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The Wolf of Wall Street: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) movie poster The Wolf of Wall Street

Theatrical Release: December 25, 2013 / Running Time: 180 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Martin Scorsese / Writers: Terence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Jordan Belfort), Jonah Hill (Donnie Azoff), Margot Robbie (Naomi), Matthew McConaughey (Mark Hanna), Kyle Chandler (Agent Patrick Denham), Rob Reiner ("Mad" Max Belfort), Jon Bernthal (Brad), Jon Favreau (Manny Riskin), Jean Dujardin (Jean-Jacques Saurel), Joanna Lumley (Aunt Emma), Cristin Milioti (Teresa Petrillo), Christine Ebersole (Leah Belfort), Shea Whigham (Captain Ted Beecham), Katarina Cas (Chantalle), P.J. Byrne (Nicky "Rugrat" Koskoff), Kenneth Choi (Chester Ming), Brian Sacca (Robbie "Pinhead" Feinberg), Henry Zebrowski (Alden "Sea Otter" Kupferberg), Ethan Suplee (Toby Welch), Barry Rothbart (Peter DeBlasio), Jake Hoffman (Steve Madden), Bo Dietl (Himself), Jon Spinogatti (Nicholas the Butler), Aya Cash (Jordan's Assistant Janet), Rizwan Manji (Kalil), Stephanie Kurtzuba (Kimmie Belzer), Edward Herrmann (Voice of Stratton Oakmont Commercial), Jordan Belfort (Auckland Straight Line Host), Spike Jonze (Dwayne - uncredited)
The Wolf of Wall Street is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).The Wolf of Wall Street ranks 87th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

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The Wolf of Wall Street returns Martin Scorsese to crime drama, the genre that has most defined his long, distinguished filmmaking career. Though this time around it is the white collar variety,
Scorsese still tackles it in the way he does: with an epic runtime, record levels of profanity, a sense of humor, period music, and no shortage of gusto.

Wolf is based on the first of two memoirs by Jordan Belfort, a New Yorker who at a young age rose and fell on fraudulent stock trade practices. Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, of course) begins working on Wall Street in his early 20s in the late 1980s, hired to make as many cold calls as he can encouraging businesses to invest. Belfort immediately finds a mentor in Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey in a brief but influential appearance), who shows him the ropes not at work but at a fancy restaurant where he orders martinis to be delivered every seven and a half minutes and snorts cocaine between arrivals. Hanna explains that they are not in the business to help clients but to help themselves by selling enough to keep commissions flowing.

On Belfort's first day as a trader, the market takes its biggest dive since the Great Depression and he is quickly out of work. He finds a new job via a classified ad at a dumpy business in a Long Island strip mall that sells penny stocks to desperate folks who respond to their ads in the back of Hustler. Belfort immediately discovers a knack for this work, stunning his new colleagues with the speed and confidence at which he can sell thousands of dollars' worth of garbage to strangers, taking a 50% commission on the junk trades.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) wows everyone with his ability to sell junk penny stocks to desperate people his first day on the job at strip mall Investor Services.

Belfort takes his gift to his own company which he starts up with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill, sporting white dentures and trying to channel Joe Pesci), a guy who lives in his apartment building and quits his job selling children's furniture after one look at Belfort's $72,000 monthly income pay stub. The two men round up inexperienced, unqualified acquaintances, buying them suits and training them to prey on false hope while taking money from those who don't have much of it. Belfort's business thrives, especially after he is given a negative profile in Forbes magazine. The rinky-dink operation grows and begins to target wealthy clients eased in on blue chip stocks. There's more than enough money to go around and support Belfort's lifestyle of excess.

Belfort leaves his first wife (Cristin Milioti) for Naomi (Margot Robbie), a younger, sexier blonde whom he soon marries and names a newly-purchased giant yacht after. Prostitutes at three different rates are a significant part of Belfort's firm's sky high expenses. He's not faithful to his wife, even after she has his child. Belfort and company are heavy users of drugs, preferring Quaaludes, but supplementing them with copious amounts of cocaine.

Eventually, Belfort and his stately 7-acre mansion draw the attention of the SEC and the FBI, whose assigned agent (a typically great Kyle Chandler) seems charmed and cooperative upon accepting an invitation to meet on Belfort's Naomi, until he confesses he's determined to bring the detestable, obscenely wealthy fraud down.

Australian actress Margot Robbie adopts a Brooklyn accent to play second wife Naomi, whom he dubs "Duchess of Bay Ridge." FBI Special Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) provides a small dab of underpaid morality as he investigates Belfort and company's misdeeds.

