Thursday, January 30, 2014

Devils Due (2014)

Title: Devils Due (2014)

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillet

Stars: Allison Miller, Zach Gilford

I thought it was kind of hilarious that just before watching Devils Due, they played the trailer for the new Jesus-centric fantasy film called Son of God (2014) because here I was about to watch a film about the anti-Christ! Suddenly I felt bombarded by a bunch of Christian propaganda! An overdose of direct and indirect cinematic indoctrination!  And yes, if you ask me, that is how I see a lot of these Christian based horror movies, as a way to spread the fear instilled by religion. But whatever, I enjoy a good horror movie, be it based on Christian mythology or not. It kind of works the same way for me with films like The Passion of the Christ (2004) and Noah (2014), I’ll watch them even though I’m not a Christian because they are entertaining; at the end of the day, all that matters to me is if it’s a good movie or not. So, was Devils Due a good movie?

Devils Due tells the tale of a newlywed couple that decides to go to Santo Domingo for their honeymoon.  The husband is the kind of guy who likes to film every waking moment of his life, his wife tolerates it, so he carries the camera all throughout the film. So anyhow, as they visit a couple of tourist attractions in the island, they suddenly end up in a shady part of town, lost in the middle of the night in the lonely streets of Santo Domingo; lucky for them a kind taxi driver rescues them! Not only that, he offers to take them to a fun part of town, which he does. They end up in a seedy bar getting all drunk! When they get back home from their vacations, they suddenly realize that they are going to have a baby! But strange things begin to occur and it isn’t long before the mother starts feeling like there’s something wrong with her pregnancy, like satanic wrong. Is she pregnant with Satan’s child or what?

Found footage films are simply another way of telling a story, so I don’t bitch and moan about them like a lot of people do; these films are simply a spawn of the digital age we live in, the video age. Actually, by now these types of films are pretty common place; they aren't going away. Hollywood loves them because they are cheap to make and audiences love them because they can identify with the style, because it looks like they could’ve shot the movie themselves.  Personally, I dig them because they have an immediacy to them; but I do have to say that whichever filmmaker chooses to make his or her film in this style has a challenge because these films have been done to death. When making a found footage film, the filmmaker has to come up with innovative ways to keep our interest. Devils Due unfortunately has very little in the way of originality.

Now this is not to say that it’s a bad movie, I actually dug the movie a whole lot. Technically speaking the movie is good, the way it was shot and the whole found footage thing works great because I felt so much closer to the crazy Satanists. And speaking of Satanists, this movie did a very smart thing with its depiction of them. It kept them in the shadows! Which of course made them a heck of a lot scarier; if there’s one thing I hate about movies dealing with Satanists is how silly they always appear. Not on Devils Due; on this movie they creeped me the hell out! Another positive aspect of the film is that the performances were solid; both of the main characters were portrayed convincingly by Allison Miller and Zach Gilford; so kudos to all the actors involved in keeping this one genuine and decidedly credible.

Where the film comes down a couple of notches is in the originality department. For a seasoned movie buff like myself, this film plays out like a remake of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Omen (1976) mixed in with a little Paranormal Activity (2007) to keep things contemporary. The real problem is that the film has so many clichés that you can practically predict certain moments and even certain scares. It’s not a good thing when you know what’s going to happen in a horror movie, or when you can predict a shot. And still, I found myself enjoying the film. I guess they found an interesting way to tell us a story we’ve already seen a thousand times before. If I was to mention one more movie that this film is similar to it would have to be The Last Exorcism (2010), which I dug as well. But fear not, even with the similarities it shares with all these other movies, Devils Due does have a couple of original moments in there to keep your interest. The last few minutes were very gripping. In all honesty, I believe that these types of horror films are worn out; the whole supernatural/Satanist shenanigans should be given a rest for a while! There’s been an overdose of these lately! I could formulate a whole list of films that are the same as Devils Due. So yeah, this theme has been played out and until something new and refreshing can be thought up, I suggest Hollywood to leave these alone for a while. But of course, since these movies always make their money back because they are so cheap to make, I guess we’ll keep on seeing them until you, the audience says no more. So what’ll it be people?  

Rating: 3 out of 5 


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)

Title: The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)

Director: Stuart Gordon

Cast: Lance Henriksen, Jeffrey Combs, Jonathan Fuller, Rona de Ricci, Mark Margolis, Stephen Lee

The casual movie watcher might not know who Stuart Gordon is, but for those gore hounds out there that enjoy their films gory and filled with nudity, Stuart Gordon is a house hold name, no, Stuart Gordon is a God! Early Stuart Gordon films were a special bunch, they all featured extensive amounts of gore, blood and nudity and a lot of them were based on or inspired by various H.P. Lovecraft stories. Good examples of the kind of gory mayhem that Gordon is capable of in his films are Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986) and Dagon (2001), all three inspired in one form or another by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Gordon could really go nuts with the gore in his films! Ever wanted to see a deformed human bite a chunk of flesh from a prostitute’s breast? Then you should see Castle Freak (1995), an obscure yet highly dramatic horror film. That’s the thing about those films that Stuart Gordon made with Full Moon Pictures, they were good, but they are so obscure! The reason for them being overlooked is because Full Moon films were made for a niche audience, a small group of people who appreciated them. Fans of Full Moon Pictures are the kind of audience that knows they are watching low brow entertainment, and they love it that way. Unfortunately, a lot of those Full Moon Films don’t enjoy very good distribution nowadays, many of them have kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. Save for getting them through Full Moon Direct, you probably won’t be able to get a hold of some of the more obscure ones, like Gordon’s The Pit and the Pendulum, a film that I had not seen for years, because I could never get a hold of it. I found it in one of those 8 horror film collections that Echo Bridge Entertainment has been releasing, and it was accompanied by 7 other totally unknown horror films; so you could say I found this copy of The Pit and the Pendulum by some sort of miracle. 

