Cinepub


Review: Godzilla (2014) by Jamie

I’ve tried to keep this spoiler free but it’s hard to tell what people consider spoilers these days so be forewarned. You may be unintentionally spoiled in some way.

In 1954 the Japanese Toho production company brought a King to the Silver Screen. His name was Gojira, soon to be Americanised to the admittedly better Godzilla, and he would begin a cinematic legacy that would last for sixty years and counting. He has been many things during his storied career from destructive force of nature to wacky good guy who saved Japan from a host of other monsters and back to destructive force of nature again. And there was that American film produced in 1998. That one was… well. Yeah. It just wasn’t Godzilla.
So when I heard the news that the Yanks were going to take another shot at bringing the King of the Monsters back to the screen, I was a little concerned. This concern only grew when I heard that Gareth Edwards was set to direct, my concern originating from the fact that he had only directed one feature length film before, Monsters, which left me slightly underwhelmed. And the trailers started appearing and I was ready to get excited.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to be a fan of a film series that, to be fair, has not always been stellar and then finally looking forward to something new from that series. I grew up watching Godzilla films, Son of Godzilla in particular which is easily one of the worst of the bunch but it played a big part in my childhood so I’ll always have a soft spot for it. Hell, my pet gecko is called Godzilla because a) I love the king of the monsters and b) reptile owners are not the most original people when it comes to names. To be fair, there aren’t that many famous reptiles to go to for names. It’s pretty much Godzilla, Dino from the Flintstones and Rango. Godzilla is clearly the best out of those three… I’m sorry, I seem to have become distracted. Where was I? Oh yes, feeling excitement for a Godzilla movie. It was truly a wonderful thing, especially after that ’98 piece of shit that for all intents and purposes killed Matthew Broderick’s career just like he killed two people that one time in Ireland. Look it up.

And so the weeks went by and the release date grew closer and closer and I took the time to revisit every Godzilla movie ever made, twenty nine films in total. It was a bit of a long haul but overall an enjoyable experience and so I felt properly prepared and primed for the King’s return to the silver screen. Finally, the day of release came and I was working so I went the following day. Would the film see Godzilla reclaim his crown or would it be another American turd in the Tokyo punch bowl? Christ, that was a lot of preamble.

Simple fact straight up: I loved this film. Loved it. Is it a perfect film? No, not by a long shot. There are definitely a few things that could have been done differently, a few casting decisions that could have been corrected and a few special effects decisions that maybe didn’t sit right with me but overall, I loved this film.

Perhaps we should start with the things that weren’t so great. First up, a lot has been made about Aaron Taylor-Johnson and how he’s just not that great in the film and it’s true that he is probably the weakest link in the film. I’m not going to go all the way and say he’s bad, though he does exhibit a few moments of ropey acting here and there. Fact is that he doesn’t have much of a character to work with. He’s something of blank plate which I believe is deliberate attempt by the film maker to allow the audience to put themselves in his position, projecting their thoughts and feelings on to him. It’s an age old storytelling trick, one that was recently most successfully employed in the Twilight series. The fact that a girl can easily imagine herself in the place of Bella is what makes those things so popular despite being poorly written pieces of trash. Yeah, I just bashed Twilight. Deal with it. Unfortunately for Johnson, a lot of people didn’t want to be taking his place, experiencing what he was experiencing. They wanted to see monster fighting and during the middle of the film, it dragged a touch simply because Taylor-Johnson is not a giant monster.

There is also the problem of Taylor-Johnson’s character very conveniently finding himself able to easily move from location to location where all the monster action is taking place. I suppose it could be easily explained by saying that he’s a member of the military so he’d be able to move with the armed forces to where he and they need to be and also what are they gonna do instead? Leave their main character behind whilst the monsters fight elsewhere? Still, it does occasionally stretch the limit of believability in this giant nuclear lizard movie.

Finally, the biggest problem I had was the M.U.T.Os. I was not a major fan of their design, seeming as they did a little bit too Cloverfieldy and then there’s that name. Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism is what M.U.T.O stands for and it seems like such an unnatural string of words to put together just to get an acronym which sounds a little bit like mutant which is obviously the reason that that name was chosen. Which is a shame because M.U.T.O. just sounds fucking stupid coming out of an adult human beings mouth. Seriously, any time someone said it, particularly David Strathairn, I cringed. Just stupid. Frankly it was the kind of role that could have easily been filled by a second-tier Toho monster like the Praying Mantis-esque Kamacuras.

