Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Autobots, roll out...so we can finally escape this sinking franchise!

Transformers: Age of Extinction – 3 out of 5

The Transformers films have a reputation of being absolutely terrible. Like just pure shit…like calling something Transform-ian is just another way of saying that it is embarrassing and probably should be destroyed by fire. In reality, these films SHOULDN’T be bad because the subject material has all you need to make something that should translate onscreen well. Have a simple story and make sure that the special effects don’t look like dog crap and you should, in theory, have a recipe for a good time. However, as Michael Bay has showed us time and time again, it is not that simple.
                                                                                                                                Paramount Pictures
So...what exactly does a Transformer smoke?  I'm sure there's actually a real
answer for this question out there on the internet.

After the events of Transformers: The Dark Side of the Moon (which totes syncs up with The Wizard of Oz), the CIA creates a special black ops team to take out the robots in disguise because they’re a little miffed about the destruction of Chicago (had the third film took place in Detroit, no one would have noticed or cared). The problem is that the black ops team doesn’t care if the robots are the good guys who defended us (Autobots) or the ones who were out to rule and destroy us (Decepticons). The problem gets even bigger (like “more than meets the eye” bigger) when it is revealed that the protection of the Earth isn’t why the black ops team is hunting down the Transformers and they have allied themselves with a Transformer bounty hunter named Lockdown. Meanwhile, a wide-eyed inventor (because apparently this movie is either a 80s comedy or a Sci-Fi/horror film from the 50s) named Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) accidentally finds the hiding Optimus Prime and teams with him, and the remaining Autobots, to try and stop the black ops team and a reborn enemy from the past…

Oh, and the Dinobots finally show up!

                                                                                                                                Paramount Pictures
I was going to put a pic of the Dinobots but here's the human cast running instead.

With the exception of the first film (that one was actually pretty decent…as long as there weren’t any humans in any scene) the Transformers films are all almost universally held as terrible. However, one thing the studios are good at is making me forget the terrible abuse I just went through with the last film when they release their new trailer. Age of Extinction was no exception. Seeing Marky Mark, the Dinobots and, most importantly, no Shia LaDouche, I went in with big expectations and was, for the first time since the initial film, actually excited for the movie. When the credits hit, I walked away thinking, “Well, at least it was more watchable than Revenge of the Fallen.”

                                                                                                                                Paramount Pictures
You're being hunted by the CIA and an evil Transformer bounty hunter.  Now is not
the time to pose for the cover of your Christian Rock band album.

One thing I have to say about AoE is the fact that the groan-inducing, “I’m going to give up on all happiness” sophomoric humor that plagued the last films is finally gone and, thanks to cast members T.J. Miller and Stanley Tucci, is replaced with genuinely funny moments that actually made me laugh and not feel like that the bar is getting lower because I just saw a pissing joke or saw testicles on a Transformer (and, also, there was no robo-blackface). So, eliminating the jabbering monkey that is LaBeouf and getting rid of the fart jokes and scenes that look like they are on the verge of breaking into a bad Three Stooges routine was a HUUUUGE step in the right direction…but it still didn’t save the franchise.
                                                                                                                                 Paramount Pictures
"Optimus is throwing marshmallows.  I'm going to catch one with my mouth!"

Another step in the right direction is the fact the franchise finally has a film that has a solid human cast. In previous films, you either had a sleepy looking girl with an orange tan, a stammering plagiarist and once respected actors debasing themselves (8 year olds, dude) but, in Age of Extinction, we have Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Titus Welliver and Kelsey Grammar…and none of them are getting pissed on by Bumblebee. However, having actors who are pretty much decent in almost all of their other portions of their body of work doesn’t necessarily translate into gold because Michael Bay does have a way of blackmailing the worst out of you.

                                                                                                                                 Paramount Pictures
"Is the villain lighting ready?  I'm not doing any villain-ing until the villain lighting
is ready."

While Marky Mark is an actor that I, essentially, enjoy, he does have a habit of being pretty bad in some films (for example, his performance in The Happening). Why he may have never reached this moment…

Wahlberg was still viciously underwhelming in his role as the inventor Cade Yeager (it was still ridiculous that he was an inventor). He has a couple of humorous moments and he starts strong but is eventually overshadowed by the Transformers and is, seemingly, granted only a single moment at the end to showcase any badassness in the form of a decent fight scene with Welliver. However, Stanley Tucci was fantastic (not that such a fact is surprising) and Kelsey Grammar is just plain incredible as the film’s antagonist. He was dark, foreboding and sinister…who, sadly, got an unceremonious end.  So, it was kinda easy to overlook Wahlberg not delivering well.
                                                                                                                                  Paramount Pictures
At the very least, he did ask everyone to say hello to their mothers for him.

