Thursday, 26 December 2013
There's Something About Mitty.
114 Minutes. Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn & Sean Penn. Director: Ben Stiller.
Into the wild Ben Stiller goes. Straight from the cells of a 'New Yorker' strip to the legendary pages of 'Life' magazine. Off the beaten track from the directors chair to Academy consideration, Stiller gives us another quirky outing to his catalog that toes the independent line between mainstream and expressive. Sure the formidable, family franchise 'Meet The Parents' is this Godfocker's trilogy and meat and potatoes, but for every 'Zoolander', there's a 'Greenberg' and now via Greenland and Iceland, 'Red Hour Ben' takes a red eye across the world to traverse new ground and give every idealistic traveler the inspiration to truly make their crazy dreams a reality. It's influence like this that make this more than just the zoned out dream world of wanderlust. A beautiful six minute commercial break trailer led by Freddie Mercury's Queen cries of "is this real life, is this just fantasy' truly says it all in noteworthy, 'Bohemian Rhaposdy' form and as Ben looks to make his own 'Forrest Gump' story, his run past the classic 'Life' magazine billboard covers of Martin Luther King Jnr, JFK, John Lennon and Muhammad Ali truly has the makings of something iconic like the moon-landing or Marilyn Monroe. Now read all about it, we have the makings of a new hero in the form of the funny every-man. Behind that cold-steel briefcase and beige bland jacket and tie is the real, all worldly man beneath the white-collar stacks and sheets of office work. Now are you ready to make this break? This is a real shift from 9-5 to alive, no more work and all play. Still is there ambition and substance behind this style or is it all just the makings of dreams?
The life and times of Walter Mitty is a photo journalists travel journal across the landscape of life that offers more for it's viewers to read into. This short story by James Thurber from 1939 is given the long player treatment after it was acknowledged as a classic of American literature after appearing in the massive magazine 'The New Yorker'. 'Mittyesque' may as well be a dictionary term for those who daydream of wild heroics they never actually put into real effect. This story has such a legacy it's already been made into a film once and legends like Spielberg and Ron Howard almost had a go at directing like Jim Carrey and Ben's friend and 'Hutch' to his 'Starsky' running mate Owen Wilson had starring. Still, now it's Stiller's turn as he looks to the pages of 'Time' chasing 'Life' magazine to give even more lasting legacy to the legend of newsstands that like their product are tragically dying out thanks to unfortunately this very form of digital media. Still, as impressive as the truly special effects are in this evocative piece of cinemas this story is at it's most sweet and simple when it's exactly that. Sure concrete skateboarding surfing through the streams of yellow from taxi cabs in lower Manhattan while fighting over a fully extended Stretch Armstrong doll, fully featured with more twisting facial expressions is truly incredible like all the other insights into the imagination of our Walt, but it's the soaring scenes of the worlds real wonders which look and speak for themselves without a hint of CG or Photoshop. Backed up by a sublime soundtrack that truly 'Wakes Up' the senses from Arcade Fire to the ground control to major Tom, 'Space Oddities' of the original weird and wonderful Ziggy Stardust himself, David Bowie, everything about this film has the makings of a lasting classic and Stiller's road to true greatness.
Now there's a few sedate bumps but that's what makes this journey that much more fulfilling, as Stiller flies and skateboards through a rugged and raw movie that's truly his.The 'Frat Pack' 'Night At The Museum' exhibit star has already proved he can direct with depths in Jim Carrey's dark comedy spark-plug of 'The Cable Guy', like his own 'Zoolander' and 'Tropic Thunder' greatest hits, but here he proves he can truly dream up greatness from a seating position too. With the camera on himself he also shows how he is still one of today's most followed leading men, especially in comedies as he owns the Boxing Day season previously inhabited by the crowd-drawing loved likes of Will Smith. Steve Carell hasn't taken his offbeat comedy crown despite the Brick and Minion mortar. This Spanish news-team leader still runs the street and as impeccable he anchors his own beautiful broadcast in what right now is Burgundy's world. With more color and vibrancy, Stiller's subtle but strong skill-set matches the bashful beauty off it's backdrop. As a shy and retiring Mitty who comes out with courage this character development helps the growth of this mans acting game and gain. It's hard not to love this guy and it's impossible not to like him. No matter what 'Family Guy' say about his ears, this guys movies are far from terrible. This one in fact...terrific. The recently underrated comedian assembling 'Tower Heist' and 'The Watch' showed he still had it. This shows he has so much more. More lies behind the eyes of a facial expressive actor who shows that behind the comedy one-liners lies some dark drama , with a punchline of humorous hope giving life to the inspired. Still it's more than just Stiller, himself and Mitty on this road trip.
