The Great Gatsby

Bill I’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I almost gave this a slightly better rating, but in retrospect, there’s not much to rave about in this film. It was pleasant to watch, and the story is lifted carefully from the book, but at no point did I get enthralled, surprised, or emotionally invested in the characters. Leo DiCaprio is excellent, Toby McGuire is serviceable, and Carey Mulligan is perfect as Daisy Buchanon. This might have been better as a made for TV movie of the week. The gangster side story was cliche’d, as was the speakeasy and party scenes. Elizabeth Debicki caught my eye as Nick Carraway’s love interest:

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I read this book a very long time ago so I don’t really remember it. The most interesting aspect of this version of The Great Gatsby is the presentation, and not necessarily the story itself.  The movie is directed by Baz Luhrman who is best known for the stye and showmanship that he brings to his films  His best known movie was Moulin Rouge which also had really interesting-looking sets and great use of music.

I agree with Bill that DiCaprio and Mulligan were excellent, although none of the characters were really likeable. Overall this was an OK movie. If you are really into the packaging, you might like this more than we did.


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Paramount 2013 Summer Film Classic Series (Austin)

For those in Austin, a great way to escape the heat is at the Paramount Summer Film Classic Series. The movies play at both the Paramount and the State theater (right next door) downtown from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There are films from all eras and tastes—noir, comedies, musicals, foreign, silent. You name the genre, they’ll have it.

Here’s some of what I’m looking forward to from this year’s schedule:

  • Charlie Chaplin movies
  • Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Hitchcock week
  • Dirty Rats and Grand Dames
  • Frank Capra series

Last night, film critic Leonard Maltin was at the Paramount to screen one of his favorite movies, Frank Capra’s little-seen Lady for a Day. This 1934 film was very entertaining. Maltin was introduced by Austin Chronicle publisher and SXSW founder, Lewis Black, who has been lifelong friends with Maltin. Who knew?!

Tickets are cheap if you get a book of tickets.  Try to check it out.

Fast & Furious 6

 Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Fast & Furious 6 is the first of this series that I have seen. Since the film got decent reviews and I had seen an interview with the director of this and 3 of the other movies that included some action clips from earlier films in the series, I decided to check it out.

The movie flew by as the action sequences, while utterly ridiculous, were very entertaining. Some scenes just included people or cars, but to spice things up, they brought in a tank, and then finally an airplane. Some of the human action included the addition of Gina Carano from one of last year’s favorites, Haywire, and a great wrestling move from Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

In addition to the action the movie had a lot of humor.  I missed a fair number of jokes that watching the first five movies would have clued me in on, but I felt I got the feel for the characters’ relationships pretty quickly. ‘Ludacris’ had the most one-liners and I enjoyed his performance.

I couldn’t decide if Vin Diesel can’t act or if he just goes with the totally deadpan, non-smiling persona (in which case he is a great actor).

The plot had a lot of holes, but you don’t go to this type of movie for the scintillating plot. The end of the movie sets things up for Fast & Furious 7. It will be interesting to see how they outdo themselves!


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The Hangover Part III

Bill I’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I rate this somewhat better than Hangover Part II, due to the fact that it’s got a different plot, although the great fun scenes are few and far between. Zach Galifinakas does the heavy lifting, while his buddies basically are there to react to his wackiness. Ken Jeong has a major role, and it’s not so funny. Heather Graham reprises her Vegas hooker with a heart of gold role, which is basically a wasted scene. I enjoyed it nevertheless, but it’s not a very good film.


Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

A Tyler Perry production that is not typical, with no Medea in sight. It’s like an African American Meet the Parents, similar premise with a hard ass dad meeting his daughter’s beau, although in this case the dad is a super rich, snobby judge with a seemingly perfect family that in reality each member has their own secrets, unveiled as the story progresses. I had a smile throughout. Although the ending is predictable, it’s fun to watch.

Pain and Gain

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

What a fun movie! Three muscle heads decide to get rich quick by robbing rich guys, and just make one dumb decision after another. Mark Wahlberg is amazing, and The Rock (Chris Johnson) almost steals the show with his Jesus-loving criminal character. Set in Miami, this could have been lifted from a Carl Hiasson or Elmore Leanord novel, instead it’s based on actual events, which the film reminds you of half-way through. This is remiscient of Goodfellas but without the organized mob or any well thought out plans. Imbeciles with new found money. Loved it!

Star Trek Into Darkness

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Star Trek Into Darkness is the second reboot of the original Star Trek series and occurs with the original characters prior to ‘5 year mission’ of the original series.

