The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

wolf of wall streetReleased: December 25, 2013. Directed by: Martin Scorsese. Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie. Runtime: 180 min.

I’m not going to claim that I’m an expert on anything movies just yet, especially not on films by Scorsese – hell, I haven’t even seen “Goodfellas” yet (something I plan on changing this weekend). All I know is this is a freaking awesome film. This is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.

Belfort made a lot of his money in the pennystocks after the market crash in 1987, where he started his own company. His commission would be 50%, so even if he had someone invest $10, 000; he would still be getting $5000. At one point, Belfort explains a bit how stockbroking works, and since the writers know most of us aren’t following what he’s saying, he gets to the point, and says all we have to know is it isn’t legal. The fourth wall is broken a lot, which is amusing.

The film is downright hilarious; its type of comedy is dark, oh but it is the funniest film of the year that isn’t primarily a comedy. This is a tale about amoral behaviour, but it’s not as if the crew members are advocates for this kind-of behaviour. They’re compelling characters, either way, and likeable for drug crazed folks. It’s a similar case with “Pain and Gain,” but it’s not like the characters in this film are full-blown psychopaths like in “P&G.” They’re cheating people, but they’re not killing anyone. They’re just greedy and really love money. Belfort is a sex and drug addict who really likes this drug called Ludes, it was around as a sleeping pill, but if you could last fifteen minutes on it without falling asleep, you’d get a wicked high. The characters are hilarious on these ludes, by the way. DiCaprio portrays Belfort to near-perfection, causing heartbreak in the viewers here and there. He has some true power in this role, and it’s compelling when he realizes how he often hurts the people around him.

Jonah Hill plays his best friend Donnie, a man with big pearly whites and a really funny personality. He’s one of those characters that does some stupid stuff, but you still like him a lot even after he does it. The plot follows the trouble Belfort faces and the colourful characters he meets along the way, and it’s so nice to see Ethan Suplee again in a small role. Matthew McConaughey teaches Belfort the ropes of the stockbroking business and how to be a better one – lots of jerking off and lots of cocaine. As you can see, the film can be a bit filthy with all of its sex and drugs – but it’s often sexy. A lot of the sexual acts are over-the-top and therefore just really funny; so if you see it with your parents, you’d be entertained and might feel uncomfortable at the same time. This has spectacular pacing for a film that’s three hours long, and it has some compelling character development. I like the way it shows how money can change a person. The stockbroking game is a crazy life, apparently, but it helps make this film entertaining and great, and my favourite of the year. I really can’t wait to see this again.


Take Shelter (2011) Review

Take Shelter 

Release Date: November 10, 2011

Director: Jeff Nichols

Stars: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham

Runtime: 120 min

Curtis (Michael Shannon) is a loving father and husband, who works as a construction worker. At the age of thirty-five, he begins experiencing horrible dreams and frightening hallucinations. He automatically assumes he has a mental illness, mostly because his mother is a paranoid schizophrenic, and searches for help from doctors and counselors. He fears the worst of a possible impending disaster, and builds a storm shelter in his backyard. In the process, it starts affecting his family life, work life, social standing, and his own sanity.

Curtis’ family life can get a little rough. They’re having trouble with getting some insurance money, and have been line for it for a long while. They really want this insurance coverage because their daughter is deaf, and the surgery is for a cochlear implant, so she may hear again. This definitely adds layers to Curtis, and his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain). They are definitely family-oriented. Sometimes they seem to struggle with funds, because Samantha only sells knick knacks like sweaters and stuff that she knits over the week. But, Curtis seems to be the big bread-winner, and they aren’t poverty-stricken or anything.

They live out in a small country town that definitely has a strong community vibe, so when everyone gets news of Curtis building a storm shelter in his backyard, they don’t react too kindly.

There are some impressive visuals, especially for a film that only had a budget of $5 million. The cinematography is great, and it really is a fine B-film thriller. Sometimes, it feels a lot more like a dramatic experience, because in some areas a lot of stuff doesn’t happen. When stuff does happen, though, it is pretty exciting. It’s a little slowly paced in some areas, but that’s whatever. I don’t think this film has really ever of a climax. Either that, or they’re really against it. I usually don’t really like ambiguistic endings, but for this one, I didn’t overly mind. This film was just so well done.

Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain really do deliver stellar performances. This is really a fine independent drama thriller. One of the things I love about independent films is that the performances can get so genuine, that I just forget it’s a film. It turns into a great art. Michael Shannon really did deserve a Best Leading Actor nomination.

Some of the scenes are a little mediocre, but others are just really great and memorable.

The family drama of it all is nice, and the story can be really memorable. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, it can take a turn in an opposite direction. It really does make for a great experience.

Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon and Natasha Randall star in this film.

The cast really delivers in this. Michael Shannon gives us his most powerful performance to date. The story is really original, it has the tendency to get dark and haunting,  and the visuals are really impressive. Take Shelter makes for a great experience, that may be disliked because of the anti-climactic ending and slow execution, but it still can be really exciting. It is the best independent film (I’ve seen) of 2011.