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Posts Tagged ‘Jonah Hill’

The Wolf of Wall Street

In the 1980’s greed and fraud seemed to go hand in handd, and people like Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Dicaprio) were willing to do anything to make a buck.  To make themselves beyond rich.  The Wolf of Wall Street is the story of Belfort, from his first day dialing away like a madman on the trading room floor, to insider trading, to the lowly depths of his time in prison.

Dicaprio has easily established himself as one of the premiere actors in Hollywood and he is fantastic as always here.  Oscar caliber work for sure.  Jordan Belfort is a sleaze-bag who cheats on his wife and robs the general public blind, but somehow we love the guy.  At his core he’s just a normal kid that wanted to make it rich, and he got sucked into the drug of money along the way.  He’s a great salesman, and great salesmen are irresistible.

After the financial collapse of 1987 on Black Monday, Belfort finds himself without a job and looking for anything that can help he and his wife Teresa (How I Met Your Mother’s Cristin Milloti) get by.  He finds himself trading worthless penny stocks, pulling 50% commission.  He’s a natural, and soon opens up his own boiler-room company Stratton Oakmont.  He hires some childhood buddies, along with his new right hand man Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), and the entire crew is off and running. Business is booming, and the skies the limit for Stratton Oakmont.

Belfort and company let the greed get the best of them though as they start trading illegally, and the Security and Exchange Commission begins to look into their business a little too hard.  They’re easy to pay off, it’s the feds that are not.  FBI agent Patrick Denham (everyone’s favorite coach Kyle Chandler Friday Night Lights) is a good old boy that promises to take Belfort down.

Hill is fantastic as Azoff.  He and Belfort do every kind of drug, hang with every kind of woman, drive every kind of car, party harder than any rock-star, and make more money in the process than you can possibly imagine.  They get themselves into ridiculous situation after situation, and Scorsese does what he always does best, directs every entertaining second of it.  The acting and direction are top notch as always.

The only thing that sets the film back a bit is its length.  Clocking in at 3 hours there’s a lot of filler that could have easily brought this down to around 2 1/2 hours.  There are a number of scenes that have the entire team ad-libbing with each other and they don’t really serve a purpose.  There are also a few scenes that seem to drag on and slow the movie down.  It’s a minor gripe with the film, but it does impact it overall slightly.

The Wolf of Wall Street is the epitome of greed and excess in America.  It’s not a new tale of how high one can fly and then fall, but it’s a tale that never seems to get old.  It’s like watching a car wreck over and over.  You can’t turn your eyes away from it.

Grade: A-

This Is The End

This-is-the-End-Film-Poster.jpgThis is the End stars an encyclopedia’s worth of characters that we’ve seen in pretty much every comedy over the past decade…as themselves.  The film begins with Seth Rogen at an airport being hounded by TMZ paparazzi as he picks up his friend Jay Baruchel, the least well known of the crew, but you’ll recognize him from films like Tropic Thunder and the vastly underrated She’s Out Of My League.

Seth and Jay are looking forward to a long weekend of watching stupid movies, getting drunk, and smoking weed while trying to escape the LA scene.  Jay can’t stand it all.  The only problem is James Franco is throwing a mammoth party and you know who’s going to be there.  All the cool kids, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, the list goes on and on.  Everyone plays a hyper sensitized version of themselves, so far out there that it seems unbelievable…except that I think every movie star in LA actually acts like they do.  This would be annoying for the course of two hours except the reason the film works is because of Jay Baruchel.  Jay hates LA and the LA scene more than anyone.  He’s the only one in the film that finds the actions of those stars absurd.  He’s the only one we can relate too.

Jay gets dragged to Franco’s party, an insane bash that has Franco showing off his love for Seth Rogen with wild art, has Michael Cera doing enough cocaine to kill an elephant, Jonah Hill in homo-erotic joke after joke, and has cameo after cameo showing up as well.  Everything seems like a good time until Seth and Jay go out for a pack of cigarettes.  Disaster strikes while at the store.  A massive earthquake hits and people begin being sucked up into the sky by blue lights.  Seth and Jay rush back to Franco’s, to a party with no clue what is going on outside.  Another attack strikes and the majority of the party flees in horror.  Franco’s house is built like a fortress though, and a few party-goers stay behind.

The film follows Rogen, Jay, Franco, Craig, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride as they try to figure out just what the hell is going on out there while holed up in Franco’s compound.  They gather all the food and porn mags they can find, in hopes they can wait it out and survive.  The film is a series of jokes in which the cast of characters make fun of each other and themselves, trading one-liners about masturbation and fart jokes.  High brow comedy at its finest.   Much of the film seems ad-libbed and it works to perfection.  You can tell these guys grew up through the ranks of comedy together, mostly from their Freaks and Geeks days, because the humor runs seamlessly.

The film is so absurd it is a riot.  I could not stop laughing at how ridiculous all of these guys act.  They pretend they’re so important because they’re movie stars and can’t figure out why no one has come to save them.  An added bonus is that there are some really scary scenes in which other worldly beasts materialize and terrorize everyone.

This is the End is no Academy Award winning film, but it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and easily the most entertaining.  A must see.

A-

The Watch

When I saw that Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller were teaming up again I immediately rolled my eyes and thought, “Great. Here we go again.”  That gave me about less than zero expectations for The Watch, and actually made me hate it a little bit before even setting foot in the theater.

