Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (dir. Andrew Adamson, 2008)

narnia-princecaspianFor all their talk of staying true to the spirit of C. S. Lewis’s novels, the makers of the Narnia films have frequently deviated from the books in ways both big and small, and the liberties they take with Prince Caspian — which echo but go far, far beyond the liberties they took with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — both help the film and hurt it. They help because you can sense that co-writer and director Andrew Adamson is finally making the big epic fantasy battle movie that he really wanted to make the first time around, and his devotion to that vision holds Prince Caspian together and makes it a more consistent, and consistently entertaining, sort of film than Wardrobe was. But in steering the film closer to his own vision, Adamson steers it away from Lewis’s, and so it loses some of the book’s core spiritual themes.

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Review: Standard Operating Procedure (dir. Errol Morris, 2008)

Errol Morris has been open about his politics at times, not least when he spoke out against the invasion of Iraq while accepting an Oscar for his documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. But until now, his films have never been all that concerned with current events. Instead, they have tended to explore the nature of evidence and the psychological factors that affect how people interpret that evidence. Where some documentaries can come across as works of politically-minded journalism, Morris, a former private detective, tends to be more interested in forensic science, and in the philosophical ambiguities and absurdities that result from people’s investigations of the cold hard facts.

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Interview: Dolph Lundgren (The Final Inquiry, 2006)

finalinquiry-dolphDolph Lundgren made a name for himself in the 1980s, as the villain in films like A View to a Kill, where he tangled with James Bond, and Rocky IV, where he played Russian boxer Ivan Drago. Then he switched to playing heroes in films like Masters of the Universe and the original version of The Punisher.

His films since then have not been so high profile, but he has stayed busy, acting in a steady stream of movies and even directing a few. His newest film as an actor, The Final Inquiry, is a remake of a 1986 film about a Roman soldier who is sent to Palestine to investigate claims that Jesus came back from the dead. Lundgren plays Brixos, a Nordic slave who serves as the Roman tribune’s bodyguard.

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Review: Jumper (dir. Doug Liman, 2008)

When you think about it, teleportation is a natural subject for the movies. You could even say that filmmakers do it all the time, already: in a typical film, when, say, a character walks out the door, it is often the case that the shot inside the house, of the person walking to his or her exit, was filmed on a soundstage, while the shot outside the house, of that same person stepping onto the sidewalk, might very well have been filmed in another city, or even another country. But these images are generally edited together so seamlessly that you don’t have time to notice.

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Interview: Cindy Bond (The Ten Commandments, 2007)

As chief operating officer of Promenade Pictures, Cindy Bond had high hopes for The Ten Commandments, the first in a projected 12-part series of computer-animated ‘Epic Stories of the Bible,’ when it opened in theatres last October. But the film failed to make much of a splash, opening well out of the Top 20 and grossing less than a million dollars — on a project that cost $11.6 million to make.

The movie came out on DVD last week, and Bond spoke to CT Movies about what went wrong — and how things might be different with their next film, a comedy about Noah’s Ark due sometime around Easter 2009.

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The Golden Compass not so magnetic after all

goldencompass-lyraBefore it came out in theatres December 7, I used to tell people that I hoped the film version of The Golden Compass would be great — and I hoped it would flop.

The original book — the first part of a trilogy known collectively as His Dark Materials — is a fantastically creative and engaging bit of fiction. It takes place in a parallel universe populated by witches and talking polar bears, a world where every human has a “daemon,” or an external, animal-shaped embodiment of the person’s soul. It also features some of the most suspenseful scenes I have ever read in a novel.

Unfortunately, the villains of the story are members of an all-powerful church known as the “Magisterium.” And the two books that follow — The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass — turn increasingly preachy as they reveal that the entire trilogy is ultimately about the death of the Judeo-Christian God, the eradication of the afterlife and the establishment of a “Republic of Heaven” that has no need of a King.

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