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Dumb Money

Posted on September 14, 2023 at 5:15 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for pervasive language, sexual material, and drug use
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Nudity/ Sex: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and brief drug use
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: September 15, 2023

Copyright Sony 2023
Crazy times create crazy events, and there has seldom been a crazier time in the United States than the early months of the pandemic and there has seldom been a crazier series of events in the modern history of investing than the time a group of small individual investors with very little capital took on some of the wealthiest and most powerful people on Wall Street and they kind of won. Now that sounds like a movie, and, for the second time, it is.

First there was the documentary, Eat the Rich: the GameStop Saga.” And now, the feature film, “Dumb Money,” with an all-star cast, a smart screenplay by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, and lively direction from Craig Gillespie. The movie does a good job of conveying the intricate details of investing and finance in the context of a movie that maintains a heightened tone through sharply executed editing, provocative needle-drops on the soundtrack (beginning with WAP), and minimal exposition.

In very sharp contrast to the music on the soundtrack, Paul Dano plays the central figure, mild-mannered Keith Gill, who lives with his wife, Caroline (Shailene Woodley), and their baby daughter in a modest home in Brockton, Massachusetts. Like a movie superhero, he has a secret identity. By day he was a financial analyst with MassMutual. By night he had not one but two personas, one on the subreddit r/wallstreetbets (DeepF***ingValue) and one on YouTube (Roaring Kitty). In both, he talked about stocks he liked and he revealed his own trades. In January 2021, he announced that he had invested in 50,000 shares and 500 call options for GameStop, the store that sells video games in malls. Most investors, including Wall Street billionaires, thought GameStop was going to go bankrupt. The US was still in pre-vaccine pandemic lockdown, though GameStop somehow got listed as an essential business because it sold some computer peripherals, so the stores were still open. But Keith explained his reasons for thinking the stock, trading at under $4 a share, was undervalued.

The Wall Street billionaires also put their money where their mouths were and bet against the company by going “short,” meaning they would make money if the stock went down. Normally, they would have succeeded. But nothing in this story was normal. It was a perfect storm. First, the pandemic shut everything down and made people feel even more mistrustful of big institutions than they were before. This was especially true of the people of Keith’s generation, who were in school on 9/11 and were entering the job market just as the financial meltdown hit the economy with no consequences for the people who caused it. Second, social media made it possible for anyone, like Keith for example, to express views on platforms that were as accessible as traditional media. And it made it possible for followers to support each other and bring in more. Gill went viral. Third, thanks to a new app with no fees, buying and selling stock and even complicated securities like puts and calls (options) was suddenly as easy as sending a text. And fourth, people were stuck at home. They felt stuck in an unfair world. They did not have access to complex investment securities analysis about big, complicated corporations. But they could understand Roaring Kitty, and they could understand GameStop.

And then, Roaring Kitty. People followed his recommendations because he showed them that he was using his own money, because he was an outsider and therefore more like them, because that trading app on their phones was called Robin Hood and trades were “free,” and, this is the key point, after a while, when it was clear that they were costing the Wall Street short sellers billions as their purchases made the stock go up, they were just as happy to be beating the mega-wealthy as they were to be making thousands, tens of thousands, and in Keith’s case, millions for themselves. The trading app was named Robin Hood, which sounded anti-Wall Street. These new investors came up with a new meme-able term: “stonks,” meaning “we’re doing it our own way and it is more about the fun than about making money.” Their loss is almost entirely limited to their modest investments while the short sellers risk losses one television commentator (in real-life archival footage) calls “infinity.”

Gillespe has a sure hand with a chaotic story, giving us just enough information to follow what is happening without weighing us down with the details of finance. Schuker Blum and Angelo have a sharp sense for telling detail. One of the investors is a GameStop employee (Anthony Ramos) with a bureaucratic boss. We get a glimpse of the gulf between the MBAs at headquarters sending out lists about which products have the highest profit margins (“push the loyalty card!”) and the reality of the tiny shop in the otherwise-empty mall. Other investors include a nurse and single mother (America Ferrara) and a pair of debt-ridden college students played by Talia Ryder and Myha’la. Sebastian Stan appears as Robin Hood co-founder Vladimir Tenev. He claims that they were inspired by Occupy Wall Street and his coyness about how they make money when they do not charge a transaction fee turns out to be very significant when Robin Hood’s connection to another player in this story comes out.

There’s an “Empire Strikes Back” element when the people with billions at risk start playing hardball. But Gill understands that Wall Street is overlooking the app investors the way they look the customers of GameStop and his followers, dazzled by their gains and thrilled by schadenfreude. If they had not felt that they were being treated like losers for so long, the win would not mean as much.

