“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” – 2010. Dir. Oliver Stone

With Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon, John Bedford Lynch with Eli Wallach and Frank Langella.

“If you stop telling lies about me, I will stop telling the truth about you.” – Gordon Gekko

Finally, it has happened. Gordon Gekko is out of jail. He spent five years in court, and another eight years in prison. America is on the brink of a financial collapse, the major banks are starting to shake; faith in the economic market is starting to falter. Twenty-three years after Oliver Stone’s masterpiece “Wall Street” Stone directs the only sequel to any of his films: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”.

It’s 2008 and the housing market bubble has popped. The banks are failing. Jacob Moore (Shia LeBeouf) works for his mentor Lou Zabel (Frank Langella) who’s bank is the first to go under. The banks are worried, but they think the Federal Reserve will bail them out because “we’re too big to fail”. The banks meet with the Fed Chair (John Bedford Lynch) and expect a government bailout. Zabel’s bank is about to go under and essentially starts begging the Fed Chair for help. The Fed doesn’t seemed opposed to lending money to the bank until Bretton James (Josh Brolin) – whose bank is a fictional Goldman Zachs – pipes up and doesn’t think Zabel’s bank is worth the bailout. Brolin and Langella are amazing as they duke it out.

What progresses is Zabel throwing himself in front of train that leaves his protégé Jacob Moore (Shia LeBeouf) on a mission of revenge, to hurt whoever is responsible. Jacob finds himself in a unique position; he’s marrying Gordon Gekko’s (Michael Douglas) daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Winnie hasn’t spoken to her father in years, she refuses to see him. Moore seeks out Gekko on his book tour (writing a book “Is Greed Good?”) and tells Gekko after his speech that he is marrying his daughter.

Jacob brokers a deal with Gekko. If he promises to help reunite Gordon with his daughter, Gordon will find out who was behind the actual demise of Zabel’s bank. Jacob agrees to help and Gordon starts feeding Jacob information about Bretton James who was once one of Gordon’s underlings. But nothing is ever fair and square with Gordon Gekko, is it?. Gordon does help Jacob find his man, but Gordon also has something going for himself.

Oliver Stone does an excellent job building a compelling story that can exist on its own terms but also allowing us to follow Gordon Gekko once again. Shia LeBeouf does get a majority of the screen time in the film since he is the central character, but every time Michael Douglas is off screen, he still owns this film.

I mean fuck! Michael Douglas gave us one of the most ruthless villains to ever hit the screens as Gordon Gekko twenty three years ago. I mean, Michael Douglas won the Oscar that year for his roles as Gordon Gekko. There aren’t many references to the original film at all, aside from Gekko talking about his family and the mentioning of Budd Fox (Charlie Sheen in the first film) and a brief scene with Fox showing us where he’s at now.

It’s a dinner that Jacob got Gekko in to (since Jacob’s date is Gekko’s daughter), and Gekko literally bumps into Fox while everyone is mingling before dinner. We see a much older Budd Fox who has a girl on each arm. They banter for a hot minute and then Budd excuses himself from the two girls and takes a few steps away to talk to Gekko. We find out where Budd Fox has been, what happened to Blue Starr Airline and then Budd asks his former mentor, “…now tell me Gordon. Does Blue Horseshoe still love Anichot Steel?” It’s pretty wonderful.

At this dinner, Jacob is sitting with Bretton James – who he has started working for – and Gordon walks over. There is an excellent exchange between Josh Brolin and Michael Douglas since Josh Brolin’s character is the Gordon Gekko of the 2000’s. Gordon tells Bretton, “I’ll stop telling the truth about you when you stop telling lies about me.” Great line.

Oliver Stone gives us an over edited, flashy and complex movie. We have no other option then just to accept this entire Wall Street lingo that’s thrown on us. We don’t understand all of what they’re saying, but we get the big picture.

The cast is nothing less than five star. Michael Douglas gives us an older and more broken Gordon Gekko, but he still has a lot of fight left in him. Josh Brolin gives a great performance as a modern day Gekko. Brolin is just so creepy good. Frank Langella is tough as nails as the old school money man.

I have always hated Shia. I thought he was terrible in Indy 4, but then after watching this film it made me realize how terrible Indy 4 really was. He’s actually very, very good in this film. I find him believable and sharp. He’s our generations Charlie Sheen – and he wasn’t half bad.

I didn’t care for Carey Mulligan. She spends most of the film crying. I’m being serious. And I never liked Susan Sarandon and this film shows me exactly why. She plays Jacob’s real estate agent mother who has over extended herself in the housing market and needs money from Jacob. This story arc or character isn’t need in the final film, but I understand why Stone keeps it in the film; it’s a nice parallel to Charlie Sheen’s relationship with Martin Sheen in the first film.

