All the Money in the World: Movie Man Jackson

Does it really pay the cost to be the boss? Depends on who you’re dealing with. In 1973, the richest man in the world happens to be John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), amassing his immense fortune in oil. No kids of his own, but he has fourteen grandchildren, one of them being John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer). Getty the Third happens to be the elder’s favorite grandson, even seemingly considering the idea of giving the family business to the youngster in the event of his passing.

When you’re as rich as Getty, everyone knows, and will do anything to get a cut. Masked men take the grandson, and demand 17 million from the billionaire in exchange for his life. This angers and scares Gail (Michelle Williams), the mother of the kidnapped, who does not have the cash to pay ransom despite marrying into the family. Her pleads to Getty to pay are unsuccessful, as he deems the price too high. But wanting his grandson to return unharmed, he sends hired help in the form of Getty Oil and ex-CIA operative Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to investigate, and more importantly—to negotiate—a cheaper figure before the youngest Getty is lost forever.

Slow down? Not in Ridley Scott’s lexicon. At the ripe age of 80, the director has had quite the busy 2017, producing Phoenix Forgotten, Blade Runner 2049, and Murder on the Orient Express, along with directing (and serving as a producer) Alien: Covenant and now his latest in All the Money in the World. Receiving initial heavy chatter for the late and extensive production changes, the final product stands as a wonderfully dark, “biographical” thriller.

Of course, the production changes and re-shoots are the story of All the Money in the World, an unfortunate result attributed to the sexual misconduct allegations of previous star Kevin Spacey. In his stead, Scott went ahead with Christopher Plummer in the John Paul Getty role, a move that feels pretty masterful and even an upgrade. There’s a significant level of gravitas, world weariness, and larger-than-life aspect that the 88-year-old Plummer brings to his scenes and dialogue—all without additional makeup or effects. His warped logic and stoic personality in the midst of disaster is special and troubling to watch. As good as Spacey can be, I’m not sure if he’d bring the same effect. Perhaps one day, we’ll see the cut or at least extended scenes that feature him to know for sure.

Let’s not forget Plummer’s leading co-stars, who also happened to be Spacey’s for a long time. Michelle Williams just continues to prove how much of a talent she is, her desperate mother serving essentially as what the audience sees and feels. Her steadfastness and firm moral center gives heart and relatability, making her an easy character to get behind in a world full of people looking to make an easy buck or save one. Some of her screen-time is shared with Mark Wahlberg, believable as a man who’s driven by duty to take the emotion out of everything but slowly turning to realize what is truly important.

Wahlberg, somewhat shoddy bespectacled look and all, takes a little time to find a groove, like the movie and its script. Scott and screenwriter David Scarpa, adapting from John Pearson’s book, struggle to find a solid pace and even tone for the first 20 or so minutes, showing Getty’s rise to power and how things came to be in his immediate family before 1973. Most of it is necessary for the events later, but cleaner editing would have helped for the nonlinear storytelling to feel less rough around the edges. Once All the Money in the World starts going, however, the vice grip on the audience is never lost.

Ridley’s latest is less of a biography and more of a straight-up crime drama/thriller. On the former front, All the Money in the World is a little lacking if working with that belief; do not expect a ton of central character depth. Like recent films in Dunkirk and Detroit, this chooses to focus on a specific, singled out event in a person’s life opposed to an overarching look at a life/lives or a series of events. The focus on this tense, dark drama makes for a run-time that flies by, even at two hours and ten minutes. Scott’s razor sharp direction and mood-setting makes for a gripping experience.

Making lemonade out of lemons, or rather, turning nickels and dimes into dollars, All the Money in the World is likely to be remembered more for what it was more than what it is. Hopefully that changes over time.

