Money Monster • The Nice Guys
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
May 19, 2016
Money Monster (**) R
Money Monster is Jodie Foster’s first feature film directorial effort since The Beaver in 2011 and I guess Foster’s credit as director was one of the reasons why I expected more from this one. Of the handful of movies that Foster has directed, Money Monster is probably the least satisfying of them all, even though I’m not entirely sure it’s all her fault. It’s obviously a film filled with good intentions but the script, credited to Alan DiFore, Jamie Linden and Jim Kouf is brimming with so many half-baked concepts that never really catch fire that I’m not sure any director could have saved the picture. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and that adage can be applied to bad films as well. This is a movie that clearly wants to be an indictment of the financial misdeeds of the members of upper crust society, which led to the 2008 financial meltdown and its ongoing aftermath. Unfortunately, it plays out like a surface level examination of this problem and not much else.
Lee Gates, played by George Clooney, is a talk show host giving financial advice on a nightly basis on a cable channel called The Financial News Network.
Clooney & friends in Money Monster
The parallels to similar cable networks are obvious. Gates and his director (Julia Roberts) have had a good working relationship for an indeterminate number of years that, unbeknownst to Lee, may be threatened by her decision to take a new job at a competitor. This is the drama unfolding in Gates’ personal world when an even bigger problem rears its head in the form of a disgruntled twentysomething (up and coming British actor, Jack O’Connell) who decides to hold Michaels hostage live on national TV in an effort to prove a point.
The kid doesn’t really want to hurt anyone. He’s just tired of getting the short end of the stick. He took advice from Gates on his show, buying a stock whose value went south fairly quickly. Now, with a wife and offspring to support, he doesn’t know where to turn. His stunt is more of an act of desperation than anything else. Gates senses this and feels partially responsible. He wants to undo his misdeeds but this, unfortunately, leads to a final act that feels out of step with the rest of the film.
The best thing about the film is the chemistry that Clooney and Roberts share in their respective roles. It carries the film a long way over the rough spots but it isn’t enough to get the film over its glaring inconsistencies in character, particularly Clooney’s. Perhaps it’s that The Big Short and Inside Job, films that also tackled this same subject, have set the bar so high that a film like Money Monster was bound to come up unfulfilling.
The Nice Guys (*** ½) R
If you’re a fan of LA based crime thrillers of the 1970s—I’m thinking along the lines of Hickey and Boggs (1972) and The Long Goodbye (1973), to name two—then you will most likely dig director/co-scripter Shane Black’s giddy homage to those films, The Nice Guys. It’s a film that wallows in its atmosphere in such a way that you feel as if you’ve been swept up in a time machine. Still, it isn’t just a nostalgia trip. It’s an action/comedy with good, solid storytelling thrown in for good measure that’s likely to please even those who didn’t come of age in the late 1970s. This is one of those rare instances where a movie works on two separate levels. The film may be ostensibly a crime caper on the surface but it’s also one of the best representations of the city of L.A. as a central character in a film (courtesy of 70 year old master cinematographer, Phillipe Rousselot) that I’ve seen in quite some time. Throw in that jazzy period detail—movie buffs will dig those billboards advertising the likes of Jaws 2 and Airport 77—that the creative team serves up and you have a film that’s loads of fun.
The film’s script is a whole other affair unto itself. This is a movie that manages to deftly toss in such headline grabbing events of the late 70s as the threat of killer bees and automobiles installed with faulty catalytic converters into its narrative.
Gosling & Crowe in The Nice Guys
You have to smile and appreciate that kind of detail even if there are a few songs heard on the soundtrack, The Pina Colada Song, Get Down on It by Kool and the Gang, that didn’t exist during the film’s 1977 time frame. It gets so much right in the technical department that a few missteps can be forgiven.
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are a couple of mismatched L.A. detectives who hate each other at first but eventually team up in their quest to locate a missing porn star that just happens to also be the daughter of a prominent politician (Kim Basinger). There’s also the matter of a recently deceased porn star that an old woman claims she recently spotted alive and well. The two plot strands eventually tie together but not before many car chases and dead bodies have come and gone along the way. The film never takes itself too seriously and there’s always humor to spare, which makes the film easy to take. Any film of this nature that even dares to throw in an Abbott and Costello reference along with the mayhem must be commended. The Nice Guys certainly gets my recommendation.
Neighbors 2: Sorority
Rising (* ½) R
In interviews Seth Rogen seems like such a likeable guy. He comes across as genuine, down to earth and the kind of person you could sit down with and have a great conversation. In his films he’s only as good as his material, however, and his positive persona is not enough to save his latest effort, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, although he certainly can’t be blamed for not putting forth a valiant effort. He, along with co-stars Zac Efron and Rose Byrne, try their best but the material, which Rogen, along with four other credited writers put together, just reeks of desperation. This is the kind of ‘comedy’ that begins with a joke involving a female sex toy and ends with that same joke ninety minutes later after having bludgeoned it to death. If you find yourself bowled over with laughter at a joke such as the one contained here when a pregnant woman of Jewish faith is referred to as having a ‘little Jew in the oven,’ then I guess you’ve found your film.
The original Neighbors was a slight but sometimes funny film that occasionally raised a chuckle or two from yours truly.
Scene from Neighbors 2
Whatever humor there was to be found in that first film is recycled ad infinitum in the second installment to the point of leaving the viewer to wonder if they’re watching alternate takes of scenes from the first film. They even go as far as to recycle a gag involving an automobile air bag from the first film.
The film begins with a somewhat funny scene involving intimacy between Rogen and his onscreen wife, Byrne, but then it’s all downhill from there. For the next twenty minutes of the film, the two main stars disappear altogether in order for the filmmakers to set up the film’s plot. That amount of set up time for a plot in a comedy is a red flag to begin with if you ask me, but I digress.
The thin strand of a plot that holds the film together involves a bunch of college girls lead by actress Chloe Grace Moretz purchasing the house next door to Rogen and Byrne and wreaking havoc on the couple’s lives. Zac Efron returns from the first film and sides with the girls at first but eventually teams up with Rogen and Byrne in order to outwit the noisy college kids. It’s funny how the couple lives in a residential neighborhood and yet Rogen and Byrne are the only neighbors who seem to have a problem with all the debauchery. That in itself requires a major suspension of disbelief but that’s another story.
As in most of Rogen’s films things take a serious turn towards the end but I could have cared less. Sitting through this mess was enough to question whether I’m even up for Rogen’s next endeavor, as much as I do like the guy. I suppose one shouldn’t confuse the actor with his so called art.
All these movies are playing at the Carmike in Hickory and other area theaters.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.