Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, and Georgie Henley in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderTHE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER

In the third cinematic installment of C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, the cumbersomely titled The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we're introduced to a character new to the franchise - a grouchy little snot named Eustace Scrubb. The pre-adolescent cousin to the young heroes of 2005's The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe and 2008's Prince Caspian, this kid, played by Will Poulter, is truly a piece of work - closed-minded, miserly, cowardly, and prone to explosively motor-mouthed bouts of hysteria. With his constantly knit brow and the voice of an aggrieved, middle-aged schoolmarm, Poulter's Eustace is about the most obnoxious, potentially alienating figure that you could ever imagine popping into this fantasy saga. He's also so side-splittingly funny that he almost singlehandedly makes Dawn Treader not just enjoyable, but easily the most surprising screen Narnia to date.

Johnny Depp in Alice in WonderlandALICE IN WONDERLAND

Beginning with 2001's Planet of the Apes remake, Tim Burton has cast domestic partner Helena Bonham Carter in all six of his most recent feature films, and he's never made better use of her beguiling, somewhat perverse charisma than in his new take on Alice in Wonderland.

This past Saturday, I had the unique opportunity to catch two local theatrical productions: St. Ambrose University's Narnia (an hour-long stage version of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe) and the Quad City Music Guild's presentation of It's a Wonderful Life: The Musical. (Both closed on Sunday, December 3.)

Despite obvious differences in subject matter and audience demographic - Narnia was geared toward the 10-and-under set, while Wonderful Life was designed for ... well, pretty much everyone else - the shows did bear a striking similarity, in that both were musical adaptations of decidedly un-musical works with enormous fan bases; St. Ambrose and Music Guild could probably have secured full houses based on the titles alone.