Posts Tagged ‘dicaprio’


In 1969, aging actor Rick Dalton, (Leonardo DiCaprio) is looking to stay relevant.    He was a big tv star in the 50’s, on the show Bounty Law, who went off to do movies, and is now back on the small screen shooting a pilot for the t.v. show Lancer, as a villain. The years have taken their toll on Rick, he is an alcoholic who can’t remember his lines.  Rick’s neighbor Sharon Tate’s (Margot Robbie) career is just beginning her movie career starring with Dean Martin in a Matt Helm film, The Wrecking Crew, but her career is definitely on the ascendancy.   Rick’s stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) was with him in the good days, and has stayed loyal to him in the lean times, he is Rick’s driver and handyman.

Several times when driving Rick around Hollywood, Cliff notices a teenage girl named Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) who flirts with Cliff and he flirts back.   After he picks her up in Rick’s Cadillac, Cliff realizes that Pussycat is too young, but agrees to take her to Spahn’s Ranch, where he once worked.  He wants to reconnect with George Spahn (Bruce Dern) and make sure he’s ok.  What does Cliff find when he gets to Spahn’s Ranch?

This is an odd movie.  It seems to graft Clint Eastwood’s career in the 50’s and 60’s onto a character named Rick Dalton, and gives him a stunt double buddy, like Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham in the 70’s.  Once Upon A Time could have been a good film as a Hollywood buddy movie with lots of commentary about the disposable nature of Hollywood actors and actresses, but writer Quentin Tarantino inexplicably puts Rick and Cliff in the middle of a true crime story, and then changes the facts of the true crime story to editorialize on the hippie culture of the 1960’s.  This turns the movie into a trainwreck, which is sad because he got many other details of the true crime story right. This makes the denouement even harder to understand.  The movie is violent , but not in the way that viewers may think.   Tarantino even takes cheap shots at Bruce Lee, who is dead and can’t defend himself.  This and The Hateful Eight mark a low point in his screenwriting skills, even for die-hard Tarantino fans.

The acting is good.   Brad Pitt is believable as a  stuntman.  The idea of Pretty Boy Pitt playing a stuntman may seem amusing, but he pulls it off with a laid-back simmering intensity, and he rounds out the performance by injecting just enough humor.  The best performance by far in this film is done by Leonardo DiCaprio, there is one scene in particular, where he describes a book he’s reading to a precocious 8 year old method actress, and that is the heart and soul of the film, or should have been, it is a great speech, delivered with just the right amount of emotion.  He got an Oscar nomination for this role, and he deserved it.  He will unfortunately lose to Joaquin Phoenix, too bad.  Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate as a pretty party girl, the script doesn’t call on her to do much, and she doesn’t add anything to the role to distinguish herself.  Julia Butters makes the most of a small role as a self-assured 8  year-old method actress,  who at first makes fun of DiCaprio’s character and then sympathizes and even helps him.  It’s a nice turn for a 10 year old actress.

The direction is gimmicky, full of odd angles and crane shots.  Tarantino inserts Rick Dalton in one famous, and some fictional movies.  Placing a fictional character in a real life situation is nothing new.  Robert Zemekis did it first and better in Forest Gump.  Tarantino makes another amateurish decision by inserting a narrator into the film for exposition purposes.  He tries to redeem himself by satirizing himself in the fake film 14 Fists of McCloskey, a film about a Nazi killing group of criminals.   Does that plot ring any bells?  Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is a good visual representation of California in the late 60’s an even as a behind the sceenes look at directing. Unfortunately, the film clocks in at an unwieldy 2 hours and 41 minutes, and a lot of those scenes could have been cut, but Tarantino the director loves Tarantino the writer, and refuses to edit this film, audience be damned.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood:  Fiction meets reality in a helter-skelter way.


The Revenant

In 1823, fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is leading a group of fur trappers through unexplored territory, which would later become South Dakota.   They are being chased by members of the Arikara tribe, and losing men each day.  Glass advises the trappers to abandon the boat they are sailing across the Missouri River, and travel by land.  Glass soon regrets his own advice, when he is seriously mauled by a bear. Realizing they can’t take Glass along, Captain Henry (Domhall Gleeson) tries to shoot Glass to put him out of his misery, but can’t bring himself to do it.  Then he offers a reward to two people who stay behind to take care of Glass.  Young trapper Jim Bridger, (Will Poulter) Glass’ half Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) agree to stay behind, but Fitzgerald has no intention of caring for Glass, and he reports to Bridger that Hawk is missing. Meanwhile the Akikara Chief, Elk Dog (Duane Howard) is looking for the men who kidnapped his daughter.  Does Glass survive?  Where is Hawk?  Does Elk Dog find his daughter?

