It's a good hour into The Wolf of Wall Street, following a deep dive into Jordan Belfort's early days in the stock market game — that being the most appropriate word for it — and festive indulgence in the most carnal manifestations of human desire, that we're hit with the title card, "18 months later..." Here, it is solidified that the years we have spent inside Martin Scorsese's world of toxic capitalism have all been, up to this point, set-up. Fuel. This brief flash of text, the longest instance of silence in the cacophonous sewer system that is Belfort's story, is the first real sign that a fire is coming.
By this time, Scorsese's willful defiance of the "show, don't tell" method has introduced us to every one of the doe-eyed crook's countless vices. He has no qualms stealing from those who can't afford it, lying to those who trust him, cheating on his wife, cramming every substance known to modern science into his bloodstream, and wholeheartedly endorsing (to his adoring audience) all of the above. All the while, we bound between delight and disgust. The delight comes not so much in the material victories of Belfort and his cronies — that has the latter effect, in fact, as every antic is so vividly laced with Sodom-level depravity — but in watching them like zoo animals. In fact, The Wolf of Wall Street's principal undoing might be that it is simply too much fun.
For that, we have to thank Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio had managed terrific performances all his career, but this is one of the first in years to actually surprise us. Opening his tale as an ambitious and firm-shouldered young buck, the likes of which you'd find in any Horatio Algers novel, and devolving into the Financial District's answer to Beetlejuice, the actor exhibits corners of his performing ability that we have always dreamed we'd see. In the months leading up to DiCaprio's turn as the dastardly dandy Calvin Candie in last year's Quentin Tarantino picture Django Unchained, fans anticipated an unprecedented kookiness that never seemed to show. Turns out, DiCaprio was saving that mania for Wolf of Wall Street, in which he lambasts justice and judgment in the form of an elastic child at his most tempered and a rabid kangaroo on those nights of the especially hard partying.
And of course, there's that scene with the Quaaludes. Without giving too much away — although the experience is so visceral that all the contextual spoilers wouldn't rob the scene of its emphatic humor — DiCaprio manages a feat of physical comedy so extensive, demanding, and gutterally f**king hilarious that you'll wonder tearfully what might have been had the rising star shirked Titanic for a career in slapstick. But the surplus joys derived from this scene might, in fact, be Wolf's undoing. In a story that is meant to lather on the horrors inherent in the human's propensity for self-serving greed and gluttony, it can soften the blow when we're allowed to take a break from our disgust to spend a few moments in vivid, unabashed delight. Yes, the scene in question involves drug abuse, intoxicated driving, criminal activity, and a near-death experience. But it's so damn funny that we're kept from toppling down into what might have been the darkest crevasse of the film's story and enduring the pathos that might come with it.
The dilution of Wolf's message comes at the hand of its comedy (with no affair a bigger culprit than the one described above) and its tendency to meander. Although Scorsese works to shove the very idea of "excess" down our throats with seemingly endless scenes of Belfort and his pals harassing flight attendants and dehumanizing little people, the ad nauseum effect doesn't always hit home as powerfully as imagined, instead allowing the viewer to fizzle out from time to time through Wolf's three-hour tour. We're drowned, slowly and steadily, in Belfort's tragic pleasures while, as the "18 months later" interstitial suggests, we keep expecting to combust with them.
It's always a risky endeavor for a film or television show to indict crooked characters not through narrative penalties but through a tacit communication of their behavior or psychology as bad news. The risk comes in the form of audiences challenging artists for letting their villains get off scot-free, or even for glorifying undesirable lifestyles. Ultimately, while Belfort does get some semblance of his comeuppance, he wins in his nefarious game. The Belfort we leave at the end of our journey adheres to the tenets he spouts from the beginning, reveling in a legion of former colleagues beaming at him in collective awe and new students of his self-centric theology zealously eating up his every word in hopes of becoming the very same kind of demigod. To Scorsese, and to any an audience member willing to estrange him or herself from the bounties of wicked humor, this is just the fire we were promised. Belfort's image is ignited by the instances of theft, deceit, betrayal, substance abuse, sexual crime, and a spiralling descent into sub-human madness. But there are a few too many laughs along the way to keep the flames from reaching their full, hottest potential.
But hey, when you're complaining about a movie for being too much fun, you've got a pretty good movie on your hands.
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Super is compared far and wide to Kick-Ass its cousin-of-sorts and people have the right to do that. They’re both films about losers without super powers attempting to become super heroes but that’s where the comparisons can and should end. However I need one more to kick off my review. While they’re both great movies with similar concepts Kick-Ass takes a very stylized comic book approach to the material whereas Super is treated as if it takes place in the real world with real world consequences. Both methods serve their respective narratives well and since we can enjoy both of these movies at the same time without taking away anything from either we don’t have to say which one does the concept better.