A-

Photo credits go to cinemablend.com, vulture.com, and filmofilla.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Baby Driver: Movie Man Jackson

Baby…cab driver. Can you take me for a ride? Young man Baby (Angel Elgort) makes his living—reluctantly, as a getaway driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey), a big-time crime lord in Atlanta. Over the years, Doc has employed many underlings to carry out his elaborate heists, but one piece never changes, that being Baby. Give him an iPod and he’s that damn good in the heat of the moment, constantly needing music due to a condition that produces nonstop ringing in his ears.

Baby’s had enough though, and he’s ready to get out of the game, especially after meeting the beautiful waitress Debora (Lily James). The two are ready to leave their lives behind and just go West. Unfortunately, one last job requires Baby’s efforts, working with Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González), and Bats (Jamie Foxx) to rob a post office with bags upon bags of valuable money orders. There’s a way out for Baby and Debora, but it’s going to involve a lot of driving. And maybe some blood shed.

A postmodern musical? The deconstruction of a musical? That’s the first thing that popped into my head upon the first 10-20 minutes of watching Baby Driver. Director Edgar Wright’s (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) latest uses mostly licensed music to accentuate whatever’s on the screen at any given time. There’s little to no singing, but this is almost as much of a musical as, say, La La Land. So the music is a big part, but not the only part. Edgar Wright delivers a pretty spectacular and inventive crime/romance/musical movie that laps much of the 2017 summer movie fare.

Baby Driver is escapist fare, and I believe it is fair to look at it more as of an exercise in style over any notable substance. That is not to say that the story Wright has penned is poor, but it is simply adequate, partly rushed in spots such as the romance component, and 50/50 in the hit/miss comedy ration. A final act character twist doesn’t make a ton of sense. But it’s probably best to look at Baby Driver as a pure fantasy rather than a grounded crime-drama. With that said, Wright certainly makes things unpredictable in the last act, and that is a good thing.

The overall average story works, however, because the great cast elevates the material. Angel Elgort plays the enigmatic Baby with a lot of cool-calm charisma and likability, whether in the driver’s seat or lip-syncing and grooving to the myriad tracks on his iPod. Though her role is very basic, Lily James injects her character of Debora with enough honest heart. With no real elaboration on time elapsed, one has to assume that everything is happening pretty quickly in Baby Driver. As such the relationship that spawns between the two lovebirds is again rushed, but Elgort and James carry so much natural and endearing chemistry with one another that it becomes easy to buy into by the end of the film.

As for the rest of the cast, it’s comprised by professionals who know how to own each minute of their screentime. Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx (who starred in Horrible Bosses together), play slightly paired-down versions of their roles there; Spacey still delivering dialogue in a pompous and superior way, Foxx relishing his turn as a buckwild and unstable entity. Even Jon Hamm and Eiza González, whose characters initially seem to be the least important of the criminal stable, turn out to play huge parts in the latter stages of the film.

But, it is the technical stylings of Edgar Wright that is the true star of Baby Driver. As stated, the music is a noticeable piece, snapping into place into much of the happenings either by way of effectively capturing the feelings of our main character, or as another sonic layer to the existing musical track via finger taps, whizzing bullets, and the like. Baby Driver plays a little like Grand Theft Auto V, with its heist setups and resulting chaos that arises afterwards. The action is extremely exhilarating and tightly choreographed, enhanced by precise cinematography and bold colors. There probably won’t be chase sequences that top these in the remaining months of the year.

Baby Driver is easily one of the best times anyone will have viewing a movie in theaters this entire year. Who needs Dominic Toretto when you’ve got Baby?

B+

Photo credits go to slashfilm.com and empireonline.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Horrible Bosses 2: Movie Man Jackson

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“Hello Nick, guy who saved my life, guy who f****d my wife.”

Hate your boss? Become one yourself. That there is the general idea of Horrible Bosses 2. After getting what they wanted in their bosses being gone one way or another, best buds Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day), and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) go all into a joint venture. The “Shower Buddy” is the result of an idea had over beers, and though it sounds like junk, there is potential to get this off the ground.

