Movies: 'The Great Gatsby,' 'Renoir' & 'Scary Movie V'
Updated 4:37 pm, Saturday, May 11, 2013
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters
"THE GREAT GATSBY"
F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous 1925 American novel, set in the sizzling, sexy bacchanal of Jazz Age New York, is now in the cinematic realm of Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann, who turned Paris' Belle Epoque into "Moulin Rouge" and transformed William Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet."
Narrated by wannabe writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who ambivalently serves as observer and moral compass, the story revolves around the colossally illusionary, yet ever-hopeful attempts by his mysterious, party-giving Long Island neighbor and self-made millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), to convince his first love, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), to leave her philandering, polo-playing, elitist husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton), and marry him. Flashing an insolent smile is Daisy's socialite friend, pro-golfer Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki), and there's the Jewish "gambler," Meyer Wolfsheim (Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan).
On a deeper level, "Gatsby" explores inherited wealth, income inequality, social mobility and the tenacious pursuit of the American dream -- issues even more relevant today as we seem to be constantly reinventing ourselves. Luhrmann's adaptation follows the 1974 production starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, an obscure 1949 Alan Ladd vehicle, and a lost 1926 silent with Warner Baxter.
Co-written with Craig Pearce, Luhrmann's vividly intoxicating 3-D version remains true to Fitzgerald's original concept, intricately exploring human nature in many ways, but it's far more glamorous and visually opulent than ever before. It is an exquisitely gaudy spectacle that's musically punctuated by Jay-Z's contemporary, hip-hop-fueled soundtrack. Production designer Catherine Martin's lavish Art Deco-style sets and haute couture costumes are awesomely ostentatious eye-candy embellishments, reflecting a comment Fitzgerald is said to have made to Ernest Hemingway about the rich being "different from you and me." DiCaprio embodies the naively idealistic, obsessively romantic cipher known as Gatsby, while Mulligan's frivolously fickle, golden girl flapper is more sensual and seductive than any previous Daisy.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Great Gatsby" is a sumptuous 7, emphasizing style over substance, filled with extravagant parties to which we wish we'd been invited.
Set on the French Riviera in the summer of 1915, Gallic Gilles Bourdos' domestic drama revolves around the renowned Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet), an ailing widower at age 74, and his middle son, 21-year-old Jean (Vincent Rottiers), who returns to the family estate at Cagnes-sur-Mer on crutches to convalesce after being wounded in World War I.
The arrival of a radiant, free-spirited teenager, Andree Heuschling (Cesar-nominated newcomer Crista Theret), invigorates the elder Renoir and intoxicates young Jean, who is in his formative years and destined to make acclaimed films like "Grand Illusion" and "Rules of the Game." As the observational story evolves, beautiful Andree -- with flame-colored hair and porcelain skin that "soaks up light" -- becomes the father's last model and the son's first wife.
Based on a novelized biography by Jacques Renoir (the great-grandson of Pierre-Auguste and the grandson of Jean's actor brother, Pierre), it's respectfully co-written by Jerome Tonnerre ("The Women on the 6th Floor") and Bourdos ("Afterwards").
Exquisitely photographed by Taiwanese-born cinematographer Mark Ping Bing Lee,
it's punctuated with lyrical music by composer Alexandre Desplat.
Although they look remarkably authentic, the 73 Renoir paintings shown are by the convicted French art forger Guy Ribes. A colorful, controversial character in his own right, Ribes was born in a brothel to a prostitute mother and gangster father.
After serving in the French Foreign Legion, Ribes sold his stylish simulations of famous masters to a criminal cartel who passed them off as genuine. Sentenced to three years in prison, Ribes was released in December 2010 and was then hired by Bourdos in May 2011, to create the artwork for this film and allowed to study the Musee d'Orsay's extensive Renoir collection to perfect his technique.
And when the camera focuses on the elder Renoir's bandaged, arthritic hand apply paint to canvas, it's actually Ribes' hand.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Renoir" is a visually sensual sophisticated 7 that should particularly appeal to an older audience of art lovers.
"SCARY MOVIE V"
How bad is this fifth installment of the horror movie parody franchise? Worse than you'd expect, descending straight downhill after the opening sex sequence in which notorious Charlie Sheen and haggard-looking Lindsay Lohan spoof their "naughty" personas. Then he's killed by a ghost and his kids are kidnapped and stashed away in a cabin in Humboldt County.
The lame plot, such as it is, focuses on a married couple -- Jody (Ashley Tisdale) and Dan (Simon Rex) -- who adopt his dead brother's now-feral children, all of whom appear
to be possessed by a demon Mother Spirit. As they position cameras around their home to track the ghost's movements, Jody is determined to dance the lead in a local production of "Swan Lake" ballet, while Dan is obsessed with his experiments to make apes super-intelligent.
It's essentially a series of silly sketches riffing on films like Jessica Chastain's "Mama," "Black Swan," "Inception," "127 Hours," "Cabin in the Woods," "Saw," "The Ring," "Paranormal Activity" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," among others. Making cameo appearances are Terry Crews, Snoop Dogg, Heather Locklear, Jerry O'Connell, Tyler Perry, Molly Shannon, Mike Tyson, Usher and Katt Williams.
Scripted by David Zucker (who wrote "Airplane" and "The Naked Gun" and directed "Scary Movie 3 & 4") and Pat Proft, based on characters created by Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, it's directed by Malcom D. Lee, best known for his Blaxploitation spoof "Undercover Brother." A veteran
of previous "Scary Movie" installments, Simon Rex exudes a boring blandness, matched by former Disney star Ashley Tisdale ("High School Musical"), who obviously lacks any sense of the comic grace and timing exhibited by Anna Faris, who was in the first four installments.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Scary Movie V" is a terrible 2, as the filmmakers border on sophomoric desperation, achieving a measurable shred of humor only in the outtakes during the closing credits.