Monday, December 26, 2005

Regards to Broadway

Oh, how I wanted to see The Producers on Broadway! Sadly, I never had the chance, but thanks to the magic of movies, my family and I enjoyed the highly entertaining movie version on Christmas Day. Happily, the camera did not cut away during any of the big musical routines, so we were treated to each terrific number from beginning to end. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are hilarious together as they try to put on the worst play in the world, Springtime for Hitler, in order to make lots of money on a flop. If it closes on opening night, the two men will not have to pay back the money invested. As good as Lane and Broderick are here, Will Ferrell almost steals the show as a funny, maniacal Nazi playwright. And Uma Thurman surprised me with her considerable singing and dancing talent in the role of a buxom blonde who offers her services to the producers. If you missed the live theatrical production, be sure to see this crazy and loveable movie treatment. Also, sit through all the end credits to hear a bit of advice from Mel Brooks, the creative genius behind The Producers in all its forms.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

An Awesome Remake

From its opening scenes of New York City in the throes of a Great Depression to its famous final line acknowledging that beauty killed the beast, the 2005 film version of King Kong offers magnificent escapist entertainment. Acting, cinematography, special effects, production design, and background music all contribute to the high quality of this remake. Directed with loving care by Peter Jackson, King Kong is one of the best films of the year. However, this awesome movie MUST be viewed on the big screen to fully appreciate its impact. Do not wait for the DVD! Give yourself a holiday treat and buy a ticket to see King Kong at your nearest multiplex.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Overly Ambitious and Fatally Flawed

The road to making a bad movie is paved with good intentions. Take Syriana, for example. Filmmaker Stephen Gaghan, who also wrote the screenplay for Traffic, obviously wanted to show how financial greed by big oil companies corrupts U.S. actions in the Middle East – a timely idea and one certainly not difficult to understand. But by presenting four major plot lines, each played out in alternating short snippets, and introducing more characters than necessary, Mr. Gaghan fails to involve the viewer in a meaningful way. His story becomes almost too complicated to comprehend, and I lost interest in it after about 20 minutes, despite a couple of fine performances by George Clooney and Matt Damon who, however, receive only limited screen time.

At the heart of the matter is a struggle between a Good Prince and a Bad Prince. Clooney portrays a CIA operative involved in a covert assassination attempt against an idealistic Middle East prince who plans to institute democratic reforms in his country if he becomes Emir instead of his brother. The U.S. prefers the brother because he will continue to buy our military products and support our policies. Damon is an eager financial advisor to the idealistic prince.

The other storylines include a young Pakistani who falls in with a radical Muslim group and a U.S. lawyer assigned to investigate a questionable oil company merger.

Although billed as a political thriller, Syriana lacks the thrills and suspense promised in its impressive previews. It also fails to include exciting action scenes, in-depth character development or visual continuity. A harrowing torture scene emerges as the one unforgettable moment of this disappointing film, which features the most unsatisfactory ending of the year.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Spectacular Storytelling

The gorgeous movie version of “The Narnia Chronicles: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” takes your breath away with its spectacular sets and amazing special effects. Although the film is probably too long and frightening for very young children, most other moviegoers will be captivated while watching what happens to siblings who discover a strange land inhabited by talking animals, mythological creatures and one of the meanest witches imaginable. As a Christian allegory, the movie highlights prophecy, forgiveness and sacrifice while weaving cinematic magic throughout almost every scene.

Based on the popular book by C. S. Lewis, the story begins during World War II when London children are evacuated to protect them from frequent bombing raids. The four Pervensie siblings end up in a country mansion with many rooms, a stern housekeeper and an owner (Jim Broadbent) who is seldom seen. When the youngsters decide to play a game of hide and seek, Lucy (Georgie Henley), the youngest, finds refuge in a huge wardrobe closet. Imagine her surprise when she comes out the other side of the wardrobe into a landscape filled with snow!

Of course, Lucy is not believed by her older sister (Anna Popplewell) and two brothers (Skandar Keynes and William Mosely) -– at least not until they all manage to go through the wardrobe and arrive in Narnia. Their adventures in this wintry land ruled by the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) form the basis for the simple plot. Simple, yes. But eminently watchable, thanks to director Andrew Adamson (“Shrek”) and his filmmaking crew as well as to Swinton and Henley, who deliver spellbinding performances.

Once the Pervensie children are in Narnia, they must defeat the White Witch in order to fulfill a prophecy. Unfortunately, one of the brothers betrays the group. How will Aslan the Lion help bring the family back together? What sacrifice will be needed to win the upcoming battle between good and evil? If you have read the book, you know the answers. Even so, you absolutely must see how all this plays out on the big screen, especially the exciting sequence showing two huge armies composed of centaurs, giants, dwarfs, ogres, unicorns, fauns and animals of all kinds ferociously fighting each other on a Narnia battlefield.

No surprise, is it, that I am adding “The Chronicles of Narnia” to my list of the Best Family Movies of 2005?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cinematic Flair Enhances Jane Austen Novel

Sumptuously filmed and brilliantly acted, Pride & Prejudice deserves the audience applause it received at the screening my husband and I attended. This popular Victorian novel by Jane Austen has never graced the screen with such cinematic flair! Although I also enjoyed the 1940 movie with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier as well as the 1995 BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, this new film version emerges as the most entertaining by far. Read my full review at