Showing posts with label Leonardo DiCaprio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leonardo DiCaprio. Show all posts

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Gangs of New York

It’s been a couple of years since my last viewing of Martin Scorsese’s historical epic, Gangs of New York. It’s a movie I’ve seen several times since I first saw it in 2002 as my first ‘18’ rated movie at the cinema. It’s a film I’ve always had a lot of affection for. I found it strange then that on this particular viewing, the movie had lost a lot of its charm.

Loosely based on the 1928 book of the same name, Gangs of New York is a dirty and blood-soaked account of the various gangs which vied for control over New York City’s Five Points in the middle of the 19th Century. Focussing specifically on two characters, it takes historical context and real names, mixing them into a world of fact and fiction with some glorious set pieces and cinematic design. Having witnessed his father’s death at the hands of Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) as a young child, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo Di Caprio) comes back to the Five Points as an adult to reap revenge. He finds the Points much the same as he left it; a squalid and rat infested mismatch of languages and races, the very thing which Cutting despises about the area in which he is King.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese’s latest motion picture comes hurling towards its audience as though thrown from an amusement park ride. Loud, vulgar and covered in vomit, it’s the director’s most controversial movie in years, not to mention his longest and perhaps his most unabashed. The auteur is proving that even into his seventies he still has the power to enthral, entertain and repulse with a wild film about greed and intemperance. The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the memoir of the same name written by Jordan Belfort, a former New York stockbroker who lived a life filled with excess thanks to his shady stock market dealings in the 1980s and 90s.

Joining Scorsese for a fifth time as lead actor is Leonardo DiCaprio who plays Belfort with all the grace, charm and sophistication you expect from a Wall Street swindler. DiCaprio is nasty, vile, cruel and disgusting and yet you can’t help love both him and the character as you watch him snort cocaine from a hooker’s anus or throw hundred dollar bills in the trash. He’s made it, he’s living the American dream and he’s loving every minute of it. Criticism has come from the fact that the central character suffers no real comeuppance, no fall from grace. I disagree slightly with this but would also argue that Scorsese and screenwriter Terrance Winter are showing you how it is. The bad guy doesn’t always lose and in this case, he might not win all the time but it makes no difference. You know he’s a dick and you know he’s in the wrong but you also know that you want what he’s got.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Great Gatsby

Sited by many as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a book that I have never read. As a result this review will be based purely on the Baz Lehrmann film and not informed in any way, shape or form by the source text. Lehrmann is a director who I generally have little time for. His in your face, ultra heightened fantasy style is not normally to my liking but a film set amongst the excess of post war, roaring 20s is the sort of project which may perfectly suit his visual eye. With The Great Gatsby, Lehrmann creates a film which is full of cinematic choices which are both at the same time wrong and fitting and while I don’t necessarily agree with all (or in fact most of his choices), he has created a film which sets itself apart from the competition and is both bold and exciting.

Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is a graduate of Yale University who moves to New York’s Long Island, home of the rich and famous, with the hopes of making his fortune in the blossoming stock market on Wall Street, twenty miles to the west. Carraway’s neighbour is an enigmatic figure called Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who few know or have even met, yet a man whose name and lavish parties are known by everyone from Senators to starlets to smugglers. Gatsby befriends his neighbour but remains somewhat aloof until one day when the rich inscrutable Gatsby requests help in setting up a meeting between himself and Carraway’s beautiful but married cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan), a woman not unknown to Gatsby.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Django Unchained

After years of threatening to do so, Quentin Tarantino has finally made his Western, or Southern as he would have it known. Django Unchained takes place in 1858 in Texas and its surrounding states. On the eve of the Civil War and with slavery still thriving in the South, a German Dentist called Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) comes across a slave he has been looking for called Django (Jamie Foxx). Shultz, a Dentist turned bounty hunter frees Django on the promise that the former slave will help him track down three overseers who Django can recognise. Once the men are dead and Shultz has his bounty, he promises Django $75 dollars and a horse but decides to further help the man when he discovers that his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) has been cruelly separated from her husband and sold to the wicked Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio).

As with any Tarantino film there have been moths of anticipation for the release of Django Unchained and the fact that it received five Oscar nominations and two Golden Globe wins before it was even released in the UK further heightened my excitement for its arrival. In the end the film doesn’t disappoint. It is a fantastic mix of drama, comedy, cruelty and violence and features a typically excellent screenplay and some terrific performances but a plodding finale and long run time stop it from in my eyes joining the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction at the top of the Director’s cannon.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

J. Edgar

Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, January release, biopic. All of these things scream Oscar bait but disappointingly the film doesn’t deliver.

Based on the life of J. Edgar Hoover and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role, director Clint Eastwood has delivered a solid if unremarkable film that skirts around the edges of much of Hoover’s life without delving deeply into any facet of it.

I found the film quite dull which it shouldn’t have been. Hoover was the head of the FBI for nearly forty years, serving under eight Presidents and responsible for introducing much of the scientific methods used to solve crimes today. He was also widely rumoured to be homosexual and that his long term second in command was, in fact, also his lover. Hoover also had secret files on thousands of high ranking political figures which he was able to use for his and the FBI’s own personal gain. With all that to work with it is perhaps surprising that the film is as boring as it is.

DiCaprio delivers a convincing performance as Hoover although one is sometimes reminded of his Howard Hughes in The Aviator, a vastly superior film. Armie Hammer, last seen playing twins in The Social Network plays Clyde Tolson with authority and is only let down by some dodgy prosthetics in scenes set in later life. Despite this, I felt that he played the older Tolson particularly well. Naomi Watts is given little to do as Helen Gandy, Hoover’s long time secretary but again excels playing the older version of Gandy. There is recognisable affection between Hoover and Tolson which is most obviously shown by Hammer who provides just enough bodhi to show that he has strong feelings for Hoover.

It is perhaps because we know so little about Hoover’s private life that the film is unable to give us many answers as to why he was the man he was. There are hints that his mother, played by Judi Dench, forced him to attempt to become as powerful as possible and her disdain of homosexuality gives some insight as to the secrecy of his personal life but the film is very balanced and unable to get off the fence. One scene in which Hoover wears his late mother’s dress and necklace could be viewed as either a way for him to grieve, to finally let his sexuality out or a combination of both.

Overall the film has a decent stab at portraying the life of one of the most powerful and controversial figures of the 20th Century but because of who Hoover was and because of who was behind the film, I expected more.

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