I personally always felt that Stuart Gordon was too good for Full Moon; a production company that specialized on making the cheapest kind of films imaginable. Still, even with all the budgetary constraints that accompany a Full Moon production, Gordon managed to make a couple of good films with them, namely Castle Freak (1995) and the film I’ll be reviewing today The Pit and the Pendulum, two of the best films Full Moon ever produced. But no worries, Gordon’s always worked best when handling small budgets and small stories. Sometimes, he’d get too ambitious for the budget he could get and the resulting film would end up being goofy. A good example of this would be RobotJox (1989), a film about giant robots that ended up being extremely goofy for various reasons, but mostly because it required a bigger budget. The Pit and the Pendulum was another one of Gordon’s ambitious projects that didn’t have the budget it required. The story takes place during the days of the Spanish Inquisition, which already means you’re gonna need a decent budget for sets and wardrobe of the era; unfortunately, the film was made with a mere two million dollars! This is probably the reason why some of the sets look completely half assed or unfinished, a disappointing aspect of the film. Roger Corman’s version of this story had better sets! And that was made in 1961! But incredible as it may seem, Gordon actually managed to make an interesting film none the less, goofy yes, aloof and filled with dialog that does not fit the era, but still, highly watchable.

The hero of the story is a bread maker named Antonio; a peaceful man selling bread in his little town, the problem comes when the love of his life, a woman named Maria is accused of being a witch! By orders of the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada, she is to be tortured and put to death. Now, Antonio must infiltrate Torquemada’s castle and save the love of his life from certain death. Can he make it in time to save her from a torturous death and escape the torture chamber alive? Or will he end up facing the horrors of torture himself?

Films about the inquisition make me so angry; I just hate the fact that the Inquisition even happened because it shows the extreme steps that the Catholic Church and the governments of the world took in order to spread Catholicism through the world. Basically they forced religion onto people; if you rejected Jesus you were tortured to death! It’s a nauseating idea; it’s something you should think about if you are a catholic! Catholicism is a religious organization with some really dark, evil foundations; it’s a religion that grafted itself and its ideas onto people’s consciousness via violence and death, which of course goes completely against what the bible and Jesus stands for. Back then the church was so powerful that whatever they said was law, and so, no one dared defy them. This type of thing went on in many countries; on this film it happened in Spain, but other films represent the same situations in American and England. This went on in the world until Catholicism became the biggest religion in the world. It is frightening to learn how religious fanatism can go this far; I mean, who the hell wants to be tortured to death by a bunch of religious fanatics? Back in those days, if you didn’t play along you would die. I often times wonder how I would have ended up had I lived in those days; probably tortured and burned at the stake! Other movies dealing with similar subject matter are Mark of the Devil (1970), The Conqueror Worm (1968) and The Crucible (1996). You might also want to check out Roger Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) which starred Vincent Price. I mention these other films in case you feel like exploring these themes a little more. It truly is a sad page in human history.

But this is Stuart Gordon’s take on these themes, and well, the more gruesome aspects are not glazed over! These inquisitors were so freaking fanatical that if they discovered you were a heretic after you were dead, they would dig up your corpse and torture your freaking corpse! The Pit and the Pendulum has all the gore and nudity you’d expect from a Gordon film; there’s this whole scenes that’s all about the priests getting off on taking the clothes off a supposed “witch” just to grope and get a look at her body, I gotta say, nudity is kind of gratuitous on this film. And yeah, it has that goofiness that seems to be present in so many Stuart Gordon films. There’s an unevenness in tone, it starts out like a love story, then it’s this graphic film about the inquisition, but sprinkled with what comes off as unintended humor, especially when it comes to the dialog, which is sometimes too modern. So in that sense the film is all over the place. By far the worst part about the film is its leading man; Antonio as played by Jonathan Fuller. The guy looks too goofy to be a leading man, he made the film come off as a comedy at times, I just couldn’t take the guy seriously, he does not look like the hero type at all! Which is a shame because ‘Torquemada’ the inquisitor played by Lance Henriksen comes off as intensely evil; no holds barred the best thing about the movie is Henriksen. If you can believe it, even Oliver Reed shows up in this film for a couple of minutes as a cardinal sending a message from the pope; it’s kind of funny actually, a high caliber actor like Reed on a cheap horror movie like this one!  I guess he is on this one because of his involvement in Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), yet another film about witches. Actually, Gordon had Peter O Toole in mind to play Torquemada, but I guess that deal never came through.  As for Gordon’s regular gang of actors we get Jeffrey Combs playing one of the Inquisitors henchmen and Gordon’s own wife, Carolyn Purdy Gordon playing a high class lady seeing the corpse of her husband defiled.

The interesting thing about this film is that even though it’s cheap looking and has copious amounts of goofy dialog, it’s still very watchable. It’s interesting to see Gordon take a departure from adapting H.P. Lovecraft stories onto film, which is what he is primarily known for; but with The Pit and the Pendulum he dabbles with Edgar Allan Poe, so in that sense it’s a change of pace for Gordon. Final words on this film here is that it’s not Gordon’s best, but it’s not his worst either. You're gonna see all sorts of torture devices on this one, so be ready for that! The film shows its budgetary limitations at times but keeps you interested because of its gruesome premise; let’s face it, the church torturing and killing people in gruesome ways just so they believe in Jesus is always a shocker, and if you know Gordon, then you know he is all about shock!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Stuart Gordon concocting a morbid scene

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Best Films of 2013

Comments: This one made it to my best of 2013 list because quite frankly it made me laugh hard, I mean, to me biblical prophecies is the stuff of fantasies, so to see a film that so blatantly makes fun of all that “judgment day” bullcrap just pushed my funny buttons to the max! It was also great to see so many comedians together in one film; I mean we get Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson which in my book makes this one a “super-comedy”. To top things off it has a slew of cameos that covers everything from Michael Cera to freaking Rihana. Simply hilarious!

Quote: “Your mama’s pussy was the canvas; your dad’s dick was the paintbrush. Boom! You’re the art.” 

Comments: Rob Zombie has always shown promise to me as a horror director, it’s not that his previous films are bad (far from it) it’s just that they always felt short of greatness. Still, I have to admit, the guy has amassed an impressive list of films under his resume, you could do worse than The Devils Rejects (2005) or Halloween (2007), which to me are solid horror films. We can now add The Lords of Salem, which to me is one of Zombie’s best to date. Like many of his cinematic outings, this Rob Zombie film pays homage to his horror heroes, while still infusing the film with his own rock and roll flavor. The Lords of Salem takes Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Sentinel (1977) and Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) puts them all in a blender and hits puree! On top of that, the visuals and the colors make it look like a Rob Zombie film filtered through the lens of Dario Argento and Ken Russell. Like most of Zombie’s films, The Lords of Salem isn’t perfect, but it is a colorful blend of satanic worship and rock and roll, a homage to horror films of old and quite possibly Rob Zombies best film to date; warts and all.

Quote: “Satan! Come to us! We are ready!”

