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!

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

SilverLiningsPlaybookAKA Happiness Therapy

Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Julia Stiles, Paul Herman, Dash Mihok

Directed by David O. Russell

Expectations: High.

threestar


I almost didn’t see David O. Russel’s previous film, The Fighter, because I thought I didn’t need to see another boxing movie. I was wrong. Even with this in mind, I wasn’t all that fired up when I first heard about Silver Linings Playbook, Russell’s latest film. Over time, the hype machine built it up enough so I felt like I had to see it, and I’m glad I did, as I enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook quite a lot. My girlfriend seemed less than impressed, remarking that the song over the end credits “is upbeat to make you think it was a great movie,” and I don’t necessarily disagree. While Silver Linings Playbook is easily one of the best films of 2012, I don’t think it’s one that will stand out as a classic as the years roll on.

The film is a very interesting mix of mental illness and “boy meets girl,” making the film transcend its romantic roots and feel like more of a quirky indie drama than a romantic film. The romantic angle is always there, though, brewing under the surface in the electric, honest scenes between Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) and Pat (Bradley Cooper). But by the time the film reaches its climax it can’t hold itself back any longer, embracing its true nature and delivering an ending that is nice, while clichéd and obvious. I guess there’s only so many ways for a romantic story to end.

Continue reading Silver Linings Playbook (2012) →

Take Shelter (2011)

Starring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Natasha Randall, Ron Kennard, Scott Knisley, Robert Longstreet

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Expectations: Low, as I know nothing about this other than it’s about obsession, which is a subject I have an obsession with.


Take Shelter is a film I saw out of circumstance instead of desire. I happened to get off work a few hours early and decided to finally check out the hype surrounding Drive. Only problem was that Drive was only playing later in the day and I had about two hours to kill. This led me to check out Take Shelter in the meantime, as I had heard good things, and if there’s one constant theme I enjoy, it’s filmed obsession. I’m really glad this worked out the way it did, as Take Shelter is one of the best films I’ve seen all year.

Take Shelter focuses on Curtis (Michael Shannon) and how his dreams of a coming storm slowly begin to break down his life. He does his best to keep it all under wraps from his wife (Jessica Chastain) and his deaf daughter, but when his obsession over the nightly apocalyptic dreams starts to affect reality, it’s pretty hard not to notice. This is one that works really well not knowing much about it, so I’ll refrain from any more specifics.

Continue reading Take Shelter (2011) →

Machete (2010)

Machete (2010)

Starring Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Shea Whigham, Tom Savini, Felix Sabates, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan

Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis

Expectations: Moderate, and hoping for the best.


One of my favorite aspects of the Rodriguez/Tarantino film Grindhouse were the fake trailers. Easily my favorite of the bunch was Rodriguez’s Machete trailer. When it was announced that a full film was being produced, my excitement was through the roof. If they could keep up that level of over-the-top insanity that the trailer promised, while not resorting to the overly digital filmmaking that Rodriguez seems to favor these days, this could be awesome! To my surprise, Rodriguez actually pulled it off (for the most part)!

Continue reading Machete (2010) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,593 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages