Archive for January, 2014

Tim’s Vermeer: And Your Point Is?—Movie

January 31, 2014

Tim’s Vermeer” documents one man’s obsession to learn how 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer painted the way he did. Produced by Penn Jillette and directed by Teller (both of Penn and Teller magic fame), the documentary is well done in terms of following its hero, inventor Tim Jenison, but fails to ask one major question—why? Tim says over and over again that he is not a painter. Then why is this so important to him?Tim's Vermeer poster

Obsession aside, Tim is a fascinating character all on his own. A self-made man, he is an inventor, a visionary—genius, if you will (who seems to do his best thinking in the bathtub)—and very rich. It’s his wealth, albeit understated, that enables him to pursue his quest to learn more about Vermeer and his process.

We learn that Vermeer left very little information behind about his work. What separates his art from others seems to be the lighting—how he managed to capture light in his paintings—to the point that they almost look like photographs, long before photography was invented. Others have questioned Vermeer’s methods, most notably, David Hockney in his book, “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of Old Masters” and London architecture professor, Philip Steadman, in his book, “Vermeer’s Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces.” Tim engages their interest in his project, telling them of his theories, and Hockney and Steadman end up providing Tim with advice and encouragement along the way.

Tim goes to Holland for some answers, but learns little. He then heads to England to meet with Hockney and, hopefully, to see the lone Vermeer in London, hanging in Buckingham Palace. With the help of friends and the ability to never take no for an answer, Tim is finally allowed a 30-minute private audience with the painting. When he exits the Palace, he is overwhelmed emotionally at what he has witnessed. It’s a very heart-warming moment and really illustrates what a fascinating person Tim is.

Tim ultimately decides the one way to get answers to his questions is to replicate Vermeer’s studio exactly and paint precisely as he thinks Vermeer would have. He chooses to paint Vermeer’s, The Music Lesson. It’s an extremely tedious process, but he follows it through, talking to the camera every step of the way. To tell much more would take away from some of “Tim’s Vermeer” genuine pleasures.

For those who know little (and I am one) about art, photography and the inner workings of each, “Tim’s Vermeer” is very informative. I enjoyed learning more about paints and lighting optics. It’s also fun to watch others who are fully vested in a topic and see how their minds work. Make no mistake; we are in the company of some very brilliant people. But genius can only go so far in holding one’s attention.

At one point during the film, it seems as if among his many talents, Tim is also a mind-reader,  when in trying to paint tiny specs, he says, “it’s like watching paint dry.” Painfully, I have to agree. This is a documentary that would be better served by television…when one could put it on pause, grab a snack or do whatever and the come back to the film. “Tim’s Vermeer” saving grace is its musical score. It’s delightfully in keeping with the tone of the film and helps to pick up the pace best as it can. The documentary’s other major pleasure is Tim himself. Frankly, I want to know a lot more about him. Why this obsession? What’s next? Has he decided to take up painting as a hobby? If there is a follow-up, please, next time, bring it to CNN or HBO.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4


Who is the Next Comedic Star?—Comedy

January 27, 2014

Who is the next comedic star? From where will the next Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld or Sarah Silverman come? It’s quite possible that this new bright comic will be found at the DC Improv Comedy School Comics Showcase.DC Improv Comics Showcase

Held in the DC Improv Lounge on a Friday evening, not just anyone gets to take the floor (there is no stage). These stars-in-the-making first have to hone their craft in the DC Improv Comedy School—an intense program taught by a professional comedian—someone who actually makes a living doing standup comedy. And what happens when you’ve finished the classes? You have your graduation, doing a five-minute set in the “Big Room” before a real paying audience of everyone’s friends and families. Sure, folks will laugh for their friends, but what about you?

I confess. I am a graduate…in fact, a two-time graduate with about five years between the two graduations. Take it from me, those five minutes can either feel like five seconds or five years. I actually got laughs, applause and got a whole host of new, funny friends. And it’s positively mind-blowing to think that you are performing on the same stage that played host to Dave Chappelle, Kevin Nealon, Jerry, Chris and Kathy, just to name a few (I even wondered if I was holding the same microphone as Kathy—that made me sweat just thinking about it). But I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to keep at it…to keep performing. For me, it was just too stressful.

