Monday, June 30, 2008

juillet has my heart

Ahhh, July. Can a more perfect month exist? Warm weather, summer vacation, trees in full green.... lovely. It's also the real summer blockbuster season and this year is no different: Hancock, Hellboy II and X-Files are all in there; however, as a special Goodbye to the Young Years of my Life, Christopher Nolan gives me The Dark Knight.

But there's so much more.
- July 1st is Canada Day: a whole day dedicated to my favourite country, land of my head, heart and feet. It doesn't matter that I wasn't born here; Canada has adopted me, chosen me... and I love her dearly. So, I'm getting my red-and-white on to take in the festivities in the Civic Centre.
- July 7 comes quickly as well, and with it all the birthday celebrations a girl could hope for (dancing with my peeps at Funhaus to the wicktastic stylings of DJ Dwight? check. Mom-cooked yummy food? check. Dinner(s) with the boys? check, check, and check! and, of course, ice cream cake (this year, I'm looking for a Joker Cake - get on it people!).
- July 14 sees Nish's inclusion into the Late Twenties club. It's also Bastille Day (for us French people, this is a big deal). This year, July 14 marks my first day back with the kiddies as well. Mayhem shall ensue, no doubt.
- July 2008 is made even more special with arrival of my long-awaited condo. After a gestation period of over 27 months, I am ready to welcome my bundle of mortgage into the world. I can't wait to paint, build and decorate the hell out of the place.

Move over Romeo, Juillet has my heart.

Friday, June 27, 2008

trust issues

It doesn't matter how many times someone reassures you of The Truth - if you don't trust them you simply won't believe them. I had a poem in my diary as a kid that went something like "friendship is like a china cup, often both beautiful and rare; but if broken, though well-mended, there's always a crack there" - it's a bad rhyme scheme and china cups aren't all that rare, but the sentiment is bang on. I would be an idiot to believe someone who has played me for a fool before. But how to be friends with someone you wouldn't trust as far as you can throw? How to stop hanging out with someone whose been around for-like-ever? How to reconcile your desire for their easy companionship with your self-preservation instincts? Giving advice is easy: walk the fuck away. Taking advice is a whole other story. I am thoroughly disgusted with myself.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Now Playing: The Incredible Hulk

I'm usually more on the ball with the movie reviews (as in, write them up as soon as I get back to Timmy), but I will admit to a hectic week and a lax attitude to updating. I am sorry gentle readers - I know you wait with baited breath for my posts. ... as if.

some history:
- I thought 2003's Hulk, with Ang Lee at the helm, was an absolute disaster. Most people decided it had been too cerebral for our favourite green guy and tired too hard to be so much more than "Hulk Smash!" Why bother? But I knew it was going to be bad, the minute they announced a certain Banana to play the good doctor. I can't emphasise how much I hate that guy's version of "acting" - he irritates me to no end.
- My personal bias: as a toddler, I simply loved the TV Show and had become a party attraction with my growling, neck-straining imitation (some would think that this may have been damaging to my child psyche... but I digress). Between Spiderman and the Hulk, I spent a lot of my formative years swinging from various heights of furniture. So, you can understand that Mr. Green holds a special place in my heart.

On to The Incredible Hulk! Much much much better. I was as sceptical as anyone else when I heard Ed Norton would be taking on the role but then I remembered the genius that was the TV show - using Bill Bixby and Lou Ferigno instead of trying to get one to play both Banner and the Hulk. So, Ed Norton as a nerdy geneticist? I can handle that (way better than Bana at any rate). Boy, did Norton deliver - I thought he played the doctor with just the right amount of geek and suave. I totally believed he was in love with Betty Ross (the oft-open-mouthed Liv Tyler) and his running scenes were fab. I know Norton wanted to make rewrites and have the Hulk be a thinking man's hero, but I'm glad Leterrier reigned him in and kept the Green Guy where he belongs - roaring and using police cars as gauntlets. But my favourite part of this entire movie? Tim Roth, hands down. Can this guy be topped as the abominable Emil Blonsky? I don't think so ... he fairly oozes villainy. The first fight scene between Hulk and Blonsky on the campus of UofT.. er, I mean, Culver University ... was just gold. In fact, all the actors were really well picked and really brought it to the table.

