Category Archives: Comedy

Review – Sausage Party (15) [2016]

sausage-party-title-banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Directors:

  • Greg Tiernan – Thomas & Friends
  • Conrad Vernon – Shrek II, Monsters vs Aliens, Madagascar III

Cast:

  • Seth Rogan – Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, This Is The End, Steve Jobs, Neighbours II: Sorority Rising
  • Kristen Wiig – Date Night, Paul, HerThe Martian, Masterminds
  • Jonah Hill – Knocked Up, Superbad, 21 & 22 Jump Street, The Wolf of Wall Street, MIB 23
  • Michael Cera – Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Magic Mike, This Is The End, Human People
  • James Franco – Date Night, 127 Hours, Your Highness, The Rise of Planet of The ApesThis Is The End, The Mad Whale
  • Salma Hayek – Frida, Puss In Boots, Here Comes The Boom, Grown Ups I-II, Drunk Parents
  • Edward Norton – American History X, Fight Club, The Invention of Lying, Birdman, Collateral Beauty
  • Paul Rudd – Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Monsters vs Aliens, This Is The End, Captain America III, Mute
  • Nick Kroll – I Love You, Man, Date Night, Get Him To The Greek, Knight of Cups, Captain Underpants
  • David Krumholtz – Superbad, The Playboy Club, This Is The End, The Judge, Casual Encounters

Music Composers:

  • Christopher Lennertz – Horrible Bosses I & II, Ride Along I & II, My Big Fat Greek Wedding II, Bad Moms, The Boss
  • Alan Menken – Beauty & The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Enchanted, Beauty & The Beast

Ever wondered what an R-rated animated comedy looks like? No, probably not. That’s why Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill, along with three other writers, have come together to bring us Sausage Party. And full credit to them for doing so!

Frank (Seth Rogan) in a packet with other sausages,waiting to be picked by a god (a human). He hopes to be picked with his girlfriend, Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig) so that they can live together in the Great Beyond.

Frank (Seth Rogan) in a packet with other sausages,waiting to be picked by a god (a human). He hopes to be picked with his girlfriend, Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig) so that they can live together in the Great Beyond.

Sausage Party predominantly revolves round Frank (voiced by Seth Rogan). Frank is a sausage in a supermarket. Trapped inside a packet with near a dozen other sausages he yearns to be picked by one of the gods (i.e. the humans) and taken to the Great Beyond (i.e. out of the supermarket). It is said that paradise awaits the food that gets picked by humans. However, no food has ever come back to tell the tale. Frank wants to be picked so he can find out and live with his girlfriend, Brenda the bun (voiced by Kristen Wiig), in this supposed paradise.

The plot for Sausage Party might sound utterly absurd, but it is so funny. From start to finish, one cannot help but laugh. Often, one may laugh with embarrassment. But laugh, one will. Indeed, even those who usually cannot stand other (non-animated) films of this genre, such as Superbad, Pineapple Express and 21 & 22 Jump Street can still find Sausage Party very amusing. This is because animation is a different artistic medium and can get away with some of the jokes that real life cannot.

The same is true for the Toy Story movies and for The Simpsons TV-series. While Sausage Party is not on the same intellectual level as those franchises, the movie is not stupid and contains a lot of satire. The Great Beyond is a metaphor for the next world (if it exists) and the search for meaning in life. This is something that all audiences can relate to, regardless of the fact that they are watching non-sentient objects. Moreover, during Frank’s journey, he meets a bagel-shaped Jew (voiced by Edward Norton) and a lavash-shaped Muslim (voiced by David Krumholtz) who don’t want to share an isle; a sauerkraut that looks like Hitler that wants to ‘exterminate the juice’; a meat loaf, voiced by Meat Loaf, singing ‘I’d Do Anything For Love’; a Native-American Indian-looking Firewater, who smokes weed and claims to know ‘The Truth’ about the Great Beyond; and a villainous douche called ‘Il Douche’ (voiced by Nick Kroll), among countless others. All bring their own unique comedic elements to the film, and these satires enrich the experience for viewers tremendously.

Frank and Brenda walking around the supermarket along with a bagel (Edward Norton) and a lavash (David Krumholtz). Typically, the bagel and the lavash do not see eye to eye on anything.

