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Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken

The Rating System

Kex Liked It:
It Sucked:
It Really Sucked:
It Sucked as bad as Eyes Wide Shut:

It Sucked badly enough to bring the world to the brink of apocalypse:



Last Week: Classic Review: Contact:

Saddled as we are in the final week of the autumn doldrums before the big holiday films begin to make their appearances, I was once again forced to simply reject any of the utterly unappealing options available among new releases this week. To wit, there were exactly three: Charlie's Angels, The Legend Of Gagger Vance, (okay, Bagger), or MVP (most valuable primate).

I despised Charlie's Angels when it was a TV series back in the 70's. That awful beaver-toothed poster of Farrah Fawcett was on the dorm room wall of just about every testosterone poisoned male in America, including one of my roommates, and the series was enough to make any sane, rational human being consider ripping their eyeballs out of their sockets and tossing them at the TV screen. Then again, nobody watched the show for superior scripts or production values. I hardly think that casting Bill Murray or Drew Barrymore is going to class the thing up either. Remember when ET was getting ready to hop back on the ship? The last thing he said to Drew Barrymore, then still a wee tyke, was, "Beeee gooooood." I'll bet he'd pop a cork if he could see her now.

Bagger Vance? Get real. The only thing that could possibly be a bigger waste of time than playing golf is watching it on TV or the movies. Yeah, I'm a little bitter because I always end up taking a five on that hole with the little windmill, but how can anyone have so much time on their hands that they would actuall

As far as MVP, I don't want to climb on a soapbox here, but we have a very strict policy at K.A.W. with regard to refusing to support movies which feature great apes. I realize that Hollywood makes a pretense about how well movie animals are cared for, but the realities are a lot different, since the people who oversee such matters are paid directly by the studios. The worst abuses involve the treatment of chimps and orangutans, which unlike dogs or horses are actually intelligent enough to reason out their options. That makes them difficult to work with and control, often with tragic consequences. I refer the Kexkateers to Jane Goddall and Dale Peterson's excellent book Visions of Caliban.

Okay, enough about what I didn't see. This week I chose the movie Contact, because it is one I still receive a lot of inquiries about from the growing throng of Kexkateers. I can start off the review with one of the rarer compliments a reviewer can pay any movie: It was actually better than the book. Okay, the late Dr. Carl Sagan was a superb human being, better than at least one of his recent post-humous biographies generally suggests. He was also a better scientist than most of his critics give him credit for as well, granted that most of his significant work was done early in his career.

As a science fiction writer however, he was, well, an outstanding scientist and human being. Perhaps if he had had the opportunity to take more than one shot at it, his skills might have improved. Unfortunately he departed us much too soon. Contact benefited mightily from the polish of Hollywood screenwriters, who managed to streamline it and cut out some of the fat. Unfortunatley, they also tossed in some plot devices that compromised some of the better aspects of Sagan's original concept, but you have to take the good with the bad.

In the movie, Jodie Foster plays the part of radio astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway, who comes off more like the late Dr. Sagan in drag than an original character.

Dr. Arroway is consumed with the search for extraterrestrial radio signals, a pursuit which is considered a waste of time and effort by most of her conservative, main-stream colleagues. In reality, almost every astronomer in the world has a passion for searching for ET radio signals, but none of them are really so narrowly focused as to devote entire careers to it. There are lots of interesting questions to be answered.

Ellie Arroway's prime nemisis is Dr. Drummand (Tom Skerrit), who dogs her efforts to find ET signals. First he shuts down her project at Arecibo, forcing her to find private funding and continue at the VLA facility in New Mexico. But through his influence as national science advisor, Drummand again gets her telescope time rescinded. Just as Arroway's funding is about to be cut off, her team receives a mysterious, repeating signal apparently eminating from the neighborhood of the star Vega.

The decoded signal turns out to be the design for some sort of machine, which is built by an international consortium. The machine is apparently some sort of transport device, which will allow a human occupant to visit the senders of the signal. When Ellie's love interest, evangalist Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey) torpedos her bid to be the astronaut, Drummand is chosen.

The device is sabotaged by a religious fanatic, leading not only to the death of Drummand, but the total destruction of the machine itself. However, unbeknownest to the rest of the world, a billionaire industrialist (John Hurt) has privately constructed a second machine. He affords Ellie the opportunity to make the voyage.