The superb cast includes Clancy Brown and Kate Burton as Keith’s parents and Pete Davidson as his slacker brother, whose job in the movie is to contrast and target for exposition. Nick Offerman is excellent as billionaire Ken Griffin and Seth Rogen is in top form as Gabe Plotkin, the guy whose highly leveraged bet against GameStop turns out to be a monumental mistake. In the beginning of the film, his casual entitlement in talking to a contractor who is supposed to be tearing down a house so Plotkin can have a tennis court is in sharp contrast to his unraveling as things go south. You can see the real Plotkin’s testimony here. (Don’t feel sorry for him. He’s now an owner of the Hornets.) There are a dozen clever details that give the story texture, from the recreation of the stonk memes to the coaching for the zoom testimony to a Congressional committee. (You can see Gill’s testimony here.)

It’s entertaining and thought-provoking. With any luck, it will inspire other Gills to find what the experts overlook, which is, after all, how capitalism works.

Parents should know that this film has non-stop strong and vulgar language, spoken by the characters and on the soundtrack, including the n-word. Characters drink alcohol and briefly smoke marijuana and there is a bawdy, sexualized game at a college party.

Family discussion: Who would you trust to give you investment advice? Why did so many people trust Keith?

If you like this, try: the “Eat the Rich” documentary, the book by Ben Mezrich, and “The Big Short” (Note a brief appearance by the real-life character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort)

Movies for Labor Day Weekend 2023

Posted on September 1, 2023 at 4:00 pm

Copyright 1979 20th Century Fox
On Labor Day pay tribute to workers, especially those who have worked for better conditions for everyone. These movies can help us understand their challenges and their contributions. This year in particular these stories have even more resonance as the very people who make the movies, the writers and performers are on strike to oppose shrinking writers rooms, wage theft, and the use of AI to undermine their current contracts.

Sally Field won an Oscar for “Norma Rae,” a real-life story about a courageous woman who helped mill workers form a union. It was inspired by Crystal Lee Sutton, a courageous advocate for workers’ rights.

Doris Day plays a union worker who falls for a new guy in management but doesn’t lose sight of the seven and a half cent raise the workers are bargaining for in the rollicking musical, “The Pajama Game.”

“Made in Dagenham” stars Sally Hawkins and and Rosamund Pike in the true and very heartwarming story of the British women who went on strike when they found that they were being paid far less by Ford Motor Company than the men.


I love this true story, about a group of LGBTQ activists who support the 1984 miners’ strike in Wales.

“10PM-Midnight: Working the Night Shift” is the story of the people who keep things going while the rest of us are asleep.

“Lifelines in the Lockdown” is a CBS News documentary from the early days of the pandemic about essential workers.

John Sayles’ “Matewan” tells the story of mine workers fighting for safer conditions.

“Harlan County USA” is a documentary about a strike by mine workers.

“Bread and Roses” is based on the real-life story of a strike by undocumented janitorial workers, with Adrian Brody as their lawyer.

“Salt of the Earth” was inspired by an actual miners’ strike against the Empire Zinc Co. and the cast includes real-life miners who were involved in the strike

In “The Devil and Miss Jones,” a big boss goes undercover as an employee in his department store and learns some lessons about the workforce. The terrific cast includes Charles Coburn, Spring Byington, and Jean Arthur.

I’m excited at the possibility we might be getting a sequel to the classic “9 to 5,” starring the iconic Jane Fonda, Lili Tomlin, and Dolly Parton. Is there a better bad boss than Dabney Coleman? Or a better song than this film’s title sung by Parton?

What’s Next: Movies for Fall 2023

Posted on September 1, 2023 at 10:00 am

Happy fall! The season of superheroes and car chases is over, and it’s time for some of the movies we will probably see at awards time. A few films, including “Dune 2,” have been delayed due to the continuing SAG-AFTRA/WAG strike. But there is still plenty to look forward to. Here are some of the films I’m most excited about.


“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”

The Portokalos family is back and this time they’re going to Greece to connect with their roots. Nia Vardelos wrote and directed what looks like another heartwarming comedy.

