Martin Scorsese’s Jackass or The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street - Midget Toss

With The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese has crafted a three-hour long epic comedy of bad taste about a world-class, rotten to the core douchebag.  Jordan Belfort was a money laundering asshole to the extreme who played fast and loose with people’s money on Wall Street, scammed the poor and the rich alike for his own gain and the gain of his amoral idiot friends, consumed drugs and women and every material thing, got caught, went to jail, wrote a book about it, and now his glorious suck-fest of an idolatrous life is a top drawer film from cinema’s greatest living master.

The Wolf of Wall Street is about excess, excess in crime, excess in life, excess in filmmaking, excess in acting.  Teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio for the umpteenth time, Scorsese lets the Oscar deprived thespian of this generation loose in ways I never imagined and has him doing things I never cared to see.  The pair take their “relationship” so far over the course of the film’s monstrous runtime that I don’t know if they could ever top what they do here without it becoming illegal.

The film, scripted by Terrence Winter from Belfort’s memoir, contains some howlingly funny scenes and bouts of dialogue, including one where Belfort and his pals discuss seriously the potential legal ramifications of midget tossing at work (which ends in a great little homage to Tod Browning’s Freaks – oddly fitting) and another involving a ridiculously dramatic rescue at sea from a sinking yacht done to the tune of Umberto Tozzi’s “Gloria” complete with Italian jokes.  Rob Reiner also gets some great riotous moments as Belfort’s hot-tempered accountant father.

Scorsese, that old sentimentalist, of course, in recrementitous fashion pays homage to himself.  Continue reading

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Everybody’s Hustling Hustling American Style

American Hustle - Cast

Some of this actually happened.  In 1978.

Irving Rosenfeld (an overweight and badly combed-over Christian Bale in total method mode) is a con man with a heart of gold from the Bronx.  He got into the con game as a kid as a way to help his dad’s glass business by breaking windows to drum up customers (awww).  He runs a series of dry cleaners while selling fraudulent knock-off art and running loan schemes.  He fell hard for a young passive aggressive sassy lass named Rosalyn (a delightfully scenery-chewing Jennifer Lawrence with full-on Long Island accent and big hair), married her and adopted her cute baseball card loving little boy (double awww).   But Irving can never show his true self and feels trapped emotionally and financially to his overbearing wife who uses the kid as collateral against Irving jetting off to fantasy land with his new red-headed saucy mistress, Sydney (a never sexier Amy Adams).  You see, Sydney is like Irving’s soul mate or something, a woman who reinvents herself to survive and is now his fully fledged partner in crime posing as a British Lady with banking ties to take the loan schemes to the next level.  This set-up is presented to the audience in crisscrossing voice-overs full of lies, back-handed insults and memoir-esque longing between Irving and Sydney, whose beautiful dry cleaning chemical soaked romance comes to a screeching halt when curly-haired hot-shot FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper, hilariously pent-up) entraps them.

And then the fun starts.  To get immunity, our lovers are forced to bring in more marks for take down to the feds.  And what starts out as “just take down four more guys” explodes with DiMaso’s wacky ambitions and crooked nice-guy Camden Mayor Carmine Polito’s (Jeremy Renner, doing a great South Jersey Italian accent) connections into…you guessed it!  ABSCAM! Continue reading

The Spin’s Top 60 Comedies of All Time

“You put WHAT on your top comedy list?”

I was recently asked by the film blogger extraordinaires at Wonders in the Dark to submit a ballot for the Top 60 Comedies of All-Time in preparation for their next feature which will tabulate the ballots and produce a definitive list later in the summer.  At first I found the task daunting – as many will remember guest-blogger Nicky D’s hotly contested and wildly popular Top 47 Comedies of All-Time that graced The Spin not so long ago.  For me, comedy is the most subjective and generational-based of genres – and it’s hard to judge films on personal tastes in humor.  However, the always generous Sam Juliano at WitD invited balloters to adopt an “anything goes” policy – meaning – if it’s a comedy to you! – put it on the list.  This opened up the door for me to include some of my favorite accidental comedies as well as satires and dark comedies that many would judge as dramas.  One will see my love for the darker side of comedy in this list, as well as my love for Woody Allen and those rascally kids that had me in stitches when I was a kid – yup – short films are allowed – hence the love for Our Gang.  At any rate…let the debate that started with Nicky D’s list continue as  I present to you my official rebuttal and ballot for the Wonders in the Dark polling.  I will provide no additional commentary and let the list speak for itself… Continue reading

Unenlightened Young Adult

Charlize Theron comes home to rot in YOUNG ADULT.

Dark comedies are so hard to do, and when done right they will appeal only to a limited audience.  The latest Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody concoction, Young Adult, is one such film.  Those looking for a laugh-out-loud “Hot Chick Gone Bad” riot better look elsewhere.  Those looking for a painfully honest character study should sit down and have a drink.  Anchored by a scathingly deadpan turn from Charlize Theron, Young Adult is as sharp as a tack and will burn in your throat like a shot of home-distilled bourbon.

Charlize Theron is Mavis Gary, a recently divorced semi-successful ghost writer for a once popular series of YA novels (both the series and Mavis are past their prime) who is spurred to return to her “hick” hometown when she receives an email announcing the birth of her ex-boyfriend’s baby.  Mavis Gary joins a solid line of Jason Reitman anti-heros/anti-heroines (just like the lead characters in his Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air) – people who think they have life all figured out, hold steadfast to their sense of self and of the world around them, and then are thrown for a big loop.  Charlize Theron fully inhabits this character (according to interviews, she played Mavis as if this were a drama), and although she physically looks like a more frazzled version of her real-life smoking-hot self, she still puts her whole body into the role with the same gusto she used to become a serial killer in Monster.  Theron must have the worst agent in Hollywood with all the crap she has been in (Aeon Flux anyone?) but every so often she turns in performances in movies like this that make you think if she had a better agent she could be the female Daniel Day-Lewis.  Theron gets that lost in her best characters – and Mavis is one of them. Continue reading

Shooting Circles Around the Heart of Joe Wright’s Hanna

"So this one time, there was this girl named Hanna, and she was like a super freak, but still totally cool, even though she killed people and stuff."

Hmmm…who knew?  That Joe Wright is quite mad, isn’t he?

In his fourth film, Hanna, director Joe Wright shatters all sensible expectations.  It’s almost as if this (and not the regally refined Pride & Prejudice) was his first film.  Or could this be the first Joe Wright film?  Maybe the rest were compromises, and it is here where he throws everything and the kitchen sink at us and begs, “How do you like me now?”

The art-house action film is a rare breed indeed.  Luc Besson’s Leon: The Professional and Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run are probably the most well-regarded.  Hanna, about a teenage girl/uber-assassin out for revenge, will likely join the ranks of those two and in some ways surpasses them.

So in this demented girl-power, Euro-trash, Clockwork Orange-esque, quasi-futuristic, 80’s-retro-ish, techno-club music, beat-boxing kaleidoscope of a film, what does Joe Wright throw at us?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Here’s the laundry list of treats (potential spoilers ahead) in store for audiences who take on Hanna: Continue reading