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Posts Tagged ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald’

Movies seen in May:

Dead Man Down: Two damaged people (Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace) looking for revenge find each other. A disjointed crime thriller that has its problems but gets away with them because they are outweighed by the charms of the leading actors.IMG_5538.CR2

Star Trek Into Darkness: Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise go after a terrorist (perfectly played by Benedict Cumberbatch). Lots of well placed nods to the original series but the movie feels a little hollow and undoes some of the great work of the excellent first reboot movie.Star Trek Into Darkness

Mud: Two young teenage boys find a fugitive living in a boat stranded in a tree on a river island. They agree to help him despite the obvious dangers. Further proof that given a decent movie Matthew McConaughey is one of the most underrated actors of his generation coupled with the emerging talent of Tye Sheridan who you may have seen in The Tree of Life.Mud

The Great Gatsby: Baz Luhrmann’s take on the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is as good as it can be for a story that belongs on the page not the screen. The best things about it are the visually stunning party scenes and the stunning performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. Sadly the best things about the film work against each other not with each other making a good and stunning film but not a great and mesmerising one.The Great Gatsby

Fast and Furious 6: Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner (Vin Diesel & Paul Walker) and their crew are once again hired by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). This time they are after British thief Shaw (Luke Evans) who is working with (back from the dead) Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). The story is rubbish leavening the film feeling flat after the surprisingly good previous film. There is enough car action for fans of the series and the fight between Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano is good.Fast & Furious 6

Byzantium: After being discover by a mysterious organisation who is tracking them a pair of female vampires (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) flee and end up in a rundown English seaside town. Neil Jordan returns to the vampire movie in the atmospheric and melancholic British horror that may just be the antidote to twilight.Byzantium

The Purge: Set in a near future America where on one day every year there is a 12 hour window when murder is legal. A suburban family get caught in the crossfire when the son decides help a man fleeing from a mob. What could have been a great sleazy B movie or a classy allegoric tale tries to be both and ends up being neither. Interesting and fun but flawed.The Purge

Byzantium Just misses out as movie of the month to Mud:Mud Poster

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Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!”

As I walked out of a screening of The Great Gatsby I tweeted a 140 characters review of the movie concluding that some stories are just better on the page than the screen. The problem with Gatsby is that many of its 172 pages (in my Penguin Modern Classics edition) are taken up with thoughts and descriptions, the very things that it is hard to depict in film. The most notable thing about them is that Gatsby (and all the other characters) only have a voice through our narrator Nick Carraway. Is he a reliable narrator? He is clearly enamoured with Gatsby and disillusioned with the world he lived in. Is Carraway as much the embodiment of author F. Scott Fitzgerald as Gatsby is? The disillusionment certainly lends the new film version a certain relevance and prospective today. The format does however present problems forcing filmmakers to rely on voiceovers and in the case of Baz Luhrmann’s new version words floating of the screen with the aid of 3D.gatsby-original-cover-art

The only conclusion I can reach about this movie is that it is as good as it can be. The Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version from 1974 (directed by Jack Clayton with a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola) is very faithful to the book but fails to capture the essence of the novel. And that was the problem, the book isn’t great because of what is going on in the story, it is great because of what is going on under the surface. I wouldn’t even go as far as to call it a subtext, it is more a feeling, an essence. Maybe the abandoned Truman Capote script would have “got it?” we will never know. Made post Watergate, the movie lacks the cynicism you would expect of the era but also misses the heroic but naïve romantic Gatsby of the novel. It lacks both the hope and the despair.the catcher in the rye

Long considered the “holy grail” of un-filmed novels, JD Salinger described his masterpiece The Catcher in the Rye as “unactable” and refused to let Hollywood adapt it. After his death in 2010 there was a lot of speculation that a film would be made. I have very mixed feelings about the prospect of a film being developed. I think it would be best if it were not made, but if it were I would want it to be the best movie it could be. That is why I would rather have seen the proposed Billy Wilder movie in the 60’s and not a big budget star vehicle made by whoever is fashionable in Hollywood at the time. But can it really be successfully filmed? If the rumours are true we will find out in about two years. If The Great Gatsby is the seminal novel of the Lost Generation, the equivalent for the Beat Generation has to be Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Filmed last year by Walter Salles. Well made, well cast, like Luhrmann’s and every other version of Gatsby it got the look and story about right but lacked the essence of the book, again it was about as good as it could have been for what is essentially an un-filmable novel.on the road

To give my thoughts prospective; I am a movie lover first and don’t hold with the notion that films are inferior to there source material, but I do believe that some stories are better on the page than the screen. And that is the problem with many of these great novels. In the wake of the release of The Great Gatsby I have read and heard many people (including the new movies star Leonardo DiCaprio) say how they read the book at school and didn’t think much of it. Literature is no different to music, film or any other art, it is so much better when we come to it ourselves in our own time. Anyone who reads a novel because they were forced to is going to appreciate it far less than someone who chooses to read it. The conclusion; if you have got as far as to read this last paragraph, you must have some interest in the books mentioned, so read them, if you were forced to read them at school, read them again, but only when you want to!

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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I read the book A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs many years ago when I was at school although I enjoyed it at the time hadn’t given it a second thought until the trailers for the movie John Carter appeared a few months ago. Judging from the trailer it is a lose adaptation at best taking characters and ideas but not the plot from the novel originally published nearly a century ago (1917). Given the number of versions Edgar Rice Burroughs other creation, Tarzan it surprising to learn this is the first big screen outing for John Carter and “Barsoom” series of novels. Tomorrows releases got me thinking about other books I have read that will be hitting the cinema this year:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: From a novel I read a long time ago to one I have only just read. I saw the box set of the three Hunger Games novels while Christmas shopping last year, having seen the movie trailer I purchased the books and read them over Christmas. Although it loses its way in the third book and isn’t as good as Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale with which it will be forever compared (despite Suzanne Collins insistence that she was unaware of the Japanese novel) it is still worth reading. The casting looks to be perfect most notably Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, a character with clear parallels with Ree Dolly, her Oscar nominated role in Winter’s Bone. Release date: 23rd March.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac: The adaptation of this seminal novel of the Beat Generation is a bittersweet one for me, I have often thought it could make an excellent movie but my anticipation is tempered by fear that it will never live up to the book. It is in short, one of my all time favourite novels. Fortunately producer Francis Ford Coppola (who has owned the rights for many years) has chosen a perfect director in the shape of Walter Salles who did a fantastic job with The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and has assembled a talented young cast. Release date: 21st September. 

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2: The startling revelation, I have read the Twilight books. As for the movies, the first and third actually aren’t bad. Depending on your point of view, spitting Breaking Dawn into two movies is the only way to do justice to the epic final novel or a cynical attempt to extort the maximum amount of cash from the franchises loyal following. I’m going for the latter. Still as with the final part of Harry potter, Part two promises to better than the dull part one. Release date: 16th November

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: With four adaptations to date do we need another? The 1974 version staring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow is a good film but is somehow lacking, it fails to capture the mood and the magic of the novel that is as important to “The Lost Generation” as On the Road is to the “Beat Generation“. I was a little dubious of the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire but actually think it could work. It is a novel that deserves a great adaptation, Baz Luhrmann could be the visionary director to give it to us, but why does he have to make it in 3D? UK release TBA, USA: 25th December

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