Whiplash

Miles Teller Whiplash

When an aspiring drummer, Andrew (Teller), registers at a world-renowned New York music school, he fast realises that his drum kit isn’t the only thing that requires a thick skin.

Nothing sounds more like vanilla than a film about drumming. Drums are the Steady Eddie of instruments; the “not cool enough to be featured on our Unplugged album” rhythm-keeper of all bands. Spending two hours with drums and/or a drummer sounds like something I would checkout of post-haste. It is for that very reason that I am surprised that Whiplash has a strong chance of remaining top of my Film of the Year 2015 list.

My surprise was short-lived, however, because Whiplash was not really a film about drumming. The instrument was the vessel through which the story was told, and this was a story of pain, perseverance and the pursuit of perfection.

Much of the narrative was focused on the relationship between Andrew and Fletcher; the young student vs the bastard tutor (and bastard is a light word in this context), similar to the character dynamics in Full Metal Jacket. Teller’s characterization of the quiet, socially awkward protagonist should have been recognized in this year’s Oscar nominations, especially considering J.K. Simmons was given the nod as Best Supporting Actor. Both of these actors gave standout performances, their relationship dissected with nuanced excellence. Teller usually plays the wise-cracking jock, yet this role was a complete departure for him as he showed a tense vulnerability on screen.

The last film directed by Damien Chazelle, Grand Piano, also dealt with a talented protagonist playing a musical instrument, but instead of a vacuous plot carrying one-dimensional characters, Whiplash bears the hallmark of greatness, which is also a theme that is deeply explored in the film. Andrew has engulfed his life in drumming. Rather than developing relationships with family and friends, he sacrificed everything in an effort to be the greatest drummer of his generation; he opted for CDs over conversations; his sticks over a girlfriend. Every literal and metaphorical knock back drove him harder to prove the greatness he desired, which at times became cringe worthy to watch. At times the movie became a little far-fetched from a plot perspective, however the events helped to act as a visual metaphor for Andrew’s unrelenting drive to be the best.

Clearly a film about a drummer needed to have scenes of drumming, and they absolutely delivered. There was a wonderful adventurousness to the camera, with the drum kit and the drummer being shown from all angles, and the editing had a kinetic feel to it that reminded me of the music video to The Chemical Brothers – Star Guitar. At points I felt myself simultaneously gritting my teeth, nodding my head and tapping my feet.

Even if Whiplash is usurped as my Film of the Year, the movie about a drummer, which isn’t about drumming, will remain long in my mind. La La Land, Chazelle’s next movie, released later this year, is a piece of cinema on which I will be keeping a very close eye.

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Boyhood

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Boyhood is fast becoming one of the most celebrated films of 2014. Written and directed by the masterful Richard Linklater, and filmed over the course of 12 years, on viewing it is easy to see why. What Linklater has achieved with Boyhood is storytelling at its most honest and pure.

Throughout the film we follow the character of Mason, played by the wonderfully understated Ellar Coltrane, as he transitions from child to adult, literally and figuratively. Linklater’s choice to keep his narrative simple, which some may argue is occasionally slow, instead of punctuating Mason’s life with overtly forced dramatics, results in an end product that is beautifully normal. The passage of time and the milestones that are marked are universally recognisable, and when packaged and punctuated by such a sharp film-makers eye the pathos is resounding. To see the entire cast age naturally without the contrived hand of make-up and prosthetics adds a unique dimension to the already wonderful performances from the cast.

Boyhood is ultimately an intimate epic about the intricacies of growing up and Linklater should be applauded for the scope, vision and execution of this remarkable piece of film-making.

10 Reasons why the critics have got it so wrong about Gone Girl

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Last night, to dust off the writing cobwebs formed after a long summer of football, festivals, house moves and holidays, the Framerates team went to the cinema to see the highly-anticipated, critically-acclaimed, David Fincher directed, adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel Gone Girl. With the screenplay also by Flynn, and a top cast that included Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, our hopes were high. Could Fincher channel his immense talent to create a chilling, intelligent thriller that echoed the intensity of Se7en and Zodiac?

In a word: no.

To our surprise, though, Gone Girl is seemingly a hit with many critics. Here are ten reasons why we feel that this critical reception is a case of mass “drinking the Fincher Kool Aid”.

This article contains spoilers.

1) A faithful, unfaithful adaptation

Despite a screenplay from Flynn herself, the tense, psychological, emotionally engaging tone that is captured in the book fails to fully translate onto the screen. Flynn has faithfully stuck to the narrative laid out in the novel however without the continuous stream of thought from the characters the movie feels shallow and the characters motivations and emotional arcs unclear. This is no more apparent than in the final act of the movie where we see Amy heartlessly slaughter Desi Collings. This played on screen like the calculated acts of a horror movie psychopath whereas in the novel, despite Amy’s deplorable moral compass, the reader understands that she is left with little choice.

2) Tone issues

Perhaps Fincher added flecks of humour throughout Gone Girl to provide comic relief, and to heighten the darkest moments of the movie. However, when characters are making the stupidest decisions left, right and centre, unfortunately, the humour intended as light relief was actually just a series of snorts at the movie’s ridiculousness. An absurd movie this was; “an absurdist thriller” this was not.

3) Pacing. Pacing. Pacing.

I felt I was watching three episodes of a TV programme that were cut together by an amateur YouTube editor. I do believe that the movie got caught somewhere between police procedural and Stepford Wives thriller, and there was such a blatant division between the three acts of the film, which resulted in an extremely jarring watch.

4) Direction

Was Fincher deliberately telling his cast to act on the same level throughout the film? Everything was so flat, it felt like the director was intentionally channeling Frank Underwood and the entire feel of House of Cards, but with a mixture of Prisoners thrown in for good measure. It was very disappointing that this didn’t feel like a Fincher movie, but maybe that will act in his favour when people finally remove their tongues from his arsehole.

5) Acting

A flat tone, jarring pacing and seemingly misguided direction in Gone Girl all results in some rather underwhelming performances from the leads. Pike as Amy does a good job as coming across as cold, sharp and intelligent but fails to fully round Amy as a character- arguably this is in large part down to the lack of distinction between the opposing Amy’s (see point 7 for more). Affleck has always been a firm favourite over here at Framerates.net as an actor, as well as a director, however the stoic nature of the character of Nick required a nuanced performance that depicted an internal dialogue, instead Affleck at times felt vacant and the emotional weight was lacking.

