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VaderFan at the Movies – The Wolf of Wall Street

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Martin Scorsese is back with an all new movie about the rise and fall of a criminal. This time the story is about a criminal stock broker named Jordan Belfort, who must be the biggest douche in all of American history. The amount of crime, antics, and drugs this guy does are in such an extreme level, it’s hard to believe that this movie is based on a true story. What’s even more surprising is how funny the movie is. Scorsese is known for making his gritty and serious movie, all which should be watched and studied for they’re great as looking at an art exhibit while reading a great book at the same time. It does have its flaws, but hey, it’s Scorsese, the guy practically gets a pass on everything.

The film stars the someday Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, who started out as a good man, and slowly ended up being, as mentioned before, a great big douche. Now, this film is very interesting since it seems more like a character study of this guy. He firsts thought that the best way to make it up wall street is to make his clients happy. This was disproven by Mark Hanna, played the enigmatic Matthew McConaughey who is still thin from his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club. This guy showed him the truth, and the douchevolution began. He started swindling people’s money, hiring the worst kind of people to start his company, taking pounds of drugs, and even cheating on his wives multiple times. As usual in criminal movie fashion, some government agent shows up to bring the man to justice. This time it’s Agent Patrick Denham played by Kyle Chandler. With mistakes done by him, he ends up falling, and crashing down. Put all that in a three hour movie, with multiple comedy bits, and you get The Wolf of Wall Street.

The main thing that stands out about this film are the actors. Everyone acted in a phenomenal level, one being Jonah Hill. The chemistry he had with DiCaprio is just great to watch, adding more to the comedy bits. Speaking of comedy, Leonardo DiCaprio really shows that he can be a comedic actor. Being a serious actor for his entire career, it was surprising how funny he can be from his movements to the way he presents his dialogue. Not to mention Naomi Lapaglia, another actor who swam from the shores of Australia, who does that weird Jersey accent very well, and just acted great in the movie. Then there are multiple cameos from every actor you can think of. It feels like Scorsese was just walking down the streets of Hollywood and just pulled these guys to do bit parts in the movie. We have appearances from Jon Favreau, Cristin Millioti,  Jon Bernthal, Henry Zebowski, and Jean Dujardin just to name a few. All of them just made a small appearance, including McConaughey, which we could’ve used some more.

The direction is of course great, and the writing is witty as it is jam packed with great comedy and dialogue. However, there can be at least thirty minutes taken off of it. It’s hard to laugh for three hours straight, and at one point the laughs just stop, despite the amount of humor that keeps on coming in. Despite the length, though, it’s still worth another watch, especially as a character study. Mark Hanna became such an influence to Jordan Belfort that he starts to dress like him, start to act like him, and even brought back this cheesy chest thump music Hanna taught him in the very beginning of the film. But overall, it’s Scorsese. He’s the most consistently good director we have of our time. Nothing he made is bad, so everyone should go see that movie just because his name is attached.

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VaderFan on the Couch – Firefly

69153So, just recently I finished the entire series of the legendary cult series, Firefly. My friends talk highly about this series, and I never got the chance to get around watching it. I remember I saw the commercials that were shown on Fox when it first came out, and it made it look like a rip off of Outlaw Star and Trigun, so the appeal just never came to me, despite the fact that it’s from Joss Whedon. I’ve always wanted to watch the movie, Serenity, but after hearing that it’s a direct sequel to the series from my friends, I listened to their recommendations to watch the series first. So, I finally sat down and started watching it, and I have to say, it was an ok series.

I started watching the first two episodes, and couldn’t really get into it. The series were shot like a basic low budget series that would’ve been shown on the Sci-Fi channel. It had basic character plot and development, and the uniqueness of the world that combines the Wild West and Chinese culture is interesting. However, I couldn’t really get into it because of Nathan Fillion’s acting. He was a robot on the set, just speeding through his lines, and not showing much emotion at all. This bothered me a ton since I know Fillion is a really good actor, and great even when he’s doing stuff with Whedon. His character is Captain Mal Reynolds of the ship, Serenety, which would make him the main character for the entire series, the one that the audience supposes to relate. So if I, as an audience member, can’t really relate to him, the whole series falls down. Another thing that bothered me was Summer Glau’s character, River, whose mystery just kept dragging on, and I just wanted to see her stop being a weird child. Also the random Chinese cursing just threw me off.