The film comes from writer/director James Gunn previously responsible for of all things the awesome Slither and writing the better-than-expected live action Scooby Doo movies. The film follows Frank (Rainn Wilson) a down on his luck diner cook who decides to become a super hero after he watches his girlfriend (Liv Tyler) get taken by the town’s local bad guy (Kevin Bacon) and then is touched by God (literally). He gains the attention of the local comic book store employee (Ellen Page - delightfully dirty) and soon they team up as the Crimson Bolt and Bolty.
Gunn is considered a horror auteur and the film shows his roots. It’s incredibly violent (and I do mean VIOLENT) gory (lots o’blood) and profane (Ellen Page in Juno - eat your heart out!) but also incredibly funny. The potentially off-putting thing about Super is how Gunn manages to weave each aspect into the story seamlessly. But isn’t life like that? One minute you’re laughing while beating up an old lady the next you’re sad because your dog died (none of those things happen in the film but you feel those sentiments within minutes of each other). Some will detract the film for its tonal shifts but that was exactly what Gunn set out to do. And I think he succeeded quite masterfully.
The main thing about this film is that it works. Everything feels real every move feels correct and all the characters are dynamic. While Wilson is playing another sad sack like Dwight Shrute that’s about as similar as the two get. His violent outbursts create a character far removed from anything in Scranton. Page is the surprise ace-in-the-sleeve; she delves into the profanity and gore with glee. Everyone gets their own moment for a big laugh and a big action piece even Nathan Fillion who shows up in a religious subplot involving a Christian superhero. I can’t stress how violent and funny (emphasis on both) this film is and how well it works together.
My only problem is that towards the end it becomes a little too comic book-y (like Kick-Ass) but it is handled in such a realistic way that this is a very small complaint. To sum up I present the notes (as a poem) that I started to take before I gave up and just enjoyed the movie:
Opening sequence - amazing
Burnt burgers give you cancer
Tentacle Rape Porn
Shut up crime!
February 18, 2003 10:38am EST
At the tender age of 12 Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) was splashed in the eyes with radioactive waste and lost his sight--but his other four senses developed with superhuman sharpness. He grew up to become a bleeding-heart lawyer running a law practice with his best friend Foggy Nelson (Jon Favreau) and chasing beautiful women including the bright and fearless Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner). By night he is the masked vigilante Daredevil using his incredible senses and abilities to defend the downtrodden in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. Daredevil the movie stays true to all the elements that are pervasive in the Marvel Universe: drama love action violence revenge a spiteful police department and best of all the probing reporter on a quest for the truth. Here moviegoers will become familiar with events that become catalysts in Daredevil's crime-fighting career including the death of his father (David Keith) at the hands of the mob and the victimization of those close to him. The villainous underworld figure Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) and his hired hand the psychotic killer Bullseye (Colin Farrell) are also introduced as Daredevil's foes--and the battle between good and evil is born in this gritty urban borough.
Daredevil's appeal is that he does not possess any superpowers which made Affleck (Sum of All Fears) a good choice to portray this rather vulnerable crime fighter. While he beefed up for the role Affleck still retains that guy-next-door quality that makes both Murdock and Daredevil so relatable. His love interest in the film Elektra is played by Garner better known as Sydney Bristow on ABC's Alias. Elecktra is as brawny as she is brainy and Garner is the perfect fit for the character: she's gorgeous in a non-Hollywood kind of way and convincing as skilled fighter. Playing Murdock's lifelong friend and partner Foggy Favreau's (Made) role here is the most low-key of the bunch but he delivers some comic relief with some really funny lines. As far as villains go no one could be better suited for the role of Kingpin than the larger-than-life Duncan (The Scorpion King). This massively muscled character had to be played by someone with a powerful presence and sophisticated intellect making Duncan the ideal candidate. Rounding out the malefactors is Farrell (The Recruit) who churns out a powerful performance as the psychotic killer Bullseye complete with the nervous twitches and shifty eyes.
The decision to place Mark Steven Johnson at the helm of Daredevil was a little surprising. His 1998 directorial debut Simon Birch and his screenwriting credits Grumpy Old Men and the astoundingly bad Jack Frost hardly seemed on a par with an action adventure feature like this. The fact that Johnson hasn't worked extensively with digital effects becomes apparent in some of the film's action sequences that include a CGI Daredevil running upside walls and taking giant leaps from rooftop to rooftop. The completely animated version of Daredevil doesn't behave naturally and lacks details such as muscles texture highlights and shadows. But Daredevil didn't have a huge budget (compared to Spider-Man at least) and what it lacked in f/x it made up for with a gripping and gritty story line. Daredevil's mission is to rid Hell's Kitchen--not the universe--of as much crime as he can and his vendettas are personal--and grotesquely violent. More importantly Johnson's screenplay stays true to the comic book characters and their attributes. Fans of the comic book will appreciate his truthful touches such Bullseye's maniacal talents which include being able to turn a paperclip into a deadly weapon and Kingpin's ritualistic removal of his blazer before pounding the snot out of adversaries.
