Money Monster (2016) Clooney, Roberts – Movie Review

George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, a flashy Jim Kramer-ish cable television network host of a financial advice program called “Money Monster”, happy to dole out stock advice in a snarky, cocky manner, drawing more out of entertainment and spectacle than in how it might affect those on the other side should any of his “rock-solid” tips prove wrong. Someone it has affected finally forces him to learn first-hand when a distraught young man named Kyle Budwell storms onto the set during the live feed of the show, forcing Lee at gunpoint to put on a vest full of explosives, wanting some answers, as well as some contrition, after losing his life savings on supposedly sure-fire advice in putting one’s money in Ibis Clear Capital, a company the host persistently extoled the virtues of that suffered a major setback to the tune of $800 million in losses practically overnight, claiming a software glitch to its complicated corporate algorithm as responsible for things going haywire. Now Lee’s going to have to put his life on the line to get Kyle the answers he’s seeking from the show’s slated guest, Walt Camby, the jet-setting CEO of Ibis, on just how such an unlikely event could occur that would cost investors to potentially lose their livelihoods on a freak error.
Julia Roberts plays “Money Monster” producer Patty Fenn, who is set to leave to greener pastures to work for another network. Patty is the voice in Lee’s earpiece who tries to keep him on point, and in this case, to try to keep him alive, feeding him advice on what to do or say to his violent unexpected guest, while also making the decision to keep directing the show, coercing the host to do his job and get Kyle the answers he’s after by asking tough questions to IBIS chief communications officer, Diane Lester, in lieu of actually getting to the absent Camby for information. Those questions make Lester, who was hired to just deliver PR talking points (and to entertain Camby on the side), take a more aggressive stance, digging for some real answers that now even she’s curious about.

Louder Than Bombs (2015) Jesse Eisenberg – Movie Review

Gabriel Byrne stars as Gene, a widower high school teacher trying to establish a firm connection again with his two sons, Conrad and Jonah, over two years after the death of his award-winning war photojournalist wife’s death in a fatal car accident. A museum gallery wants to show some of her previously unpublished work she may have left behind, and her former colleague Richard at the New York Times would like to run a piece about the exhibit, as well as about her life, including the tidbit that the accident may have actually been a suicide. Gene knows he must tell his younger son, the troubled and mostly withdrawn teen Conrad, before it becomes public knowledge, while eldest Jonah,, who ends up visiting following the birth of his own son to sift through the photographs to hand over to the museum, thinks his dad should stop them from mentioning that part of the story altogether, which he denies the validity of.

Dough (2015) Jonathan Pryce – Movie Review

Jonathan Pryce stars as elderly widower Nat, the current owner of the family’s century-old Jewish bakery that’s just barely been scraping by of late, mostly because his predominantly Jewish clientele are moving away from the East End London neighborhood (filmed mostly in Budapest) or dying off. When Nat’s only assistant leaves for a better paying job, he’s stuck having to do it all himself, unsuccessfully, as he advertises for a new apprentice, but the prospects are dismal. It’s bad enough that Nat, who moves slower and is woefully out of practice, isn’t going to be able to deliver the quality and quantity the shop needs to stay afloat; he really feels the squeeze when a greedy developer (who, we learn, also stole away his baker) buys the building and wants to push Nat out before the five years remaining on his lease.
Nat reluctantly accepts the services of his Muslim African refugee shop cleaner’s son, Ayyash, who needs a cover job in order to start to peddle drugs and make much needed money for his family to get out of the dilapidated slum in which they currently reside. Ayyash doesn’t have time for both his full-time job and his drug dealing, so he decides to do both at once while at the bakery, unbeknownst to Nat. When Ayyash rashly hides a stash of weed inside a mixing machine, causing the latest batch of kosher baked goods to give their customers a lift, repeat business begins to pick up for the first time in many years. Seeing this opportunity to both help himself and his kindly boss who will certainly lose his livelihood, he decides he can kill two birds with one stone by selling his weed through by keeping the customers as baked as the items they purchase.