I feel that Douglas and Stone really wanted to make this film as a repercussion film since every jerk-off on Wall Street looks at Gordon Gekko as a hero. This film doesn’t blame Gekko directly for the housing crisis, but it defiantly paints a picture of look what Gordon Gekko inspired. Greed is good, greed is legal.

This is a very good film. It’s nowhere as great as the first film, but it’s a nice follow up. Stone is one of the most idealistic directors, always making a film about our current state of culture in America. The scenes he directs where we find ourselves in the “secret” meetings at the Federal Reserve where the banks are all looking for a bailout are flawless. There is so much tension and suspense that’s built up through the actor’s performances. From Frank Langella slamming his fists on the table to the Fed Chair yelling, “Do you have idea what all of you have done!?”

Don’t fuck with Gordon Gekko.

Rating: 8.5/10

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The 10 Best Films of the 1990’s.

10. “In the Name of the Father” – 1993. Dir. Jim Sheridan. With Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite and Emma Thompson.

“I’m a free man, I’m going out the front door!”

This is one of the most dramatically powerful films I’ve ever seen. Seeing the true story of Gerry Conlon (Day-Lewis) and his father (Postlethwaite) being wrongfully accused and imprisoned in London over an IRA bombing is just so heartbreaking. Emma Thompson gives an amazingly great performance as the two men’s lawyer and the only one who believes their innocence.

9. “Natural Born Killers” – 1994. Dir. Oliver Stone. With Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Russell Means, Robert Downey, Jr. and Tommy Lee Jones.

Mickey and Mallory Knox are loose, Scagnetti’s dead, and they’re live on national TV!”

LIVE ON NATIONAL TV? JESUS HAROLD CHRIST ON A FUCKING RUBBER CRUTCH, IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Olive Stone is the filmmaker of the times, making films that deal with our current status in America. With NBK Stone brings forth a film with a killer soundtrack and excellent cast that explores our need for Reality TV and the media and our cultures obsession with killers. It shows us how we as American are obsessed with the killers themselves and how we turn them into pop culture icons. This is one wild ride of a fucking movie! The finest performance in the film has to be Tommy Lee Jones as Warden Dwight McClusky. He’s out of his fucking mind!


8. “Boogie Nights” – 1997. Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. With Mark Wahlbeg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Grahm and Don Cheadle.

Wait a minute. You come into my house, my party, to tell me about the future? That the future is tape, videotape, and not film? That it’s amateurs and not professionals? I’m a filmmaker, which is why I will *never* make a movie on tape.”

The opening one shot is a magnificent display of talent. It shows much homage to Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” and much more to Russia’s 1950’s propaganda film, “I am Cuba”. It sends us into a furry and introduces us to all the major characters that we need to know about. I want to call this film his masterpiece, but I can’t – “There Will Be Blood” is. This was back in the days when John C. Reilly used to be a good actor – and when Burt Reynolds blew all of his chances of having anything resembling a comeback. I love this film.


7. “Goodfellas” – 1990. Dir. Martin Scorsese. With Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent and Paul Sorvino.

“You may know who we are, but we know who you are.”

Gosh, Martin Scorsese. What a master. I truly believe that this is the film that de-glorified the “romantic” life of mobsters. Sure “The Godfather’s” were brutal and violent, but we always sympathized with Michael – we were always pulling for him. We do that to a certain extent in “Goodfellas” but once we hit the second act of the film, and we watch Ray Liotta spin out of control – we know that he’s paying for the life he’s led. It’s amazing and beautiful and no one could ever do it better. Martin Scorsese is a God among artists.

6. “American Beauty” – 1999. Dir. Sam Mendes. With Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Mena Suvari, Thora Birch, Wes Bently and Chris Cooper.

“This is my first time.”

Man…all I can really saw about this is Chris Cooper winning for “Adaptation” was his make-up for not even being nominated for his role in this film. That’s it.

5. “Seven” – 1995. Dir. David Fincher. With Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gweyth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey.

“Where to?”

“Far away from here.”

People like to say that “Fight Club” is Fincher’s masterpiece. I think “Fight Club” is overrated and trendy – but “Seven”…oh my God “Seven” – this film is just downright amazing! Kevin Spacey steals the show as John Doe, Brad Pitt is great as the young and cocky cop and Morgan Freeman gives the performance of his career as a cop that the world has left behind. Remarkable filmmaking!

4. “Pulp Fiction” – 1994. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. With John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman and Harvey Keitel.

