The Aviator (2004) Film Review

What did I know about Howard Hughes? Only that he was famously germaphobic and reclusive and rich. In all honesty, I didn’t even know why I knew of him. In this biopic of his early life, Leonardo DiCaprio the playboy, the film producer and the aviation pioneer. And it’s fabulous. DiCaprio was fabulous, as was Cate Blanchette and Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Jude Law… the list goes on.

I shouldn’t be surprised at how good it is as it is a Scorsese film. He is a master, even though I often find that I don’t like his films. But this, to me, is really as good as a film can be. Great pacing, and the cinematography is brilliant, capturing that kind of technicolour look of films from this era. Just fabulous.

The Aviator won awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Cate Blanchett), Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Costume Design and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Alan Alda), Best Achievement in Directing, Best Writing – Original Screenplay and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing.

Shutter Island (2010) Film Review



US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is sent to a mental asylum set on an inhospitable island with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients. There, they meet Dr Crawley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr Naehring (Max von Sydow) and find that things are not what they seem.

I remember watching this years ago and really hating it – finding the twist extremely obvious and the whole thing quite annoying. I’m not a huge Scorsese fan, and was just a bit unimpressed. Then I heard it discussed on Plato’s Cave, the RRR film criticism show, and while they are all massive Scorsese fans, they said to watch it just as a thriller with a twist will be disappointing because it is deliberately so obvious. However, if you watch it with that knowledge and just enjoy the way it unfolds, you can really appreciate it. So, I gave it another go and, dammit, they were totally right. It’s very clever and intense and just great. I’m so glad I went back and watched it from a different mindset.


The Revenant (2015) Film Review * Major Spoilers *


Based on a story that was based on true events, The Revenant is a violent, gory and pretty difficult to watch film set in the early 1800s in the wilds of what is now the United States. Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) is working with a crew of trappers to get skins when they are attacked by a group of Native Americans who kill most of their group. Hugh is to lead them out to safety, but unfortunately (depicted in a most graphic manner) he is attacked by a bear. Eventually, the man in charge, Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) decides that he needs to leave Glass behind – and asks for volunteers to stay. Glass is protected by his son as well as another young trapper, Bridger (Will Poulter) and the bad guy in the flick, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Sure enough, Fitzgerald (FIRST SPOILER) kills Hawk and convinces Bridger to leave Glass for dead. But he’s not, and over an increasingly unbelievably insane series of events, he returns to seek revenge on Fitzgerald.

First up – it is stunning and extremely graphic. In fact, I would have not been surprised if I ended up with bruises on my face from hiding from the screen. Intense and ugly, which is exactly what those times were probably like. To go cold, or even freezing, for months and months at a time, and never properly dry, and the stench of these men! Phew! (MEGA SPOILERS COMING) What I could believe was that it was possible for a man to survive this attack – he would not be well, but such a freaky thing, yeah, ok. Perhaps the film just tried to pack too much in – I could believe surviving the attack by the Native tribe, I could believe surviving the bear attack (just). I was a bit suss about the fact that he had not had anything to eat or drink (apart from the odd sip of snow) for days yet his body was managing to heal and get stronger by the minute. I could even believe his trip down the river and over some fairly intense white water rapids. But when he outrode an attacking tribe on a tired horse, jumped it off a cliff, fell into a massive tree and came out unscathed… that was where the film lost me. That was my bullshit meter pushed to the limit. And from there, I didn’t care what happened, and I was really saddened by that, because it was so close to being what I thought could be a decent representation of the times and the horror. It was also ruined for me by the whole cheesey revenge story. I know that they wanted to give him a strong reason to fight for survival, but really? Seeking revenge for a dead son. How incredibly clichéd.

DiCaprio is up for an Oscar, and I say cool. Despite hating the film by the end and being annoyed by the plot, I thought he was extremely impressive in this. Oh, and if you want a laugh, read this review from Jezebel – it’s written by a bear. Hilair.

The Revenant won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Director – Motion Picture (Alejandro Inarritu) and was nominated for Best Original Score – Motion Picture. It was also nominated for BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Best Original Music.