“Dumb Money”

There was this company called GameStop. They were in shopping malls and they sold video games. A bunch of ultra- rich Wall Street guys shorted the stock, meaning that if the company went bankrupt, they would make more billions of dollars. Normally, that would work. But “a bunch of millennial misfits” (according to the excellent documentary, “Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga“), with new access to both technology (an options trading app) and time (the pandemic), decided it was Opposite Day, and they would invest not because of what market indicators were pointing to, but just to mess with the billionaires. This film has a powerhouse cast, including Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Seth Rogen, America Ferrera, Shailene Woodley, Sebastian Stan, Nick Offerman, and Vincent D’Onofrio.

“A Haunting in Venice”

Sir Kenneth Branagh is back as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, with Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh as a medium who Jamie Dornan and his “Belfast” co-star Jude Hill, Kelly Reilly, Camille Cottin, and Tina Fey as Adrienne Oliver, the mystery novelist character Agatha Christie based on herself.

“A Million Miles Away”

The story of NASA flight engineer José Hernández inspired this film about a family of proud migrant farm workers on a decades-long journey, from a rural village in Michoacán, Mexico, to the fields of the San Joaquin Valley, to more than 200 miles above the Earth in the International Space Station.

“She Came to Me”

Peter Dinklage stars as an opera composer struggling to create his next piece. His wife, played by Anne Hathaway, is a therapist who loves to clean. He meets a tugboat captain played by Marisa Tomei, and that gives him an idea for the opera…and a possible stalker. Plus, a new song from Bruce Springsteen!

“My Animal”

This is a supernatural romance with Bobbi Salvör Menuez (“Euphoria”) as a secluded young woman living with an inherited curse Amandla Stenberg (“Bodies Bodies Bodies”) as the rebellious love interest who will discover how dangerous the relationship will be.

“Flora and Son”

I’m a huge fan of filmmaker John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again,” “Sing Street”), whose movies always have a deep love for music and musicians. I am really looking forward to this one, with Eve Hewson as a young mother of a sulky teenager who find a way to connect through music. “Sing Street’s” Jack Reynor plays the boy’s father, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is her online guitar tutor. Hewson knows something about the world of musicians; her father is Bono.

“The Pigeon Tunnel”

Spy-turned spy novelist John le Carré (real name David John Moore Cornwall) is interviewed by legendary documentarian Errol Morris, a perfect fit, as they are two men who have spent their lives thinking about secrets.

“The Creator”

Worried about AI? This will make you worry even more. In the apocalyptic future of this story, AI has gone rogue and is on the way to wiping out humanity. If anyone can save us, I’d bet on John David Washington.

“Dicks: The Musical”

Copyright 2023 A24

Yes, that is really the title. And the director is Larry Charles, of “Seinfeld” and the Borat and Brüno movies. And it stars Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, Megan Thee Stallion, and Bowen Yang. And it’s something about…a kind of “Parent Trap”-type story? With puppets called The Sewer Boys.



Two of the world’s most talented and charismatic performers, Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal, star in a movie about a couple who live quietly on land that has been in his father’s family for generations until a stranger arrives with a shocking offer in a “Black Mirror”-style tale of technology and identity.


Fall may be for serious movies, but hey, there’s always room for action, especially if it stars John Cena. In “Freelance” he is a divorced dad in a boring law job, but of course he’s also ex-special ops, and he agrees to keep a journalist (Alison Brie) safe on a reporting trip to interview a dictator.

“Ordinary Angels”

Two-time Oscar-winner Hillary Swank plays a self-described mess who decides that she has a purpose in life — to help a family she’s never met get the transplant their little girl desperately needs.

“Killers of the Flower Moon”

One of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year is Martin Scorsese’s 3 1/2-hour epic adaptation of David Grann’s book about the real-life murder of Osage Indians in the early 1920s. No one paid much attention to the Osage until they discovered oil on their land and a lot of money was going to to to them or to anyone who got them out of the way. The cast includes Scorsese favorites Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as John Lithgow, Yancey Red Corn, Jesse Clemons, Brendan Fraser, and Tantoo Cardinal.

“What Happens Later”

Meg Ryan directs and stars with David Duchovny in a bittersweet story of exes to find themselves stuck at the airport.

“The Holdovers”

Alexander Payne reunites with his “Sideways” star Paul Giamatti for this story of an autocratic and disliked boarding school teacher stuck with the unhappy students who have nowhere else to go for the winter holidays.