Frank and Brenda walking around the supermarket along with a bagel (Edward Norton) and a lavash (David Krumholtz). Typically, the bagel and the lavash do not see eye to eye on anything.

Granted Sausage Party puts forward these satires with the subtlety of a brick through glass. But that does not make them any less funny, it just makes them crude and borderline offensive. Then again, if one is offended by crude humour, this is the wrong film for such a person. In fact, if one is offended by political incorrectness or racial stereotyping, or juvenile, crass, misogynistic and chauvinistic humour, this film is not for such person. The ensemble cast (and their film resumes) should have told such a person to stay away from this movie. And if he/she did not realise this from the cast, one need only look at Brenda the bun to get a sense of what he/she would be in for as the bun looks (unapologetically) like a vagina.

However, regardless of how much one is amused or offended by Sausage Party, the film drags. For a movie that is often funny and only 89 minutes long, this entails that the film cannot hold its audience as well as it thinks it can. Nor is it as witty or stimulating as it fancies itself to be.

The villainous Il Douche (Nick Kroll), stomping around the supermarket. Il Douche is furious with Frank and wants revenge as he blames Frank for his deformed appearance.

The villainous Il Douche (Nick Kroll), stomping around the supermarket. Il Douche is furious with Frank and wants revenge as he blames Frank for his deformed appearance.

After an hour, the film’s lack of wittiness and stimulation is very much down to the sheer volume of swearing. Sausage Party has enough f-bombs to raise London to the ground. There is no need for that many. It undermines the movie as, after a while, the humour (or lack thereof) becomes repetitive and uncreative… that is until the last scene. No-one can fault Sausage Party for a lack of creativity or stimulation by the end, when a (jaw-dropping) food orgy breaks out. If one ever wondered what an R-rated animation looks like, it is the final scene here because it is more pornographic than pornography.

All-in-all, Sausage Party is a very funny film. The movie becomes tedious after the hour mark and there is undoubtedly too much swearing in it. Nevertheless, it is original and innovative. And for all the film’s obscenity, vulgarity, crassness, crudity, misogyny, chauvinism, sexism, borderline racism and satire, one cannot stop laughing despite himself/herself. All comedies, regardless of whether they are animated or not, are judged by how funny they are, and Sausage Party is absolutely hilarious.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Big Short (15) [2016]

The Big Short - title banner

Star Rating: 3/5

Director

  • Adam McKay – Step Brothers, The Other Guys, Anchorman I & II

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • Nicholas Britell – Gimme The Loot, The Seventh Fire, A Tale of Love And Darkness, Tramps

In 2007, a financial crisis rocked the world. Akin to the Wall Street Crash of October 1929, tens of thousands of people lost their jobs and homes. Additionally, Lehman Brothers imploded, and the US Congress and the UK Parliament bailed out the rest of the big banks to (allegedly) ensure that the crisis did not worsen. How did it all happen? The Big Short highlights some of the factors.

Dr Michael Burry (Christian Bale), in his office, listening to music whilst working out that the US property market would collapse in 2007.

Dr Michael Burry (Christian Bale), in his office, listening to music whilst working out that the US property market would collapse in 2007.

The Big Short is a dark comedy based on the book with the same title by Michael Lewis. The film follows three separate but parallel stories which reveal the duplicity and the fraud of US bankers and brokers with regard to the US property market; in particular, to the business of subprime mortgages, to the buying and selling of (junk) BB ratings, and to schemes like collateral debt obligations (CDOs). However the film also shows us that were some people who predicted the collapse of the US property market several years in advance, such as Dr Michael Burry (Christian Bale) and Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling). The movie is as much about them trying to take on the big banks (and make billions in the process), as it is about the general fraud that was (is) taking place at every level of the financial sector.

The Big Short is an interesting film. It impressively explains in simplistic terms why the US property and financial markets imploded so spectacularly in 2007/08. The film captures the horror of the upcoming catastrophe by, chiefly, showing us the mind-set and attitude of the people working in Wall Street at the time (and at the present too) in a non-flashy and unglamorous way.

