The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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The Wolf of Wall Street

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: Terence Winter

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey

The life of a corrupt New York stock broker is the focus of Martin Scorsese’s newest feature. There’s a lot of drugs involved, which is ironic because viewers feel like their on cocaine for the entire film. It’s all over the place, it’s disorganized, but mostly it’s fun! Viewers are guaranteed 180 minutes (yes, 3 hours) of pure fun. Scorsese takes viewers on even more of a ride than normal even for him. It’s not typical Scorsese, but it’s just as much of a ride as any of his other works of art.

Terence Winter’s script surprisingly received an oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay. I personally thought the direction and acting made up for the hectic writing. The script constantly seemed lost and there are certain scenes that I’m still scratching my head as to why they weren’t cut from the film itself. The script also failed to portray Jordan Belford as the deceitful douche bag that was his true character. Nobody likes to root for the bad guy, but this film gives you a bad man and does not show you how bad he actually was.  Maybe the academy felt like they had to honor anyone who is willing to write a movie that is 3 hours long.

Margot Robbie (left) and Leonardo DiCaprio (right)

Margot Robbie (left) and Leonardo DiCaprio (right)

Leonardo DiCaprio officially establishes himself as one of (absolutely top 10) the best living actors with his performance. He took a man that was clearly deranged, and gave him an unbelievable flare that could only be accomplished with a performance of this class. Jonah Hill’s performance goes along well with DiCaprio’s, but the decision to nominate him came as a surprise to me as well as many others. Margot Robbie officially established herself as one of the best looking people on the planet with her appearance and she’s an impressive actress as well. McConaughey is fantastic as always in his supporting, very supporting, role.

Don’t expect The Wolf of Wall Street to bring back the feeling that caused you to fall in love with movies. Instead expect it to expose a different kind of love that can be brought forth from watching cinematic art. Scorsese and DiCaprio are back together this time saving a script that could have brought the whole operation down. Any other duo wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what these two did with The Wolf of Wall Street.

Best Picture Reviews: 85/100

Her (2013)

After a long break, I’ve acquired some free time and am happy to be back to writing reviews. Due to the appropriateness of the season, the next reviews will be on the nominees for Best Picture. Starting with Her…

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Her

Written and Directed by: Spike Jonze

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Amy AdamsScarlett Johansson

All the greatest filmmakers are those that craft their films as though the film is their child. Spike Jonze has the potential to go down as one of the top filmmakers of his generation, and Her was a step in that direction. The concept of love is something that is explored far too often in movies and television, which makes the basic concept of Her appear to be a drag on paper. It just took one look at the trailer to make me see the concept in a whole new light. Jonze showed a stunning ability to work with his actors, and got performances that fit the tone of the film. He showed his true leadership by making the decision to cut the original voice of Samantha (recorded by Samantha Morton) and replace it with Scarlett Johanson’s voice. Also, cutting a big name actor like Chirs Cooper shows that he will not allow anyone to get in the way of his vision (IMDb trivia)

MV5BMTYxMTEwODk5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDkwNjM3MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Joaquin Phoenix, coming off of his game-changing performance in The Master, proves once again how lucky the film industry was to get him back as an actor. This performance, one of the best of his career, came with an extra level of difficulty due to the fact that half of the films scenes were filmed with him talking to someone that does not actually exist. The film would not have worked without an incredible performance out of Joaquin. The other actors feed off of the tone that Joaquin sets, which leads to stunning performances from everyone involved.

Her is the best love story to hit the screens in a long time. I dare anyone that is put off by the premise to go see the film and tell me that you still don’t understand how a man can fall in love with an operating system.

Best Picture Reviews: 87/100

American History X (1998)

american-history-x-1998Directed By: Tony Kaye

Written By: David McKenna

Starring: Edward Furlong and Edward Norton

Nominated for 1 Academy Award (Best Actor)

I apologize for my lack of posting. Finals are coming to an end, so things should be back to normal.

