Tag Archives: Leonardo DiCaprio

Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

After losing his job as a Wall Street broker on Black Friday, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes it on his own selling penny stocks. Together with his best friend Donnie (Jonah Hill), they become rich beyond their wildest dreams and embark on a lifestyle of utter debauchery.

There aren’t many directors out there who attract such attention when they release a new film. Normally, the focus is firmly on the actors starring in the film rather than the person calling the shots behind the camera. However, Martin Scorsese unleashes a new film, the world sits up and takes notice.

And once you’re sat up, The Wolf of Wall Street slaps you round the face, snorts cocaine out of your arse and doesn’t let you sit down again for its entire three-hour runtime. Those of a sensitive disposition should definitely go see something else.

Drugs, prostitutes, dwarf tossing, sex, drugs, bribery, sports cars, public masturbation, and drugs. Pretty much every kind of excess and debauchery is present and correct and Scorsese doesn’t hold any of it back. He rarely ever does.

It’s pretty easy to see that The Wolf of Wall Street owes more than a small debt to some of Scorsese’s previous work, such as Goodfellas and even The King of Comedy, in offering us somewhat of an anti-hero and charting their rise to success (or perceived success) and subsequent downfall. Some of Scorsese’s directorial choices, such as sweeping long takes also instantly recall many of his earlier films.

For much of the film, Belfort is a repugnant character, yet there’s something in there that draws you to him. His hedonistic lifestyle of excess is absurd and totally unsustainable, yet you still want to see which direction it’ll take next. It’s almost impossible to look away, and much of the credit for that has to go to Mr DiCaprio.

The Wolf of Wall Street marks Scorsese’s fifth collaboration with DiCaprio, and this could well be a career best for the actor. At the outset we see Jordan Belfort fresh faced and eager on his first day in Wall Street but it’s not long before he becomes arrogant and drunk with power, and this is where Leo’s acting really goes full throttle. An already renowned scene in which he takes some out-of-date drugs is physical comedy at its best that is reminiscent of Chaplin or Keaton.

But it’s not just Leo on top form; Jonah Hill also has to take a lot of credit for proving he can hack it in a (relatively) serious role. Donny has some of the best lines in the film and Hill delivers them perfectly. In other supporting roles, Margot Robbie and Matthew McConaughey also give excellent performances as Jordan’s wife Naomi and slightly psychotic Wall Street trader Mark Hanna respectively.

This is clearly a film of excess and that description extends to its runtime, too. It throws a lot at you and at three hours it does feel a little on the lengthy side. It’s never boring but some of the fat could be trimmed to no detriment to the film.

There’s no doubting that The Wolf of Wall Street is a somewhat shallow experience, but it doesn’t need to be anything else. It’is crass, debauched and misogynistic, but my word it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Pros

  • Brilliant performances from DiCaprio and Hill
  • Laugh-out-loud funny
  • Huge amounts of fun
  • Margot Robbie

Cons

  • A little on the lengthy side

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Django Unchained

Django UnchainedWhilst Lincoln examines the subject of slavery from a historical point of view, Django Unchained comes at it with a much more bombastic, satirical approach. But would you expect anything less from Quentin Tarantino, the man who has a penchant for the elaborate and whose last film, the superb Inglorious Basterds, rewrote World War II with Adolf Hitler being machine-gunned down in a movie theatre?

Django Unchained has a linear, single-story narrative, which is somewhat of a departure for Tarantino, and tells the tale of freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to free his wife from the clutches of vile plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

It’s difficult to pigeon hole any of Tarantino’s movies and this one is no exception. At face value it seems like a western, but even Tarantino himself doesn’t refer to it as that, instead calling it a “southern”. Despite that, there’s plenty more at play here, as is Tarantino’s inclination to beg, borrow and steal from just about every corner of the movie world; at the heart of the film is part buddy movie, part love story.

The staple Tarantino elements are all there: over the top violence, contemporary soundtrack, and oodles of witty dialogue. However, none of that dialogue would mean anything without some stellar performances to pull it off, and there are plenty of those here.

Christoph Waltz is, once again, imperious, his knack for making the grittiest of dialogue sound like beautiful poetry is a real joy to behold. Samuel L Jackson also shows that given the right material he can own a part unlike any other as the equally hilarious and abhorrent slave Steven. It’s Leo Dicaprio, however, who really stands out. Calvin Candie marks the first time DiCaprio has played the bad guy and he does it with true menace and complete and utter conviction. Jamie Foxx on the other hand as the titular Django doesn’t quite have the same screen presence as his co-stars. Too often he’s overshadowed and doesn’t have the conviction and bite the role requires.

One thing that the film does suffer from is a running time that’s about 30 minutes too long. There simply isn’t enough story there to warrant such length and there are a number of scenes which wouldn’t have been missed if they’d been left on the cutting room floor. There is a much neater, more succinct film in there somewhere but Tarantino seems to allow a little too much self-indulgence at times.

The theme of slavery getting the Tarantino treatment may not sit right with some and this is indeed thin ice the director is walking at times (casual use of the ‘N-word’ is rife throughout), but he never falls through it. Above all things, Django Unchained is a hell of a lot of fun and shows a further willingness to explore serious subject matter but in the only way he knows how.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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Titanic 3D – Setting sail (and sinking) all over again

So I went to see Titanic 3D. I thought I’d avoid it like a third class steerage passenger, but I thought I’d give it another try and see how it held up. I saw the original twice at the cinema; I was only 11 years old and it was one of the first films I remember seeing without my parents, although that accolade may well go to Free Willy 2. Either way I remember it vividly.

