ByJonathan Berkenfield, writer at
I'm a lover of movies, comics, TV, and a lot of pop culture. I'm working for 2016 to watch 366 movies and write a review for each. Check ou

I'm working on a challenge this year to watch 7 movies a week, every week, for the entire year. With each movie I must write a review. This past week I decided to watch a bunch of DiCaprio movies that I'd missed at some point or forgot. The following are my reviews for each!

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

This is the first full week of the 7-in-7 and The Revenant comes out on Friday. I will be reviewing it this week so I thought watching some older Leonardo DiCaprio films. I’ve seen many of them but there are a few that I either don’t remember, never saw, or never sat and really watched. I started this venture down DiCaprio Boulevard with the 1993 film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” which has a 7.8 out of 10 stars on IMDB and 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Arnie Grape, a young man with a development disability that resembles Autism, who’s brother Gilbert, played by Johnny Depp, acts as the patriarch of the Grape household. They live with their two sisters and severely obese mother in a dilapidated house. The story heavily focuses on Gilbert and the life his is definitely forced into living.

Becky, played by Juliette Lewis, shows up as part of an RV caravan and seems to spark an interest in Gilbert. Gilbert has to break off an affair with an older, married women, Mary Steenburgen, in order to pursue his interest in Becky. Crispin Glover plays a creepy mortician and John C. Riley plays Gilbert’s friend. It’s very fun watching these famous actors from today at this stage in their respective careers.

The movie is endearing and captivating even though most of the drama is relatable or self contained. Ultimately the stories biggest conflict is inside Gilbert as he comes to term with his station in life, his mom, and his responsibility with Arnie. However, the characters in the film are interesting and well played. That alone is enough to keep the attention of the audience.

DiCaprio’s portrayal of Arnie earned him one of his four Academy Award nominations and it was well deserved. Arnie is likely, empathetic, and sad. DiCaprio’s performance is extremely believable and it’s surprising that he didn’t win for best supporting actor that year (no offense to Tommy Lee Jones).

I definitely think this is a good watch for anyone who enjoys a good character film. I give What’s Eating Gilbert Grape 6 out of 10 stars. I think now is a good time to explain the ratings I’m giving. Basically, a 1 is “Don’t watch”, 5 is “worth your time,” and 10 is “WHY HAVE YOU NOT STARTED THIS MOVIE YET!”

The Departed

I think this review is going to be a bit different. It’s going to focus on the film for a part, but I’m going to take a moment to reflect on this challenge. It’s only film four and already I am putting a lot of time into this. I’m not backing out, but I want to make it clear that this isn’t easy to pull off. I didn’t get home from work until almost five today when I usually get home at 4. Being a teacher often requires extra time in order to complete all that is expected of us.

I got worried that I wouldn’t be able to get through the Departed, which has an 8.5 out of 10 on IMDB and 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, tonight, but I did. Not only did I, but I’m very happy that I did. I’m a big fan Martin Scorsese and this was one I’d been planning on watching for a few years now. This is one of my favorites of his for sure as I didn’t quite know how it would play out and I found it quite intriguing how it does.

I convinced my wife to join into the movie about half an hour into it, which required a bit of explaining, and after five minutes I could tell she, too, was hooked. Leo, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Vera Farmiga were all fantastic. Leo was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for Blood Diamond that year instead of the Departed. Both films earned him the Golden Globes nod, no wins. The film did get best picture and best director and those are definitely well deserved.

I was fully engrossed in the film and despite my slight anxiety over the time found myself really enjoying the movie. Another organized crime related film; this deals more specifically with under cover cops in the organized crime world and dirty cops. The duality of the characters really builds the tension as the story unfolds.

I was on the edge of my seat wondering if Leonardo DiCaprio would be able to make it out alive or not. Jack Nicholson’s slightly manic character, Frank Costello, was an amazing villain, but not as impressive as Matt Damon’s dirty cop. The way the end unfolds will shock you and make you despise Damon’s character all the more.

I’ve heard so much praise for this film from friends and it came out at a time where dramatic films just didn’t appeal to me. I’d spent too much time surrounded by drama and I preferred finding comfort in over-the-top action films or comedies. I came to own this movie on accident by not sending Columbia House the paper saying I decline this selection. It arrived, and I just kept it. I’ve had it for almost ten years sitting on a shelf. This challenge finally pushed me to watch it, that and The Revenant’s release.