“You see – this is a moral test of one’s self. You’re going to go back, drink your drink, go home, jerk off and that’s all you’re gonna do.”

Fuck “Forrest Gump”.

3. “Bad Lieutenant” – 1991. Dir. Abel Ferrara. With Harvey Keitel.

“Where the fuck were you when I needed you? Why the fuck weren’t you there for me, when I needed you?!”

Harvey Keitel does nothing but bare his soul in this haunting and repulsive film about a cop who’s fallen so far from grace, Jesus himself can’t even help him. This is pretty powerful stuff, and if you think you’re tough enough to watch this, make sure it’s the NC-17 version.

2. “Schindler’s List” – 1993. Dir. Steven Spielberg. With Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley.

“This is very cruel, Oskar. You’re giving them hope. You shouldn’t do that. *That’s* cruel!”

The reason I resent Steven Spielberg is because he has the talent to make this, “Jaws”, “Close Encounters” and “E.T.” – why waste it.

1. “L.A. Confidential” – 1997. Dir. Curtis Hanson. With Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito and David Strathairn.

“Go back to Jersey, sonny. This is the City of the Angels, and you haven’t got any wings.”

Flawless.
Honorable mentions:  “The Insider”, “Unforgiven”, “Rushmore”, “The Thin Red Line”, “The Big Lebowski”

“W” – 2008. Dir. Oliver Stone.

With Josh Brolin, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Burstyn, James Cromwell, Jeffery Wright, Thandie Newton, Bruce McGill, Elizabeth Banks, Toby Jones, Stacey Keach and Scott Glenn.

“Whose job is it to find these damn weapons?”

When it was announced that Olive Stone was going to direct a biopic about George W. Bush, I was excited. I am a gigantic fan of “Nixon” his other presidential biopic and due to the fact the screenplay was written by Stanley Weiser who also wrote Stone’s “Wall Street”. It seemed like a collaboration made in heaven.

The film is set up nicely, the way it crosscuts back and forth between Bush (Josh Brolin) being pulled by his posse into a war in Iraq and plans to invade Iran to Bush’s slow rise of becoming a born again Christian and politician. We see a young Bush not being able to hold job after job and disappointing his father (James Cromwell).

We all know the story of George Bush. It’s all too fresh. . A lot of the film feels like satire – even a comedy – which I think was a mistake. I understand that a lot of what Bush says is dumb due to his intelligence, but most of Brolin’s dialogue is a running joke with famous Bushisms.

The cast is a wonderful ensemble of good quality actors but it seems to misfire. I found that the best casting was Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Dreyfuss’ character in Rob Reiner’s “The American President” was based off of Cheney – so Dreyfuss was a perfect fit. Next to that excellent selection was Scott Glenn as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The ironic thing is Glenn was a Marine who served overseas while the real Donald Rumsfeld somehow evaded the draft (as did Cheney). I couldn’t help but think a slimmed down Nick Nolte or Tommy Lee Jones would have made a pretty good Rumsfeld too.

Brolin gives a good performance but the problem that I have is that all I see is Josh Brolin, I didn’t see George W. Bush. He’s more than capable to soak himself into characters (“No Country for Old Men” and “Planet Terror”). As Bush he just seemed as if he was an impersonator. Jeffery Wright who I like very much gave an unbelievable performance as General Colin Powell. General Powell is a man of great intellectual strength and physical dominance – Jeffery Wright is a small man, and his brooding, husky voice was distracting. I couldn’t help but think that Dennis Haysbert would have been perfect for the role.

A pretty impressive ensemble playing dangerous people.

Veteran character actor Bruce McGill was cast perfectly as fall guy FBI Director George Tennet and so were James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn as George H. W. and Barbra Bush. Thandie Newton gives a horrifically great performance as Condoleezza Rice – the token minority that was stuffed into Bush’s cabinet. The one casting that was distractingly horrid was that of Ioan Gruffudd as Prime Minister Tony Blair. Michael Sheen wasn’t available?

The film seems to take light brush strokes on a majority of defining moments of the Bush Legacy. It’s not epic enough. The film seemed to breeze by and wasn’t sincere enough. One thing I did really like was that this film didn’t vilify Bush; it didn’t take a huge shit on him. You actually feel bad for him. He’s a good hearted person who just gets pushed and pulled by Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.

Stone has always made films that deal with our current status in America (even “Alexander” had themes of over extending an empire). He uses a lot of his wonderful filmmaking skills in the film, but it just lacks an overall dramatic substance that’s a staple of his films. It just felt as if he was going through the motions and he wasn’t as passionate about this film as he was with “Nixon”.

But to give Stone credit, the last scene of the film is powerful.

Review: 7/10

“Wall Street” – 1987. Dir. Oliver Stone.

With Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, John C. McGinley, Terrence Stamp, with Hal Holbrook, and Martin Sheen.

“What you see is a guy who never measured a man by the size of his WALLET!”

In the wake of the much anticipated release of Oliver Stone’s follow up “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”, which by the way was the only Stone film to EVER be accepted to Cannes (weird huh?), I wanted to give a serious review of “Wall Street”. I just proposed a list of my top ten Oliver Stone films and ranked “Wall Street” as number one.

The story is set in the peak of the financial boom of the 1980’s where Charlie Sheen portrays Bud Fox an eager young stock broker that is pining for a shot at the big time. His idol, Gordon Gekko, is the tyrant of Wall Street and the physical embodiment of the 1980’s. Fox is incredibly persistent with Gekko’s secretary and eventually gets five minutes with Gekko.

When Fox enters Gekko’s office it’s as if he’s entering a war bunker. There are papers everywhere, cigarette smoke is looming, and people are talking secret strategy in the corner. When we finally see Gekko he’s screaming on the phone about jargon that most of us wouldn’t understand but we do get the picture. Gekko is vicious and takes no prisoners.

Fox is incredibly nervous (and who wouldn’t be), once he starts to pitch his proposals to Gekko, he is just sitting, ignoring, taking his blood pressure and shrugging off every idea that Fox has, and I absolutely loves how he calls them “dogs with fleas”. Fox is out of ideas, until he mutters “Blue Star”. Blue Star is the airline that his father has invested his entire life into, and they are just about to get a federal ruling by the government that an accident that happened to an airplane wasn’t the fault of the company, but of the manufacturer.

This intrigues Gekko, not because it seems like a good deal, but because he feels that Fox has some sort of unknown insight. Once Gekko does find out that Fox actually does have inside information he befriends him, and takes him under his wing.

One facet that I really enjoy about the film is the father and son theme. Fox essentially has to choose between his own blue collar hard working father (played by Sheen’s actual father Martin) or the slick and smooth yet ruthless Wall Street tyrant. The scene in which Fox visits his father in the hospital in the wake of his father’s heart attack and he tries to make things right is one of the most heartfelt, touching scenes ever.

Carl Fox (Martin Sheen) and son Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen)

The film is so excellently paced and it flows and never drags for a split second. The information about stock, bonds and financial business isn’t dumbed down for us, it’s a very complex film, but we find our way through it. The terminology may be hard to chew, but the narrative and performances help us swallow it.

The performances are what truly make the film excellent. Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas give the finest performances of their careers (hence Douglas’ acting Oscar). What makes it even better is the strong supporting cast of Martin Sheen, Terrence Stamp, John C. McGinley and Hal Holbrook (of which I am upset that none of them are returning for the sequel).

Stone has this way of being the filmmaker of the times; he completely makes the film real. The long shot of Gekko and Fox meeting in the park at the end of the film is the finest shot of any Stone film. Everything about the materialism, flow, and themes of the 1980’s is conveyed to perfection in this film. I am looking forward to Stone’s sequel, because it is truly the perfect time for it. Because without the influence of Gordon Gekko, I doubt we’d be in the economic situation we’re in now. This is Oliver Stone’s masterpiece.

Review: 10/10

The Directors: Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone’s films have always resonated with me. He’s the one filmmaker that has proven he can stand the test of time, and truly reflect our social commentary and movement with each film he makes. He’s so remarkable, with each new film, he shows us how we’re feeling, shows us what our society has become. He’s a very pessimistic filmmaker (although he may disagree with me). Stone is responsible for some of the most unique films to come from American cinema.

1. “Wall Street” – 1987

2. “Talk Radio” – 1988

3. “Platoon” – 1986

4. “Natural Born Killers” – 1994

5. “Nixon” – 1995

6. “U-Turn” – 1997

7. “JFK” – 1991

8. “Salvador” – 1986

9. “The Doors” – 1991

10. “Born of the Fourth of July” – 1989

Just missed the cut: “Heaven & Earth”

“A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place.”

I just wanted to take a quick break from NCAA March Madness and share the cover of the new issue of Vanity Fair. I saw this and bought it without hesitation. This literally gave me a boner. I am so excited about Michael Douglas returning as Gordon Gekko in “Money Never Sleeps”. The film is either going to be almost as good as the first, or land horribly on its face and should never have been made. With everyone seeing “Wall Street” in the 80’s and wanting to be Gekko – look how we turned out. If Michael Douglas sitting and being surrounded by bricks and bricks of gold doesn’t turn you on – I don’t know what does.

Pick up the new issue of Vanity Fair, it’s in stores now.