Short story: 9-7, recommended; 6-4, up to you; 3-1, eschew
Ratings intended for: adult SF&F fans
Short-attention-span synopsis: Love books? Inkheart!
Economic advice: You can only afford to see one SF&F film this weekend? Underworld is well worth missing.
Inkheart (PG, 1:46) — 9
They had me at "Hay". Hay-on-Wye, that is, the English town that's riddled with antiquarian bookstores, and where Inkheart begins — surrounded with books. There are books wall to wall. We're awash in books. Buried in books. Whispering books, talking books (and no, I don't mean the recorded kind), living books. As in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, it's possible for people in the bookworld to enter ours, and vice versa. But what it takes is a silvertongue, a person who can read aloud and make the printed word come to life. Brendan Fraser, Eliza Hope Bennett, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis, and Helen Mirren are the featured actors, and they're all excellent, but the real star of this film is the written word in all its glory, joy, majesty, power, and beauty. A wonderful film in every sense of the word. Word!
Underworld : Rise of the Lycans (R, 1:32) — 3
Every 3 years (2003, 2006, 2009) we get another one of these. The good news is that they're getting progressively shorter (2:01, 1:46, 1:32). Yes, it's another vampires vs. werewolves flik, which I continue to lycan* to rats vs. cockroaches, with the audience invited to give a shit. No, and no thanks. Done almost entirely in blue-black ink, with a cast** badly in need of soap and shampoo, and sets that let us know why their descendants prefer life in sewers, this film is pitched squarely at people who paid good money to see the 1st 2 but cheats them out of Kate Beckinsale. Could it have been worse? Yeah, because it did have some interesting plot twists and an appeal to abolitionism, which earns it a couple of grudging points.
*little pun there
**including Michael Sheen, also currently appearing in Frost/Nixon, in a role as diametrically opposed as imaginable to his turn here as the progenitor of all lycanthropes; the guy can act, I'll give him that!
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button pulled in 13 Academy Award nominations. Continue to color me unimpressed. (I rated it 6.)
WALL•E is the front-runner for best animated film and also topped Time's list of the year's best films. It's a good (7) movie, another triumph from the "story first" geniuses at Pixar. I liked Bolt even better (9). Yes, Disney's Bolt!
A trio of terrific superhero flix — The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and especially The Dark Knight — were largely ignored, except for the unignorable performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker. Comic books just can't get no respect. I guess they'll have to be contented with the ton of money they made and the appreciation of a grateful fandom.