Nevertheless, as interesting as that is (and it is genuinely interesting), the overwhelming majority of the characters in The Big Short are just horrible, greedy and selfish individuals with few (if any) redeeming traits. Of all the people in the film, Steve Carrell’s Mark Baum is the most empathetic and likeable as he has a conscience. Carrell plays well, but his character’s hot-headedness comes across as cartoonish and silly (like it did in Bruce Almighty) when it is supposed to be funny at times and serious at others. Similarly, Christian Bale plays very well and deserves his OSCAR nomination. Yet, his character is weird and socially awkward. This makes him/Michael Burry difficult to root for. (And it does not help that Bale looks miscast in the role. With his huge biceps, one does not expect him to behave weirdly, but rather to don the Bat-gear again and beat every banker and broker to a pulp.)

Mark Baum (Steve Carrell, sitting down in the centre), contemplating the horror about to unravel, as his associates shout at Jared Vallett (Ryan Gosling, sitting down, right).

Mark Baum (Steve Carrell, sitting down in the centre), contemplating the horror about to unravel, as his associates shout at Jared Vallett (Ryan Gosling, sitting down, right).

As for the rest of the cast, their crassness guarantees that bankers and brokers are going to be hated for some time to come yet. Even if one can admire one or two of them for their foresight and intelligence, e.g. Jared Vallett and Charlie Geller (John Magaro), one is almost certainly going to be put off by their arrogance, rudeness and avarice. There is only so much one can endure of watching arseholes behaving so unscrupulously. One becomes bored by it and disinterested in the film’s subject matter; and 130 minutes of it is just too much. That one has seen deplorable bankers and brokers behaving in such an amoral manner before (Wall Street II: Money Never Sleeps, Margin Call and The Wolf of Wall Street) adds to the boredom and disinterest.

Yet, what is worse is the frustration one feels with The Big Short. The film has been billed as a satirical comedy, but to smile wryly only twice throughout the movie is not enough to justify such a billing. Plus, some of the movie’s (alleged) humour is just downright misogynistic. How is a cameo of Margot Robbie (as herself!) naked and in a bathtub explaining subprime mortgages funny? How is having a female stripper explaining the hazards of having loans on multiple houses, whilst lap-dancing, funny? Both just seem wrong in so many ways and not funny.

Charlie Geller (John Megaro, left) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock, right) speaking with Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) about making investments.

Charlie Geller (John Megaro, left) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock, right) speaking with Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) about making investments.

The sense that the film seems wrong is not just limited to its humour. The directing is extremely ill-disciplined. At certain points, the movie is linear; at other points, it is a music video; at others, the scenes change so suddenly and often, one can get a seizure; and, randomly, the film stops, so we can see a profile of a character or so that a character can face the audience and explain something. All of this makes for quirky viewing at best and ADD at worst. It also begs the question why Adam McKay has been nominated for an OSCAR in the Best Director category, considering that Ryan Coogler has not when the latter directed Creed so much better.

Over-all, The Big Short is a frustrating film. It is not particularly funny and it lacks focus in numerous ways. Yes, the movie successfully elucidates upon why the US property market and the world economy collapsed in 2007-08, which is no mean feat. But by The Big Short merely shouting at its viewers that it all happened because bankers and brokers are two-faced wankers is not only going down a well-trodden path, it also makes for repellent viewing.

PG’s Tips

Review – Kingsman: The Secret Service (15) [2015]

Kingsman - title banner2

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

Writer:

Cast:

Music Composer:

Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman make an awesome screen-writing couple. Together, they wrote the hilarious Kick-Ass and the first-rate reboot of the X-Men franchise. Now, they are back in comical fashion with the secret service spoof, Kingsman: The Secret Service.

harry (Colin Firth) showing Eggsy (Taron Egerton) the secret way of entering the world of a Kingsman.

harry (Colin Firth) showing Eggsy (Taron Egerton) the secret way of entering the world of a Kingsman.

Kingsman is based on the comic-book by Mark Millar. It is about a young man from South London called Eggsy (Taron Egerton), who is descending into a life of violence, drink, drugs and crime when secret agent Harry (Colin Firth) pays him an unexpected visit. Harry offers him the chance, which Eggsy accepts, to train and become a secret agent/Kingsman to stop Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) from making the world anew with his new invention.

Kingsman is a stylish and entertaining film. At its core, the movie is a satire on the spy thriller genre and James Bond in particular (which, itself, was a satire on the world of espionage until Daniel Craig’s Bond hijacked the franchise). Yet, Kingsman has a (charming) stick-two-fingers-up attitude that most spy thrillers and James Bond films would never dare employ. This attitude has a strangely endearing quality and hints at why Vaughn turned down directing X-Men: Days of Future Past in favour of making Kingsman. This attitude not only makes the film worthwhile-viewing, it reminds audiences of why they loved Kick-Ass so much back in 2010.

