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FILM REVIEW: ‘UNBROKEN’

‘Unbroken’

Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Screenplay)

Directed by: Angelina Jolie

Starring: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson

Story: The true story of Louis Zamperini, a US Olympic Athlete who was detained in a Japanese POW Camp in WWII.

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There has been much ado about ‘Unbroken’, and for various irrelevant reasons. First there was a hurrah about the fact that the film was directed by Angelina Jolie (so of course the paparazzi were all over the Australian set as soon as shooting began). Secondly, there were the various award ‘snubs’ that the film received, despite being made by a Hollywood darling. Third, Jolie was branded as a ‘racist’ and it was declared by many infuriated Japanese natives that she would not be welcome in their country because of the depiction of the Japanese in the film.

All of this fuss really does have to be left at the door when you decide to watch ‘Unbroken’. What we have to do, as with any film, is leave the fluff at the door and take the movie at face value. And, at face value, ‘Unbroken’ is a decent film.

The script itself is well paces, and divides itself really nicely between Zamperini’s early life, his life in the war and after the plane wreck, and then his life in the POW camp. These are not three distinct parts of the film but all mould together as one rather seamlessly. What we have to note is that the story that ‘Unbroken’ proclaims to tell is that of Zamperini’s life throughout the war. Of course, his life afterward is incredibly rich and meaningful, and this is undeniably glazed over. It would of been nice to see a lot more of that, but the film itself does tend to start to drag at around the 1hr40 mark so any additional time really would of been felt by the audience. Perhaps later down the track someone will decide to expand on this further, and that will truly be welcome.

Jack O’Connell does well to portray Zamperini, and his emotional scenes are performed to a good standard. The real issue here is that these emotional scenes are so few are far between. The real beauty of Louis Zamperini was his constitution: his belief that dealing with short term pain will eventually lead to long term gain. This belief and his ability to empathise and understand others is what kept him alive throughout the story (and for the many years after the war), yet this remains undiscovered. It is hard to know, with a performance like this, whether the shallowness comes from the script or the actor.

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Technically, ‘Unbroken’ is beautiful. The cinematography is exceptionally put together and creates the feeling of a war epic. The sound mixing is a nice compliment which makes the film itself a pleasure to witness.

The ending of the film is neat, but as previously mentioned it does leave much unexplored. Perhaps it would of been more powerful for the Coen brothers to cut some of the start of the film and study Zamperini’s life post-war. Perhaps this is another deep area of exploration which should be put aside for another instalment. Either way, it does take something from the film: we invest in our lead character and do not see much of his emotional redemption.

All in all, ‘Unbroken’ is a movie worth seeing. It is not a movie worth investing in, or studying, but it does make for an enjoyable afternoon.

Rating: 7/10

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FILM REVIEW: “WILD”

‘Wild’

Written by: Nick Hornby, Cheryl Strayed (novel),

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern

Story: Haunted by her past drug abuse, tragedy, and infidelity, Cheryl Strayed decides to walk the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail to heal her body, mind and soul.

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Wild is a film that has garnered a lot of attention over recent months, and has been on the campaign trail for some serious awards. Witherspoon missed out on the Golden Globe, but managed to secure herself an Oscar nomination. This makes for an interesting task in reviewing the film.

The story of ‘Wild’ is simple and director Jean-Marc Vallee really could of made either a beautiful or an abysmal film out of it. When you take such a simple story you run the risk of making either a boring film or a film that really tried too hard to be introverted or philosophical. Wild is neither. While it does get off to a relatively slow start, the film provides the perfect amount of philosophy to balance the technical ‘hiking’ aspects of the film.

Strayed, on her journey, faces a number of issues due to both the physically torturous nature of the hike, to struggling to deal with her own prior indiscretions. It would be easy to say that Strayed is not a likeable character, however within her ability to be self deprecating and at the same time inwardly optimistic, we find something undeniably relatable. Anyone who has ever done something that they’re not proud of that really stays with them is going to be able to understand at some level what it is that the protagonist is dealing with.

Witherspoon’s performance is strong, and perhaps the strongest we have seen from her to date: this is a considerable statement since Witherspoon has always been one of the most consistently reliable performers within her genre. Witherspoon gives Strayed a sense of humanity and a genuinely real nature which draws an investment out of the audience. While we can try to be critical of her performance (because this is what we do), there really isn’t much that we can fault.