Since it’s clear the Transformers movies cover a very clear-cut formula (like how we keep discovering that the Transformers have been visiting this planet since the dawn of time and we keep realizing that every major historical event has had their robo-hands involved in them), it’s no surprise that another skinny girl with a fake orange tan is here to provide a character that no woman should look up to and is, in all reality, just a blank canvas of a character whose only responsibility is to get into trouble so that the men of the picture can save her. At this point, we pretty much know all of Michael Bay’s fetishes and this one really needs to go because these girls literally provide nothing for the story. Sure, Nicola Peltz’s character is the daughter of Cade Yeager and is basically providing the fatherly instinct of protection but also provides the cliché “I don’t want my daughter dating” when the boyfriend character is introduced (played by Jack Reynor) but, when you boil it all down, Peltz is just as worthless as Megan Fox was in two films and the other generic girl in the third film that is, pretty much, indistinguishable from the other females that have been in a Transformers film.

                                                                                                                            Paramount Pictures
"Hello, I'm not going to have much of a presence in the story other than getting
saved by someone..."

The big thing about this film was it was finally giving the fans what they wanted—a complete elimination of Shia LaBeouf. However, it also gave us another thing we wanted and that was the Dinobots. I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t these two elements that actually sparked a level of excitement in me and played its part in my shelling out the bucks to see it in the theater. While it was cool to see Grimlock hit the big screen (and kinda weird to see Swoop turned into Strafe…and with two heads, no less) it was a huuuuge disappointment to see that they were clearly just a marketing gimmick to maximize box office returns by tacking them on the end and giving them no real play. In fact, if you read the Wikipedia entry on the characters, they each, apparently, are specialists in something in their team but you would never know it by the minor screen time they are granted by the all powerful Bay.
                                                                                                                            Paramount Pictures
"Make sure to put them on every piece of marketing we have for the film and put them
in every trailer...that way everyone gets their hopes up." - Michael Bay.

While I will admit that I enjoyed the fact the terrible humor of the Transformers franchise is gone and will concede that the film had some decent action and it was nice to finally be able to actually see the Transformers kick the fluids out of each other and not have it look like a garbage truck rolling down a hill but I can’t say that the story has made any improvements. While the film starts very solid with some devious humans teaming up with Lockdown, the film starts to unravel quickly when it is realized that the movie feels like it is two scripts forced into one movie.

                                                                                                                            Paramount Pictures
"Fear my scorpion/anus ship!"

The film acts as a starting point to bring in Galvatron (the resurrection of Megatron) and while it is cool to hear Frank Welker (the original voice of Megatron) come back and it is a geekgasm moment when you realize that Welker and Peter Cullan (Optimus Prime) are pretty much reliving their glory days from the cartoon, it’s not cool enough to cover up how sloppy the story is and how the film’s running length has to be extended almost an hour to cover up the inability to balance these two elements out. When the film wants to focus on Lockdown’s place in the film, the story about the covert ops team’s motivation and the rise of Galvatron go into hibernation and you forget about them. During the few scenes when Bay wants to remind you that Galvatron is in the film and will be in the next few sequels, the rest of the story elements are tossed aside. It results in a story that feels like it is dragging itself out because it doesn’t want to leave but lacks any improv skills to make itself interesting and, finally, it ends up being a film that really makes you feel every ticking second of its running time. While the film starts strong and looks like it has a clear and present direction it is taking, the film really starts to unravel as it becomes obvious that Bay is trying to forcefully insert the jumping point for the next sequels and they only end up feeling like any orange tan female in a Transformers film: Absolutely and completely superfluous.
                                                                                                                           Paramount Pictures
Not you, though, Bumblebee.  Your tan is very yellow...also, you're a dude.

Finally, one of the weirdest things about the film was the fact the Autobots came off like complete douche bags. While the story explains why the Autobots distrust humans (the CIA is assassinating them, so that type of thing tends to make a person a little sore) but even when the humans are trying to help them and continue to prove it over and over again, the Autobots tend to not trust them…and they are even threatened with murder on more than one occasion by Hound (voiced by John Goodman) and Crosshairs (voiced by John DiMaggio).

