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'Gatsby,' 'Stories We Tell,' 'Peeples' and Beyond: Criticism From the Indiewire Community

Criticwire By Forrest Cardamenis | Criticwire May 10, 2013 at 3:02PM

A recap of how everything from "Gatsby" to "Stories We Tell" has fared across the Indiewire blog network.
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The festivals are over, albeit not for long, but it's a big week for film criticism anyway, with a pair of major releases in "The Great Gatsby" and "Stories We Tell." The Tyler Perry-produced "Peeples" and last year's Cannes entry "Sightseers" are also attracting attention. Here's a recap of how all these films have fared across the Indiewire blog network.

Indiewire:

"Stories We Tell:" "'The crucial function of art is to tell the truth,' she's told, but she posits her mission as an attempt to find 'the vagaries of truth' and ultimately leaves us with a slew of ambiguities. By the end, only a handful of certainties have bubbled to the surface, none more affecting than the case for the movie's existence." -- Eric Kohn

"Sightseers:" "That contained dynamic prevents 'Sightseers' from reaching the advanced thematic heights of 'Kill List,' and if you stop to consider the logistics of their situation it doesn't entirely hold up. But the script steadily relies on keenly written dialogue that turns the couple's arguments into a honest look at how romance can go awry." -- Eric Kohn

"The Great Gatsby:" "But when nitty gritty plot details arrive, 'Gatsby' turns hopelessly theatrical, with tensions flaring between the main characters in a series of rushed confrontations that play second fiddle to gratuitous sets seemingly divorced from the actions they depict." -- Eric Kohn

Thompson On Hollywood:

"Let There Be Light" Short Series: "Each of the films was loosely connected by the 'profound artistic influence of light' in film. Some of the films highlighted the power of sunlight, flickering through trees or dousing harvests. Others took inspiration from artificial light sources or the moon's glow. Each of them relied on relatively simple imagery and narration in order to tap into something mythic and intense." -- Maggie Lange

"The Great Gatsby:" "'The Great Gatsby' is a guilty pleasure, a swirling, audacious piece of cinema --in 3-D!--that could prove a crowdpleaser for young audiences. -- Anne Thompson

James On Screens:

"The Great Gatsby:" "Luhrmann is a visionary, but his vision here is entirely focused on eye candy. He delivers the extravagance of Gatsby's world, the wild, colorful 1920's parties with flappers, fireworks and champagne - the easy, shallow part. Yet he is also tethered to Fitzgerald's words, while failing to approach 'Gatsby''s romantic, idealistic, heartbreaking soul. It might have been better if he had forgotten there was a novel, too." -- Caryn James

"The Two Other Gatsby's:" "Baz Luhrmann's new version gives us a wondrous performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and a dreadful, flat performance by Tobey Maguire as the narrator, Nick Carraway. But take a look at two better Nicks and one good, maligned Gatsby:" -- Caryn James

Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy:

"Peeples:" "But no matter how you slice it, this is utterly predictable stuff.  The preview audience I saw it with seemed to enjoy it all the same, but I prefer a fresher brand of comedy than 'Peeples' has to offer." -- Leonard Maltin

"Stories We Tell:" "While 'Stories We Tell' is a highly personal film, it touches on family matters that most of us can relate to in some way. More important, it plays with our perceptions of reality and the documentary form. It's an innovative approach to autobiography that has no equal, in my memory...and I found it absolutely fascinating." -- Leonard Maltin

"The Great Gatsby:" "I wouldn't have anticipated that this master of gaudy excess had a genuine desire to do justice to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel. It's the struggle between the filmmaker's natural instincts and his better self that makes the results so wildly inconsistent." -- Leonard Maltin

Shadow And Act:

"The Soloist:" "In our current economy, amidst all the surface class warfare arguments between the conservative right and the liberal left, The Soloist is an affirmation of the left's stance; at least, it wants and tries to be. It certainly doesn't fail, but, Joe Wright's obvious nod in that direction doesn't fully satisfy." -- Malcolm Woodward

"Venus And Serena:" "They're human beings of course, and since the filmmakers were given the kind of access that allowed them to comprehensively capture the lives of both sisters, the audience is treated to those humbling moments of distress, in which we see the sisters respond as almost any other human being would." -- Tambay A. Obenson"Peeples:" "'Peeples' is a reasonably fun, non-offensive matinee flick. It has just enough oddball aspects to keep it from being completely run of the mill, and the actors (and what I would imagine is Chism's direction of those actors) deliver in unexpected ways." -- Dan Simolke

The Playlist:

"Aroused:" "'Aroused' doesn't give us a peek behind the veil, it merely shows us the same level of information that we could gather from the Tumblr or Twitter of the film's participants." -- Gabe Toro

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Frankenstein's Army:" "We get that Soviet soldiers don't want to be filmed and would not like the man filming them. Unfortunately, we are paying attention and that's what makes the whole experience even worse. The constant reminders and blatant expository dialogue (aka 'telling not showing' syndrome – rather than the age-old 'showing not telling' rule of narrative) makes 'Frankenstein's Army' feel like a really lame video game rather than a film." -- Dianna Drumm

"Inori:" "'Inori' breathes well in its short run time and the drift between the subjects and nature builds a surprising amount of tension for such a slow film." -- Sean Gillane"Peeples:" "At times, 'Peeples' says so much about communities and foundations built and enhanced by future generations that you wish it also didn't bend over backwards to present gags about nudist beaches and threesomes, not to mention repeated plays of Wade's kids-centric motivational song." -- Gabe Toro

"Assault On Wall Street:" "Boll's talents and skillset have improved to the point where the gotta-see-it appeal of his earlier mistakes has hardened into a pragmatic, dull sensibility, allowing his output to become a cottage industry of annual releases set to be engulfed by the pit of Netflix Streaming before falling into oblivion." -- Gabe Toro

"Sightseers: "['Sightseers'] proves that Wheatley has an intrinsic and intelligent grasp of the key to strong storytelling, regardless of genre: Make people wonder what's going to happen next. He's also a superb technician; a flashback detailing the fate of Tina's beloved dog Poppy has the sublime, silly confidence of a silent-comedy gag, while several of the film's more shocking moments incorporate excellent camerawork and editing." -- James Rocchi

"No One Lives:" "Almost coming off like an academic blueprint of what a serial killer movie should look like, rather than anything with a distinct voice or authorial hand, 'No One Lives' shocks by virtue of being completely uninteresting." -- Kevin Jagernauth

"Venus and Serena:" "Baird and Major's film is entertaining and often compelling, but it doesn't reach the artistry of the best sports docs released in theaters or even the excellent ones playing each Sunday on ESPN's winning series '30 for 30.'" -- Kimber Myers

"And Now A Word From Our Sponsor:" "'Sponsor' has a wonderful, sly point to make about how most ad slogans work because they flatter the listener, a fact that allows all parties involved to tolerate Adan even though he appears obnoxiously disengaged with reality. But most of the time, there are moments like the political ad, where the project seems compromised by a meager budget and limited scale: the bantering between Lucas Foster and his secretary feels like the sort of thing you'd see in an Amazon sitcom pilot." -- Gabe Toro

This article is related to: The Great Gatsby, And Now a Word from Our Sponsor, Venus and Serena, Stories We Tell, Sightseers, Peeples, Aroused, Frankenstein's Army, Assault on Wall Street


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