New York Stories – Romeo and Juliet / All Is Lost / CBGB

Romeo and Juliet

By Glenn Dunks
October 23, 2013

There’s a wide world of cinema out there, and Quickflix’s Glenn Dunks is on the ground in New York City bringing you the titles that will soon be seen in Australian cinemas, and eventually available on home entertainment.

The Manhattan Report: Last weekend saw the release of J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost (reviewed below) and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (also, the Carrie remake, but why bring that up?), which is a powerful double feature about survival if ever there was one. Both are gearing up for big award seasons alongside the already released Gravity and Captain Phillips and any number of upcoming treats that distributors cram into the final three months of the year. In spite of all of that, there’s something humorous about living in a city where the contenders for a Friday night at the movies is one of those aforementioned new releases or classics Five Easy Pieces, Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low, or a Claire Denis retrospective. So many films, so little time.

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet: It is unlikely that one could find a less essential effort from 2013. This umpteenth adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet lacks the passion and the power that is synonymous with the play, with only beautiful costumes and attractive actors to distract from the lacklustre acting and bad wigs of Carlo Carlei’s unnecessary take. It being partially funded by Swarovski – who produce crystal, diamonds and jewellery – should be a big clue as to where the picture’s intentions lie: it’s pretty, and little else.

Oscar-nominee Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth (introduced with a billowing open shirt as he sculpts and smoulders) star as the titular romancers from warring families in Verona. They make a fitting, beautiful pair that the younger target audience will likely find themselves wishing for a better outcome than we know to expect. Anybody who has experienced the story before, however, will find it hard to get enraptured by this telling of the Bard’s work given it has no unique point of view or original voice. Where Baz Luhrmann turned the text on its head, Carlei and Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes make it as traditional and respectable as possible and, quite frankly, that doesn’t make for truly exciting cinema. Romeo and Juliet is two hours of gorgeous window dressing, but little else of interest. (No Australian release date at this time.)

2/5

CBGB

CBGB: The chaos of the burgeoning ‘70s punk/underground scene in New York’s Lower East Side is centered around the famous nightclub CBGB in Randall Miller’s partly fictionalised depiction of the era. As adapted by Miller and co-writer Jody Savin, the period is rendered an anarchic mess of trite visuals, misbegotten toilet humour, and a nonsensical lack of logic.

Starring Alan Rickman as club owner Hilly Kristal, CBGB manages to fill its runtime with more cameos than Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Parkland combined: Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry, Justin Bartha and Rupert Grint as members of The Dead Boys, Kyle Gallner as Lou Reed, Joel David Moore as Joey Ramone, and an assortment of unknowns portraying Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Sting plus music journalist and future American Psycho director Mary Harron. The worst offence made by CBGB is that it does so little with such potent material. The musical sequences – thankfully lip-synced – are fun, though it would be hard to ruin such brilliant songs as “Because the Night,” “Denis” and “Psycho Killer.” You’ll be humming the tunes, but forgetting the movie instantly. (No Australian release date at this time.)

2/5

All Is Lost

All Is Lost: The Oscar-nominated writer/director of Margin Call makes a complete 180-degree turn with his sophomore effort, All Is Lost. Where his debut feature was a dialogue-heavy, land-bound drama with a large ensemble cast, All Is Lost concerns only one man lost at sea with minimal dialogue. That man is 77-year-old Robert Redford and he – pardon the pun – anchors the movie with his weathered performance. Barely a second passes without him on screen, and he has the gravitas to pull the conceit off without a hitch.

Still, as great as Redford is, the film is really Chandor’s accomplishment. It takes a lot to make something as stripped back as this, as well as make it thrilling and emotionally investing, but he’s done just that. It’s become fashionable to compare All Is Lost with Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity given the timeliness of their release. However, it most closely resembles Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, with its hero frustratingly close to rescue yet so far. Chandor’s ending is intriguingly up for debate, but the skill with which he has told his tale of survival on the open seas is far from ambiguous. (Arrives in Australian cinemas February 2014.)

4/5

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