No longer the 'Bridesmaid', but instead the queen of comedy Kristen Wiig comes off her own 'Anchorman' legend to own this month like her co-star Rose Byrne used to own the trailer reels. With beautiful dyed-hair and a different, dramatic look to her stand-up gags she gives new depth to her range and future. Is there a leading lady more sought after then her right now? More of the fairer sex give this film its grounding and supporting force as legend Shirley MacLaine gives more terrific 'Terms Of Endearment' while 'Anchorman'/'Step Brothers' starlet Kathryn Hahn shows she is still one of the most funniest and underrated ladies in the biz. Fellow 'Step Brothers' star Adam Scott gets a star for effort as he was born to play a grade A douche. On the other end of the line an eHarmony representative phones in some classic comedy like his career work for some dialed up light and warm relief, while on the other side of the world we get a true legend adding his traversed and traveled thoughts to this piece. It literally looks and seems like they found Sean Penn in the middle of nowhere for this discovered addition that is as welcoming and moving as a simple but sublime scene of football skill among the mist and dust off a mountain peak. This is a film that takes it just this high with some of it's most simple pleasures that make even the most death-defying leaps into burning buildings just a spirited aside to the faith of what's real in this world of dreams. This fantasy adventure is no secret anymore even if it is more lovely than it is lasting. It's the hyped eagerly awaited journey that hopes to find it's destination date with Oscar this coming February. Sure, this may not be the "quintessence", but it's quintessentially one of Stiller and the modern, movie mainstreams most refreshing and uplifting efforts in recent years, that will last in favorable young hearts and wandering minds for decades and trips to come. It may not be all a box of chocolates, but it's still so Bubba Gump shrimp sweet. If this positive life soul search for negative 25 is how Ben wants to frame the rest of his career, then run Stiller, run. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
No time to read a full review in this digital age? Inspired by a recent application here's a mini, popcorn bite-sized review of 'Anchorman 2'.
This Christmas we spell comedy R.O.N. Last time I looked in my leather bound, Burgundy dictionary there was a picture of Will Ferrell’s iconic newsman under the word “funny”. It seems like an age since ‘The Legend Of Ron Burgundy’ gave us one of the greatest comedies in ‘Anchorman’. Now nine years, NASCAR drivers, ice-skaters, Basketball players, minions and minions and a whammy later, the news team of Ferrell, Carell, Rudd and Koechner are back. Assembling with yet more A-listers and classic cameo surprises to fill a news-team battlefield, Adam McKay takes this to the 80’s and a satirical 24 hour news cycle. There’s much more between the gags that leave you gasping for the air that left the room from the fell flat ones. Sure nothing beats the original but this ‘Legend Continues’ without a ‘Hangover’. That’s how much of a big deal this is…don’t act like you’re not impressed. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Tuesday, 17 December 2013
119 Minutes. Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig, James Marsden & Harrison Ford. Director: Adam McKay.
This is more than just kind of a big deal. Finally, the one comedy sequel that everybody has been waiting for is here in between all those 'Hangovers' and 'Police Academy' sequels (what is it now? 72?). Almost a decade after the DVD dominance of 'Anchorman-The Legend Of Ron Burgundy' became THE new cult, classic comedy of this generations age the news team is back! Names you may be fondly familiar with. Names like, Ron, Champ, Fantana and Brick, otherwise known as Will, David, Paul and Steve. Regular Joe names, but irregular perfect personalities. The first 'Anchorman' movie became an overnight Friday night film night success even if the movie performed like a cannonball in mainstream cinema, pushing leather bound books off the shelf and always going down smoothly like scotch. It had fights with bears, 'Brat Pack' stars, hair products, cologne and pleats and it still played perfectly like a jazz flute. Everyone was on the classiest thing cinema had seen since Cary Grant and Clark Gable and by the beard of Zeus was it funny. It spawned an inspired bonus movie 'Wake Up Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie' and even a tell all memoir this year with Ron Burgundy's awesome "autobiography", 'Let Me Off At The Top-My Classy Life & Other Musings'. Ferrell's feral comedy career spread like wildfire after that, to NASCAR ('Talladega Nights-The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby'), ice-skating ('Blades Of Glory'), Basketball ('Semi-Pro'), some 'Step Brothers', 'Other Guys' and even more gag reels. Between filling and filing the box sets and seasons of the American version of 'The Office' and the minions and minions of 'Despicable Me', to go along with some of the best romantic comedies of the past 10 years (Paul Rudd...'I Love You Man'), the rest of the Channel 4 news team haven't done bad either....WHAAAAAAMY! Still, the fans want more and more than just Scotch flavored 'Ben & Jerry's (to enjoy with your film of course...now wheres that cash check cows), Lego pieces with unmistakable mustaches, Dodge Durango commercials funnier than 'Big Red' and more promotion for 'Burgundy Wednesday' that you could throw an orange at. That's right the news team is assembling with avengance for 'Anchorman 2' as 'The Legend Continues'.