Carrie (2013)

Comments: I was a bit hesitant to watch this version of Carrie because it’s a remake of one of the greatest horror films ever, so of course, I was worried it would be another shitty remake. Well, I’m happy to inform that it isn’t a shitty remake, in fact, it’s an excellent one! I loved this freaking movie! This version of Carrie is actually a bit stronger than its predecessor in many ways; it made more of an impact on me. Was it better than the original? I don’t know, I guess I’ll reserve my final judgment on that matter sometime down the road, but as of now all I can say is I really dug this version of Carrie. Why? Well, for one they explored the whole religious angle more extensively. The character of Margaret White as played by a terrifying Julian Moore explores the dangers of religious fanatism. Carries mother is is way crazier on this version of the film, she’s not just a religious fanatic, she’s a bonafide nut job! A character whose mind’s been twisted and destroyed by religion. She demonizes sex, so when Carrie begins to date, well, she makes Carries life a living hell. The film also explores the dangers of bullying a person and how it can drive the bullied person to extreme and violent ends. Another great thing the film has is that it benefits from modern special effects to up the ante on the whole telekinetic angle. Carrie’s powers on this one are really awesome! Finally, Chloe Grace Moretz really nailed the part and made me feel sympathy for Carrie, she was perfect for the role. If you hate remakes, let me emphasize that this is one of the good ones!

Quote: “The other kids, the think I’m weird. But I don’t wanna be, I wanna be normal. I have to try and be a whole person, before it’s too late.”      

Comments: Fast and the Furious is a franchise that has slowly but surely grown on me. I wasn’t expecting to end up loving these movies, but then again, they have evolved into a whole other thing. I mean, these movies started out being about street racing and have ended up turning into these huge bombastic action films! By now the characters are practically super heroes! This particular entry goes so over the top with its action sequences that we end up seeing a car jumping out of an exploding air plane! We got car chases with tanks! And if that isn’t enough you get The Rock kicking all sorts of ass! Point is, if you feel like watching a bunch of over the top action delivered with decent visual effects than this is the movie for you. Only downside is when Vin Diesel talks, everything else, freaking sweet!

Quote: “Somebody do something! I got a tank on my ass!”

Bad Grandpa (2013)

Comments: You know how Jackass movies are ultra gross? I’ve seen all of them all and I find them highly amusing, but damn, some of the stuff you see on those movies is just a little too gross for my taste, still, like a John Waters movie I’ve subjected myself to the Jackass films because I like to test my limits. So anyhow, I went into Bad Grandpa expecting something like this, instead I got a movie with an actual story. Now let me explain, this film follows that basic prank style thing where you set up a prank and play the prank out to an unsuspecting victim and film the whole thing, but the brilliant part is that the pranks flow within the context of an actual story about a Grandfather trying to take his grandson to his real dad. It’s a road trip movie between grandfather and grandson. The pranks are truly funny, and the story actually kind of endearing. Don’t worry, you still get you’re gross Jackass humor, but it doesn’t overpower the film. This was the funniest film of the year no doubt.

Quote: “What’s your stripper stage name?”

To the Wonder (2013)

Comments: I’m a huge fan of Terrence Malick films; I remember giving The Tree of Life (2011) a glowing review. Malick’s latest, To the Wonder, is similar to The Tree of Life in many ways. It focuses a lot in the beauty of life and the wonders of the world, I see To the Wonder as an ode to the beauty of nature and the world that we live in. I love how Malick focuses on these beautiful locations, places that exist in the world that you and I have probably never seen because we live in a concrete jungle. Rest assured, on this film you are going to see nature at its most amazing and visually dazzling. But in another interesting twist, Malick also finds beauty in regular things; it’s as if Malick knowing that real life is more amazing than any special effect decides to capture it all with his cameras. But amidst all that visual splendor, Malick also explores relationships. To the Wonder is really all about a couple, we meet them from those first moments when they are obsessed and very much in love with each other, to those moments when the relationship has died down and the love is fading away. On top of all that, through the character of a priest, Malick explores religious themes, like doubting the existence of god. A beautiful film, out of the whole year, it’s one of the most beautifully photographed. This is a film that depends on visuals rather than dialog, and it gets very existential, but if you are feeling like something that reminds you about the beauty of the world and the bitter sweetness of relationships, then this is the movie for you.  

Quote: “Life’s a dream, in a dream you can’t make mistakes, In a dream you can be whatever you want"

Comments: Rush is based on the real life story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two of the best Formula 1 racers in history. Now if you know this story then you know that it was James Hunt who was the people’s favorite; a cocky, self assured racer who would do anything to be number one, oh and the girls loved him too. On the other side of the tale we have Niki Lauda who was less flashy, less pompous, yet equally determined to win the race. And even though we see Chris Hemsworth face plastered all over the movies poster, to me this movie was really all about the Niki Lauda’s story. In fact, it is actor Daniel Bruhl (playing Lauda) who turns in the most compelling of the performances in the film; you go in feeling like you are going to see James Hunts story then you realize this film is really all about Lauda. Bruhls performance was so good that it garnered him an academy award nomination. Veteran director Ron Howard delivers a compelling film, brilliantly shot, that will make you want to battle through whatever you have to in order to get what you want. 

Quote: “A wise man can learn more from his enemies, than a fool from his friends”

Comments: This one was the surprise of the year for me; I guess I’d gotten so used to Stiller appearing in all those Night at the Museum movies, that I forgot he could deliver something with true heart and depth to it. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the story of a dreamer, a blue collar worker who suddenly decides to do something with his life, to take on an adventure. The fun part of the film is how we get to see Walter Mitty’s dreams, we see the worlds and fantasies that he escapes to, but even better is how even when he isn’t dreaming the movie is still interesting. Here Ben Stiller directs one of the best films in his directorial career which includes excellent films like Reality Bites (1994), The Cable Guy (1996) and Tropic Thunder (2008). This is a film that proves to us that Ben Stiller is just as good and funny in front of the cameras as he is behind them.  A highlight of 2013, don’t under estimate it.  

