The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

wolfwallstreetposter

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

Advertisements

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

fastfurious6movie

Directed By: Justin Lin 

Written By: Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans, and other various supporting actors

Well that was realistic…

They’re back and they’re the good guys. That’s right. Leave it to Hobbs (Johnson), a special forces cop, to get Toretto (Johnson) and his crew back to work. They are working to capture Shaw (Evans), a military-trained criminal, that is out to steal a chip that is capable of shutting down an entire country for 24 hours. This chip would be capable of essentially destroying that respective country. The stakes are high, the muscles are big, and the cars go fast.. What could go wrong, right?

To answer the previous question, a lot more than viewers would think. I’m struggling to tell the difference between action movies anymore. Just about everyone has begun to feel the same. Fast & Furious 6 is no exemption. The storyline is washed out and utterly disappointing. The attempt to differentiate itself by switching the setting (again) backfires on them (again). While I like watching big guys kick each others asses as much as everyone else, I can simply not get over the redundancy of the series.

The first Fast & Furious is a good-watch and one of the better action movies of 2001. The second, third, and fourth installments were very disappointing (especially three). I take my hat off to them for their perseverance for sticking with a series that had three consecutive disappointing efforts. Fast Five brought back viewers interest in the series. The Rio setting was appealing and people were  again drawn in by the badass thieves.

Unfortunately, the only aspect of the fast & furious series that was even somewhat original was removed in Fast & Furious 6. They are now the good guys. It’s human nature to want to be a badass, so when the protagonist(s) are bad guys, the movie instantly becomes more exhilarating. Take that aspect away, and it might as well be  Mission Impossible 5: Fast Cars.

The action scenes make no effort to be the slightest bit realistic. In fact, it is just the opposite: It is almost as if the writers made an effort to be unrealistic. I mean, didn’t we already see the ending of this movie in Toy Story? And Argo? In what would be taken by many as the most climatic scene, my theater began to laugh uncontrollably. The writing of the story is embarrassing and the directing could not save it. Just Lin’s direction is perfectly good. He does the best he could with what he had, but he didn’t have much.

The acting is typical action crap. Don’t Worry! Dwayne Johnson is just as awful at acting as he is at hiding his steroid use (nothing new). Paul Walker continues to do his best with a series that seems especially exhausted. Jordana Brewster is still a babe, but we don’t see her much in her relatively minor role. The acting is simply nothing to speak of.

Overall, Fast & Furious 6 can not successfully follow in Fast Five’s foot steps. Bad decisions with the characters mixed with general poor writing made the film just another mediocre summer action flick.

IMDb: 76/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 70/100

Metacritic: 61/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 63/100

Series Roundup: With every new addition, I like to rank every film in the series from Best to Worst:

1. Fast Five (2011)

2. The Fast and the Furious (2001)

3. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

4. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

5. Fast & Furious (2009)

6. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

tpbtp

Directed By: Derek Cianfrance 

Written By: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ryan Gosling, Emory Cohen, Dane DeHaan, and Ray Liotta

My hopes were very high when I went to see The Place Beyond the Pines. In fact, I was so excited about this film that I went to a matinee showing just hours after returning to Los Angeles from vacation. Let’s just say that I was disappointed…

Do not be fooled by the trailer.. it is very misleading. The film is divided into 3 acts. The trailer gives the viewer the premise for the first act and part of the second act; however, there is no hint of the third act seen in the trailer. There is no problem with a trailer not wanting to give away too much of the plot, but there needs to be some evidence of what you will get when you watch the whole movie (not just the first half). The movies starts out just as the trailer suggests with Luke (Ryan Gosling) as a motorcycle stunt driver that finds out he has a son with a woman that he previously had a fling with (Eva Mendes). In order to provide for his newly discovered son, Luke begins robbing banks, which ultimately leads him to a rookie police officer named Avery (Bradley Cooper). That’s the prologue for the first two acts.  The third and final act takes place fifteen years later. This act is basically about Luke and Avery’s sons when they go to high school, and how their paths intertwine.

The first problem I encountered with The Place Beyond the Pines was the lack of character development. There is no climax in the film because every character is seen in their climax, but characters are not shown at any other time. While this can be entertaining, it also leaves you sitting there watching the action without caring about any of the characters.  This happens with the first character, Luke, and continues as a pattern throughout the whole film.

The key issue that arises is the amount of content.. there is way too much. The story is actually very strong, but with this amount of quality content, filmmakers should not try to cram it into a 2 hour and 30 minute film. It would have been much better suited as a 6-8 episode miniseries. This would have allowed for character development as well as more detail and better dialogue in each scene. Instead the film feels rushed and overly rich with content. The story is so all over the place that by the time you get to the third act, you begin to check your watch to see when the madness will end.

Don’t take the negativity too harshly as ‘Pines’ definitely has its strengths. The performances are strong by everyone with Ryan Gosling being especially strong just as he was in Drive. Ray Liotta is convincingly intimidating in his role as a corrupt high-powered police official. Bradley Cooper is not at his strongest, but still manages to prove that he is a legitimate actor both dramatically and comedically. Eva Mendes is surprisingly convincing in her role, and does a great job as the only leading female. Dane DeHaan is full of talent, and expect to start seeing him more and more.

Overall, the story is highly entertaining and starts out very strong, but ultimately ends up way too off track for its own good. Don’t allow the deceptive trailer to fool you. For those of us that thought we were getting a Best Picture caliber film at the beginning of April were wrong, but if you rent this on a Wednesday night, I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed. It’s not a disaster, but it’s not the masterpiece that it was expected to be.

IMDb: 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 75/100

Metacritic: 64/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 75/100 (expectation 90/100)

United 93 (2006)

united_ninety_three

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

Side Effects (2013)

SideEffects-exclusive-lg

Direction, Cinematography, and Editing by: Steven Soderbergh

Written By: Scott Z. Burns 

Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum

Side Effects

Deemed as a psychological thriller, Side Effects takes you on more twists and turns than any roller coaster at your local theme park.

soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

Allow me to start with the bad news, we are going to have to bid farewell to Steven Soderbergh in cinema. He has announced that this will be the last film of his career. I think he’ll be back, but it won’t be anytime soon (give it 8 years). So what’s the good news? He went out with a bang. Side Effects has Soderbergh running through its veins. It has the amazing camera work that I have learned to expect with all of Soderbergh’s movies. The shots that he does never seize to amaze me, and his work behind the camera will always be remembered as one of the best. One thing that is credit to both the directing and the writing is that the film respects the viewers’ intelligence, which is something that is very lacking in modern cinema.

The highlight of this twisty thriller is the writing. Scott Z. Burns takes us on a magnificent ride through the imperfections of humanity. It shows how we, as humans, are subjects to depravity, sex, corruption, and most of all greed. Told from a third person point of view, there is no favorite character. Every character is developed perfectly, which only adds to the viewers’ interest.

Jude Law is playing the same role that he has played in movies such as Sherlock Homes and Contagion. In the past I have criticized him for being the same character in every film, but in Side Effects it works. Channing Tatum continues to surprise me, and now seems like he can do just about anything. Rooney Mara has been good in every movie that she has been in: from her small role in The Social Network, to her leading role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and now her role in Side Effects. Lastly, Catherine Zeta-Jones shines in her role as Dr. Siebert. She brings an underlying intelligence to the film, that without her performance would have been missing

Viewers are a full two months into the year, and Side Effects is the best picture. It’s a masterfully crafted thriller that takes you through a story full of twists and turns.

IMDb: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 84

Metacritic: 75

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 79