Step aside DeNiro! Leonardo DiCaprio has a brilliant collaboration going on which is beginning to rival the screen legend's partnership with the great director. This is the fifth film which DiCaprio has worked with Scorsese, following Gangs Of New York, The Aviator, The Departed & Shutter Island.
The Wolf Of Wall Street amounts pretty much to Goodfellas of the financial world. Based on the true story of Jordan Bellfort, a drug-addicted, sex-addicted, money-addicted stockbroker who lives life to full excess and pays the penalty when the FBI investigate his wrongdoing and underhand tactics.
This black comedy is as black as they come with DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and co all playing unsympathetic characters who get rich making others poor, indulging in the lifestyles of rich and famous and taking an insane amount of drugs.
Although the characters are morally unpleasant, this film is absolutely hilarious with the characters suffering from their own greed and self-indulgence.
In another year, DiCaprio might have won the Best Actor Oscar for this performance (he lost out to Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club).
At nearly 3 hours, this film is a long slog and the first hour rolls along slowly, but it's full steam ahead after that and a brilliant comedy of yuppie greed during the 1980's and 90's.
This is proof that Wolverine needs the X-Men more than the X-Men need Wolverine.
X-Men: First Class went by without the iconic character (albeit a brief cameo) and was thoroughly enjoyable with plenty of action scenes whilst remaining faithful to the original comic source.
This is more a spin-off, following on from the events in X-Men: The Last Stand, with Logan (aka Wolverine) sobbing into his sadness beard as he grieves about losing the woman he loved. He then travels to Japan to see an old man, who as a young soldier he saved from an atomic blast in Nagasaki during WWII. The old man went on to become a successful Japanese entrepreneur who offers Logan a chance to become mortal again. Logan refuses and the old man dies later that night.
The Yakuza ambush the old man's granddaughter, who Logan protects and goes into hiding with, though his mutant powers are diminishing and it's not clear why. It turns out it's the work of another mutant, a viper woman who's work was keeping the old man alive beyond his years, leading to a showdown with a robotic samurai which is all a bit of an anticlimax and incredibly predictable.
Hugh Jackman does his best with what he's given, he really is the only actor who can do justice to the character but the script and poorly staged action scenes let him down. It has to be said that for a film of this magnitude, the visual effects are absolutely horrendous.
Overall, this is a bit of a 'fuck you' to fans of the X-Men films, although a post credit sequence featuring Magneto & Professor X give some hope that the character will get a chance of redemption in the next X-Men outing.
D: Stephen Chbosky
Lionsgate/Mandeville/Participant Media/Walden Media/TIK (David Hoberman & Todd Lieberman)
W: Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad & Stephen Chbosky [based on the novel by R.J. Palacio]
DP: Don Burgess
Ed: Mark Livolsi
Mus: Marcelo Zarvos & Bea Miller
Julia Roberts (Isabel Pullman), Owen Wilson (Nate Pullman), Jacob Tremblay (August 'Augie' Pullman), Izabela Vidovic (Olivia Pullman), Noah Jupe (Jack Will)
Wonder is the story of August Pullman, a young boy with a rare facial deformity (Treacher Collins Syndrome), and his family around him.
Home-schooled by his mother from early childhood, his parents now feel the time is right to enrol him at a public school where he initially has trouble fitting in, but his creativity and intellect help him find acceptance and attain friendships. Simultaneously, his sister has her own troubles with friendships and relationship and his parents have there own issues to deal with.
This drama film does have very good intentions, but comes off as very twee and the fact that the Pullman family are more on the socialite side of society than working-middle class does damage the triumph over adversity theme. 1985's Mask (qv) tackled similar themes in a much better way and was a significantly better film.
Wonder has good performances and excellent makeup work, and makes for good family viewing, but it also feels like an Oscar-grab movie with its overall treatment. Worth a single watch, but it won't inspire you with wonder.
WONDER WHEEL (12)
D: Woody Allen
Amazon Studios/Gravier/Perdido (Letty Aronson, Edward Walson & Erika Aronson)
W: Woody Allen
DP: Vittorio Storaro
Ed: Alisa Lepselter
Kate Winslet (Ginny Rannell), Juno Temple (Carolina Rannell), Justin Timberlake (Mickey Rubin), Jim Belushi (Humpty Rannell)
2017 seemed to be the year of Wonder, with a whole clutch of releases similarly named (Wonder Woman, Wonderstruck, Wonder) including Woody Allen's Wonder Wheel, named after the Ferris Wheel at the Coney Island amusement park which serves as a location for this film.
I do find Woody Allen's films quite hit-and-miss, but I do admire the fact that he's made at least one film per year since 1982, even though they're all pretty much the same story, just at different locations with different performers.