I remember thinking that there’s no way I could sit still for nearly three and a half hours – as it turns out I didn’t have to, as my local cinema actually had a five minute interval midway through to let people stretch their legs. I’d also heard that the woman who plays the main role, Kate Somethingorother gets her kit off. As an 11 year old boy, you can imagine this was one of the main draws.

Going down

I was also apparently definitely going to cry. It’s such a beautiful love story they said (‘they’ being school friends and the like); it’s so tragic; Leonardo DiCaprio is so hot. These were female reactions. The male reactions centred firmly on the boob issue. I didn’t cry in the end, although it was quite sad, and I remember thinking that it was one of the most technically impressive films I’d seen in my 11 short years.

So, it’s 15 years later and I headed back to the cinema to see whether time had been kind to Jack, Rose et al. Here’s what I thought…

It looks great

When it first came out, audiences were blown away with the CGI and special effects used in the film and, somewhat surprisingly, it still holds up incredibly well. It’s been given a lick of paint and looked crystal clear on the digital screen, making it look just as good as anything else i’ve seen recently.

The scale of the thing is still pretty impressive, too. The film famously ran hugely over budget thanks to James Cameron grandiose imagination, but none of that really matters when you see his baby come to life. Everything is huge and the attention to detail is admirable; not at any point do you feel like you’re watching anything other than a scale replica of the Titanic or even the thing itself. Granted, the CGI is iffy in a few places, but that’s to be expected, and, for the most part, it blends in well with the rest of the milieu.

The 3D, which will be the attraction for a lot of people, will likely leave those same people a little underwhelmed. It’s functional if not spectacular, but it does give added depth that further enhances the grand sense of scale. James Cameron hasSunset already come out and said that the 3D isn’t as good as it would have been were it originally filmed for the medium, but it still does a job – just don’t go expecting icebergs to come crashing out of the screen at you.

The script is awful

This may be stating the bleeding obvious, but the script for Titanic is pretty atrocious. Sure, go ahead and tell me I’m an idiot for thinking it may be anything aside from bad, but as an 11 year old, I really didn’t give a crap about the script. As far as I was concerned, that’s how they spoke and acted back in 1912.  But now, with a slightly more educated head on, I can see that the film’s strength was most definitely not its script.

Dialogue is forced and unrealistic, and it just seems as if the ship careering into an iceberg and the drowning of hundreds of passengers is but an inconvenience and a sideshow to Jack and Rose’s love story. Don’t get me started on Billy Zane.

Many may say that it doesn’t attempt to be anything other than primarily a love story, and a pretty cheesy one at that, but I just wanted to see a little more about all the other people who were fighting for their lives, rather than them be overshadowed by the two leads.

Still, I think everyone goes to watch Titanic knowing exactly what it is (the overall story is hardly a surprise anyway), and if you can stomach the extreme fromage factor, and even laugh at it a little, then you’ll enjoy the film a lot more.

Titanic is still Winslet’s defining role

Kate Winslet Whilst DiCaprio has gone on to do umpteen big films, including Inception, The Departed and Shutter Island, Kate Winslet has never really found the same stardom. Sure, she won an Oscar for The Reader, but it’s still Titanic that springs immediately to mind when someone mentions her name. Ask me to think what else she’s been in and I actually struggle, and I know I’m not alone in that. There’s been bits and pieces but nothing really standout.

This is even more evident when it’s only really her doing the promo work for this rerelease. Cameron has done some, but it’s Winslet who’s primarily been doing the rounds. Leo’s nowhere to be seen – probably because he’s got a host of other films to make and promote.

The sketching scene is one of the best in the film

Before you start going on about how predictable that sounds, the reason I think that scene is one of the best isn’t because Winslet gets her boobs out. To me, this scene is the best example of acting and chemistry between Jack and Rose, and it seems evident from their actions and reactions that there isn’t much acting going on (although some would say there’s not much acting going on throughout the film anyway).

From Jack’s intensity when he’s sketching to the smirk on Rose’s face, everything just seems so much more natural than elsewhere in the film. The ‘over there on the bed…couch’ line was a genuine mistake by Leo, who was clearly a little nervous about Kate derobing, but James Cameron liked the line so much he kept it in.

It’s still clearly just as popular

Despite the film having a bit of a bad rep, it seems there are still plenty of people who want to see it. When I turned up, a good 15 minutes before the start of the film, the cinema was already packed and it took a good while to find somewhere Jack and Roseto sit that wasn’t about four inches from the screen.

The cinema had even drafted in a member of staff to help seat people because we were apparently incapable of doing it ourselves. This ‘zany’ (read knobhead) member of staff then did a quick poll to see who was seeing Titanic for the first time, and only about half a dozen people put their hand up. Granted, some may have just been a little shy, but it seemed the overwhelming majority had seen Titanic previously, showing that a 15 year old film can still draw people to the cinema better than some new release films.

 

There are a few other little bits and pieces that I noticed when watching, such as that there was definitely enough room on that door for Jack as well as Rose, and that Bill Paxton’s character has a ridiculous earring. However, what stayed with me the most is that this film is going to be considered a classic. Like it or not, it’s going to stay around for a long, long time and evidently still has the power to get people back to cinemas. In a time when remakes and reboots are rife, I can’t see anyone making another film version of Titanic any time soon, which can only be testament to the scale and quality of Cameron’s epic.

Words: Chris Thomson

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