Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Film Review

I have a bone to pick with the American public when it comes to film.

Entering the theater on opening night, I was not expecting Narnia to draw out massive Harry Potter style crowds. However, I was expecting at least a full crowd of families, kids and 20-somethings that read the series as children. Sadly, in my half-full, or half-empty (depending on your outlook) theater, I sat. Puzzled about how such a beloved, well-written series could be reduced to half-full/half-empty theater crowds, I began to lose faith in the public. Did people not support this film because they didn’t support Christianity? Or was it because the actual film itself? But, I digress…

It’s no secret that this film went through its fair share of challenges. Disney dropping the series, the two eldest characters not involved in the storyline, the re-written plot, and Liam Neeson’s pluralistic interview (at least, for the Christian audience) all dampened the excitement of the third installment of Narnia.

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The opening scenes start a little slow. With beautiful casting on the character of Eustace, we are introduced to a boy who we instantly dislike (as we are supposed to, of course). As with all Narnian theology, he will be redeemed; but, for now, his demeanor would have made C.S. Lewis quite giddy to have watched on-screen. Familiar faces of Caspian and Reepicheep arrive upon our two royals (Edmund and Lucy) entering Narnia with their dreaded cousin, Eustace. An evil continues to spread like a cancer throughout all of Narnia. An evil that can only be vanquished by the swords of the seven kings being laid at the Table of Aslan. (Symbolic, no?)

How do they get these seven swords, you may ask? By traveling, by ship, to various locations. Dealing with deadly temptations of lust, greed and envy, all of our characters are tempted to fall to evil. One thing that particularly interested me was “the mansion” that Lucy entered. Did anyone see the cross-references of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress here? “The Magician” or “Slaver” possibly just being “The Interpreter” from the most famous Christian allegory of all time? Regardless, after vanquishing evil with the help of a redeemed Eustace, our characters are reunited in Aslan’s country for a heartfelt and tearful goodbye.

Hands down, the best part of the film is Reepicheep’s final goodbye. In a beautiful Christian picture, he lays down his sword from this earth as he ascends (not descends) to his final resting place. I must admit that I teared up. It was a beautiful picture of “death” just being the next life. It’s how every Christian wants it to end. However, the departure of our main characters from Narnia is their last, and final departure. They have learned all they can from the magical world of their fantasy and must take their lessons into the real world. Then again, Eustace has only begun…

In all reality, I guess my animosity should be directed to not only the American public, but Walden Media for condensing seven classics into three movies. Whatever the case, the film is worth seeing just for the final scene. Not to mention, I support any film that is appropriate for kids in this increasingly de-sensitized world.

Continue to be entertained.

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Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1: Real. Raw. Review.

I’ve done it; I’ve seen it; I’ve marveled in the darkness that is Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1. Deeper, darker, and detailed, The Deathly Hallows did not disappoint. After the movie, I stayed around for a bit to hear some mixed reviews from fans, but the way I see it, we had two separate groups of movie-goers last night at the midnight showing. The film people and the story people: two very different but very opinionated crowds.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!
The general consensus from “the film people” was that The Deathly Hallows just moved too slow for their taste. The “story people” would argue that because the film is split into two separate segments, it was necessary for “Part 1” to set the stage for the action-packed “Part 2” that we are sure to see. Nevertheless, any person who has loved the films from the beginning can agree the cast has vastly improved, and Hallows brought some big players to the screen for the final installment. Opening with a close-up shot of the Minister of Magic, the incredible Bill Nighy, audience members are thrust into the defeated and ominous atmosphere of the post-Voldemort’s return to power Wizarding World. That feeling is only more intensified as we watch an emotional Hermoine and a reflective Harry face ending their lives in the muggle world as they know it. Top it off with a chilling scene of Death-Eater plotting, and you have a spell-binding opener.