And you thought that racism was a thing of the past…

After losing their father to murder by an African American man, Derek Vinyard (Norton) decides to get involved in a neo-nazi skinheads in Venice, California. The skinheads essentially hate everyone that it is not white. After Derek is given 3 years in prison for a triple homicide of three black men, his brother, Danny (Furlong), attempts to continue his legacy and joins the skinheads himself. After thinking that his brother will come back proud of him, there is an obvious change of heart that his brother experienced in prison. He is suddenly not so supportive of the skinheads and their message. Danny’s principal, Bob Sweeney (Brooks) gets involved and the story turns into a thrilling mess.

The story written by producer David McKenna is flawless. With how fantastic the script is, it shocks me that McKenna has written no other major titles. This film was by far the biggest snub at the Oscars in 1998. The headline was Saving Private Ryan not winning, but when nominations were announced the headline was American X not getting nominated. This was disappointing, but not particularly surprising. A more recent Oscar-snub comparison for American History X is Drive. Just like American History X, Drive only received one nomination, which was just the Academy’s way of saying, “great movie, but we’re too conservative to encourage you.” Being a huge fan of the Academy, I hate having to say things like that, but when movies like American History X and Drive are not nominated, they leave me no choice. McKenna’s snub was perhaps the biggest one of all. The idea and execution were fantastic and he did not only deserve to be nominated, but to take home the golden trophy as well.

Edward Norton in American History X

Edward Norton in American History X

Edward Norton is very hit or miss with me. I can’t deny that I am mainly a fan of educated actors (i.e. Matt Damon, Will Smith) and not a fan of uneducated ones (i.e. most Hollywood actors). Knowing that Norton studied history at Yale automatically increased my interest in him. What I’ve found is that there are times that there is no denying his brilliance (i.e. Fight Club, The Illusionist), but at other times he is simply obnoxious (i.e. The Italian Job, The Incredible Hulk). With that being said, American History X is by far the best work of his. He drives the movie through every scene and the film would truly be different with out him. Aside from Norton, everyone, especially Furlong, is at their best. To make a film that will stick with you for hours after viewing, filmmakers need the best out of every actor involved, and that is what they got with American History X.

Maybe it makes the film even better that the director, Tony Kaye, has not worked on any major projects since American History X. He brings a style of direction that viewers are not used to seeing, and it only adds to the brilliance of the film.

Whether it be the capturing story, the world-class performances, or the fantastically original directing, American History X succeeds in tapping into viewers emotions, and spitting them out feeling different than they were when they entered.

IMDb: 8.6/10 (#33 on the top 250)

Rotten Tomatoes: 82/100

Metacritic: 62/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 90/100

Mud (2013)

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Directed and Written By: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon

Well that was a hell of a lot more than just a coming of age story…

Taking place just off the Mississippi river in Arkansas, Mud is a story told through the eyes of two 14-year-old boys (Sheridan and Lofland). One day when they are exploring an island that is conveniently only inhabited by one man that is oddly known by everybody as Mud (McConaughey). Even the man that raised him (Shepard) only knows him as Mud.. strange. Well then again one of the main characters is named Neckbone, so I guess that’s just what they do in Arkansas. Mud is a wanted murderer that is being hunted by both the police and a group of bounty hunters. Mud follows his plans of pursuing his love, Juniper (Witherspoon), and sends the boys to deliver messages for him. I’ll stop myself there to prevent from giving away too much of the film, but Mud is one hell of an Indie.

