Her … A thought provoking social commentary, likely to be the most underrated film of the year [REVIEW]

It would be easy to take a look at the synopsis of this film and write it off immediately. Which I fear may be the case with many, judging by the fact that this film was only released on the 14th February (In the UK), and when I saw it on the 15th, it had already been relegated to a small seater Studio screen … which was also empty.

I first read about this film about 6 or so months ago, and thought it was an interesting idea. My fear was that it would be too Lars and the Real Girl-ish … however, although comparisons could be drawn, Her, is very much its own film, and Spike Jonze has done a great job, creating an emotional and thought provoking piece that hints at where we may be heading, and jibes at where we are today.

her-movie-posterJoaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a man going through a divorce, who in his loneliness purchases a new Operating System, OS1, that is designed to meet a persons every need, and has the ability to grow, learn, and make decisions – ultimate artificial intelligence. Theodore eventually falls in love with his OS, named Samantha, and pursues a relationship with ‘her’.

The film borders on Sci-Fi, and Spike Jonze has created a world that is not too far from our own. It feels like Jonze has placed this maybe 15 to 20 years into the future. Technology has advanced (obviously!) and people are engrossed with their electronic devices. Everything works like Siri, nothing seems manual anymore, but a reliance on computers to do everything, from reading emails out loud, writing letters on voice command rather than being typed, reading news stories, and even holding conversations.

The film, although futuristic, has an element of truth to it, which Spike Jonze is poking at. Although with all of the technological advancements that on the surface bring people closer together than ever before … human interaction is being lost. People forever have their heads in a smartphone, or a tablet or a laptop, rather than connecting with the people who are around them. I read a short, interesting article on this subject  the other day prior to watching this film, and it came back to my mind when watching Her. Throughout the film you see hundreds of people, all together, near each other, travelling together … yet almost everyone is engaged with their electronic devices and talking with them. Even Theodore’s job is to write personalized letters for other people – even people’s most intimate and close relationships are not being communicated directly with one and other, a complete stranger is playing a middle man. With, Her, Spike Jonze is holding up a mirror to society as we are now, and showing us where we are heading if we continue down this path. Of course technological advancement isn’t all bad – but Jonze is raising a very real point with this film.

Another thought provoking aspect of this film that Jonze explores is that of love. Love by its very nature is unpredictable, and the love between two people is often not understood by those outside of the relationship. On the surface, it seems like the idea of this film is crazy, and that the Theodore character should be branded as a ‘weirdo’ – however when the film gets going – for the most part, it doesn’t seem that strange. I did find myself torn throughout the film, at times feeling like this was ridiculous, and at others it seemed so normal. Yes, the OS is a program, she is not real – however she communicates like a real person, she presents real emotions, she makes unique decisions – she becomes very real, very fast. And the way that Theodore’s character changes when he is with ‘her’ is astonishing – before he is, whilst not broken, depressed and lonely – yet when he begins his relationship with Samantha, he becomes happier, care-free and begins to enjoy life again. And as an audience, who are we to judge? It doesn’t negatively affect anyone else around Theodore, and it makes him happy – so why is that weird, and why should he be branded as ‘weirdo’. I am talking from an audience perspective here … this is behaviour is accepted by most characters in the film, and it is referenced that Theodore is not the only one who is experiencing this.

But of course it is absurd right? … It’s a tricky one.

One way to look at it, could be that what Jonze is propositioning is, that we are becoming less capable of handling real emotions because of our obsession with electronic communication – losing that human touch is diminishing our abilities to communicate on a real level. You can say whatever you want through a text or an email and never have to face real response or consequence – Twombly remarks often in the film to the OS … “I can say anything to you”. This is idea of hiding from emotion is directly referenced at one point in the film, by Theodore’s ex-wife (Rooney Mara), which I think was added in to nudge the audience at what Jonze is trying to say.

The writing of this film is impeccable by Jonze, and as this film is mainly dialogue between the two central characters, Theodore and Samantha, running at two hours, it doesn’t feel slow (maybe for 10 minutes it slows, but picks up again straight away). Jonze has also done a great job in making the world look great … not too dissimilar from today – to hit home where we are as a society at present – but advanced this to be obvious it is the near future.

The casting is an inspired choice, Joaquin Phoenix is impeccable as Theodore Twombly – he makes you feel for him, laugh with him and is a character you will no doubt warm to. Scarlett Johansson is also brilliant, and although you obviously never see her, she sells the performance with her voice, and really does make Samantha feel real (did anyone else notice just how much she sounds like Rashida Jones?). Bearing in mind the two main characters are never together, it feels as real to the audience as it does to Theodore, and everyone involved has done a great job at creating this film. Supported by the likes of Chris Pratt and Amy Adams, you are reminded that human relationships do in fact still exist. The film yo-yos up and down emotionally, being biting funny when it wants to be, and then crushingly depressing.

