Review in 140 words or less: The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Note: It is incredibly tough to crunch a four page review into 140 words. But, given the attention span of today’s readers, we have to embrace change with a heavy heart.

The Goodfella of Wall Street
Rating: ****

The Wolf of Wall Street is Martin Scorsese’s homecoming. If you set aside the visually appealing Hugo and the dark Shutter Island, you’ll have a career spanning the best and the most vicious films we have seen in the last forty years.

The Wolf of Wall Street is also Leonardo DiCaprio’s “grand slam home run”. He has been on the bench – Scorsese’s bench – waiting for his turn. Every DiCaprio–Scorsese collaboration – Gangs of New York, Aviator, The Departed and Shutter Island – has been a joy ride. But only The Wolf of Wall Street showcases his abilities.

The Wolf of Wall Street has all the qualities of a classic Scorsese film – drugs, money, women, sex, unexpected humour and the obsessive compulsive character. If you’re a hardcore Scorsese fan, this one’s for you.

Review: 21 Jump Street

“Prom is fun when you’re going with a gun.” Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street.

Crass, Lewd and Underrated. Welcome back Jonah!

Rating: ***

21 Jump Street was a police procedural TV drama in the eighties that was serious in content. The TV show also brought Johnny Depp to the spotlight. So, when you spot Depp in the film adaptation, don’t freak out. The supporting cast of 21 Jump Street also includes familiar faces like Ice Cube, Peter DeLuise, Ellie Kemper, Jake Johnson and Rob Riggle.

Rob Riggle was a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Marine Corps before showing off his funny side to Hollywood. He has since appeared in The Hangover, The Other Guys and Larry Crowne. Riggle’s success lies in his ability to say dialogues in a rude way and make it seem funny. In 21 Jump Street, he does that and more disgusting stuff. So, when you see him trying to pick up a severed body organ with his mouth, don’t go “Ewwww!”

The weakness of 21 Jump Street lies in their protagonists – Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. The bromance is weak and they just don’t make a pair. If they square off, you’ll know that Hill is a better performer as he was trained by Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen. Hill has a repertoire of his own. His filmography includes Superbad, Get Him To The Greek and the recent Moneyball for which he received an Academy Award nomination. So, don’t wonder why Hill is top-billed. He owns it!

The screen adaptation is written by Hill and Michael Bacall who is known for writing similar movies such as Project X and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Bacall is an actor himself and has appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds.

21 Jump Street is over-the-top all the way. The actors know it, the writers know it and even Johnny Depp knows it. Whether it involves dry humping a criminal in a park or blasting a limo with a bomb made in a matter of seconds, 21 Jump Street promises and delivers! 

Review: Moneyball

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball.

Pitt attempts a home run

Rating: ***

In Moneyball, Billy Beane (played by the emphatic Brad Pitt who is in need of an Oscar win) doesn’t make the Oakland Athletics, a World Series winner; he makes it a better team by bringing in valuable players who fit into the budget. As the opening text states, this film is all about managing a team which is worth around $40 million. Directed by Bennett Miller (Capote), Moneyball hails from the odd mix of screenwriters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, who infuse a handful of characters and try to bring out a dramatic influence on the viewers.

If you were expecting Moneyball to be 2011’s Social Network, you’ll be disappointed. In that perspective, Moneyball is no Remember The Titans either. The film gloats on the fact that there are winning teams that can also be cheaper. As Beane states “There are rich teams and there are poor teams, then there’s fifty-feet of crap, and then there’s us.”

The film introduces us to Peter Brand, an imaginary character created on the lines of Paul DePodesta. Played by Jonah Hill, Brand is Sorkin’s character. Just like Mark Zuckerberg in Social Network, Peter Brand is your fast-talking analyst who brings along tacky one-liners that help if you’re looking for witty humor. After all, witty humor is all you can expect in a film written by Sorkin. Remember the Tom Cruise character’s humorous breaks in A Few Good Men?

Sorkin has added a few extra scenes to show Beane’s relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who are introduced as the film’s dramatic structure. However, he doesn’t let them get involved in the storyline. He plays them like commercial breaks, not allowing the viewers to invest any interest in them.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Coach Art Howe, who becomes Beane’s secondary antagonist. Hoffman plays his role aberrantly and devoid of clichés that Hollywood’s sports coaches usually have. Chris Pratt’s Scott Hatteberg is a lively portrayal of a baseball player who desperately sought for a second chance.

While the film doesn’t deem Beane and Brand as winners, it is revealed that their strategy helped Boston Red Sox win the 2004 World Series. But, isn’t that what the film is about? A winning strategy and not the men who made it happen?