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RHOADES REVIEW

“All the Money In the World” offers viewers a rich reward

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By Shirrel Rhoades
At the Movies

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The founder of Getty Oil, J. Paul Getty was declared to be the richest man in America in 1957. He had — as the title of the new movie about him suggests — “All the Money in the World.”

Yet in 1973 when his namesake grandson was kidnapped, he refused to pay the ransom.

John Paul Getty III was kidnapped by masked men in Rome. His mother appealed to the family patriarch to pay for the boy’s release. Despite Getty’s net worth of nearly $9 billion (in today’s dollars), he refused to pay the $17 million demanded for the boy’s safe return.

When asked by the press how much he was willing to pay, he tersely replied: “Nothing.”

Getty pointed out that if he did so, his 14 other grandchildren might become targets for kidnappers.

After the family patriarch refused to help, the mother teamed up with the old man’s business manager and former CIA operative Fletcher Chase to help free her son.

Tip: Forget all the off-screen drama about Kevin Spacey being fired from the movie, his scenes were reshot with Christopher Plummer as Getty. Director Ridley Scott had wanted Plummer for the role in the first place.

Michelle Williams delivers a good dramatic turn as the mother. Mark Walhberg ably steps into the shoes of the ex-CIA agent.

As some of you may remember, an ear and lock of hair were sent to the family along with a note that said, “ This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits.”

The old billionaire finally agreed to pay $2.9 million. He put up $2.2 million (the maximum amount that was tax deductible) and loaned the boy’s parents the balance at 4 percent interest.

J. Paul Getty was known for his frugality. It was always about the money. As he once said, “If you can actually count your money, then you’re not a rich man.”

“Molly’s Game” is five-point winner

Based on the book “Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker” -- a memoir by Molly Bloom -- the film “Molly Game” tells the story of a champion skier who became a poker madam. And as a result found herself the target of an FBI investigation.

There are five good reasons to catch this at your local movie house:

1. The true story is fascinating, how Bloom created a multimillion-dollar underground poker empire that attracted Hollywood celebs, pro athletes, business tycoons, and even the Russian mob as customers.

2. The cast is stellar, with Jessica Chastain as Molly. She’s backed up by Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp, and Graham Greene.

3. The script was written by Aaron Sorkin, known for his machine-gun dialogue. He is the guy who gave us TV’s “West Wing” and “The Newsroom.” He also wrote such movies as “A Few Good Men,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Moneyball,” and “Steve Jobs.” And he won an Oscar for his adaptation of “The Social Network.”

4. This is Sorkin’s directorial debut.

5. “Molly’s Game” has already picked up two Golden Globe nods (Best Screenplay and Best Actress). And you can expect some Oscar action too.

“Like it or not, this is the movie I wanted to make,” Aaron Sorkin says. “It was an irresistible story to me and I badly wanted to write it.”

He saw Molly Bloom as “a romantic and idealistic sense of integrity and character … a unique movie heroine that we hadn’t seen before.”

Jessica Chastain agreed with this assessment. She saw the timely theme of a woman who seizes power in a world dominated by wealthy and powerful men. Molly fights patriarchy in all aspects of her life, from her controlling father to her battle with the government.

“I think people are going to be surprised that at the end of the movie you feel something that you are that you’re actually uplifted by a movie that was about a woman runs a poker game,” adds Aaron Sorkin.

Here, Sorkin has dealt himself a winning hand.

Top Ten movie letdowns in 2017

Each year produces movies that prove to be delightful surprises … and others that turn out to be bitter disappointments.

Here are the Top Ten movies of 2017 that arrived with great expectations but left us feeling unsatisfied.

10. “Kong: Skull Island” -- How can mighty King Kong be dull? Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts promised us a gargantuan monster movie but it seems he was just monkeying around.

9. “T2 Trainspotting” -- The original has become a cult classic, but this follow-up proves the characters are merely uninteresting losers.

8. “Suburbicon” -- A crime drama that masquerades as a Cohen Brothers movie, but with George Clooney’s muddled direction we’re not sure what it is.

7. “The Dark Tower” -- Stephen King dreamed up another dimension, but the showdown between the Gunslinger (Idris Elba) and the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is firing blanks.

6. “Baywatch” -- Where is David Hasselhoff when we need him? Dwayne Johnson may be the Big Kahuna in this remake, but this movie couldn’t make up its mind whether it was an action film or a comedy.

5. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” -- Lots of special effects couldn’t save this sci-fi extravaganza. French director Luc Besson (he gave us “The Fifth Element”) knows better.

4. “Justice League” -- While it’s better than “Batman vs Superman,” we expected so much more from this gathering of DC superheroes.

3. “Ghost in the Shell” -- Scarlett Johansson is a fetching cyborg but she fails to capture the mystique of the Japanese comic.

2. “The Great Wall” -- Matt Damon plays a white savior who leads the Chinese in fighting off monstrous marauders at the wall. Really now.

1. “The Mummy” -- Even Tom Cruise’s box office mojo couldn’t save this tepid redo of this mummy’s curse.

Don’t you agree these films could have been so much more?

srhoades@aol.com

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