I am a confessed Netflix-aholic. The Collin College libraries also have an incredible DVD selection. And I go to the movie theater whenever I can. But sometimes, things slip through the cracks and I end up missing movies I planned on watching. I’m sure you can relate. Sometimes there is just too much living to do to spend your days watching movies.
On occasion, one of my friends will invite me over and we will end up watching a movie. I have been rather fortunate in that my friends tend to have good taste and have so far managed to pick things that I had planned on seeing anyway but just haven’t gotten around to yet. This month, I bring you two movies I saw thanks to my friends.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) [Rated R]
One of the few Oscar movies I hadn’t seen yet was The Wolf of Wall Street. One thing or another got in the way and the next thing you know, it’s out of theaters. So when my buddy and I are sitting at his house the other night and he said, “Pick a movie,” it was an easy choice.
Now, I had read the reviews. I had heard the stories. I knew it would be a little “excessive.” The story is about a wealthy stockbroker Jordan Belfort who makes his fortune by fleecing every day folks with penny stocks and a brokerage house that teeters on the line between legal and illegal. I also knew that as his fortune grew, so did his appetite for sex and drugs. Especially drugs. But, I didn’t know that almost the entire movie would be a chronicle of his addictions.
Don’t get me wrong, there are incredible performances. DiCaprio is excellent in the titular role. Jonah Hill held his own with the other accomplished actors and deserved his Oscar nomination. I would argue that if there were a few more moments of Matthew McConaughey, he would have been nominated. I almost can’t believe I’m saying this but he has been on quite a roll over the past few years with Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, The Paperboy, Killer Joe and even Magic Mike. I had written him off after The Wedding Planner and Ghost of Girlfriends Past but he’s still got something. Margot Robbie is quite good and fearless in her role as Belfort’s wife (well, one of his wives). And it was great to see Rob Reiner in front of the camera again.
Several times during the movie, DiCaprio breaks the fourth wall and explains to the viewer exactly what has taken place in a technical / financial sense. This is a fantastic idea because so many of the financial concepts on which the story of Jordan Belfort turn are fairly complex. The problem is, he always cuts short the explanation and instead just winks and basically says that none of that is important. Look at more debauchery instead. Don’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t offended by all of the debauchery on screen. I just wish the film focused on what actually occurred in his business, what Belfort did wrong and how he was caught rather listing the drugs he took and how often.
It’s all just a bit too long and too much. Which I suppose is one of Scorsese’s points. There are great performances and the subject was screaming for a movie to be made. It’s not that I mind movies about drug addicts, but I just can’t help wondering what would have happened if they had reigned in a little of the excess and focused a little more on the work of Belfort.
7.5 paws out of 10
Snowpiercer (2013) [Rated R]
I’m not sure how movie-nerdy you folks are but if you are as dorky as me, you’ve probably read about all of the fighting between director Joon-ho Bong and producer Harvey Weinstein about how the film Snowpiercer would be distributed in the US. Weinstein’s company bought the rights to distribute the film in the US before it was finished and was disappointed when it turned out to be over two hours long and was, to him, not something “middle America” would watch without narration. Bong refused to add or cut anything. Recently, they came to a truce and Snowpiercer will come out in limited release in its original version later this year.
So, what’s the big deal? On the surface, Snowpiercer is an action movie set in the future after a failed attempt at stopping global warming sent the planet into a new Ice Age. A train, the Snowpiercer, travels around the globe with the remnants of humanity. A class system developed and after 18 years, people at the back of the train have had enough. Led by heartthrob Chris Evans, they decide to take the train from the people at the front. As you can imagine, it’s not as easy as it sounds for the downtrodden passengers in the back to obtain equality and justice.
A lot has already been written about the movie. The reviews have been very good. It performed exceedingly well in South Korea, France and Hong Kong . . . so why would Weinstein want to mess with a good thing? I would argue that it isn’t the political undertones of the film that has Weinstein scared. I found the politics of the movie a bit jumbled. The real issue is with the kind of movie Joon-ho Bong made.
This is a movie that provokes thought – a movie that, after you’ve watched it, will have you talking with your buddies on your way out of the theater, on the ride home and probably through the next day or two. It isn’t dissimilar from more lauded movies like The Wolf of Wall Street. The difference comes in how it’s provocation is delivered. Snowpiercer doesn’t try for laughs. It doesn’t try to make you fall in love with its characters. It isn’t trying to win Academy Awards for acting. You don’t have to search too hard to find overacting. Instead, Snowpiercer is about action but not in the “Arnold Schwarzenegger blows everything up” sense of the word but in the dictionary definition of the word. Snowpiercer is about people taking action which can be scary. Particularly in times when the evening news is filled with images from riots and demonstrations like those in the Ukraine or Thailand.
I don’t want to make it sound like it was a political issue for Weinstein. In fact, I would guarantee it is more about how much money can be made. And, no judgement here, that’s his job. But it does lead me to wonder: Have we as moviegoers become so used to just observing our culture that when something comes along asking us to think and act, we turn away because we can’t handle it? I would like to think that isn’t the case, but does Weinstein know something I don’t?
8 paws out of 10