This one stars Kate Winslet, Juno Temple & Justin Timberlake in the love triangle between a recovering alcoholic's second wife, his estranged daughter from a previous marriage and a young lifeguard. In what seems to have become Allen's trademark, all the pieces are set up and characters fleshed out, before the film ends without really resolving anything, and it does so here quite frustratingly, making this little more than a shaggy dog story.
Good performances and dialogue, and it's a crisp and breezy 101 minutes. It's just a little bit pointless.
WONDER WOMAN (12)
D: Patty Jenkins
Warner Bros/Ratpac-Dune/DC (Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder & Richard Suckle)
W: Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder & Jason Fuchs
DP: Matthew Jensen
Ed: Martin Walsh
Mus: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Gal Gadot (Diana, Princess of Themyscira / Wonder Woman), Chris Pine (Steve Trevor), Robin Wright (Antiope), Danny Huston (Gen. Erich Ludendorff), David Thewlis (Sir Patrick Morgan), Connie Nielsen (Hippolyta), Elena Anaya (Isabel Maru / Doctor Poison), Lucy Davis (Etta Candy)
Gal Gadot's portrayal of Wonder Woman in 2016's Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice (qv), was arguably the best part of a very dull movie.
Her own origin story doesn't fail to entertain either, meaning there is hope for DC comics to have their own movie universe to rival Marvel.
Wonder Woman's story starts on Themyscira, a secret island populated with Amazonian women, of which Diana, the young princess is kept in the dark that she's actually an immortal goddess who possesses great strength.
The idyllic paradise soon comes under attack from an attempted Nazi invasion when an American spy crashes into the surrounding sea, prompting Diana into leaving the island on a quest to find the God of War, who she believes is the force behind World War II.
Gal Gadot is excellent in the lead, bring beauty and brawn to present a strong superhero who still remains incredibly feminine, there's also a love interest in the shape of Chris Pine to satisfy a romance angle and the comic relief is reasonably well-written.
All the visual effects and technical work is of the high quality you'd expect from a Hollywood blockbuster and it sets up the next film in the DC series (Justice League) nicely.
Following Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz comes this third part of the 'Cornetto Trilogy' and it's by far the weakest of the three.
While the previous two films were silly without being stupid, The World's End is just stupid.
The story concerns a group of five friends who haven't seen each other since their school days in the early 90's. They hook up to participate in an infamous pub crawl of 12 pubs in their old home town and half way through the evening discover that their old neighbourhood is populated with robotic humanoids.
In a nutshell, it's Invasion Of The Body Snatchers wedged into a pub crawl. There are a couple of amusing moments but none of the jokes are 'laugh out loud funny' and the most original one in the entire film is that Nick Frost is playing the mature, responsible character whilst Simon Pegg is the raucous, immature, irresponsible one.
Ironically, the film was released at a time when all the pubs in Britain are facing extinction (which was perhaps intended), but there seems no real point to the film and it's a huge disappointment compared to the previous films from the same acting/writing duo.
This Pixar movie draws many comparisons with Toy Story but I still think it's the best animated film released in 2012 (much better than the same studio's Brave, which bored me beyond belief).
Much like Toy Story, it follows an array of characters who spring to life when there are no human witnesses, this time it's characters from the world of video games.
Ralph is a bad guy from an 8-bit arcade called 'Fix-It Felix', in which he demolishes a house while the good guy repairs it. Sick of a repetitive existence of not being appreciated, he game-jumps so he can be viewed as a good guy, but succeeds only in putting other video games in peril.
The story is great for kids of all ages and the references to video games of the 90's will keep the maturer viewers pleased.
Despite not being too original, it's a good, fun movie with some sweet and funny moments.
WRECK-IT RALPH 2: RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (PG)
D: Rich Moore & Phil Johnston
Disney (Clark Spencer)
W: Phil Johnston, Pamela Ribon, Rich Moore, Jim Reardon & Josie Trinidad
Mus: Henry Jackman
voices of: John C. Reilly (Wreck-It Ralph), Sarah Silverman (Vanellope Von Schweetz), Gal Gadot (Shank), Taraji P. Henson (Yesss), Alan Tudyk (Knowsmore)
The hypocrisy of Hollywood at its very finest here, since The Emoji Movie did the exact same thing as this in 2017, but because this is Disney and it crams in some SJW agenda feminist message about toxic masculinity (misandry seems to be very big in 2018) this is being considered a good film. Piffle!
Not only is this a weak sequel, I believe it actually does great harm to the original film and the messages it conveyed, such as being happy in yourself, and even those perceived as bad guys can have good within them. There's none of that here. In fact, Ralph isn't even the main character. It's all about Vanellope and her emancipation from the patriarchy, because fuck men. In a kid's film. Well done Disney.