Ben Stiller, and especially Vince Vaughn, haven’t made a good film in years in my opinion.  Maybe Tropic Thunder for Ben Stiller and Wedding Crashers for Vince Vaughn.  So I was actually surprised when I started chuckling 20 to 30 minutes in to The Watch.

Ben Stiller stars as Evan.  The kind of person I can’t stand in real life.  He lives his life by all the rules, and is the biggest do-gooder you can possibly imagine.  Vaughn plays Bob.  A construction laborer who is overly protective of his daughter.  Vaughn plays Bob like every single other character he has ever played, in any film that you have ever seen him in.   Evan decides to start a neighborhood watch program after a security guard is killed during the evening shift, at the Costco he works at.  Bob joins up, as does Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade).

The gang of four decide to seek out the murderer and keep the streets safe!  It starts to get interesting when they realize that the murderer they are after may not be from this world.

The key to The Watch actually being “watchable”  is partially because of the appearance of Jonah Hill as an unstable wannabe cop, but is more so because of Richard Ayoade’s performance as Flight of the Conchords-esque Jamaracus.  Those two characters are able to take just enough attention off of how annoying Vaughn and Stiller are.

We learn more and more about all four of them as the story progresses, and they run around the city like a bunch of out of control drunken frat brothers.  Kind of like Old School but with aliens…and not as much humor.  They do find a way to keep everything just entertaining enough along the way though.  Of course it takes a lot of vulgar humor and a lot beer.  You can see the jokes coming from a mile away, but for some reason it didn’t bother me as much this time around.

Now I’m not saying this is the movie of the year or anything, but it does have a few chuckles, and actually some fun little action near the end.  I could see how a lot of critics will hate this movie, but sometimes you just want to not think and watch a movie with stupid humor.  I’d say skip this in the theater, but it is definitely worth picking up from Netflix or Redbox.

Grade: B-

21 Jump Street – review

Jonah Hill has been having the best two years of his life.  He was nominated for an Oscar, while also becoming Brad Pitt’s best friend, in one of the best films of last year, Moneyball. His phone is probably ringing off the hook with that alone.  He also lost about 100 pounds, and now wrote and produced his newest effort 21 Jump Street. Hill plays Morton Schmidt, an Eminem loving outcast from high school, who is on his way to becoming a cop.  Channing Tatum plays Greg Jenko, the bullying jock from Morton’s high school who also became a cop.  This isn’t high school anymore though, and Jenko and Morton realize they can help each other get through the police academy.  Jenko is good with the physical stuff, and Morton is good with the books.  They end up becoming good friends, and eventually partners, and swear an oath to a lifetime of becoming badasses…well…sort of.

Jenko and Morton are stuck being bike cops, looking for their first big break.  When they find some cocaine on a biker gang they screw the arrest up because Jenko can’t remember how the Miranda rights go.  They are subsequently re-assigned by their captain to the Jump Street division, home to castaway, young looking police officers, who can go undercover and infiltrate the high school scene.

If you’ve seen the dozen or so trailers that have come out for this film by now, then you’ve pretty much seen every scene in the film.  This is one of the problems of over marketing a film, but that’s another issue all together.   They must stay at Morton’s parents house to go along with their undercover persona’s.  Jenko somehow gets their identities mixed up though and is enrolled in all of Morton’s smarty-pants classes.  That’s not all that’s a surprise for Jenko.  High school isn’t quite how he remembers it.  Everything seems to have flipped upside down.  He was the coolest kid on the block as a jock back in the day, but now the jocks are nowhere to be found, and it seems the cool kids are the smart, eco-aware hipsters that he sees everywhere.  This is the high school that Morton always dreamed of going to, which is going to cause some problems between him and his new partner/brother.

What commences between Jenko, Morton, and their new high school classmates is complete drug-addled insanity.  They need to find out who is peddling a new synthetic drug that kids are gobbling up left and right.  What’s really messed up about this film is that the drug all these kids are taking seems like the coolest drug in the world, and Jenko and Morton find themselves stuck taking it one point to prove they’re not cops.  They seem to be having the time of their lives.  The only problem is that this drug does have a side effect…death.

The two make-shift brothers find out that a popular kid Eric is peddling the drug, but not supplying it, and finding the supplier is their job.  Morton becomes good friends with Eric, and also with the girl Eric sometimes, sort of, messes around with, Molly, but as the case gets deeper and deeper Morton’s judgement becomes clouded.  For once he’s the cool kid, and it may be effecting his job.

21 Jump Street is of course based on the TV series of the same name from the 80’s, starring Johnny Depp.  You’ll get to see a lot of cameos from people who were on that original series, who have now been promoted since their days on Jump Street.   The film pulls no punches.  Anything goes.  It’s one of the more perverse, and wild films I’ve seen in a couple years, and I would not recommend letting your teenage children go and see it…but that’s kind of why it’s so good.

Hill and Tatum make the film.  They are as good a partners as in any great buddy cop film over the years, and that includes The Hard Way starring James Woods and Michael J. Fox…seriously The Hard Way is awesome.  21 Jump Street is great because it is so over the top, but it’s also great because what if you did have the chance to go back to high school 7-8 years after you graduated?  Would you be re-living the glory years of your life, as some people believe it, or would you be thrust back into that awful nightmare that you wanted to avoid all those years.  The film plays with a lot of that and actually does a good job of making it a little bit more than surface deep.

This is easily one of the best films of the year thus far, and you should go check it out.

Grade: A-