Jodie Foster

Hotel Artemis

Perspective. The lens through which we view the world. We usually focus on the most dominant storyline when it comes to art, as it pertains to film and literature. The subplots take a natural backseat to the action in the foreground. However, a fresh perspective allows for new and creative storytelling. Hotel Artemis seemed intriguing, not only because of a cast including Jodie Foster and Sterling K. Brown, but because it fleshed out a familiar plot point.

 If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen your fair share of crime dramas over the years. You’ll recall that whenever someone is shot or otherwise injured, it poses a real problem when they need medical attention. Well, what if there was a hospital just for criminals? Welcome to Hotel Artemis, which is not really a hotel at all. In this stylish, dark action drama, writer/director Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) spins a common trope of the genre into a tale of murder and mayhem.

 The film opens in the not-too-distant future of 2028 Los Angeles, as three men attempt a bank heist. Two of the three are brothers, the older played by Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther) and the younger portrayed by Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta). Gravely wounded, the trio call ahead to book some rooms in the Hotel Artemis, members only. The Artemis deals in anonymity, and each resident is known by the room to which they are assigned. The older brother is assigned to the Waikiki room, and the younger to Honolulu. Jodie Foster (Elysium) stars as The Nurse, gatekeeper and Chief Surgeon, so to speak. She runs a tight ship, adhering to a strict set of rules that only allows treatment for members who have paid the hefty premium.

 The technology in the film is pretty cool, with The Nurse performing complex surgeries in half the normal time. Upon arrival, Waikiki runs into old friend Nice (like the French city), portrayed by Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde). She’s at the Artemis for more than just medical care, and her mysterious intentions put her odds with the other guests. Throughout it all, The Nurse is tasked with keeping her unsavory clientele in line, enforcing a strict set of rules with the help of her sidekick, a juiced up looking orderly appropriately nicknamed Everest (Dave Bautista, Avengers: Infinity War). On this particularly chaotic night, a riot rages outside. The people have taken to the streets to protest the privatization of water, a nasty hallmark of this quasi-dystopian future. As if things weren’t hectic enough, The Nurse has one more problem to consider after receiving word that yet another patient will be arriving, this one a VIP. “The Wolf King,” ruling crime boss of LA’s underworld is en route (Jeff Goldblum, Thor: Ragnarok) and cannot be denied.

 Hotel Artemis was a fun movie to watch, largely due to its premise. In some respects, the setting is the star. This film isn’t character driven, it’s plot driven. The characters must sustain the action and carry the film, but their maneuvering is made easier by the film’s construct. Although the Artemis is the focal point and the film’s only real setting, its occupants ensure there is never a dull moment. Sofia Boutella proves that her turn in last year’s Atomic Blonde wasn’t a fluke, dispatching unwanted guests Oldboy style. Sterling K. Brown is just a pleasure to watch, in any setting. I rooted for Waikiki, the dutiful older sibling, always making sacrifices. And Jodie Foster, well she’s Jodie Foster. In sum, Hotel Artemis was a cut above your average shoot ‘em up, a cool movie that refreshingly expounded upon a common thematic element. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Grade: A-

Money Monster

There are many ways to tell a story, and one of the great things about film is that it offers the freedom to explore a range of narratives. A sweeping epic may unfold at a leisurely place over the course of two hours. A movie that takes place in a single day will be presumably action-packed and fast-paced, as there is little time for character or plot development. Money Monster promised a glimpse into a day in the life of two men on a particularly harrowing day for both.

George Clooney (Hail, Caesar!) stars as Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer type of character who mixes buffoonery with financial advice on his own cable show. I was amused to see the typically suave Clooney bounce around like a ham-handed carnival barker, flanked by two ‘dancers’ in costume like a bad rap video. Julia Roberts (Secret in Their Eyes) is Patty, his calm and cool producer who helms the ship, making it hum like a well-oiled machine. Gates has a duplicitous, opportunistic aura, sort of like a cross between a car salesman and a stockbroker, with more style than substance. When one of his tips to invest in a company called IBIS proves disastrous, disgruntled viewer Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell, Unbroken) exacts his own brand of justice by taking over the television studio during a live broadcast.

