Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

wolf_of_wall_street_ver2_xlgActors being Actors at their Best
four and a half stars
When it comes to the stock exchange, the very best time to pick a time period for a movie is in the 80s and 90s days of excess. And if you want to turn that movie into a black comedy crime filled with corruption and betrayal, you can’t go wrong with Martin Scorsese as a director.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a man making a fortune on penny stocks…and spending it all on sex, drugs and excess. It shows Belfort making a fortune, at the expense of the little man, and getting off nearly scot free. It should be annoying, but it is just plain entertaining.

It’s always amazed me how baby faced DiCaprio can play such a great villain. In this movie, he is no less than perfect. He is smug, self righteous, arrogant and utterly without remorse. What makes this movie fantastic includes DiCaprio frequently shattering the forth wall and making corrections right at the audience.

Terence Winter, whose previous credits include Boardwalk Empire, wrote the screenplay based on Belfort’s biography, and he couldn’t have done a better job. The film makes no apologies. It’s not designed to be an indictment of corporate America. It’s designed to say one thing. [more…]

“Hey everyone, look how bad we’re being”

Martin Scorsese has not gotten worse with age. In fact, he just seems to keep getting better. The direction of the movie following the slick, fast paced dialog and over the top exuberance of DiCaprio. Visual jokes abound and the cinematic techniques could be used to teach a course in direction. Scorsese proves that he is now, and always will be, not just a director, but the director.

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Of course, this isn’t Goodfellas, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a movie about shocking excess and bad behavior. The stakes are not life or death. There are no stakes. Belfort made it clear in his biography that there was no one he was afraid to take from, and no amount of money was too much to take.

While some might call this movie hollow and shallow, keep in mind it’s designed to be hollow and shallow. It is a comedy of criminality, not flipping Schindler’s List.

My main problem with this film is the run time. In today’s world of instant gratification, 3 hours is a bit too long to expect to hold anyone’s attention, especially when the story has no true moral or comeuppance. This could have easily been covered in an hour and a half, and the massive 3 hour run time is something that should be reserved for epic fantasies, not fast paced black comedies.
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DiCaprio really managed to keep a loose, love to hate him attitude throughout the whole movie. As much as you want to hate him, you can’t. He’s just that charming.

I have to admit, I’m a little ashamed of enjoying this movie as much as I did, and I have to give Scorsese props for having the gonads to release this movie. In an economy where much of the poverty in this country is blamed on excess on Wall Street, it was truly a daring move to produce a movie that almost seems to be celebrating that same excess.

The Wolf of Wall Street is absolutely worth the watch…but get comfortable, because you’re going to be there for awhile.

Watch the Trailer below and if you’ve seen the film, Earn some Points and leave a Review!

Movie Review: Don Jon (2013)

Don-Jon-Movie-Poster“Don Jon is Not Your Typical Jersey Boy”

Star Ratings

When I saw another Jersey-centric movie, I was expecting another movie about mindless meatballs and the overly tanned girls they chase. Instead, Don Jon was a refreshing take on a Jersey boy with heart…and just a bit of a naughty addiction.

The movie starts off with Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) being a standard Jersey boy. He does the gym/tanning/laundry thing. He gels his hair and goes out picking up girls. He has two beefy Jersey boy friends and lives next door to his family, who he is 100% devoted to. However, when Jon heads home for the night, we see past his Jersey boy persona and see a deeper issue. Jon can only get real love from hard core porn. None of the women he meets and takes home can compare to his love for porn. That is, until he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). Barbara is a romantic, who is obsessed with Hollywood films and finding true love. They are comically mismatched, but their addiction to film and the love they get from it is eerily similar.

Now, don’t assume you’re heading into some depressing drama about addiction. This movie still is a comedy. It’s just a very smart comedy. Watching Jon try to court the stubborn Barbara is fun. Their exchanges are quick witted and both characters are flawed. The problem is that while Jon understands he has a problem, Barbara remains in the dark when it comes to her on naïveté regarding relationships. [more…]

The director, Gordon-Levitt, does a great job making the most out of character reactions and expressions (even the rough ones where Jon is seated in front of the computer, enjoying his favorite ‘hobby’). Despite the fact that the movie has large focus on pornography, the viewer doesn’t have to watch any graphic scenes and only snippets are shown.

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What really stands out is the acting. First, there is the absolutely wonderful Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Jon. Leavitt makes the transition from clean cut, California boy to Jersey hunk with a heart easily. He doesn’t turn his character into a caricature, which is easy to do in a rom-com, and he still makes Jon human and likeable. Jon is a Jersey guy that you could actually know.

Who could have thought that Scarlett Johansson could pull off a Jersey girl so easily either? She does not do the Katherine Heigl, One for the Money, half assed accent. She goes all in and she does it without sounding ridiculous. Her portrayal of Barbara comes off as sweet but tough, and really provides the perfect counterpart for the male lead.

The supporting cast didn’t include any slouches. Tony Danza is great as Jon’s opinionated, overbearing sports-addicted dad and Julienne Moore shines as Esther, a fellow night school student who calls Jon out on his porn addiction.

DON JON
All in all, Don Jon is a smart romantic comedy, with likable characters and some unexpected twists. Despite this being Gordon-Levitt’s debut as a director, he clearly shows he knows what he’s doing when it comes to setting up a scene. The 90 minute film never drags and could have easily been made a little bit longer.

Here’s the Trailer and if you’ve Seen the Movie – Leave a Review & Earn Some Points!