Monday, May 19, 2008


Since the development of CGI, Fantasy films go either of two ways: hit or miss. They can hit and hit BIG, as in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or they can miss, some doing so more intensely than others. The Golden Compass = BIG miss. Gorgeous but flat (and SO not deserving of the special effect awards that should have gone to Transformers!). The Spiderwick Chronicles = slight miss. A fantastic series of books (the 'field guide' itself is a brilliant piece of work) that didnt translate to the screen with much impact.

Ever since I was a young'n, I have always ADORED the Narnia books. C.S. Lewis was such an intuitive author, and so respectful of the spiritual side of things. My son has recently taken up the reading of this series and he, even at age eight, is very entertained by them. If you read them as an adult, it's impossible to miss the biblical parallels based on Lewis' own study and love of scripture, but as a child-they're just great books. Good triumphs over evil and all that. Anyway, I was beyond thrilled when the first film installment (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)was released a couple of years ago. It was expertly cast, true to the source material, and the effects were endearing, warm, and beautiful. My only complaint was that it did not seem to translate to the screen as effectively as I once thought it would-after all my hopes and aspirations for the movie, it was just a smidgen anti-climactic. My score was 8.5/10

Not so with this second film, Prince Caspian, which outshines the first endeavor in every way. The book was always one of my least favorite of the series, so replete was it with battle scenes that the story seemed slim. It needed cinematic brilliance to bring it to life. Not only has Adamson brought it to life, he has made it one of the best Fantasy films that I've seen.

The story follows the four Pevensie children as they re-enter the world of Narnia hundreds of years after their rule. The castle in which they dwelt, Cair Paravel, is now in ruins and the mystical creatures of the land have all been in hiding for centuries. The evil Telmarines, humans (of Spanish descent?)who have crossed into the magical land, have vanquished and suppressed the Narnians until few believe they exist anymore. Prince Caspian, heir to the Telmarine throne, find himself in mortal danger from his wicked uncle, King Miraz, after the Queen gives birth to a son. The King wants his own son to inherit the throne and will stop at nothing to bring this to pass. Caspian escapes to the woods where many Narnians are hiding and with the help of they and the Pevensies, fights to win back his rightful place.

Because of the time that has passed, we have the opportunity to meet many new and interesting creatures. Badgers, large mice (R.O.U.S.'s anyone?), minotaurs, dwarves, and centaurs rally around the prince with passionate loyalty. Of the newly introduced characters, Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin the dwarf and Reepicheep the Warrior Mouse (ably voiced by Eddie Izzard) make the largest impression. The returning cast also brings alot more to this film. Other than Liam Neeson's late appearance as Aslan and Tilda Swinton in a small cameo as the White Witch, all of them are given a meatier, more layered role. We see Edmund and Lucy as noble adults (since they have already lived to adult-hood in Narnia, it isnt likely they would act like children in this film), Susan as a regal lady and cunning warrior, Peter as a great king-torn between his duty to Narnia and his loyalty for Aslan. They all do an excellent job, with Georgie Henley (Lucy) really standing out and coming into her own as an actress. Her close-ups are especially memorable; the camera loves her face.

The story moves along quickly, despite the 2 hrs plus run-time. Only the end of the film seems to drag a little, as the filmmakers attempt to prepare us for the next movie. But the body of the film scoots along at a spritely pace, providing ample time for character set-up and storytelling alike. The two key battles last for a long time but are interspliced with quieter segments that make the action stand out all the more. The visuals are absolutely stunning and the camera work is innovative in itself, a quality which I feel sets it apart from many other 'pretty' films of the genre. I felt that the actual fighting was on par with the battle at the end of Return of the King, and somehow a little more suspenseful since nobody wants to see a giant mouse or a kid kick the bucket. Though the film is darker than the first, it still resonates as a bit more 'kid-friendly' than the 'Rings' movies. There are some intense battle scenes but I felt they were skillfully edited and though the sound effects were cringe-inducing, very little blood is visually shed. Artistically and emotionally, I felt this movie was a treat.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is in pre-production and I'm even more anxious to see it brought to fruition now that this one is such a success. With the popularity 'Prince Caspian' is sure to bring to the franchise, I'm hoping the producers will continue to pull out all the stops and give us another gorgeous story to enjoy. The future looks bright, I must say.

My rating: 8/10

Friday, May 16, 2008


Few people can deny the infectious joy of the 1940's screwball comedy. This one in particular really provides a proper representation of the genre, combining as it does quick-witted dialogue, lightning fast delivery, and excellent comedic performances from everyone involved.

