Category Archives: Romance

Review: The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann’s adaption for the classic 1925 American Novel is close to being a great film, but it stumbles and trips over  the burden of the source material and Luhrmann’s own limited ability. Full of elegance and indulgence, it is a spectacle to behold, but it’s also gluttonous and bloated. You’ll leave with that feeling you ate too much, a great meal that left you regretting the size of the plate.

The Great Gatsby centers on Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner who has moved to New York to try his hand at finance. He is lured into a lavish world by his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, however Carraway soon learns that behind Gatsby’s rich lifestyle lies obsession, madness, and tragedy. I confess I have not read the book, so can’t comment on how well the novel has been adapted, but Luhrmann’s vision is one well suited to a lavish lifestyle, the film is otherwise horrible edited and forgettable.

There is a deep layer of subtext to just about everything in this film, at times it feels larger than life but it does center itself quite strongly in simple human terms. The ever present green light and repeating sounds give much of the drama an eery undertone, as if to underscore the tragedy. It’s at these times the film shines, complex, character driven, and engaging. Unfortunately the pace is erratic, and the editing jumps and shifts in such sharply distracting ways. It can at times feel like a really long music video where all the aforementioned depth gives way to sights and sounds void of meaning.

Leonardo Di Caprio is absolutely engaging as Gatsby, he runs the gamut of emotions in this film and simultaneously winning over the audience while also painting himself as truly human. Luhrmann’s frenetic style often strangles him, but he deserves mention. Unfortunately Tobey Maguire as Carraway is void of any personality or presence and is the same character he was in Spiderman. Joel Edgerton and Elizabeth Deicki put in noble performances as Tom and Jordon, but Carey Mulligan is utterly forgettable as the leading lady Daisy. Despite Di Caprio’s best efforts she fails to match his passion with any kind of chemistry and for much of the film her face resembles a damsel in distress.

Their chemistry pretty much sums up the whole film, it’s just not convincing enough. For a story of such depth, with such wonderful dialogue, it’s all at times just a little boring. A great deal of this does come day to visuals too, it’s as bad at times as the Star Wars prequels. You can easily see a majority of the film is done with a green screen, and the digital effects stand out like a sore thumb. For a story that centers on human emotions, it often looks like a cartoon.

The Great Gatsby has its moments, true, it is an engaging story. However Luhrmann’s vision does just about everything it can to break you away from that wonderful story, and his cast doesn’t do much to compensate.


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Review: Safe Haven

Safe Haven is another Nicholas Sparks romance novel turned motion picture. There is no denying his popularity, especially among women, his stories do command box office takings. The most notable adaption of his work was 2004’s The Notebook, it’s a film aptly nicknamed “the movie your girlfriend will make you watch over, and over again”. Sadly, this new adaption is a cliched, and hollow film with only a few redeeming features. It may not be that audiences have had enough of Sparks, it might be that his stories have just gone stale.

Katie (Julianne Hough) in an attempt to escape a serious yet mysterious event lands in Southport, North Carolina where she falls for widower Alex (Josh Duhamel). Eventually her dark secret catches up to her, and she’s forced to confront it. If that sounds like a generic description for a romance story, well it is. Frankly it’s uninspired and full of plot developments that exist purely because they have to. Were it not for the twist or two as you near the final act of the film I would absolutely be slamming this film. Clearly Sparks has a gift for telling stories, but I was left so bored for the most part that it would be easy to think this a pure cash grab.

The major key ingredient to a romantic drama is the leading couple, the chemistry must exist! Unfortunately Hough, and Duhamel are nowhere near the class Racheal McAdams and Ryan Gosling. For the most part they could be replaced with cardboard cut-outs and dubbed voices and you would lose none of the sexual tension or desire. It’s a real shame for this type of film, and it’s what the marketting team have traded on. Look at every poster for a Sparks film, it’s the two leads in an embrace about to kiss. Ugh. Can I call this romance porn? Because like porn, there is no plot and the acting is terrible!

It’s probably at this point I should declare I am not a huge fan of romance movies, or even romantic comedies. I find the genre to be as vapid as brainless action movies without the  saturday night “popcorn” flick attraction. I certainly don’t mind then, I would happily watch The Notebook with my wife on occasion, although she would contest that. Regardless, even my wife found Safe Haven a tad boring, and a bit so-so.

This is a movie I’d recommend purely as a romantic date film, because there are no other options at the cinemas right now. Otherwise, steer clear, nothing to see here!

