Monday, January 20, 2014

New Releases (23/01/14)

The Wolf of Wall Street - The story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) - adapted by Terrence Winter from Belfort's memoirs - a young upstart broker who gains employment at a Wall Street firm in 1987. Following Black Monday, he is forced to reconsider his career path but his natural abilities lead him to an Investor Centre, sensationally dealing worthless penny stocks for high commissions with intimidating sales tactics. He eventually opens up a firm with his business partner, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), and trains a team of average-Joes into super brokers. Soon enough every youngster out of high school is flocking to Stratton Oakmont to be taken under Belfort’s wing and learn how to become a millionaire. The film also tracks Belfort’s tumultuous marriage with his trophy wife Naomi (Margot Robbie), his offshore money smuggling in Switzerland and his lifestyle of total debauchery with his fellow ‘Stratonites’. It works as a relentlessly energetic (and hysterical) satire of the world of Wall Street trading, and a searing indictment of the gross excess and criminal behavior that Belfort and his partners felt they had the right to exploit. Much of Belfort’s most horrifying behaviour is actually left out of the film. It was surprisingly tame. What we get is still  pretty bonkers, but the restraint – yes, even with a gluttonous 179-minute run time – benefited the film in my opinion. This is an exhilarating film. Scorsese is back at his debaucherous best with this ferocious study of greed and excess, mischief and mayhem, with DiCaprio in career-best form. It is an amazing performance. ★★★★

The Great Beauty - 65-year-old Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) is a jaded journalist and wealthy bon vivant whose early promise as a novelist has never been fulfilled, though his infamy remains. He lives in a luxurious apartment overlooking the Colosseum and is a regular of Rome’s party circuit for the elite, a never-ending nocturnal parade of decadence that rages through antique palaces, immense villas and opulent terraces around the Eternal City. The blinding metropolis Jep strolls through by day seems to reflect the futility of his actions and those of his friends, but his worldview begins to shift after a man arrives on his doorstep and informs him of the death of his first love. Both troubled and moved by the revelation, Jep is flooded with memories of the past and ponders the promise of what may remain. Arguably one of the most striking evocations of a city ever filmed, The Great Beauty is a vibrant cinematic feast for the senses that captures Rome in a style reminiscent (and in celebration) of Fellini – in all of its splendour and superficiality, artifice and significance. Paolo Sorrentino (This Must Be The Place) defies all convention with this fascinating film; an elusive study of a hedonistic elitist numbed by a life of decadence. The stunning photography and haunting soundtrack leave an impression, while the film is layered with ideas to long ponder if it takes on the pretensions of its protagonist a little too much. ★★

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones - A young California Latino named Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) is designated for possession by the same malevolent demon who previously claimed Kristi and Katie. Christopher Landon writes and directs this spin-off/sequel produced by Oren Peli and Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity).

Convict - The story of an Australian war veteran with moral beliefs who, through a reactionary moment is sent to prison and gets caught up in an immoral world. Ray (George Basha - The Combination, Black Rock) who has been on duty in the Middle East believes in his country and he has great pride in his life as a soldier. In prison he comes face to face with the realities of a world he has sought to avoid. He sees himself not as an Arabic man, but a man whose life and decisions are driven by his moral code. He befriends David, an Aboriginal man (Richard Green - Snowtown, Boxing Day, Redfern Now) and finds in him a true friendship. On the other side of this dangerous world he encounters an Arabic drug lord who insists that he should join his 'brothers' as an obligation. Surrounding this struggle he is also being brutalized by the prison warden (David Field - Chopper, Two Hands)and guards on behalf of the father of the young lad he has accidentally killed outside prison. A hard-hitting prison drama from the makers of The Combination. 

Weekly Recommendation: The Wolf of Wall Street, but be aware of it's R18+ rating. If you're game, the The Great Beauty could provide a profound experience too.

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