Not only is this a great piece to view, it raises numerous very interesting, and real points to consider. I have a feeling this will be overlooked by too many, and is likely to be the most underrated film to come out this year. Spike Jonze has created a truly magnificent, thought provoking film … and if you have got through all of my waffle to here, I would recommend it to you!

8/10

Dallas Buyers Club … [REVIEW]

This was a film that I didn’t have too much knowledge about going in, however from the trailers and the few bits I had read, made this a film I was very interested in seeing.

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Dallas Buyers Club tells the (inspired by true events) story of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic, electrician and hustler who contracts HIV and is given 30 days to live. Refusing to just lay down and die, Ron battles against the medical system to get the medication he needs, not only for himself, but also for other AIDs sufferers.

The story is one very much of growth. A complete homophobic, Ron resents being put in the homosexual bracket, as a lot of his fellow sufferers were homosexual men. He is shut out by his “friends” and is very much alone. After being refused the drug AZT (medication for the disease), he begins to obtain the drug illegally, and when the well dries up, ventures over the border to Mexico in seek of medication to save his life. Realising the AZT has been poisoning him, Ron is given proteins and minerals to help him, and then begins to sell these back in America. Ron forms a partnership with Rayon, a transvestite man, in order to sell his substances to the gay community suffering from the same disease as himself. This starts off as pure business, however watching the relationship grow is a great spectacle.

Getting past the films slow-ish start, the story is fascinating. As the FDA react painfully slow to find treatment for HIV/AIDs, it is those suffering from the disease who are on the forefront of the research and self medicating with much greater effects than the FDA approved medical treatment. Fighting against a system of drugs being pushed for the profit of pharmaceutical companies rather than the well being of patients being the focus, Ron sets up a Buyers Club, a membership system that allows the AIDs sufferers to get as many drugs as they need by paying a monthly membership fee. With the help of Rayon, and support of Eve, a doctor unconvinced by the system she works in, Ron works tirelessly, travelling across the world to bring in the help these sufferers desperately need. Where this starts as a selfish money making scheme, Ron grows to become compassionate and begin to care about the other people around him.

The performances in this film, are frankly outstanding, and some of the the best you will see all year. Matthew McConaughey is simply brilliant as Ron Woodroof. He is completely believable in the role, and delivers a performance that is deep, emotional and is one of his best. He has been tipped as the frontrunner for Best Actor at this year’s Oscars, and having now seen the film, I can see why. McConaughey is fast shaking his lack-lustre Hollywood reputation, and is now (more) consistently putting out stellar performances. Jared Leto is on par with McConaughey, as Rayon, Ron’s transvestite business partner, who grows into a close friend. Leto brings a sensitivity to the role, and is a character that you will warm to immediately. Again, is a in with a good chance at the Oscars, for Supporting Actor. I felt that it took Jennifer Garner a little time to settle into the role of Eve, however when she did hit her stride, she was great to watch. Her character is compassionate, sensitive and much like Ron, unwilling to to lay down.

As you might expect, this is a very heavy film, and one that will hit you hard.The story is interesting, and whilst holding an uplifting feel, is a film of tragedy, and one that had me in tears on multiple occasions. This one that I would definitely recommend seeing, and am tipping to pick up a lot of awards in the coming months.

8/10

I would like to add a small note to the bottom of this review – apologises for the negativity.

Please can all cinema goers please respect the films and people around you trying to watching. They do not wish to listen to your running commentary and unrelated comments. Please keep these to yourself and wait until you have the left the screen to have your conversations. Sorry to end this review so negatively, but this seems to be happening more frequently in the screenings I have been to recently, and it is something that really knarks me. It is great that people have comments and opinions about the films, heck this is what this blog is all about after all – however there is a time and place, and when this is done over the film, it can affect the enjoyment of others.

 

The Lego Movie … Everything is AWESOME! [REVIEW]

Oh man, was I excited for this film! From when I first heard about it, to seeing the first trailer, to finding out the release date. I just could not wait to see this! And then, to discover that the film was already showing, when it isn’t set for full release in the UK until the 14th (next week), that just made my weekend.

Well, that was until I saw it … then THAT made my weekend.

lego-movie-logoThe Lego Movie tells the story of Emmet, an ordinary, everyday construction worker. He is content with his life, following a set list of instructions each day, which involves smiling, going to work and building, smiling, paying for overpriced coffee, smiling, exercising, and whole lot more smiling. Although, along with all of the other Lego people, he is happy – Emmet isn’t special, or at least has never been told that he is. When he mistakenly finds the Piece of Resistance, a magical item that can save humanity, Emmet is mistaken for a MasterBuilder, and the Special … and his adventure really begins as he embarks to save the Lego world from Lord Business.