6) Team Amy vs Team Nick

Fincher himself has said that people will leave in either a “Team Amy” or “Team Nick” camp. If the director has acknowledged that fact, there are clearly flaws in the way his characters are represented. One can claim “misogyny” towards Amy, or “men’s rights” at Nick, until they’re blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that all of the above factors have contributed to a film that leads us beautifully into Point 7.

7) Failing to define the character roles.

The single most important element of the movie to get right was the clear and apparent differences between the two Amys. ‘Cool girl’ Amy, the Amy created for Nick, and the real Amy. Fincher makes no distinction between the two opposing personalities. Without this we don’t understand Nick for falling in love with Amy and equally we don’t empathise with Amy and the façade she is forced to display. Instead of creating a compelling insight into two flawed characters, who we both empathise with and despise, or making a coherent point about gender roles and feminism, the movie leaves us with two people who we neither understand very much and who represent very little.

8) It looks beautiful, but what is below the surface?

When you look at a movie like Zodiac, you can literally peel back the nuanced layers within the frame, the acting, the cinematography and plot. In Gone Girl, because the characters were so unrelatable, it was hard to get fully immersed into the world that Fincher is normally so great at building. Gone Girl left me with a similar feeling as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a movie referenced in another 10 things post from last year.

9) No one shags in a library after 3 years of a relationship

After 1095 days together, you’re lucky if you get your genitals get but a fleeting glance when you’re out with your other half, let alone being balls deep in a dark corner of a public library. I will suspend my disbelief for many things, but this is not one of them.

10) It’s just really not as good as people are claiming

All-in-all, the film was over two and a half hours long and after half an hour I was feeling frustrated and bored. The word flat has been used many times in this article to describe elements of this film and that’s exactly what the overall experience left me feeling. There was no excitement, intrigue or desire for any of the characters to succeed in anyway. Unlike Se7en, Zodiac or Fight Club, which are intense, thrilling and heaped with personality, Gone Girl is as grey as the colour palette it displays.

Guardians of The Galaxy

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It’s not often I walk out of a summer blockbuster feeling refreshingly entertained and in high spirits, but against the odds this is exactly what happened when I managed to attend an early press screening of Guardians of the Galaxy on Wednesday night. (Of course the screening was in 3D but you know what they say, if you’re given free shit, don’t be a knob about it.)

After stealing a mysterious orb in the far reaches of outer space, Peter Quill is now the main target of a manhunt lead by the villain known as Ronan the Accuser. To help fight Ronan and his team and save the galaxy from his power, Quill creates a team known as the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ to save the world…

What made Guardians of the Galaxy such a breath of fresh air? One of the major things going for Guardians of the Galaxy is that, to me, and I imagine most, the source material is completely unknown. In a comic book movie shitstorm of rehashed ideas and stunted creativity, this movie felt new and genuinely exciting. Unlike the predictability of a Batman, Superman or Iron Man film, where the bar in storytelling and nuance has to be raised to avoid the films feeling recycled, the director, James Gunn, has the luxury of having fun here, playing with the unknown and never taking what he places on screen too seriously. The feast of pop culture references and the self-deprecating gags ensure this is achieved with charming aplomb.  That’s not to suggest that the film is by any means lazy or the effort to produce a legitimate story is not there; Gunn has managed to create a rich universe with multiple worlds, species and characters, that he incorporates into impressive action sequences and set-pieces.  The result is a film that delivers genuine thrills, intrigue, excitement and actual laughs out loud. From my mouth. That the other people beside me heard.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a welcome addition to what was beginning to feel like a tired genre, managing to breathe some life back into the Marvel movie juggernaut. It is by no means a perfect film. There are moments when it succumbs to the obvious soppy and overly sentimental dialogue, and there are a couple of one-liners that will make you cringe, however there is still a hell of a lot to enjoy. The fantastic performances from the cast, the pop culture satire and the technicolour CGI make this a genuinely worthwhile, entertaining and rewarding watch. Let the cynic in you have a night off, go to the cinema and enjoy. You won’t regret it.

 

How to Train your Dragon 2 3D

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In 2010, How to Train Your Dragon delighted the cinema-going public with its first class animation, exciting narrative, snappy dialogue and loveable characters. It impressed audiences and critics alike as a thoroughly enjoyable family adventure all wrapped up in some really quite adult concepts . Therefore, it didn’t take much arm twisting to drag me along to the sequel this weekend, and I was even willing to give 3D another chance, as, you know, dragons and fire flying at your face, well it sounded pretty cool…

It’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave, that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe in while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons.

It was always going to be a difficult task to sustain the brilliance of the first How to Train Your Dragon. The plot, whilst exciting and thrilling, was actually a rather simple premise that centred on the unexpected bond between Hiccup and Toothless and came to a natural conclusion with a fittingly furious final battle sequence. In How to Train Your Dragon 2 everything has been cranked up exponentially. There is so much action and on such a big scale that at times it was reminiscent of the final battle scenes in Lord of the Rings. In contrast to this, there were times when the pace swung dramatically in the opposite direction, to almost a standstill, as the relationships in Hiccup’s family were explored and developed. The result was a film that felt very ‘BANG BANG BANG; whisper whisper; BANG BANG BANG’, which didn’t always work for me. In making How to Train Your Dragon 2 bigger, louder and showier, it has lost a lot of its original charm.  All that said, despite these problems, a lot of the components that made the original film great are still there; the undeniably clever and endearing characterisation of the dragons; the core relationship between Hiccup and Toothless; adult themes, about family, death and war that don’t patronise; and a vein of comedy running through the whole film.

Overall How to Train Your Dragon 2  is a commendable and respectable sequel that hasn’t been afraid to tackle big ideas and emotions. The original is by far the superior film but there is still a lot to enjoy here. Having said that the 10 year old boy I watched it with loved all the action and categorically confirmed it was ‘awesome’ and was ‘just as good as the first’. So what do I know?

(Oh before I forget, save yourself some money and don’t bother with the 3D. There is light loss, problems with picture clarity and not once did I say oooooooo at any speeding dragons or fire. Rubbish.)

 

The LEGO Movie

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Imagine drinking eight cans of cola, snorting a line of cocaine and standing on the roof of a skyscraper during a hurricane whilst listening to heavy dance music. That is what it feels like when watching a movie by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the million-miles-a-minute, comic genii behind this year’s surprise smash hit, The LEGO Movie.

Everything is awesome in the life of an ordinary LEGO construction worker, Emit. That is until he accidentally stumbles upon a plot by the evil, Lord Business; a lover of conformity, Business wants to put an end to life as LEGO knows it. Can Emit and his band of merry pop culture references save the day, and the LEGO universe, forever?

