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An undercover cop and a Police mole have to try and work out each other’s identity before either of them is caught. And when the undercover cop is working for infamous gangster Frank Costello, getting caught could be fatal.

An exciting and fast paced thriller with a stellar cast – Leonardo Dicaprio as undercover Billy Costigan, Matt Damon as policeman Colin Sullivan, Jack Nicholason as Frank Costello, plus other famous faces including Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin and Ray Winstone.

There is a simmering tension throughout and the ending is fantastic. I highly recommend this film.

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Year of release: 2006

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writers: William Monahan, Alan Mak*, Felix Chong*

*2002 screenplay Mou gaan dou

Main cast: Jack Nicholson, Leonardo Dicaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon

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This is the fifth adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beautifully written novel, of love, affluence, ambition and disillusionment.  I wouldn’t say that I was expecting not to enjoy it, but I was prepared to be disappointed – but how wrong I was!  To my surprise, this was unquestionably my favourite adaptation out of those that I have seen so far, and to my even greater surprise, I also thought that Leonardo DiCaprio was the best Gatsby yet.

As anyone might expect from a Baz Luhrmann production, this film is drenched in colour, noise and flamboyance, which works perfectly when depicting the debauchery and affluence on show, especially at Gatsby’s famous parties.  It’s very stylised, and has a great soundtrack courtesy of Jay-Z, who was also a producer on the film.  (As the story is set in the 1920s, a Jay-Z soundtrack shouldn’t work on paper, but it really comes together to great effect.)

Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent as Gatsby, bringing a real depth to the character.  I also loved Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan.  In comparison to Mia Farrow, who was so irritating in the 1974 film, and Mira Sorvino, who was probably too sympathetic in the 2001 version, Mulligan really shines.  She portrays Daisy’s shallowness well, but also lends an air of regretful nostalgia for what her character let slip out of her grasp years earlier.  Elizabeth Debicki played Jordan Baker, pretty much exactly how I imagined Jordan to be when I read the book, and Joel Edgerton was superb as the cold and cruel Tom Buchanan.

Nick Carraway, who as always, narrates the story was played by Tobey Maguire, and he was great.  (My favourite Nick is still sam Waterston, playing opposite Robert Redford as Gatsby, and Paul Rudd also did an excellent job.)  In this version, Carraway is in hospital being treated for alcoholism, and at the urging of his doctor, writes down the story of Gatsby and the events of that fateful summer.  I wasn’t sure initially how this new approach would play out, but it does work, and allows the character to read more passages from the book than Carraway did in previous versions.

Only a couple of minor niggles – Gatsby’s funeral was not shown at all, but Carraway says that nobody but him attended.  In the book, and in previous versions, Gatsby’s father shows up for the funeral and it’s a touching scene.  Additionally, a small character known as ‘Owl Eyes’ also attends the funeral.  I would have liked to have seen this in the film, but overall there is so much to enjoy that it certainly doesn’t detract from the overall excellence.

I really enjoyed this film.  I would recommend other adaptations to fans of the novel, but I would recommend this version to anybody.  Well worth seeing.

Year of release: 2013

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Producers: Baz Luhrmann, Bruce Berman, Jay-Z, Barrie M. Osborne, Lucy Fisher, Catherine Knapman, Catherine Martin, Anton Monsted, Douglas Wick

Writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald (novel), Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce

Main cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Elizabeth Debicki, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1974 film adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 2000 film adaptation.

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1996, Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and certainly a very famous love story, was given the Baz Luhrmann treatment. The setting was moved to Florida in the current day, although the original Shakespearean text was retained.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Romeo, and Claire Danes is Juliet. Support is provided by – amongst others – John Leguizamo, as Tybalt (and he very nearly steals the movie), Harold Perrineau as Mercutio, and Paul Sorvino and Brian Dennehy as Juliet’s father and Romeo’s father respectively.

The story is well enough known for me not to write a very lengthy synopsis here, but in effect, it is the tale of Romeo and Juliet, the children of warring families, who fall in love and secretly marry. I don’t think it’s too spoilerish to say that things don’t end well!

I have seen this film before, and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, it had been so long since I watched it that I decided to revisit it, and being a big fan of Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge (also starring Leguizamo in a scene stealing role), I expected that Romeo + Juliet would be a big hit for me. Unfortunately I came away thinking that sometimes it’s best not to revisit films you loved years earlier! In this instance, I felt that the film was a triumph of style over substance. It certainly looks fantastic, and for the most part, the Shakespearean language manages not to feel out of place in the present day setting.

As one might expect from a Baz Luhrmann film, this picture is full of colour and flamboyance, and it boasts an impressive soundtrack (the Des’ree song, ‘Kissing You’ which plays over Romeo + Juliet’s first meeting, is particularly lovely). Some of the acting is terrific – the aforementioned Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite and Mariam Margolyes are all excellent – and Sorvino and Dennehy are fine as the warring heads of the two families. In truth, the weak links in the cast are DiCaprio and Danes. DiCaprio is a gifted actor, but I don’t think he was right for the part of Romeo, and Claire Danes was fine as Juliet in the beginning, but as things got worse for her character, I lost interest in her portrayal.

On balance, I would say that this film is worth seeing, purely for the different take on Shakespeare’s work (there are SO many ways in which his plays can be performed and interpreted), but I prefer the more classic telling of this love story, rather than the modernised flashy version. Still, if it gets anybody interested in learning more about William Shakespeare, that can only be a good thing.

Year of release: 1996

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Producers: Baz Luhrmann, Jill Bilcock, Martin Brown, Catherine Martin, Gabriella Martinelli

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Craig Pearce, Baz Luhrmann

Main cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Harold Perrineau, John Leguizamo, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy

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