Lions and monkeys and frogs, oh my 

Well-defined characters and top-notch effects

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First of all, how friggin’ awesome was the Whistler Film Festival? Tons of great flicks and night after night of drinking and hobknobbing (if you’re into that kind of thing).

Although all the films I saw were swell, my festival favorite was the French Canadian masterpiece C.R.A.Z.Y. a gorgeously shot, touching, funny, coming-of-age story about five brothers growing up in the ’60s and ’70s in Quebec. Starring super-cool Marc-Andre Grondin, C.RA.Z.Y. is Canada’s official entry at the Academy Awards and one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It just hit the theatres in Vancouver last weekend and, I’ll tell ya, it’s worth the pain-in-the-ass drive down to check out a great movie that gets even a hardened West Coaster like myself stoked on La Belle Province.

Sticking with our local theatres though, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe opens Friday at the good old Village 8. Know what I like the most about the Village 8? They’re not always trying to upsell you to the large pop for 50 cents more, or the super value deal you don’t want and can never finish. They give you what you ask for and that’s that. It’s refreshing, rare, and the Village 8 Theatres should be commended for it; there’s enough gouging up here already.

But we’re supposed to be talking about The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis’s cult classic fantasy book series that Disney hopes will become the next Potteresque cash cow. The film is set in WWII England and stars four children, ripped from their family and moved to the countryside to avoid bombings. While there they end up plowing through a thick, lush, Freudian-Vaginal portal into another world, Narnia, which is fighting a war of its own against a snow witch who has cursed the land to eternal winter. Add in some fantastical talking creatures, a sword, and a lion/savior with more than a few Christianity undertones and you essentially have another fantasy tale that’s about halfway between Harry Potter and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.

While not a terrible movie by any means, The Chronicles of Narnia is certainly aimed at children and sticks closely to the light, colourful tone of the original books (released in 1950, which also happen to be the second best selling series ever, behind Harry Potter). The Chronicles… is good family entertainment and worth seeing, despite the fact that it’s a blatant Christian allegory partially bankrolled by Philip Anschutz, a gazillionaire Bush supporter who’s pushing hard for socially conservative entertainment. This guy irritates me.

What doesn’t irritate me, what makes me incredibly happy actually, is that King Kong finally opens next Wednesday, the 14 th . I haven’t even seen it and I know King Kong is going to rule. Here’s why: It’s directed by Peter Jackson, who brings the same perfectionism and genius talent to it as he did The Lord of The Rings. The new King Kong sticks primarily to the plot of the 1933 original, and heightens the love/sexual story of the monkey and the woman (who is played by the superbly gifted and beautiful Naomi Watts).

Jackson’s King Kong looks to be part Heart of Darkness, part Raiders of the Lost Ark, and all Kong. With a bit of Titanic and Jurassic Park thrown in as well. King Kong runs at just over three hours long but combine Jackson’s superb eye with well-defined characters and top-notch effects and 187 minutes shouldn’t be a problem. In case you’re wondering, while the new King Kong is carnal enough, the giant naked monkey doesn’t have a dink in this version either.

AT VILLAGE 8 Dec. 9-15: Water; Syriana; Chronicles of Narnia; Walk the Line; Harry Potter. Dec. 9-13: Capote; Yours, Mine and Ours; Get Rich or Die Trying. Dec. 14-15: King Kong.

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