Ellie is taken on a journey to the center of the galaxy, where she meets an alien entity that appears in the form of her dead father, thanks to downloading of her memories. She is then returned to earth, only to find that to the earthbound observers, her capsule apparently plunged directly down the shaft of the machine and never went anywhere. She is left to try to convince the world that her experience was real, with only faith in her own memories as a tool.

The film had some curious technical blunders. The inclusion of a blind radio astronomer might have had a certain politically correct tint, but it's pretty much of an absurdity. Unfortunatley, sight is as necessary in radio astronomy as optical. Scenes of Dr. Arroway listening intently for signals from the stars through a headset are also humorously absurd: You just wouldn't hear anything that would be meaningful, since one brand of static sounds pretty much like another. But given that Hollywood has never been kind to serious science fiction, Contact was a noble effort. I think Dr. Sagan would have been proud.

Last Week: Harry Potthead and The Stoned Sorcerer:

I fully realize that making any attempt to convince anyone not to go see this movie will prove about as productive as pissing into a hurricane. Nonetheless, I'm going to make a bold prediction: In spite of moguls who are forecasting that this movie will eventually surpass Titanic as the all-time box office leader, I'm personally betting its going to fall well short.

In order for a movie to hit one of the top two or three spots, it has to generate a lot of repeat business. Since the bulk of the audience for this film is going to be in the 8-15 demographic, repeat business is going to be sorely lacking. At a rather excessive 2 and 1/2 hour running time, I think its going to prove difficult to lure this film's most loyal fans back, consequently it will do well at the box-office initially, but it won't set any all-time records.

I will admit up front that I am coming into this whole Harry Potter phenomenon pretty much a green novice. I have never read any of the books. All I know is that there must be some attraction to them that is not immediately evident from the film. For all I know the pages are laced with crack and kids are buying them for reasons other than the story itself. Maybe its sort of an interactive fantasy experience, if my previous theory is correct. One way or another, kids are buying and apparently reading the books, which in my mind makes turning the license into a movie almost a crime against nature anyway. Hell, some talented writer finally finds the silver bullet that will get kids reading again, and along comes Hollywood to relieve them of the challenge.

One thing I do know about the Harry Potter books is that they are the most frequently banned books in school libraries in the United States. Yes folks, that is correct. Here in the good old U.S.A. where we lately like to believe that our tolerance for the diversity of ideas is among the primary reason why we are a great and enlightened society, certain thoughts and ideas can still be banned, at least in elementary schools, and sometimes beyond.

You can get into some seriously heated discussions these days if you publicly suggest that George W. Bush was pretty much of an idiot before Sept. 11 and he didn't grow any brain cells after two airliners smacked a couple of buildings. You can also end up a social pariah if you note that there is something wrong with the public giving the government a 90% approval rating two months later, when clearly airport security sucks just as bad as it did Sept. 10. But how and why do we think we need to shield children from what at least appears to me to be a relatively harmless set of stories about a boy wizard and his adventures?

I think the answer lies in the fact that too many of us sit on our rear ends and allow significant influence on such matters to be appropriated by people who aren't capable of making particularly rational decisions in their own lives, let alone deciding what our children can, or can not read in public school libraries. Personally, I don't think such matters should be decided by people who spend a great deal of their spare time trying to beat the family cat senseless with a Bible simply because their inner voices tell them that Satan likes to dig in the litter box.

Daniel Radcliffe stars as the boy wizard Harry Potter. I sort of feel sorry for him. The next couple of years in his life will be spent furiously trying to complete 3 more movies before time does to him what it can never do to the hero who exists only in the pages of the books. Yes, Daniel will get older. Harry does so only at the authors convience. And what will happen to Daniel after the films are completed? If he is like most Hollwood child actors who experience their brief glimpse of fame, he'll bask in the adulation until it suddenly disappears. That will be followed by a squandering of a fortune by greedy relatives and heart breaking addictions. Then he'll reemerge on Oprah or some equivalent forum 20 years from now, write a book, and assume a seat in a square somewhere in the upper left hand corner on the popular T.V. game show.

