Film Review: Father Stu (dir by Rosalind Ross)


I don’t care what all the other critics said when Father Stu was first released in April.  It’s not that bad.

Now, of course, I should be upfront and mention that I come from a Catholic background.  My father’s side of the family is Irish.  My mother’s side is Italian/Spanish.  Am I saying that you have to have been raised Catholic to appreciate Father Stu?  Not at all.  But it does help.

And when I say that Father Stu is not that bad, what I mean is that’s actually pretty good.

Based on a true story, Father Stu stars Mark Wahlberg as Stuart Long.  When the movie opens, Stu is in a boxing ring, beating up his opponents while taking a lot of punishment himself.  From that opening scene, we learn a few things about Stu.  He’s a fighter.  He’s determined.  He’s willing to take a beating.  And he really doesn’t know when to quit.  We then meet his no-nonsense mother, Kathleen (Jacki Weaver), and his father, Bill (Mel Gibson).  Bill is an alcoholic truck driver, the type who shouts at other drivers and who gets into an argument with a random child about who is the worse driver.

When Stu is informed that he could very well die if he continues to box, he decides that it’s time to pursue another profession.  The 30-something Stu announces to his mother that he’s going to be an actor.  He may not have any training but he has a lot of personality.  Stu’s mother suggests that it might be a little late in life for Stu to pursue a career as a film star but Stu packs up and leaves for Montana for California.

He does manage to land one gig, a commercial for a mop.  But Stu’s acting career never really takes off.  Instead, he gets a job working in a deli.  It’s there that he first spots Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a Sunday school teacher.  When Carmen tells Stu that she wouldn’t even consider dating a man who was not baptized, Stu begins RCIA at the local parish.  Eventually, he’s baptized into the parish but it’s not until he’s nearly killed in a motorcycle accident and has a vision of Mary that he truly starts to believe.  He also comes to feel that he’s been called to the priesthood, despite the fact that it means ending his relationship with Carmen.  Stu enters the seminary, under the watchful eye of the initially skeptical but eventually supportive Monsignor Kelly (Malcolm McDowell).  However, Stu soon finds himself facing his greatest challenge when he’s diagnosed with inclusion body myositis, a disease that will eventually rob him of his ability to care for himself.

When Father Stu was first released in April, it received a lot of attention for being an R-rated film about faith.  But the fact that the characters frequently (and colorfully) curse is actually one of the best things about Father Stu.  People curse.  Both the religious and the non-religious curse.  Catholics especially curse.  When you find out that you have an incurable disease that’s going to kill you by the time you turn 50, you’re going to curse regardless of how much faith you may or may not have.  Far too many films about religion seem to take place in some strange world where the 50s never ended and people still say, “Darn,” when faced with the world’s problems.  To its credit, Father Stu‘s characters never lose their edge.

Father Stu also received a lot of negative attention for the involvement of Mel Gibson.  That’s understandable but, at the same time, there’s probably no contemporary actor who is more convincing as a self-destructive alcoholic than Mel Gibson.  For better or worse, Gibson brings a certain authenticity to the role and that authenticity is what a film like Father Stu needs.

In the lead role, Mark Wahlberg brings a lot of sincerity to the role of Stu.  When we’re first introduced to Stu, he’s earnest but he’s not particularly smart.  He doesn’t think things through.  He’s the type of guy who will work hard in his job without understanding that it’s still not a good idea to show up at work looking like you’ve spent the weekend fighting people in an alley for loose change.  As a result of Wahlberg’s performance, it’s easy to see why everyone in Stu’s life is skeptical when he announces that he’s going to become a priest.  However, it’s also due to his performance that Stu’s eventual transformation is undeniably moving.  Wahlberg’s rough-edged sincerity keeps the film from becoming overly mawkish after Stu discovers that he’s ill.  He remains a fighter from beginning to end and it’s hard not to want to see him win.

Father Stu is probably the epitome of the type of film that audiences love but critics hate.  But you know what?  Sometimes, the audiences are right and sometimes, critics try way too hard to be cynical.  Father Stu is a touching movie, one that serves as an antidote to the God’s Not Dead-style of movies about religion.  It’s a good movie that, like its protagonist, never stops fighting.

