Gatsby…The Great Gatsby? The one where DiCaprio stars? It is a definite rental. Don’t waste your money seeing it in the theaters. It is way too long and so many scenes are laughably bad. At one point I thought I was browsing PostSecret on the big screen, and I nearly retched and walked out.

Yet, in contrast to those scenes, there are so many good moments. The actors are at the top of their game here. This is Toby’s best performance of his career, which isn’t saying much, but at least casting directors know he can act decently and he’ll get better roles. DiCaprio was born for this role and continues to impress.

Overall, its an incredibly flawed movie. My hope is that when the home video version is released, some fan makes an edit that takes out all the garbage scenes, and makes it into something more appealing. It gets 6.8/10 star from me. There is some good stuff and a few incredible performances, but even DiCaprio can’t save a film that insists on using postsecret visuals as a crutch.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Simply put: Burt Wonderstone was hilarious. If you didn’t see it, it’s probably because it was misadvertised. The advertisements should have shown the relationship between Steve and Oliva. That entire side of the film was far more entertaining and enjoyable than the Jim Carey vs Steve Carell rivalry part of the film, which really does take a backseat to the real story.

The true story of Burt Wonderstone is one of Man vs Self, not Man vs Man. I think many people went into the theater thinking that they were gonna be wowed by Jim Carey, but instead got a heartfelt performance of a washedup arrogant stage magician who humbles himself enough to spark a new era of his career.

Overall, it’s worth seeing, but probably not worth paying for the big screen prices unless you’re seeing it at a dollar theater. If you’re a Steve Carell fan, it is a worthy performance and should quickly find a spot in your home collection.

Oblivion (2013 film) – Review

Over the weekend I saw the film Oblivion. It’s been over ten years since Minority Report. I’m glad the trailers and other marketing did not spoil the film for most people. Even going into the film knowing the twist, I was impressed with nearly every aspect of the film. The film stars Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, and Morgan Freeman, all of which provide compelling performances. The special effects distract from the subtle hints placed throughout the film, providing an opportunity for a still exciting second viewing where you can pick up all the clever foreshadowing.

Overall, this film is worth paying to see in theaters. If you’re not a fan of Tom Cruise it might be wise to check out the film during matinee prices, but it is worth seeing. If you don’t have time in the next two weeks, don’t rush – everyone will be talking about Gatsby and Iron Man 3 soon enough and you won’t have to worry about being spoiled unless you go out of your way to learn the plot details.

Oz The Great and Powerful (2013 Film)

Oz: The Great And Powerful is a film I didn’t expect to enjoy. I laughed throughout the entire film. It is a cheesy comedy, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. The early marketing had me worried that they were trying to make a serious film, but the instant I saw Zach Braff’s name in the opening credits I realized this was going to be a comedy.

The strategy to reboot The Wizard of Oz through a prequel film is somewhat impressive. Hook people with a solid backstory to who was the man behind the curtain, and then green light a true remake if the first film is successful. They didn’t have to risk their core brand but stood to gain. There’s no waiting around wondering if the film will do well enough. The remake film has been confirmed thanks to a solid $79M+ opening weekend in The United States of America.

Overall: 8.5 / B+: While the film might not have the best Rotten Tomatoes score, it is worth seeing. These days it is hard to find a worthy PG or G rated film that doesn’t come out of the house of Miyazaki, but Oz meets the qualifications.

Jack Reacher – One Shot

The film Jack Reacher is worth seeing. It has the right mix of action and comedy. Despite what some critics say, the comedy is blatantly intentional. Tom Cruise does a good job with the character. The script is pretty straight forward and well paced. I’m not completely sold that it is a ‘must see in theaters’, but the car chase scene is pretty cool on the big screen.

The film is based on the book One Shot by Lee Child and the changes from the book appear to have been done mostly to streamline the story down to a more friendly 130 minutes compared to the rest of the Christmas competition (166 minutes for The Hobbit and 157 minutes for Les Miserables). A few characters were removed and details changed, but the primary narrative stays for the show.

Lee Child has an entire series of books written in the traditional grocery store thriller/page-turner format. There is plenty of material for further movies. Provided continued box office success, the series could be the building point for a ‘James Bond’ or ‘Jack Ryan’ type film series and I wouldn’t be upset. This is a good start, but as a fan of the books, I’m more interested to see some of the more exciting stories starring Reacher make it to the big screen, or perhaps a longer run-time episodic BBC mini-series like they’ve done with Sherlock.