Now on to the good and frankly this all comes down to this being a Godzilla movie and whether or not it is a worthy continuation of the big guy’s saga. This was a Godzilla movie and frankly, I’m surprised by just how much it followed some of the conventions of the series and not just the original ’54 Godzilla as I was expecting. Villainous monsters showing up first to wreak havoc? Check. Humans trying but failing to solve the problem? Check. Godzilla awakening from his slumber to sort shit out? Check. Even the music was perfect. It was loud, it was bombastic. It was everything I wanted from the score for a Godzilla film though I’m perhaps a little disappointed that Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla March wasn’t used or referenced but I suppose you can’t have everything.

Now on to the main event. The Big G himself, Godzilla. There has been much discussion about the fact that Godzilla has so little screen time in the film. This is true. Personally, I loved this choice. It made all the time that we actually got to spend with Godzilla all the more impressive and impactful. Besides, I never felt as though he was missing from the film. From the first time he shows up in Hawaii, I felt his presence was there. Just scenes where you see his dorsal spikes sticking out of the water, flanked by aircraft carriers, as he hunts his prey help to convey his size and really build up the anticipation for that awesome final fight. Seriously, if there is one thing that this film does great in my opinion, it is building up anticipation.

I love the redesign though I did originally agree with some Japanese fans that he was a touch on the chunky side though once I saw it in action, it fit in with this Godzilla’s more bear-like movement and way of holding himself. And of course there’s the roar. The roar is beautiful and really should be heard in a cinema to truly appreciate it. Yes, just like this IS a Godzilla film, this IS Godzilla. I felt his personality come through in the limited time that he was on-screen and it genuinely felt like a certain Godzilla from a certain period of his film history. There’s even one moment which really caught me off-guard in which is probably the best moment in the film, a moment I shan’t spoil here but when that moment occurs, I was literally grinning from ear to ear. The King had returned.

So yeah, like I said, I love this film. I can understand the frustration that some people have with the film but personally it’s a frustration I do not share. Would I hate this film if it weren’t a Godzilla movie? Hate may be a strong word but I definitely would not have enjoyed it as much. It’s the things that make this a Godzilla movie that largely make it enjoyable to me. So yeah. Four pints out of five… And in my long winded ramblings, I realise that I have largely overlooked the actors so lets just say good cast overall though some are criminally underused. *cough* Bryan Cranston *cough* Laterz.

Snowtown_(film)



Review: Pacific Rim by Jamie

So Pacific Rim hit theatres like Godzilla hitting Tokyo. It’s the film I’ve been looking forward to all summer, the film that I’d laid my hopes on when it came to saving what has been a dreary and disappointing blockbuster season. It made sense. I love Kaiju movies. I’m down with giant robots. This should be a no-brainer, right? This should be a film that was made for me. A modern, big-budget Kaiju vs. Mecha movie. This is what I want right?

Well, it turns out that it wasn’t or at least not this version of it. Honestly I hated this movie. This movie that had so much potential, this movie that I put so much faith into. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I have become overly critical lately. I look at Twitter and see all the people who love this movie and it makes me sad. I’m happy that they got something out of it that I didn’t and I wish I had gotten that out of it too. Still I’m not going to lie and say that I enjoyed it when I didn’t. Overly critical or not, my opinion is still my opinion and I can’t see it changing anytime soon.

So what was it about this movie that irked me so? Ugh, where to begin? It was just so… ugh. Ok, so the basic plot is giant alien monsters have been invading the Earth through a dimensional rift at the bottom of the ocean and mankind has responding by building giant robots to fight them. Will mankind prevail or be wiped out? That’s a question that I literally ended up not caring about by the end of this film. Why? Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can’t care about the stakes if I don’t care about the characters and if there’s one thing that this movie is lacking, it’s characters. Every one is a cliché or a stereotype. Take our main character Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunman). He’s a Mecha pilot who quits after his brother is killed in action. He drifts from job to job, trying to forget the ghosts of his past. Suddenly his former commanding officer Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), a gruff military man who’s hard exterior masks a softer side, shows up in order to recruit him for one last mission. Becket finally agrees and at the base he meets two wacky scientists. One is tattooed and doesn’t mind leaving his lab in a messy state and the other is an uptight Englishman who likes a tidy working area. They’re the original odd couple! He also meets Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a somewhat meek Japanese girl who, get this, turns out to be really good at martial arts! But wait, I hear you say. Is there a cocky pilot who is great at his job but also an abrasive asshole? You bet your ass there is (Robert Kazinsky)! And let me tell you, he and Raleigh just can’t seem to get along with each other at all. Will they come to respect each other? Who can say? Ok, let’s just say that by the time that the bleached-blonde, sour-faced, statuesque Russian pilots who literally might as well both be Ivan Drago showed up, I was done. Done, done, done.