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Jean-Marc Vallee has constructed a film that is stark: it contrasts so tightly the beauty of nature vs real life in quick cuts between Strayed’s heroin binges and her new life living on bare necessities. This contrast alone adds depth to the film and begs the viewer to notice the differences between fundamental need and desire. Where Cheryl may have made decisions in the past based on desire, as we all do, it was getting back to nature and the essentials of human life that made her human again.

Perhaps the most brilliant part of this film is the soundtrack. With artists such as Wings, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, and Portishead to name a few, the score will bring any music lover to their knees. The songs are all emotional and are tracks that can hold personal interest to viewers, which only opens us up more to relate to the loneliness and isolation of the main character.

All in all, ‘Wild’ is well balanced, patient, and poetic. It really is a film that looks inwards and a film that will touch even the most insensitive soul. We will most definitely watch again.

Rating: 9.5/10

FILM REVIEW: ‘CAKE’

‘Cake’

Written by: Patrick Tobin

Directed by: Daniel Barnz

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Sam Worthington, Anna Kendrick, Adrianna Barraza

Story: Fascinated and haunted by her suicide, Claire befriends the widowed husband of a woman from her chronic pain support group.

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Jennifer Aniston is here to let us know that she is not simply a comedic actress. From time to time this does happen: a traditionally comedic actor will take on a role that is much more dramatic, much more complex. Often it pays off, and almost just as often it doesn’t. For Aniston, she strikes gold.

‘Cake’ is not a dessert. It is a rich and savoury main course which will leave you feeling full. This is an intense and moving exploration of the way in which we can forgive and move on from tragedy in our lives. For Aniston’s character Claire, she has suffered a tragedy which has taken everything she has from her: everything but her mother figure which she finds in her hired help Silvana. The empathy that Adrianna Barraza brings to this role is mature and measured. She plays off Aniston extremely well, and between the two of them there is some sort of familial electricity. We are assured through Silvana’s presence that Claire is always going to be OK – she is always going to get by. The beauty in this is that with Aniston’s performance, we want Claire to do more than get by. We want her to thrive.

Aniston comes into this role with a sense of wisdom and intense vulnerability that you would be hard pressed to find in many other actresses. When watching ‘Cake’, it is clear that she has approached this role with both passion and caution, and not too much of either.

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The screenplay is finely put together and incredibly well paced. When watching this we have to be prepared for heaviness and deep character study. If this is not the type of movie for you, then do not watch it. Many things are explored but some are left unsaid: this is a fine quality in a script and Patrick Tobin should be commended.

One is tempted to say that ‘Cake’ is worth watching for Aniston alone, however strong supporting roles from Adriana Barraza, Sam Worthington and particularly Felicity Huffman it would feel unfair to say. Her role is small, but Huffman becomes an integral part of this story, providing a certain optimism that we could perhaps lack at times when trying to process Claire’s journey.

Mature and understated, Cake might just be one of the most emotionally intelligent films you watch this year.

Rating: 9/10

OSCARS 2015: THE NOMINEES…

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And the nominees are…

Best Picture:

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

Whiplash

The Theory of Everything

Best Director:

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Boyhood – Richard Linklater

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson

The Imitation Game – Morten Tyldum

Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller

Best Actor In A Leading Role:

Steve Carell

Bradley Cooper

Benedict Cumberbatch

Michael Keaton

Eddie Redmayne

Best Actor In A Supporting Role:

Robert Duvall

Ethan Hawke

Edward Norton

Mark Ruffalo

JK Simmons

Best Actress In A Lead Role:

Felicity Jones

Julianne Moore

Rosamund Pike

Reese Witherspoon

Marion Cotillard

Best Actress In A Supporting Role:

Patricia Arquette

Keira Knightley

Emma Stone

Meryl Streep

Laura Dern

Best Animated Feature:

– Big Hero 6

– The Box Trolls

– How To Train Your Dragon 2

– Songs Of The Sea

– Tales Of Princess Kaguya

Best Animated Short Film:

The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper

Feast

Me and My Moulton

A Single Life

Best Cinematography:

Birdman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ida

Mr Turner

Unbroken

Best Costume Design:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Maleficent

Mr. Turner

Best Documentary Feature:

Citizen Four

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days In Vietnam

Salt Of The Earth

Virgunga

Best Documentary Short Subject:

Crisis Hotline 1: Veterans Press

Joanna

Our Curse

The Reaper

White Earth

Best Film Editing:

