THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) – Paul Laight’s Movie Review

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) – Paul Laight’s Movie Review

**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS + MOVIE CLIPS PLUS REFERENCES TO SEX, DRUG USE, GREED & BRILLIANT FILMMAKING**

To say The Wolf of Wall Street has its coke and eats it is a massive understatement. It’s black-belt-bukakke movie-making of the highest order. A voracious sexy beast of a film which showers the audience with one incredible scene of excess after the other.  To put it bluntly: it’s Goodfellas fucks Scarface and Wall Street then gives birth to a movie bastard of epic proportions.

Based on a memoir by disgraced human scum Jordan Belfort –  a drug-addicted-sex-addicted-thieving-stockbroker-par-excellence – The Wolf of Wall Street  follows the same rise-and-fall structure of mafia classic Goodfellas as DiCaprio’s Belfort schemes and sells his soul to power up through the snakes and ladders of Wall Street.  As the superlative scene with Matthew McConaghey demonstrates the Stock Exchange is a “fugazi” – a fake.  The main aim is to make more and more money while screwing the investors.  The best traders are wolves in a vicious snakepit swimming with sharks ripping off a house of fools.

As Belfort’s firm Stratton Oakmont becomes out of control so does his wealth as he and his motley crue of traders manipulate and connive and deceive to create a monstrous company of wolves who regale in dwarf-throwing, blow-jobbing, lude-swallowing mania.  The extreme is only halfway for these people.  The superb cast including: DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Jean Dujardin and Jonah Hill, play these venal cunts with such charm and humour you often find yourself complicit with their nefarious behaviour almost willing the characters to push further and further with their depravity.

But as the drug use, debauchery and money increased so did my hatred for these greedy capitalist pigs.   On the one hand I was enjoying the rollercoaster ride of the story but on the other I was horrified at the fact such people and behaviour exist on this planet.  That is the skill of the filmmakers though:  making these Wall Street monsters likeable, funny, believable and human.  Indeed, Belfort himself is ultimately a sorry figure shown to be a monstrous addict who is powerless to stop himself from indulging in every drug and hooker under the sun.  But Scorcese and DiCaprio don’t give Belfort any kind of redemption. He’s still a massive prick at the end of the film; a free prick walking the earth but just not as rich as he once was.

Martin Scorcese is one of the greatest living filmmakers still working today and The Wolf of Wall Street feels like a greatest hits package combining all of the finer ingredients from his other films.  You’ve got the classic swooning camera moves;  the direct address to camera; cat-and-dog couples fighting as seen in Casino and Goodfellas; the boat-in-peril sequence as seen in Cape Fear; the multi-character voiceovers;  the dumb criminals putting themselves in the shit;   characters turning on each other and ratting each other out as seen most recently in The Departed; plus many many more.   But whereas Scorcese used to deal with outsiders and oddballs like Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin he is now dealing with Insiders, Gods and members of the Master-Race.  Aside from Kyle Chandler as the dedicated FBI Agent there are no honest characters in this film and at times the it feels like a depressing advert for the greed-is-good-Gordon-Gekko-philosophy.

Personally, I wanted a little more focus on the kind of crimes that were being committed plus more of comeuppance or death for Jordan Belfort.  But in real life he essentially got away with everything having served a pretty short sentence for his “pump and dump” machinations; mainly because he became a dirty rat.  I suppose the subtext of the film does ask the audience:  does this monster deserve a second chance?

But this is NOT a heavy analysis of socio-economic morality and values but rather a bullet-paced black comedy filled with cracking scenes and razor-sharp one-liners delivered by a stellar cast. There are some great big performances and fine supporting players like: Joanna Lumley, Matthew McConaghey, John Bernthal, Rob Reiner and Spike Jonze to name a few.  But this is Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorcese’s film. As they demonstrated in The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island etc.  they are a formidable team.  DiCaprio deserves an Oscar for sheer consistency of performances but the Belfort character has already had enough success in his lifetime and threw it all away because of greed. Surely awarding an Oscar to such a heinous character would be TOO MUCH wouldn’t it?  But as this film demonstrates TOO MUCH is never enough!

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AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) – Paul Laight’s Film Review

AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) – Film Review

I was looking forward to seeing American Hustle for a number of reasons:

1)  The brilliant ensemble cast featuring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K. etc. excited me greatly.

2) I love David O. Russell’s film-works such as Flirting With Disaster (1996), The Fighter (2010), Three Kings (1999) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012). I even liked I Heart Huckabees (2004), I think.