Scenes that I love: The Boogie Nights Recording Session (Happy Birthday, John C. Reilly)


Via twitter, I was reminded that today is John C. Reilly’s 57th birthday.  This provides me with a great reason to share a scene that I love from 1997’s Boogie Nights.  After falling out with his director, 70s porn star Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) attempts to reinvent himself as a rock star.  Providing support, both emotionally and musically, is his best friend and frequent co-star, Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly).

Now, obviously, Wahlberg’s brilliantly tuneless singing usually gets the most attention here but there’s something really touching about Reed’s loyalty in these scenes.  It may just be because of the cocaine but you can tell that Reed is perhaps even more convinced of Dirk’s talent than Dirk is.

Enjoy and remember …. YOU GOT THE POWER!

Tom Holland is our Nathan Drake in the Uncharted Trailer!


I have really mixed feelings about the new Uncharted Movie, based on the trailer. I don’t doubt that it can be fun ride, but having finished all of the games save for the last one, I’m not completely sold on it. Still, Hollywood looks for longevity, and having a younger cast makes for more sequels. Tom Holland’s in a perfect place for this, as filing Nathan Drake’s shoes are no easy task. Mark Wahlberg isn’t the Sully I envisioned, but he should be good with the major action sequences.

Again, it’s just a trailer. The movie overall should make for a great popcorn film. I hope to cheer along.

Uncharted releases in theatres February 18, 2022.

Nomadland Wins At The Satellite Awards


Here’s what won at the Satellite Awards on the 15th.  I apologize for being a bit late in posting this but the weather conspired to keep me from watching the Satellite Awards.

Actually, did anyone watch the Satellite Awards?  Does anyone even know who is even giving these things out?

Well, regardless, here’s what won in the film categories:

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENTS

Mary Pickford Award: Tilda Swinton
Tesla Award: Dick Pope
Auteur Award: Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Best First Feature: Channing Godfrey Peoples – Miss Juneteenth
Stunt Performance Award: Gaëlle Cohen
Humanitarian Award: Mark Wahlberg
Ensemble Motion Picture: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Ensemble Television: The Good Lord Bird

Actress in a Motion Picture Drama
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Kate Winslet – Ammonite
Sophia Loren – The Life Ahead

Actor in a Motion Picture Drama 
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Steven Yeun – Minari
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Gary Oldman – Mank

Actress in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical 
Meryl Streep – The Prom
Rashida Jones – On the Rocks
Margot Robbie – Birds of Prey
Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Anya Taylor-Joy – Emma

Actor in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Andy Samberg – Palm Springs
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Hamilton
Dev Patel – The Personal History of David Copperfield
Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Leslie Odom Jr. – Hamilton

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Olivia Colman – The Father
Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari
Ellen Burstyn – Pieces of a Woman
Nicole Kidman – The Prom
Helena Zengel – News of the World

Actor in a Supporting Role
Brian Dennehy – Driveways
David Strathairn – Nomadland
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Kingsley Ben-Adir – One Night in Miami
Bill Murray – On the Rocks

Motion Picture, Drama
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Father
Promising Young Woman
Minari
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Tenet
Sound of Metal
One Night in Miami
Miss Juneteenth

Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical 
On the Rocks
Hamilton
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Palm Springs
The Personal History of David Copperfield
The Forty-Year-Old Version

Motion Picture, International
Another Round
Tove
A Sun
Two of Us
Jallikattu
I’m No Longer Here
Atlantis
My Little Sister
La Llorona

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Over the Moon
Soul
Wolfwalkers
Demon Slayer-Kimetsu No Yaiba-The Movie: Mugen Train
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
No. 7 Cherry Lane

Motion Picture, Documentary
Collective
Crip Camp
MLK / FBI
The Dissident
A Most Beautiful Thing
The Truffle Hunters
Acasa, My Home
Coup 53
Gunda
Circus of Books

Director
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
David Fincher – Mank
Darius Marder – Sound of Metal
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Florian Zeller – The Father

Screenplay, Original
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Jack Fincher – Mank
Pete Docter, Mike Jones & Kemp Powers – Soul
Andy Siara – Palm Springs
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Screenplay, Adapted
Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller – The Father
Jessica Bruder & Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
Kemp Powers – One Night in Miami
Edoardo Ponti – The Life Ahead
Luke Davies & Paul Greengrass – News of the World