Some hustling and grinding by the threesome give way to an opportunity with an investor, and a meeting with father and son Bert and Rex Hanson (Christoph Waltz, Chris Pine), leads way to a partnership. The three appear to be on the path of living their dream until Burt decides to sever the business relationship in the 11th hour, leaving Nick, Dale, and Kurt with outstanding debt. With no feasible way to fight the tycoon in court, crime is the only way to get back control of the company. Except it isn’t murder this go-around, but a kidnapping and ransom of Rex. These things always go well.

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When it comes to comedy sequels, more times than not they just do not seem to be needed. Perhaps more than any other genre, they seem to really exist just for a quick and sometimes easy cash grab. True, everyone and all genres are in the business of making money, and almost all sequels come in with a built in fanbase, but at least other genres can more effectively operate under a guise of “this story needs to be continued.” So many comedy sequels feel like complete wrecks, missing what was special with the original. To yours truly at least, maybe the biggest positive to take away from Horrible Bosses 2 is that while its existence is highly debatable, it is still a generally amusing but overall uneven raunch comedy.

HB2 at least cannot be accused of the exact same plot structure of its predecessor…at least for most of the movie. While at the essence it is still about committing a crime of some sort on a working boss, there is a concerted effort to throw many unforeseen occurrences throughout. It can feel a little too much at times however. Only in the last 20 minutes or so does HB2 become pretty conventional, even carbon-copied in many respects (read: key respect) of the first, and as a result, the climax is more like a whimper.

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The usual lead suspects are back once again. The chemistry possessed with the three is still there, and all know what they are brought into do. Straight man Bateman is still one of the best dry comic actors today, Day comes with the moronic, overly-loud in places shtick, and Sudeikis brings no filter to the party.

They play off of each other well, but the assumed-to-be improvisation goes on far too long in places, almost as if there is nothing there in a scene but the director Sean Anders (Sex Drive, That’s My Boy) tells the trio to keep talking to try and make something funny. Uneven is what it is. Going off of the audience (and my) pattern, this film seemed to be loaded with consistent laughs in chunks, but not as a whole.

Of the new additions, Chris Pine either steals the show, or comes pretty close to doing so. Going off of what was shown in the trailer, I had no idea of how he would fit in here, but the fact is he easily holds his own with the other, more traditional comic actors and even outshines them in moments. More comedy roles may be in his future if he wants them. Christoph Waltz joins him as well, but he isn’t around enough to truly make an impression despite being key to the plot.

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Two of the three previous bosses make a return here in Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey. While it is nice for a short while to see these two return, one has to wonder why they are needed here. Aniston is still busy on a mission to get her holes filled by any man who is upright (or bedridden), but this time her character isn’t as fresh and just mainly comes off as a crazed 40-ish woman who has issues. Her comedic bits this time are more vulgar and offensive but not in a particularly laughable way.

For my money, Kevin Spacey is the definition of a horrible boss, and lo and behold he is back here. He possesses one of the funniest scenes in the film though, so he does have that going for him. And last but not least, everyone favorite motherf****r in Dean “MF” Jones is in the house portrayed by Jamie Foxx. Yours truly didn’t love him from the original so nothing really changed here, though he is cool in spots. He’s the same guy as before, nothing more or less. The big issue with this trio’s inclusion this time around is that when they turn up in the story’s confines, it never feels natural. Rather, it feels pretty forced, like some screentime quota was in the contracts of these actors to appear, even if it was during a time that didn’t make a ton of sense.

So, the question is asked again. Did Horrible Bosses 2 really need to be made? The short answer is probably no, but it is here and there is nothing that can be done about it. There have been worse comedy sequels, but the performance review on this one is pretty middling.

Grade: C

Photo credits go to whysearch.com, technologytell.com, and flicksandthecity.com.

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Horrible Bosses: Movie Man Jackson

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 “Technically, I think it’s immoral not to kill him.”