The Aviator

I was regretting my decision to watch the Aviator before it started when I noticed that it was set at a 3 hour run time. This is the third movie out of five so far that is at or over the 3 hour mark. This isn’t my full time job so I’m working around my life as a teacher and I was assuming this to be challenging with the normal runtime of 2 hours or less. However, ten minutes into the movies I was reminded of my favorite quotes, “I know that I am wise, because I know that I know nothing.” I often think myself as knowledgeable on many topics, but I found out how little I knew about Howard Hughes.

This biopic directed by Martin Scorsese and written by John Logan has a 7.5 out of 10 starts on IMDB and 87% on Rotten Tomatoes was a very interesting look into the man that was Howard Hughes. A director, producer, a huge support of airplanes, and a visionary who also happens to suffer from OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Not uncommon for Martin Scorsese to pay tribute to the filmmakers that came before him, his movie Hugo for example, seeing Hell’s Angels three year production and 4 million dollars cost in the 1930’s is crazy. Hughes made the film he wanted and it was a success.

Hughes story is very tragic as the man appears to be an honorable individual who doesn’t let anything stand in his way, but seems to try and abide by the laws. Not everything he does is necessarily ethical, especially the implications of his numerous underage girlfriends, but his goals seem noble in some capacity.

Scorsese’s subtle introduction to the oddity of the way Hughes sees the world first became blatantly apparently one his golf trip with Katharine Hepburn, played by Cate Blanchett, where the greens are an odd shade of blue. Initially, as I was trying to get some work done during the first hour of the film, I thought maybe the color was off on the TV. I couldn’t make sense as to why the color was what it was, but it fixed in the next scene. I started wondering why, then Hughes peas were blue next to his steak. A steak in which he seem disturbed by and couldn’t eat. The beat field that would essential pad his fall was full of blue leaves and the reds more vibrant than usually, I knew that this was intentional.

Hughes OCD is introduced as mild initially and grows exponentially throughout the film. His love for Katharine was shown to the audience when he wasn’t afraid of her germs despite his clear fear of them in every other aspect of his life, including the cellophane on the steering wheel. The layers in this film are done nicely.

There is a scene where Hughes is desperately washing his hands to the point he causes himself to bleed. The cinematography in this scene reminded me of Scorsese’s short film, The Big Shave. It was interesting to see similar points of view in this scene from the short as it depicted the insanity the character was going through.

I was engrossed through most of the film as DiCaprio again does a marvelous job. The performances that he has given in most of Scorsese’s films implies great direction from Scorsese as well as the talent that DiCaprio possesses. That said, the film kind of ends abruptly, and I was expecting the traditional white text on black background to give me the rest of the story…only it didn’t come.

I feel like a character as strong as Hughes needs to be wrapped to completion. This film did force me to do some more reading on Howard Hughes and I have a new appreciation for a person I’d only heard in passing. The film isn’t perfect, but it’s a good one. I give it a 6 out of 10 stars and definitely recommend you check this one out.

The Revenant

The Revenant is the first new movie I have seen this year and thus reviewed for the challenge. I went in interested to see Alejandro González Iñárritu’s follow up from Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance. I was a little worried that the trailer may have given too much of the plot away. I’d also heard that people had walked out during screening because of the gore, which I wasn’t worried about, but I was intrigued to see why?

The opening sequence in the film consists of a long take that reveals Glass (DiCaprio), Bridger (Will Poulter), and Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who is Glass’s half Native American song, hunting an Elk. It’s beautiful and quickly reminded me of last year’s long take wonder, Birdman. I quickly found myself wondering if the whole film was supposed to be one long take, but a cut showed up and I was glad it wasn’t. Tom Hardy’s character, John Fitzgerald, quickly shows himself to be a bit of a dick confirming his role as the antagonist that the trailer showed.

The group is a hunting crew collecting pelts for a trading company led by Captain Andrew Henry, Domhnall Gleeson (this guy is busy!), which is suddenly attacked by Native Americans. The group of forty or so attempts to flee only escaping with 9 or so people. Glass is the scout of the group and is helping them get back to the nearest outpost. After a very brutal bear attack, Glass is left near fatally wounded making the hunting party’s quest all the more challenging.

