Leonardo DiCaprio

Django Unchained

RYAN’S REVIEW

We finally made it out to see this film yesterday.  I had been anticipating the film for some time and went in with really high hopes.  I can thankfully report that I walked away more than satisfied and if I had the opportunity to do so would have turned around and went right back in to see it again.  This movie was so satisfyingly violent and savage throughout and I couldn’t have loved that more about it.  I think the script was clever and well written, probably one of the best Tarantino has written but that is hard to say.  What surprised me the most is how funny it all was. His movies have always had an element of wit to them that could make you laugh but this one was all out funny.  The humor seemed to balance out all of the obscenity and ferocity of the situation in my opinion.

I have heard much said about the controversial nature of the film both with how slavery is so brutally covered and how the “N-word” is so pervasive in the film.  Why though? What so many have seen as offensive I have only seen as necessary to the film he was trying to make.  I despise all racial slurs, and the people that make them but this was a movie set in 1858.  That word was used then with a frequency that not even modern rappers could keep up with today.  I don’t see a problem with how Tarantino used it, or how he didn’t make any effort to sugarcoat slavery.  Slavery was awful and brutal in this country and there is no way to truly make a film about it without getting your hands dirty. I studied history in college and my senior seminar class was specifically about slavery.  Slavery happened all over the world and every race was enslaved at one point or another.  The difference here is that it developed in this new country as the rest of the world was giving up on an outdated practice.  Not only that but the most significant difference in this country is how it became a specifically racial issue with one specific race being subjugated into the role of slave.  It was awful and unfair but it was done and what is done is done and can’t be changed.  All we can do now is to learn from it, prevent it from being that way now or in the future but that has never happened.  There are too many conflicting feelings from people in regards to the topic.  The memory of slavery invokes anger, disappointment, shame, rage, pity, and unfortunately there are always going to be those awful people out there that get satisfaction out of it. Most of the feelings invoked by that memory are understandable but still lead to deepening the divide among us all. As for the movie I will admit I don’t think it is entirely appropriate for a white man to be the one behind camera doing all of this, but I don’t think he did anything disrespectful or outlandish.

I think the cast of this film did an excellent job.  I think Christoph Waltz may have been a bit better in Inglourious Basterds but only because his performance as Colonel Hans Landa was so good I don’t think it can be topped.  I think he was great in this movie and I think he has so much to offer us in the future, he is an outstanding actor.  I think Jamie Foxx was great in the lead role.  Leonardo DiCaprio was awesome as the vile and violently unpredictable Calvin Candie. Samuel L. Jackson was really good, as always, but I really didn’t like the role that he played despite how well he did it.  Walton Goggins fits these kinds of roles a bit too well but I am a big fan of his work on The Shield and Justified.  There are great cameos from Jonah Hill, Don Johnson, Tom Savini, and probably a few others I am forgetting.  The one awful decision Tarantino made in this film was inserting himself into it.  I think he is a great filmmaker but leaves far too much to be desired as an actor.  I liked his part in Reservoir Dogs but it should have ended there.  I don’t know why he is still doing this but he shouldn’t. This time around he reaches far too much and goes for an Australian accent; I shook my head at that point.  He had a perfect movie in the works progressing right before my eyes and he stumbled there for a moment.

I thought this movie was absolutely incredible and I can’t wait to buy it and watch it again down the road. I’ll say the only thing that I didn’t like about the movie was the experience we had watching it in the theater.  The movie has been out for a while now but there was still a good crowd for the first showing on a Saturday afternoon.  However the audience was so unique.  It was practically a split between African-Americans and full blown rednecks garbed in overalls, hunting camo, and aggressive beards.  That kind of division really gave off an awkward vibe that we may have felt more because we somehow ended up literally sitting on a row with differing groups sitting in the opposite rows before and after us.  The Rednecks made me uncomfortable, specifically because I assume they took very different things from this movie than I did.  Wrong to assume I know, but those people were more like the white people in the movie and that’s unfortunate.  It will better to watch the movie in the privacy of my own home or with whoever I choose to watch it with.

