First Question of the Year: Which 2013 movie(s) do you appreciate but wouldn’t watch again?

MovieQuestion

It’s been a bitterly c-cc-cold start to the new year here in my neck of the woods! I know I seem to be obsessing over the weather a lot but really, you’d understand when the *high* only reaches -2˚F (that’s -18˚ C!) and I’m super excited that Friday is going to hit 20 degrees (woot woot!) Yeah, it’s pathetic!

But hey, it’s not a weather blog so let’s talk about movies! As I’ve been writing some reviews of 2013 releases the past few days (stay tuned for my review of Nebraska later this week), it made me think of how I view some of those films now that it’s sunk in. More often than not, the reaction right after seeing the movie is pretty different than how I feel days or weeks later. There are some films I rate highly that I wish I’d watch again, sometimes right away (Frozen comes to mind, and on varying degrees HER, Nebraska, Austenland, and of course Pacific Rim, which I had watched twice since its theatrical release).

On the flip side though, there are films I appreciate and truly respect, but not something I’d ever want to see again. This question is kind of a different twist to what I posed a couple of years ago in regard to The Hurt Locker. A couple of movies that comes to mind (which sort of sparked this post), are Inside Llewyn Davis and The Wolf of Wall Street. In fact, I was originally going to title this ‘Movies I Appreciate but NOT Love.’ That’s perhaps an equally appropriate question, though there’s perhaps other reason why you don’t want to watch something a second time around. Interestingly, those two films come from beloved and celebrated filmmakers (the Coen Brothers and Martin Scorsese) whom I respect but their work are not exactly my cup of tea. In any case, both are good films, some would even call a masterpiece. But for me, I can only appreciate some aspects of the film (i.e. the performances) but as a whole, it’s not something I’d want to see again.


What about you folks? Which movies you saw in 2013 that you’re glad you saw but wouldn’t watch again?

FlixChatter Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

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When it comes to films based on a real life person, I tend to not be that interested in them but when a master filmmaker like Martin Scorsese decided to make one, I won’t miss it for the world.  As with most films based on real events, not everything you see on the screen are true but then this movie was based on a book written by a real life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, I have to believe that some if not all of the things happened on the screen were true. I mean I’ve worked at a financial institution a few years ago and heard stories of how the big wig executives partied and I can’t help but laugh when I saw this movie.

Just like some of Scorsese’s films, the main character Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) narrates the story throughout and even talked directly to the audience once in a while. It starts out with flashback of how he got started in wall street, he worked at some brokerage film in NYC, there he met his mentor Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) who taught him the trick of the trade. After the stock market crash in 1987, Belfort loss his job but later found work at a small brokerage firm with a bunch of sales guys who have no idea how sell stocks. With his experience working at a big firm, Belfort was able to sell stocks of basically non-existent companies to bunch of regular schmucks. Later Belfort decided he wanted to start his own firm and met his future business partner Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) at a local dinner. They rented a garage to set up as an office and recruited their friends to work for them. The film basically chronicle the rise and fall of Belfort and his gang and since it’s a 3 hours long, I won’t go into any plot details for this review.

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This is the fifth collaboration between DiCaprio and Scorsese and I think this one might be DiCaprio’s best performance ever. He commands the screen every time you see him and the things did in this movie, I’m not sure many actors can pull off. There’s a scene in which he was so drugged out of his mind and he had to crawl to get to his car was probably the most hilarious thing I’ve seen in a while and it’s kind of sad too because I’ve seen people behaved like that in real life. Jonah Hill was pretty good as the second lead, although there were a couple of times where I thought he really “acted” instead of playing the role, hope that made sense. Even though McConaughey only appeared in the movie for just a few minutes, he stole the scene and I kind of wish to see more of his character. Newcomer Aussie actress Margot Robbie did a decent job as Belfort’s trophy wife, I’ve never seen her in anything before this movie, but she might have a good career Hollywood since she’s also drop dead gorgeous. I also have to give a shout out to Rob Reiner who plays Belfort’s father, I haven’t seen him on the screen in a while and glad to see him working again in front of the camera.

