The Summer of the Forgettable Blockbuster


Do you know what I just remembered last night? Avengers: The Age of Ultron came out this summer. I had been so excited to see it. Watching all the trailers, reading all the articles.  I went to see it on a giant screen, even shelling out the extra cash to see it in 3D. And then…I saw it. And I enjoyed it, I really did. It was funny and action-packed, and not as good as the first Avengers, but I really wasn’t expecting that. Roll credits and I left the theater to go see Chris Hardwick do stand-up a few blocks away.

He was fantastic.

But then just two weeks later, Mad Max: Fury Road came out. And that was mind-blowingly insane. A relentless two-hour chase film that just kept getting crazier and crazier as it went on. Plus, it had Charlize Theron in as the kick-butt female of the year. All around awesome. The next week Tomorrowland came out, but like most other people, I didn’t end up seeing it. Then we had Spy, San Andreas, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Ted 2 (not successful, but fully hyped), Terminator: Genysis, Magic Mike XXL, Minions, Trainwreck was pretty great…and on and on.

While some of these movies have gone to break records (lookin’ at you here T-Rex), most have come and gone and left studio executives to make excuses for them (lookin’ at you Terminator). And I had to remind myself that the Avengers sequel had come out at the start of it all.

So what happened? Why did I forget about this movie that I was oh so excited to see? How is it already August and I feel like there has been precious little to really see in theaters this summer? Somehow this summer has become the season of the forgettable blockbuster.

When I look back in 2016, I’ll probably think fondly of Inside Out, maybe remember that I really loved Spy, and dream about seeing Max Mad on the big screen again – but that’s it. Everything else has blended together into a heap of explosions, quick witted one liners, and a brief respite from the sweltering heat.

Remember me? I was in a movie this summer too! And it was pretty good? Remember? You liked it!

Was 2014 better? Yes. Or at least I think so. Maleficent was gorgeous and surprisingly enjoyable. Edge of Tomorrow was so much better than I could have expected and so woefully underseen. Snowpiercer*, one of the more interesting dystopian fantasies I’ve seen, reminded me that film can be a thrilling medium both visually and content-wise [seeing it at the Angelika, with the subway trains running by helped with the atmosphere]. How to Train Your Dragon 2 reminded me why I loved the first one so much, in all the right ways. 22 Jump Street was the perfect comedy sequel.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the perfect action sequel and made me want the Academy to finally recognize Andy Serkis once and for all. And let us not forget about Guardians of the Galaxy, that gift from the cinema gods that proved that you can have a foul-mouthed raccoon and a talking tree that don’t seem silly as long as they’re done the right way. Plus, Chris “Starlord” Pratt.

Even Optimus Prime riding a freaking dinobot whilest holding up a giant sword couldn’t save this movie.

Oh sure Transformers: Age of Extinction was godawful. And Melissa McCarthy, so wonderful in Spy, disappointed me a smidge in Tammy. Seth MacFarlane’s failure with A Million Ways To Die In The West was a sad precursor to his failure with Ted 2 in 2015. As great as Pixar’s Inside Out was this year, last year we had Disney’s miserable Planes: Fire & Rescue. 2014 wasn’t a perfect summer for movies by a long shot.

But the movies that were great, were great and they were memorable.  I saw Guardians twice in the theater. I told everyone I knew to see Snowpiercer. I argued vociferously with my siblings on the merits of this new round of Planet of the Apes movies. This summer, I’ve mostly been preaching that if you’re going to see Mad Max, it needs to be done on a big screen. But I haven’t become a movie missionary for much beyond that.

We have a few more weeks of big releases, Fantastic Four and Ricki and Flash, where Meryl Streep plays a rock star, both come out this Friday. Guy Ritchie will keep trying to become relevant again with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But I’m not doubling down and hoping for miracles. Just biding my time for Oscar bait, the new Star Wars film, and wondering what I’ll forget about in the summer of 2016.

Wait a minute – didn’t Pitch Perfect 2 come out this summer…?

*And yes, I know Snowpiercer wasn’t really a blockbuster, but come on people.

Edited to add: It really says something that I totally and completely forgot about Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. That literally just came out and I even saw it, and still forgot that it was in theaters right now. Forgettable indeed.

