Cinema Reviews Thoughts

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Two decades since Oliver Stone chronicled financial greed in Wall Street, he returns with a sequel set amidst the recent global economic meltdown.

Opening with Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) getting out of jail in 2001, the story quickly moves forward to 2008 where a trader, Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf), is looking for revenge after his firm is taken over by a ruthless rival, Bretton James (Josh Brolin).

Enter Gekko, the author of a new book warning of the market meltdown. Jake happens to be dating Gekko’s estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) and agrees to help him reconnect with her, in return for information about James’ firm.

Given that 23 years have passed since the original film, it is remembering that its cultural status built over time. Although Douglas won an Oscar, it was not a huge critical or commercial hit and it took time for his phrase ‘greed is good’ to enter the lexicon.

Gekko was loosely based on disgraced figures such Michael Miken and Ivan Boesky, but gradually became a hero over time to a generation of financial workers who helped stoke the boom years under Clinton and Bush Jnr.

LeBeouf noted that for this film, Stone and Douglas were treated like royalty whilst filming on Wall Street because of the impact of the 1987 film – a cautionary parable about greed that ironically inspired a generation keen to emulate the villain.

The new film has a promising concept: what would Gekko himself make of the financial crises of 2008 and the bailout of Wall Street banks by the taxpayer?

Much of the plot involves a thinly veiled dramatisation of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, although the names of the firms have been changed, and the efforts of the US government to stop the financial system collapsing.

On the plus side, the return of Douglas as Gekko is actually the most enjoyable aspect of the film. Not only does he paint a convincing portrait of a disgraced titan looking to get back in the game, but he balances genuine emotion with sly humour.

Where the film is less successful is the way in which it crams in too much domestic drama alongside the Gekko narrative.

The screenplay by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff is weaker when it comes the emotional conflicts of Jake and Winnie, which feels stodgy and undercooked, and it never really nails the extraordinary events of the last 2 years.

Although Le Beouf is agreeable in the role, his character’s passion for green technology seems forced and Mulligan is almost completely wasted in a one-dimensional role.

Brolin is suitably menacing as the natural successor and rival to Gekko, but there is a curious lack of drama to scenes involving his bank and a global financial apocalypse.

The actual news bulletins from 2008 felt more exciting than the dull sequences here where bankers gather round tables and spout dialogue like it is some kind of TV reconstruction.

Roderigo Prieto’s visuals are curiously muted and also feature a bizarre amount of old school split-screen effects (some not seen since the early days of MTV) and an overuse of graphics which don’t actually explain that much.

At around 130 minutes, it lacks the spark and fizz of the original and by the end credits audiences may be wondering what Stone was thinking as it flounders towards an unsatisfactory conclusion.

The biggest strike against the film is that it doesn’t place the 2008 crash in proper context. Although a few neat lines are offered as explainers, it should have gone deeper in to why the Clinton and Bush years led to the current disaster.

Strangely for the Oliver Stone, there is little of his energetic anger or style, and he seems more concerned with sentimental family drama than the underlying social issues, which must rank as a massive missed opportunity.

Douglas ultimately provides a reason for watching, but it seems like this film will have a much more muted cultural impact than the first, as it fails to form an effective response to the current financial meltdown.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps opens on Wednesday 6th October

> Official UK site
> Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps at the IMDb
> Reviews at Metacritic
> Find out more about the original Wall Street film and the current economic crisis


Oliver Stone’s Last Year in Vietnam

Oliver Stone talks about his 1971 student film Last Year in Vietnam.

Images News

Wall Street 2 starts filming in New York

Wall Street 2 starts filming

Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps has started filming in New York and the Daily Mail has got some paparazzi pictures (courtesy of Splash) of Michael Douglas, a sockless Shia LeBeouf, Frank Langella and director Oliver Stone filming on location.

The plot is the modern-day story of Gordon Gekko, who has recently been sprung from prison and re-emerges into the current chaos of the financial markets, whilst trying to rebuild a relationship with his estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan).

Meanwhile Shia LaBeouf plays a young trader and Frank Langella stars as his mentor, whilst Josh Brolin has a key supporting role as a hedge fund manager.

Check out the pictures here.

[Images are from Splash / © 2009]

Directors Interesting TV

Oliver Stone on Bill Maher’s Real Time

Oliver Stone was recently on Bill Maher’s Real Time, in which he talked about Buddhism, Vietnam, the Obama administration and Wall Street 2.

By the way, the book by Jeremy Scahill that they mention is Blackwater and I would highly recommend it.

(Also, don’t be surprised if these clips get taken down soon from YouTube)


The Legacy of Wall Street

When Oliver Stone directed Wall Street (1987), it was a drama inspired by Regan-era insider dealing scandals.

It became famous for Michael Douglas‘ portrayal of corporate raider Gordon Gecko, who coined the term ‘greed is good’.