Weak points? The script definitely. There were some real clunkers in there. The horrible non-disguising of Yonge Street for New York is another. I mean, come on... where in New York is there a Zanzibar and a (now-defunct) Sam's? Plunking an Apollo in the background does not the Big Apple make. But really... that's it. Consider the franchise restarted! Good to see you again, Dr. Banner. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

how to get over it in 24 hours or less

...if you're me.

1. If someone offers to buy you ice cream, graciously accept; then, order two scoops in a waffle cone.

2. Play a ridiculous party game with a bunch of people; play until it hurts to talk for all the laughing and screaming. If the rules don't include a round of charades, make up new rules. Get to the point where people yell "Twist!" for the correct answer "Chuck Barris" and where someone undulating an S-shape somehow leads to guessing "Stephen Soderberg".

3. Participate in a geekfest (aka TCG tournament) and don't suck; in fact, come in not last and rank not the lowest out of all your team-mates to get the best bang for your buck. Also: wear a shirt that proudly proclaims you have "no time for losers" in sparkly pink lettering to highlight the fact that you're the only double-Xer in the room.

4. Get dressed up in your favourite purple silk top and attend the symphony; go with someone who appreciates it being Star Trek night as much as you. Play "Where's Worf" while waiting for the show to begin. Afterwards, wait like a groupie outside the artists' entrance to get John de Lancie's autograph. Giggle like schoolgirls all the way home.

5. Chat well into the wee hours with your best friend and remind yourself that life is pretty damn sweet.

6. Have dinner with a work friend who'll tell you why not getting the job of your supposed dreams is probably only going to work to your benefit.

Friday, June 20, 2008

predictable disappointments

I hate giving myself the chance to hope, to dream a little, about something I know is impossible. I don't know why I do it. I'm better than that, more logical than that. I should just be happy with what I have and let the rest go. Why pin any hopes on what could be when I can just as easily focus on what is? Sometimes, I feel like what's the point of even trying... like lining up at the starting line and looking around you and knowing - just knowing - you're out of your league. I should have pulled out before they said "go!" and saved myself the heartache of hoping.

I'm giving myself 24 hours to wallow and to feel sorry for myself. You will simply have to bear with me, poppets. The usual sunny DissovledGirl will return. Watch this space.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

walking the Valley

I often think: "oh, to be young again!" It must be easy, being 24, facing life with all its possibilities and adventures, knowing you have all the time in world to do stuff, mess it up, try again, rinse, repeat. It must be easy having all that energy and enthusiasm that life has only just begun to wear away, layers of disappointment and heartache between you and jaded middle age. It must be wonderful waking up and appreciating that today, after work, you'll hang out with your buddies at the bar or take your kids to their first baseball game or tinker with your favourite hobby. It must be easy... but really, only if you have the foresight to appreciate what you've got at the time.

But, being 24, facing death... that can't be easy. Knowing you'll never blow out 30 candles or be a dirty old man ogling young girls in the mall. Knowing your kids won't remember you outside the picture frames of their lives, because you'll be gone before they make any formative memories. It can't be easy lying in a hospital bed, your once strong body turning against itself, eating you inside out, surrounded by well-meaning friends who've started to visit more often than they ever did. Knowing those same friends - with their forced jocularity, quickly averted gazes and worry lines - are here to keep vigil with you until you close your eyes and just don't open them again.

I can't empathise with facing death; hell, I can barely sympathise. I've never walked down that path, never even contemplated it with any real seriousness. At 24, Ross (LilBro's good buddy from before their voices changed) was dragged kicking and screaming into the Valley. He leaves behind a wife (for whom he worked so hard) and two children (3 years and 6 months) for whom his entire heart was reserved. He leaves behind grieving friends who are too young to have contemplated mortality with anything more than a passing thought. He leaves behind a a life that, though unfulfilled, was yet brimming over.

Yes, to be young again but only with the wisdom of age and the gift of time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

art attack

So... I have a confession to make. I not only suck at art, I once received... a pity pass. in Grade 7. for art. yes, I am that bad. I couldn't draw a human body to scale for my life. As a result, I never picked up a paintbrush or pastels again. I mean, why try at something I'm going to fail anyway, right? I have since relegated myself to colouring books (I kid you not) and the brown paper table coverings at restaurants. This is all well and good... until you have a creative itch you just can't scratch. I really want to paint. Photography, writing, spreadsheets... nothing quite relieves it. Finally, after years of ignoring the urges, I broke down and bought myself paint and vases upon which I would unleash all my horrible, terrible non-talents. You can see from the first one, that it was a dark and swirling mass of garbage. The second one, I decided, would be different, clever. Quoting Amelie, I wrote "Sans toi, les émotions d'aujourd hui ne seraient que la peau morte des émotions d'autrefois"- I was speaking to my newfound crush: forgiving cold ceramic. By the time I hit the third vase, I longer cared about Mrs. H and her insistent "F" or about people saying "honey, you just don't have the talent" or even about messing up and making the vase uglier than when it started. There they are. Transformed from plain janes into something with a little character. Are they perfect? Hell no. But they're mine. Hello art... nice to see you again after all these years.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Now Playing: The Happening