American Sniper

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Whiplash

Best Foreign Language Film:

Ida – Poland

Leviathan – Russia

Tangerines – Estonia

Timbuktu – Mauritania

Wild Tales – Argentina

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Original Score:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Mr. Turner

The Theory of Everything

Best Original Song:

Everything Is Awesome – The Lego Movie

Glory – Selma

Grateful – Beyond The Lights

I’m Not Gonna Miss You – Glenn Campbell, I’ll Be Me

Lost Stars – Begin Again

Best Production Design:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Into the Woods

Mr. Turner

Best Sound Editing:

American Sniper

Birdman

The Hobbit: Battle Of Five Armies

Interstellar

Unbroken

Best Sound Mixing:

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

Best Visual Effects:

Interstellar

Captain America Winter Soldier

X Men Days Of Future Past

Interstellar

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Inherent Vice

Imitation Game

Whiplash

Theory Of Everything

American Sniper

Best Original Screenplay:

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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NOTEABLE SNUBS: Unbroken (Best Director), Interstellar (Best Director), Gone Girl (Best Adapted Screenplay), Nightcrawler (Best Actor), Cake (Best Actress)

OSCARS 2014: WHO WAS THE BEST DIRECTOR?

One more for the cheap seats in the back! In our last post before the 2014 Academy Awards, we want to take a look at who the favourites are for one of the most prestigious awards in the industry!

 

“Best Director”

 

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David O. Russell – American Hustle: Missing out on this award last year for Silver Linings Playbook has meant that David O. Russell has come back with a vengeance. Scooping nominations for all four Acting categories, as well as technical praise, American Hustle always looked set to dominate this awards season. Upsets in previous awards shows may have stunted their progress, but this is still a heavy contender. Having said this, it seems unlikely that he will take the prize away from Cuaron this year.

Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity: Head and shoulders above the other contenders is Alfonso Cuaron. While Sandra Bullock will most likely be edged out by other nominees in the “Best Actress’ category, Cuaron’s management not just of her performance but of the cinematography, sound and editing will ensure he is duly rewarded. The only thing that can really hurt Cuaron here is the early release of the movie: this is one of the oldest nominated films in 2014. Having said this, Cuaron sees to have all bases covered: the DVD release of Gravity is perfectly timed to ensure maximum exposure.

Alexander Payne – Nebraska: Payne employed a black and white setting for his film, ensuring that cheaper cameras did not disturb the quality of the shots. His Oscars campaign has been strong, but under the radar meaning this could be a film that is easily forgotten. Further, performances from veterans Bruce Dern and June Squibb seemed self managed, limiting Payne’s ability to actually stand out as a Director.

Steve McQueen – 12 Years A Slave: If anyone is going to upset Cuaron this year, it will be Steve McQueen. The praise for 12 Years A Slave has been heard the world over, becoming famous for being an uncomfortable masterpiece. McQueen employed techniques such as long shots to really drive home his point, making his presence in the film felt. When watching it, there is no mistaking that this is a McQueen film, which really brands his involvement. He could win this, but it still seems unlikely.

Martin Scorcese – The Wolf Of Wall Street: This could truly be a difficult one for Scorcese to nab. Criticised as glorifying a fraudulent rock and roll lifestyle, many people initially shunned ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. Indeed, the Academy could see voting for Scorcese as encouraging this lifestyle, however the film has really picked up momentum lately and is quickly gaining ground. It seems that both DiCaprio and Scorcese are outsiders to be recognised for this project, but the film itself could prove to be a major upset come ceremony time.

 

It Should Be… Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

It Will Be… Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

FILM REVIEW: “NEBRASKA”

“Nebraska”

Written by: Bob Nelson

Directed by: Alexander Payne

Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb

Story: David Grant (Forte) takes his alcoholic, aging father (Dern) on a road trip to Nebraska in order to help him claim his million dollar marketing prize.

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Alexander Payne certainly has a distinctive style which is impossible to ignore. Films like ‘Sideways’ and ‘The Descendants’ garnered critical acclaim and even awards nominations, and with his latest offering, Nebraska, we are truly shown that Payne has no desire to slow down. Partnering with writer Bob Nelson, they have together created a film that has been nominated for five Golden Globes, six Independent Spirit Awards, and two SAG Awards among others. Not bad for Nelson’s third screenplay.

