What are the rules for spoilers when talking about a movie based off an 88-year-old book that was required reading for the vast majority of high-schoolers? Well, just in case you didn't pay attention in English class (or forgot the gory details), I'll try and avoid anything past Chapter 1 territory.The Great Gatsby is kind of a big deal — I mean, you know — for a book or whatever. (Reading, smh-eading, right?) But, people I suppose are qualified to do such considering widely consider it one of the greatest American novels ever penned. The Great Gatsby is, on the surface, about the Roaring Twenties, a wealthy fellow who goes by the name Gatsby and a long-lost love. We find out why Gatsby is (and isn't) so great in a tale of excess, the American dream, and why rich people and the East Coast kind of sucked in the summer of 1922. The ol' GG has been re-imagined as a film multiple times in the past, but this version comes care of Mr. Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge), counts Jay-Z as a producer and stars Leonardo DiCaprio.How does it compare to the novel? I don’t consider faithfulness to the source material too important when talking about a film adaptation — the film vs. book debate seems apples vs. oranges to me — but there are moments that feel almost perfectly pulled from the page, with dialog and details spot on. There are also parts stretched, cut or exaggerated and a few
liberties taken. (For example, the whole story is being recounted by narrator Nick Carraway [Tobey Maguire] to a therapist.) But faithful or re-imagined, the tale is always told through that colorful Baz lens, which goes from silly (e.g., the introduction of a lounging Daisy [Carey Mulligan
] and Jordan [
Elizabeth Debicki]) to tense (e.g., the climactic day in the city on the hottest day of the summer).How Baz is it, doc? He really turns the Baz on and off at times. There are some scenes — like the apartment party where Nick gets hammered for the second time in his life (one of the visual highlights of the film), or on a manufactured meeting over tea where Gatsby goes overboard on the flowers, or watching hundreds of guests get rowdy at Gatsby's glitzy ragers — that are a treat for the eyes. There are other sights and sounds I wasn't so wowed by. The abundance of CG in the first few minutes started things off on the wrong foot. Sure, Baz’s look would rarely be described as ultra-realistic and there aren't many other options for showing ‘20s-era NYC, but the visuals feel inconsistent — jumping from entirely green-screened sets early on to on-location shoots in ostentatious mansions later in the film. The second half of the film feels so different at times than the first that I forgot during some scenes this was a Baz Luhrmann movie. Should I see it? Go for it.
Baz's take of GG
is plenty enjoyable and over the top and subdued as needed. Leo D. keeps the decade-long hot streak going of being the highlight of nearly everything he's in. No actor could get away with saying "old sport" this much without deserving a punch in the face. In some ways, his performance reminds of Catch Me If You Can; Gatsby has a mysterious past — the source of wealth is the stuff of late-night whispers — and as he talks about being an Oxford man
and his family's fortune, there's something in his voice that makes us think he might be holding back
.What does it taste like? That's a weird question
. I guess... peppermint ice cream and hot tea. But how about what I liked most about the film? That's an easier question. It's
the cast: Leo’s Gatsby is a treat, as are Mulligan as Daisy and Joel Edgerton as her husband, old-money d-bag and polo player Tom Buchanan.What's not so great?
- Baz is hyperactive with the zoom to a point that annoys. This constant moving in and moving out mixed with some scenes wrought with quick cuts gets irritating at times — particularly during the first half.
- Tobey Maguire is OK, but, God he's so Tobey Maguire-y — stoned looking, mousy and mostly forgettable.
- The 3D has it’s moments, but why would we voluntarily darken Baz's vivid visuals just to see a few panes of 3D glass and party streamers pop?
-- Eric Pulsifer
- Last among my gripes, the music — mainly Jay-Z's contributions. I know it's Baz's game to throw modern music in, but when it's Jay-Z and Kanye songs that we've heard on the radio a million times before, it doesn't have the same punch as, say, Radiohead's chilly "Talk Show Host" in Romeo + Juliet. I suspect that Jay-Z fancies himself a bit of an F. Scott Fitzgerald and Watch the Throne as a critique on excess and America's love affair with material things, so it makes sense he'd want to be a part of this movie. But, I think that might just be in his head, as I'm not sure that's the message we're getting here.
As far as pure excitement goes, moviegoers will be hard-pressed to find a superhero movie that offers more of it than Marvel’s Iron Man franchise. Iron Man 3 continues that trend, cranking the level of intensity up to 11, while also taking the viewer on a journey into the fragile psyche of a vulnerable Tony Stark.