“Nowhere is Safe”
Throughout the film the lines between the muggle and wizard world are blurred. So much to a point where the Order itself questions each other for feeling of betrayal. With the trio (Harry, Hermoine, Ron) consistently using apparition as a form of transportation, we are taken on a journey that seemed “slow” for the only-film watching crowd of Potter fans. However, those who read the novel would (hopefully) all agree that the first installment built the original anticipation and storyline for the final days of Harry Potter. “Nowhere was safe” for our characters. After learning in an exceptional animation the story of The Deathly Hallows, things start to get good when Lovegood uses the dreaded He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or Death Eaters will appear in an instant’s name in hopes of having Luna returned to him. Questioning who we can trust, audience members are taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotional stress with our leading trio.

The Beloved Trio
I felt like I was watching my friends on the screen–not just people I knew, but people who I shared memories, laughter and tears with throughout the years. Corny? Maybe, but this film continued the transition of The Half Blood Prince in that it explored human relationships. The relationship between our three young heroes was incredible in this picture. Constantly reaching for each other, sacrificing things for one another, fighting yet forgiving one another made such a statement to the acting of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. The dynamics of young adult relationships between Ginny and Harry, and Ron and Hermoine were fascinating. They have truly come a long way over the years, and blossomed into mature, believable characters. Originally thinking that I was going to be upset with Yates’ choice to include some partial nudity and romance between Harry and Hermoine, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with the approach he took to making it still age-appropriate for younger viewers. Sad that I did not get to see more of the wedding (i.e. Krum, Hermoine and Ron), but intrigued by the awkwardly sweet dancing of Harry and Hermoine, Yates’ choices of important scenes were spot on in developing layers of meaning that will (hopefully) play out in part 2 of The Deathly Hallows.

Political?
One of the main things I enjoyed watching on the screen was the unapologetically overt ideology that Yates played up in the creation of the post-Voldemort take over of the Wizarding World. The robotic Ministry of Magic operating strictly under the rule of Tom Riddle himself, the minions of the great puppeteer ridding the world of muggles and mudbloods, and the propaganda of literature that is placed all through the film, added to the fascist and dangerous world that is developing right in front of our eyes. We want a hero; we want Harry to win; we need him to, no matter what the costs (Part 2 will show us just how much we need this to happen).

Overall, the film set the stage for an epic finale. The argument still remains, did the story warrant two films? Absolutely. Emotionally-charged, The Deathly Hallows Part 1 did a fantastic job showing layers of meaning in the relationships of our characters. The complexity of Severus, the possible good in Draco, the menacing fascism of Voldemort, the hero in Ron, the heart of Hermoine and the deepening desires of Harry, intertwining and playing off one another, all contributed to a wonderful night of film. A little upset with the short death scenes of some of my favorite characters, I feel that Yates has an opportunity to improve in the next segment. And considering that I already know what will happen, I truly hope he gives me the end I am in need of seeing.

Cheers to Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1. It’s a must-see; you will be entertained.

Brixx: Italian on a 20-Something’s Budget

Meeting friends up for dinner is always a highlight of my week; when I can make it happen on a Wednesday, I feel even better. So, I tried the relatively well-known chain of restaurants, Brixx. Not normally one for chain establishments, I actually enjoyed the place. Food for a young family on a budget, a college or high school kid wanting something a little better than normal, or a 20-something trying to make it through the week, the menu had an interesting selection of sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. Of course, I went with the pasta. (Roasted Chicken Penne Pasta–to be exact.)

Brixx Pasta

My Budgeted Pasta Dish @ Brixx

Paired with the Mondavi-Riesling to tone down the spicy flavors and play with the sweet peppers, the Cajun flavor of this dish certainly packed some surprises in texture. Enjoying the color the peppers brought to the dish, the Cajun spiced, blackened chicken, all topped in a fairly rich gorgonzola cream sauce, this pasta dish sure beat the alternative chain restaurants similar Italian creations. If you are looking for something new with a relaxed atmosphere that is friendly to friends and families alike, try Brixx.

