January 30, 2009, - 2:20 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Usually January is pet cemetery #2 for bad movies (#1 is August)–where Hollywood puts its lackluster movies to die a quick death and get cremated. But I’ve been surprised at some of the movies out in January 2009. This weekend includes one of the good ones, “Taken.”
* “Taken“: Is Liam Neeson–in his late fifties–the new Dirty Harry/Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson in “Death Wish”) of the 2000s? Could be, if this movie is the success I predict it will be at the box office, this weekend. I liked Neeson as an action hero better than I like Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. I loved this movie.
This is the kind of action thriller we loved a lot, but haven’t seen since the ’80s. And I’m glad it’s made a comeback. It’s the latest of only a few movies that dare try to melt the post-9/11 official Hollywood rule that you can’t make Arabs and Muslims look bad or portray them as terrorists or thugs. More than one of them get their violent comeuppance from the action hero of this movie, and I wanted to cheer out loud (but it’s unseemly at a critics’ screening, so I didn’t; well, actually, I did it as quietly as possible).
Neeson (who was great in this, but could use better hair coloring than the obvious Grecian formula stuff here) plays a CIA agent who retires from the Company, so that he can be closer to his 17-year-old daughter whose childhood he mostly missed while on assignments. But it’s tough to compete with her multi-millionaire stepfather. He is initially resistant when his daughter wants to go to France with a girlfriend. (The movie errs here in having the two teens shadow the U2 European concert tour–what 17-year-old teens are U2 groupies in 2009? That’s for 40-something middle-aged women.) But eventually, he must go to France to rescue his daughter or lose her forever.
Neeson’s daughter is kidnapped in Paris by an Albanian Muslim-run sex slavery operation. And that’s where Hollywood’s “Thou Must Whitewash Islam” rule starts to melt. While they never outright tell us that the Albanian sex slavery mobsters are Muslims, there are several quick, but deliberate shots of the crescent and star tattoos on their hands–yup, the “Religion of Peace.” And then, there are the Arabs who are prominent among the sex slave purchasers. One of them is purchasing the women as concubines for his boss, a big, fat, ugly Arab Muslim Sheikh on a yacht. (I’m sure Mr. Neeson’s agent will be getting a call from CAIR, ADC, and the other Mid-East whine merchants, real soon.)
There is a great scene where all of these evil Arabic-speaking scumbags get sent to a permanent conference call with the 72 virgins. That is the kind of stuff people went to movies to see, and they don’t get to see it much at all anymore. Bring it back and bring it on. Just bring it. And this movie does.
“Taken” was funny, exciting, suspenseful, and it flew by. Though parts of it–like the endless dodging of bullets that surely would hit their target–are not believable, most of it is. And it’s clever, even if some of it is predictable. Some of the things Neeson does to find the men who have his daughter are ingenious. And if you like guns, action, and the bad guys meeting a nice, evil death in your movies, this is your flick.
Despite his choice in mother-in-laws (he’s married to the daughter of pan-terrorist hacktress Vanessa Redgrave), I’ve always like Liam Neeson. He was great in “Darkman.” And he’s great in this.
I’m sure the mainstream liberal movie critics will pan “Taken,” but don’t believe the tripe. It may not be highbrow and deep enough for them. But it’s what it is–a fun action adventure. This is the movie I recommend for this weekend.
One other note: This movie is not for kids. It’s violent and bloody–though the right people are subject to the violence and bloodletting. And there’s, of course, the theme of sex slavery. Don’t take your ten- or even 12-year-old to see it. It’s for, minimum, age 14 and up in my mind.
* “New in Town“: I saw this movie on TV in 1996, and it was called “Christmas in My Hometown.” This movie has the exact same plot, only it’s not half as good as that schlocky Tim Matheson-Melissa Gilbert production. And it has a gazillion times more snoot.
“New in Town” seethes with the smug, unfunny comedy writing of anti-American Hollywood liberals who can’t stand small town Middle Americans. It’s almost two hours of snobbery and mocking of small town Midwesterners as dumb, backward, ugly, uncultured, and so on and so on and so on.
Renee Zellweger–looking particularly manly in this movie–plays a high-powered executive in corporate America, who lives the good life in Miami. Soon, she’s sent to New Ulm, Minnesota to downsize a company plant and lay off workers. It’s complete culture shock.
In the movie–and as Hollywood sees it–the small town people are disgusting, annoying, boorish, intrusive and nosy, and just plain out of touch with reality. It’s like a repeat of “Northern Exposure” for two onscreen hours. And it mostly just wasn’t funny. I barely laughed. The jokes were more mean than they were laugh inducing. And they were at the expense of most of America–the parts of America that didn’t vote in droves for Barack Obama, the parts of America that still have some semblance of values.
Zellweger’s character can’t stand it in small town Minnesota, and the factory workers aren’t exactly taken with her snobbery and big city manner. She develops a love-hate relationship with the plant’s union rep, Harry Connick, Jr. And you can predict what happens if you saw “Christmas in My Hometown,” “Baby Boom,” or any of a gazillion other movies this one rips off and dumbs down.
Dumb, dopey, sappy, predictable, and too much snobbery to fill a La Jolla country club. Skipworthy. Send New in Town back where it came from.
* “The Uninvited“: Don’t let the crappy movie poster for this flick fool you. The movie isn’t dark, but it is a nailbiter. It’s one of those low-budget thrillers that was much better than I expected. While the movie is aimed at teens, I found it engrossing, entertaining, and unpredictable. It’s a guilty pleasure movie you’ll enjoy. I felt kind of ripped off with it’s M. Night Shyamalan type of trickery. But it’s fair trickery, and you’d definitely never predict the ending. The movie is well done.
A young girl returns home (to her wealthy author father’s beachside mansion)from a mental hospital, where she’s being treated for attempting to commit suicide after accidentally killing her ill mother. Or, at least, she’s been led to believe she did it. She constantly has nightmares of what happened and sees ghosts, hinting to her that things aren’t as they soom. Soon, she and her sister suspect their mother’s sexy former nurse (Elizabeth Banks), who is now their father’s girlfriend is behind everything. They must convince their father (David Strathairn) that she’s the real killer before she kills them.
This movie rips off plot points from many other movies just like it, but it’s still good and very clever with it’s ending.
It’s rated PG-13 and deserves it for it’s bloody and violent images.