Director and co-writer Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) is handed the keys to the latest installment in the series. There are plenty of thrills to be had on this ride for sure, but at times it seems not much else.
In this outing, we find our hero, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) squaring off against a new nemesis, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who orchestrates the detonation of a series of bombs, obliterating nearly everything and everyone in their blast radius, and leaving no trace of the device that was used. After Stark’s ex-bodyguard and long-time friend Happy (Jon Favreau) is injured in one of the blasts, Stark sets off on a mission of “good old-fashioned revenge.”
Before Stark can even suit up though, he has the foundations of his life blown out from under him—literally— thanks to some well-placed missiles. I guess he probably regrets giving the Mandarin his home address now.
This attack leaves Stark stranded far from home, without any protection, and to his own devices—much the way we saw the character in the first Iron Man film.
There is also something different about Stark this time around. He seems to suffer from some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder that leaves him overwhelmed with anxiety at the mere mention of the words “New York.” It’s clear that the fight against Loki and the Chitauri army from the film The Avengers has clearly left Stark more aware of his insignificance in the grand scheme of things—at one point in the film he refers to himself as “just a man in a can.”
Once again, it’s difficult to find fault in Downey’s portrayal of the flawed character. His trademark wit and rapid-fire retort style return front and center, leaving him in command of the screen any time he’s on camera, and leaving the audience lingering for his next utterance.
Downey isn’t the only one who delivers a worthy performance. Ben Kingsley is masterful in his portrayal of bin Laden-esque—in appearance and motivation—the Mandarin. Guy Pearce also shines as the other bad guy in the film, Aldrich Killian (his last name has the word “kill” in it … You know he’s evil). Killian is a former science geek who holds a grudge against Stark for blowing him off one New Year’s Eve, and looks to destroy the self-proclaimed genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist by teaming up with the Mandarin.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle also reprise their roles as Pepper Potts and James Rhodes, respectively.
While there is nothing outright bad about the film, as I watched it I felt like there just wasn’t enough Iron Man. During much of the movie, Stark is stripped of his trademark armor. And while watching Stark go tit-for-tat with a young kid he befriends was entertaining at times, I found myself asking inside my head: “When am I going to see Iron Man blow something up?” I guess that’s just the comic book fan/kid in me.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of explosions and whiz bang visual and special effects to keep diehard action fans happy (the falling out the plane scene was spectacular). The climax scene of the movie is nothing short of breathtaking, delivering some of the best effects I’ve seen in any movie.
This is definitely a “go see.” It avoids some of the pitfalls that plague many films adapted from comic books. It offers enough highs and lows and ventures into some new territory to prevent it from feeling like a “been there, done that” affair. While it would be dishonest to call this film the best of the franchise, it stands up well as another entertaining entry in the Iron Man saga.
-- Derrick Mitcham
You’ve seen Oblivion before—whether you know it or not. While it’s based on an original graphic novel from the director of TRON: Legacy, Oblivion’s plot definitely feels recycled.
Tom Cruise is Jack Harper, a drone maintenance worker with his memory wiped on Earth in 2077, decades after a massive war tore our planet apart. Part of an operation to extract resources, he’s stationed on Earth as one part of a couple putting in their last days before being sent home to the rest of the humans stationed either in a space station or living on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. But, standing in their way are leftover alien threats who sabotage drones left and right. When a mysterious spacecraft crashed onto Earth carrying a woman that Jack’s dreamed of—or is he remembering her?— all hell breaks loose.
While watching Oblivion, I found myself enjoying it, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a beautiful and slick film. The imagery is impressive with the Empire State Building almost buried in the ground and a football stadium in shambles. The house Jack and his sex partner Victoria live in above the clouds is straight up impressive looking. But that’s where the enjoyment ends. The film’s plot, which unfolds in pieces to try to make you think and figure it out, is mostly incoherent, and it borrows from much better sci-fi films, such as Moon and Blade Runner. The mood and feel of Oblivion is much greater than its plot and finished product.
Oblivion has the makings to be a great futuristic flick, but it just doesn’t quite live up to its potential. With a jumbled plot that rips off other (more coherent) stories, it feels like a spruced-up copycat that just isn’t better than the original—but it IS hella slick, though...