Rupert Grint, who portrays Harry's friend Ron and Emma Watson who stars as Hermione will probably never achieve sufficient public stature to endure quite as tortured of a fate. The management training program at Wal-Mart is already processing their resumes.

Meanwhile, a few aged stars have found late-life employment in this series. Richard Harris appears as Professor Dumbledore. All that is missing in his appearance is a tee-hirt that screams, "Hey Look! I'm Still Alive!" John Hurt also appeared in this film, but I honestly can't tell you how he figured into the movie. I know the name of the character he portrayed, but I didn't recognize him. Maybe its because his character was never comatose, and nothing popped out of him.

John Cleese also received a "starring" credit in this movie. Remember here that we are talking about a 2 and 1/2 hour film, and how long was Cleese in it? About 45 seconds, and he played a ghost. Yes, that is correct. His character was transparent, and Silent Bob has more lines in every film Kevin Smith has ever made. Yet he is billed in a starring role. I guess that provides some indication of how much influence he has in British filmmaking circles.

Okay, just to put it on the line a bit: This film wasn't terrible. It was just long, rather tedious, and the special effects were not all that impressive. Word is that the film cost around $200 million to make, and it will be easily recouped, there is no doubt. But it does provide a good indication of why there are so many unknowns, has beens and washed up old actors among the cast. In essense, this film only cost $200 million because Warner Bros. didn't want it to cost $400 million. And that is exactly what would have happened if they had invested in a few capable actors and a competent director. The guilty party behind the camera here is Chris Columbus, and he was responsible for The Bicentennial Man. 'Nuf said.

Last Week: Bowling For Columbine:

The title of this movie stems from the fact that the morning prior to the horrifying massacre at Columbine high school, perpetrators Harris and Klebold went bowling. Michael Moore openly asks why the potential evil effects of bowling were never offered as a possible explanation for the tragedy; nearly every other possible factor was examined.

In the greater context, this is a movie about gun violence in America. Yes folks, it is a problem. Its a uniquely American problem, and we need to rationally figure it out. Five times as many Americans die every year as the result of domestic gun violence as were killed in the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Why?

Some people would contend that it is a result of our "culture of violence." We are bombarded with violent video games, movies, TV shows, Saturday morning cartoons, music and even comics. Can our children be constantly bombarded by these images without having an adverse affect?

In the wake of Columbine, I confronted the public relations director of Nintendo of America via email with that very question. He responded with a very polite denial that video games could play a role, noting that Nintendo has a careful ratings policy to prevent inappropriate games from falling into the hands of children. He neglected to mention that few retail outlets actually have a policy restricting sales on the basis of ratings. He also sent me an Austrailian study siting results which found no correlation between viewing violent images by children and subsequent violent behavior.

I responded by sending the titles of 82 American based studies, since it is this country we are actually discussing, which came to precisely the opposite conclusion. He never responded further. All that said, do I believe that violent movies and video games etc. really cause events like Columbine? Probably not. I think our children would be much better off if exposure to such thing dropped significantly. However, Canadian children watch the same movies and TV shows, even play the same video games. They aren't shooting each other up. In Japan, where the games are produced, the rate of gun violence is 400 times lower than in the U.S. So its a little difficult to pin gun violence on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in my view. Michael Moore apparently agrees.

What is the problem? Moore hinted at one potential villian, and its one I've considered a lot in the last few days, particularly in light of the tragic sniper incidents in the eastern part of the country; fear, as promoted by the news media. We are a nation that has become desperately, even dangerously afraid of just about everything.

Remember the big news story the summer prior to 9-11? The big news magazines were hyping "The Summer of the Shark." The major news networks were rife with stories about attacks, or updates on the conditions of recent victims. With all the hype, one might have easily imagined that armies of sharks were marching out of the oceans and devouring unsuspecting farmers in Iowa. Then came 9-11, and we forgot all about sharks. Lost in other events and stories was the follow up story that was never done: That year, the number of fatalities, world wide, from shark attacks ended up lower than average. By the way, do you know how many people typically die annually from shark attacks? About 10. That was the danger that spawned the hype.

I don't know it for a fact, but I'd suspect that the number of people who die annually as the result of freak accidents that result from playing with a Slinky is comparable. I make that assertion with the full realization that a lot of people read these reviews, and I can only hope that in the coming days there are no sensational reports on CNN about the dangers of playing with a Slinky. I really don't want to get sued by a major toy company.