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Review: Silver Linings Playbook

If you enjoy offbeat comedies with a dash of the deep and meaningful in the fashion of little Miss Sunshine, then you’re going to enjoy Silver Linings Playbook. It might be a little predictable and sometimes contrived, but each and every performer has brought their A-game! This ensemble cast entertain and engage!

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is released into the care of his parents Dolores, and Pat Snr, (Jacki Weaver, Robert DeNiro) after spending time in a mental institution. Pat is determined to find a “silver lining” to his life, get it back on track and reconcile with his ex-wife. However things become rather complicated when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is just as troubled as he is.

It’s an interesting tale, one built on its characters and one designed to ask the question “who is really the crazy one?”. Each major character in the story has some kind of character flaw and its related to some kind of mental illness. Pat Snr is clearly suffering from at least OCD if not mild autism, while the rest all convey flaws like narcissism, high levels of anxiety, etc. It’s a welcome sense of depth and the film rely’s heavily on it. At times the two character who are meant to be mentally ill, Pay and Tiffany, are in fact the only sane people.

It’s also given the cast a chance to really shine. De Niro is fantastic, as is Jacki Weaver, they are masters of their trade and they prove it with excellent performances. Cooper and lawrence do more than hold their own next to them, which is a significant development as neither have really excelled in any kind of serious role before. It’s for these performances that I recommend seeing this film, because not much else is worth writing home about.

There is a formula starting to emerge for movies that deal with the difficult subject of mental illness. A set of unwritten rules if you please that revolve around making the subject matter appealing to the audience. You have to be serious, but not too serious. Because the characters have a mental illness, their behavior can be humorous. At times Silver Linings Playbook does this a little too much, often sidelining any plot, or logic to develop the story in a “cooky” manner. This is acceptable because in a film about mental illness, things do not have to make sense. I’m nitpicking, yes, but it is an emerging trend and I think it deserves to be called out.

The film also suffers a great deal from cliche, it borrows too heavily from the romantic comedy genre complete with all its conventions. I was a little disappointed that such strong characters were not given more story to chew on, but again, fortunately their strength holds the film for its two hour running time.

Silver Linings Playbook is a feel good movie with a good message at its heart. It’s a solid win as a date movie for couples this Valentines Day, it won’t tax you too heavily but it will delight.


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Review: TED

TED is a part Romantic Comedy, part Buddy movie. It’s juvenile, crude, rude, and completely hilarious. Seth MacFarlane the creator of Family Guy, has produced 106 minutes of quality Adult entertainment, but what he hasn’t produced is a movie. TED is basically a very long episode of Family Guy, it’s more akin to a tele-movie than something you would pay to see in a cinema.

John Bennet (Mark Wahlberg) was a lonely 8 year old who made a wish that his Teddy Bear was real, and that they would be friends forever. It came true of course, and now at the age of 35 John and Ted are inseparable, much to the displeasure of John’s girlfriend Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). It’s a pretty standard plot in the Romantic Comedy genre, that kind of “grow up and be a man” story. It’s actually pretty lame, but let’s be honest, if you want to see this movie then you’re really not going to care about the plot.

What you really came to see was a foul mouthed talking Teddy Bear crack jokes hoping it could hold a full length movie. In that sense, TED is a complete success. The comedy is both crude and clever with a miriad a references from the eighties right through to today. You may not get them all, especially if you didn’t grow up in the eighties, but rest assured there is plenty to laught at. My only major criticism of the comedy is that eventually the movie gets way too dramatic. It’s a staple of American Romantic Comedies that it must eventually get serious. Why? I have no idea.

Aside from the laughs however, in every other sense TED is a complete failure. It’s not a movie, just a really long television episode. There is nothing here that makes me say you have to see it on the big screen, not even the usually obligatory sweeping shot of the city. Even the music is a carbon copy of what you would find in the Family Guy, which was surprisingly dissapointing.

All in all, TED earns its stars by being very funny, and nothing else. If you’re a fan of Seth MacFarlane you’re going to get a lot more out of this movie than anyone else. For everyone else, you will still enjoy the crude humour, but really there is nothing else to see here, move along.


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Review: A Knight’s Tale

Given most of the films released during this period have consisted of fantastic cinematography and special effects but have by no means had a script worth much at all, “A Knight’s Tale” is a refreshing break.

