Tag Archives: romance movies

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

by Dan Fields

Sippin’ on Gin and Jazz

Spectacular. Stunning. Tantalizing. Everything in the wide world but compelling

(old sport.)

Had Baz Luhrmann been alive and working in the Roaring 20s, he certainly could and should have been employed as Jay Gatsby’s party planner. The Australian director’s penchant for lavish, baroque, balls-out spectacle is a matter of record thanks to his most popular film, Moulin Rouge. However, he cannot be trusted when it comes to reining in the subtleties and fine details of plain dramatic storytelling. Continue reading

Movie Review: Anna Karenina

by Dan Fields
First published November 23, 2012 by the California Literary Review

Double Icing On Half A Cake

Joe Wright established himself practically overnight as a strong force in period drama based on popular books. He wowed with the relentlessly dour Atonement and then soared with a superb riff on Pride and Prejudice. Couple these efforts with the spunky, bizarro thriller Hanna and you should have no trouble seeing that Wright is a filmmaker both exuberant and offbeat.

His Anna Karenina, based on Leo Tolstoy’s monumentally acclaimed novel, is a parade of elegant design and intricate staging. It is not difficult to guess which Academy Award nominations its makers have in mind. By enclosing the cultural volatility of 19th-century cosmopolitan Russia in an ever-shifting magic lantern, those responsible get to show off and share some cutting insights on the artifice and deception required to sustain imperial high society.

Wright sets the epic tragedy of Anna, a fallen woman if ever there was one, almost entirely within a spacious theatre hall, with the main action unfolding on an impossibly marvelous series of collapsing and interlocking sets. The wings and backstage area become private places of intrigue and the catwalks above serve as sordid back alleys. There are trains and horse races and all the bustle of Moscow and St. Petersburg contained behind a single curtain. The complexity and perpetual motion of this living stage is nothing short of stunning.

The hard truth, impossible to dodge, is that this is not Tolstoy’s world. It is more like Hugo Cabret’s world, and from time to time it even flirts perilously with becoming Baz Luhrmann’s world. Tom Stoppard’s script, though consistently bright and entertaining, abridges the story painfully to fit the stylish construct. Anna Karenina may be the title character, but she need not be the sole focus of the plot. The supporting figures in her life lend important dramatic context to her abasement. Continue reading

Movie Review: New Year’s Eve

by Dan Fields
First published December 10, 2011 by the California Literary Review

Rain Down, Mayan Apocalypse!

It is safe to predict that any further attempts by director Garry Marshall to cobble a legitimate genre out of celeb-stuffed holiday-themed rom-coms will probably face a cold audience. New Year’s Eve, is a very tired run up the same hill as its modestly successful ancestor, Valentine’s Day, and manages to recapture exactly none of that film’s charm or appeal. People well outside the Valentine’s Day target audience can still see what works about that movie. It was no gem, but it balanced earnest romantic comedy with a gentle spoofiness that we could all roll our eyes at and say, “Aww…” Irrepressibly cute is one way to describe it, and most people can get on board with that now and again.

New Year’s Eve chooses to fatten us, like doomed holiday geese, on bland sentimentality rather than sweet delicious comedy. It is not satisfying in the least, but you sure get your fill quickly. The allure of celebrating New Year’s Eve at Times Square or Radio City Music Hall is clear, but here, in place of an actual dramatic problem, it has been over-romanticized to life and death importance in the lives of these characters. Continue reading

Movie Review: Bridesmaids

by Dan Fields
First published May 14, 2011 by the California Literary Review

It’s Open Season on Wedding Season

The advertising campaign for Bridesmaids seems to have the sole aim of selling it as The Hangover for girls. One might expect a feature length Las Vegas bachelorette party fiasco. Bear in mind that only about twenty percent of the takes in the trailer actually made it into the film. In addition, the promotional poster is neato but totally misleading. It suggests a group of bad-attitude misfits (“bridesmaids for life”) whose antics ruin a classy wedding. In actual fact, Bridesmaids is none of these.
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Movie Review: Let Me In

by Dan Fields
First published October 02, 2010 by the California Literary Review

Embrace the monster, baby.

Legendary horror studio Hammer Films is back from the dead and going strong. After many dormant years, the British motion picture company that made stars of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing is back in the business of feature films. Fittingly, one of its first major projects is a vampire film, though not the same sort they used to make. A remake of the Swedish novel and film Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In), Hammer’s Let Me In is a touching and rather sad tale of how a brutal world makes monsters of ordinary people.
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Movie Review: Inland Empire (2006)

Fans of the director’s previous work, such as Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and cult television hit Twin Peaks, know that seeing a project by David Lynch means wading into deep and unfamiliar waters. Lynch is one of the few true surrealist filmmakers, whether or not he would settle for such a label, and your first go-round is bound to be a strange ride. Well, this one may be the biggest challenge to viewers yet, but to those it ensnares it is also one of the most rewarding.

Shot over a number of years, and seemingly in an infinite number of parallel universes, the movie combines a myriad of disparate sequences, linked by as many thematic and visual elements to sketch an ambiguous and troubling portrait of identity and personality in a world of pretense and illusion. Much of the dialogue between characters seems to be improvised, but the deep feelings linking them are powerful and undeniable throughout.

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