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!

 

1 WEEK / 7 DAYS / 168 HOURS / 10080 MINUTES / 604800 SECONDS

So as of today, there is exactly 1 week/ 7 days / 168 hours / 10080 minutes / 604800 seconds till shoot day!!

So… let the stressing begin!

In terms of location, props, make-up, catering, and script we are all organised; our folio coming together rather nicely. We are making one final trip to the location on Monday to really assess the location, figure out blocking and to do some equipment trials in advance, to make sure that all goes smoothly on the day.

We have, however, had one MAJOR problem! As of this morning we still weren’t fully cast, the struggle to find an actress proving to be quite difficult!

This Tuesday the 30th we called in all the applicants to the casting call we had posted on Star Now with 6 men coming to audition for the role of Barry and 2 women coming to audition for Lois. The audition process was interesting, it was amazing to see the script begin to come to life. Our auditions provided us with a bunch of different actors from the good to the really good to the just plain weird. We were able to find some amazing male actors, amazed at how different some people were in real life to what would we envisioned from viewing their StarNow profiles. The actors we initially thought looked as though they were going to be perfect for the part, proving to be not so perfect and the ones who we didn’t think looked to suit the part at all mostly due to age, really surprising us with their acting skills and personalities. After much discussion, we finally decided to cast Jeremy Kewley as Barry; despite being in his fifties and a fair bit younger than we had been searching for, we were so impressed with his audition, not only just his acting but also his personality and ability to take direction.

One actor was set in stone! But there was still a problem, despite having had two wonderful women audition, one whom we felt was so perfect in appearance, personality and talent; neither of the two could make the shoot date. So where did that leave us? We had no woman cast for Lois, and only one woman left who we could possibly audition, who after committing to come in to audition today ended up bailing last night. Luckily, Jeremy our other actor contacted some of his contacts and got us in contact with a woman named Helen who we met and auditioned today. Although, she too is quite young looking, she was lovely and a  great actress who had worked with Jeremy in the past, and in fact even played his wife – meaning there should already be a good dynamic  between the two.

So we are now cast, and although the two actors may not have been what we initially envisioned they are really good enthusiastic, actors who will be able to deliver the script with conviction. Besides, we have a great make-up artist and some daggy costuming to age them up a bit!  Perhaps this is even that serendipity Paul so often likes to talk about….

FILM REVIEW :: OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

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

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A prequel? To the all time classic, much loved Wizard of Oz, 74 years later? Surely this has got to be some purely dangerous territory! Done wrong and the dreams and memories built upon generations could be absolutely crushed; yet director Sam Raimi has taken the risk and instead creates a visually rhapsodic fantasy full of nostalgic bliss.

Oz The Great and Powerful is the story of how L. Frank Baum’s cherished wizard character came to be. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) a small-time circus magician and smooth talking con man is whirled away in a tornado from Kansas to the wonderful, vibrant Land of Oz.

Here he encounters Theodora (Mila Kunis) a temperamental witch who assumes him to be the ‘Wizard’ prophesised to fall from the sky, defeat a wicked witch and ascend to the throne. Theodora takes Oscar to the Emerald City to meet her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), a powerful witch who reveals that he cannot become the rightful ruler of Oz until he’s accomplished his mission.

Tempted by the promise of wealth and power, Oscar agrees and he and his new flying-monkey companion Finley (voice of Zach Braff) prepare to face their fearsome enemy. They are joined by the fragile but fearless China Girl (voiced by Joey King) and kindly witch Glinda the Good (Michelle Williams), who help them prepare for the gruelling battle ahead. Together with the brave people of Oz, Oscar draws up a plan through the use of illusion to rid the land of evil once and for all, and become the great and powerful king who will rule from his throne in the Emerald City.

AAAimagesI’ll be honest, entering the cinema I did not have high hopes for the movie, it almost seemed doomed for failure and the initial Kansas sequence filled with overly dramatic and corny acting from the actors surprisingly including that of the leading man James Franco seemed to fit in with these expectations.