I will put my cards on the table now and say that, as a child, I was a huge LEGO fan. There was something so compelling about having the freedom to create whatever you wanted out of the small plastic bricks, even when it never looked as good as it was on the box. It is for that very reason that, after 5 minutes of watching The LEGO Movie, I was sold. The way the directors have incorporated, what feels like, every type of brick was extremely satisfying (even the little translucent fire!) It felt as if I was watching two drunk guys build the movie in front of me, talking to each other, saying “dude, what about this piece? And this piece? Oh man, that would be awesome to use that piece for the car! And the fire! Let’s use the fire on his hair! Haha, awesome; pass me another beer”. The film, while having all of the pop culture references and humour one would expect from Lord and Miller, felt very playful, which made for a great cinematic experience.

Ironically, even though it is in vogue with these directors’ style, one thing that may put some people off is the pacing. While the characters are hilarious, the story is compelling and the visual design is wonderful, the pacing is ridiculous. There are many occasions when the imagery is literally flying past the camera, so if you don’t mind the risk of seizure then you should be okay. I did find the humour hitting the mark for most of the movie, but the times when the jokes failed to hit the mark was mainly due to me being unable to register that it was a joke before we were onto the next one.

Aesthetics aside, the movie also contains a contemporary allegory that is concerned with conformity and independence. Much like the best animations – and greatest movies in general – one can read something from the narrative that teaches one something. For the first two acts, The LEGO Movie teaches us that conformity, rigidity and not getting out of one’s comfort zone is not good for creativity, or for culture and our society; the world in which Emit lives is rife with awful TV shows, annoying songs and friends who don’t see the real you. The independent thinkers out there are the one’s who influence change it says, however, for a movie that purports this message for 80% of its run-time, as we get to the climax, the message gets diluted by references. As evidenced by the last half a decade, it is easier to package an allegory within the threads of your movie without the presence of humans. Unfortunately, when Ferrell and his child share the screen time with Emit in the real world, even though it was a decent change of pace and I thought it worked in a superficial context with the story, the message gets lost in the saccharine; this is a shame because it was doing a satisfying job commenting on the vapid nature of entertainment culture.

Now that I have taken off my ponsy film school hat, it’s not everyday you get transported back to your childhood, yet, Lord and Miller have done it to me again. After watching The LEGO Movie, even though the ending didn’t quite hit it out of the park, I have to admit, mostly everything, really is, awesome.

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction

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In a strange mixture of zero planning and coincidence, I found myself at Vue Angel Islington this weekend watching Michael Bay’s latest Transformers film, and this is what I thought.

When a philanthropic businessman (Stanley Tucci) unlocks the Transformers’ genome, a program that is supposed to save humankind from extinction threatens to spiral out of control. Can Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a Texan inventor and doting father, use his tech savvy in a mission that looks like it will involve the certain death of him, his beautiful daughter and her loving boyfriend?

Bay is not renowned for his use of subtext. I have not been his biggest fan in the past, I must admit, which is why I was so shocked while watching Transformers: Age of Extinction; Michael Bay has matured. Gone are the days of vacuous action and insulting representations of minorities. Woven into the texture of this movie was a thick, culturally-relevant allegory about acceptance, tolerance and liberalism, all while delivering a series of expertly shot action set pieces and rich, multi dimensional characters…

…is something I would say if I was twated on bath salts.

I will start with the good. Michael Bay can shoot sweeping vistas very well. He has the ability to point his camera at a vast expanse, which then makes for a sequence of compelling frames that I can look at for an extended period. This talent must be because he has eyes. Also, Stanley Tucci is actually very good in this film. I made a noise with my face about twice when he said some of the script.

In all fairness, that’s where I have to stop with the good.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (or How I Learned to Hate Optimus Exposition and his merry band of AutoBlands) rehashes the same old formula from the previous three movies but cranks everything by the Nth Degree. Not only are the characters so superficial they make Mickey Mouse look like he was written by Harold Pinter, but once again we get overloaded with style yet are forced to accept a critical lack of substance.

Wahlberg is at his The Happening best here as Yeager. The “All-American” hero Bay paints Wahlberg as – somehow he is a whizz with a sheepskin and can fix a Sony Walkman – is flag-waving patriotism at it’s most insulting; I think the stars and stripes flag is actually one of the supporting cast. Bar Tucci, the rest of the characters are just awful; Yeager’s daughter (the beautifully-dull Nicola Peltz) is one grimace away from inverting her face and don’t get me started on the “comedy sidekick”. And it wouldn’t be a Bay movie if we didn’t get a horrifyingly stereotypical portrayal of an African American woman, complete with “aaah, heeeeeeeeewll naaaaaaaaw”. Yes, it really is that bad.

Superficial characters who make incomprehensible decisions aside, this film makes very little sense from a narrative or world-building perspective;

  • Throughout the film we see Optimus Prime travelling everywhere by road, yet after the final battle sequence versus Lockdown, and after putting Yeager, his daughter and THE WORLD in danger, Prime just flies off with some rockets anyway, and I am like “why didn’t you fly back at the beginning of the movie, dude?”
  • One of the Autobots smokes a cigar, and they all cough when injured; do they have robotic lungs?
  • Yeager calls himself an old man, yet his daughter is 17 and he had her the day of his prom, which would make him 32-35. Is that old?
  • Breaking into a high security complex? Better pull up in a pimped out muscle car
  • Statutory rape is apparently funny
  • If all of the Transformers are made of transformium (which is a programmable alien metal), why don’t they all fly around as supersonic fighter jets?

This could be seen as clutching at straws to find something to hate because it’s Bay, but when you are sitting down for 161 minutes, don’t do something at the beginning of the film that contradicts what you are preaching at the end.

It’s also edited weirdly, with conversations paced and toned like Bay has never interacted with another human being in his life, and throughout we have to tolerate the director’s music choices; almost every scene is punctuated by either a heavy metal guitar or a song that would fit perfectly over the nauseating codswallop at the end of Armageddon.

I think what summed up how terrible this experience was occurred 90 minutes in, just over halfway through the film. By this point, Optimus Prime was out and proud, looking for his Autobot friends; for a number of scenes we see a the character traversing the sweeping vistas of the rocky American deserts, and it hit me – I had paid £15.60 to watch a heavy goods vehicle drive around…in 3D. That moment of self-awareness made me laugh out loud, much to the confusion of the 25 or so people in my screening.