3) I love ‘con’ movies; the twisty-turny-step-sister of the crime thriller genre.  My favourites include:  The Sting (1973), Matchstick Men (2003), House Of Games (1987), The Grifters (1990) and my all-time favoritest the Argentinian con-film Nine Queens (2000).

So in short I really really wanted to enjoy American Hustle and must say I did greatly.

The plot in a nutshell finds 1970s confidence-tricksters Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams) ripping off small businessmen behaving like a High Street Bank for lowlifes.  Their behaviour mirrors the sub-prime market of the Noughties; robbing the skint to fund an extravagant and hedonsitic lifestyle.  In short they are scum; in Prosser/Adam’s case very sexy scum.

Eventually, like the greedy-bastard banks Rosenfeld and Prosser go bust when they are nicked by Bradley Cooper’s hyper-permed-FBI agent, Richie DiMaso.  In order to avoid jail they agree to become ‘bait’ to help capture some bigger fish including Jeremy Renner’s family and community driven politician, Mayor Carmine Polito. That’s where the fun really begins as all manner of cons, sleight-of-hand, bribes, palm-offs, seductions, stake-raising twists and turns begin as each character tries to outwit the other with crazy scheme piled upon crazy scheme.

The film opens with a hilarious set-piece as Christian Bale’s Rosenfeld goes to work by applying his rather extravagant stunt-hair. In fact, the wig work in this film is a joy and while it’s cheap and easy pickings at the expense of stupid 70s hair and clothes I loved it. Bale is very theatrical in this movie and I would describe his performance as a masterclass in over-the-top restraint.  The application of the wig and display of his paunch are his equivalent of Laurence Olivier’s hunchy Richard III:  “An Oscar! Oscar! My dignity and six-pack for an Oscar!”

Indeed, like O. Russell’s other movies this is a real actor-fest.  He just winds them up and lets them go in one entertaining scene after another.  Amy Adams is a real vulnerable-hot-like-fire-cold-bitch while Jennifer Lawrence steals the show with her ditzy-loose-cannon-flick-hair-nut-job portrayal of Rosenfeld’s wife.  Bradley Cooper follows up his great work in Silver Linings Playbook with a fine comic turn as the delusional and over-ambitious DiMaso.  While the most naturalistic and believable character and in turn empathetic portrayal is Renner’s politician. There’s some great support too especially from Louis C.K and Jack Huston.

One would probably argue that this is more of a comedy than a drama as the film retains a sense of fun throughout with some great physical performances and a sparkling script littered with zinging one-liners.  But there is some meaty drama and a serious subtext to the movie, and like O. Russell’s Three Kings which mixed humour with war, American Hustle has a message. Admittedly it is quite well hidden amongst the wigs and funny accents but that message is America is built on the con and that while everyone is trying to out-do each other perhaps they should just work together.   The law, the gangsters, the politicians and the business folk of the United States are all on the take and the American dream is simply a pyramid scheme built on sand.  That’s what I got from it anyway.

David O. Russell takes genre movies and applies a wonderful sense of chaos to the order allowing his actors free reign to express themselves.  His films are like watching Barcelona play football inasmuch as you’re really enjoying the pretty patterns being made by the players and then bang – the ball’s in the net! This is indeed Champions League movie-making with O. Russell’s wonderful style of direction giving all the cast their moment in the sun to shine with wonderful over-the-top characterisations, wigs, costumes and performances.

American Hustle is an entertaining movie which had the audience I watched it with laughing throughout. It works best as a crime-comedy with a bit of suspense; as well as being a mildly damning indictment the American dream. Ultimately, this film shoots, hits the mark and scores!

AFRAID OF THE LIGHT (2008) – A SHORT FILM THRILLER

AFRAID OF THE LIGHT – written by Paul Laight and directed by Jonathan Wolff.

Paul’s ‘lost’ film AFRAID OF THE LIGHT (2008) is now available to view online. It is a brilliant little crime thriller beautifully shot on 16mm film in black and white.

He wasn’t involved in the production or the marketing therefore the film has not been seen by many people unfortunately.

It’s a shame it didn’t get a run at short film festivals as it is very impressive. Check it out here.

FAVOURITE MOVIE MOMENTS OF 2013!

FAVOURITE MOVIE MOMENTS OF 2013!

To accompany the list of my most entertaining films I saw last year I’ve also compiled a few nominations for best this and that!

**** CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS  ****


BEST PHOTOGRAPHY
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013)
What it lacks in plot it makes up with one incredibly designed scene after another.  And the violence is something else!


