Notes from the back row 

Web wages war against movie stores

So Blu-ray won the high definition DVD format wars (which kinda blows if you just spent 700 bucks on an Xbox 360 which can’t play Blu-ray) but from a movie fan’s perspective I’m not too concerned. The internet will hopefully make DVD movies extinct before any of this matters. It’s already made Television newscasts obsolete as far as I’m concerned and here’s why.

  www.vbs.tv is an internet channel run by the heads-up people at Vice magazine that features free segments of news, entertainment, music, whatever. Master of video cool Spike Jonze ( Being John Malkovich) is the director of programming and the Vice crew delivers in-depth, no-bullshit reporting on all kinds of topics the regular media will never touch. Watch the news feature on ‘Garbage Island,’ or the pieces on toxic Albertan Oil Sands, or inside North Korea, or any of it. These guys are inventing a new style of journalism.

The numbing glow of a computer screen will never beat the joy of the silver screen however, and going out to the movies will, hopefully, never lose its charm. This week the Village 8 is premiering Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian , which starts Friday.

The second film in the Narnia series actually takes place 1,300 years after the Pevensie children first went through the magical closet. Narnia is more savage and war-plagued, and many of the magical creatures of the first film, including the mighty lion Aslan, have been forced into hiding. The children, now full-on kings and queens of the land, team up with Prince Caspian to fight his traitorous evil relatives and restore peace to his land.

The movie opens strong, dark, and engaging but loses a bit of mojo as it plays out. At just over two hours long the cohesive energy of the first film is replaced by a more muddled story and extraneous subplots. And battles — lots of giant, epic battles.

You can go into Prince Caspian looking for statements on war, ethnicity, religion and politics (and you’ll find them) but for the most part critics who called the first film a thinly veiled Christian allegory won’t be banging their drums as loudly this time around. This is a more straight-up adventure movie aimed at kids, although themes of sacrifice and forgiveness still permeate the top-notch visuals and decent action sequences, and director Andrew Adamson ( Shrek) shows he can still play the humour card — this time with a swashbuckling mouse.

Prince Caspian is a bit long and convoluted but fans of the franchise won’t let that stop them and, overall, the trip back to Narnia is worth taking.

Also worth taking is a trip to the theatre on Thursday, May 22, for the new Indiana Jones flick. A lot of people are nervous about this one, but I remain optimistic. We’ll get into it next week.

Also this week, Smart People , opening Friday, is an indie-family-dramedy about a bunch of intellectual-yet-dysfunctional characters who might not be as smart as the title suggests. Dennis Quaid, who I’ve been tough on lately, stars and does a decent job but secondary characters played by Thomas Hayden Church ( Sideways) and Ellen Page ( Hard Candy, Juno) are more interesting to watch.

A bit more obvious than smart, Smart People , and its bad acoustic guitar sound score (done by the guy who used to be in Extreme) is worth skipping. Catch it on DVD, or the Internet, or however you’re getting your flicks these days. Right now I’m going to watch Lost Boys on TV, no commercials.

The internet hasn’t made TV totally obsolete yet, not until I get a couch installed in front of my desktop.

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