A Hump Day Treat: What to do This Week

A southern belle will taste the Italian compilations of pizza creations tonight. If you are currently in the Greenville area, or if you have ever visited it before, have you ever eaten at the little pizza joint off of Woodruff road called Brixx? I’ll be checking it out tonight, so I am looking for any recommendations on what to stuff my face with while I am there. Word on the street is that it is a fun place to meet up with people for live music, affordable food and a good time. Be sure to check back for updates on what I think of the place.

In movie news, it’s finally come down to the wire; the time for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1. I will be attending the midnight showing in all of its glory tomorrow night. With my Canon50D in hand, I can’t wait to capture HP Fanatics as I stand in sweaty-palmed anticipation for part one of the epic finale that is my childhood. Expect some great photos, and if you aren’t attending the midnight showing because you are too old, watch out for spoilers when my review rolls out at 3:00 a.m.

Houston, Texas is where to be this weekend. With some great music on the way, I’m looking forward to hearing the sounds of the West. Is everything really bigger? I will be sampling some great eateries while in the Lonestar state; shoot me some suggestions.

As I await the end of my day, I will leave you with this happy video to keep you going:

Be Entertained…

Coming to a City Near You!

Elle’sReview is on the move; traveling to a city near you, I am looking forward to finding the good, the bad and the ugly of entertainment in America. If you’d like me to swing by a club, a theater, or a restaurant, shoot me a location. Post some intriguing information if you would like me to come visit your city. Locations are being added all day, so be sure to check back to see when I will be in a city near you!

November 18-19: Greenville, SC (Great Escape Theatres, IMAX Simpsonville 14)
November 20: Atlanta, GA
November 20-21: Houston, TX
November 24-28: Destin/Panama City Beach, FL
December 30-January 2: Boston, MA

The End of ’10 Cinema Line-Up

Highly Anticipated End-of-the-Year Films: 5 Left Worth Seeing
The year 2010 has brought some cinematic failures. With high expectations as I enter any theater, my hopes and dreams for silver screen brilliance have been dashed in the recent flops of sheer sadness. Yet, there remains a glimmer of optimism in my need for a film adventure. Movie-goers want passion; we want to be swept away. So, here’s what I’m looking forward to in the last upcoming two months of 2010:

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (November 19, 2010): It is no lie that any child of the 80s is highly anticipating the release of this film. When Harry was 11, we, too, were 11 (or close to it). This makes our 12 year journey with the novels, our nine year journey with the films, and our bittersweet end to childhood, all the more powerful for this generation. Confident that David Yates will bring his best editing yet, and eager to hear Alexandre Desplat’s (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) haunting musical genius brought to Harry’s final end, I have a feeling this is going to be “the” film of 2010. And,yes, I will be at the midnight showing.
  2. Black Swan (December 3, 2010): Finally, a dance film with talented actors. Natalie Portman leads the cast with Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, and Winona Ryder, all following her lead. No stranger to the dance world, I am excited to see Portman’s training in ballet come to the screen. Taking on one of the most beloved ballets of all time, Swan Lake, we can be sure to see some mesmerizing choreography rehearsed to perfection; after all, perfection is a dancer’s vice, and Natalie Portman wears it well. A deeply dark and twisted plot, this story looks to be an exposé on the cut-throat and short-lived journey of a dancer. Keep this one on the calendar for December.
  3. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (December 10, 2010): Do not be fooled by the movie-snobs who turn their noses towards the sky for Disney films. With a change in studios, a beloved classic novel and an increasingly improving cast, this Narnia adventure could be one of the best yet. Backed by a powerful and epic composer, David Arnold (Casino RoyaleIndependence Day), the Narnia kids may start to blossom in their confidence on screen. Nevertheless, I will be looking to this film with an open heart; it is definitely worth seeing.
  4. Tron: Legacy (December 17, 2010): I am my father’s daughter; so, yes, I am excited for a sci-fi film. It has to be said: did you not get chills when seeing the first trailer for this movie in theaters? When Jeff Bridges called out to Sam from the light as the music slammed techno beats that made you want to punch someone in the face, did you not light up with anticipation for the return of a beloved adventure? The inner-nerd inside of me is screaming with delight for this video game, visually stunning, 3D, re-worked storyline.
  5. True Grit (December 22, 2010): Keeping with my Jeff Bridges kick, I am no stranger to the Coen brothers’ craft. A little apprehensive of remaking this John Wayne classic, I still can’t seem to pass up the need to see a well-done throw-back to the western genre. Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin and Matt Damon lead the cast, but newcomer Hailee Steinfield is showing signs of grace and maturity on the screen. I am looking forward to seeing this classic through the eyes of the Coen brothers.

