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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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.

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.

Film Review: The Sapphires

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

A fun film that manages to celebrate life and covers a range of social, political and racial issues, all while entertaining a diverse audience. Sounds impossible, right? Well, Deborah Mailman manages to do just that in her stunning new Australian film The Sapphires.

Inspired by a moving true story and adapted from a stage play, the film tells a quintessentially Australian tale- following an all {Aboriginal} girls’ group during the 1960s as they strive to make their dreams to become stars come true.

The McCrae sisters, Cynthia {Miranda Tapsell}, Gail {Deborah Mailman} and Julie {Jessica Mauboy} grew up on a remote Aboriginal mission where singing was a huge part of their lives from a young age. They honestly believed country music was the best kind to sing to help them realise their goals. Until, that is, they entered a talent competition and met a boozy Irishman in the music industry named Dave Lovelace {Chris O’Dowd}.

He gives the girls a Motown makeover introducing them to soul music, and it seems their dreams could come true once and for all.  With the addition of a fourth member, a long estranged cousin Kay {Shari Sebbens}, the group undergoes a transformation into the shimmering Sapphires, becoming an instant song and dance sensation. They’re offered the chance of a lifetime playing for the troops in Vietnam.

Filled with fabulous, sparkling ‘60s outfits and a lot of soulful singing that will have you wanting to dance in your chair, The Sapphires not only has elements of comedy, but probes more dramatic and profound themes as well: illustrating the realities of war, the harshness of racism extant in Australia during the time and even referencing the Stolen Generation.

However, overall the film still manages to be uplifting and positive; using the music and classic tracks such as “I’ll take you there” and “I heard it through the grapevine” to impart a sense of joy not only to the soldiers within the film, but the audience as well.

The use of black and white archival footage of the war and of the Aboriginal camps of the ‘60s adds a great effect to the movie, truly emphasising the harsh reality of these situations, especially when juxtaposed against the glamorous entertainment industry.

All of the actors perfectly encapsulate the essence of their characters, and the beautiful vocals only enhance their performances. Deborah Mailman, who is the most experienced of the four leads, plays the majority of the more dramatic scenes and does a truly wonderful job in the way she handles them.

I would give The Sapphires a solid 8 out of 10 stars. It is a great Australian movie that will have you experiencing the widest spectrum of emotions, so have your tissues ready and be prepared to want to dance along to each and every one of the songs.

Film Review: Hysteria

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

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Hysteria directed by Tanya Wexler is an offbeat, mischievous romantic comedy set in Victorian England during 1880, a time when germs were thought by most to be a mere myth, people pondered whether an invention like the telephone would ever take off and any problem a women should have from insomnia to disturbing thoughts was attributed to the catch-all ailment of ‘Hysteria’. The film tells the story how the invention that is known today as the vibrator came about.

From the outset of the film the words appearing on screen “Based on a true story, really” establish the films lighthearted nature. It follows Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) an idealistic young doctor with modern ideas who takes a position in the office of Dr Robert Dalyrmple (Jonathon Pryce) who runs a clinic for women, specialising in a particular “intimate massage” type treatment to cure the highly common “disease” of hysteria.

Mortimer quickly becomes popular among his patients who feel ever so much better after their treatment, however soon Mortimer’s hands become strained. His inventor friend the impressive and wealthy Edmund St John Smythe (a role Rupert Everett was born to play) suggests an alternative; an electric massager. But will the treatment have the same effect using this device?

A romantic twist furthers the plot as Granville courts one of Dalyrmple’s daughters (Felicity Price) a very prim and proper young women who lives according to the Victorian conventions of decorum and would make the perfect wife, yet there is a strange attraction between Mortimer and Dalyrymple’s other rebellious crusading daughter (Maggie Gyllenhall) who is a social reformer running a settlement house and the opposite of her sister in every way.

Hysteria is a lighthearted film that plays with the social mores of its era. The actors are all perfect fits for their parts and expertly approach each of their individual roles with complete seriousness, with the exclusion of Everett who has fun with his role and makes it work. Tanya Wexler hits the nail on the head with her ensemble, tackling the delicate subject matter in a manner that is funny, debonair and visually discreet.

Overall it is a very enjoyable film that is easy to watch, and good for a few laughs. I would give it a solid 6 out of 10 stars – it truly is a great film to watch with a couple of girlfriends.

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.