Original Score
Ludwig Goransson – Tenet
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Mank
Alexandre Desplat – The Midnight Sky
James Newton Howard – News of the World
Emile Mosseri – Minari
Terence Blanchard – One Night in Miami

Original Song
“Io Si” – The Life Ahead
“Hear My Voice” – The Trial of the Chicago 7
“Rocket to the Moon” – Over the Moon
“Speak Now” – One Night in Miami
“Everybody Cries” – The Outpost
“The Other Side” – Trolls World Tour

Cinematography
The Midnight Sky
Nomadland
Mank 
News of the World
One Night in Miami
Tenet

Film Editing
Nomadland
The Father
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Mank
One Night in Miami
Minari

Sound (Editing and Mixing)
Sound of Metal
Tenet
Mank
The Prom
The Midnight Sky
Nomadland

Visual Effects
The Midnight Sky
Mank
Tenet    
Birds of Prey
Greyhound
Mulan

Art Direction and Production Design
The Personal History of David Copperfield
One Night in Miami
Mank
The Midnight Sky
The Prom
Mulan

Costume Design
Mulan
Emma
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
The Personal History of David Copperfield
One Night in Miami

Here Are the 2020 Satellite Nominations!


If the Golden Globes are the bastard children of the Oscars than the Satellites are the bastard children of the Golden Globes.  And if there’s anything that will always hold true, it’s that bastard children can eventually be accepted but bastard grandchildren are always going to struggle.  That’s my fancy way of saying that the Satellites have been around for 25 years and still, it doesn’t seem like anyone pays them much attention.  It’s also an excuse to use the word bastard 4 times in one paragraph.

Anyway, the Satellites announced their nominees earlier today.  Their film nominees can be found below!  If you want to see what they nominated in the television categories, check it out for yourself at their site!

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENTS

Mary Pickford Award: Tilda Swinton
Tesla Award: Dick Pope
Auteur Award: Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Best First Feature: Channing Godfrey Peoples – Miss Juneteenth
Stunt Performance Award: Gaëlle Cohen
Humanitarian Award: Mark Wahlberg
Ensemble Motion Picture: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Ensemble Television: The Good Lord Bird

NOMINEES FOR MOTION PICTURE

Actress in a Motion Picture Drama
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Kate Winslet – Ammonite
Sophia Loren – The Life Ahead

Actor in a Motion Picture Drama
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Steven Yeun – Minari
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Gary Oldman – Mank

Actress in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Meryl Streep – The Prom
Rashida Jones – On the Rocks
Margot Robbie – Birds of Prey
Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Anya Taylor-Joy – Emma

Actor in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
Andy Samberg – Palm Springs
Lin-Manuel Miranda – Hamilton
Dev Patel – The Personal History of David Copperfield
Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Leslie Odom Jr. – Hamilton

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Olivia Colman – The Father
Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari
Ellen Burstyn – Pieces of a Woman
Nicole Kidman – The Prom
Helena Zengel – News of the World

Actor in a Supporting Role
Brian Dennehy – Driveways
David Strathairn – Nomadland
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Kingsley Ben-Adir – One Night in Miami
Bill Murray – On the Rocks

Motion Picture, Drama
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Father
Promising Young Woman
Minari
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Tenet
Sound of Metal
One Night in Miami
Miss Juneteenth

Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
On the Rocks
Hamilton
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Palm Springs
The Personal History of David Copperfield
The Forty-Year-Old Version

Motion Picture, International
Another Round
Tove
A Sun
Two of Us
Jallikattu
I’m No Longer Here
Atlantis
My Little Sister
La Llorona

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Over the Moon
Soul
Wolfwalkers
Demon Slayer-Kimetsu No Yaiba-The Movie: Mugen Train
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
No. 7 Cherry Lane

Motion Picture, Documentary
Collective
Crip Camp
MLK / FBI
The Dissident
A Most Beautiful Thing
The Truffle Hunters
Acasa, My Home
Coup 53
Gunda
Circus of Books

Director
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
David Fincher – Mank
Darius Marder – Sound of Metal
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Florian Zeller – The Father

