On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 25, 2014

Just because a film depicts the excess of its main character doesn't necessarily mean the film itself falls under those qualities, right? Sure, many movies make it easy to relate much of a films overall tone and attributes in a way where one can speak unanimously about the main character and the film itself, but the big question with Martin Scorsese's latest, The Wolf of Wall Street, is does he allow his film to fall into the trappings of the same temptations and indulgences his protagonist does? For the most part I would say the answer is a solid no. There is no way to look at the film and really get the sense that what the director and his now five time collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio are doing here is glorifying a man who doesn't deserve to ever have his name spoken in good regard again, not to mention in such a high profile film that numerous people will see and wonder how we'd even allow a dirtbag like this to seep into our competent consciousness. The reason why we don't mind watching this despite the unjust attention it will draw to the main character, why we find the tragic tale of someone like Jordan Belfort so intriguing is because he seemingly had everything anybody could want in order to experience a satisfying existence on this earth, but couldn't step back and appreciate how far he'd come, no, he always kept his eye on the future and how far he still felt he had to go. The Wolf of Wall Street can be an excessive film, it had a strong stopping point just after the two hour mark that would have made for a more than satisfying experience and would have allowed it the convenience of wrapping up the story with a few cue cards, but instead it continues on for almost another full hour hitting the narrative beats we've already seen before again only to result in conclusions we could have called the first time we got a real taste of just how far Belfort's greed, drug use and consistently unsatisfied carnal desires really went. Yet, at the same time it is very aware of itself and the point it intends to make. Full review here. B+

To evaluate a film like Delivery Man it seems one must be in tune with the career trajectory of Vince Vaughn and much like Matthew McConaughey it seems the guy has fallen into the trap of knowing what his speciality is and sticking to that comfort zone for the reason that it has worked in the past, why wouldn't it continue? Of course, if you've been paying attention to the projects McConaughey has been choosing as of late it is clear he has made some kind of decision to not only play characters who aren't the most charming or admirable guy on screen, but instead he can sometimes be the most downright despicable. Vaughn is in a slump, that is clear, but the problem is that he has been and that Delivery Man is the kind of film he thought might begin to turn that around. Both actors burst onto the scene in hip, independent comedies that would help them get into more mainstream projects, each of which chose more serious material and supporting roles in major blockbusters while attempting to reach that one project that would seemingly put them in the place they were destined to be. They were on a similar trajectory in any sense of the word as McConaughey finally found leading man success in 2001 and Vaughn was front and center in the now classic Old School in 2003. They were able to ride those waves of stability for the better part of the first decade of the new millenium until the well began to run dry. No one expected much from McConaughey after 2009's Ghosts of Girlfriends Past seemed to be the nail in the rom-com coffin, but a mere two years later he began to re-build. The problem with Vaughn is that he's had a number of nails, but somehow he manages to keep finding open space. In any case, not since the fast-talking funnyman decided to do a pair of Christmas movies has he been able to re-claim the kind of comic credibility he had in his Dodgeball//Wedding Crasher prime. With Delivery Man he seems to at least be accepting this truth and trying to find new ground to cover while still incorporating what he is best known for. While he succeeds in proving he has the chops and charm to pull this kind of dramedy off, the film itself feels so middle of the road and inconsequential it is hard to take it as any kind of statement. Full review here. C

I am always hesitant to approach foreign films on the idea of not being aware of the culture in which they take place and therefor being unable to relate to the situations these films might present. I have always felt this way yet always known the only way to combat such tendencies is to better acquaint myself with more foreign films. I try to do so from time to time and when I heard Asghar Farhadi's much acclaimed follow-up to 2011's A Separation would finally be making it to my neck of the woods I was more than anxious to see what the director had crafted this time around. I remember being in awe of how well Farhadi's previous film was able to so easily capture and wrap me up in the simple issues of the family dynamic that was taking place in front of us and that the smallest of details, of changes in routine would be the event that spurned the main conflict the film was dissecting. It was such a simplistic, yet completely intriguing set-up that I wondered why films and namely those from my own country did not use this technique more often. Something such as The Past is an easy film to look at and see its obvious virtues, but these are only obvious because Farhadi has no doubt worked extremely hard to capture the naturalistic tone and conversation between these characters that allow it to feel effortless, as if we were simply observing the actions of these real human beings rather than the fact they were conjured up and plotted out by a singular source. When taking the film on from this perspective it is even easier to see the level of craft and skill involved in what the final version of this film presents and how well the characters have been realized because, as it is staged, we peel back the layers of who these average-seeming individuals are and the baggage they carry with them. It is truly a testament to the idea that each of us carry our own, interesting stories and that we all have something to tell though wouldn't want to necessarily share. The characters of The Past are that of people we could live next door to (despite the fact this takes place in France with influences from Iran) and their issues are those common enough to buy into the drama while complicated enough one wouldn't wish them on another. Through this power of simplistic, relatable narrative Farhadi has mastered the character drama. Full review here. A-

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