Look, I get it. This is a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters. Should I really care so much about how fleshed out the characters are? And you know what, I agree. I wouldn’t have minded a few clichés but EVERY SINGLE FUCKING CHARACTER? No. Now I’m afraid you’ve asked too much of me. And then there’s the story. Oh the story. There are threads which are picked up and then resolved far too quickly to make sense. For example, Pentecost originally refuses Mori’s request to become a pilot only to change his mind moments later with no explanation as to why. The movie also bends and breaks it’s own rules, something which should be a fucking cardinal sin in a Sci-Fi movie. For example, it is explained in the beginning of the film that the robots, which I probably should have mentioned by now are called Jaegers, have to be operated by more than one person because a neural connection with one person outs too much strain on that persons brain. This is broken moments later when a guy pilots his Jaeger solo after a battle. There’s also a far more egregious example of rule-breaking at the end of the film but I can’t say it because it’s a spoiler. Damn.

Speaking of spoilers, the ending is literally lifted almost wholesale from another film. I won’t tell you which one because it would be spoileriffic but if you’ve seen any big blockbusters within the past 100 years, you should be able to tell.

Ok, I still get it. It’s a movie about giant robots punching giant monsters. Isn’t the story just a means to an end to bring us those awesome action scenes? One, think about that the next time you criticise a Transformers movie and two, fair enough and that’d be acceptable if the fights were great to watch. Don’t get me wrong, they were some of the best parts of the film but the fights feature too many close-ups, too many quick cuts, too much of what’s going on being obscured by sea spray, rain or just the fact that all the fights take place at night. When you can tell what’s going on, it is indeed very cool but half the time it’s all just too… too meh. Sometimes there’s something to be said for guys in rubber suits.

Can I think of something I enjoyed before I wrap this up? Uh… The Kaiju looked cool, I guess and Ron Perlman was pretty entertaining…

I really wanted to love this movie. I really did. I wanted it to save my summer. I wanted to be able to smile as I walked out of the cinema and say to myself “You know what self? 2013 wasn’t a complete waste of time.” But I didn’t. I just didn’t. I’m honestly not sure what to rate this. So I guess I just won’t. I mean, I seem to be in the pretty big minority on this one and you’re probably going to go and see it anyway. Enjoy it. I hope you get out of it what I could not. I dunno. Maybe this would’ve been better if all the Kaiju were in a tornado of some kind. Laterz…. Oh, and if your robot has a sword that can cut through Kaiju like butter, why are you not always using it?

Sigh



Review: Man of Steel by Jamie

Superman. There was a time that when someone said the word superhero, the big blue boy scout was the image that would pop into your head. That might not be so true nowadays what with the proliferation of superheroes as a whole in the pop culture milieu nowadays. Sure, there were some who’d think Batman but those people would be wrong. Batman isn’t a superhero, he’s just an awesome detective in a bat costume. Would you call Sherlock Holmes a superhero? Probably not, not even if you dressed him as a small flying mammal.

Anyway, my point is that Superman is THE Superhero. He was the one that kicked of an entire genre of comic books and set the standard on which later heroes would be based. The cape, the spandex, the secret identity? All a result of Superman. Still, Superman himself has had a rather spotty record when it comes to his cinematic outings. Sure, the first two Superman films starring Christopher Reeve were great if perhaps a little too campy when looked back upon now. Then came the third which inexplicably starred Richard Pryor as someone who’s good at computers for some reason. The less said about Superman IV the better.

Supes finally returned nineteen years later in well, Superman Returns. It was not considered a success. It’s been a while since I’ve watched it myself but I don’t think I hated it. It was just a thing that kind of happened and that was that. And it’s not surprising that it was a failure to be honest. The cinematic superhero genre had come a long way since the first series of film. This was film was released not long after the first two X-Men films and the first two Spider-Man films had come out and kind of redefined what a comic book movie was. People wanted deep characters with deep motivations. Superman was not these things.

Let’s be honest for a moment. Superman is a boring character. Yes, I’ll admit that he deserves a little respect for being the first but an indestructible, flying man with lasers for eyes who only has one weakness is just not interesting. Throw in the fact that his motivation never really developed much further beyond “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. That kinda shit just doesn’t fly anymore.

So DC recently relaunched their entire universe (sort of) in 2011 and I bought each of the new number ones. I liked the stuff that they did with Superman. He was no longer specifically on the idea of the law but rather a Superman of the people, doing what was right not necessarily what the government wanted. He was a Superman for the Occupy generation. Also his powers had been toned down somewhat since he was a younger character still developing his them. It was an interesting concept and one that I enjoyed even though I didn’t stick with buying any more of them.