There really isn’t much to sum up anymore with regard to Transformers: Age of Extinction, or even with Michael Bay. There is absolutely zero soul in these films. It’s just mindless, insulting dialogue, awful characters, boring, boring action, and I am really upset with myself because that £15.60 will go towards making this the UK Box Office number 1, and the cycle of shit will continue. Oh, and if you’re expecting the Dinobots, I wouldn’t even bother, they are only in it for about 15 minutes.

Frame Rates HQ: We’ve Updated Our Design!

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Good evening, one and all! We hope you’re enjoying your weekend!

Lauren and I have been thinking about updating our design style recently, and now I have found a spare minute or two, it has finally happened! We hope you think it looks decent; we’ve gone vogue and tried to flatten parts of it! Gone is the square, and we’d like to say hello to a circle?! We got some business cards printed for a laugh as well –

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Tomorrow I am going to try and put into words what I thought of Transformers: Age of Extinction … it could be a long afternoon.

Cheers!

Ernie and Lauren.

140 words: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

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Abraham Stoker’s 1897 gothic novel, Dracula, has been adapted for screen more times than I can count while at work. A story of blood-sucking Transylvanians and naive Victorian Londoners, the book packs a subtext of repressed sexuality, yet delivers that with mindless parasitic violence and uncanny death. Coppola’s Dracula, while being a movie that is steeped in atmosphere and Gothic imagery, is far too self-aware; each scene dripping with filmic techniques (frames within frames; film layered dissolves) to take seriously as a Dracula film. Gary Oldman as the titular character hams his way through each scene, and for some reason, rather than being a blood-lusting, mindless monster, is a little bit too concerned with his broken heart. Hopkins and Ryder were just passable, however Keanu Reeves’ English accent was piss-poor. It has to be said….Universal did this story better in 1931.

 

The Sacrament

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When a Vice documentary crew discover that one of their own’s sister has fled the US, they embark on a journey to a remote jungle in an undisclosed location to find her. Once they are on the ground in “Eden Parish”, their initial warm reception soon fades away, revealing something entirely more sinister.

In the past I have not hidden my love of Ti West’s style and directorial ability. The way he manipulates his audience with camerawork and sound is second to none in the horror genre, and I would definitely class him in the school of “soon to be auteurs”. That is why, when I discovered he was directing a found footage movie, I was slightly shocked.

The Sacrament, on paper, is certainly West’s most conventional movie. There is no vintage 80s aesthetic (The House of the Devil); there aren’t any ghosts (The Innkeepers) and we actually get to see some plot, unlike his short in The ABCs of Death. Instead of the lingering self-awareness he has shown in the past, we are treated to the traditional structure and pacing one would expect of a found footage movie. Maybe in the hands of another director that description could be used to show the film in a negative light, however West’s direction brings to The Sacrament a touch of class rarely shown in found footage movies. Not only are the performances of A.J. Bowen and Gene Jones absolutely stellar, but the story is entirely believable. Other commentators have pointed out the undeniable similarities between the infamous Jonestown Massacre and The Sacrament, which, upon researching, seem to be more than poignant, however these parallels should take nothing away from how this movie is constructed.

From the outset you can feel a creeping dread hanging over the film, even when things appear to be going well for our protagonists. The silence seems deafening at points, especially as the film beginnings to ramp up towards the final act. The way West marries his use of silence with his camera, to dictate pacing in scenes, is extremely compelling; we are treated to static mid shots cut with frantic steadicam chase scenes that all feel very organic. One particular scene in the final act is framed beautifully despite its shocking content. We also get treated to “film school shots” but they never feel pretentious within the context of the film; instead it just appears that West knows exactly how to create mood with form.

Another aspect of the movie that is very politically relevant at the time that this review has been written, particularly in Britain, is the topic of religious fundamentalism and extremism. Both of these terms denote acts of brainwashing the vulnerable, which is a theme that runs thick in this film; long, compelling speeches from the mouth of “the Father” seem to have everyone hanging on his every word, which, in the climactic scenes, proves horrifying and chilling (I really cannot do justice to how brutal, yet real, the end of The Sacrament is).

Beyond what has been discussed, I think the similarities The Sacrament has to Jonestown will either put people off or drive them to learn more. I knew of the event by name but had no idea the history of Jim Jones, and I do feel West has made a film that will prove a gateway into further reading for a lot of people. As for West, I am in no doubt that this director will go on to make a serious name for himself, not only in the horror genre, but in film as a whole.

 

Penny Dreadful

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Just when I wondering what was going to take the edge off completing the fantastic second series of Orange is the New Black, along comes the deliciously twisted and psychotic Penny Dreadful. From renowned Oscar nominated writer, John Logan (Any Given Sunday, Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall– to name but a few), and produced by Sam Mendes, this sophisticated, clever take on the great characters of Victorian literature, with the likes of Dorian Grey and Frankenstein leading the charge, majestically weaves together the old with the new in a slick, dark and genuinely horrifying fashion. Set in a richly designed and atmospheric Victorian London, a maturity and cinematic depth shines through from the start, all supported by a first class cast – Eva Green. Seance. That’s all I’m saying.

Penny Dreadful is frightening, sexy, sharply written, beautifully shot and is full of originality. What more do you want? A must watch for the summer.

Godzilla Review

We’ve come fresh from seeing the highly anticipated, highly marketed Gareth Edwards (MonstersGodzilla, starring Aaron Taylor- Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Juliette Binoche. Our review is spoiler free and friendly for all!


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Plot and Script – Lauren

Gareth Edwards, in trying to create a grittier Godzilla film, has tried to stay as true as possible to the realms of plausibility. The problem with that is, whenever he uses poetic licence, coincidence or convenience as a way of driving the plot forward, it has the effect of the film feeling lazy and the narrative holey. Unfortunately, where a sharp, intelligent and nuanced script can hide and fill in these holes, Max Borenstein’s rudimentary, lacklustre and cliché-driven dialogue only accentuates these problems. The ease at which Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ford Brody manages to stay parallel to the action throughout would have been forgivable with a script that demanded as much attention as the CGI happening on screen. This is not a stupid film by any stretch – it never falls into Transformers lunacy territory – however, there is a tighter and more solid film within this that never quite emerges.

Characters and cast – Lauren

The flattest and, ironically, most lifeless component of the Godzilla is the human element. Not helped by the cliché heavy script, the actors struggle from the start to get any emotional purchase on the insanity unfolding around them. Bryan Cranston, as always, rises above the pack but even he fails to add any significant depth to the proceedings, Elizabeth Olsen acts merely as window dressing for the family unit with not a lot to do throughout, however its Aaron Taylor-Johnson that disappoints the most, leaving the audience cold with his overly-stoic and detached Ford Brody. Gareth Edwards has clearly tried to steer away from the hammed emotion often associated with summer blockbusters, however the emotion is dialled so far back here its lost completely amongst the enormity of the action.