Quote: “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

Comments: James Wan broke into the cinematic landscape with the trend setting, mother of all torture porn films; Saw (2004), and If you ask me, he’s just getting started. The Conjuring is the ultimate expression of Wan’s horror directing abilities, it’s a near perfect supernatural horror film. Truly spooky, truly horrifying and I don’t even believe in the supernatural! This film was a throwback to the 70’s in many ways; some of the shots, even the typography used for the title sequence screams 70’s. What Wan and crew did brilliantly here is take advantage of the real life story behind Ed and Lorraine Warren; a couple that’s lived out their lives “battling” the supernatural. If you ask me, the Warren’s and their crusade against demons is total bullshit, but Wan and crew take advantage of the mystique around their story, because Wan knows that just like a Quija board, putting these two real life “paranormal investigators” as the main characters of the story will make the audience crap in their pants even before they enter the theater. This movie is a real spook fest, even more so if you are a superstitious person or a believer of the supernatural. For the rest of us…it’s still spooky as hell! Highly recommend it, the best horror film of the year! No doubts about it!     

Quote: “We’ve been called ghost hunters, paranormal researchers, wackos..”

Only God Forgives (2013)

Comments: Depending who you ask, you either loved or hated Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011). I’m one of the ones who loved it; I dug how quiet it was and how violent it suddenly got; I loved the visual style of the film and the cool demeanor of its main character. And I truly dug that soundtrack! So of course I was looking forward to Only God Forgives; was it all I was expecting? Yes, and then some! Visually, as most of Refn’s movies, this one is an eye full. Refn really took his time in making this one a joy to behold; the colors are hypnotizing on this one. The story can sometimes get surreal and kind of out there, but that’s to be expected in a film that’s dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky. Essentially, this is a film that calls it’s villain Satan and the “good guy” is God…and the big deal is that eventually they will both face off, God vs. the Devil. Who will win? Can a man go up against god and kill him? Interesting conundrum eh? And one that lends itself to some trippy visuals no doubt, but honestly, though Refn dedicated this film to the genius of director Alejandro Jodorowsky, I feel this film owes a whole lot more to David Lynch. I guess that can mean either a good thing or a bad thing to some of you out there. Me, I love Lynch and Only God Forgives felt like a Lynch film, only more violent.; a film that no doubt should be watched on more than one occasion.

Quote: “An entertainer? And how many cocks can you entertain with that cute little cum-dumpster of yours?”

Comments:  Cool thing about Iron Man 3 is that Shane Black wrote and directed it. Now for those of you not in the know, Shane Black is the guy who wrote and created the Lethal Weapon movies, which is an awesome thing on its own right. He also wrote two bleak, acidic yet fun as hell action films from the 90’s: The Last Boy Scout (1991) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), both extremely underrated if you ask me. But bottom line with Shane Black is that he knows how to write characters that are beaten by life and have grown bitter, and he brings that bleakness and imperfection to the character of Tony Stark who in this film is trying to deal with the fact that he damn nearly died while rescuing the world in The Avengers (2012). Shane strips Tony Stark of what makes him super and leaves us with a film that truly explores who Tony Stark is, the man behind the suit. All this accompanied with some truly exhilarating action sequences! What’s not to like?! Well, some people didn’t feel the villain of the film, The Mandarin, was accurately portrayed, that’s about the only quarrel that some people had with Iron Man 3; I guess you can’t please everybody!    

Quote: “You can take away my suits, you can take away my home, but there’s one thing you can never take away from me, I am Iron Man!”

The Bling Ring (2013)

Comments: It seems that 2013 was the year of films based on real life stories. The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola’s take on the story about these teenagers from L.A. who took it upon themselves to break into the houses of celebrities whenever they were not home, to steal their expensive crap. The whole story feels like a commentary on celebrity obsessed society, but it’s also a story about these kids who are brought up in a consumerist society and well, how can I put it? “You breed crows and they’ll eat your eyes out” is what they say in my country. These are the little monsters that a materialistic society creates. Little brats who think they gotta have the latest fur coat or the most expensive Dolce Gabbana bullshit. It’s an interesting story, it reminded me of the ‘Uroboros’ a snake eating its own tail; these are empty bratty kids, feeding off empty bratty celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan; you kind of get to hate these silly teens who’s happiness is based on material things. My hats down to Sofia Coppola for putting a magnifying glass on that, society needs to look in the mirror and realize how stupid it is to care so much about the superficial. Also: great soundtrack on this movie; as is to be expected from a Sofia Coppola movie.     

Quote: “We’re in L.A., don’t be such a little bitch!”

Comments:  Harmony Korine is not a director who is known for making commercial films, in fact, he is the complete opposite, he’s as ’artsy-fartsy’ as they come. Ever seen Gummo (1997) or Mr. Lonely (2007)? Both movies are about as detached from a commercial blockbuster as a film could possibly be. Which is why Spring Breakers surprised me; the film is a strange breed that mixes a commercial aesthetic with the artsy fartsiness we’ve come to expect from Korine’s films. What’s commercial about it? Well, it’s got four girls running around in their bathing suits for practically the whole movie! Its color palette is extremely colorful (neon plays a huge part in the visuals) and it starts out with one big out of control spring break party! Same as Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring (2013), Korine’s Spring Breakers is all about a hedonistic generation, a generation looking for the easy way to pleasure ville; all these kids care about is pleasure and fun, all the time! They want to live an eternal summer vacation and they want it now! Apart from being visually awesome by mixing documentary style filmmaking with a hallucinogenic color palette, the film has an outstanding performance from James Franco who plays a drug dealer known as ‘Alien’. I’m kind of disappointed to see his performance overlooked by the Academy. Spring Breakers is yet another film this year that focuses on the negative side of greed and the quintessential “American Dream”. This one comes highly recommended by me, I think most people overlooked this one because it looks like one of those stupid party movies with teenagers getting drunk and doing stupid things, and while the film does have a bit of that, it goes way further with its themes; don’t underestimate this one!     

Quote: “I’m as bad as they is. It’s just in our blood ya’ll and I love it. This is my dream. I made it come true, this is the fucking American Dream.”

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Comments: Woody Allen brings us a tale about a woman who used to be rich because her husband was rich, but what happens when her husband is caught by the F.B.I. for illegal activities? She is left with absolutely NOTHING that’s what happens! Now she must learn to cope with the fact that she is no longer a wealthy house wife. Kate Blanchett delivers one of the most powerful performances of the year, without a doubt, a heavy contender for Best Actress. It’s amazing to see this character struggling to accept the fact that she is no longer high class, especially when she has to go live with her sister, who is so very, very middle class. The film explores a female character that never bothered to make anything of herself, she simply depended on spending her husband’s money; when he leaves her, she is nothing. She then has to learn to start from the ground up and reinvent herself in order to survive. Can Jasmine learn to accept the fact that she is now for all intents and purposes poor? 

Quote: “Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.”

