Tag Archives: leonardo dicaprio

SHUTTER ISLAND Trailer

from firstshowing.net

Cannes poster, from firstshowing.net

Here’s another one to put on your must-see/must-read list (sorry, Shelley P and Julien, for making your stack so tall!). When Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island first came out in 2003, I wrote the review below for mysteryinkonline.com. When I heard about Martin Scorsese directing a movie version with that cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Emily Mortimer—insane!), I was like a kid who couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve.

Now the trailer’s here. How crazy, creepy is it? The movie opens October 2 in the U.S. and Canada (Oct. 1 for Shelley P, Oct. 9 for Poncho and Oct. 14 for Julien) but Santa can’t come soon enough!

My 2003 review of the book (no spoilers):

shutter islandA few years ago, Dennis Lehane decided to take a sabbatical from his Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro series to write a different kind of thriller. Lehane has said he wanted to improve his prose instead of relying on his usual minimalist, dialogue-laden style. This change of direction led him to Mystic River, a languidly-paced, character-driven mystery that became a critical and commercial breakthrough for him (and an Oscar-winning Clint Eastwood movie). Now, with his follow-up, Shutter Island, Lehane continues his growth as a sophisticated and insightful writer.

Island takes place in 1954 and follows U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of a mental patient from a maximum security institution for the most violent and insane offenders. This hospital is located on the eponymous island and shelters almost as many secrets as residents. After the marshals’ arrivals, the island is hit by a deadly hurricane which temporarily neutralizes the electric-powered security systems. Daniels and Aule are trapped with escaped criminals, ambiguous doctors possibly dabbling in illegal experiments and a mysterious “67th patient” whose identity no one seems to know. Daniels struggles to uncover the truth about the island’s nefarious activities while struggling with grief from the recent death of his wife (aptly named Dolores, meaning “pains” in Spanish). Daniels may also have a secret agenda for being on the island but the question becomes: Will he and Aule ever get off the island?

First with Mystic River and now with Island, Lehane proves he is definitely moving in the right direction. There are many passages in Island which beautifully demonstrate his insight into the human condition. He can illustrate emotions such as love and sorrow as tangible entities, living things which can lift you off your feet or stab you in the heart. And while his prose has certainly become more eloquent, he has not abandoned his gift for dialogue. The marshals have an easy banter between them and there are touches of humor courtesy of Aule, who functions as the good cop of the duo.

As good as Mystic River was, Shutter Island is even more accomplished, with a plot that’s more complex. Just when the reader thinks he knows where the story is headed, it turns down a surprising path. As many plot twists as Island contains, however, they’re not there just for shock value and nothing else. Each revelation is duly supported by earlier events, making the ending—and the book—a tense and satisfyingly plausible read.

Hang with Leo, Save the World

Happy Tax Day!

leonardo dicaprioWanna know how you can get a cool tax write-off next year? By clicking here and bidding on autographed memorabilia from Leonardo DiCaprio’s movies and a chance to spend time with the man himself at the premiere of his movie Shutter Island, which opens October 2. Also up for grabs are guitars signed by top recording artists. If I could offer myself up for auction, I would, but I think the organizers are trying to raise money.

The proceeds go to Global Green USA, which combats global warming and is working to rebuild New Orleans in an earth-conscious way. Check with your accountant but I believe the money you spend would count as a charitable donation.

The auctions begins today at 7 p.m. PST and will end next week on Earth Day, April 22.

I’m hoping I win the Titanic replica…

Top 10 Performances Robbed of Oscars

Oscar Sunday is coming up this weekend and, though I’m really looking forward to it, I have a feeling at least one of my faves won’t win. I think my predictions are pretty solid but there’s always an upset. Last year, I thought Amy Ryan’s fierce performance in Gone Baby Gone was the obvious choice for best supporting actress but no, Tilda Swinton inexplicably won for her one-note work in Michael Clayton (I like Swinton but didn’t think she deserved to win for this).