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Everything about this film is fantastic. The film, although you may think is a kids film, has plenty to offer for the adults. In fact, where a lot of kids films have parts just sprinkled in for the grown ups, The Lego Movie feels slightly opposite, more aimed towards the older market, with bits sprinkled in for the kids. However, not in a talking down to them kind of way. This is one that the whole family will enjoy – and even if you don’t have kids (like me), is one that begs to be watched. Don’t be thrown off by the fact you are watching a film based on toys. This really is a film that needs to be watched by people of all ages.

The film looks absolutely amazing. The animators have done an absolute stand up job of creating this Lego world. What is so good about the animation, is that while it isn’t stop motion, it isn’t over animated to be unrealistic. Everything that moves, and is in the world, looks and moves as if it were a Lego toy. The animators have been precise in not making anything move in a way that the toy wouldn’t. And that is what makes this film feel so magical! The attention detail is absolutely fantastic, and it isn’t just the Lego pieces that have been given the care and attention they deserve, if you look closely there are some well hidden gems … which I will let you spot for yourselves!

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The casting of this film is inspired. Chris Pratt is fast becoming a go-to guy in Hollywood, playing the role of an everyman fantastically well. There is just something about Pratt that makes him instantly likeable – whether he is playing the buffoonish Andy in Parks and Rec, or a Navy Seal hunting down Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty … or even as a Lego man! Morgan Freeman steps in as the wise Vitruvius, and brings much to the role, as he did as God in Bruce Almighty. The perfect choice was made for a comical version of Batman … Will Arnett just has a way of making being so ridiculously aggressive so damn funny, and Batman just feels like the role he was born to play – full of arrogance, aggressiveness and a killer dry wit, Arnett is now my second favourite Batman of all time. I of course cannot forget Will Ferrell, as Lord Business, another comedy actor who can make being aggressive absolutely hilarious. And if you have read this blog in the past, you will know that I am Ferrell’s biggest fan, and I don’t believe he disappointed in this role either. A special mention also has to go to Liam Neeson, who seems to be making the rounds at the moment in comedy films, with his cameo in Anchorman 2, and now the Good/Bad cop in the Lego movie. Imagining him recording those two voices is making me laugh even writing this. Neeson is absolutely fantastic.

Along with these main players, there was a number of big names who also stepped in to provide their voices, including the always funny Nick Offerman, the lovely Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill, who made for an absolute hilarious Green Lantern, alongside 21 Jump Street partner in crime Channing Tatum as Superman. The sharper eared of you will also hear the likes of Dave Franco, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Jake Johnson, Will Forte and Cobie Smulders … just to name a few.

Now I know what a lot of you will be thinking. This is just a ploy to up the sale of Lego, to sell more merchandise, to have your wallet reached into and emptied. Now, I am sure that this will commercially benefit Lego, however this isn’t the intention of the movie at all … or at least if it is, it is hidden very well!

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The story is great. It is kind of your classic right of passage, everyday joe becoming the hero, type of movie. But that is just the framework that is set up to allow the story to progress to the ending. Once the framework is in place, then the imagination opens up, into something that is absolutely beautiful to watch. The film is fast paced, and the writers imaginations have run wild. Which is what makes this film so appealing. There is a child like wonder to this story, and one that we can all relate to from back in our childhoods. The film is action-packed and the kind of story you would play out in your head, were you sat building and playing with your own Legos. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a story with pirates, robots, lasers, sharks, laser sharks etc etc …

Oh, and it is also, absolutely hilarious! The jokes come thick and fast, and rarely miss. A string of puns (good and bad, but always funny), childish jokes, jokes that will fly over the kids heads but land nicely with the adults, and tons and tons of visual gags – this will be one of the funniest films of the year!

The story has a clear message, and is one that isn’t new – be yourself, believe in yourself and you will achieve, everyone is special just the way they are. It sounds cliché … but the film is written so well, that it never feels like a cliché. Although a film about toys, you aren’t being talked down to, and a great line in the film – that sums up the point I am trying to make about it not being cliché is … “I know it sounds like a cat poster … but it’s true”. It is truly heartwarming and will have you smiling, laughing, and even bring a tear or two to your eye. And with a great twist towards the end, which I think few will see coming (I won’t spoil it for you), it is just topped off as an all round awesome film.

Although very early in the year, I do think this will be strong contender for movie of the year.

If you only ever listen to me this once, please, please do yourself a favour and get yourself out to the cinema to see this one as quickly as you can. You will not be disappointed.