A lot of people who buy guns do it in response to specific fears; mostly of crime. Gun sales have soared in America over the last decade. Curiously, over the same period, crime rates in most major categories have actually been steadily declining. In other words, the danger behind the fear that is feeding the consumption isn't that great.

In the wake of the events of 9-11, gun sales in America soared by 70%. Was that rational? Were armies of terrorists marching our streets, and our military ineffective to stop them? No. The danger, which is slight anyway, would be a terrorist in a mall, when and where most gunowners would not have their dubious security blanket with them anyway. And here is the nasty punchline--the gun the terrorist would be using would most likely be a weapon he purchased at an American gun show, legally, a short time prior.

A lot of my more conservative readers are probably already steaming expecting a suggestion that their guns should be taken away from them. I offer no such solution. I advocate responsible gun ownership, for those who really feel a need to own one. By that, I suggest that one should be required to demonstrate a level of proficency and knowledge similar to what is required to get a driver's license. I know the contrary arguments; Cars aren't mentioned in the constitution. Arms are. Duh!

Then again, the founding fathers did not live in our world. Their society was agrarian. Ours is urban. Their weapons were flintlocks and lead balls. Ours are semi-automatic rifles and hand guns. Now I'm going to hear, "Guns are tools. If used properly, they aren't dangerous." Sorry. A hammer is a tool. It is designed to drive nails. You can kill someone with a hammer. You can kill someone with a bathtub if you drop it on them. Guns are designed to kill and maim. They are weapons, not tools.

I hope a lot of people see this movie. Unfortunately those who most need to will not. And here is another punchline: The night we went to see this film, there was a fatal drive-by shooting just up the road in Boulder....gun lovers, convince me....

Last Week: Brother Bear:

Now here is something original. This week we have the animated tale of two bears. One is a big bear, the other a little bear. The big bear wears a hat, a vest and a collar with a tie. The little bear just wears a bowtie. They roam around Jellystone Park, stealing picanic baskets and making life miserable for Mr. Ranger.

The little bear was kind of annoying. For one thing, he was an unsufferable loudmouth. I sort of think it had something to do with the bowtie. He'd have been more likeable if they'd drawn him with a bolo tie instead. Consider the difference between people who wear bowties, and people who wear bolo ties:

Bowties: Former Senator and failed Presidential candidate, and generally boring guy, Paul Simon. Geeky TV news reporter Charles Osgood. Former child entertainer and convicted sex offender, Paul Reubens.

Bolo ties: Funny man Will Rogers. Cowboy star Chill Wills. Lovable cartoon character, Grandpa Simpson.

See? No comparison....Oh, wait....I'm sorry. The bears in this movie didn't wear any ties, or any clothes.

It is, however, a tale of 3 brothers who grow up in the wilderness. They have adventures on their ranch, tormenting their sensible dad, Pa (Loren Greene). Let me tell you, old Hoss, Little Joe and Adam could sure get into some scrapes. But eventually Adam more or less disappears, so Hoss and Little Joe have to have adventures without him. None of them ever wear ties, but I'll bet Pa wore a bolo tie now and again.


Okay. I think I have this straight now. This is a movie about 3 brothers. Groucho, Harpo and Chico. Those aren't really their names, but its close enough. Groucho is the older brother, and he is a respected leader. Harpo and Chico just screw around most of the time. Chico is about to become a man, but he is pained by Harpo's constant teasing.

Things get worse for Chico when he is given his totem that is a symbol of his manhood. It is a bear, representing love. In other words, the great tribal shaman saddled him with Rainbow Carebear for the rest of his life. That makes him a bit unhappy. He doesn't much like bears, nor does he have much penchant for expressing love. Worse still, he irresponsibly leaves a basket of fish untied prior to his manhood ceremony, and it is stolen by a bear.

Chico sets out to find the bear, but ends up having to fight it. His brothers try to come to the rescue, but Groucho gets killed. This really enrages Chico, so he goes out to prove his manhood and avenge his brother by killing the bear. But Groucho, who now resides in heaven, realizes that he must teach his brother to follow the calling of his totem. So when Chico kills the bear, he is turned into a bear by the Great Spirit.

