Movie Snarks

The Wolf of Wall Street


I love films that look at excessive behaviour, whether it is gangsters, people who used to work for gangsters, or biopics about dead people – The Doors (Jim Morrison), Man on the Moon (Andy Kaufman), Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (a few are dead, the rest are in prison).  In fact, I was frequently reminded of The Smartest Guys in the Room when watching The Wolf of Wall Street.

For those not acquainted with the documentary, The Smartest Guys (as I’m now going to term it), is an absolute powerhouse of a movie, detailing the rise and fall of what was America’s most innovative company, Enron – a business with a one-time value of an estimated $100 billion.  It encapsulated the realisation of the American dream, and was promptly uncovered as being nothing more than a massive criminal conspiracy.  An epic smoke and mirrors show, all conducted by some very, very clever men – with testicles the size of medicine balls.

With a similar swagger, The Wolf of Wall Street is all about the excess and the conspiracy, fun and decline, instant fortune and rapid failure.

I loved every second of it, and was immediately inspired to re-watch.  However, that pleasure will have to be taken another time, partly as a result of the three hour running time, but mainly due to the damage my four year-old boy would sustain if walking in on me watching this film.  For a Marty Scorsese film there is hardly any violence, but the language and graphic sex depicted throughout is outrageous – and utterly fantastic.

So, whilst I’m all in on the sex and expletives, the prospect of my son overhearing some of this film and then calling me a ‘cocksucker’ over the breakfast table, is not desirable.

Based on the true antics of one time Wall Street titan, Jordan Belfort, this movie tells a very simple tale of greed and excess, while offering a loud ‘F-You’ to any molecule of morality or realised consequence of action.  As a Wall Street broker, Jordan Belfort spun a web of bollocks like no other.  If any of this portrayal is accurate, and I’m pretty sure most of it is, then this guy was a virtuoso in the field of unquenchable demand from a pool of illusionary supply.

This film’s vision of greed is only matched by its utter entrenchment towards excess.  In fact, the necessity of sexual conquest and fanatical drug use often overpowers the ability to successfully perpetuate the crimes Belfort and his army of clones are chained too.

In typical fashion for such films, the decline is eventually realised and as the wheels fall off the fun-bus, poor old Jordan loses everything (to a degree).  Roll credits.  I don’t mean to be flippant, but that’s exactly what happens.  This film is a very basic, one dimensional telling of an all too familiar rise and fall story.  In some hands this would be a serious problem, but with Martin Scorsese it’s an absolute joy to behold, much like Goodfellas.

I think we’ve all heard how good Leonardo DiCaprio is, and the balls-out performance he gives, so much so that I really have nothing more to add.  He is immense and totally sells the shit-bag character of Belfort perfectly.  In fact, I’ll extend that to all those around him, even the usually awful Jonah Hill puts in a decent turn – clearly, working with people other than the vomit-inducing Michael Cera and that talentless twerp, McLovin’, helps his nauseating attempts to remain relevant.  Keep working with real talent, Jonah, and you might just survive the oblivion usually reserved for your type.

However, with source material provided by Terrance Winter, and based on Belfort’s own book, I would defy any actor to not have a hoot when speaking this dialogue.  The blackness of the comedy is a welcome break from the usual frat-pack stuff, and is akin to Seven Psychopaths and the works of Joseph Heller and early Coen Brothers.

DiCaprio is a force of nature when delivering his sales speeches, Johan and crew are equally memorable with their episodes of living in overabundance, even Matthew McConaughey has a cameo that is up there with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross – yet another film about the quagmire world of vicious sales and vulgar sales people.  In fact, the pleasurable assassination of sickening sales drones is a ripe topic to poke a shitty stick at.  Speaking from the safety of personal experience, your average sales person is perhaps the perfect example of base arrogance with a slimy, snake-oil void of charm or empathy.  Whilst they may weave a picture of familiar friendship and helpful requirement, the reality is more akin to the arena of prostitution – but without the integrity or valour of screwing someone honestly.

It’s clearly a perspective Hollywood loves, with the likes of the aforementioned Glengarry Glen Ross, The Wall Street movies, Boiler Room, Tin Men, and to a lesser extent, Death of a Salesman and Jerry Maguire.

With The Wolf of Wall Street, this interpretation of greed dominating veracity is almost faultless.  Granted, you are not going to see any original use of lighting, camera position, or a more diegetic soundscape.  The story is very linear and seldom strays from what you already know is coming, and the acting – which is solid – is not breaking any new grounds or challenging the craft.

With this said, it’s a testament to the film that none of the above actually matters, and would only detract away from the real focus of the film – an A to Z route map of the glory of excess and egocentric bullshit, and the stark recognition of its consequences.

Paul Millard 2014

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A Christmas Evening, With Fish and Tits

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It was just before Christmas when myself, and my wife, took the decision to do a movie double-bill one evening.  Our son was safely in bed and we were free agents to watch whatever we fancied.  We weren’t going to watch yet another episode of that Welsh fire-fighter bloke who appears to live in the most flammable fucking town on the planet, or those American kids who morph into plastic toys that look gay and shit.  Oh no… we could be masters of our own viewing!

