The Great Gatsby

Mom Under Cover checks in with this new review.  (Spoilers, for those few who don’t know how Gatsby ends.)

The Great Gatsby – B

Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby is not great, but it is worth seeing.  Fitzgerald’s prose is much of the novel’s allure which may be why Hollywood has not found a way to make a movie as memorable as the book.  Leonardo DiCaprio makes a believable Gatsby; his performance is one of the film’s highlights.  Carey Mulligan (Daisy Buchanan) shows promise in her first scene but quickly becomes blasé.  Mulligan looks the part, but her Daisy is way too boring to warrant Gatsby’s adoration.  Joel Edgerton plays a very good Tom Buchanan–cad that he is.  Most disappointing was this film’s Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire).  The movie opens with Carraway in a psychiatric treatment center recounting the events leading to Gatsby’s death.  I found this plot device to be really corny.  Maguire’s Carraway was so emotionless it is inconceivable that he was bothered enough by the tragedy to warrant counseling much less in-patient treatment.  Viewers who have not read the book will assume that Carraway was a main character rather than the narrator.  Perhaps it was the direction, but Maguire’s character was intrusive (that voice drove me crazy by the end of the movie) and flat.  Luhrmann fans will not be disappointed by the Baz-matazz, over the top visuals and music choices.

Django Unchained

The Bleacher Bum says it’s a hit.

Django Unchained

Epic movies provide us with sights and sounds that are unshakeable. These sights and sounds pop into our minds when we are on an elevator or waiting at a red light, even if the movie was not in our consciousness at the time. Django Unchained is one of those movies.  Quentin Tarantino’s latest film deals with the heaviest of all subject matters: slavery in the United States pre-Civil War.  Jamie Foxx stars as Django, who is a recently freed slave. Django helps a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) look for three fugitives from justice. Their travels lead them all over the south, including to a notorious plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).   While Tarantino made the movie into a western in a nod to the spaghetti westerns, he does not take a lighthearted approach to its subject matter.  This movie is not for the faint of heart because of its violence, subject matter, language, and images.  Foxx, Waltz, DiCaprio, and several other stars are all exceptional. However, the true star of the movie is Tarantino.  As the film’s director, he took things to another level and provided us with images and sounds that we will never forget. GRADE: A.

Inception

New review from The Movie Snob

Inception (B). It is a tribute to the director of this sci-fi/action movie that it doesn’t feel nearly as long at its 148-minute run time would suggest. Leonardo DiCaprio (Shutter Island) plays a fugitive criminal named Cobb whose specialty is stealing corporate secrets by invading the dreams of those in possession of those secrets. He gets hired for a job that’s a twist on the standard operation: a corporate bigwig wants him to invade the dreams of another corporate bigwig and plant an idea so subtly that he’ll think it’s his own. Cobb assembles his team, and they go to work. Matters are complicated because Cobb’s dead wife is so entrenched in his own subconscious that she has a way of turning up in the middle of delicate operations. There are lots of crazy special effects, including the one I think they showed in the trailers in which the city of Paris folds up and onto itself. I’m not very good at following movies like this, where you’re never sure what’s real and what’s not, but I just went along for the ride & enjoyed it just fine.

Hubble 3D

New review from The Movie Snob

Hubble 3D (B+). This IMAX feature almost got away from me — it’s playing at only a couple of theaters in the Dallas area, and I never even saw a Dallas Morning News review for the thing. So I made my first trip to the Mesquite Studio 30 megaplex and saw the 9:45 a.m. showing. I was the only one in the theater, so I had the best seat in the house. Anyway, it was pretty good, and there were some pretty spectacular 3D shots of distant galaxies and stuff. But the focus was pretty much on the Hubble Telescope itself, and one particular mission of astronauts to repair and upgrade the Hubble. That stuff was interesting, but I would’ve preferred more shots taken by the Hubble itself. And how about some shots of our own solar system? That would’ve been nice. Still, good stuff.  Narration by Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic).

Inception

Movie Man Mike is the first member of The Movie Court to see

Inception (A). Loved it! I don’t know who dreamed up the story idea for this movie about dreams, but it made for a fascinating experience. The dream-within-a-dream concept gave the writers a lot of liberties to show multiple timelines and storylines with some bizarre events that could only happen in dreams. The story format opens up opportunities for the viewer to question what may or may not be reality versus dream. The special effects were great. There are some nice action scenes created by the subconscious minds of the dreamer when the subconscious realizes that there may be some foreign element invading their dream space. And the actors are really good. Main characters Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are very good in their roles as dream invaders. If I had to find flaws in this film, it would be two things: They don’t really go into a lot of depth to explain this whole shared dream technology other than to say that it was devised by the military—as if that explains it. Second, Ellen Page, as Ariadne, is a little too quick to grasp the concept of dream invasion and she is a bit young and green to be advising Cobb (DiCaprio) about his psychoses. This is a criticism of the character, not the acting, which was otherwise good.