Coming from the director of Take Shelter, I was anticipating quite a lot out of Mud. The story sounded great, it was accepted into Cannes, and it starred one of todays’ biggest actors: Mud had everything going for it. Jeff Nichols wrote a powerful script. From what I’ve heard, there was hardly any modifications from the rough draft to the script used during filming. This shows a director with a vision, which is something that viewers should always appreciate. A writer/director with his confidence is a beautiful thing. While there are plot holes that can be found inside Mud, the writing is fantastic for it being only his 3rd directoral effort. We saw it with Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild last year, and we are seeing with Jeff Nichols’ Mud this year. Sundance has gotten two of the best young filmmakers the last two years, and if this is things are going then we have a bright future for cinema. Nichols’ writing/directing shows confidence, but whether or not it pays off is a matter of opinion. Personally I loved the way he went with Mud.

The Brains Behind 'Mud' in order from left to right: Jacob Lofland, Jeff Nichols, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey, and Tye Sheridan

The Brains Behind ‘Mud’ in order from left to right: Jacob Lofland, Jeff Nichols, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey, and Tye Sheridan

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have jumped on the McConaughey bandwagon. His acting is great, and I appreciate that he now takes roles that speak to him instead of roles that will make him money. He has identified that his Rom-Com days are over, and he will now do the dramatic acting that he always wanted to do. After all, he’s pretty damn good at it. His performance in Mud makes me appreciate him even more. After seeing the film, I would not want anyone else to play Mud.

Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are both performances worthy of sharing screen time with McConaughey. Similar to Nichols and Zeilin in directing: Quvenzhane Wallis and these two boys show tremendous potential in front of the camera.

When I got word of Reese Witherspoon’s involvement, I was skeptical to say the least. I don’t like her as a person after reading about her arrest last month, and I think her acting is mediocre at best. She does not have enough screen time to have much effect on the movie, but for her minor role she gives an above average performance. It’s also a flaw in the script that such a major part of the story receives not attention at all. The viewer struggles to care about Juniper, and the girl that is being fought for just comes across as a hot mess.

The writing had a few too many loose ends for my taste, and the ending felt rushed and ultimately underwhelming. I commend Jeff Nichols for his ambition, but his writing could have been a bit better. The script is incredible for almost all of the film, but the ending does get scrappy. The good thing is that the movie fails to give you the Hollywood treatment, and leaves the viewer with a satisfying, but believable conclusion.

Overall, Mud is the best 2013 release so far, and it will not waste viewers time. Mud is a beautifully crafted film, and it is the first movie this year that sparks any Oscar hopes. While an April release is unlikely to receive recognition, I would not be surprised to see something for McConaughey and maybe, just maybe, a Best Picture nod. It’s a long shot, but expect to hear Mud’s name thrown around come January 2014. It’s a coming of age film that goes far beyond what the genre suggests. Mud has something for everyone, and should be seen by everyone.

IMDb: 7.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 98/100 😀

Metactic: 76/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 82/100

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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Directed and Written By: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger

Nominated for 8 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing, Directing, Cinematography, and Supporting Actor)

Won 1 Academy Award (Supporting Actor)

In Nazi occupied France, a group of American Jewish soldiers are sent to France to do “one thing and one thing only.. kill Nazi’s.” Is there honestly a better idea for a film than that? Who wouldn’t want to see a revenge thriller that’s about Jews getting revenge on the Nazi’s? Add the Tarantino flare, and Inglourious Basterds is one of the most gut-wrenching and intriguing films of all time.

Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino

Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino

I clicked play on my remote, not knowing that I was about to start the fastest 2 hours and 33 minutes of my life. There is no writer/director like Quentin Tarantino, and I’m beginning to wonder if there ever will be. He has such a driving vision behind each and every one of his films. To appreciate Tarantino’s films, the viewer has to get him. For example, in the beginning scene, the colors in the house are dark and deep to symbolize that something tragic is about to occur. A realist would say that the sun was shining bright outside; therefore, the house should be radiant with sunlight. Well, it’s a good thing that Mr. Tarantino is not a realist because his way of setting the mood is just one of the things that make his films spectacular. Quentin’s audacity to create a film like this mixed with the intelligence to make his vision come to life is what makes the film so fantastic.

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Oscar winner Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.

