Monthly archives "January 2014"

The Wolf of Wall Street: ****

0w2GVB4wpDBPr1yTHWsqezl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVvK0kTmF0xjctABnaLJIm9Run Time: 180 mins         Cert: 18

 

Synopsis: Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) dreams of being a rich stockbroker, but after losing his Wall Street job in the crash of 1987 he falls on hard times. While working in a local dealership, which sells cheap stocks to working-class people, Belfort is inspired to go into business by himself, by manipulating the finance market. 

Adapted from Belfort’s memoirs by Boardwalk Empire’s Terrence Winter, the film plays more like Goodfellas rather than another Wall Street. In that the main character narrates the story, while constantly breaking the fourth wall in order to try and explain the complicated financial dealings.

 

However the most unappealing aspect of the movie is unfortunately the lead character. This part of Scorsese’s genius. While any other filmmaker would turn this into a problem, he ramps up the dwarf throwing, helicopter crashes, cocaine consumption and wild antics keeps the audience engaged in the over the top larger than life true story.

 

Leo DiCaprio returns to work with the auteur for a fourth time, while not his best performance it is a fun charismatic and engaging turn. With his perfect white teeth and wacky fashion sense, Jonah Hill steals Leo’s thunder with a crazy portrayal of Jordan’s bestfriend. Matthew McConaughey’s chest-thumping, coke snorting mentor is the best piece within the film, but feels vastly underused in what is nothing more than a memorable cameo.

 

It is not a Scorscese masterpiece, due to the fact it could be trimmed down to a shorter duration. It does feel like the filmmaker was racing against the clock to finish this film for the studio for awards season. Nevertheless it is incredibly entertaining and a wild ride.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

Grudge Match ***

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Run Time: 113 mins                    Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Thirty years after the retirement of boxer Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone), he and his rival Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) embark on a rematch. 

 

The film begins in 1983 when two boxers tie in a match. Prior to the rematch, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) decides to retire, which ruins both his career and that of his opponent Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro). Thirty years later, both are approached by promoter Dante Slate Junior (Kevin Hart) about both a video game and a rematch between them. Despite his initial reluctance, circumstances lead Razor to accept the offer and the pair get in training for their “Grudge Match”.

 

The movie features a number both of entertaining and comic scenes in which the ageing boxers publicly embarrass themselves and make their promoter’s job increasingly difficult. While the story follows a common formula and does not have a lot of twists, these antics will keep the audience interested and waiting to see what Razor and Billy get up to next.

 

Stallone and De Niro are both fun to watch and work well together. The supporting cast also perform to a high standard with some additional comic relief from both Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin. The subplot featuring Sally Rose (Kim Basinger), a woman who has both the fighters’ affections, and her son BJ (Jon Bernthal) is pleasant enough to watch but very predictable.

 

Overall, “Grudge Match” is by no means a masterpiece but a good form of light entertainment.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

12 Years A Slave ****

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Run Time: 134 mins                   Cert: 15

 

Synopsis: Directed by Steve McQueen and based on the real life memoirs of Solomon Northup, the movie follows the musician’s life as a slave after he is kidnapped and sold. 

 

The story begins when carpenter and violinist Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is offered a short music tour by two white men. Believing this will be good for his career, Solomon accepts but soon finds himself drugged and taken to New Orleans where he is sold as a slave and given a whole new identity.

 

Following being sold, Solomon works for plantation owners William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). Despite his relatively small role in the film, Cumberbatch is enjoyable to watch and remains semi-likeable. Fassbender has a more significant role and gives an excellent performance as a man who clearly has no conscience and takes great delight in abusing his slaves.

 

As the lead actor in the movie, Chiwetel Ejiofor is both interesting and believable to watch. While Solomon does not talk openly about his feelings, they are made very clear through his facial expressions, hunched shoulders and the way in which he hangs his head. In contrast to this, female slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) openly discusses how she feels about her life. This not only adds depth to the character but illustrates how different people dealt with their situation in completely different ways.

 

The scenes of violence in the film are truly brutal and nothing is left to the viewer’s imagination. Although this may distress some viewers, it adds to the level of realism by showing just how horrific life was for those living as slaves.

 

While the story does not have many twists, the film is both enjoyable and authentic with top class performances.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom ****

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Run Time: 141 mins         Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: A chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s (Elba) journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.  

 

Finally the adaptation of Mandela’s best selling autobiography makes it to the silver screen. Initially the film was supposed to star Denzel Washington, now Idris Elba has the daunting task of trying to portray such a larger than life figure.

 

The performances by Elba and Harris are great. Naomie Harris gives a powerful and tragic performance of a wife who has to struggle while her husband is in prison.

 

It is a shame that there was not more emphasis put on the time in this period between the two parties. This adaptation may have been better set as a mini series as Mandela’s life is so interesting that a 2 1/2 hour feature.

 

The film is beautifully shot with some amazing sunsets. While the tranquil sounds of traditional African music give an authentic feel of late 20th Century South Africa.

 

A compelling life story of such a intriguing is letdown by underdeveloped screenplay. It is never less a good biopic with impressive towering performances.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

All Is Lost *****

 

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Run Time: 106 mins         Cert: 12A

 

Synopsis: Directed by J.C. Chandor, “All Is Lost” follows the survival attempts of a lone sailor (Robert Redford) lost at sea in a remote location. 

 

At the beginning of the movie, the audience is introduced to an older man sailing on his boat in the Indian Ocean. As the story progresses, the weather worsens and the anonymous sailor makes use of the limited resources available to try and save himself.

 

The movie only contains eight lines of dialogue and relies on the actions of its sole character to tell the story. While this could easily have made for a boring film, it is made interesting both by Redford’s creative attempts to stay alive and the mystery surrounding his backstory. Every scene raises questions in the viewer’s mind and the outcome remains uncertain until the last minute.

 

Redford gives an excellent performance throughout the movie. The role had the potential to be difficult due to the lack of dialogue and character history, however Redford’s actions and facial expressions say a lot about the character without actually telling the audience anything.

 

The ending is unpredictable and has a strong element of mystery. If anything, the viewer is likely to leave the cinema with more questions than they arrived with.

 

Overall, the film is a great piece of writing with plenty of suspense and a top performance from Redford.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan