Commentary

May 10, 2013

Fly Over: The Great Gatsby’, and ‘Iron Man 3′

In theaters:

Great-Gatsby

‘The Great Gatsby’

Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” won’t go down as the definitive version of the classic of American letters, which is the fourth film to date, but it was certainly a lot of fun. Initially I was a bit confused why Fitzgerald’s drama would require 3-D; it felt a bit excessive. However, before long it began to make sense as Luhrmann’s ability to bring lavishness to the screen coupled with three-dimensional film techniques brought to life the extravagance known as the 1920s – a period in American history of opulence and boundless optimism.
But, what really makes this movie worth the price of admission is Leonardo DiCaprio’s turn as Jay Gatsby. Though I found his character a bit discomforting, and you envy him rather than empathize with the novel’s optimistic and tragic Gatsby, DiCaprio makes this movie. His acting prowess is on full display, and the disparity between his performance and the rest of the cast, with the exception of Joel Edgerton’s brilliantly evil Tom Buchanan and Elizabeth Debicki’s American debut as extraordinarily beautiful golfer Jordan Baker, is palpable.
Toby Maguire does a fair job as Fitzgerald’s surrogate Nick Carraway narrating throughout while rehabilitating from alcoholism and bringing a bit of solidity to a film of extreme disparity. And although everyone certainly looked the glamorous part, I found it difficult to believe that anyone would obsessively build the empire Gatsby did to lure back Carey Mulligan’s Daisy Buchanan. Mulligan, though certainly adorable, looked remarkably plain when compared to the plethora of beauties who frequented Gatsby’s weekly extravaganzas. Despite this, DiCaprio made you believe that Daisy was indeed Aphrodite reincarnate.
The film’s soundtrack was awesome. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter was an executive producer and helped form a soundtrack that seamlessly flowed from ‘20s era Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” to songs by modern artists such as Lana Del Rey and Beyonce. The audio complimented the modernity of the pleasurable visuals trademarked in Luhrmann’s earlier work with “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Moulin Rouge” and was readily apparent throughout Gatsby.
Though Luhrmann’s adaptation was certainly a visual pleasure, I would have liked the film to follow the novel more closely. The subplot with Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher) and her husband George (Jason Clarke) was underdeveloped, and Luhrmann’s use of Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan to play the Jewish gangster Meyer Woflsheim was rather bewildering. Baker’s role was also reduced to a mere cameo whereas the film could have certainly used more of Debicki’s character. Early in the film as Debicki moves through Gatsby’s crowded Disney castle-like mansion during one of his weekly amusement-park celebrations toward Maguire’s Carraway, I was certain in that moment I had never seen a more beautiful person on film.
There will be another adaptation of Fitzgerald’s great American novel. Luhrmann’s film, though entertaining, reinforces the long-held belief that adapting a great novel into a movie rarely results in a great film. However, much as it will be difficult for any actor to top Heath Ledger’s “The Joker,” it will be similarly difficult for anyone to top DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby. Perhaps, The Great DiCaprio would be a better suited film title.
“The Great Gatsby” is rated PG-13.

In theaters:

Ironman

‘Iron Man 3’

Robert Downey Jr. is back as billionaire inventor Tony Stark suiting up as the Armored Avenger . This time, writer and director Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) takes the reins from previous “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau.
Some time has passed since the events of Marvel’s “The Avengers,” and Stark is dealing with his near-death experience by throwing himself into his work.
He goes days without sleep and is prone to anxiety attacks. Stark is working on his latest armor, the Mark 42, testing its ability to attach to his body via transmitter injections. Meanwhile, a man from Stark’s past, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), visits Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) at Stark Industries and shows her the Extremis program created by his company Advanced Idea Mechanics.
At the same time, a mysterious terrorist known as the Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley) unleashes a series of bombing attacks as “lessons” to President Ellis (William Sadler). Stark’s former bodyguard, Happy Hogan (Favreau) is injured during an attack, prompting the billionaire-philanthropist playboy to issue a televised threat to the Mandarin. The terrorist responds by destroying Stark’s Malibu home, leaving him with a barely functional Mark 42 that loses power en route to rural Tennessee to track down the Mandrin.
Stark investigates the remains of a bombing site bearing the same traits as a Mandarin attack and discovers a link between the terrorist and Extremis. Stranded in Tennessee with a powerless suit, Stark relies on his ingenuity to find and infiltrate the Mandarin’s base of operations and put a stop to his plans.
The third installment in the Iron Man series raises the stakes for Tony Stark and shows what defines the hero inside the armor.
The story is well told, drawing a good amount of material from the comic books including the Extremis storyline.
I’ve been an Iron Man fan for years, reading the comic books since the 1980s, so there were a few references I had to explain to my wife, including the role AIM played in the books, who the comic book Iron Patriot really was and who Hogan referred to as “Bambi.”
With so much Iron Man history in my brain and the emotional investment I had in the movies, I was disappointed with the big twist in the movie.
Disappointing for longtime fans, but entertaining for the uninitiated, it’s this fact alone that prevents me from giving this film a solid four-star rating. I also missed Favreau’s creative influence on this film, feeling a bit like I was eating at a different restaurant with the same type of cuisine. But Favreau, who still appears in the film reprising his bodyguard role, mentioned in an interview that he feels like a grandfather who still gets to play with the baby but no longer has to change the diapers. Good for him, I suppose.
The special effects provided so much eye candy you almost need to bring some eye drops. Action sequences like the attack on Stark’s mansion and the final battle scene may seem a bit much for the casual viewer but hits the spot for action junkies. Clearly, Black is trying to raise the bar in a sequel with more bang for your buck, and in some parts of the movie, it actually works.
Overall, “Iron Man 3” is a very entertaining superhero movie and a fitting end to the trilogy if the rumors are true about a reboot or Downey’s departure from the Stark role.
This film is rated PG-13.




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