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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With the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and dismiss Proposition 8, Wednesday is a big day for the advancement of gay rights in this country. But you probably already know that — at least, you do if you've checked your Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Vine at all today.
Your friends and relatives aren't the only ones flocking to social media to share their joy on this momentous day. Many celebrities — from President Obama himself to Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, and more — are also chiming in on Twitter with their thoughts on the SCOTUS rulings. Here are some celebratory celebrity tweets:
Today's DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 26, 2013
DOMA and Prop 8 should get married.
— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) June 26, 2013
Hurray for all Americans and good riddance to DOMA. It's a new day. A happy day.
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) June 26, 2013
I never dreamed I would see this day. The whole world has changed for us all. I can't believe it!! #DOMA #Equality
— Andy Cohen (@BravoAndy) June 26, 2013
Big day for some of my good friends and for The US !! @jessetyler @JustinMikita @DRVW11 @JewdyGold @buckhollywood
— Melissa Joan Hart (@MelissaJoanHart) June 26, 2013
Woke up to the news of DOMA being struck down. Don't care that it's cold and raining in Portland, it's a beautiful day.
— Carrie Brownstein (@Carrie_Rachel) June 26, 2013
AND no standing on #prop8?? Same sex marriage is legal in california! I better be getting some wedding invites... #whatdoiwear?
— Sarah Hyland (@Sarah_Hyland) June 26, 2013
This is truly an historic day. Never before & never again will so many men be this excited about getting married. #Scotus
— Danny Zuker (@DannyZuker) June 26, 2013
Went to bed depressed woke up to find DOMA overturned, Prop 8 defeated and the bill in Texas didn't pass. I should sleep more!
— Gillian Jacobs (@GillianJacobs) June 26, 2013
Great news, I just married my cat.
— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) June 26, 2013
"DOMA arigato, Mr. Roboto" --from tmbg fb page
— They Might Be Giants (@tmbg) June 26, 2013
I want to french Justice Kennedy SO hard right now.
— Damon Lindelof (@DamonLindelof) June 26, 2013
No one be shocked if I get married and pregnant with a daughter today in a slightly premature fit of joy #americathebeautiful
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) June 26, 2013
.@daxshepard1 will you marry me? Xo #marriageequality #loveislove”
— Kristen Bell (@IMKristenBell) June 26, 2013
Big news from the Supreme Court. Goodbye #DOMA #Prop8. Hello #equality.
— Ben Affleck (@BenAffleck) June 26, 2013
Down w DOMA! Something to be very proud of this upcoming July 4th. We are making beautiful progress for Equality! #proud
— Adam Lambert (@adamlambert) June 26, 2013
If you're gay married in California your gay marriage is now legal. Good. #allmarriageisabitgay
— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) June 26, 2013
I am standing on the right side of history. I stand with @HRC for marriage equality. #SCOTUS #time4marriage http://t.co/3cSE5e0nwK
— Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) June 26, 2013
A big day for equality and human rights. I'm smiling so big right now.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) June 26, 2013
Victory for marriage in California as #Prop8 is struck down. Small but substantial steps toward #MarriageEquality for all!
— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) June 26, 2013
DOMA-it-just-lost-O Mr. Roboto! So, so happy for Edie, et al.
— Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) June 26, 2013
Gay, straight, lesbian, bi.. No one is better than any one else. What an incredible day for California AND for equality.
— demetria lovato (@ddlovato) June 26, 2013
Thank you to the plaintiffs, the lawyers David Boies and Ted Olsen, to Rob Reiner, Chad and all organizations who made this happen & SCOTUS!
— Official Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) June 26, 2013
#PROP8 IS GONE! #DOMA IS GONE! #SCOTUS #LoveIsLove
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) June 26, 2013
Remember where you are today, history is made...supreme court Strikes down DOMA!
— Melissa Etheridge (@speak_true) June 26, 2013
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The former Golden Girls star celebrated her milestone birthday with celebrity pals like Morgan Freeman, Valerie Harper and Ellen DeGeneres at a taped-for-TV Los Angeles gala on Saturday (07Jan12) - and she made it clear there was only one thing she wanted for her birthday - the star of The Natural.
She said, "I don't want to impose on him, but it would be very nice."
And ever the joker, White added, "Don't tell George Clooney I'm dating Robert Redford. You know how they are."
White actually turns 90 on 17 January and her televised gala, A Tribute to America's Golden Girl, will air in America the day before (16Jan12).
Others paying tribute to White included: Tina Fey, Ray Romano, Seth Meyers, Carl Reiner, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner and Hugh Jackman.