Roxy (Sophie Cookson), the obligatory babe, trying her luck to become a Kings(wo)man.

Roxy (Sophie Cookson), the obligatory babe, trying her luck to become a Kings(wo)man.

It also helps that Kingsman is ludicrously funny. Vaughn and Goldman have an impeccable understanding of the most essential ingredient for comedy: timing. As a result, the numerous jokes, touché lines, exaggerated action sequences, and amusing special effects all work throughout the film’s 129-minute running time. Indeed, one is likely to be so amused by the ridiculousness of the movie that one is unlikely to care that the plot is cliché and overblown, or that the actors take themselves as disingenuously as their counterparts did in Knight and Day, Mission: Impossible IV and This Means War.

Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) looking laughably ridiculous as the utterly camp villain, wanting to start the world anew.

Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) looking laughably ridiculous as the utterly camp villain, wanting to start the world anew.

No-one epitomises the preposterous nature of the storyline and the acting as much as Samuel L Jackson (SLJ), as the camp, 1980s-dressed, lisp-impaired villain of the film (named Valentine to cap it all). When one is used to watching SLJ as the stern and authoritative Coach Carter and Nick Fury, one has to blink repeatedly (and with disbelief) to remember that Valentine is the same man. But credit to SLJ: he performs insincerely admirably as Valentine without disgracing himself. The same can be said for Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson, even if their roles are far less humiliating than SLJ’s.

Over-all, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an enjoyable film, provided it is taken with a handful of salt. The movie is absurd and over-the-top in all departments. But it is a very funny and entertaining spoof on James Bond and the spy genre in general. Thus, like with Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class before, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman have scored again with Kingsman, and long may they keep scoring.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Inbetweeners II (15) [2014]

The Inbetweeners 2 - title banner2

Star Rating: 3/5

Directors/Writers:

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • David Arnold – Independence Day, The World Is Not Enough, Paul, Sherlock, Bond 24
  • Michael Price – The Judge, Wild Target, Horrid Henry: The Movie, Sherlock, Tell The World

2011’s The Inbetweeners Movie was a phenomenal success both narratively and at the box office. On the back of the hilarious TV series audiences, with delight, followed their four favourite misfits on holiday in Greece. But the 2011 film was supposed to be a last stand for the cast. A sequel had not been intended at the outset and, to some extent, this is to the detriment of The Inbetweeners II.

Jay (James Buckley), Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas) and Neil (Blake Harrison posing in front of Sydney Harbour to prove that they actually did go to Australia.

Jay (James Buckley), Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas) and Neil (Blake Harrison posing in front of Sydney Harbour to prove that they actually did go to Australia.

The Inbetweeners II revolves round the four losers known as Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Neil (Blake Harrison) and Jay (James Buckley). Will and Simon are at university, while Neil is doing the odd job here and there. Jay, however, has taken some time out and has gone to Australia for a gap year. After reading a message from the teller of tall tales himself, Will, Simon and Neil decide to visit Jay to see for themselves how great Jay’s life is going down under.

The Inbetweeners II is a funny film. Its humour might be juvenile, crude and vulgar (not to mention misogynistic); yet, the movie delivers on its promise to make viewers laugh regularly and often. Like the TV series and the 2011 movie, the script has been superbly written and the four main losers have great chemistry between them. Arguably, the best parts of The Inbetweeners II are when the four of them are together in a car or walking around talking because, in more ways than one, viewers know people with similar characteristics to them (which is what made the TV series and the first film so amusing).

Will meets Kate (Emily Berrington), an old classmate of his from primary school, and immediately (and unsurprisingly) takes  a liking to her.

Will meets Kate (Emily Berrington), an old classmate of his from primary school, and immediately (and unsurprisingly) takes a liking to her.

However, watching the four loners make the same (hackneyed) jokes outside their small (crappy) town somehow dilutes the jokes’ effects. In the same way that one cannot take Hogwarts out of a Harry Potter film and expect the movie to have the same magical effect on audiences (Harry Potter VII(i)), one cannot take the inbetweeners out of their unique setting as half the gags no longer work.