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CG & Special Effects – Ian & Lauren

This is why you see this film. Gareth Edwards background and talent shines through here with Godzilla and its respective parts appearing visually stunning at points. A key example of this happens towards the end with a 30,000 ft halo drop into an eerie apocalyptic San Francisco. The effects were fantastic throughout, but none more so than in the final scene; the colour palette, hue and visual design made San Francisco appear like a comic book city. This was by far the most impressive piece of motion graphics throughout the movie.

Pacing and Execution – Ian

There really isn’t too much to be said about the pacing; it’s incredibly simple. I have heard the phrase adrenaline fatigue used about a film before, and it seems very appropriate in this context. Maybe it’s my fault for going into a monster movie expecting something more; it’s a B-movie at heart, and it’s hypocritical of me, seeing I loved Gravity, but the pacing in Godzilla had me bored and frustrated. It felt like “science, fight, science, fight, family, science, fight, science, fight” until the end, when they threw in some army guys just in case the audience fell asleep.

Score/Music – Ian

The audio in Godzilla was frustrating to say the least. On one hand, we were treated to a cacophony of metallic strains, groans, screeches and industrial base warps throughout, which enhanced the perilous moments in the plot. However, when the squidgy, fleshy things on screen were trying to act, I found myself being all too aware of how terrible the score sounded. It’s blatently obvious they were harkening back to the monster movie days of yonder, however, in a film laden with CG everything, it felt like they were trying to connect two opposing magnetic poles.

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Final thoughts:

Ian– I will gladly admit that my expectations were inordinately high going into Godzilla. These were met in some regards; the CG was fantastic, the plot had some original twists, especially as someone not familiar with the characters involved in the Godzilla history. That’s why I am disappointed with problems, of which there are too many for this to be considered a complete success. The acting and script, in my opinion, were unforgivably terrible, and this wasn’t helped by the direction, which seemed to be a case of “how many films have I seen with similar scenes, and what did they do in them”. I won’t be putting this on my ‘Films of the Year’ list for 2014, however, I already want to see it again to make sure it was what I thought it was.

Lauren – Overall there is a lot to be admired here and, as Ian has said, if my expectations weren’t so impossibly high then I may have been more forgiving on the film as a whole. Those that have defended Godzilla’s obvious inadequacies have done so by using the genre as an excuse to lower the bar on narrative and character. However, it wasn’t us that raised the bar – the trailer did that for us. The trailer painted a picture of a Nolanesque reboot of the Godzilla brand, which unfortunately this is just not. As far as Summer movie blockbusters go this was good; as far as movie’s go, slightly less so. All in all, lower your expectations and enjoy Godzilla for what it is; adeptly made monsters smashing shit up.

Walk of Shame

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Walk of Shame, written and directed by Steven Brill of Movie 43 infamy, starring Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden and a striking yellow dress is the latest female-led situation comedy attempting to resonate with audiences. Banks plays Meghan Miles, an uptight yet perky news anchor who, following a slew of bad news, parties like its 1999 right into the bed of attractive bartender/writer James Marsden. Come morning, Meghan then must make the ‘walk of shame’ in an attempt to get back to her car so she can get to work at the local news station. What happens next can only be described as Adventures in Babysitting for the pseudo-lobotomised generation. Sure, Banks is likeable enough, she has enough comic prowess to hold my attention, and there are a few jokes that really zing… however, it simply isn’t funny or clever enough. Or even one of the above. If you are going to rely on a heavily questionable narrative that rides the wave of implausibility for the entire 94 minutes then the jokes need to be heaped on and they need to hit the mark. If these jokes aren’t there as a pillar to hold the whole film together, then the narrative needs to be solid, including a lead character for whom you can root. Walk of Shame wasn’t nearly funny enough for us to ignore the pulsating rage at the stupidity of Bank’s character or the sheer lack of humanity from any of the supporting characters. As an aside, if you don’t want to burn that dress by the end of the film then you are a better person than me.

All in all, Walk of Shame just doesn’t make the grade as a comedy, or as anything else either. Tonally it felt confused, jumping from outright misogyny and then to bar-burning feminism, which made it difficult to see at which market this is really aimed.  I want to call this film Walk of Same, as it feels as tired as it does flat, but then I thought that Steven Brill’s A Series of Unfortunately Written Events seemed more fitting.

How I Met Your Mother finale review

 

 

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*WARNING! NOT JUST SPOILERS, SUPER MEGA SPOILERS*

On March 31st How I Met Your Mother finally concluded after nine seasons, and to say that the finale was divisive is generous to say the least. With fan-made alternative endings, and petitions flying around the net for an official alternative ending, are fans simply short-sighted to what was a fitting end to the show, or did Craig Thomas and Carter Bays get it oh so wrong? It’s sad to say it’s most definitely the latter.

Last Forever Prt 1 & 2, the final episodes of the ninth season of How I Met Your Mother – a season set over Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend – topped off what was arguably an already muddled and laboured final series. The series called upon cameo appearances, flashbacks, flash-forwards, running jokes, and grasped desperately at ludicrous story choices in an attempt to maintain the comedy and heart that had so often defined the earlier series’. In that respect, it wasn’t a surprise when the finale aired and it was everything we didn’t want and more. Yet, despite the demise in quality of the final series it had still felt as if we were all working towards a common goal; we were in this together. Barney and Robin were to marry and Ted was finally going to meet ‘the Mother’ and get his happy ending. Right? Wrong. Just like the final moments of a who-dunnit thriller, a twist was thrown in and it was revealed that the Mother had died and Ted was going to end up with Robin. Were we supposed to say ‘oh how clever! You Fooled me!’? Sorry we’re not buying it. Instead the finale was a series of misfires and opportunities missed.

It’s no secret that the writers filmed the final scenes back in 2006, meaning that it had long been decided how the show would end. A brave choice for any writers but at least giving them the advantage of forethought and planning. This makes their structural choice to set the entire last series across Barney and Robin’s wedding even more strange. To make the audience invest in Barney and Robin as a couple over the past years and then have them separate in the first 15 mins of the finale felt, dare I say it, cruel, and like we’d been cheated. The ‘I-do’s’ were barely out of their mouths before we were watching a rather emotionless and hasty break-up scene between the pair that lacked any real depth, rationality or reason.

