Tag: Tobey Maguire

The Cider House Rules – Review

Michael Caine in a scene from “The Cider House Rules”.
by Ken B.

From its opening moments when sappy piano music drifted through the speakers, I had a pretty good idea of what The Cider House Rules was going to feel like. And I was right. While this 125 minute drama doesn’t reach over the bounds of enjoyability, it does fairly loudly voice the cries of “Give us an award!” Based on the 1985 John Irving novel of the same name, this film is set in 1943, at an orphanage in Maine. It is run by Wilbur Larch (MICHAEL CAINE). He and his staff work to take great care of the orphans, some who remain for years. Dr. Larch also uses rooms in the building to deliver babies and perform abortions on request, which were illegal at the time. He explains that he does this to prevent women from undergoing an unsanitary and dangerous form of the procedure performed by untrained people in back alleys, which for some could be their only alternative.

He is training a 21 year old man named Homer Wells (TOBEY MAGUIRE) to work with patients and assist him in the orphanage’s day to day operations. Homer was born at the orphanage, and while coming close, never found an adoptive family. Dr. Larch sees Homer as being competent and gifted as a doctor. However, when a couple (PAUL RUDD and CHARLIZE THERON) stop by the orphanage to have an abortion, Homer leaves with them. As they drive away in a shiny red convertible, with all the nurses and orphans waving Homer goodbye, Larch refuses to even watch this occur, sorely disappointed by his apprentice’s exit.

Homer ends up at an apple farm, owned by Wally (Rudd’s character)’s family. While Homer learns to pick apples with the migrant workers, headed up by Mr. Rose (DELROY LINDO), Wally is away at war. As this orphan’s life grows and his experiences blossom to new proportions, he also falls in love with Candy (Theron’s character).

You’d be hard pressed to say that this movie isn’t good. Everything is lit warmly, with an emphasis on wooden colors and hues. The script, written by Irving, moves at an even pace, never feeling too slow or too fast. The acting is variable, but never intolerable. The best here is Caine, who uses a perfect New England accent, and playing his character with experience and emotion. This would go on to win him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (he had won before in 1987, but he wasn’t at the ceremony because he was busy filming Jaws 4, of all movies). Anyway, back with the acting. Maguire, with a steady combination of handsomeness and civility, is good, but not memorable. The same goes with Theron, whose wonderful hair and makeup styling is similar to the Hollywood starlets of the era. It’s strange – I’ve seen both in far more memorable performacnes. They do have the talent. Lindo’s incredible performance went strangely unnoticed accolades-wise, and the character’s tormented daughter, Rose Rose (that’s not a typo), is played very well by Erykah Badu.

But there’s something missing. I don’t know if missing is the right word, but at times, The Cider House Rules has all of its components, and doesn’t really click. Is it Rachel Portman’s melodramatic score? Perhaps. Is it the fact that despite the otherwise innocent production design is mixed with dialogue and themes of the always controversial abortion, alongside mention of the terrible crimes of rape and incest? Perhaps. Or maybe, it’s all of these things and something else. Or maybe it’s none of these things and something else. It’s just that in the end, there was something unappealing about this movie that kept me from awarding it a higher mark.

I end with a light recommendation for The Cider House Rules. This isn’t a movie worth seeking out, but if it’s on TV, go for it. There’s a lot here to admire, but if you see it, you may not help but feel there were things holding it back.


The Great Gatsby – Review



by Ken B.

DISCLAIMER: I saw this in 2D. If you think A) 3D is the future of cinema and is the most magnificent thing ever and B), an adaptation of a book of this magnitude really needed 3D, I can only say this.

The Great Gatsby may hold the title for the most tiring movie I have ever seen. Many times, it jumps around with no real aim I could understand, and when it does find a focus, you really can’t be bothered to care. But this isn’t a bad movie, per se, as it’s clear that those working on it were dedicated to what they were doing. I just wish what they were worth doing could honestly fill up 143 minutes.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book is considered one of the best in 20th century American literature. I’m not familiar with it, but you shouldn’t have to be to watch a movie. The story is told through the memories of Nick Carraway (TOBEY MAGUIRE), who is writing about a man he knew in 1922, a strange man named Jay Gatsby (LEONARDO DICAPRIO). Every week, he throws a lavish party which brings nearly the collective population of New York City to his mansion. No one really knows about him, for he rarely opens up to anyone. But Nick is different. Through a maddeningly fast car ride into downtown New York, Gatsby recalls his life story, in away that he sounds almost as narcissistic as that Lights Camera Jackson kid.

Anyway, members of Nick’s family are also around for this, especially his cousin Daisy (CAREY MULLIGAN) and her husband Tom (JOEL EDGERTON).

Baz Luhrmann, who directed this movie, along with movies like Romeo + Juliet (which also featured DiCaprio in a prominent role) and Moulin Rouge, takes a big, bright kind of styling. I like that, but sometimes I felt it goes a little too over the top. Sometimes, when the character of Nick Carraway is writing his experiences, the words fly up from the page and appear either in the forms of handwriting or typewriting. This only reminded me of how a similar technique was used in one of the worst movies I’ve seen in my life. I dunno, that has nothing to do with my thoughts of this movie in the end, but I thought I’d point that out.

A decision that a lot of people are divided on is the inclusion of music from rapper Jay-Z into the movie. The movie probably wouldn’t be that different with or without it – and the people that are completely turned off by this factor probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the movie if the modern music hadn’t been around.

The acting is what you’d expect – these are talented actors working with a somewhat well written script. DiCaprio is convincing as the perhaps-slightly-insane multi-millionaire, and Maguire, during the wraparound scenes as a man in retrospect, does well in his role.  Mulligan and Edgerton might not be as memorable, but there are no real lapses of talent.

The Great Gatsby can be called little else than excessive – no one really wanted another movie about the book, since there has already been multiple. Even on its own merits, this can’t be called anything else than average. It’s a visual spectacle – but it’s long and forgettable as well. I think fifteen or twenty minutes could have been cut, to be honest. The decision on whether it’s worth your time and money is up to you. But it doesn’t need 3D. It really doesn’t.

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