Film Review : The Great Gatsby

[FIRST PUBLISHED ON THE MODERN WOMANS SURVIVAL GUIDE]

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There’s no denying that anyone who has the guts to take one of the most classic novels in American literature, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 ‘The Great Gatsby’ and imagine it according to their own unique vision, has a tremendous amount of courage! Baz Luhrmann armed with his multi-million dollar budget, cast of Hollywood’s finest and CGI technology successfully creates his own original Luhrmann-esque masterpiece which ultimately emphasises ludicrous bedazzlement over dramatic, emotional integrity.

Narrated retrospectively by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) from a sanitarium, the script focuses on the boy’s arrival to New York in the early 1920’s when he moves into a small cottage right next to a massive mansion. When he meets the mysterious incredibly wealthy owner of this mansion Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), the two naturally become friends and Nick is whisked away into a new world of extravagance and expensive parties, but of course there is more at play here; think hidden romantic agendas and painful passions.

The production and costume design are incredibly astonishing and detailed, which can only be expected given it’s a Luhrmann film (think Romeo + Juliet or Moulin Rouge). Not only are they visually stunning, but they reproduce the detail of the roaring 20’s whilst evoking the film’s themes and elements of particular character’s traits.

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The Valley of Ashes, the industrial wasteland situated between West Egg and New York, is ever so bleak creating a distinct contrast between the world of the rich party-goers and the working class. In juxtaposition Gatsby’s mansion is both so full of extravagant energy, yet so hollow and empty.

The crazy elaborate party scenes taking place here are a true visual standout. Through the use of rapid editing, frenzied montages and incredible camera-work, Luhrmann zips through the swirling high-society of the roaring 20’s in a way which will leave an audience astounded and unsure of where to look.

The soundtrack produced by Jay-Z is another highly unique element of this film. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined a hip-hop meets jazz combination working, yet it strangely works. The soundtrack featuring the voices of Jay-Z himself, Beyonce, Fergie, Lana Del Ray, Will.I.Am, Florence and The Machine (just to name a few); adds a modern spin to the jazz age, that is definitely worth a listen outside the cinema as well!

Gatsby1Given the star-studded cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher, Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Debicki; strong performances are most definitely expected from this film! And the performances are mostly strong.

Tobey Maguire in his narration delivers Fitzgerald’s prose wonderfully, Aussie Joel Edgerton encapsulates the entitled brutish nature of Tom Buchanan and Isla Fisher is superb as Buchanan’s mistress Myrtle.

Leonardo DiCaprio is fitting as Gatsby, both magnificent and insecure; however, he may have overused the term “Old Sport” one, or two, times too many. Carey Mulligan as Daisy whilst perfect in appearance was quite underwhelming.

All the performances, lack in one major thing: emotion. Whether, they were robbed of displaying such emotion from the constant cuts and camera soars clearing the action for sweeping cityscapes never allowing the close-ups to hold long enough to evoke emotions, I’m not sure. What I am sure of, is that there wasn’t enough emotive appeal from the characters, the emotional depth and tragic romance at the core of Fitzgerald’s prose lost amongst the amazing aesthetics.

Luhrmann has definitely left his own mark on this adaption of The Great Gatsby, and did anyone really expect less from him? Subtlety never has been his specialty. The film almost looks as though it is made by Gatsby himself, its expensive, extravagant yet hollow and lacking in emotion.

I’d give it a solid 5.5 out of 10 stars. Don’t get me wrong Luhrmann’s version is definitely far from boring. And if you are up to see a spectacle, fabulous costumes, and some amazing visuals it is definitely worth seeing. However, if it’s a lyrical emotive tale of tragic romance obsession and secrecy you are after then F.Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel is probably more for you.

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REVIEW :: FLOWER CHILDREN THE MAMAS AND PAPAS STORY

[FIRST PUBLISHED ON  THE MODERN WOMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE]

flowerchildrenWith a fabulous cast, clever use of staging, wonderful script and unforgettable hit songs, Flowerchildren The Mamas and The Papas Story is a musical which will have you experiencing a wide spectrum of emotions!

Directed by Aaron Joyner and starring Matt Hetherington, Dan Humphris, Laura Fitzpatrick and Casey Donovan, Flowerchildren revives the flower power era, telling the turbulent story behind the songs of the iconic ’60s folk rock quartet The Mamas and The Papas.