But the folks I saw Friday, January 24, kept at it…and they were terrific. There were six performers, including my former classmate Leon Scott. All came with different points of view. Depending upon your taste, some were better than others—for me, Leon was one of the real standouts, but all were very good. With more gigs under their belts, who knows what can happen? And the whole evening just cost  ten dollars…quite the bargain for getting in on the ground floor of promising new careers.

The DC Improv also holds improv classes with a graduation performance before a paying audience. I took several of those classes and had the thrill of performing with my classmates.

So, if you’re looking for an inexpensive evening out with the chance to discover new talent, take a look at the DC Improv. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to take a class yourself.

202.296.7008, 1140 Connecticut Avenue NW, WDC 20036

(One block north of Farragut Metro on Red Line)

The Invisible Woman: Rightly Out of the Shadows—Movie

January 27, 2014

Who knew that Charles Dickens was an 1800s rock star complete with entourage, groupies…the works…all this despite a bad hairdo to rival that of today’s Donald Trump? There’s much more to the “Invisible Woman,” but that was my initial response to this extremely compelling movie featuring one of the greatest authors of all time.The Invisible Woman

Directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes, with screenplay by Abi Morgan based on Claire Tomalin’s book, “The Invisible Woman,”  the film tells the story of the 13-year relationship Dickens (Fiennes) had with Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), beginning when she was 18. Dickens was married with ten children when he first met Nelly, a last-minute replacement in a play for which he was producing and acting. She came from a family of actors led by her mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), an acting family fairly well-known in the day.

The film begins in 1883 and Dickens has been dead for many years. Nelly is married with a child of her own.  She is still conflicted over her liaison with Dickens and goes for long walks on the beach to work out those feelings. The movie is really about her coming to terms with that relationship in order to live the rest of her life in peace. Her affair with Dickens is a deeply held secret, known to no one other than her blood family, Dickens’ family and his close circle of friends. Her community believes that she knew Dickens in her childhood, but that is the extent of it. As she walks the beach, we see in flashbacks how the relationship began and what, to some extent, their life together was.

While obviously Dickens plays a huge part in “The Invisible Woman,” the film really belongs to Nelly. It is her story. Felicity Jones does a tremendous job in showcasing a variety of feelings—naiveté, shame, vulnerability and anger. The early part of her association with Dickens, before it becomes intimate is especially interesting, as she doesn’t know what to make of him and what she is feeling or should be feeling.

Ralph Fiennes never fails to amaze. As a director he does a terrific job in capturing the conventions of the time and helping us understand not only their story, but that of his wife, Catherine (Joanna Scanlan), as well.  For all his brilliance as an artiste, Dickens was not the best husband, to put it mildly, and Fiennes doesn’t shy away from presenting that side of Dickens in the film and the impact those actions had on the people around him. But it is in his acting…in his portrayal of Dickens that he really shines. Fiennes is fantastic at showing the “joie de vie” that many of us didn’t know Dickens possessed. He was no tortured soul. Fiennes beautifully illustrates how much he loved his work and how much he enjoyed most of his celebrity.

“The Invisible Woman” is a quiet, but an engaging film, with a real story to tell and terrific acting to tell it.

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: Long Walk for Winnie, Too—Movie

January 23, 2014

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” while engrossing and well-acted, still leaves you wanting more. For all its length, you never get a full sense of what made Nelson Mandela the man he became.Mandela

Directed by Justin Chadwick, with screenplay by William Nicholson based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” covers quite a lot of territory, beginning in 1942 Johannesburg. We meet Mandela (Idris Elba) in his early days as a self-confident, charismatic lawyer. Rather than joining a movement, he seems to feel more at home defending the rights of the individual, one case at a time. He’s a bit of a smooth-talker and definitely a ladies’ man.  During this portion of his life, he marries Evelyn (Terry Pheto), who would become the first of his three wives. With ever frequent get-togethers with members of the African National Congress (ANC), he becomes more politicized. Repeated trips away from home take a toll on his marriage, which eventually dissolves. He meets and marries Winnie Madikizela (Naomie Harris), who appears to be more his intellectual equal and is as politically minded as he is. As the South African apartheid policy becomes increasingly severe and harsh…in Mandela’s words, “makes war on its own people,” Mandela becomes more outspoken and participates in less peaceful activities. In 1961 he is arrested and jailed and ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment. After much behind the scenes negotiations during the latter portion of his imprisonment, he is finally released in 1990. He is ultimately  elected president of South Africa in 1994. While Mandela is in prison, Winnie Mandela is arrested in 1969, spending eighteen months in solitary confinement at Pretoria Central Prison. That time in prison, plus the burden of taking care of the family while Nelson is imprisoned, militarizes Winnie. When Nelson is released from prison, the two no longer agree politically and separate.