Of course, it wasn’t the first time that’s happened. Over the years, many actors have been robbed of Oscars. I’ve narrowed this very subjective list down to the ten most egregious snubs (besides Ryan’s) in the last twenty-five years, starting with the most recent.

  1. jackie-earle-haleyJackie Earle Haley for Little Children. Seriously, did voters watch this performance? He was both creepy and impossibly sympathetic as the pedophile who loved his mama, but Alan Arkin won for his performance as a grandfather who taught his granddaughter how to dance. Whatev. Haley is bouncing back as Rorschach in the sure-to-be-blockbuster Watchmen so I guess the Academy can suck it.
  2. denchjudi_notesJudi Dench for Notes on a Scandal. Oh my gosh, she creeped me out in this. Like Haley, Dench pulled off a character that’s both disturbing and sympathetic. Her schoolmarm with repressed desires for Cate Blanchett’s character was incredibly manipulative but Dench also made her desperate loneliness palpable. I adore Helen Mirren and thought she was good as The Queen but her performance wasn’t as complex as Dench’s.
  3. pm_ledger_wideweb__470x3210Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain. I recently read an article in Entertainment Weekly that claimed Ledger was relieved he didn’t win. So maybe he didn’t care but he made me care. His performance as Ennis Del Mar was simply devastating. Philip Seymour Hoffman always turns in good work but Capote felt like a very good impression whereas Ledger created an indelible character from just words on a page.
  4. eternal2Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. This isn’t taking away from Hilary Swank’s gutsy performance in Million Dollar Baby, which deserved to win. I just wish there could have been a tie that year (hey, it happened when Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tied for 1968’s Best Actress). Winslet’s Clementine was a freewheeling, damaged soul but the actress also showed us her pluck and heart and never allowed us to feel sorry for her. Clementine might have been trying to clear her head of memories but, years later, I still can’t erase Winslet’s performance from my mind.
  5. j-mooreJulianne Moore for The Hours. Yeah, yeah, Catherine Zeta-Jones sang and danced very well in Chicago and looked great doing it. But this is an acting award and her acting was nowhere near as affecting as Moore’s as the depressed 1950s housewife Laura Brown. Moore’s dutiful smile hid her inner anguish from everyone but the viewer. Watching her, I just wanted to reach through the screen, take the poor woman away on a tropical vacation and give her some happy pills.
  6. a-beautiful-mind_lRussell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind. This movie won Best Picture, Best Director, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress. Well, it wouldn’t have won any of those categories if it hadn’t been for Crowe, who carried this movie. Crowe’s performance as John Nash elevated the work of everyone around him so it’s rude the Academy gave them Oscars but sent Crowe home empty-handed (at least for this movie).
  7. tn2_sixth_sense_2Haley Joel Osment for The Sixth Sense. C’mon, that little kid was so memorable, you can probably still quote some of his lines. His performance was subtle and poignant, which is doubly impressive considering his age at the time (what life experience did he tap into?!). But noooo, Michael Caine won for The Cider House Rules. Do you even remember what that movie was about or why Caine won? Exactly.
  8. dicaprioLeonardo DiCaprio for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? I’ve done a lot of volunteer work with mentally handicapped people and can tell when an actor’s portrayal of a challenged person is realistic or just wrong. When I saw this movie, I thought DiCaprio was really handicapped, not an actor doing a great job. He didn’t employ some broad, cliche mannerisms; he went inside Arnie Grape’s head and skin. Though his work was a true transformation, the Academy gave the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Tommy Lee Jones for barking out orders in The Fugitive.
  9. pfeiffer-baker-boysMichelle Pfeiffer for The Fabulous Baker Boys. Oh, I’m not hatin’ on the late, great Jessica Tandy, who took home the Best Actress award that year. But that was more a lifetime achievement award because surely Pfeiffer’s performance as Susie Diamond was more spectacular than Tandy’s Miss Daisy. Pfeiffer’s Susie was a gorgeous, tough chick whose looks didn’t take her as far in life as she’d hoped, a diamond whose sparkle was becoming duller by the day. And who can forget her writhing on the piano in that red dress, purring her way through “Making Whoopee”? All I remember about Miss Daisy is she was a cranky old woman.
  10. h-hunterHolly Hunter for Broadcast News. As neurotic news producer Jane Craig, Hunter ran the gamut of being in charge to completely falling apart, sometimes within seconds. Jane was flawed, funny, frustrating—a full-bodied character. But Cher won that year for Moonstruck as a consolation prize for Silkwood.