Screenplay, Original
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Jack Fincher – Mank
Pete Docter, Mike Jones & Kemp Powers – Soul
Andy Siara – Palm Springs
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Screenplay, Adapted
Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller – The Father
Jessica Bruder & Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
Kemp Powers – One Night in Miami
Edoardo Ponti – The Life Ahead
Luke Davies & Paul Greengrass – News of the World

Original Score
Ludwig Goransson – Tenet
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Mank
Alexandre Desplat – The Midnight Sky
James Newton Howard – News of the World
Emile Mosseri – Minari
Terence Blanchard – One Night in Miami

Original Song
“Io Si” – The Life Ahead
“Hear My Voice” – The Trial of the Chicago 7
“Rocket to the Moon” – Over the Moon
“Speak Now” – One Night in Miami
“Everybody Cries” – The Outpost
“The Other Side” – Trolls World Tour

Cinematography
The Midnight Sky
Nomadland
Mank
News of the World
One Night in Miami
Tenet

Film Editing
Nomadland
The Father
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Mank
One Night in Miami
Minari

Sound (Editing and Mixing)
Sound of Metal
Tenet
Mank
The Prom
The Midnight Sky
Nomadland

Visual Effects
The Midnight Sky
Mank
Tenet
Birds of Prey
Greyhound
Mulan

Art Direction and Production Design
The Personal History of David Copperfield
One Night in Miami
Mank
The Midnight Sky
The Prom
Mulan

Costume Design
Mulan
Emma
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
The Personal History of David Copperfield
One Night in Miami

Film Review: Spenser Confidential (dir by Peter Berg)


Spenser Confidential, which is currently streaming on Netflix, is the latest Mark Wahlberg/Peter Berg collaboration.

It’s a crime film and it’s set in Boston and it will probably remind you every other Boston-set crime film that you’ve ever seen.  It’s got all the usual ingredients.  People sing Sweet Caroline.  A fat gangster wears a tracksuit.  We get a long overhead shot of the streets of Southie and there’s a scene set in an Irish bar.  One of the film’s big scenes takes place at what appears to be a deserted racing track.  (I’ve never been to Boston but, just from the movies, I know that the city is basically made up of Harvard, Southie, and hundreds of deserted race tracks.)  The Red Sox get a shout-out.  And, of course, the movie stars Mr. Boston himself, Mark Wahlberg.  Seriously, if your Boston movie doesn’t feature Mark Wahlberg or an Affleck brother, it might as well just be a St. Louis movie.

In this one, Mark Wahlberg plays Spenser.  Spenser was a cop until a gangster in a tracksuit murdered someone from the neighborhood and the head of homicide tried to bury the case.  This led to an angry Spenser beating the man up in front of his own house.  Spenser was sent to prison, where he served five years as an ex-cop in the general population.  That’s right!  He wasn’t even put in protective custody but somehow, he survived.  Right before Spenser is released from prison, he’s attacked by a Neo-Nazi who is played by Post Malone.  It’s not really that relevant to the overall plot but it does give viewers a chance to say, “Wait a minute …. is that Post Malone?”

Anyway, once he gets out of prison, Spenser moves in with his mentor and former boxing coach, Henry Cimoli (Alan Arkin).  He also gets a new roommate, an aspiring MMA fighter named Hawk (Winston Duke).  After Captain Boylan,  the head of homicide — yes, the same guy that Spenser beat up five years ago, is decapitated by 20 sword-carrying assailants, Spenser is the number one suspect.  Fortunately, for Spenser, another cop commits suicide and it’s quickly announced that the cop who killed himself also killed Boylan.  It’s a murder/suicide!  So, Spenser’s off the hook and I guess the movie’s over, right?

Nope, it doesn’t work like that.  It turns out that Spenser has his doubts about the whole story and he wants to investigate because he has “a strong moral code.”  Unfortunately, as a convicted felon, Spenser is not allowed to become a private investigator.  So, Spenser and Hawk conduct an unofficial investigation, which largely amounts to talking to Spenser’s former partner, Driscoll (Bokeem Woodbine) and getting into a brawl while Sweet Caroline plays in the background.

It’s a Boston thing.