-- Darcie Duttweiler
In journalism, the source is god. Good journalism — the stuff that gets closer to "real" journalism (as I brand it, at least) and away from just fly-on-the-wall meeting reporting — is built on a foundation of understanding context and research, but much faith is inevitably placed in the source. If the source says something and the author quotes it, the reader assumes (and the author hopes) this information to be fact. But, there may not be a whiz-bang team of veteran fact-checkers making sure the source isn't spouting nonsense. This unfiltered information may
be true, or the only thing true about the quote may be that the source said it. The reader may forget, in many instances, what they're reading on the page is just a game of telephone.
This might only seem relevant to those brave, financially reckless souls currently pursuing a journalism degree, but it's also at the heart of one of the biggest (and mostly unnecessary) controversies about Zero Dark Thirty
: Does the movie imply that without torture, U.S. soldiers and operatives would never have been able to locate and kill the most wanted man in the world?
Go ahead and Google Zero Dark Thirty
if you've somehow missed the parade of congressmen and click-hungry bloggers shaking their fingers at director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Point Break
) and writer Mark Boal for how inaccurate or dangerous this idea is — an idea they see as being perpetuated by ZDT
. (Though, it should be noted, in the movie the useful bits of info gained from interrogations come when agents are using the carrot rather than the stick, even if they've used the stick before.) There have also been some
pieces written about how, disturbing or not, this may very well be accurate — that Americans on the front lines may have committed war crimes in their quest to track down Osama bin Laden.
But the thing that both sides of this debate seem to overlook is that it doesn't matter in the case of ZDT
. And not because "it's just a movie."
In case you don’t read past this first sentence, I’ll get this message out up front: Don’t go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
in HFR3D. (More on what that is and why it sucks in a sec). The Hobbit
takes place 60 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings
. It follows a group of outcast dwarves on a quest to reclaim their kingdom from a dragon, an adventure that, in the film version of the children’s tale, feels more like it’s really about tying a new trilogy into LOTR
. After a lengthy setup, this gang of shorties and wizard Gandalf (played once more by charming old dude Ian McKellen) embark on a hike that frames the events that lead a young Bilbo Baggins (played by the ridiculously likable Martin Freeman, a.k.a. Dr. Watson from the BBC’s Sherlock
— which, if you haven’t seen, you should probably just stop reading, skip The Hobbit
and marathon immediately on Netflix like your friends have been telling you for months — a.k.a. Tim, the British Office
’s much cooler version of the U.S. Office
’s goodie-two-shoes Jim) to come to possess that "precious" One Ring.
The plot is a tad simpler than the LOTR
trilogy, though it amounts to about the same: three hours of walking
. But, then of course there’s that rich and wonderful world of Tolkien that all the fantasy fans go so bonkers for. (And, of course, walking is hella good
for you, which could explain why Gandalf looks younger 60 years in the future than he does in The Hobbit
.) It also tries harder to be more light-hearted and funny than the LOTR
films, though there's still plenty of sword clashing, snarling nightmare beasts, and a decent villain in the form of a one-armed white orc named Azog the Defiler.
So, should you go see it? The answer to this question, trolls, disembowelment and HFR after the jump!
After falling head over heels for Daniel Craig's steely, sociopathic Bond in the white-knuckle opening chase scene of Casino Royale
only to be thoroughly bored and confused by the choppy quick cuts of Quantum of Solace
, I wasn't sure what to expect with Bond 23, Skyfall
Like me, you've probably heard people gushing about it — calling Skyfall
one of, nay, the best 007 movie to date. Could it be?
Not hurting its chances for success is the knowledge that they've brought in a decent director, Sam Mendes of American Beauty, Road to Perdition
and Revolutionary Road
fame. You've also got the return of Daniel Craig, the most believable if not best Bond of my generation.Skyfall
continues on the track of bringing James Bond into a more realistic world, a world without jetpacks or invisible cars or good guys who seems ever protected from the sea of bullets blasting their way.
Here, Craig is still the chiseled Jason Bourne-style badass from Casino Royale,
but he's much more human than we've ever seen Bond before. After a close brush with death, Bond returns to MI6 in rough shape. He's been seriously injured, his aim is off, and he's been reduced to drinking Heineken. What's worse, he's troubled by the realization that, if needed, he's dispensable as far as his country is concerned. Bond is vulnerable. He gets hurt, gasps for breath, and as much as he's firing guns on screen, he's seen reloading them.