The plot sees Ralph and Vanellope escape their games when Wifi is installed at the games arcade and they journey through the Internet to find a new steering wheel on EBay for Vanellope's racing game after it was accidentally broken. In the first film, Vanellope was unable to leave her game because she was a glitch, but she can in this sequel because "reasons".
Through their online journey, a metropolis of product placement creates their new world of discovery with large buildings representing Snapchat (you know, for kids), Twitter (because this worked so well in The Emoji Movie) and Buzztube (an amalgamation of Buzzfeed and YouTube, because even young children should have Buzzfeed's content shoved down their throats). Their quest also introduces them to a car-racing game along the lines of Grand Theft Auto, completely inappropriate for Vanellope's age market, but who cares, seedy violence and a dangerous atmosphere is good for underage kids. This game also has a main female character because toxic masculinity must be stopped!
Disney simply can't resist the opportunity to pimp its own shit here, so Star Wars and Marvel also make an appearance, as well as Disney Princesses who have a big scene where they want to ABOLISH THE PATRIARCHY, because TOXIC MASCULINITY. Remember, this is an important theme in a kids movie, and since Ralph is portrayed as an insecure doofus and all the other male characters are either criminals or pushovers, it's very easy for Disney to push this skewed message on the easily brainwashed.
There's also messages that a woman should do whatever the hell she pleases regardless of consequences, because the patriarchy must be stopped, so she abandons her game to live on the internet and despite gaining the steering wheel, Ralph goes back to his world alone like the awful, awful man he is.
Another bit of propaganda shoved down our throats is that we shouldn't pay attention to comments we read on the internet... especially those written by men, and we should believe everything we are told by Buzzfeed, Disney and other corporations, don't have independent thought at all. Do as you're told, you peasants. Buy their merchandise! Buy their merchandise! Buy their merchandise!!
This isn't Wreck It Ralph 2. It's The Emoji Movie 2.
A dramatic study of life, work and relationships shown through the eyes of an has-been. Mickey Rourke delivers an excellent performance that lived up to all the hype as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a wrestler forced into retirement for health reasons, trying to mend the broken relationship between himself and his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).
Marisa Tomei is also deserving of praise for her performance as Randy's closest friend, an aging stripper with her own plans for a better life.
Darren Aronofsky's movies aren't always for every taste, but I'd recommend The Wrestler to most people. A dramatic, often heartbreaking and sometimes amusing story of who we are, who we were and who we aspire to be. The parting shot will linger on the mind for days.
A WRINKLE IN TIME (PG)
D: Ava DuVernay
Disney (Jim Whitaker & Catherine Hand)
W: Jennifer Lee & Jeff Stockwell [based on the novel by Madeleine L'Engle]
DP: Tobias A. Schliessler
Ed: Spencer Averick
Mus: Ramin Djawadi
Storm Reid (Meg Murry), Deric McCabe (Charles Wallace Murry), Levi Miller (Calvin O'Keefe), Oprah Winfrey (Mrs. Which), Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit), Mindy Kaling (Mrs. Who)
Disney studios, with their politically correct mindset, decided to prove a point by appointing an African-American Woman as a director for a multi-million dollar production, and though Ava DuVernay's 2014 movie Selma was amongst the best films of the year, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, it's one thing to direct a serious biopic about Martin Luther King's political activism and a completely different thing to dip into the realms of science fiction fantasy, especially when the subject is adapted from a novel many deemed to be unfilmable.
In a nutshell, the plot follows a gifted young girl, who along with her brother and best friend, are transported across time and space by three supreme beings so she can rescue her estranged father from the forces of evil.
The movie bears some resemblance with 2009's The Lovely Bones, mostly in the respect that it's style over substance with the plot taking a back seat for bright and colourful visual effects to do its stuff... unfortunately, even the effects in this movie are very poorly done, perhaps because the director had little experience in using them.
DuVernay has since commented that the film is aimed solely at young girls between 7-14 years old, but this doesn't convince me. A good film should be able to transcend barriers such as age and gender. Perhaps I'm being a little harsh, especially since it does take chances with experimental methods rather than playing it safe, but that's just fancy talk for throwing things at the screen just to see what sticks. It's not harsh at all to call the film a complete mess, which is made even worse when people call it a "noble failure" due to it being a beacon for diversity and inclusion.
Disney very proudly proclaimed that DuVernay was the first female person of colour to direct a film with a production budget of more than $100m... they were slightly more quiet when it emerged that the studio lost more than $80m on this vanity project.
Politically correct or not, A Wrinkle In Time is a complete mess of a film and amongst the worst released in 2018.