We have seen a few films lately that have attempted something poignant, dramatic and character driven, but all have fallen short by offering something that is ultimately slow and lifeless. This is where Nebraska thrives. The film itself is patient, considered, and beautifully carried by stellar performances from Dern, Forte and Squibb. Nelson has done well to create characters who are mirror images of true Americana and real life in the mid-west.

Dern is in fine form and it can be said that this will probably be the capstone of his career. His performance is soulful and captivating providing both joy and sorrow. He is complimented perfectly by Will Forte. The risk here might be to peg these two performances against each other, however approaching them as part of the same gives us a beautiful symphony. Often when we see a comedic actor take on a more dramatic role it can be almost akin to a dog walking on it’s hind legs, but Forte slips into this role with ease and maturity. Juen Squibb tops off the main cast with comic relief: her approach to dark comedy is touching.

The film is shot in black and white, and curiously there is no real explanation as to why. While the cinematography is stunning, we might get caught up in wondering why Payne made this distinct decision. We can perhaps come to our own conclusion, however, that it is to represent the timelessness of the story of family, sacrifice, and generation.

The soundtrack does seem to add length to this film and you might find yourself slightly restless towards the one hour mark: perhaps a more poignant or relevant score would have made this film perfect. There is no doubt, though, that this movie is very close to it.

It would be very easy to write Nebraska off as a boring, slow blast from the past. However, the more we look at he simplicity of the story and the intricacies of the performances the more we realize that Nebraska is something that can strike a chord with nearly anyone: that is what film-making is about.

 

Rating: 4.5/5

OSCARS 2014: WHO WAS THE BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR?

Part three of our five-part Oscar Predictions series sees us review some of the best supporting actors of the last year. One of the most talented categories of this year, it will definitely be hard to pick, but we will do our best! Have you got an opinion? Let us know in the comments!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips: A first time actor, Abdi is the first Somali in history to be nominated for an Academy Award. This alone is a pretty impressive feat. With a BAFTA under his belt in this category and especially given the Academy’s tendency to favor the newbie, this puts Abdi in with a good shot. However, seasoned professionals such as Jared Leto and Bradley Cooper have scooped more awards and critics favor this year which could mean losing out this time.

Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club: Famously losing 30 pounds to play an AIDs infected transgender is certainly both risque and committed enough to put Leto as the front-runner for this year. He won the SAG Award and Golden Globe for this role as well as a plethora of other gongs and his performance has been hailed as one of the best of all time. One would be crazy to think that Leto is anything other than the favorite. Having said this, missing out on even a nomination for the BAFTA could damage his momentum.

Bradley Cooper- American Hustle: If there was an Academy Award for tightest curled locks, then Cooper would be a shoe in. His performance in the award-winning American Hustle has garnered quite a bit of attention despite the film being so highly criticized. Nominated last year for Silver Lining’s Playbook, one might think that now is Cooper’s time to win, however in such tight competition it seems unlikely that this unevenly received performance will be the one to nab the statue.

Michael Fassbender – 12 Years A Slave: In a film that has rallied such attention and support, Michael Fassbender has been almost famously overlooked. Praise for Lupita Nyong’O and Chiwetel Ejifor have completely overshadowed Fassbender’s supporting role. This is a great example of a very strong ensemble cast who are separated by the fact that breakout performances make the Hollywood Veterans look disappointing. Further to this, Fassbender has taken on a role that is inherently unlikable and is never redeemed: that itself is a tough stigma to crack.

Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street: Hill became famous in this role after admitting that he worked for a low fee of just $6,000 because of his overwhelming desire to work with Martin Scorsese. Truly committed to the part, Hill tried to convince Producers to let him eat a live goldfish to add more of a sense of realism. Though Hill provided moments of sheer hilarity and added an undeniable chemistry to the Wolf of Wall St cast as a whole, this movie is and always will be Leonardo DiCaprio: If any award is given to WOWS this year it will go to him.

It Should Be… Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

It Will Be… Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

NEXT POST: Best Actress

FILM REVIEW: “RUSH” (2013)

“Rush” 

Written by: Peter Morgan

Directed by: Ron Howard

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde

Story: Based on the true story of rival Formula One drivers Niki Lauda (Bruhl) and James Hunt (Hemsworth) in their 1976 race to be World Champion.

 

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Feedback from friends, family and the grapevine tells you long before you watch ‘Rush’, that F1 finally has a spectacular movie. They have certainly picked the right story to tell, with the 1970’s being widely regarded as the ‘hey-day’ of this thrilling and often death defying sport. ‘Rush’ gives us a retelling of one of the most famous rivalries in sport at it’s most intense. 

