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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 filmfan1970@hotmail.com.



Miles Ahead

Elvis And Nixon Green Room

Midnight Special Everybody Wants Some

The Jungle Book

I Saw The Light • The Boss

Hello My Name Is Doris & Krisha

Divergent: Allegiant & Batman v Superman

10 Cloverfield Lane & Brothers Grimsby

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot & London Has Fallen

Triple 9 & 45 Years

Eddie The Eagle• The Witch

Where To Invade Next & Son Of Saul

Deadpool • The Choice • How To Be Single

Hail Caesar & Fifty Shades Of Black

The Finest Hours & The 5th Wave

Mustang & The Lady In The Van

Anomalisa • 13 Hours: The & Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi

The Revenant • Youth

Carol • Joy • The Hateful Eight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens • The Big Short • Concussion

Daddy’s Home • Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip

In The Heart Of The Sea • Krampus

Creed • Brooklyn


‘Mockingjay Part 2’ • All Things Must Pass • The Night Before


Spectre & The Peanuts Movie

Steve Jobs & Our Brand Is Crisis

Crimson Peak & Room

Bridge Of Spies & Goosebumps

99 Homes

The Martian • Sicario & The Walk

The Intern • The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials • Everest

The Visit & Black Mass

Mistress America

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl A Walk In The Woods

American Ultra • No Escape • Sinister 2

Straight Outta Compton, The End Of The Tour, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Irrational Man & Fantastic Four

Ricki And The Flash & The Gift

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation • Southpaw • Vacation

Ant-Man & Trainwreck


Amy • Magic Mike XXL, Terminator: Genisys

Me & Earl & The Dying Girl, Ted 2

Inside Out & Dope

Love and Mercy & Jurassic World

Insidious Chapter 3

San Andreas & Aloha

Poltergeist &

Mad Max: Fury Road

Hot Pursuit

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Ex Machina

While We’re Young & Unfriended

The Longest Ride

Fast & Furious 7

It Follows




Focus & The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Fifty Shades Of Grey

Jupiter Ascending

Still Alice

The Imitation Game A Most Violent Year

American Sniper Inherent Vice

Selma & Taken 3


Big Eyes • The Interview

Night At The Museum The Secret of the Tomb • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Top Five • Wild • Annie


Whiplash & The Theory Of Everything

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 • Horrible Bosses 2

Dumb And Dumber To

Birdman & Interstellar




The Judge

Annabelle & Gone Girl

The Equalizer & Happy 75th, GWTW!

The Drop • A Walk Among & The Tombstones

No Good Deed

The Identical

As Above, So Below & November Man

If I Stay & Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

The Giver • Code Black & The Expendables 3

Boyhood • Into The Storm & Magic In The Moonlight

Get On Up & Guardians Of The Galaxy


Begin Again & The Purge: Anarchy

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Chef & Tammy

Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Jersey Boys

22 Jump Street & How To Train Your Dragon 2

The Fault Is In Our Stars & Edge Of Tomorrow

A Million Ways To Die In The West

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Maleficent

Godzilla • Summer Preview

Neighbors • Godzilla

The Amazing Spiderman 2 & Belle

The Other Woman & Brick Mansions

A Haunted House 2 & Heaven Is For Real

Oculus & Rio 2

Captain America: The Winter Soldier



The Grand Budapest Hotel & Veronica Mars

300: Rise of the Empire

Non-Stop & Son Of God

Three Days To Kill

Robocop & The Past • About Last Night

The Monuments Men

Labor Day

I, Frankenstein

Inside Llewyn Davis & Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Lone Survivor & August: Osage County

Her • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom & The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, American Hustle, Anchorman 2

The Hobbit: The Desolation & Of Smaug • Nebraska

Dallas Buyers Club & Oldboy & Out Of The Furnace

Philomena & The Book Thief

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire & Delivery Man

About Time & All Is Lost

Thor: The Dark World & 12 Years A Slave

Ender’s Game & Last Vegas

Bad Grandpa &The Counselor

Carrie & The Fifth Estate

Captain Phillips, Enough Said & Machete Kills

Gravity & Runner Runner

Metallica: Through The Never , Rush & Don Jon

Prisoners & Rush

Insidious: Chapter 2 • The Family & The Spectacular Now



The World’s End You’re Next

Lee Daniels’ The Butler • Jobs • Blue Jasmine

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters & Elysium

2 Guns

Blue Jasmine • The Wolverine & Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station • The Conjuring & The Way Way Back

Pacific Rim & Grown Ups 2

The Lone Ranger & Despicable Me 2

The Heat & White House Down

Monsters University, World War Z, Before Midnight & The East

Man of Steel & This Is The End

The Internship & The Purge

After Earth, Now You See Me & Frances Ha

The Hangover Part III Before Midnight

Star Trek: Into Darkness & Fast and Furious 6

The Great Gatsby & Frances Ha

Iron Man & Peeples

Pain and Gain & Mud

Oblivion & Lords of Salem

42 and Scary Movie 5

Evil Dead & Jurassic Park 3-D

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Tyler Perry’s Temptation

Spring Breakers Admission

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone • The Call

Oz: The Great And Powerful West Of Memphis

Jack the Giant Slayer The Last Exorcism, Part II

Dark Skies & Snitch

A Good Day to Die Hard & Safe Haven

Side Effects & Identity Thief

Bullet To The Head Warm Bodies




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