Screening Room: ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’

That’s Leonard DiCaprio playing a has-been 1950s Western actor in Quentin Tarantino’s latest, broadest, and potentially strangest genre mash-up.

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is playing pretty much everywhere now. My review is at PopMatters:

You might have thought Quentin Tarantino would be the last filmmaker to indulge in the lamentable trend of digitally inserting actors into scenes they were not there for…. Nevertheless, here Tarantino is in his ninth movie, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, slipping Leonardo DiCaprio into a scene from John Sturges’s 1963 film, The Great Escape. Once that line has been crossed for Tarantino, who had previously restricted himself to homage, what’s next? Uma Thurman slotted into Enter the Dragon? Maybe Bradley Cooper into Where Eagles Dare?…

Here’s the trailer (sure you’ve already seen it 10 times, check it out again, that Mamas and the Papas song is fantastic):

Screening Room: ‘The Revenant’

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant' (20th Century Fox)
Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant’ (20th Century Fox)

The Revenant, the new film from Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Gravity, Birdman), is a revenge epic based on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel and starring Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterIt’s opening on Christmas Day in limited release and will expand wider in January. My review is at PopMatters:

A spiritual view of the natural world clashes with the animalistic drives of a fallen humanity in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s operatic wilderness survival tale,The Revenant. This freewheeling adaptation of Michael Punke’s novel about fur trappers, Indians, and soldiers tangling in primal ways on the Western American frontier in the 1820s stretches the limits of endurance in more ways than one. Inarritu’s film pushes against known boundaries of art, suffering, and revenge tale…

Here’s the trailer:

DVD Tuesday: ‘The Great Gatsby’

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, hidden somewhere in the set decoration like the rest of the cast.

greatgatsby-dvdThe first and biggest movie spectacle of the 2013 summer movie season had nothing to do with IMAX superheroes, but a genre-blending half-musical Baz Luhrmann adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Sound like a refreshing change of pace? It should have been. Unfortunately the result was more like a feature-length trailer for a movie that never quite arrived.

The Great Gatsby hits DVD and Blu-ray. My review is at Short Ends & Leader:

Luhrmann’s take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age fable is all about trying to make it seem as “modern” as possible; a story gambit that makes sense, given the current economic climate. Of course, the one percent’s current Gilded Age just kept on trucking after the Great Recession, unlike the excesses of the 1920s fantasized about so lovingly in Gatsby, which were put on ice by the Great Depression. To that end, Luhrmann comes to the story armed not with a respectable screenplay, great location scouts, and the best actors he could find but a war chest of whizbang computer graphics, some pretty faces, and executive music producer Jay-Z. It’s gonna be a show, kids!…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Django Unchained’

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Opening Christmas Day (because, well, why not?) is the newest tongue-in-cheek Tarantino genre-stew:

With his bloodily entertaining but tonally sloppy Django Unchained, the always fastidious Quentin Tarantino may finally be loosening up. This development could help broaden his appeal in the short run, his newest film being the kind of straightforward blend of humor and self-aware ultra-violence that plays pretty well to many different audiences these days. (In other words, expect few of the tricky narrative gambits that have defined his work in the past; this one’s more about doing maximum damage with six-shooters.) Unfortunately, a less formally inhibited Tarantino may turn out to be a less entertaining filmmaker…

My full review is at Film Journal International.

You can see the trailer here:

 

Bonus holiday fun—check out the trailer for the 1966 original Django, which Tarantino lifted the theme music from (but, sadly, not the Gatling gun in the coffin):