So, with such time on our hands what masterpiece did we decide to watch?  Yep, you guessed it; we chose Piranha 3D and Piranha 3DD.

We decided on these films for two very sound reasons.  I really wanted to see Kelly Brook in a sexy bikini, and I thought my wife would really want to see Kelly Brook in a sexy bikini.

To raise the stakes a little higher, we also watched these films whilst building one of those online photo albums as a Christmas present for my parents.  Different, huh?  You won’t get this kind of film critique from those stale, uninspiring hacks over at Empire, and as for Total Film, they are little more than a fucking poster magazine at this point and therefore no real competition when it comes to unique movie reviewing.

Anyway, back to the movie…

The lovely Kelly Brook only appears in the first film, and whilst she was truly amazing in that bikini, to say nothing of her poignant acting throughout the stirring underwater lesbian scenes, I was truly surprised by how good this movie turned out.

First off, any film that starts with Richard Dreyfuss, rowing a boat whilst whistling “Show Me The Way To Go Home”, already scores big with me as a hard-core Jaws fan.  However, whilst it was nice to see him, the appearance is short lived as it seems a Great White Shark, and a prissy Robert Shaw, is no match for a bunch of angry fish.

The plot is easy to reach.  An annual spring party held on the postcard perfect Lake Victoria falls foul to some bad joojoo, and a pack of prehistoric piranha set about fucking up the incredibly young and beautiful people dipping their toes.  That’s pretty much it.

It’s hard to discuss this film without falling into a dozen clichés and nods towards the B-movie creature features that inspired its remake… but that’s the point, this film has its fins firmly in that wheelhouse and is actively looking to be compared to those that came before.

Fun, gory and at times a little scary… and I’m not referring to the acting.  Although, whilst we are on the subject, the crappiness of the performances is only matched by the dreadfully stereotyped characters these luvvies are trying to inhabit.  Let’s be honest, there’s more depth to a fridge drip tray than there is to the portrayal of a sexed-up, Girls Gone Wild video director who only seems concerned about the prospect of the piranhas eating his dick.

This being said, the film manages to bag a few good actors.  Kelly Brook is obviously in a class of her own (and is perhaps best suited to silent movies), but the director, Alexandre Aja, managed to sign up Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames and Christopher Lloyd, to say nothing of the aforementioned Ricky Dreyfuss.  Hell, they even got a porn star, Riley Steele, to eventually sleep with da fishes.

As the credits rolled, and with thirty pages of the online photo album done, my wife looked at me and we both gave an approving nod – we liked this one.  Piranha 3D feels like the kind of movie that is destined to become a true cult classic… but you may need to wait another 15 years for the film to reach that pinnacle.  Enjoyably gruesome with some genuinely funny moments, and all aided by two of the sexiest women on the planet making out… underwater.  Enough said.

Made a few years after Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD ushered in a new director in John Gulager, and a grand total of five different writers, all geared up to make a worthy sequel.  However, with so many people involved in penning this script I’m still unsure how they all managed to miss the point of a B-movie, and make a truly fucking awful mess of a film.

This time, Nemo and his friends set their tiny eyes on a Wet ‘n Wild type waterpark, and manage to do a pretty good job messing shit up for all the amazingly young and still beautiful-looking people dipping their toes… again.  However, that’s where all the fun ends.  It’s a film that looks half decent on paper, but desperate and trite on celluloid.

I’ll be honest, ten minutes into the film I gave up on the plot, gave up on the characters, I even gave up checking out the rack on the lovely ladies, and concentrated more on cropping the photos for my online album.  It’s that bad.

The Richard Dreyfuss cold open from the first film is replaced with a similar manoeuvre employing Gary Busey.  So even before the film starts, the audience is pretty much slapped with a notice telling you that zero thought or originality has gone into this, and instead the writers have tweaked the nipples of the first film to see if anyone notices.

Talking of cast, it’s once again a veiled version of the original.  Christopher Lloyd is still here, as is Ving Rhames, but the rest are about as forgettable as that thing I just forgot about.  The heroine, played by Danielle Panabaker is watchable, but this is largely due to Danielle being as cute as a button, and from her work in the Friday the 13th remake and The Crazies.

Even the attendance of David Koechner (Champ Kind from Anchorman), fails to divert your attention away from this lazy river of dog shit.  I’m genuinely staggered by how much this film choked, and if I’m being honest, a little disappointed and cheated.

With the rise of films like Sharknado, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and Big Ass Spider, the continued health of the modern day creature feature is not in question – however, the continued adventures of the piranha are dangerously close to being filleted, and may require the industry standard reboot in another five years in order to stay appetising.

And with that, our piranha double bill evening was over.  The first fishy tale was a delight, and one I will revisit at some point – if only to watch Kelly again – the second movie was a big, fat red herring, dipped in mouldy breadcrumbs and eaten by a shabby homeless person who has a faint smell of piss on his fingers.