Copyright Netflix 2023

Producer Barack Obama (yes, that Obama) is behind this biopic about one of the key figures of the Civil Rights Movement, Bayard Rustin, played by Colman Domingo. Rustin worked with A. Philip Randolph on the 1941 March on Washington Movement to press for an end to racial discrimination in employment. He later organized Freedom Rides, and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He advocated for civil rights, workers’ rights, gay rights, and the rights of Soviet Jews. “Rustin’s” director is George C. Wolfe (director of many Broadway plays and films including “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and the cast includes Aml Ameen as the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., Glynn Turman as A. Philip Randolph, Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Mahalia Jackson, Jeffrey Wright (who played MLK in “Boycott”) as Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, and Chris Rock as Roy Wilkins, along with CCH Pounder and Audra McDonald. Obama posthumously awarded Bayard Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and this movie is sure to be a meaningful tribute.

“Quiz Lady”

Copyright Hulu 2023

Awkwafina and Sandra Oh star as a gameshow-obsessed woman and her estranged sister, who have to work together to help cover their mother’s gambling debts. What better way to make some money than a game show? And what better actor to play a game show host than Will Ferrell?

“The Marvels”

Brie Larson is just one of the Marvels in this superhero story bringing together Carol Danvers with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan (the adorable Iman Vellani). Of course Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the Flerken named Goose that looks like a cat are there to provide back-up. What do I always say about the villain being the key to a good superhero movie? Well, we’ve got Zawe Ashton as Dar-Ben. Sisters are doin’ it for themselves!

“May December”

Director Todd Haynes always has a provocative take on the gaps between our public and private personas. In “May/December,” Julianne Moore plays a woman who had sex with her 13-year-old student. That was years ago, they are still together, living in a lovely home financed by their appearances on tabloid news shows. Their child is about to graduate from high school as an actress (Natalie Portman) has arrived because she is going to play Moore’s character in a movie based on the story.

“Next Goal Wins”

Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarock,” “Jojo Rabbit”) is not going to give us the usual underdog sports story. And it’s not “Ted Lasso.” This is based on the real-life Samoan team known for a brutal 2001 FIFA match they lost 31-0. Michael Fassbender plays the coach brought in to get them to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, or just to get one goal. To learn more, watch the documentary of the same name.

“Showdown at the Grand”

A movie theater owner (Terrence Howard) and an action star (Dolph Lundgren) join forces to save the business from developers in this commentary on and love letter to action movies.


The last time Bradley Cooper wrote, directed, and starred in a film, it was the smash remake “A Star is Born.” The triple threat is back with “Maestro,” the story of musical genius Leonard Bernstein, a brilliant conductor and composer. Carey Mulligan co-stars as his wife Felicia.


Ridley Scott directs this epic story of an epic life, with Joaquin Phoenix as the emperor turned exile and Vanessa Kirby as his wife, Josephine.


Copyright Shout! 2023

No one knows more about wishes and magic than Disney, and after a couple of less-than-great films, this one looks like a return to the classic era, with a terrific voice cast: Chris Pine as the evil king, Oscar-winner Ariana Dubs as the heroine, and Alan Tudyk, as, I’m guessing, the goat?


Posted on August 24, 2023 at 5:57 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive language and some violence
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Nudity/ Sex: Explicit and crude sexual references, non-explicit situations
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Graphic violence including punching, martial arts, some disturbing images, some "comic" deaths
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: August 25, 2023

Copyright 2023 MGM
“Bottoms” is a cheerfully deranged take on the classic high school underdog story and I mean that in the nicest possible way. It’s a twisted take on the classic story of teenagers who want to have sex and be popular. Usually, that story is about boys. Almost always, it is about heterosexuals. This time, in a film written by director Emma Seligman and star Rachel Sennott, it is about two queer BFFs, not romantic partners, and the title comes from their status at the bottom of the ultra-hierarchy of their school. It is not because they are gay; lots of gay kids are popular. It is because they are “gay, ugly, and untalented,” at least from the narrow perspective of high school.

They both have impossible crushes. PJ (Sennott) yearns for Brittany (Kaia Gerber, with the supermodel bearing of her mother, Cindy Crawford). Josie (breakout star Ayo Edebiri) longs for the lovely Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), who is the girlfriend of the school’s star quarterback, Jeff (breakout star Nicholas Galitzine).

No one is even pretending to care about them or their education, including their principal (Wayne Pére) and their teacher, Mr. G. (a hilarious performance by football star Marshawn Lynch). The girls decide to start a self-defense fight club, despite having no ability or qualifications, because they think it might attract and impress Brittany and Isabel. Shockingly, Mr. G. agrees to be their sponsor. Even more shockingly, Brittany and Isabel show up. And most shocking of all, the girls in the group beat each other up and somehow feel empowered by it.

The girls have lied, though, about more than their intentions and skills. They said they learned to be tough when they were in juvie. They are so thrilled with how well the club is working, especially after Josie gets to comfort Isabel after she finds out Jeff has been cheating on her, that they do not think about what will happen when they are exposed.

