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

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.

United 93 (2006)

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Directed and Written by: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Many Various Actors

Nominated for 2 Academy Awards (Direction and Film Editing)

United 93

On September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked. The first two planes hit each of the World Trade Center’s. The next plane hit the Pentagon. United 93 tells the heroic story of the fourth plane, which crashed in a field 170 miles away from Washington DC. Passengers on this flight discovered their fate through phone calls to their families that told them details about the fate of the other 3 planes. United 93 does more than just tell the story of the fourth plane, but also takes you inside the control center’s and shows you how chaotic this day really was for everyone involved.

Of course with any film like this, there is a lot of hate surrounding the story. I took the time to find some negative reviews, and the points that these reviewers make are extremely insensible and moronic. The details that they point out are minor and do not present any evidence to disprove what the film discusses. 9/11 is a very difficult topic because no one really knows what happend inside the planes; therefore, forcing film makers to improvise on the events that occurred. United 93 does a great job of keeping the story understated and believable. The main negative comments that I see are, “too soon” and, “no one wants to watch heros die right after performing a life saving act”. Have we as humans become too caught up in the fiction that runs our world? Can we not face the bitter reality of the world that we live in?

Best Director nominee Paul Greengrass

Best Director nominee Paul Greengrass

Congratulations to Paul Greengrass for taking a VERY sensitive topic, and doing it in a way that was muted and, in a sense, relatable. The viewer finds it easy to put himself in the shoes of the passengers, which is very difficult seeming most of us have never been on a hijacked plane before. The academy did a great job of giving Greengrass his nomination, but not nominating the film itself (wasn’t deserving that year).

Greengrass’ use of unknown actors is done so that the film is not full of all the Hollywood crap that we see far too frequently. Just imagine if we had Brad Pitt rebelling against terrorists on United Airlines Flight 93, it simply would not seem right. The performances given by generally unknown actors are a highlight of the film. Every actor has a limited amount of screen time and the characters do a great job of making all 111 minutes count.

While the understatement of the film was necessary due to the time that this film was made (less than 5 years after 9/11), it is the flaw of the movie. You miss out on seeing the true tragedy of 9/11. 9/11 is simply too alive in peoples’ minds for a real film to be made about the subject.

Overall, United 93 was a very difficult film to make, and Paul Greengrass does a very good job of doing so.

IMDb: 7.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91/100

Metacritic: 90/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 77/100

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

Into the Wild (2007)

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Starring: Emile Hirsch (Lead), Brian Dierker, Hal Holbrook, Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart, Vince Vaughn, William Hurt, and Marcia Gay Harden

Direction and Screenplay by: Sean Penn

Nominated for two Academy Awards in its year (Film Editing and Supporting Actor)

Based on the novel ‘Into the Wild’ by John Krakauer

Into the Wild

‘Into the Wild’ tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who feels that he has been neglected by his parents. He decides that instead of going on to continue his education, he will donate his $25,000 college fund to charity, and eventually ditch his car, in order to explore the wild. The film takes you through the adventure of the people that Chris meets and the things that he learns.

I have not read the book; therefore, giving me no prior knowledge about the story of Christopher McCandless. I will check out the book sometime, and when I do, I’ll be sure to write a follow-up. With that being said, I have heard that this film is one of the cases where the film does the book the justice that it deserves.

Hal Holbrook

Hal Holbrook at the 80th Academy Awards, where he was nominated for his performance in ‘Into the Wild’.

I have been a fan of Emile Hirsch’s work ever since seeing him in The Emperor’s Club (2002). He makes Christopher McCandless his own, and really wins you over with his character. On another acting note, why would they cast Kristen Stewart? In my opinion, she is one of the worst actors in the buisnes, and I can not understand the reasoning behind the decision to cast her. The rest of the extensive supporting cast are all very strong in their roles; however, the stand out performance was given by 82 year-old Hal Holbrook. Even at his advanced age, Holbrook manages to give arguably the best performance of his career. His character’s wisdom is visible through his amazing performance. I very rarely come to tears when watching movies, but Holbrook’s performance did make me shed a tear.