The mystery are the heart of the film pretty much leads exactly where you think it’s going to lead.  For a 2-hour crime thriller, there aren’t exactly a lot of twists and turns to be found in Spenser Confidential, which is a problem.  The mystery’s solution is so obvious that it’s hard not to resent the fact that Spenser is apparently too stupid to figure it out on his own.  There’s an extended scene where he gets attacked by a dog and you know what?  That would have never happened to any other movie detective because every other detective would have figured out who the murderer was long before getting attacked by that dog.

On the plus side, Peter Berg knows how to stage a fight scene and he also knows how to make the best use of Wahlberg’s mix of sensitivity and working class arrogance.  Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is let down by a script that doesn’t give them much to do.  Winston Duke is physically imposing as Hawk but he spends too much of the film standing around and waiting for Spenser to take the lead.  Alan Arkin appears to be having fun in the role of Henry but again, his character is underwritten.  About the only person, other than Wahlberg, who gets to make much of an impression is Iliza Shlesinger, who is cast as Spenser’s ex-girlfriend.  Shlesinger may be playing a stereotype (she’s loud, crude, and has a thick Boston accent) but she fully embraces the character and makes her seem like the only person in the film who actually has a life beyond what’s happening onscreen at any given moment.

Anyway, Spenser Confidential isn’t terrible as much as it’s just forgettable.  It’s a generic Boston crime film and you can probably safely watch it if you’re not looking for something to which you would actually have to pay attention.  Some of the action scenes are well-shot.  If you liked Mark Wahlberg in other films, you’ll probably like him in this.  Whether you enjoy it or not, you’ll probably forget about this film about an hour after watching it.

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 1990s


Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1990s.

Dazed and Confused (1993, dir by Richard Linklater)

 An ensemble cast that was full of future stars, including future Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck.  A killer soundtrack.  A script full of quotable lines.  Dazed and Confused seemed like it had everything necessary to score a Best Picture nomination and perhaps it would have if the film had been set in Los Angeles instead of the suburbs of Atlanta.  Unfortunately, Richard Linklater’s classic was overlooked.

Casino (1995, dir by Martin Scorsese)

Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster film had all the glitz of Vegas and Joe Pesci to boot!  Despite being one Scorsese’s best, the Academy largely overlooked it, giving a nomination to Sharon Stone and otherwise ignoring the film.

Normal Life (1996, dir by John McNaughton)

Life, love, crime, and death in the suburbs!  John McNaughton’s sadly overlooked film featured award-worthy performances from both Ashley Judd and Luke Perry and it definitely deserves to be better-known.  Unfortunately, the Academy overlooked this poignant true crime masterpiece.

Boogie Nights (1997, dir by Paul Thomas Anderson)

Paul Thomas Anderson first made a splash with this look at the porn industry in the 70s and 80s.  Along the way, he made Mark Wahlberg a star and briefly rejuvenated the career of Burt Reynolds.  Though both Reynolds and Julianne Moore received nominations, the film itself went unnominated.  Oh well.  At least Dirk Diggler got to keep his award for best newcomer.

Rushmore (1998, dir by Wes Anderson)

Though the film was nominated for its screenplay, the Wes Anderson classic missed out on best picture  Even more surprisingly, Bill Murray was not nominated for his funny yet sad performance.  Murray would have to wait until 2003’s Lost In Translation to receive his first nomination.  Meanwhile, a Wes Anderson film would not be nominated for best picture until Grand Budapest Hotel achieved the honor in 2015.  (That same year, Boyhood became the first Richard Linklater film to be nominated.)

10 Things I Hate About You (1999, dir by Gil Junger)

This wonderful take on Shakespeare not only introduced the world to Heath Ledger but it also proved that a teen comedy need not be stupid or misogynistic.  Because it was viewed as being a genre film (and a comedy to boot!), it didn’t get any love from the Academy but it continues to be loved by film watchers like me!

Up next, in an hour or so, the 2000s!

Film Review: The Basketball Diaries (dir by Scott Kalvert)


When exactly did Leonardo DiCaprio become a good actor?

That may seem like a strange question because, today, Leonardo DiCaprio is often and rightfully described as being one of the greatest actors around.  He regularly works with the best directors in Hollywood, including Martin Scorsese.  His performances in The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Revenant should be viewed by any aspiring actor.