This is a double revenge fantasy, and though it has a couple of false endings, and it requires the viewer to suspend his or her tethers to reality more than once, it is also a story about the importance of family, and that is what holds the viewer riveted for two and a half hours.  The Native Americans are written realistically, they are all acting according to what they believe their best interests are.  Some fought the white man, others tried to trade with the white man.  Similarly, despite the bloody and oftentimes violent scenes, the ending is surprisingly nuanced, and welcome.

The acting is superb.  Did Leonardo DiCaprio deserve the Best Actor Oscar?  Honestly, I didn’t think he did.  Unless moaning and groaning counts as good acting, he was mute for large portions of this movie, and screaming through clenched teeth does not equate to a good enough performance for an Oscar.  This is what I would call a make-up Oscar, Academy voters are trying to make up for all those snubs or losses by giving him this one.  Acting should not be judged the same as Little League, an actor shouldn’t get a prize for just participating.  When he did speak, he did a good job of conveying anger and pain, there just wasn’t enough in the role for an Oscar win.  He’s had better performances in Django Unchained and Wolf of Wall Street, and even Titanic, so I can see no other reason for this win.

Frankly, Tom Hardy gave a much better performance as the ruthless, money hungry John Fitzgerald.  Without Hardy’s performance, DiCaprio would have nothing to play against.  Before you think I’m a Tom Hardy fanboy, he was a non-entity in Mad Max Fury Road, but he was Oscar worthy in either this movie or Legend.  He is a superb actor. Will Poulter also gave an excellent performance as the newer member of the trapping team, Bridger.  He was intimidated by Fitzgerald, and guilt ridden by the decisions he made, and Poulter conveyed those emotions well. Domhall Gleeeson gave perhaps the best performance of his young career.  He showed both strength and sensitivity in this performance.  I also liked Forrest Goodluck as Hawk.  It was a complex role, and Goodluck played it well.  I also liked that the Native American roles were played by Native American actors, that gave the film more authenticity.

The direction by Alejandro Inarritu is spellbinding, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the landscape photography is spellbinding.  The CGI bear attack is less convincing, the bear seems somehow faster than a real bear, and that took away from the reality a bit.  The pacing was slow at times, but picked up during the climax of the movie.  The fight scenes were mostly well staged and realistic.  He stayed away from the gimmickry of Birdman, having most of the movie consist of one long scene without editing, for example. The use of editing in Birdman became a distraction in my opinion. These scenes are cut together perfectly in order to tell a cohesive story.  He gets tremendous performances from his entire cast, great performances plus stunning visuals, simply stated, he deserved the Oscar for Best Director for The Revenant.

The Revenant:  Grin and bear it


At age 22, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DeCaprio) gets a plum job with a prestigious brokerage.  He is taught the ropes of being a successful broker by Mark Hanna. (Matthew McConaughey) Hanna’s advice to Jordan, take a lot of drugs, pleasure yourself twice a day and separate your client’s cash from your client.  As soon as Jordan gets his series 7 license, black Monday occurs on October 19th 1987, and Jordan finds himself out of a job.  He works for a while in a small brokerage on Long Island, where he sells penny stocks to unsuspecting clients , making 50% commission.  A friend, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) is so impressed with Jordan’s take home pay that he quits his job to become a broker.  It is then that Jordan starts Stratton Oakmont in an abandoned auto garage.  He staffs Stratton with old friends from the neighborhood, most of them small time drug dealers.  Nicky Koskof (PJ Byrne) nicknamed Rugrat, because of his bad hairpiece, Chester Ming, (Kenneth Choi)  Robbie Feinberg,(Brian Sacca)  and Alden Kupferberg  (Henry Zebrowski)  join Jordan and Donnie at Stratton, and by promising to sell blue chip stocks and really selling lousy penny stocks, Jordan and his cohorts rake in lots of money.