I told my friends about my opinion of the first couple episodes, they were quite upset, and I got in a heated discussion with one of them who likes to keep things “kosher” with his “fists of fury”. They convinced me to watch a couple more episodes with them, and I still couldn’t seem to get into it. They told me the series does get better, so I buckled down, and continued to watch. Fillion’s acting did get better as the series progressed, so it got more bearable, but it wasn’t until episode 10 that I thought the series was actually good. We get to see more dimensions from each character, seeing them do things that we wouldn’t think they would do, and seeing more human sides to them through their tragic pasts. However, that’s the main problem. It didn’t catch me from the beginning, and I have to wait until later to actually get into the series. The fact that the episodes are 45 minutes long didn’t help either. Normally this is a series that I would like, but I just couldn’t seem to get into it. Maybe the plot and direction seemed way too basic, maybe I cared more about that than the world it’s based, and maybe that’s why everyone liked it because of the world it’s based in. Maybe everyone overhyped it too much for me.

Watching the series I can see how much they based the idea off of the legendary Western movie, Stagecoach. For those of you who don’t know, Stagecoach is what made westerns very popular, and it was the premiere of legendary John Ford and John Wayne. It made B movies great and fun to watch since it has good characters, action scenes, and a very basic plot. I could write more on the movie, but I should make the comparison. The movies and the series have a group of travelers heading to some destination, and both involved a gun for hire, prostitute, doctor, preacher, and a stagecoach driver/pilot. Both involved similar character arcs and conflicts, so in some ways, Firefly is a fan made series that pays homage to Stagecoach. Some of the episodes’ plots also pay tribute to other western classics such as A Fistful of Dollars and Magnificent Seven. However, despite seeing all this, I still had a hard time to get into the series until the last few episodes of the first and only season.

Now, with a series that I just can’t seem to get into, I’d normally be done by episode five, despite what other people recommend me. For me, there’s no reason to continue since I gave the series five opportunities to grab me, but I kept watching for one guy, Jayne played by Adam Baldwin. Whenever this guy does something, whether it’s shooting someone or talking, I just laugh in enjoyment. I keep watching just to see him do something, despite the annoyance or dislike I keep having throughout the series. He brings a sort of balance for me when watching the entire series. I guess I relate more to Jayne than anyone else in the series, more so that I believe he should get his own spinoff called Jayne’s Adventures. It has a nice ring to it. For me, he’s the saving grace of the series, and he’s the reason I think the series is an ok series, not a good or great one. So right now, I’ll finally get to see Serenity, and hopefully I’ll like it more than the series.

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VaderFan at the Movies – Pain & Gain

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We get so many Hollywood movies that are based on a true story, and a majority of them have been changed to make the movie more dramatic or entertaining. Well, it’s the opposite for this movie. The very highly, over the top, unbelievable scenes are actually true, and the more believable scenes aren’t actually true. I’ve read the journal story in The New Miami Times, and I am in shocked with how much the movie got it right. But, I’m going to talk more about the movie and not to make a comparison with what actually happen.

The movie stars Mark-E-Mark as the body-builder trainer, Daniel Lugo, who believes he deserves more in life. After a seminar to teach him how to be rich, he decides to steal money from his very rich client, Victor Kershaw, played by Tony Shalhoub. He enlists the help of coke addict turned Christian, Paul Doyle, played by The Rock, and the steroid obsessed small penis friend Adrian Doorbal, played by Anthony Mackie, or The Falcon. Of course, once you get a bunch of dumb bodybuilders together to come up with a heist, funny chaos ensues. Things always wrong in a heist movie, but this movie takes it to another level. Unlike normal heist movies where it involves a bunch of smart characters, calmly calculating their next move, this movie has just a bunch of idiots winging it as they go on. They fail to capture Victor a couple times by trying to sneak into his house, but abort after they found out he was doing the Shabbat; then try to capture him by trapping him in his BMW, but got the wrong car; and finally they just directly confront him in ninja outfits, and taser him. I didn’t spoil much, since it’s in the trailer, but just the example of the hilarity that is in this movie. And even funnier is that all that actually happen in real life. I’m not going to go into much detail on how they got all his money, but they eventually did and got caught because of stupid mistakes these guys make. One of them being is accidentally killing a guy from ‘roid rage, and leaving a toe with a dog at some guy’s mansion.

I can’t help but see this movie as some sort of dark comedy character piece, despite the fact it’s directed by Michael Bay. Daniel Lugo starts off as a charismatic character, some guy that anyone can get along with, but he has a very short temper, especially when it comes to fitness. He also has this delusion of grandeur, where he thinks it’s up to him to ruin a jerk that has a ton of money because it’s un-American to let a guy like that to be rich. Lugo also gets mad when someone just talks shit about fitness, or his pecks. Then we get Anthony Doorbal who can be viewed as a tragic character for having such a small penis, but he is unlikable because of his idiotic use of steroids and just being an all-round jerk. Then we get Paul Doyle, who is probably the most likable character of the bunch. He is trying to do good after getting out of jail, since he found Jesus, and is the most nice and friendly guy out of the bunch. He was the only guy who treated Kershaw right during his captivity. However, he is so dumb that he can be convinced to do some heinous acts, such as killing a man. Surprisingly, the actors did a really good job in playing these characters. Normally in a Michael Bay movie, actors never really gave a grade A performance, hell not even a grade B, but these actors really performed well.