Additionally, narratively, The Inbetweeners II runs out of gas between two-thirds and three quarters of the way through movie. Symbolically, this happens when Jay’s car runs out of petrol in the middle of nowhere. Yet, by that point old jokes have been rehashed, and the directors have cranked up many of the other jokes to eleven in the (forlorn) belief that making something louder and cruder equals funnier (which is always the sign of desperation and the exhaustion of ideas).

Simon's girlfriend, Lucy (Tamla Kari), who has turned psychotic since the last film for... reasons.

Simon’s girlfriend, Lucy (Tamla Kari), who has turned psychotic since the last film for… reasons.

Worse, the sequel does not develop the four oddballs. This entails that we don’t learn anything new about them and that they have not changed or grown up. This is disappointing as there have been events that have happened off-screen to the boys since the last film and some of these must have had consequences on their personalities. But, no: little of these events are divulged on screen and the corollaries of these events even less so to the disadvantage of the film and the Inbetweeners phenomena itself.

All-in-all, The Inbetweeners II is a highly amusing film. The humour may have plunged to shamefully depraved levels, but it will still have audiences laughing more often than not. Nevertheless, one cannot help but feel that the directors did not plan for this sequel and only green lit it upon the success of the 2011 movie. Whether it is the storyline; the direction of the film and the characters; or even the jokes themselves, The Inbetweeners II goes flat long before the end. Interestingly, in a recent interview, the directors said that they were ‘killing’ the Inbetweeners with this film and that this was to be the boys’ last outing. It would be no surprise if the directors get their wish this time.

PG’s Tips

Review – 22 Jump Street (15) [2014]

22 Jump Street - title banner2

Star Rating: 2.5/5

Directors:

  • Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • Mark Mothersbaugh – 21 Jump Street, Last Vegas, The Lego Movie, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs I & II

2012’s 21 Jump Street was juvenile, crass, vulgar, patronising, stupid, misogynistic, irritating, and seldom amusing. It also did inexplicably well at the box office. So what could one have expected from a sequel? Well, more of the same really.

Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) arrive at college to unearth who is behind the drugs operation there.

Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) arrive at college to unearth who is behind the drugs operation there.

22 Jump Street is a comedy that is a carbon copy of its prequel. But this time, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are not sent back to high school by Ice Cube to bust a drugs operation (as if anyone believed that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill were high school students); they are sent to college.

22 Jump Street employs exactly the same plot as well as the same juvenile, crass and stupid humour as its prequel. However, this time, audiences are prepared for the movie’s utter inanity and so won’t be (unpleasantly) surprised by it.

Also, the film has a surprisingly good climax and the ending scene(s) of the film are probably the funniest bits of the movie (which says something about the rest of it). That is not to say that one won’t laugh during the film. 22 Jump Street continuously mocks itself (and several superhero movies at the same time) by explicitly confessing that it is a sequel devoid of ideas (unlike so many other sequels that are equally devoid of ideas, only they refuse to admit it). Nevertheless, by 22 Jump Street stating that it is ripping itself off, viewers are likely to loosen their guards at an early stage. This means they’re likely to laugh a few more times than they thought they might have done prior to seeing the film.

Schmidt meets the nice Maya (Amber Stevens) who does little in the film other than smile and look pretty.

Schmidt meets the nice Maya (Amber Stevens) who does little in the film other than smile and look pretty.

Just like the plot, the acting and the dialogue in 22 Jump Street are illogical, and both would be staggering if the two lead actors did not have such great chemistry on screen. Indeed, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill look they had a whale of a time making the movie (which, invariably for a comedy, means that the film won’t be very funny) and it is not as if they play their roles badly, either. Tatum does a decent job as the stupid, popular jock; and Jonah Hill (once again) shows us that he is the go-to-man when a director needs a crude, stupid slob, who (predictably) makes every fat joke that can be found on the internet. (Seriously, Hill, you are a smart guy. When are you going to gain some dignity and stop doing these roles?)

Of the rest of the cast, Ice Cube again spends his entire time on screen shouting and swearing (because shouting and swearing per se is funny, right?). Amber Stevens is merely there to be eye candy; Wyatt Russell is solely there to be the third wheel in a bromance love triangle that quickly grates on the nerves; and Dave Franco and Rob Riggle make cameo appearances (to add fifteen minutes onto the film’s running time and) so audiences can be reminded of what these two (idiots) did in the first film (just in case viewers have suffered amnesia in the last two years).

