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!

Video Book Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films

What’s this? That’s right, I did a video review! I’ve considered doing things like this, as well as appearing on podcasts, for a while now, and this art book presented a perfect opportunity to try out the video review thing. It’s a completely foreign thing for me to do, and surprisingly I recorded it all in one take with no edits! I also did all my own stunts. Paper cuts are a real concern when you’re doing something like this. While I was unable to secure the insurance necessary for the shoot, I threw caution to the wind and shot it anyway! Take that, you bastards in suits!

Anyway…

WATCH as I nervously try to think of what to say next!

SEE as I fumble with turning pages while on-camera!

LISTEN as I go on tangents about CG ruining film and make jokes about apes!

READ what is probably the longest post title you’ll ever see, unless I’m intentionally trying to make one longer!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films was released by Titan Books on July 8, 2014 and it is available now via Amazon and other book retailers! If you’re a fan of the films and are also interesting in filmmaking, definitely consider picking up a copy (preferably by clicking that Amazon box above)!

Disclosure: Titan Books provided me with a review copy of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films.

ParaNorman (2012)

ParaNorman_1Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, John Goodman

Directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell

Expectations: Fairly low. I’m only watching this because my girlfriend talked me into it.

threehalfstar


The older I get the more I don’t understand adults who like kids’ movies. Well, let me rephrase that. I don’t understand adults who like modern kids’ movies. If you have kids you get a pass because you’re going to see them anyway, so you might as well grow a taste for them. But I don’t have kids, so enjoying or even bothering with modern kids’ movies makes no sense to me. They’re clearly not for me, they’re for kids. So good riddance, and thanks but no thanks. But every once in a while, one comes around that even I can’t ignore, and ParaNorman is one of those films. And it’s a whole lot of fun no matter your age, especially if you enjoy horror films.

ParaNorman is about a kid named Norman (who woulda thought?) who can see ghosts. He’s labeled a freak by his classmates, and even his own father berates him on a regular basis. Norman, on the other hand, enjoys his gift, it’s just how everyone else reacts to it that gets him down. Funnily enough, Norman’s town has a history of persecuting those with a supernatural gift. There was once a witch who lived there, but the townspeople took care of her in the way that everyone took care of witches in the 18th century. And because this is a horror movie, the witch cursed the town and tonight’s the night that everything comes together for the curse’s realization.

Continue reading ParaNorman (2012) →

The Road (2009)

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael K. Williams, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron

Directed by John Hillcoat

Expectations: Very high.


I’ve been looking forward to this movie for way too long. My mind-hype was allowed to fester and there’s no way that the film could have lived up to that kind of expectation. It was originally slated to release late 2008 but got pushed back a few times, ultimately releasing over a year later in November 2009 to a limited number of screens. Whenever a film is pushed back to this degree, I always get apprehensive about its worth, but in this case it seems that the delay was more for post work and to (unsuccessfully) optimize Oscar potential, so I still expected it to be great.

The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, but as I haven’t read it yet I can’t offer any sort of adaptation notes. The story follows the journey of a man and his boy in a world devastated by an unnamed catastrophe. There isn’t a defined plot other than the standard apocalypse fare of “Let’s get to the coast, I hear it’s OK there.” This works for the film as the point of it all is to examine the father/son relationship during an incredibly tough time where survival and primal instincts are the only constants. The father (Viggo Mortensen) struggles to keep himself and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) alive and away from the other survivors. As the apocalyptic events wiped out most life on Earth, including plants and animals, most people have resorted to cannibalism of those weaker than them. This is established at the opening of the film as Mortensen is forced to kill a man and he later finds his head and entrails under an overturned truck.

Continue reading The Road (2009) →

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