Friday, December 16, 2005

Capsule Reviews 12/16: The Oil, the Bitch, and the Wardrobe

Movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Director/Studio: Andrew Adamson / Disney
10 Word Review: Gorgeous, imaginative storytelling. Falls well short of LotR greatness, though.
Best Thing About It: It really does look amazing. From the set design to the visual effects, Narnia is a fine creation. Also, I thought any and all scenes between young Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) were standouts.
Worst Thing About It: Sadly, the flaws aren't few. You never once get the full scope of Narnia as a land and all the different creatures in it. There are almost no emotional connections beyond the children. The major battle just sort of ... happens. And the ending was crazy abrupt, and doesn't leave you hanging on for a sequel at all. Also, not having read the books, I was bracing myself for a two-hour long Christian allegory, but it's (thankfully) really not that at all. HOWEVER, once the allegory does crop up, boy howdy it is not subtle.
Best Performance: It's a dead heat between MacAvoy's endearing sweetness and Tilda Swinton's strike-a-pose posturing as the White Witch. Congratulations, Tilda, you're still in the running towards becoming Narnia's Next Top Model.
Grade: B-

Movie: Syriana
Director/Studio: Stephen Gaghan / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Depressingly accurate oil drama succeeds by not hiding its complexity.
Best Thing About It: I loved that it didn't try and simplify things for the viewer. Not because it made me feel smarter for understanding it (truth be told, trying to keep track of which law firm worked for who was a battle I surrendered early on), but because the Arab oil situation really is complex, and giving audiences a sense of the murkiness of it all was important.
Worst Thing About It: Throughout most of the film, Gaghan and his cast decline to hit the audience over the head with messages or characters, which is why the lobbyist (I think he's a lobbyist) played by Tim Blake Nelson stands out so much with his "yee-haw, I'ma git me some undue Congressional influence!" vileness. Not subtle.
Best Performance: George Clooney might take the Oscar for his turn as a CIA agent, but Alexander Siddig and Matt Damon run circles around him. It's their scenes together when the film comes most alive.
Grade: B+

Movie: Happy Endings (DVD)
Director/Studio: Don Roos / Lions Gate
10 Word Review: Hilarious, unexpectedly endearing, and brilliantly acted. Top ten, for sure.
Best Thing About It: I can't say as I get Don Roos. He can make pure pap like Bounce, but he can also do wonders with wicked black comedy like The Opposite of Sex and this movie. He's got a talent for making morally suspect characters endearing, and I wish he'd use it more.
Worst Thing About It: This overachieved in so many areas, I can't think of anything bad to say about it. Even Tom Arnold is pretty good. Which is weird.
Best Performance: It's a tough race. Lisa Kudrow is excellent. Jesse Bradford, Steve Coogan, Amanda Foreman -- all fantastic. But Maggie Gyllenhaal is the real standout. It's the Christina-Ricci-in-Opposite of Sex performance, except meaner, tougher, and with a wicked cool singing voice.
Grade: A-

1 comment:

NATHANIEL R said...

all of Maggie's numbers are keepers. you can't buy them song by song on ITUNES but it's worth the 8 bucks for the CD to get her 3 songs.