One thing that may have been a bit of a private joke on the part of the producers was the choice of music that the characters used to signal to the dreamers that time was running out in the dream. They used the music of Edith Piaf. Marion Cotillard played Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, but she also appears in this film as the deceased wife of Cobb. I can’t help but to think this was not a coincidence.

By all means, go see this film and don’t wait for the rental, as it’s probably better viewing on the big screen.

Shutter Island

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Shutter Island (B-). I’m generally not one much for twisty psychological thrillers, but what the heck — it’s Easter! Martin Scorsese again directs Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator), who plays federal marshal Teddy Daniels. When the film opens (in 1954), Teddy and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo, You Can Count on Me) are on their way out to Shutter Island, a creepy asylum for the criminally insane run by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley, Species). It seems a female prisoner (Emily Mortimer, Match Point) has disappeared into thin air, and everyone on the island seems to be covering up some big secret. Teddy has a lot of baggage himself (the murder of his wife and his participation in the liberation of Dachau have taken their toll), and the place starts to get under his skin in a big way. The movie is more suspenseful but less scary than I had expected from the previews, which was a relief. Worth a look.

The Departed

DVD review from Nick at Nite

The Departed

Stunning. A masterpiece. This is the type of storytelling that justifies going to the movies. Warning. It has some violence. Some would say it is quite graphic. It is not too over the top, especially in comparison to other films from the genre and Mr. Scorsese, e.g., no baseball bat beatings and no dumping of bodies in random cornfields. Nicholson (Anger Management) is fantastic as an Irish mob boss, Damon (Interstellar) is superb as the Irish mob boss’ conflicted crooked cop, and DiCaprio makes me forgive him for Titanic in his portrayal of the undercover cop. The movie is stolen by Alec Baldwin (The Cooler), who as a the head of the state task force on organized crime is playing a part that he was born to play. Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) has a small, but integral part. It is no surprise he was nominated for an Oscar. I am not going to discuss the plot. Don’t want to give away any of the movie. I will say that the movie doesn’t seem to me to romanticize the real life Irish mob boss that Nicholson’s character is based on. I heard someone say during a radio critique of the movie that the movie somehow made us empathize with this crook. It doesn’t. Incidentally, in real life the Irish mob boss in on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. I give it an “A.” Check it out.

The Aviator

A movie review from Nick at Nite.

The Aviator

They said it couldn’t be done. They said no one had the courage to do it. Well, they were wrong. Martin Scorsese did it – he made a movie about a man who stopped trimming his nails, peed into old milk containers and stored them in his room, and lived in the nude for years. No, it is not a movie about Charles Manson or George Bush, it is a movie about Howard Hughes. I had heard of the “Spruce Goose,” the airplane built and flown by Hughes, but I was not familiar with his life story. The film taught me one critical thing – if you have a ton of money, very good looking Hollywood actresses will throw themselves at your feet no matter how crazy you are. This movie features several plane crashes, a weird oedipal flashback, and lots of Leonardo DiCaprio’s butt. I could have done without the butt. I give this movie a “C.”

The Aviator

A new review from That Guy Named David:

The Aviator (B+)

I cannot stand Leonardo DiCaprio. He was good in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He was decent in The Basketball Diaries. And he has proceeded to overact in every movie since then. The only actor in Hollywood who has made more by consistently overacting is Tom Hanks, which makes Catch Me If You Can one of the worst films ever made (small exaggeration, but still a bad movie). As to The Aviator, I thought that it was a very good movie, despite the lackluster performance by its star. Cate Blanchett was dead-on as Katherine Hepburn, and I appreciated the development of that relationship during the hour or so in which it was the focus. I also thought that Alan Alda was tremendous in his portrayal of the over-zealous, bought-off Senator who made the mistake of targeting Howard Hughes. I’m not familiar enough with the story of Hughes to know what was real and what was “Hollywood”; however, from things that I have read, most of the script was accurate to a degree. If they could have only cast a better leading man, I would have enjoyed the movie more. I am sure that Keanu Reeves was available.