                                                                                                                            Paramount Pictures
Crosshairs was disappointed to learn that wasn't humans he just killed.

This trend of jerk-formers continues when they are aboard Lockdown’s spaceship and Hound is spat on by a scared, strange alien creature. While it turns out the spit was harmless, it didn’t stop Hound from murdering the thing and blasting it to goo. It just goes to show you that the only thing to stop a wild creature with a defense mechanism of spitting is a robot with a futuristic gun. Finally, the strangest reaction from a ‘former in this film had to be from Optimus Prime when he engages the Dinobots.

                                                                                                                            Paramount Pictures
"Ha ha!  Weee!"

Although never actually called as such (they call them knights in the film), the Dinobots are HUGE Transformers that were prisoners on Lockdown’s ship (wait, does this constitute as spoilers?) and Prime wants them to fight for him. So what does he do? He fights them and promises freedom and instantly makes them fight and risk death for him in a battle they have no stake in and then proceeds to humiliate Grimlock by riding him like a horsey. So, needless to say, it was confusing to try and figure out if the Autobots were suppose to be the heroes you were meant to cheer on because they only come off as selfless and noble towards the end of the film. Until then, it’s threatening any and all humans with death and causing endless destruction that actually LEADS to the death of humans (that’s their defense, “Hey, it was an accident that the building came down and killed millions of people.”).

                                                                                                                            Paramount Pictures
"Yes...it was...an accident."

I won’t bullshit here, I honestly think that Transformers: Age of Extinction was one of the easiest Transformers movie to sit through (with the exception of the first one—seriously, how cool was it to see the first transformation…and to hear the original transformation sound effect mixed in?).  I thought it had some decent action, a great cast, a complete elimination of bad humor and bad cast elements, and a fantastic villain. However, the story is sloppy, the film is too long, some of the cast isn’t living up to what we know they can do, and the most anticipated element is given cheap gimmick status.  These things just end up hurting the film and keeping the movie as a disappointment like the rest of the franchise. Ultimately, though, it does look like steps are being made to correct the problems and, at this rate, by the time we hit double digits with the sequels, the franchise might finally live up to the property it is based on.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! God could have made dragons...instead, he invented cancer.  Gee, thanks.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 – 5 out of 5

                                         DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Dragons are so badass, even they are in wonder
at how cool they are.

I absolutely love How to Train Your Dragon! First off, dragons are just badass and all kinds of awesome and, I feel, are impossible to hate. They are flying lizards that can breathe fire. Simple as that and that simplicity equals awesome. I also like the animated movies that have been revolutionized in the last decade and a half thanks to stories that are geared for adults and children and advancing technology. The first film had a great story, great animation and a killer cast of voice actors. So, when it was announced that a sequel was coming out, I was super excited and, thankfully, I wasn’t let down. In fact, the film went soaring above my expectations!  (Man, that pun was lame!)
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Hiccup's indifference to my lame pun is hurting my ego.

                                                DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Ah...Drago doesn't look that evil.  He looks likes a
Several years have passed since the first film and all the residents of Berk are living in peace with their dragons. However, Viking Chief Stoick (Gerard Butler) is gearing to have his son Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) take over for him and run the village. Hiccup isn’t ready for this type of responsibility and feels he can’t live up to his father. One day, while running trick flying techniques with his dragon Toothless, he finds a dragon hunter by the name of Eret (Kit Harington) who says he works for Drago (Djimon Hounsou) and is gathering an army of dragons. Fearing for the safety of Berk, Hiccup scrambles to warn his people but ends up coming across a stranger with dragon whispering traits like himself and a connection to his past…the connection being that the stranger gave birth to him. After being reunited with his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), he teams with his friends and his family to stop Drago, the evil man's dreaded army of dragons, and the most dangerous monster of them all; the monstrous Alpha Dragon.
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Wow!  That Alpha is big...I would hate to clean up after it.

