Tilda Swinton and Skandar Keynes in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the WardrobeTHE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, & THE WARDROBE

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe, director Andrew Adamson's imagining of the first book in C. S. Lewis' Narnia series, is almost childishly clunky, but it's nearly impossible to dislike. Geared, as it appears, toward a very young audience - I'd say seven or eight - the movie is sweet, and it's sincere, and it displays a welcome touch of fairy-tale simplicity. Despite the rather prosaic nature of its presentation, Narnia is one of those movies that, if it catches children at the right age, might linger in their memories for some time to come; it's just magical enough to suggest how magical it should have been. For kids who are finally seeing their beloved Narnia novel translated to the big screen, Adamson's Narnia will be good enough. It just doesn't have much to offer the rest of us. Adamson is co-director of the Shrek movies, and he does a fair enough job with the movie's CGI wonders; the lion Messiah Aslan (voiced, to the surprise of no one, by Liam Neeson) moves with regal grace, and the beavers who accompany the Pevensie children on their quest seem to be, for kids in the audience, enjoyably frisky characters. But all throughout the film, I had the nagging feeling that, if he was allowed, Adamson would have happily computer-generated his humans, too.

Lisa Kudrow and Bobby Cannavale in Happy EndingsHAPPY ENDINGS

This summer, I was fortunate enough to catch a special screening of writer/director Don Roos' Happy Endings at the University of Iowa, but decided to hold off on a review until the film made it to our area.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. SmithMR. & MRS. SMITH

If it accomplished nothing else, Mr. & Mrs. Smith would easily nail a primal attraction for going to the movies: Getting to spend two hours staring at people who are infinitely better-looking than we are.

Penelope Cruz and Matthew McConaughey in SaharaSAHARA

I was probably predisposed to dislike Saraha because of my natural aversion to Sand Movies - seeing that much beige and ochre onscreen generally puts me to sleep within five minutes - but the problems with this action-adventure don't stop with its lack of a distinctive color palette; nearly everything about the movie is beige.

Tim Allen and Erik Per Sullivan in Christmas with the KranksCHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS

Christmas with the Kranks is terrible. (Big surprise, huh?) What more needs to be said? As it turns out, a lot more.

Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow in Sky Captain & the World of TomorrowSKY CAPTAIN & THE WORLD OF TOMORROW

Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow might be the movie year's most refreshing surprise, especially when you consider how disastrous the results could have been.

Chulpan Khamatova and Daniel Bruhl in Good-bye, Lenin!GOOD BYE, LENIN!

Around this time last year, while local audiences were flocking to Pirates of the Caribbean and Bad Boys II, the Brew & View presented the area debut of 2003's finest film to that point - the extraordinary Capturing the Friedmans - and, amazingly, the Rock Island venue has done it again this summer.

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2SPIDER-MAN 2

Spider-Man 2 might not be, as many critics have concluded, the greatest comic-book movie ever made, but it's entirely possible that Sam Raimi is the greatest director the genre has ever had.

Tom Cruise in The Last SamuraiTHE LAST SAMURAI

Occasionally, all it takes is sharp cinematography to get critics all woozy. How else to explain the positive notices for Edward Zwick's The Last Samurai, a period epic so unexceptional and derivative it might as well have been called Dances with Wolves Meets Braveheart? (Barkeep! Oscars for all!)

Emma Thompson in Love ActuallyLOVE ACTUALLY

If you are to believe the (mostly) glowing responses to Love Actually, writer-director Richard Curtis has compressed material for a half-dozen romantic comedies into one, creating, in the words of one reviewer, "an epic romantic comedy." But that's not exactly accurate. For his first directorial outing, Curtis - the clever, funny screenwriter of Four Weddings & A Funeral and Notting Hill - has apparently decided to take every idea he's ever had, every last one, and blend them into a frothy, holiday-themed confection; it's less an epic romantic comedy than a romantic comedy shaped as an epic (which isn't the same).

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