The acting in Inglourious Basterds is nothing short of amazing. Brad Pitt’s character is not one that will earn any awards, but Pitt does  what the role calls for. Although the women, Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger, never actually meet each other, their energy somehow manages to feed off of one another. From scene to scene you are inspired by these women’s performances. The only dull performance is Eli Roth. Sure, he looks tough, but it seems that is the only thing he was put in the movie to do. His lack of dialogue makes “the bear Jew” (Roth’s character) awkward and out of place. Limited dialogue has worked in some films (ex: The Driver in Drive), but “the bear jew” is not one of those characters. I made sure that I saved the best performance for last, now everyone please bow down to Mr. Christoph Waltz. While he is yet to prove that he can be a successful actor outside of Tarantino projects (Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained), he sure is good when he’s with Quentin. His performance  in Inglourious Basterds is capturing, and nothing short of amazing. His performance in this film as well as his performance in Django Unchained are both worthy of the Oscars that they received.

Overall, Quentin Tarantino managed to exceed expectations (even for him) with this timeless, instant classic. The viewer will find  scenes that play over and over again in their head. Inglourious Basterds is a film that all Tarantino fans must see or anyone that just wants to see Nazi’s get their asses kicked. I’m tempted to say that Tarantino has done it again, but I don’t think anyone has ever done or ever will do anything like Inglourious Basterds. A film this audacious will never win best picture, but Inglourious Basterds is more deserving than any other film released in 2009.

IMDb: 8.3/100 (#108 on the top 250)

Rotten Tomatoes: 88/100

Metacritic: 69/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 92/100

Good Will Hunting (1997)

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Directed By: Gus Van Sant

Written By: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon

Starring: Matt Damon (lead), Robin Williams, Stellan Skarsgard, Ben Affleck, and Minnie Driver

Winner of 2 Academy Awards (Original Screenplay and Supporting Actor)

Nominated for 9 Academy Awards (Picture, Original Song, Original Dramatic Score, Editing, Director, Supporting Actress, Leading Actor, Supporting Actor, and Original Screenplay)

Good Will Hunting

After Ben Affleck won at the this years Oscars for Argo, I figured I would go back 16 years and watch the film that he won his first Oscar for…

Good Will Hunting tells the story of a man who was orphaned at a young age, named Will Hunting (Matt Damon). He is intellectually gifted in the sense that he remembers just about everything that he reads. He lives his life in secret, and hangs out in southern Boston with his friends. The story begins when Will Hunting is sought out by a professor (Skarsgard) for his mathematical abilities. The professor forces him to see a therapist (Williams), and in return Will does not have to go to prison for a crime that he committed earlier.

Robin Williams after winning Best Supporting Actor at the 70th Academy Awards.

Robin Williams after winning Best Supporting Actor at the 70th Academy Awards.

A lot of the true beauty in Good Will Hunting is the performances. Matt Damon, in his breakout role, delivers a stunning performance as the title character. Not enough can be said about the fantastic supporting performances given by each individual actor; however, one man deserves to be singled out, Robin Williams. The vote for Williams must have been unanimous at the oscars because his performance could not have been matched. He delivers one of the best supporting performances that I have ever seen! The scene where his character and Will are sitting in the park was one of the moments where I completely lost myself in the film itself, and for those five minutes, I had forgotten that I was even watching a movie. I was now apart of that scene, and that is something that is rarely accomplished in cinema, but when it happens, it is really something special. Watch that scene here.

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Matt Damon and Ben Affleck after winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 70th Academy Awards.

