Tag Archives: jodie foster

Money Monster – Review

24 May

Last year, Adam McKay’s The Big Short took the financial crisis of 2007 & 2008 and made it into something that is both easy to understand, yet close to impossible to comprehend how something like that could’ve happened. It was a very smart movie that was also sharp with its comedy. We now live in a time where movies based around unfair economic system in America are a great and accessible way to get other people involved and talking. Most recently, we’ve gotten Jodie Foster’s Money Monster. This film isn’t quite as sharp or intelligent as other movies concerning this topic, but it’s still a relevant and entertaining thriller that kept me engaged for most of its run time.

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Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the host of an off the walls finance show called Money Monster where Gates gives investors all the advice they need to know when it comes to buying and selling stocks. On a day like any other, the show begins and for a while seems to be going just fine, up until a disgruntled investor named Kyle (Jack O’Connell) storms the studio and holds Lee at gunpoint while also strapping a vest armed with a bomb to the terrified host. After the show’s director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), evacuates all the staff not needed to continue the broadcast, Patty and Lee do whatever they can to keep the gunman at bay and also hopefully find the answers he’s looking for before the police decide to enter the studio.

Money Monster is a very topical movie that fits in very well with the world we live in today, especially concerning finances and all the different forms of media from journalism to viral videos. I compared certain elements of this movie with The Big Short, but this movie is very far from being The Big Short. This is a popcorn movie through and through, even though it does have some brain power backing it up. You won’t see any new argument in this movie and it still shows how corrupt Wall Street is, but doesn’t really break new ground. For what Money Monster is, however, that’s completely fine. It’s much more fun looking at this movie as a real time hostage movie that reminded me of something between Dog Day Afternoon and The Negotiator.

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The cast in this movie are perfectly casted, and I really wouldn’t have had it any other way. Clooney still seems to be playing a version of Clooney, but he still is a very believable character and plays all of his scenes with precision acting. Julia Roberts, who I normally really don’t care for, was great here, and a lot of that was due to the way the character was written. Dominic West, who is known for The Wire but is known to me as the hilariously over the top Jigsaw in Punisher: War Zone, doesn’t have much screen time but makes the best of what he has. I recently saw Jack O’Connell in ’71, so I was excited to see him in Money Monster. Needless to say, he did not disappoint. O’Connell is the strongest part of this movie and gives a devastatingly real performance that I could never forget.

There’s a lot of really intense stuff in Money Monster and some of the most shocking and well written things all happen in the confines of the studio. Movies that have stories stuck in one location make things feel really closed in and immediate. Save for a pretty cool third act, there’s a lot of stuff in between that is important to the story, but didn’t really make me feel anything. All of these scenes revolve around a character named Diane Lester, who was the chief of communications for the main antagonist. As she works to learn more of the truth that has been covered up and her scenes get longer and more frequent, I felt more compelled to just speed the movie up just so I could get back to the scenes with Clooney, Roberts, and O’Connell.

Money Monster certainly isn’t here to change anyone’s lives, but there’s a chance that it may come across as acting smarter than it really is. What this movie works at being is a very topical hostage thriller that fits in very well with different problems going on in the world today. It’s a movie that we’ll be able to look back on and compare with worldly events that will better help the viewer analyze the film. Money Monster is full of tension, excitement, and great performances with some weak scenes thrown into the mix just to mess with the audience. It isn’t the best movie you’ll see about Wall Street or corruption, but it’s still a good deal of fun.

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Panic Room – Review

28 Jul

I have quite a love/hate relationship with movies that are labeled as “thrillers.” It’s not an easy genre, that’s for sure, since it relies on suspense and intensity rather than cheap scares or action and violence. Panic Room falls very nicely into that category, and luckily director David Fincher and writer David Koepp have proven themselves to be proficient at pretty much every genre put on the screen. Moving at a brisk pace and featuring a lot of surprises throughout the length of its run time, Panic Room is not only just an entertaining thriller, it’s one that will leave you thinking about all of its twists, turns, characters, and subtext.

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Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) is a recently divorced single mother looking for a new house in the Upper West Side of New York City. She soon finds the perfect house, and moves in with her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart). On the night they move in, however, their house is broken into by three robbers: Burnham (Forest Whitaker), Junior (Jared Leto), and Raoul (Dwight Yoakam), who all expected the house to be empty. Luckily for Meg and her daughter, their new house has a super secure panic room which they run into for safety while they think of a plan to get the intruders out of the house. While their options become limited, the terror only increases when it is revealed that what the three robbers are looking for is buried in the floor of the panic room.

So, like I said before, an essential element of thrillers is to feature something that is inherently fearful. That’s why there’s different kinds of thrillers. Psychological thrillers explore strange horrors of the mind, political thrillers show the paranoia and dangers of politics, but I’m not sure where exactly to place Panic Room. It’s a movie that explores something that I think is the most frightening thing of all, and that is something or someone getting into your house to cause harm to you or anything in your life. That’s why movies like The Strangers and Funny Games stick with me so much. This is another one that can go hand in hand with those movies, even though I’d say this one is a bit more Hollywood and more entertaining. It still relies on intense elements of suspense and basic human fears that I think we can all relate to.

