Tag Archives: New York

The Great Gatsby (2013)

I first read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book The Great Gatsby as a junior in high school. I didn’t particularly dislike it, but the fact that I had to write three essays over the green light and its symbolism didn’t make me like it either. My anticipation for this film was little; I like Leonardo DiCaprio well enough, but Baz Luhrmann as director and rapper Jay-Z as the man in charge of the soundtrack for a film set in the 1920s didn’t fly well with me. Despite this, I re-read the book two days before I saw the film and decided that I liked it a lot more this time around since I wasn’t having to read it for school. I became anxious…would the film do the book justice? Thankfully, I had little to worry about, as The Great Gatsby is a fine adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic.

This story is told from the point of Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire, who moves to Long Island in New York, where he is the neighbor of the alluring, illustrious Jay Gatsby, a man whose past is as mysterious as his parties are extravagant. Across the bay lives Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who is married to Tom (Joel Edgerton), a man born into a rich family who is known to be in an affair with a woman from New York. As the summer goes on, Nick and Gatsby develop a friendship that leads to Gatsby revealing a secret: he is in love with Daisy and has been for five years. When Gatsby and Daisy reunite and pick up their relationship where it left off five years previously, chaos ensues as relationships become strained, accidents happen, and hope seems forever lost.

I hated the first 45 minutes of this movie. Everything seemed to be thrown into my face, one person after one event after one party after another, and I grew sick of it. The rap music fuels the parties, which I didn’t especially care for either. Of course, I can’t sit here and be unfair about all of this; every one of these aspects are results of creative decisions on the part of the director that make sense and probably worked for other people. This was the “Roaring 20s,” and all of this fast-paced delivery and bright color and extravagant music helps to emphasize the prosperity and free-spiritedness of the time. No, rap music wasn’t around in the 1920s, but I doubt that the inclusion of music from the 1920s would have communicated the wildness of these parties as well as the rap music does in this day and age, nearly 100 years later. I recognize all of this…but I just didn’t like it, and I was worried that the rest of the film was going to present itself in the same way.

But it didn’t. Once we become acquainted with Gatsby and move into his relationships with Nick, Daisy, and Tom, the film becomes a character study that I couldn’t get enough of. DiCaprio as Gatsby is perfect – he captures all of the optimism, all of the warmth, and all of the anxiety expressed by the character in the book, never going too far in an attempt to make the character believable. The other standout performance comes from Carey Mulligan as Daisy, who appeared on screen just the way I had imagined her in my head whilst reading. Tobey Maguire also does well as Nick Carraway, though I must admit that I was worried going into the film knowing that the story was told from his perspective…I had nightmares about Peter Parker doing the voice-over while we watched Gatsby throw his parties. But Maguire did fine and was thankfully not channeling his inner Peter Parker, though you could argue that he never did that in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films either…ha! There’s not much to be said about Joel Edgerton’s performance as Tom Buchanan except that he did an admirable job and that I liked the way he played the character.

Having read the book less than 48 hours in advance of seeing the film, I can personally attest to its accuracy to the original book, with much of the dialogue being directly quoted from Fitzgerald’s text. In fact, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that was significantly changed from the book, but the film still managed to not be a slave to the text, making itself stand apart as its own work of art while still capturing the themes of the novel. The symbolic green light, the light at the end of Daisy’s pier that Gatsby recognizes as the hope of being reunited with his lost love, is more present in the film than it is in the book, with it making several appearances throughout the duration of the movie. What’s more is that we hear the green light as well; every time it flashes in our view, we hear a single note swell from the instrumental score (composed by Craig Armstrong). One of my favorite parts of this film, though, is at the very end when we hear this note swell without seeing the green light – we’re hearing Gatsby’s flicker of hope that everything might still be alright in his future with Daisy, despite all that has just happened. It’s a powerful motif that resonates in both Gatsby and in the audience. The overall look of the film was dynamic and interesting, which I liked too.

