Tag Archives: Leonardo di Caprio

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Romeo + Juliet</strong> (1996)

(On DVD, March 2017) Going into Romeo + Juliet, I only knew two things: I usually like director Baz Luhrmann’s work (I usually love the first half-hour of his movies); and I have a lot of trouble with Shakespearian dialogue. Despite my best intentions, I bounced off hard from the recent contemporary reimagining of Coriolanus and Much Ado About Nothing: my brain can’t process that language even with subtitles to help. In that context, Romeo + Juliet’s central conceit, to reimagine Shakespeare’s best-known romantic play with the same dialogue but in a mid-1990s Californian-ish context with warring crime families using fancy guns rather than swords, seemed like courting trouble. Fortunately, Luhrmann’s typical verve was enough to get me over the initial hump. The opening sequence of the movie not only indelibly imprinted IN FAIR VERONA in my mind, but was stylish and action-packed enough to get me interested in the (more sedate) rest of the film. Leonardo di Caprio is fine as Romeo, while Claire Danes makes for a fair wide-eyed Juliet. Able supporting presences by actors such as John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite and Harold Perrineau (plus a very young Paul Rudd) complete the already wild portrait. Add to that Luhrmann’s usual energy and visual flair and the Shakespearian dialogue becomes far less important—knowing the basic beats of the classic story means that we’re free to appreciate the adaptation rather than the words, and so Romeo + Juliet comes alive. While much of this energy dissipates in the latter half of the film, there are enough elements of interest in the modernization of the story (complete with car chases, helicopters and news media commentary) to keep watching until the end. As pure piece of style, this is a film that is both precisely dated in mid-nineties aesthetics yet timeless because of them. It’s breathless, witty, just sappy enough to qualify as a true version of Romeo and Juliet, and an experience in itself. Maybe I’m getting ready to take another look at Coriolanus and Much Ado About Nothing

The Revenant (2015)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Revenant</strong> (2015)

(Video on Demand, May 2016) From the first moments, it’s obvious that The Revenant is going to be a beautiful film, a long film and a film with a lot more on its mind than a survival/revenge story. It could have been a cheap and efficient 90-minute exploitation film, considering the nature of the story: As far as incredible stories of survival are concerned, it’s hard to beat a gravely wounded man in 1790s American wilderness travelling 300 kilometres to seek the man who left him for dead and killed his son. Extreme survival, justified revenge, beautiful nature backdrops… No-one would have faulted The Revenant for focusing on the primal survival/revenge story. But in the hands of director Alejandro González Iñárritu, the result is a few steps above the strictly necessary. A savvy blend of nature shooting and cutting-edge special effects allows for lengthy, almost unbearable sequences of violence set against spectacular natural landscapes. In-between harsh weather, aggressive bears, warring white groups and wronged natives, there are many moving parts in The Revenant, and the script effortlessly plumbs at the complexities to be found in even such a so-called wilderness. Leonardo Di Caprio is remarkable as the hero of the story, even though Tom Hardy also does a lot as the antagonist. Still, the stars here are cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and director Iñárritu, transforming an exploitation premise into A-grade filmmaking. It’s true that the result could have been a bit shorter and less repetitive, but it feels a bit ungrateful to ask for less of an excellent film.

The Beach (2000)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Beach</strong> (2000)

(On TV, April 2015)  I seem to remember The Beach being some kind of minor cult-classic film for disaffected young adults in the early 2000s, and watching the film fifteen years later does offer a few clues as to why.  The Big One is the promise of pure escapism, as our backpacking protagonist hears of a secluded Thai beach where expatriates have established their own little hedonistic society.  But as our main character understands soon enough, utopia doesn’t work so well in the real world.  The Beach at least has a bit of a plot running through it, even though the real star here remains either Leonardo Di Caprio (who, at the time, was starting to transition from teenage heartthrob to the serious actor he’s become today) or Danny Boyle’s direction, which showcases the fondness for hallucinatory deviations from objective reality that would be used to such good effect in later films such as 127 Hours.  The film doesn’t always move quickly, but it does have a small number of standout sequences, a lovely setting, an interesting performance by Di Caprio and a younger Tilda Swinton attempting a fairly generic role.  Still, there’s a whiff of pretention here in the way our privileged hero philosophizes on the nature of life through a temporary escape.  What’s meant as meditative comes across as jejune, and the protagonist isn’t much to cheer for.  Still, the stylish touches remain interesting and there’s always the scenery to look at.