By Kathryn Whitney Boole

“Money Monster” is only Jodie Foster’s fourth film as a director, although she’s been in the entertainment business for 50 years. She’s very selective about the projects she takes on and with this film she masters the craft.

On the surface the movie seems to be a “captor versus victim” thriller. Underneath, it’s character-driven and delves deeply into human psychology. George Clooney is a financial trading advisor with a wacky no-holds-barred TV stock tip show. His “tips” are superficially researched, yet his larger-than-life TV personality has enough sway with investors to move them to action.

One of his tips goes bad and he is faced with a captor whose life he has ruined. The ensuing action and maneuvering of power is fascinating. Jack O’Connell as the captor gives a deep performance. Julia Roberts shines as the micro-managing newsroom producer who realizes she has the power to direct the ensuing drama like an orchestra conductor.

On one plane, this film is about the supremely rich versus the struggle of the lower classes to provide for their families. On a parallel plane, it is about the shifting relationship between captor and captive. Clooney’s character slowly transforms from boorish TV personality into frightened child, and then develops a sympathetic bond with his captor, coming to grips with the reality that there is another point of view. This transformation of empathy between captor and victim is known as Stockholm syndrome and often actually occurs in hostage situations.

Regardless of whether you trade on the stock market or you struggle to stretch your paycheck to make rent, “Money Monster” will play as a tale of schoolyard-style bullying in the grown-up world. The characters are colorful and true to nature. Stockholm syndrome is generally described as an aberration in psychological character. Is it really? Or is it the product of the accidental society formed when people from opposite poles are thrown together just long enough to find out that it’s the same mental wiring that makes each of them tick?

Rated R. 98 minutes.

‘The Nice Guys’

“The Nice Guys” is a fast-moving uproarious comedy, a period piece, a farce and a social commentary, all in one. Director Shane Black, who wrote and directed the classics “Lethal Weapon” (1987) and “Lethal Weapon 2” (1989), and most recently wrote and helmed “Iron Man 3,” shows that he still has the genius for making a mind-boggling, warp-speed comedic farce that addresses our human foibles. It’s a superbly crafted, thoroughly enjoyable work. Black actually began development on the screenplay in 2005, around the time he was writing and directing his first movie, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Luckily he never gave up on getting “The Nice Guys” made, nor did he give up on his career through a difficult period in his life.

In this film, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are as gifted a comedy team as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Gosling is hilarious at slapstick comedy and neither actor goes over that thin line of funny versus overplayed. The scenes pop with energy that never lets up, moving from one to the next with flawless rhythm. This is a very well-told story with a fun take on the sequined showy craziness of the disco generation. It even touches on some of the environmental problems (smog) and the artistic underbelly (“experimental films”) of the time. Having lived through that time period myself, I was impressed with the authenticity of the atmosphere of the sets and the physical and verbal communication style of the actors. The movie also features a great performance from one new rising star, teenager Angourie Rice, as Gosling’s character’s daughter, who often seems more the adult of the relationship.

My guess is that Shane Black simply “feels” a film. In this one, he creates a Chaplin-esque comedy out of a tightly run action film. He’s so instinctive that his movies just seem to flow out of his imagination (I’m sure there is actually a lot of work behind that ease), and he inspires his team to reach for the same creative zenith. Regarding the actors’ synchronized comedy, Black had this to say at the film’s Cannes screening: “Chemistry is really quite simple. We just learned to listen to each other.”

Rated R. 116 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.