The newest offering from M. Night Shyamalan, The Happening, opened this weekend. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo and a very creepy Betty Buckley. In a twist, I will say nothing more about it, except to give it a disappointing 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb

This month's Book Club pick is She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. For those of you who will be attending June's Book Club with me, read no further. For everyone else: I can't help but talk about this book without talking about the end - and since I liked it so very much, I suggest you go read it first, then read the stuff below and then lambaste me.

A couple of things to get out the way before I get to the meat-and-potatoes of the review:
a) I can't say the title, or even see the book, without singing the song.
b) I can't sing the song without thinking of all the barely-concealed allegories in the book.

So, as a certain professor once told me, I'm going to be ingenuous base my entire review on excerpts from Guess Who's Undun.

She didn't know what she was headed for / And when I found what she was headed for / It was too late
The entire novel revolves around Dolores Price and her quest to find her life. Her idea of "life" changes from one moment to the next, but she's always hunting for it. Her self-destructive path begins early, when Dolores is tickled by Jack Speight; the reader - you and me and even narrator-Dolores - feel so uncomfortable, we can't help but think "oh, God, we know where this is going". The lyrics say "she" didn't know but when "I" found out: it's almost as if Narrator Dolores is talking, saying how her 13-year-old self didn't know where she was headed (in that car, to the dogs) and when the narrator finally clues in, it's too late to stop the events unfolding. After that breaking point, the novel is definitely fractured into two voices: the all-knowing narrator-Dolores and the second-guessing whale-Dolores, the latter of whom beaches herself in front of a TV and wills herself to die through gluttony.

It's too late / She's gone too far / She's lost the sun
A little more ambiguous, though it's in Cape Cod (amidst beached whales and thunder storms) that Dolores finally cracks up.

She wanted truth but all she got was lies / Came the time to realize / And it was too late
A recurring theme in the book: Dolores is constantly led astray by lies, either well-meaning or otherwise. Dottie's offers of friendship that turned out to be nothing more than sex; Kippy's letters that portrayed her as a sympathetic soul and disguised her true nature; Dante's promises of love. The few people who offer Dolores 'truth' (Dr. Shaw, Roberta, Thayer) are rebuffed repeatedly (and often successfully). Dolores wants the truth, but she finds lies much easier to handle.

Too many mountains, and not enough stairs to climb
We know that nothing good can come of Dolores meeting Dante (I mean, this is not a book of fairy tales); but if you needed any proof to substantiate your intuition, it's in the lyrics: the house that she and Dante share is on top of a mountain that was far too high. By the time now-skinny-Dolores allows herself to heed narrator-Dolores's warnings about Dante, it's too late to stop the truth from hurting her. Even though she makes it to the top of the mountain, she finds out (too late) that she can't fly. These mountains are everywhere in Dolores' life (Heeton Hall, Mrs. Wing's House...) and like the whale she pictures herself being, she is out of place and out of context.

Too many churches and not enough truth
The parochial school is a classic example of teaching without learning; the only things Dolores seems to learn at this school is how to hate and become invisible. She doesn't believe in the institution (school, Church, anything) and therefore gets nothing out of them - not even the comfort her Grandmother found in her saints.

Too many people and not enough eyes to see
The "eye" imagery is so prevalent throughout the novel, it's hard not to write a dissertation on just this topic: the TV acts as Dolores' eye to the world (a make-believe Walton world, but the world nonetheless); the dead-eye of the beached whale that begins Dolores' journey back from the brink; the blind eyes of Mr. Pucci who is the only person who ever sees Dolores for who she really is... I could go on and on. Many many people flit through Dolores' life (some stay longer than others), but only one really pushed her beyond the boundaries she establishes for herself.

