For all the digital glitter and anachronistic hip-hoppery that signifies our latest re-entry into Luhrman-land, The Great Gatsby itself takes fundamental inspiration from a black and white classic from 1941. Featuring a flashback framing device, a lonely and heartsick tycoon staring out of the window of a grotesque castle, and even a breathless deathbed “Daisy” uttered as if it summed up an entire life (like “Rosebud”), Gatsby is no less than Baz Luhrman’s Citizen Kane. Even his star, Leonardo DiCaprio is starting to resemble a Wellesian hero, at least in the jowels if not the girth.
So, no pressure, then, Baz – you’re only merging the great American novel and the greatest movie of all time. Of course, he can’t possibly succeed on his own unimaginably ambitious terms, but he falls a bit short on the basic “tell a story” level too – even if he manages to make some sequences sing.
Set in 1922 (and written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, well before the Jazz Age came crashing down into the Great Depression), Gatsby is the story of one man’s reinvention out of the trauma of World War One and into the longest, biggest (and most illegal) party the world had ever seen.
[pullquote]Fast & Furious is vast and curious[/pullquote]DiCaprio’s Gatsby has built a business empire out of the drug stores and speakeasies of Manhattan and a Xanadu on the shores of Long Island, all the while gazing longingly across the water at the house where Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) lives. Daisy is the last piece of his puzzle, she will make him whole and she will help him gain acceptance into the high society that scorns his dubiously-earned new money. He may also genuinely be in love with her, of course.
Due to a combination of the Queen’s Birthday holiday, the annual life-swamp that is Rialto Channel 48HOURS, illness and a trip to Auckland for ONFILM magazine, there was no written review this week. As you might have noticed. This will have to do for the time being and normal service will be resumed on Monday.
The first thing you need to understand about A Good Day to Die Hard is that it isn’t really a Die Hard movie. In the same way that instant coffee and espresso coffee share a name but are in fact entirely different beverages, you’d be wise to go to a Good Day screening with modest expectations – expectations that would already have been lowered if you’d seen 2007’s dismal Die Hard 4.0 (aka Live Free and Die Hard).
Bruce Willis plays Detective John McClane for the fifth time since 1988 but this time there’s no smirk, no glint in his eye and none of the recognisable human frailties that made the original character so appealing. Instead, he’s just what everybody always said he was – an asshole. When his son is arrested by Moscow authorities for what looks like a mob hit, McClane heads to Eastern Europe to try and save a boy he hardly knows. As usual, McClane becomes “the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench” and he immediately lands in the middle of a CIA operation to extract a rebel oligarch hiding information that could bring down the government, his untimely intervention destroying most of Moscow’s traffic in the process.
I’ve been grumpy all week for all sorts of reasons and the last thing I needed was a weekend of crappy films but that’s what I got. I mean, I’m spending longer writing this review than the writers of Fast & Furious or 17 Again spent on their scripts – put together, probably.
The improbably named Burr Steers is the director of 17 Again but that’s where the fun stops. Matthew Perry plays a 37-year-old former high school basketball star who chose the love of his pregnant girlfriend instead of a college scholarship and dug himself deep into a dowdy life of failure and regret. A mysterious bearded janitor, a bridge (a frankly insulting homage to It’s a Wonderful Life) and an unspecified magical event put him back in his buff 17-year-old body which he uses to re-engage with his children and get to know his wife again.
I’ve got some time for the television version of Matthew Perry (did you see “Studio 60”?), and despite his tragic cinema career choices he remains a comic actor who is unafraid of (or unable to suppress) the sadness behind his eyes. Unfortunately, he disappears after 15 minutes to be replaced by High School Musical ’s Zac Efron, a smug pretty-boy with some dance moves and no charisma and it is he who carries the film to its desolate conclusion.