Fans fear not too, when there's a Will, there's a funny and between the epic facial expressions and drum and symbol striking one-liners, the king of comedy is back with his Chaplin character. Ron Burgundy is still the balls...simply put. Stepping back into the off-maroon blazer and mustache like the seventies or Movember wasn't yesterday everybody needs to come see how good this still looks. What more could you expect from the man who discovered the wheel and had his dog eat a whole cheese worth of it. The legacy of this legend truly continues as classy and comedic classic as ever. What more can this man do after building the Eiffel tower out of metal and brawn? Well how about overcome worse disabilities than sticking a knife in his leg in 'Talladega Nights' or raising animals more scary than pregnant pandas out the deep blue? All in-between breaking down the barriers of race and offending just about everybody either side, outside of America from Mexico to Canada even getting some hockey stick..."sorry". Even with a marriage to maintain and a little Burgundy to raise this man still has the news to read off the teleprompter, without a question mark. Here he sensationally and satirically explores the world of 24 hour news and if anything from his recent moonlighting at various sports channels around the clock can prove...he's still got it like salon quality hair. Last time I looked in the dictionary, comedy was defined by R.O.N. in all caps. Still if hes going to do this he's going to need his news-team by his side and from the looks of comedy rom-com leading man Paul Rudd as Brian Fantana and the cowboy hat, stetson swings of David Koechner's Champ Kind this team knock it out the park. Especially with the sweet Brick who is on stupidly hilarious form by the good heaven almighty talents of Steve Carrell. This time finding himself in-between a brick and a hard place of love alongside 'Bridesmaid' Kristen Wiig, who is the latest 'Saturday Night' star to go truly live with an even better year than her last couple. Just wait for Boxing Day, this funny lady is the closest thing to the kings of Ferrell and Carrell even if you don't think woman belong in than newsroom. She'll rev your belly-laugh engines.
There's more on air behind the camera than this however and that is a scientific fact as sitting in the directors chair Adam McKay brings it all together for a perfect broadcast. From favorites like Ed Harken to new faces of familiarity like Greg Kinnear and Megan Good. Matter of fact there are more classic cameos in this film then you'd want us to spoil for this fight night. Now can we just get a classic Vince Vaughn laugh? Please Dorothy Mantooth...be a saint. With all this primetime talent you'd think that'd be enough for the ratings, but we also have Indiana Jones and Han Solo, as Harrison Ford gives us a double scotch classy turn. While of course Christina Applegate is back to anchor the news and Ron's heart. If that wasn't enough for the strings or rib-tickling, James Marsden continues his recent hot streak (see Cyclops' blazing '2 Guns', or his Kennedy turn in 'The Butler') with one of his funniest and best performances. Even Kanye West gets to be in his favorite movie and as for the soundtrack it's as epic and eighties as Ron's barber. From the whales vagina of San Diego to the big apple of New York this news-team takes top-billing over this classic cast as they try to make it best in the big city. Some jokes may fall flat here but what do you expect after all the years of eager anticipation and high hyped expectations? Other jokes will blow up the room like the fire in Ron's eyes when you tell him he has bad hair and from old favorites like the tricks of loyal dog Baxter to the trade of Fantana's 'grooming' essentials these gags will never cease to amaze you. There's 'Blades Of Glory' skating to the sound of jazz and Basketball jokes that are anything but 'Semi-Pro' with these all-stars. To go along with the quality news reporting we've expected from these stand up fellows. From cute animal clips that could shut down Vines to the 'World Wildest Police Chases' that could turn Sheriff John Bunnell's hair back to black. 'These critics thought they could make a home on tearing comedy sequels down...little did they know they'd be spending the rest of their time going back to whore island.'
Sure at times the comedy reverts back to the formula of it's old cliche, but not yet 'Hangover' tired and it's the sort of fond favoritism the cult fans want from the original classic. Besides if it 'aint broke, don't fix the teleprompter. If you don't think sequels like this work tell it to 'The Naked Gun', 'Wayne's World' or your DVD player for the next few years. The first film will always be the one, true classic but this second egg is no chicken...or turkey just shy of thanksgiving. Just before Christmas your buddy 'Elf' is back to give the fans what they want, the best present wrapped in a big Burgundy bow. Smiling and laughing's your favorite right? Will we see a trilogy Mr. Ferrell? Popular consensus and money marketing will probably say "cha-ching, yes", but right now this comedy anchor Godfather is pulling all the strings and dusting the feathers across our rib-cages. Sewn together between set-up set pieces to the classic character comedy that is this reporters calling card this film will leave you in stitches...even if you do have some time to recover from the pain and tears in-between. With all the 'and rest' moments here you'll have time to write down the new, classic quotes for your news feed conversations while anticipating the laughs, camera, action that will come later. Leaving fans with more glee than those kids that sing in-between class and break-ups there's even a 'best friend' ode better than Doug's song bound to give you some 'Afternoon Delight'. Comedy sky-rockets in flight, this is still the date night movie that will leave you rolling around afterwards when in Rome. Just don't take most of this seriously...it's supposed to be silly even if a little heartfelt and honest. From trying to understand Australian to translating some seriously sublime satire comedy in the newsroom hasn't been this funny and formulating since Jon Stewart gave 'The Daily Show' its most perfect press. This isn't CNN...this is comedy network nostalgia that still keeps it classy. Other sequel comedies need to do their research and would do good to take notes of this journalists jovial jokes. Good news, Ron Burgundy is still number one. Now don't act like you're not impressed. Am I right? Saaaay whaaaaaat?! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Saturday, 14 December 2013
161 Minutes. Starring: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lily, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Stephen Fry, Sylvester McCoy & Benedict Cumberbatch (As The Voice Of Smaug). Director: Peter Jackson.
