Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Great Gatsby

I don't even know where to begin. I was really looking forward to this movie because I love the novel and I was really hoping for a good adaptation because gosh darn it, this book deserves a good movie. It deserves a movie of the caliber of Lord of the Rings, that's how good it is. Now, for those of you who have been following the critic's reactions, you'll know that the critic's reviews have been mostly negative and the audience's response has been pretty mixed. And once again, it is up to me to give you the real deal. It fucking sucks.

I know there are people who really like this movie, but I'm going to tell you to ignore them. They're idiots. If they have any sort of love for F Scott Fitzgerald's book and actually understood it, then they would hate this movie. Fitzgerald is spinning in his grave. God! I fucking hate this movie! Baz Lurhmann was the one person who should NOT have been trusted with making this movie. You know why? Because I don't even think he knew what book he was making. He was just using a random source material as an excuse to try and jam his pretentious artsy style down our throats. If you want to do that with a book that's fine, but for the love of God, don't make it The Great Gatsby!

I'm not going to get into the story of the movie because if you graduated from high school, then you probably already know it. And because Lurhmann sure didn't care about the story, all he cared about was how it looked, how long he could make the party scenes and putting rap music into it. The party scenes were so long and drawn out that I began to check my watch during them. Everything about them really boggled me, from the way that they were shot, edited and even the choice of music for them. For being as long as they were, they were shot and edited in a really fast manner. I get that it's to show our characters having a wild and crazy time, but why does it have to be so long? You could have gotten the idea across and made the scene so much shorter. And then music wise, it would start with something that sounded like music that would be played during that time, but then all of a sudden, it would just randomly transition into some rap number. When the soundtrack for the movie was released, I told everyone my disdain for it because it was all Jay-Z, Beyonce, Fergie, and so on, and I expressed my bewilderment that they would be showing up at all in a movie set in the jazz age. Now, I know that Baz's style is to take an older source material and give it a modern spin to appeal to today's audience (I'll get into that later), but I just don't see the point for a movie on Gatsby. Gatsby was a statement about the jazz age, it sort of created that picture of what society and people were like in that time the same way The Canterbury Tales and Huckleberry Finn painted similar portraits for the times that they were written in. Having said that, this movie should have been a hardcore period piece, something like Boardwalk Empire, that has been a 30 hour period piece set during the exact same time as Gatsby, and they have been doing it just fine. When a novel makes this profound of a statement about its setting, it doesn't need modern elements. And when you look at the opening, it looks like that is what we are going to get. The Warner Bros. logo is in black and white and it's all grainy, it kind of reminded me of something out of the Bioshock games, and since those games, while they were science fiction horror games, they also had an aura that made you feel like you were in the time that they were set in, I thought maybe the same could happen here. I am a fool for hoping for as much.

And when you really think about it, the music was only really used during the party scenes. Someone who saw the movie before me told me that when you were hearing the Jay-Z or whoever the hell's song it was during the party, it was meant to be something that only us, the audience, could hear. But no, there were moments when the camera would go to someone inside, and the music would get really muffled and quieter, the way music sounds when you are inside, and it is being played outside. So no, the characters can clearly hear it. And honestly, when you take all of this into account, I really have to ask WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE STORY OF GATSBY?!!! It has absolutely nothing to do with Jay Gatsby. When you think about it, all of this modern day shit did nothing to move the story along or advance our emotions. It just made us say "Hey! Cool party! I wish I was there!" If anything, it brings the story to a halt because we have to spend 10-15 minutes on something that took up about five pages in the book. Towards the end, everything felt rushed because somebody finally realized that they were taking way too much time with unnecessary shit. There was a great part at the end of the book that involves Gatsby's father and it got cut out of the movie! That was a really important part that gave us some more insight into our hero, and it got left out! I haven't been this mad about a scene getting cut since Dumbledore's funeral! Another part that was left out involved our narrator interacting with the other characters after Gatsby's death. He refuses to shake one character's hand and is rude to the other character. We see his hatred for the characters and why Gatsby of all people is the one who remained in such respect.