And yet, it’s easy to forget that Leonardo DiCaprio has been around forever.  Long before he was Martin Scorsese’s go-to actor, he was appearing in movies like Critters 3.  He started his career when he was 14 years old and spent a few years appearing in commercials and sitcoms before making his film debut in 1991.  (He was 17 when he made his first movie but, as anyone who has seen any of his early movies can attest, he looked much younger.)  When you watch those early DiCaprio films, you’re left with the impression of an actor who had some talent but who definitely needed a strong director to guide him.  Watching those early DiCaprio films, it’s always somewhat amazing to see both how good and how bad DiCaprio could be, often in the same movie.  If a scene called for DiCaprio to be quiet and introspective, he was a wonder to behold.  But whenever a scene called for big dramatic moment or gesture, DiCaprio would often become that shrill kid who made you cringe in your high school drama class.  I think that part of the problem is that the young DiCaprio was often cast as a passionate artist and, when you’re a certain age, you tend to assume that being a passionate artist means that you spend a lot of time yelling.

Take a film like 1995’s The Basketball Diaries, for instance.  In this film, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a real-life poet named Jim Carroll.  The film deals with Carroll’s teenage years, which were basically made up of going to Catholic school, writing poetry, playing basketball, committing petty crimes, and eventually getting hooked on heroin.  It’s pretty dramatic stuff and, with his face that’s somehow angelic and sardonic at the same time, the young DiCaprio certainly looks the part of a teenager who split his time between private school and the streets.  Though the young DiCaprio was way too scrawny to be believable as a star basketball player, he’s convincing in the scenes where he’s writing out his thoughts and his poems.

But then, Jim’s best friend (played by Michael Imperioli) dies of leukemia and a despondent Jim goes from pills and inhalants to heroin and both the film and DiCaprio’s performance quickly goes downhill.  Playing drug addiction (and, even worse, drug withdrawal) tends to bring out the worst instincts in even the best actors and that’s certainly the case with DiCaprio’s performance in The Basketball Diaries.  Suddenly, Leo is shaking and yelling in that shrill way that he used to do and, when he has gets emotional, he overplays the emotions to the extent that you can actually hear the snot being sorted back up his nostrils and you, as the viewer, start to get embarrassed for him.  As soon as Jim starts screaming at his mother (played by Lorraine Bracco), you really wish that the director or the writer or maybe the other actors had stepped in and said, “Leo …. dial it down a little.”  If you need proof that DiCaprio’s a far better actor today than he was in 1995, just compare Leo on drugs in The Basketball Diaries to Leo on drugs in The Wolf of Wall Street.

When The Basketball Diaries does work, it’s usually because of the actors around DiCaprio.  In one of his earliest roles, Mark Wahlberg has such an authentic presence that you kinda wish he and DiCaprio had switched roles.  (Yes, there was a time when Mark Wahlberg was a better actor than Leonardo DiCaprio.)  Bruno Kirby is chilling in a few cringey scenes as Jim’s basketball coach.  Ernie Hudson bring some welcome gravitas to the role of an ex-junkie who tries to help Jim straight out.  And then there’s poor Lorraine Bracco, bringing far more to the role of Jim’s underappreciated mother than was probably present in the script.

The Basketball Diaries is one of those films that seems profound when you’re like 15 and you come across it playing on TBS at like 2 in the morning.  Otherwise, it’s mostly interesting as evidence that, over the past 20 years, Leonardo DiCaprio has certainly grown as an actor.

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Beautiful Boy, Mile 22, Juliet Naked, The Equalizer 2, The House With A Clock In Its Walls, King of Thieves, Assassination Nation, Mandy


Lisa already wrote about the new trailers for The Predator and Zoe.  Here are some of the other trailers that were released last week.

First up, there’s Beautiful Boy.  Based on the memoirs of both David Sheff and his son, Nic, this movie is based on the true story of David’s struggle to understand and deal with his son’s drug addiction.  It stars Oscar nominees Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, and Amy Ryan.  It will be released on October 12th by Amazon Studios, who are hoping that they’ll have the same success with this film that they had with Manchester By The Sea.

And now, to quote the poet Python, for something completely different.  Mile 22 is the latest action film from star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg.  Mile 22 is due to be released on August 17th.