So could Zack Snyder, David Goyer and Christopher Nolan bring the world’s first superhero into the 21st century on the big screen? Well…

Look, I didn’t hate this movie. I want to get that out of the way right up front. It’s just that I can’t say that I really liked it either. So let’s get into what I did like first. One of my biggest problems with Superman has always been that Lois Lane is supposed to be one of the bet journalists on the planet and yet she can’t tell that someone is the same person when they remove a pair of glasses. I’ll suspend disbelief that Supes is from an alien planet where evolution has resulted in a dominant species identical to ours and that being from said planet grants him abilities such as invulnerability, flight and laser eyes. Fine. But that Lois Lane thing is a step too far and this movie solves that problem brilliantly in a way that resonates with the character.

I also really enjoyed the opening scenes on Krypton though they were somewhat rushed and involved characters yelling exposition at each other but you know what? I can live with that. It’s a movie and, as important as Krypton is to the Superman mythos, it’s not the main focus of the character. Still it might have been nice to flesh out the character of Zod a little better during these scenes. Despite this, like I said, I enjoyed the sequence though it did feature one of the oddest design choices I have ever seen in a film. Zod and his followers are sealed in stasis pods. Here, I done a rough art of what these pods look like:

Kneel Before Zod’s Giant Bronze Space Penis!

I’m not kidding either. Zod and his followers are literally locked away in giant, bronze dongs. They even have the beginnings of little scrotal sacks at the bottom. I get it. You want something that will fit a human being standing to attention inside it. You have to account for the feel and the rest can be a long pole-looking structure. Fine, that would have resembled a somewhat cartoonish penis, I would have giggled and we all could have gotten on with the movie but to actually put a bulbous head at the top of the shaft… I mean, seriously? Did nobody notice this during production? They had to have, right? So does that mean that this was entirely done on purpose? It’s just… Wow.

Anyway, where was I? Oh right, giant bronze penises. I mean Man of Steel. Ok. Another thing I enjoyed was the action. You know what, it was big, it was loud and it was awesome. I’ll admit that by this point I’d completely lost interest in the story. The villains motivations were inexplicable which is kinda becoming a theme in blockbuster movies lately but the action scenes got me through it. It was the first time I got a sense of just how powerful the Kryptonians on Earth. Obviously this is a little unfair to the previous films since didn’t have the kind of effects that this film does but it really is cool to see Superman creating sonic booms as he flies or to see one the villains leaping and crashing into things. There’s weight behind it all, it feels physical and there is mass devastation as a result. It’s pretty sweet.

I’ve also gotta say that I can’t really single any actor out as being bad. Everyone was pretty much bringing their A game with Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner playing Jor-El and Jonathan Kent respectively. Also Christopher Meloni is in it and I always have respect for a man whose IMDB bio begins with “With his piercing, blue-eyed glint, brawny looks, cocky “tough guy” stance and effortless charisma, TV’s Christopher Meloni drew on his sexy Italian heritage to grab audiences attention, male and female alike, finding breakthrough stardom playing on both sides of the law.” Well played Meloni’s IMDB bio. Well played.

So what about the bad, though I’ll admit that there’s a fairly decent amount of bad listed in the stuff that I supposedly liked about the film. Well, the story is a major concern and it also has a lot to do with the way the film is put together. After we see Kal-El’s pod crash land on Earth there is a cut to Clark working on a fishing boat. It is one of the worst cuts I have ever seen in my life. It was so jarring and unnatural looking that I actually thought that there might have been a problem with the projector and the film had skipped ahead. The middle of the story then is mostly made up of flashbacks as Clark tries to find out exactly what his role in human society is. The young man is torn and conflicted due to his pa telling him that he must hide who he really is until the world is ready to accept him.

He’s a tortured soul you see, someone with amazing and incredible gifts who must hide who he is because revealing himself would terrify the people he wants to protect. He’s an X-Man, you see. Ok, that’s a little unfair. In actuality this is gritty Superman. This is tortured Superman. This is Batmanified Superman. And it doesn’t work. The problem is that I think it could work. I think that the basic core idea is a solid one. I just think they went about it in totally the wrong way. The flashbacks suck any sense of development out of the story. Showing me an adult Clark getting in a situation and then flashing back to a scene of young Clark explaining why he reacts to this situation in the way that he does is one hundred percent less effective than having the story and my understanding of the character develop naturally and organically.