As Mandela, Idris Elba’s performance goes a long way in showing us the charm and later the political savvy of the man as well as his seemingly forgiving nature. What’s missing from his performance is not his fault; what’s in the script is largely superficial and doesn’t go beneath the surface to give us an understanding of his thinking. Maybe that’s not possible, but it makes the film feel as if it’s missing something.

Naomie Harris’ Winnie is a force of nature. Her portrayal of the cruelty she received in prison is gut-wrenching.  When she screams “Where are my children?” it’s horrific and is eerily reminiscent of the separation of mother and child in an early scene of “12 Years a Slave.” Winnie is more outspoken than Nelson when they are together and her life in prison only serves to harden her.

One can appreciate that after the first few years, it is difficult to show prison life and keep the viewer interested. Unless something new happens,  prison time becomes fairly routine. So it is easy to understand (and possibly empathize with) the sarcasm and possible disgust newer, younger inmates have for Mandela and his other ANC-related prisoners as we watch them tend to the prison gardens, especially when juxtaposed against the degradations and beatings that Winnie is enduring.

“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” does an outstanding job in illustrating the cruelties and indignities associated with apartheid. Although hard to watch, those scenes are some of the film’s best. It also presents a well-rounded picture of Mandela…warts and all…not the saintly portrayal one might expect. But the scenes regarding Winnie, during and after her imprisonment, are the most compelling. I admit, I knew little about Nelson Mandela other than what I’ve gleaned from news reports in recent years, so certainly this film was informative in providing more information. But I knew nothing about Winnie. Following the film, she was the one about whom I wanted to learn a good deal more. When we care more about Winnie than we do Nelson, that is a problem. In that regard, “Mandela: Long Road to Freedom” loses focus and is not the great movie it could be. That film is yet to come.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4


August: Osage County: Too Hot for Comfort—Movie

January 19, 2014

Is it possible for a movie to fail when it is based on a Pulitzer-Prize winning play and features terrific performances from an all-star cast? The answer is “yes” as “August: Osage County” sadly demonstrates.

Based on Tracy Letts’ award-winning play, with screenplay by Letts and direction by John Wells, “August: Osage County” is about the Weston family who have gathered in Oklahoma following the disappearance and subsequent death of Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard), the family patriarch. To say the Weston family is dysfunctional is an understatement. From the movie’s opening scenes, we know this is a given. To cope with this dysfunction, each family member…either by birth or marriage…has developed a sharp, dark and biting way of communicating with one another. If you can’t meet that tone head-on, you either keep what you’re feeling inside, like middle daughter, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), who has stayed in Oklahoma to look after her parents, until she can no longer control her seething rage at the slights and jabs taken over the years. Or, you leave the home as soon as you can, like oldest daughter, Barbara (Julia Roberts), and youngest daughter, Karen (Juliette Lewis), only to discover, in Barbara’s case, that she is in danger of turning into a miniature version of  her mother, Violet (Meryl Streep).August Osage County1

Also entering the reunion fray is Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae Aiken (Margo Martindale), and Mattie Fae’s husband, Charlie (Chris Cooper), and their son, Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch). You can tell that Charlie loves his wife and that he’s learned to deal with her sharp tongue by either ignoring her or occasionally snapping right back. And Little Charles? Let’s just say there’s more to him than meets the eye. Barbara comes to the family gathering with her estranged husband, Bill (Ewan McGregor) and surly teenage daughter, Jean (Abigail Breslin). It’s hard not to imagine Jean turning into a carbon copy of her mother unless something shakes Barbara out of her bitterness.  Two newcomers to the reunion are Karen’s fiancé, Steve (Dermot Mulroney), and Johnna (Misty Upham), the Native American Beverly hired right before his disappearance to serve as a live-in caregiver  and cook.

