Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street [2013]

The Wolf of Wall Street [2013]

The Wolf of Wall Street [2013]
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Terence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)
Genre: Biography/Comedy/Crime
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Running Time: 180 minutes

The Wolf of Wall Street is exactly what I expected it to be — a wild, drugged-out ride through the career of a larger-than-life criminal. Sex, drugs and profanity profilerate the screen. It’s so over-the-top in its debauchery that it’s bound to infuriate those sensitive to such content. One of the very first scenes, in which Leonardo DiCaprio snorts cocaine off the backside of a hooker, tells you all you need to know about what the next three hours hold. If that doesn’t deter you, well, sit back and enjoy one of the craziest films you’ll see all year.

Set in the late 80s and into the 90s, the film follows the rise and fall of a cocky young stockbroker named Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio). While he starts out fairly mild-mannered as a married man, he begins spiraling out of control after accepting a profitable job selling penny stocks. As his wealth begins to accumulate, so does his lavish lifestyle. He forms his own company, Stratton Oakmont, hires a handful of friends (mostly drug dealers) and then molds them into successful brokers. Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) becomes his right-hand man, and Belfort scores himself a new hot wife, Naomi (Margot Robbie).

The Wolf of Wall Street [2013]

Belfort’s excess and fraudulent behavior catches the eye of FBI agent Greg Coleman (Kyle Chandler). The two of them play a bit of cat-and-mouse as Belfort starts shoveling his money to a Swiss bank account. He always seems to be one step ahead of the game, yet he simply doesn’t know when or how to stop. Naturally, his habits lead to his downfall.

Does Belfort change? No, not really. The more money he makes, the more out of control he gets. He throws spectacular parties for his employees, most of which are full of cocaine, Quaaludes and orgies. He’s a pretty awful guy all around, yet DiCaprio manages to make him so damn charismatic. Leo’s performance here is both batshit crazy and also one of the best in his career. Watching him dance, scream and jumble around while strung out on ‘ludes is worth the price of admission alone.

The Wolf of Wall Street [2013]

The supporting cast is absolutely terrific as well, with no weak links anywhere. Jonah Hill often goes into frightening territory with his character, but his drug adventures with DiCaprio make for many of the film’s best moments. (On a side note, who would have ever thought Hill would have *two* Oscar nominations? Dude deserves them though.) Matthew McConaughey has a great scene in which he acts as a bit of a mentor to Belfort, leading him in an awkward-but-amusing chest pounding chant. Rob Reiner, Spike Jonze and Jon Favreu all have notable bit parts, but perhaps the biggest surprise of the film is Margot Robbie. This Australian actress is the perfect counterpart to DiCaprio, even managing to steal a scene or two from him. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the future.

The Wolf of Wall Street‘s excess may be a bit too much at times, and it does bear quite a few similarities with Goodfellas, but Scorsese is still in top form here. The dark humor is so twisted and off-the-wall that I found myself laughing often, and quite frankly there is never a dull moment within the film’s three hour runtime. If you can handle the vulgarity, this one will not disappoint.

9/10

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Poll Results: Favorite Cast Member from This Is the End

Everyone’s favorite Moneyball supporting actor continues his winning ways:

Jonah Hill

THE RESULTS:
– Jonah Hill: 6 votes
– James Franco: 4 votes
– Danny McBride: 3 votes
– Jay Baruchel: 2 votes
– Craig Robinson: 2 votes
– Seth Rogen: 0 votes

Poor Seth Rogen. Getting shut out of his own movie. Is everyone that tired of him already?

This Week’s Poll: The weekend’s biggest surprise at the box office was easily World War Z finishing second overall while making a cool $66+ million. After a number of delays, production problems and tepid reviews, the film surpassed most expectations, and there is already talk of a sequel. In honor of the film’s success, let’s take a look back at zombies in film. What are the *two* best zombie movies of all time? Are you a fan of the Romero classics, or do you prefer modern horror-comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland?

Movie Review: This Is the End [2013]

This Is the End [2013]

This Is the End [2013]
Directors: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Screenplay: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Genre: Action/Comedy
Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride
Running Time: 107 minutes

“Something totally not chill happened last night.”

This Is the End is the type of comedy that has something for everyone. Its cast is a veritable who’s who of today’s most popular comedians (all of whom are playing themselves), there are a number of hilarious cameo appearances and, of course, seemingly endless raunchy jokes. Oh, and it’s an apocalyptic flick that isn’t afraid to show its fair share of gore.

When Jay Baruchel arrives in Los Angeles, he’s expecting a weekend of sitting around, getting high and playing video games with his old friend, Seth Rogen. However, Baruchel is reluctantly dragged to a housewarming party held by James Franco where a large number of Rogen’s other, “new” friends are hanging out. Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera and Emma Watson are among the attendees, but Baruchel doesn’t really know any of them. Feeling left out, Jay asks Seth to take a walk with him to the convenience store for cigarettes.

It’s here where the apocalypse hits. Hellfire and brimstone.

This is the End [2013]

The two of them quickly head back to the party where everyone is seemingly oblivious to the end of the world happening outside. A massive sinkhole then erupts outside of Franco’s “fortress”, wiping out most of the partygoers.