Jordan agrees to speak to Forbes magazine for what he thinks is a puff piece, the Forbes reporter nicknames him the Wolf Of Wall Street.  Not only doesn’t this hurt his reputation, lots of newly minted brokers want to work for Stratton.  Jordan realizes that the next big step for the brokerage is to sell an IPO, initial public offering of a newly formed company.  Donnie is friends with Steve Madden, (Jake Hoffman) woman’s shoe designer who wants to take his company public.  Stratton Oakmont takes the company public, and Jordan puts 85% of Steve Madden stock under his control, which is illegal.  By this time both the SEC and FBI are investigating Stratton Oakmont for shady securities practices.  As Jordan’s professional life deteriorates, his personal life is in similar disarray. Jordan has already divorced his first wife, and is having difficulties with his second wife, Naomi (Margot Robbie) because of Jordan’s predilection for hookers.  Jordan and Donnie also snort massive amounts of cocaine and take Quaaludes to come off the high.  To say the least, these vices mess with Jordan’s judgment, but he still can get out of serious jail time if he pleads guilty to a few minor SEC violations and steps down from Stratton, will he do it?

I like  The Wolf Of Wall Street a great deal. I expected to see Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, and instead I saw a much funnier take on the Wall Street culture, some of it was laugh out loud funny.  Sometimes, I think it was too funny for its own good. Jordan Belfort is  a real person, he did swindle lots o people out of their money, and at times, I felt like the movie treated his transgressions much too lightheartedly.  By the time the movie switches to a more serious tone, the pacing also slows down quite a bit. Martin Scorsese, who directed this movie, didn’t need so much detail in telling the story, and could have done a good bit of editing to help with the pacing.

Because it’s directed by Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street reminded me of Goodfellas.  Henry Hill and Jordan Belfort are very similar, they both put on the facade of being pillars of the community, while in reality they craved debauchery. Scorsese is extremely good at showing the dichotomy between the public and private lives of both men.

The acting is good.  Leonardo DeCaprio is very good as a man whose moral compass is broken, and who only cares about fulfilling his hedonistic needs.  DeCaprio turns from good time Charlie to raving lunatic in a flash, and that’s not easy to do, a lesser actor could have blown that role very easily. He also does the New York accent very well.  Margot Robbie does a really good job in a tough role as Belfort’s second wife Naomi, she plays Naomi as a very manipulative woman using sex as a weapon, but and she also stands up for herself when she needs to. She also handles the accent well, even though she’s from Australia.  I cannot for the life of me understand the casting of Jonah Hill in this movie, he plays Donnie Azoff as a complete moron, a goofball looking for his next score of money or drugs.  Hill has never failed to annoy me with his frat boy antics in any movie he’s in.  The streak continues.  I’m similarly puzzled by the casting of Rob Reiner as Jordan’s father.  Reiner plays the role strictly for laughs, which adds to the confused tone of the film.

Overall, a very good film, a bit long, and sometimes confused tonally, but still very good.

The Wolf Of Wall Street.  A great movie, a bit long in the tooth.



Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is a bond trader and part-time author who rents a small house in West Egg, Long Island next to the opulent mansion of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio)  Gatsby seems to have a party every week, and Nick seems to be the only one who gets an invitation to his parties.  The rest seem to be party crashers and hangers-on. Nick is wondering why a man who pals around with Hollywood starlets or the police commissioner would want to invite him to one of his glamorous parties.

The answer is very simple,  Gatsby wants to be reacquainted with Nick’s cousin, Daisy Buchannan (Carey Mulligan).  Gatsby and Daisy first met and fell in love with Gatsby five years ago, but at the time, Gatsby was a poor war veteran, and Daisy could not wait for him to come back from World War I.  Instead Daisy married Tom Buchannan, (Joel Edgerton) a rich, handsome, hulking ex-football player and serial carouser.  Tom is currently cheating on Daisy with Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher) wife of a local auto-body shop owner.  Daisy is enamored with the idea of leaving his cheating husband and running away with her first love, but doubts do crop up about Gatsby, chief among them, where did Gatsby get all his money?  Does Daisy leave Tom?  Or do those persistent doubts about Gatsby kick in?

I have decidedly mixed feelings about this version of The Great Gatsby.  My first impression was that it was a very loud movie, the music was loud, the people were loud, the colors were loud, even the clinking champagne glasses are loud.  But then I thought, wasn’t this the Roaring 20’s, until the crash, unregulated Wall Street money fueled a lot of wild parties, especially among the nouveau riche like Gatsby.  I think the stodgy staid image of the 20’s that I had were from an earlier version of this movie from 1974 which I only saw parts of, but when I think about the reality of the 20’s people like Gatsby probably had big yellow cars and loud parties, and used their money to buy influence.