Fruitvale Station (2013)

Comments: Wow, this one gets a spot on my top films of 2013 because it really moved me. And again, 2013 was the year of movies based on real life events and well, damn, this one is really sad. It’s the story of a black 22 year old man named Oscar Grant, who is trying his best to change his life. He sells his last bit of weed; he wants to be a better father, a better son and better boyfriend. Basically, he realizes the kind of life he was leading was taking him down a dark path and so he’s taking the necessary steps in order to improve his life, for him and his family. But things are not that easy and well, racial tension makes things go sour for Oscar. This was a truly moving film for me because if there’s one thing I hate in this world is racial hatred and bigotry, especially when it comes from ignorant police men, those who are supposedly sworn to protect the citizens and uphold the law. I love it when films showcase the ugly side of humanity because they function as a mirror, let’s not be this way people! This film is a great example of how racial tensions still exist in our society, sadly. A must watch for those of you who enjoy films with a social conscience. Incredibly, this movie was completely ignored by the Academy…perhaps there’s some racial bigotry there as well?  

Quote: “I’m good, I’m good, I’m gonna be good”     

Comments: The Wolverine was a pleasant surprise, and a film I didn’t expect much from; I felt this way primarily because of how awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) was. In order for me to completely forget that awful mess, this new Wolverine movie had to reach orgasmic levels of coolness, and well, I gotta say director James Mangold completely delivered the goods! I mean, this is only the most popular character in the whole X-men roster, how come they never give the series a decent director? Somebody who can really, truly give fan boys what they want to see? So my hats down to James Mangold for achieving this! Finally, a good Wolverine movie! I recently re-watched it on home video and I confirmed it, this movie kicks ass. It feels like an important story in the life of this character, important things happen to Logan on this one! This isn’t just another run of the mill Wolverine movie, nope, on this one the very nature of Wolverine is put in peril. And we also get ninjas! How cool is that!? If you skipped this one thinking it sucks, you’re wrong, give it a go! You won’t be disappointed.  

Quote: “I’ll tell you what you twisted mutant bitch, why don’t you open these bracelets and we’ll see who’s made of what?”

Comments: I’m a huge fan of Neill Blomkamp’s Disctrict 9 (2009) because while it is a kick ass science fiction film with robots and spaceships and aliens, at the same time it comments on social issues, like racism and classism which as it turns out are also themes that are played out in his newest film, Elysium. You see this is a story of a working class hero named Max who because of a mistake while working in a factory ends up having only a few days left to live. In order to survive, he must travel to a huge spaceship that hovers close to earth called Elysium; you see; only the rich and powerful are able to live in this state of the art spaceship, the rest of humanity lives in a the hell hole known as earth. One of the benefits of living in Elysium is that they have these machines that can cure any decease, even death, so of course, Max has to get up there if he wants to live. The film aims its guns at classist issues, but also at medical attention and how poor people get less medical benefits simply because they can’t pay the high prices of medical insurance; which is a sad state of affairs. On top of all that, the film is an amazing sci-fi spectacle with amazing special effects and thrilling action sequences. Once again Neill Blomkamp delivers a sci-fi film with conscience and entertainment in mind.  

Quote: “Earth’s wealthiest inhabitants fled the planet to preserve their way of life”

Comments: Leave it to J.J. Abrahams to make Star Trek sexy! So yeah, that’s what caught everybody’s attention when these new Star Trek movies came out; but honestly, what’s best about them is that they are more action packed than ever. Weirdest part is how all these new actors can impersonate the old characters to perfection. I mean, Chris Pine channels William Shatner’s Kirk almost like he was possessed! Same goes for Zachary Quinto’s rendition of Mr. Spock, so even though these are younger actors playing old characters, you’ll still feel like you’re seeing the Kirk, Spock and Doc that you knew. This particular adventure has elements that were taken from the old Star Trek movies, mainly Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982), so this sequel plays out like a remake of that film. But don’t worry, it’s not a play by play remake, actually this film offers many original elements and action pieces to entertain and titillate the most hardcore Star Trek fans. Even non Trekkies will love these movies! Ever wanted to see the Enterprise roam the ocean floor? Ever wanted to know what it feels like to be inside of the Enterprise as it tumbles out of control through space? Look no further! It all happens on this movie, and as directed by J. J. Abrahams (who is currently hard at work on Star Wars Episode VII) it all transpires in the most thrilling and exciting way possible! This is in my opinion one of the best Star Trek movies ever made.   

Quote: “The enemy of my enemy, is my friend”

Comments: There was a lot of uncertainty in the air about this Superman movie. Same as The Wolverine, this superman film had to kick all sorts of ass in order to erase the boring ass memory of Superman Returns (2006). I’m not throwing hatred on Bryan Singer because the guy is a decent director, but Superman Returns just didn’t do it for me. It needed a little extra bang for my buck; which is probably the reason why Man of Steel has so much action and destruction in it. Zack Snyder wanted to make sure that you, the fans got what you came to see: Superman kicking ass. And we get tons of that! Good thing about this Superman movie is that we get a decent story along with the action and the destruction, that’s right my friends, Snyder filled this movie with enough destruction to overcompensate for what was missing in Superman Returns. But whatever, that’s what I wanted. I wanted buildings toppling over and super villains that are actually a threat! The effects are awesome, the cast is beyond superb! Michael Shannon as General Zod? Who’s the casting director? I gotta buy him or her  a drink! Henry Cavill as Superman is pitch perfect and Amy Adams as Louis? Just beautiful! I can’t help and wonder what Batman vs. Superman will be like! The possibilities boggle the mind!  

Quote: “You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he’s going to change the world”

Comments: Without a doubt, the biggest special effects spectacle of the year! Guillermo del Toro was slated to direct The Hobbit films, but I guess the studio really wanted Peter Jackson for the job, so after having spent two years of his life in pre-production for The Hobbit and then being let go, Del Toro went on and did this bombastic and completely entertaining film about giant robots fighting giant monsters! Del Toro had been dying to make a huge summer blockbuster and well, here we have it, his first official blockbuster! What’s cool about Pacific Rim is that it is essentially a Godzilla movie, without Godzilla. I mean we have giant robots fighting giant monsters while ripping the city to shreds! The special effects are truly amazing and the way the film looks is simply candy to the eyes. While the ideas presented in Pacific Rim aren’t entirely original concepts, what the film does do is deliver these concepts in the best way they have ever been portrayed on film. Up to now, no one has made a better film about giant robots better than this one, so in that sense, Pacific Rim is a novelty. Can’t wait for the sequel, and I hope Del Toro directs again! The only thing left to wonder is if the new Godzilla (2014) film directed by Gareth Edwards will be better?   