So, do you think the Academy mostly gets it right or does it seem like they sometimes vote while high on crack? Which performances do you think were wrongly denied an Oscar? Comment away!

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Sneak Peeks at 2009’s Most Anticipated Movies

Happy New Year! Hope you all enjoyed the holidays and had a chance to see some movies. Now that the new year has begun, there’s a whole new slew of films to look forward to. There’s something for everyone (if it’s underlined, click on it to see the trailer):

THE BIG, FAT EXPENSIVE MOVIES

WatchmenWatchmen (March 6, tentatively)—It has a great cast, looks good, I did voice work on it so it’d better make lots of dough. Make sure you see it several times with large groups of friends!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1)—It’s all about Hugh Jackman. ‘Nuff said.

Star Trek (May 8)—I’m not a Trek fan but it’s directed by J.J. Abrams so we’ll see. If it’s as good as the best episodes of Alias, I’m there.

terminator4-poster1Terminator: Salvation (May 21)—The last installment was not great but Christian Bale is taking over as John Connor so this could be awesome. I’m ready for a full-time kick-ass Connor, as opposed to the whiny, teenager version we’ve had to tolerate for almost two decades.

Avatar (Dec. 18)—No one knows what the funk it’s about but it supposedly has newfangled, groundbreaking FX and James Cameron’s last movie, Titanic, is still the undefeated box office champ so this one won’t be hurting for an audience.

THE PRESTIGE FILMS OVERSTUFFED WITH TALENT

Duplicity (March 20)—Tony Gilroy follows up Michael Clayton by directing Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (Gilroy must have a clause in his contract that reads “I only direct huge movie stars”) in a spy movie partly filmed in Rome. The trailer looks slick, sexy and funny. I can’t decide which is prettier, Rome or Owen, and it’ll be nice to Roberts in a starring role again. (Read my review here.)

State of Play (April 17)—Based on a BBC series about reporters working with a police detective to solve the murder of a congressman’s mistress. The presence of Helen Mirren makes the trailer look Prime Suspect-ish. The cast also includes Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, Viola Davis and Jeff Daniels. (Click here for my review and comparison with the BBC version.)

p-enemiesPublic Enemies (July 1)—Michael Mann directing Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis, plus Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and Billy Crudup in supporting roles. This is an embarrassment of talents. Plus, how cool is Depp in this photo?!

Shutter Island (Oct. 2)—Martin Scorsese directing Christian Bale…er, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson in an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s thriller (read my review of the book here). I loved the book and this cast is top-notch so if the movie sucks, it would be quite a feat.

robert-downey-jr-sherlock-holmes-06Sherlock Holmes (Dec. 25)Guy Ritchie directing Robert Downey, Jr. as the infamous detective and Jude Law as Dr. Watson (had no idea Dr. Watson was blond and hot). Rachel McAdams (this year’s female Christian Bale) is also along for the ride. I devoured everything Holmesian as a kid and think RDJ is a foolproof actor when it comes to riveting performances (if not necessarily good films) so this had better be good.

The Lovely Bones (Dec. 11)Peter Jackson steering Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Saoirse Ronan (as Susie Salmon) in the adaption of Alice Sebold’s bestseller. Must admit I didn’t love the book but this is a great cast and I love Peter Jackson (I even liked The Frighteners) so I’d have to check this out.

this-side-of-the-truthThe Invention of Lying (formerly known as This Side of the Truth, Sept. 25)—This movie, co-written and co-directed by Ricky Gervais, stars Gervais, Christopher Guest, Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey, Patrick Stewart, Jason Bateman, Rob Lowe and Jeffrey Tambor. Do you need any more info than this? I’m just gonna show up and expect to laugh ’til I crack.