'Miracle' tells the story of Trudy Kockenlocker-a spritely teenage girl with a sadly apparent lack of self control and thirst for adventure. Her childhood friend, addlepated Norvel Jones, is a loyal young man who remains hopelessly in love with her despite her impetuous ways. When Trudy asks him to provide an alibi for her as she heads off for a night of drinking and dancing w/ a group of departing soldiers, he doesnt hesitate. However, he soon regrets his chivalry when Trudy arrives the next morning and can't remember a single detail of the preceeding night. As her clouded memory recovers, the horrified girl realizes that in the midst of her drunken galavanting she has married a nameless officer and is expecting his baby with absolutely no proof of the union! Faced with the obstacle of having to tell her father and sister, Trudy once again turns to trusty Norvel to help her out of her predicament. The end of this film is one of the brilliant moments of cinematic comedy.

Preston Sturges is the obvious reason that this film works as well as it does. In spite of the controversial subject matter, he manages to make it uproariously funny while teaching valuable lessons about life and love along the way. The direction is very deft, w/ only a very few moments that go on too long-a common hazard of screwball comedies. The dialogue is fantastic and delivered so naturally from the key players that one can't help but be charmed. Betty Hutton plays Trudy with goofy panache, drawing the viewer farther into her muddled situation w/ each scene. Her facial expressions and physical gestures could convey the emotion of the story even without the snappy dialogue. Eddie Bracken is at the height of his slapstick talents, evoking some of the biggest laughs in the film. One scene in particular stays with me-when Trudy forlornly confesses her 'condition' to him right on the heels of his having declared his love for her. Classic stuff. Also memorable is the performance of Diana Lynn as Trudy's down-to-earth, level-headed sister Emily, who at fourteen years old, somehow provides the glue that holds the family together.

Though many published synopses of this film give away the 'Miracle' too quickly, I will let that part be a surprise. Suffice it to say that it is a particularly endearing little surprise, and one that lends a note of sentimentality to what would otherwise be just a funny movie.

In the words of William Shakespeare, so eloquently quoted at the end of the movie, 'Some men are born great. Some men achieve greatness. And some men have greatness thrust upon them.'

My rating: 9/10

Monday, May 05, 2008


Sometimes I see a movie and am not all that moved. Sometimes it just kind of lays there, pleasant but largely forgettable. I don't know if I was just in a 'mood' the first time I saw this adaptation of the Jane Austen novel or not, but now I think I must have been daft. Now, it makes me warm all over and goes down in my book as one of the most unabashedly romantic movies in years.

For Jane Austen fans, who like to see a faithful and detailed accounting of her work , the BBC Mini-Series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle may be a more satisfying film. However the romantic girly side of me just loves this one. Keira Knightly was a great choice for Elizabeth, though I'll admit I thought at first she would be too pretty for the role. Jane was supposed to be the pretty one, after all, and Elizabeth was the witty, personable sibling. However, Rosamund Pike-as Jane- was a clever casting choice because she's just beautiful enough to stand out beside Knightly and the wardrobe and lighting lend her an ethereal glow throughout the film so that we are never astonished that she would naturally be the showier of the two. Matthew Macfayden was a handsome, sufficiently brooding pick for Darcy. He isnt given a whole lot to say but he does so with feeling and comes off as a quiet intellect-as we know him to be. The chemistry between Knightly and Macfayden works excellently as well-a good thing since without it, the film would fail miserably. Dench also turns in a small but impressive performance as the powerful Lady Catherine DeBourg. Another surprising casting choice was Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet but I was very much amused by his patriarchal demeanor and English accent. And of course, Brenda Blethyn was a perfect choice for the neurotic, flighty Mrs Bennett.

For the romantic movie-goer, there is plenty to offer. Lots of lovers walking in and out of misty landscapes, gorgeous vistas bathed in golden sunsets, a lovely piano score that stays with you, and even one quiet intake of breath that lends itself to a key scene. The direction truly mesmerizes as Wright attempts to put the viewer into the story instead of just telling it. The cinematography, muted colors, and intimate camerawork all provide a truly satisfying film experience-one that becomes increasingly harder to overlook with each viewing.

Last night, after catching it on tv for the 4th time, I've decided that it's pretty silly of me not to have bought it yet. The lead characters have always reminded me of my husband and I-such different personalities but somehow such perfect compliments of each other. No wonder it makes me sigh.

My Rating: 9/10