Posts Tagged ‘Jonah Hill’

2016 Berlin Film Festival

2016 Berlin International

Film Festival Winners

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The 66th annual Berlin International Film Festival was held from 11th to the 21st February, 2016

The Berlin International Film Festival known as the Berlinale takes places annually in February and is regarded as one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.

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Opening Night Film: Hail, Caesar! directed by Joel and Ethan Coen starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand and Channing Tatum

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Golden Bear for Best Film:  Fire at Sea  by Gianfranco Rosi

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Silver Bear for Best Director:  Mia Hansen-Løve for Things to Come

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Silver Bear for Best Actor:  Majd Mastoura for Hedi

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Silver Bear for Best Actress:  Trine Dyrholm for The Commune

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Silver Bear for Best Script: Tomasz Wasilewski for United States of Love

Bullets and Bravado

War Dogs

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Director: Todd Phillips

Cast: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Pollak, Julian Sergi, Ana de Armas, Shaun Taub, Mehdi Merali, Wallace Langham

The Hangover director Todd Phillips tries to emulate Scorsese or de Palma in his latest film War Dogs about two twenty something misfits David Packouz and Ephraim Diveroli played by Miles Teller and Jonah Hill respectively, who inadvertently become arms dealers for the US. Government in the twilight of the Bush administration’s War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007.

Unlike Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street or even Brian de Palma’s Scarface, War Dogs does not pack the same visceral shock value. Punctuated by a set of script markers, War Dogs plunders along with a terrible script and a director who clearly should have stuck to comedy.

As an audience member watching Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in this film, one can be forgiven for feeling slightly embarrassed for them. Both actors have produced better work especially Jonah Hill in Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street, while Teller was suitably terrified opposite the superb J.K. Simmons in Damien Chazelle’s Oscar winner Whiplash.

The problem with War Dogs, as the action moves from Miami Beach to Amman to Tirana to Las Vegas and back again, is that the film starts off with so much promise, but then fails to deliver. Unlike the marginally better Andrew Niccol’s film Lord of War, War Dogs does not give up its moral compass or ask the audience to judge but merely shows two ambitious young men desperate to earn a fast million in America’s war-mongering capitalist economy prior to the financial crisis hitting in late 2008.

What War Dogs does provide is a theory that war is never about the human conflict but more about the financial business of providing weapons for soldiers fighting in foreign lands. War is a big business, less so in recent years as it has given way to sinister urban terrorism.

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Packouz and Diveroli appear naïve about the ethical implications of the illegal arms business especially when their dangerous dealings get increasingly complicated as they try to supply the US government with Albanian bullets which are actually Chinese through a shady arms dealer Henry Girard played against type by a barely recognizable Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper, Joy, The Hangover). War Dogs also features Cuban actress Ana de Armas as Packouz’s girlfriend Iz.

Despite Jonah Hill emulating his character in The Wolf of Wall Street, his version of Ephraim Diveroli comes off as a fast talking foul-mouthed con-man with a penchant for screwing his partner and having absolutely no moral fibre.

With bullets and bravado, War Dogs fails to deliver, leaving these talented actors floundering with a bad script and a morally skewed film which could have been so much better, not to mention insightful.

Scorsese’s Satyricon

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The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Shea Wingham

The much anticipated explosive new film about Wall Street Stock broker Jordan Belfort by acclaimed director Martin Scorsese is an orgy of drugs, hedonism and consumerism held tightly together by one of the best on screen performances that Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby) has ever given. The Wolf of Wall Street can best be described as Oliver Stone’s Wall Street highballing on crack and speed with large amounts of sex, swearing and swindling thrown in.

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The three hour film about the rise and fall of one of Wall Street’s most notoriously decadent stockbrokers is fascinating, bizarre, crude and highly entertaining. The Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese’s sleazy and salacious Satyricon, a drug fuelled  hedonistic journey into the heart of America’s consumerism, while ripping to shreds its number one bastion Rampant Capitalism. For according to Belfort there is no nobility in poverty.

Audiences meet Belfort when he is a young would be stockbroker as he arrives off the bus on Wall Street soon to be taken in by the foul-mouthed cocaine sniffing chest thumping mentor Mark Hanna an expertly played cameo by Matthew McConnaughey.

Belfort after the Stock Exchange crash of 1989, goes into penny shares in a two bit stock brokerage in Long Island, where he revolutionizes the bunch of weirdo pot selling brokers into a serious blue chip Wall Street company rebranding it as Stratton Oakmont. Soon Belfort motivates his entire team to sell penny shares (those companies that cannot afford to be listed on NASDAQ) to the very rich, and after much cavorting and convincing, earns huge amounts of cash where the brokerage becomes a literal madhouse of drugs, greed and absolute debauchery.

With the help of his wing man Donny, a brilliant performance by Jonah Hill of Moneyball fame, Belfort catapults Stratton Oakmont into a serious stock brokerage to rival Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and the late Lehman Brothers in New York whilst at the same time committing serious securities fraud with imaginary IPO’s.