OK fellowship...I'll admit it. It took me the love of my life, the channeling of my inner geek (who am I kidding I am a geek and proud) and one epic, three, three hour film DVD night (that was interrupted and then moved to close the last classic, biggest battle scene on the worlds smallest television screen upstairs...I know right?!) for me to get properly into the 'Lord Of The Rings' trilogy. No, I'm not Tolkien the piss, but boy did I not know what I was in for. Something so grand and epic it's right there with the testimony trilogies of 'Star Wars' ,'Godfather'' and my own personal geek favorite 'The Dark Knight'. Peter Jackson's triumphant three part vision of J.R.R Tolkien's wonderful three part story was truly a trilogy that deserved another and as of last year we got that in the outstanding, original book that spawned it all, 'The Hobbit'. Sure compared to the 'Jurassic Park' gate doorstop 'Rings' trilogy this short story is a pamphlet but a perfect one at that and only Jackson could turn each 100 pages into a three hour film in themselves (especially with the help of the screenplay labyrinth of 'Pacific Rim' future blockbuster explorer Guillermo del Toro) for yet another holy trinity of heaven sent magical movies that are now chasing the wand of 'Harry Potter' epic spectacle stakes. After last years 'Unexpected Journey', exceeded everyone's epic expectations and saw more dwarfs than 'Snow White' and more endings than a Bruce Springsteen encore the only questions we where left with where; "why didn't those lazy eagles drop them off just a little further"? The film introduced a new quest of classic characters that would win over cult cameos from Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett and also showed that their dinner parties could be as fun as some of their escape art battles. The film even took my personal Jaa Jaa Binx, Gollum and turned him up a notch to now one of my favorite characters. In the sequel he's now sorely missed, but don't be shy. Delve deeper into the darkness of the cave and you'll love to step into the light of this warm like mulled wine Winter festive season movie just in time for an early Christmas this fall.
For now it's time for 'The Desolation Of Smaug' and for all you fans out there no my lad that's not an earthquake you hear in your IMAX theaters like those thunderous storm giants hurling rock strong set-pieces. Get ready for some blazing 3D as we're about to go 'There And Back Again' for yet another powerful part of this long saga that is anything but boring and getting nothing but absolutely better. This in fact might be the best of them all, so you know the finale's going to be a formidable foe of force. Far over the misty mountains you can see the landscape of this film is more than just a tour guide for the stunning beauty of its New Zealand set. There's so much more to this story that you can take from by the book. No wonder I delved into my parents cupboards to find their old, original illustrated version of 'The Hobbit'. As right as reading the words before the actions are, part of me wishes I left a lot of these stunning scenes to surprise. Prose purists will be satisfied to the letter though. As there are river rapid barrel rides as crazy and as exciting as those people that used to ride down Niagara Falls in kegs and web sticky, scary giant, 'your worst nightmare', spider scenes as electric as the trailer for the new 'Amazing Spider-Man' sequel at 48 sick, stunning frames per 'pass the popcorn bucket' second. From drinking at middle-earths local Prancing Pony to bear changing milk servers this film is a different animal altogether, confirming and creating this perfect prequel to one of the greatest sets of cinematic experiences of all time. In this modern movie-world it only gets graphically better to the most special effect and with all the arrows flying around no one can escape being hit to love this like Cupid. This film has so much character and we haven't even begun to talk about the cast, which is assembling the stars at a Marvel rate. Of course we're off to see the grand wizard as Sir Ian McKellen arises as Gandalf in-between his moving Magneto 'X-Men' bid to resurrect his classic career to the 'Days Of Future Past'. While 'The Hobbit' himself is truly the incredible rising leadership of Martin Freeman armed with his letter opener (now named after a certain someone from The Police (don't stand so close to him)), who takes the ring from Elijah Wood in more ways than one. Believe me this too...shall pass.