The movie will appeal to both fans of Star Trek and just generally sci-fi/action movies. For the most part, the special effects are pretty good (although the communicators that were so awesome almost 40 years ago seem sort of bulky by today’s standards and the phasers are also nothing special today). I liked the action sequences for most of the movie, but thought the ones towards the end were a little overboard and could have been done better.

For fans of the series, there is a lot of the familiar interaction and humor among Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty, as well as the usual discussions on logic vs. gut decisions influenced by emotion. It did bother me a little that the last movie sort of wiped the slate clean of the original TV historical record, with characters going back in time and therefore changing history.

Zachary Quinto was spot-on as Spock and Simon Pegg always added some humor in a underutilized role as Scotty. Benedict Cumberbatch was excellent as the villain. They even brought Leonard Nimoy back for a cameo, but that was sort of a cop-out in my view that the young Spock needed help from the old Spock.

Overall this was a good movie, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I was captured from the opening scene, with the way they immediately immerse you in the adventure, although I rolled my eyes when Spock was able to function in the middle of an active volcano. The story was good enough, bringing to life current issues that we face such as the legality of hunting and killing US citizens “abroad”, and the rogue government agents who become ruthless killers justified by some larger mission. The actors are terrific, the action scenes exciting (terrific editing by Maryann Brandon!), and the villian(s) relentless and heartless. At the end my eyes rolled again when Spock showed off his hand-to-hand fighting skills (and where did that come from?). Overall, a thrilling fun ride from JJ Abrams.


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Iron Man 3

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Iron Man 3 has a good combination of humor and action and makes a good, but not great, movie to start the summer movie season.

Robert Downey Jr. has the role of Tony Stark  down pat and does a great job with both the action and the comedy.   Ben Kingsley has the meatiest (and probably most fun) in a supporting role with a strong cast that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Guy Pearce and Rebecce Hall.

The action and special effects (including non-action sequences) were good.  Keeping the special effects fresh is a challenge for the third movie in a special effects driven series but they pulled it off.   I saw this in 2D but in retrospect I wished I had gone for a 3D viewing.

The plot was ok but but suffered a little from the James Bond plot device of never having the super villain take the easy solution when he has the opportunity.

Iron Man 3 is better than the second installment in the series but not as good as the first Iron Man.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Thoroughly entertaining, with Robert Downey Jr. given lots of time out of his suit, and Gwyneth Paltrow playing a bigger part than in the past. The plot was a stretch for me, such as what’s the bad guy’s mission other than to exact revenge on the world for ignoring him when he was a wanna be inventor. And while Iron Man has developed a cool new feature that has his suit assemble itself onto him in pieces, it was hard to believe the pieces could travel 750 miles to do so. That’s some seriously precise guided missile technology. Rebecca Hall is a pleasure to watch as a former “love” interest, seen below:

while Don Cheadle is the buddy you can’t live without. The plot moves fast, and the 2 hours 20 minutes never seems too long.


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The Angels’ Share

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This comedy/drama is my favorite movie since SXSW in early March.

Robbie, played by newcomer Paul Brannigan, seems to be headed to jail. Due to his impending fatherhood, he is given a lenient sentence of community service. Despite the sentence and his desire to turn things around, it appears the Robbie is doomed to a life of trouble. Things look so bleak for Robbie that his girlfriend’s father offers to pay him to leave Glasgow and never return.

In community service, Robbie befriends three other troubled souls without bright futures who are all helped by the leader of the group, Harry, played by John Henshaw. Most of the comedy is the interaction of these characters. Harry takes the group on a whiskey tasting excursion and Robbie’s burgeoning nose for whiskey provides a possible path to redemption and a better life for him and his family (so this is definitely a film to see for anyone really into whiskey).

This isn’t the funniest or deepest movie ever, but it just makes you feel good. It reminded me of The Full Monty…just a good comedy with some drama mixed in about someone with a future that doesn’t look bright, but who gives it their best. One other similarity is that The Angels’ Share features people who speak English, but whose accents make it very tough to understand at first. In this case the filmmakers were kind enough to provide subtitles.  After the first 15 minutes or so they weren’t really needed, but it was nice to have them there.

My two favorite parts of the movie were the very beginning and the very end (sweet), but I also liked the stuff in between. This is an art house movie that may be hard to find, but if you can, check it out.


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Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Graceland is a very good thriller set in the Phillipines.  When the daughter of the chauffeur of a politician mistakenly gets kidnapped the chauffeur will do whatever it takes to get his daughter returned safely.  He needs to deal with the kidnappers, police (who suspect him of being involved) and his boss (to getthe ransom paid).

The movie deals with the seedy, corrupt side of Filipino society – child prostitution, corrupt politicians and police. The story is well written with good plot twists and things are not always as they seem.

This one might be tough to find in theaters (it’s no longer in Austin) but is worthwhile if you can find it.


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