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Wherein I say good-bye to Jon Stewart

Dreaming sweet dreams about Arby’s

At a time when everyone, their mother, their neighbor, and their precocious 9-year old nephew is writing about the loss of Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show, apparently I too need to throw my 1 cent into the pile. [Recent idea inflation has made $.02 worth about $.01]

Rather than bemoan the state of the news media and how Jon is leaving us stranded smack in the middle of what is promising to be the clown car version of American political races, or write a snarky diatribe focusing on how Jon and his snarky diatribes lowered the level of political discourse, I am going to talk about what this show has meant to me and how I am going to be affected by this vacancy in late night television.

Because in the end, I’m just selfish that way.

I remember watching The Daily Show when good ol’ Craig “Craiggers” Kilbourne was the host. Correspondents mocked the average dumb American and celebrities came on to answer 5 questions that were often amusing, occasionally rather funny. Each show would end with a Moment of Zen, usually something so utterly weird and strange and dumbfounding, it would knock you into a state of, well, Zen. Then it was announced that Craig would be leaving. He had found greener pastures on network television. Comedy Central was not yet the juggernaut of Amy Schumer, Key and Peele, and the Broad City gals, but rather the trashbin made mostly of reruns of HBO comedy specials, terrible B-grade comedies, and the beloved Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist. You understood why Craig was leaving.

And who was the young upstart coming in to take his place? Why none other than stand-up comic and failed MTV host Jon Stewart. Even though I didn’t have HBO at the time, I knew Jon had received a lot of attention around his time on The Larry Sanders Show. I knew his stand-up and had stayed up late watching The Jon Stewart Show. I had hope.

Within that first year or so of Jon hosting The Daily Show, I had gone to see 5 live tapings. Thanks to rather loud and raucous laughter, I would end up being singled out by the warm up guy. Normally that would make me die of embarrassment, but since that meant a quick intro to Jon when he would come out on stage, I survived. It helped that I, like Jon, was a member of the Tribe and we like to find our own in a crowd.

Under his leadership, The Daily Show started to find its humor beyond mocking the average, dumb American. When Jon begged the hosts of Crossfire to stop hurting America, Jon and his staff worked to achieve the opposite. And I knew that every night, or at least most Monday through Thursday evenings, I would find salve to my outrage at what was going on in our country: a war, or three, going on that I didn’t quite see the reason for; a president that I was convinced had learned how to speak English phonetically; a Vice-President who personified all that was dark and unholy about the military-industrial complex; and a gaggle of news media outlets that didn’t seem to get that they had a job to do beyond grab ratings.

I had Jon to thank for bringing all the amazing TDS correspondents into my life. I still cannot help but laugh when I think about every “Slimming Down with Steve” segment or the infamous show when Steve Carell actually got drunk.

Rob Corddry, Larry Wilmore, Lewis Black, Kristen Schaal, Sam Bee, Jason Jones, frakking living legend John Oliver. My life became a veritable cornucopia of comic genius thanks to The Daily Show.

And as my life progressed, I needed that comic genius.

For a variety of reasons too numerous and complicated to explain, I moved cross-country several times in my 20’s. NY to LA. LA to NY. There and back again, as Bilbo Baggins might say. And while I wasn’t always sure what state I was in, I knew that I could rely upon Jon and co. to educate, entertain, and enlighten me.

Not enough can be written about Jon’s first show post-9/11. The raw emotion, the shell-shocked rage, the somehow not unbelievable optimism – I felt as though he was summing up for everyone in New York at the time something that still to this day remains unfathomable. And god bless him, he was one of those who helped me find the humor again.

I moved home as an adult, once again living under the same roof as my mother. Not that we needed it, but The Daily Show provided us with common ground. No matter the petty argument, once we heard the opening of strains of “Dog on Fire,” we would prepare to giggle as Jon would go into a perfectly terrible George W. Bush cackle. I forgot to take out the garbage or I left my wet towel on the floor of the bathroom? Never fear – Lewis Black was on TV, giving us a shared laugh at the most necessary moments. In fact, my mother found Lewis Black oddly sexy, something to this day I am not quite sure I understand. And when I moved to Boston, every morning my mother and I would get on IM and inevitably the conversation would start “Did you see Jon last night?” and we would proceed to dissect the funniest moments from the previous evening’s show.

For 16 years, the show remained a staple in my daily life. And when things in my daily life would get particularly dark, this show was a constant source of something funny. The first time Lewis Black did “Back in Black” after my mother died, I laughed and cried and then laughed again, knowing how much she would have loved the segment. When I faced yet another move to another city, I was able to bond with someone over the fact that she understood me when I only ever referred to him as Jon, as if he were just someone in my social circle rather than THE Jon Stewart. And when earlier this year, Jon announced that he was leaving, I knew that friends in many states would be there for me as I envisioned a Jon-less future.

