I’ve watched so many films this summer… a moot point considering I like to – make films, but I don’t actually go to the cinema that much these days. As you may know, I live in Japan, which doesn’t tend to get all of the films I want to see – and if they do, it’s either a case of them being released so late that I’ve lost interest… or they are big, dumb movies that I don’t want to see in the first place. Well, in an effort to be social (a difficult thing to be when you are a writer, perhaps)… I’ve accepted invitations to watch films I would otherwise have not watched.
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Summary: An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Long Island-set novel, where Midwesterner Nick Carraway is lured into the lavish world of his neighbour, Jay Gatsby. Soon enough, however, Carraway will see through the cracks of Gatsby’s nouveau riche existence, where obsession, madness, and tragedy await.
Odd Trivia: Was previously made into a film in 1974 starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow from a script penned by Francis Ford Coppola. The book is largely considered unfilmable, this seems to be the year for this sort of thing. In the past 12 months two more unfilmable books, “Life of Pi” and “Cloud Atlas” were also turned into fantastic films. Hip-Hop superstar and Mr Beyonce Knowles, Jay-Z was executive producer of the film (for the uninitiated that means he was a principal investor in the film). If you are interested, the similarities between Jay-Z and Gastby are uncanny. Read more here >>
My Thoughts: Going into this film, I had mixed expectations. For me, most Baz Lurrman films are like removing the candy wrapper only to find nothing inside. However, this presents something of an interesting idea, as the book itself, “The Great Gastby” is about such people, thus I thought that this film might actually be his best yet. And in many ways it is. At first it is the cinematic equivalent of the New Year’s Eve fireworks, brash and loud, colourful, yet terrifying. And this in itself is perfect. It is more towards the second half of the story, the more intimate part, that the film loses ground. As we get into the deeper, darker aspects of the film… again we find it somewhat soulless. That said, it could be argued that this is about soulless people. But herein lies the problem. A soulless film about soulless people? It basically ends with you not caring as much about the characters as I did when I first read the book and could not get those characters and their drowning melancholy out of my head. Interestingly, after I left the cinema, we stepped out into the drenched post-rain streets of Shinjuku (Tokyo), with the street lights blazing through the mist of the rain and summer humidity. A fitting end to such a film, don’t you say?
Summary: As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
Odd Trivia: Pacific Rim arrived in cinemas with massive expectations. Fan-favourite Director Guillermo del Toro, and while without stars as such, it featured actors from enough key international markets, that it was expected to do well internationally. At Comicon – it went through the roof. However, US critics gave it a lukewarm reception (some say intentionally to ruin the film) and there was a lukewarm response from audience goers at first. The film was expected to be an epic failure, however it has now earned over $100 million in the US and $300 million around the world. So, there is now the quiet rumblings of a sequel in the works.
My Thoughts: A 20 minute intro to a title card. The ho-hum American Male liberates shy Japanese woman. The Australians cast as mere Crocodile Hunter rip-offs. The post-production 3D. There were so many things for me to hate about this film. But, overall, this was a roller-coaster ride that I genuinely enjoyed. The one major complaint would be that around the 3/4 mark I felt like the film was over, however, when I checked my watch I realised that the film still had another 30 mins left. 25 minutes of which I could have don’t without. A little repetitive for a film (but would have been fine for the spin-off game).
The Lone Ranger
Summary: Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice.
Odd Trivia: As brought to you from the same people who made the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. There were huge protests against Johnny Depp taking on the role of Tonto, despite his part-Native American heritage. No sign of other part-Native American actors like Cher or Terri Hatcher, though. Johnny Depp played a similar part before in the less kiddie-friendly, “Dead Man”. A major worldwide flop, the producers and actors blamed vicious critics, whereas Johnny Depp said that “he never expects any of his films to do well”. Then, Johnny, why not do better films, Johnny? Why, Johnny, why?
