Thursday, May 12, 2016

Rapid Reviews: Money Monster and High-Rise

Jodie Foster has spent a lifetime in the film industry, literally. She began acting at the age of seven and became a movie star as a teenager after a breakthrough role in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Eventually, her skill-set evolved from a performer into a visionary as she first stepped behind the camera as a director in the early 90s. While Foster has steered clear of the spotlight over the past two decades, tackling the occasional role and, even less frequently, directing a film or two, she returns in 2016 with her Wall Street drama, Money Monster.

George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, a popular television host who specializes in the financial sector. But when a priceless stock-tip backfires and loses a disgruntled viewer (Jack O'Connell) his entire savings, the young man breaks onto Gates' set and holds the studio hostage. Along with the aid of his trusty producer, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), Gates works to alleviate the situation and help the gunman discover the real reasons why his stock plummeted overnight.

Jodie Foster's Money Monster serves as an engaging drama that further assists itself by utilizing perfectly placed comic relief and legitimate moments of suspense. George Clooney, as expected, represents the film's most prominent character and he completely commands the screen with a narcissistic and quirky delivery that fits the money mogul figure all too well. And through a mostly predictable story that creates a stellar character arc, Money Monster is a serviceable and worthwhile feature that's ultimately restricted by its own structural faults. By its third act, the feature's authenticity is shattered due to flimsy writing that's alarming, but by no means detrimental. If you're able to suspend reality just a little bit, you'll find plenty to enjoy with Jodie Foster's Money Monster.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Another recent release that I experienced also preached a message of class warfare within a societal structure. High-Rise, an adapted film from a director unlike any other, Ben Wheatley, uses his familiar elements of surrealism and offbeat comedy to tell an ultra-visual story. Based on J.G. Ballard's 1975 futuristic-set novel of the same name, Wheatley's latest endeavor is guaranteed to be a polarizing piece of work.

The film opens with a disheveled Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) capturing a dog and cooking it over a fire on the completely-trashed balcony of his apartment building. Then, it proceeds to show the three months leading up to this anarchic setting, where the doctor moves into a desirable high-rise apartment that offers all the amenities of the outside world. However, a specific structure exists within the building where the number of your floor signifies the amount of your wealth. And as the higher-up elitists in the apartment begin hoarding all of the power and resources, chaos begins to climb in the high-rise from the ground floor up.

As you would expect from a unique filmmaker such as Wheatley, High-Rise is an ambitious effort that amazes and disappoints in varying aspects all at the same time. Fans of nuanced story-telling that requires massive attention to detail will find great admiration scattered within Wheatley's unconventional methods. High-Rise is visually fantastic and boasts a brilliant score. However, the film's messy narrative and jumbled structure will surely create issues with a more general audience. Personally, I loved the acting and stylish aspects of the movie, but sluggish pacing and a confusing plot make the film an unfitting singular watch. Perhaps, multiple viewings are required to piece Wheatley's entire long-winded and absurdly bizarre puzzle together.

Stars: 1 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: C-

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