Money Monster (2016) Review

Money Monster (2016)

Directed by Jodie Foster

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito, Caitriona Balfe

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film stars George Clooney as Lee Gates, a TV personality who advises his audience on commerce and Wall Street, and who is forcefully interrogated by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a grief-stricken bankrupt viewer who lost his money after a previous tip.

My Opinion:

I chose to go to this movie in this way: “Eeny meeny miny… Oh, Money Monster has a much shorter running time than X-Men: Apocalypse or The Nice Guys so let’s just watch that one”. Money Monster is a decent enough film but it’s one of those that you know most people won’t bother to make a trip to the cinema to see. It’s a home-watcher. I enjoyed it even though it’s a bit formulaic & predictable but, hell, most movies are. If you like any of its stars or want to see a Jodie Foster film (I thought she’d directed far more movies than she actually has!), you’d probably like this one just fine.

This movie (its basic plot, at least) reminded me a lot of Man On A Ledge & I did keep thinking of that movie thoughout this one. I remember really looking forward to that film as it had a great concept but it ended up being a stupid, silly mess. Luckily, Money Monster is much better than Man On A Ledge so don’t worry about my comparison! It has much better writing & acting plus situations that aren’t as ridiculously far fetched.

Unfortunately, it does fall apart at the end after a pretty promising start. It’s one of those films where the “surprise” of what’s “really going on” isn’t a surprise in the slightest, which was a little disappointing as I wanted it to be something more than just “Oh, that’s it? Well that was obvious from the start”. I think it also fails to get its message across (if it even has a message?). I suppose the message of sorts is just about how big business/money always screws over the little guy but we all know that’s a fact of life anyway. This movie could’ve provided a good commentary on that but instead just turns into a pretty straightforward good guy vs bad guy hostage drama. I’d have to say that at least The Big Short made this same sort of point in a much more effective way & had a message (I actually hated that movie, though. Snoozefest!). Money Monster takes the path of “entertaining movie” more than “thought-provoking drama”. But there’s of course nothing wrong with a movie being entertaining – I just wish Money Monster had dug a bit deeper to be a little something more.

A quick mention of the film’s stars: Clooney’s role has his name written ALL over it – I would imagine he was the exact person they had in mind for the role even as it was being written. So, yeah, that works but his performance can’t help but feel a bit phoned-in because of it. I’d have to say that Julia Roberts actually does a better job here (and that’s being said by someone who really isn’t one of her fans). This is the perfect sort of role for her these days, though, and I’d even possibly go so far as to say she’s the best one in this. I know there’s been a lot of positive buzz around Jack O’Connell after Starred Up & ’71 (both of which I’ve not seen) and he’s decent enough in this but I think that his character lets him down as the movie fails to make him as sympathetic as I think it had intended.   Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito & especially Caitriona Balfe all did a good job and some of the smaller characters were pretty well-written and provided tiny bits of comic relief, even down to the cameraman who has to stay to film the whole thing while George Clooney has a bomb strapped to him.

I’d recommend Money Monster to anyone who thinks they’d enjoy it. As long as you don’t expect anything too deep, you’ll probably like it okay. I think it has slipped under the radar, which is kind of a shame as there aren’t a whole lot of similar films currently being made. I think Jodie Foster did a decent job with this one & should do more directing.

My Rating: 7/10

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Tomorrowland (2015) Review

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Tomorrowland (2015) (aka Tomorrowland: A World Beyond in the UK)

Directed by Brad Bird

Starring:
George Clooney
Hugh Laurie
Britt Robertson
Raffey Cassidy
Thomas Robinson
Tim McGraw
Kathryn Hahn
Keegan-Michael Key

Running time: 130 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of a former boy genius (Clooney) and a young girl (Robertson), who travel to an ambiguous dimension known as “Tomorrowland”, where their actions directly affect the world and themselves.

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My Opinion:

Damn. Damn! Damn damn damn! Tomorrowland was one of my most anticipated movies this year. In fact, it’s the one I chose over everything else (even Star Wars!) when Luke over at Oracle Of Film asked the question: What is your most anticipated movie?”. Damn. Is it too late to change my answer?? What a disappointment.

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I desperately wanted to like this movie. It seemed to have everything going for it: Live action Disney sci-fi directed by Brad Bird! Everyone loves Bird’s Ratatouille and of course The Incredibles but my own personal favorite of his is The Iron Giant and I think I was hoping that Tomorrowland would have the heart that that one does. Unfortunately, Tomorrowland feels very cold & sterile and most of the characters, other than teenager Casey played by Britt Robertson, aren’t very likeable. In fact, George Clooney’s character is so grumpy & unlikeable at first that I wasn’t able to warm to him at all, especially after he knocks Casey off his front porch in a way that could’ve broken her damn neck. They explore his past to show us that he was once an optimistic “dreamer” but don’t really explain why all that changed. We’re given hints but not enough to make us care.