My thoughts: The Long Ranger. Again I felt like the last 30 minutes really could have been cut from the action. Cannibalism for Kids. While it’s edited so the kids don’t actually see anything, it does feature the bad guy eating the heart out of one of the cowboys. In other cannibalism news, Hollywood eats itself again in yet another remake of a TV classic. All in all, I would say a overlong kids adventure film (with a surprisingly great deal of adult content), that could mean Dinsey renames the Disneyland favourite Big Thunder Mountain ride after the film. A fellow filmgoer in the audience said it best, 「頑張りました」which roughly translates to “we survived!”. A fun film in great need of editing.
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Summary: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organisation, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
Odd Trivia: Is it or isn’t it “The Wrath of Khan” revisited? No, say the filmmakers. Yes, say critics and fans – most of whom do not compare the films favourably.
My Thoughts: Has J.J. Abrams run out of ideas already… this early into the reboot? Has he stopped caring about Star Trek and has instead moved to the dark side? Has he abandoned the series core philosophy of goodwill to all men in favour of big-bang special effects? Probably. I know a lot of fans were upset with this dumbed down Star Trek entry, but I for one was thankful for the “previously in the last movie from four years ago that you haven’t watched since” scenes. Because, I HADN’T WATCHED THE PREVIOUS FILM IN FOUR YEARS. So, yes, that film was made for the causal fan, and I for one was grateful. I imagine that my voice will be drowned out from all the din from fans however.
Production wise, I really don’t suggest watching it in 3D. It was a post-production convert, and all the lens-flares make the film look like one of those websites from 20 years ago with all the flashing lights. Like this >>
The Wind Rises
Summary: A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.
Odd Trivia: Famed Amine director, Hayao Miyazaki‘s last film. The film has already generated some controversy. The Director of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno, whom Miyazaki discovered, acts as the main voice actor, and it is thought that Miyazaki has chosen him over his own son (also an Anime Director) as his successor. Hideki Anno got his start as an animator for the God Soldier on Hayao Miyazaki ‘s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and he has described himself as the “prodigal son” of Hayao Miyazaki.
My thoughts: While my BF felt that Hideki was quite wooden as an actor, I quite enjoyed his very even delivery of his lines. This is a very Sunday Afternoon Summer film. Now, I quite enjoy films like that, but I know that not everyone does (i.e fans of whiz-bang action films). That said, both of us fell asleep around the middle of the film. It’s quite long (quite a theme this summer) for an animated film, which are usually around 80 minutes long, this film clocked in at two and a half hours. I will pled the fifth on my final judgement of this film until I see it with English Subtitles (as I was relying on my somewhat rusty Japanese skills).
Summary: Akane is a high school teacher who hears a rumour from her students that there is actual footage on the Internet of someone’s suicide. The footage is said to drive anyone who sees it to also commit suicide. Akane does not believe the rumour at first, but when one of her female students dies after viewing the footage, she and her boyfriend Takanori are fatefully drawn into the horror that has been created by the man who appears in the suicide footage, Kashiwada. Kashiwada’s intention is to create chaos in the world by bringing back Sadako and the power of her curse. Now Akane has to fight against Sadako and Kashiwada to save the lives of herself and Takanori.
Odd Trivia: There is a HELLO KITTY version of Sadako?!!!! OMG.
My Thoughts: Technically this was released last year, but I watched it on TV with my BF after watching “The Wind Rises” and it was my punishment. Sadako has become a figure of fun like Freddie and Jason before her (Hello?! A Hello Kitty version?!!). Next can only be Freddie vs Jason vs Sadako. This film was like they put all of the recent horror films into a pot and made a very lukewarm soup. The ending is mildly scary. But I guess I can concede that it is a fun film to watch with the one you love. But, I despise turning Sadako into a kind of zombie vampire. There is a sequel. You have been warned.
My Final Thoughts
While in Hollywood, scripts that run over 100 pages are now considered bloated, this summer was filled with films that ran over 150 minutes. So many of these films were very bloated and could have really used a ruthless editor with a good eye for timing. Now, I’m not against the epic, but you can bore someone in 10 seconds, and you can entertain someone for 9 hours (just look at the LOTR trilogy, or all the people who now watch TV marathons).
A film shouldn’t be a certain length just because there is a perceived idea that a long movie represents value for money. Value for money is a great film, and an enjoyable film – no matter how long it is.