On Twitter: @JamesEppler
Part of the reason we go to movies is to have experiences at a safe distance. In "The Wolf of Wall Street" director Martin Scorsese plunges us headlong into the world of white collar crime, grotesque excess, and unbridled hedonism.
These Wall Street stock brokers are every bit as devious as the mobsters in Scorsese's most famous movies - they just use telephones instead of guns for their dirty work.
The movie's based on Jordan Belfort's autobiography, and how he climbed the Wall Street ladder in the late 80s and 90s to start his own company and swindled clients out of millions. Leonardo DiCaprio is sleaze incarnate as Belfort - delivering a performance that's pure punk rock.
The cast is terrific all the way around. Jonah Hill tops his "Moneyball" performance as Belfort's right hand man.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" is a pitch-dark comedy - one of the funniest movies of the year. It's also sad, shocking and disgusting at times - especially the way women are treated.
The screenplay by Terrence Winter takes a lot of shortcuts, which is strange considering it's a three-hour movie. And there are many similarities with "Goodfellas" and "Casino" that it feels a bit derivative for Scorsese.
But it's hugely entertaining - a damning portrait of the pursuit of a corrupted American Dream.
The characters in "American Hustle" are essentially after the same thing, and the movie has a bit in common with "Wolf." Christian Bale with a gut and rockin comb-over and Amy Adams are partners in crime - scammers making cash off rubes.
Bradley Cooper is an FBI agent who catches on to them, and makes them go to work for him trying to take down corrupt government officials.
Jennifer Lawrence is hilarious and heartbreaking as Bale's firecracker of a wife.
"American Hustle" is written and directed with cool finesse by David O. Russell, based on the Abscam investigations of the late 70s. It's a much tighter film than "Wolf of Wall Street," and it explores characters more fully.
I love all four of the lead performances and would like to see everyone Oscar nominated.
"American Hustle" is fantastic and it has the kind of broad appeal to make it a serious Best Picture contender.
"Wolf of Wall Street": * * * 1/2
"American Hustle": * * * * 1/2
Out of five stars