In hindsight Ted and Robin ending up together had always been plausible. The show was very much about them and Ted’s unfaltering love for her. Was being the key phrase here. As the show developed and the characters developed our focus shifted, as the writers had intended it to, and we became invested in Ted getting everything he wanted; marriage, kids and a castle wedding, and it was made very clear this was not with Robin. For us to invest in them again and really embrace their relationship the audience would have needed to buy into the two of them as a couple, something we are not given time to do. Instead, we are allowed to invest and grow to love the title character of the Mother, Ted’s wife, who we finally find out is called Tracy. Played charmingly and subtlety by the wonderful Cristin Miloti, Tracy was slowly drip fed to the audience, so by the end of the season we had grown to care about her as a character. Unlike some of the overly-caricatured series regulars, Miloti brought a freshness to the season and managed to fill the giant, and somewhat mythical, boots of the Mother. She was one of more human roles of the season and was written with such a credibility and likeability that we finally felt redemption for Ted and his ‘bad luck’ love life. All that praise aside, if the writers really couldn’t be persuaded to change track from their intended end game, then these are the most forgiveable crimes. How we came to this end point, slightly less so.

One of the most humanising and engaging elements of HIMYM has been watching the cast grow and mature as people, however this final episode shows no growth at all. To see Barney back to trying to score the perfect month as he entered his ‘ Clooney years’ felt disappointing and sad. The choice to only refer to the mother of his child as ‘no 31 ‘seemed a long way away from the Barney of new. If the writers had not attempted to redeem Barney over the last few seasons then this thread would have seemed like a consistent and understandable writing choice, however the growth of Barney was one of the more enjoyable journeys on the show. As the previous seasons developed, we peeled away the layers of Barney’s sexism, bigotry and selfishness and embraced the person he became with the encouragement of his friends. This leads to possible the most fractious and sobering element of the finale; how the friends weathered over the course of time.

The disintegration of the gang over the years, and the sad moment that Robin leaves the Halloween party and a heavily pregnant, emotional, Lily, felt like the antithesis of the idea of the show. These people weren’t just friends; they were a family, people to grow old with eventually. To suggest that people don’t change and life doesn’t occasionally just happen around you is naive, however HIMYM has never been the show to serve up a grim slice of reality; instead it opted for the more hopeful message of lasting friendships, and love – as long as you wanted it enough. To see Robin become absent from the group was saddening and somewhat bleak. Not that HIMYM has shied away from bleak. At its best HIMYM has gone to darker places; Marshall’s Dad dying, Robin not being able to have kids to name a few. Yet, these have all been milestones that have demonstrated friendship at its best. What was done in the finale was empty and lacking heart; people die, relationships break up, friends move apart and sometimes you end up with someone you were with twenty five years ago. It was the comedown none of us wanted and didn’t really deserve. A wake up from the warm, hope-filled, sentimental yarn we had been on with these people for nine years. The writers almost mocked our hopes that life could be that neatly rounded off and simple.

Of course the finale was not without its highs; a once again emotionally honest and committed performance from Alyson Hannigan demonstrated the true gravitas for the cast. Real emotion shone through when saying goodbye to Ted that showed us a reminder of why we had stuck with these people for so long. At its peak, HIMYM has been ground breaking, hilarious, poignant, witty, sharp and fresh; at its worst it’s been Slapsgiving 3 Slappointment in Slapmarra. Ultimately, the choice by the writers to stick to the ending made in 2006 meant that the characters also felt stuck. The reluctance to accept that where the show had begun was not where it should finish has been the undoing of How I Met Your Mother. The new playbook and the blue French horn, instead of symbiotically pulling everything together, were sad reminders that the characters had finished where they started, which is all they could have done with an ending filmed at the start.

All Is Lost

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PSA: At Frame Rates, we don’t like to reveal spoilers in our reviews. However, in the case of All Is Lost, it is impossible to discuss the movie without giving away the premise. Therefore, the following review will talk about the premise in detail, which in itself is a spoiler, but will not give away the finer plot points of the film.

After his boat collides with a stricken freight container, a seasoned sailor must not only battle the elements, but also fight the acceptance of mortality, in body and mind.

After 480 minutes of burning mind calories at work, one of the last things I want to do on a Monday evening is spend time questioning my own existence and attitude to mortality. Thankfully, rarely does a movie with such a delicate approach to storytelling deliver such a powerful message as the one I drew from All Is Lost.

The main thing to point out about All Is Lost, aside from a monologue at the beginning, is the complete lack of dialogue throughout. It is a bold move from writer/director, J.C. Chandor, and while his direction is precise, and his writing is compelling, it is because of Robert Redford’s on-screen gravitas that the silence works; he is called ‘Our Man’ in the screenplay, and his isolation begins to provide a insight into his nature. He is able to convey the smallest nuances of emotion by just literally existing in front of us; when his boat starts flooding, he goes about fixing it, and this happens throughout the film. By revealing nothing of his character, he actually reveals so much because we are made to think; about his past, why he is out on his own in the sea, and so on.

Some have commented on the movie’s lack of sailing realism, or complained about the seafaring techniques of the film’s protagonist. Only the most cynical of movie viewers would not accept the finer, more subtextual, aspects of the movie, and I feel these commenters have completely missed the point of this film. It’s not a film about sailing, but a story of survival and mortality that actually discusses its themes more successfully than Gravity; despite being absolutely gripping, the story and screenplay was the weakest aspect of Cuaron’s latest release. All Is Lost manages to say so much more about human perseverance, and the strengths and weaknesses of the human spirit, without actually saying a thing.

One of the greatest achievements of All Is Lost is the fact it played entirely with my expectation of action/disaster movies. I was constantly second-guessing the story, thinking that we’d have a twist or that there would be a Hollywoodised moment of peril, but the realism on screen was refreshing. Every movement, every action taken by Our Man was logical. As we got further into acts two and three, I began to understand the character’s intelligence as he found ways to keep afloat; it was like watching a machine work.

The technical aspects of the film were fantastic, and definitely complimented the clever, mature storytelling. As there is no dialogue, the camerawork, cinematography and post-production (editing and CGI) have to be compelling; All Is Lost had some excellent uses of first-person perspective to convey distance, underwater shots, and some majestic long shots of schools of fishes dancing below Our Man’s boat. The sound design was also absolutely superb; I felt genuinely cold during the storms, and appreciated the moments of silent tension being cut through by the delicate sounds of water colliding and lapping against the innards of the stricken boat.