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To me though the person who truly deserves the credit is Scorsese, I don’t think this film would have worked as well as it did had other director made it. Seems to be he’s back in his old form again after some so so films the last few years. Even though I loved The Departed, I just felt it wasn’t a “Scorsese Picture” since it’s remake. Here he incorporated all of the skills that have made him famous and respected in the industry, from the fast editing to great cinematography, I have no complaint about his direction. He was able to show how despicable these people were and he pulled no punches showing us their debauchery behaviors and how they cheat their way into “success.” Some might say it’s too much but that’s the point of the movie, these greedy people will do anything to get rich and didn’t care who they hurt as long as they get what they wanted. Of course this being a Scorsese film, there has to be scene where some guy gets the crap beat out of him and don’t worry, there’s a scene in this film where some unfortunate guy got the crap kicked out of him. I was expecting to see Joe Pesci show up as a cameo and play the guy who beats up this person. I don’t mean to sound exaggerated but I think this film might be on the same level as Goodfellas or Taxi Driver. Now I do think the film could’ve use some trimming, at 3 hours it’s a bit long and I thought some scenes could’ve been shorten. But I was so involved in the story, it didn’t feel like 3 hours to me.

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Of all the films I saw in 2013, this one’s probably my favorite. It’s great seeing a true Scorsese’s picture again and along with great performances, this one is highly recommended. Just a warning though, this film is for adults only, please don’t bring young kids to see it. If you get easily offended by foul language, the F-words were mentioned many times, you might want to stay away from it. Also, there were many scenes of sex acts and drug use throughout most of the film, again if you’re easily offended by these kind of scenes, you won’t enjoy the film.

I think if you’re a fan of either DiCaprio or Scorsese or both, you’ll enjoy this film. It’s a kind of tragic story of how greed can make people so evil and the last shot of the film was a proof that yes many of us will do anything to get rich and have a better life. That’s the American dream right?

four and a half stars out of five
4.5 out of 5 reels


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What do you think of The Wolf of Wall Street and Scorsese + DiCaprio collaboration?

Weekend Roundup and Disney’s FROZEN review

‘Tis the weekend before Christmas. Hope all of you have gotten all your Christmas shopping done and not have to endure long lines at the mall!

Well, I went to the cinema to see FROZEN, but sounds like more people went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, perhaps some were repeat customers. Bilbo ended up beating Ron Burgundy as The Hobbit 2 made $31 mil while Anchorman 2 earned $28 mil, which is rather low considering their super aggressive marketing campaign.

In any case, I saw The Wolf of Wall Street this past week, Thursday to be exact, which was good but boy was it ever dark and filthy. Martin Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio pulled all the stops in portraying the worst of human corruption based on a crooked Wall Street banker’s memoir (review upcoming). Well, by Friday I needed a palate cleanser if you will, something truly lighthearted and wholesome to erase all those gross and vile scenes from the day before. FROZEN did the trick beautifully.

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This film wasn’t in my radar until I started seeing reviews of it popping up everywhere. Seems that Disney didn’t market this one as aggressively as say, Tangled from a couple of years ago. In any case, I loved this one as much as Tangled, if not slightly more.

Though the film is set on a Kingdom in a far away land and there are princesses involved, the story is not quite what you would expect. Two sisters, Anna and Elsa, grow up in the kingdom of Arendelle and the film opens with the two of them playing together in the snow… but inside the palace. Y’see, Elsa has a certain powers that can turn anything to ice and snow, so as kids, it was obviously fun for Anna to have an older sister who can create their own Winter Wonderland, complete with a snowman they named Olaf. That is until an accident occured that their parents had to lock themselves away in their castle in order to conceal Elsa’s powers. It’s especially devastating for Anna that Elsa has isolated herself from anyone including her own sister, that year after year she sings ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ in front of Elsa’s door. But every single time, her door remains closed.

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When the time comes for Elsa’s coronation to be Queen of Arendelle, Anna is ecstatic (naturally!). At first the story seems to have gone to a predictable route to a ‘boy meets girl’ variety, complete with exaggerated love songs that they’re destined to be together. But fortunately, there is more to it than that, in fact, Anna’s journey is just beginning.

The heart of the film is the epic journey for Anna to find Elsa, who’s driven away from the castle when her powers got discovered. As she flees, she has inadvertently set her kingdom to eternal Winter. Along the way, Anna encounters a rugged mountain guy Kristoff with his beloved reindeer Sven, as well as Olaf, the snowman from her childhood fantasy. I have to admit that I’m not always fond of silly sidekicks in animated movies as they can grow irksome pretty quickly. Thankfully Olaf is irresistibly lovable and hilarious, the sequence of ‘snowman in Summer’ is a real hoot! Kristoff is an easy fellow to root for as well, but the real star here is Anna (voiced by the adorable Kristen Bell) as the protagonist of the film. A fearless optimist with a big, big heart, she is definitely one of those people ‘worth melting for.’ Ever since she was a wee girl, you can’t help but love her.

What I love about this film is how Disney has taken the typical princess romance with its ‘true love’ concept and turns it on its head. It’s really a film for the whole family in that it celebrates the love between family, specifically sisterhood and the complicated relationship that often comes with that. There’s theme of competitiveness and jealousy, but ultimately, it’s centers on the bond and love between the two of them.