In theory I was already a grown-up when Jon took over TDS, but in reality, I grew up watching him behind that desk. For all these years, I have been able to hear about a news story and know that later that night it would be praised or meticulously ripped to shreds by someone I respected. In this show and its fans, I found others who believed that it’s OK to be angry at the frequent and astounding injustice we see in this world and that it is OK to laugh when idiocy and hypocrisy and blind hatred keep rearing their ugly heads.

Because there is always something to laugh about.

Well, almost always.

This is what I think I will miss the most when Jon leaves on Thursday. He is not and has never been perfect, but he was there. He made me think. He challenged me. He introduced me to new people and new ideas, and he made me question things that I knew I knew.

But mostly, he made me laugh. He made me laugh when I didn’t believe I wanted to or even think I that could. It’s as simple as that.

Trevor Noah – the ball is in your court.

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Let’s talk summer movies! (Iron Man to Man of Steel)

With the decision that May is now the start for summer movies, this week we officially hit the mid-way point for this blockbuster season.

It’s been an interesting couple of months, with a lot of sequels as well as some honest gems that snuck in between the explosions.

Plus, as we sit stewing in our own meat bags (aka our skin), the siren-song of $7 air conditioning combined with flickering images on a large screen is something no one can ignore.

Iron Man 3

We’ve all heard that by this point, RDJr IS Tony Stark, and I’m not going to disagree. But I think it’s more because RDJr has figured out how to absolutely embody the character and take someone who in the wrong hands could seem a joke and make him into something more, someone with depth and sorrow as well as swagger. That we can watch Iron Man 3 where Tony Stark spends most of the movie out of his suit and still see him as Iron Man, is because of the strength of RDJr’s performance. Of course the major selling point of this movie was Ben Kinsley’s outstanding spin as the Mandarin, both before and after (no spoilers, but if you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I mean). Was the end silly? Yes. Was the addition of a a kid sidekick just skating on the edge of cutesy? Yes. Do we still sorta despise Gwyneth no matter how much RDJr tries to make her seem charming? Yes. But in the end, the movie was fun and exciting and with set pieces like the barrel of monkeys rescue sequence, you – or at least I – am able to forgive and enjoy.

The Great Gatsby

I’ve already discussed how I’m not a fan of this movie. And as time has gone by, that hasn’t changed. There has been very little for me to hang onto with this one, apart from how fantastic Leo was. But the addition of depth and importance to Daisy just prevented the film from having any lasting resonance for me. Oddly, in the end the movie was really like Daisy – pretty but without substance.

Star Trek Into Darkness

I so desperately want to add a colon to that title.

Although it lacked the same slam I felt after I saw JJ Abram’s ST revamp, I thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness. I must confess that some of that was due in part to the presence of one Benedict Cumberbatch – that man could read the phone book and I’d pay 10 bucks to own that recording. But the movie also built on preexisting relationships that both the characters in the film had together as well as the one the audience has with that cast. It’s now cannon that the original StarTrek isn’t cannon, so we can get over that and see where this new universe takes us, which happens to be a smartly worked reversal of one of the most iconic scenes in Star Trek history. The resolution in this universe was a little hacky and as thrilling as the fight scene between Spock and Khan was, it was all a little much. I never did see Spock as much of a badass, but perhaps that is something that needs to change. Also, more Bones. Please more Bones.

The Heat

I was able to see this movie at a free screening around a month before it opened and liked it so much, I paid to see it last weekend. Melissa McCarthy sells every single line in that movie as if she had Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glenross whispering in her ear. No matter how foul or crass, she made everything her character Shannon Mullins said seems as if it was being thought of a la minute. That gift of spontaneity doesn’t reside as much in Sandra Bullock, but she acquitted herself well. What makes The Heat so interesting, however, is that it’s a buddy movie with two women where the fact that they are women isn’t the central focus of the film. Yes, we see that Mullins has had several sexual encounters (and good on them for making her a guy-magnet) and yes, we hear that Bullock’s Ashburn was once married, but both of these attributes could easily apply to two guys. Neither character spent forever lamenting being single, having “lady problems”, or crying when things get too rough. Yes sisters, we are that much closer to film equality.