As long as there are jobs to be done, there will always be bosses to answer to. Dealing with many is solid enough, while others inspire sickness and anger just at the thought of them. For Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day), and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis), their thoughts of their superiors fall in the latter category. Nick’s boss (Kevin Spacey) is cold and uncompromising, Dale’s boss (Jennifer Aniston) continuously crosses the unwanted sexual line with no regard, and Kurt’s boss (Colin Farrell) is a jerk with no respect for his father’s company.

For what seems like every day, the trio meets at the bar to vent and think about how much life would be better without these extremely difficult characters. The thought of killing their head honchos is brought up in a hypothetical scenario, until it starts to crystallize into a plan. Employing the help of a hitman only known as “Motherf***er Jones” (Jamie Foxx), the friends set out to do what so many have thought of: Offing their bosses.

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In what has probably been said millions of times, and will continue to be said by most who look at this film, Horrible Bosses succeeds in being worth the time and pretty hilarious because it is something many can connect to. Having someone you have to report to who is so difficult and disrespectful is almost a fate worse than death itself, and while there may be films that have featured complete pricks in power, none have truly went to the lengths that Horrible Bosses goes to. It almost is a wonder that a movie with this basic premise hadn’t been done earlier.

With stuff like this, the casting can really make or break the movie. In every role, each person fits into their character as well as could be desired. All of the three actors playing the tormented should be pretty familiar to comedy fans. Jason Bateman is one of the better straight men in the funny business right now, even-keeled and dry in both delivery and expression. Jason Sudeikis is the more cool person of the trio; witty and charismatic. Both play off of each other naturally and show a real sense of timing.

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Charlie Day’s character of Dale rounds out the suffering trio, and to yours truly, he was sort of the odd man out and a mixed bag. He definitely has some funny moments without a doubt, but in many spots he feels like he is trying too hard to be funny by being loud and boisterous. True, his character is much more eccentric and over-the-top than Bateman’s or Sudeikis’, but he appears to ham it up more than needed. I’ll admit, I have never seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, to which I’m told his character in that shares some resemblance to the character he portrays here. If that is the case, it may just be very possible he is an acquired taste that I haven’t exposed myself enough to yet. Nevertheless, all three do a very solid job at getting the audience to side with them.

While these guys turn in good work, the scene-stealers are those who play the tool, the maneater, and the psycho on the movie’s poster. They, after all, have to be completely crazy and despicable for us to pull for the heroes and see these authority figures get their comeuppance. Colin Farrell is so visually distorted and totally gives off the feeling like he is on something whenever he shows up here, and Jennifer Aniston shows sides (and skin) never before seen in her previous work. Neither shows any hesitation in tapping into lunacy. Even Jamie Foxx, not a true boss in this but sort of if you think about it, gets back to his comedic roots for this one. He’s perfect in the short doses when needed.

These three deserve kudos for sure, but Kevin Spacey is brilliant here. It takes real ability to make an audience hate a character in minutes, if not seconds, upon seeing and hearing him speak. Yet, that is what Spacey is able to get across. His Dave Harken is a complete douchebag of a man; slimy and rotten to the core. His demands and the way he carries himself is a riot. He completely owns this role, and the movie seems to know this too as time goes on.

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Under the direction of Seth Gordon, Horrible Bosses is definitely absurd and even ludicrous. But it is a comedy about killing bosses, which is as dumb as it sounds and it never forgets it. There’s no sappiness or sentimentality, from beginning to end everything here is played for laughs. It is paced pretty consistently, even in the final third. About the only part that feels disjointed is the ending. The tie-up was great, just out of sequence, as if it would have felt more resolute with a specific “story thread” ending the flick. How and who it ended with fell flat.

Still, filled with recognizable stars in non-recognizable roles, Horrible Bosses provides consistent and many large laughs throughout. The concept of an asshole for a boss is something many have been exposed to, and if the fantasy of offing (hypothetically) the man/woman in power has ever floated around in the brain, watching these characters’ desire to do should be a vicarious, consequence-free, and worthwhile option.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to aceshowbiz.com, ifc.com, and movies.about.com.

Follow the MovieMan @MovieManJackson