Too many lives to lead and not enough time
Dolores could have been:
- Jack Speight's silent victim
- her mother's guilty conscience
- Dottie's lover
- Dr. Shaw's guinea pig and surrogate child
- Fred Burden's girlfriend, developing other people photos (lives?)
- her grandmother's pious grand-daughter
- Dante's bitch
- Roberta's caretaker
- Mr. Pucci's comfort
- Thayer's disappointment/heartache
... in her 33 years (a more loaded age couldn't exist in the Western literary canon), she has assumed these roles and shed them and resumed some again. Hers is a life in constant flux. When Dolores exclaims: "I saw her! I saw!" we have to wonder who it is she really saw. The whale? obviously. But also: her mother? her grandmother? herself? and if herself, which self? whale-Dolores? clever-Dolores? 13-year-old Dolores? narrator-Dolores?

Wally Lamb has been criticised for his (in)ability to write in an authentic female voice. I forgot that a man was even writing; for me, Dolores was as real (and as human) as they get. It's obvious there's so much more to discuss about this novel than is appropriate for a blog review - there's easily a term paper or two on just the imagery alone. I can't wait to see what the Book Clubbers picked up on that I completely missed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the missing

Today, I packed the last box of books. I whittled my collection: donated three boxes of (almost) brand-new books to library, kept authors together in the basement instead of taking all my titles, let go of some real crap. Sixteen xerox boxes in total, holding 632 books. That's almost half of what I started with. In updating my spreadsheet (I am a librarian, after all), I discovered some lost books. I was shocked to see not one but two of my desert islanders unaccounted for. Where have they gone? Have I lent them out and forgotten to keep track? Were they hiding on some bookshelf I can't remember? If anyone has seen my babies, or has any information as to their whereabouts, please let me know. I didn't know until right how very much I missed them.

Little Women
World of Wonders
Robinson Crusoe
I, Lucifer
A Separate Peace
Time Traveler's Wife
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Other Stories
Vanity Fair
Red Tent
City and the Pillar
Paradise Lost and Regained

Sunday, June 08, 2008

heat wave

It is hot. I am at work. There is no air conditioning.

The first person who asked me about the heat, got a polite explanation: "we've ordered parts for the broken chiller, but they haven't arrived yet. We probably will not have AC until tomorrow sometime."

The second couple got a snarky one: "oh? Is it hot? It's just that the staff here like to keep it tropical so we don't notice that's forty plus in the building. You're lucky we turned it down from the sauna we had on this morning."

The third one got pure rudeness: "obviously it's not working and obviously we don't like it either. If you want AC, go to the mall across the street."

Stupid people and their downright idiotic questions.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

teaching an old dragon new tricks

So here's the latest venture into the nerdery: World of Warcraft: trading card game. It's not enough to spend my Saturday nights playing video games or German board games or even the MMO. No, if you're going to geek, geek right or don't geek at all.

When first asked to play, I had thought to myself "oh no, this is like Magic or Warhammer" (neither of which I picked up very quickly, establishing an inverse correlation to how fast I dropped both). It's not so much that I didn't like those games; it's just that, much like Axis and Allies, the concept seems better than the reality. Also, I hate losing and I hate feeling dumb - two things that happen whenever I try to understand the mechanics of these games. JC has solved this problem by asking me to be a raid boss instead of participating in the actual raid. This means a number of things: 1) I don't have to worry that my ineptitude killed one of my allies; 2) I am ridiculously over-powered, so I won't die too quickly; 3) there's no embarrassment in dying because I'm supposed to die - I'm the bad guy. Perfect!

Last night, I played Onyxia and Molten Core. Onyxia, no problemo - killed three of them by stage two. Molten Core - oh dear... they got all the way to Boss 8 (of 10) before I finally wiped the group of four. What will happen when there's actually five of them? 5 more experienced players than the ones I played against last night? I don't think I can distract them enough with my snarky comments and dragon jewelery and the (new) boys are interested in a raiding in two weeks.

I've officially gone over to Dork Side.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Composition Challenge: Want vs Need

Little White Liar has issued another composition challenge; she writes:

"If you feel like writing with me this week, I suggest you write this way: ake a list of 5-10 things you want. Make them things you personally want for you (no Miss America 'World Peace' shenanigans). Then think of one thing you need. You can't already have it, because really, who do you think you are? Just rubbing your self-contentment in everyone's gaping life-holes."