Opening with The Mamas and The Papa’s most famous hit ‘California Dreaming’ being performed on a TV variety show, the musical focuses on the underlying tensions, and the highs and lows that existed behind the scenes for The Mamas and The Papas.

In essence it tells the stories behind the songs. Think distrust, dangerous passions, complex entanglements and a variety of different drug and alcohol addictions, all coinciding with the group’s spectacular rise to fame.  It’s a very well written script with some killer one-liners and just the right amount of humour, drama and pathos. At the core of the show are the emotions and motivations of each of the four main characters, and the impact their decisions have on each other that threaten to tear the group apart.

The cast did an amazing job. The four members of the quartet were a real stand out; each voice aurally delightful, the complex harmonies both stunning and seemingly easy.

Casey Donovan perfectly captures the sass of her character. Her powerful vocals are evocative of the unique voice of Mama Cass, bringing joy and pain to her signature solo hit, Dream A Little Dream Of Me. It is bound to send chills down the spine of anyone listening. Laura Fitzpatrick as Michelle, the unfaithful wife of John Phillips, is able to show all aspects of Michelle’s personality from youthful, playful and flighty, to more mature, sensitive and sincere. Her rendition of Dedicated To The One I Love is particularly sweet and emotive.

111753442_328161cThe male leads, just like their female counterparts, are equally as talented both in vocals and acting. Dan Humphris as Denny displays a spectacularly bright tenor, and is able to capture the sensitive, love struck, booze addicted nature of his character.  Finally, as John Phillips, the talented yet high on drugs song writer, Matt Hetherington is brilliant and compelling. He truly captures his character’s arrogance and confusion with his affecting vocals.

Overall, Flowerchildren is a story which will have members of all generations enjoying the thrilling harmonies and the compelling story behind them.  I thoroughly enjoyed the show, humming California Dreaming for days afterwards! The juxtaposition of the classic ’60s hits with the humorous narrating asides and the stunning performances make for an incredible, compelling musical.  A solid 8.5 out of 10 stars!

 

Clown Train : A Sound Analysis

In the short film film Clown Train, sound does more than just contribute to the atmosphere of the film but I believe it establishes it. The initial 20 seconds, generally in many films an establishing shot of the setting or situation a black screen. In this time a train coming to halt can be heard with many screeches along the way, this not only establishing that the setting is on a train but immediately creating a very eerie, almost disturbing mood and truly getting the tension building.  As the main character comes into the picture seen from behind through a long shot seated on a train, a constant buzzing is heard in the background, when a quick cut to a close-up shows the face of the character and his confusion a synth drone sound can be heard; indicative of the character’s confusion, creating some dramatic tension, the audience able to concur that something is not right in this situation. This deep drone heard again as a quick cut to a p.o.v shot displays a creepy clown sitting on the opposite side of the train, the only other passenger on this train. The sound of the flickering of the trains lights going on and off, too adds to this dramatic tension. Even the voice of the actor playing the clown, being as deep as it and contrasting with that of the main character’s voice plays a key role in establishing the protagonist and antagonist and again adds towards the eeriness of the mood. The music that is used a classic horror movie sort of soundtrack of deep synth drones, really establishes the sort of film that it is, indicates that nothing good is going to follow and adds to the suspense which is being built. As the clown suddenly appears in the seat in front of the main character with a flicker of the lights, the music ends and higher synth drones are heard along with a sort of knocking, tinging sound; these higher pitched sounds increasing the tension and creating the sort of panic the main character is feeling. The creepier the situation gets, the faster and higher pitched the drones become; creating an anxiety to the mood. These sounds ending when the main character makes his move and gets off the train. Overall the use of sound through a combination of music and sound effects is truly is responsible for the amount of suspense and tension within the film; without it I highly doubt such an eerie, mysterious atmosphere could be created.

FILM REVIEW: 2 Days In New York

[FIRST PUBLISHED ON  THE MODERN WOMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE]

Ever think it was crazy having all your family in one room? Well, Hopscotch’ latest film, an incredibly smart comedy entitled 2 days in New York takes exasperating family insanity to a whole new level; in a way that will not only have you in fits of laughter, but will also make your family seem more functional than ever.

