Quick Takes: The Wolf of Wall Street, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Zombie

wolf_1The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
threehalfstar

Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Cristin Milioti, Christine Ebersole, Shea Whigham, P. J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Matthew McConaughey
Directed by Martin Scorsese

In my teenage years, when I getting serious about my film obsession, Martin Scorsese was one of my favorite directors. The years haven’t been too kind to our relationship, though, as Scorsese hasn’t made a single film since Kundun that I’ve flat-out loved. The Wolf of Wall Street still isn’t quite there for me, but it is a finely made film that is incredibly entertaining and watchable even at a full three hours. Most importantly, Scorsese successfully dredges up that exuberant energy that made his earlier films sparkle. Leonardo DiCaprio proves (once again) that he deserves one of those coveted Oscar statues, in one of his best performances yet. But honestly, it was Jonah Hill that surprised me the most. Hill is a surprisingly good actor, I guess “surprisingly” because I always wrote him off as “one of those dudes in modern comedies that I don’t like.” While most of the movie is best described as vapid exuberance, it does end up relating something insightful about the American psyche and the power of money. If you’ve been cold on the last few Scorsese films, The Wolf of Wall Street is the real deal.

Dawn_1Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
twohalfstar

Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer
Directed by Matt Reeves

I liked Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but for me it was a big step down from the first one. A lot less emotionally engaging, and all the human characters were cardboard and boring. The story didn’t really grab me either, although I don’t know what else this movie could’ve been about. It’s a movie about the dawn of the war between apes and men, so you kinda have to show why they’re angry at one another, but I think it could have been far better executed. A good majority of the FX work is outstanding, but alongside the amazing stuff are chimps with faces that look flat and completely fake (such as Caesar’s son). I don’t understand why, because Caesar, Koba, Maurice and a good majority of the other apes all look near-real most of the time. Whatever… apes with machines guns made me smile. And they ride horses! The third movie will likely be a pretty hefty action film, but I’m not going in with great expectations after the so-so showing here by director Matt Reeves (who is also directing the third one).

Zombie_Flesh_eatersZombie [Zombi 2] (1979)
AKA Island of the Flesh-Eaters, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie 2: The Dead are Among Us, Island of the Living Dead

twohalfstar

Starring Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay, Stefania D’Amario, Olga Karlatos
Directed by Lucio Fulci

Zombie is surprisingly dull for the most part, except when the zombies come around with their muddy, worm-ridden faces. The characters — if you can even call them that — do some really dumbass shit, and the “story” is like a vague premise with dialogue attached to it. It’s seriously not much more than: A woman searches for her father on a strange island where the dead rise from their graves. And the search for Daddy isn’t even that big of a deal, as it’s pretty clear from the first scene what happened to him. The last half hour or so is pure zombie killin’ entertainment, though, and the gore throughout is awesome. Lots of great flesh-rippin’ bites and other gruesome sights, especially the bit where a splintered wood beam pierces through a character’s eye!

Mac and Me (1988)

AKA Mi amigo Mac, Mac – O Extraterrestre, Mac, a földönkívüli barát, Mick… mein Freund vom anderen Stern

Starring Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, Tina Caspary, Lauren Stanley, Jade Calegory, Vinnie Torrente, Martin West, Ivan J. Rado, Danny Cooksey, Laura Waterbury, Ronald McDonald

Directed by Stewart Raffill

Expectations: I have high hopes that this will deliver some B-Movie fun.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


OK, hear me out! If you’re a child of the 80s like myself, you most likely saw this movie when you were a kid and have some vague memories of how it did a horrible job of ripping off Steven Spielberg’s slightly more famous stranded alien film, E.T. The Extraterrestrial. Like fine wine, time has been very kind to our friend Mac and his zany adventures through the Los Angeles basin, resulting in one of the most unexpectedly fun re-watches in a long time.

The film opens on a distant planet in our solar system. Which planet is never revealed, but the foreboding presence of Saturn overhead suggests that it might be one of the ringed planet’s sixty-two moons. I guess now is a good time to state that it’s important that any sort of analytical or critical thinking must be turned off for the remainder of the film or used simply as comedy, as anything else will only result in sheer disappointment with this cinematic gem. OK, where was I? The planet is inhabited by weird creatures with eternally surprised looks on their faces, doing their best to survive. The dad (or Big Mac) busts into the soil and inserts a makeshift straw, sucking out the life-giving water inside. Due to their surprised facial structure, their mouths are always ready to go for straw-drinking, and with mouths like that I’d imagine the straw would’ve been one of the first tools this species invented… or maybe their world is populated with straw trees and in order to survive the creatures evolved and adapted to use the tools given them by the area they inhabited. It’s questions like this that we’ll never have a definitive answer for, as the promised sequel unfortunately never materialized.

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