Quote: “There are things you can’t fight, acts of god. You see a hurricane coming; you get out of the way. But when you are in a Jaeger, you can finally fight the hurricane, and you can win!”

Gravity (2013)

Comments: Before I’d seen The Wolf of Wall Street, it was Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity which had the spot of ‘Movie of the Year’, but sorry Cuaron, Scorsese beat you to the punch. Still, Gravity is a pretty amazing movie, especially on a technical level. I’m pretty sure that in terms of special effects, and perhaps even direction, it will be Gravity who takes home all the awards. Seeing the previews I kept asking myself how Cuaron would keep the film interesting, especially when we consider that the film takes place entirely in space and that it’s Sandra Bullock who carries the whole film. I personally don’t love Bullock as an actress, but here she does a great job. But let’s be real, the real stars of this film are the visual effects. For example, Cuaron directed the film in such a way that it feels like one whole continuous shot, with the camera free floating around the characters all the time.  I love films about space because as any Trekkie fan will attest, it truly is the final frontier, the undiscovered country. Space  holds so much mystery to it that a film that explores that great infinity out there in a realistic fashion can be both frightening and awe inspiring. Gravity is both.   

Quote: “The way I see it, there’s only two possible outcomes. Either I make it down there in one piece and I have one hell of a story to tell, or I burn up in the next ten minutes. Either way, whichever way, no harm no foul!”

Comments: Back in 2011, Scorsese made a magical film about films called Hugo (2011), a film I quickly gave the movie of the year spot to. I loved that freaking movie, and well, here we are, 2013 and leave it up to good old Martin Scorsese to deliver the movie of the year yet again! That’s right ladies and gents; The Wolf of Wall Street is the film of the year for me, why? Well, for starters it felt like a bucket of cold water was poured down my back, like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. This movie is cinematic cocaine! It goes fast and it never lets you go! Sure the main characters are all despicable scoundrels who don’t pay taxes and do every kind of drug known to man, but boy, they sure know how to have a rambunctious good time! Yes, this is a rags to riches story, but it is also a story about greed taking you down the road to perdition. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers an amazing performance along with Jonah Hill. Now I’ve always thought that DiCaprio is one of the best actors of his generation and once again he delivers the goods here playing Jordan Belfort, but it was Jonah Hill who really won me over with this movie. I hope they both win an Oscar for their respective performances, it’s a tough year to want the best actor award because Matthew McConaughey is really aiming his guns to win it with his performance in Dallas Buyers Club (2013), but we’ll see. I’d love for the Academy to finally give DiCaprio an Oscar, its long overdue wouldn’t you agree?  If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it, it’s an unforgettable crazy, drug infused ride! And it is also hilariously funny, which is why the film is categorized as a comedy. This movie is a hard ‘R’ so expect lot’s of nudity and profanity; trust me, you’ll feel like your mind was raped by Scorsese and I mean that in a good way! 

Quote: “Let me tell you something, there’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a poor man and I’ve been a rich man, and I choose rich every fucking time!”

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

American Hustle (2013)

Title: American Hustle (2013)

Director: David O. Russell

Cast: Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Robert DeNiro

It seems that greed is America’s new favorite theme; in the tail end of 2013 three films have been released dealing with this theme. I guess Hollywood has it in their minds that bad economy will make people desperate enough to plan scams and get rich quick schemes, so Hollywood has taken it upon themselves to play the role of our collective conscience, reminding those desperate individuals out there the results of letting greed control our lives. The three movies I’m talking about are The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), The Counselor (2013) and now American Hustle (2013). All three of these movies depict desperate people making sneaky deals, conning people, stealing, doing all sorts of illegal things in order to get the proverbial cash. What makes American Hustle different from the other two films is that it takes place in the flashy 70’s.

Like The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle is also based on real life events; hence the movie starting out with a title card that reads “some of these things actually happened”; which at the same time lets us know that the story is not entirely true and that artistic liberties were taken with the story. But basically, this is the story of a con artist who ends up working with the feds in order to capture a bunch of corrupt politicians. That’s the jist of it, the plot isn’t all that complex; what moves the story are the complications that arise, and the crazy characters that inhabit the film, this is one of those films in which the over the top performances take center stage.  

First off we have Christian Bale playing Irving Rosenfeld, the master con artist. Now, you’ve probably heard the stories about how in previous films, Christian Bale has transformed his physique in order to play characters that (for whatever the reason) look extremely skinny or sick, malnourished if you will. For example, for The Machinist (2004) Bale became a walking skeleton in order to play a sleep deprived factory worker, how he looks in that film is truly shocking. For Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn (2006) he lost weight yet again for a scene which required him to look like a food deprived prisoner of war; and in David O Russell’s The Fighter (2010) again he lost a lot of weight in order to play a junkie. The thing with his character in American Hustle is that it’s a complete turnaround of what he’d done in those films, on American Hustle he actually gained 40 pounds in order to look like this dude who simply doesn’t care about appearances. You should see the beer belly on this guy! It’s kind of hard to believe he is the same guy who played Batman a couple of years ago. DeNiro himself didn’t recognize Bale when they met on set! They had to be re-introduced! So anyways, Bale plays a character that’s so sure of himself that he doesn’t care what you think of him, you simply have to accept him that way. So anyhow, Bale’s transformation for this film is astounding yet again. Gotta give it to Bale, he is committed to his roles. 

Then we have Jennifer Lawrence whose career is literally on fire. Here she comes hot off her Oscar win for Silver Lining Playbook (2012) and her commercial success with The Hunger Games movies and delivers the most entertaining of all the characters in American Hustle, on this film she is quite literally a show stealer! She plays Rosalyn Rosenfeld, wife to Christian Bale’s con artist; basically she’s this trashy New Jersey housewife who chain smokes and dances to The Beatles “Live and Let Die” as she does her house cleaning. Her New Jersey accent is thick, and she’s loud and in your face, loved her performance. She’s already won a Golden Globe for it, who knows; maybe she’ll get another Oscar? Then there’s Bradley Cooper playing this crazed cop hot on the tail of the dirty politicians, his sole purpose is to make a name for himself, he looks hilarious with those curls. Actually, everybody here looks hilarious; in fact, it feels as if every actor’s sole job was to make themselves look as imperfect and eccentric as possible. Bale looks like a slob, Cooper looks funny with the curls, Lawrence looks trashy and Amy Adams…well, she’s just over the top sexy on this movie, showing so much cleavage it’s not even funny, but of course that’s not all there is to her character. I have to admit, Amy Adams is growing on me as an actress, here she plays a focused, icy cold lady. So expect all actors to have these crazy over the top looks, they feel almost like parodies of 70’s style and fashion. But I guess that was the idea with this movie, to go as over the top as possible.

