*NEW* MONEY MONSTER REVIEW *NEW*

money_monster_ver2_xxlg

For a drama tackling financial woe, it came off more as a tame beast BUT still watchable, none the same.

Financial TV host Lee Gates (George Clooney) and his producer Patty (Julia Roberts) are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor (Jack O’Connell) takes over their studio.

I originally avoided this at the cinema. The trailers did nothing for me. After the dense but hard hitting arrival of The Big Short, I thought this was going to be a cheap rip off jumping on the band wagon.

BUT old Ma and Pa told Mr Over Critical to give it a go AND . . .

After 15 minutes, I was ready to switch it off. I know there are OTT financial shows like Money Monster in real life BUT watching Clooney strut around a news studio with a golden top hat to a bit of R ‘n’ B did nothing to win me over.

It tried to be like The Newsroom. The script desperate to deliver that quick pitter-patter that only Aaron Sorkin can master.

I know Clooney’s arrogant protagonist was supposed to be smug BUT I really didn’t like him.

Roberts was on the side lines far too much and a gag involving erectile dysfunction cream among the crew almost had me change the channel there and then.

It was all a little too disjointed. The film kept flicking back and forth to random places all over the world with no explanation. I was struggling to keep up.

However . . .

Once Jack O’Connell made his introduction, my interest was finally peaked and what ensued was a highly watchable and engaging little thriller.

I’m not the biggest fan of the Skins star. Don’t ask me why, there’s just something about him. BUT his performance was fantastic. He stole the show and once Lee (Clooney) realised the abuse of his own power, things really got going.

It was quite tense as he tried to negotiate with the volatile Kyle (O’Connell) on live TV. Clad in a vest of Semtex with the world watching. The questions piling up as the news team tried to seek out any information on their captor.

I was relieved when Roberts was brought into the fold. Working that Ocean’s Eleven magic with Clooney yet again.

It wasn’t long before we discovered that Kyle had lost all his money investing in the wrong company. All thanks to a certain TV show. BUT his anger wasn’t just at his own loss. It was at the very corporation who got away with it.

Millions of stockholder’s hard earned cash lost because of a ‘glitch’. No explanation. Nothing.

As the mystery unfolded, Lee faced a crisis of conscience (making Clooney a lot more tolerable and likeable). It was interesting how the tide changed from a single search for answers to a quest for justice.

The supporting cast delivered somewhat of a mixed bag.

Caitriona Balfe’s (Outlander) performance left a little to be desired. Her Irish/American twang didn’t help matters and I’m not sure whether it was the lines or her delivery BUT she made the character a lot flatter than she should have been.

A shame considering how instrumental her character became as the team discovered more than they bargained for.

Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito was completely wasted in his role as Captain Powell. Anyone could have played him. Emily Meade (NERVE) made more of an impression in those five minutes as Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend.

The dumbing down of the financial guff made it easily accessible and understandable BUT still tapped into that Big Short territory. The political speeches aimed at the big wigs were a little hammy in parts.

I say big wigs. The whole of Wall Street personified in the form of McNulty from The Wire. Sorry, Walt Camby. A greedy CEO with no S.O.U.L. Dominic West played the part of the sleazy exec well.

It may have been a little OTT as Lee brought the show right to the ruthless crook’s doorstep BUT it still hit home.

Raising valid points and questioning how these corporations could play with people’s money with such ease. No restrictions, no regulations. Shocking.

Despite a stuttering opener, Money Monster overcome its hurdles to deliver a satisfying and emotional finale as everything came to a head with a long awaited confrontation that pieced together all the disjointed scenes (That were bugging the hell out of me).

Worth a gander if you’ve got 90 minutes to kill.

3/5 (Just)

Advertisements

TOMORROWLAND – A WORLD BEYOND REVIEW

Tomorrowland_Poster_Frank_003

To-bore-o-land?

Bound by a shared destiny, a teen (Britt Robertson) bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor (George Clooney) embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.

Whaaaattt? Yeah, it’s a little dense. The Cloonster and Disney team up. To mixed results. At its best, an exhilarating action packed thrill ride. At its worst, a meandering, overlong piece that gets too bogged down with the timey wimey stuff.