Jenko getting drunk at a party, whilst striking up a friendship with his American football team-mate, Zook (Wyatt Russell), much to Schmidt's jealousy.

Jenko getting drunk at a party, whilst striking up a friendship with his American football team-mate, Zook (Wyatt Russell), much to Schmidt’s jealousy.

Otherwise, the music used throughout the film feels random and oddly timed, if not out of place. But, hey, 22 Jump Street is a comedy that has little discipline, sense of timing or intelligence, so why should the music be any different?

All-in-all, 22 Jump Street is certainly as juvenile, crass, patronising, stupid and irritating as its prequel. But it is less vulgar and misogynistic, plus a little funnier than 21 Jump Street. Undoubtedly, this is because of 22 Jump Street’s self-derision; because audiences have become used to the film’s sense of humour (if one can call it that); and because viewers have somehow come to like the two central characters for the fools they are.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Wolf of Wall Street (18) [2014]

The Wolf of Wall Street - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • Martin Scorsese – Goodfellas, The Departed, Shutter Island, Sinatra

Cast:

  • Leonardo DiCaprio – Titanic, The Departed, Inception, The Revenant
  • Jonah Hill – Superbad, Moneyball, 21 & 22 Jump Street
  • Margot Robbie – Neighbours, About Time, Focus, The Big Short
  • Matthew McConaughey – Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, The Lincoln Lawyer, MudInterstellar
  • Jean Dujardin – The Clink of Ice, A View of Love, The Artist, The Monuments Men
  • Kyle Chandler – King Kong, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Zero Dark Thirty, Carol
  • Rob Reiner – Sleepless In Seattle, Mad Dog Time, New Girl
  • Joanna Lumley – James And The Giant Peach, Ella Enchanted, Corpse Bride, Squirrels To The Nuts
  • Cristin Milioti – The Sopranos, I Am Ben, How I Met Your Mother, The Occupants
  • Jon Bernthal – Fury
  • Stephen Kunken – Still Alice
  • PJ Byrne – The Gift

Since the financial collapse in the autumn of 2007, there has been almost universal contempt, if not outright hatred for bankers, stockbrokers and anyone involved in high-risk finance-related jobs. The vitriol aimed at such people, as they have taken home huge paycheques and bonuses, has resulted in greater financial regulations. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street illustrates through Jordan Belfort how crooked the financial system can be without such regulations.

Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) advising the unknowing Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) on what one has to do to thrive in the industry.

Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) advising the unknowing Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) on what one has to do to thrive in the industry.

The film is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, the titular character of the movie, and the book written by Belfort while he was in prison. The movie begins with the young, ambitious Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) getting a job as a stockbroker at Rothschild in the late 1980s. Shortly after joining the bank, his boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), takes him for lunch and gives him some (un-)sage advice in how to survive in the industry.

Skip forward a few years, and Jordan has founded his own stockbroking company, Stratton Oakmont, with his friend Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). But Belfort has also taken on board all that his former boss once told him, and lives the fast-life snorting cocaine, paying prostitutes for all kinds of sex, and making fortunes… until the authorities start chasing him and his company for their criminal wrongdoings.

The Wolf of Wall Street is an energetic, chauvinistic and engaging film. Despite its three-hour running time, the movie does not drag, which is extraordinary considering its length, the amount of swearing, and the vulgarity of the central characters involved, chiefly the Wolf, himself.

Leonardo DiCaprio is brilliant as the dishonest Belfort. DiCaprio’s character brings to mind another corrupt financier: the fictional Gordon Gekko of Wall Street (who Belfort claimed was his inspiration). But while Gekko enjoyed the banking industry and making money for money’s sake, Belfort made money to live up the fast-life, and DiCaprio’s eccentric performance demonstrates this. For the vast majority of the film, DiCaprio has his foot on the accelerator, unable to slow down his obsessive greed for more money, drugs, cars, yachts and prostitutes (no wonder DiCaprio needed a break from acting after this).

A drugged-up Belfort having some non-work related fun with his equally drugged-up friend and business partner, Donnie (Jonah Hill).

A drugged-up Belfort having some non-work related fun with his equally drugged-up friend and business partner, Donnie (Jonah Hill).