The Oscars have been and gone, but it surprises me that this movie was overlooked in more categories (it did receive a nomination for Best Achievement in Sound Editing). At 77, Redford should have been nominated for Actor in a Leading Role, if not solely for putting his body through the runners in this film. I do think this is not your average action movie, and is more art house in style and tone, but I do recommend it regardless, as it reached into the deepest corners of my own fear of dying, and made me consider the lengths to which I would go to stay alive.

In a World

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In a World, a small independent film about a struggling female voice-over artist that made its début at Sundance in 2013, introduces us to the emerging writing talent and flourishing star power of the captivating Lake Bell. Bell, most commonly known for her supporting roles in main stream comedies such as What Happens in Vegas and No Strings Attached, brings a keen comedic eye and intelligent wit to her feature length directorial début. Unlike the predictable formula from her previous work, Bell doesn’t seem content in pigeon-holing her film into a particular genre. In a World dances between comedy, romance and drama, however managing to never seem disjointed; instead her characters and narrative support the script’s shifts in gears beautifully.

In a world (sorry) where strong female film makers are few and far between Bell’s well written, rounded and independent female characters are a breath of fresh air. Men take second place in this film however not in an obvious or forced way. Bell has made sure to empower the female voice however she never veers into the ridiculous or trite and manages to serve any overtly feminist victories with a heavy dose of well observed realism. She supports this with interesting and wholly more real casting choices. The male romantic lead doesn’t conform to type and plays a secondary part in the story instead of being the driving force, however he is still convincingly written and is in no way diminished or underdeveloped. What Bell has achieved is a film that has affection for all its characters, male and female, yet goes a long way in demonstrating that women’s ambitions go above and beyond romance.

In a World is a great independent film and is well worth a watch if you like your comedies a little more obtuse but still full of soul. 

The Square

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You know that feeling you get when you watch a movie for the first time and the phone gets put down, you get tunnel-vision and it feels like you’re floating? The Square did that to me.

Documenting two years in Cairo, from the beginning of the revolution against Hosni Mubarak until the last year’s troubles with Mohamed Morsi and The Muslim Brotherhood, The Square was a very powerful and moving piece of documentary filmmaking.

One of the great things about this film was how it balanced seemingly truthful objectivity, all while presenting a very cinematic arc for the story. We are introduced to the main protagonists, which the film followed from January 2011 until August 2013; Magdy, Ahmed, Khalid (who is a British-Egyptian actor), Ramy and Ragia. They were a small part of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who peacefully protested at Tahir Square in Cairo in early 2011 – this was the epicentre of the Revolution to overthrow Hosni Mubarak, a dictator that ruled Egypt with a tyranny unfortunately common-place across North Africa and the Middle East at the time.

To say that The Square was harrowing, powerful and deeply moving is an understatement; this film barreled along at an amazing pace, but still managed to touch on both the hope of the revolutionaries, as well as the heinous crimes committed by the army and gangs of thugs against peaceful protestors, with enough maturity and candidness for it to be very effective; there was nothing cloying about what was seen and heard, it’s just raw emotions that really jump out of the screen.

The revolution in Egypt, and the whole Arab Spring in general, was a defining moment in the history of North Africa and the Middle East, as well as being one of the most important socio-political events of this millennium. What really shone through here was how the camaraderie between the revolutionaries rapidly descended into rival factions, all with different ideologies, fighting each other; the people united against one tyrant and ended up with a situation in which the country felt a violent power vacuum. All of this – all of the horrific imagery of brutality and death – was captured by a camera crew on the frontline; nothing was censored, and it was painful seeing how the Army swore they wouldn’t use violence against the peaceful protestors yet ended up doing exactly that, and with deadly results. Furthermore, what is seen proves that the daily news outlets we read and watch everyday are sterile, agenda-ridden mouthpieces that avoid the finding the truth; it’s testament to the filmmakers that they present the real story of Tahir Square, the revolution and the real people and what drove them to fight; they just wanted democracy and were willing to die for it.

The Square was a fantastic, emotive experience, is fully deserving of its Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, and is streaming for free on Netflix.

 

Film Podcasts: who listens to them and what are your favourites?

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As film bloggers, we have decided to commit ourselves to spending an inordinate amount of time watching movies and writing about them. However, there is another group out there equally as crazy as us; these are the people who spend time watching movies and talking about them instead. So, for the first time on our homepage, here are some of our favourite film/movie podcasts!

Film Fandango (< these are all links, btw)

Hosted by English comedians, David Reid and Marek Larwood (and Buddy the dog), Film Fandango is a refreshing mixture of easy-listening banter, silly accents and some occasional high-brow navel-gazing. The show used to be broadcast on Absolute Radio (in Britain), hosted by the aforementioned pair as well as Danielle Ward, but she left recently to do something on Broadway.

Slasher Cast

My five favourite middle fingers; the guys over at Slasher Cast are an…honest…bunch. Not for everyone (read: explicit), this horror podcast is released week-on-week, and has recently celebrated a 2nd birthday. I have spent far too many hours listening and re-listening to the musings and rants of Jack, Mike, New Jersey Nick, Dave and Ted, and I always look forward to Tuesday mornings when I can listen to the newest episode. Honestly, some of my biggest laughs in the past year and a half have been as a result of listening to this show.

A Damn Movie Podcast

Talk about a perfect blend of low-brow banter and high-brow super-analysis… Broadcasting from Salt Lake City, Utah, Adam Palcher and Adamn Sherlock have reviewed a huge amount of classics (and Battlefield Earth), and, without fail, manage to make me smile with their back-and-forths. It makes me laugh when I hear the next beer can open, and if I had to hazard a guess, I’d go with Sherlock being the culprit.

How Did This Get Made?

This podcast is literally bananas.  HDTGM, not to be confused with HIMYM (fuck those guys), delves deep into the pit of awful movies, pulling out some forgotten gems – Mortal Kombat is the latest offering – for some brutal analysis and balls-out commentaryAlways hilarious and occasionally enlightening, this podcast hosted by Paul Scheer with regular guests June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukus, plus a different guest each week, is a refreshing take on the film podcast. Crude, slightly insane, but an undeniable comedic chemistry between the hosts makes this one of my faves.

Film Junk

With humour drier than the Sahara, Film Junk and its Canadian hosts tear through current releases like it’s going out of fashion. They also have a really decent website, and some premium podcasts with in-depth analysis of some of the biggest blockbusters and franchises in cinema history. Also, sometimes it’s good listening to some hate, which is always a possibility with Film Junk.