There are two ways that the narrative/cgi relationship can work. You can either use cgi to help tell your story, similar to say Lord of the Rings, or you can use your story to give you more excuses to use cgi, as is the case with the Star Wars prequels. The second approach is a risky one, and nowadays, people are beginning to see through it more and more. To be honest, I'm not entirely against heavy use of cgi, just as long as it is done right. I'm not a huge Zack Snyder fan, but in cases like 300 or Watchmen, he really put his computers to good use and gave those movies a look and style that really worked. Gatsby, sadly, also used this second approach, but it ended up being more like the Star Wars prequels. This movie used way too much cgi and while it looks cool, one really has to question what the point was. I'll admit that it looks nice, but again, going back to the Star Wars prequels, we all know that you can polish a turd all you like, it's still a piece of shit. I was once watching an interview with some of the actors in the Star Wars prequels, and they were complaining about how almost every set they were on had some kind of green screen connected to it. The same is the case here. Though, with Star Wars, it's slightly more justifiable because that is a movie about adventures in space with other planets and weird aliens. Did I just say George Lucas is a better filmaker than Baz Luhrmann? Yup. While we're at it, at least George Lucas tried writing his own material. It was awkward and hackneyed  but it was his own. Baz Luhrmann took a novel he clearly doesn't understand and used it as a vehicle to ram his overly artsy and pretentious style down our throats.  And I know that he doesn't understand it because if he understood it, he would not have volunteered to make the movie because he should know himself well enough to know that he couldn't resist the urge to do his thing, and he would have realized that he should, for the good of the novel, stay the fuck away. His style adds nothing to what should have been the main focus, the story. It just felt like he was going through the motions with the story while his real attention was on how it looked. In the end, the narrator (played by Tobey Maguire who honestly looked like he had no idea what he was doing) had to tell us how we should feel about these characters. We have to feel inspired by Gatsby's spirit. And the reason why I know that is because the narrator told us that, we didn't get to experience it for ourselves. They wasted so much time on useless crap that the stuff that mattered ended up getting rushed into a narration rather than it being properly displayed through dialogue and action.

So how was the acting? Well, I have to say that I certainly had high hopes from the cast because it is certainly a good collection of actors. In the end, I only had 3 people that I was all that impressed with: Leo, Joel Edgerton and the gal who played Jordan. Leo DiCaprio always turns in a good performance, but even then, I have seen far better from him. Whenever I heard his voice, I just kept thinking of J. Edgar Hoover. And he is supposed to be portraying the ultimate facade. Someone who is really charismatic and acts like they are on top of the world but on the inside, has a lot of baggage to deal with, similar to Bruce Wayne. In fact, with the right writing, you could have had Christian Bale play this part really well because he's already played that part perfectly. Joel Edgerton was great as Tom, and it's nice to see him getting more roles, because the guy's a good actor, and he really got to show his range with this character. Jordan's role was really underwritten I thought and the script didn't give the actress playing her much to work with, but she did her best and her effort shows. Carey Mulligan, who I was hoping would steal the show, was just annoying and she is supposed to be the girl every guy wanted to be with, and she never really showed any of that in her performance. And Tobey Maguire, bless his heart, just has this look on his face like he doesn't know what he's doing there. In his opening narration, he sounds really old and I thought it was going to be narrated by an older Nick Carraway who is relating this story to us, the audience. Instead, it's being told by a young Nick Carraway about a month after it all happened to his therapist. This subplot really baffled me because it wasn't in the novel  and there was no point to it. You coud have left those scenes out and it would have cost us nothing, except maybe a shorter screentime, but then again, I felt that this movie was about twenty minutes too long anyway so their loss is our gain.

The last thing that I have to touch on is who they were aiming at. I keep hearing that the target audience is those who didn't read the book. Why? You know that this book is a famous and beloved one, and you know that people have long been waiting for a good movie on it, so why are you pandering to those who never bothered? In the end, all you'll end up doing (and did end up doing) was dumming down a great book so that your audience can enjoy it. As for the modern music, the argument is that he is trying to hook younger audiences into coming. How can I put this? I find it disgusting when a director feels the need to pander to who they think their audience will be. Younger audiences should learn to put down the Transformers doll and pay attention to what a good story is. When all is said and done, all you accomplished was sacrificing the dignity of one of my favorite books all so that you could serve your own artistic ego.