But the law of unintended consequences kicked in and – like Milton’s Satan – the villain of the movie somehow became the hero to a generation of stockbrokers on Wall Street.

Even later films such as Boiler Room (2000), a parable about the 90’s stock market boom, saw their trader characters quote Gecko:

Douglas himself admitted that drunken traders would come up to him in restaurants and miss the entire point of the character.

When a sequel was announced in 2007, it was presumably meant to be a milder depiction of the business (maybe even presenting Gecko as a vharming villain).

But now, given that the Western world is reeling from an economic crisis inspired by the kind of greed Gecko loved, what will the new film look like?

> Wall Street at the IMDb
> Gordon Gecko and the sequel at Wikipedia

London Film Festival

LFF 2008: Day 8

 W. press screening

Today was the day of the European premiere of W., the new Oliver Stone film about President George W. Bush.

It screened as the Times Gala at the Odeon Leicester Square, The (London) Times of course being the sponsor of the London film festival.

I went to the press show in the morning and although I had some doubts going in, must confess I really rather liked it.

I’ll post a longer review in a separate post, but one of the most interesting aspects was the reaction of other people who saw it too. 

One person I spoke to afterwards said they were upset Stone didn’t ‘nail Bush’ (quite an image that) and another expressed his surprise that he didn’t know what Stone thought of Bush (?!). 

I suspect it will be a film divides viewers, but not necessarily along the lines one might suspect. 

Added to all this, I had the surreal experience of David Frost sitting right near me just a few minutes before the film started.

In the same cinema just over a week ago I saw a film about him and President Nixon and now I was sitting near him before a film about President Bush.

W. kicked off what was a really busy day in which I also saw Che, The Class and The Wrestler

So by the end of it all I was really, really tired.

> W. at the IMDb
> Reviews of W. at Metacritic
> Find out more about George W. Bush at Wikipedia

Interesting News Technology

W. Mashup Contest

Lionsgate and YouTube have partnered for a W. mashup contest in which users can create and submit their own videos based on the upcoming Oliver Stone film about the 43rd US president.

The director himself explains the contest in this video:

Submissions close on October 17th and you can find out more at the film’s official YouTube channel.

W. opens in the US on October 17th and in the UK on November 7th

> Official site for W.
> Oliver Stone discusses the movie with GQ
> Check out images and on set footage from W.


Latest W. trailer

Although I had serious reservations about anyone making a film about George W. Bush before his presidency had even ended, I’m starting to think that Oliver Stone‘s W. is not only going to deliver the goods but maybe a possible awards contender.

The latest trailer – set to Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads – does a great job of distilling W’s life and career in under 2 minutes.

If the film delivers on the promise of this spot then it could be something really special.

On a related note, W. is being screened at the London Film Festival on October 23rd and 24th and on Tuesday 28th there is a talk at the BFI Southbank entitled ‘Cinema under George W Bush: Eight Years of Attack and Counter Attack‘.

> Official site for W.
> Oliver Stone discusses the movie with GQ
> Check out images and on set footage from W.

Interesting News

Oliver Stone on W. in GQ

Oliver Stone has given a revealing Q&A interview to Dan Fierman of GQ

It focuses mainly on W. – his upcoming biopic of George W. Bush but branches into other areas.

There are some fairly juicy quotes.

On Bush:

I think that was always the attraction. I always thought of Nixon as like my father. Nixon was like a father to my generation, but it was the behavior of the man that reminded me ofmy father. Bush is my generation. It’s the behavior of me, the culture of me.

On the budget of W. and the casting of Josh Brolin:

And we were turned down by everybody for money, including your Aunt Gertrude. It was humiliating. I make no bones about it. I think this is a great subject. I don’t think I have a bad track record. I needed a star, though, and Josh Brolin was not a star.

Originally I went for Christian Bale. We did some rigorous prosthetic tests and spent a lot of dough—thousands and thousands of dollars—and then Christian said, “I just don’t feel like I can do it.” I met Josh and liked him. He was more rural Americana. But man, he was scared shitless.

On the leaking of the script earlier this year:

That wasn’t a media strategy. That was an outrageous leak by a company called Participant. One of their assistants was trying to make a few bucks, and he sold it, and then it was everywhere.

There were articles everywhere destroying it, historians trashing what we’d done. We didn’t want that. All because of an assistant. Christ.

On the punch up in Shreveport, Louisiana:

The cops came to this bar. They arrested Jeffrey because the bartender had a hair up his ass about this uppity black man from the North. And contrary to reports, he was not drunk. I was there. He was arrested because he had words with the cops.

As for Brolin? It was the first night he had had a couple of drinks the whole time we were shooting. He had been sober for five months for the role, so he let loose a little bit and they got him, too.

