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My 12 for ’14: The Wolf of Wall Street and More!

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

Everything about The Wolf of Wall Street is excessive, even its length.

Still, The Wolf of Wall Street never feels like long film. This is somewhat paradoxical. After all, the film does not have too much ground to actually cover. For a film that runs to almost three hours, the movie has a pretty straightforward plot. Cinema audiences are quite familiar with this sort of story: the story of a wealthy crook who inevitably (and spectacularly) implodes. The audience watching The Wolf of Wall Street knows the tale inside out: the arrogance, the hubris, the greed; the consequences, the price, the fallout.

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Of course, our villain doesn’t really implode. It turns out that – despite what we’d like to believe – crime does pay. The Wolf of Wall Street alludes to this uncomfortable truth in its closing scene, as Belfort attracts an audience of people eager (and willing to pay) to learn his financial secrets. The cruel gag extends even beyond the movie’s own narrative into the real world; Belfort has boasted he made more from The Wolf of Wall Street than he did from his time on Wall Street. He has used very little of that money to pay back the victims he swindled.

In many ways, The Wolf of Wall Street plays like a belated companion piece to Goodfellas or Casino, a loose exploration of greed and corruption that avoids a lot of the easy moralising that audiences have come to expect from stories like this. Instead, The Wolf of Wall Street basks in its hedonism, affording its villainous protagonist almost unquestioned control of the narrative. As such, it seems to tease the audience: who would be able to refuse such luxury and such debauchery? There’s something delightful uncomfortable in how the film needles the viewer.

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Non-Review Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

In 1987, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street was arguably too subtle in its criticisms of the Wall Street mentality – the philosophy that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good” or that enough can never really enough. After all, the film apparently inspired a whole generation of stock brokers and investment managers, with quite a few aspiring to be their generation’s Gordon Gekko – when the movie’s central point was that Gekko was hardly an idol to worship.

This would seem to explain the rationale of Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, a film that makes Stone’s brutal evisceration of Wall Street excess seem positively mild-mannered. Indeed, the film all but directly acknowledges this fact in an early scene where a “hatchet job” of an article from Forbes (the same article that would lend Belfort his sobriquet “Wolfie!”) prompts a massive upsurge in job applications for Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont.

The money shot...

The money shot…

So, understanding the need to go a bit bigger and larger, The Wolf of Wall Street introduces us to its protagonist, Jordan Belfort, snorting cocaine out of the bodily orifices of a prostitute, and yet somehow descends deeper and deeper into acts of debauchery and excess. It’s an unrelenting and energetic film, that is exhausting and exhilarating. It’s less of a structured story and more a three-hour laundry-list of depravity.

While the last hour of the film (the inevitable “it all comes tumbling down… or does it?” act) can’t maintain the forward moment that make the first two so exhilarating, The Wolf of Wall Street remains proof that Scorsese is an incredible film maker with an almost impossible vigour and enthusiasm for the medium.

Drinking it in...

Drinking it in…

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Watch! New Wolf of Wall Street Trailer!

I’m really looking forward to Wolf of Wall Street. It helps that it’s a Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCarpio, but the first trailer just cements that enthusiasm, teaser a ride which looks completely and utterly insane. The trailer is a work of bizarre genius, a celebration of tasteless excess which seems to show an actor and director who aren’t worried about going over the top; in fact that’s the entire point.

Check it out below.

 

Batman: Broken City (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

I can’t help but feel like Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso were massively unfortunate when they were asked to write Batman: Broken City. The story was placed immediately following the breakout sales sensation that was Hush, a massive blockbuster epic written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee, offering a whistlestop tour of Batman’s iconic selection of villains. Azzarello and Risso inherited the title from them with considerable hype. These were, after all, the two creators of the celebrated neo-noir comic book 100 Bullets, so they’d work their magic on the title, right? More than that, though, their arc seemed to consciously play up its similarities to Hush, revolving around Batman’s attempts to solve a central mystery while taking a trip through his rogues gallery. Understandably, fans and critics were taken by surprise when they got a seedy detective vibe instead of an action epic. I can’t help but wonder if time has been kind to this six-issue storyline.

The Devil in the Pale Moonlight?

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When the Sheen Comes Off: The Lonely Ballad of Charlie Sheen…

It’s human nature to want to rubberneck at some grotesque car wreck. I have no idea where that grim compulsion is rooted, but it is buried deep within our human nature – we can’t resist it, like some form of morbid curiosity. In fact, on major motorways, the problem is so intense in that it has been suggested in the Netherlands that police should erect blank screens to stop passing drivers from peering at accidents. As I watch Charlie Sheen’s continuing descent into madness (because it seems – defying the laws of nature – like there is no rock bottom), I can’t help but wonder if we should do something similar about the actor’s recent attempts to train wreck his career.

He's not Half the Man he used to be...

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Non-Review Review: Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps

The words “too big to fail” are, understandably, bandied around quite a bit over the course of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. While they refer, of course, to the bloated financial institutions holding the world’s democracy to ransom, it’s hard not to get a sense that they could also apply to Stone’s film. The financial crisis continues to prove that Stone’s original Wall Street was a powerful condemnation of all-consuming unchecked capitalism, and one might assume that the timing is right for a sequel. Indeed, Stone’s attempts to make his movie reflect on the harsh economic climate are admirable – but one gets the sense that the director is unable to decide where to focus the camera. As a result, the film loses a lot of its punch as it jumps around from macro-economics to personal tragedies without thinking too much of the gap between them.

Family fortunes?

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Non-Review Review: The Game

The Game is perhaps something of a black sheep on David Fincher’s filmography. It wasn’t quite an early work like Alien 3, but it falls between two of his larger and better received works, Se7en and Fight Club. While it contains the same thematic depth which would define Fincher’s work (and continues to), exploring ideas like the nature of social interactions and the hostile world, it isn’t quite as readily accessible as most of his other work. From the outset, it’s almost as though The Game wants you to believe that it is just a set-up, that it’s rigged, that it will have a ridiculous and illogical conclusion, which makes it a difficult movie for the audience to engage with or trust. The Game hinges on the audience (and the central character) being unable to distinguish between the set-up and reality – effectively letting the audience know that they are going to be toyed with, and potentially alienating them. Which is a shame, because it’s a cleverly constructed little film which would be a lot more charming if it didn’t spend so much of its time informing you of how smart it is.

Quit clowning around...

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