Monthly Archives: December 2006

Night At The Museum

Ben Stiller plays Larry Daley, a divorced dad with plenty of ideas but little luck in seeing them through. At the urging of his ex-wife, he decides to seek a steady job, and finds himself thrust into the position of night security guard at the New York Museum Of Natural History. The outgoing security guards (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs) leave him some strange and dire-sounding advice before they leave for their retirement party, and Larry soon finds out what they meant: after dark, all the exhibits in the museum come to life.

There’s a lot to like here. Animals and dinosaur skeletons rampaging through the museum halls, miniature diorama Roman armies slugging it out with tiny American frontiersmen, and an Easter Island statue that loves chewing gum. Ben Stiller carries the leading role well, treading a fine line between hapless and hero, and the supporting cast are generally excellent. However, there is a lot of flab, too. Ricky Gervais’s pointless turn as the museum director could be cut almost completely, and there are a lot of meandering motivational scenes that just reiterate points already made clearly enough. If it had been twenty minutes shorter, the action/comedy blend would have been unbeatable.

Casino Royale

I’d been falling out of love with Bond for some time, and this “reboot” of the series is long overdue. Daniel Craig plays Bond with a hard edge, but also a certain vulnerability that comes from Bond’s (fictional) inexperience: this is 007 at the start of his career.

What I liked most about Casino Royale was the total absence of all the kitsch and camp the franchise has accumulated over the years. The title sequence didn’t feature naked female silhouettes! The title song was actually quite good! The very few snappy one-liners he comes out with are actually witty rather than corny! The villain isn’t a gratuitously megalomaniac caricature!

Damn, it’s actually really good! The plot and the action are all so much more mundane–but in a good way. It’s down-to-earth rather than superheroic, and all the more tense and exciting for it. It’s enough to make me start looking forward to the next episode in the series.

The Prestige

A trick gone horribly wrong sets two ambitious stage magicians (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman) against each other. Their hostilities escalate in a series of attacks, deceptions and betrayals that leave you aghast at the lengths each of them will go to to discover the other’s secrets. Although the story is set in the late 1800s, certain plot twists turn it into one of the best science fiction films ever made. It is also without a doubt the best film I’ve seen this year.