Posts Tagged ‘black comedy’

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My problem with Leonardo DiCaprio is that every time I watch his latest movie, I immediately think it’s his best performance to date. And the Wolf of Wall Street is no exception. 

The Wolf of Wall Street is the true story about Jordan Belfort (based on his book), with a script written by Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire, the Sopranos), and directed by Martin Scorsese (think of a gangster movie besides Godfather, it was probably made by him.)

The movie begins with Leonardo DiCaprio telling us that he made 49 million in a year, and he was really pissed off because it was three million shy of a million a week. He has a white ferrari, a huge yacht, an amazing house, and an equally amazing wife. 

He’s living the dream, really, and then he recounts how he got there. Earlier this year, I reviewed American Hustle, written and directed by David O. Russell. I mentioned how much he channelled (truth is, he copied) Martin Scorsese, and this movie proves why directors like David O. Russell can’t replace Martin Scorsese yet. I feel like Martin Scorsese saw American Hustle, and decided to make a movie to show David O. Russell how it’s done.

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I’m not even the biggest Scorsese fan. I liked Goodfellas and the Departed, but I’m definitely not a huge fan by any means. Wolf of Wall Street has made me want to watch more of his movies.

All right. Let me explain a little bit about the plot. Jordan Belfort is an ambitious young guy looking to make money quick, and he sees Wall Street as the way to do that. On his first day at work, he’s already hooked on the adrenaline in the room. I have to interject with a warning. If you find cursing uncomfortable, it’s safe to stay away from any Martin Scorsese movie. The first fifteen minutes of the movie feels like it’s warning you about what’s to come, so I just thought I should mention that to anyone that’s squeamish about that sort of thing. Moving on… He’s taken as a protege by Mark Hanna (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey), and he quickly learns the ropes. Matthew McConaughey’s performance really is more of a cameo, but man, it’s a great cameo.

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He teaches Jordan an anthem that comes up throughout the movie, and I have to say, it is really catchy. You can hear it in the trailer, I think. 

Right after Jordan’s promotion, he’s loses his job (because of Black Monday), and he’s forced to look for a new job. His wife suggests that they sell her engagement ring, but his pride does not allow such a thing. From this scene alone, you could probably guess that his pride will come back later to bite him in the ass. He finds a job at a small business dealing in penny stocks. Penny stocks belong to the companies that aren’t big enough to qualify trading at Wall Street, and because of this, the traders get a 50% commission. Belfort picks up the phone, calls a random client, and the room quiets. Another stockbroker takes out a notepad and begins writing down what he’s saying, and by the time the phone call is over, he’d made over a thousand dollars. 

He gets a new car, and while eating at a diner, meets Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). With phosphorescent teeth, a voice that sounds like gravel being poured through a garbage disposal, he provides much of the movie’s comic relief.

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He becomes Jordan’s selfish, crack addicted sidekick after he quits his job when Jordan shows him proof that he makes over 70k a month. 

Jordan starts a new company called Straton Oakmont, and pretty soon, he has a huge office and too much money to spend. (It’s a different kind of money problem…)

DiCaprio addresses the audience directly, saying: “The question is… was any of this legal?”

He smiles, and says: “Absolutely not!”

It isn’t long before his private investigator learns that he’s being investigated by a straight arrow FBI Agent, and Jordan stupidly invites him to his yacht to bribe him. Thankfully, he was at least smart enough not to mention an exact figure, but not smart enough to listen to his PI. 

It reminded me of another Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Catch Me If You Can. He played a gifted young con artist being hunted by a dedicated law enforcement agent (played by Tom Hanks). It isn’t much of a spoiler to tell you not to expect the same amount of… playfulness between Belfort and the FBI Agent. 

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Sure, they fake politeness in their initial meeting, but there’s no interesting banter here. There’s just plain animosity between the two of them, and it was refreshing to see this done after watching so many movies doing the Catch Me If You Can formula. (I loved that movie, by the way.)

DiCaprio is my favorite actor. I think he’s the best actor of my generation (well… technically it’s my sister’s generation), and I love all of his movies. However, I’ve come to expect a little something from his roles. His movies are generally serious, and while his acting for each character varies greatly, they all have the same feel about them. They all had the sense that the entire world was on their shoulders.

In this movie, he shows that it was all intentional. When Jordan Belfort parties, he parties. He’s superficial monster that doesn’t care about the people he steals from. It’s also DiCaprio’s funniest performance to date, and one of his most dramatic.

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After flying a helicopter drunk on alcohol and pills, he wakes up to his wife (played by Margot Robbie) tossing a glass of water in his face. His reaction here is just brilliant. I have two other favorite scenes, but I won’t even hint about them. You should just watch the movie and see it for yourself. They’re too good to spoil. (Even for a huge spoiler like me.)

In these types of movies with a criminal protagonist, it’s always the same. It shows the rise, the peak of all their achievements, and inevitably, the fall. It’s unavoidable. *coughs Like A Certain Scorsese movie coughs*

People need to see the bad get their comeuppance, and I always thought that this was the most enduring formula of movies. So, it isn’t a big spoiler to tell you that things do start to go awry for Jordan Belfort. He has to make a deal with the SCC, and still face criminal charges from the FBI. His relationship with his wife starts to go downhill. 

I don’t believe in karma, but even I have to admit that karma finally caught up to him. He left his loving wife for Naomi, and you can see that he really loves her. He cheats on her… but he really does love her. And maybe it’s karma that his wife doesn’t love him as much, if at all. 