On the problems with Warner Bros whilst making Alexander

If I had the guts, I would have done the Sergio Leone three-hour cut for Europe and butchered it for Warner Bros. And I would have taken out the homosexuality, which is what Warners really objected to.

They have told my people that they don’t want to work with me again. I should have just said, “Okay, guys, go for it. Just make your cut.”

And it would have been a much shorter, truncated film, and who knows, it might have made more than $32 million. It might have made fifty-two. Eighty-two. Who knows? You don’t have any idea how big an issue the homosexuality was. Especially when it comes to a military movie.

And on Pinkville, the planned film about the My Lai massacre that UA got cold feet on last year:

We had our locations, we had our actors, we had everything picked out, and it was a very reasonable plan.

Then Bruce Willis walked, and they were thrilled, because that gave them the final excuse to call it, even though we got Nicholas Cage.

That was three weeks before shooting and right before Christmas. Let me remind you, that’s 120 Americans and 500 Thais put out of work right before Christmas.

It was a cruel, heartless decision, and it was probably made because [UA’s] Lions for Lambs was perceived as a mess, a failure, and we were linked to these Iraq movies that weren’t working.

….And I have UA going on and on about “Do the bad guys have to be Americans?”

Read the full Q&A at GQ.

> Oliver Stone at the IMDb
> Check out images and on set footage from W.

In Production News Posters

W. teaser posters and on set footage

When it was announced that Oliver Stone was to make a feature film about George W. Bush simply called W. my first reaction was that it was too soon.

Surely some distance and perspective was needed on a film about one of the most divisive Presidents in US history?

Plus, the schedule for the film seemed rather ambitious – it started shooting in May for a November release, which by current Hollywood standards seemed rather quick.

However, I have to admit that the cast he has assembled is impressive:

Plus, the early leaked trailer that surfaced recently looked much more promising than I had expected.

Now, two more teaser posters have been released which seem to hint at a savvy marketing campaign from Lionsgate and their agency Crew Creative.

Plus, Access Hollywood has just released some footage of Josh Brolin as the 43rd President – it appears to be B-roll footage shot on the set which is why the green screen backdrop is visible.

After the critical mauling of Alexander and the restrained sorrow of World Trade Centre, I imagine Oliver Stone is hungry to return to the fire and energy of his earlier films.

Could this be the film to return him to former glories?

We shall find out on November 7th, when it opens in the US and UK.

> W. at the IMDb
> First images from the movie
> More information on the film at Wikipedia

Images In Production News

Josh Brolin as George W Bush

Shooting is about to begin on W., Oliver Stone’s upcoming biopic of George W. Bush, with Josh Brolin playing the 43rd president of the United States.

EW has a cover story on the film, with the first photos of Brolin as Bush and an interview with Stone.

Stone promises it will be a ‘fair’ portrait of the president:

I think history is going to be very tough on him. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a great story.

It’s almost Capra-esque, the story of a guy who had very limited talents in life, except for the ability to sell himself.

The fact that he had to overcome the shadow of his father and the weight of his family name — you have to admire his tenacity. There’s almost an Andy Griffith quality to him, from A Face in the Crowd.

If Fitzgerald were alive today, he might be writing about him. He’s sort of a reverse Gatsby.

He also recalls meeting Bush at a Republican breakfast in 1998 when he was Governor of Texas:

I don’t usually go to breakfast with anybody, but I wanted to prove that even though people thought I was a leftist I wanted to hear what they had to say.

It was funny, though — the minute I walked in the room the sound of the silverware kind of died. People were like, ‘What’s he doing here? Satan has walked in.

But I met George Bush and I remember thinking that this man was going to be president. There was just a confidence and enthusiasm I’d never seen in a candidate before, especially in a Republican.

Here is a comparison of the real Bush and the Brolin version:

What do you think?

UPDATE 12/05/08: Lionsgate have acquired US and UK distribution rights for W.

Here is the official press release:

SANTA MONICA, CA (May 8, 2008)LIONSGATE®(NYSE: LGF), the leading independent filmed entertainment studio, announced today that in a deal with Omnilab Media it has acquired North American distribution rights from QED International to W, a biopic about President George W. Bush directed by Academy Award® winner Oliver Stone (WORLD TRADE CENTER, PLATOON, WALL STREET) from a screenplay by Stanley Weiser (WALL STREET). Lionsgate will also distribute W in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.  The announcement was made today by Lionsgate President of Theatrical Films Tom Ortenberg.

W stars Josh Brolin (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) as George W. Bush, Elizabeth Banks (SEABISCUIT) as Laura Bush, James Cromwell (THE QUEEN) as George Herbert Walker Bush, Academy Award® winner Ellen Burstyn (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) as Barbara Bush, Thandie Newton (CRASH) as Condoleezza Rice, Jeffrey Wright (SYRIANA) as Colin Powell, Scott Glenn (THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM) as Donald Rumsfeld, and Ioan Gruffud (FANTASTIC FOUR) as Tony Blair.  The film’s producers are Moritz Borman, Jon Kilik and Bill Block.