It becomes apparent that they aren’t going to make it dragging Glass so Captain Henry offers $100 per man to stay back and “do what’s right.” Hawk, Bridger, and Fitzgerald volunteer and the story takes the turn. The trailer showed the events that would unfold setting the story here. Glass is left for dead after Fitzgerald kills Hawk, and convinces Bridger it’s for the best. Glass isn’t dead and through sheer will and amazing survival skills manages to push himself to hunt down Fitzgerald.

The movie is visually stunning and DiCaprio’s performance is reminiscent of Tom Hank’s performance is Cast Away. The film lacks dialogue for much of it, but there are some great conversations that take place. Add in some trippy dream sequences that Glass experiences and the movie is captivating from beginning to end. It’s definitely going to be in talks for best picture, best actor, and possibly best supporting actor for Tom Hardy. I’m giving this movie 8 out of 10 stars and will definitely be added to my shopping cart on Amazon once it’s out on Blu-ray.

Catch me if you can

The last Leonardo DiCaprio movie for the week, Catch me if you can was a fun film with a great performance by Tom Hanks and DiCaprio. In fact, this Steven Spielberg movie from 2002 is a veritable who’s who of modern Hollywood. Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams, Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Gardner, James Brolin, and Ellen Pompeo all show up at some point or another to show their acting chops.

I remember seeing trailers for this and dismissing it because I was twenty and still spiteful towards DiCaprio and the affection he received from females my age. I’d never given it another thought until I’d heard someone speaking about it on a podcast a few months ago. I ordered it and it’s been on my shelf for the last month. I was delayed getting to this as I had to go to a soccer game for my high school, but I was determined not to put this off despite the over two hour run-time.

The movie was extremely intriguing and the fact that it’s based on a true story only made it more interesting. Frank Abagnale Jr. (DiCaprio) gets his first taste of being a con-artist when his new school mistakes him as a substitute teacher. After a week of pretending to be a sub, the ruse is foiled and his parents called in. Not long after his dad (Walken) loses almost everything due to issues with the IRS, he loses his wife, too, which sends Frank Jr. into a world of fraud. Frank Jr quickly develops an aptitude for lying and creating fraudulent checks in a fevered attempt to reclaim what was taken from his family.

Agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks) of the FBI begins pursuit of Frank Jr.’s bad checks which leads to a comical initial meeting between to the two characters. The exploits of Frank Jr. are both entertaining and sad as, unlike DiCaprio’s character in Wolf of Wall Street, Frank is not a despicable villain but instead he is a young kid desperately trying to rebuild his once picture, perfect family. This dynamic makes the criminal activity of Frank Jr. less repulsive and more light hearted as the audience makes a note of the lack of malice of each crime committed.

DiCaprio’s first encounter with Becky (Adams) was probably my favorite scene in the film, simply because it made me proclaim aloud, “Man, DiCaprio really is a fantastic actor.” I’ve spend a lot of time catching up on some of his best performances and the guy really brings it. The only negative example I’ve been able to bring from his acting past is his breaking Irish accent in Gangs of New York. In this scene, where a young man is flirting with a candy striper in order to get information about the hospital, the charm and charisma pours out of DiCaprio, past Amy Adams, and through the television. He is totally committed to the scene and it just reminded me of all of his other magnificent performances. Can we get this guy an Oscar already?

Before I wrap this up, I’ve got to at least comment on Spielberg’s directing choices. The scene that pays tribute to James Bond was fantastic. The shots of the characters feet following the young man’s commitment to becoming Bondesque, slowly revealing Jennifer Gardner’s entrance into the film is just fun and feels like a spy movie. Overall, another strong showing from one of the most celebrated directors in the industry.

I give Catch me if you Can 7 out of 10 stars and DiCaprio’s acting career a 9 out of 10 more than deserving Oscar Trophies.


I am happy to conclude DiCaprio week having enjoyed all of the films. I definitely hope DiCaprio gets his Oscar sooner than later. I'm not sure what else he'll do in film if he doesn't get it this year.


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