Bilbo Baggins has a lot more to deal with here though and we're not just talking about his dwarfs, from Richard Armitage's Mortensen channeling Thorin and rising 'Mortal Instrument' pin-up Aidan Turner (who really should have been the one to play Michael Hutchence in the new INXS biopic) and T.V's tuned in James Nesbitt and mini-Santa Claus Ken Stott who are back in great fan favor. There's so many big names in this series that you can even add Great British national treasure Stephen Fry (whose being making the movie sequel, classic book adaptation rounds recently as 'Sherlock Holmes' brother in 'A Game Of Shadows') and one of the original 'Doctor Who's' Sylvester McCoy complete with the luck of bird crap crusting in his hair. By the ears of Spock there's elves to deal with here too, from 'Twilight' saga star Lee Pace keeping and camping it up as a '300' worthy king to the rising red haired talent of femme-fatale Evangeline Lily who recently went to battle in 'The Hurt Locker' and 'Real Steel'. Here she throws some serious bows but that's nothing compared to her arrow-man. Yep that's right, clench up ladies because Orlando Bloom is back as Legolas with Hawkeye avenging vision. The kid with the Florida first name truly blooms, matures and grows in the 'other' franchise of the new millennium that made him a megastar alongside Disney's 'Pirates Of The Caribbean'. With better acting, hair and some serious archery skill so quick at the speed of a dart, this is a bulls-eye hit and return of redemption for the actor. The elf ear arrow action scenes really prick up the pace of this picture and give it it's range. After taking the wheel of the 'Fast & Furious' franchise to London, handing the keys to the passenger seat villain Jason Statham, Brit Luke Evans shows real humble honor as another skilled archer with more behind his bow than you think. Oh and we almost forgot there's a few Orcs too. Freeman has more than enough talent to win over this old audience to the new Jackson attraction, but it's another one of his co-stars from 'Sherlock' that really furthers this insired, influential investigation. It's all elementary for this Dear Watson as there's one part left that could take the Bilbo riddles of Gollum to school.
In a class of his own you know it's all about the red dragon (yep that's right people he's red) like a 'Hannibal' sequel and this fire-breather is really about to eat you up in stunning big-screen high-definition. If you thought that Benedict Cumberbatch gave us the best villain of the year in his Khan good/bad conflict of the light shining 'Star Trek-Into Darkness' then just wait until you hear him here. More than just blowing hot air, the man-whose voice recently had all the 'Cumberbitches' in awe of his R. Kelly 'Sex Genius', 'Black Panties' lyric reading on Jimmy Kimmel-wins the Tom Hiddleston Loki theatrical British villain war with the next impressionable voice. His army of Beatle-mania screaming female fans may wish they could see him but his studio sound, super vocal skill is enough to fill the auditoriums with an attracted audience. How to Cumberbatch your dragon with a Sean Connery 'Dragonheart' this actor deserves to be a Smaug so and so as he pitches the perfect vocal chords to go along with this classic character he makes as magic as 'Merlin'. A character only better for how it legacy lasting looks as this books pictured dragon is perfectly illustrated here for those who have been imagining and dreaming just quite how Smaug would look on screen in-between all those pools of Mr. Scrooge revenue. Here they hit gold, truly sitting on a pile of money with a breath of fire air that is hotter than the classic cast-list, or scintillating set-pieces that make this movie already that much better than the rest. Finally after all these decades, years and hours it's worth the wait to finally see this beautiful beast who takes over this film and we can only hope will soar further and help this trilogy really fly. Clawing away, this years movie competition of incredible comic-book and sci-fi imagination and creative invention is ashes now no matter how big, blockbuster or special effects the picture compared to this old story made anew. Throw as may Avengers or superheros at is as you like, even 'The Hunger Games' don't have enough arrows as this dragon 'Catching Fire' takes wing. Even 'Gravity' is grounded by the cinematography of the dragon and the fire in the belly of this story. Nothing can fan the flames now when it comes to this amazing adventure and the desolation of the box-office that reduces everything else to smoke. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
"This is America! This is my home! The show goes on! They're going to have to send the national guard to take me out! Because I 'aint going nowheeeere"! Leonardo DiCaprio stirs everyone's energy, striding, swaggering and shouting enthusiastically down a microphone with slicked back hair and a blue suit only Pat Riley or the rest of the eighties would be proud of. A boisterously hot 'Boiler Room' of slimy, Gordon Gekko slick wannabe 'Wall Street' traders are watching in idolizing admiration. Looking at the man who literally throws dollars away like the waste basket was a Basketball hoop. Like money doesn't sleep on everything from smashing up back to the 80's, Delorean like vehicles and other cars straight off the lot, to sides at meals so expensive you would think they could cure cancer. Throwing wine glasses on the floor when he says hello to his mansion guests before pool parties more populated than Kendrick Lamar. Then launching lobsters and peeled off notes at federal agents as they leave his yacht with all his arrogance all to the soundtrack tune of the Dead Weather and Kanye West. 'More' just simply isn't enough for this guy as he looks like he's having the best and boastful time of his life. Stop! Hold up...wait...Leo?! No this isn't a money hungry change of heart for the soulful philanthropist whose work for the environment is instrumental, but the latest role in his Scorsese actor/director classic combo of cultural creativity. 'The Wolf Of Wall Street'-the true story of Jordan Belfort, the real life Gordon Gekko-could be good enough to make the classic Michael Douglas series look like spare change. Even with it being "trimmed" down to an expensive 3 hour run time the film-which features THE new 'Moneyball' super sidekick, comedy boy wonder Jonah Hill and the redemption of the realest character creator Matthew McConaughey and that divine drawl- has been received with a critical standing ovation of applause as the last horse in the race stampeding it's way to the February Academy of the Oscars. With Martin's new Bobby DeNiro-even holding his arms out and giving that trademark 'Niro nod and questioning facial expression-following the dark mob of 'The Departed', the high-flying 'The Aviator', the epic ensemble of 'Gangs Of New York' and the sublimely sinister 'Shutter Island' this actor/director partnership have made nothing but the best work of their classics. They're even looking at the old blue eyes of Sinatra next. To be Frank they can tell any story they want...doing it their way.
