WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Frank Langella
screenplay by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff
directed by Oliver Stone
LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE
screenplay by John Orloff and Emil Stern, based on the novel Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathryn Lasky
directed by Zack Snyder
by Ian Pugh SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Oliver Stone has a penchant for writing himself into living history, and normally, it's quite fascinating. By making movies about historical events whose ramifications have not yet fully materialized, he engages in a battle of wits with the unfamiliar. He tries to understand what's unfolding at this very moment, constantly on the lookout for something resembling closure. From that perspective, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (hereafter Wall Street 2) suffers from Stone's familiarity with the subject. Having already made a movie about the chaos of the free market, he knows exactly what he wants to say from the outset. Our boy Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) spent the Clinton years behind bars, leaving his personal life in shambles. Beloved son Rudy has died of a drug overdose, and hitherto-unmentioned daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) is--irony of ironies!--a lefty blogger who won't have anything to do with him. Enter her fiancé, Jake Moore (professional protégé Shia LaBeouf, who's convincing enough; and the character's name is More, get it?), an ambitious green-energy investor who wants to learn a few moves from a living legend. As fate would have it, the two men share a mutual enemy in Bretton James (Josh Brolin), the slimy businessman who sent Gekko to the slammer and spread a few market rumours that prompted Jake's mentor/father figure (Frank Langella) to commit suicide. Gekko sees the chance to rekindle his relationship with Winnie, while Jake wants to make a mint founded on revenge. Alliances are forged, tricks are played, trust is abused, and, above all, greed continues to rule the day. When the bottom falls out, you'd best be prepared for a lot of hand-wringing in the executive boardroom--but hell, you know there are more important things floating around here, right? Winnie announces her pregnancy on the very same day that the 2008 economy does its final nosedive. Where do you think Wall Street 2 is going to end up?
Zack Snyder's CGI "kiddie" flick Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole also covers plenty of well-trodden ground. Finally eschewing live-action altogether, Snyder applies his familiar camera tricks and ramping techniques to a legion of photorealistic owls, here engaged in military battle while wearing Doctor Doom masks. Surprisingly, it's not as obnoxious as Snyder's other efforts (even with the 3-D), but it's...odd, to say the least. Odd and boring, to say a little more. The threadbare script wastes no time in introducing the villainous "Pure Ones," an army of birds of the genus Tyto who have taken to kidnapping young owls. You've probably already guessed that it's an effort to promote racial purity: Tyto younglings are inducted into the army, while the "lesser" species are forced into work camps to find the bits of metal necessary to fuel an ill-defined superweapon--some bizarre cross between a Tesla coil and the Ark of the Covenant. Tyto Soren (voice of Jim Sturgess) resists and goes searching for the heroic Guardians of the title as his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) stays with the party to be groomed for a dramatic showdown.
Legend of the Guardians fits comfortably with Snyder's other big-budget clunkers in the sense that it wants an extensive mythology in which to play around but hasn't the patience required to craft it in the first place. The life-changing, soul-searching journeys last all of five minutes, while training regimens are handily brushed aside by way of montage. It might be yet another crappy editing job performed on yet another kids' book, but you've gotta get to the Nazi-killin' as quickly as possible, my dear, and trusting your "gizzard" is the only moral justification you'll ever need. It is perhaps the only movie about World War II the "visionary director" of 300 could have made, the thematic inverse of Inglourious Basterds: for all its big talk about the physical/psychic toll of war and the disappointments of meeting one's icons, it still ends with an uncritical victory march and the installation of new legendary figureheads. Originally published: September 24, 2010.