Also due to be released on August 17th is Juliet, Naked.  This Nick Hornby adaptation is about a rock star (Ethan Hawke) and the couple (Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd) who are obsessed with his music.  We can expect this one to inspire many comparisons to High Fidelity.

On July 20th, Denzel Washington returns as retired CIA assassin Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2.  In the sequel, he’s investigating the death of a friend from the first film.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is the latest fantasy film to be based on a children’s book.  It looks like a change of pace for director Eli Roth, if not star Jack Black, and is set to be released on September 21st.

Also based on a young adult novel is The Hate U Give.  Amanda Stenberg plays Starr, a young African-American woman who finds herself at the center of protest and controversy after she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her best friend.  The Hate U Give will be released on October 19th.

King of Thieves is the latest film from The Theory of Everything‘s director, James Marsh.  Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone are over-the-hill thieves.  (Didn’t Caine already do this in Going In Style?)  This British film does not yet have an American release date.

In Assassination Nation, the citizens of suburbia become outraged and violent when a data hack leads to all of their darkest secrets being exposed.  (This would never have happened if they had just taken part in the Annual Purge like they were supposed to.)  Assassination Nation will be released on September 21st.

Finally, in Mandy, Nicolas Cage plays a man who seeks revenge on the cultists and demons that killed the woman he loved.  Mandy will be released on September 14th.

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2017: Transformers: The Last Knight (dir by Michael Bay)


So, I’m just going to be honest here.

I did watch Transformers: The Last Knight.  I didn’t see it at the theaters, of course.  To date, I’ve only seen one Transformers movie on the big screen.  It was the fourth one and not only did I get motion sick but when I left the theater, I discovered that I was having trouble hearing.  Even though I watched Transformers: The Last Knight on a small screen, I still made sure to take some Dramamine beforehand.  That may have been a mistake because this movie somehow drags things out for 2 hours and 30 minutes.  That’s a lot of time to spend trying to stay awake while watching something that doesn’t even try to make sense.

So, yes, I did watch Transformers: The Last Knight but I’m not really sure what I watched.  I know that there was a lot of camera movement.  There was a lot of stuff blowing up.  Robots would fly into space.  Robots would return to Earth.  Robots turned into cars.  All of the robots spoke in these gravelly voices and half the time, I couldn’t really understand what they were saying.  Mark Wahlberg was around and he spent the entire movie with this kind of confused look on his face.  His Boston accent really came out whenever he had to deliver his dialogue.  One thing I’ve noticed about Wahlberg is that the less he cares about a movie, the more likely he is to go full Boston.  To be honest, if I just closed my eyes and listened to Wahlberg’s accent and tuned out all of the explosions and robot talk, I probably would have thought I was watching Manchester By The Sea.

Anthony Hopkins was also in the movie, playing a character who might as well have just been named “Esteemed British Person.”  It’s always fun to see Hopkins in a bad movie, just because he knows that his deserved reputation for being a great actor isn’t going to suffer no matter how much crap he appears in.  He always goes through these movies with a slightly bemused smirk on his face.  It’s almost as if he’s looking out at the audience and saying, “Laugh all you want.  I’ll still kick anyone’s ass when it comes to Shakespeare…”  Anyway, Hopkins is mostly around so that he can reveal that the Transformers have been on Earth since time began.  Why, they even saved King Arthur!

The plot has to do with a powerful staff that can be used to bring life back to the Transformers’s home planet.  The problem is that using the staff will also destroy all life on Earth or something like that.  So, of course, the good Transformers are trying to save Earth and the bad Transformers are like, “Fuck Earth, let’s blow stuff up.”  Or something like that.  The main good Transformer — Optimus Prime, I guess — gets brainwashed into becoming an evil Transformer.  Of course, since Anthony Hopkins is in the movie, the majority of the film takes place in England and that can only mean a trip to Stonehenge!

And…

Look, I’ve exhausted myself.  I’m not going to say that Transformers: The Last Knight is a terrible movie because, obviously, someone out there loves this stuff.  I mean, they’ve made five of these movies so someone has to be looking forward to them.  They’re not for me, though.

Some day, I hope Micheal Bay directs a Fifty Shades of Grey movie.  I look forward to watching Christian and Ana discuss consent while the world explodes behind them.