The film is by no means fantastic and along with its many strengths is coupled with just as many flaws. However it does succeed in dusguising those many flaws with a very intelligent, witty, fun, un-complex and suprisingly emotional script. When the film opens to the soundtrack of “We Will Rock You” by Queen one can be excused for thinking they walked into a B-Grade film, however this unsightly blemish at the beginning of the film is a forgiveable attempt at modernisation given the scenes that follow directly. Besides the poor musical opening it still manages to suck you into the story of a servant boy with fantastical asperations to be a knight. Although perhaps I would of appreciated a proper score instead of modern songs sampled throughout.

The characters are relationship based and hold up very well when interacting with each other. however when each characters makes personal descisions they seem to lose continuity. William is highly motivated to make money by winning tournaments but somewhere along the line he becomes very selfish and that does not suit the character that had been developed from the start. None the less I am being very picky and certainly these characters hold up better than most anything seen this year!

The subtle approach of the script really gave the “love” angle of the story all the base it needed to develop into a good level of anxeity for the viewing audience. Not knowing exactly how these characters operated together and given the many small but interesting interactions they had left enough room for ambiguity in thinking about what would happen next. Whilst still predictable the story managed to make you think about what was happening right there and then rather than waiting for the ineviatable. A trait most films often lack and consequently cause people to be unimpressed with storyline developments. Instead this film whilst being no different to most universal plots was alot more satisfying.

As for the action, all I wanted to do was go and joust after watching this film! Not only was it accurate but it managed to modernize the sport without being corny, unlike the musical opening to the film. We had everything from tactics to light weight armour, from qualifying rounds to the World Championships. The sport back then was truly not executed in the same vain as the film implies but the modernisation allows us to be more comfortable with the events taking place and hence provides even more satisfaction. Besides there is nothing more exciting than watching two men belt each other! At least this time sword fighting was portrayed very accurately!

Overall the film succeeded in providing a simple story of a servant turned night with everything from action to romance without losing any self respect. Hollywood can learn from the intelligence of this film, that special effects and expensive cinematography are not the most paramount elements of a film. This film may not rock you, but you will enjoy it!

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Review: Pearl Harbor

When I first heard about this film I was excited to say the least. The thought of watching the epic bombing of Pearl Harbour was something I just could not imagine. And to the films credit that part was at least satisfying. However it is quite obvious they did not want to go down the “Saving Private Ryan” road and do the full on cold hard reality style war film. It is also quite obvious they wanted something there for the ladies to see. This all by itself seems fair, reasonable and smart but the execution is an absolute shocker!

There is in essence two films here, a love triangle and a war movie. They have been rolled into one and they fail to complement each other. The war scenes and the love scenes are two seperate entities and the filmmakers never seem to be able to fully roll them into one. It is kind of like ‘now lets have them kiss and be lovey dovery’, ‘now lets bomb that absolute heck out of Pearl Harbour’ – does this match? However as sperate films in themselves they lack so much.

The love story is not engaging enough. I found myself at the start when the female lead was explaining how she met Affleck I wandering what I had missed. Had I walked in late or something, I was thrown into an already developed relationship and felt lost. The characters in the start of this film get some poor lines to use and the film never sucks you in. I know my girlfreind loved the love story angle just as much as I loved the war scene but she agrees she felt like she was not part of it all. And that is where it fails. The film fails to ‘suck us in’. In “Titanic” we see the lovers before they meet, when they meet, when they have fun, when they fall apart and then finally then end. In this film we jump straight into when they are having fun, have them fall apart and then the end fails to give us any sence of conclusion. And this goes for three hours!!!!

The war angle too has its problems! For starters the battles near the start are kinda cool but they are woven into a monologue by Affleck about writing to his girl – boring! Everyone needed a release from the intense love angle trying to be portrayed and some aciton was needed. The we get to the Japanese who in relaity were very barbarrack, patriotic people! The Japanese Admiral says towards the end “I fear all we have done is awoken a sleeping giant”. What a load of tripe, the reality was the Japanese thought they were going to take over all of Asia and America. As for the films justification of why the 3rd wave was not sent against Pearl is also full of it. The reality is so much more complex and believeable. And of course you must cut most of Alecs and Johns speeches so the American “we are so great” is no longer there. However the actually bombing was awesome! I could feel the tingle in my throat as the planes flew in! This was what made the movie and made it bearable to watch!

So all in all what is it? two hours of an uninteresting, unengaging soppy love story mixed with just over an hour of historically inacurate, Americanised war scenes. But it is all saved by one thing, the bombing of Pearl Harbour itself. This is proof you can save any film by bombing the absolute heck out of something

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