Roger Ebert writes on Pixar’s latest film, Brave:

This is a great-looking movie, much enlivened by the inspiration of giving Merida three small brothers, little redheaded triplets. The Scottish Highlands are thrillingly painted in astonishing detail, and some action shows Merida’s archery more than equal in assorted emergencies.

“Brave” has an uplifting message about improving communication between mothers and daughters, although transforming your mom into a bear is a rather extreme first step. Elinor is a good sport, under the circumstances. But Merida is far from being a typical fairy-tale princess.

Being Scottish and a fan of bears (although not quite as much of a fan as the witch in the film) I enjoyed it. It’s worth seeing but nothing about it screams ‘must see in the theaters’. I suspect that this is a great film to watch at home on a rainy day with croisants and hot chocolate instead of candy and popcorn at the theater.

Moonrise Kingdom: Review

Moonrise Kingdom is the best film I’ve seen this year (so far).

And maybe it’s just because I liked it more than his other films, or maybe it’s just that much better than anything else that has been released this year, but I keep thinking about it and the different layers of the story and message and meaning.

The ending is positive, the message is extremely spot on, the jokes are very witty, and the visuals are perfect. So often I wanted to just freeze the frame and stare. The high level of attention to detail makes nearly every scene something I could frame and hang on the wall. Fortunately, the marketing, including the trailer didn’t reveal too much and that helped provide added excitement in seeing the film for the first time. I wasn’t sure how it was going to end until the last scene at the climax of the film.

While the visuals are so good that I would have watched the movie without any sound, the music provides the setting and frame for the film. As the editors write on wikipedia,

A major feature of the film is music by Benjamin Britten, a composer notable for his many works for children’s voices. At the Cannes Film Festival, during the post-screening press conference, Wes Anderson said that Britten’s music “had a huge effect on the whole movie, I think. The movie’s sort of set to it. The play of Noye’s Fludde that is performed in it – my older brother and I were actually in a production of that when I was ten or eleven, and that music is something I’ve always remembered, and made a very strong impression on me. It is the colour of the movie in a way.
The music by Britten used in the film, many of the tracks taken from recordings conducted or supervised by the composer himself, includes The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Introduction/Theme; Fugue), conducted by Leonard Bernstein; Friday Afternoons (‘Cuckoo’; ‘Old Abram Brown’); Simple Symphony (‘Playful Pizzicato’); Noye’s Fludde (various excerpts, including the processions of animals into and out of the ark, and ‘The spacious firmament on high’); and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (‘On the ground, sleep sound’).


Tree of Life

Roger Ebert writes as he adds Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life to his list of greatest films of all time,

I believe it’s an important film, and will only increase in stature over the years.

In his original review, he wrote,

Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” is a film of vast ambition and deep humility, attempting no less than to encompass all of existence and view it through the prism of a few infinitesimal lives. The only other film I’ve seen with this boldness of vision is Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and it lacked Malick’s fierce evocation of human feeling. There were once several directors who yearned to make no less than a masterpiece, but now there are only a few. Malick has stayed true to that hope ever since his first feature in 1973.

But my favorite part of his review nails exactly what Tree of Life captures:

That’s how you grow up. And it all happens in this blink of a lifetime, surrounded by the realms of unimaginable time and space.

The Hunger Games (2012 film)

The bottom line is this: Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland steal the show, so much that they make everyone else in the film look bad. Poor camera work on top of very poor editing weigh down an otherwise great popcorn flick. There isn’t much else in theaters for a few more weeks, so go read the books and wait for this to come out on DVD, you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read the books.

Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto

Its been nearly 4 years since I walked the streets of London and realized how large of a marketing force was behind popular band, and a reminder of how influential the band Coldplay had become. At every corner and on every radio station, Viva La Vida was broadcast to the senses.

Fast forward a few years and Coldplay is as influential as ever. Mylo Xyloto is Coldplay’s latest album, due to be released October 24th, 2011. It’s probably their most accessible album yet. It combines the production slickness of Viva La Vida (welcome back Brian Eno) with the emotion and power of their older records. The years of writing Chris Martin style pop songs has paid off and the writing is getting better, not worse. While they’re not switching anything up, they’re definitely in the process of perfecting their art.

Standout tracks include Hurts Like Heaven, Charlie Brown, Us Against the World, Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, and Up With the Birds.