Posts Tagged ‘Leonardo Dicaprio’

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-

Django Unchained

It’s almost a given that every time Quentin Tarantino makes a new film that it will land as my favorite film of the year or at least safely in the top 3.  Halfway through his new film Django Unchained though I was feeling under-whelmed and a little disappointed by the film.  Where is all the blood, guts, murder and vengeance I asked!  The only reason I even felt that way is because this is Tarantino! The grand master of all film-makers in the world today.  Then I realized this is a film that is his version of a Western, and most Western’s are all about the prologue leading up to it all.  It’s something all the greats have done.  The film is probably Tarantino’s tamest film to date…up to a point, and the thing his his films take drastic turns at times which is what I love about them.  You’re going to definitely get that here.

Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a black slave that is freed by German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) a few years before the Civil War begins.  Django will be granted his freedom if he helps Schultz find the Brittle Brothers.  He has no idea what they look like, but Django does.

In their search for the Brittle Brothers Schultz learns of Django’s life, and that his wife Broomhilda was taken away from him as they were both sold in to slavery separately.  He will do anything to find her and save her from the people who bought her.  Schultz decides that in some way he owes Django, and vows to help him track her down and save her after they are succesfully in collecting the bounty.

They soon realize that Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a wealthy plantation owner who also has a passion for slave-fighting, owns Broomhilda.  They must devise a plan to purchase Broomhilda, without letting Candie know that she is the one they want.  They will pretend that they are in the slave-fighting business themselves.

The first half of the film is about how Django and Schultz get on with each other, and learn about the bounty hunting game.  This comes off as very slow and a little bit of a chore before we get to the meat of the film.  We meet some quirky Tarantino characters along the way, and there’s some fun to be had, but it drags on just a bit too long.   Once we go to “Candie-Land” and meet Calvin Candie, we really start to kick this thing in to overdrive.

Django Unchained is about people leveraging their positions of power, or at least pretending they have more power than they really do.  We see those positions of power shift over the course of Django and Schultz stay at Candie-Land.  They and Candie are feeling each other out.  Django has to come off as more abrasive than he really is.  Many people have never seen a black man in the south riding a horse and are shocked by it, including Candie’s main helper Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).  Jackson, DiCaprio, Waltz, and Foxx and are all awesome here, and they make the film.

Jackson should receive an Oscar nomination at the very least for his comedic effort here.  He, along with all the acting really, make the film.  Tarantino films are always about the violence and over the top nature that surround them, but really they are about great acting and great characters.  He’s a master at building these characters up and making them so unique.  We get all of that in the second half of the film which is pitch perfect.

If you are a fan of Tarantino this is a must see.  As all his films are. You can sense that the editing of his long time collaborator Sally Menke is missing though.  She was definitely an integral part of his film-making.  I still think it’s probably in the bottom half of his films as director, but I’m splitting hairs here.  Go see it.

Grade: A-