10 CLOVERFIELD LANE REVIEW

*NEW* MONEY MONSTER REVIEW *NEW*

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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)

*NEW* STEVE JOBS REVIEW *NEW*

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Steve Jobzzzz

Sorkin. Boyle. Fassbender. Winslet. Rogen. This had all the ingredients for a perfect biopic. BUT it failed to impress on so many levels.

Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint a portrait of the man at its epicentre. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.

From the director of Trainspotting and penned by the man who brought you The West Wing. Maybe I went with too high an expectation. The meandering opener with Arthur C. Clarke predicting the inevitable invasion of personal computers and their insertion into everyday lives didn’t really get things going for me. It was certainly haunting. Especially as I was writing notes on my iPhone while watching the thing.

Michael Fassbender was superb. He delivered a stellar performance BUT a fitting one? Well, that’s another story. We join the technical genius during the 1984 Mackintosh fair. It was typical Sorkin which, for the first 30 minutes, ticked all the boxes. Fast talking, quick witted, highly quotable (“The orchestra play their instruments and I play the orchestra”). And, of course, the hallway walking. Oh, the hallway walking.

We watch Jobs have a fit over the Mac’s interface as it crashes before the big moment. I understand that films always dramatize and exaggerate BUT Sorkin and Boyle really go out of their way to make Jobs appear to be such a ruthless and egotistical manipulator. I mean normally nine times out of ten, most of these “geniuses” or “historical figures” have a screw loose. BUT it’s convenient that the film was made after Job’s death.

It certainly changed perceptions BUT after his passing, you got a sense of the techno wizard. And then to see him torn to pieces and portrayed as a callous liar, it was a little tough to swallow. BUT at the same breath, it spiced up what was quite a dull affair.

The techno babble did tragically go over my head. BUT I was able to gather that Jobs was streaming things that weren’t part of the package or technically didn’t even exist. He exploited and stole components from any one he could. Even his own friend Steve Wozniak.

It was good to see Seth Rogen do some semi-serious acting for a change. He didn’t do a bad turn as Wozniak. Loitering around the conferences like a bad smell. Merely wanting acknowledgment for Job’s plagiarism. Nothing more. Or was he?

Kate Winslet worked well with Fassbender and delivered a reasonable turn as Job’s long suffering assistant Joanna Hoffman. The pair zinged off each other and really made Sorkin’s lines snap. BUT my main issue was her accent. Hoffman was Polish American. It felt like halfway through the film, Winslet suddenly remembered this and tried to thicken the accent to Borat levels. Well, maybe not that bad but it was pretty noticeable.

As much as Boyle and Sorkin may have created a monster in Jobs, it was all rather mediocre and repetitive. They literally did the same thing in three different conferences with the same result. Jobs would bellow at techies, deny that he had a daughter, ignore Hoffman’s advice and then still be trusted with shed loads of money.

Jobs’ estranged relationship with his daughter Lisa certainly made things a little more interesting. He developed an algorithm to argue against the court ruling declaring him as the father. 94.1% was inconclusive, apparently. BUT what infuriated me was that it was brought in very early adding to the drama. Then nothing. Just more fast talking and walking. The subplot was only really brought back into the mix at the end. Shame.

I respected that Sorkin did eventually question the moral ambivalence of everyone. The intentions of Chrisann (Katherine Waterston – Inherent Vice), Jobs’ ex soon changed your loyalties. What appeared to be a genuine concern for her daughter’s welfare soon became a cash cow.

The flashbacks were a little disappointing. I expected  a little more depth into Jobs’ personal background (Apparently he doesn’t have one). Not a regurgitation of what we’ve already been told or gathered. Only a little more shouty. There was a clever use of juxtaposition that meshed two different arguments between John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) and Jobs. The wrong doer ironically having the role reversed.

I wasn’t aware how disappointing a campaign Mac had after developing one of the most iconic adverts in history. There were some interesting stats being thrown around. Apple’s control of the market hitting an all time low. Factories closing. Projected sales turnovers of a million computers only reaching 35,000!

Jobs was a mastermind. BUT not in the admirable way (Is there one?). During his exile from Apple, he established a new company that was flogging a product that had nothing new to justify the incredibly steep price. Nothing but an expensive game of chess between the Apple execs. He knew they were after the tech that he was developing and would have to buy it from him.

It was watchable BUT I feel I’m making it more interesting than it was (Or not?). It was far too talky and too serious. I’m not sure whether it was out of desperation BUT Sorkin threw in odd quirks that didn’t make any sense. A scene in which Jobs cleans his feet in a toilet bowl struck me as odd and irrelevant.

I feel Sorkin pushed this into The Newsroom territory. A show I never really enjoyed. The grandiose and sanctimonious speeches over such petty and uninteresting things. There just wasn’t enough drama for my liking. Not enough exploration into Jobs’ past. I mean if these were the best moments of Job’s life, then yikes!