… and if you are curious, my parents loved the photo album.

Paul Millard 2014

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Kelly Brook Photo1

There’s Snow Love like Frozen Love

People of a religious persuasion call it enlightenment, drunks call it a moment of clarity; but on a Sunday morning a few months ago, in a packed cinema, I had what I’m going to call the potential start date of my mid-life crisis.

Over the weekend I took my 4 year-old to the cinema to catch a movie.  My wife wanted us out of the house for whatever reason and it was too early to take the kid to the bar.  I considered the local ‘dirt’ park (the name I use to describe the disused shithole park close to our house that seems filled with climbing frames designed to kill children, and packs of drug-addicts trying to dismount the see-saws without sustaining concussions), but I wasn’t in the mood to stand around that place in the rain, and my son hadn’t had a tetanus shot for a while.  So with pick ‘n’ mix selected, bottles of water at the ready, and our stupidly priced tickets collected, we were ready to settle down in a giant-ass room full of screaming kids, to watch Disney’s latest offering, Frozen.

By the way, the cost of movie tickets is on my shit-list, I’m not finished with that topic by a long stretch.  Two tickets, a few bottles of water and some sweets racks up to £30.00 – are you fucking kidding me, that’s almost the same price the kids pay for a few hits of hillbilly heroin at the aforementioned ‘dirt’ park.  Anyway, that’s for another time.

So, the film starts… and it’s excruciating.  Talk about so sweet you’re giving me tooth-ache, within ten minutes my teeth had been extracted and replaced with a wooden set.  Disney know how to play an audience, no shit, they are fucking masters at it.  I’m not sure how many heart-strings we have, but they were giving a virtuoso performance with this movie.  The setting, the cutesy dialogue, the songs, the lovable snowman, this thing was taking no prisoners and was not going to stop until every man, woman and child in the place was crying little Disney-hallmarked tears for the big sentimental ending.

I’m forty-two, and pretty jaded on this shit.  I’ve been watching movies for a long time, and I’ve given my half-assed opinion on them in a ton of ways.   Yes, I handed over some loot for a prized Monsters University baseball cap on a recent hike to Disneyworld, but that movie had Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi in it – Billy is a god, and the other two frequently appear in Coen Brothers films.  For all intent and purpose, I could be watching a weird Barton Fink’esque film based on a dream some kid has about monsters in their closet.  No shame in that.

Anyway, I’m sat in my chair and about half-way through the movie.  My kid is loving it, laughing at the right moments, and is already talking about the best bits.  I’m listening to his chatter and playing with my phone, checking IMDB to see how long this movie goes on for, and in relation to the amount of time I’ve already served.  Then it happens…

A princess by the name of Elsa gets thrown out of the kingdom or something, heads to a mountain and builds a huge ice palace – I’m guessing without any prior planning permission or local council involvement.  The fucking singing starts once again about how free she feels and stuff, and I look up from my phone just as this computer generated character loosens her alluring blonde hair, sweeps her perfectly-formed head, and with the most wondrous eyes, stares at the camera.  She stares at me!

It’s at this point I suddenly become more interested in this film than pretty much anything else I have ever been cognitively aware of… ever.  My kid could have wandered off and started eating popcorn from the fucking floor whilst taking a piss against the old woman in row H, I would never have noticed.  I was mesmerized by the goddess on the screen.

From this moment my eyes did not leave the screen.  Fuck, I don’t even remember blinking.  The plot, the singing, the snow shit, all of that dissolved and my complete being was now hopelessly linked to the possibility of her next scene stealing appearance.  She was the Princess Elsa, and I was now wrapped within complete devotion.

The film ends, and we leave the place.  I go home and my wife asks about the movie.  My son gives it the full low-down and rants on the finer details of the snow monster fight and how the Princess punches the baddie and knocks him into the water – for the record, that guy is a real fucking asshole, and clearly has no understanding on how to treat a princess.

Anyway, when my wife asks me about the flick, all I can muster is that the animation was very good.  That’s all I had.  Why – because to explain my new romance with Princess Elsa felt wrong, forbidden, alarmingly creepy and probably grounds for committal to the local cuckoo hatch.  How is it possible?  In the space of one hour and forty minutes my love has somehow waned for my long-suffering partner, and defected to something that was drawn by a fucking twenty year-old Disney intern, and only exists on a hard-drive in Hollywood!

Since then I have pretty much Googled the words ‘Princess Elsa’ every day, I’ve downloaded some jpegs of her to keep in my wallet, and have managed to persuade a few friends to watch the movie – for the sole purpose of checking out the blonde hottie wearing the long dress in the ice palace scene, who I will eventually marry in a ceremony probably attended by Pluto, Mary Poppins and a whole fucking team of psychiatrists.

In other words, the kaleidoscope of women I fantasize about has just included the most unobtainable of the species… those that don’t actually fucking exist.

Paul Millard 2014