The Stories We Tell

This is one of those hidden gems I was talking about. Part documentary part reenactment, Sarah Polley takes us deep inside one of the biggest secrets in her family. Each family member had their own memories and experiences, and it is while piecing it together that you get a sense of what really happened. Polley has directed two previous films, Away From Her and Take This Waltz, both of which were heartbreaking in their own way. As she interviews her brothers and sister, her father and extended family and friends, all to learn who her mother really was, you feel a yearning as the valley between what Polley remembers (her mother died when she was very young) and the person her mother truly was. And with Polley, the added mystery of her own patrilineage just adds to the desire. Anyone who has lost someone can understand the need to rebuild that person’s past in an effort to gain understanding. And sometimes how we choose to remember that person is just as important.

Now You See Me

I love a good movie about magic. The Prestige and The Illusionist both whetted my appetite for that odd mixture of wanting to believe in the magic on screen and trying to peek behind the curtain to see the truth. Now You See Me is a jumbled story in many ways, but the components all come together well enough to make it a fun jumble. I’m a sucker for those big set pieces that dazzle, and NYSM has no shortage of those. You aren’t going to walk away feeling that you have learned something profound, but you will definitely walk away thinking “How the hell did they do that?” Special mention to Jesse Eisenberg who has managed to carry off being an absolute tool while not being completely hateful and to Mark Ruffalo who does befuddled like no one else.

After Earth

There is so much I want to say about this disaster, but since I was taught if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all…

I  will say that the green screen effects aren’t always terrible and I wasn’t constantly laughing at the ever-changing accents and slam-over-the-head Scientology references.

PS – The twist is that the movie is terrible.

Frances Ha

Every once in a while I see something that hits me smack in the chest in a painful but not unwelcome way. Frances Ha hit me like that, and how. Greta Gerwig plays Frances, a rootless 27 year old who just can’t quite figure it out. Her desire to dance when she probably isn’t good enough to do it professionally and her seeming inability to put down stakes in adulthood echoed in a way that was honestly uncomfortable. I don’t want to dance, and trust me when I say no one wants me to dance, but I understand that want that is and will remain out of reach and I spent more time than I wish to admit floating without a permanent address. At the root of it all is the fundamental change in Frances’s relationship with her best friend. She so defines herself as being half of that duo that when her friend finds her place and definition in a new couple, Frances loses her apartment and her identity. It is a painful journey to rediscover what her life is going to be and who she wants herself to be. Gerwig gives Frances a naiveté that manages to not grate and not inspire mere pity. Her successes, no matter how minor, seem to explode with joy and we watch and encourage every little step she takes towards truly and finally growing up.

The Purge

Sure this is essentially a snuff film, but at least it’s a snuff film that tries to raise some interesting questions. Would everything really just sort itself out if for 12 hours a year people could commit any sort of atrocity they wanted? Are we all just a few jealous moments away from outright murder and violence? Do the rich really have it better off? (And yes, that last question was rhetorical) I will say that Lena Headey sold the hell out of her role in this and made the end of the movie work despite its innate silliness.

Before Midnight

Although I remember loving Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, I don’t remember them as well as I’d like. It’s possible that is both a function of time and a willful desire to have those memories be as hazy as possible. I have aged along with Jesse and Celine, from that fresh-faced, optimism where the future is wide open and chance encounters hold all the promise in the world, to older, slightly jaded and wounded and hesitant. This last round, however, they have moved ahead of me. Jesse and Celine, having reconnected in Before Sunset have stayed together, not marrying, but raising a pair of angelic looking blonde twin girls. They might be the semblance of domestic bliss but all the hurt and insecurities from all the previous years are barely beneath the surface. With Jesse’s son living in the US and the Jesse, Celine, and their girls living in Europe, the ingredients for verbal sparring are all there. And spar they do. After years of knowing each other, they know how best to hurt, what scars can easily open, and how far to almost push each other. It is uncomfortable to watch them, as the dialog seems to incredibly real. You are no longer watching two people fall in love, you are watching the ever after and that is not magical, but just as emotionally fulfilling.

This Is The End

A movie that is almost wholly reliant on dick and masturbation jokes, This is the End manages to also find a sweet spot. Watching the fictionalized versions of many of the comedic actors we have mostly come to love over the past decade either get killed in brutal and highly amusing fashions or fight for survival in post-apocalyptic LA is far more entertaining than I would have imagined. Danny McBride is just foul in all the right ways and Jonah Hill is slimy and unctuous. But as everyone has said, the movie is stollen by Michael Cera playing a 180 degree turn against type. His interaction with Rihanna is worth the price of admission alone. What clinched the movie for me was the very end, which wasn’t the original ending, but worked perfectly for me. Backstreet IS back!