Then there’s the “romance” between Superman and Lois. It just sort of happens because, you know , that’s what happens in superhero movies, right? The hero needs a damsel in distress to save and so they are forced together and are making out in a devastated city on top of what must be the corpses of literally thousands after only really meeting each other a couple of times. It’s another symptom of the fact that there just isn’t any real development going on in the characters or story taking place in the present. All of the character development is shown a having taken place in the past in flashbacks relevant to the current situation and, again, that’s a really shitty way of doing things.

Overall it’s really a shame. To have such great acting, such great action and little flashes of brilliance here and there just to have it fall down on the single most important aspect of a movie, in my mind at least, the story is the biggest disappointment of all. Still, I left the cinema feeling somewhat hopeful. This could provide the background for a really nice sequel. It almost feels as though that’s exactly what they were thinking too. Rush through this film to retell the one superhero origin story that literally every human being knows, because at this point he’s been around since before many of our grandparents were born, and we can really focus on making the next film a great one. It is Batmanified Superman after all so why not just completely follow the formula of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films? Batman Begins had the advantage of having a vastly more interesting central character than Man of Steel but it still has to be admitted that The Dark Knight is when people sat up and paid attention and so I can see it being the same way with this.

Will they be able to pull a truly epic sequel off? Only time will tell and I hope that I’m proven right. It’d be nice to see Superman reinvented properly for a new age. Of course The Dark Knight had the advantage of having the Joker as the villain. A Man of Steel sequel will have to settle for Lex Luthor and it will be Lex Luthor.

And that's terrible...

And that’s terrible…

So I come to the end of this review a little disappointed. If indeed it was their plan to get through an origin movie just to provide the backdrop for a better sequel, did they need to waste Zod on it? It’s a shame but as I said, despite this disappointment I do remain hopeful and I feel it’s right to feel that way. After all hope is what the on Superman’s chest stands for.

Oh one last thing. Zod has one line, Snyder, Nolan and Goyer. One line that he is famous for. I know you’re trying to be all gritty and serious but c’mon, you couldn’t have thrown it in?

Two pints out of five. Laterz! Giant bronze penises to you all!

(In case you’re worried, that “And it will be Lex Luthor” line isn’t a spoiler for some post credits scene. There isn’t a post credits scene. It just will be Lex Luthor in the sequel obviously.)



Review: The Hangover Part III by Jamie

In 2009 a little comedy film about four friends travelling to Las Vegas for a bachelor party was released and took the world by storm. It took a concept we could all understand, getting so fucked up that you can’t remember anything about the night before, and built a comedic mystery around it. It was a crude comedy that actually had a decent plot but more importantly, the characters were great and that was important because this kind of comedy absolutely depends on the characters. It would be the cinematic breakthrough for the actors portraying those characters as well, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis were all propelled to a level of fame they hadn’t had before and the world was glad of it.

Then in 2011, the sequel was released. It was pretty much the exact same plot except this time the Wolfpack found themselves in Bnagkok. There were many complaints about it being the exact same movie and to a certain degree those criticisms were valid. Still, I enjoyed it for the most part because I liked the charactes and getting to see another one of their adventures was, for the most part, enjoyable.

So no we come to 2013 and the release of the trilogy ending Part three. I rewatched the first two before going to see it at the cinema and so I was looking forward to it. Yes, it would most likely be the exact same thing all over again but I accepted that and was just looking forward to laughing for a bit. Fuck, was I wrong.

The Hangover Part III is literally the definition of a disappointing sequel. The second asked you to buy into the conceit that the same thing could happen to these guys all over again and I did. I was ready to buy into that conceit again. Unfortunately it seems as though Todd Philips heard the criticisms regarding this and decided that if people wanted something different, he would give them something different. And so he did. There is no hangover. He completely removed the mystery element from the plot. Sure, there’s something there which has some of the trappings of a mystery but it really isn’t. Instead it’s just a straightforward story with little hints of mystery that all get solved far to quickly and that just isn’t fun.

It isn’t just not fun for the audience however. Everyone in the film looks like they’re just here due to contractual obligations. No one wants to be here as they’ve moved on to bigger and better things. This is mostly apparent through Bradley Cooper’s performance. It’s almost like he’s begrudgingly helping a friend move house, that’s the impression you get from him. If the film’s cast can’t even be bothered to care about this movie then why should I?

It may be as a result of this disregard for the quality of the film and the boredom of the actors that all of the characters seem off as well. In the first film, Alan was a naïve manchild that you could feel somewhat sympathetic towards. In the second film he became a little more of an asshole but for the most part he was still someone you could enjoy. The third film, however, just decides to make him a complete dick. He’s a dick to his mother, a dick to his friends with the exception of Phil who it almost seems as though he just wants to fuck now. If you can’t feel sympathy for the character than there’s absolutely no reason to care about him at all and I didn’t.