FARE FOR THE LADIES

Bride Wars (this Friday, Jan. 9)—Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway turn into Bridezillas when they both want the same wedding date at the Plaza in New York. Hudson and Hathaway are talented, charismatic actresses but the trailer is shrieky and Kristen Johnston seems to have all the best lines. Think I’ll pass.

New in Town (Jan. 30)—Renee Zellweger as a businesswoman transplanted from Miami to Minnesota who falls in love with Harry Connick, Jr. The leads are very charming performers but this looks like a big-screen version of Men in Trees and the trailer didn’t offer one laugh. Yikes.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Feb. 13)—Isla Fisher stars as Becky Bloomwood, the heroine in the series of popular books by Sophie Kinsella. It’s odd that Fisher has to speak in a Yank accent when Becky is British and Fisher is Australian, but she’s funny enough to embody Becky and Hugh Dancy is a great choice as Luke. The leads are supported by the likes of Joan Cusack, John Lithgow, Lynn Redgrave and John Goodman so this could be a smart comedy. (Read my review here.)

The Ugly Truth (July 24)—I can’t stand Katherine Heigl and from the trailer, the movie looks cliched and predictable. It’s rude when studio execs make bad films for women and then say they don’t make money so they don’t have to make more. It’s sad to see the magnetic Gerard Butler wasted in dreck like this. (Read my review here.)

2009_julie_and_julia_001Julie and Julia (Aug. 7)—Meryl Streep stars as Julia Child and Amy Adams is a woman who tries to use all the recipes from one of Child’s cookbooks. Streep is on fire and Adams hasn’t made a false move yet so this could be entertaining. (UPDATE: See my review of this movie here.)

ENTRIES FOR THE KIDDIES

Monsters vs. Aliens (Mar. 27)—From Dreamworks Animation, this is about a woman who gets hit by a meteor and turned into a giant. She then joins other mutants to fight aliens when they attack Earth. I’m hoping the great voice cast—Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Paul Rudd, Kiefer Sutherland and Stephen Colbert as President of the United States—will make it more enjoyable than the so-so trailer.

Hannah Montana: The Movie (Apr. 10)—I’ll just say there are worse things impressionable young girls could be obsessed about.

Up (May 29)—Pixar’s latest entry about a curmudgeon who flies off in his house by attaching it to a bunch of balloons. Doesn’t really matter what it’s about; Pixar’s never made a bad film so I’ll line up for this.

2009_where_the_wild_things_are_0031Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16)—Spike Jonze is adapting Maurice Sendak’s classic so it’s gotta be trippy. It’s taken a while to come out but the movie stills look more textured and sophisticated than usual kiddie fare so I think it’ll be worth the wait.

FILMS POSTPONED FROM LAST YEAR

He’s Just Not That Into You (Feb. 6)—This has been much delayed plus the entire movie stemmed from one line in a Sex and the City episode so I dunno. The line was funny when originally uttered by Ron Livingston to Cynthia Nixon but now it’s so dated. But the cast is chock full of huge names like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, and Scarlett Johansson so there must be some merit in the script, right? Right?

The Soloist (April 24)—My man RDJ and Jamie Foxx in a film based on a true story about an L.A. Times writer who befriends a Julliard-trained but schizophrenic musician living on the streets. It was directed by Joe Wright who’s two for two in my book with Pride and Prejudice and Atonement so I’d watch him go for three.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15)—This has the big death so it promises to be the series’ first tearjerker. David Yates is back as director so I’m excited. Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix are the best so far and since we can’t have Alfonso Cuaron back, I’m happy with Yates.

2008_the_road_003The Road (October 16)—Looks depressing as hell but Mortensen always does compelling work and Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce also star so it should be interesting.

What are you looking forward most to seeing? Which sounds like a rental or definite pass altogether? Something not on the list that you’re madly anticipating? Leave a comment and discuss!

(UPDATE: Check out my fall 2009 movie guide here.)

