Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
a highly successful cinematic trilogy based on what’s considered
a literary classic. You belt out all three movies back-to-back-to-back,
make a shitload of money and jerk off the impossible—all while
making film history. For a few added perks, you make major
stars out of a few of your cast members and you take home
a few Oscars by the time the whole thing’s said and done.
I’m speaking of Lord of the Rings. Yes, yes. Director
Peter Jackson took J.R.R. Tolkien’s dry, sporadically bland
(but somehow likable) classic fable and turned it into a ballsy,
exciting adaptation that you didn’t have to be a total geek
or mother’s-basement dweller to appreciate and enjoy.
mention Lord of the Rings for a couple of reasons.
First off, Rings was written around the same time,
even in the same neighborhood, as The Chronicles of Narnia.
Narnia’s author C.S. Lewis and Tolkien taught together
at Oxford, writing their epics nearly simultaneously and bouncing
ideas off each other. Hollywood crumbums will tap these long-dead
literate fantasists for as much and as long as they can until
every penny hits the floor. Maybe with Narnia they
can succeed where they failed, from a marketing standpoint,
with Rings. Think about it: Lord of the Rings only
had three parts; Narnia seven. That’s a hell of a mark-up.
And it gets better: Whereas the main characters in Rings
were mostly adults, the main characters in Narnia are
all kids. Think of the marketing possibilities.
where the whole thing takes a nosedive when you actually go
see it. Like I said, The Chronicles of Narnia is geared
more towards kids, which means that you’ve got to listen to
the little shits “yap, yap, yap” through the whole goddamn
thing, while they crawl all over their completely ineffective
parents and any other sorry son of a bitch who happens to
be seated nearby. You’ve heard it before:
put that down!”
people are trying to watch the movie. You be quiet now.”
finish your nachos.”
these words, or their admonitory equivalent, and seethe with
rage and regret after realizing your fateful decision to see
a movie like this in the theater. The kind you knew damn well
kids would be at. It’s bad enough the country’s going to hell
because people can’t beat their kids within reason anymore.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to let some ankle-biting beast
take a McDonald’s-greased shit all over my afternoon at the
movies. I’ve hit them with stolen golf balls before. The blowgun
has also served me well in the past. (And by the way, I’m
like a surgeon with those items, so don’t worry if you catch
me taking aim. I can hit the back of a head with a Titleist
at a hundred yards; the jugular of a preschooler at fifty–windage
thing makes me think of when I worked at a theater down South.
I used to stick a roll of toilet paper in my back when collecting
for the Will Rogers Institute. Then I’d simply inform complainants
my manager was dead when they wanted to gripe about my many
antics. But the most fun I had was taking full advantage of
my power when the kids got shitty. Just me and “Estelle,”
my nightstick flashlight. If a kid wouldn’t shut up and the
parents were loath to take control, I’d blind the little bastard
with harsh light—or mace, depending on the paycheck–drag them
into the aisle and start hammering away. If the kid didn’t
put up much of a fight or shut up right away, I’d go easy.
For one, it just wasn’t as fun. Secondly, they knew they fucked
up and I could tell by glaring into those red, blotchy eyes
they were indeed sorry. The beating was just insurance. If
the little demon spawns couldn’t figure out why they were
being attacked with a metal flashlight and kept crying bloody
murder, I’d haul the little creep into the emergency exit
hallway out of respect for the audience. But I’d also leave
the door opened just enough to hint to the other moviegoers
exactly what was going on. I’d let their imaginations fill
in the blanks. But on every Saturday or Sunday afternoon,
just like clockwork, an example had to be made.
all of that was behind me. That was until little Devon’s ADHD
medication wore off. When he started crawling over his seat
and made his way onto what he thought was going to be my lap.
I looked at the boy kindly, masking my contempt as other groaning,
screeching, and whiny kids all over the theater ruined a perfectly
good day at the movies. I asked him if he wanted to see my
fire-breathing dragon trick. His eyes lit up, but he didn’t
answer. I quickly produced my flask of gin that I often smuggle
into the theater and took a big sip. I held it in my mouth
and pulled out a lighter. WHOOOOOOSH...!
some fire, Scarecrow!”
was okay, aside from his newly bald head. I swiftly pushed
him back into his seat. He’d faced my wrath today. I snapped.
A man can’t change what he is, I told myself as I pulled
out a slingshot from my coat pocket and grabbed a handful
of really big ball bearings.
it with these kids. The stupid questions, the insolent behavior,
the dopey looks. And the god awful noises they were making!