Over the years, Scorsese's films have given us an assortment of antiheroes, including gangsters, murderers, and sociopaths.
In Jordan Belfort, though, he might have uncovered his least sympathetic protagonist yet. Belfort's large, lavish lifestyle and unflagging spirit are seductive, but his shameless thievery and unhinged hedonism are tough pills to swallow, especially for the three hours in which viewers are exposed to them.

As always, Scorsese gives this story flair and energy. He and lone screenwriter Terence Winter (the creator of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire") give this material a comedic bend, which explains why this became the first Scorsese film to compete for Musical or Comedy Golden Globes since 1977's New York, New York. It's as much a drama as a comedy, but laughs do flow, most extensively in a scene depicting the delayed effects of several old Quaaludes, probably the director's broadest sequence since his little-known 1985 black comedy After Hours.

It's tough to align with the film's point-of-view, as it wants us to chuckle at what is no laughing matter, the antics of a despicably unscrupled character. The antics are outrageously debaucherous. Talk about the film struggling to earn an R rating was not just hype, as this is one of the more graphic displays of sexuality and drug use encountered in a mainstream film. In any economy but especially ours, we feel compelled to root for Belfort's downfall, no matter how much used car salesman slickness DiCaprio gives him. Wolf disappoints in this regard, while staying true to the circumstances of the real Belfort, a man who found wealth and privilege make everything, even punishment from federal prosecution, manageable.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) occasionally addresses the viewer directly, attempting to explain the secrets (and illegality) of his success, but soon giving up.

Originally intended to open on Thanksgiving Eve, Wolf just barely made it in time for a wide Christmas Day opening. The delay, the product of a challenging time crunch for Scorsese and longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker to trim the film down to a reasonable length, had negative consequences. For one thing, the movie's last-minute release impeded it in the season's earlier award ceremonies.
I can confirm that the film's complete omission from the Online Film Critics Society awards came down to it not having been seen by the required 20% of our votership. Even bigger shows, like the Screen Actors Guild, may not have had time to check out Paramount's late-sending screener in time for voting deadlines.

A bigger obstacle to the film's award prospects, which didn't result in much more than DiCaprio's Best Actor Globe, may have been in the obvious comparisons this drew to American Hustle, a film that opened right before it that deals with similar subject matter in a most Scorsesian manner. Though you'd think Scorsese, the master, cannot be rivaled by an imitation, Hustle is clearly a superior film, one with more nuanced characters and more compelling storytelling. It's also a great deal more palatable, something that factors into accolades, especially when dealing with a body as large and elderly as the present Academy. Having seen almost everything 2013 had to offer, it's Hustle that stands out as the year's best while the more challenging, unsettling Wolf that falls more in line with well-made movies that don't quite emerge as personal favorites, a class in which I'd also place 12 Years a Slave, the obvious Best Picture winner.

Scorsese is coming off two of his stronger and less characteristic works in Shutter Island and Hugo. While Wolf will strike some as a return to form and a return to the graphic, flavorful true dramas for which he is most celebrated, it does not excite or impress to the extent you'd like. True, there's joy to be had in discovering one of film's greatest directors is still sharp and unflinching in his seventies. His comfort with the craft takes Wolf further than just about any other filmmaker could. But that style and even the strong performances drawn from a creatively assembled cast can't change the fact that this is an interminable story populated by abrasive characters with no moral compasses. Even the killers of Goodfellas and Casino had families, loyalties and complexities to respect.

Despite Scorsese and DiCaprio's increasingly profitable partnership, Wolf still stood as something of a major gamble for the two, who produced this at a budget of $100 million. It narrowly surpassed that mark domestically, earning $116.5 M to date with a little left in the tank, making it the third biggest draw among the major award contenders. Wolf fared much better outside of North America, earning an astounding $270.6 M (and still counting) from foreign markets. It marked DiCaprio's third consecutive box office hit, following Django Unchained and its delayed, would-be Christmas 2012 competition The Great Gatsby. Wolf earned DiCaprio his fourth and fifth Academy Award nominations via the Best Actor and Best Picture categories, but his search for an Oscar remains fruitless, much to the chagrin of the Internet, which unsurprisingly embraced this debaucherous epic, getting it ranked 83rd on the IMDb's all-time list, just a few notches below Lawrence of Arabia and To Kill a Mockingbird.