If you thought the best commercial success of 2010's inspired 'Inception' and haunting 'Shutter Island' was the best year of Leonardo DiCaprio's career than you might want to track his last 365 calender days. As great as that was, last Christmas we saw Leo get bloody...literally, putting aside the calling-card conflictions to play the vilest villain with crazy conviction. In Quentin Tarantino's new classic 'Django Unchained', an Oscar winning Christophe Waltz, along with standout performances from lead Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson gave this modern take on old westerns and Q.T. his best script read since 'Pulp Fiction'. Still it was like candy land for the sweetest cast when Leo played the best worst bad guy of all-time in Calvin Candie. Serving up a tense and taught dinner-table of defining dialogue for the director known for his prose. Like a true professional with incredible improvisation, Leo even played through the pain of actually cutting his hand on glass, rubbing his blood all over Kerry Washington's face unscripted. Staying in character this sick moment was a shock for poor Kerry who would of perhaps preferred a heads up for her face-time, but it still made for a crucial moment in a critical scene and I'm sure the nice guy made it up to her (apparently he was so in character that after having trouble with the racism ended up not conversing much with Foxx before scenes, according to Jaime). With a big beard and bad teeth...and an even bolder and bad suit, the pretty boy with the floppy hair went bad and as ugly as he could for a moment of brutality the film needed to step up the down treading behavior even more. Following his strong supporting role, he reunited with the man that took him to the Hollywood Hills for Baz Lurhman's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel 'The Great Gatsby'. With a whole lot of 3D pomp and circumstance, some critics where dulled by the vibrant colors of a film whose Jay-Z produced soundtrack scored higher. Still, what was undeniable was the morning after party half of the film where Leo turned up the classic conflicted acting to a stripe sharper than his suits. He saved the picture and proved he was the right man to play the legendary Jack Gatsby who people have been trying to picture over the pages for decades. From the moment you heard his voice climb the stairs and extend his drink to the screen with that welcoming smile, you knew this old sport was the man. This is the reason this guy is the leading man lone wolf a top the hills of all the Brad Pitt's and George Clooney pretty boys turned great male actors with his next great and possibly best 'Wolf Of Wall Street' picture about to take legacy lasting frame.
One year off 40 and this Los Angeles born California kid is full grown to his prime that never looks to pass. Just imagine the decades of Clint Eastwood great work we can expect from the amazing ageing of the man who did that all made-up playing 'J. Edgar' with investigatory inspiration. From a child-star to now, we've seen it all grow and mature before our viewing eyes from the 'Growing Pains' sitcom series, 'Santa Barbra' soaps and everyone's favorite 'Roseanne' to the graduated Academy of Oscar nominated roles. Named Leonardo after his mother experienced his first kick while looking at a Da Vinci painting, the kid has been making art ever since. O.K. commercials for Matchbox cars and the 'Critters' films aren't exactly Shakespeare, but 'Romeo + Juliet' certainly is and in the year that was truly his young mans dream this and the maiden voyage of 'Titanic' made him a worldwide star on every households television and on the poster laden wall of every teenage girls bedroom. His love duet with Kate Winslet, still resonates in the sea changes of memories today, regardless of anniversary and his modern guns over swords remake of the greatest love story ever wrote alongside Claire Danes and the scene stealing John Leguizamo is just the coolest thing ever that has inspired many a generation of 'O' or '10 Things I Hate About You' 'bard remake that could never pass the rum like Baz's sunscreen moment. The star sign of Leo has come a long, legendary way since then, but even before then he already had come so, so far. From being handpicked by Robert DeNiro and then beaten on screen by him for the grueling 'This Boys Life', maybe Bobby knew before Martin, he was mentoring his replacement. Able to capture struggle like men decades his senior couldn't he then played the mentally handicapped brother of superstar Johnny Depp for 'Whats Eating Gilbert's Grape', which showed there really was something much deeper to this kids wonderful work. The intense performance was difficult to watch, but even Oscar did as the whole world took deserved notice. What was eating this kid? More light was shined on 'Total Eclipse' and heart on the soulful 'Marvins Room', it was clearly time for this young man to play with the big boys.