9/10

 

Out of the Furnace … [REVIEW]

I find it very surprising that this film has not been given more attention over here in the UK. An all star cast, a director whose last film brought in Oscars and a long list of producers that include Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio. Yet, the film has had very little coverage, and although only came out in the UK this Wednesday, the film has been relegated to only being shown in studio cinema screens, and in the showing I was in today there was only two other people and myself.

Out-of-the-Furnace-MovieA raw, and emotional revenge film, Out of the Furnace, set in a small American town, tells the story of Russell Baze, a working class man, who when his brother goes missing and the police don’t act fast enough, decides to step in himself.  

The performances in this film are all very good. The directing is also, very good. The contrasting shots throughout and visual metaphors are all very clever and executed to a high standard. The film is very emotional in places (so take your tissues). However, the film just doesn’t quite deliver what it could have been.

The length of this film doesn’t do it any favours, running at just under two hours, it does start to drag a little bit. The film is relatively slow by its very nature, which is not necessarily a bad thing, with a very well used score, builds tension and peaks interest. Although during the less emotional times it does start to feel a little sluggish. 

Christian Bale shows yet again his acting range with a deep performance as Russell. Nothing ever goes right for him, and all he tries to do is look out for his family. Casey Affleck swings in and out as Russell’s brother Rodney, at times he is fantastic, but at others he is unbelievable and lacklustre. Although whenever he is alongside Bale, that is when he really shines. The chemistry between the two is very high, and they come across as very believable brothers. Supporting roles from Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whitaker and Zoe Saldana contribute heavily to the progression of the story, and a particular scene between Bale and Saldana is perhaps the standout moment as it is the film at it’s rawest, and in my opinion most emotional. Woody Harrelson is particularly menacing throughout and the perfect villain to hate.

The story isn’t feel good to say the very least. From the very kick-off this film has a dark mood, which never picks up in the following two hours. This review has been relatively short as I don’t wish to reveal any spoilers, and although not as good as it could have been, this is very watchable, and has plenty of standout emotional moments, it is worth watching. I do suspect that this film will struggle in the UK due to lack of attention it has been given, but I recommend giving it a try for the raw performances alone.

6.5/10

Zoolander … Ben at his best [REVIEW]

If you are comedy fan, and/or a Ben Stiller fan, I think the majority would agree, that Zoolander is a must see. Derek Zoolander is a dim witted, but loveable male model, brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Starring alongside friend and regular onscreen partner Owen Wilson, this is perhaps Stiller’s finest hour.

Zoolander-zoolander-3951534-1024-768This film is just funny. There isn’t too much depth to, it is just an hour and 20 minutes of silliness. And that is what is great about the comedy genre, or more so, what was great about the comedy genre. Nowadays films seem to becoming longer and longer, and as a result the hit percentage of jokes is decreasing, not in all cases, but comedy doesn’t seem to be as good as it was 10-15 years ago. The likes of Stiller, Ferrell, the Wilson brothers, Vaughn, Black, Sandler and the like, AKA “The Frat Pack” seemed to have it down. Put a loose storyline in place and then just mess around for an hour or so, and people will want to laugh with you. Now it seems like the genre is trying too hard and it is suffering. And sadly a few people on that list have unfortunately started churning out what can only be best described as crap! Comedy is all about having fun, so if you have fun while you make it, the audience will join in.  I think that is why This Is The End was one of the funniest films of 2013, as you could tell how much fun they had making it, and it rubbed off on the audience.

But anyway, back to Zoolander.  After being snubbed for the male model of the year award for Owen Wilson’s newcomer, Hansel (So hot right now!), humiliated by a report in Time magazine on him, and losing his 3 best friends in a “freak, gasoline fight accident”, Derek decides it is time to call it a day and retire from the male modelling profession and return home to his roots. Unfortunate for comical fashion villain Mugatu (Will Ferrell) who needs him for his evil plot to take out the Prime Minister of Malaysia!

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After being convinced to get back on the horse, despite not being a gymnast, Derek agrees to become the face of Mugatu’s Derlicte campaign. Basically dressing like homeless bums – that should give you an idea of the humour we are dealing with … completely childish, but incredibly funny – and my favourite kind of humour! But, with the help of Christine Taylor’s, Matilda Jeffries, discovers the plot and must work with her and Hansel (So hot right now) to stop it from happening.

Zoolander is incredibly quotable, and is laugh out loud funny for pretty much the entire film. The cast just gels, and it is no surprise they have all worked together on numerous occasions to great success. Stiller and Wilson are a great comedy duo, and just bounce off each other fantastically. Will Ferrell (my comedy hero) is as funny as ever in the role of Mugatu, the scorned, evil, flamboyant fashion designer. And throwing in the consistent Christine Taylor (Stiller’s wife) and Jerry Stiller (Stiller’s Dad) only adds to the chemistry of the whole affair.