If you are on the fence about this one I obviously strongly recommend it. However if you aren’t cool with violence in movies or profanity this is not the movie for you. To say the very least it is about ten steps past extremely graphic and it is not for the tender-hearted.  The violence is part of what make this movie great though, and in so many ways it is practically Tarantino’s calling card.  This movie is long as hell with a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes but I can say with certainty that it is well worth that time.

Inception

Year: 2010
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Christopher Nolan

RYAN’S REVIEW

When this movie hit theaters back in 2010 Amber and I were front and center, eagerly waiting to see it.  I distinctly remember sitting there thinking about how I really had no idea what this movie was actually about.  The advertisement was specifically vague and didn’t offer much insight into the plot.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what it was about though.  It was the new Christopher Nolan movie and it was going to be awesome.  With Nolan, the fact that it is going to be awesome is practically guaranteed. Needless to say, the movie was awesome and I went on to see it in the theater three times overall. That’s a steep number by today’s standards but it says something about how incredible the film is.

This movie hits on all levels.  It’s made by one of the best in the business; it has an outstanding cast, and a story that is truly original in a time when original ideas aren’t hitting the big screen. This movie came out when 3D ruled more than any other time.  For this movie to be so visually dazzling without that effect says more than can be put into words about the director.  Christopher Nolan has been on the rise for some time and this was to date the best he has done. As for the 3D effect I will say this, it was badass when James Cameron did it but everything else has been only a waste of time.  Nolan is a director smart enough to know that and he specifically doesn’t use it in his film.  Clearly, he doesn’t have to. In this movie he made something that can’t be matched, and the scenes without gravity are truly incredible.  Nolan also has an interesting ability to convey violence without actually showing it.  This ability allows him to get the PG-13 rating coveted by studios because of the extra money it brings in.  If I remember correctly this movie was an idea Nolan created in his youth, and he waited for the technology to be available to film it.  I was ill when I first heard about this movie because I was impatiently anticipating the next Batman movie and the making of this would only delay it.  When I saw the movie I didn’t mind but it only made me anticipate Nolan’s next film more.  Too much in fact because I was really disappointed with The Dark Knight RisesMy disappointment over Nolan’s final Batman notwithstanding I still believe in him and I will be excited about any film he is involved with.

The cast of this film is jam-packed with talent. It begins with the lead role of Cobb.  In which Nolan chose to cast the best in the business.  Leonardo DiCaprio in my opinion is the cream of the crop, greatest actor of his era hands down.  His track record speaks for itself and how he has managed to not win numerous awards is beyond me.  The Academy doesn’t like him for some reason but that doesn’t change the fact that he is the best there is. He has worked with nearly every important director out there and he has been in some of the best movies I have ever seen.  I think he is a bit out shined in this movie by some of the others but if anything it’s only because being great comes so natural to this guy. DiCaprio performs his part so deftly it’s easy to take his talent for granted. DiCaprio may be the best in the business but in this film Joseph Gordon-Levitt outperformed him.  I have watched Gordon-Levitt since his days on Third Rock from the Sun and I am thoroughly impressed with how his career has blossomed.  He owns it in this movie and deserves to be remembered forever for the performance. This was the first movie I had seen Tom Hardy in but he left an impression as well.  I am a big fan of Ken Watanabe and obviously Christopher Nolan is too because he casts him often.  Nolan likes Cillian Murphy as well and I think that’s cool because the guy fits into all his movies perfectly. I always liked Tom Berenger and really liked seeing him in a significant role in a new movie. This was one of the last movies Pete Postlethwaite appeared in before his death, he was a significant loss as he has been part of many good movies.   Last but not least, although his role was small Michael Caine still managed to bring plenty to the film.  Nolan has cast him in every movie he has made over the last several years and for good reason.

The female leads were just as good as the male.  I had never heard of Marion Cotillard before seeing this movie but I am aware she has had a long career in foreign film.  I think she was terrific in this movie. She has a look that can turn you cold and her character is wildly unpredictable. I was also unfamiliar with Ellen Page but I think she brought a lot to the film too. She infuses the cast with youth and fits the part of the college student well. Most people know her from the film Juno, but that it still sitting on my “to-watch list” and has been for some time.