Although “August: Osage County” is female-driven, director Wells and writer Letts don’t let the male co-stars roll over and play dead. Each actor has his moment in the sun and each makes the most of the time he has on screen. Especially good are Cumberbatch and Cooper. Cumberbatch has some wonderful scenes with Martindale, Cooper and Nicholson…most especially Nicholson. Of all the characters, his is the most fragile and Cumberbatch heartbreakingly conveys that fragility. Cooper has some great scenes with Martindale and Streep, which let us in on how he’s managed to survive in this family.

But ultimately this play is about the women and their relationships with one another. Meryl Streep’s Violet is at the top of the heap…she is really the one who made the women the way they are. There are some women who shouldn’t have children and Violet is one of them. Suffering from mouth cancer, she now has an excuse for some of her pill-taking. Cancer aside, the truth is, she’s been addicted to pills for most of her life with devastating  consequences. But although Violet’s life may be difficult, it’s impossible to empathize with her because the more we learn about her, the more we dislike her. She doesn’t appear to possess a single redeeming quality. Streep seems to be at a loss at how to play Violet. Her portrayal feels very over the top. I rarely think about how someone else would play a part that Meryl Streep has undertaken, but I found myself wondering about Bette Davis and what she might have done with such a role.

Julia Roberts, however, is terrific. Her Barbara is the best piece of work she’s done in a long time. She more than holds her own with Streep, and when she’s on the screen, she owns it. Roberts is very convincing as the older sister. Although her character is terribly flawed, Barbara seems to be the glue holding the family together over the course of their days together in Oklahoma. Julianne Nicholson’s Ivy is less showy, but is critical to the family underpinnings. As the movie progresses, she starts to come into her own and Nicholson is perfect in illustrating that growth.

Abigail Breslin is becoming a terrific actress. Her work with Roberts and McGregor is very good and she makes you care about the future of her character. Margo Martindale is one of those actresses who never seems to get it wrong, and her Mattie Fae is no exception. Her character can be unbelievably cruel; however, Martindale is great at making us understand what lies beneath the cruelty. Juliette Lewis’ Karen has less screen time, but Lewis gives an outstanding turn as someone desperate for love, no matter how despicable the source of that love may be.

So given all this wonderful acting, what makes “August: Osage County” not the success one would expect? The fact that it’s two hours of mostly unrelenting, in-your-face unpleasantness doesn’t help its cause. What works on stage, when the audience is at a distance, doesn’t necessarily work on-screen, where there’s no break from the screaming and shouting diatribes. The movie becomes difficult to sit through; not because of the subject matter, but in how the subject matter is presented.

“August: Osage County” is at its best in those rare instances of quiet conversation. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough quiet.

2 nuggets out of 4

Lone Survivor: Puts the Focus Where it Belongs—Movie

January 18, 2014

Sometimes you have to put aside your political views, whatever they might be, and just appreciate a good story, well-told. Such is the case with “Lone Survivor.” Written and directed by Peter Berg, “Lone Survivor” is based on the non-fiction book by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. It is Luttrell’s account of the June 2005 United States Navy SEALs mission in Afghanistan, Operation Red Wings—to capture or kill al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shah—which, as the title suggests, has a horrific outcome.

Lone Survivor1Berg does an excellent job in showing us what life is like on camp (and this film possibly wins the prize for the most facial hair on a cast), which leads to an interesting look into the psyche of the male soldier. Somehow he manages to capture the feeling of brotherhood throughout the film. We get an insider’s view of what the men think and do during the course of a day to escape monotony and boredom. These glimpses are some of the film’s best small pleasures and are wonderfully executed. The quietness of the camp comes into stark contrast with the action scenes as Luttrell and his comrades set out on their reconnaissance mission.

The advent of the grisly, in your face film-making of “Saving Private Ryan” brought a more realistic portrayal of what fighting is all about. Berg spares us few details regarding warfare. Although the combat scenes run for a long time, they are extremely well done and feel quite genuine. “Lone Survivor” also illustrates that war is not always black and white. The film shows some very real moral dilemmas  the men face and how little time they have to consider the outcome of their decisions when under the gun…literally.

“Lone Survivor” is truly an ensemble piece. Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell, Taylor Kitsch as Michael Murphy, Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz and Ben Foster as Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson form the group initially under fire. They convincingly portray what it’s like to be on the front lines and are especially great at once again demonstrating the concern and love they have for one another. In addition, Eric Bana as Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen and Alexander Ludwig as the rookie, Shane Patton, turn in excellent performances.