Eventually just Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Robinson, Hill and an unexpected Danny McBride are left inside the house. The six of them band together in an attempt to survive the apocalypse.

As expected with a houseful of comedians, hilarity ensues.

This Is the End [2013]

This is easily one of the funniest movies I have seen in a while, and a lot of that goes to how willing these celebrities are to make fun of themselves. There is *a lot* of self-deprecating humor here, as everything from Rogen’s acting skills to Franco’s sexuality are the recipients of harsh — but hilarious — jokes.

The cameos are even better. Michael Cera damn near steals the show in his limited screen time by blowing countless lines of coke and engaging in illicit party acts. It’s Cera as you’ve never seen him. Another brilliant cameo — one which I will not spoil — happens near the end of the film when a Pulp Fiction Gimp-like character makes an appearance. You’ll never guess who’s under the mask.

Also, this movie gets major props for getting Emma Watson to drop an F-bomb.

This Is the End [2013]

This is the End may be self-indulgent, as it revolves around Rogen (who co-directed and co-wrote this) and his friends, but damn if it isn’t funny as hell. Every character has their fair share of great lines, with everyone playing some version of their own self (though Danny McBride is near full-on Kenny Powers here).

The horror elements come in the form of painful character deaths (an impalement and a severed head are just two notable examples) as well as some rather grotesque-looking demons and other creatures of Hell. The CGI is surpisingly well-done for the latter, though the characters are crudely designed (let’s just say some are so well-endowed that Dr. Manhattan would be jealous).

All of this ties together to form the best comedy of the year so far. I haven’t laughed this hard in a theater in ages, and nearly every line had the audience in stitches. Who knew the apocalypse could be so funny?

8/10

Movie Review: Moneyball [2011]

Moneyball [2011]

Moneyball [2011]
Director: Bennett Miller
Genre: Biography/Drama/Sport
Language: English
Country: USA

Let me preface this by stating that I am a huge fan of baseball and of the book, Moneyball. It helps to be a fan of both, but the film adaptation was created in a way to appeal to everyone.

The movie, just like the book, focuses on the true story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and their charismatic general manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt). A former baseball player who moved to the front office after he didn’t “pan out”, Beane is responsible for operating a small-budget Major League Baseball team. Oakland’s total team payroll in 2002? A paltry $39 million, the third lowest in all of baseball. Compare this to the mighty Yankees, who had a whopping $125 million payroll that year.

Yet the year before, in 2001, the A’s won seven more games than the Yankees and ended up meeting them in the playoffs. While the team wildly exceeded its expectations, this was still a grave disappointment for the demanding Beane. He was faced with an even greater dilemma that offseason in that three of his best players — Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen — were all leaving via free agency because he couldn’t afford to pay them. Now, not only does he have to follow up a tremendous 2001 season but he has to do it with spare parts in the roles of his former superstars.

Moneyball [2011]

This is where “Moneyball” steps in. After persuading a rival team’s assistant named Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to join Oakland, the two collaborate and develop a new way to look at baseball. Instead of listening to gray-haired scouts rattle on about a player having all “five tools” or how good they look in appearance, Beane and Brand decide to focus on sabermetrics and non-traditional statistics. They seek players who can get on base by any means necessary, particularly by drawing walks. Their key stat? On-base percentage. Who cares if a guy is a liability in the field if he makes up for it with his bat? That’s the perception the two executives have, and it is perhaps best illustrated in the form of one player: Scott Hatteberg.

“Hatty”, as he was commonly known (played by Parks & Recreation’s Chris Pratt), is the perfect example of the Moneyball theory. Unwanted by other teams since nerve damage no longer allowed him to play catcher, Hatty is visited by Beane in an attempt to get him to play first base. Even though he is terrified of taking ground balls at the position, he perseveres and puts together some great moments at the plate (including an epic at-bat during the team’s record-breaking 20 game winning streak). Hatteberg’s salary in 2002 was $900,000. Giambi’s? $10.4 million.

It’s pretty freaking incredible that a team patched together with past-their-prime veterans (like David Justice) and defensive liabilities (Hatteberg) could still manage to win over 100 games and make the playoffs once again. It doesn’t matter that the team lost in the first round again — they still went toe-to-toe against teams with payrolls four times as large. Plus the concept of Moneyball revolutionized the league, and its effects are still felt today.

Moneyball [2011]

In terms of a film watching experience, you do not need to be a baseball fan to enjoy the movie (as stated above). Brad Pitt gives Beane a highly likable personality, even as we see how he is a deeply flawed man. Jonah Hill is quiet and subdued as Peter Brand, and it’s interesting to see him take on a role like this. The always excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman plays A’s manager Art Howe, who frequently butts heads with Beane due to differences in baseball philosophy. Chris Pratt also does well with his role of Hatteberg, astutely playing a baseball player who lacks confidence in himself.

The script is both well-written and intelligent, and it also has a surprising amount of humor. Screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian did a fantastic job adapting Michael Lewis’ bestseller.

As far as baseball movies go, this is one of the best. As far as 2011’s movies go, this is also one of the best. Everyone will find something to like about Moneyball, whether it’s the smart dialogue, perfect cast or the baseball philosophy.

9/10