Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

Director:  Martin Scorsese
Producers: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
Writer: Terence Winter
Based on The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Rating: 18

Greed and lust. There’s the plot in two words. Want some more words? Lies, drugs, sex, swearing, and of course, money. This is the terrifyingly true story of the rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, a man in the late 80’s went from conning the working-class to opening Stratton Oakmont, where his illegal dealings went mass market. Belfort is a hedonist; snorting coke, popping Qualuudes, and sleeping his way through New York. But his biggest addiction lies at the heart of the film: money.

The Wolf of Wall Street is mesmerising and unyielding. You are sucked into an incomprehensible world, where there’s a hooker every day and throwing dwarves is a reasonable thing to do. And that’s just in the office. It’s sleazy, it’s immoral, but you can’t tear your eyes away.

A mixture of hilarity, vulgarity, and violence; it engaged every emotion from laugh-out-loud laughter, to jaw-dropping surprise, to pure horror. At three hours long, the film was pushing it, but considering the amount of excess lavished in the film, what are minutes alongside everything else?

Credit where credit’s due (which is something the stockbrokers did not say), the film is genuinely funny. DiCaprio has once again proved himself by playing a despicable character, and his versatility is shown as he slips from smooth salesman to drugged-up crack-head. Belford is utterly unlikeable, yet completely watchable. He has no morals, no guilt, which is important because as much as we enjoy watching him, we never empathise with him.

Whilst watching, we’re all Jordan Belfort. The film is like one of his Qualuudes dropped in water, fizzing and ready to explode as we start to swig it in. It takes us on a high; we’re drawn into a dysmorphic world that is nothing is like the reality we live in, and we can’t get enough of it. But the crash is hard and painful, and only on exiting the cinema do the thoughts creep in. Why are we so obsessed with greed? Why were no victims shown? And is it okay that Belford is profiting with his new-found celebrity?

Overall: Decadent and disgraceful, no matter how much you want to, you won't be able to take your eyes of the screen.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Love or Loathe: Love Triangles

I’m currently reading Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Currently is the operative word here, I haven’t got to the end yet, so no spoilers please! For those who haven’t read the series, The Infernal Devices features the Marmite of plot devices: the love triangle. The reason I’m bringing it up is previously to reading this series I had sworn off them, however I now have some conflicted emotions.

Love triangles are a pretty old, dating back to Romeo and Juliette, but you can say that of many plot devices, so what is it particularly about love triangles which instigate such strong feelings in people? Looking at YA in particular there have been two huge successes in the past decade: Twilight and The Hunger Games. And guess what they both have in common?

Authors and publishers latched onto this common denominator, and soon they had spread. Love triangles were the hottest new thing, and soon they were going out of style. They became overdone, clich├ęd. I thought there was only so much you could do with it. Two boys like a girl, she has to choose. That was it in essence. But I was wrong. You can boil down any plot like that. Going on a quest. Falling in love. Uncovering a secret.

Like anything, a story needs to be done well. And the problem is that there are too many bad love triangles out there, diluting the amount of good. But there is hope. Now and then you get a story so good, so un-put-down-able that you shouldn’t feel ashamed to find yourself going “I quite like this”. Not that you should feel ashamed, as I have long said in my battle against intellectual snobbery. So here is what I think makes a good love triangle:

  • A strong lead – Otherwise I really won’t care. Preferably a not pathetic female who spends every single waking minute agonising over the triangle.
  • Believable choices – So many times you can predict who the character is going to choose. If that’s the case, what’s the point of having the point? I would not like to predict the end of the story in the first few chapters.
  • Likeable characters – I want to be conflicted over which person I like more. I don’t want to be disappointed by either choice. 
  • More than romance – Okay, even if it a romance book, there has to be something more to the characters or their lives than their love life. It’s far more believable.
  • Unpredictable – They have a bad rep for being formulaic, so give me something more. I want twists and turns, bad guys and good guys, and lots of feelings.
What do you guys think of love triangles? Love them? Loathe them? Do you think I missed anything out of my list? Tell me below!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Top Books of 2013

OK, yes this post is really late. 2013 was like, so last week. But better late than never, right? So in no particular order, I bring you Rachael’s top books of 2013.

Middle Grade
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne Valente
When I was a kid, one of the books I would constantly read over and over again was Alice in Wonderland, and honestly, I thought nothing could come close to the wonder I felt reading a land like that. I was wrong. TGWCFiaSoHOM, on top of being a mouthful, captures the wonder of being a child, wrapped in layers of a fantastical, detailed world with a cuckoo-crazy plot.

Wonder by RJ Palacio
For a book so slim, it’s crazy the amount of emotions I went through reading it. Auggie’s story of him coping with his disfigurement  is a sad one, yet ultimately uplifting, and laced with a slick sense of humour.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Do I really need to say anything about this book? If you haven’t read this book, go pick it up now! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will still resonate with you a year after you read it.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I’ve never thought of myself as a romance fan, so it just shows how much I loved Eleanor and Park. The characters were so alive, and their story real and painful, that I couldn’t help but falling in love with this book.

15745753The Fault in Our Stars

A Song of Fire and Ice by George RR Martin
Okay, technically this isn’t a book, but a series. Even if you haven’t seen the TV show, this book is worth a read. With a plot that teeters the line of a war drama and a soap opera, set in one of the most detailed lands I’ve ever read, these books keep you sucked in through their lengthy volumes.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I always bang on about how much I hate predictability in books, and Gone Girl is anything but. The twists and turns in the insane story about Nick and his missing wife, not to mention the crazy, and yet terrifyingly believable, characters kept me turning the pages.

Agree? Disagree? Have links to your own top books? Tell me down below!