Brought to you by the director of The Incredibles and one of the writers of LOST. For quite a few of you that might trigger mixed reactions. Brad Bird certainly knows how to deliver an action set piece. BUT Lindelof? He knows how to make a story so complex. Unnecessarily most of the time.

As soon as the film started with Clooney and Robertson’s characters bickering over how they should tell the story, I could feel my excitement dropping. The squabbling went on too long and wasn’t even that funny. Not a great opener.

BUT once the pair got over their storytelling techniques and the flashbacks began, I was strapped in. The complex premise slowly set up. Easygoing, charming and oh so frantic. Typical Brad Bird. We look back into Clooney’s past and see his younger counterpart attending the World Fair and getting introduced to the mysterious Tomorrowland.

Look, I know it’s a Disney film but how much merchandise and promotion did they want to flog in this? Seriously, it was hilarious. I won’t spoil anything. It is a small world after all 😉 Although nice try, Mr Bird. Keep a watchful eye on some sneaky Incredibles and Iron Giant memorabilia.

The special effects were outstanding. A visual feast for the eyes. Disney missed out on a trick by not letting this feature in 3D. There were moments where I actually flinched. Rockets and jet packs flying at you from the screen.

Raffey Cassidy delivered a sterling turn as Athena. The one who sets Clooney and Robertson on their destined paths. With an already impressive filmography; Snow White and the Huntsman, Dark Shadows and Mr Selfridge, she will be one to watch for the future.

It’s always tough for a child actor to make the right impression. Especially when their character is crucial to the story. If they don’t win you over, it’s hard to care what happens. Her delivery may have been a little shaky to start but it was still a good performance.

It took a good 45 minutes before Clooney was really introduced into the mix. Confidence in a young cast. Robertson didn’t do a bad job. I just found her character a little irritating. Her OTT optimistic attitude was a little too sugary sweet for my liking.

Clooney certainly got things going. He has proven before that he is up for a laugh and goes along with the ridiculousness without question. He plays the cliched bitter old man well.

The action set pieces were superb. Picking up the pace when things seemed to lull. The introduction of the robo-cops felt like something out of Terminator 2. No! Not that Robocop. The eerily white teethed Matthew MacCaull certainly added a creepy vibe to the timey teen pic. Their high tech gadgetry was crazy. Disintegrating people into matter without a second thought.

I wondered why this film was given a 12A certificate until half way through. The violence may have been OTT and the guards are robots BUT I didn’t expect to see Robertson bludgeoning one to death. Smashing his head in repeatedly for a good 30 seconds. Probably not suitable viewing for the little ‘uns.

This has teen viewing stamped all over it. A little bit violent and a little bit more going on but nowhere near as demented, apocalyptic and dark as it could have been. BUT come on, it’s Disney.

The closing 30 minutes seemed to meander off and went out with a whimper NOT a bang. After all the mystery and mad inter dimensional mumbo jumbo and a crazy shuttle launch sequence involving the Eiffel Tower, the payoff just wasn’t as complicated as it made out nor as rewarding. If anything it was quite simple and really predictable. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case.

It was certainly watchable and for the majority of the screen time, I was engrossed. Hell, I got to see the ultimate stand off between two of the most iconic TV docs. ER’s Doug Ross vs. Gregory House. Hugh Laurie was good as Nix but his character was a bit nothingy and felt more like a panto villain. Dispensing his guards and then just waiting. Or scowling.

I won’t say too much about the plot but I’m glad that Lindelof and Bird got the balance right with Athena and Clooney’s relationship. Something that could have come off awkward and a little weird if delivered the wrong way.

Lindelof really needs to work on his endings. And no! That is NOT a angry swipe from a LOST fan. It isn’t! I swear. Just look at Prometheus. For all the timey wimey mystery and crazy theories, I was hoping for something a little more spectacular.

Also a quick question for Mr Bird. Was Judy Greer’s part cut? A talented actress reduced to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo? A waste of a talented supporting actress.

It’s frantic, action packed, riveting but also on far too long. I respect Disney for at least trying to do something original instead of another mindless remake or rehash.

It’s just a shame that the film got too caught up in the science stuff that it lost the fun and charm that had it kept it going.