At the heart of The Wolf of Wall Street is a story about corruption, unrelenting drug addiction, rampant sex and partying, a frenetically paced tour de force of the arc of an absolute sinner energetically played by DiCaprio who is in virtually every scene of the film. Memorable scenes include his blond wife Naomi (a wonderful turn by newcomer Margot Robbie of the TV series Pan Am) walking in on a gay orgy in their plush Manhattan apartment, a bizarre incident with Belfort driving his white Ferrari from the Country Club while literally dazed on sleeping pills, a luxury yacht riding massive Mediterranean waves en route to Monaco, a sex-crazed air hostess humping trip in first class to Switzerland and that’s just to name some of the few crazy episodes in The Wolf of Wall Street. Scorsese’s film is a sublime Satyricon meshing elements of Casino, Shutter Island and The Departed proving that he is a consummate director and cinematic visionary.

Belfort’s eventual downfall comes at the hand of  conservative securities agent Patrick Denham played by Kyle Chandler (Super 8) but not before he has moved large parts of his vast fortune off shore to a Swiss Bank account with the help of a slimy banker Saurel seductively played by Jean Dujardin of The Artist and Naomi’s British aunt Emma played by Ab Fab star Joanna Lumley who utters the immortal line “I have lived through the Sixties”.

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Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is frenetic, shocking and superbly acted by DiCaprio along with an incisive script by Terence Winter, a tour-de-force of a film, a reason to love the art of cinema. A highly recommended montage on the destructive nature of greed and addiction, The Wolf is not for sensitive viewers, but packs a powerful punch held together by an Oscar worthy performance by DiCaprio whose rousing motivational trading floor speeches are the stuff of cinematic legends. After all if you can sell a pen, then you are a salesman…

Slave to the Rhythm

Django Unchained

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Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Don Johnson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Kerry Washington, Robert Carradine, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, James Russo

Django Unchained can be compared to a three act Southern Opera and whilst Tarantino’s distinctive style comes through, his real intention is to invert the Cowboy myth so associated with the American Wild West, channeling spaghetti Western Sergio Leone films and tackling a very prickly subject of slavery prior to the American Civil War without much sensitivity.

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Django Unchained, loosely based on the 1966 Sergio Corbucci Western Django, starts off in Texas in 1858, two years before the outbreak of the American Civil War and features the eloquent and unorthodox Dr King Schultz played with superb panache by Christoph Waltz, who won a Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for 2009’s Inglourious Basterds who frees Django from a chain gang as he needs him to identify three brothers which have a mortal bounty on their heads. Jamie Foxx (Collateral, Ray) is wonderfully cast as Django and throughout the two and a half hour film really displays his range as an actor complimenting the always competent Waltz as the German speaking bounty hunter.

Together Schultz and Django go in search of Django’s entrapped and estranged wife, oddly named Broomhilda, as she was bought as a slave by German immigrants. Broomhilda is now the possession of sadistic cotton plantation owner Calvin Candie, played with flourish by Leonardo di Caprio whose Mississippi plantation aptly named Candieland provides the final act in an utterly bizarre and bloody showdown between Django, Schultz and Candie.

For sheer originality, Tarantino’s films are always enjoyable and never dull, but like Inglourious Basterds and his most famous film Pulp Fiction, along with profanity there is a serious dose of vicious bloodshed. Django Unchained lacks some of the brilliance of the first two films, but the startling sound effects, outlandish scenes and revisionist plot is enough to make Django Unchained Oscar worthy especially the two central performances by Waltz and Foxx. Two criticisms’ of the film is the overuse of racist profanity which the plot revolves around especially being set in the Slave trade of the Deep South and also the film’s considerable length.

Django Unchained has some startling scenes but one got the sense that because of Tarantino’s previous successes, Harvey Weinstein has given Tarantino free reign. Free reign on the subject of the America’s Deep South from Texas to Mississippi and their sanctioning of slavery as a form of economically binding both master and slaves into a hideous socio-geograhic relationship of brutal proportions demonstrated in the cotton and tobacco plantations below the Mason-Dixon line.

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Django Unchained has a fantastic musical score and soundtrack along with brilliant sound effects and sound editing especially noticeable in the showdown at Candieland. Tarantino’s old favourite Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) is wonderfully cast as Calvin Candie’s butler Stephen and look out for Don Johnson as Big Daddy and of course the versatile Kerry Washington (The Last King of Scotland) who undergoes all sorts of torture as enslaved Broomhilda, Django’s estranged wife. Watch out for a brief appearance by Jonah Hill (Moneyball) as part of inadequate group of Ku Klux Klan members.

Warning this film is not for sensitive viewers and Django Unchained could be Tarantino’s most controversial film to date especially as he recasts the mythical American cowboy as a sharp shooting freed slave from Texas. Yet Quentin Tarantino won the 2013 Golden Globe  and BAFTA Awards for Best Original Screenplay for Django Unchained so his talent is definitely acknowledged in both America and Britain.

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