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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

I 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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