I still hear them in my nightmares. I had no reservations
as I picked off more than a dozen with precision accuracy,
in record time. Gap Kids–2 o’clock. Poomf! Little Abercrombie
polo shirt–10 o’clock–done! Mouthful of popcorn–12
o’clock–neutralized! The whole thing couldn’t have
lasted more than 15 seconds and when I came out of it, I quickly
sat down and wondered what the hell I’d done. The strangest
part was no one said a word. And like an idiot, I almost
went to the midnight show–look what I almost missed...!
much an agnostic, but 95% of the movies I saw this year had
begun to convince me there is a hell. Not only that there
is a hell, but also that I was entering the flaming pit of
it every time I walked into a darkened theater. Look at my
reviews in back issues or on our website, and you will see
almost verbatim, unintentional descriptions that eerily parallel
I saw Syriana, and I was convinced that there is also
a heaven. In case you saw the trailer for Syriana and
mistook it for a cable news story, it’s the cinematic equivalent
of the child of an overprotective mother playing out in the
snow. The film’s got many layers and instills nervousness
in its audience. It tells the story of the current energy
crisis from every side: the CIA agents sent out to do the
dirty work, the oil company executives who lost count of how
many toes they stepped on, the trader executives who just
know there’s a solution out there somewhere, the Arabian
royalty who’ve had it with the US, and the budding terrorists
who are just beginning to see some rays of clarity.
is written and directed by Stephen Gaghan who, you may
remember, won an Oscar for his screenplay for 2000’s Traffic.
While Syriana, in a lot of ways, is to Traffic
what Casino is to Goodfellas, it is decidedly
not Traffic Lite or Son of Traffic. It’s every
bit as powerful and disturbing. Gaghan again throws the pieces
of a puzzle, a dozen characters in complex situations, on
the table. If your brain can get around it before the third
act begins, not only will you be completely blown away—you’ll
also understand why in a perfect world this film will win
Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars.
story and dialogue is matched by some top-shelf acting. There’s
not a bad performance in the film, even from the otherwise
contemptible Amanda Peet. No one steals the show either. Syriana
belongs to no one character: each is perfectly fit together
and no character is more important than another. Matt Damon
and Jeffrey Wright play the youngbloods with something to
prove. Chris Cooper plays the Texas oil exec with a dumb-as-shit
grin that could easily get him elected president come 2008.
much as I hate to bring attention to the fact that George
Clooney gained 30 pounds and grew a Guantanamo beard for his
role as the can’t-tell-the-good-guys-from-the-bad-guys-anymore
CIA agent, you only understand his motivation at the end.
Clooney didn’t want to pull a Robert DeNiro or make a desperate
bid for an Oscar. He transformed himself in an effort to become
invisible–so you’re not paying attention to his otherwise
dashing good looks that make soccer moms and aunts across
the world groan with delight during bath time. For that matter,
the only reason that any heavy hitters appear in Syriana
is to help navigate you through the convoluted and complex
thinking of checking out Syriana to avoid the pox of
thought, save your money. You should see it anyway, but wait
until you’re up for the challenge. You’re going to be forced
to think during the film, and long after you walk out of the
theater. Even if you’re complaining on the way home about
how you had to actually think, you can at least take comfort
in the fact that you now know why the rest of the world hates
the United States so much.
it’s not an official Kino review unless I have something snide
to say about a film, but I have nothing negative whatsoever
to say about Syriana. It didn’t have a line of bad
dialogue, not a single note was off-key. The only thing that
could be construed as criticism would be the fact that more
than one viewing is required in order to properly digest it.
But then again, doesn’t a truly great film make you want to
watch it again?
things about movies is kind of like feeling out someone on
a first date. There are certain red flags you want to look
for. Talking excessively about their ex of four years, or
Abraham Lincoln. About the time they fucked 9 people in the
back of a Hummer, or their strong Christian-based religious
convictions. In these cases, you’re probably better off running
out of the place screaming in a tizzy than footing the bill
and waking up alone in your own bed with your pants around
your ankles yet again. It goes this way with just about anything—movies
are no exception. If a movie’s release date’s been pushed
back a couple times this likely means test audiences either
laughed their asses off or demanded a refund—despite the free
surefire whiff of trouble is when the movie studio won’t let
film critics see the movie. The studio doesn’t want us to
warn the movie-going public of the atrocity lying in wait
to pounce. They want folks to take the leggy dame bait–the
film industry’s answer to slipping you a mickey and suckering
you into a game of chance.