This movie really works for Michael Bay. It is set in a very wacky world that is his style. His other movies tend to over fictionalize all the action segments, and he kinda over sexualize the women in his movies also. It is hard to find any sort of believability in his movies, but since this movie is based on a true story, we just got to accept everything that happens. It is a fun watch, especially when watching with friends with a great sense of humor.

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VaderFan at the Movies – Oblivion

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I’ll tell you right now, this movie is hard to talk about without spoiling anything at all. I’m going to try my best to talk about it, but I’m not going to promise that it will be spoiler free. This movie is another great example of a pure sci-fi film. It’s smart, beautifully shot, and tends to be vague in so many ways, that it makes the audience think. If you’re a sci-fi enthusiast and plan to watch the movie, then stop reading and go watch it. It’s really that good. This is your last warning before I ruin anything for you.

The movie stars Tom Cruise as Jack, not Reacher, who is a drone repairman in a post-apocalyptic ruined Earth. He is accompanied by Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough, who is his communications officer/lover. The movie starts off with Jack narrating the background of the world, which is that a bunch of aliens invaded Earth, we used nukes to wipe them out, thus destroying the planet, and moving all of humanity to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. Jack has to repair these drones that are being destroyed by the alien remnants, since they defend these giant rigs that suck up the Earth’s water supply, and at the same time, fight the alien remnants, called Scavs. Soon, Jack finds a crashed pod that relates to a Scav beacon, where he discovers some humans, and the drones start killing them. He manages to rescue one human Julia, played by Olga Kurylenko, who seems to be in Jack’s dreams. He is then captured by the Scavs, where the Morpheus character Beech, played by the enigmatic Morgan Freeman, reveals to be the leader of these remnants, and told Jack that nothing is what it seems. From there, plot twists are revealed, and cool action scenes ensue.

I felt like the twist was a bit too predictable, since I had a feeling it was something like that just by watching the trailers. However, the journey up to it is what made it enjoyable. Jack has some sort of relation to Julia, and he tries to fight against everything he knows to find out what that connection really is. The movie also hints that there is something wrong with the situation, since the headquarters called the Tet floats around in space like some sort of emotionless angel, watching over the Earth. Then the drones give off a very scary monster aura, which made me question if man really made these machines or not. Then we get the subtle appearances of the Scavs, where they first look like robotic dogs, then turned into a Tusken Raider and Predator infusion. However, the Scavs look a lot less scary than the drones. The film messes with the audience mind by telling us that the drones are good, but the way they are shot along with the sound effects tells us something different. In a way, it asks us what you should really believe: what people tell you, or what you really see and feel. We also get the theme of the film from Stanza XXVII of “Horatius” from “Lay of Rome”, which is “To every man upon this earth, Death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better, Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his gods.” This is the theme of the whole film, which came in full circle at the end in such a genius and brilliant way, it puts a tear into my eye.

The best way to describe the way the film is shot is beauty. Despite how ruined the Earth is, with every monument that showcase the civilization of humanity ruined and buried, there is a sense of beauty built into it. It’s like a painting that one can stare at, and appreciate the beauty and wonder of the planet. In many ways, it’s like the aliens became the second god of the earth, recreating it in a way that is similar to the beauty of nature. Another deep symbol built into the movie. The action sequences are also cool to watch, since they’re not really super fast paced or confusing. It shows everything that is going on, and it starts off slow, and eventually builds up to giant explosions. We even get a mini-video game sequence on the ship Jack pilots. Jack also runs a lot, which seems to be in Tom Cruise’s contract, since every movie that guy has been in involves him running.

The acting is a bit subpar, since each actor didn’t go all the way with it. Tom Cruise did a good job in having the audience relate to him a bit, but some of the emotional seem to fall short with him. Andrea Riseborough does a good job in making me hate her since her character is a stickler for rules, but one scene of her crying is a bit laughable. Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman, not much to argue there. Then there’s Olga Kurylenko, whose only job is to look worry and be a dramatic push to the main plot. Oh yeah, Jamie Lanaster made a short appearance as a sniper expert/scruffy-looking-man-who-hates-the-main-character guy. He even gets a cheesy 80’s action movie moment near the end, which is always something I love to see.

I have to give a lot of credit to the director, Joseph Kosinski. Not only did he co-write this movie, he also wrote the graphic novel the movie is based off of. He knew how this movie was going to be like before it even started, and he really pulls it off. The beautiful artful sceneries, the great stories, and a great direction really made this movie a pure sci-fi film. If you’re still not convinced in watching this movie, it pays great homage to many sci-fi films in the past such as Moon, Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and some of Phillip K. Dick’s stories.

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