A mixed bag for me. Quick witted and brilliantly acted. BUT repetitive, heavy handed and dull. Maybe some stories shouldn’t be told.

2.5/5

WILD REVIEW

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Did Reese Witherspoon’s performance drive me wild with praise or RAGE?

The director of Dallas Buyers Club returns with another Oscar contender but can lightning strike twice?

Right, enough questions.

Not bad at all.

I had mixed feelings about Reese Witherspoon. I mean, Legally Blonde? No, no, no.

That was until her Oscar winning turn in Walk The Line. A complete transformation. And she delivers yet again with another solid performance.

So what’s it all about? Wild is basically a chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike (Short and sweet. Hey, no spoilers here).

Jean-Marc Vallee takes on another biopic but this time it just doesn’t quite feel as polished off as Dallas Buyers Club.

Understandably, they are completely different films BUT I found DBC had a lot more story and depth. This is a certainly an engaging if slow burning journey of one woman trying to find herself BUT it just doesn’t quite reach the heights that you expect.

Yves Belanger returns to deliver a visual masterpiece. The cinematography really made use of the locations.  A beautiful backdrop full of life and colour in one shot, desolate and dreary the next.

Witherspoon has more than enough screen presence to keep the film going. Crucial when she’s the main character that we are following for the next two hours!

The film flicks back and forth through Cheryl Strayed’s past as she embarks on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Vallee and Hornby cleverly juxtapose the flashbacks with the past and present well. Revealing Strayed’s demons and darker moments as the journey becomes more strenuous. The challenge continuing to test her by the day.

The inner monologues from Strayed were a nice touch. Some of her one liners were quite funny; “Morning. Cold mush. Afternoon. Cold mush. Evening. Cold mush. I love cold mush.”

Her initial struggle was quite humourous for any amateur hiker (*Cough* Me* Cough*). Wrestling with her monster backpack, failing to set up her tent, buying the wrong gas canister for her cooker.

The pace worked for the majority of the film as Strayed dealt with the ever-changing temperatures; searing heat in the desert to the sub-zero temperatures of the snowfall that was never supposed to hit.

There were some interesting revelations. Some that did surprise me. Others you could suss. As Cheryl delved further into the wild, you couldn’t help but feel an air of unease and suspense. The wildlife creeping in the dark.

The paranoia of the unknown made for a funny incident involving a caterpillar and a sleeping bag. BUT it also made for a tense one. A pair of hunters make an unpleasant and unwelcome appearance.

I loved some of the metaphorical imagery. The fact Cheryl is literally standing in the middle of a crossroads as she debates hitching a ride all the way back home was hardly subtle but nicely done.

The CGI fox was a little irritating. I mean, it was a nice moment when it first appeared but when it kept popping up, it was irritating and the CGI seemed to get worse.

Strayed certainly meets a strange bunch of characters. The only problem is that they aren’t quite as memorable as you hope them to be.

I actually had to do a quick recap by looking at the cast list. A shame.

Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom) was very good as Paul (Cheryl’s estranged partner). I thought Sadoksi and Witherspoon had great chemistry. It would have been nice to see more of their relationship. I mean the flashbacks zip through the life cycle of the relationship quite well but a little too quickly for my liking.

Laura Dern did a good performance as Strayed’s mum, Bobbi but Oscar worthy? I’m not so sure.

She certainly played the part well and I felt for her character in the small flashbacks she appeared in BUT then again let’s not forget that Dame Judi Dench won Best Supporting Actress for Shakespeare in Love and she was only in that for 8 minutes!

However, there was one scene in which Bobbi just breaks down after hiding behind her scatty, smiley mask for so long and Dern was outstanding. But I wanted more. There just wasn’t enough of that in the film for me.

The more I thought about the story line and the characters Strayed came across, it reminded me a little too much of Sean Penn’s brilliant travel biopic (coincidentally titled) Into the Wild. The beautiful landscapes, the flashbacks, a likeable lead (in Emile Hirsch).

I mean, even the whole “meeting different people who share their stories” spiel bared a striking resemblance (but with more memorable characters). If you were unlucky not to see this; first go see it and second, Wild may fare a bit better for you than it did for me.

BUT to those who have seen the Penn pic, you may find it hard not to make comparisons which Wild falls just a little bit short.

My main qualm about the film was that despite dipping in pace, it just ended so abruptly.

A quick quote and a summary of what happened next. That’s it?! We didn’t even get to see Strayed finish the trail properly.

I just felt after all that time, it would have been nice to have a few more minutes flashing through Strayed’s life after this spiritual journey to let it come full circle.

I won’t spoil anything but as Strayed explains her life in the closing speech, I couldn’t help but notice a massive continuity error with the time frame in which the events leading up and after her trail were supposed to have happened. It just didn’t add up.

It was a bum note on a well acted and highly watchable drama.

Witherspoon certainly does enough to warrant that Oscar nod but Best Actress? I don’t know.

But if you want a well acted spiritual journey flick to break up the hum drum heading our way, then invest.

3/5