Not bad but a little disappointing. Still not the worst way to kill two hours.

3/5

The Monuments Men Review

The-Monuments-Men-UK-Quad-Poster

Not a monument that will stand the lengths of time in the huge backlog of war classics we’ve had before. It checked all the boxes but failed to deliver anything new or interesting. Hardly a bomb site, but it lacked the right execution for this operation.

George Clooney takes the helm yet again in an ambitious war effort that just fails to hit the mark. The Monuments Men is based on a real operation that was approved by President Roosevelt himself to help retrieve stolen art and relics from the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners. However, as World War Two is coming to a close, Hitler issues an order to destroy all the art, making it a race against the clock. Now, an intriguing premise that suggested a treasure hunt with a dash of Indiana Jones and a hint of Dad’s Army for good measure. Not at all, old sport. What came was a well acted, if meandering drawn out crusade that if not for a couple of twists, would have been dead in the water. It is difficult to criticize when this is based on a true story, but it still can’t be excused as it raised too many questions.

It reeked of the war movies of old. The sort of maritime viewing you get on a Sunday afternoon. A nice melancholic feel but the problem was that it felt dated before it had even begun. It does start off quite easy going and watchable. The cheeky winking and lighthearted pace as Clooney assembles a talented ensemble of retired veterans and soldiers consisting of Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and the underrated Bob Balaban (who has always stood out for me after his turn in The Lady in the Lake with his speech on characters. One for the writers, that). And of course, not forgetting the regular Clooney collaborators, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett.

It’s always going to be hard to make a war film after so many classics but looking at this as a sole text, the tone is all over the place. It has the cheeky twinkle that suggests a Dad’s Army and Allo Allo vibe, especially with Damon’s badly spoken French. A reverse twist that had the odd chuckle, with the French begging him to speak English. There is the occasional titter but the material fails to bring a lot of humour and the partnership between Balaban and Murray could have been so much more. We know Murray is funny, so why not let him apply a little bit of his spiel? He seemed restricted. Well, if we’re honest, they all seem restricted. There was potential with Dujardin and Bonneville, especially in an exchange as to why Hitler only bombs places with no art or culture. Bonneville retorts, “Well they bombed London”. Dujardin smiles, “Yes, I know”. A little bit harsh but there could have been a little rivalry or banter exchange between them, but the two get paired up with the wrong actors, to be honest.

That is also the main problem, the gang inevitably have to split up to cover more ground, which is more miss than hit. Damon aimlessly wonders around the beautiful French countryside before he finally meets his contact, Cate Blanchett. Clooney just drives around, barking orders and taking inventory with young recruit Dmitri Leonidas (you may remember him from the fantasy dud of a TV reboot, Sinbad).  Goodman and Dujardin do have the more interesting adventures with snipers and concluding battle scenes as the Germans were being pushed out. Murray and Balaban bring the odd chuckle and are a good pairing but their adventures are a little nothingy. When Damon meets Blanchett, it does pick up and there is some great chemistry between them but it all gets quite corny and hints at a needless and unnecessary romance. 

There are sobering moments that do bring it back home with some unexpected twists that did surprise, without spoiling, and once the group reunite, the film picks up after a drawn out hour. The land mine scene may have been corny, but was funny and suspenseful. There is a harrowing little touch when the group come across more than they bargained for, when they discover barrels of gold wedding rings and teeth. Clooney’s cigarette speech with the head German officer in charge of disposing the art was brilliant. We finally got to see Clooney come back to the fore and act well, after being quite absent. The pace quickens as the gang have to race against the clock to retrieve all the art before the Russians arrive. There is also a nice aside at the end with a fitting tribute. 

However, The Monuments Men felt more like an extension of the Points episode in Band of Brothers and unfortunately that got the point across a lot better and a lot more riveting in a condensed hour. I couldn’t help feel that in a time of death, loss and destruction, who would care about some pieces of art? Understandably, it is true that by removing the history and culture, you are truly removing the people but it seems less important to the lives that were already lost. A watchable, if drawn out, corny and predictable affair that may get lost like the art in the plethora of war classics before it. 2.5/5

Currently ranks #86 out of 142!