The biggest thing that makes this movie great is that it’s a movie unlike any you have ever seen before.  It has a wildly imaginative story that is truly original in an era where most of what is hitting theaters are remakes and continuations of outdated franchises.  I think this movie proves there is still a place in the industry for original ideas, whether they confuse half of the viewers or not. This movie did seem to confuse a lot of people but I don’t know why.  It may be a bit much for the close minded viewer but I didn’t have any problem at all following it.  In the end when the Cobb’s top keeps spinning I think that it suggests that he is in fact still in limbo.  The fact that he walks away before seeing it fall simply means that he no longer cares if he is or isn’t in reality anymore.  He would rather see his kids again regardless what it means.  Cobb may have never come back to reality but it was possibly still a happy ending for him despite that.

This movie was very successful when it came out two years ago and for a while became the thing everybody talked about.  If you managed to miss it then it is more than worth your time to try to see it now.  With an excellent cast, one of the best directors out there, and a story that thinks outside of the box it is definitely a must see.  I really enjoyed it and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I love this one. It reminds me a lot of my favorite movie of all time, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I like the intricacies of this film. It is so in depth and if you aren’t paying attention to every minute, it is easy to get lost. This movie was made for movie lovers. The ones that watch and take everything in. The ones that are judging every scene, every sentence, everything. This movie is unexplainable; all that is explainable is that it is worth watching. Period.

This is one of my favorite ones to write about. I really like this poster. The world is turned up on itself, which is pretty much what happens when you dream. The laws of physics do not apply. I like the allusion to this in this poster. The font choice is bold and red is a perfect color. Once you have seen it, or even if you have seen this trailer, you can almost hear the “BOOOOOONNNNNNGGGG” sound when you look at the title. The only thing I think is unfortunate about this one is that the cast is standing in the street like that. I understand that they were trying to give as much billing to the characters as possible, but they have them standing around in the street and it looks like a Christian Rock group’s cover photo. Just my opinion, of course…but I don’t like it. It’s campy. Otherwise, this is a beautifully done poster.

NEXT MOVIE: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Gangs of New York

Year: 2002
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan

RYAN’S REVIEW

I remember when this movie first came out in theaters, it was the year I graduated high school.  I didn’t see it in the theaters but I remember running into some friends coming out of the theater when they had just seen it and I was on the way to see something else. I had been reading about this movie and knew of it for some time.  It was delayed time and time again before its release, once because of the 9/11 crisis. It was the new movie by Martin Scorsese though and the delays only made me look forward to it more.  I was a big fan of Goodfellas and Taxi Driver so I was really interested in the film despite not being at the theater to see it then.  I asked them if the movie was any good and I will never forget what they said.  They looked at me with a disappointed expression and said “It was bloody” and another said “it was really violent.” What they said was all in their tone though.  I had not seen this movie but somehow I knew, I didn’t know how but somehow I just knew that they were wrong.  These guys weren’t good friends but they were friends and somewhere deep down I never looked at any of them the same after that.  Once I actually saw the film the verdict was in, these friends had no taste and they didn’t have enough sense to appreciate something so incredible. Not to mention that I found myself wondering before and after seeing it ‘what kind of guy finds something too violent or bloody?’ I have lost touch with those friends since high school and I’m OK with it, somehow it is all because of this movie.

I remember looking forward to the DVD release of this movie quite a bit since I never ended up seeing it in the theater. Our movie collection was young at that time and DVDs were quite costly then.  Not too expensive but much more so then they are now. What I mean by that is that at the time this collection was a slower work in progress.  I didn’t buy DVDs carelessly not only because I could not afford to but because it was much more expensive to do so back then.  Yet when this movie came out on DVD I went to the store and bought it on the day it was released without having ever seen it. It was a gamble that paid off well.  This is one of my favorite movies ever from Martin Scorsese, in my opinion it might be his best film.  That is a tough thing to say because there is a lot of steep competition.  Martin Scorsese is one of the men that made film making what it is today. He has been making great movies for over forty years.  His contributions to the industry will be studied 100 years from now and then some.  One day he will leave behind a legacy that will turn him into a legend.  This film is my favorite of the ones that make the legend that is Scorsese.

