New year, new movies

All The Money In The World

On the very same day we found out that Australian living standards were actually falling and were now lower than in 2011, I saw a movie whose message was a reassuring “it doesn’t matter.” In fact we’re probably better off, for we all know what comes after the first part of that title, right? It “doesn’t buy you happiness.” Ok then…

The controversy surrounding the dropping of its original star Kevin Spacey is probably better known than the real life events which inspired Ridley Scott’s jaw-dropping yarn – the 1973 kidnapping of the teenage heir of J Paul Getty, then the richest man in the world. Famously, the miserable old sod (Chistopher Plummer, masterfully stealing the movie) refused to pay the $17m ransom, leaving the kid John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation) at the mercy of Italian mafia thugs for five months. Who eventually sliced off his ear and sent it to a newspaper – in a package that was held up in the mail by a postal strike.

The kidnappers were brutes, but none of the characters are particularly nice people. John’s dad in particular (Andrew Buchan) is portrayed as a hopeless hippie junkie, and even the ex-CIA security fixer (Mark Wahlberg) that the oil magnate hired after suspecting the kidnapping was an inside job and a scam does little that is actually helpful. The closest we get to a hero is John’s worried mum (Michelle Williams) and she does an adequate job. But the film does suffer from not having someone likeable at its centre, or even a particularly strong narrative focus.

Though it’s still an incredible story, the sort that will have you googling some of the people involved to find out what happened next. The boy’s later fate was particularly tragic, but that of his father (the hippie drug addict) was just incredible. He went on to become a British knight, and friend of Mick Jagger and Margaret Thatcher. So… repeat after me, “money doesn’t buy…. MA15+ from Jan 4 at Palace Norton Street, Palace Central, Dendy Newtown and elsewhere. ★★★1/2

Opening this week

Most critics see Steven Spielberg‘s latest film The Post (our review here) as a rejoinder to Trump. Maybe, but its more potent as a tribute to the power of print journalism and press freedom, as well as to a strong, independent woman able to make the big decisions her male colleagues couldn’t. M  From Jan 11 at Palace Norton Street, Palace Central, Dendy Newtown and elsewhere.

The Commuter is diverting piece of low rent B-grade schlock starring Liam Neeson in tough guy mode with a plot too convoluted and  bat-shit crazy to summarize. The best thing about it are its final credits, designed like metro map. There’s probably no other reason to see it though. M From Jan 11 at Palace Central.

Power to the rodents: The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature “burns with a proletarian rage”.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature  is set in a town with an evil mayor in cahoots with developers who plans to bulldoze a park. A ragtag bunch of talking squirrels and city-dwelling rodents defeat him. WestConnex protestors take note – this is the movie to take your kids too. The LA Times called it “a searing indictment of capitalistic government corruption,” though its 9% Rotten Tomatoes rating probably does mean something. (Unpreviewed). G From Jan 11 at Palace Norton Street, Palace Central and elsewhere.

Russell Edwards