Tag Archives: Leonardo DiCaprio

Interview: Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and the Team Behind Wolf of Wall Street

Wolf_of_Wall_StreetIt isn’t easy getting a movie made, even for guys like Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese. Then again, considering the duo was out to make a movie about a notorious stockbroker with an insatiable sexual drive, obsessive lust for drugs and habit of indulging in highly debauch activities, it is somewhat understandable that studios were hesitant to bring Jordan Belfort’s story to screen.

The Wolf of Wall Street covers Belfort’s (DiCaprio) rise in the stockbroking realm in the 1990s. He walks in hungry for money, but strives to attain it honestly. However, the instant he gets a taste of life with the big bucks, it flips a switch and he’s got no problem throwing all of his morals out the window in exchange for enormous paychecks, an endless supply of Quaaludes and the ability to keep his firm on top, even if he has to scam his clients to make it happen.

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Review: The Great Gatsby

The-Great-Gatsby-PosterBaz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” is brimming with stellar components – it’s just too bad they never really come together.

Like the F. Scott Fitzgerald book, “The Great Gatsby” is told from the perspective of Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway. He comes to New York City to work as a bonds salesman and settles down in a little cottage on Long Island right across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Nick doesn’t fit into the ritzy West Egg lifestyle, but soon enough he’s tagging along with Tom to drink it up with his mistress Myrtle (Isla Fisher) and her friends, and attending the hottest parties in town – the ones held at his neighbor’s home, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).

The film’s excellent performances, booming music selection, and mesmerizing visuals all work wonders on their own, but do little to support or enhance one another, ultimately making storytelling feel secondary to the spectacle.

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Review: Django Unchained

Django-Unchained-PosterYou can always count on Quentin Tarantino to go big and take chances to offer up some of the most wildly engaging, entertaining and all-around enjoyable experiences cinema’s got to offer.

Amidst a treacherous trek across the country, Django (Jamie Foxx) and his new slave owners are intercepted by the bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). The next kill on Schultz’s list are the notorious Brittle Brothers, but he doesn’t know what they look like. However, Django does. After a little unorthodox bartering, Schultz makes off with Django, but not as his slave, rather as an associate.

Django rides by Schultz’s side, learning the ways of the bounty hunter and helping Schultz complete his gigs. In turn, Schultz offers to help track down and rescue Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from her new owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Trouble is, Candie isn’t a particularly nice guy, and he’ll never sell Broomhilda to Schultz if Schultz rides up to the estate alongside a black man and simply asks. If Schultz and Django are going to get her back, they’ll need to make Candie think he’s got the upper hand in an incredible deal.

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Review: Inception

Why do we dream? Does anyone really know for sure? Probably not, but writer-director Christopher Nolan takes a stab at breaking down the structure of a dream and the influence of the subconscious in Inception. There’s nothing more perplexing than the unknown and Nolan uses that to his advantage. It’s one thing to simply make up a story about a theoretical concept, but it’s another to come up with a scenario and actually make it feel real and that’s exactly what he achieves in Inception. It may be Nolan’s dream world, but it’s so exciting, so disturbing and seems so authentic, you might start to wonder.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an extractor. He’s employed to sneak into people’s dreams and steal their secrets. Turns out the gig comes with some serious baggage and Cobb wants out, but the only way he can safely return home is by completing one last job for a businessman named Saito (Ken Watanabe). The problem is, Saito doesn’t want Cobb to snatch someone’s secret information, he wants him to do the unthinkable, plant an idea in a subject’s mind – inception.

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Better on the Page: ‘Shutter Island’ Demystified

Shutter Island was the hottest new thing from Martin Scorsese for quite a while, not just because it featured a massive topnotch cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, but because the film was delayed. We got all pumped for October 2nd, 2009 just to find out we’d have to wait until February 19th, 2010, only a month and half before the big day. Why did the news sting so badly? Because I took the time to read the Dennis Lehane novel it was adapted from and absolutely loved it.

I’m not a big reader to being with. I was one of those kids in high school who immediately ran to Blockbuster or sifted through the CliffNotes library in search of an easy way out as soon as a book was assigned. Textbook reading kept me busy through college, but upon entering the real world, in my very first job post-graduation particularly, I realized there was a lot of down time to be filled. I worked as a local news “news assistant,” which is basically a camera person and producer combined. I’d sit outside a courthouse for hours waiting to catch a ten second quote from a defendant or in the parking lot of a police precinct until I could get a shot of a perp stepping into a cop car. Combine all that downtime with my movie obsession and you get my favorite hobby, reading books being adapted to film.

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Review: Shutter Island

Handling a major plot twist is no easy task. Letting it go unnoticed is not fun for the audience, but slipping and providing a hint so substantial will make the investigation work too easy. Shutter Island runs into trouble with both, but particularly the latter. Dennis Lehane’s novel is so effective because it requires the reader to use the mind and develop his or her own perception. Martin Scorsese’s film, on the other hand, blatantly lays out all of the details and attempts to throw you off track with elements that feel misplaced.