Now a bear, Chico is told by the shaman that the only way he can become human again is to travel to the mountain where the lights touch the ground. So off he goes on a typical Disneyesque formula adventure. Along the way, he meets a bear cub, who he later learns is the child of the bear he killed. He also meets a couple of moose who are considerably more amusing in the plethora of promotions for the film than they are in the actual movie. Meanwhile, we are forced to endure a Phil Collins soundtrack that was probably rejected by 5 or 6 worse animated projects.

You'll never guess what happens to Chico's outlook on life. He meets a lot of other bears at the salmon run rendez-vous, and comes to conclude that bears are really pretty cool. Then he sings The Bear Necessities and abducts a native baby. Okay, no he doesn't. But he does become so filled with a sense of bear responsibility that he decides to stay a bear, rather than return to his human origins. This sparks a whole new understanding between human and bearkind.

It was all a little sappy and predictable. I think most children will enjoy it, and there is enough beautiful animation to keep adults from overdosing on whatever headache medicines they include in the emergency kit which inevitably accompanies them to children's movies. I guess this film disappointed me a bit because I was at least hoping for more, even if I've learned not to expect it. Most of you will probably enjoy Brother Bear. I just don't think you'll look forward to sharing it with your grandchildren someday.

Also Last Week: National Treasure :

There are those for whom the American dream has disolved into a ludicrous fantasy from which they never fully awaken. We've all seen them. They wander the streets talking to mailboxes and run in terror from stray cats who they see as spy drones from the New World Order. These kinds of people stockpile guns to protect themselves from undefined dangers that never have and never will exist, and dream of selling all their possessions and buying a shack in Idaho. Invariably they vote Republican.

These same people also have some bizzare notion that The Masonic Lodge and Knights of Templar are a secret society that covertly runs the world. They are convinced that these organizations rubbed out Mozart, plotted and carried out the Whitechapel murders to save the British monarchy from a scandal that would have brought it down, and even probably pulled off the assassination of JFK.

Yeah, sure. Throughout the course of my life, I've known many members of the Masonic Lodge. Some of them have even been relatives. Almost to a man, they have been people I like a great deal. I just haven't ever found them quite formidable enough to be involved in plots of world domination. I rather doubt that anything more sinister than a no stakes poker game ever results out of a typical Masonic Lodge meeting. That assumes, of course, that one of their members is actually capable of counting high enough to ensure that there are sufficent cards in the deck for a fair game.

Yup, they are generally nice, civic minded guys. But if they are actually secretly pulling the levers on world events at their clandestine meetings, we'd be living in one, hell fired, screwed up civilization.....Ummmmmm,

We've reviewed a number of Jerry Bruckheimer films at this site before. We've seen him glorify pursuits like stealing cars and stripping. Now he is planting the notion in young impressionable minds that in our post 9-11 world, you can probably dodge out of tour groups and run wild in National Monuments. But at least when the characters in this film are stealing treasures like The Declaration of Independence, or sneaking through closed off areas of Independence Hall, something interesting is going on in this movie.

Most of the rest of its 2 hour running time is about as interesting as watching Jon Voight pick 20 years of bellybutton lint out of his ancient navel. Voight has a small part in this movie, playing Nicholas Cage's cynical father. There is some great casting. The two look so much alike that we assume either Cage was adopted, or mom died a violent premature death after being caught with the milkman. This movie mostly serves to remind us that Voight is still around, however his career is so long buried that most moviegoers won't even recall why they should care.

Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) plays a frustrated treasure hunter who is following several generations of his ancestors in seeking some enormous treasure that our founding fathers secreted out of Europe and cleverly stashed away somewhere in the New World. His discouraged father (Voight) tries to dissuade him from wasting his life on the search, but young Gates can't help himself.

Gates enlists the help of professional rich guy Ian Howe (Sean Bean) to finance his relentless hunt for the great treasure. But Howe has his own designs on the riches. Apparently he doesn't really need any more money, but has some bizzare desire to have enough money to hire Ross Perot as his poolboy. So he wants to enlist Gates genious just long enough to find the lost treasure, then bump him off.

