Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Written by Hombre Divertido

The old saying that you can’t go home again is true, yet we all look to visit places from our past. Yes, we may be older and the memories may have faded over time, but it is often an enjoyable experience nonetheless. Such is the case with this return visit to Narnia.

Much of the innocence of youth, and naivety associated with our four heroes is lost this time out. They are older and more experienced, and though we may miss what we once knew, there is plenty of excitement still to be discovered in the interesting land that is Narnia.

Our heroes, Georgie Henley (Lucy), Skandar Keynes (Edmund), Anna Popplewell (Susan), and Wiliam Moseley (Peter) have only been back in our world for a year, but 1300 years have passed in Narnia when they are summoned back by Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), who is fleeing for his life from his evil uncle Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), who is out to secure the throne for himself and eventually his son. Caspian is befriended by the long-thought-extinct Narnian creatures hat have been in hiding. Caspian and our four heroes lead the Narnians in a mighty battle against Miraz and his mighty army.

Yes, this film lacks the simplicity of the four children finding their way in a strange land that we came to appreciate in the first outing, but this time around the story is faster paced and far more visually impressive. The cinematography and special effects are a treat for the eyes, as are the performances and vocal talents.

Where this film may struggle is in finding its audience. Though there is an obvious effort to avoid the display of violence that is clearly occurring, it is still too much for young children. The mature audience may find the mythical creatures too silly to appreciate.

For those who can appreciate the subtle humor of the Narnians, and the action without blood, this is visually stunning popcorn movie that will leave you wanting for the next installment.

Recommendation: Catch it while is in the theatres. At 144 minutes of humor, action, and beautiful imagery, you are sure to get your monies worth.


Written by Hombre Divertido

The loss of a loved one is an isolating experience, and having an actor of John Cusack’s talents playing someone in that situation can actually work against you.

In Grace is Gone, Cusack plays Stanley Phillips, father of two, manager of a Home Store (think Home Depot), frustrated patriot who could not get into the military because of his eyesight, and husband to Army Sergeant Grace Phillips. When Stanley is informed that his wife has been killed in Iraq, he must now tell his two daughters (Gracie Bednarczyk and Shélan O'Keefe). Faced with this daunting task, he avoids the situation and takes his daughters on a road trip.

The actors’ performances are solid, and that is what makes this film so challenging. It is difficult for the rational person to understand and relate to the irrational thoughts and actions of someone who has suffered such a tragedy, and thus it takes too long to get to know these people. Little assistance is provided by writer/director James C. Strouse, who gives us too little insight into the family. We don’t know Stanley or his daughters, and never get to meet his wife. We are simply left to watch Stanley struggle.

The film achieves one level and sustains it throughout the film. At 92 minutes, more depth could have easily been provided. This film should be relatable and possibly even a comfort to those who have suffered through similar situations, but since that tragic-stricken group is in the minority of the viewing audience, better-rounded character development would have better served the audience.

The Special Features on the DVD include “A Conversation on Grace” which includes interviews with Strouse, Cusack, and others involved in the film. Unfortunately many goals of the film are discussed, most of which were not accomplished. Also included is “Inspiration For Grace is Gone” which profiles a real family that suffered a similar tragedy. Had the actual film given us this much depth into the family, it would have been a far superior film.

Recommendation: Though the performance of Cusack is solid, it is difficult watching this character make what seem to be bad choices, when so many bad choices were made behind the camera. This film is simply too one dimensional to recommend.

The soundtrack which features music by Clint Eastwood is worth a listen.