Flux definitely fits the type. It was supposed to
come out in the early ‘90s, during the era of the Aeon
Flux cartoon that debuted on MTV’s short-lived Liquid
Television animation series. Then there’s the matter of
screwing us critics out of a free screening. You get between
a critic and his free movie? Next time you see him, you’d
better run. So how did I get to see this waste of valuable
resources without lightening my wallet, you ask? Well that’s
a story all by itself.
members of the local film press idling outside the theater,
communicating through a series of grunts and hand gestures
about their favorite films of the year. They continued to
ignore me even as I stood there staring through them on that
typically overcast Buffalo day.
here for Aeon Flux?”
disregarding me, but my tenacity is legendary. The Tall Gaunt
One knew the gesture was futile and turned.
That’s what we’re here for. You’re not going to shoot off
any fire extinguishers or anything during the screening are
you?” he asked.
no,” I answered. “There will be none of that nonsense today.
Paramount isn’t letting any friendlies see this one early.”
Twitchy One flew into some kind of epileptic fit immediately.
“You’re full of it! You’re always trying to mix things up!
I read your Terminal review (see issue #52)
and you’re lucky I didn’t sue your worthless rag you son of
a bitch!” He was mere moments away from gnawing my jugular
like a Dollar Menu double cheeseburger.
your fire Tex,” I calmly replied as I held up and waved a
white flag. “I’m telling the truth here.”
Isaac Mizrahi,” The Effeminate One bitterly spat.
I wouldn’t get anywhere like this with their sort. They only
respond to power and influence. I pulled a copy of Aeon
Flux out of my backpack and held it up. “Behold.”
Theron in all of her wannabe Eurotrash glory (and marginally
convincing dye job) glared at their respective faces. They
were utterly captivated.
you get that?” The Short Twitchy One asked.
Theron’s Oscar hostage.” I said.
he spat as he snapped out of his daze.
I admonished, as I pulled the bag off my shoulder and showed
them my gilded captive.
One tried to touch. I slapped his hand. “All in good time.
Now we can continue this exercise in animosity,” I said as
I zipped up the bag and slung it back over my shoulder. “Or
we can strike up a little deal and all have ourselves a pleasant
The Tall Gaunt One asked. “And what do we have to do? Get
you a real job working for a real paper? I’d consider it if
I thought for a second that you even had a degree in anything
other than basket weaving.”
your tone sir,” I retorted. “I’m quite happy where I am. Besides,
your degenerate editors couldn’t handle my brazen style of
truth and soothsaying.”
got something much better in mind. There’s some serious holiday
merrymaking to be done. Now, who’s got the best home theater
system among you?”
Gaunt One raised his hand, the other two nodding in agreement.
I answered. I looked to The Short Twitchy One. “I just
know that there’s some liquor store fool enough to give you
a line of credit. There’s no other explanation for you. You’re
getting the spiciest rum available and the egg nog. Or, if
you want to do this Lebowski-style, grab some Kahlua, some
damn good vodka, and vanilla ice cream. And don’t be stingy.”
One got mildly excited. “Oh my God, I never thought of that
before! Vanilla ice cream instead of milk? That’s so clever.”
you’re pleased. Now you’re in charge of the pizza. Three should
take care of the three of us. And don’t get any vegetarian
crap. Make it cheese and mushroom, or green olives if you
realized I wasn’t completely insane, they got to work. We
met up in The Tall Gaunt One’s mother’s basement. The Short
Twitchy One was smashed in no time; even after taking out
most of one of the pizzas. He couldn’t stop talking about
how “fahhkkking haat” Theron looked and kept hooting
whenever it seemed she might get naked—and booing when she
didn’t. The Effeminate One couldn’t stop commenting on the
costumes and Theron’s make-up, once the sauce kicked in. The
Tall Gaunt One drank straight vodka while stroking his chin—pipe
in mouth–and commenting on how this is what would’ve happened
if Kafka and Fellini ever met. Every once in a while, during
a particularly poorly written part or a completely pointless
action sequence, one or all three of them would shoot me a
dirty look. You know, like I made this piece of shit.
movie was over, it was high time for a meeting of the minds.
We all agreed that there was no reason for this movie to be
made. All action films with female leads have a tendency to
think that as long as there’s a decent set of tits and an
ass you could bounce a quarter off of and get fifty cents
back, they can skimp on the story. The Short Twitchy One remarked
that it’s like when they write these characters they take
a man and strip him of reason and accountability. Like I wasn’t
supposed to remember that from As Good as it Gets.
how Jesus saved Christmas.