Of course, it doesn't take Gates long to figure out Howe's true ambition, and the two part company as enemies. But Gates has figured out that an important clue to the location of the treasure is written in invisible ink on the back of the Declaration of Independence, and the two race to hatch a successful plan to steal it. Its probably somewhat of an overstatement to note that at this point, the plot of this movie gets pretty silly and implausible.

Along the way, Gates gets the hots for a curator at the National Archives whose primary job is apparently taking care of the Declaration. She is Abagail Chase (Diane Kruger). Since this movie needs to have a romantic subplot to keep it at least mildly grounded in reality, Gates and Chase build sexual tension throughout the movie, before eventually getting together in the end.

There was a moment of abject terror near the end of this movie, when it appeared that the quest to find the great treasure was going to end pretty much like Geraldo Rivera's dramatic opening of Al Capone's vault. My heart and spirits were sinking fast as visions of 12 sequels began to flash before my eyes. Fortunately, everything turned out the way we thought it would, all along, because this is a Disney movie.

It might have been more interesting if the writers had shown enough imagination to have come up with a more obscure but intellectually more valuable treasure, say a secret version of the Declaration with some elevated message. Maybe it could have just been a note from the forefathers warning against electing a President who is the moronic son of an oil billionaire who was CIA Director become VP become President himself. But this movie takes the low road at every opportunity, and inspite of its hype and a few exciting moments, its mostly low brow rubbish.

Last Week: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

Sometimes good planning can reach the point of silliness. We went to see this movie at the local megaplex, and rather than have everyone wait in line in the lobby, they moved everyone into the hall that leads to the various auditoriums, so that everyone would be just outside the auditorium where it was showing. Naturally the line grew long enough that it was threatening to block the next auditorium, so a break was required in the line. That would normally seem like common sense, however, the neighboring auditorium was showing Aeon Flux. Its not like anyone was going to be coming out of, or going in there anyway.

Our story begins with the four young children of the Pevensie family enduring the German Blitz on London during WWII. Their father is off to war, leaving poor old mum to fair for the brood, and endure the nightly bombings. Common to most British parents at the time, mum finally decides to unload the kids onto relatives in the country side, where they would be safe and she would be spared their constant and almost unbearable whining.

The kids are sent off to an enormous British country estate, where their only adult supervision comes from a stick-up-the-ass governess who doesn't seem to care the least that they are around, and an elderly professor who is even more detached, if that is possible. In other words, the Pevensie children are dropped into a child's virtual paradise: huge house, loads of room to run and no adults around who give a crap whatsoever. Curiously, rather than overloading on nirvanic bliss, the young Pervensies start whining even more. At this point a visit from one of those TV nannies might well have seemed in order, but the plot headed off in a different direction.

During a game of hide and seek, the youngest of the clan, Lucie (Georgie Henley) wanders into an old wardrobe, in which she discovers the passage to a strange new world called Narnia where it is perpetually winter. There she meets a strange creature named Mr. Tumnus, a satyr who can wander through the eternal cold of Narnia without even wearing a shirt.

Actually, the cold doesn't seem to bother Lucie much either. She really isn't dressed to endure it, but it has no adverse effects. In fact, you can't even see her breath. I think we might want to step aside here for a moment to note that people who make movies typically live in southern California. It snows there about as often as Chucky Heston makes donations to Green Peace.

Consequently, the people who made this movie have spent too much time watching football games played in Green Bay. They actually believe its possible for people to endure freezing cold weather for more than a couple of hours sans shirt and sober. So nobody in the Ivory Snowflake land of Narnia reacts to the cold the way people really do when the weather is cold and sucky.

Lucie returns to the real world, but naturally her brothers and sisters don't believe her story. She returns to Narnia, but this time, her brother Edmund (Shandra Keynes) secretly follows her. Edmund meets the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) who promises to make him a king. Little does he realize that the witch is the evil ruler responsible for keeping Narnia forever frozen in winter.

Once again Lucie returns home, followed by the stealthy Edmund. This time she persuades the entire brood to return to Narnia, only to learn that her friend Mr. Tumnus has been arrested by the White Witch. Lucie wants to try to save him, while her whiny siblings just want to go back home. Somehow, Lucie wins the argument.