Final Grade: F, I don't want to see this movie ever again.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Grease pt 1

I'm gonna be honest with you, I know I rip on popular movies and even full movie series a bit on here, but sometimes, I actually feel kind of bad about it. I know that people like these movies, God bless them, and I kind of feel bad going on and on about how much I think they suck. I feel bad because I know how they feel. I have to work with some asshole that every now and then just feels the need to go on and on about how stupid Batman (as well as other superheroes) is, and why I am stupid for looking up to him. So I get it, I know it sucks. Today, however, is a special case. I am going to rip into Grease with no regrets. Why? Well, while it is still a popular movie that has survived generations, there is a bit of a trend that I noticed beginning a few years ago. It was people who saw the movie when they were younger, rent/bought it so they could share it with their own children, and then realized that it was horrible. Whether it was the story or the decisions of the characters that just don't add up or make sense or the fact that it just isn't very appropriate at all for children to see, parents came to regret showing their kids this movie. I'll admit, I didn't really get what all the hooplah was about until a few months ago when my school put on a production of the original broadway play (with some of the songs from the movie thrown in) and I was cast in a minor role. At this point, it was almost inevitable, I had to see the movie now. So I recorded it and watched it and I have to say... I still don't see why the movie is popular. I mean, okay now that everybody is taking off the nostalgia goggles and seeing for themselves, it's lost a few points, but I don't get why it was popular in the first place. Sure, the songs are catchy to an almost annoying degree but once you get past that there is nothing else that Grease has to offer.

So what's the story? Sandy Dumbrowski (aka Sandra D), which they changed to Sandy Olsen in the movie for reasons that are yet to be explained to me, is the new girl in school and seems to have trouble fitting in with one group of girls that call themselves the Pink Ladies. Or, well, she doesn't really have trouble fitting in with them, they are pretty nice to her except for Rizzo who in both the play and the movie is built up as being a bitch. I'm gonna guess that this was done on accident because she has a number towards the end of it that's supposed to make her appear sympathetic, but I still look at it and think "Nope, you're still a bitch". For all intensive purposes, we'll say she has trouble fitting in. So she has trouble fitting in because of her conservative catholic upbringing which clashes with the rebellious pink ladies who smoke like chimneys, drink wine and pressure her into getting her ears pierced. Again, this was mostly Rizzo, the other girls seem to be mostly indifferent about it. And since Rizzo just seems to be an all around bitch, I don't really see why Sandy feels the need to fit in. Why doesn't she just hang out with another group of people? The student body is not just these dozen or so nimcapoops, there are other people to meet. While this is all going on, Sandy is also crushing on Danny Zucko, a boy that she dated for a little bit over the summer until they decided to end their relationship due to the fact that they are both going to different schools. However, when the school year starts, she ends up going to the same school as Danny due to a last minute change of plans. So happy ever after right? Bitch, please. Their very first encounter, Danny pretends not to know her in order to keep up his reputation with his friends.

And this is my other main problem with the movie, the character of Danny. Usually in movies about high school where one person is jumping through hoops in order to date someone, this person usually has something to offer. Normally, the person of interest is big on athletics or is a cheer star or is at least passionate about something in school. Instead, Danny is desirable because... he wears a black leather jacket even when it's sunny and warm outside. I'm sorry, I don't really get why Sandy wastes her time with Danny. He isn't that smart, he's not athletic, he's not even that charming, he just comes off as awkward. And on top of that, he denies having this great relationship that they had over summer and that they devoted a whole musical number to just because of how it will make him look to his friends. I can understand them having something over the summer, but once she saw the way he was in the real world and the lack of integrity that he had, she really should have cast her feelings to the wind and looked for another fish. Even when they finally do start dating, he spends half their date trying to get in her pants in his best friend's car. Yeah, he's a keeper alright. In the end, after he wins a drag race she, out of nowhere, ends up changing everything about herself in order to impress him. Now call me crazy, but I am a fond believer of the idea that if you have to change yourself to impress someone, then that person is not worth impressing. You have no idea how much I have tried to explain that to people in real life to no avail.