I don’t want to say that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is better than the first film because I really feel like the film built terrifically and matured effectively on the first one but it is so close to being vastly superior. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Chris Sander’s first film (in fact, I’m just a fan of Sander’s work in general…Lilo & Stitch is my favorite Disney animated movie) but director/writer Dean DeBlois (who took over for Sander since he went to work on The Croods) made a film that was funny and, more importantly, dramatic and containing a level of maturity that, so far, we’ve only seen in a Pixar film.
                                                                                   DreamWorks Animation/20the Century Fox
Wow, that is badass!  Can we get a better, more badass-y angle?
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
There we go...so filled with badassness.

Above all other things in this film, the story was quite possibly the most amazing aspect. Director Dean DeBlois stated that when he agreed to do this film, it was under the intention that a third film would be done and make the franchise a trilogy (which I am 100% cool with) and that this second installment would be like The Empire Strikes Back. The story would go a little darker and we would get to see the characters expanded while going into new territory. And you know what? That is exactly what DeBlois did! Getting to learn more of Hiccup and his father’s past and seeing them reunited with the matriarch of their family was not only something that keep the series fresh and made the story interesting but it was chock full of emotions to the point that I was crying like a baby while trying to make it look like I wasn’t crying at all since the theater was packed and I had a middle-aged dude sitting right next to me and stealing my armrest.
                                                                            DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
A tender moment between a Viking family that was sadly interrupted by the realization
that I had no armrest to place my grief stricken elbows.

The bonds we form with each other—whether it be the bonds of brotherhood as we see Hiccup's friends come looking for him, the bonds of family or the bond between Hiccup and Toothless—that is what the film is about and that’s what makes the film work on a level that, for the longest time, so few animated films could work on. Even with all the humor (and this movie is very funny), the film brings about a serious message and moral and it tells a tale about growing up, facing responsibilities, and maturing. It was so amazing to see such a great property provide such a deep, rich story. (It was also just cool to see Stoick have a larger presence in that story.)
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Pictured:  A boy and his dragon bonding.

                                               DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Intense Hiccup is intense.
While the first one had great animation, this follow-up felt like they went light-years ahead with the technology. At first glance, the film looks and feels like HTTYD but, as you watch it, the level of detail on the facial features, hair on both the face and top of head, and the way the characters move and interact with the environment is absolutely breathtaking! Hiccup had realistic facial stubble, the dragons had realistic looking scales on their bodies, you could make out nearly every single hair on Stoick’s beard and the frighteningly photo-realistic tears coming down Valka’s cheek when she sees her husband for the first time in 20 years were, in a word that grossly undersells it, incredible. It truly is a wonder to see how far we’ve come in animation technology and these advances only help make the characters come to life in a bigger and more engrossing way.
                                                                           DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Seriously...every single hair.

                                               DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Man, Hiccup really looks intense...not even the touch
of a Viking female is grabbing his attention.
Of all the things I loved with the first film, I was really digging the voice cast. Every actor was perfect in their role (because we all know that a bad choice in a voice acting cast can do heavy damage). Jay Baruchel had the right amount of innocence in his voice to be Hiccup, Gerard Butler had the authority to be Stoick and the rest of the cast that included Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, America Ferrera and Kristen Wiig all were über-excellent in bringing life to their characters. They are all back and doing just as well (actually better, if that was possible) but, keeping the track record of great casting decisions, they brought in people who all seem like they were working their whole lives to voice these characters.
                                                                           DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
"No you know nothing!"

                                               DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
I wish my mom trained dragons...
In this film, three new major characters are introduced and they come in the form of the evil Drago, Drago’s henchman Eret and Hiccup’s mom Valka. Djimon Hounsou provides the voice of Drago and he is able to sound so incredibly menacing without spilling over into the silly James Bond villain territory. Jon Snow himself; Kit Harington, is able to capture the cocky but wondering if he picked the wrong side that is Eret and Cate Blanchett is incredible beyond words as Valka. The level of emotion she brings was enough to constantly bring a lump in my throat…a lump that I had to deny existed thanks to Mr. Armrest McStealer.
                                                                          DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
Hmmm...good idea, Hiccup.  A helmet like that will make me look tough in theaters
but also hide my wimpy tears.

Finally, the one thing I wasn’t prepared for was just how action-packed the film was. And the action was delivered on a huuuuge scale. Sure, the Alpha Dragons are massive but when Valko’s dragon oasis is attacked by Drago and his army, seeing the massive amount of men and dragons battling looked like something out of Helm’s Deep or a big budget summer action film. It was just another exciting addition to an overwhelmingly satisfying film.