Two ‘duly appointed Federal Marshals’ (in DiCaprio’s Boston accent, of course) are assigned to investigate a missing persons case. But this is no ordinary missing person. Rachel Solando is a patient at Ashecliffe Hospital on Shutter Island, a facility for the insanely dangerous. From the moment they step foot on the island Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) get a taste of the amalgamation of warmth, eeriness and violence Ashecliffe has to offer.

Employees like Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Deputy Warden McPherson (John Carroll Lynch) are eager to help with the investigation, but it’s clear their keenness has its limits. As the investigation continues an intense storm bears down on the island and Teddy begins to uncover the hospital’s darker side, which he suspects involves immoral medical experiments. Additionally, Teddy’s own demons come to the forefront in the form of debilitating migraines and sinister dreams of his late wife. The further he digs, the clearer it becomes that something is amiss at Ashcliffe and he’s about to be consumed by it.

Shutter Island is reliant on its eeriness as is Ashcliffe Hospital. From the moment the film begins, a bold score provides a backbone for a series of grayscale images and a terribly troubled looking DiCaprio. Those colorless moments are contradicted by more vibrant shots of the facility grounds. The beautiful courtyard is peppered with disturbed patients demonstrating their lunacy, offering a successfully troublesome paradox.

The uneasiness breaks down as the job of creating apprehension is passed on to the hospital staff. Rather than offer subtle hints that something isn’t quite right, Dr. Cawley and his team provide an overdose making the audience’s game of playing detective nearly effortless. The twist isn’t given away completely, but viewers are put on the right track much too early taking the suspense out of the latter portion of the film.

Occasionally Teddy’s dream sequences help break up the monotony of him and Chuck lurking around the hospital premises. This is where the cinematography is at its height. Director of Photography Robert Richardson is on point the entire film, but it’s during Teddy’s fantasies that the imagery becomes the key to making the occurrence so powerful. These dreams are very strange and somewhat hard to digest. This is appropriate considering the nature of the material, but Scorsese takes it a step too far showing a few overly graphic scenes involving children. Rather than purport the intended effect illuminating the drastic plight of the characters, its high degree of aversion removes the viewer from the moment.

That’s the film’s sole disconnect. Even with the lack of tension, Shutter Island is still engaging, which is largely due to stellar performances. First and foremost, DiCaprio is the heart of this film. For any sane individual the happenings on Shutter Island are nearly impossible to understand, but DiCaprio’s ability to effectively portray every asset of Teddy’s disturbed mind makes it seem impossibly real. The rest of the cast does a fine job, but the two that stand out are Emily Mortimer and Jackie Earl Haley both of whom are responsible for the film’s most memorable and threatening moments. The sole character that doesn’t have a lasting effect is Chuck. This is the result of poor adaptation work rather than a weak performance. Not enough attention is paid to the connection between Teddy and Chuck making Teddy’s dedication to Chuck unjustifiable.

Regardless of the errors made throughout the film, the ultimate sentiment will rely on the reaction to the ending. There is a twist and it’s a big one. Rather than pave a smooth path to the finale, Scorsese jerks the audience around between blatant revelations and confusing diversions. Eventually the all too obvious hints overcome the attempts at maintaining the uncertainty and the outcome is less rewarding than it could have been.

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It’s Time To Grow Up: Books To Read Before Seeing The Movies

I hated reading in high school. In fact, I don’t think I ever read a book assigned in its entirety. It wasn’t that I was rebelling against being forced to read a particular book; I was a good student and almost always did what I was told. I could have picked up a book in my spare time, but I had better things to do. It wasn’t until I had nothing better to do with my free time, that I gave reading a chance.

My first job after graduating from college was a News Assistant at NY1 News. Being a News Assistant is an extremely physically demand job – I’m a small girl who was carrying 60 lbs. in camera equipment ten hours a day – but there’s also a ton of down time. One day, I waited over four hours for a perpetrator to be escorted from a prison to a waiting car. (Yes, capturing a perp walk is that important in local news.) I was desperate for entertainment and that desperation was sated by the medium I despised most, books.

I didn’t do a complete turnaround and become an avid reader. There’s one rule to my book selection process: the book must be in the process of being adapted to film or optioned for adaption. Clearly my passion is film. Combine the entertainment of reading a book with a passion and you get the ultimate source of pleasure. Even beyond the immediacy of the entertainment derived from reading, having read a book before seeing the film adaption is one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever experienced.

The whole process is fascinating; to see who’s cast, what they look like in full costume, seeing the story unfold on screen, even assessing what portions of the book are translated and what parts are removed. When you read a book without accompanied imagery, you’re creating a world using your imagination. Yes, a good author will provide a detailed narrative so the reader can properly assemble the environment the writer strives to convey, but every reader’s world differs to a point. Then, when you see that world come to life on film, the wheels in your mind spin nearly out of control. You’re not just a spectator; you’re part of the film. It’s not just the author’s story being brought to life, it’s yours too.