The film’s one false note is the music. It’s completely overdone and overwrought. The acting and what we’re seeing on the screen is compelling enough without the score telegraphing to the audience what it should be feeling.

Once you exit the theatre, it’s hard not to think about what you’ve seen. To Peter Berg’s credit, “Lone Survivor” presents more than just battle scenes and blood and guts. He puts the real men front and center and in so doing gives the audience the biggest favor…getting to know the men as human beings.

3 1/2 nuggets out of 4

American Hustle: Happy to be Played—Movie

January 3, 2014

American Hustle” is a three-ring circus of a movie with juggling extraordinaire by the ultimate ringmaster, David O. Russell, the film’s director. Somehow he makes it all work. Written by Russell and Eric Singer, “American Hustle” is loosely based on the Abscam FBI sting of the late 1970s. The film localizes the story and takes us behind the scenes for the New Jersey aspect of the operation.American Hustle

Christian Bale is Irving Rosenfeld, who owns a legitimate dry cleaning firm, but runs financial scams on the side. He meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a Long Island pool party and the two connect over a shared love for Duke Ellington. Although Irving is married, the two become a romantic couple. She joins forces with Irving in his illegal activity and all goes well until they scam the wrong person, undercover FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). He’s looking to make it big in the Bureau and in exchange for no prosecution, Irving and Sydney agree to help him with his plan to bring down Camden Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) as well as other politicians.

Actors seem to do their best work in David O. Russell’s films and “American Hustle” is no exception. Christian Bale, with a paunch and comb-over to match Donald Trump in its elaborate badness is terrific. He’s done some amazing work over the past few years—each role completely different from the next—and in “American Hustle” he shines. There’s not a false note in his performance…Bronx accent and all. Amy Adams gives a wonderful portrayal as Irving’s soul mate and partner in crime. Sexpot is not the word with which one would normally associate her, but when she gets the chance to turn on the glam and sex appeal—yowza! She is utterly believable as a classy English criminal or sexy girlfriend to both of the two male leads. And when she needs to be tough as nails, Adams delivers. Bradley Cooper’s Richie is very good—perm’d hair and all—as the conniving agent on the rise…he hopes. Cooper seems to have more complicated, quick dialogue than anyone else and is terrific with it all. He does a great job in the comedic scenes with Patsy Meck who plays his mother. His Bureau work is also very good, especially in the scenes with Louis C.K. (who is also wonderful) as his boss, Stoddard Thorsen. Jeremy Renner is fine as the targeted mayor who wants to revitalize Atlantic City and is very convincing in his sense of betrayal.  Finally, there is Jennifer Lawrence as Irving’s wife, Rosalyn. To say she is fabulous is an understatement. Lawrence may be her generation’s most versatile actress. She can play a broad range of ages and her commitment to each part makes us believe her in whatever she does. In “American Hustle” she makes spectacular entrances in a variety of scenes—talk about opening doors—and certainly house-cleaning will never be the same. As a couple, she and Christian Bale perfectly illustrate the concept “can’t live with him/her, can’t live without him/her.

“American Hustle” has a few surprising cameos, but they are more than stunt casting. They actually work. There is a very large supporting cast and they all add immensely to the film.

The late 70s and early 80s produced some of the most hideous fashion and hair-do’s in our nation’s history and “American Hustle” captures them all to perfection. Even the electric rollers that Amy Adams wears are spot on.

This is a complicated movie, but Russell does a fantastic job in guiding the ship. The mark of a good film is when you want to learn more about the topic. It’s not often that a historical film piques your curiosity for more while being plain fun on every level. “American Hustle” is such a film.

4 nuggets out of 4

The Wolf of Wall Street: This Wolf Really Roars—Movie

January 2, 2014

Holy cow, Leonardo DiCaprio…what an absolutely amazing, amazing performance! Director Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio take movie-goers on a wild and thoroughly entertaining ride through all three hours that is “The Wolf of Wall Street.”Wolf of Wall Street

Based on Jordan Belfort’s autobiography, The Wolf of Wall Street, with screenplay by Terence Winter, the film is the story of penny stockbroker Belfort’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) staggering rise to the top and his less than staggering fall, by a normal person’s standard, that is. The real Belfort has been quoted saying his “role models were Michael Douglas’ character, Gordon Gekko, in the movie ‘Wall Street’ and Richard Gere from ‘Pretty Woman’.” Judging from this film his “sleazebagness” has far surpassed them…in fact, his role models are mere pikers when compared to him. While under no circumstance is Belfort any kind of hero, far from it, his story is definitely a compelling one, and in the extremely capable hands of Scorsese and DiCaprio, more than merits your time.