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The film is just a winner. Littered with celebrity and comedy cameos, there isn’t too much you can say against this film. Stiller got it just right with this one, contributing to the script, directing and starring in the lead role, he really is a man of many talents. This is a great one to sit down and just enjoy. It doesn’t require too much thinking, and be it with your friends, or just on your own, you are guaranteed to have a laugh and put yourself in a good mood!

And now there are talks of a sequel being on the way, and while slightly nervous as it has already been 13 years since the original and doubtful we will see a sequel until at least 2015, you do have to feel quietly confident that the team will be able to pull it off again.

Zoolander has given us so much. Blue Steel. The infamous walk off. And bags and bags of quotes. I don’t think Zoolander will ever get old. This film continues to sit towards the top of my comedy list, and is one I will continue to return to.

8/10

Equilibrium … Nice idea, poor execution [REVIEW]

Although this film was released originally in 2002, I had never seen it. However when I read about it on IMDB when I was flicking through back catalogs and trivia, I thought I would give it a go. And I thought Equilibrium had a lot lying in it’s favour. The concept seemed really interesting, it has my main man Christian Bale as the lead, and it has a pretty respectable 7.6 rating on IMDB. However, I was left feeling rather disappointed.

BMB-BadMovieBeatdownEquilibrium750The concept is this: In the early 21st Century, World War 3 broke out, devastating Earth. After it was over, a cure for emotions was created, and now set in a fascist state, Libria, all forms of feelings are branded illegal, to prevent further wars. Law enforcers (Grammaton Clerics) are trained in martial arts and put in place to take out the “Sense Offenders” and destroy all contraband, such as paintings, music and films. John Preston is the best enforcer, however after having an epiphany of emotion, rises to overthrow the system he has been enforcing, from the inside.

It sounds like it should be gripping, thrilling, exciting, and other adjectives with similar meanings. However, I was unable to ever get into this film. It was a bit too slow and boring, and I don’t think really explored the concept as effectively as it could have. Not quite enough time was spent on any of the aspects that the film touched on. Some back story is given to Bale’s character, but is sort of forgotten, then re-visited briefly, and then forgotten again. We see his children, and interactions with his son which feels like it will play a large factor, but then doesn’t really. The idea of the underground resistance is central to the plot and narrative of the film, but even that felt like it wasn’t thought through well enough and wasn’t developed. Character’s like William Fichtner’s, Jurgen, are hinted to be crucially important,  but just drift away and become unforgettable. The same for Bale’s new partner, Brandt, played by Taye Diggs. Oh, and Sean Bean does what Sean Bean does …

All of these should be significant contributors to Bale’s journey to take down the regime, but they end up being merely enablers, and this is the film’s downfall. I feel that the film would have been better served to have had less enablers and spend some real time developing the contributors to make this a more rounded film.

The performances weren’t fantastic – however I think that was due to poor scripture and the concept not being as tight as it should have been. In a state where emotion is outlawed and prevented by interval injections, we still see emotion and feelings from the enforcers. They smile, they get angry, they on occasion act scared … yet these are all human emotions/feelings. If emotions really were prevented by the injections, then these would not be possible.

This was released 12 years ago, and it hasn’t aged well … it felt old and outdated. The set wasn’t great, and at times looked very cheap. The action also wasn’t consistent – there were times when I thought, wow that was amazing, and then a few minutes later, it couldn’t have looked more choreographed if it had tried.

I was very disappointed, as I was expecting this to be a great film, and as Christian Bale is one of my favourite actors, it was even more disappointing to see a film of his I did not enjoy. Although I didn’t think he was particularly bad in the film, the story just wasn’t there, and even an actor of his calibre couldn’t save this one. I’m a little perplexed as why this has such a high score on IMDB, and an even higher 82% rating from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. This may have worked better as book, where the time could have been spent on developing the ideas and portraying emotionless enforcers would have been easier than a motion picture.

I have to say, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this one – 4/10

The Wolf of Wall Street … Excess to the max! [REVIEW]

The Wolf of Wall Street really is a film of excess. Dubbed as Scorsese’s best film since Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street really is taking the box office by storm, has received 5 Oscar nominations, and had 2 Golden Globe nominations of which  it won 1.

Yes, it was very good.

the_wolf_of_wall_street_52a38020131228135228Wolf of Wall Street tells the story of New York Stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, and follows him from his rise to the top and his excessive lifestyle, to his eventual downfall into crime, corruption and FBI investigations. The film shows us the world of the late eighties and into the nineties Wall Street. And it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Power hungry ego–maniacs who will screw over anyone to make a buck … or more like a million bucks. Matthew McConaughey’s character put its, “We don’t create shit, we don’t build anything” they just pick up the phone and get rich.

