New ‘Great Gatsby’ Trailer: Looks Terrible!

Rather than waste my time by writing some fancy build-up to what the premise of this post is, I will just come right out and say it…this trailer sucks. I speak as an enthusiastic devotee of the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel and a fan of Jack Clayton’s 1974 screen version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. The novel has always been one of my all-time favorites. Jay Gatsby always struck me as a remarkable tragic hero and perhaps no book epitomizes the decadence of the Roaring 20’s better than The Great Gatsby. The earlier film version (adapted for the screen by Francis Ford Coppola) captured this quite well – the jazz, the costumes (Theoni V. Aldredge won an Oscar for them), the décor…the decaying morals seep through the screen as we look on Nick Carraway and his friends in 1922 New York and the beauty and grandeur of Long Island’s North Shore.

So is it time to re-tool and reinvent this classic story? Perhaps. It was remade in 2000, but that was for television (and not so great). Is it a good idea to bring this magnificent story to a younger audience who are reading the SparkNotes to pass their 11th grade tests? For sure. But is Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) the right man to helm this project? Going by the trailer just released by Warner Brothers, I remain extremely skeptical and yes, very worried.

I am sure that the production design – the costumes, art direction, and such will be impeccable. Luhrmann’s films always have a grand and majestic look about them. Vulnerable and wide-eyed, Tobey Maguire looks like the right fit to play our humble narrator and protagonist, Nick Carraway. Joel Edgarton is a terrific acting force and I am sure, as Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanan, he will be dynamic once again. Carey Mulligan, while no beauty (as the character should be), is a tremendous talent, and I am sure will pull off the flighty Daisy just fine. My problem here is the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio in the iconic role of Jay Gatsby. I’m not a DiCaprio hater at all…in fact I think he’s a pretty strong actor. But here? As Gatsby? I’m sorry…but no. Redford owned the screen when he played him. He was perfect for the part — dashing, soft-spoken, with just enough danger thrown in. Leo to me looks too juvenile and not yet ready to step in these shoes. If Gatsby had a son, he’d be great for it. But that isn’t the case here.

My other problems with this hideous trailer? Well, what is with the freaking music? For a novel that is a symbol for 1920’s high-life, are we really playing Kanye West and Jay-Z?! It looks like it will be a movie that will so obviously pander to a younger audience, rather than do justice to Fitzgerald’s monumental work. Guy Ritchie mauled and mangled the brilliant fiction of Sherlock Holmes so as to appeal to a young crowd. Did it work? Well, the films hit box office gold and I suppose when all is said and done, that’s the bottom line in Hollywood. But as a film, I found the first movie to be so insulting and appalling that I never bothered seeing the second. That is what I am afraid of here — Luhrmann making that same mistake.

The “look” of the film seems very impressive indeed. My gut feeling however is that we will be watching a lot of glitz and a lot of style – with very little substance. My expectations are low indeed. Give it a look right here – what do you think about it?

Top 5 Tuesday: Rotten Remakes

I think most film buffs approach remakes with glaring skepticism. And why wouldn’t we? Most remakes turn out to be pure crap – trying to rebuild/rehash a movie that was perfectly fine to begin with. Successful ones (True Grit, Let Me In, Scarface, The Ten Commandments) are few and far between. This year, we have two that are nothing short of sacrilegious (we already had Arthur, which falls into that very same category). As a product of growing up in the 1980’s (which I am not at all proud of), there is absolutely no reason why we need another Footloose. Yes, the 1984 film is completely dated, campy and oh-so 80’s – but that is part of its charm. This remake, which is based on the stage musical, looks to be a train wreck. And shame on you, Mr. Dennis Quaid for being a part of this…you’re better than that. We also have the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to look forward to – and thank God because it has been over a full year since the original! David Fincher is an accomplished director with loads of talent – so it is shocking to see that he would rather regurgitate someone else’s work rather than bringing us something new and exciting this holiday season. Chances are I will not see either one. I usually stay far away from these remakes, mainly out of loyalty to the original. I can’t give Fincher’s film my $10. Sorry, there’s no way. I’d feel too dirty.

So in the spirit of remakes that should never be made – I thought I’d dedicate this week’s Top 5 Tuesday to five truly shitty remakes. Now, mind you, I haven’t seen all that many. On principle alone, I will look the other way more often than not. I could never cash in any dignity I might have to see remakes like Arthur (2011), The Stepford Wives (2004), Death at A Funeral (2010), or The Women (2008).  I have heard how horrendous they are and I don’t need to waste my time. But here are 5 that I was unfortunate enough to have seen. Please feel free to share your own!