Before watching this, we thought that a few things were strange. First off, having Spanish born Daniel Bruhl playing Austrian Niki Lauda; and Australian Chris Hemsworth playing British racer James Hunt seems quite the risk. Secondly, with a Director such as Ron Howard who’s resume includes ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘Cinderella Man’, we are given no real clue as to which way this film could go.

Our doubts were somewhat laid to rest.

Howard did a spectacular job of trusting cinematography to Anthony Dod Mantle (‘127 Hours’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) who creates visually stunning, action packed sequences. The cinematography can oftentimes make you feel slightly unearthed, as if you are in fact in the car with these drivers which pulls us to become more attached to the story. Coupled with Hans Zimmer doing another incredible job in scoring the film, the whole thing seems to be on the right track.

Hemsworth and Bruhl are both commendable in their roles, particularly Hemsworth acting with a maturity that we have not seen from him before. ‘Rush’ makes him less the action hero, and more the human. Bruhl and Hemsworth together prove that this film is about more than just sports, it is about the other aspects of life that make a man a true hero.

So why, we must wonder, has this film been overlooked by the Academy?

There are a few reasons. Firstly, the Academy’s notoriously bad memory ensures that a film released so early in the year will fail to be recognised, much like ‘Lee Daniels: The Butler’. Additionally, ‘Rush’ gives us exactly the same problem as suffered through in ‘American Hustle’: Neither one of the protagonists is in any way likeable.

When we are creating a film about rivalry, sportsmanship and competition then the audience needs someone to cheer for. Not only are we given here nobody to cheer for, but we are given two men who lack the empathy, humility or compassion that would make them worthy of anything but losing. Anyone who was party to this rivalry as it happened in the 70’s may feel a certain patriotism or favour to one of these men, however if you were not then you will most likely find your enjoyment suppressed by these characters. 

Film is all about personal taste. If you are a fan of Formula 1 racing then you will perhaps rate this movie higher than others. Personally, I waited for two hours to find some sort of redeemable quality in either one of our protagonists and was left sorely disappointed.

 

Rating: 2.5/5

FILM REVIEW: “AMERICAN HUSTLE” (2013)

“American Hustle”

Written by: Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell

Directed by: David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence

Story: When their fraudulent schemes are uncovered by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper), Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Adams) are forced to co-operate with him in a grand plan to expose a mafia ring in Jersey.

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David O. Russell is having a very good time. Just a year after winning countless awards and critical acclaim for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, his Jersey based mafia comedy has been nominated for almost everything you can be nominated.

After seeing American Hustle, I wanted to review it straight away but instead I let it sit for a while in order to mull it over. My hope was that the film would appear more remarkable and have more of an affect on me as time passed. Now coming back to it, I had to sit and watch a few clips and trailers to actually remind myself of what I had seen. See where I’m going with this? There is nothing really too remarkable about American Hustle.

The thing that stuns me the most about this film is that it is billed as a comedy. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few laughs all of which come from Jennifer Lawrence’s devilishly clumsy (but secretly brilliant) Rosalyn. Other than that, I found the excessive out of place dialogue to be boring and disjointed which made the whole pace of the film perhaps three times slower than it should of been for such a plot.

Amy Adams is shockingly forgettable as Sydney Prosser. The character was originally supposed to be irresistible and seductive, but Adams has somehow taken this and turned it into awkward and uncomfortable to watch. Given that the realism of the story revolved around her sex appeal, she perhaps should of taken a few lessons from Margot Robbie’s ‘Naomi’ in The Wolf Of Wall Street. Of course, Adams has been told that it is sexy to not wear a bra (at all, ever…) however her attractiveness in this film begins and ends with her oh-so-visible nipples.

I have heard time and time again that the key to an enjoyable film is a protagonist that you can understand on some level, and with whom you can empathise. In American Hustle, we are given two protagonists: Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale. Though costuming, makeup and lighting have done an excellent job with these two, what we are faced with is two characters who are distinctly impossible to like. Cooper is incessantly annoying: his character comes across as stupid and spoon fed; where Bale’s Rosenfeld is almost worse. Rosenfeld is not only stupid, but he is aggravatingly ignorant. Pitch them against each other fighting for Sydney Prosser’s affections (we still don’t understand why) and you’re left sitting in the cinema checking your watch and wondering when things are going to start happening.

