Viewed – 21 May 2013 Cinema
Going into this, I had quite clear expectations. From a director such as Baz Luhrmann (William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) I knew I would get something visually dazzling, highly theatrical and bursting to the seems with larger-than-life costumes and characters It’s kinda his calling card. Yet as a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio also, I had expectations of another memorable performance from one of the best in the business.
This tells the tale of wall street worker Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire) who moves into a house located next door to famed playboy Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), an almost legendary figure in New York during the 1920s who rarely appears in public and hosts numerous dazzling parties for the locales. Yet the reality behind the myth intrigues and so Carraway befriends the reclusive billionaire and attempts to help him with a little problem with a long-lost love, who just happens to be Carraway’s cousin.
From the start, this is a stunning movie to just sit back and take in … imagination, set design, gorgeous visuals and a fantastic use of modern music rejigged to a 20′s jazz soundtrack (Beyonce’s Crazy In Love?) … showcases Luhrmann playing at full throttle. At the heart of the spectacle however is a simple story of love, obsession and a little bit of mystery. Initially I found it hard to get to grips with, so awash with the sheer visual overload, that concentrating on the story was difficult. Thankfully things settle down with solid, complex turns from both DiCaprio and Maguire. Add to this a sultry Carey Mulligan and an enjoyably boo-hiss Joel Edgerton ... and this proved an often surprising and enjoyable tale, with strong echoes of Citizen Kane. I think considering DiCaprio’s array of quality performances over the years, this came across more old-fashioned, screen idol than serious acting, and in some ways the movie was guilty of a too much Hollywood glitz to take completely serious. Often Maguire’s wide-eyed goofy-grin made him look like a rabbit caught in the headlights, and with such reliance on green-screen – it was sometimes like a fantasy movie without the dragons or wizards. Not helped by the fact sometimes actors didn’t look like they were really ‘there’, which they obviously wasn’t.
As it stands though this is a treat for fans of truly interesting looking movies, the kind that deserve the big screen treatment, not because of action sequences but because each shot looks like an oil painting – something Luhrmann has always been an artist at. Beyond this however is an absorbing but not quite so amazing story, with decent rather than ‘wow’ performances - but either way, still deserves your attention.
Verdict: 4 /5
Viewed – 12 May 2013 Pay-per-view
On hearing of the Tsunami disaster boxing day 2010 in Thailand, I think I was not alone for feeling great sorrow for all those that had suffered and died. It shook the world and put usual yuletide spirits on a major downer. So with the disaster still clear in my head, I sat down to watch this dramatization, based on the true story of one family, with much anticipation.
This stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as a couple, who along with their three boys journey to an island resort in Thailand. However their enjoyment of the holiday is cut short when an unexpected tidle wave hits the beach, and destroys everything in its path. Watts becomes separated from her husband, and we watch with anticipation as the family struggle to find each other again. This is a very powerful and emotionally draining experience. Shot with incredible detail and raw believability by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) and with several excellent performances, not just from Watts (who was Oscar nominated) and McGregor but also the child actors playing the couples kids … this is a movie about survival and about a family. I found myself really caught up in their plight and even had a tear (or two) in my eye at times.
I really can’t praise this enough. It doesn’t gloss over the true horror of what happened and shows us every detail to harrowing effect. Naomi Watts really should have got the Oscar for her very human and traumatic turn, but I’d also give the nod to director Bayona, who considering this is his English language debut, has done astonishing work here … clearly a name to look out for. How some of the reenactment of the Tsunami was done, I still can’t get my head around.
Verdict: 5 /5
Viewed – 11 May 2013 Blu-ray
For some time I have been an admirer of the acting skills of Philip Seymour Hoffman, even though I haven’t seen that many of his movies. He was a great villain in Mission Impossible 3 and also very good in movies like the 25th Hour and Boogie Nights, which brings me nicely to this latest Oscar nominated offering from the same director as Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who has gained no small amount of acclaim for movies like There Will Be Blood and Magnolia.
Unmistakably inspired by the early days of Scientology, Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a man who leads a gathering of people and teaches a philosophy on life, that some would call a cult. After a chance encounter with a damaged, alcoholic drifter and former World War II navel officer (Joaquin Phoenix), Lancaster promises to turn this man’s life around, if he agrees to follow his teachings. Co-starring Amy Adams as Lancaster’s straight talking wife and with a world-weary performance from an increasingly unhinged-looking Phoenix this was at first hard to get into, not helped by Phoenix’s muffled dialogue. However once Hoffman turns up this became a lot more interesting. I have always wondered about the background of Scientology, and although this isn’t based on fact, it certainly opened my mind to an alternative to religion and could see how it might appeal to people. However the movie does show that such beliefs can be attacked or questioned, and each time this happens, Hoffman or Phoenix’s reaction is either abusive or violent, threatening to reveal the real danger behind such so-called cult followings.
Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted an intriguing story with classy direction and some eye-catching visuals, showing off the period attractively. Performances are decent, especially Hoffman, manipulative and charming as Lancaster Dodd, and although moments of explicit dialogue and nudity seemed out of place for what is otherwise a fairly gentle drama … I still enjoyed this. I suppose it could have delved a bit deeper and Phoenix’s character remained rather unlikable … but overall this was enjoyable enough for me to recommend it.
Verdict: 3.5 /5
- Review: The Master (2012) – Paul Thomas Anderson (Bluray) (fastfilmjudge.wordpress.com)
- Reviewing Oscar Nominated Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master’, starring Philip Seymor Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams (sashankkini.wordpress.com)
- The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson (hkauteur.wordpress.com)
- Review: The Master (2012) (thefilmoracle.wordpress.com)
Viewed – 07 May 2013 Blu-ray
One of the darlings of this year’s Academy Awards, based on the best selling novel by Yann Martel and scooping Best Director for Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) – I came to this with high expectations. Pi (Irrfan Khan) narrates the story of a fantastic adventure to a young writer (Rafe Spall) as the movie flashbacks of his childhood under the influence of his domineering father leading to a shipwreck following the family’s journey to move to Canada along with their Zoo. A teenage Pi soon finds himself adrift in a lifeboat with a ferocious Bengal Tiger for company, and has to find a way of surviving in the pacific ocean.
Immediately this is a beautiful movie … from the stunning scenery of India to the majestic ocean and the night time wonders, I found this a real treat for the eyes. The young actor playing Pi (Suraj Sharma) is both likable and a bit goofy, but believable and the effects work here for the Tiger (and various other animals and creatures – including meerkats!) is nothing short of amazing. What does seem to let this down however is a rather pedestrian pace and a story that isn’t quite as fantastic as the opening moments lead you to believe It’s basically two hours of a boy trying not to get eaten by a tiger. Granted the gradual bond that forms is well observed and some of the more spiritual themes and cultural observations are quite captivating … with Pi’s belief in God carrying him through much of the hardships. But like many a movie that is hyped with publicity and awards – I didn’t think this lived up to such expectations The story drags in places where it should shine, such as the overlong boat sequence that makes up the heart of the movie, and when things do develop, well, it’s pretty much over.
A movie you should definitely see if you love gorgeous visuals, foreign cultures and wildlife – but maybe not one to see, if you want a totally gripping experience.
Verdict: 3 /5