Before this movie I had a certain impression of Leonardo DiCaprio, and it wasn’t really good. I was a teen during the time Titanic came out I came to dislike DiCaprio the same way that most young men don’t like Justin Bieber now.  He’s the guy that all the teen girls go nuts over and it is annoying to the point you find yourself disliking them.  This changed all of that in the case of Dicaprio, I saw the value that in truth had been there all along I was just too foolish and immature to admit it.  DiCaprio is the best actor in the business hands down. He is great at choosing roles and he has an ability that is impressive.  With this movie he effectively became Scorsese’s De Niro of the 21st century as well with many more collaboration to follow. He can use a wide range of dialects and he has worked with many of the greatest directors out there. It was this film that changed my impression of him and I have since looked forward to every film he has made. I imagine that DiCaprio is the kind of actor that would learn from the greats when he had a chance and during this film he got to work with one of the best of all time.

Daniel Day-Lewis had been retired before this movie came out and was persuaded out of it by direct involvement from Scorsese and I think DiCaprio too. It’s a good thing he decided to get back in the game because he gave one of the greatest performances I have ever seen in any movie. He has since remained unretired and I am grateful for that because I think he has a lot to offer. Day-Lewis is a notorious actor as far as his methods go.  He stays in character at all times during filming and that kind of dedication clearly pays off for him. He gets to know his character on a different level and I think you can see that in his work.  As Bill the Butcher he scared me.  He was so intimidating in this role that his persona came through into reality and struck fear into my soul.  He was that good.  There is so much about films that is predictable, but when I watched this for the first time I had no idea what the Butcher might do at any time and it was thrilling.  There are only a handful of characters in film that can provoke that kind of feeling, the Butcher is one of them. The intimidation that he invokes, the power that he commands, and his strange sense of honor make him a character for the ages.  I think he was robbed of the Academy Award that year and I have never felt that Daniel Day-Lewis got enough credit for this part.  His accent  was really incredible, as I understand it he spoke in that accent throughout his time working on the film.  The character that he plays Bill “The Butcher” Cutting is based on a real man named William Poole but this movie isn’t necessarily an accurate portrayal of who he was. He was part of the Know Nothing political party that specifically despised Irish and German immigrants coming into the country.  There is some truth here, as with the Tammany Hall parts of the film but as with all films you need to do your own research to find the truth.

Aside from those two great actors there are many other talented people that brought something to this movie.  John C Reilly didn’t have the best part to play in the role of a character that doesn’t inspire a lot of love.  I like Reilly though and think this movie is one of the many examples that show his true value.  He has great range to be both serious and funny depending on what movie he is in.  I have never been a big fan of Brendan Gleeson but I can’t quite figure out why.  He is in many movies that I love and he played a great character in this one as well.  This was the first movie I remember seeing Henry Thomas in since his role as a child in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial so it was cool to see him still acting, albeit in a role as a weakling.  Liam Neeson had quite a good role in the beginning as well.  I read once that originally his character was hacked piece by piece to death during the battle but it had to be changed to get an R rating. However during the battle, right before the butcher attacks him you can see a quick shot of his arm being hacked off that wasn’t removed from the final cut.  It just appears to be someone else being cut because you don’t see this injury on him as the Butcher kills him.

The only role that I didn’t think was great in this movie was that of Cameron Diaz.  It isn’t anything against her either I think she is a beautiful and talented actress but just not right for this role.  I think she looked too pretty for the part.  A pick-pocketing hooker during that era wouldn’t have such a perfect looking face with such pretty features.  Originally the part was to be played by Sarah Polley, who I think would have been much better in the role.  I am a fan of Polley but she isn’t an A-list actress by any means and that was the problem.  The studio wanted a more bankable star in the role and the casting was changed at the last minute.  Nothing against Cameron Diaz but this decision hurt the movie.  That’s the biggest problem in most films.  Executives think in terms of what will make them the most money and not what will make them the best movie.

