Friday, September 24, 2010

Bubbles like a mutha

Scroll scroll scroll. That's what the woman a couple rows down from me was doing on her iPhone during the movie. It looked like she was looking up her Facebook page, but she put it away before I could go down and tell her nicely to put that shit away, which was probably for the best because she had her boyfriend with her and basically if it went down THAT way he'd have kicked my ass, but I'd get a few shots in, that's for sure. It made me wonder if I should even bother going to the movies anymore, at least in neighborhood theaters. Maybe just narrow it down to revival houses like the New Beverly, but even then, that same kind of shit has happened there. Shit man, someone punched a dude at that place. There is no safe haven from the majority of the human race. I don't know, every few years I reach this movie-watching nadir (the last time was in '02), I get bummed out and consider pretty much giving up on movie theaters altogether and just going All In on waiting a few more months to catch it at home on my rather decent setup.

Anyway, I'm supposed to be talking about Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, which I caught a few hours ago. So Oliver Stone's last couple flicks didn't get the attention or box office they were expected to receive, and Michael Douglas' career has seen better days, so I figure the existence of this sequel has absolutely nothing to do with what I just mentioned, forget I brought it up. But it is great timing, though, considering all the shit that's been going on with the economy for the past few years. Didn't the last movie come out around the time that the stock market crashed back in '87? I'm too lazy to look it up.

So Douglas' character, Gordon Gekko gets out of the slammer with his Zack Morris cell phone and is looking pretty assed out. It's kinda sad seeing him like that; back in the day, this dude owned everybody -- literally owned, in some cases -- and he was living the big pimpin' lifestyle until he made the mistake of hooking up with the fuckin' Ma-Sheen. Now he's out of jail, 9/11 just happened, the world's changed and he doesn't even have anyone waiting to pick him up from prison. Cut to 8 years after his release and he's doing OK for himself doing the lecture circuit and writing books and warning people that pretty soon there's gonna be a big financial shitstorm and we better be ready for it. Even then, shit's not the same as it used to be for him. The guy lives in a nice apartment, but this was a guy who used to own a seaside estate -- plus, the apartment's a rental. Here's a guy who had his own private jet, and now he takes the subway to get around. This is a man, a fucking MAN who once said something along the lines of "So I'll only make 10 million instead of 70" and today he's unable to afford the $10,000 donation fee to attend some big-deal charity dinner.

As in the last movie, Michael Douglas is the biggest name in the flick but is not the main character, that would be Shia "Ow My Hand" LeBeouf. The Beef plays a trader who's also trying to get some action going for an alternative energy plant, which to his credit, he totally believes in. I mean, he wants to make some money but the idea of solving some world energy problems sounds pretty fuckin' awesome to him. He's engaged to Gekko's estranged daughter and after someone close to him gets royally fucked over, he decides to pay Eventual Father-In-Law a visit for some lessons in the fine art of Payback.

Early in the film, there's an extreme close-up of Michael Douglas while his character lectures a bunch of college students, and all I could think about while looking at most of his mug taking up the Scope frame is that the motherfucker looks just like his father Kirk now. When I was a kid, Kirk Douglas was already old, and now Michael Douglas looks like that version of his father. If they remade The Fury and cast him in his father's role, you'd be like "Goddamn, that actor looks just like he did the last time they made this movie". Speaking of old people, Eli Wallach is in the movie. It's great to see the dude, he's been in a lot of cool shit and he's pretty good in the 3 scenes they give him. His character has a tendency to make noises with his mouth, combined with hand gestures and whistles, which left me wondering if that shit was scripted or if Wallach was ad-libbing or if that's just the kind of shit one does when he or she gets to an age where most of their idle time is spent trying not to die.

Back to Douglas. There's a scene where Gekko goes into detail about what happened to his son (who died of a drug overdose while he was in prison) and it's kinda painful to watch because it's hard not to think that the actor playing him wasn't thinking of his real-life son's drug troubles and where that shit lead him. Not only that, but his brother died from an overdose as well. They tell some actors to use their own life experiences and put them into a performance but in this case, I wonder if Douglas was trying not to do that, I mean, it's some painful shit to bring up, especially since it's happening Right Fucking Now. I don't know what I'm trying to say, all I'm saying is that I don't think you're watching Gordon Gekko get emotional during that particular scene, you're watching Michael Douglas get emotional.

To be honest, I like Shia LeBeouf. I understand he's kinda up there with pieces-of-shit like Ashton Kutcher, who could do the whole world a favor by shoving a nail gun up his nose and pulling the trigger until it goes Click and yet would manage to find a way to still annoy us, but The Beef, I ain't got no beef with. I didn't find him annoying in Eagle Eye and I didn't find him annoying here. His character comes off like someone who wants to be the best at his job -- making a ton of fuckin' money -- but he also wants to maintain some human fuckin' decency as well. There's a moment where he goes up to his mentor (played by Frank Langella) and gives him a kiss on top of the head and reading that you're probably all WTF but I'm telling you, it's a touching moment. I was totally with the dude from that moment on, because really, who the fuck is going to do something like that in the cutthroat dog-eat-dog-then-a-fuckin-shark-eats-you world of Wall Street and be completely sincere about it? The Beef, that's fuckin' who. I am on Team LeBeouf.