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I don’t know if this is SPOILER TERRITORY so look away for the rest of this paragraph if you still want to see this movie. A lot of the rather convoluted story revolves around an android girl and she’s almost as unlikeable as Clooney’s character. This movie reminded me in a lot of ways of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which also felt very cold & sterile and was a bit convoluted and unsure of its message. However, Haley Joel Osment was at least very good as the “robot boy” and you cared about his character. It IS possible to make us like “robot people”! Loads of movies have managed it. Heck, even D.A.R.Y.L. managed it! (Yes! I got another D.A.R.Y.L. mention into one of my reviews!). But in Tomorrowland, I didn’t care at all about this little android girl and her world so I didn’t really care if Clooney’s & Robertson’s characters would be able to save it or not. I should point out, though, that I don’t think any of this was the fault of the actress (Raffey Cassidy) as I think she was very good in a poorly written role. Oh! By the way – Hugh Laurie is in this too in a rather stupid & pointless role. He’s really not even worth mentioning. Although I guess I just did…

I’ll mention that there’s quite a bit of violence against the androids, which may disturb young kids as the androids look completely human and the very young may not understand that they’re just robots. This includes one sudden & shocking Final Destination/Meet Joe Black moment that felt out of place in a Disney film.

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I’ll say that the one thing I did like about this was Britt Robertson. I know I watched this silly show that she was on for a while (The Secret Circle) and she was the one thing that really stood out. I’m not surprised that it seems she may be on her way to bigger roles now and, although she’s 25, she has a very young look which means she can play a teenager in something like this without it being embarrassing like Olivia Newton John in Grease. Her character helps save Tomorrowland from being a total disaster, at least.

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Summary:

Tomorrowland has a convoluted plot set in a cold & sterile environment where everyone (besides the main teenage girl) is unlikeable and the audience won’t be able to buy into them or care about their fate. Its story is far too complicated for young kids plus the level of violence was a bit surprising for a Disney “family film”. It’s hard to figure out who this movie is aimed at as the confusing story won’t make any kids like it (even I was confused by the end as to what exactly was going on) and there’s not enough here for adults to enjoy either. I can’t see this being a movie that most homes with kids will own and that will get played over & over again, which is unusual for a Disney film. I know it’s very unlikely that I’ll ever see it again (and I have no desire to) and I highly doubt my kid will ever ask to watch it over and over again like Frozen or most of the Pixar films. The movie’s message gets lost in the confusing plot but, basically, it’s saying that we should all be “dreamers” and full of hope. It’s unfortunate that Tomorrowland can’t achieve what it clearly wants to as it isn’t going to actually inspire anyone. I’ll say the final scene & image are pretty good & is the closest the movie comes to achieving its vision but it doesn’t come even close to making up for the previous two hours of the film. I’m very disappointed but it won’t make me give up on Brad Bird as I think he’s very talented and hopefully has another The Iron Giant in him. I blame Damon Lindelof.

My Rating: 5/10

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Gravity (2013) Review

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Gravity (2013)

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Starring:
Sandra Bullock
George Clooney
Ed Harris
Orto Ignatiussen
Paul Sharma
Amy Warren
Basher Savage

Running time: 90 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Two astronauts fight for survival and a way to get back home after an accident leaves them adrift in space and without communications with Earth.

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My Opinion:

Gravity has been out for ages everywhere other than the UK, it seems, so there have already been plenty of reviews telling us all how great the film is. Now that all the hype has died down a bit, I’ll try to review this as best I can and decide if it’s worth all the praise it has received.

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First of all, I’ve said it plenty before but I better say it again: I know nothing about filmmaking. All I know is when something looks good or looks bad. Gravity is beautiful to look at. I saw it in IMAX 3D as the recommendation seemed to be to see it this way if at all possible. It was worth the extra cost – And this is from someone who does NOT like 3D. When there’s the option, I rarely choose to see a film in 3D. It looks blurry to me and I usually just find it too distracting. Gravity was the kind of 3D I like – I forgot I was even watching a 3D film most of the time. It was subtle & not “in your face” (I don’t want things jumping out of the screen at me). So the film looks great and I’d recommend seeing it in 3D if you can, although I’d be interested in seeing the 2D version now as well.

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To my hubby’s annoyance, I kept saying “this better be better than Avatar!”. I did fear that, because the film was meant to look lovely, that it would have no substance otherwise and wouldn’t be a very interesting story. I didn’t really enjoy Avatar as a film so I didn’t care that it “looked nice”. Luckily, this wasn’t the case with Gravity.