Bloody Good Horror

Words of the day; beers of the episode; stories; letters; film reviews; bloody good laughs. This show goes above and beyond what I would expect from a podcast, and it’s up there with my favourites. A giant in the horror podcast world.

The /Filmcast

Probably the most populist show to which I listen, The SlashFilmcast touches upon all the newest releases in an easy to digest manner. I love their guests, especially Laremy Legel, and they have great chemistry. Much like Slasher Cast and Film Junk, it’s good to hear a podcast that doesn’t always agree. Also, /Filmcast had one of the best debates I have heard on the topic of streaming movies, Netflix and the future. Really great stuff.

Wittertainment: Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review

Flagship film show; The Good Doctor; Matthew Mahogany; BA in History and 100m swimming certificate; flappy hands; The Code of Conduct; totes emoshe, dead amaze; colonial commoners; Floyd and Boyd; oversized microphones; all-star guests; Kermodean rants; high brow, low brow; fart guns; top tens; long time listener- first time emailer; film of the week; TV film of the week; album of the week – Nick Lowe, Jesus of cool, David Morrissey and Hello to Jason Issacs.

If all that has left you scratching your head, listening to the podcast for the first time may have the same effect. Stick with it, however, and you will learn to wear your Wittertainee status with pride, as well as smugly congratulating yourself at how smart and knowledgeable you are about mis-en-scene and Japanese animation. A cacophony of in-jokes sandwiched between genuine banter, the best film analysis on the radio and truly impressive guests, this podcast is a must listen for wannabe film buffs.

So, fellow film lovers, what are your favourite movie podcasts? Does anyone listen to any of these? Also, if you have a podcast, drop a comment below!

Robocop (1987)

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Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.

With the impending release of the Robocop reboot, I thought I would pop my nostalgia boner and revisit the 1987, Paul Verhoeven original. Oh, and spoilers for a 26 year old movie. Though you really should have seen this…

In a dystopian and crime-ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories. (Source: IMDb)

One of the main reasons I absolutely love this movie is the amount of horrifying brutality, and almost Manga-style violence and gore throughout; a cop gets shredded with a shotgun and his head blown apart; a perp gets shot in the the genitals; and my favourite kill…a gang member ends up doused in radioactive material, after which his deformed and sagging skin and body explode on impact from Robocop’s car. I remember watching this as a child and feeling a huge void, and almost nauseous, when Peter Weller (Murphy/Robocop) gets ripped apart in a hail of shotgun blasts. Oddly enough, I still feel a little bit repulsed upon viewing it today, but that’s quickly overridden by my love of horror movies and fictional gore.

Despite Robocop being an 80s, macho-action flick, I always enjoy the way the film deals with memory, repressed or submerged. It’s interesting that the relationship between man and machine is implicit in the resurrection of Murphy, with their manipulation if his memories going wrong later in the film, and resulting in some rough justice. Also, allegory-wise, Verhoeven confirmed it was a modern day telling of the story of Jesus, which can be confirmed in this set of pixels and by this 2010 quote;

It is about a guy who gets crucified in the first 50 minutes, and then is resurrected in the next 50 minutes, and then is like the supercop of the world. (source: Uproxx)

It’s important to note that, apart from the visuals on the displays as well as Robocop’s HUD, the look of the movie stands up on viewing even today. Detroit probably looks better than it does today, the cinematography is gritty and set design has the standard Verhoeven playful-cum-dilapidated aesthetic seen throughout his dystopian sci-fi products. And much like Total Recall, this movie also has an amazing, industrial soundtrack, and one of the best theme tunes for any character in 1980s cinema.

Onto the reboot; I agree with Verhoeven that it is going to lack the soul that is obviously present in this version, which will mainly be due to the over-reliance on CGI. That and it won’t half as gory!

Robocop is an action/sci-fi classic, which not only has an interesting allegory (and fantastic style), but contains an awesome amount of horrific imagery, which should tickle the bloody-bones of any horror fans out there.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. (Source: IMDb)

Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, has certainly caused a stir among the critical masses. On one hand, this tale of excess – both mental and physical – has been lauded in certain circles; it has earned a Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for DiCaprio and Hill respectively, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Oscars 2014. And then on the other hand, a number of dissenters have pilloried the movie for being misogynistic, vulgar, navel-gazing and ‘boring’ (last one being Mark Kermode, 2014).

I am not sure if this says something about my personality, but I found The Wolf of Wall Street and, more significantly, Jordan Belfort, immensely compelling. Even when he is acting his most debauched, there was a part of me that felt a modicum of fist-pumping machismo for the character. Perhaps it is my fondness of DiCaprio that I only strayed from the side of the protagonist once – during a scene with his daughter – yet that is not to take anything away from a performance that would in any other year be a dead-cert for Best Actor; unfortunately for Leo he is up against Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. The energy DiCaprio brings to the movie is nothing short of incredible. In the past, he always embodied his characters, but there was the ‘he was Jack in Titanic‘ aspect to his on-screen presence. It’s thanks to his talent and Scorsese’s direction in The Wolf of Wall Street, that I feel this Leo’s coming of age role, and now he can be considered as one of the modern greats. Turns from Jonah Hill, Naomi Lapaglia (in her first role), as well as Rob Reiner and Jon Favreau were all brilliant, and there was even a fantastic cameo from a certain favourite around here, Matthew McConaughey, as Belfort’s career role model, Mark Hanna.

At three hours long, one could expect oneself to go on a mental stroll, however the pace, biopic-nature and playful yet dark tone of the movie is very reminiscent of Goodfellas, a comparison which has undoubtedly been drawn, but is relevant nonetheless. There are scenes of cringeworthy humour, shocking drug misuse and abuse, and a lens that falls often on bare naked ladies (no, not the 1990s pop band). However, I don’t for one second feel that Scorsese’s camera is any way misogynistic; the excess of Belfort’s life is a literal orgy of naked flesh, drugs, and money, with one capitalist fist-pumping scene after another. Yet, even though there are some women in this movie that are tools for Belfort’s pleasure, I feel the leering ends up being at Belfort while he is of his face on drug cocktails (and more drastic these scenes become), and not at the breasts on screen; they are very matter of fact breasts, if you will.

The Wolf of Wall Street was a fantastically fun movie to watch. It ticked all my taboo boxes, one of which I didn’t even know I had, and albeit for one scene of genuine darkness and abyss-staring, it was a romp and a half. It won’t win any of the Oscars for which it is nominated, but in an ideal world, 12 Years would have been released this later this year and Leo would get the recognition he truly deserves.

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