The chick from An Education is here, playing The Beef's fiancee/Gordon Gekko's daughter. As far as love interests in the Wall Street movies go, Daryl Hannah's hotter but this chick gives the better performance. Faint praise, I suppose, since the electronic stock ticker in Wall Street gave a better performance than Daryl Hannah, but to be fair, she was great in Kill Bill. Josh Brolin plays the villain (his character is more of a villain here than Gekko was in the first flick), and while he's worked previously with Oliver Stone in W., in this one you'd think he was up for the lead in the Ronald Reagan story because that's how he looks here. And you know how in the first film, there was a mini-Blade Runner reunion with Daryl Hannah and Sean Young, well in this one, you have a little Grindhouse get-together between Brolin representing Planet Terror and Vanessa Ferlito (playing one of Lebeouf's fellow traders) representing Death Proof.

Oliver Stone loves to cameo in his own shit, so I guess here he's reprising his role from the last Wall Street as some fuckin' random trader. That makes me wonder why Tarantino gets so much crap for appearing in his own movies, when guys like Stone, Scorsese and Spike Lee get away scot-free for fecalizing the frame with their fuckin' faces. The best I could come up with is that Tarantino was on the Accepted list until he started playing bigger parts than cameos -- I mean, I guess it's fine if you want to show up for 5 minutes doing "Don't fucking Jimmie me, Jules, don't fuckin' Jim-ma-me" but once you start trying to play lead roles with George Clooney, you're crossing a line.

The movie looks great, which is expected when you get a great cinematographer of raza like Rodrigo Prieto, who not only shot Brokeback Mountain, but played a male hustler in it as well. For reals, yo. What's up with that? I mean, the cinematographer for MacGruber had a role in the movie, uh, MacGruber where he made out with some muscle-bound dude. Are cinematographers a bunch of closet-cases or is that a way for the director to show everyone who the real boss is? Better yet, why do I take notice of whenever a D.P. plays a potential DP? I don't know, but I wonder about me sometimes. But yeah, the movie looks great visually, not so much composition-wise (which it had going on in spades, don't get me wrong) but color-wise, lighting-wise. There's also a lot of the usual Stone flashiness, mostly in the form of split-screens and Crimson Tide-style computer screen projections onto people's faces. There's also a pretty nifty shot where the camera cranes up from the street and then starts going up a high-rise building, and then starts to pan in circles while still going up up up, making a motherfucker go dizzy. It's obvious they did the CGI thing to pull that shot off, but I liked it.

In addition to Gordon Gekko, there are a few more things that pop up along the way to remind you of the first film, and I still haven't decided whether or not the movie would work better without them. They felt a little too cute for the most part, and there's one in particular that I appreciated but again, not sure if we really needed to see that. I'm being vague because everybody's so touchy about how much you know about a fuckin' movie before seeing it. There are a bunch of songs by David Byrne and Brian Eno throughout the movie, I'm not sure if they're old songs or original tunes made specifically for the movie -- yup, that one song from the last movie is here as well. They didn't bring back Stewart Copeland to do the score though, which is kind of a bummer but not too much of one because Craig Armstrong does a pretty good job here.

I dug this movie, and was surprised that I was more into the LeBeouf stuff than the Douglas stuff. I was more intrigued with the idea of a guy trying to remain at least a half-decent dude in a world where decency is a liability. It was also cool to then watch him put that part of him aside while putting on his Payback hat. Also, the chick from An Education was cute, so there's that. Of the movies he's made in the past 10 years, this is Oliver Stone's strongest work, which you can take the way you want to take it; Alexander is the only Stone film I didn't like (saw the theatrical cut, will not waste my time with the "director's cut" but I might give his "final cut" a day in court), World Trade Center was a solid flick but it felt like a film anyone else could've made, and W. was decent. I don't know if Stone is ever bringing back his A game but it's nice to see that he can still bring his B+ game for this one. The first Wall Street is the better of the two, but Money Never Sleeps ain't no slouch, it's a good follow-up for the most part. The biggest problem I had with it was....


...the odd Wayne's World-style mega-happy-ending during the end credits. Don't take my advice, but if you watch the movie, take my advice and get the fuck out of the theater as soon as the end credits roll. Do not stick around for what happens during the credits because it feels and looks like some wacky dream sequence. Maybe that's what Stone was going for? I don't know. It's like the end credits bit at the end of Natural Born Killers, seeing Mickey and Mallory in an RV with kids. The ending before the credits is happy enough, it's realistic enough, I don't know why Stone felt he had to give us what he gave us during the credits. Maybe he's just getting soft in his old age, or maybe he just wanted to balance things out. I mean, the movie pretty much ends by telling the audience that shit will never change with the greedy motherfuckers in charge of everything and you're powerless to change it, so this is probably Stone's way of saying "The world is ugly and mean and awful and full of people who will eventually fuck you hard, but as long as you have love in your life, well, uh, at least the fucking won't feel so lonely".