The Wolf of Wall Street

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9/10

The rise and fall of Jordan Belfort tells a story that is so crazy it can never be touched. I truly couldn’t have been prepared for the things that were coming in this movie. Leonardo Dicaprio gives and Oscar worthy performance as Belfort, a stocks trader who robbed hard working Americans of millions of dollars in the 90’s. Dicaprio is one of those actors who will always be an all time great. In Belfort, he makes us love and hate him which is the sign of any great actor. He brings so much to a character that we are supposed to despise because we cannot relate to him. Jonah Hill is also fantastic as Belfort’s best friend who quits his job to join up with Belfort. There were times when i forgot i was even watching Jonah Hill. It shows how far of an actor he has come from his days in Superbad and Knocked Up. The film is 3 hours long, and this is probably the only time i will ever advocate a single film being that long. You have to show every single scene along the way even when it seems pointless. It will all come together in the end like a puzzle. Martin Scorsese is one of the best directors in the world, and he only further cements his legacy with one of his greatest films ever. The lone problem that i had with the film was that we didn’t learn a lot about the characters after it all came tumbling down. We find out a brief interchange, but it doesn’t fill in the gaps to leave us satisfied. I am also curious to hear a woman’s perspective of this film as there are a lot of male misogynistic scenes where women are degraded and treated as meat. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to be a woman working at that office. The Wolf of Wall Street is truly one of those films that you have to see to believe. Even though it’s only a film, it tells the story of an insane time in American business. One that will probably never be repeated again. I definitely recommend this film to everyone, but be ready for a long sit and some weird scenes that will make you wonder why they are in there. Once again, if females see this film i would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Saving Mr Banks

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10/10

Ladies and gentlemen, i give you the best cast in a film this year. Saving Mr Banks is one of those films that come along every once in a while and leave you with all kinds of emotions while watching it. You will laugh, smile, cry and even be frightened for the character of E.L Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. The film shows Travers (Played amazingly by Emma Thompson) struggling to make a living since writing Mary Poppins over 20 years ago. She is approached by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) with a deal to make Mary Poppins into a film. What follows is the struggle to find a decent agreement between the two sides for making a film that won’t damage the other party. There were so many great performances to talk about that i feel this review might be my longest ever. Tom Hanks is the only choice for Walt Disney. He brings out the magic and charisma in a constant workaholic who made a 20 year promise to his daughters to get this picture made. Emma Thompson deserves an Oscar nod for bringing out the true heart in an otherwise grouchy woman. She makes us understand why she is the way she is when pitching the book to Disney. Colin Ferrell stole the film for me. He gives his best performance to date as the father of a young Travers. He is majestic and energetic as a loving parent with a bad secret below surface. This is the second part of the story told in this film. It shows us flashbacks as the current film is going on of a young Travers and the actual real story of her family and the wonderful woman who came into their lives, Mary Poppins. I honestly tried my hardest to find something negative about this film, and i couldn’t. Everything is done so well that i would totally see this film more than once in theaters just to catch what i may have missed. The supporting cast also deserves praise for the talent that they bring to this picture. Paul Giamatti (ALWAYS amazing), Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak bring just as much to the picture as the actors i already names. Scwartzman is brilliant as the song writer to some of Disney’s most magnificent numbers. Giamatti is the limo driver who forms the only friendship with Travers, as he sees something deeper below the surface. The set pieces were outstanding with the recreation of 1960’s Hollywood. The film really does it’s homework in trying to get the look and feel right, from vehicles to clothes to Disney Land itself. Saving Mr Banks is one film that definitely cannot be missed. I can’t imagine anyone would have anything negative to say about this film. It’s one of those where the whole family will love it, and it tells two amazing tales with one movie.

Nebraska

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8/10

Bruce Dern and Will Forte star in this black and white adventure about an old man (Dern) who receives a letter in the mail claiming he has won 1 million dollars. We know it’s a scam from the start, but that isn’t what the film is about. There are a lot of hidden meanings in this film that you really have to pay attention to get. One of those meanings was a father/son bonding experience across country. We find out that Dern has been kind of an abandoning father to Forte, but there isn’t anything the son wouldn’t do to make his father happy. The film is beautifully shot in black and white which i feel gives an old style feel in the way that we may be seeing the world the way Dern does. There are also excellent performances from Bob Odenkirk and who i think should win the Oscar for Best Supporting Female, June Squibb. Squibb is electric as the nagging wife who is driven crazy by her husband, but stands by him with her devotion to love. Nebraska is a slow sit though. I can’t say i would recommend this film to anyone but fans of director Alexander Payne (Sideways). His style of slow shots and meaningful undertones is something i like in a director. As i said, the film is riddled in slow spots. The dialogue is 100% of this movie. If you are waiting for some big explosion or some earth shattering event, this isn’t the film for you. I think most people will be bored by it, but i enjoyed it. It’s a different film from what you see in 2013, and if you have to travel to Nebraska to find it, well so be it.