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I absolutely enjoyed this film from start to finish. For a film called Frozen, it’s definitely NOT a cold movie, in fact it’s the opposite. It’s a fun adventure filled with hilarious moments and genuine, heart-warming moments. I saw this in 2D as that’s the showtime worked best for us but I think the fantastic special effects would’ve made the 3D worthwhile. I absolutely loved the scene when Elsa built her ice palace, the visuals is so breathtaking that even though I’m already so sick of Winter at this point, I can’t help but admire the beauty of snow and ice crystals. Oh and of course you can expect the beautiful songs in Disney movies. I think the key song here is Let It Go as it’s Elsa’s defiant song about accepting who she is, but my favorite is Anna’s rendition of For the First Time in Forever that’s played twice in the movie.

I didn’t know Kristen Bell could sing so beautifully, truly I was pretty impressed by her vocals, plus I think her personality fits the character of Anna perfectly. Broadway star Idina Menzel did a great job as Elsa, and both Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad as Kristoff and Olaf did a smashing job as well. The strong female themes is always nice to see, and it turns out Jennifer Lee (who wrote the splendid Wreck-It Ralph) served as screenwriter AND director (along with Chris Buck in the directing chair).

I’m sure glad I saw this on the big screen. It’s one of the most enjoyable and emotionally-gratifying movies I’ve seen all year. My hubby had a great time watching this as well and we both agreed we will be buying the Blu-ray once it comes out!


4.5 out of 5 reels

P.S. The short film Get a Horse! in the beginning is awesome in that John Lasseter puts a fresh spin to a vintage Disney animation.


So what did YOU see this weekend? I’d love to know your thoughts about FROZEN as well, so let’s hear it!

Question of the Week: Which film(s) do you think Leonardo DiCaprio deserved to win an Oscar for?

Today is Leonardo DiCaprio’s 39th birthday. He’s still got that boyish look despite being a year short of 40! It’s been sixteen years since Titanic catapulted him to a matinee idol, but he’s since gained a movie star status and practically shed the *curse* that plagued a lot of child actors who’ve hit it big before they even hit 25.

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A toast to Leo – he’ll be seen next in The Wolf of Wall Street

I’ve made a tribute to Leo three years ago as part of my Inception countdown post where I listed why I think he’s got what it takes to be called one of Hollywood’s greatest actors working today, on top of being one of the world’s biggest movie stars.

I haven’t made up my list of Top 5 Leonardo DiCaprio movies yet, but I might do that next year. For now, I’m just going to leave it open to discussion amongst moviegoers, particularly on the topic about why DiCaprio still hasn’t won an Oscar to this day despite having been nominated three times.

2007 Nominated
Oscar
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Blood Diamond (2006)
2005 Nominated
Oscar
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
The Aviator (2004)
1994 Nominated
Oscar
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

My friend Kristin from All Eyes On Screen blog who was in town this weekend and we had a discussion about this (with her fiancee and my husband) as to why Leo’s still empty-handed. Even when his co-star gets nominated or even won, he often got overlooked.

TotalEclipsePosterIt’s almost become a parody how elusive Oscar seems to be for Leo, there are countless articles/tweets/blog posts etc. ruminating why he continually gets snubbed year after year. It’s a shame really as he’s definitely a talented and brave actor. Even in his early work Total Eclipse back in 1995 where he played 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, it was apparent he wasn’t afraid to play daring, unhinged characters. I was quite shocked that he was willing to do full frontal nudity and gay sex with David Thewlis (who played his mentor/lover Paul Verlaine) early in his career. He seems to have a penchant for playing obsessive/neurotic characters, i.e. Howard Hughes (The Aviator), and roles in Shutter Island, J. Edgar, Django Unchained, and last but not least, The Great Gatsby.

As you can see in Nostra’s ‘The Many Faces Of…’ series on Leo, he’s got quite a stellar resume with about 30 feature films under his belt. He may not be the most chameleon-ic actor and he doesn’t bother with adopting a certain accent even when playing non English-speaking characters, perhaps it’s a good idea though given his unconvincing South African accent in Blood Diamond. That said, I still think he’s due for a major award one of these days. Let’s hope he won’t be the Susan Lucci of the Motion Picture industry. Who knows, perhaps Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street will finally be his ticket to Oscar glory!


So my question to you is, which of DiCaprio film(s) have you seen you that warrant him an Oscar nom and/or win?

[Feel free to speculate as to why you think he hasn’t won… that always makes for an interesting discussion ;)]