MOST HEART-WRENCHING SCENE – FLIGHT (2012)
The film opens with a tremendously staged plane crash. However, the scene where Denzil battles a miniature bottle of booze has almost more riding on it dramatically.  Tension, suspense and the agony of human frailty are all in this scene.  The moment we’ve all been through where we are battling our demons and trying to do the right thing is centre to the scene. Will Denzil pick up the bottle?  Will the angels or demons win out?


BEST CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE – GRAVITY (2013)
All I can say is wow!  This film was just wow! Some have criticized a lack of plot and characterisation but this is a movie which just takes your breath away. As I said, wow!


MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENE – RUST &
BONE (2012)
Marion Cotillard’s Killer Whale trainer reconnects with nature in this serene moment from a compelling drama. It’s a beautiful moment for the audience visually and also the character.


BEST ENDING/BEST CAST – CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)
Whether the film is truth or fiction Tom Hanks’ acting throughout is superb. He’s none better than in the final scene when he reaches the medical bay. The way he releases the tension it so memorable. His co-star Barkhad Abdi has to get an Oscar nod too for Best Supporting Actor.


BEST MOVIE PLOT + TWIST – SIDE EFFECTS (2013)
This film genuinely pulls the rug from underneath your feet!  Fantastic storytelling!  It starts seemingly as a critique of the pharmaceutical industry but then becomes a nasty, lurid Hitchcockian thriller with great performances from Jude Law and Rooney Mara.


BEST BRITISH FILM – BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2012)
Both a tribute to Italian Horror and the Foley Artist this is a disturbing arthouse horror which generates its’ scares through the sound. You think you’ve seen something scary but haven’t. Incredibly constructed and recommended for cinephiles all over.


BEST GAG – ANCHORMAN 2

I couldn’t find a clip but Brian Fantana’s  gag was the funniest joke I heard at the cinema all year. The News Team’s attempt at 24 hour News has seemingly failed and in the scene Brian is asked what he will do next.  He replies:

“I’m going to cruise round with my friends O.J. Simpson, Robert Burke and Phil Spector.  We call ourselves the LadyKillers!”


BEST MOVIE SOUNDTRACK – WORLD’S END
(2013)
Pegg and Wright’s highly entertaining apocalyptic comedy is touching, action-packed and amusing. It gets a bit silly by the end but there’s a great energy and some funny dialogue and physical humour throughout. The soundtrack is a cracker featuring the Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Sisters Of Mercy and the Soup Dragons to name just a few. It’s like the perfect Indie Disco in the cinema!


BIGGEST MOVIE LET-DOWN – MAN OF STEEL (2013)
A great cast and stupendous effects could not save the broken-backed Superman story crash and burn. Henry Cavill was a terrific Kal-El but the filmmakers ruined the whole piece by cramming too much into a few hours of screen time and not allowing the cast, characters or story to breathe.   It was sensory overload and bogged down with too much exposition.  The Batman v. Superman film under Zack Snyder’s direction could possibly signal the end of the comic book boom of recent time.  The bubble is going to burst at some point I tells ya!


FILM MOST F*CKED BY THE CRITICS  – LONE RANGER (2013)
This mega-budget update of the old radio/TV show from yesteryear was nowhere near as bad as the critics made out. It followed the ‘PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN’ template but perhaps the problem was Johnny Depp playing deadpan rather than drunken Pirate.  The critics didn’t go for it and nor did the audience as it kind of bombed as well.  However, Gore Verbinski directed with verve and energy and the final set-piece on the train is one of the best action sequences of the year.


BEST SCREEN CHEMISTRY – SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)

I was tempted to say BREAKING BAD but Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were electric in David O. Russell’s bipolar romantic drama/comedy.  The whole cast were great in fact including Robert DeNiro as the bookie father and Chris Tucker as a friend of Cooper’s character. But Cooper and Lawrence made the film their own with their portrayals of damaged but very human couple finding each other in a crazy world.


BEST MOVIE WITHOUT A SCRIPT – WORLD WAR Z – (2013)
Brad Pitt’s travelogue around the World avoiding a zombie plague was actually really entertaining in places with some great set-pieces but it had a lousy script with essentially no story or plot.  They genuinely feel like they’re making it up as they’re going along. Having said all that I really enjoyed it at the cinema even though Pitt was miscast and this really needed a decent action-hero like Schwarzenegger in his prime to really boost the movie.