Oscar picks by A View From Mars

Oscar picks by A View From Mars:

It’s a rare occasion where I actually get to see all the movies that are up for best picture given that most of the time, my taste in films is the exact opposite of what the Academy chooses. So with this being said, here’s how I see ’em:

(5) The Aviator — Scorsese lost points with me based on his last feature Gangs of New York, and he didn’t do much to recapture them with this movie. I’m just not sure how interested I was in Howard Hughes and DiCaprio’s portrayal, although a bit young for the sell to completely be there, was Oscar worthy. The same can be said about Cate Blanchett’s role as Katharine Hepburn, but other than this, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this movie nor of it being nominated as one of the 5 best pictures. Clearly, I saw about half a dozen others that could have taken its place.

(4) Ray — Jamie Foxx was tremendous and he will no doubt walk away with the Oscar gold and the movie was good, possibly really good, just not great. I think I was overwhelmed with Foxx’s performance as Ray Charles that it took me out of the movie just a bit. Is it possible that an excellent performance by an actor can actually have a hand in detracting from the greatness of a movie?

(3) Finding Neverland — Loved both Depp and Winslet and the concept to make a movie about Peter Pan without focusing on Peter Pan but rather the creator of Peter Pan (phewww). This is my sentimental favorite and although it may not win best picture, I’m hopeful that it will take something home.

(2) Sideways — I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the buddy road trip movie, but this was about as perfect as it could get for my enjoyment in this genre. Clever writing and good performances all around although it was a shame that Giamatti was snubbed. Maybe I’m so fond of this movie because Giamatti nailed the role of That Guy Named David so well. When David and I were in college, I could have sworn I heard quite a bit of profanities aimed at the Merlot coming from his room.

(1) Million Dollar Baby — I could just go on and on about how darn tooting great this movie was, but it wouldn’t do it any justice. Clint Eastwood really hit this one out of the park (I’m tired of the knocked out, boxing euphemisms). I was also mightily impressed with Hillary Swank and couldn’t help but think that this picture might just stand the test of time . . . and this was just 30 minutes into it. It had the true feel of one of the classics. This is my Best Picture winner by unanimous decision (couldn’t help it).

Titanic

A DVD review from The Movie Snob:

Titanic (A-). I recently stayed home from work sick – what better time to watch a three-hour Best Picture that I had never gotten around to seeing? Frankly, I wasn’t expecting it to be very good, having heard over the years that the plot is simplistic and the characters two-dimensional. And those criticisms are valid, but I still really enjoyed the movie. I thought the “Lady and the Tramp” romance between Rose (Kate Winslet, The Reader) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator) was reasonably believable, and the depiction of the doomed ship’s last hours was simply amazing. It must have been incredible on the big screen. I’d say it was well worth the $9 I spent on the DVD at Sam’s.

The Aviator

From the desk of The Movie Snob:

The Aviator (B+). The new Martin Scorsese biopic about eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes has been getting good reviews, and I’d say they are deserved. I enjoyed the film for several reasons. First, I really didn’t know much about Hughes’s life, and this almost-three-hour movie covers quite a chunk of it, basically from young manhood to middle age. Second, the movie is visually impressive, especially in the aviation scenes and the scenes of the extravagant nightlife enjoyed by Hughes and his Hollywood cronies. Third, the performances are very good. I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was impressive in the starring role, although his youthful appearance was a little jarring by the end of the movie when Hughes must have been in his forties. Cate Blanchett plays Katharine Hepburn, a pretty odd bird herself, with gusto. Kate Beckinsale is stunningly gorgeous (but has sadly little screen time) as Ava Gardner. It’s a long movie, no doubt, but worth the ride. Hop aboard the Spruce Goose and check it out.

Catch Me If You Can

A new review from That Guy Named David:

Catch Me If You Can (C+)

I don’t know if the low grade stems from the fact that I had reasonably high expectations that weren’t met, I still can’t watch Leonardo DiCaprio without wanting to vomit because of Titanic (his career went downhill after Growing Pains and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), or I want to put a bullet in the back of my head every time I hear Tom Hanks mutilate an accent (he’s right up there with Kevin Costner in that department). The movie was alright, but I wasn’t overly impressed with any aspect of it. Christopher Walken’s performance was good, but I think that it was merely accentuated because you were forced to watch DiCaprio and Hanks through the rest of the movie. I found it interesting that it was based upon a true story (and this also made me take notice of the monotony of my daily existence); however, it just didn’t do it for me.