Had the first 45 minutes of this film been different, so might my rating, but that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a great film well worth your time. In all reality, I think that I’m in the minority of people who don’t care for the music in this film, with the obvious exception of Craig Armstrong’s instrumental score (which, sadly, isn’t being released as a purchasable album) and, curiously, a jazz-ified 1920s rendition of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” that fits into the film quite well. DiCaprio’s performance is fantastic (though, sadly, I don’t think he’ll walk away with an Oscar for this one either), as is Ms. Mulligan’s, and it’s so true to the original themes of the book that any fan of Fitzgerald’s original novel should definitely give this a watch.

-Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language


Iron Man 3 (2013)

Note: This will be as spoiler-free as I can possibly make it. If there’s something I just can’t avoid, I will warn you before you read on.

To say that Iron Man 3 was an anticipated film would be an incredible understatement. Marvel’s first follow-up to last year’s incredible The Avengers (my review), this film had quite the expectation to live up to. Did it? For the most part, I think so.

Iron Man 3 picks up presumably a few months after the events of The Avengers, with Tony and Pepper back home in Malibu, but something’s different…Tony can’t sleep. Haunted by the alien invasion in New York and determined to protect “the one thing [he] can’t live without,” Pepper, Tony spends all of his time designing and building new Iron Man suits and fighting off panic attacks. To put things in perspective, the suit in The Avengers was Mark VII, while his newest suit in this film is the Mark XLII (that’s 42, for those not versed in Roman numerals). When a terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) hits Tony close to home, he must overcome his personal struggles in order to protect the woman he loves and to stop the imminent threat of The Mandarin. Along the way, we are introduced to blasts from Tony’s past, including Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen and Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian.

Much like Christopher Nolan’s final film in his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises (my review), this is an Iron Man film with more Tony Stark than Iron Man (in fact, there are quite a few comparisons that could be made to The Dark Knight Rises, but I’ll save those for another time) – but don’t worry, there are still plenty of great moments with the suit. I personally really enjoyed seeing more of Tony Stark as Robert Downey, Jr. Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, as we see a more humanized version of the character. He is a real person who struggles with real people problems just like you and me, bringing  an interesting contrast between Tony Stark as Tony Stark and Tony Stark as Iron Man and a lot more to the table than just RDJ flying around in a suit behind a mask. He has a scene or two with Don Cheadle as Col. Rhodes in which both men are without their suits and are forced to rely on their own abilities and instincts to solve their problems rather than rely on their armor. RDJ’s likability in the role shines brightly throughout the film, with another side of the character coming out with the introduction of a new character, a boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins). Harley’s father left him seven years previously, and his mother works at night, so he is often alone. When Tony Stark steps into his life, he’s dragged into Tony’s mission. Stark treats Harley like an adult, which, though it sometimes means he makes snarky or “rude” comments (including a quip about how leaving is what fathers do and that he should man up and suck it up), it shows that Stark respects Harley enough to speak with him honestly and as an equal. The banter between these two characters works incredibly well, with their time onscreen together being some of the best moments of the film. Guy Pearce does an admirable job in his role, though I don’t want to delve too much into his character…spoilers and all that.

Almost every film comes with its disappointments, and Iron Man 3 is no exception. The funniest film of the three, I actually thought that the writers tried to bring too much humor to the table, with some of it feeling forced or unnecessary. I don’t want an Iron Man film that is taken 100% seriously, but I do think that the film as a whole could have survived with fewer attempts at getting a laugh. For reasons that I won’t list here, I was very disappointed with Ben Kingsley’s character, The Mandarin, and, while I thought that Guy Pearce did a decent job as a sort of supplemental villain, a better Mandarin would have been preferred. Lastly, Gwyneth Paltrow, though she does a fine job as a dramatic actress, is not an action star and should not have ever been given the opportunity. That being said, the chemistry between her and Downey, Jr. is palpable and never feels canned, instead flowing rather naturally between the two actors in a great way.