This month will mark Betty White's 90th birthday. In celebration of the actress' long and prosperous career, and her continued prominence in the media, NBC is hosting a special televised event, Betty White's 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America's Golden Girl, on Jan. 16 (the night before her actual birthday). The tribute, which was announced back in the Fall, continues to attract a large variety of celebrity appearances. New prominent names reported to be paying a visit, and possibly offering some of their talents as showpeople, include Ellen DeGeneres, Tina Fey, Morgan Freeman, Seth Meyers, Tracy Morgan, Ray Romano, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Carl Reiner, Vicki Lawrence and John O'Hurley. Other attendees you may have already heard about include White's Hot in Cleveland costars Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli and Wendy Malick, her old The Mary Tyler Moore Show castmates Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper and Gavin McLeod, as well as other notable stars including Amy Poehler, Joel McHale, Jay Leno, Carol Burnett and William Shatner. Not too shabby, Betty. -NBC
The Voice returns to television for a second season early next month, and it is bringing with it a wide assortment of celebrity advisors to help its next string of contestants along with their stint on the musical competition series. Appearing on the show this year will be musicians such as Lionel Richie, Kelly Clarkson, Alanis Morisette, Ne-Yo, Jewel, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, Robin Thicke and Miranda Lambert. This array of noteworthy musicians will be joining the judging panel of Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton to make for an exciting second season. The Voice's second season premiere will air Sunday, Feb. 5 on NBC, immediately following the Superbowl. -NBC
This has been a season of changes for Law & Order: SVU. Old detectives have left, new ones have arrived. And now, we'll be meeting another new character: Assistant District Attorney David Haden, played by none other than actor/musician Harry Connick, Jr. Best known for his music career, but also for acting gigs like his recurring stint on Will & Grace, Connick, Jr., will be enjoying a multi-episode arc as an attorney who strikes up a beyond-professional relationship with Mariska Hargitay's Det. Olivia Benson. As you can see in the video below, things are already starting to heat up between the pair. Hargitay also confirms that she has no intentions to leave SVU, much to many a fan's relief. Connick, Jr., will join the cast starting on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. -NBC
Take Me Home Tonight directed by Michael Dowse is a comedy about the ‘80s but its futility is timeless: In just about any decade it would be considered generic and unfunny. Set in 1988 it stars the likable and witty Topher Grace as Matt a recent MIT grad with a crippling case of post-college career-indecision. Working as a lowly clerk at a video store he has a chance encounter with his high-school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer) who to his (and our) surprise actually displays faint interest in him. But Matt fails to pull the trigger and so he resolves to make up for his lack of cojones when he sees her later that evening at a party hosted by the preppy douchebag boyfriend (Chris Pratt) of his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris).
This sets the stage for an eventual romantic union between Matt and Tori; until then there is insecurity to overcome and wacky adventures to be had. Many of the latter stem from the increasingly unhinged behavior of Matt’s best friend Barry (Dan Fogler). The film turns on a bag of cocaine Barry finds in the glove compartment of a Mercedes stolen from the dealership that fired him earlier in the day. Cocaine is renowned for its ability to induce euphoria in even the most mundane of settings but it has arguably the opposite effect on Take Me Home Tonight. I consider Fogler to be a legitimately funny guy but he has the irritating tendency to compensate for underwritten material by wildly overacting. Throw in a bag of blow and that tendency is amplified ten-fold.
A happy standout in the film is Palmer who brings a liveliness and dignity to the stereotypical rom-com role of the Otherworldly Hottie Who Inexplicably Falls for the Stammering Schlub. (It also helps that she's the only member of the main cast who is young enough to realistically portray a recent college graduate.) She is one of the more talented young Australian exports to arrive on our shores in quite some time and has the potential to become a saucier version of fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman. That is if she finds material better than Take Me Home Tonight.
When a movie gets knocked around from one crummy release date to another one would assume that it is pretty awful. However even I a knowledgeable and open-minded film geek wasn’t prepared for the monstrosity that is Season of the Witch a medieval mess that has reportedly been in the works for a decade. You’d never be able to tell so many years of preparation went into this sad excuse for a B-movie based on its laughable CGI dialogue and contrived premise. How many flavors of bad is this supernatural stinker? Sample this…
A period horror action flick Season of the Witch is initially set in a cursed city suffering from the Black Plague that has deformed and decimated the majority of its population. The disease has been unleashed as a result of a literal witch-hunt gone wrong. Ancient evil forces are afoot and the blame is put on a young girl who the Church believes is a witch. Though imprisoned in the dungeons of a castle her power reigns supreme. Enter Behman (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) Knights of the Crusades who happen upon the city on their way back to civilization. Once recognized as deserters they are imprisoned and given the choice to remain captive or lead a suicide transport mission to a remote monastery where the girl’s innocence or guilt can be determined. If deemed evil she is to be destroyed.
The premise though far from original could have been cool if executed with some style but director Dominic Sena (Gone In Sixty Seconds) is incapable of making it enjoyable. Instead of creating suspense through eerie environments he settles for cheap thrills that fall short every time. His use of CGI is painfully bad conjuring effects that would’ve looked dated around the turn of the century. Most insulting is the film’s big “twist” - a lazy paradigm shift so easily foreseeable the movie should have just been called The Devil’s Advocate. Is that not bad enough for you? Just wait it gets better (read: worse).
Stars Cage and Perlman are Razzie bound with a pair of pathetic non-performances. The accomplished actors don’t even try to get into character. Rather they don period garb shield and sword and run around like cheap imitations of their former selves for two hours. You won’t hear any attempts at English accents because apparently 14th Century Knights are just like contemporary buddy cops. With this little effort being put forth by the two men who are essentially the reason folks will pay to see the movie Season of the Witch doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. The supporting cast which includes Ulrich Thomsen Stephen Graham and Christopher Lee try to bear the burden but cannot undo the damage that Cage and Perlman inflict upon this film. The scariest thing about Season of the Witch is the movie itself an abomination of bad filmmaking and terrible acting.