Movie Reviews: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Friday the 13th, Gomorrah | Film Reviews | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Movie Reviews: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Friday the 13th, Gomorrah 

Also, Fuel, Polanski: Unauthorized, and more

Wednesday, Feb 11 2009
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CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC The Confessions of a Shopaholic we need right now would feature John Thain begging the American public to forgive him for purchasing a $35,000 commode. As it is, the movie plays like an outrageously obscene gesture as the economy continues to swallow up livelihoods. Based on Sophie Kinsella’s first two books in her Shopaholic series — published at the tail end of the last gilded age — Confessions the film moves the source material’s setting from London to New York. “A man will never love or treat you as well as a store,” Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) gushes in voice-over at the film’s beginning, the first of many Carrie Bradshaw–esque moments. Rebecca — $16K in hock and constantly dodging bill collectors because she can’t resist purchasing $200 Marc Jacobs underwear — dreams of working at glossy Alette but lands instead at Successful Savings magazine, run by a dully principled Brit (Hugh Dancy). Until last-minute life lessons are preached, Confessions is simply a product-placement vehicle for Prada, YSL and Burberry. Yes, the time has come to set aside childish things, particularly a movie that hypocritically masquerades as a moral tale about living within one’s means after devoting most of its running time to fetishizing the labels that landed its heroine in the red in the first place. (Citywide) (Melissa Anderson)

FRIDAY THE 13TH As resistant to new ideas as crabgrass is to Weed-B-Gon, the Friday the 13th movies have weathered 3-D, sci-fi, CGI, multiple revivals and finales, and even a battle-of-the-mothballed-bogeymen grudge match against Freddy Krueger, without deviating from their dull stalk-’n’-slash formula. Entering its 30th year (see: cinema, decline of), the idiot offspring of Halloween and Mario Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve “reboots” — which means the first few minutes restage the original’s climax, followed by a modern-day teaser that grinds up some expendable nobodies...and that’s before the title, dude! After that, the movie proper offers more of the same. This means that for one ticket price, you get three shoddy Friday the 13th movies packed into one, which might constitute entertainment value if any one of them constituted entertainment. Fanboys will resent director Marcus “I Fucked Up The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake” Nispel’s perfunctory ax/machete/bear trap money shots: Deaths are plentiful, but kinda blah — hardly comparable to Tom Savini’s groundbreaking gore effects in the 1980 original. (Chekhov was right: A woodchipper in the first act will fire up in the third.) Of special note (besides the movie’s boob quotient and weirdly insistent anti-pot subtext) is Arlen Escarpeta in the ever-popular role of the Black Guy Who’s Toast. It falls to Escarpeta to confront the hockey-masked, machete-wielding madman with the most ineffectual weapon in slasher-movie history — which prompted the woman behind me to mutter, “Aw, man, don’t drop that wok.” (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)

FUEL Screened at festivals as Fields of Fuel (now expanded with new material), this documentary about the virtues of biofuel heavily interpolates the life of director-evangelist-narrator Joshua Tickell. Born in Australia, he moves as a boy to Louisiana’s “cancer alley,” where gasoline refineries regularly befoul the bayous with accidentally-on-purpose spills. Or so the class-action lawyers tell Tickell, who’s no less credulous about every Internet crank and claim made about the oil industry, Iraq War, Bush, Cold War, Prohibition — all a plot by John D. Rockefeller to kill ethanol! — etc., etc. Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine) is treated like an oracle, and there’s not a single (even moderately) dissenting voice heard on the biodiesel bandwagon. You’re either in the cult or raping the planet. Biofuel is Tickell’s rosebud, and he attempts to explain everything, everything, in the world via the greasy substance that so clearly gave his life direction. (The film took 11 years to make, including an awkward Veggie Van–driving, Phish-listening, tie-dye period during the ’90s.) Tickell is preaching to the converted, who already fill their vintage Benzes with french-fry grease from Dr. Dan, Propel or other local vendors (at nearly $4 per gallon). But they already know the gospel, and already have DVDs of the better told, better argued Who Killed the Electric Car? and An Inconvenient Truth at home. Those outside the bio-church aren’t likely to drive (at less than $2 per gallon) to see it at their local theater. (Sunset 5) (Brian Miller)

GO  GOMORRAH Matteo Garrone’s dramatic portrait of the notorious Italian Mafia organization Neapolitan Camorra focuses on the ancillary figures who, willingly or not, prop up the mob’s activities. The five interwoven narratives in this visceral but disciplined and beautifully acted movie show to devastating effect how ordinary men and women — and especially vulnerable boys desperate for masculine role models — are caught up in the seductive violence and are ruthlessly destroyed by the network’s hardened henchmen. It’s hard to tell whether the movie exaggerates the Mafia’s reach deep into and pollution of the infrastructure of everyday life, laying the groundwork for guerrilla-style civil war. Given Gomorrah’s arch referencing of the brutality in Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, I could wish Garrone were a little less excited himself by the brutality he stretches over 136 long minutes. And if he, too, like author Roberto Saviano (upon whose best-selling exposé the film is based), is forced to leave Italy for fear of mob reprisal, will he be denied entrance to the United States on the grounds that one of the Camorra’s real-life business ventures is helping to underwrite the rebuilding of the Twin Towers in New York? (Royal; Playhouse 7; Town Center 5) (Ella Taylor)

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