Tag Archives: based off a true story

The Wolf of Wall Street – Review

18 Jan

Martin Scorsese has a way of creating these epic stories of crime that may stretch on for a very long time, but somehow he can keep people’s undivided attention the whole time. That’s exactly how it was for me with The Wolf of Wall Street. I had no doubts that Scorsese’s latest crime epic was going to be anything less than entertaining, but what I saw was not only one of the best films of the past year, but may very well be one of my new favorite movies. It’s funny, dramatic, and not afraid to go places other films dare not tread.

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Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) has dreams of making a name for himself, and also of making as much money as he possibly can. After the business he is working for as a stock broker, run by his mentor Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), is shut down after the events of Black Monday, Belfort finds himself working for a boiler room that deals in penny stocks. Belfort sees potential in these penny stocks, and how the commission that he makes is far more than he can make with a legit business on Wall Street. Jordan starts up his own business, Stratton Oakmont, and along with his right hand man, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), starts making millions in these illegal stocks. His life of debauchery, prostitutes, money, and drugs seems to be going fine, until FBI Agent Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins investigating the dealings at Stratton Oakmont and sees potential to crumble Belfort’s empire.

What makes this movie all the more appealing to me is that it is all based off of a true story of a man who actually did this. Jordan Belfort’s memoirs is the source material for The Wolf of Wall Street, and the unapologetic amount of excess that Belfort engaged in could never be boring to witness. Martin Scorsese obviously does not approve of Belfort’s actions and means of income, but the way he is presented in this movie might be deceptive at first. Rise and fall stories are very interesting to me, like Scarface and the entire arc of all three Godfather movies, and this one is no different. At first, we almost seem to want to be a part of Belfort’s life, but towards the end we can’t even stand looking at him. He’s amoral, but so much fun.

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This movie is so full of energy, it actually made me all hyped up after it was over. Leonardo DiCaprio is at the top of his game here, and I’d go so far to say that he deserves the Academy Award for his performance. It carries the entire movie and he seemed willing to really make a goof out of himself. Of course he has Jonah Hill by his side to keep the energy alive, and it’s really interesting to watch Hill’s career grow as an actor. He’s no longer just a funny guy. He’s quite a serious actor. Not to mention McConaughey’s brief screen time is some of the best the movie has to offer.

The stars behind the camera are just as effective. Everyone and their mothers know that Martin Scorsese is one of the best film makers of all time. There’s just no disputing that. His sweeping camera work has just as much fluidity and energy as the rest of the cast, and the different choices of lenses for certain scenes as another fun layer of creativity to the entire experience. Terrance Winter, the creative mind behind HBO’s hit series Boardwalk Empire (one of my favorite shows), brings his A-game to the table for The Wolf of Wall Street. His dialogue is sharp as a tack and extremely quick. An exceptional instance of his writing is the first time Belfort and Agent Denham first meet on Belfort’s yacht. It’s an amazing word duel that I will never forget. Finally, I need to mention Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing. The intercuts and crazy editing keeps the film feeling kinetic. It’s perfect.

The Wolf of Wall Street was an excellent film that was one of the most fun times I’ve had watching a movie in a long time. It’s kinetic film making at its finest, and Martin Scorsese once again proves why he is cinematic titan. DiCaprio’s and Hill’s performances solidify their Hollywood talent, and I really want to see this get some recognition at the Oscars in terms of acting, writing, and editing.

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Bronson – Review

20 Nov

Without giving away too much of the plot yet, let me just say that Bronson is based off of a true story. To anyone who has seen this movie before, it just makes the entire spectacle all the more ridiculous. Nicholas Winding Refn, whose most recanting outings of Drive and Only God Forgives has made him a more prominent name in the American film scene, already created a strange and beautiful head trip with Bronson. This isn’t your average, everyday biopic. This is a biopic through the eyes of a madman about a madman.

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Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy) didn’t come from a bad household, nor was he given a hard time at school. Michael Peterson, however, loved to fight. Combine that with his desire to be famous is a nasty concoction of insanity. After his first stint in prison, he spends his 69 days in the outside world bare knuckle boxing under his new name, “Charlie Bronson.” His time outside of prison doesn’t last long, and before he’s out for even a year, he’s back to what he calls home: a maximum security prison where his main goal is becoming “Britain’s Most Dangerous Prisoner.”