The Beach (2000) Film Review


Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio), a somewhat annoying American backpacker in Thailand meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle), a psychotic Scotsman who gives him a map to a legendary beach. When Richard then finds Daffy has taken his own life, he decides to follow the map, taking a French couple with him. There he finds a hippy colony led by Sal (Tilda Swinton) and they think they have found paradise. But nothing is really what it seems.

I’d heard for years that this was a terrible film, and I disagree. I don’t think it is that great, but it’s not appalling. I didn’t love the plot, I felt as though it was supposed to be really pushing things, but even when horrible things happened, I didn’t feel that connected and so it didn’t seem that bad. Even death. What I did love what the late-ninties music and feel that had hints of Trainspotting and the like, and it reminded me of better things.


Body of Lies (2008) Film Review


There are terrorist attacks happening across Britain and Europe. Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a CIA agent working across the Middle East, in regular communication with a guy back in the US, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe). And aside from this, I have no idea what was happening during this film. There were plans being laid and I don’t really know what was happening.

Which is a problem. I had no idea what was going on, I had no connection to the characters, I didn’t care who the good or bad guys were. It was tedious and frustrating. I’d love to hear from anyone who enjoyed this film to know why, because I just don’t get it.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Film Review


Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a stock broker who, after the Black Monday crash in 1987, found himself out of a job. After finding a small company in the suburbs that traded in penny stocks (don’t ask me – its starts getting technical here), he discovered a way to make a lot of money in the stock market using dodgy, if not downright illegal, practices. Along the way he accumulates a lot of very loyal staff and friends, loses a wife, gains another, takes a lot of drugs and end up extremely rich. And the FBI notice.

It’s based on a true story, and it’s pretty interesting. It’s a fun film that I really enjoyed, but it didn’t seem all that original. It is certainly worth a watch, but it didn’t scream out as a story that needed to be told,  and I cannot see how it has been nominated for so many awards. It is absolutely worth watching for two things: Jonah Hill (or even just Jonah Hill’s teeth) and the brief appearance of Matthew McConaughey at the start.

The Wolf of Wall Street was nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jonah Hill), Best Directing (Martin Scorsese), Best Writing: Adapted Screenplay (Terence Winter). It was also nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture,  Musical or Comedy, Best Actor in A Motion Picture,  Musical or Comedy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and for BAFTAs for Adapted Screenplay (Terence Winter), Leading Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Director (Martin Scoresese) and Editing.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993) Film Review


Small town America. When Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) is not working at the small grocery store, he is taking care of his severely obese mother, Bonnie (Darlene Cates) and his mentally disabled younger brother, Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio). But when Becky (Juliette Lewis) comes into his life, things seem to change.

I think this has to go down as one of my favourite films. Certainly, I have had a crush on Johnny Depp since 21 Jump Street days (the TV show, not the film), and perhaps this was one of the main reasons I loved the film when I was a teenager. But seeing it again recently, I recalled just how good it is. Strong story, excellent performances, some humour and a lot of emotion. The sense of a small town, of people who are very set in their ways, of being trapped by circumstance is strong in many of the characters, but none more than Gilbert. He has no sense of futre; only a claustrophobic present.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Leonardo DiCaprio).

The Departed (2006) Film Review


Two young men enter the police force in South Boston. One is a young kid who has been groomed by local Irish gangster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) to be an insider in the force. The other, Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an honest guy with a bad family background, who is supposedly booted from the force and turns to crime, but is actually deep undercover. The only people who know that he is undercover are his two police contacts – Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) and Queenan (Martin Sheen).

This is based on the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, and is almost exactly the same, shot by shot. So much so that I wondered if I had already seen this – but it is that I watched Infernal Affairs only recently. Yes, it is a good film, but it’s not the type of good film that is really worth watching two identical versions of. Even if the language is different. The Departed won a whole heap of awards including Oscars, and I wonder if there was any acknowledgement of Infernal Affairs or if it has been forgotten along the way. Jack Nicholson was nominated and won a series of awards for his performance which I really cannot understand as I thought his performance was very average. Mark Wahlberg, however, was amazing and absolutely deserved the recognition he got.

The Departed won Oscars for Best Achievement in Directing (Martin Scorsese), Best Achievement in film Editing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (William Monahan) and was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Wahlberg).