In the epic ensemble of the drawn western 'The Quick And The Dead', Leo clicked his spurs with the legendary likes of Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Sharon Stone. With six-shooter, cocksure confidence this kid walked taller than his over-sized cowboy hat and boots. For one of the more unforgiven, underrated modern westerns of recent times, DiCaprio displayed true grit, even if Sony pictures was showing his star potential the tombstone. Sharon Stone believed in him though giving him the best break by generously paying for his salary like Sylvester Stallone does for others to keep him in the picture out of the pocket. Although his teenage character tried to wrongly and unsuccessfully seduce the leading lady on-screen, it;s clear he won over the star off it with his acting. His poignant, powerful final scene was the beginning of something great too. After replacing River Phoenix for the homosexual love story of 'Eclipse', Leo went even deeper into the locker room for 'The Basketball Diaries' alongside young greats Mark Wahlberg and Juliette Lewis. More than your average sports journal, this bitter taste and tale of youth wasting their life on drugs and the desperate and pride swallowed lengths they go to score was the darkest, but also light-shedding necessary pictures of modern youth for a mainstream that needed more straight shots and less watered down storie for their collective consciousness. This out of bounds picture was more than just a game for the die-hard Lakers fan. Films like this have helped him become a Jack Nicholson courtside regular, but it's a slam dunk over those ignoring people in poverty. Taking everything to court it remains one of his purest and most powerful plays. A short film with friend Tobey Maguire 'Don's Plum' was greatly received even if the pair never intended it for release it would lead to them collaborating again decades and years later for 'Gatsby', just like the actor/director partnership of Lurhman and Leo that would follow a year later with his 'Romeo'. If everyone didn't love him then or after he painted the perfect portrait of love, while sketching Kate Winslet aboard the 'Titanic', his star stock would rise again with the De Niro reunion and Oscar company of great Meryl Streep for 'Marvins Room', as the stage show was played out perfectly on screen. 'Leo-Mania' was in full massive, mainstream effect, but the humble but appreciative man took it all in stride even mocking himself in a cameo for Woody Allen film 'Celebrity'. He then played twin roles for the steel strong 'The Man In The Iron Mask', revealing more sides of himself, however then he ditched the floppy boyish good look hair for some puppy fat and more well rounded performances as he took his career to an island of it's own.
On the stranger shores of 'The Beach', Leo drew a line in the sand with his first voice of the generation cult, classic. Strange and sublime, this film reaffirmed the bolder choices of his youth that the 'Titanic' mainstream was now ready to sail with him for the rest of his career. His opening monologue of one individuals freedom to travel the boundaries of their life and self discovery could inspire more people than the pages of 'Into The Wild'. A backpackers dream, this took him round the world even more, travel ready for his biggest successes to that destination date. 'Catch Me If You Can' wasn't just the name of a stellar picture that saw Leo shine above THE 90's go-to legends of directing and acting in 'Jurassic Park's' Steven Spielberg and 'Forrest Gump', Tom Hanks himself. It may as well of been Leo's life motto too. Travelling through 147 locations in just 52 shooting days, this was Leo's first of many depictions of real-life men of crime and conflict (like the real 'Wolf Of Wall Street', Jordan Belfort) in this crime caper as DiCaprio played Frank Abagnale Jnr with on-point, perfect conviction. The man who forged checks and unbelievably posed as doctors and pilots was played with genuine belief from Leonardo, earning the star his third Golden Globe. The iconic scene where he walks through a police-filled airport, dressed as a pilot and surrounded by the most beautiful air stewardesses, set to the tune of Frank Sinatra's 'Come Fly With Me' remains one of the most legendary scenes in recent movie-making history. A defining moment for the star and an inspiration for many an airline commercial and even the recent taken off 'Pan Am' series. The international success of playing troubled characters changed the tides of a blockbuster 90's making movie-world. It got darker still alongside Daniel Day-Lewis for the worldwide mob hit of 'Gangs Of New York'. There would be a hell of a of blood in DiCaprio's first partnership with Martin Scorsese, which has led to the star being in every one of Marty's pictures-save 'Hugo'-since then. Things took off for the pair and 'Caprio's real life portrayal even further with 'The Aviator', where Leo channeled the eccentric and deeply troubled airman pioneer and movie-maker Howard Hughes down to the long fingernails. It was a deeply dedicated, no holes-barred, but still really respectful performance that remains the best of not only the Leo/Scorsese partnership, but all the work of either director and actor. From rags to riches and all the way back and forth again, it resonates so much longer than the repeating, fading out anxious words of it's three hour finale.