Yet, for all his (many) flaws, DiCaprio’s character at least has some redeeming qualities; notably, loyalty to his friends. The same, however, cannot be said for Belfort’s repulsive friend Donnie, played by Jonah Hill. Hill’s character is Hill’s archetypal type-cast, since Donnie is foul mannered, foul speaking, grob, misogynistic, and without a compensatory feature in his bones. Hill has seemingly spent his whole career (with the exception of his excellent performance in Moneyball) playing roles that have been building up to this one in The Wolf of Wall Street since the crass and juvenile Superbad was released in 2007. It is no surprise, therefore, that Hill metamorphosis’s into Donnie with gusto and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Hill’s talents do not mean one can empathise with the disgusting Donnie as a person.

Viewers may, to a much lesser extent, have a similar problem finding a way into Jordan’s wife, Naomi, played well enough by the strikingly attractive Margot Robbie. The Australian Robbie puts on a faultless Brooklyn accent to her credit, but that is the most noteworthy part of her performance (other than her physical beauty) because her role in The Wolf of Wall Street is not taxing. She mainly has to be Belfort’s eye-candy plaything, and her mercenary nature ensures that audiences feel increasingly less empathic towards her whilst Jordan messes about with prostitutes. Still, Robbie does a decent job with what she is given.

Where the film falls is on its moral stance towards Belfort’s practices. It is one thing if the film maturely takes a neutral stance on a subject-matter, as Zero Dark Thirty and Prisoners did on the matter of whether torturing suspects is ever permissible under certain circumstances. But by Scorsese failing to show the effects that Belfort’s unlawful schemes had on his victims, The Wolf of Wall Street unintentionally glorifies Belfort.

Three of the many instances of the stunning Naomi Belfort (Margot Robbie). What would possess a man to pay for prostitutes if he has her to come home to?

Three of the many instances of the stunning Naomi Belfort (Margot Robbie). What would possess a man to pay for prostitutes if he has her to come home to?

In addition, Scorsese’s style of directing is ill-disciplined. At times, the movie relays events in chronological order; at other times, we see flashbacks; at other times, we hear Belfort’s and other characters’ thoughts; at other times, the film is an advert for Belfort with him speaking directly into the camera; and at other times, we see events through Belfort’s eyes, rather than how they really were (which can be remarkably and hilariously different). The result of this inconsistent approach is that one leaves the film unsure as to what Scorsese wanted to achieve.

Over-all, The Wolf of Wall Street is a fantastic and enjoyable film, despite the rampant misogyny and the repugnant characters one endures for three hours. At the centre of it all is the immoral Jordan Belfort, who is played with great vigour and charisma by Leonardo DiCaprio. The film has its flaws in the directing and the stance it takes towards Belfort. Nevertheless, The Wolf of Wall Street demonstrates that people like Belfort, with his life of drugs, debauchery and fraudulent practices, are the reason for why banks, stockbroking agencies and the financial sector in general needed the regulations that are now in force. Now, future-Belforts will be prevented from repeating the Wolf’s ways and that is a positive.

PG’s Tips

Review – Blue Jasmine (12a) [2013]

Blue Jasmine - title banner

Star Rating: 4.5/5

Director:

Cast:

  • Cate Blanchett – The Lord of the Rings I-III, The Aviator, Notes On A Scandal, The Hobbit I, II & III
  • Alec Baldwin – Pearl Harbour, The Aviator, The Departed, Still Alice
  • Sally Hawkins – Layer Cake, An Education, Great Expectations, Godzilla
  • Andrew Dice Clay – Whatever It Takes, Foolish, Point Doom, Entourage
  • Bobby Carnavale – The Bone Collector, Snakes On A Plane, Parker, Imagine
  • Peter Saarsgard – Rendition, An Education, Orphan, Pawn Sacrifice
  • Daniel Jenks
  • Max Rutherford

Midnight In Paris was a renaissance for Woody Allen. After half a decade without making a decent film, Midnight In Paris won him another Oscar for Best Writing. More importantly, the film reminded us of his talents. Blue Jasmine continues Allen’s re-emergence as a brilliant film director and script writer.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), dressed to stun, and living the good life with her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), and so-called friends.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), in stunning garb, living the good life with her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), and their (so-called) friends.