5. Planet of the Apes (2001)

I have to say – I didn’t mind Tim Burton’s remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I enjoyed his Alice in Wonderland too. But this? This was uncalled for. All of the impressive make-up and special effects could not hide the fact that this was a total wash. And the terrible ending? Burton himself said that it wasn’t supposed to make any sense, and to me, that is inexcusable. It strikes me as very odd that most of these abysmal remakes tend to be of classic films that do not need another treatment. That is surely the case here, as the 1968 original starring Charlton Heston is a sci-fi classic. A fine cast assembled here – but the film is too self-involved with its heavy make-up and the story goes every which way. A terrible screenplay in fact – with none of the insight, irony and impact of its predecessor.

4. The Pink Panther (2006)

I will say that I admire Steve Martin – as a comedian, a writer, and as an actor, I have great respect for him. He seems like one very smart guy. But even smart guys make dumb mistakes. This is one of them. I am not a huge fan of the original films starring the enormously talented Peter Sellers, but I have always had a fond appreciation for them. Sellers brought a subtlety to the infamous role of Inspector Clouseau that was quite charming to viewers – we rooted for him, we were always on his side, and yes, many feel in love with this character. This was due obviously to Sellers’ approach, but also Blake Edwards. In this tragic remake, the only thing “funny” about it seems to be Steve Martin doing the French accent without any of the charm or wit of the original films. Everything is so grossly over-the-top and extremely childish in its comedic approach. Yes, the film made money and because of that, garnered an unworthy sequel – a sad statement in itself about what Americans are willing to go and see in the theaters. This may not be the travesty that was Son of the Pink Panther (1993), but it remains unoriginal, unimaginative, and worse yet, unfunny.

3. The Wicker Man (2006)

The original 1973 thriller is a cult classic and is still held in pretty high esteem. With good reason – it was friggin’ creepy! This Neil LaBute remake was just friggin’ funny – and not in a good way at all! Very reminiscent of Wiseau’s The Room. LaBute has potential as a filmmaker, but he hit all the wrong buttons on this one. And Nicolas Cage? Yeah, that guy who once took home an Oscar…he is nothing short of laughable in this. Cage can be really really good (Matchstick Men, Adaptation) or he can be really really bad (insert any of his action flicks here) – but in The Wicker Man, he is simply embarrassing. Every time he yells or begins to lose it here, it is funny to watch, especially when he points a gun at Rose and proclaims, “Step away from the bike!” This is bad stuff, people. It makes for a funny “comedy,” but that surely was not LaBute’s intention – and for that, this goes down as a futile faux pas.

2. Psycho (1998) 

Isn’t the point of attempting to direct a remake to bring one’s own unique vision to the work? To enhance the original somehow? To add one’s own artistic sensibilities? Not for hit-or-miss director Gus Van Sant who decided to re-create an American classic by simply doing a shot-for-shot version of the original. In English class this is called plagiarism. In movieland, it should be called lazy and insipid. First, why even attempt to remake a staple in cinematic history directed by the man known by many as “the master of suspense.” This was an embarrassment and nothing short of pointless. Van Sant was able to assemble a fine cast for his needless experiment, but that didn’t help at all. Critic Leonard Maltin hit it dead-on when he called the movie, “an insult, rather than a tribute to a landmark film.”

1. Swept Away (2002)

I’ve walked out of a movie theater only a handful of times in my life. This was one of them. In my defense, I was “forced” to go and I went unwillingly, knowing of the atrocity which waited for me. And I took my seat — and watched. But I simply couldn’t take it anymore – the pretentiousness, the silliness, the arrogance, the boredom. I had to get up and get out. And really – should I have expected anything more from director Guy Ritchie? What made the original 1974 film (directed by Lina Wertmueller) so amazingly effective was that it managed to make a significant statement as to social classes in society in a very controversial way. It was also sexy and romantic with two remarkably talented lead stars (Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato). Viewed by many as being somewhat misogynistic (which I totally disagree with), I always found it fascinating that it was directed by a woman. This remake was a vanity project from start to finish and never should have been attempted, especially with Madonna in the lead role. She was a disaster. And I don’t give her most of the blame – this is all Ritchie’s inadequacies, as writer and director of this miscarriage.

And 4 More for Good Measure — Because These Stunk Too!

Poseidon (2006)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Sabrina (1995)
Gloria (1999)

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