Man of Steel

It is going to be difficult to write about Man of Steel without acknowledging the otherworldly level of handsome of Henry Cavill. I mean, really… just look at that man!

Thankfully, I really enjoyed him as Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman. Yes, it’s much darker than the Christopher Reeve version – this guy isn’t a bumbling idiot when donning his glasses. And yes, there is A LOT more on Kryptonite than we’ve seen in the past. But for me it worked. There is an inherent “outsiderness” to Superman that makes his penchant for being a loner understandable. Plus his adoptive father played here by Kevin Costner instills in him a deep fear of having people discover who he really is. As this is an origin story, we get to see him become Superman and it is more trial and error than before. And to me, more of a discovery.

Michael Shannon is the only person who can make me forget Terrance Stamp’s General Zod. His singleminded devotion to what he sees as his duty to his people and his planet almost explains his actions, but add in the tiny gleam of insanity Shannon is able to impart, and it all falls into place. Amy Adams isn’t a flighty Lois Lane, but a true intrepid reporter who is Superman’s equal and eventual confidant. Sure, the end of the film has destruction on a scale that is unimaginable and entire city blocks are demolished without so much as a first thought, but by this point I’m so immune to that whole thing, I pretend said buildings and streets are as empty as a studio backlot. I will say that every punch, every body slam had weight. You felt them hit you in the chest, making what might be an overlong battle scene an involved endurance test for all involved. I didn’t have so much of an issue with Superman’s last actions; I’m not sold on the comic version of the character. And the cry of anguish and pain that Cavill let out gave the action depth and meaning beyond just a mindless killing.

I will add that I half expected Russell Crowe to start singing…badly. But he was a much more defined Jor-El than Brando was, which while not saying much, says enough.

So that’s the first part of the summer. Thoughts on Monsters University, World War Z, Pacific Rim, and others up next!

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“Drift” With Pacific Rim

Thanks to Nerdist for the heads up on this one.

Not sure if I’ve made it clear how excited I am about Pacific Rim.

I’m REALLY excited.

So when you get to see a behind the scenes featurette (as these are now called), it makes me giddy.

What struck me about this video is that gives the movie a bit more depth than the mere razzle dazzle of the robot vs. monster plotline. (Not that robot vs. monster isn’t enough, cuz it is)

Two people, piloting as one…how romantic

Clearly there is something emotional and potentially explosive going on with this “drift” concept. As Inception and Total Recall before it have shown us, seeing what is going on in someone else’s head doesn’t usually end well. Having total access to another person’s memories and feelings and life experiences might sound cool and interesting, but our minds are a tangled nest of insecurities and regrets that we don’t really want to share with anyone. And when that is tied in with the fate of humanity and life on earth as we know it, I foresee some issues.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Pacific Rim will be more than just crazytown fights. Guillermo Del Toro really has a grasp on the human psyche and the dangers within – just see Pan’s Labyrinth for proof. Even Hellboy showcased some of the darker angels lurking within. Either way…I’m counting down to July 12.

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Prepping for Arrested Development pt1

With just a few days left before Netflix unleashes new Arrested Development episodes upon us, the interwebs have been a-flutter with lists, interviews, essays, videos, and anything else they can think of that would relate to AD.

Yes, we are all really that excited.

The sheer volume of stuff out there to peruse and read through before 12:01am May 26 can make you dizzy like the side effects from one of the drugs pushed by Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution. So I thought I would share my favorite links and videos over the few days, to help cut down on the noise.

First, Vulture’s surprisingly difficult Arrested Development Superfan Quiz. By sheer luck and a heck of a lot of guessing, I got 50/50.  As you go through it, I will emphasis the sheer luck and guessing.

Then, an amazing supercut of all the comments about Ann Bland Egg Paul Veal and all the “Her?” statements in general. When you see all of Michael’s reactions put together, it’s amazing. And you forget how that “Her?” was used in some other choice situations.

Next is a list from Uproxx of the 20 most obscure pop culture references in AD. Some of them I knew, some of them made sense in retrospect, and some were highly educational – especially Buster’s plaintive cry of “I’m a monster!” (Which incidentally I say to myself on a semi-regular basis. I do have both my hands, FYI)

I just blue myself for nothing

Then a nice little piece from Esquire about why Tobias is the heart and soul of the show. I don’t know if I would necessarily go that far, but he is one of my favorite characters, if not merely for the creation of the position of “analrapist”. Plus the images of him with his failed hair plugs are a thing of beauty/horror.

