July 11, 2016

Of Money Monster and Other May Releases

            It’s been a while since my last post here so unfortunately this will just be a quick post on the few new films I was able to see during the month of May.  The best of the new releases I was able to see during May was definitely Money Monster.  Money Monster is the George Clooney-Julia Roberts film about the corruption taking place in Wall Street.  This film has received some criticism for just retreading on things that were already widely known, but in reality this is an exciting and interesting piece of entertainment.  While a lot of the advertising has focused on Jack O’Connell’s average joe turned to extreme measures in order to bring attention to his financial woes (and rightfully so as his character is one of the main ones), this does draw away from the interesting portrayal of present day media.  This is definitely much more of a cautionary tale on what the media does to American society rather than a cautionary tale on what Wall Street does to American society, and the film is definitely better for that.  It allows the film to go in much more expansive directions and allows the film to have a sense of wit that will remind you of The Great Dictator or Dr. Strangelove at times.  While the main trio of Clooney, Roberts and O’Connell are serviceable in their roles, it’s the supporting cast that makes this one of the more memorable ensembles of the year.  Caitriona Balfe and Dominic West do a lot with little to work with, and Emily Meade is quite memorable in her one scene.  The way that Jodie Foster is also able to balance the intricate mood swings of this satire also reveals that she has a lot of potential as a director.  Between this and The Beaver she has two good films that are really difficult to place into one genre.

            My most anticipated film for the month of May was Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.  The original film starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne is still one of the most memorable comedies of the last five years, so it would be a tough task to live up to that film.  As such, Neighbors 2 has to be considered somewhat of a disappointment.  It still has a great use of biting social commentary while still finding room for laughs, but it is just missing the heart of the original.  The adventures of Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) just seem a slight bit repetitive this go around, and the film is just missing an antagonist on the level of Teddy (Efron).  In fact, the best parts about this film generally revolve around whenever Efron is onscreen, and his ongoing problems are much more interesting than the ones the new villains, a sorority led by a stoner played by Chloe Grace Moretz, encounter.  Moretz and the new characters give admirable performances, but the creative crew just isn’t able to conjure up any skits as memorable as the ones from the first film.  Once again, though, this film deserves your attention for the commentary on present day society that it brings a long without it ever seeming intrusive on the plot or comedy of the film.

            The final new release I was able to see during the month of May was the latest edition in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse.  Apocalypse picks up with the God-like mutant, Apocalypse (who is just a more powerful version of Magneto as they both share the same world views), planning to take over the world.  It’s a silly plot that’s just as silly as the appearance of Apocalypse.  In fact, Apocalypse as a character is just a complete waste of time.  Fortunately, the rest of the film is the most comic book-y a film has ever felt onscreen before.  As someone who really only ever got into comic books briefly with the Uncanny Wolverine series, I found the appearance of the fan favorite character to be truly memorable.  Meanwhile, the film seems to correct the storylines of many characters that it failed in previous films.  This is never more the case than with Jean Grey, who gets one of the better plot lines in the film.  Additionally, it was great to see Quicksilver (this version still played by Evan Peters) become an actual character rather than a one scene gag while still retaining the innovative visual style of the character that made him something to remember in the first place.  It also seems like this film establishes Magneto as a main character of the X-Men series on the same level (if not an even higher one) as Wolverine.  Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the character is just as memorable as Ian McKellen’s iteration of the character.  Fassbender just makes everything about this intricate performance look easy at this point.  While this film ultimately feels like a minor addition in the franchise thanks to its unmemorable plot and silly additions, the film does more than enough right to overcome its shortcomings.

Money Monster=8/10
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising=7.5/10
X-Men: Apocalypse=7.5/10

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