Sennott, Galitzine, and Edebiri are a decade older than the characters they are playing, but this is not a movie that is going for realism. It is also not a movie that, like “PEN15” wants you to know that adults are playing teenagers. It just invites us into a world where somehow this all makes sense, and we are happy to follow along because the characters and situations are completely crazy but very funny. Heightened, even bizarre tones work well in stories of adolescence because that is a heightened, bizarre time of life. Every emotion and especially every humiliation seems so vitally important and earth-shaking, and the family support system that has been there all your life (if you are lucky) suddenly seems useless and incapable of understanding.

Galitzine could not be further from the elegant, refined, British prince he plays in “Red, White & Royal Blue.” His Jeff is an arrogant idiot and very funny. Edebiri (also in “The Bear” and “Theater Camp”) is a non-stop delight, with the most expressive face you will see on screen this year and a knock-out sense of timing. Needless to say, this movie is not for everyone, but those who appreciate subversive and transgressive humor will have a blast.

Parents should know that this movie has non-stop strong and crude language, a reference to suicide of a teenager, violence that becomes lethal, disturbing and graphic images, explicit sexual references and non-explicit sexual situations.

Family discussion: Is there anything in this movie that resembles your high school experience? What will happen next?

If you like this, try: “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Book Smart,” “Heathers,” and “Polite Society”

Gran Turismo

Posted on August 24, 2023 at 5:13 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense action and some strong language
Profanity: Some strong language
Nudity/ Sex: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Intense sequences of car races with crashes, explosions, and fire, characters injured and an of-screen death, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: August 25, 2023

Copyright 2023 Columbia Pictures
Imagine a Cinderella story, but instead of a fairy godmother there’s a huge multi-national corporation and instead of a glass slipper there’s a race car, and instead of a prince there’s a trophy. We do love our underdog stories, and “Gran Turismo” is a doozy because, unlike Cinderella, it is based on a true story. The millions of teenagers locked in their bedrooms all day and night playing games on their computers can now respond to the parents who urge them to get outside, get a job, and get a life by directing them to this one-in-a-million story about a guy who turned his hours in front of a computer into a career as a professional race car driver.

That guy is Jann (pronounced Yann) Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), who lives in Cardiff, Wales, with his parents, Lesley (former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell Horner), and Steve (Djimon Hounsou), a former athlete, now a rail yard worker.

Before the dreams of the teenager at the console, there was the dream of the program itself. It’s not a game, we are reminded in the film; it’s a sim (simulation). Developer Kazunori Yamauchi, an amateur race car driver, was determined to make the most authentically detailed sim in the world so that people like Jann could share the experience of driving 200 miles an hour in the most realistic cars and on the most realistic tracks in the world.

And then there was another dream. Orlando Bloom plays Danny Moore, based on the real-life executive Darren Cox. Moore goes to meet with the top Nissan executives in Tokyo to sell them on his idea: a competition among the 80 million sim players worldwide to get the best of the best, train them, and find one who can really race. It will make car buyers “associate their cars with adventure.” This is like Willy Wonka having a video candy-making competition to pick the next master chocolatier. But Nissan agrees, provided there is a master engineer to keep these competition winners safe. As that engineer, Jack Salter (David Harbour) points out, in a game when you crash, you hit reset. In real life, you could die. (Salter is a composite character, based on some real people and also, apparently, on Yoda and on Burgess Meredith, Clint Eastwood, and every crusty old character actor who has played a young boxer’s grumpy cornerman.)

The lanky Madekwe is an appealing hero, one might say an avatar for us in the audience. And director Neill Blomkamp does a terrific job of making Jann’s time at the console seem “real” and the real racetrack align with the sim. In a funny moment, Jann, who has hardly ever been behind the wheel of any car, uses what he learned in the sim to evade police after a minor fender bender. The racing scenes are dynamic and exciting. And the film parallels a game, with each goal and hazard set out clearly. And then, when the goal is achieved, the next level is unlocked and a new set of more difficult goals and hazards are in place. Most fun, we learn at the end that the real-life Jann, now a veteran of hundreds of races, is the film’s co-producer and stunt driver, a new level-up for him.

Parents should know that this film includes a scary crash with injuries and an off-screen death, other crashes, collisions, and cars repeatedly rolled over. Characters use some strong language and social drinking.

Family discussion: What did Jann learn from his crash? What would you want to create an accurate sim for?

If you like this, try: “Rock Star” and “The Last Straighter”