This film reunites director David O Russell with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro, all of whom worked together on Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012); it really is a joy to watch all these talented actors together on the screen, at least on the acting department you know you’re not gonna get short changed. Speaking of DeNiro playing a gangster, I couldn’t help and think of Martin Scorsese while watching this movie; it feels like a homage to Scorsese movies. It has Deniro, gangsters and desperate hustlers, I couldn’t help myself. Still, when compared with The Wolf of Wall Street and The Counselor, I’d say that The Wolf of Wall Street comes out on top, simply because it’s the fastest paced and bat shit insane of the three. American Hustle, in comparison seems tame; this is not to say it isn’t a good film or a funny one, it’s just slower than Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street which to me felt like a movie high on all the cocaine it portrays. Still, American Hustle has an amazing cast, entertaining characters and the whole 70’s vibe going for it, which still makes it a worthwhile ride. David O. Russell, the director of this film has said that the emphasis on his films is not plot, but characters and there’s no better example than American Hustle. I have to admit it wasn’t as memorable as I was expecting, but the cast and performances elevate the film and makes it entertaining enough to make it one of the best of the year.

Rating:  4 out of 5  


Friday, January 10, 2014

To The Wonder (2013)

Title: To the Wonder (2012)

Director: Terrence Malick

Cast: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams

Certain directors out there make films that are an experience to watch, these films don’t subscribe to any ideas of what a film should be, these types of films are made to be taken in without any expectations; you simply have to experience them. Films like these lean more towards the artistic, the ‘avante garde’, the experimental. I’m talking about guys like David Lynch, Werner Herzog or Andrei Tarkovsky, all directors, like Malick, who will show you that the world is beautiful and strange enough on its own, without the aid of special effects. These guys don’t make films with box office numbers in mind ; if their movies make money, it’s a by-product of the thing, what they care most about is making a film that will linger on after you watch it, a film that will stir your emotions; films that will leave a lasting impression on you. I urge you to watch films by these directors, you can rest assured they’ll leave a mark on your psyche and your emotions, because directors like these care most about making you feel while commenting on the little intricacies of the human condition.

The thing with directors like these is that depending on your appreciation/tolerance for art and style, you’ll either love their films or hate them. I fall under the ‘I freaking love Terrence Malick’ category. Why? Well, what can I say, the guy makes films that move me, that speak to me even when there is no dialog being spoken, which by the way is a signature stamp on Malick films; images take over and speak. “A picture can say more than a thousand words” is a phrase that comes to mind when I watch a Malick film; what I love about the beautiful vistas and landscapes that Malick catches with his lenses is that they speak about that beauty of nature that leaves us speechless; you know how sometimes you’ll look at a spectacular sunset, or bask in the beauty of nature and you can’t help but be blown away by the magnificence of it all? About how beautiful it all is? That’s what To the Wonder is largely about, a love letter to nature and the beauty of life, which is in large part what TheTree of Life (2011), Malick’s previous film, was all about as well. But while The Tree of Life focused entirely on the magnificence of life, To the Wonder dives more into themes of relationships and faith. It is both things, a love letter to life and an exploration of the ins and outs of love.

On this film we meet Neil (Affleck) and Marina (Kurylenko) precisely at the moment when they have started to fall in love with each other, you know, those moments when physical attraction is the strongest and people can’t seem to keep their hands to themselves? When the smallest of caresses means a world, that time of the relationship when you feel you’re walking on air, ah, the beauty of the beginning. The film is amazing in that it focuses on those little details that demonstrate that these two individuals are really into each other, the looks, the caresses. But again, Malick doesn’t focus so much on dialog, it’s not what these characters say but what they do that lets us know what is going on. We do hear inner monologue as the characters whisper to themselves how they are feeling, so be ready for a film that doesn’t have people saying “I love you” or “I trust you”; nope, one this movie characters show these things with their actions towards each other. For example, in the film, Affleck has a fling with Rachel McAdams and she’s a horse wrangler, a cow girl every step of the way; she’s fallen deeply in love with Affleck, but he doesn’t want to settle down. She wants to marry him and she’s trying to sort of reel him into it, the same way she would wrangle her untamable wild horses. All a visual allegory to how Affleck’s character doesn’t want to get tied down by marriage. Malick does this type of allegorical thing with the images all throughout.

I’ve always thought that relationships, no matter how strong the bond is at first, have an expiration date to them. I am of the opinion that nothing lasts “forever”, to me everything changes, which is why I don’t believe in marriage. Why get tied down to someone legally, when eventually both grow tired of each other? Everything starts out fine and dandy, but around the four to five year mark you’ll start annoying the hell out of each other to the point where one can’t stand being with the other. But I digress, I'm sure marriage works for some, but what I have seen in this world, it rarely does. The film targets those first blissful moments of the beginning of a relationship and those awful moments when the magic is gone and you’re left with nothing but hatred and contempt for each other.  There is a scene in which Affleck is trying to hug and caress his wife and she pushes him away, a scene in which we see that obviously, the love is gone. Why do people forget why they fell in love with each other? Why do we forget what made it all work in the first place? Then there’s the issue of freedom, which you kind of loose once you are entangled with someone. In the film, Marina is a free spirit, always dancing and basking in the beauty of nature while Affleck is detached, quiet and introspective. In one particular scene, Marina’s best friend comes from France and tells her to go back to being the free spirit that she is, to go back to France and feel alive! In this scene Malick alludes to how Marina’s relationship to Affleck has degenerated to the point where the relationship sucked the vitality out of her. She’s no longer the crazy, free spirited being she once was. So is being with somebody “forever and ever” a good thing for you, or will it end up being a soul sucking experience? You be the judge; I’m sure there’s such a thing as eternal love for another person, it’s just so damn rare. But anyhow, these are the themes the film explores in regards to relationships.

