DVD Tuesday: ‘Wanted’ & ‘Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian’

by W. Andrew Powell

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Anna Popplewell and Ben Barnes in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Angelina Jolie is packing heat this week, starring in the action-adventure Wanted, alongside James McAvoy as a reformed loser-turned-hit man. Also arriving on DVD this week, Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The X-Files: I Want To Believe, and Step Brothers.

Get some popcorn and drop your butt on the couch for a surprise: an Angelina Jolie action film that is actually pretty good. Even better, it’s an action film that wasn’t made for kids.

With the original concept coming out of the pages of a graphic novel by Mark Millar, the film was directed by Russia’s Timur Bekmambetov, the man behind the popular Night Watch series.

Wanted stars James McAvoy as Wes, a nobody without any sign of a future, who is suddenly invited to join a secret organization called the Fraternity. Their job is to hunt down bad guys and take them out before they do more harm, and it’s all judged by the hands of fate. That is, fate as represented in cloth produced from a very special loom in a big, old factory.

Jolie co-stars as Fox, the femme fatale who ushers Wes into the organization, alongside Morgan Freeman as the head of the Fraternity. None of the actors, aside from maybe McAvoy, really do much with their roles, but this is a very good cast to even be coasting through a movie. The story, effects, and editing also sell a certain amount of cheesy dialogue that might otherwise ruin this over the top popcorn flick.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
C.S. Lewis‘s crowning achievement in literature is surely the Chronicles of Narnia, a fantasy epic that has been read and re-read by generations of children and adults since the first books were released in the 1950s. With the highly successful film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Disney was able to bring the tale alive on a scale fans had never seen before.

The stories follow the Pevensie children, who find themselves brought to the realm of Narnia, a world inhabited by sprites, fairies, and a Lion with more than a few similarities to Jesus.

After their first visit, where they defeated the ice queen, a year passes before they are drawn back into the world. But for the year that passes for them, hundreds of years have passed for Narnia, and they find the glorious kingdom they knew crumbling and falling apart as a new threat has arrived: the Telmarines.

Where the first film was slightly slow, and lacked much action, Prince Caspian is a much more intense and likable adventure. Compared to the first film, which suffered from weak visual effects, this film is also a vast improvement in almost every way.

Thankfully, director Andrew Adamson learned something from the first film and has managed to create a truly memorable film with Prince Caspian, capturing some of the actual magic that made the books so worthwhile. Adamson and his crew have made a darker, more action-packed film, while also improving the animated creatures.

That still hasn’t improved much of the acting in the now somewhat older children, and the hippy-Christian undertones are a bit over the top at times, certainly done with some grace. The darker mood goes a long way to making the syrupy moments more bearable, and near the end, especially as a fan of the books, I was a bit taken away by the whole wanna-be tear-jerker final chapter, which is actually fairly moving.

The X-Files: I Want To Believe
Aliens have been troubling Fox Mulder and Dana Scully for a long time, but apparently, those days are behind them.

X-Files creator Chris Carter breaks from the series’ long-running, and popular I might add, theme involving little green men and malicious oil bent on taking over the world in favour of a story that much more closely resembles the more mundane episodes of the series.

Too bad for Carter and crew that the result is also a bland, boring film with very little action and only enough chemistry to keep the most hardcore of fans interested.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson return as supernatural crime fighters, called back into the FBI fold for a case that apparently has everyone else stumped, and may involve a psychic. Billy Connolly co-stars as the obsessed, creepy, and disgraced Father Joseph Crissman who claims to have knowledge of a missing FBI agent. Leading the feds to a lake, Father Crissman somehow knows exactly where to find a severed arm that fits with evidence at the crime scene.

With no idea how to deal with a psychic, Agent Dakota Whitney, played by Amanda Peet, suggests finding infamous “X-Files” agent Fox Mulder, and the only way the FBI knows how to reach him is through Scully since he went into hiding years ago when the feds went after him for being a fraud.

With Scully by his side, Mulder grudgingly consents to help out the FBI. Once on the scene, the duo work with the disbelieving FBI agents, and Father Crissman, to hunt down the missing agent, and find out what is really going on as a second woman goes missing. On top of that, Mulder starts getting back into his grove, which obviously bothers Scully who doesn’t trust Crissman in the least.

After such a long hiatus, Carter manages to bring Mulder and Scully out of mothballs with some style, but I give most of that credit to Duchovny and Anderson’s ability to work with even the most horrible of scripts. Aside from mildly interesting points with their personal lives, the majority of this story is ridiculous and unfulfilling, stumbling along drunkenly and making very little sense as it goes.

But what bothers me most isn’t that the plot is so barren, but that Carter could fail so monumentally at reviving the show’s greatest charm: that anything could be eerie given the right story.

Also arriving this week…

Step Brothers
From the director who brought us the hilarious Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby comes a dismal, boring, and ridiculous movie about two grown-up idiots who act like 13-year-olds. Yes, if your idea of fun is watching two grown men act like childreen for almost two hours, you might enjoy Step Brothers. Otherwise, this is possibly one of the dumbest movies I have ever seen, and it proves that it takes real work to make Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly seem funny.

Casablanca and The Shawshank Redemption [Blu-ray]
Two of the most classic movies ever made make their way onto Blu-ray this week. The 1942 three-time Oscar winner, Casablanca, which stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman debuts on Blu-ray with numerous features, including photos, production notes, a documentary on Bogart, and commentary by film critic Roger Ebert.

While not considered quite as classic a film as Casablanca, The Shawshank Redemption is one of the best films to come out of the 90s, and stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in possibly their best roles. There are a hand full of extra features, but the best part of this release is the high definition transfer.

Television on DVD…

Also out this week, the sixth season of the original Law and Order, season one of Canada’s Instant Star, and Mythbusters: Big Blasts Collection.

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