Director and Writer Sean Penn

Director and Writer Sean Penn

While I am not a fan of Sean Penn as a person, there is no denying his genius both infront and behind the camera. ‘Into the WIld’ is no exception. ‘Into the Wild’ would have been a very difficult movie to direct, and Penn does an amazing job at doing so. My one complaint with Penn’s writing was the order that the story was told. Instead of it being told chronologically, you keep getting taken back from the beginning to the end. It was unnecessary to the story, and there was no benefit for the film to be told in this order.

The greatest accomplishment of ‘Into the WIld’ is that it seems real. This is something that can only be accomplished in cinema when everyone involved is passionate about the work that they are doing. Every part of the movie from the relationships to the props seemed relatable and human. This is something that many movies struggle to accomplish, but ‘Into the Wild’ manages to do it perfectly.

Overall, ‘Into the Wild’ is one of the “must sees” in 2013, and it’s a picture that I would recommend to just about everyone.

IMDb: 8.2/10 (#160 on the top 250)

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

Metacritic: 73/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 84

The 85th Academy Awards Analysis

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Another year of Oscars is over, here’s a look at the winners:

  • Life of Pi- 4 Wins (Cinematography, Director, Score, Visual Effects)
  • Argo- 3 Wins (Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Editing)
  • Les Miserables- 3 Wins (Makeup/Hairstyling, Supporting Actress, Sound Mixing)
  • Django Unchained- 2 Wins (Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay)
  • Lincoln- 2 Wins (Actor, Production Design)
  • Skyfall- 2 Wins (Sound Editing, Original Song)
  • Silver Linings Playbook- 1 Win (Actress)
  • Amour- 1 Win (Foreign Language Film)
  • Zero Dark Thirty- 1 Win (Sound Editing)
  • Brave- 1 Win (Animated Feature)
  • Anna Karenina- 1 Win (Costume Design)
  • Searching for Sugarman- 1 Win (Documentary Feature)
  • Inocente- 1 Win (Documentary Short)
  • Paperman- 1 Win (Animated Short)
  • Curfew- 1 Win (Live Action Short)

Just some of me pointing out the obvious: No wins for Best Picture nominee Beasts of the Southern Wild. The Best Picture winner (Argo) did not win the most awards, that honor went to Life of Pi. Despite its 12 nominations, Lincoln only took home 2 awards. Something less obvious was that there was a tie in the Best Sound Editing category between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty. This was the fifth tie in Academy Awards history (first in its category and first since 1994)

Well, congratulations to Argo! Did it deserve it? In a word, no.

When I watched Argo, I did not get the feeling that I was watching this years’ Best Picture.When I watched Lincoln, I felt the feeling that I was watching a movie worthy of the Best Picture statue. It was the same feeling that I got when watching movies such as The Kings’ Speech, A Beautiful Mind, Titanic, Million Dollar Baby (all past winners). So why did Argo win? Well, the biggest names in Hollywood vote on the Academy Awards, and Argo is a movie that makes Hollywood the hero. This already gave it an advantage, but when Ben Affleck got snubbed for Best Director, everyone felt bad for him, and decided to give him the Best Picture vote out of sympathy. At least this my theory. Argo was one of my favorite movies this year, and maybe the academy truly thought it was the best. So congratulations to Argo!

Best Actress, Actor, and Supporting Actress were all predictable, and I was happy about each winner.

The award that brought me the most joy this year was Best Supporting Actor. Christoph Waltz winning automatically made it a great night for me. I thought Tommy Lee Jones was great, but Christoph Waltz was the beauty behind Django, which is something I can not say about Jones in Lincoln.

Even though my prediction was for Spielberg, I was actually more happy to see Ang Lee win. Good for him. He seems to be a very gracious, humble man, in a business where humbleness is hard to come by.

I was quite successful in my predictions this year, but I did lose in the two biggest categories. With that being said, I was 8/10 in the awards that I care about: (* means that I was incorrect)

*Best Picture*, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, *Best Director*, Best Animated Feature Film, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song

Next year I vow to be correct in every category ;).

2012 was a fantastic year that had just about everything. All we can hope is that 2010 and 2012 were not flukes (2011 was weak), and that there is a new sense of quality in films. Let’s hope for an equally as amazing 2013, and anything extra will be considered a bonus.

Oh, and who’s up for another year of Seth MacFarlane? He did a great job!