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

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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

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

Have Movies Gotten Longer?

As I was telling my father about the fantastic Django Unchained  he immediately asked me how long it was. 2 hours and 45 minutes was my response, and he said, “oh of course, movies just keep getting longer.” That comment was my inspiration behind jumping on my computer, and researching the length of movies. This bring me to the question: 

Have Movies Gotten Longer?

I figured that the best way to jude would be to base this off of best picture nominees at the Oscars, as those are typically the most memorable films of the year. I averaged the 10 best picture nominees from each decade until the age that my Dad would have started watching movies (around 1980). Once I got to 1980, I averaged 10 films from every 5 years. Lastly, I took the average of the three most recent years (2010, 2011, 2012). These were the average lengths of the films in each of the given years…

  • 1929-1932: 104
  • 1940: 116
  • 1950-1951: 119
  • 1960-1961: 144
  • 1970-1971: 134
  • 1980-1981: 134
  • 1985-1986: 126
  • 1990-1991: 140
  • 1995-1996: 129
  • 2000-2001: 138
  • 2005-2006: 126
  • 2010: 112
  • 2011: 125
  • 2012: 135

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Are Movies Getting Longer? No.

If we went back to our Algebra 1 days… this graph would be deemed as no correlationIt looks like this was an appropriate saying if you lived in the 50’s, but in modern cinema, no. Just because you see a few lengthy movies in a row, that does not mean that they are getting longer.

District 9 (2009)

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Directed By: Neil Blomkamp 

Written By: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell 

Starring: Sharlto Copley 

Nominated for 4 (won 0) Academy Awards (Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, and Visual Effects)

As I was going through the list of every Best Picture nominee, I stumbled upon a film that has been towards the top of my watch list for a long time.. District 9.

20 years ago, an alien ship came to a stop over the city of Johannesburg. Different from most alien related films, District 9 does not take place during the invasion. For a change, the humans are actually in control of the aliens. Just those two points previously mentioned already set District 9 far apart from just about every other alien movie, but just because they like being different, part of the film is done as a mockumentary. I will not go into farther detail about the film because the best thing about District 9 is the constant twists and turns throughout the film.

Chances are that you do not recognize any of the names listed under the poster (neither did I); therefore, one of the key goals of the creator, Neill Blomkamp, was to get a “big name” on board with the project. That “big name” ended up being the one and only Peter Jackson. I am a big fan of just about anything that Mr. Peter Jackson touches, and District 9 is not an exception. Peter Jackson’s name on the poster is an instant money maker, but the person that made this film great was not Jackson himself. It was writer/director Neill Blomkamp. District 9 has apparently been his baby ever since he graduated from film school in 1998, and that reflects clearly in the film. Every detail in District 9 seems like it was clearly thought out. District 9 has established Neill Blomkamp, at least in my opinion, as one of the best new writer/directors.

The performances in District 9 are decent at best, but this is a film that does not require strong acting. After all, since when do we go see sci-fi movies for the performances? The effects were some of the most convincing that I’ve ever seen, and the beauty of those effects take your mind off of the acting. Sharlto Copley was solid in his role, but the supporting cast was extremely mediocre.

My main issue with District 9 was the dialogue. This is tricky because its writing is both its strength and weakness. The basic premise behind District 9 is fantastic; however, the dialogue is remarkably cliche. I found myself knowing what the character would say before he said it. With that being said, do we really go to see a sci-fi movie if we’re expecting extremely well-written dialogue? The Best Adapted Screenplay nomination must have been for the idea behind the movie, and not the dialogue itself.

The racism undertone that the movie has is a great touch to the film. Also, it was a welcoming change to cinema seeing a film set in Johannesburg and hearing a different accent than we’re used to. Blomkamp does a great job of paying homage to the city that he grew up in. The mockumentary style of filmmaking will be disliked by some viewers, but to me it was once again a pleasant change to the sci-fi genre.

Overall, District 9 is a modern science fiction classic that will not be soon forgotten.

IMDb: 8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91/100

Metacritic: 81/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 81/100

Later this year will be Elysium starring Matt Damon and directed by Neill Blomkamp. Mark your calendars for August 9th because this is a film that viewers should get very excited about.

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

The 85th Academy Awards Predictions

image courtesy of wikimedia.org

image courtesy of wikimedia.org

It is fair to say that 2011 was a great disappointment for cinema, and I was beginning to wonder if Hollywood still had the flare that we had all grown to love. I was very optimistic going into 2012. Fortunately my worries were futile.

I believe that 2012 has been the best Oscar Class in recent memory. In the class of 2012 got such a beautiful mixture of everything. From a surprisingly fantastic Drama that premiered at Sundance (Beasts of the Southern Wild) to a movie about the heroism of two great nations coming together to save lives (Argo). These two mixed with a musical classic (Les Miserables), a visually stunning book adaptation (Life of Pi), a historical account of the killing of a terrorist (Zero Dark Thirty), and a French Drama about aging love (Amour). Top it off with a masterfully crafted spaghetti western (Django Unchained), a story of one of the greatest leaders of all time (Lincoln), and a well acted dram-com about two people both suffering from mental illness (Silver Linings Playbook), and you get what was most definitely the best year there has been in years. Here are my predictions for this great year… (I ordered each nominee in order of the likely hood of them receiving the award; therefore, #1 is obviously the movie that I think will win)

* indicates that the race is close between the * nominees

Best Picture

  1. Lincoln*
  2. Argo*
  3. Silver Linings Playbook
  4. Les Miserables
  5. Life of Pi
  6. Amour
  7. Zero Dark Thirty
  8. Django Unchained
  9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Actor 

  1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)*
  2. Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
  3. Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
  4. Denzel Washington (Flight)
  5. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)

Best Actress

  1. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)*
  2. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
  3. Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
  4. Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  5. Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)*
  2. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)*
  3. Robert de Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)*
  4. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
  5. Alan Arkin (Argo)

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)*
  2. Sally Field (Lincoln)
  3. Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
  4. Amy Adams (The Master)
  5. Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Director

  1. Stephen Spielberg (Lincoln)*
  2. Ang Lee (Life of Pi)*
  3. David O. Russel (Silver Linings Playbook)
  4. Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  5. Micheal Haneke (Amour)

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)*
  2. Zero Dark Thirty (Mark Boal)*
  3. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola)
  4. Amour (Micheal Haneke)
  5. Flight (John Gatins)

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Lincoln (Tony Kushner)*
  2. Argo (Chris Terrio)*
  3. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russel)
  4. Life of Pi (David Magee)
  5. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin)