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Tag: Reviews (page 2 of 8)

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street. Every now and then a story comes along that is just too good for Hollywood to pass on. Jordan Belfort has such a story. In the 1990s, he founded the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont which functioned as a boiler room marketing penny stocks, where he defrauded investors with fraudulent stock sales. During his years as a stock swindler, Belfort developed a partying lifestyle, which included a serious addiction to Quaaludes. Stratton Oakmont employed over 1,000 stock brokers and was involved in stock issues totaling more than $1 billion, including an equity raising for footwear company Steve Madden Ltd. Belfort was indicted in 1998 for securities fraud and money laundering. After cooperating with the FBI, he served 22 months in federal prison for a pump and dump scheme, which resulted in investor losses of approximately $200 million.

The life of Jordan Belfort and the rise and eventual fall of his company has now found its way to the silver screen with the help acclaimed director Martin Scorsese and baby-face actor Leonardo DiCaprio. There are, of course, more actors in the movie – there are even a lion and a monkey, much to the annoyance of PETA – but DiCaprio stars as Belfort himself.

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Fletch

Fletch.During lunch at work earlier this week, we started discussing movies and one of my co-workers proclaimed that the best movie ever was Fletch, a 1985 movie starring Chevy Chase. If you watched movies back in the eighties, you probably remember him from such films as the Vacation series and Caddyshack. If you happened not be born at the time, he might be familiar to you from the TV series Community. The actor has a long and impressive filmography that, with very few exceptions, contains comedy performances – he was for instance one of the original cast members of NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

Fletch is no exception and another movie on Chase’s comedy rap sheet. We meet Irwin ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, an investigative reporter for a Los Angeles newspaper, writing under the pseudonym Jane Doe. Irwin, if you dare to call him that, is currently undercover as a bum at the beach, where he is investigating a major drug operation. One day he is approached by Alan Stanwyk, a rich man, who asks him a very unusual favor: Stanwyk wants Fletcher to kill him for $50,000 dollars.

While Fletch isn’t the greatest movie ever (that award goes to Strange Days), I have to admit I enjoyed it a great deal. Being a 1980’s movie, it features a soudtrack that is very synth heavy – and I enjoy synths – a proper, Police Academy style, car chase, and a feature that was way more popular back in the days than it is today: The narrator. Fletch takes is time to tell you what he thinks from time to time.

The story in Fletch works well, it has enough twists and turns to make it unpredictable and intriguing, and enough funny moments to make the movie a proper comedy.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The HobbitThe tiny, good-natured people with large, hairy feet are back to take us on another adventure in Middle-earth. Actually, this time there’s only one hobbit, as the title of this Peter Jackson big screen adaption of 1937 novel by J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit suggests. Martin Freeman plays a young Bilbo Baggins who is convinced by the wizard Gandalf to accompany thirteen merry – at least some of them are – dwarves on a quest across Middle-earth to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon. And the stage is set for another really long fantasy movie by Peter Jackson.

At the start of the movie I became, for some reason, I became a bit sceptical. Would it be possible for Jackson to come even close to his epic The Lord of the Rings movies? Could Martin Freeman play a Hobbit? And would the dwarfs empty poor Bilbo’s pantry? The answers turned out to be yes, yes and yes. The Hobbit really is a great movie if you go to see a grand fantasy adventure. It’ll also help if you enjoy computer graphics, because there are a lot of CGI in this movie. And even though the computer generated beasts and effects are great, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe there was a little too much of it. That said, it would have been impossible to make this movie without the help of all those bits and bytes.

So, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes highly recommended. As with the The Lord of the Rings movies, Jackson is splitting this book into three movies, too. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of the three and it’s to be followed by The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, due for theatrical release in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Skyfall

Your favourite British agent James Bond is back, celebrating his 50th year on the big screen. Sean Connery was the first 007 in the movie “Dr. No” and many actors have since tried to fill his shoes. But they have all failed; Sean Connery is the undisputed, the original, James Bond. The one who has been able to come closest to Connery is the current actor, Daniel Craig. With three movies under his belt, he’s grown into the role and whoever follows him will have a hard time living up to the standard Craig has set.

Unfortunately, it’s not much left of the good old James Bond we know from the classic, pre-Timothy Dalton movies. From the first Dalton movie, the James Bond franchise has gradually turned away from the old receipt: An antagonist with a plan so crazy you know from the start it just won’t work out – but you have to admire him for trying – and a 007 who fires loads at women far more often than he fires his Walther PPK. Modern James Bond movies, on the other hand, are more about blowing stuff up and creating even more overwhelming stunts that they did in the previous movie. While the stunts are bigger and more dangerous than ever, the antagonist are mere shadows of the ones in the classic movies: They simply aren’t ambitious enough. Whatever happened to destroying the world and creating a new civilization under the sea? These days it’s all about the money and/or getting revenge for something.

I, for one, miss the old 007. Today’s James Bond movies have turned into mediocre Hollywood action movies. Yes, Daniel Craig is the second greatest James Bond we’ve seen so far, and the bad guy in Skyfall is brilliantly portrayed by Javier Bardem – but as a James Bond movie Skyfall just doesn’t rack up compared to the classics.

Spoiler: One good thing came out of this James Bond movie, though: We’re finally rid of this bitching (literally speaking) iteration of M.

Dark Shadows

In Dark Shadows, Johnny Depp (who you most likely know well from numerous blockbusters) returns to play yet another social misfit. This time it’s Barnabas Collins, British fishing industry mogul son who is turned into a vampire by a former lover who happened to be a witch. They brake up and to say that she doesn’t handle it very well would be a gross understatement. In 1752, he is locked away by the obligatory angry mob and is stuck until 1972 when the construction of a satanic fast food chain restaurant accidentally releases his fury upon the world again.

The movie starts very well and gets straight to the point, which I enjoy: The stage is set and everyone is quickly introduced to the audience. No dicking around. And what an interesting cast it is: Barnabas’ ancestors and their entourage comes out as a an alternate Adams family, with well known actors like Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Chloë Grace Moretz filling what you’d hope is the main cast. But it turns out they are mere supporting characters in a movie that totally fails to take advantage of the massive potential this cast has. Most of the focus is on Johnny Depp and Eva Green characters. I’m guessing that’s because they are the main characters, but it’s just awkward to watch them try to create some sort of chemistry between themselves on the silver screen.

Darks Shadows is a schizophrenic mess that never manages to decided if it’s supposed to make you laugh or make you scared. As a consequence it fails to do neither properly. It’s not really funny and it’s not really scary. And I scare easily.

There’s an obvious open ending to the movie and probably a sequel in the works somewhere. There’s really no need to bother with seeing Dark Shadows, and we can just hope Hollywood doesn’t bother with Dark Shadows II either. Anniken liked the movie, though, but as she said: “I only need Johnny Depp and it’s a good movie to me”. So if you’re in the same state of mind, then by all means, have a go. If not, treat yourself to something else instead. Maybe something funny. Or scary if that’s your cup of tea. Because Dark Shadows is neither.

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