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Another really strong point of this movie, and surprisingly for me I think, is how incredible each and every character is. I thought that it was just going to be Meg and Sarah vs a trio of generic bad guys, but that isn’t true at all. Everyone in Panic Room is their own character and don’t resemble or come close to another. I can credit this not only to Koepp’s writing, but also to Fincher’s directing and all of the actors, who performed their parts very well. Possibly the only negative I can see in the performances is that Leto kind of became a cartoon at points, but I still had the most fun with his character because of that. So can it really be a negative if I still enjoyed myself? We may never know.

This is also one of those movies that can be enjoyed at its surface, but I dare say it’s even more fun to dive into the subtext and try to pick it apart. You may be surprised with what you find in Panic Room. I’ve seen analyses of the film that say it’s a story of feminism, technology, and/or modern medicine. I can definitely see all three, but I have to say that this is a movie about feminism more than anything else. Foster’s Meg Altman, with no help from anyone else, takes on the people that invaded her home possibly threatens the life of her and her child. It takes a smart approach with its stances on its themes, which makes it even more of a respectable film.

Panic Room is yet another success in both David Fincher’s and David Koepp’s ever growing body of work. It works as a horror film, a psychological thriller, and a film that explores deeper themes that may be expected. Everyone gives incredible performances, all with the aid of Fincher’s expert direction and Koepp’s lean and taut screenplay. For any fans of the thriller genre, or really movies in general, Panic Room is a must see.

Elysium – Review

2 Jan

Neil Blomkamp crash landed on the sci-fi radar in 2009 with his contemporary masterpiece District 9. In my opinion, this is the most important science fiction film of the past twenty years, so when his second film, Elysium, was released in 2013, the film had a lot to live up to. It’s true that Elysium doesn’t quite reach the same heights as District 9, but I wasn’t really expecting it to. Once you stop comparing to Blomkamp’s first film, you can see that Elysium is a really good movie that, unfortunately, gets a little heavy handed at times.

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In 2154, the Earth is an absolute wreck after problems such as overpopulation have completely destroyed the environment and crippled society. This is just a problem for your average everyday citizen. The more wealthy, upper class citizen can live a life of luxury that can span as many lifetimes as they desire on a huge Stanford-torus space station called Elysium. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) has always dreamed of making it to Elysium, but never actually expected to. One day at work, he is exposed to lethal amounts of radiation and only has five days to live, with his only chance of life being a medical pod on Elysium. To get up there he meets with his old associate Spider (Wagner Moura), who attaches a powerful mechanical exoskeleton to Max and begin a mission that will ultimately end on Elysium. Max has caught the eye of the Elysium Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster), who aims to prevent them from getting to Elysium, so she hires her man on the ground, Kruger (Sharlto Copely), to stop them.

As with District 9Elysium is more than just a science fiction story that you can shut your brain off for and just enjoy the ride. Sure, if you want to you’re allowed to, but you’d be missing a lot of the movie’s appeal. The message here is just about as obvious as a movie can get, and Blomkamp doesn’t seem to care if he lays it on as heavy as he can. In my opinion, that is the movie’s main weakness. Just looking at the plot summary I just wrote, you can probably figure out what the message of the movie is, even if you had no prior knowledge. The movie just feels a little bit preachy. Still there are a lot more themes that aren’t as heavy handed, such as themes of transhumanism.

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The design of Elysium is really something to behold. The space station itself is a Stanford-torus design that was thought up at Stanford University by NASA in 1975. This makes the movie even more believable than it would be. But, this movie is very believable. The problems on Earth can already be seen here and now, so the time period of 2154 makes the Earth in this movie seem possible. Also, the weaponry and set design all seem like a very realistic depiction of a possible future. I’m no expert of what can be expected in terms of technology within the next hundred to two hundred years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it looks very much like it does in Elysium, hopefully not as dystopic. The only piece of technology that I don’t really buy is essential to the story. That is the medical pods on Elysium that heal you, no matter what the ailment. While it is a really cool idea, I just can’t see that happening any time soon, although it is a necessary piece of the story.

Now I don’t normally spend an entire section on just one person, but I feel like I need to. The performances are fine in this movie, other than Foster, whose performance is awkward at best. Who not only steals every scene he’s in, but runs off with the entire movie is Sharlto Copely. Wow. Having worked with Blomkamp before in District 9, it isn’t really surprising to see him again in Elysium. His performance as the sleeper agent Kruger is horrifying. He’s one of those characters that make you uncomfortable every time he’s on screen because, for one, he just looks gross, but also you never quite know what he’s going to do next or what he’s capable of. Copely plays this psycho spot on, and I firmly believe that no one else could have played this part and done it the justice that Copely did. It may be one of my new favorite screen performances.

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So, as I expected, Elysium is another success by a new science fiction titan, Neil Blomkamp. If you’re expecting it to be the next District 9, it isn’t, but it is a step above a lot of the movies that come out nowadays, especially in terms of science fiction. It’s a powerful blockbuster with an important, if not heavy handed message. Plus a lot of people explode in this movie, so expect a lot of that. But hey, I’m not complaining about that! I’d strongly recommend Elysium. It’s a fun blockbuster that makes me excited to see what Blomkamp will do in the future.