“The Great Gatsby” (Drama: 2 hours, 22 minutes)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, alcoholism, sexual content and brief language)
Movie Review: Nick Carraway (Maguire) is a young, Midwestern war veteran, living on Long Island in 1922. He finds himself fascinated by his next-door neighbor, a mysterious, millionaire, Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). The nouveau-riche Gatsby throws lavish parties often. Once Carraway is invited to one of these parties, he is pulled into a love triangle involving his cousin, Daisy (Mulligan), her wealthy, philandering husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), and Gatsby, who once had a relationship with Daisy.
The last great outing for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” was the 1974 version directed by Jack Clayton in 1974. It starred Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston.
The latest version is helmed by Baz Luhrmann. He is the talented director behind “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), “Australia” (2008), and “Romeo + Juliet” (1996). His films are visual treats. They are expressive, colorful films with plenty of creativity. This one is flashy, colorful, and busily loud like a music video.
However, these artful feats can interfere with the story. “Gatsby” is filled with plenty of such moments. The scenes are too grand. The music fits, although it is hip-hop and not jazz as in Fitzgerald’s novel. Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, who also serves as an executive producer, and several other well-known singers’ songs adorn a number of scenes, yet the music is overshadowed by grand visuals, especially lavish party scenes that have plenty of eye candy.
The music is not the only aspect overshadowed. The stars are also secondary to the cinematography and visual effects.
A big plus for the cast however is DiCaprio. He has a certain enigmatic personality that lends itself well to playing a mysterious Gatsby. He works here.
Secondarily, Edgerton is swell as Buchanan. His scenes with DiCaprio and Mulligan in a pivotal moment of the film are some of the more attention-getting parts of this period drama.
Luhrmann over does it with the visuals, but his films rarely fail to entertain. He easily makes this one watchable, despite the unneeded extras.
Grade: B- (Still a great story captured by film.)
“Peeples” (Comedy: 1 hour, 35 minutes)
Starring: Craig Robinson , Kerry Washington and David Alan Grier
Director: Tina Gordon Chism
Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, crude humor, drug material and sexual innuendo)
Movie Review: Tina Gordon Chism is primarily a screenplay writer until now. This is her directorial debut after penning such screenplays as “ATL” (2006) and “Drumline” (2002). “Peeples” is no spectacular debut.
Wade Walker (Robinson) and Grace Peeples (Washington) are a couple. Their relationship is fine until Wade travels to the Hamptons to ask for Grace’s hand in marriage. Grace’s father, Judge Virgil Peeples (Grier), clearly dislikes Wade and tries his best to show Wade is not correct for his daughter.
The plot is a thinly veiled script that tries to makes itself complex via over characterizations. Each player in this film is oddly disjointed to where one wonders if this is a family outing or mental institution. The lamest of comedies needs one grounded character.
Washington (“Django” and “Scandal”) is supposed to be that person, but she cannot help or ground this joke as she plays second fiddle to the antics of Robinson and Grier’s characters. As the movie becomes theirs, she fades. She is a talented and beautiful woman, yet she could do little to save this pitiful piece.
As a comedy, “Peeples” barely surfaces as funny. Based on the final scenes, a romance is a better indicator of what it should be — too late for that one.
Grade: C- (Not the best ‘peeples.’)
“The Great Gatsby” (Drama: 2 hours, 22 minutes)
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