La Quinta Inns & Suites

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Movie Morsels

by Mary K. Morgan - member of the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association.

Quantum of Solace (PG-13) Time passes and nothing remains the same, not even the cool, dry-wit of James Bond. The action in Quantum picks up after the ending of Daniel Craig’s last Bond adventure, Casino Royale. No longer bearing the aloof playboy persona of past Bonds, this 007, betrayed by the woman he loved, is a rather solemn figure. Revenge might be the motive for Bond’s zeal to continue working on the case, and he must convince M (Judi Dench) of his detached professionalism. However, there is no doubt that James is a changed man after the events of Casino Royale, much darker and noticeably less flamboyant. No longer does he care if his martini is “shaken, not stirred”—he has more important matters on his mind.

The film’s action revolves around the nefarious plot of a worldwide criminal organization known as Quantum and its ruthless leader, Dominic Greene, and a plan to gain control of the main water supply of South America. Bond’s ports of call are Haiti, Austria, Italy and Bolivia, all of which host exciting chases and action scenes reminiscent of past Bond films. 

Changeling (R)  The year is 1928 and on a Saturday morning, single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) leaves her nine-year-old son, Walter, at home and goes off to her job as a phone operator at a busy Los Angeles switchboard. When she returns home in the evening, Walter is gone. An emergency call to the Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D.) yields no help.

Three months later amid a media blitz, the L.A.P.D. announces that they have recovered the missing Collins child. Badly in need of some positive press, the corrupt, inept police officials take advantage of the situation with photo-ops, press and radio coverage of their investigative triumph. Problem—Christine immediately realizes that the returned child is not her son. Unwilling to let go of the fanfare surrounding the case, the police leaders insist that the child is the Collins child, in spite of the mother’s rebuttal. They proceed to discredit her and cast doubt on her sanity, all in an effort to cover up the truth. Left to her own devices, Christine must fight the authorities and prove her case in an effort to redirect the search back to her still-missing son. 

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Changeling is somewhat reminiscent of his earlier Oscar winner, Mystic River, also about a missing child. One major difference is that rather than being adapted from a novel, Changeling has its basis on an actual event, a fact that makes the frustrating truth-seeking process extremely agonizing to watch. Angelina Jolie gives an outstanding performance as the distraught mother desperately trying to fight city hall. Watch for a nod at the Academy Awards. John Malkovich plays Collins’ staunch ally, political activist, Reverend Briegleb.

Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa (PG) It’s always a plus when a movie that is highly anticipated by the kids turns out to be a good time for the adults as well. Such is the case with this latest animated feature from DreamWorks. When zoo buddies Alex, Marty, Melman, King Julian, Gloria, and all of the assorted penguins and chimps escape from their Central Park Zoo home, they never expect to wind up marooned on the remote island shores of Madagascar. Leave it to the ingenious penguins to save the day by engineering an escape plan that gets the crew not to New York, but over the water to the wild plains of Africa. For the first time, the zoo gang gets to meet some wilder members of their species. It remains to be seen if Africa can ever replace their Central Park home.

The adventures are exciting, but not too scary. The humor occasionally leans to the crude side, but only mildly so. As far as comparison to the original film, DreamWorks pulls off quite a feat. The sequel is every bit as entertaining as Madagascar. Those mouthy little penguins still tend to steal the show—especially memorable is the scene where they negotiate a deal with the monkey union. Probably the most outstanding feature, other than the animation, is the fast pace of the dialogue and the non-stop humor. The voice over talent is loaded with top-notch comedic talent, including Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, Cedric the Entertainer and Sasha Baron Cohen talking for the leads. Bernie Mac fans will recognize, and perhaps shed a tear when they hear his familiar voice spoken by the lovable Zuba.