Written, directed and starring Julie Delpy; this impressive movie is a follow up to Delpy’s earlier 2007 film 2 Days in Paris, in which she played the same character with a different love interest. However, 2 days in New Yorkdevises its own plot, drama, conflicts and comedy.

Delpy stars as Marion, an artist extremely nervous before a showing of her latest works in New York City. She lives with her boyfriend, Mingus and her son by a previous marriage, Lulu as well as Mingus’ child from a previous marriage.

As if the apartment wasn’t crowded enough, it gets even more so when Marion’s father, Jeannot {played by Julie Delpy’s real father, Albert Delpy} comes to visit on the eve of her show, along with Marion’s sister, Rose and her boyfriend Manu {who just also happens to be Marion’s ex-boyfriend}.

Delpy truly takes the idea of culture clash to a whole new level, as the French visitors’ personalities and actions stray away from the much conceived French stereotype of elegance and sophistication and rather delve into more loose, manic absurdities in the the most hilarious fashion.

Think, attempts to smuggle French sausages into the country, arrangements for a pot dealer to come to the apartment and the keying of limousines. Of course, with all this craziness going on, tensions build, cracks appear and strains start to appear in Mingus and Marion’s relationship for the first time.

Marion is ultimately left to choose between the two most important men in her life, her partner or her husband.

The cast in their roles, could not be better suited. Chris Rock in his role as Mingus is great, perfectly encapsulating the role of the partner trying hard to compromise and like his partners family, at the same time overcome with a slow burning outrage, that Marion’s family’s consistent absurdities exacerbate.

Julie Delpy in both her acting and directing roles bring her signature sentimental wittiness, as Marion as she tries her best to calm the neurotic nature of her family, whilst undergoing her own stresses and trying not to reach breaking point.

2 Days of New York is a refreshingly light and loose film, an absolute joy to watch. It is truly the perfect movie to share a few light-hearted laughs with some friends these holidays, earning itself a solid 7 stars.

FILM REVIEW: WISH YOU WERE HERE

[FIRST PUBLISHED ON  THE MODERN WOMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE]

“Wish You Were Here” is the debut feature and international success film from Australian filmmaker Kieran Darcy-Smith. It tells the story of an idyllic sun-soaked Cambodian holiday which quickly changes into an absolute nightmare for a group of friends in this tense Australian thriller about a missing person. Adultery, drug-use and deception surfacing as the tragedy rapidly deteriorates the relationships of those closely involved.

From the opening scenes, featuring the carefree adventures of two couples: the pregnant Alice (Felicity Price) and her husband, Dave (Joel Edgerton), and Alice’s younger sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) and her new boyfriend Jeremy (Antony Starr); holidaying in the beautiful setting of Cambodia flips from the tourist scenes of bars and beach parties at night, to a bloodstained shirtless Dave staggering through a deserted field in the early morning, it’s made clear something unsettling has happened.

The film’s twisting non-linear storyline built through flashbacks leaves clues to what has happened in sharp bursts, leaving the audience on the edge of their seat not truly understanding the confused circumstances surrounding husband and wife Dave and Alice until well into the film.

The film at times seeming drawn out as though the random pieces of the puzzle will never actually fall into place, I as a viewer becoming almost lost among all the seemingly unrelated clues midway through the film, until the climax where the film regains its gripping edge and I became swept up in the thrilling, haunting suspense of it all.

The film has an amazing colour palette and utilizes amazing establishing shots of the beautiful Cambodia and the much closer to home Sydney. The three main actors all worthy leads, their incredible performances taking the film to the next level. Teresa Palmer who was last seen in the action-packed Hollywood film “I Am Number Four”, truly does a good job in playing such a directly opposed subtle more emotional character.

The film also showcased Felicity Price’s talent as her character undergoes emotional stress and ever growing anger. As Dave, Joel Edgerton carries the suspense of the film; truly uneasily arresting and difficult to read, completely consumed by anxiety and paranoia.

“Wish You Were Here” is a dramatic mystery, full of suspense. Whilst it would not be the film to watch to lift your spirits after a bad day or probably not the best movie to watch directly before heading on an overseas trip; it is a captivating thriller and definitely one of the best Australian films I have seen in a very long time.  I would give the film a solid 8 and a half stars, definitely a film I would willingly watch again.