BEST FEMALE ARCHER – THE HOBBIT 2 (2013)
I love an action women especially one with a bow and arrow and this award came down to a toss-up between Jennifer Lawrence in HUNGER GAMES 2 and Evangeline Lilly.  In the end I came down on the side of Tauriel the Elf in Peter Jackson’s behemoth production of THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.  Jumping, spinning and diving about firing and killing Orcs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  What a woman!


BEST DOUBLE ACT – RUSH (2013)
RUSH was indeed a big rush cinematically but the casting of Daniel Bruehl as cool Nikki Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as fiery James Hunt motored this movie along off the track too. The characterizations dealt solely in binary but provided much entertainment along the way. Of course Ron Howard and his creative team served up some wicked action as well.


BAD-ASSEST REVENGE – DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Tarantino’s fantasy Western saw Jamie’s Foxx’s eponymous hero rise from that of a chained-in-pain slave to a kill-crazy-bounty-hunting-dancing-horse-riding-bad-ass-mutha-fuKKKa!   Everything about this film was a hoot and so entertaining!  It also has arguably the funniest scene I saw all year too with the racists on horseback including Jonah Hill arguing about the quality of their hoods.


BEST VILLAIN – DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Calvin Candie was a horrific character and played with genuine charm by the masterful Leonardo DiCaprio. HE should have won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in my view as Christophe Waltz already had one!  Candie’s character was not only a vain, insane, murdering slave trader but there was a sense of an incestuous relationship with his sister. He got his just desserts in the end but alas DiCaprio didn’t from the Academy.


BEST FRANCHISE SEQUEL – IRON MAN 3 (2013)
2013 was big on Franchise equals, sequels and prequels including FAST & FURIOUS 6, THOR 2, HUNGER GAMES 2, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS and THE HOBBIT 2.  They were all really really entertaining but my favourite was the ever dependable Robert Downey Jnr as Tony Stark.  It had some cracking one-liners and decent villains plus a lovely little twist which had all the fanboys up in arms because of Director Shane Black’s irreverent treatment of the Mandarin character.

2013 REVIEW: FAVOURITE FILMS

PAUL LAIGHT'S FAVOURITE FILMS AND CINEMATIC MOMENTS OF 2013!

Here’s a list of the most entertaining films I saw at the Cinema and on DVD/Blu-Ray in 2013!

There are LOADS of films I HAVEN’T seen but based on all the films I have watched at the cinema and on DVD these are the ones I enjoyed the most. I have favoured mainly commercial films over the World or Art cinema. This is because my taste over the years has admittedly become more conservative and I take less risk with my choices. It’s also because more challenging low budget movies rarely get on the big screen because of the hegemonic control by the imperialist Hollywood machine. Oh well, what you gonna do?

FAVOURITE FILMS 2013 (in Alpha order)

ANCHORMAN 2 (2013) – the News Team reformed with stupidity and laughs aplenty in this fun sequel to the original, classy comedy.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) – Hanks is incredible in the true-life story of a Ship-jacking off the African coast.

THE CONJURING (2013) – Pretty standard spooky story raised in quality by James Wan’s fluid direction and Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s brilliant couple of Ghosthunters.

DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) – Tarantino throws his postmodern hat over the Western in this rip-roaring and politically incorrect revenge story.

FLIGHT (2012) – What begins with an incredibly nail-biting plane crash becomes a fascinating character-study of one man battling his demons.

GRAVITY (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron’s breathtaking space odyssey-survival thriller finds Clooney and Bullock up space creek without a shuttle. Gripping from start to finish.

LOOK OF LOVE (2013) – Steve Coogan is brilliant as immoral pornographer Paul Raymond, and Michael Winterbottom again shows why he’s one of the best directors around.

RUBY SPARKS (2012) Paul Dano stars as a writer with both creative and romantic block who somehow “writes” about a girl who comes to life. Sharp and witty romantic comedy.

RUSH (2013) – Daniel Bruehl and Chris Hemsworth play Lauda and Hunt in this cracking 70s based biopic centring on one of Formula One’s closest championships.

RUST & BONE (2102) – Audiard’s dark, love story which is both brutal and beautiful in equal measure. Wonderful chemistry between the leads Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts.

SIDE EFFECTS (2013) – Twisting thriller with the captivating Rooney Mara and Jude Law which appears at first to be a critique of the pharmaceutical industry but bends into something more tricky.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012) – David O. Russell does genre films like no one else and his bi-polar romance finds Lawrence and Cooper on terrific form as are the rest of the ensemble cast.

THIS IS THE END (2013) – Hollywood frat-boy comedy about the end of days with Franco, Hill, Rogen, McBride etc. trying to survive the apocalypse. Laugh-of-minute and full of great cameos.