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Showing posts from December, 2013

Review - The Wolf of Wall Street

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), R, 180 minutes - Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio.  As far as I'm concerned, that's all you needed to tell me to get me into the theater to see The Wolf of Wall Street, negative reviews be damned.  Their track record together says it all: Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island.  You better believe I'd give them the benefit of the doubt.

DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, and we watch his meteoric rise to billionaire status thanks to some grooming from Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), a lot of smarts, and a fair share of questionable (morally and legally speaking) business tactics.  He's joined on his journey by Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) who quits his job and offers to work for Belfort when he is shown a pay stub for a single month that clears seventy grand.  Belfort collects a handful of other friends that have the drive to make big money and behind his brains they launch their own firm.  Success goes hand in han…

Rental Review - The Devil's Backbone

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The Devil's Backbone (2001), R, 106 minutes - Guillermo del Toro has long been one of my favorite directors, and this, his third feature film (after 1993's Cronos and 1997's Mimic) had been his only feature length film that I had not seen.  Thanks to my wife adding the recent Criterion Collection blu-ray release to my movie vault as a Christmas gift, I am now able to cross it off of my 'to watch' list.

del Toro has said on a number of occasions that 2006's Pan's Labyrinth was meant to be a companion piece to The Devil's Backbone.  Having now seen both films (Pan's Labyrinth is one of my all-time favorites), not only is it easy to see that was his intention, but that he was also quite successful in his vision.

The Devil's Backbone takes place in 1939 at a remote, struggling, and supposedly haunted orphanage in Spain towards the end of their Civil War.  A young boy named Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is left there by the man he calls his 'tutor&#…

Review - Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), PG-13, 119 minutes - Over the years, Will Ferrell's off the wall, over the top style of comedy has proven very popular.  One of his most successful films was 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and it was only a matter of time before a sequel came to fruition.  After a couple of years of speculation and then this past year of teasers and trailers, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was finally unleashed on the public last weekend.  In my opinion, it lived up to expectations...for the most part.

Anchorman 2 picks up after the events of The Legend of Ron Burgundy.  He and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) have gotten married and have a young son named Walter (Judah Nelson).  Veronica gets a very prestigious promotion at work becoming the first prime time female news anchor.  At the same time, Ron gets fired.  He's then asked to join a fledgling 24 hour news station as their late late night (or is that early early mo…

Review - American Hustle

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American Hustle (2013), R, 138 minutes - What do you get when you combine an Oscar nominated director, six Oscar nominated/winning actors and actresses, and a con-man story that takes place in the 1970's?  American Hustle, a David O. Russell film that juggles so many people conning one another that it's almost hard to believe the line that opens the film: 'Some of this actually happened.'

The framework for American Hustle's story is this: Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a con-man who owns a small chain of dry cleaners and deals some counterfeit art on the side.  He also runs a phony loan scheme.  Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) enters his life when they both attend the same party and connect over their mutual love of Duke Ellington.  Eventually Irving tells Sydney the truth and asks her to join in on his scheme.  To his surprise, she accepts his offer and creates the identity of a British woman with royal lineage and banking connections in London.  Together they sc…

Review - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), PG-13, 161 minutes - I'm generally pretty good at compartmentalizing things.  It's a trait that I'm proud of (although my wife would probably tell you that it makes me difficult to deal with sometimes).  Unfortunately, this ability often makes it hard for me to determine how I feel about a film like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Allow me to explain:

First off, I enjoyed the film.  Even the two and a half hour running time didn't cause me to look at my watch once.  As has become a staple of Peter Jackson's adaptations of Middle Earth, The Desolation of Smaug had a good blend of drama, action, and comedy.  He even slipped in a little fledgling romance for good measure.  And once again the cast was excellent.  A large portion of which returned from last year's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I felt that Martin Freeman (Bilbo) was wonderful with what little he was asked to do.  Outside of one key, albeit lengt…

Rental Review - Europa Report

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Europa Report (2013), PG-13, 90 minutes - In this unofficial Year of the Sci-Fi Film, Europa Report may not be as flashy, well known, or widely distributed as other entries to the genre, but it is a top notch entry none-the-less.  I'm not even sure that Europa Report was released in my area earlier this summer when it first came out.  I was made aware of it when I heard it mentioned on two different podcasts within a couple of days of each other.  Being a sci-fi fan, my curiosity was peaked but I had to wait until I could rent it from NetFlix to check it out.  

Europa Report is a fictional story about a privately funded space mission to Jupiter's fourth largest moon (Europa) in search of signs of life.  It is presented in a documentary style splicing of interviews and 'found footage', and does so to great effect.  The cast is small, but works very well together.  Unlike many films revolving around space missions, no member of the crew goes crazy or tries to sabotage t…