                                                                           DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox
I want this airbrushed on the side of a van.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a superb addition to a franchise that started with a clever and fun film. The darker and more mature tone juxtaposed with the humor and simply incredible animation and acting really created an animated film like no other. The film is epic and epic in a big way and I am very, very hopeful we get a third film.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! THIS IS...A POINTLESS 300 SEQUEL!!!

300: Rise of an Empire – 2 out of 5

I love 300. I was a fan of the graphic novel and was excited when I first saw that trailer. The film was just gorgeous and brutal all at the same time. Zack Snyder took the spirit of the pages and made a fantastic fictionalized story of the last stand of the 300 Spartans. I didn’t really understand why it was decided to produce a sequel but, like most films, I gave it a shot. Let’s just say that I don’t feel the same about Rise of an Empire as I do the first film.
A major problem comes from the fact that one of the only positives I have to
say about the film has to do with the cool head gear.

Taking place before, during and after Leonidas falls to the God King Xerxes, 300: Rise of an Empire tells the fictionalized tale of the Battle of Selamis where Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) battles Xerxes’ naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green). What follows is a whole load of slo-mo brutality while shoe-horning in the events of the last film like it was some sort of fan fic where the fan author doesn’t want to screw with the canon of the original piece.
Go into the pool that radiates gold looking like a young Michael McDonald...
...come out looking like something out of the gay pride parade that haunts
homophobes' nightmares.  Holy shit!  I just gave that group another argument
for the gay agenda.  This one is completely on me, guys.  I'm sorry.

With the way this film went, I'm actually shocked that "Let
the Bodies Hit the Floor" wasn't utilized in this scene.
I wouldn’t say I walked into 300: Rise of an Empire already jaded but, despite having some decent trailers to sell it, I wasn’t too keen on the film and walked in with little expectations…however, I did have a deep down hope that the film would be entertaining. Believe it or not, some of it was. The action, while much more contrived and far more gratuitous than the first film, is still enough to satisfy the action junkie’s thirst for blood and unspoken desire to see muscular men with testosterone issues kick the ever-loving shit out of each other (and kick the shit out of a woman…which will appeal to the very type of people that I don’t want to associate with). However, at the end of it all, it lacked Zack Snyder’s visual style and ended up just looking like a cheap, Direct-to-DVD sequel.
"Dude...I'm so high.  I mean...I'm dying from a spear to the chest.  Got those two
confused for a second."

One of the biggest problems I had with the film (and one of the things that kept me from getting into it the way that I was into 300) was that Sullivan Stapleton was very vanilla in his performance. First off, he looks just like a generic white guy with a scruffy, stubble beard who would seem more at home on some forgettable drama on TNT or some network I don’t bother paying attention to. However, a bland, flavorless face can be overcome with a strong performance but with memories of Gerard Butler’s epic and fierce performance from the first film permanently burned in my head and Stapleton’s inability to even match half of his passion, the character of Themistocles comes off as boring and uninspired. However, this element seems to match with the overall look of the film.
"Eh...almost...nope.  Sorry, I thought I could act like I cared and give a decent
performance but...come on!  This is a 300 sequel."

One of the things that spoke to me about 300 was Zack Snyder’s directing and visual style. Snyder is very polarized in the popular world and people either love him or hate him (personally, I love the guy) but there’s no denying that he has a unique eye (well, I guess you could deny it if you wanted to). 300 really showed that as every camera angle and sequence felt like you could pause it at any moment, screen cap that shit, and use it as a cover photo on your Facebook timeline that spits in the face of any and all copyright laws. The varying use of tones that would make the characters and background look painted in golden colors, amber lights, and blueish and redish hues made the film feel like the comic book pages had come to life and gave the already fictionalize account of the real historical battle feel even more fantastic and epic feeling. Rise of an Empire didn’t have this. Instead of filters that seem like they are going to be in the next upgrade of Instagram, this movie and director Noam Murro seem to decide against the overall look of the previous film and settle with a look that—and this was a little distracting because of the first film—a look that all too often showed off the true skin tone of each character and ended up feeling like a cheap knock-off of the first film.

And here's a cheap knock-off of Gerard Butler.