Most of you will get this experience when you check out Where the Wild Things Are on October 16th, but there’s a whole bunch of movies coming out soon that find their origins in fantastic books. Here are a few you might want to read before seeing the movie.

ShutterIslandCoverShutter Island
I currently have a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Shutter Island. Not that I don’t expect the film to be any good, I’m just bitter that I have to wait so long to see it. The film adaption of Dennis Lehane’s novel was due to hit theaters this month, but recently was pushed back to a February 2010 release. Maybe I’ll just have to read the book again. It’s about two U.S. Deputy Marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, who are sent to Shutter Island to investigate a missing persons case. This isn’t just any missing person; Rachel Solando is a patient at Shutter Island’s Ashecliffe Psychiatric Hospital, home of the criminally insane. This book makes your head spin so much you’ll feel like an Ashecliffe patient yourself.
(In Theaters February 19th, 2010)

DerbyGirlCover
Derby Girl
You’re probably more familiar with the name of the feature film version of this book, Whip It. The book is about a young girl named Bliss Cavendar who’d rather get rowdy on the roller derby track than participate in beauty pageants. Knowing her parents will not approve of her new hobby, Bliss sneaks off to the Doll House to kick some ass as Babe Ruthless of the Hurl Scouts. The character Bliss screams Ellen Page. Think a non-pregnant Juno with athleticism. A fun side note, the author of Derby Girl, Shauna Cross, is a member of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls roller derby league. She also wrote the screenplay for Whip It. The movie already hit theaters, but Derby Girl is a quick read and still worth checking out post-film.
(In Theaters October 2nd, 2009)

UpInTheAirCoverUp In The Air
With all of the Oscar buzz surrounding Up In The Air, reading the Walter Kim novel the film is based on is a must. George Clooney plays the lead character, Ryan Bingham, a guy who travels the country working as a career transition counselor. Simply put, he flies around the country firing people. Ryan’s somber line of work and lack of a social life are of no concern to him. He has something much more important to worry about, earning one million frequent flyer miles. After reading the book it was very hard to imagine it being successfully translated to film. It has a plot, but it doesn’t seem strong enough to drive a feature length film. I guess when you have Jason Reitman behind the lens and George Clooney in front of it, anything is possible.
(Limited Release on December 4th, 2009. Opens Wide on December 25th, 2009)

TheLovelyBonesCoverThe Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones is one of the most moving pieces of literature I’ve ever read. By the time you finish it, you’ll have gone through an incredible range of emotions. It’s about a young girl named Susie Salmon who’s brutally murdered on her way home from school. From there we see her watch over her family from heaven and how her passing changes their lives. While the book may be perfect for film, it’s also a very temperamental piece. Depicting heaven on the big screen can go one of two ways; it can be completely rejected or wholeheartedly embraced. Based on the trailer and early buzz about the film, Peter Jackson will not disappoint. On the other hand, I can’t say the same for Mark Wahlbeg. Thanks to his performance in The Happening and Andy Samberg’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, it’ll be difficult to take his performance seriously.
(Limited Release on December 11th, 2009. Opens Wide on January 15th, 2010)

TwelveCoverTwelve
Now this is a film that deserves much more attention than it’s been getting. Not only does Twelve have a fantastic cast, but the book that it’s based on is phenomenal. It was written by Nick McDonell when he was just 17-years-old. It’s about a bunch of kids, mostly wealthy, living in Manhattan and the impact drugs, sex and violence have on their lives. Chace Crawford will play the main character, White Mike, an extremely bright student known for selling the best marijuana money can buy but never indulging in any alcohol or drugs himself. I certainly wasn’t picturing White Mike to be as pretty as Crawford, but I’ll sacrifice my imagination to be able to look at Crawford for a couple of hours. Another unusual casting choice is Rory Culkin. I think he’s a fantastic actor, but for obvious reasons, I just don’t see him playing a tall basketball player. Anyway, the best part of the book is the climax. You become so absorbed with the characters that when that grand ending comes you’ll be in a serious state of shock. Seriously.
(In Theaters 2010)

YouthInRevoltCoverYouth In Revolt
If you read any of these books before seeing their film counterparts, Youth In Revolt by C.D. Payne should be the one. A movie with a cast including Michael Cera, Justin Long, Zach Galifianakis, Ray Liotta and Steve Buscemi sounds like a guaranteed success, but it can also turn the tale from a humorous yet meaningful coming-of-age story into a comedic absurdity. Cera plays Nick Twisp, a kid who takes teenage rebellion to the extreme. He starts out as a guy who isn’t thrilled with the parents he’s been given and turns into a wrecking crew when his love for a girl he meets on a family trip drives him insane. With the help of his alter ego, Francois Dillinger, Nick is willing to do just about anything to win Sheeni’s heart. Removing portions of a lengthy book to turn it into a movie is necessary but can be detrimental. Taking out particular parts of Youth in Revolt can easily strip the story of its warmth and turn it into any old teen comedy.
(In Theaters January 15th, 2010)

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