Through the character of Father Quintana; Malick explores issues of faith. It’s interesting because in the film Quintana is a person whom people look up to as a spiritual leader, yet secretly, he doubts the existence of god. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in God, it’s just that he’s never had any real proof of his existence, he wants to believe but has no physical or empirical evidence to do so. This is something that happens to people who start to question faith; secretly in your mind you tell yourself it’s all feeling like a bunch of bull, but you don’t dare say it out loud for fear that someone might discover you are beginning to doubt God. In Father Quintana’s case, his doubt is starting to show on his face; so much so that his own parishioners begin to tell him he doesn’t look happy. His doubts are so strong, he feels his life as a preacher is a lie. Yet while the film does question the existence of God, at the same time it’s an ode to the wonder of the world, the beauty of nature and the planet which is something real and undeniable. There are many scenes in which the camera simply focuses on the beauty of a breathtaking landscape or some curious thing that happens in the world, like the wind blowing through the trees, or the water forming odd shapes on the sand. The way I see it, Malick sees the world the way I see it, as a constant wonder, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant the event, according to this film, there’s beauty in everything and Malick wants you to see that. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful looking films of the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Title: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau  
I went into The Wolf of Wall Street knowing very little about it; the only thing that pulled me in was knowing that DiCaprio and Scorsese were working together again, something they’ve been doing since they collaborated on Gangs of New York (2002). The Wolf of Wall Street marks their fifth collaboration! When these two get together they don’t disappoint. I mean, were talking about one of the greatest directors of our time, the guy who gave us Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995), to name just a few of the many memorable films that Scorsese is responsible for. There’s a reason why he is a living legend in the world of cinema, he is a director that lives and breathes films. He’s the kind of director that makes films because it’s his art; it’s what he was born to do, it’s what he loves, rarely do directors understand the cinematic language and it’s many uses the way Scorsese does and in The Wolf of Wall Street he puts all the knowledge he’s accumulated through the years to good use, the results are nothing short of one of Scorsese’s most entertaining films in years.

The film is based on Jordan Belfort’s book of the same name. It tells the story of how Belfort became a stock broker extraordinaire by starting his own company. Belfort was a guy who started at the very bottom of the corporate ladder by working as a stockbroker on Wall Street;  as Belfort learned the tricks of the trade, he slowly but surely made his dreams a reality: he finally got what he always wanted, his own firm! It isn’t long before Belfort and his team make so much moolah, that they don’t know what the hell to do with it! They soon discover many mind expanding ways to spend their millions: lots of parties, lot’s of drugs and lot’s of sex! Will money and power corrupt these guys? Or will they learn to do things the right way; avoiding ugly confrontations with the I.R.S. or the F.B.I? Can they get away with it?

The Wolf of Wall Street was released on Christmas Day as a beautiful Christmas present from Martin Scorsese to movie goers everywhere; actually I’m being sarcastic; the movie has nothing to do with Christmas, or anything nice, in fact, it shows one of the ugliest sides of human nature: GREED. The Wolf of Wall Street’s release coincided with two other films dealing with similar subject matter: David O Russell’s American Hustle (2013) and Ridley Scott’s The Counselor (2013); these are all films depicting greedy people going the lengths to make as much money as they can, as quickly as they can, so they can live the quintessential ‘American Dream’; which in all three movies quickly degenerates into an American Nightmare. You watch these three films and you won’t see good wholesome people playing by the rules. Nope, in all three you’ll see a lot of people making desperate moves to get rich quick; which is never a good idea. There’s been some bad press for The Wolf of Wall Street saying things like it glorifies this sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle, but in reality, The Wolf of Wall Street is a morality tale, in the end, the one to break the law gets caught. Greed and excess in these films are portrayed as sins. By way of an example, the tagline for The Counselor is “Sin is a Choice”, hell one of the many promotional posters for The Wolf of Wall Street shows Leonardo DiCaprio posing for a mug shot, so no, I don’t agree with those that say this movie glorifies greed, in fact, on this film, greed gets you a warm bed in jail.

But then again, you can’t really blame a film for being truthful either; I mean, the film isn’t about glorifying greed or excess, it simply shows things the way they happened, that’s it and that’s all. If it all appears to be one big party, than that’s probably because that’s the way it happened. In the interest of authenticity, Belfort himself was onset as a consultant in order to make things as truthful as possible, which adds a level of credibility to the film. There’s a difference between glorifying a thing and being truthful people! But you wanna know what’s really weird about the film? It’s how these guys are all doing these awful things, yet it all comes off as incredibly funny. The real deal with The Wolf of Wall Street is that it may not look like a comedy, but in reality, the film is hilarious! I saw it with a packed audience, and they were cracking up every five minutes. Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for a Golden Globe for this film in the “Best Actor in a Comedy” category, so that tells you a whole lot about the general aura of the film. Two elements dominate this film: comedy and schock value. I mean, these guys do some pretty horrible things on this movie, yet it’s all hilarious at the same time? DiCaprio plays Belfort with a snicker in his face the whole time, like he’s got it all covered and don’t you worry about a thing. Speaking of Dicaprio, the talented actor has been ignored by the Academy Awards for way too long, what gives? He keeps making excellent film after excellent film and they just keep on ignoring the guy. I was almost sure he’d win an Oscar for Django Unchained (2012), but no. Again he was denied! Hopefully the Academy will give him the recognition he deserves.

Oscar aspirations aside, I gotta remind you guys that this movie is crass, I mean, it doesn’t care one bit about being politically correct and I liked it! I mean, I’m getting pretty freaking tired with all these movies playing it safe and trying to be all polite and nice; leave it to Martin Scorsese, a cinematic child of the 70’s, to give us a movie with some big brass balls! This one is a hard R all the way! There’s a lot of shock value to this movie! When going to see this movie you have to ask yourself one question: are you ready to see Leonardo DiCaprio snorting cocaine out of some girls’ asshole? Well you better be, because that happens in the films first ten minutes, just to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into! Final words on The Wolf of Wall Street is that it’s a jolt of electricity down your spine; the last time I remember getting that from a movie was with Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), so take that for what it’s worth. This is one of those epic movies that takes you down the life of a character from start to finish; from when they we’re nobodies, to when they become stock broking rock stars; you’ll go down the road with these guys as they get rich, party like animals, get corrupted and finally pay for all their excesses. Sure they all end up in jail doing time, but boy, what a ride eh?! Here I was thinking that Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity (2013) was going to end up being my favorite film of 2013; guess what, things change, so The Wolf of Wall Street is now my official choice for best film of 2013! Go see it!

Rating:  5 out of 5 


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