But perhaps the second biggest problem with this movie is the larger role for Chow. Again, in the first movie he was a somewhat minor character without much screen time. The second increased his role and he was certainly irritating but again, his screen time was somewhat limited. Part three is Chow’s movie and Jesus fuck is it annoying. I’ll be honest, I’m really starting to hate Ken Jeong and this is a major problem because it seems as though he will be in every comedy film forever and ever. The character he plays is just an asshole.

And so we come to the biggest problem with this movie. Everyone is a fucking asshole. Like I said before, in the first film Alan was sympathetic. Stu was the straight-laced one who had gotten in over his head and Phil was admittedly an asshole but in some weird way he kept the group together and kept the plot moving forward. In this film there is no distinction between the characters any more. Everyone is just a fucking asshole. Ok, maybe Alan is different in that he’s a slightly stupider asshole than the others but still, a fucking asshole. And you know what? There’s nothing entertaining or funny about watching a bunch of fucking assholes being fucking assholes to each other so that they can save their fucking asshole of a friend.

Is there anything redeeming about this film? Anything at all? Well, I guess there’s small mercy in the fact that it’s the shortest film in the series. And on reflection, I guess there were a few moments that made me chuckle and the scene during the credits is actually funny but other than that, this movie is an irredeemable piece of shit that tarnishes an otherwise enjoyable if not always groundbreaking series. A half pint out of five. Fuck this movie.

No, seriously, fuck this fucking movie.



Review: The Great Gatsby by Jamie

Warning: This review may feature spoilers for a book that was first published in 1925 and that you can easily read in an afternoon…

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any film,” he told me, “just remember that all the movies in this world haven’t had the advantages that Jaws had.”

In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has led to the discovery of many curious hidden gems and also made me the victim of not a few films that were best left not viewed by the eyes of anyone.

And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit… I’m sorry, I’ll stop now. The point is that I saw ‘The Great Gatsby’ after reading/listening to the book and watching all four of Baz’s previous films. At the end of all this preparation I came to two conclusions. The first was that I really liked F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 book which is beautifully written and a mesmerizing account of regret, the decay of the American dream and unfulfilled hope and a stunning portrayal of decadently rich youths during the 1920s in America. The second was that for the most part I really like Baz Luhrmann films. There are quibbles here and there and none of them are making it into my top ten but for the most part all four films are entertaining in one way or another. So it was with somewhat raised expectations that I went into the Great Gatsby.

I shall spare you the normal lengthy synopsis because, as I believe I may have mentioned earlier, The Great Gatsby is based on a novel from 1925 which can easily be read in the course of an afternoon. Now the important things. Is it any good? Well, yes and no. As a film it’s certainly the kind of entertaining thing you’d expect from Baz Luhrmann. It’s bright, it’s brash, it’s glitzy and it’s glamorous. It’s a visual feast that’s at times reminiscent of ‘Moulin Rouge’. As an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, however, it’s woefully inadequate. Sure, the major beats of the story are there but that’s all it feels like Luhrmann’s doing, making sure he hit’s the very basic beats of the story without any of the substance. It’s as though he brought in an exorcist that removed the soul from the story.

At it’s very worst, the framework of the novel feels like it’s being used as a means for Luhrmann to get from one elaborate, raucous set-piece to the next. At it’s best you’ll walk away from the film knowing what the story is without really knowing what it’s about.

In the novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald manages to make you feel something for the characters be it revulsion, sympathy or at times a strange mixture of the two which I have dubbed revulpathy. In the film I end up feeling very little for anyone, not that it’s any of the actors fault in particular. They’re all perfectly serviceable with the exception of Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. To me, Maguire almost seems like he’s just playing his Peter Parker but in 1920s era costume. Somewhere along the line, Maguire seems to have been the go to guy for wide-eyed naivety but to me he always just seems to come of more as something of a gormless buffoon.

DiCaprio, on the other hand, is on the other end of the scale. He does more than a serviceable job. He’s the one bright star in the film in that his portrayal of Gatsby is pretty damn great. Out of the whole thing, his was the character I came closest to caring about though still the nature of the movie left me just short of that.

As for Debicki, well, she’s actually fine it’s just that the character of Jordan seems to be almost completely cut from the story after Gatsby’s first party and any further relationship between her and Nick is barely even hinted at.

