Neither George Clooney nor Julia Roberts has had a box office winner in the past few years. Their latest, Money Monster, won’t be one, either. The film, directed by Jodie Foster, is a strange hybrid – part comedy, part thriller, part farce. Still, anyone hoping to avoid superhero films this season could do worse than spending 90-plus minutes watching two seasoned actors take on Wall Street.
Clooney plays Lee Gates, an over-the-top version of CNBC’s Jim Cramer, doling out stock tips while wearing a silver vest emblazoned with dollar signs and kicking up his heels with a pair of dancers dressed in gold. No one sees what he does as serious business reporting, including the show’s producer, Patty Fenn (Roberts), who is on her way out, having accepted a job at another news outlet.
The stuff hits the fan when a disgruntled viewer, Kyle Bidwell (Jack O’Connell, doing an acceptable Queens accent), shows up on the set with a gun and forces Gates to put on a vest loaded with explosives. Kyle, a minimum wage delivery person, got caught up in Gates’s enthusiasm for Ibis Clear Capital and lost his entire savings, $60,000, when the company’s stock tanked virtually overnight. Ibis’s CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West), is blaming the loss on a computer glitch, leaving it to his communications director, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), to face the press. Before Gates can interview Lester, he’s taken hostage. Kyle wants answers and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to hold someone accountable.
While the NYPD closes in, Gates slowly comes over to Kyle’s side. And when Fenn, aided by the show’s other reporters, begins to turn up evidence that Camby is covering up what really happened at Ibis, Gates risks his life to do what he’s rarely done – get the real story.
While Clooney certainly has a sense of comic timing, that quality doesn’t come through here. He’s better during the film’s serious moments. Roberts is the heart of the film, directing the action on the set, feeding questions to Gates, and defying the police by staying in the studio after the evacuation.
Money Monster is a soft jab at Wall Street, certainly not in the same league as The Big Short or The Wolf of Wall Street. Yet it hits screens at a perfect time, with voters like Kyle still asking questions about the haves versus the have-nots.
Money Monster opens nationwide on May 13, 2016.
It’s no secret 2016, is shaping up to be a very…ahem…exciting election season. Besides such issues of income inequality, the Supreme Court, reproductive justice, foreign policy, and so forth the increasingly dire news about global warming is weighing on many people’s minds-and makes Earth Day this year seem more weighted with symbolism than usual. Here are some more films that deal with environmental issues.
Erin Brockovich (2000) The biography of the real life Brockovich who successfully spearheaded a lawsuit against the Pacific Gas & Electric Company for polluting the water of Hinckley, California was a commercial and critical success that was nominated by the Academy for Best Picture, Best Director (Steven Soderberg) and won Julia Roberts the Oscar for Best Actress in the titular role of feisty single mom Erin. Albert Finney, Peter Coyote, Aaron Eckhart, all provide stellar performances as well.
Being Caribou (2005) Husband and wife team Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison spent five months following the migration of the Porcupine caribou herd. Allison an environmentalist and Heuer a wildlife biologist were weighing in on the Arctic Refuge Drilling controversy, by demonstrating how such drilling threatened the herd’s survival since their natural calving grounds are within the Refuge. Being Caribou won scores of awards including a Gemini Award and most popular Canadian film at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Happy Feet (2006) Every emperor penguin sings a ‘heartsong’ to attract a mate, but when Memphis (Hugh Jackman) manages to drop the egg while his mate Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) is away their son Mumble (Elijah Wood) hatches without the gift of son. He can however, tap dance! While the main focus of this animated musical comedy is on Mumble’s struggle for acceptance, the driving catalyst is how over-fishing by man in the Antarctic waters has put the entire penguin colony at risk of starvation. Happy Feet won the BAFTA for Best Animated Film, the Saturn award for Best Animated Film, AND was the first Warner Brothers production to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Food Inc. (2008) This documentary directed by the Emmy nominated Robert Kenner examines the costs of industrial meat production and corporate farming in the U.S. It’s narrated by Michael Pollan author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Eric Schlosser author of Fast Food Nation. Interview subjects include food activists, former politicians, organic food executives and more. Food Inc. was nominated for both the Independent Spirit Award and the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Virunga (2014) Directed by Orlando von Einseidel, Virunga chronicles the fight to save the natural beauty and biodiversity of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from oil exploration. It primarily focuses on four figures: gorilla caregiver Andre Bauma; park warden Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo; chief warden Emmanuel de Merode; and French investigative journalist Melanie Gouby. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and after airing on Netflix it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.