The Wolf Of Wall Street


Viewed 28 January 2014 Cinema

I will generally watch anything featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, who I believe to be one of the best actors of his generation and has turned out some quite remarkable performances over the years … highlights being Stephen Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can and most recently his villainous turn in Tarantino’s Django Unchained.  The same could be said for his long standing partnership with famed director Martin Scorsese, easily one of the best in the business.  And so we come to this their latest collaboration, but does it live up to their other works?

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Based on a true story, DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort a man who becomes a millionaire during the eighties by working the stock markets to his favour, and lives life to the extreme, enjoying wealth, drugs, women, cars … and more drugs.  This hectic and outrageous film portrays Belfort as a man of excess, where he becomes addicted to a lifestyle that can only end badly.  Basically this is a rags to riches tale, and seems to follow the blue print of Scorsese own Goodfellas, swapping gangsters for crooked stock brokers but the theme remains the same. 

It’s a heady mix that Scorsese delivers with his expected style and expertise – fast and full of information, a wealth of side characters and cameos (was that Joanna Lumley?) and various stand out performances, including a hilarious Jonah Hill and a memorable Matthew McConaughey.  But of course this is DiCaprio’s movie and he’s is like a tornado – blowing through the movie and delivering one of his most crazy, complex and brilliant performances in years (think Gatsby on acid!).  Along with a director still at the top of his game and a shocking, riveting story (even if at times its unbelievably mad) this fired on all cylinders.  It also happens to be the funniest movie I have seen in a long time (the cerebral palsy sequence…yes, really). 

Jordan Bellfort may not be one of DiCaprio’s more likable roles, but the movie is a drug-fuelled ride of parties, sex, nudity and full-on-entertainment that’s very hard not to get caught up in.  Superb.

Verdict:  5 /5

The Princess Bride


Viewed – 01 April 2013  Blu-ray

25th Anniversary Edition

Director Rob Reiner has been responsible, in my opinion for classic after classic, especially during the eighties with movies like Stand By Me, Misery and When Harry Met Sally, but many will know him for this perfectly pitched fantasy fable that pokes fun whilst also offering a tribute to movies like Legend and LadyHawk.

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Starring Robin Wright (before she was Penn) as a farm girl named Buttercup, and Cary Elwes (everybody’s favorite comedy heart-throb) as her farm boy love-interest, this is a simple love story with added swashbuckling, masked avengers, a giant, miracles and perfect narration by Peter Falk (Columbo).  At it’s heart its a comedy, and a dry one at that, with some great lines (As You Wish, You Killed My Father … Prepare To Die, He’s Only Mostly Dead!) and some great talent throughout the cast (look out for cameos from Peter Cook, Billy Crystal and Mel Smith).  Reiner’s direction is perfectly paced, telling the story with a bunch of larger-than-life characters, including a great boo-hiss villain in the shape of Chris Sarandon’s Prince Humperdink …. and let’s not forget ‘that’ theme tune.

As a movie I grew up loving, watching it now with more mature eyes, it stands the test of time well.  The script is still sharp and quotable, the performances just right, without getting too silly, and overall I had a great time.  I think it lacks a bit of spectacle, some of the effects and scenery look fake as hell, and the climax lacks a bit of impact.  However this is one of those movies where the moments you loved, are still great and the characters are all as fun as you recall – even if by today’s standards it all seems a little corny and cheap.  I still say its a classic though.

This 25th Anniversary Blu-ray is pretty impressive.  The image is crisp and has much more detail than I could have expected, the colors especially popping (check out Prince Humperdink’s red outfit and gold crown), whilst the sound is clear and  punchy.  I noticed a few moments of slight lip-sync, but that could have been my player (PS3) and when I came to watch the disk on my second player (a Pioneer) it wouldn’t play at all (!).  Very odd.  Extra’s consist of all the special features from the DVD special edition (two commentaries, a documentary, 1987 featurette, photo galleries, Cary Elwes on set video diary etc) as well as all new features including a new documentary covering the movie’s cult appeal, as well as several other featurettes).  So despite a few technical hiccups I experienced, this is otherwise a home-run.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Stand By Me


Viewed – 11 June 2011  Blu-ray

25th Anniversary Edition

This was a movie that whilst I was growing up, meant a great deal to me.  Something about the tale of four young boys going on a journey together, hit home, and ever since has remained a firm favourite.  Rob Reiner’s adaptation of the little known Stephen King short story (itself part of the Different Seasons anthology that spawned The Shawshank Redemption) offers a sentimental but believable coming-of-age tale of a group of friends setting out to find a dead body.  Following in their footsteps is a group of older youths, headed by a very young looking Kiefer Sutherland, and what starts out as a simple journey soon becomes fraught with peril and self-discovery.

Starring the late River Pheonix in arguably his most famous role as leader of the young boy’s gang alongside Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton and an unrecognisable Jerry O’Connell, each young actor deliver’s a mesmerizing performance, at times funny and other times very emotional.  Okay, with more mature eyes some of the more sentimental moments look a bit forced, but with nearly all character’s having such a fully fleshed out personality and back stories, what they go through and what they confess to each other still hits home.  Add to this a memorable sixties soundtrack (most notably Ben E. King’s classic title track) and some priceless dialogue (suck my fat one you cheap dime store hood?) much of the charm and appeal I discovered as a teenager remains intact … and incredibly effective.

The Blu-ray is very pleasing, with a quality picture full of colour and depth, that although seems a touch soft focus in places, has enough detail and ‘pop’ to easily outclasses lesser catalogue releases.  Extras are plentiful for this edition with a picture-in-picture retrospective with director Rob Reiner and actors Corey Feldman and Wil Wheaton, as well as a separate audio-only commentary by Reiner himself.  Add to this the documentary ‘The Summer Of Stand By Me’ and a music video, and any fan of this one should be more than satisfied.

Verdict:  5 /5

The Bucket List


Viewed – 24 May 2011  DVD

If asked to name two of the most dependable actors currently working, then you’d find it difficult to beat seasoned veterans Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  With a career spanning several decades and with some of the most acclaimed movies ever made under their belt, they signify just what makes movies a worthwhile interest.  For me Nicholson has always been a favourite even if I haven’t seen him in anything for years, and Freeman, well, where can you go wrong?  Not with this little known gem, you can’t.

Nicholson is a corporate big-wig diagnosed with cancer who meets working class mechanic Freeman in hospital also diagnosed with the disease, with both of them given a limited life expectancy.  This at first downbeat and serious start soon turns into something very different when Freeman comes up with the idea of The Bucket List – things you would like to do before you kick the bucket.  Billionaire Nicholson takes this literally though and soon persuades Freeman to go on a trip with him to live out whatever time they have left, to the fullest.

As a new take on the Walter Mathieu / Jack Lemon odd-couple comedies, this is full of memorable moments and quality turns from its leads, with the mismatched men both lending different personalities to their adventure.  Nicholson as expected is all go-getter and brash and gets most of the best lines (don’t trust a fart!), but Freeman’s wisdom stops the movie turning into farce, and beneath the hi-jinks beats a very emotional and heart-warming heart.  Directed by Rob Reiner this perhaps lack a little ambition and the bucket list globe-trotting adventures feel cheaply realised … but thankfully with the focus of the movie being the two friends, every minute in their company is a minute well spent.

Verdict:  4 /5