The film turns out to be somewhat enjoyable: it isn’t all bad. Hair, makeup and costuming are particular highlights, and the music is enough to make anyone crack a smile.

Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence are right to be recognised for their acting chops in taking this blithering train wreck of a script and turning it into something watchable, but I would probably rather save my money than try and watch this again. Maybe buy the soundtrack instead…

Rating 3/5

Photo Credit: imdb.com

FILM REVIEW: ‘THE WOLF OF WALL STREET’ (2013)

“The Wolf Of Wall Street”

Written by: Terence Winter (Adapted from the book ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ by Jordan Belfort)

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie

Story: Based on the autobiographical novel by Jordan Belfort, ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ profiles his rise to fame and fortune as a stockbroker, and his subsequent downfall involving corruption, fraud, and crime

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There are two words needed when one begins to review ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’:

Scorsese. DiCaprio.

Both are famous from previous works such as ‘The Departed’, there is almost a stigma attached to the works of this pair. When entering the theatre, you know that you are going to see something that could make you laugh, cry, and think for days on end.

Having come across Jordan Belfort a few years ago amongst sales training seminars, I personally was familiar with his story. I read ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ in all it’s glory long before venturing to the cinema, and I can only imagine the look on Terence Winter’s face when Scorsese handed him this novel and said, ‘I want you to make this into a screenplay, and spare no detail’.  And this is exactly what Winter did.

The screenplay itself is phenomenal: it captures the very essence of the book and when put on screen eludes something almost like a drug: the lives of these characters is so attainable, yet so poisonous: an audience is tempted and almost lured into this world that is so convincingly created, yet they know that it cannot lead to any good. The only thing missing from the screenplay has received a huge amount of backlash. Throughout the whole novel we get the distinct impression that Belfort is not proud of himself: he is very remorseful when telling his story. Indeed, Scorsese has come under fire for apparently ‘glorifying’ this life of sex, drugs, and stock fraud. Wiping out this sense of guilt does not do any favours and might be the only thing missing.

Having said this, DiCaprio is nothing short of mesmerising in this role and it appears that this was the part he was born to play. We laugh with him; tense when he tenses; and hang on to every facial spasm as if it is the end of his days. For a film that plays for three hours, this is essential and an integral part of the story. DiCaprio’s diversity is well on show, as he is both happy and distraught at the drop of a hat.

Comic relief comes in the form of Jonah Hill, who plays Belfort’s partner in crime Donnie Azoff. Hill truly does pull out all the stops to create his stupid yet sincerely likeable character: he even creates a sense that was missing from the book: that Donnie really is Belfort’s support system and lifeline through much of their ordeal. Rumour has it Hill was even arguing with film crew to let him actually eat a goldfish to make the scene the most realistic. There is no doubt that this work will put Jonah Hill in a different league of Hollywood actor altogether.

As much as word limits might hold us back, we simply cannot discuss this film without mentioning Margot Robbie. An Australian actress and a relative unknown, Robbie masters everything to do with this part, from the accent to the demeanour, and even the look and feel of Naomi Lapaglia. She is feisty, good hearted, and an intoxicating ‘sex kitten’, which serves exactly the purpose of her in Belfort’s life: she is his anchor, but also his biggest weakness. Robbie’s stellar contributions to the most emotional and consequential scenes in this film could not be replaced.

Scorsese is on fine form and has spared no expense here. When watching a Scorsese film, one gets the feeling that everything that can be controlled has been: the lighting, audio, cinematography… All of these end up completely inessential to the story, however they make watching a three hour film all the more enjoyable.

Scorsese possesses a rare gift in a filmmaker in his ability to create an entirely different universe for his audience to enjoy. When we are watching Belfort and his merry group of men parade around New York City, we do not make that connection to real life. We cannot process that this was actually New York City, and these things actually happened. We are, for that brief time, drawn into Scorsese’s world of free living and we daren’t look back. When we do come to it makes the film all the more enjoyable to try and believe that these things, the people, and the actions were in fact real. Majority of the audience will spare little afterthought for the negative consequences of this story: they will be drawn to love the simplicity of the human characters that we are offered.

‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ is a must see for anyone with burning ambition to be something in life, or anyone who knows someone exactly like that. We are all a little bit of Jordan Belfort.

Rating: 4.5/5

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*Photo Credit: imdb.com