Keeping this a traditional, straight forward biopic wouldn’t be doing it’s subject any justice. Michael Peterson is a loose cannon whose mind seems to be all over the place. The form of Bronson is almost episodic, highlighting major moments in Peterson’s life, from his younger years to the more present time. All the while, we are treated to Peterson’s random acts of brutal violence with what seems like no motivation at all. He just loves the feeling of beating a prison guard’s face in.

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Now, a major problem with Bronson, that also seems to be apparent with Nicholas Winding Refn’s films, is that the movie gets a bit too pretentious for its own good. I’m all for artistic movies or movies that try to be as bizarre as possible, but Refn seems to go a bit too crazy at times. My only other experience of his films is Drive, and as cool as that movie is there are times where it gets too excessive in a way where Refn thinks he’s being super cool and edgy. The same can be said about Bronson, except that it is even more guilty of pretentious excess than Drive.

But for what it’s worth, I do love a lot of the insanity in Bronson. The fight scenes that are a main part of the movie are absolutely vicious. Peterson is a tank that takes multiple men to take down, and just watching Hardy’s performance as he goes into a sort of berserk mode is just too awesome. It’s bloody as a pulp, and the sounds of flesh being his and bones being broken is sickeningly fantastic. This movie certainly isn’t lacking style, that’s for sure.

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Bronson isn’t for everyone. It has often been called A Clockwork Orange of the 21st century, and we all know how a lot of people feel about A Clockwork Orange. It’s a stylish trip into the mind of one of the most notorious criminals in history. It’s easy to love the character and hate him at the same time. So, it is fun and stylish, but it’s pretentious as all hell. I can live with that though. Bronson is an awesome movie.

The French Connection – Review

1 Dec

I can’t believe I haven’t seen this movie until now. I feel almost ashamed of myself, missing out on a classic like The French Connection. Better late than never I suppose, and I can’t believe what I’ve been missing. This is a fast paced, intelligent thriller with foreign intrigue and tough but likable characters topped off with an ending that will leave you speechless. “Did you ever pick your toes in Poughkeepsie?”

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After a mysterious murder in Marseilles, New York detectives “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider) start up on a case connected to the murder which involves an obscenely large shipment of heroine and a French criminal, Alain (Fernando Rey). This isn’t a typical investigation, but more so a psychological and physical test that will push the detectives out of their comfort zones and into an elaborate maze of cat and mouse.

I love watching a movie where it’s literally one excellent scene after another. A couple scenes stand out in particular. One involves a comedic bust in a bar, but there’s also an adrenaline fueled car chase, powerful shootouts, and suspenseful tailings through the underbellies and upper echelons of New York City. There’s never a dull moment in The French Connection and many times you’re left sitting in your seats dying to know what’s going to unfold in the next five minutes.

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Hackman gives the best performance of his career as the tough talking, mean spirited, yet strangely likable cop, Doyle. His whip smart attitude and outstanding physical acting shows just how deep he is in character. Roy Scheider also gives a great performance, and is the perfect yin to Hackman’s yang. They’re so much more than good cop/bad cop because neither of them are especially “good.” One’s just a bit more heated than the other, which makes for some funny and often dramatic character scenes.

The drama in this film is heightened by its incredible shock value. This doesn’t mean its over the top, but it certainly pushes the limits of what is normally seen in some movies, like innocent people getting killed without any remorseful reactions. The car chase featuring an elevated train is also thrilling even after all these years and hundreds of car chases later. The ending scene alone left my mouth wide open in this weird shock/smile combo. Definitely one of the top 5, if not the top 3 endings off all time, but that’s a list for another day and another time.

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I loved The French Connection and I can’t believe it took me this long to finally see it. The wait paid off because I was totally engaged by the thrills that were taking place before me. It’s a gem from the past that earned 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It was the movie to see in 1971, and I’d say it’s still the movie to see in 2012.