Blue Jasmine centres round the fine-looking Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), who is struggling to come to terms with how her life has turned upside down. From living the glamorous life with her former husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), in New York, Jasmine takes a few steps down in the world and moves in with her adopted sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Ginger lives in a small, cluttered apartment in San Francisco with her two sons from her previous marriage to Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), whilst doing a menial day-job and having a relationship with the loutish Chili (Bobby Carnavale).

With Jasmine’s situation hardly to her liking, she finds it difficult to sort herself out. In fact, after so many years of living the high life without doing or needing to do a day’s work, Jasmine is in the midst of a nervous breakdown that worsens with every passing day.

Blue Jasmine’s storyline is simple and well thought through. In a typical Allen way, like Midnight In Paris, Blue Jasmine skips back and forth between the (dour) present and the (glitzy) not-too-distant past, dishing us out with the necessary revelations at the opportune moments about why Jasmine left New York and Hal. This style may seem confusing at first. But one adapts to it quite quickly, and soon enough the movie’s approach becomes formulaic and predictable; not that these take anything away from the film.

Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), Jasmine's low-class adopted sister and brother-in-law. Jasmine and Ginger are so different, it is hard to believe that they were brought up by the same parents.

Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), Jasmine’s low-class adopted sister and brother-in-law. Jasmine and Ginger are so different, it is hard to believe that they were brought up by the same parents.

Blue Jasmine is intelligent, well-written and surprisingly amusing. Despite taking a detailed and dispiriting view on serious matters like cheating, fraud and (to an under-employed extent) people trying to make ends meet, the movie is littered with wry and cutting humour that many people, rich or poor, can empathise with and find funny. That Blue Jasmine is only 98 minutes long works in the film’s favour too. It answers all of its own questions efficiently and does not drag (unlike blockbuster bore-fests, such as Transformers III, Prometheus and Man of Steel).

Unquestionably, Blue Jasmine‘s script is superb and delivered with panache by the cast. Cate Blanchett’s performance is the most magnetic of them all. Blanchett encapsulates Jasmine’s ability to look wonderful, yet never be far from looking like a nervous wreck; to enjoy her lifestyle, yet turn a blind eye to the things she doesn’t want to see; and to be a melodramatic alcoholic about her existence, yet lie pathologically when she sniffs a chance to escape it. That Blanchett pulls this off so as to make Jasmine’s character (and breakdown) seem realistic, much like Joaquin Phoenix did in The Master, is noteworthy. One only has to look at how Natalie Portman’s (Oscar winning) breakdown in Black Swan became farcical by the end to realise the remarkableness of Blanchett’s skills, and that is without needing to compare it to Robert Downey Jr.’s feigned attempt at a nervous breakdown in Iron Man III.

While Blanchett is likely to take most of the plaudits for Blue Jasmine, the supporting cast play their parts to make the film noteworthy too. Sally Hawkins exemplifies an (immature) younger sibling, filled with inferiority-complexes, believing that none of her mother’s good genes were passed on to her. Alec Baldwin typifies a smooth-talking (slimy) businessman that has echoes of Bernie Madoff. Bobby Carnavale portrays a coarse, blue-collar working, beer-drinking, lad’s man in a down to earth manner. And Andrew Dice Clay plays the embittered (and somewhat broken), former husband well enough, although, he’s hardly in the movie; and when he does appear, he always has something significant to add to the plot that has a semi-contrived feel.

Jasmine, looking terrible after losing her wealth and status, looking like she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Jasmine, looking terrible after losing her wealth and status, looking like she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The only characters who are not detailed are Ginger’s two children, Matthew (Daniel Jenks) and Johnny (Max Rutherford). These two add little to the story, which begs the question of why they are in the film. A similar argument could be made toward the music that Allen adopts. The movie is set within the last decade, but the music sounds like it is from between the 1930s-50s, which is an odd choice as it appears out of place. But none of these issues should detract from what is otherwise a great film.

All-in-all, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is a smart, satisfying and entertaining movie about sombre issues. With a magnificent and engaging central character, and a convincing supporting cast, Allen’s excellent script is delivered with great sincerity and sardonic humour. Above-all, Blue Jasmine confirms Allen’s renaissance and cements his position as one of the best film directors and script writers that Hollywood has at its disposal. Long may the rebirth continue!

PG’s Tips