French composer Jacques Loussier filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in a Manhattan court Thursday claiming Eminem and his record label Interscope Records stole one of his tunes, the Associated Press reports. The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, accuses the Grammy-winning rapper and his label of lifting parts of Loussier's jazz fusion work "Pulsion" for Eminem's "Kill You" which appears on his best-selling album The Marshall Mathers LP. Loussier, 67, gained fame by fusing classical music and jazz with his Play Bach Trio. According to the suit, Loussier has released more than a dozen albums, selling six million copies worldwide.
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey declined an offer from President Bush to join an official U.S. delegation to tour Afghanistan's schools because of her busy schedule. According to the AP, the White House has since postponed the trip, which was to celebrate young girls' return to school after the fall of the Taliban regime. It is not clear whether the delegation will replace with another celebrity. The trip was to feature Bush advisor Karen Hughes and possibly National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Richard Gere has canceled a planned appearance before the German parliament's human rights committee, the AP reports. Gere, a committed Buddhist, did not give an explanation for the cancellation. He was invited to a meeting of the panel in Berlin on April 17 because he is considered "knowledgeable about the political situation " in Tibet, the head of the parliament committee told German magazine Der Spiegel last month.
Former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell is going to have laser surgery to remove two tattoos on her back, UK's the Mail on Sunday reports. The singer will reportedly visit Cher's doctor in California to discuss the procedure. "I've changed," she told the paper. "It's time to get rid of them and move on." The tattoos include an eight-pronged star between her shoulder blades and a black jaguar on her lower back.
Kylie Minogue has reportedly turned down a $1.7 million offer to pose nude for Playboy magazine. The singer told The News of the World: "I don't think I'll take it up. I'd never pose topless because it's not me." Minogue however is contemplating an offer from the Sultan of Brunei to sing at a private birthday party for his son, the paper reports.
In-flight publication SkyMall will distribute the first of 10 celebrity versions of the catalogue starting in April, the AP reports. The debut catalog, which will be distributed in the seatbacks of 24 airlines, will feature George Segal and Wendie Malick who star in the NBC comedy Just Shoot Me. The company said the stars were chosen because Segal, whose character Jack Gallo is a magazine publisher, is depicted as a SkyMall fan.
Clarkston District Court Judge Gerald McNally refused to disqualify himself in the crotch-rubbing case against shock rocker Marilyn Manson. Prosecutor Kenneth Frazee had asked McNally disqualify himself from the case because the judge had indicated he would likely charge Manson $4,000 without hearing all the facts. McNally says that his knowledge of some of the facts does not warrant his removal, the AP reports.
Iggy Pop, Perry Farrell and Ben Harper have reportedly been dumped by EMI's Virgin Records. According to the New York Post, the record company is experiencing a shake-up amid the arrival of new label head Matt Serletic and new EMI chief Alain Levy. The paper also claims Virgin insiders said Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger (as a solo artist) just missed the ax. EMI recently paid Mariah Carey $50 million to back out of her $100 million contract, and the label also announced 1,800 layoffs.
AMC Entertainment Inc. has completed the purchase of GC Companies, the parent company of General Cinemas. According to an AMC press release, the acquisition, which was approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware on March 18, includes 66 theaters with 621 screens in the United States. AMC is one of the survivors of a wave of cinema bankruptcies in recent years that include United Artist Theater Co., Edwards Cinemas, Carmike Cinemas and General Cinemas.
On the [Crime] Scene
Following reports that a plea bargain deal had been struck in PR princess Lizzie Grubman's road rage trial, one of the victims is speaking out. "I want the truth to come out, " the victim told the New York Post on the condition of anonymity. "I do want to see her stand trial. It's not fair to just see her walk away." Grubman, you may recall, was charged with assault and leaving the scene of an accident after she plowed down 16 people outside a Southampton's club last July. Grubman, a close friend of actress Tara Reid, represents a long list of clients, including Jay-Z.
Author Ray Bradbury, who wrote the classic science fiction novel The Martian Chronicles, will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Monday. The ceremony, which will be attended by Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn and actor Charlton Heston, will kick off the month-long reading campaign called "One Book, One City L.A." with residents being urged to read Bradbury's Farenheit 451. The book is about a futuristic firefighter who must burn books for a living.
Ed Turner, the man who helped establish CNN as a major respected news source, died at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., Saturday after a long battle with liver cancer. He was 66. One of the first professionals brought into the company in 1980, he was nicknamed "No Relation" Turner because he coincidentally shared the last name of founder Ted Turner, the AP reports.
Comedian and scriptwriter Barry Took died Sunday morning at a nursing home in London after suffering from cancer. He was 73. Took, who helped create the classic radio comedy Round the Horne, was responsible for bringing the Monty Python team to the BBC. He was also a successful TV and radio presenter, hosting Points of View and The News Quiz.
The man found dead in actor Art Malik's swimming pool Friday was his daughter's boyfriend, Daniel Williams, Reuters reports. Williams had attended the woman's 21st birthday and was later found unconscious in the pool. Malik, who starred in Passage to India and Jewel in the Crown, said: "Dan was a very special person and we very much considered him part of our family. He had been Jessica's boyfriend for seven months and they were very happy together." Williams' death is not being treated as suspicious.