The film begins with a wild office party at Belfort’s firm, Stratton Oakmont, where little people are being launched into the air as human cannonballs. We then go back in time to 1987 and Belfort’s first day of work at a Wall Street firm. He arrives to his job in normal fashion—by city bus—and given a goodbye kiss for luck by his wife, Theresa (Cristin Milioti). This may be the last normal scene in the entire movie and perhaps the last normal period in Belfort’s life. He’s taken out for one of the strangest lunches imaginable by his boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), during which Hanna reveals his philosophy for success—prostitutes and drugs—and encourages Belfort to follow his lead. Belfort’s reaction to all of this is fun to watch…he’s so naïve in the beginning.  Belfort passes the Series 7 Exam and earns his broker’s license, but when the firm dissolves following Black Monday, he’s out of a job. He starts over again as a salesman, dealing in penny stocks for a company located in a Long Island strip mall. Belfort is a born salesman and starts making money…a lot of it. During this time he meets Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), who joins up with Belfort, soaking in all of Belfort’s sales’ knowledge. Together the two of them make a ton of money, enough to enable them open their own firm, Stratton Oakmont. And that’s when the fun begins in earnest. Stratton Oakmont makes money hand over fist, bilking hundreds of people as a matter of course. There are women, drugs—cocaine and Quaaludes—hookers and mistresses along the way. Eventually Belfort acquires a new wife—in with the blonde, Naomi (Margot Robbie), and out with the brunette, Theresa. But not everything is coming up roses…the SEC and the FBI start investigations—and before you know it, Belfort is looking for places to hide money. Enter hilarious trips to England and Switzerland…a wild boat ride and one of the funniest physical comedy scenes by a world-class actor in years. To go into more detail would truly ruin the fun of the movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio is in every second of this 3-hour film and he just astounds. Watching him portray the innocent financial newbie in the film’s beginning, growing into the womanizing, drug-taking man he later becomes, is one of the movie’s real delights. His character is certainly over the top, but DiCaprio is pitch-perfect. His enthusiasm literally jumps off the screen and his spirited call-to-action to his employees is no less inspiring than Shakespeare’s Henry V “Saint Crispin’s Day speech to rally the troops. He is so believable that I was ready to pick up the phone and start dialing. And his physical work is just as impressive as his acting. It’s an utterly fantastic performance.

Matthew McConaughey is only on-screen for 15 minutes—max. But you can’t take your eyes off him for that entire time. It’s the most shockingly great piece of work…one you will long remember. Jonah Hill, wearing a terrible set of false teeth is outstanding as the slimy Donnie. He’s great at making you feel dirty just watching him, and his physical work is terrific, too. Rob Reiner, as Belfort’s accountant father handling the firm’s books, is fabulous. He has one quiet scene with DiCaprio—just a father/son talk that feels very genuine in one of the film’s few from the heart moments. But in other scenes it’s as if he has been reborn as Archie Bunker. Reiner hasn’t done much acting in recent years, devoting his time to directing and producing. This is a more than wonderful welcome return to the screen. Jean Dujardin gives a fun performance as Belfort’s Swiss connection as does Joanna Lumley as his English contact. Finally, Jon Favreau as the SEC attorney and Kyle Chandler, in yet another turn as a government employee, this time with the FBI, are excellent in their small, but important scenes.

Martin Scorsese is 71, but he certainly isn’t lacking in energy. “Wolf of Wall Street” had to be a complicated shoot, but it doesn’t feel like it. From crashing helicopter to rockingly hazardous boat ride to some of the best performances given by a variety of actors, Scorsese delivers seamlessly on every level.

Are Scorsese and DiCaprio endorsing Belfort or his life-style? Emphatically no. But they do give a mind-blowing look into how he lived and how he got there. It’s a long journey, but it so worth the trip.

For more information about Jordan Belfort, there are three very good articles:

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

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