Friday, May 31, 2013

(Movie Review) The Great Gatsby (2013)

Gatsby turns out to be far from “Great”

A book to film transition is hard. That much is fact. But a book that is such a large part of our culture, such as The Great Gatsby and it being a reading requirement of almost every high school in America, is a Herculean task that few would even attempt. I know that you are going to say, “This book has been adapted 6 times”.  And you would be right. But for a book that has sold millions and millions of copies and has been read by every generation for almost 90 years, 6 screen adaptations is not all that much. So, the real question is “Did this director get it right”? 

Storyline: Nick Carraway (Maguire) is a simple Midwesterner that comes to the ever bustling New York City. He is drawn in to the world of glitz, loud music, fast cars, bootleg whiskey, and money. Nothing embodies those qualities more than Jay Gatsby. Nick , who finds himself living next door to Gatsby, begins to become intertwined with Gatsby’s personal life in a way that not only changes Nick’s outlook on what he thought he wanted, but also exposes holes in Gatsby’s story that will change the lives of all involved forever.
So, again the question must be asked. Did the director get it right? Not really. At least not as a whole. The movie was absolutely stunning. It is probably one of the most visually impressive films I have seen in a long time. I was not surprised by this. You take the director of Moulin Rouge (2001) and give him such an ostentatious story to play with and you KNOW that the end result is going to be beautiful and excessive. So that is not where the movie fails. 

The movie fails because it relies solely on the “WOW” of the visuals to carry the film. The acting is not necessarily inspired, the dialog seems forced at times, and the editing is some of the worst that I have seen in a while. There are full scenes where the words coming out of someone’s mouth doesn’t match the movement of their mouth. That, to me, is extremely distracting. Not only does it fail in a lot of ways, but it is so long! It clocks in at around 2.5 hours. You can just about read the book in the time that it takes you to watch the movie. 

Worth the admission? No. Sorry folks, but I can’t recommend a movie that only wins on one front. This movie could have been exceptional, but the acting and dialog just doesn’t match the extravagant sets and costumes. And when the thrill of seeing pretty cars and big houses disappears, this movie has little to fall back on. 

I will say that the soundtrack was actually really good. Congrats to whoever decided to have Jay-Z “curate” the music. Genius move! 

(Movie Review) Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Fast & Furious 6 refuses to pump the brakes, and we love it for that!

It’s unheard of. Absolutely unheard of. This is a franchise that was created solely to show off aftermarket car parts, pretty women, and vehicles going fast. There was no depth. And the original movie was resting on the shoulders of two VERY new actors. So you can understand not only my amazement at the fact that this franchise is still going, but that it is better and more profitable with every single movie that is released. The general trend in Hollywood is to produce a surprise blockbuster, throw money at a sequel, and the audience watches as the producers flail around with their checkbooks open trying to figure out why people will not come watch their sequels. Yet the movies in this franchise have continued to not only “one up” each movie that came before it, but to actually make you care about characters that you have been watching on the screen for TWELVE YEARS. That’s right folks. The original movie came out in 2001. You have my permission to feel old. 

Storyline: Agent Hobbs (Johnson) has been chasing a supercar wielding criminal mastermind across 12 countries without even getting close to catching his target. When all else fails he goes to the only people that he knows of that could have the resources to take him out. Hobbs contacts Dom (Diesel) and Brian (Walker) to reassemble their team in an effort to stop this criminal threat once and for all. Their crew decides to take the job, but only if they are all given full pardons for their past crimes. 

Worth the admission? Does Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) like free snacks? Of course! This movie gives a lot. It’s easy for critics to brush movies like this off as being “popcorn flicks” and not being something that true cinema lovers would waste their time on. I would recommend that those critics get a life. This movie is fun. Sometimes movies are allowed to just be FUN! It is great to see this cast back together and doing what they do so well. They have fun with each other and it shows on screen. 

Was there anything that I didn’t like about the movie? Sure. I think that the reintroduction of Letty was some pretty poor retcon (retroactive continuity), but I was really glad to see her back with the crew. I also didn’t care for one particular scene where Dom saves Letty. But with just those tiny problems the movie was still pretty awesome. 

Special note: It has always bothered me that Han (Sung Kang) was shown blowing up in Tokyo Drift yet popped back up in Fast & Furious (2009) and each movie sense then with no explanation as to where Tokyo Drift fit into the franchise timeline. But the special scene in the credits not only reveals that, but also shows who the villain for the final FF film will be, and it is AWESOME.  Check it out! 

(Movie Review) Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek: Into Darkness is everything that Iron Man 3 tried to be…and then some

I was not a “Trekkie” growing up. I always thought that dressing up in silly outfits and playing pretend with your friends stopped in grade school or was reserved for Halloween. Still, I respect the commitment that some fans have had to the franchise. Why? Because they fell in love with a series that was low budget, had mixed reviews (at best) and was canceled after only three seasons on air. To most, that would be the end of the story. But fans wanted more, and the result has been one of the most successful franchises in the history of entertainment, spawning numerous spin of series and TWELVE motion pictures. So, was this movie up to snuff? Absolutely!

Storyline: After a mission is completed, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise returns home. Upon arriving they find that they are being sabotaged from within. When Kirk (Pine) suffers a serious loss, he takes it upon himself to hunt down the terrorist that is responsible for the havoc. Battles with Klingons, genetically altered terrorists, and a great deal of loss await the crew of the Enterprise. 