I didn’t fully flesh out my complaints due to spoilers, but, as I said, I enjoyed the film for the most part; in any case, it was a huge improvement over the awful Iron Man 2, so we should all rejoice for that. Six years after the release of the first Iron Man film, Robert Downey, Jr. continues to slip as effortlessly into the role now as he did then, and it manages to be a worthy followup to The Avengers. With decent performances all around and an enjoyable score from Brian Tyler, Iron Man 3 pleases for the most part and leaves me hoping that we see plenty more of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in the future.

-Chad

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content


The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – James Horner

I bought this soundtrack last night before the midnight premiere but didn’t start listening to it until I got home after the movie had ended, and I’ve been listening to it on and off throughout today.

You’ll recall that last week I bought and listened to Danny Elfman’s scores for the first two Spider-Manfilms and was slightly disappointed with their lack of originality and similarities to Elfman’s previous Batmanscores, minus the Main Theme, of course, which is fantastic. I was hoping that James Horner’s score to the newly-released reboot film The Amazing Spider-Man would be much better, more original, and just overall better than Elfman’s, and, for the most part, it is.

I have to be honest right off the bat: Elfman’s Spider-Man theme is the better of the two. That’s not to say that Horner’s isn’t great, but it just doesn’t have the same sort of underlying excitement to it. However, in almost every other respect, Horner’s score runs laps around Elfman’s.

****EDIT****

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack as I’ve typed this…Horner’s theme is growing on me more and more. I’m not sure if I like one more than the other, but I’m starting to see the two on a more even level now, and Horner’s may soon become my favorite of the two…give them both a listen and see what you think!

************

You might have realized by now that it bothers me when a composer’s score to one film sounds too similar to another score that he composed. I listened intently to Horner’s score, listening for hints of Titanic or Avatar…admittedly, those are the only two previous James Horner scores that I have exposure to. Fortunately, I didn’t hear either of those in The Amazing Spider-Man…with the exception of one or two moments. For example, about 31 seconds in to “The Ganali Device” sounds a bit similar to excerpts from Horner’s score to Avatar, but it’s not as similar as a Zimmer or Elfman score would be, so it’s forgivable.

I read somewhere online where Marc Webb chose Horner to compose for The Amazing Spider-Man because he wanted something with “both grandeur and intimacy” [found here]. The more I listen, the more I feel that that is the perfect description for this soundtrack. There are plenty of big moment that are fitting of the character, such as in “Saving New York” and “Oscorp Tower”, but there are also the smaller, more personal moments between Peter and family/Gwen/himself, as heard in “Secrets”, “Rooftop Kiss”, and “I Can’t See You Anymore”. Whereas Elfman’s score would often go for excitement over emotion, Horner’s has a pleasant mix of both that better captures the darker, more relationship-based world that director Marc Webb has envisioned for The Amazing Spider-Man.

Overall, Horner’s score is a score more appropriate for a Spider-Man film than Elfman’s. It enhances the world that Marc Webb created for our webbed hero in blue and red, and it does this all while sounding distinctly original and independent, something that is always refreshing in this market dominated by composers like Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman. For something different and exciting, check out James Horner’s score to The Amazing Spider-Man.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1.”Main Title – Young Peter”  4:54

2. “Becoming Spider-Man”  4:16

3. “Playing Basketball”  1:22

4. “Hunting for Information”  2:07

5. “The Briefcase”  3:14

6. “The Spider Room – Rumble in the Subway”  3:20

7. “Secrets”  2:30

8. “The Equation”  4:22

9. “The Ganali Device”  2:28

10. “Ben’s Death”  5:41

11. “Metamorphosis”  3:04

12. “Rooftop Kiss”  2:34

13. “The Bridge”  5:15

14. “Peter’s Suspicions”  3:01

15. “Making a Silk Trap”  2:52

16. “Lizard at School!”  2:57

17. “Saving New York”  7:52

18. “Oscorp Tower”  3:22

19. “I Can’t See You Anymore”  6:50

20. ”Promises – End Titles” 4:52

Total Length – app. 78 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!