Gatsby, Hitchcock and Quaid

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I saw three movies in the past week, and none of them were very good.  None of them were terrible either.

Hitchcock, a bio-pic sort of thing about the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho was probably the most legitimately entertaining out of all of them. It stars Anthony Hopkins in the title role and he does a great job. The film overall was kind of a walk-through. There was nothing terribly impressive or gripping about it, but Anthony Hopkins really convinced me he was another human being, and I was entertained by that alone.

I do have to say,  he didn’t really remind me of Hitchcock though.  His interpretation seemed more like a character that took inspiration from Hitchock, like how Daniel-Day Lewis’ characterization of Daniel Planeview’s voice was inspired by John Huston.

The film took an odd angle, which had potential to be really interesting but ultimately didn’t really lead anywhere.  Throughout the film Hitchcock is haunted by visions and dreams of the real man that the character of Norman Bates is based on. The film alludes many times to Hitchcock’s personal belief that everyone is capable of great violence and even seems to be attempting to dissect Hitchcock’s own inner demons. The thing is, though, it doesn’t really do that. It stops short of any real statement of why Hitchock was obsessed with the macabre themes that defined his career.  In the end, the film turns out to be more about Hitchcock’s relationship with his wife, which is certainly a worthy story, but not the one you think you’re going to get.

Helen Miran was obviously great, and the guy from MIB and Lincoln who keeps popping up all over the place is certainly a joy to watch. I have no idea why on earth they thought to cast Scarlett Johansson as Vivian Leigh. In everything she has ever done, Johansson is either a terrible floosy or an utterly boring character. During the whole film I assumed that Vivian Leigh was really doing something terrible that would be revealed at the end, since that ‘s who Johansen is in just about everything else. As you can see, I’m not a fan.

Total Recall was just an unfortunate bore. I’ve only seen the original all the way through on television, but what  made it so special is that it was bat $#!t crazy. Both films are based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember it for you wholesale” (as was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, loosely that is). I’ve never read it, but I have read plenty of other PKD stories, and they are wonderfully wacked-up. If you are going to throw PKD’s name in the credits, you better make sure your movie is nuts. His stories exist solely for the purpose to convince his readers that nothing makes sense and that reality is an unfortunate construct to hide our bleak twisted nothingness.

The best PKD based movie I’ve ever seen is Minority Report, because Spielberg somehow managed to make it dark and twisted –like PKD’s stories demand – while  also managing to provide an interesting message that makes sense. Not an easy task.

I think most other people would say Bladerunner should be considered the best, but is loses out in the whole “makes sense” category, so I’m going to go with MR.

The Total Recall retread fits more neatly in a category with another PKD based movie, Adjustment Bureau. That movie’s tone has more in common with the Truman Show than anything  PKD ever wrote.

Unlike Adjustment Bureau, Total Recall doesn’t suffer from levity. It suffers from its reliance on its stupid action movie approach. All of the dialogue is completely forgettable, probably because they assumed no one cared about the dialogue, and all of the fight scenes thought they were way more interesting than they actually were. There were many missed opportunities to pay much needed homage to the original film. None of the amazingly quotable lines from Arnie’s movie made it into the picture (at least none that I noticed) even though there were perfect setups for their use. For example, in the original, when Quaid discovers his wife is really trying to kill and they have a little conjugal battle, he finishes off by killing her and saying “consider that a divorce.” Gold right? Not in this one, even though it should have been.

The only thing that did make it in was the prostitute with three breasts, which they unfortunately got away with showing in a PG-13 movie somehow. It was stupid, and the movie was boring.

Oh, and it didn’t take place on Mars, which was a really dumb decision.

Baz Lurmahn’s The Great Gatsby is probably the most unnecessary movie ever made.  Seriously, Gatsby is known as one of the most important examples of American literature, and is read begrudgingly by pretty much every high schooler in the country. Its not like people don’t know the story, the only thing he’s going to do is upset people. It’s like someone  stringing together a bunch of music videos and claiming its a Shakespeare film. Oh wait…

The fact that it was unnecessary doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching. There is one truly great scene in the movie, when Gatsby meets up with Daisy for the first time after their 5 year separation. Leo DiCaprio does a great job in that scene, in fact he does a great job in the whole thing. The movie drags the whole first quarter because he’s not in it.

There was some cool use of music, but nothing as fantastic as his use of pop music in Romeo+Juliet (the scene where they meet at the fish tank is simply golden). The party scenes were fun, and you could tell the only reason he wanted to make the movie was so he could justify filming ridiculously extravagant parties set to Jay-Z’s thumping beats (should’ve gone with Kanye Baz).

I didn’t see it in 3-D and maybe I should have. I only noticed two scenes that I think would have benefited slightly from the silly effect though.

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