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I know nothing about space travel or science so can’t say if all of that was accurate but who cares? If you’re one of those types who can never suspend disbelief and just enjoy a movie, this MAY not be the film for you. I don’t know. It’s just a movie and it’s meant to entertain us. Clooney’s & especially Bullock’s backstories are… well, I don’t want to use the word “contrived” because that’s not really fair as it’s a very good film. What stories in films AREN’T? What matters is if you buy into the characters & their stories and I definitely did in Gravity. Both Clooney & Bullock give great performances and I very much felt for Bullock’s present (and past) situation. Her story worked and the backstory, to me, felt necessary to have a better understanding of her character. But as the film has so little dialogue, it was nice that we were only given as much information as we needed about the characters in order to know them. It’s impressive that Clooney & Bullock were able to make us care so much about their characters – top notch acting on their parts. This is what “makes” a film for me – not impressive CGI or 3D stuff (although it’s nice when these things work as well).

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As for the “action”, this film was much more exciting than I’d been expecting. We’d all heard about how there are so few people in it & not much dialogue so I wasn’t expecting a ton of action even though it’s obviously about an accident that occurs while these people are in space. Gravity is very exciting! Heart-pounding action at times and the great kind where you feel like you’re almost a part of it and are experiencing it with the characters instead of just watching them on a (very big in my case) screen. I suppose this may lose a little something for those who decide to watch this on their TV for the first time. I’d be interested to see this at home when it’s out on DVD & see if it has the same effect on me. I’ll still enjoy the story but I wonder if you’ll be able to “lose” yourself in the film in the same way. So, yeah – try to watch this one in the cinema (or theater if you’re American).

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Is this film for everyone? No. This is why I’m enjoying this blogging thing – I know you’re all true film lovers (it takes commitment to run a movie blog!). Will the 22-year-old I work with who loves Michael Bay movies & only ever watches illegal bootlegs because the cinema “costs too much” like Gravity? Extremely unlikely. I’m already trying to prepare myself for the day he comes in & says something along the lines of “I watched Gravity. I didn’t like it. I was bored”. It will happen. Gravity wasn’t made for him. It was made for “us” – all us lovely movie blogger types who are maybe a little misunderstood at times because we really REALLY like movies and perhaps talk about them a bit too much when in the presence of those who don’t quite understand our fascination. Gravity is the kind of movie we wait for. We wait for movies like this while we sit through endless sequels and remakes because it’s all that’s usually on offer and because we forever live in the hope that one of them may actually be good. We suffer through these mediocre films because we’re sometimes given a pleasant surprise when one of them ends up being okay. And we sit through them because we know that sometimes, just sometimes, we’re rewarded with something like Gravity.

My Rating: 9/10

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Where does it rank?:

Movies I’ve Seen In 2013

The Ides Of March

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I said it before and I’ll say it again – the only reason I watched this is because Ryan Gosling is in it. It’s about politics. I hate politics. This sort of drama also isn’t really the kind of movie genre I tend to go for. So bear that all in mind during my quick little review!

Ryan Gosling plays one of the campaign managers for George Clooney’s character – a governor and presidential candidate. I actually didn’t know beforehand about the other big names in this – Philip Seymour Hoffman as the senior campaign manager for Clooney, Paul Giamatti as a rival campaign manager, and Marisa Tomei in a pretty small role as a reporter. Oh, and Evan Rachel Wood as an intern for the Clooney campaign. Evan Rachel Wood not only got to be in this with my lovely Ryan but also starred in Across The Universe with another big crush of mine – Jim Sturgess. So I’m pretty sure I don’t like her. 😉

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Thanks to the hubby for pointing out that George Clooney directed this movie & wrote the screenplay (along with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon) in response to me saying that Clooney seemed a bit wasted in the movie. Okay – it makes sense then! It’s not a big role compared to Gosling’s – the story really follows his character. Clooney IS perfect for the role, though. Not hard to imagine him as a politician with his natural charm & charisma – if he ran for something in real life I might actually take the time to vote! The other big names did seem a little wasted, though – Hoffman had a bit more screen time than Giamatti & Tomei but it still wasn’t a lot compared to Gosling. And they did their jobs well, as they always do, but their roles didn’t really require much effort from them.

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Overall, I think this movie lacked the passion & dramatic tension we’ve had from other political dramas. (Not that I’ve watched many so maybe I’m not the best judge. Lol!). I remember getting very into the story in Good Night And Good Luck (that was political, right?!). And I’m sure All The President’s Men is a much better movie about political scandal (not seen it!). Okay – I really don’t know much about political dramas. Feel free to ignore this review. :-p

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Perhaps, as real life politics are so corrupt and there are plenty of scandals to choose from, I think a fictional movie about the dirty stuff that goes on behind the scenes doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the ones based on true stories? The movie started out okay but then the “scandal” came to light and everything that happened afterwards suddenly made it feel like a Hollywood movie. Which it is, so maybe that’s not a bad thing! Worth a watch if you like political dramas & quality actors.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Good but currently in last place in my Ryan Gosling Project 🙂

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