Leo kept it third time the charm with Martin, as they traveled to Boston with fellow die-hard Laker Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and 'The Aviators' of Alec Baldwin among an epic ensemble, classic cast for the cops and robbers, detective class in it's own of 'The Departed'. Bold, brutal and brilliant you don't see twists coming like this off both sides of the gun in THE modern day police story that all other action thrillers should take heed too. This came off the heels of DiCaprio travelling to Africa to explore more of the worlds woes and personal tragedies in hard-hitting, grime behind the shine look of 'Blood Diamond'. Complete with a quirky accent and a soundtrack he helped handpick with legendary, top rapper Nas this socially conscious film remains one of the stars most important and influential with an inspired performance that mirrored his philanthropic life work. The kind of filmography resume entry that takes him to the Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt stakes of epic but universally underrated work. With amazing acting, this film proves even his 10th or 20th best picture would be other actors crowning moment of glory. The conscious look and discovery of all that's going on in the world continued with the truth told of the tense and taught 'Body Of Lies' alongside Russell Crowe, where Leo went to the undercover darks to show just how serious an actor he was and still is. Looking at terrorism in the Middle-East it didn't get realer and rawer than this. Then, however a reunion with Winslet saw him take it to the opposite side of love as Leo took it home for Sam Mendes 'Revolutionary Road' and the personal demons and home horror of what goes on behind the white-picket fence of a failing marriage. Yep, this was more depressing than a sinking ship, but it was a suburban look of 1950's America that still his timeless lessons that need to be learnt about love and life today. The dark recesses of the mind where delved even deeper with Scorsese once again for the psychological warfare of 'Shutter Island' from it's misty, atmospheric boat-ride beginnings, to it's nightmare filled, waking dead scenarios played out through the brain stems of a man who lost his whole family, life and mind. This was so harrowing and hauntingly great it could almost personally ground 'The Aviator'. This acclaimed Wall Street look at human behavior under the morality of massive amounts of money against the former pictures look at the mortality of the pressure of loss has a lot to bank on when it comes to this definitive human horror movie. This film even went deeper critically than the dream-induced Christoper Nolan commercial blockbuster success of the influential 'Inception', which made mega household stars of the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy, taking the lions-share of this entire cast to the conclusion of the epic 'Dark Knight' trilogy (aside Leo who was rumored as the Riddler...how great would have that been?). It was all a dream world for DiCaprio following his biggest mainstream success. Then the worlds best actor of the moment teamed up with arguably the worlds best director Clint Eastwood as the pair went political for the biography of J Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI who to his credit revolutionized crime-fighting with fingerprint identification, but also to his detriment black-mailed great men like Martin Luther King Jnr and the Kennedy's.
The pair made some public enemies as well with the critics words on their portrayal as would anyone building a controversial character. It seems Leo brings a likability to most of is conflicted characters except this one, but done with all due respect and historical diligence the pair crafted a criminally over-looked classic with Judie Dench and Armie Hammer. The controversial themes where dealt with, with a touch of class and consideration. It remains as enigmatic and interesting as the man himself, presenting both sides of the coins like all true historical biographies should afford to. Let's hope the reception won't stop a reunion between DiCaprio's other great director partner...and let's hope the legendary actor Clint, passed on some camera tricks to a lead who may one day take the chair himself. One things for sure as Leo ages gracefully and greatly over the year he'll have his Eastwood later career defining roles like he did as a million dollar baby. After critics cooled on him a little bit and DiCaprio avoided controversy by stepping away from a Mel Gibson Viking picture because he was against the troubled directors time and tirades, it looked like the hardest working man in Hollywood was taking a break on his acting craft. That was until he left all those notions quick and dead for his return to the wild west and his first real take on the dark side of playing it Denzel in 'Training Day' dirty. His unchained big-three led by 'Django' and the old sport of 'Gatsby' continues with the cash celebration on 'Wall Street' that parties so hard it had to be cut down. 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' looks to take Scorsese and Leo even higher together as a partnership and on their own individual performances of merit, before the pair order another one for the road as they take on the chairman of the board for the ultimate Rat Pack of films. DiCaprio will collaborate with his adversary Django in the crime thriller 'Mean Business On North Ganson' Street' with Jamie Foxx for more perfect partnerships. Who know just quite whats next for the man who in 'The 11th Hour' makes documentaries and works for the improvement of the environment an philanthropy like it was his full-time job. As he seeks to improve the world from activism to his human touch brought to his characters his mission isn't complete. This is one lone wolf with solar panels on his home in the hills. Donating his money and time to global warming, it's clear there's more on this mans mind than the trappings of fame, success and money despite the themes of his latest lesson learning movie. This is truly what separates and sets this actors character free. When it comes to all he's done, it doesn't get more real-life and legacy leading than that. After all, this is his world, this is home, they could send the whole of Hollywood down and they still wouldn't take him out.