Finally for today, one of the AV Club’s many, many, MANY pieces on Arrested Development.  I choose this one for the sweet comfort of all the quotes and how they can be used to respond to the new episodes. How meta.

In closing…there’s always money in the banana stand…

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The Pacific Rim trailer that will knock you DOWN

Ok. After watching this, Pacific Rim is now my #2 must-see this summer (#1 is Star Trek Into Darkness for those keeping count)

I mean holy hell! The giant monsters! The giant robots! The Idris Elba! The Charlie Day!

And it’s directed by the guy who gave us Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth?

What is not to like about this?

I don’t care if the movie has no interior logic or character development — just give me big robots fighting big monsters and I’m happy.

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In which I review Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby

Have you seen Moulin Rouge?

Did you like it?

Do you want to see it on the big screen again?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then by all means, go see The Great Gatsby.

However, if a “no” crept into your mind at all, I would save the $12 and the possible headaches from the unnecessary 3D.

I should probably say that I loved Moulin Rouge when I first saw it. It was something I’d never quite seen before, the colors, the music, and visual fireworks…it seemed magical. It was easy to get swept up in it all and allow myself to be absolutely and completely dazzled.

The thing about that sort of magic is that it doesn’t always work the second time around. And clearly that is the case with Gatsby.

If you can -can-can….

I should also probably say that although I’ve read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s permanent reading list contribution, I remember almost nothing. It’s one of those books that I know should have had a larger impact on me, but just didn’t.

(Side note and True Story: when I was in 7th grade I had to read Of Mice and Men. Being the last minute worker that I am, I waited until the night before and decided that with only a few pages left, I didn’t really have to finish the book to know what happened. When my mother and I sat to talk about what I was going to write about the book, I expressed sincere shock when she mentioned that Lenny died. She then sent me back to my room to reread the ending of the book. It’s amazing what a few pages at the end of a book can do)

Note: From here there be spoilers…

What this all means is that I came into Gatsby with minimal preconceived notions. I knew that the book ended with Gatsby floating face down in a swimming pool a la Sunset Boulevard, and that someone got hit by a car. But that’s about it. So I my mind was pretty open as the movie started.

It then snapped shut almost immediately.

The first hour or so of Gatsby is Moulin Rouge Part 2: The Rougening. And I really wish I were joking. Everything from the pacing to the camera angles to the voice over made me feel like I was back watching Luhrmann’s other film that featured anachronistic music and flashy costumes and a doomed love story. It wasn’t that it was bad – it was gorgeous to watch and the music was pretty good; it’s just that I’ve seen it before. And as I said, the second time around it all loses something.

Daisy, a beautiful little fool

My other problem with the film is that it tried so hard to make the focal point the doomed love story between Daisy and Gatsby, without really delving into the class issues and social issues going on behind the scenes. Just because Leo is in this, the movie doesn’t need to be a sequel to Titanic – and it shouldn’t be. And as I start to vaguely remember some of the issues in the book, I realized why I had such an issue with Daisy — don’t give Daisy depth just because you can’t figure out how to make her character worthy of a lifelong obsession. Carey Mulligan did a fine job with what she was given, but what she was given was a very strange interpretation of the character.

Nice to see you, Old Sport

I will say that Leonardo DiCaprio was fantastic. He captured everything you wanted Gatsby to be – dashing, charismatic, with the odd insecurities befitting his background. Leo is no longer that fresh faced young adult who won the hearts of all the teeny-boppers as he sunk to the bottom of the ocean. His body has filled out, he has developed lines on his now non-angular face. But this has just made him more appealing; looking like he’s actually been living a life gives him more depth.

Joel Edgerton was also great as bully and bigot and racist Tom Buchanan. Newcomer Elizabeth Debicki is also great as Daisy’s pal Jordan Baker. Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway did nothing for me. I find him too weak to really make an impact on me. Even as he yelled and raged at the end, I just found him wanting.

So should you see Gatsby in the theaters? If you were interested in seeing it at all, and of course answered yes to any of those Moulin Rouge questions, then go see it and definitely see it in the theaters – if for nothing else than the amazing sequence in which we are actually introduced to Gatsby himself, pomposity at its greatest. But if you were on the fence and weren’t really all that motivated in the first place, I wouldn’t rush. 

In the end, this version of The Great Gatsby is a 2 hr 20 minute movie that feel like a 2 hr 30 minute movie.

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