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Review of REVOLUTIONARY ROAD with DiCaprio and Winslet

Remember those scenes in Airplane! when Robert Hays’s character tries to tell fellow passengers his life story but it’s so intolerable, one lady hangs herself while another man commits seppuku? When the lights went up in the theater after the screening of Revolutionary Road I attended, I half expected to see people hanging from the rafters or setting themselves on fire. This is easily the most depressing movie of the year and I’ve seen Defiance.

But let me be clear: Road is very good; it’s well-acted, -written, -directed, -photographed, -costumed, -scored, etc. It’s definitely smart, adult fare. But its themes are so disturbing, the film is more terrifying than anything featuring people with saws or wearing hockey masks.

Revolutionary RoadThe obvious draw will be the reunion of Titanic lovebirds Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, playing another period couple—this time in the 1950s—but engaged in a very different kind of relationship. Frank Wheeler (DiCaprio) meets April (Winslet) at a party when they’re both young and certain they’d set the world on fire. She’s studying to be an actress while he’s just back from the service, still figuring out his future. Fast forward to two kids and seven years later, her acting career has fizzled and he’s stuck in a soul-sucking cubicle job which he describes by saying, “There’s nothing interesting about it at all.” Desperate to infuse some passion and excitement back into their lives, April sells Frank on the idea of ditching everything and moving to Paris with their children. But complications ensue and the dream ends up far from a happy ending.

2008_revolutionary_road_008DiCaprio and Winslet do wrenching work, taking Frank and April from a hopeful existence to a “hopeless emptiness.” The acting isn’t always natural, sometimes overly demonstrative and other times very fifties-style Stepford-ish. But the two stars manage to cut open Frank and April’s inner selves as if performing metaphorical open-heart surgery on each other and the result is just as bloody and raw.

The supporting cast is first-rate, especially Michael Shannon as John Givings, the supposedly insane son of Kathy Bates’s realtor character. Shannon gives an electrifying performance as an outsider who comes into the placid neighborhood on Revolutionary Road (ironically named because there’s no revolution happening in any of these people’s lives) and rips right through the Wheelers’ facade of domestic perfection. But while the performance is a standout, the employment of his character is a bit cliche and too convenient—having the crazy guy be the only person who speaks the truth no one else will.

2008_revolutionary_road_011Besides the name of the road, other monikers also seem to mock what they represent. Wheelers are supposed to denote people on the move but this couple is paralyzed by inertia. Frank is not so much—he has moments of eruption but most of the time he puts on a smile and keeps his innermost thoughts to himself. And April, a word which usually symbolizes spring and a time of renewal, can’t seem to escape a lonely, unending winter.

The devastating thing about this movie, based on Richard Yates’s novel of the same name (which I haven’t read), is that it posits Frank and April’s situation could happen to anyone. (Heck, it could’ve happened to Jack and Rose from Titanic had Jack lived.) We all start out thinking we’re headed for great things but some wake up one day realizing “we’re not that special,” as April says. Even if you watch this movie feeling all superior and thinking, “I’m not a housewife stuck in a rut” or “I’m not some guy in a dead-end job,” who knows where you’ll be ten years from now? The deterioration of lives and dreams could happen so slowly that you don’t notice until one day you look around and wonder how you got to where you are, an unfulfilled place you swore you’d never end up in. I’m not trying to depress you; this is what Road depicts. It puts these issues under a magnifying glass and no matter how much the characters squirm, director Sam Mendes keeps the glass on them until the heat makes them burst into flames.

Revolutionary RoadMendes has plumbed this territory before—Road is like American Beauty (it even has a similarly stark, piano score by Thomas Newman) with a younger couple and less black humor. He’s a brave man to embark on such a bleak exploration of marriage with his wife in the lead; the film’s even dedicated to their children. (I wouldn’t know WHAT to think if my parents dedicated a movie like this to me.) Road deserves to be seen and I’d recommend it, but be forewarned it will not add to your holiday cheer.

And leave all weapons at home, just in case.

(Limited release, December 26)

Rating: Good