Captain America: Civil War (2016) Marvel – Movie Review

Loosely taking off from an idea borne of the giant crossover storyline mostly under the direction of comics writer Mark Millar, Civil War is a movie that addresses something that is not often remarked upon in superhero stories, and that is the cost of the collateral damage, especially in human lives, when super-powered humans battle one another over an urban landscape. The beginning of the film shows us firsthand the cost of trying to save people, as the Avengers’ mission against villain Crossbones in a battle at the heart of Lagos, Nigeria, sees the deaths of many innocent bystanders, including many from the (fictional) country of Wakanda.
Enter Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross, who pushes forward the Sokovia Accords, a law that requires United Nations approval and oversight when engaging in future world-saving battles that might jeopardize the lives of helpless people. Tony Stark, haunted by guilt of a young and promising teen’s death resulting from his own perceived recklessness, signs on, thinking that this law will not only be inevitable, but that agreeing with it now saves them from a more severe implementation down the road. Steve Rogers, once used as a government propaganda tool for things he didn’t always believe in, think it’s a bad idea, not only opening up the superheroes to be used as a tool for a bunch of selfish bureaucrats, but also because the absence of quick and decisive action, or even inaction in some cases, may cost countless more lives down the road.
After a terrorist explosion ends up killing the Wakandan leader, his son, prince T’Challa, who is also a super-powered human clad in a pliable form of vibranium (the same nearly indestructible substance from which Cap’s shield is composed) known as the Black Panther, vows revenge on the responsible party, with signs pointing toward Bucky Barnes, once the Soviet-brainwashed assassin called the Winter Soldier, as the main culprit. Barnes disavows any knowledge, Captain America, who sees the good in him when he’s not triggered into malice, protects his old friend, and together they vow to unearth the real mastermind behind the tragedy. However, they can’t get far, as acting on their own brands them as criminals, which means the Avengers who’ve signed the new law, led by Iron Man, must keep the peace so that costumed vigilantes aren’t acting of their own accord, possibly causing more distrust from the public and governments they’ve sworn to protect.

High-Rise (2015) Tom Hiddleston – Movie Review

Set in 1975, Tom Hiddleston stars as successful physiologist, Dr. Robert Laing, who has recently moved in to the 25th floor of one of several new high-rise buildings in a not-quite-finished avant-garde apartment complex in London. The architect of the complex, an eccentric architect on the uppermost floor named Anthony Royal, has designed the buildings to never need to be part of the ground-level activity surrounding the buildings, as each one offers its own means of taking care of one’s daily needs, from groceries, to schooling, to entertainment, to a host of other amenities. Although everyone pays the same rent money, the building also seems to have its own class system in terms of who lives on what floor, as the elites live in higher floors than those below. One of those below is Richard Wilder, a documentarian who begins to suspect that there are great inequities in the way the building is structured, threatening to expose it for what it is to the public at large. As the new building begins to show signs of faulty facilities in disrepair, anarchy begins to take hold The resultant chaos erupts into a battle between the haves and have-nots for whatever resources are left to be had within the walls of the structure.

Miles Ahead (2015) Don Cheadle – Movie Review

Set mainly during the course of about a day in the musician’s life in New York’s Upper West Side (Cincinnati substitutes) in the 1979, when creatively burnt-out Miles had taken a self-imposed five-years-and-counting break from releasing new music. Columbia Records had grown increasingly challenged in their relationship with their most eccentric and erratic recording artist, who claims he would give them something new if they paid him the $20,000 they owe him, with both parties knowing they could all make so much more if he were to hand over the studio recording reel that he’d been working on in the interim. Enter a man claiming to be a highly ambitious Rolling Stone reporter Dave Brill (a fictional character, reportedly scripted in to bring on a white lead actor like McGregor, to help get funding), who wants to not only help his publication sell papers by getting the reclusive Miles Davis to record an increasingly rare in-depth interview with him, but to also facilitate seeing Miles hand over that unpublished recording that is sure to make music history. When the master tape ends up missing, the volatile Miles takes matters into his own hands, resulting in a life-or-death struggle to wrest ownership back where he feels it belongs, at least until he deems it worthy.