Money Monster Review

Jodie Foster is well known for her work as an actress, but has many directorial roles under her belt. After three films and a couple of television episodes (notably Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards), she’s back with her new film, Money Monster.

Money Monster star George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell and is directed by Jodie Foster. Lee Gates (Clooney) hosts the Wall Street consumer advice show Money Monster. After his advice means delivery man Kyle (O’Connell) loses all his money, he is taken hostage by Kyle on live television.

George Clooney plays totally against type as Wall Street expert Lee Gates. Clooney is known for playing the suave, charismatic type, but Gates is more of a slimy character than usual. He got to where he is by his quick wits and ability to not let his emotions get in his way. His bravado soon come crashing down when Kyle bursts in, placing a pistol to the back of his head. It’s similar to his role from Up In The Air, but he’s much more in the thick of the action rather than flying from place to place.

Since the film is about economics and stocks and data, it would be easy to compare Money Monster to¬†The Big Short due to the similar subject matter. But instead of focussing on the money and traders, it keeps it all mostly on the television and the media, which is more tying in with Network. The film cuts away to several groups watching the drama unfold on their televisions, tweeting and vining ( is that how you write the verb “to vine”?) and other news outlets jumping in to say their piece on what and why it’s happening. The film is putting it’s politics into the media rather than onto the bankers, which is a different take on films that focus on the economic collapse. Sadly, the characters on the outside aren’t very likable; playing out certain events to make O’Connell’s Kyle step up his demands or general apathy, turning away from gunfire on the television back to a table football game. It went for it, but I think it might have worked better if they just stuck to a hostage rescue scenario. Sometimes the wider story, about corrupt businesses and strikes and external forces went a bit too paranoid for me, with some of it being totally confusing as to how it profited the bankers.

Most of the film takes place in the Money Monster set. This containment keeps all the tension in one place and our attention solely on Clooney, O’Donnell and Julia Roberts as Gates’ producer Patty. However, the story keeps moving on so that when we do finally leave the set for the streets of New York and then to Federal Hall it doesn’t lose that small-room tension. Monsey Monster keeps building it’s tension by adding more and more layers to the conspiracy at the centre and then suddenly pulling a stabilising part of the puzzle away, making Kyle become much more erratic after he had been calm for an extended period of time. The film is at its best when we are with the three leads, losing the tension and turning into more of a comedy when it moves to other characters. There is some dark humour displayed by Clooney and O’Connell but the film works better as a thriller.

In summary, Money Monster is a good tense film, dissecting how the media works and generates stories. It often seems a bit too upfront about it subject manner, it’s morals as well as sometimes being confusing and expositional but overall it’s enjoyable.

Score: 7/10 Good for 90 minutes but not essential viewing.

The Big Short Review

Wall Street is good theatre. Several films have been set on what is basically the capital of the United States market and economy. In that sort of high-stress environment, good cinema thrives, with films like Margin Call, The Wolf of Wall Street and…well Wall Street. Does The Big Short (nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars) stand with these great films?

The Big Short stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt and is directed by Adam McKay. Based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, the film follows several brokers on Wall Street who predicted the 2008 Housing Crisis and decide to bet against the market and get rich.

If you don’t know the first thing about stocks, don’t worry I’m right with you. Top bond salesman Jared Vennett (Gosling) turns to the camera early on and says, “I know this is boring and confusing, so here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain it.” The film does this several times, with celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain popping up and explaining what several of the market terms mean through simple analogies. It’s incredibly funny and is kept up throughout the entire film, with characters turning to screen to explain how things happened or drawing pictures in thin air. However, don’t think it’s a pure comedy like The Wolf of Wall Street (despite it being nominated in several awards under “comedy”), it’s more of a drama that a laugh-out-loud film.

You have to pay attention throughout, the film will stop and explain a term but it will then set off again and assume you got the gist of it. I missed a couple of lines of dialogue and for the next ten minutes I was confused over what was happening. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to talk about complex and deliberately puzzling exchanges and statistics. Luckily, with the help of those previously mentioned cut-aways to celebrities or a Jenga set to symbolise the housing market, the audience can follow along the winding trail of buying and selling dodgy commodities. It’s a riveting script, and McKay and collaborator Charles Randolph have done a fantastic job of making what could be an intensely boring subject into one of the most suspenseful.

The cast is a major strong point. A lot of the main players are playing against type; Steve Carell is a surly man with emotional baggage, Christian Bale is a doctor with Aspergers who walks around his office barefoot and plays music obnoxiously loud and Brad Pitt is quiet retiree who is paranoid the government is spying on him. Most of these men never meet face-to-face, but they all figure out at some point that the market is going to collapse and the joy comes from their different methods and approaches to how they will get out of it without losing money or their jobs.

By far the best performance is Ryan Gosling. Sure, I might be a fanboy, but in The Big Short he is fantastic. He’s obviously channelling Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort and looks like he’s loving playing the part of a ruthless salesman. The moments where he verbal puts-down his underlings, or clears an entire men’s bathroom so that he can have a private phone call are funny and create an interesting character, and serve as a good distraction in-between the major money-conversations.

As soon as I finished The Big Short, I knew that it had majorly shaken up my predictions for the winner of this year’s Oscar. It’s riveting and often hilarious but it’s painfully fast. When your problem with the film is “there should be more of this”, you have something good. If you think you can keep up with its rapid pace, then The Big Short get’s my recommendation.

Score: 9/10 Thrilling, funny, thought-provoking and totally deserves it’s nomination.