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Review: The Great Gatsby, Bekas, Fast & Furious 6 and The Last Sentence

By Cinema and Reviews

The Great Gatsby still

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.

The Great Gatsby posterSo, 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.

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Review: Like Crazy, Chronicle, A Few Best Men, J. Edgar and Julia’s Eyes

By Cinema and Reviews

Like Crazy posterThree films this week point the way towards possible futures for cinema — and if two of them are right then we should all find another hobby. Like Crazy is a mostly-improvised romance shot on one of those pro-am stills cameras that can also shoot hi-def video (the Canon 7D in this case). These devices are affordable and highly portable but the look that they have, while effective in music videos and short sequences, doesn’t keep your interest over the length of a full feature. And, just because your camera lets you shoot a lot of footage of people noodling around making stuff up, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have an actual plan.

Actually, the photography is less of a problem in Like Crazy than the story: two young lovers not so much star-crossed as US Department of Immigration-crossed, have to decide how much they care for each other when their efforts to be together are thwarted by the pesky Atlantic ocean and their own shallowness. Felicity Jones (Chalet Girl ) is the Brit who overstays her student visa so she can be with Californian furniture designer Anton Yelchin (Fright Night), setting the wheels in motion that will actually keep them apart for years.

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Review: Water Whisperers/Tangaroa, Vampires Suck, The Other Guys and three more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Water Whisperers posterMy big beef with most eco-documentaries is the lack of hope. Whether it’s Rob Stewart (Sharkwater), Franny Armstrong (The Age of Stupid) or even Leonardo DiCaprio (The 11th Hour) most of these films go to a lot of trouble to tell you what’s wrong with the planet but leave us feeling helpless and depressed.

That’s why I like Kathleen Gallagher’s work so much. Her film last year, Earth Whisperers/Papatunauku told ten stories of people who were making a difference, inspiring change and showing us that there are solutions as well as problems. This year she has repeated the tonic, focusing on our waterways and our relationship with the sea: Water Whisperers/Tangaroa.

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Review: Inception and The Girl Who Played with Fire

By Cinema and Reviews

Inception posterI was really enjoying Inception until I woke up. Actually, that’s not true. Unlike my companion, the Sandman didn’t come to rescue me from Christopher Nolan’s bombastic blockbuster and I had to sit through all two and a half hours of it, wondering what all the fuss was about.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays a corporate spy who specialises in entering people’s dreams and discovering their secrets. This is evidently a complex technology that requires one dreamer to design the location (it has to be fake because not knowing whether you are awake or dreaming carries massive risks to one’s sanity), one dreamer to lead the subject, the subject themselves and (sometimes) a forger who can take on the shapes and characteristics of other people.

There’s a lot of fighting in these dreams as the subject’s subconscious sees the invasion and tries to fight it off like white blood cells. But, you know when in your own dreams you try and hit someone and they end up being really weak marshmallow punches? That’s how the antibodies shoot so it takes quite a lot of bullets before one will actually hit you. And when one hits you and you die, in the real world you wake up so it’s really like a video game with multiple lives.

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Review: Shutter Island, Bright Star, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Masquerades, Toy Story 3D and Crazy Heart

By Cinema, Reviews and Screenwriting

There’s something very odd about the opening scenes in Shutter Island and it takes the entire film for you to put your finger on it. Shots don’t match between cuts, there’s a stilted quality to the dialogue (too much exposition for a Martin Scorsese movie) and the pacing is off. For a while I found myself wondering whether Marty had lost the immense influence of his great editor Thelma Schoonmaker, but there she is, still in the credits, as she has been for Scorsese since Raging Bull.

Several years ago, Scorsese played a practical joke on me (personally, it felt like at the time) when an entire reel of The Aviator was treated to look like faded 1930s Technicolor – I went to the Embassy counter to complain and felt very sheepish to be told by Oscar, the projectionist, that the director meant it that way. So, this time around I decided to trust the maestro and roll with the strangeness and was rewarded with one of the best (and cleverest) psychological thrillers in many a year.

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Review: Gran Torino, Beauty in Trouble, Revolutionary Road, Bride Wars, Hotel for Dogs, Bustin’ Down the Door, Female Agents and Man on Wire

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Gran Torino posterClint Eastwood has been on our screens for over 50 years and at 78 years old he has decided to call it a day and his valedictory performance in Gran Torino is completely worthy of the man. Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a working class widower living on a suburban Detroit street, one of the few original residents still around as the neighbourhood fills up with Hmong immigrants. In a gang initiation his teenage neighbour Thao tries to steal Walt’s beloved 1972 Gran Torino (a car he helped build on the Ford assembly line) and, as penance, the kid is forced to work for Walt over the summer. They get to know each other — and the threat from the Hmong gang-bangers who now have an axe to grind with Walt as well as Thao and his family.

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