The same goes for other characters who have vital scenes in the book such as the Owl-Eyes and Meyer Wolfsheim, both of whom I would argue are vital to the books ending, who are here little more than cameos early on in the movie. Then there’s the case of Henry C. Gatz who is cut altogether. The fact that Luhrmann seems to pay far more attention to the beginning of the book rather than it’s conclusion just seems to add more weight to the accusation that the director cares far more about putting scenes of big, glitzy 1920s era parties, most of which occur in the first half of the book, on film than he does the actual story he’s supposedly adapting.

Then there’s the music. Oh boy. You see, these big, glitzy 1920s era parties all feature music which blends jazz of the time with modern hip-hop and other modern music styles. I can understand what they were going for. I get that you wanted to get across the point that hip-hop today is like jazz was in the 20s. And I liked the use of modern music in Moulin Rouge. It fit there because the 1900s of that film is portrayed as some kind of insane, cartoonish reality, it shows the characters as being really ahead of their time and it just works. This, however, is supposedly an adaptation of The Great Gatsby. It’s jarring. Really jarring and it completely took me out of the film every time. Don’t get me wrong either. For the most part, I really liked the music. It just doesn’t fit.

And so we come to the end the review and what’s left to say? Well, like I said, as a film it’ll keep you entertained and it’s pretty much everything you’ve come to expect from Baz Luhrmann but as an adaptation of such a wonderful book, it’s a miserable failure. There was nothing stopping Luhrmann from making an original film set in the 20s with an anachronistic soundtrack. Hell, he could have made it a spiritual sequel to Moulin Rouge and everyone probably would have been perfectly happy with it. Instead it feels like he wanted to make a film set in the 20s but didn’t want to go to the work of developing a story for it so he took The Great Gatsby and filmed the visually stunning party scenes he’d been dreaming of. Then he realised that shit, he’d probably better try and actually adapt the actual story too and he did so, paying lip service to it and stripping away anything that made said story special in the first place.

As far as I can tell none of the various attempts at adapting the book into a film have been particularly successful with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald themselves famously walking out of the 1926 effort. Maybe a good adaptation will come some day. Maybe not. It eluded us this time, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Two pints out of five. Laterz.

It's The Great Gatsby, Old Sport!



Review: Green Lantern by Jamie

In the interest of keeping this thing spoiler-free, this will be a short review. However, if you‘ve seen the film or don‘t care about spoilers then I recommend this site for a pretty damn funny summary which concisely lists every criticism I have as well.

I’ve come pretty late to the whole Green Lantern thing. In general I find Marvel’s Universe far more interesting and the only DC character I’ve had a really strong interest in has been Batman because he’s fucking Batman. Green Lantern always seemed, well, kinda lame to me. Didn’t really understand a great deal about the character except that he had a magical ring and he didn’t like the colour yellow. Still I decided it was time to rectify that situation and so I read the Sinestro Corps Wars and the war between all the colours that followed as well as a little bit of Blackest Night and I was quite surprised by the whole thing. I liked the concept of the whole ‘space cops’ thing and the emotional spectrum (although willpower is absolutely in no way an emotion).

So I had a little bit of background and some understanding of the Green Lantern universe when I went in to see the film starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond and Mark Strong as Sinestro, the most subtlely named character in the history of fiction until the Decepticons came along. And let me tell you right now, I am glad I had that slight bit of background because I honestly don’t know how you’d have a fucking clue as to what’s going on in this film if you didn’t. The films opens with a short bit about how and why the Lantern Corps were formed and after that things are just pretty much shown or stated to be a certain way and you just kinda have to accept it. I’m not saying the film should stop and explain in excruciating detail why things are the way they are in the Green Lantern universe but not just being thrown into the deep end would probably be nice.

Now, when I first saw the movie, I didn’t think it was really deserved the critical nut shot it seemed to be getting. Sure, the film was flawed but not nearly as flawed as people said and I originally chalked this up to people perhaps not having the little bit of background that I had gone into the film with but since that time I’ve kind of rethought a few things and, whilst I still don’t think it’s as terrible as has been reported, I do think it’s a more flawed film than I originally did.

For one, the best part of the film was probably the stuff on Oa and I was certainly pissed off with how little of that stuff there was. Hal’s training seems to consist of three lessons which I suppose is all it takes to understand how to responsibly use a weapon with practically limitless destructive power. Compare the way that “Thor” balanced the scenes of Earth and Asgard to the way this film did things and you’ll see why Thor is a much more highly regarded film.