The musical itself, which again, has some good songs, is not that good. The rest of the story is not so much one plot but rather a bunch of subplots that all get resolved in one sentence in the final 90 seconds of the show. For example, one of the Pink Ladies, commonly known as Frenchie, I'll let you figure out how she got that name, is in a bit of a pickle because she dropped out of high school because she was flunking and wanted to go to beauty school and then dropped out of beauty school because it was too hard. And in the end, she just announces that she got a job at a cosmetic store. That's a great lesson to teach your kids. Make all of the wrong decisions and drop every endeavor you attempt and things will just work out for you. The other subplot that really annoys me is the pregnancy subplot with the queen of bitchy herself, Rizzo and her... um... boyfriend (?) Keniecke (feel free to go grammar nazi on my spelling of his name, I'm just gonna call him K). They have one of those relationships where they are always either fighting or... another word that starts with an F. In the play, she gets pregnant from some nameless guy (we can assume it was K, but it's never explicitly stated and she keeps saying "You don't know the guy"), and in the movie, she gets pregnant after she and K have sex with a broken condom, and yet he is only stated as being the "potential father". Conclusion: Rizzo's a skank, no matter how you spin it. Okay, everybody in this story can be assumed as a skank, but to hear Rizzo try to talk her way out of it is just mind boggling. In the words of Stu from The Hangover "You are literally too stupid to insult" And yet that plot gets resolved by it just being a false alarm... Wow... You know, there's a difference between Deus Ex Machina and just plain stupid. I'll let you decide which category it belongs in (hint: the second one). Keep in mind, she believes that she got pregnant after missing her period. In a scene shortly following this revelation, where Sandy offers her royal bitchiness some comfort, Rizzo breaks into that music number that I mentioned earlier. I could go line by line through that song and tell you just how wrong it is. You know what? Why not? Let's do it. In my next entree, I'll go through this song as well as the ending and explore how I could have made it better.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Iron Man 3

The summer season is upon us, and what better way to kick off the most fun part of the year than with a super hero movie? Last year, we had The Avengers, the year before that, we had Thor, this year, we have another installment in the Marvel canon, Iron Man 3. By now, you've probably heard the movie getting some mixed reviews. Some love it, while others say it's the worst thing since Batman and Robin. But don't worry, I'm here to tell you the truth: This movie is actually pretty freaking awesome.

People will hate me for saying that, but wait til they here this: Iron Man 3 is my favorite of the 3 movies revolving around Tony Stark. I could already feel the heat of the hatred of a thousand angry fanboys burning my veins as I typed out that sentence. But it's the truth, 3 times really is a charm in this case. However, I can see how fanboys would rage at this movie. I had a friend tell me that his one problem with my blog is that there are times where I am too apologetic to the fans I'm insulting, but in this case, I am being absolutely legitimite, I feel for the fans. The reason being that there is a twist halfway through the movie that practically rewrites the story and changes the perspective on one of its key characters. Specifically, The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley. I'm not going to say what they did with the character, but I'll put it to you this way, if they had pulled that sort of thing with The Joker or Bane in a Batman movie, I would boil with furious anger, yell so loud that I would practically Fus-ro-dah the screen into oblivion (one movie I refuse to see because of Tom Cruise's presence), and storm out and beat the shit out of the manager until he gave me back my money. However, they didn't do that to my favorite character, and for the movie, I thought it really worked well.

The other high point of the movie is the always great Guy Pearce, who I should really just call Douche Bag, because let's be honest, Guy Pearce can play a douche bag like no other. Even his face is just one of those that I just want to punch, it's so smug. He plays the only other scientist with swag besides Tony Stark, Aldrich Killian, inventor of a drug called Extremis, which helps wounded people heal and replace dead tissue. Or is that all it does? It's not, it makes them super strong and turns them into fire benders from Avatar: the Last Airbender. That sounds stupid, and I thought that at first, but then I considered how awesome it would be to make someone's face melt just by touching it, and I learned to just run with the idea.

The movie itself is really enjoyable. It was written and directed by Shane Black, who penned the screenplay for the Lethal Weapon movies, as well as directed and wrote the criminally underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and his style of writing really shows in the dialogue. I think he is one of the only screenwriters who is able to make an action movie with alot of humor and still make it feel primarily like an action film. In the same way that The Dark Knight is a drama with a crap load of action, Iron Man 3 is an action movie with a crap load of humor. And much like the other Avengers tie-ins, it does enough to remind us that it's part of a bigger universe, while still allowing it to stand on its own and not feel like a sequel to Thor or any of the other movies.

Final Grade: A-, See it again and buy it on Blu Ray