Monday, March 02, 2009

Movie Morsels - March 2009

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

            Confessions of a Shopaholic (PG) Even if you buy into the neo-Epicurean philosophy that insists that irresponsible consumerism is the twenty-first Century’s answer to “eat, drink and be merry,” the current economic climate still casts a dark shadow on the basic premise of this movie. Becky Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) could well symbolize a microcosm of the attitude toward credit that has precipitated the downward spiral of our nation’s balance sheet.

            Ironically, the irresponsible Becky writes a successful consumer advice column for a prestigious financial magazine. (Perhaps many of our countrymen got their advice from just such a source.) Shallow as it may seem, Becky continues down a lighthearted path of racking up frivolous debts and dodging collection agents and bankers as if it were a game created for her amusement. The idea that creditors are entitled to be paid never seems to cross her mind. 

            Based on the books, Confessions of a Shopaholic and Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella, this film will no doubt appeal to the financially challenged among us who carry large credit card debt and pay unusually high interest rates. If your idea of rollicking fun is to be over your head in debt and oblivious to the ramifications, go for it!  Rating:  2

            The International (R) Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) team up to bust an international conspiracy that is being  perpetrated by one of the world’s most powerful banking institutions, the IBBC (most likely based on the BCCI, Bank of Credit & Commerce International that was involved in a large-scale banking scandal in the ’80s). The crime is international in scope, so Salinger and Whitman must trace banking transactions across the globe, from Berlin to Milan to New York and to Istanbul.

            The banking angle is a bit convoluted, but the crux of the matter is that the evil bankers finance revolutions in under-developed nations and provide monetary resources to terrorists. Ruthless and concerned only with their bottom line, the world of corrupt high finance rolls on without a conscience. Sound familiar?

            German director Tim Tyker (Run Lola Run) makes a radical move about mid-film when the banking movie morphs into a full-blown action flick. When it does, watch out.

            The screen explodes with one of the most striking, prolonged gun battles I’ve seen lately. The fact that most of the shooting takes place inside the architecturally perfect Guggenheim Museum doesn’t hurt the interest level a bit. So believable is the destruction that it is difficult to believe the Museum isn’t actually being riddled with bullet holes. Action, good. Banking, bad. Rating: 3

            Taken (PG-13) If you happen to be abducted by Albanian mobsters, it certainly helps if your devoted dad is an ex-CIA operative. Director Pierre Morel manages to work up an excess of adrenalin in his audience with this fast-action, no-holds-barred thriller starring Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, a man living 96 hours of his life in a fast-forward, search-and-rescue mission that spares no deadly moves.

            The thin plot takes a back seat to the real guts of the film, Bryan’s skilled and calculated application of his operative skills on the very personal mission of saving his 18-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from a terrible fate at the hands of ruthless villains who trade in human flesh. Abducted soon after she and her friend arrive in Paris, young Kim manages to call her father and hand off a few vital clues via cell phone just as she is being taken. A stern warning from Bryan to the bad guys goes unheeded, the perp on the phone wishes him good luck and the battle is on.

            Pulling out all of the stops and calling in favors from past undercover acquaintances, Bryan springs into his operative mode and takes no prisoners as he unravels the mystery of his daughter’s disappearance. As to the ending, telling any details would be a spoiler. Perhaps it’s best to relish the good times in the film as Liam Neeson plays the cool, capable, secret-agent dad in pursuit of his daughter and her abductors. Rating: 3

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