs to Karl Urban‘s Bones and Simon Pegg‘s Scotty for awesome comedy relief!

Now on to the villain–John Harrison (aka the worst kept secret in Hollywood ;D).  You may know (or not)–that I am totally in love with BBC’s Sherlock series and Benedict Cumberbatch.  So, I may be a bit biased, but I love his performance.  Although he played the part quiet and restrained, he also exuded danger and malice.  What a badass!  I was not disappointed.  (Abrams choices to frame shots of him dramatically did make me chuckle ;D)  It was also nice to see Peter Weller get some screen time–they did not waste his talent.

I enjoyed all the little shout outs to previous Star Trek themes and story lines but, that also provided a few predictable situations.  All I can say is that my emotional strings were not played–and unlike its predecessor I did not find myself tearing up this time around.  STID stays true to Abrams new vision and propels the narrative forward for the crew of the Enterprise–in what I hope–would be the true departure of the established Star Trek Universe  and the beginning of stories that truly “go where no man has gone before.”  I think that would be exciting and definitely lead to new, unpredictable adventures–especially with Abrams now busy with the Star Wars franchise and a new director taking over the helm–to quote my favorite captain, “Make it so.”

Star Trek Into Darkness – International Trailer (HD) – YouTube

Iron Man 3 ROCKS!

Iron Man 3 theatrical poster.jpg

Yeah–I said it–IM3 ROCKS!!   Big time.  Welcome Summer of  2013…and what a start!  Marvel Studios did not disappoint and honestly, after the hugely successful and popular Avengers this could have been less than just because how could it compare to such awesomeness?  But, that is not the case, at all.  Under the direction (and co-written by) Shane Black, both Tony Stark and the series enter the realm of greatness.  It has all that is best about the Superhero universe–a troubled hero–check, a fantastic villain–check, humor/fun quota–check  and awesome badassery–double-check!

We must begin with Robert Downey, Jr. and his brilliant (continual) performance of Tony Stark.  If ever an actor and character were meant to be–it is these two.  Wonderful.  I enjoyed every second.  His perfect comedic timing and superb delivery is not wasted.  Yet, RDJ  is also allowed to really shine dramatically, too.  Realistically disturbed and haunted by the events in New York while with the Avengers, Stark is more human this time around and forced to deal with his frailty and many of his other issues.  I loved this approach and was pleased with the arch that shows real growth and potential for the character.

And as I’ve said before, a supporting cast can help elevate a film and the IM universe is a well oiled machine (sorry, couldn’t find another way to say it :D).  Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect as Pepper Potts, again and her chemistry with RDJ is so easy and strong, that it is a pleasure to watch them.  Don Cheadle is solid, as usual and had some great moments.  Jon Favreau (director of 1 & 2–ex producer of 3) was generous to show up and proved he is a cool dude.  And I can not leave out Paul Bettany as the voice of Jarvis and all the suits–I love him!  This time around they really focus on the relationship between Stark and the suits–and how they are an extension of who he has become–and I thought exploring this aspect of the ego was a smart touch.   (Side-note: I must confess–I love the robot guys (fire extinguisher one–heart) and they have a great moment.)

Now, on to the villains–who can make or break any film–but especially a superhero film.  Well, this is the splitting point for many.  I am not a comic book reader–so, I will not be able to feel disappointed– I came in without expectations and totally enjoyed the villains here.  Sir Ben Kingsley is wonderful as Mandarin–his performance is strong and pleasantly unexpected.  Guy Pierce’s Aldrich Killian is fantastic!  This guy is good and he is having a blast.  Chewing up scenery like crazy!   I also like Rebecca Hall, yet her character was the least developed and seem like an afterthought.  But we did have some henchmen with swagger and that is always fun–nice job, James Badge Dale and Stephanie Szostak.

The most pleasant surprise for me was Shane Black’s direction.  Known more as a screenwriter, I was not sure he could handle the amount of action required for these big summer films–but smartly, Black scales down the over-the-top sequences and somehow is able to make it feel grittier and real.  Bringing Stark to earth allows him the opportunity to present the action with a fresh angle.  Well done.

What else can I say?  I laughed.  A lot.   I was choked up, in parts.  I was awed and impressed.  I left bumped and ready to watch it again.  So, yeah…it rocked!  My favorite of the series–hands down.

Iron Man 3 – Official Trailer #2 (HD) – YouTube