By Michael Kaye
Money Monster (Review)/Editorial "The Hollywood Landscape"
I think I've come to the conclusion that May just might be my favorite month of the summer movie season. It's not just because it's the first month out of the gate and most studios ideally want to put their best foot forward with a slew of crowd pleasers, but because even the smaller releases are able to grab my attention. For example, today we're talking about Money Monster, Jodie Foster's fourth directorial effort starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O'Connell.
Here's the story. Lee Gates is a TV personality whose insider tips have made him the money guru of Wall Street. When Kyle loses all of his family's money on a bad tip, he holds Lee and his entire show hostage on air threatening to kill Lee if he does not get the stock up 24 and a half points before the bell.
Instead of writing a full review, there's a burning question on my mind that I'd like to entertain in the form of an editorial, and that's whether or not star-driven vehicles such as this one are considered an endangered species in this new Hollywood landscape. But for now, here are my brief thoughts on the film.
Money Monster is a good movie, plain and simple. I'd go into more detail, but unfortunately it's only good for the most boring reasons. You'll never get a bad performance out of George Clooney or Julia Roberts, who naturally have great chemistry, and Jack O'Connell continues to impress me, even if this isn't exactly the best material he's given. I really dig the premise, and all the scenes of Lee and Kyle in the studio were appropriately tense, as you never knew what could happen to those around them. Given the nature of the fictitious TV show, there was a healthy balance of humor injected into an otherwise serious situation. The one major problem I had with the movie was whenever it tried to go beyond the studio and tackle the big picture, the economic crash of 2008 and the corruption of Wall Street. That would have all been fine, had this movie come out BEFORE films like 99 Homes or The Big Short, which did handled that better. But overall, if you go in with lowered expectations or you're just there to see Clooney and Roberts, you'll enjoy the movie just fine.
Now that we got the easy part out of the way, let's take a step back and see what audiences are looking for in today's entertainment landscape, and why Money Monster may not be as successful as it would have been 5-10 years ago.
First off, let's take a look at what just opened last weekend, Captain America: Civil War. It's the 13th entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, critics loved it, audiences went crazy over it, and it made a killing at the box office. And that's only one of the six major superhero movies coming out this year, after Deadpool and Batman v Superman, then followed by X-Men Apocalypse, Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange. Outside of comic books, other nostalgic properties returning to the big screen are Independence Day, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, and of course, Star Wars.
It remains to be seen exactly how successful all of those movies will be, but one thing is certain: it's much easier to sell a movie with brand recognition than it is to sell an original idea. Because of this, there aren't that many movie stars left who can open a film on their name alone. You want proof? The best example I can give you is Robert Downey Jr.'s 2014 film The Judge. Before that movie came out, I feel like most people assumed that because The Avengers and all three Iron Man films were so successful, Robert Downey Jr. could open a film by himself to the tune of roughly $30 Million or more. Well, turns out that wasn't the case, as it became clear that audiences didn't so much care about RDJ as they did Tony Stark. So what was the solution? Renegotiate his contract with Marvel so he can play Iron Man a few more times, which led to Civil War becoming as big of a hit as it was.
Now, one of my biggest pet peeves as a film fan is whenever I keep hearing this exact same claim yelled throughout various media, "there's no originality in Hollywood anymore!" I hear this all the damn time, and it usually comes from people who have no idea how supply and demand works. The reason Money Monster is not, nor was it ever going to make more than Captain America: Civil War, or any of the other superhero movies or other blockbusters this year is because those properties have a built in audience. That audience is at least 10x more aware about news, rumors, speculation, etc. about their favorite characters than they ever were about an original film with a few big name actors. And because people in Hollywood are well aware of this, they're more likely to invest their money in these properties than they are in something original.
But instead of wasting your energy complaining about all of this, take the initiative and go out and see these original films. Hollywood is a business, and just any other business, it's all about supply and demand. If more people support original films, then more studios will finance what the audience wants to see.
So those are my jumbled, disorganized thoughts on the direction Hollywood is leaning and why it's harder to open a movie simply on star power alone? Now I wanna hear from you, what are your thoughts on the matter? Would you like to see more original content, or are you satisfied with the way things are now? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and as always, stay tuned for more content coming your way.