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Time to invest in 'Wall Street'

Published September 29. 2010 05:00PM

"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is the third significant fall studio movie, along with "The Town" and "The American." Look for several Oscar nominations for "Wall Street."

"Wall Street," its full title references a Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) line in the original "Wall Street" (1987) and perhaps Neil Young's song, "Rust Never Sleeps" (1979), picks up the story in a post 9/11 Wall Street when Gekko is released after serving eight years in prison.

"One gold money clip, with no money in it," the guard says, then hands him a cell phone the size of a shoe.

If not back on Wall Street, Gekko is on the lecture and book-signing circuit with "Is Greed Good?," a riposte to his "Greed is good" pronouncement in the first "Wall Street." The new movie gives Gekko opportunity to revaluate his life choices. Money isn't everything. Time is.

Gekko is estranged from his daughter, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), whose boyfriend Jake (Shia LaBeouf) is an aspiring Wall Street trader. After the 2008 financial meltdown and death of his mentor, Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), Jake accepts a job with a rival firm run with primal instinct by Bretton James (Josh Brolin).

Oliver Stone, one of America's great contemporary directors (Oscars for directing "Platoon," 1986, and "Born on the Fourth of July," 1989; screenplay Oscar, "Midnight Express," 1978; as well as director of "W," 2008; "World Trade Center," 2006; "Nixon," 1995; "Natural Born Killers," 1994; "JFK" 1991; "The Doors," 1991), directs the screenplay by Allan Loeb ("21," "Things We Lost in the Fire") and Stephen Schiff ("True Crime"), based on characters created by Stanley Weiser and Stone for the original "Wall Street."

In voiceover narration, Jake compares the Wall Street debacle to the Cambrian Explosion, from which man emerged. A case is made that internet, housing and financial bubbles might be the norm rather than the exception, dating at least back to the Tulip Mania in 1600's Holland when tulip bulbs were highly prized -- and overvalued.

Intentional or not, the storyline about the complexity of financial dealings is obtuse. What's interesting, especially for Stone, is that there's empathy for most all involved.

At times, the fast-talking Wall Street jargon might as well be a foreign language. Subtitles would've helped. For those who know their bulls from bears, this should add to the intrigue. Even the typeface chosen for the movie's title mirrors that of The Wall Street Journal newspaper masthead.

Stone creates great scenes between main characters. At the center of many is Douglas, going one on one with LaBeouf, Brolin and Mulligan. One between Mulligan and Douglas, where Gekko seeks forgiveness, is especially emotionally-charged.

Douglas (actor Oscar for his first portrayal of Gekko) brings new dimensions to the uber-capitalist. Douglas has a crisp confidence and swagger right down to his vocal inflections. The performance is imbued with Douglas's own personal and family tragedy. Look for an actor Oscar nomination for Douglas.

Balanced against old-hand Douglas are two fine young actors. LaBeouf as Jake goes deep into character. Mulligan is dimple-cheeked perfection as Winnie.

Brolin is Mr. Wall Street Insider personified. Langella, Susan Sarandon and Eli Wallach have smaller, but important roles. Don't miss a cameo by Charlie Sheen.

In the expertly-crafted movie, director of photography Rodrigo Prieto ("Brokeback Mountain," "Alexander") and production designer Kristi Zea ("Revolutionary Road," "The Departed") symbolize the Wall Street world: sweeping panoramas of the New York City skyline, tilt shots of skyscrapers, Wall Street trading floor LED stock ticker numbers marching across scenes, a swanky Metropolitan Museum of Art gala and CNBC and other TV financial news experts.

"Wall Street" has emotional resonance because it doesn't only follow the money, but rather the human fallout from the financial bailout.

"What -- nobody around here believes in a comeback," Gekko wonders?

We do. The play for "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is a convincing "buy."

"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for brief strong language and thematic elements; Genre: Drama; Run time: 2 hr., 13 min.; Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Director Oliver Stone appears briefly in two scenes in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." David Byrne and Brian Eno wrote and perform "Home" during closing credits song. Jake Moore has "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" movie theme by Ennio Morricone as his cell phone ring tone.

Box Office, Sept. 24: "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" returned Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone to No. 1, opening with $19 million, besting the 3-D animated "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga-Hoole," No. 2, opening with $16.3 million, and dropping "The Town" to No. 3, $16 million, $49.1 million, two weeks;

4. "Easy A," $10.7 million, $32.8 million, two weeks; 5. "You Again," $8.3 million, opening; 6. "Devil," $6.4 million, $21.7 million, two weeks; 7. "Resident Evil: Afterlife," $4.9 million, $52 million, three weeks; 8. "Alpha and Omega," $4.7 million, $15.1 million, two weeks; 9. "Takers," $1.6 million, $54.9 million, five weeks; 10. "Inception," $1.2 million, $287 million, 11 weeks

Unreel, Oct.1:

"The Social Network," Rated PG-13: David Fincher ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Panic Room," "Fight Club," "Se7en") directs Justin Timberlake, Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Rooney Mara in purportedly the real story behind the founding of Facebook.

"Let Me In," Rated R: "Cloverfield" director Matt Reeves directs Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz and Richard Jenkins in the vampire horror movie.

"Hatchet II," No MPAA Rating: After escaping Victor Crowley, Danielle Harris returns to the Louisiana bayou. Dumb move, but that's the stuff of horror movies.

"Case 39," Rated R: Renee Zellweger stars in the horror movie as a foster mother whose young charge has issues beyond her control.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: pwillistein and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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