One of a number of respected films to leave empty-handed an Oscar ceremony that poured the technical awards on Gravity (and gave two minor honors to what few acknowledged was DiCaprio's superior 2013 film, Gatsby), Wolf of Wall Street hits DVD and Blu-ray combo pack on Tuesday from Paramount Home Entertainment.

The Wolf of Wall Street: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Descriptive Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Service)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; BD Film Only: English SDH
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Scorsese films are never less than interesting technically and The Wolf of Wall Street is no different. The film exudes a good amount of the director's style in a transfer that measures 2.40:1 most of the time (it becomes windowboxed on occasion when taking the form of a Stratford Oakmont ad, Belfort's wedding video and an infomercial). The picture is appropriately sharp (though parts of the anamorphic frame occasionally aren't), vibrant, and spotless.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is defined most by Scorsese's eclectic taste for period needle drops. Here, he finds room for acts as varied as Foo Fighters, The Outhere Brothers, and Umberto Tozzi (whose Italian rendition of "Gloria", it turns out, predates Laura Branigan's hit Footloose version by several years). There's also Matthew McConaughey's melodic chest-thumping/hum and some potent sea storm effects in a scene that may have reminded DiCaprio of Titanic. This presentation lives up to Paramount's high Blu-ray standards.

Martin Scorsese directs his new muse Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf Pack." On Blu-ray and DVD, the main menu gets creative with animated graphics upholding the yellow and black scheme of the film's theatrical marketing campaign.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The film is accompanied by just a single bonus feature and only on Blu-ray. "The Wolf Pack" (17:01) is a general making-of featurette which satisfies with its ample cast and crew remarks and behind-the-scenes looks.

The talking heads speak of Scorsese's suitability for this darkly comedic material and the challenges of depicting unempathetic characters without judgment. Each lead cast member is also singled out.

A film this big and successful seems destined for a better edition down the line, but like most studios, Paramount doesn't bother much with rereleases these days. If it had won Best Picture or Leo that elusive Oscar, I'd definitely expect the film to get revisited. As is, this could be the movie's only Blu-ray Disc, which would be unfortunate. Whereas the movie is probably too long for an audio commentary of sustained value and interest, a wealth of deleted footage clearly exists. That much is obvious from the film's documented scramble to make 2013 release.

The completely barebones DVD (which in its defense is filled to dual-layered capacity), the only one authored for the film, opens with trailers for Noah, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. The menu's Previews listing plays trailers for Nebraska and A.C.O.D. before repeating the others.

The creative main menu plays clips from the film in yellow and black animations of facets of the films and stock market graphics. The Blu-ray doesn't resume playback, but does let you set a bunch of bookmarks on the film.

Barely reworking a theatrical poster design, the cover artwork is repeated in a plain glossy slipcover. An insert promoting Belfort's book and supplying your iTunes/UltraViolet Digital HD code joins the two plain discs in the eco-friendly keepcase.

Leonardo DiCaprio does not hold back in his performance as Jordan Belfort, committing to a Quaalude-fueled crawl down country club steps.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Wolf of Wall Street is another well-made drama from one of the most accomplished directors alive today. Unfortunately, this bacchanalia of a film falls short of Scorsese's best efforts with its overlong celebration of loathsome, amoral jerks. Strong performances and skillful direction ease the endurance challenge this might have been, but it's still an unpleasant affair from which many viewers will derive little joy.

Paramount's Blu-ray combo pack earns high marks for picture and sound, but it is sure to disappoint those expecting a full slate of bonus features. There's definitely loads of deleted scenes out there that Scorsese may well choose to share one day. It's tough to guess how far off that day is; lately, Paramount has been stingy with souped-up reissues for anyone but Michael Bay. Either way, if your tastes resemble mine, this may be a film you're more compelled to own than to actually revisit.

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Related Reviews:
2013's Best Picture Nominees: American Hustle Dallas Buyers Club Captain Phillips Gravity Nebraska Her
Directed by Martin Scorsese: The Color of Money Taxi Driver Hugo The Last Temptation of Christ New York Stories Shine a Light
Leonardo DiCaprio: The Great Gatsby Catch Me If You Can Revolutionary Road J. Edgar Titanic Body of Lies Django Unchained Marvin's Room
Jonah Hill: Moneyball Cyrus This Is the End | Kyle Chandler: Zero Dark Thirty Early Edition: The First Season Argo
Middle Men Pain & Gain Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Wall Street Before Midnight | New: Kill Your Darlings Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

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Reviewed March 22, 2014.



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