This is an epic movie, a wicked and amazing epic movie. It is violent, witty, and generally top notch across the board. If you haven’t seen this movie it is worth your time, because I can assure you that you will be satisfied when it is over.  If you aren’t and you don’t like this movie then let me know why because I would really like to know. I happen to have asked a few people about this movie this past week and they didn’t know it.  I counted it as an anomaly to what most people must have seen because it is so great but in the event that I am wrong there might be more of you out there.  In that case, see this movie, it’s great but brace yourself because it is violent…there will be blood.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is great. It tells an interesting story and keeps you interested throughout. The most notable thing about this film, however is the acting. This movie is filmed with A quality actors. I am sure that Ryan already mentioned all of the names in this film, so I won’t reiterate here, but when you put this kind of talent all together in one film, the result is bound to be incredible, and I think it definitely shows in Gangs of New York.

If you like a nice blood bashing then this is for you. It’s a great movie with a lot of meat to it and I definitely recommend it.

-A

NEXT MOVIE: Ghostbusters (1984)

The Departed

Year: 2006
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: William Monahan

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was considered by some to be the pinnacle of Martin Scorsese‘s career after it won the Academy Awards for best direction and best picture, among others.  It won those awards honorably because this is an exceptional movie and aside from the fact that he had such a great cast to work with Scorsese has just gotten really good at what he does. I don’t think this is Scorsese’s best, as good as it is it’s still a recycled movie, and I think Scorsese has made much better films. I call it recycled because this movie is based off of a Hong Kong film that came out years earlier. I am disappointed with the idea that we have to borrow ideas from the other side of the world in order to have hits, but it’s hard to argue with such an exciting and entertaining movie.

Scorsese did do a great job making this movie but I think he had a lot to work with as far as script and talent go.  He gathered a great cast of very talented actors and some of them really distinguished themselves with this film.  Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the greatest actors of his generation, he outdoes himself with nearly every film and has been doing so since a young age. I think he is terrific in this film but I think he and Scorsese’s best collaboration was Gangs of New York in 2002.  I am not the biggest Jack Nicholson fan but I think he did do a great job in this movie. He was given a lot of freedom with his character in order to make him more provocative and unpredictable. He used the freedom to great benefit for the film.  Ray Winstone as his right hand man Mr. French is awesome, I am a big Winstone fan.  Matt Damon is good and well cast in his part.  Alec Baldwin is great in his small but important role.  Martin Sheen was cast when Robert De Niro had a scheduling conflict and that’s too bad. I am a fan of Anthony Anderson but I don’t know that he was appropriately cast in this film.

I think the actor that distinguishes himself the most in this film is Mark Wahlberg, who really stood out among such an elite cast.  I do not like Wahlberg but cannot deny his talent due to roles like this.  I have had a problem with Wahlberg since seeing a documentary about him a while back.  When I found out that Wahlberg had spent time in prison for what pretty much amounts to a hate crime I developed a different attitude toward him.  When he was younger he was arrested for beating a Vietnamese man almost to death with a blunt object in order to steal a six pack of beer from him while screaming racial slurs. He spent some time in jail for that and when he got out of jail his brother was part of New Kids on the Block.  He became the opening act as Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.  Later he was discovered by Calvin Klein and used as an underwear model.  He soon began an acting career and the rest is history.  Today he is not only a superstar actor but a successful producer involved with HBO.  I have to admit he is talented but I really despise a racist douche bag and hate it every time I have to accept that he was good in something. Despite all his success he has never made an effort to make amends with the man that he blinded for life.  I consider it unfortunate when that kind of person reaches the level of success that Wahlberg is at, but it happens all the time.

This was a great movie and given that it won best picture of the year plenty of people saw it and offered their opinions.  You don’t need me to tell you this was a good film because you have probably already been told.  I don’t think this movie is quite as good as everyone makes it out to be but I do think it was a really awesome movie.  It is worth your time and I would recommend it to anyone.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is one of those movies that will suck you into the story line. It is filled with stars that everyone knows, and it truly is an unforgettable movie. You can’t really guess what is going to happen and as soon as you think you have it figured it out, it changes and leaves you guessing again.

This movie is filled with attractive actors and seasoned pros. I definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it. It was very, very popular when it came out and I haven’t met anyone that has seen it that doesn’t like it.

NEXT MOVIE: Desperado (1995)