But the added realism doesn't weigh things down. The script injects some much-needed humor into the series, poking fun at the classic archetypes of the Bond universe and the absurdity of a run-and-gun super spy.
This is all portrayed through some dazzling bits of camerawork On more than one occasion we get brief first-person views through Bond's eyes and then there's a gorgeous scene of close quarters combat as Bond and a bad guy's battling silhouettes are back-lit by neon light.
What really sets Skyfall
apart from any Bond in recent memory is the antagonist, played brilliantly by Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men
). To say much at all about his character would take some of the fun away, but from his introductory monologue — a tense, long single shot — to his humorous interactions with Bond, every scene Bardem's madman villain is in is a highlight.
The talk is true; Skyfall
is the best Bond film to date — though your results may vary depending on how rose-colored your recollection of 007's earlier outings is. With a perfectly shaken cocktail of over-the-top action, comedy and realism, it'll leave Bond fans foaming at the mouth for where the series will go next
I heard so many good things about Argo before even setting foot in the theater. For me, this kind of hype usually ends in disappointment, but Argo...Argo, man, totally lived up to its accolades. The movie is taut, tense, thrilling, funny, and affecting all at the same time. That Ben Affleck is really proving to people that, hey, he totally wrote Good Will Hunting too!
Luckily for those who were born after 1980 or have zero political knowledge...Argo opens with a narration about the whole Iranian hostage debacle and is intercut with news footage and identical recreations to really drive its point home. Basically the quick gist is that Iran is mad at the US for putting their own Shah in place and extraditing him to the US after he was overthrown instead of letting the Iranians try him (and probably sentence him to death). So....they protest at the US Embassy, and shit gets a little out of hand. Six Americans decide to bolt instead of be taken hostage and hightail it to the Canadian Embassy for safe haven. However, shit is still hitting the fan, and they need OUT of Iran like pronto. That’s where Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) steps in. He’s the CIA’s key person in....I don’t know really, getting people out of sticky situations, I guess?
Anyhoo...so, Tony is racking his brain for ideas, and, while watching The Planet of the Apes, it comes to him—they’ll all pretend they’re a Canadian film crew scouting Middle Eastern locales for a shitty sci-fi film! It MIGHT just be crazy enough to work. First he’s gotta convince Kyle Chandler and Bryan Cranston, higher-ups at the State Department and the CIA, and then make all the necessary arrangements in Hollywood, which includes getting a top-notch makeup specialist on board (John Goodman) and a producer (Alan Arkin) who wouldn’t mind making a fake movie. Out in Hollywood, these three plant several seeds of proof that a real movie, Argo, is indeed getting made, including setting up shop, producing a run-through for press, and placing several ads in Hollywood movie mags. It’s also the setting for some of the best laughs, courtesy of Arkin, like “Argo fuck yourself.”
But it’s in Iran that all the tension of Argo comes into play. The scenes inside the Canadian Embassy are tense and claustrophobic. The opening moments of the Iranians storming the US Embassy are completely chaotic and had me literally gripping my seat. Those tense moments are nothing compared to when the seven are attempting to escape at the Iranian airport. Argo is a wonderful display of a talented writer and director and awesome cinematography. It’s a weird amalgamation of political drama, Hollywood satire, and thrilling tension, and Argo pulls all of it off spectacularly.
“Argo fuck yourself,” and totally believe the hype.
It’s not unfair to say that Tim Burton has been on a downward spiral for his last couple of films. I’m not even sure what the last movie of his I truly enjoyed. While Frankenweenie isn’t necessarily up to par as, say, A Nightmare Before Christmas or Edward Scissorhands, it is a heartwarming tale of a loner boy and his beloved dog. And, I’m totally not ashamed to admit that I might have cried...multiple times.
Frankenweenie is a clever twist on the classic Frankenstein story. Victor Frankenstein is a solitary boy who loves inventing things and playing with his constant companion, his dog named Sparky. His parents, voiced by Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara, just want him to be normal and play with other kids. When he finally joins a game of baseball, he knocks it out of the park, and Sparky devotedly chases after the ball. Of course, this ends badly. Distraught, Victor decides to bring Sparky back to life.
While Frankenweenie is charming and weird and a fun take on a classic tale (not to mention a great tribute to classic horror films), it is reaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllly dark. (No, I’m not talking about the 3D, which was actually slightly impressive and fairly well-used.) Not only is it about a DOG DYING AND COMING BACK TO LIFE, but it has other great monster tropes that are a touch terrifying, especially for young children. Plus, most of the people depicted in the film are really fucking creepy looking. Seriously. Do you expect anything less from Burton?
