Monday, May 23, 2016

Reviews: Money Monster, Love & Friendship

Two quick reviews today for films I've seen over the past week.  The first film I saw is Jodie Foster's latest directorial effort Money Monster, a film that looks at corruption on Wall Street through the eyes of a "terrorist" Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) who hijacks a live stock-tip TV show (very much like Mad Money with Jim Cramer) hosted by the eccentric Lee Gates (George Clooney in a very hammy role).  Budwell tells the American public through Gates' assistance that a fictional company has cheated stock holders during their recent dive in the market.  Gates tries to work with Budwell to get to the bottom of things with the help of resourceful producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts).

Clooney and Roberts have great chemistry here (picking up where they left off in the Oceans 11 franchise).  It's easy to relate to them at the end of the film because we have so much history with them together as likeable actors.  O'Connell is really good as a slightly psycho nutcase who just wants his money back that he lost in the fictional financial company's downfall.  He was in Green Room as well and seems to be on fire after his breakthrough role in Unbroken. Roberts is solid in a "voice-in-the-ear" role and Clooney is pretty good overall but wears thin a bit.  After seeing Hail, Caesar and now this effort, I'm wondering if Clooney's talents are slipping a bit.

My biggest issue with the movie overall is how cheesy it is.  The intro sequences for the Money Monster show (see example at right) feature two fly-girl type dancers who gyrate while Clooney's Gates tries to attempt some sort of hip-hop dance in a funny costume.  I know this is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek but it comes off as tired and unneccesary.  Watching George Clooney trying to be "street" is very painful.  There are other plot issues and a bit of drag at times and it doesn't really seem like a typical Jodie Foster film.  Still though this is an interesting take on financial corruption and a good look at behind the scenes production at a major network TV news show. The tension builds towards the end as Clooney and his hostage taker head to the streets of NYC trying to find direct answers from the source (think panicked CEO) to Budwell's questions. This is worth seeing but not necessarily on the big screen.  A descent 3.5 out of 5 JRs for Money Monster.  Jack O'Connell is going to be a star and I'm not sure how much Clooney has left in the tank.

Love & Friendship is the latest Jane Austen story to get the big-screen treatment.  Directed by Whit Stillman and starring one of my movie crushes in Kate Beckinsale and another who I can't really stand in Chloe Sevigny, this film tells the story of Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale), a recent widow who takes up residence at the estate of her in-laws and ends up trying to be a matchmaker for her daughter.  I saw this movie at the request of my lovely wife so this is not the normal type of film I would see on my own.  Still I have liked other movies like this much better (see Belle and Downton Abbey is interesting at times).

I could just not get interested in this film and most every joke went over my head.  I find it hard to focus on the language of that period, and all around me others (mostly older people) were chuckling left and right at a variety of on-screen puns.  I only laughed once (at a joke about green peas) and spent the rest to the film unsure of what I was watching and trying to keep track of all the characters and their relationships to one-another.  I would give this a 0 rating but I can't give anything with Beckinsale in it zero JRs (see Total Recall).  I'm glad my wife liked it (but she was even lukewarm on the comedy aspects of the film and the fact that it was not a typical Jane Austen offering).  If you like period pieces, please go see it.  If you LOVE "funny" period pieces, please RUN and go see it.  But if you like the type of movies that usually make my Top 10 list every year, please DON'T SEE THIS.  0.5 out of 5 JRs for one of the worst (based on personal preference) movies I've seen in years.

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