Nevertheless, as Oscar Diggs descended into Oz, the box screen expanded and the monochromatic tones were replaced with ever so bright ones; hope for the film was restored. The graphics of Oz were simply astounding, perhaps even more so than those of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Every last inch of the frame filled with stunning visual details in the most vibrant of hues truly encapsulating the enchantment of the beloved Land of Oz. As the film progressed, Franco’s acting did get better and I really began to believe him in the role of the Wizard. The witches’ performances were quite good, particularly those of Rachel Weisz as Evanora and Michelle Williams as Glinda who truly seemed to be having fun with their roles. However, Finley the adorable flying monkey voiced by Scrubs’ Zach Braff stole the show for me; responsible for not only some of the most humorous lines within the film, but also some of the most heart felt.

Despite being unable to use some of the most iconic elements of the 1939 Wizard of Oz due to legal reasons (including the ruby slippers, the shade of green of the wicked witch’s skin, the witch’s chin mole and the swirl of the yellow brick road); the film did a good job at incorporating intertextual references so reminiscent of the great classic.

Despite my initial assumptions, I was won over by the sensational graphics, enchantment; plot twists and the sense of nostalgia I was left with. It is the kind of movie that is easy to watch and by its end will have brought a smile to your face (several times!). The only thing I would have loved to see was some more musical numbers. Warning: Oz The Great and Powerful is not a musical. Nevertheless, it earns a solid 5.5 stars, an enchanting film fitting for any age group.

Inbox : A Short Sound Analysis

 

The short film entitled “Inbox” has no dialogue throughout and his heavily reliant on sound, especially music to create tension and a unique filmic space. The film’s lack of dialogue quite unique in itself, it has a number of different repeated tracks which come to represent different things and create different kind of tensions. Whenever something mystical is happening or about to happen an upbeat xylophone track is played, whenever something fun is happening an electric guitar track. Another key tool in building tensions within this film is the contrast of these upbeat tracks, to more solemn, heart breaking tracks when things go wrong. Sound effects such as the heightened ticking of a clock too add to the building of tensions and suspense within this film.

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: I AM ELEVEN

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

“I’ve always dreamed there would be no borders – that the world would just be one country. That way, there will be no more inequalities.” – Remi, 11, France

I Am Eleven is the first feature documentary by Genevieve Bailey founder of Proud Mother Pictures. After being in a serious car accident and having her dad pass away, she was in a difficult place and not feeling content in life. Her aim became to make something that would simply make not only herself but also her audiences happy.

Thinking back to her favourite age in life, when she was eleven and wondering what being eleven was like today; Genevieve set off on a world wide adventure, that would take several years, to talk to eleven year olds across the globe, their individual personalities, similarities and differences further inspiring the film.

Focusing on a series of eleven year olds from fifteen diverse countries I Am Eleven is an incredibly well made documentary filled with beautiful shots and vivid colouring. It paints a visually striking and thought provoking portrait of humanity at such a crucial in between age, not yet adults but at the same time not quite children.

Showing the world through the most innocent of eyes and each of the kids so diverse, Bailey introduces us to: Indian girls living in an orphanage, a French boy with wisdom beyond his eleven years, Muslim rappers living in Sweden, an Aboriginal girl who lives with her for a day, a bullied British boy, a Czech girl who dreams of becoming a secret agent, a bubbly American girl and many more. The children’s stories perfectly and gracefully interwoven with each other.

The film offers a glimpse into the minds of these eleven-year olds world wide, as in their own language they each share and ponder a range of subjects; from love, to war, to terrorism, to environmental issues, religion, family and the future. The raw honesty, beautiful naivety and innocence of their various reactions will have you experiencing a wide spectrum of emotions from awe, to laughter, hope and sympathy.

The camera creates a sense of warmth and intimacy with the children, despite the close proximity with the children, it is never intrusive and their reactions never feel forced. The pure optimism of each of the children is astounding, even for the ones forced to mature, burdened with more than any eleven year old should ever have to bear. Their differences are able to be transcended as they all have that one crucial element in common; despite their diversities of lifestyle, personality and circumstance, they all are linked, they are all eleven.

I Am Eleven is a remarkably sweet film, it achieves what Genevieve Bailey set out to do and so much more. Not only will it make audiences happy and entertained, it will leave you with a sense of nostalgia, remembering what things were like when you were eleven as well as feeling a connection to each of the distinctly remarkable children. It is definitely one of the best documentaries I have seen in a long time and I would highly recommend it to people of all ages – it’s a definite must see earning a solid nine out of ten stars.

To meet the children, share your stories from when you were eleven, find out more about the film or discover where you can view it, check out the official website here.

I AM ELEVEN documentary – official trailer from I Am Eleven on Vimeo.