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The ending, though, is really good. I won’t describe it to you, but it’s one of my favorite endings of all time. (Coincidentally, my other favorite ending is the ending of the Departed.) Now, I hope Leonardo DiCaprio gets an oscar for this, but considering the hype of the other performances, it’s not likely. I think this is the best Martin Scorsese movie I’ve seen, and having watched a few of the other nominees for Best Actor and Best Picture, I really do think this movie deserves to win. (Don’t let me get started on Gravity…)

I just hope that Christian Bale doesn’t beat DiCaprio for Best Actor. Yes, he gained a lot of weight, but come on. I guess I’m biased when I say that DiCaprio’s acting in this movie beats almost everything Bale did in American Hustle. Just saying. That’s what I think.

In conclusion (do you like how I suddenly became very professional?), this is an amazing movie. My favorite of 2013, and probably going to be one of my favorites for 2014. It’s already earned a place in my Top 15 Favorite Movies, and it might even rise in my list after viewing it a few more times. If you like great black comedy, great performances, great writing and directing, you’ll like Wolf of Wall Street.

If you hate watching an evil man get a lot of money, a huge amount of cursing, drug abuse… You probably won’t like this movie. It is not for everyone, but if you don’t mind any of that, then this is worth a watch. 

 

6 out of 6

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~Jian

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Ha. I’m only messing with you. This is not an ancient movie at all. Why? Because it’s timeless. For me, it’s absolutely amazing. There are few movies that hail from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s, or even the 70’s that I can say that for. This is one of those movies. Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb is my favorite comedy film.

I watched this yesterday, with three other movies. One of the three other movies was Dredd. I’ll write a review on the two others. Considering the strange timing of my reviews, I’m going to compare the two movies. How, you may ask? By comparing the stuff I’ve heard about each of them. Dredd, I’d heard, had riveting action, a great plot, and a fantastic and awesome main character. The riveting action was certainly true, but the plot was average, and the main character was average. It did not live up to the expectations, but I hope it does well at the Box Office. I really do.

Maybe its payout will improve in Home Media.

I heard Dr. Strangelove was the 24th Greatest Comedy Film ever. Do you know how much of a buildup that is? This may come off as a surprise to you, but I love comedy films. I love them whether they’re like Grown Ups, which features some outrageous happenings, or like Death At a Funeral which can be construed as having too much slapstick (but still funny) or like Johnny English which is like… Well, it’s amazing. I can’t explain it any more than that.

So how does Dr. Strangelove measure up to that? It is in my Top 10 Favorites. I added two points to it after the first thirty minutes for the fact that I didn’t care about the black and white, or the fact that it was from 1964. When that happens, it is something to be proud of. Kubrick made a masterpiece with this. Let me tell you a little about it. 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/

Dr. Strangelove is a satire making fun of the nuclear scare. In this, the U.S. has their Air Force fighters circling Russia, waiting for the Go code to start bombing their primary and secondary targets. There are about 30-40 ships armed with nuclear/hydrogen bombs weighed at 40 Megatons or so. In the words of the movie, each one is stronger than every single bomb (combined) used during WWII. I laughed at that, by the way.

A Colonel tells his Executive Officer, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (played by the talented Peter Sellers), who is a Brit from the Officer Exchange Program to initiate Wing Attack Plan R as in Robert. 

Mandrake is also told to confiscate every radio in case a Commie rat may be receiving messages. So, like a good soldier/captain, he sends the necessary three digit number and letters to tell the planes to initiate it. The pilots are naturally skeptical, and seek confirmation. It is soon confirmed. 

The Colonel or Brigadier General is also in charge of the base and tells all of his main to put it under lockdown. “Shoot and then ask questions.”

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are woken and brought into the War Room. President Merkin Muffley tells a General’s men to besiege the command base to get the Colonel on the phone after they find out about his ploy. 

I know. This doesn’t sound like a comedy so far. Merkin Muffley is a balding good man, but he is concerned about his image. General Turgidson disagrees and suggests they put the full force of their military into the attack. Merkin Muffley is also played by Peter Sellers. That’s right. He’s playing TWO characters so far. A great actor, I have to say. If I hadn’t seen and confirmed it several times through Wikipedia, Youtube, and IMDB, I wouldn’t have believed it. 

Arguments soon break out. They bring in the right hand man of the Ambassador of Russia (who is drunk) into the War Room. He tells them of the Doomsday Device which utilizes radiation that could last for 92 years. If Russia is attacked, he says, it will trigger. And it cannot be un-triggered. The President confirms this with Dr. Strangelove, a German scientist who has Nazi sympathies, who is also played by Peter Sellers. The man is like Alex Mercer in Prototype. He can transform into anyone. What I like most about the movie is I can tell you the plot, and it comes off as both very serious in tone, and then very ridiculous after you hear about the Doomsday device.

It’s the dialogue that puts this story at the top. It’s rich, natural, and hilarious. This movie can be serious, and it can be hilarious. Rest assured, though, that everything said most likely has a deeper meaning. If you’re familiar with the politics during those times, you’d probably be laughing the entire movie.

But I’m not familiar with the politics, yet I found myself laughing throughout the movie. That’s amazing. Timeless. The ability of a movie that is over 40 years old to make someone of my age laugh… Is just amazing. I give this movie a 9.9/10. 

Why not 10/10. I’m still in post-Strangelove state, so I may not be in my right mind. I’m going to re-watch this, and then either change the rating to 10/10 or knock it down just one peg. But, it is still a great movie.

The movie is in black and white, I think I’ve said, and it may be timeless for me, but some of you people may find this disturbing. A black and white movie can be alien after watching a CGI heavy movie like… The Avengers, Captain America, or even Dredd.

So, do not go in expecting some groundbreaking graphics. Go in expecting funny dialogue, rich characters, and Peter Sellers playing a Brit, an American, and a German. That, in itself, is funny.