I understand this is a strange gripe but every scene in the first film was accompanied by lighting and filters that would bathe the look of the film in rich and deep colors. Rise of an Empire doesn’t head to such lengths and it ends up making the film feel like it is not a true sequel to the epic comic adaptation and more like a third rate studio is trying to make a wannabe 300. Not only did the lack of rich lighting and filters make the film look cheap, it made it look like the entire movie was made by The Asylum—granted with a much larger budget than The Asylum works with (not the 250 dollars the production company is used to).
Truth be told, this one shot had a bigger budget than all The Asylum movies combined.

Finally, it might not have been the worst part of the film but it is still one of the film’s elements that kept me from getting into it, Eva Green’s performance is a little hammy and mega-cheesy. While she commands more attention than Stapleton, she spends much of that acquired attention looking like the community theater drama coach. There was no subtly in her performance. Granted, I wasn’t expecting an actress giving off sly nuances in a subdued performance but you don’t have to make it look like you are filming your audition role for a Joel Schumacher-era Batman film.  Okay, I retract that, she wasn’t THAT bad in her role but she still was laying it on pretty thick and over doing it a little much. If only she offered some of that passion to Stapleton…
Careful...you're approaching Helena Boham Carter levels, Green.

I won’t lie; I wasn’t expecting big things from 300: Rise of an Empire. However, I didn’t think it was going to be outright terrible when I walked into it (I didn't have high hopes but I still didn't think it was going to be as bad as I found it to be). There’s no denying that the film was, essentially, completely pointless but it didn’t have to feel pointless. The story likes to jump focus and feel like its trying to insert itself into the first film without the added luxury of having a major character from the first one return (seriously, they kept talking about Gerard Butler being off camera that I half expected to get a scene where we see a wall and a single muscular arm come from around it and hear a bad Butler impression saying, “Hey gang, I’m too busy to come out because I’m due at the Hot Gates”) and with lackluster performances, a style that doesn’t match the previous work and fight scenes that are just good enough to not be boring, 300: Rise of an Empire proves that sometimes movies don’t need sequels or, if you’re going to make a sequel that doesn’t have to exist, can you at least make it look like there was some effort in it?

Aw look, Lena Headey is trying to escape.  Good luck, sister...good luck.

The Wolf of Wall Street

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I wanna make Wall Street money...without the Wall Street work...and the Wall Street douche bag attitude.

The Wolf of Wall Street – 5 out of 5

The moment I saw the trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street—wait, what trailer you ask? Why this one!

I’m not a fan of Kanye West but that song fits so well and the trailer is edited so amazingly. Anyway, the moment I saw that, I knew I wanted to see the film but since I’m reluctant to spend money on a theater ticket on any movie that has the potential to not keep me entertained the entire time for my dollar (and also has a three hour running time—I have a small bladder), I waited till it hit Blu-Ray and DVD. However, even then, I was busy with life (mostly moving into a new place and trying to fight off the angry spirits that were residing in the walls) and it took some time for me to finally sit down with the film. After doing so, I really regret not forcing free three hours of my time to watch this one sooner.

"Can you dig it?"

Totally real looking background behind him and in, no way, green
screen looking.
Based on the memoir of the same name from famed Wall Street money man/con artist, the movie tells the story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and how he went from a money hungry, wide-eyed boy who wished to own all the money on Wall Street to a guy who scammed his way to the top where he basically owned all the money on Wall Street. Along with his partner-in-crime Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), Belfort slashes a path through the decades and leaves a trail of decadence, loose ethics, moral ambiguity, drugs and hookers. And it looked like it was a complete blast!

"Ha ha I'm going to bring you down, motherfucker."

Wait...is that the guy from the Arby's commercials?
Even though the film depicts despicable people doing very unethical things all in the pursuit of money and then using that excessive piles of money to do awful things like copious amounts of drugs and boink hookers behind their wives’ backs, the film is ridiculously entertaining and hilarious in its presentation. Director Martin Scorsese perfectly delivers a film about excess to the tenth degree and nails every visual punch line the film has within its long running length. Furthermore, Scorsese perfectly utilizes an overused trope and uses it to make the film suck you in. How does he do this? By breaking the fourth wall and having DiCaprio as Belfort speak directly to the audience and narrate portions of the film. And I don’t mean that DiCaprio is just speaking like he is God and isn’t anywhere to be seen, I mean he literally is making eye contact with you and speaking to you as if you were standing in front of him while the action plays out around him. Sure, this dynamic has been seen before but it worked so well for The Wolf of Wall Street. The end result is a film that is easy to engage in, delightfully wicked with its language and overwhelming gratuitous nature, and it all culminates in a product that doesn’t feel as long as it is.

