Let me make sure this is right--Martin
Scorsese directed a PG-13 movie??
And, it's really good?
Even without the normal adult warfare that
takes place in Scorsese's films--from the language to the sex to the
over-the-top violence--"The Aviator" is the great director's best
work since "Casino", which is now 10 years old (wow!). A
biopic of aviation mogul and film director Howard Hughes, "The
Aviator" revolves around a 20-year period in the life of Hughes
(Leonardo DiCaprio) as he takes his fortune made in drill bits and
turns it into an enterprise that encompasses a production company, a
plane manufacturing organization and eventually Trans World
Airlines...all the while dating the country's most happenin'
starlets, like Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Kate
Beckinsale), and Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani). Oh, and he spends
his spare time being a clean freak (MAJOR clean freak) and going
"The Aviator" is just a class act; that's
how I felt when I left the theater, anyway. The production is
beautiful (read: expensive-looking), with lavish sets and lush
scenery at every turn. The actors do great work, in all
areas--the leads are all strong, you get great support from what
seems like a hundred name actors in bit parts (is that Brent Spiner,
aka Data from freakin' "Star Trek" fame? Look, Willem Dafoe in
a 30-second scene!), even the extras look great in the background.
I loved the score for "The Aviator"--not something you want to run
out and buy, necessarily, just a great fit for the period.
There is no signature Scorsese montage sequence in this movie, but
somehow that was okay with me. And, the film takes enough time
for us to get to know Hughes in a lot of ways, especially as he
begins to unravel; the last 40 minutes or so don't feel as laborious
as they have in other films that have a rise-and-fall arc to their
But, that's where "The Aviator" separates
from other films of its type--this isn't a rise-and-fall biopic.
By spending enough time going back and forth between highs and lows
for Hughes, we never get to spend too much time watching him enjoy
the good life, nor suffer through his decision-making for any
extended stretch. Plus, the lead performance by DiCaprio is
just something to behold--he's a monster in this movie. You
sometimes get caught thinking about why he doesn't work very often;
his contemporary Jude Law shows up in "The Aviator" for a little
while, and then you realize that you can't put out seven movies a
year and be good in all of them, so why not be great in one every
other year? I don't know if Oscar will be good to him or not,
but he is good enough to at least warrant the conversation.
You get the dramatic angle here; you get
some funny lines ("Smooth titties, gentlemen" ranks amongst the best
of the year); you get some tense flight sequences, you get a
courtroom showdown. And, you get Alec Baldwin, playing the
whitest Juan you are EVER going to see onscreen but it's irrelevant,
because Baldwin spends his time doing what he does best--chewing the
fat like no one else in the business. Every measured smirk and
sly grin made me laugh; man, I love that guy.
As I mentioned, as a PG-13, "The Aviator" is
missing just a little edge, whether it be a sex scene here or a
profanity-laced tirade there, but it's not enough to drop it a
grade...I thought this was a great movie, and in a weak year like
2004, it may have a shot at a nomination for the top prize when all
is said and done.
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard