The Great Gatsby
Director Baz Luhrmann, who gave us Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, has never been afraid of spectacle, and in tackling the classic Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby, it is the spectacle of Jay Gatsby’s vision that entrances him. There are moments of dazzling brilliance, especially in the composition of the images, but the fine cast seems to be torn in all different directions at once. Leonardo DiCaprio fails to project the charisma that is central to Gatsby’s character, and Tobey Maguire, who plays Nick Carraway and serves as narrator, often teeters over into mawkish sentiment. The beguiling cinematic imagery will keep audiences engaged, but despite some reasonably positive critical reception, people with any regard for the book will probably concur with Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal, who described it as “a spectacle in search of a soul.”
Anton Corbijn Inside Out
A documentary film about music-biz photographer and occasional director Anton Corbijn by Klaartje Quirijns. Corbijn created the iconic imagery of album covers for Metallica, Lou Reed and Arcade Fire, and directed the powerful drama Control about Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis starring Sam Riley and Samantha Morton. Well-managed interviews by the director with her subject, and footage of Corbijn working with his famous subjects manage to provide a glimpse into what drives the raw power of Corbijn’s photographic imagination. Quirijns pushes hard to plumb the depth of Corbijn’s notoriously private nature, sometimes leaving her subject and audiences feeling uncomfortable, and steers clear of hagiography and cheap pop-psych tropes.
Escape from Tibet
German film from writer/director Maria Blumencron about a young woman whose trip to explore Tibet turns into a daring high-altitude adventure over the Himalayas as she helps a group of children escape pursuing Chinese authorities. The mix of exotic postcard locations, elements of thriller and a political agenda doesn’t quite come together sufficiently as a dramatic whole, though star Hannah Herzsprung does a good job in combining naivety with commitment to saving children from dark suited, aviator shades-wearing minions of China’s security apparatus.
For horror fans, Fede Alvarez’s remake of the Sam Raimi classic of the same name has taken the genre to a new level, taking delirious pleasure in upping the ante on the gore and bloodshed. The impact of the effects is enhanced by Alvarez’s refusal to embrace animation and his solid grasp of old-school in-camera effects. Definitely not for the faint hearted, but the blood-fest is respectful of its inspiration while providing a few new thrills all its own.
This is big names doing some slumming, though neither Robert De Niro nor Forest Whitaker are strangers to the straight-to-DVD sector of Hollywood production, having both made some dubious choices in recent years. Freelancers is a generic product with almost no distinction, drawing inspiration from a slew of other, superior cop dramas like Training Day and bringing nothing of its own to the table. It is the story of a rookie cop (played by 50 Cent), son of a slain detective, coming under the wing of bent copper played by De Niro. Everyone seems to be dialing in performances and the action sequences are not up to much either. Freelancers is something that is likely to find itself at the bottom of the DVD bin at your local video store pretty soon.