Friday, December 09, 2005

Movies opening this week

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, dir. Andrew Adamson)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
After all the hype and controversy, the actual act of seeing the movie was sort of a disappointing afterthought. It's perfectly fine, and I imagine it'll make a lot of money, but it definitely didn't excite me or strike me as doing anything other than riding the coattails of other similar movies that have been successful recently. I reread the book a few weeks ago to prepare for doing the review, and one of the things that struck me was how short it was and how unsuited it seemed for an epic big-screen adaptation such as this. In adding all the sweeping battle scenes and extra seriousness, the movie kind of undermines the quaint charm of the book, which was what I most enjoyed about it. It's almost like they decided they needed a Lord of the Rings-style fantasy epic first, and then looked for a book that would fit the bill, rather than deciding to make the book into a film. Even so, there are lots of nice moments, and it sticks to the book's storyline fairly closely, so I'm sure most fans will be pleased. Wide release

Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic (Sarah Silverman, dir. Liam Lynch)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I really like Sarah Silverman, but there is absolutely no reason to see this movie in a theater. Wait until it's on Comedy Central (preferably on their late night "Secret Stash" so they don't bleep the profanity), then tape it and fast forward through the tedious skits and musical numbers. You probably won't have to wait more than a few months for the opportunity, either. Opened limited Nov. 11; in Las Vegas this week

Syriana (Matt Damon, George Clooney, Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Siddig, dir. Stephen Gaghan)
After all the reviews I read describing how hard it was to follow the plot of this movie, I think I was expecting something completely incomprehensible, and while there were times when I was a little lost, by the end all the pieces fit together and made sense to me, so I'm not quite sure what the big deal was. I could be mistaken, of course, but I think I understood everything. Plus, it's clearly part of what the movie's trying to do to confuse the viewer a bit, to plunge you into this unfamiliar world that people don't know a lot about, and show you how complex it is yet how much it affects the lives of so many people. So if the complexity didn't bother me, other things did, primarily that it's just so dry. The characters might as well have just been named "CIA Agent" and "Oil Company Executive" for all of the depth and humanity they had. The few attempts to give them personal lives came off as forced, and the dialogue is full of facts and figures that Gaghan must have read in his research. The stuff he's saying is interesting, and the actors do their best to give life to their flat characters, but ultimately this is a lecture dressed up as a narrative. Opened limited Nov. 23; wide release this week

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