Also, considering this film is supposed to be about a superhero, Hal isn’t particularly heroic. There are scenes where he does nothing to help anyone until the girl he wants to fuck’s life is in danger, scenes where he’s hanging around waiting to stop the villain whilst the villain tortures and kills people and in the scene where he first discovers his power, he isn’t trying to save a baby from traffic or an elderly woman from a terrible fall, no he’s fighting outside a bar with men who he got fired earlier that day due to his own reckless actions. Sure the guys started on him and the first giant emerald fist he generated was accidental but still, to continue beating up these guys with your magical space ring considering you ruined their lives is the height of douchiness.

Ok, I can already feel myself wanting to get into spoilers. In fact, I‘ll give one here but in white text so it will be unreadable if you don‘t highlight it. Why does Sinestro take the yellow ring at the end of the film? I understand that it’s to set up the sequel but at no point during the film did he ever seem anything but an honourable, upstanding member of the Green Lantern Corps. Maybe a hint that something else was going on with Sinestro would have been good but no. Instead we just get a completely 180 degree character turn for no reason other than the need to set up a sequel. Terrible. At the end of the day, Green Lantern is an interesting concept that should have been handled far, far better than it was. I was expecting a film about a group of space cops, defending the universe with as little time spent on Earth as was necessary. Instead what I got felt a kind of crappy, bog standard superhero film. The scenes on Oa almost felt like they were an afterthought, something that the filmmakers felt they had to put in to appease fans and in order to set up their sequel. In the end, Green Lantern gets 2.5 pints out of 5

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Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 by Jamie

Well the end is nigh for the Harry Potter series and it begins with this film, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1’ or Harry Potter 7 for brevity’s sake. Yes it’s been a long, strange trip with it’s ups and its down but how does this film fare as the opening of the close? Let’s find out.

So the basic story is that of Harry, Hermione and Ron roaming Britain trying to find and destroy the horcruxes that contain Voldermort’s soul and the effects that the Dark Lord’s return are having on the wizarding world in general. That’s pretty much it. It’s a pretty simple story and yet it manages to be complex in it’s simplicity. Wow, that might be the wankiest thing I’ve ever written.

Wanky or not, it’s true. The film manages to be both incredibly simple yet deep and complex at the same time. The biggest change from earlier films is that all of the action takes place outside of Hogwarts. Gone are the little whimsical touches that were littered throughout that school in general. Instead what you get is a far more realistically grounded film. Yes, you still have people using magic and that but there’s no keys with insect wings or talking portraits. It’s much more serious fare.

And with good reason. This is a very, very dark film compared to others in the series. For one thing, there’s a very fascistic overtone to Voldermort’s overtaking of the Ministry of Magic. The parallels are obvious with Nazi Germany. There’s a scene where they are actually creating propaganda entitled ‘Mudbloods And The Danger They Pose To A Perfect Pure Blood Society.’ So yeah, you don’t really need to scratch the surface too much to find the analogy.

What I am surprised by is just how far they’re willing to take everything for what is still technically a kids film. There are scenes of Hermione screaming as she’s tortured by having the word ‘mudblood’ scrawled into her skin, an opening scene where someone is killed because they promote the ideas of muggles and wizards ‘mating’ (as Voldermort puts it) and a beautifully animated sequence about three wizards and their encounters with Death himself. Beautiful but dark.

There’s been much talk about the number of scenes where the trio are just camping with some saying that the film is basically just that but I honestly didn’t feel as if that was dragged out at all. In fact the film seemed to be paced relatively well, perhaps a little slow here and there but not egregiously so. Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some problems with the film. For example, one of the horcruxes they find is a locket which, when worn, turns the person wearing it into a bit of a douche bag so my question is why wear it? Hermione had a magical Mary Poppins-esque bag so why not just keep it in there?

Importantly, this is also the first film where the story of the kids was the most interesting part of the film. In earlier instalments I found myself not really caring what the youngest generation of wizards and witches got up to, caring far more about the story of the adults. In fact I really wouldn’t mind a prequel that told the story of Voldermort’s rise to power the first time around and the death of Harry’s parents/ This time round, however, it was all about kids without much input from the adults at all and I went into the film thinking I might have some problems but the story was engaging enough that I didn’t really mind at all.

Still over all, it is a highly, highly enjoyable film. Just don’t see it if you haven’t seen the films that came before it because you really do need to know the story up to this point in order to follow it. I also have to say I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children, no matter how much they beg. Seriously, that scene with Hermione screaming continuously for what seemed like forever was almost too much for me and I like dark shit. Oh and thank fuck there’s no fucking Quidditch. That’s gotta make it one of the best in the series so far. Anyway, overall 4 pints out of five. Laterz.




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