Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street’

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Money Monster, directed by Jodie Foster, is a perfect example of the type of movie that doesn’t really get made anymore.

Smarter and more experienced men than myself have made this argument (see Stevens: Spielberg and Soderbergh) but the idea is that today’s Hollywood is binary. There are extravagant tentpole blockbusters with ungodly budgets and their are micro-indies made for a song that fight for every last eyeball on the festival circuit.

In Hollywood, much like America, the middle class has eroded.

It is in that landscape that “Money Monster” now enters the fray, with a healthy but reasonable $30 million budget and a recognizable cast of A- and B-list actors (George Clooney and Julia Roberts get top billing, with The Wire’s Dominic West, Unbroken’s Jack O’Connell and Gus Fring — Giancarlo Esposito — supporting).

And while Foster may not have intended it, the film’s plot also functions as a meta-commentary on the state of modern movie-making. It concerns a working class schmoe (O’Connell) who went all-in with his family savings based on the stock tips of a Jim Cramer-style economic televangelist (Clooney). When the stock goes bully up due to an algorithmic “glitch,” O’Connell’s Kyle forces his way onto Clooney’s set mid-broadcast, holding the Money Monster hostage on live television and demanding answers.

Read into that what you will, but even at $30 million it will be a small miracle if Monster can make its money back competing against Marvel’s Civil War.

But if you saw The Big Short (which, you better have) and you left the theater wishing someone would strap a bomb vest to every C-level executive on Wall Street, this movie has the schadenfreude you’re looking for.

Unfortunately, Foster and screenwriters Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf, fail to fully capitalize on their premise. For two-thirds of the movie, everyone on screen is mostly stalling for time before a third act that sees far too many convenient puzzle pieces fall into place as the too-obvious conspiracy behind the stock’s failure come to light.

That’s not to say the movie is without merit. The story packs in a couple of bombshell emotional twists, which Foster sets up like a pro before hitting them out of the park, and the events get a much-needed shot in the arm when hostage and hostage-taker take their show-within-a-movie out into the streets of New York for a confrontation with smarmy Wall Street exec Walt Camby (played, naturally, by West).

All of which is to say that Money Monster is hardly the must-see movie event of the summer, but it succeeds as the modestly-budgeted, non-blockbuster, mid-range drama that it is.

Grade: B

*Money Monster opens nationwide on Friday, May 13.

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“The party is over”

That’s the expectation of on character near the end of “The Big Short,” a movie that tracks three independent teams of Wall Street outsiders who foresaw the housing market crash of 2007 that decimated the U.S. (and world) economy and bet big on a bursting bubble.

He’s referring, of course, to the big bankers, whose behavior leading up to the crash can be described in the nicest terms as negligent (but are more accurately described in less nice terms). The banks will be broken up, he says, and those responsible for cashing checks on the backs of millions of woefully ill-advised mortgages will be sent to jail.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Instead, as hindsight and the film make abundantly clear, the big banks marched forward with the aid of a taxpayer-funded bailout, earning gargantuan bonuses for their chief executives while millions of American families lost their homes and livelihoods. The party, for the wrong people it would appear, was over.

It’s hard not to get angry while watching “The Big Short,” which deftly balances a frenzied excitement — akin to a subdued “Wolf of Wall Street” — while still possessing bucket loads of moral outrage. The outsiders who saw the disaster coming are mocked and ridiculed while shouting out to anyone who will listen the danger at the country’s doorstep.

And director Adam McKay, best known for low-brow comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers, turns out to be an inspired choice. Any talk of adjustable interest rates and asset-backed securities is bound to glaze the eyes of casual film-goers, so McKay amps up the showmanship by having the film narrated by a smarmy, fourth-wall breaking Ryan Gosling, who occasionally delegates his explanatory duties to guest star cameos, like Margot Robbie in a bubble bath giving an Econ 101 lesson on subprime mortgages.

It’s heady stuff, but rather than get lost in the weeds, McKay and “The Big Short” (rounded out by an incredible cast including Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale) keep things light and breezy, explaining just enough of the big picture to string together the insidious bread crumbs that led to financial catastrophe.

Grade: A-

*The Big Short opens nationwide on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

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