The voice cast is pretty top-notch, though, with great performances by Short, Martin Landau, and Winona Ryder. The movie takes a little while to get fully ramped up, but when it does, you’ll be totally immersed in this weird little world of Frankenweenie. You might even be moved to tears...but thankfully you’ll have your 3D glasses to hide behind.
could have been something special. Once you get past a few of the kings of non-comedy — Adam Sandler, Kevin James and David Spade — being involved, Hotel Transylvania
sounds devilishly delightful on paper.
It's directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack
, and the ridiculously good Star Wars: Clone Wars
mini-series. The music is handled by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo (and Yo Gabba Gabba!
), while Robert Smigel, of SNL
’s TV Funhouse
and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, had a hand in the screenplay.
That’s not to say that Hotel Transylvania
is bad — it’s not. It’s just billed as a comedy — and, it’s not.Looney Tunes, Cee Lo Green and invisible butts after the jump!
Reboots are hit or miss. (As opposed to the Canadian CGI cartoon ReBoot
, which was consistently 100 percent brilliant, and don’t you dare tell me you’ve watched it recently and it sucks now. I won’t stand for that) However, there wasn’t much left to do but hit the reset button after the last outing of Peter Parker.
Yes, the world might like to forget Spider-Man 3
ever happened, but I’m not sure true believers were clamoring for a reboot so soon — just five years later. It’s like Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire brutally murdered our beloved family cat in front of us. Then, 10 minutes later, the dude who directed (500) Days of Summer
and Zuckerberg’s scorned buddy from The Social Network
show up with a brand new, adorable kitten, and Emma Stone, in a schoolgirl outfit and thigh-high stockings, cleans up the mess. They’re a fun bunch, but they’re expecting us to so quickly forget the horrible scene we’ve witnessed just moments before. A stab of guilt says we should linger on the memory of our sweet, dead feline friend before moving on, but this new kitty is awful cute, and Thomas Haden Church was just so bad as Sandman.
Dead cats and Mr. Haden Church aside, The Amazing Spider-Man
is the best iteration of the web-slinging superhero I’ve seen on any screen, big or small. Even the two good Spidey films Raimi helmed pale in comparison, and thanks rests squarely on the shoulders of the ultra-likable pair of Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker) and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy).
There’s fantastic chemistry between Garfield and Stone, and though neither of them could convince anyone they’re actually young enough to still be in high school, they pull off the awkward teenage puppy love bit remarkably well.
Director Marc Webb, whose credits include a slew of pop-punk and emo music videos over the past decade and only one other full-length film, (500) Days of Summer
, takes the focus away from the mask and turns the lens on the boy behind it. Garfield is rarely in costume and half of the time he is, he is sans mask. And that’s why it works.
Even though the most ignorant of comic and pop culture lore probably know most of the details of Spider-Man’s origins — if you have any exposure to Spider-Man, you’ll know everything that’s going to happen over the first hour — Webb’s retelling packs a punch with solid performances and sweeps of tear-jerking score that kick in at just the right moment. Though we know where this ride is going, we still feel for the characters in a way we rarely did in Raimi’s take.
But, while the focus is what’s going on with the guy under the suit, the action scenes are impressive and easy to follow, a rare treat. This Spider-Man isn’t invulnerable, but he plays to his strengths. He’s smart and fast as hell; he spends more time dodging blows than he does landing them. Well, most of the time.
Before and after he gains his super powers, Peter Parker spends plenty of time getting his ass stomped. Garfield’s Peter Parker is also less of a dork than Maguire’s. He’s still a bit of an outcast and a goody two-shoes, but he’s got a handsome hipster edge to him (e.g., he has a sweet vintage film camera and rides a skateboard). This is all in line with the overall darker tone of the film. (Darker by Spider-Man standards — Webb’s NYC isn’t as bleak as Nolan’s Gotham City.) We normally see Spider-Man in the dark of night as he zips across the black and neon lit backdrop of New York City on a quest for vengeance that becomes a search for purpose.
In the end, it may be the most heartfelt tale we’ve seen pulled from the comics yet. I couldn’t have cared less about the fate of Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight
or Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers
, I found myself genuinely concerned about what might happen to Garfield and Stone. For a comic book movie, that’s pretty amazing.