An unhinged protagonist is familiar cinematic territory, whether our anti-hero is robbing a bank or holding hostages. Common themes are desperation and a nearly suicidal level of commitment. Kyle is armed with a detonator and makes Lee wear a vest rigged with explosives. He blames the loss of his life savings on the TV host, whose offhand prediction cost him dearly. Dominic West (Genius, The Affair, The Wire) is featured as Walt Camby, IBIS’ shady CEO who claims an unforeseen glitch in his company’s financial algorithm caused the stock to take a hit. At first Kyle’s ire is directed solely at Lee, but Gates is able to pass the buck on to Camby, whose explanation for the massive loss is questionable at best.

Jodie Foster (Elysium) marks her return to directing here, and quite naturally I had high expectations for such an acclaimed collection of Hollywood’s elite. I won’t use the word disappointed, but Money Monster was more decent than memorable. I enjoyed the subplot involving supporting characters as they worked to uncover the truth behind Camby’s questionable geo-political business dealings, but for the most part the tension and tautness wasn’t there. Perhaps the fault lies in the script, as I thought Foster’s direction within the tight confines of the television studio was effective. The small space added to the air of desperation, but overall the film wasn’t something that stayed with me. Sometimes a day at the movies is just a passable one, and while that’s enough for some – others may want a little more. Grade: B


I love Matt Damon, and if you’ve read my reviews of any of his movies, I usually include that sentiment at some point.  Matt Damon and a big budget summertime action flick seemed like a cant-miss pairing, in my estimation.  That’s why it pains me to say that I was rather underwhelmed by Elysium, his latest film set against a bleak, post-apocalyptic Los Angeles landscape.  Jodie Foster (The Brave One) is also featured, and so quite naturally I thought her inclusion would bolster the movie.  Unfortunately, something about the movie just failed to connect with me, as a viewer.

In the year 2154, the world has been ruined by disease, over-population, and pollution.  Those who could afford it have long since moved to Elyisum, an artificial space station/planet of sorts where disease is a thing of the past.  Citizens of Elysium are afforded body scan technology that eliminates all traces of disease or injury.  The lawns are perfectly manicured, and the sky is always blue.  Picture an entire planet that resembles The Hamptons.  Meanwhile, everyone on Earth looks indigent.  Everyone has dirt under their fingernails, and resources are meager.  The nebulous “powers that be” have relegated humanity to menial low-paying jobs, and everyone appears to be “just getting by.”  Apparently there is no middle class in the future (some would argue that it’s a current myth as well), because you’re either poor on Earth or rich on Elysium.

Damon (We Bought A Zoo) stars as Max, a hard-working ex-con who is scraping by at a shit job just to make ends meet.  After being harassed and assaulted by the robot police on his way to work, he finds himself in the hospital where he runs into Frey (Alice Braga, I Am Legend), a childhood friend now working as a nurse.  Max and Frey lived in the same orphanage as children, and Max pledged his friendship to her while longing for Elysium.  After suffering a horrific accident at work later in the day, it is imperative that Max gets to Elysium so that he can be healed.

Illegal aliens who try to sneak into Elysium are met with force and immediate deportation.  Jodie Foster’s character is Secretary Delacourt, an Elysium government official who is tasked with immigration matters and overall policing.  She refuses to allow her pristine planet to be dirtied by filthy, sick immigrants who will zap her resources.  If Max wants to make it to Elysium, he will have to get through her and Kruger (Sharlto Copley, District 9), an assassin who was dispatched to Earth to ward off any potential illegals seeking to breach Elysium airspace.

Elysium featured an accomplished cast and a provocative storyline.  I don’t know why I felt disconnected from the movie, but I thought it was just ok.  I’ve heard that director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) originally considered Eminem (8 Mile) for the role of Max, and it would have been a much smaller film.  Oddly enough, that may have made it a better movie.   The hallmark of a ‘popcorn’ summer flick is special effects, but those bells and whistles did nothing for me this time.  I love Matt Damon and don’t fault his performance, but something about the movie was hollow, despite its earnest attempt to inspire sympathy within the viewer.  My compadre with whom I saw the movie shared my sentiment.  Grade: B-/C+