Jordan Belfort is a man of excess. He is charismatic, driven, dishonest and what many would diagnose as a full-blown psychopath. Just to get into the mind frame of this character – one of his early quotes in the film is “I made $49 million last year … which really pissed me off, as it was 3 off a million a week.” He does enough drugs each day to take down an entire city, he has sex with hookers, hookers and more hookers, and makes and spends money like it is going out of fashion. His life is a non stop party and he just can’t quit it.

Wolf of Wall Street is very much what you would expect from a Scorsese film. The narrative isn’t that consistent, the breaking of the fourth wall is picked up and then forgotten about multiple times as the film goes on, the camera work is done fantastically, making you feel like you are seeing things you shouldn’t be, or that we as the audience are being let into an inner circle … oh, and it is very, very long. Running at 3 hours … that’s right, 3 whole hours, this is a film you definitely need to plan your day around!

What is more surprising is just how funny this film is. The trailers hinted that there would be some humour in it, but I was surprised by how consistent the comedy was. Before seeing this I found it hard to understand how this was nominated at the Golden Globes in the comedy/musical category, but I can sort of understand now. What is quite unique about the Wolf of Wall Street is that it doesn’t really fit a genre. It isn’t a full-blown comedy, and it isn’t really a drama.

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There has been a comparison made by many, to Scorsese’s 1990 film  Goodfellas, that followed the life of (also real) Henry Hill’s rise and fall in gangster land. And I can see why the comparison has been drawn. A rise and fall story, a life of excess, the same narrative structure used, Henry Hill wanted to be a gangster as long as he could remember, Jordan Belfort always wanted to be rich for as long as he could remember … just exchange the guns and killings for drugs and sex. However strangely, I warmed much more to the Goodfellas, Henry Hill character than I did to the Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort. Perhaps it was that Hill at least was demonstrated to feel some remorse – Belfort cares about no-one but himself.

Wolf of Wall Street is a lot of fun to watch and is very entertaining, however I did feel like the story was lacking. And that may be because of the length. Although it didn’t feel like I was sat for 3 hours, I did feel like the film could have been cut shorter than it was. This story didn’t need to be told for 3 hours, and after the 3 hours was up the partying was starting to get a bit stale. And this partying to the max!

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The performances however were fantastic. DiCaprio was brilliant as Belfort and fully embodied the character he was playing. Jonah Hill has now cemented himself as someone to be taken seriously in Hollywood, proving he can carry a serious role just as well as comedic role … and his character of Donnie Azoff lets us see the best of both sides of Hill, and has been recognised with an Oscar nod, which is now his second. This really is Leo’s show, and he duly delivers. As charismatic as ever, his speeches to his troops are fantastic. He has also proved he can be very funny, and not just  verbally funny, physically funny. The supporting players add a lot to the film, and most notably Margot Robbie, a relative newcomer, who plays Belfort’s second wife Naomi, and carries herself incredibly well against such a big name like DiCaprio. We no doubt will be seeing a lot more of her in the years to come. Kyle Chandler played his usual role, Rob Reiner was great as Belfort’s father, and Matthew McConaughey although only on-screen for about 10 minutes has a great impact, and his improvised chest bump that he did on the fly, ended up contributing a great deal to the final product.

This is definitely one that you will want to watch, but I don’t think it is Scorsese’s best. The characters are great, but the story is lacking just a bit to make this an absolute classic – although I’m sure this will be dubbed by most as one of Scorsese’s best. I would definitely watch this again, but not that often … running at 3 hours, you just can’t. Maybe every few years at most.

I’m glad I saw it, I really enjoyed it, I assume it will do very well at the awards – although would be surprised if it wins Best Picture at the Oscars, I think that would be too controversial. But, I don’t think it is quite as good as it is being made out to be. It is currently ranked at 8.6 on IMDB, and audiences are giving it 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m sitting slightly lower than that and would give this one a 7/10.

Hot Rod … Too Legit To Quit [REVIEW]

Now this is my kind of comedy! Outrageously silly, laugh out loud funny for 90 minutes and a killer soundtrack … it is the perfect combination.

Hot Rod stars Lonely Island’s, Andy Samberg, as Rod Kimble, a self proclaimed stunt man who has never grown up. The plot of the movie is basically that Rod is trying to raise $50,000 to save his abusive step-fathers life whose respect that he craves … so he can kick his ass in a fight …

“You’re wrong, Frank. I’m not a kid, I’m a man. I am gonna get you better, and then I’m gonna beat you to death!”

Now you can’t tell me that hasn’t already got you laughing?