Sure, there are a few other movies that I will, of course, still view and review; however, these are my heavy hitters for the wrap-up of 2010. Which one are you most looking forward to for the holiday season? Post your thoughts, and be sure to check back for more updates on my reviewing schedule. Look out for spoilers on November 19, 2010, around 3:00 am though. Until then…be entertained.

Get Addicted Greenville: The Righteous Opens for Andy Lehman & The Night Moves

If music is a window to the soul, then I would have to say that Carolina has some soul. In a little town southeast of Nashville, you can find the smooth and soulful rhythms, bayou-infused, but poetically reminiscent of early rock legends. Naturally, on a Friday night, I like to hit the music scene in towns such as Greenville, South Carolina, to take part in the local scene. I stumbled upon a little place called The Channel. As I walked up a narrow hallway for three flights of creaky wooden stairs, feeling like I was back in New York, I finally came to a dim, impressively large concert room. Stamped and ready to go, I had no idea who I was about to hear belt out power ballads of original musical prose.

The Righteous, Opening for Andy Lehman & The Night Moves

The Righteous on stage at The Channel in downtown Greenville, South Carolina.

The Righteous, a band of deceptively younger men, truly gained my respect for younger musicians of this generation. Haven’t you been questioning the music of this time? I certainly have; but, I have to say, these guys gave me a new hope for a great sound. Blending rock and roll and blues funk, The Righteous rocked some unique melodies that gave me flashbacks to early Oasis years, with a touch of Jimmy Page fury. A band after Jack White’s own heart, this compilation of teenage talent is certainly going places. Word on the street is that the lead singer writes their music; did I mention he’s supposedly 17? Powerful lyrics that blow the current artists of his age out of the water, this kid has the heart of a rolling stone. However, their age showed when it came to the fluidity of their transitions, but I suppose that will improve over time. Backed with a drummer who can rage, a guitarist who can entertain, and a bassist with some edge, I think these guys are definitely worth checking out if you are in the Greenville area. Keep learning guys, and drop an album soon.

And that was just the opening act.

TJ Lacasse, Bassist for Andy Lehman & The Night Moves

Bassist, TJ Lacasse of Andy Lehman & The Night Moves rocking the stage in downtown Greenville, Friday night.

Headlining the night, Andy Lehman & The Night Moves brought some unpredictable sounds to the stage. Believe me, when I say that they could rock pretty hard as well. Seasoned veterans, this group paints the picture of one sound, one mind, one band–the type of ideology that is only found in music written from experience. Andy Lehman invites you into his heart with his piercing lyrics. Creating a story, and entertaining you as you live it with them, this band has some definite “musts” for your playlist. Lowcountry, their new album just dropped on iTunes; get a feeling for the diverse sound of Andy Lehman & The Night Moves by listening to songs such as: “You Can Leave the Light On,” “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” and “All Along the Roads We Walked.” Hard to believe these guys are from South Carolina? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

To think all this talent was hanging around downtown Greenville on an unexpected Friday night. Talk about an undiscovered gem; this city surely has a voice of its’ own. So, Greenville, I suggest you take a walk this weekend around your downtown to discover the music scene. From peddlers in Falls Park, to musical venues like the Brown Street Jazz Club, or cover bands at the Corner Pocket Taproom, soak in the kaleidoscope culture of your city: get addicted, and be entertained.