Inside Llewyn Davis

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7/10

Inside Llewyn Davis is kind of like a new song by a famous artist (The Coen Brothers). It’s got a good rhythm (Screenplay) and good characters (Narration), but it’s not the best from the artist or nearly the kind of songs you fell in love with (No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou). With that said, Oscar Isaac is a Best Lead Actor front runner when the Oscars come in March. He gives an amazingly warmhearted and dry witted performance as Llewyn Davis, a folk song writer struggling to stay afloat in 1961 New York. The first hour of this film kept in contention with some of the best films i have seen this year. It’s in the 2nd hour that the film begins to lose steam. We find out that some things have happened in Llewyn’s life that he has to make right. Mainly impregnating the girlfriend (Carey Mulligan) of a fellow friend and artist (Justin Timberlake). Mulligan is outstanding in the role of the harsh and negative girl who doesn’t quite know what she sees in Davis. My biggest problem with this film aside from the ending (Which i will get to later), is that many of the questions were never answered. I don’t want to spoil anything, but we never find out about the abortion or a couple of other things by the movie’s end. It’s like they had a great story and abandoned some of the parts to make an artsy ending. The ending itself just happens anti-climatic. When the screen goes black, you will ask yourself if that really is the end. It’s a shame too because you really care about these characters. They deserved a better ending than the one they are given. It’s amazing that with all i have said that The Coen Brothers still put together a decent film. Some great positives is the setting of each scene with incredible lighting. Also a score that i will be picking up in stores that should win an Oscar. Inside Llewyn Davis is not a film for everyone. Nothing huge or groundbreaking happens in this film. But if you can sit through almost 2 hours of beautiful songs with deep characters whose questions are not always answered, then this cup of tea is for you, friend. It’s also pretty cool to hear Akron mentioned a couple of times in the film

American Hustle

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9/10

One of the best films of the year that delivers some amazing performances. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give their all in roles that carry this movie to the top of the best films list. Bale and Adams are recruited by Cooper to take down some big corrupt city officials in a plan to save their own lives after being caught by the FBI during a scam they ran. While the four actors i named were equally great, it’s Amy Adams who totally steals the movie. She has those scenes that make you feel what she is saying before she even opens her mouth, and that is the sign of a great actress. I was amazed with how much comedy was in this movie. I laughed a lot at mostly Cooper. He is semi-psychotic as an FBI agent who is definitely on his last ring of sanity. The film has a couple small problems that keep it from being a perfect film. First of all, some of the scenes are filler. They serve as nothing more than to create another funny scenario for the audience. These times in between will make you look at your watch and wonder how far along in the film you are. I almost wish they would’ve left those on the deleted scenes list. There are also a lot of swerves in the film, and that is good and bad. It is good because the swerves were so great that i didn’t see any of them coming (especially the last one). But it’s bad because after a couple of swerves it gets a little difficult to fully comprehend what is going on. This is definitely a film you are going to have to pay attention to. Many people will see it in theaters, but i almost advise to see it on DVD so you stop and rewind when you need to. It’s a great film and one minute should definitely not be missed. David O Russell is definitely turning into a favorite director of mine for his great work on this, Flirting With Disaster, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Check out this film and enjoy some real Oscar contender performances

Hours

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7.5/10

If this is the last full length Paul Walker film, then i can say that his memory will go happy. This film really surprised me with how good it was. In my opinion, Running Scared and Joy Ride are the best Paul Walker films, but this is very close as well. Walker stars a man who is on his way to the emergency room to be there for his wife who is giving birth. When he is told that his little girl is on a breathing machine until she can breathe on her own, he finds out his wife has passed. When you take a story that already has a great plot like that and mix it with the fact that this is all taking place during Hurricane Katrina, it makes for an edge of the seat ride. The hospital is completely abandoned, so it’s up to Walker to keep his daughter alive for their rescue 48 hours later. I love when a film takes place in one setting the whole film. I think it asks more from it’s actors that way, and Walker definitely delivers. I really enjoyed the realism from the faulty hospital equipment to the surprises that Walker has while being alone in the hospital. When Walker died, he left behind a lot of fans who enjoyed the charisma that he showed on screen. If you are one of these fans, you simply CAN NOT miss this film. The ladies will shed some tears and be yelling at the screen while the guys will appreciate what the man does to keep his daughter alive.