What I initially thought of as a weakness in Baz Luhrmann’s version, namely the flashiness, the grandeur, probably turned out to be its greatest strength. The interplay of sound and color did make the movie much more lively then I imagined the book to be, and much more enjoyable to watch.  And the movie stays surprisingly true to the book, except for one detail that those who haven’t read the book wouldn’t even notice. So this is a movie that stays true to the book and adds the visual style of the era. So far so good.  But not every attempt to modernize this movie works.  There is the music, which is a mixture of the Charleston, and hip hop music, that’s because this movie’s executive producer is the ubiquitous rap mogul and ruthless self-promoter Jay Z, who also manages to get his ubiquitous wife Beyonce onto the soundtrack.  A stunt that falls flat.

The acting for the most part falls flat too, which is hard to believe with so many good actors in the film.  Tobey Maguire is very good, he plays the role in a low key manner, but still the character burns with intensity.  Leonardo DiCaprio adopts some kind old money Franklin D. Roosevelt accent, and says old sport so many times that it grated on me.  My best guess is that he was trying to play Gatsby as a phony, a newly rich guy, who puts on airs to try to impress others.  Or maybe it was just a bad performance, hard to believe coming off his electric performance in Django Unchained.

Carey Mulligan gives an oddly detached performance, I never got the sense that she was emotionally invested in the role.  I wanted to see her cry or at least show some emotion, but instead she was an ice princess.  Her voice sounded like Betty Boop, it was so high pitched and ethereal.  I’m guessing she chose that voice to cover her British accent, but her American accent slipped a few times anyway.  Nobody did a worse accent than Isla Fisher, this was a horrible New York accent, I mean awful, to cover her Scottish accent.  The role of Mayer Wolfsheim was played by Indian actor Amitabh Buchchan.  The casting here was a twofer, bring in the Indian audience, here and worldwide.  And deflect charges of Anti-Semitism by casting Wolfsheim, a viciously odious Jewish stereotype, with an actor of a different ethnicity.  Obviously Mr. Bachchan never read the book,  or he would have turned down the role.

You however, reading this blog should read the book before seeing this movie, it is a wonderful book, marred as it is by the disgraceful character Mayer Wolfsheim.  It pains a vivid picture of life in the 20’s.  The movie only enhances the picture that the book paints.  Here is a link to the book review I did for The Great Gatsby on this very blog.  Enjoy both.

The Great Gatsby:  Acting aside, pretty great.


In 1858, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) part-time dentist, part-time bounty hunter is riding through Daughtry Texas looking for the Brittle brothers.  Trouble is, Schultz has no idea what the Brittle brothers look like.  To find out who the Brittle brothers are, Shultz enlists the help of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who Shultz frees from bondage.  Django not only finds the Brittle brothers, but kills two of them.  Schultz wants to make as much money as possible as a bounty hunter.  Django has a mission of his own, to rescue his wife, Hildy (Kerry Washington) from a sadistic slave owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio)

Shultz assures Django that if Django helps him over the winter as a bounty hunter in Texas, he will go to Mississippi, and try to rescue Hildy from Candie.  The two bounty hunters make a lot of money over the winter and hatch a plan.  Shultz is going to feign interest in buying a slave from Candie for Mandingo fighting purposes, and Django pretends to be a free man who also owns slaves. The two unlikely friends head to Mississippi.

As soon as Django and Schultz get to Candieland, Candie’s plantation, Candie’s house slave, Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) is immediately suspicious of Django and Schultz and convinced that Django and Hildy know each other.  Will Django and Schultz execute their plan?  Does Stephen share his suspicions with Candie?

Let me preface this section of the review by stating that I am a big Quentin Tarantino  fan, I can find something good to say about most of his movies, except perhaps  From Dusk to Dawn, which was generally a waste of celluloid.  I thought that my Favorite Tarantino movie was Inglorious Basterds, but now it is Django Unchained.  It’s a big, bold western, which is a conglomeration of a lot of movies, it’s a western, it’s a buddy movie, it’s a revenge fantasy, and it’s all very well made.  Django is reminiscent of Ethan Edwards, John Wayne’s character in John Ford’s classic western, The Searchers.  Neither Django or Ethan are very nice,  they both are on a very personal mission, Django to find his wife, Ethan to find his daughter, and neither really cares who gets in their way, they will go around over, and through anyone who stands in their way.