Going back to my little intro paragraph, the problem with doing movies like this is that the fans of the source material are SO obsessive about things that some will never be happy. That’s sad to me, because I would think that after almost 50 years the fans would just be happy to see that their favorite franchise is still producing entertaining films. Sure, some of the things have changed. One person might be a different race than they were in the past, Zachary Quinto (Spock) might show a little more emotion than Leonard Nimoy did in the original series, blah blah blah. Who cares? What people should be focusing on is the fact that this is just a really good movie. It’s as simple as that. 

Worth the admission? Does Spock have pointy ears? YUP! This movie really is a great benchmark for what summer “blockbusters” should be. In all of the ways that I thought Iron Man 3 failed me, this movie succeeded. The humor was not excessive, but effective. The action was fantastic. The special effects were outstanding! And the entire cast, as well as director J.J. Abrams, were fantastic. 

*spoilers below*

The introduction of Khan is something that was being kept under wraps for a while, but I felt it to be an injustice not to point out how absolutely perfect Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Khan was. He was everything that a good villain should be. Superior in almost every way to those pursuing him, physically menacing, and performs every task with the knowledge that every person in the room with him is inferior. He is righteous in his quest and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. A superb villain. The portrayal of Khan is possibly my favorite thing about this movie and I highly recommend that you go see it this weekend. 

(Movie Review) Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3 soars at the Box Office but crash lands with me.

There was a great line from Iron Man 3 that summed up my feelings. “Ever since that big guy with the hammer fell out of the sky, subtlety's kinda had its day”. That is a line that Aldrich Killian (Pearce) tells Tony Stark (Downey) in a scene from the film and I have never agreed with an analysis more. As viewers/fans we KNEW that the Marvel Universe would change forever after the events of The Avengers. It’s hard to make a movie that deals with aliens, gods, super soldiers and tons of other topics and that expansion of the Universe not spill over into the world of the most realistic character in the group, which was Iron Man. So when the writers saw what worked with The Avengers I’m sure they figured “let’s add a bunch of stuff like that to our movie”! What you end up with is a movie that doesn’t even feel like it is part of the same franchise as the previous Iron Man movies. 

Storyline: When Stark (Downey) is targeted by a mysterious threat known as The Mandarin, he brashly threatens The Mandarin and invites him to attack when he has the nerve to do so. This results in a full on assault on Tony Stark and the United States. Tony uses this attack as motivation to strike back and find out exactly who this terrorist is. When the current is pulled back, exactly who is behind the attacks is something that, as The Mandarin states, you will never see coming. 

I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but I’m typing in “rage mode” right now, so I can’t be held responsible for what I leak. First of all, Iron Man was the BATMAN of the Marvel Universe. A rich guy in a battle suit that fights crime and belongs to a team filled with other superheroes. By taking on that role, Iron Man should be the most realistic and relatable films in the Marvel Universe. Yet in this film you have humans that can spit fire and are, basically, invincible. How does that fly? The writers should be ashamed of themselves for ruining the tone of the franchise by adding in some of the stuff they did. And don’t get me started on how poorly they treated the legacy of a great character like The Mandarin (which has near limitless powers in the comics due to 10 rings of power). He is basically reduced to a joke.  That doesn’t sit well with me. 

Worth the admission? If you are looking for a fun movie and don’t care about franchise/character continuity or how they treat characters with 50 years of history, then sure…it’s worth it. But if you are a true fan of the series you will wait for it to come out on DVD. This installment is not even on par with Iron Man 2 and relies so much on comedy to carry the film that you fully expect Seth Rogan to make an appearance at some point.

(DVD Review) Parental Guidance (2012)

Billy Crystal should be considered a national treasure. Seriously. I know that he isn't in a lot of stuff these days, but I love to watch him in movies. He is just so natural and so believable. Especially the older he gets with this type of role. He is such an embarrassingly believable grandfather. So I'm not going to lie and say that this is the best movie ever made, but it is actually a fun little movie.

Storyline: Artie and Diane agree to look after their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents need to leave town for work. Problems arise when the kids' 21st-century behavior collides with Artie and Diane's old-school methods.- IMDB.COM

If you are looking for the funniest movie in the world, keep on looking. This isn't it. But it is cute. It has plenty of relatable moments that will make this movie stand out as somewhat "true". Sure, not everyone has children that are as anal as Artie's, but you immediately recognize the type. And not all grandparents are that eccentric, but you know those laid back grandparents that tell the hyperactive parents to take it all a bit easier. So the family unit aspect of this movie is so relatable to me, even if it is an exaggerated reality.

Worth it? If you come from a family that you consider "unique" then watch this and have your perceptions shattered, because you are not unique. All families are the same. Made up of individuals that just want to be themselves. So check it out.

(DVD Review) Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

The hard part about living in a rural area is that you often do not get to see a lot of the non blockbuster movies. Not necessarily the "indie" films, but the movies that theaters don't have faith will bring in the big bucks...and unfortunately this is one that slipped through the cracks. So now that I am finally getting to catch up with the movies that some have RAVED about I am finding that some of them are not as great as I thought they would be. This is one of them.

Storyline: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own. - IMDB.COM

Was it bad? No. Was it good? Sure. But it wasn't as life altering as people made it out to be. We enjoyed the movie just fine, but it wasn't something that I would have thought would have gotten the recognition that it did. Maybe people loved it so much because the contrast of what type of movies the actors in the film normally work on. Cooper in a more serious role is something fresh, but not life altering.

Worth it? Sure. It's worth renting on Netflix or Redbox.