The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

 

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8/10

Coming from someone who is not a big fan of this series, i thoroughly enjoyed this film. This film has made walk away with the greatest feeling after seeing it, and that is for a few reasons. The first is that i was on the edge of my seat for this movie. The dragon Smaug is a great villain that adds even more because he can talk. The scene with the gold coins and his awakening scared me to death. There was just something about seeing his huge eye pop out that made my heart pump. The cinematography in these films is second to none. While i didn’t like the first Hobbit film, i can say that it was the most beautiful picture of the year. This one follows that trend, but it does it in a way to match the desolate mood of the Lake Town. This film’s views are seen more as dark and (hate to use this word again) desolate. The high frame rate is something pretty cool to read about with this film. The fact that they shot each frame at 48 frames per second is impressive, and it shows. I also really enjoyed the introduction of Bard the Bowman and felt Luke Evans was a perfect choice to play him. For those who don’t know, Luke has been cast in The Crow reboot, so i am curious to see what he can bring to Eric Draven. Some of the things i haven’t liked about other films are still there in this film, and i am sure i will get ambushed by fans of the series for it. Ultimately though, what kind of critic would i be if i didn’t put all of my cards on the table? These films are just way too long. I get that it is an epic story you are trying to tell with lots of characters, but maybe there in lies the problem; too many characters. I think the same story can be told without a couple of their back stories being learned. I also have never been a fan of Legolas. The guy is just too immortal for me to relate to. I mean seriously, could he get a cut or a scrape just once? Why do they even need an army if this guy can kill ten people in ten seconds? Just send Legolas to take care of any trouble in the town. I did enjoy the way the film ends as it sets up for There and Back Again quite well. I recommend this film to fans of the series for sure. As for non fans, it’s a hard prediction to make. I am not a fan and i loved it for the things i mentioned above. Give it a shot, it might surprise you.

Out of the Furnace

 

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7.5/10

A very deep and dark movie about the lengths we will go when something happens to a member of our families. This film has some amazing character performances and it’s those performances alone that give you every reason to see this film. Those performances are led by Woody Harrelson as a drug selling country hick who runs an underground fighting ring. Harrelson is one of my favorite actors, and it’s always fun seeing what role he will play next. Choosing him to be the villain for this movie was great casting. Is there any role this man can not do? Christian Bale and Casey Affleck are also impressive as the brothers in the story. Affleck has a young charm that makes him too naive for the stupid decisions he makes. Bale continues to be the best character actor bar non on the planet. The man will do anything to prepare for a role. The one thing i will say about this film is without those actors giving amazing performances, this film is nothing. The script is mediocre and plays out like a film you would watch on Lifetime Movies. It knows the points it’s crowd is supposed to cheer and boo and it exploits them. The film has a nice haunted town setting of Pittsburgh and it’s surrounding suburbs. A soundtrack by Pearl Jam gives the town it’s extra feel of hard nosed fighters who just never know when to quit. I recommend checking this film out, but keep in mind that there are some slow parts. Those parts don’t seem as big of a deal with the performances unfolding at hand.

Oldboy

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7/10

This film has it’s advantages to the 2003 Korean original, but falls just short of surpassing it. Josh Brolin gives an amazing performance and stars as a man trapped and imprisoned for 20 years for things he did in his past. He finds out he is framed for the murder of his wife while in that prison. I really enjoyed the 2003 version and was kind of worried about this one. Spike Lee does a decent job in adapting a very violent story to American cinema. There were a couple of things that i actually liked better in this film than the original. I will not spoil those things for the people who have not seen either version. The camera work in this film is supreme to that of it’s original for the quick cuts and views the way Brolin sees things. The ending to this version is also better in my opinion, as i had a couple of problems with the way the original ended. The acting is better in the original as the villain in this film is laughable. It feels like Brolin is controlling him the whole time and that is something that just doesn’t work in this story. There were also some violent things left out of this version that i felt added to the story, and those opportunities were missed. Overall, this film isn’t a bad version of the story. I would recommend this film only after you have seen the 2003 original. If you liked that film, then i really think you will enjoy this one as well.

