Tag Archives: Jonah Hill

War Dogs

war dogsNote: This is the first part of a review double-header!  Jesse sent two recommendations in a single shot so I’m reviewing them at the same time.  Click here for the other review.

What Jesse said:

Two movies for you to watch: War Dogs, and Manchester by the Sea. Very different but excellent flicks. War Dogs is so absurd it will make you laugh and then wonder if the grownups really are in charge… also, it was funny ’cause it’s true (based on a real case). Manchester by the Sea was a pretty intense slow burn. Casey Affleck plays the main character. Watch out for the BAHS-ton accents. Family drama.

Mike’s verdict:

When does telling the truth ever help anyone?

This is not my kind of movie and I knew it right from the beginning. A ‘true story’ about arms dealers, Afghanistan, and the US government – it’s going to be fairly predictable and I have no doubt about Jesse’s ‘absurd’ label.  Indeed, guns, drugs, war, and banking movies are always the same kind of absurd: someone essentially good makes a series of obviously terrible decisions for the good of family or to get a friend out of a jam, or to just be comfortable for once in their life.  This movie fits the pattern perfectly and it means that there are no surprises as the plot develops.

Granted, that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining.  The kid from all the Shailene Woodley movies is okay as the naive ‘good guy’ just trying to get ahead. But I initially had trouble accepting him in the role because the life he starts with doesn’t seem that bad.  Jonah Hill is definitely effective as the unsavory partner. He seemed very similar to the character he played in The Wolf of Wall Street, but without the excess.  I can’t say that I liked either character very much; certainly not enough to be on their side.  I knew things would go poorly for them and I didn’t care.

On the other hand, Bradley Cooper‘s role is intriguing.  It’s a fairly small role in terms of screen-time, but he manages to steal the show.  I’d like to see a prequel about him that sets up the Albanian connection and perhaps presents a clearer justification for his involvement in the subsequent scheme.

In most other ways, this movie was entertaining enough to continue watching, but not so interesting that I would be upset if I was interrupted mid-viewing and had to stop watching.  This last thought explains how it is that I managed to watch three quarters of the film before it finally dawned on me that I had actually already watched it once before.  It must have been on the second or third leg of a really long flight because I obviously slept through most of it the first time.

In any case, I did not fall asleep during the second viewing and I was reasonable entertained all the way through.  I even enjoyed the sparse but well chosen music.  There’s always a danger with this type of movie to use overly aggressive music to reinforce themes, but that wasn’t the case here.

Overall,  War Dogs isn’t a great movie, but it isn’t a bad one either.  I was entertained and I think that’s all I would ask of it.



The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street-coverWhat Jesse said:

Watch The Wolf of Wall Street. Martin Scorsese proves that he’s still interested in making real movies – Hugo was just an accident.  Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic, and you get to see a whole new side to Jonah Hill. It’s really long though.

Mike’s verdict:

The Wolf of Wall Street has everything that I look for in a movie; the story, the script, the acting are great. All the pieces really are there and I agree with everything Jesse said. It kind of reminded me of Blow – but with stock brokers instead of drug dealers.

DiCaprio portrays an intensity that most people don’t even have in real life, let alone when acting as someone else. (Does DiCaprio remind anyone else of a young Jack Nicholson?) And it’s nice to see Hill can be something other than his own goofy self for once. He should do more serious films.

Unfortunately, despite all that this movie just doesn’t click for me. For one thing, it’s exhausting. It may not be that uncommon but 3 hours is definitely long for a movie with this level of intensity; especially since a lot of the length comes from scenes that seem to languish. I don’t feel that Scorsese has a good sense of when to end a scene – he frequently plays everything out on-screen rather than let the audience use its imagination. Usually, he pushes the boundary ‘just enough’ without really stepping over it, but in this case I had that ‘ok, I get it, let’s move on now’ feeling more than once. And by the mid-point I’d actually forgotten about Matthew McConaughey‘s character entirely because there was so much else going on.

A few scenes actually felt like they were stretched out on purpose just to make the audience uncomfortable. And one scene in particular was so over the top that if it was in a Will Ferrell movie most people would laugh at it. Since in this case it’s intended to be serious it’s a little hard to watch. And it doesn’t help that there isn’t a single redeeming character to identify with.

This movie is clearly about ambition and excess – but I think it falls victim to the dangers that it intends to warn of. It could use one more good edit to tighten everything up. Of course, I’m sure that when the Blu-ray comes out there will be an option for a 4 hour Director’s Cut instead of the abridged version that I’d rather see.

Over all, I’m still willing to give The Wolf of Wall Street 7.5/10 because it really is very well acted, and the story is interesting. But I’m in no hurry to watch it again.