Sure it’s violent, but much of that violence is illustrative of the inhumanity associated with slavery, and for that, this movie deserves to be lauded.  Slavery was a violent business and the brutality of the trading of human beings should never be sanitized.  Django  Unchained is also a very funny movie, but people never remember the humor in a Tarantino film, choosing to emphasize the violence.

The acting is superb.  Before I saw this movie, I wondered if Christoph Waltz was really deserving of another Oscar, he absolutely was.  He gives a joyous performance, a lot of the fun, the personality, the chemistry in the movie came as a result of Waltz’s performance.  Leonardo DeCaprio’s performance is remarkable, smiling one moment and snarling the next, he really should have been nominated for an Oscar, this was his best performance ever, and it is coming off a clunker as Hoover in J Edgar.  Samuel L. Jackson was also superb, in heavy makeup to make him look older, his character is seething, at the idea of being a slave, he is incredibly jealous of Django, and the fact that he has to bow and scrape to a free black man. This is truly Jackson’s best performance since Pulp Fiction.  I wish I could be as enthusiastic about Jamie Foxx, but I can’t, he just didn’t fit this movie.  There were other actors who could have done this role better, Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard, even Will Smith, who was offered this role, could have done better.  I liked Foxx in Ray, but not any role since then.

Tarantino is at the height of his writing and directorial powers with this movie, it is literally an epic. The characters are on a quest, a journey, and Tarantino knows how to write and direct an epic adventure movie, something as simple as the interplay between action and music makes this movie so much more enjoyable than the average movie. And the choice of music is spectacular, everything from classical to Richie Havens to rap music, just an outstanding soundtrack. There is an earlier version of Django, but I don’t think it had the scope or vision of Django  Unchained.  Unchained took on issues such as slavery and racism, head on.  The earlier Django was a spaghetti western with Franco Nero.  It might have been the inspiration for Django Unchained, but that’s all.

Django Unchained.  Liberate yourself from ordinary filmmaking.


Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a corporate spy, he steals secrets from one company and sell them to another company.  But  this is not your average corporate espionage, because Cobb possesses an extraordinary skill, he can enter people’s dreams and steal their ideas.  After a failed attempt to obtain expansion secrets from a Japanese CEO named Saito,(Ken Wattanabe) Saito decides to spare Cobb’s life, if Cobb agrees to spy on the heir of a financial rival named  Robert Fischer Jr, (Cillian Murphy) This time, instead of stealing an idea, Cobb must implant an idea into Fischer’s subconscious, namely the idea that Fischer should break up his father’s company and forgo his own inheritance.

Cobb needs an architect to build a credible dream to make Fisher believe that giving up his inheritance and breaking up his company was his own idea.  Cobb used to be an architect of such dreams, but he is suspected of killing his wife Mal ( Marion Cortillard) and is tortured by thoughts of her death. Cobb uses the skills of a talented young dream architect named Ariadne (Ellen Page dig three levels into Fischer’s subconscious to implant the thought, but as Cobb digs deeper into Fischer’s subconscious, he delves deeper into his own troubled memories of his wife.. Does Cobb implant the idea in Fischer’s mind?Is his world real or a dream? Does Cobb win his freedom?

This is a very original story written by Christopher Nolan, who has written the Dark Knight and Memento, it is at best a Freudian psychological thriller.  Did he kill his wife?  Or are his dreams blurring his ability to tell reality from fiction?  This movie is reminiscent of the Matrix, in that there are two realities, the real world and the dream world, which world is real and which is dream?  The answer becomes ever fuzzier.  If I have a quibble with this movie, and it is a quibble because it is a wonderfully creative film, the quibble is that the dreams are too linear and logical and do not have the irrational quality of most dreams.  DiCaprio is scintillating as a man walking a tightrope between sanity and insanity.  The pain and loss he feels about his wife is palpable.  Cortillard is visually and emotionally stunning, the chemistry between her and DiCaprio is unmistakable, they light up the screen when they’re in the same scenes together.  The casting of Ellen Page was questionable, but even she fits in after a while.  DiCaprio was also aided by a strong supporting performance by Joseph Gordon Levitt, as DiCaprio’s assistant Arthur. Inception is a superbly thought provoking original, creative film.

Inception.  Don’t sleep on this movie.