Homefront

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5.5/10

I was really disappointed with this film about Jason Statham and his daughter starting a new life in the country. James Franco played a badass villain who really showed a different level for his acting. I know he has played a villain before, but nothing like this. He is a country hick who takes no lip from anyone. Franco is great, and there are some excellent dramatic scenarios that unwind, but this film has a lot wrong with it. The biggest thing is that these people are natural born idiots. I get that parents can act extreme if someone messes with their child, but even this is taking it over the line. This whole movie unwinds because two kids had a very minor fight at school. The reactions are just stupid and never quite make you feel relative to the subject. I also felt that the fights were very obviously choreographed. Even for a Statham film, the fights were just obviously overdone with everything looking too crisp for country people who probably don’t know anything about martial arts. Finally, i felt the editing was awful. They kept doing something where they would start cutting to the next scene but then stay on the present scene and then go to the next scene. It was just really weird to watch because you are focused on one piece and then they are shoving the other one at you before you are done with the previous scene. Homefront does have it’s charms, and if the film was ever on TV i would probably watch it. It does carry a deeper storyline than most Statham films. It just fails in the execution of the events that unfold. I would like to see this film done as a 20 minute short film by a college student looking to take his strides in Hollywood. Anything more than that just doesn’t make sense to me. Some people might like this film, but i just can’t recommend it.

Dallas Buyers Club

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9/10

Such a great film with the performance of a lifetime from Matthew McConaughey. I have been very impressed lately with Matthew’s roles as i feel he has taken on some films that have brought out the real actor in him. The film stars Matthew, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner as pawns in a new Aids world. McConaughey is a live fast rodeo bull rider who hits a speed bump when he finds out that he has aids. The transformation that he takes is what really makes the movie. McConaughey’s Ron Woodruff is a rugged homophobic jerk who doesn’t care what he does and who he offends as long as he isn’t interpreted as gay. It is in that role that Woodruff becomes a pioneer for these people who are affected by Aids, but have to wait until the right medicine is passed by the FDA in America. Ron travels all over the world to get his clients the drugs that they need to fight the unpredictable disease. He gets closer to Rayon (Leto) as he finds out that there is more that meets the transexual eye. I love Leto in this performance, but i don’t feel it is Oscar worthy like everyone says. Leto isn’t given enough screen time to even make a claim at a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The only real problem i had with the film is that there are times when it drags. The film is nearly 2 hours, but isn’t filled with enough drama to keep you from wondering when the film will end. Even that is a little nitpick, as the film is one of my top ten for 2013. The film kind of surprised me with how funny it was in parts. The dialogue is very entertaining for asshole characters you wouldn’t normally give the time of day too. Dallas Buyers Club isn’t playing in many theaters, but i definitely recommend you give it a chance and see it for yourself. You will understand how the FDA in the country is nowhere near the point we need it to be to give our suffering the treatment that they need

The Hunger Games : Catching Fire

 

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8.5/10

My favorite book of the trilogy is adapted in this sequel that is every bit better than the first adaptation. First off, there are some things that are left out from the book in this film. If you go into every film not wanting anything to change, then you might as well stick to the books. This film got roughly 90% of the book correct. Some of the adaptations are surrounded by beautiful scenery and awesome acted dialogue that puts the first film to shame. The biggest thing i loved about this film as opposed to the first one is the fact that the characters are much better in this one. The characters are given time to shine in their roles. My favorite character in the books has always been Finnick, and Sam Claflin plays him perfectly. The character isn’t too overdone with his charismatic charms that he comes off as feminine, but he carries enough charm to make the character lovable. Jena Malone also turns in an incredible performance as Johanna. She really adds her own attitude to an already rebel character. Phillip Seymour Hoffman kicked so much ass as Plutarch that i could never see anyone else in the role. It’s as simple as that. Peeta and Gale don’t get too much time to shine in this film and i hope their roles will be more important in the 3rd/4th film since they are a huge part of the Mockingjay novel. The film’s 2 hour and 26 minute run time didn’t even feel like it as the time breezed by. With the final novel being adapted into two films, i am curious to see how well they keep with the pacing. Especially since the first of those films comes out in less than a year. I hope they aren’t rushed too quickly. Overall, this film is great and definitely deserves a theater viewing. If you liked the first film, you will love this one. If you hated the first film, you won’t find much charm in this one