Mini-Reviews: The Great Gatsby, Peeples, Pain & Gain

The Great Gatsby:

To steal phrases from its author, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is about careless people who smash up things and creatures and retreat back into their money or their vast carelessness… and about one desperate and lonely fool hellbent on climbing the societal ladder to finally *belong* to something. Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is about spectacular parties, star-crossed lovers, and one romantic fool hellbent on getting back the girl he loves. At times it’s an oversimplification, at others a blatant misinterpretation. I’m all for straying from the source material in order to adapt one work to a new medium, but Baz makes an even stranger choice than straying: he sticks to the source material, but he cherrypicks scenes to back up his romantic misinterpretation, and, most bizarre of all, occasionally cites quotes from the book while giving them a completely different context. DiCaprio is great (teehee) as Gatsby, Elizabeth Debicki shines as Jordan in what few of her moments Baz leaves in the film, and the occasional rare scene strikes just the right tone, such as Gatsby’s late night visit to Nick to see if Nick will agree to invite Daisy to tea. Still, the overall film is a mess tonally, with on-the-nose song cues, horrifically weird racial imagery, and so much frantic editing and shiny imagery that it’s stunning the film is as boring as it is. When this project was announced, I wondered why filmmakers were still trying to make a Gatsby film that works. Now that I’ve seen it, I still wonder.


“I saw Peeples in the least ideal situation imaginable. The movie started nearly 45 minutes late due to projector issues, and I was alone in the theater with one other person, never the right scenario for a comedy. My mood, thankfully, changed during the course of the film, as I was won over by Tina Gordon Chism’s thoroughly entertaining family comedy. It boasts a great cast, plenty of sharp dialogue, and perhaps most importantly, a sincerity and warmth absent from the majority of studio comedies nowadays. It covers familiar territory but does so with a confidence in execution — it earns its big laughs and builds to a winning ending. Admittedly, there are set-pieces that fall flat, but the ones that work more than make up for the ones that don’t. I wasn’t leaving this theater with the film’s flaws in my mind; I left with a smile, thinking back over the plenty of good the film provided. As of this review’s publishing, Peeples sits at a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps the name Tyler Perry brought some critics into the theater with their minds made up, when in fact, this is by a healthy margin the best film to date with Mr. Perry’s name attached. Those entering with an open mind might be surprised to find what I found: Peeples is the best comedy to date in 2013.”

Read the rest of this review here.

Pain & Gain:

There’s an argument to be made, I suppose, that by directing Pain & Gain, Michael Bay is intentionally sending up his own predisposition for bombastic imagery, jingoism, fancy cars, fake breasts, and xenophobia. Certainly he seems to understand the inherent dark humor contained in the story, the lurid tale of bodybuilders pursuing the American Dream by means of kidnapping, theft, and murder. However, if Bay films these assholes using the exact same tactics that he uses to film the heroes in his other films, and these assholes love the exact same things that his heroes love in his other films… can it really be called a send-up? In the grand scheme of his body of work, it definitely doesn’t *feel* executed with irony, and perhaps that is why Pain & Gain is a hit & miss affair. When the film goes as far over the top as possible, it certainly gets funny, although it feels in these moments like Bay is aping the masters of ironic gratuity, Neveldine and Taylor (I’d kill to see their version of this story). Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson also steals every scene by a country mile: this is finally a role worthy of his charm and comedic talent, and thank goodness, since it’s the only character in the film given more than one note to play. As Johnson goes back and forth between Christianity and cocaine, you wonder why he’s not a bigger movie star than he is. Finally, Wahlberg is inspired casting, even if he doesn’t have much past the one joke (“he’s muscular and dumb! Hyuk hyuk!”). Unfortunately, the movie runs nearly two and a half hours long, with an insanely long set-up before the plot gets rolling and a needlessly draggy epilogue. Between that and the odd approach Michael Bay took the film, you’re likely to feel the pain outweighs The Rock’s gain.

~ by russellhainline on May 13, 2013.

One Response to “Mini-Reviews: The Great Gatsby, Peeples, Pain & Gain”

  1. I do trust all the ideas you have offered for your post. They’re really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very quick for novices. May you please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

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