Man, just looking at Margot Robbie as Belfort's wife Naomi and I feel like my checkbook
is already depleting.

To think, he was once this man.
Other being incredibly hilarious and just outrageous with its near insanity that Belfort and his cohorts underwent in their journey to be the kings of Wall Street, the film is tremendously acted by an insanely talented bunch of actors. DiCaprio is, without actually having the need to say it, amazing and was completely robbed (once again) by not winning for this role. Right next to him, and keeping pace without losing a single step, is Jonah Hill proving that he keeps maturing as an actor and shows that there may not be a single role he can’t play. Honestly, the chemistry between Hill and DiCaprio was one of the film’s strongest aspects in the cast department.

I'm just guessing that the Academy is just jealous or...um...no, they're probably just jealous.

"That's a spicy alright, alright, alright."

Okay, I admit...I ran out of ideas when I got to that caption.
The rest of the cast is all filled with actors who felt like they were engineered in a lab specifically for their role. Even the smallest part felt like it was filled with an actor that couldn’t have been played by anyone else. Whether it be the guy who helps Belfort on his way to his multi-millions; Mark Hanna played by Matthew McConaughey or the FBI agent out for Belfort’s head; Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), each actor really delivered and were incredible entertaining. Honestly, the cast was so large—like you had Margot Robbie as Naomi, Belfort’s seductive wife, Rob Reiner as Belfort’s Dad and even Jon Bernthal and Jon Favreau come up in the cast (and that’s not even mentioning the loads of others who were intricate in Belfort’s story)—and each and every single one of these actors really nails their role that, even if their role seemed small and insignificant on the surface, they all had their part to play to make this story amazing and the humor within it very satisfying. Not a single member of the cast felt out of place to me for this one and it is, without a doubt, one of the best things about this movie.

May Jon Bernthal's career be vast and long-lasting. Seriously, he deserves it.

Spike Jonze was in the film...seen here looking like he belongs
in the Beastie Boy video he directed.  You know which
The story of Belfort’s rise to mega-fortunes is one of debauchery and completely vile behavior…but it sure is fun to watch. This movie can easily—EASILY—offend all sorts of viewers with its general story about a greasy douche making millions off of gullible people just trying to make ends meet but its Fuck-bomb heavy story, tons of boobies and butts (and a penis, too) and even an appearance by a chimpanzee that was in a single shot on roller skates has the ability to offend—wait, what did I just say? People were pissed because a chimp was in the film for a sequence that lasted less than 30 seconds? Yep, animal rights activists, including PETA, took time off from ignoring the fact that PETA (yep, they ignored themselves) will routinely rescue animals only to murder them back at their headquarters and then head back out to protest humane societies for euthanizing animals, to get all uptight about a monkey being in this film. So, at the end of it all, this film really has the capacity to offend nearly everyone. Drug addicts can hate how the film seemingly glorifies cocaine, or women can be offended how Belfort and his crew see women as only housing units for their dicks when their not in use for measuring contests, and the uptight will pass-out from the almost never ending use of the word “fuck.” However, just like the guys in the story, these elements (well, maybe not the monkey) are used for the sole purpose of excess and, even though they all are meant to offend, it is their ridiculous use that makes them have a purpose and helps make this an entertaining and funny film.

Look at those monsters treating that animal so terribly...wait, they are treating it with more
respect than PETA treats those who have differences of opinion with them.

One complaint I don't have...those purple suspenders.
If there was one complaint I have about the film, it would be the fact that the passage of time isn’t carried out very well. The film will go from one scene to the next and, occasionally, it meant we were jumping into a new decade and, often, this is only decipherable thanks to the soundtrack (which was incredible, by the way). While this element helps sell the blur that Belfort’s life was thanks to his endless pursuits of money, narcotics and expensive women, it did make the film a little (very little) chaotic but, nevertheless, still incredibly entertaining and a blast to watch.

I'm not a Wall Street type but I am liking the parties they throw.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a hilarious, almost loving rendition of a man whose obsession with being the best and richest lead him down a life that would kill weaker mortals. Is Belfort represented as a hero in the film? Kinda. Did that make the film anything less than entertaining? Fuck no!