Hot-Rod-Wallpaper-the-lonely-island-500020_1024_768From the very first minute Hot Rod kicks off with its slapstick, childish humour. It lays the foundation for the joke, we all know what is going to happen, it happens exactly how we saw it happening … yet it is still gut wrenchingly funny! Hot Rod is filled with charm and absolute absurdity that you just have to laugh at. Written by Pam Brady a few years before it was actually made, originally set to be a vehicle for Will Ferrell, the movie was tweaked for Samberg, but you can easily see how this would have worked as a Ferrell flick, this is definitely his kind of humour … and Ferrell did exec produce! All which are bonuses for me … this is absolutely my sense of humour!

Incredibly quotable, this is one definitely to watch with your friends … although watching it alone I still spent the entire time bent double crying with laughter, and rewinding to watch bits again. I have seen this a good few times before, I know exactly what is going to happen, but it is still always funny. It isn’t particularly clever and there isn’t much of a storyline in place … things that you would expect to mean a poor film. But not in this case … basically a collection of funny sketches loosely forming a story, this movie hits it out of the ballpark.

As well as Andy Samberg there is a collection of great comedy stars in this film. Danny McBride, Lonely Island partner Kevin Powell and SNL alumnus Bill Hader, make up Rod’s crew … and they like to party! The lovely Denise (Isla Fisher) also joins the crew later on in the film, but not before a humiliating initiation, and “it’s like the craziest thing you could even imagine”  … I mean you can’t just waltz in off the street and demand to be in the crew.

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Powell plays Rod’s younger, oddball step-brother and team manager, Jorma. Hader plays the equally oddball team mechanic, Dave, and McBride is the ultra aggressive ramp builder, Rico … he goes to church every sunday, but you don’t want to bring the demons out of him!

Together they set out to train Rod to achieve the biggest stunt of his life … jumping 15 school buses. From money making schemes such as performing at kids parties, to punch dancing out his rage, Rod is on the path to becoming the greatest stuntman of all time, and becoming a man … stick on moustache to boot. Yes, real men GROW moustaches, but you know he has a hormone disorder!  You can tell that everyone had an absolute blast making this film, just a bunch of guys messing around and being as stupid as possible, and getting paid to do it … What a job eh!

Outside of the main cast, Will Arnett brings his trademark angry comedy to the film as Isla Fisher’s obnoxious lawyer boyfriend Jonathan, as well as Ian McShane’s Frank, stepfather from hell. And who can forget Chester Tam’s, Richardson, who sees very little screen time, but is absolutely hilarious every time we see him … whatever you do, don’t accuse him of not doing anything!

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As well as being blisteringly funny, Hot Rod also boasts a cracking soundtrack. Littered with multiple hits from Europe, well placed snippets from Cutting Crew, M.C Hammer, and  John Farnham’s anthem, You’re the Voice add fantastically to the humour of situations! A few original tracks are also introduced, not forgetting the birth of “Cool Beans”.

Hot Rod is a must see for any comedy fan … and I score this one as a 9/10  as it is just “Too Legit To Quit”

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Delivery Man … Doesn’t deliver [REVIEW]

That pretty much sums it up.

Once a number one comedy hit, Vince Vaughn now seems to have descended into churning out the same crappy role over and over again … which if it was at least funny wouldn’t be too much of an issue, however when it is mediocre at best, then why would you want to keep paying out to see his films?

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Based on 2011 Canadian film, Starbuck, Delivery Man sees Vaughn playing David Wozniak, who 20 years ago donated his sperm 693 times (under the alias Starbuck). As a result, David is found to be the biological father of 533 children, of which 142 are suing to find out his identity. Vince’s David, works in his family’s meat shop as (shockingly) a delivery man, and is AS USUAL a huge underachiever, down on his luck, who just wants to do better … where have we seen that before? Oh, that’s right, in just about every other Vince Vaughn movie. And it is getting very old now.

Allegedly a comedy, I think I chuckled maybe 5 or 6 times. And most of the times it was a result of the supporting cast, and not Vaughn. Well, I say supporting cast – I mean Chris Pratt, David’s best friend and lawyer, Brett. Who was pretty much the only character that I enjoyed seeing on the screen, which wasn’t very often, as unfortunately this was pretty much the Vince Vaughn one man show. There are a few supporting players in the film (not all 533 kids, only a few are singled out) – but you don’t know who anyone else is really, there is no character development, it took me about halfway through the film to even realise one of the characters was supposed to be Vince Vaughn’s other brother, and there is barely even any reference to anybody else’s name … took me a while to know what Chris Pratt’s character was called, or any of the few of VV’s children’s names. Couple this with little to no humour … there isn’t very much at all.

It is probably fair to say that great things were never expected from Delivery Man, however I did go in with an open mind – I did used to be a Vince Vaughn fan – some of my favourite comedies have featured him, Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers, and Old School were all fantastically funny. But, this film just dragged on slowly to the predictable end that we all expected.