W begins production on May 12th in Louisiana.  Lionsgate is releasing the film in the US on October 17, 2008.

“It’s an honor to be in business with Oliver Stone, a brilliant and consistently adventurous filmmaker,” said Ortenberg.  “With W, he again demonstrates his creative vitality and genius for speaking to our times.”

Commented Block, “W is in the most innovative hands with Lionsgate and Omnilab Media. With the backdrop of the election this fall, W will be an event picture that will be eagerly anticipated.  Oliver Stone, Moritz Borman and myself could not be more excited about Lionsgate leading the charge this October.”

Christopher Mapp said, “We had a great experience with Lionsgate on THE BANK JOB, and we are delighted to reunite with them as we continue our strategy in investing in quality films that are made by innovative and unique storytellers.”

Said Stone, “The impact of George W. Bush’s presidency will be felt for many years to come.  Despite a meteoric, almost illogical rise to power, and a tremendous influence on the world, we don’t really know much about Mr. Bush beyond the controlled images we’ve been allowed to see on TV.  This movie’s taking a bold stab at looking behind that curtain.  I’m real pleased that Liongate has the independence necessary to bring this provocative story to an American audience.”

Financing the film alongside QED are Omnilab Media, led by Christopher Mapp, David Whealy and Matthew Street; China-based Emperor Group, led by Albert Yeung and Feron Lau; Condor Films, led by Thomas Sterchi; and Global Entertainment Group, led by Johnny Hon, Adam Palin and Teresa Cheung.

The deal was negotiated for Lionsgate by Ortenberg, Wendy Jaffe, Executive Vice President Legal & Business Affairs, Acquisitions and Co-Productions, and Zygi Kamsa, Chief Executive Officer Lionsgate UK; for Omnilab Media by Managing Director Christopher Mapp, Executive Director Matthew Street and Executive Producer David Whealy; and for QED International by Bill Block, Chief Executive Officer, and Paul Hanson, Chief Operating Officer.

Whether you love him or hate him, there is no question that George W. Bush is one of the most controversial public figures in recent memory.  In an unprecedented undertaking, acclaimed director Oliver Stone is bringing the life of our 43rd President to the big screen as only he can.  W takes viewers through Bush’s eventful life — his struggles and triumphs, how he found both his wife and his faith, and of course the critical days leading up to Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

QED is a Beverly Hills based independent film company that represents theatrical motion picture projects for sales and distribution in the worldwide marketplace. The company also acquires, develops, finances and produces its own motion pictures, either independently or in partnership with major studios, talent, and key foreign distributors.

QED Managing Partners include CEO, Bill Block; Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales & Distribution, Kimberly Fox; Chief Operating Officer, Paul Hanson; and Vice President of Production, Elliot Ferwerda.

Omnilab Media is an Australian and New Zealand based globally focused vertically integrated entertainment company involved in the production, visual effects, post production and financing of a diverse range of film and television properties.  Amongst the funding deals recently concluded by Omnilab Media are THE BANK JOB (Charles Roven, Roger Donaldson, Jason Statham), and THE MESSENGER (Mark Gordon, Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster).  Omnilab Media has also created a new digital film company with Kennedy Miller Mitchell to use groundbreaking digital storytelling, animation and visual effects. This will include HAPPY FEET 2, BABE 3 & MAD MAX  4 and a range of other blue-chip properties in development.

Christopher Mapp is Managing Director, Matthew Street Executive Director and David Whealy Executive Producer.

Emperor Motion Pictures (EMP) is the visual entertainment division of Emperor Group, a long-established Hong Kong corporation.   The company produces feature films, TV series and other programming aimed at three distinct markets: local, Asian and international.  It works within a broad range of genres, languages and budgets, with the sole connecting factor being its demand for quality.  EMP is also developing its own videogame division to take advantage of the latest advances in home entertainment technology.  The company also operates its own management company, which creates and executes career strategies for some of Asia’s hottest talents.

Lionsgate is the leading independent filmed entertainment studio, winning the 2005 Best Picture Academy Award® for CRASH, and the Company is a premier producer and distributor of motion pictures, television programming, home entertainment, family entertainment and video-on-demand content. Its prestigious and prolific library of nearly 12,000 motion picture titles and television episodes is a valuable source of recurring revenue and a foundation for the growth of the Company’s core businesses. The Lionsgate brand is synonymous with original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the globe.

W is set to open in the US on October 17th.

> Read the full story at EW
> Entries for W. and Oliver Stone at the IMDb
> Find out more about George W. Bush at Wikipedia