The group encounters a talking beaver, and the adventure begins in earnest. They learn that the great lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) is attempting to recapture Narnia. But as the beaver and his wife tell the story of a prophesy that 2 children of Adam and 2 children of Eve shall lead the liberation of Narnia, Edmund wanders off in search of the witch. He is captured, and now the others have to free him. All of their whining now immaterial, the three remaining Pevensie children must find Aslan, and help him conquer Narnia.

Along the road, the intrepid band runs into Father Christmas (James Cosmos) himself. He reminds them of their importance to the prophesies, and delivers a stirring speech on the spirit of the Christmas season. Then he starts handing out weapons. I had some trouble hearing the next five minutes of the film over the moaning orgasms of neo-cons in the audience. Soon the group meets Aslan, and the stage is set for the battle to liberate Narnia.

The entire story is a religious parable, which unlike other harmless fantasies like Harry Potter, actually seems to have the approval of America's pious plurality. The movie has some breathtaking scenery and great CGI effects, but parents should be cautious. There are some moderately graphic scenes of violence, and one scene which is likely to be extremely disturbing to younger viewers. The film is entertaining, but probably not suitable for children under 10.

Last Week: The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films: (No Collective Rating)

For the second consecutive year, I am bringing the readers a summation of the short animated films nominated for this year's Academy Awards. Unfortunately this year, I am only able to offer summaries of 4 of the five nominees, since the Pixar offering is currently aswim in all sorts of legal and accessability red tape. It may well end up being the most celebrated film to ever win an Oscar that nobody actually sees: Unless, of course, Babel ends up with the Best Picture award.

In last year's field of five, I noted that there were four pretty good entries, and one that absolutely blew. I didn't think it had any shot at all. Guess which one was the ultimate winner? It just goes to show that the Oscars, like all the other awards shows are pretty much governed by people without a clue. If given a Whitman's Sampler box loaded with yummie candy, they'd pick out the choclate covered dog log every time.

The United States dominated this year's nominations with 3. One of which was, of course the Pixar entry that we didn't get to see. The fourth was a joint offering from The Canadian film board and Norway. The fifth was an offering from Hungary. Along with the 4 films nominated we did get to watch, we also got to see a few other films that made the eligible list. All but one of them was also pretty deserving, leading me to wonder why it not only didn't make the final five, but it probably would have taken home the little gold naked man. I guess someone was asleep at the switch.

The first film shown was The Danish Poet, the Canadian/Norwegian entry. It told an improbable story of how the narrator came to be born. A Danish poet runs out of ideas, but becomes inspired by the work of a Norwegian novelist, and sets out to meet her. But along the way, bad weather forces him to stop at a farmhouse, where he falls in love with the farmer's daughter.

Unfortunately, she is already betrothed, and so their love is impossible. But her husband dies, and she writes a letter to the Danish poet. But the letter is lost in the mail, and never recevied. Eventually, both end up attending the funeral of the Norwegian novelist, who just happens to be a relative of the farm girl. There they meet again and get married. The couple moves to Denmark, but the farm lady can't find anyone to care for her hair as good as the girl she had back home. So the lady sends for her. Meanwhile, a young aspiring Danish writer, who gets inspired by the work of the Danish poet seeks him out. The young writer and the hairstylist meet, fall in love, and become the parents of the narrator.

Stylistically, the first film was strong on narrative, but simple in animation quality. The second film was the mirror image. Watching it for even a few seconds, one could have easily guessed that The Little Matchgirl was a product of Disney Studios. While the imagery was strong, the story was relatively simple.

It was simply a glimpse into the life of a poor Russian orphan girl who tries to survive the harsh winter selling matches on the city streets. The story is at once beautiful and heartbreaking, with a warm but predictable ending. I think it might have a decent shot at winning the big prize.

The third film, from Hungary was entitled The Maestro. Again stylistically impressive but with a simple story, it is an impressive piece of animation. We see a small bird in a bizzare mechanical environment, primping in front of a mirror preparing for some big performance. The ending is something of a sock in the mouth, but quite entertaining.

Finally, No Time For Nuts features the popular Scrat from Ice Age. Everyone's favorite prehistoric squirrel happens upon a time machine in his pursuit of eating his prized nut. But the machine continuously propels him and the nut to various perilous moments in the history of the planet. This one, too, must be considered a serious Oscar contender.

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