Although Delivery Man has it’s moments, they are very few and far between. Aiming to be a funny, feel-good film, it really isn’t. It is just another Vince Vaughn disappointment. Unfunny, not uplifting, just pretty boring. I think it is telling that, although only released in the UK yesterday, the film was only showing in a studio screen … maybe 30 seats(?) and only at 3 times throughout the day. The cinema’s know it … Vince Vaughn can’t sell out a screen anymore. Last year’s Internship that saw him reunite with Wedding Crashers team mate Owen Wilson was a flop, only taking half of what Wedding Crasher had taken, and now Delivery Man is likely to take even less.

Vince Vaughn has gotten lazy, and it is now about time he shakes it up and tries something new … or at least puts out a genuinely funny film!

Past successes such as Dodgeball, Old School, and Wedding Crashers seem a distant memory now. In recent times we’ve had poor showings such as The Dilemma and The Internship from Vaughn, and now we can add Delivery Man to the ever growing list of mediocrity.

Save yourself some time and money and miss this one.

3/10

 

Taxi Driver … “Well, I’m the only one here” [REVIEW]

As a self-proclaimed movie buff, there are quite a few classics, that shamefully, I haven’t got round to seeing yet. However, this year I am going to right those wrongs and find the time to sit down and watch them! Taxi Driver was one of those on the list, and is the first one of 2014 that I have managed to cross off.

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Yes, the film was released in 1976 … 17 years before I even entered this world, however from the status that this film has, it is pretty bad that it has taken me this long to get round to it. My problem is that, with these films that are held in such high regard, there is always potential for these to not live up to expectations that the reviews have given it. However, I am pleased to say that I loved Scorsese and De Niro’s 1976 hit.

Travis Bickle is an ex-US Marine, having been honourably discharged from service. He is lonely, depressed, and suffering from insomnia. And, so to give himself something to do while he is up, becomes a … you guessed it … Taxi Driver. De Niro’s Bickle is a complex character, battling with deep-seated psychological issues Travis just doesn’t want to be lonely any more, he needs a purpose, but at times struggles to keep himself on an even keel (understatement!) … he is a perfect anti-hero!

Taxi_DriverI must have seen and heard the line “Are you talking to me? You talkin to me?” a hundred times, and could tell you what film is was from before I had even seen the movie. However, it is the line after that I hadn’t heard, which is strange, because for me, it underpins the whole feeling of the film “You talkin to me? Well I’m the only one here”. This sums up Travis perfectly, he is the only one there, he has no-one else … he’s talking to himself in a mirror. He spends time writing in his diary, detailing his days and thoughts (which is also used as narrative to move the film along). He is mimicking conversation – human interaction is what he desperately craves, but is too misunderstood to really connect with anyone. He can’t connect with his fellow cab drivers, he fails miserably with a women he is infatuated with – Travis just needs somebody. What is quite unbelievable is that the entire dialogue in this scene was improvised by De Niro, he was apparently just told to talk to the mirror – so I guess it shows how much he understood this character to deliver that line, and why he gives such a fantastic performance in this film.

Unable to seemingly save himself – Travis must save someone else. This someone else being a 12-year-old Jodie Foster, who plays Iris, an underage prostitute, pimped out by her “lover” Matt. These scenes are particularly hard to bear, the thought of a girl that young being subject to that life and environment makes you feel sick, and you don’t want to think about it. But Scorsese makes you. The world can be a cruel, dark place and Taxi Driver shines a light on this in a number of instances throughout the film. Travis takes it upon himself to rescue this girl from this hell, no matter what it takes.

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Bickle is described, by his female interest in the film, as a contradiction – and this is spot on. Travis spends his time frequenting pornographic film theatres, yet is repulsed by the sexuality of the inhabitants of New York – wishing for “Real rain” to come down and flush out the scum. He aligns himself to a presidential candidate who he wishes to win, only to turn on him, and then turn back. Paul Schrader truly created a fantastic character in Travis Bickle, and Taxi Driver allows us to step into his point of view for a couple of hours and see how he ticks. Helped especially with the direction of Martin Scorsese who uses the camera fantastically to show us what Bickle is thinking, and when he is detached from what is going on around him, without the need for dialogue. We truly are enabled to see behind Travis’ eyes.  On a side note, if you are interested you should have a read about how Paul Schrader wrote this film and developed the characters – that is interesting stuff.

The film gets very violent and very dark, but is ultimately incredibly entertaining … although perhaps fascinating is a better word to describe it. If like me, and you are late to this film, I would highly recommend adding this one to your To Watch list. Having finally seen it, it is clear that this deserves to be held in the high regard that it is.

9/10