The wonder of opulence, the sadness of greed. – The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Great Gatsby – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Luhrmann (screenplay) and Craig Pearce (screenplay), F. Scott Fitzgerald (based of the novel by)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, and Jason Clarke.

Who is Gatsby? The question that haunts and taunts throughout the novel and throughout Luhrmann’s film. Firstly, I have to admit that I love Fitzgerald’s writing but hate the story of Gatsby. It took me a long time to pick it back up after reading the first chapter and I struggled to get through it because I despised the characters, even Nick Carraway. Their selfishness, opulence, disregard for life and love, and use and abuse of the people around them made me sick. But that is what Fitzgerald intended to some degree. He slowly reveals our darkest secrets and shows us our reflection in each of the characters features and flaws. I was anxious going into the film. With Baz Luhrmann’s reputation for over the top theatrics and in your face metaphors it was hard not to be really, especially after watching the trailer for the film. And yet, from the moment the lights dimmed in the cinema and that title sequence began I knew it would all be okay.

The Great Gatsby is a film that transports you back to the mid-20s whilst keeping your feet firmly planted in 2013. The atmosphere, the light, the music, the sounds, everything screams at you with a haunting whisper of our reality. Gatsby (DiCaprio) is the ever hopeful and Carraway (Maguire) is the witness to the demise of hope and innocence. DiCaprio is brilliant. He shines so brightly and broods so grotesquely that there is rarely a moment that you can not believe that he is Gatsby. He is the lost soul who is trying to grasp something he never had a chance of possessing. Carey Mulligan is teamed with DiCaprio like the second side of his coin as the foolish Daisy Buchanan. Her flittering eyes, constantly on the verge of tears, and vacant looks convey the truth of Daisy.

But the man who really steals the film is Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s racist, bigoted, cheating husband. The slow brewing act of Tom is built throughout the film until the moment he takes Gatsby down in a small room of a hotel in New York. Edgerton’s performance is stunning. You are both repulsed by and drawn towards him like Daisy. You want to hate him but you know that in some small way that he is right about Gatsby, and you can’t fault him for that. Everything else, sure, he is a douchebag 100%, but he is right about Gatsby, and Joel Edgerton plays the balance remarkably.

The trailer to this film shows the opulence, the extravaganza, the pomp and ceremony of Gatsby, but what it fails to show is the great moments in between which make this film fantastic. It is the moments of slowness, the moments of Carraway’s reflections, the glimpses of Gatsby’s past, the brokenness of life in the world, and the calm before the storm that make this film great. Baz Luhrmann has managed to give life to Gatsby and Carraway’s friendship and to provide a film that shows both the wonder of opulence and the sadness of greed.

4/5

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Hope, Wonder, Fun, Delight – Rise of the Guardians

Rise Of The Guardians - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Rise Of The Guardians – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Director: Peter Ramsey
Writers: David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay), William Joyce (book)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin and Isla Fisher

There is something wonderful about children’s films. They are delightful to get swept up in, especially when they are good. Rise Of The Guardians is a joy to watch. It’s not the best animated film ever but it has everything it needs to make you smile and laugh as well as teach you lessons about what is good to believe in. The morals infused in every character are at the forefront of this story as we travel with Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) as he discovers who he truly is and why he is chosen to be a guardian of the children of the world.

Jack joins North (Santa, voiced by Alec Baldwin), Tooth (The Tooth Fairy, voiced by Isla Fisher), Sandman (not voiced, but wonderfully animated!), and Bunny (The Easter Bunny, voiced by Hugh Jackman), as they battle Pitch (The Boogeyman, voiced by Jude Law) who has taken it upon himself to torture and torment children with fear and nightmares. There is a great narrative progression through this film and it throws you around through the tunnels of children’s belief and their determination to believe in the core of each of these folklores. It is uplifting and cheery and has some great characters, although a little underdeveloped for my liking.

With Christmas creeping up incredibly quickly this is a great film for the family to see together as it refocuses both children and parents on what the festive seasons we celebrate in western culture represent. The wonder and delight of children are what we really aim for at Christmas, but we also love to reawaken that childish fun in ourselves over the Christmas and New Year period. Rise of The Guardians is not just a Christmas film but it certainly does hold all those little goodies that make Christmas movies so great and what make children films so beautiful.

3.7/5

Drama, Drugs & Devotion – London

London - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

London – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Drama, Drugs & Devotion – London (2005)

Director: Hunter Richards
Writer: Hunter Richards
Stars: Jessica Biel, Chris Evans and Jason Statham

I tend to go through phases of watching a particular actor’s films because I become obsessed with them and this week with the Avengers coming out on DVD/Blu-Ray, I have chosen Chris Evans as my obsession. I really hadn’t watched much of Chris Evans before Captain America but going back and watching bits and pieces of his career has been interesting. He’s done some not so great films but he’s also done some surprisingly good films. London is one of the good ones in my mind.

It’s a drama centred around Syd (Chris Evans) who is a bit of a druggie – cocaine mostly – and who is trying to win back the love of his life, London (Jessica Biel), who is about to move away and start her life with her new guy. He meets Bateman (Jason Statham) the day of her going away party, which he wasn’t invited to, and takes him along. The film then consists of flash backs of London & Syd’s relationship and Syd and Bateman in the bathroom of her best friend, Rebecca’s (Isla Fisher) parents house and their discussion of life, relationships, religion, and where things went wrong. It is a gripping film as you are drawn into these men’s lives with little prior knowledge about them and as their friendship as strangers grows you see how it is they came to be at this point in their lives. Evans shows a different side to his acting as he portrays the tormented soul of this grown man and standing next to Statham doing the same is something I didn’t think I’d ever see, and they are both incredibly brilliant. It has actually made me think of them as actors rather than action movie stars. They show depth to their characters and are able to capture a great deal of emotion and convince you that these men are so much more than you just see on screen. They are brilliantly directed by Hunter Richards, also the writer, and the film delivers a unique look into this world. Biel and Fisher are also brilliant in this film and ground the narrative.

I really liked this film and I really loved Evans and Statham in these different roles. They are brilliant action stars but it is great to know they can really, truly act. I really recommend seeing this film, it’s edgy and different and is able to deal with big questions of life and love in a bathroom with Van Gogh and Cocaine. Go watch it.