Gus Van Sant does a fair job of directing, but nothing about this film screams best director. Do not get the idea that I am taking credit away from Gus Van Sant, but there is no one who could have messed this script up. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote one of the best scripts in modern cinematic history. They filled every line of dialogue with meaning, and there is not one scene in ‘Good Will Hunting’ that would have been worth cutting. This is a script that every screenwriter should definitely look up to. In fact, after watching the film, the first question that came in my head was, “Why did Matt Damon stop writing?” Ben Affleck wrote the screenplay for the first two films he directed ‘Gone Baby Gone’ and ‘The Town’; however Matt has not written anything major (yes I know he wrote Promised Land) since the release of ‘Good Will Hunting’. He has been a major actor ever since the release of this film, so it is possible that he has simply been too busy to sit behind a computer screen and write quality material.

Being a high school student, I think that Will Hunting is a very relatable character. At my age, I often like to think that I am an expert on every topic of conversation whether it be girls, movies, tv, math, history.. or whatever else. ‘Good Will Hunting is a reminder that although you may think you have the answer to everything, everybody has their flaws even if they are hidden deep inside. It is nice to see this very common life lesson turned into a work of art that can be related to by just about all viewers. This is one reason that this screenplay only could have been written by men in their youth (Damon and Affleck were 26 and 24 at the time of release).

Overall, ‘Good Will Hunting’ is one of the best written and acted films that I have ever seen. It is one of the best “life” movies out there, and it is a movie that will stick with you for months after watching it. I have watched ‘Good Will Hunting’ a few times, and I’m sure that I’ll watch it many more times because it is simply that brilliant. 16 years may seem like a long time ago, but this film is one of the few that you can really call timeless. Basically, if you have not seen this film, what have you been doing for the last 16 years?

IMDb: 8.2/10 (#153 on the top 250)

Metacritic: 70/100

Rotten Tomatoes: 97/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 91/100

Crash (2005)

Crash poster courtesy of signis.net

Crash poster courtesy of signis.net

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Ludacris, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Terrence Howard, Michael Pena, Larenz Tate, Shaun Toub

Directed By: Paul Haggis

Written By: Robert (Bobby) Moresco and Paul Haggis

Winner of 3 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Editing)

I decided that seeming I have predicted an upset at this years Oscars (yes, Lincoln would be an upset over Argo), I should go back and review one movie that was the cause of a huge upset. When Crash beat Brokeback Mountain at the 78th Academy Awards it sparked huge controversy. People said that the only reason it won was because the academy is anti-gay (Brokeback Mountain is the story of homosexual cowboys), and that Crash was in no way deserving of winning Best Picture. This is a different argument for a different time, but I figured that readers should at least know my reasoning behind reviewing the Best Picture winner from 2006.

Crash

Well my first review, and I get the idea that I might be pissing a few people off right from the start, but I guess I’d be doing that whether I liked or disliked Crash. I loved Crash, and do not think that it is, “overrated” or, “messy” or any of the other negative adjectives that I have seen people use to describe it. Being a Los Angeles local it was beautiful to see a movie that is about all of the social classes and races that this diverse city contains. Crash was fantastically written, and was very deserving of its Best Screenplay award.

The acting in Crash is what drives the film, and ultimately is what I believe made it win its’ Best Picture (after all actors are the academy’s largest branch). Seeming there is no “lead” actor in Crash, and everyone receives roughly the same amount of screen time, it was required that every actor puts forth a strong performance. If every actor was not at the top of their game, viewers would have not felt the same level of depth that you do when watching Crash.

The direction was not done in a typical style. It has a very shaky camera at times, and you got a much more artsy feel with this movie compared to most of the nominated movies from that year. Some scenes where done with pure beauty (Westwood robbery scene) and others were brutally real (car crash scene), this created a mixture that displayed the beauty of Paul Haggis’ directing. Also, the character development in Crash was very well done. If the development was not done properly, the viewer could have been very confused by the overwhelming amount of characters in the film; however, the director gave each character a very distinct personality and it made each character memorable.

Overall, Crash is a film that will make you put yourself in the shoes of other people, and teach you the importance of appreciating the situation that you are in. It taught me that no one is immune to tragedy.

  • IMDb: 7.9/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
  • Metacritic: 69
  • Best Picture Movie Reviews: 87