Here's my entry:

I want:
1) the job for which I've applied
2) a personal library with a spiral wrought-iron staircase
3) mad Raid Leader skillz
4) a lifetime movie pass
5) twelve weeks paid vacation
6) my condo keys
7) the perfect LBD

I need:
1) room.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

reality check

ahhh, good friends who are also old friends. Both a blessing a curse it seems; especially when they're intent on bursting your memory bubble. Had a craving for cheesy nachos and met up with one of my closest friends who "kept me company" (read: ate half my nachos so I didn't take any home). We hadn't hung out just the two of us in ages and we just chatted about all sorts of random things (my raid boss "costume"; his surprise associations with some people I know; my tendency to answer phone calls I shouldn't be - stick with me, poppets, it's all related).

We got to talking about how I ran into someone from high school at a party who snidely commented that I "wouldn't know the pain that was high school because I was popular" - buh? I looked to him to join me in the eye-rolling. I mean, he was there - he knows I was just ... average. He laughs at my assessment. Literally. He says to me: "are you kidding?" I slowly shake my head. But he was there. Here's his vision of my high school life: "you were smart, pretty and always on the morning announcements; you had huge parties that had, like, sixty people at them; you were easily recognised and fairly respected; you were popular - people wanted to hang out with you."

what what what? smart? pretty?! popular?!! I am so confused. Was I that crazy? Am I having false memories? Jesus. I wouldn't have thought anyone even noticed me: I shopped at Biway and Goodwill; I brought brown bagged lunches to school everyday; I had no one to hold hands with between classes... hell, I didn't even have a date for my own prom.

"It doesn't matter what you thought was happening, it's the perceived reality of the situation: you were invited to birthday parties and your friends were invited because of you; you had blowout parties where you invited half our grade - imagine how the other half felt; when you raised your hand, people may have thought, "oh my god, not her again" but not because you weren't smart, but because were too smart; and the only reason you never had a boyfriend is because the guys that wanted to ask you out thought you were too good for them and they were wasting their time. Trust me, I know."

Well, fuck. Colour me floored.

"So stop acting so surprised when you meet old high school people who were way less popular than you. It will probably only irritate them when they think about all those summer parties you attended that they weren't even invited to. You have the mantle of popularity; you've always had it, you just haven't realised it." Mantle of popularity? Suddenly, very uncomfortable.

I said it was all related, and here it is: I'm playing a new "game" where my role is to be a raid boss; my biggest excitement (aside from dressing up for the role) is making new friends. But I'm worried - will they think I'm too much of a nerd? Maybe I ought not speak in tongues the first time we meet? Will it be weird because I'll be the only girl there? I mean, will they like me? He says, yes, it will be fine. That if I can make nice with the freaks and geeks that frequent the library (he apparently knows my new acquaintances), I'll have no issues.

I begin lamenting that, wow, I can actually count on one hand the amount of friends I see on a regular basis (i.e. every two weeks or so). I'm hoping this game thing works out, because it means one more evening of my week that I don't spend alone. He says to me: "you should really stop feeling sorry for yourself. You've traded quantity for quality." This is true, I concede. But still - I hate seeing old friends fade away. He says: "answering phone calls from people who should be fading away is probably a bad idea." yeah, maybe, but I mean, if someone leaves a message, shouldn't I call back? It's so rude if I don't. "Don't kid yourself. You're only calling back because you get something out of it. The faster you figure out what that something is, the faster you'll be able to decide whether it's worth it - really worth it." But... but... I don't get anything out of it - except the occasional case of misery. "Bullshit. You take those phone calls because it probably feeds the shattered ego of the niner-you that you can't seem to shake, despite the fact that you left her behind a long time ago. Let it go. You don't need to surround yourself with mediocre friends just to feel safe any more. You've traded up remember?"

God - with friends like these, who needs a therapist?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Now Playing: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I have a confession to make: the first time I saw any Indiana Jones movie was last week. That's right - though I pride myself on being semi-immersed in pop culture, my education only really began in the 90's. Before then, I lived under a rock known as "my parent's rules" and have tried to expose myself to more 80's stuff. Sadly, my first attempt was marred by Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club which sent me running back to the safe haven of my teenaged years.

So, before I comment on the Crystal Skull, indulge me in a little pontificating regarding the 80's trilogy of Indy movies. I went in with high hopes; I mean, these movies have spawned millions of fans and dozens of pop culture references that even I picked up on. I settled in for the Raiders of the Lost Ark and ... it was okay. Not horrible (cheesy 80's special effects aside) but nothing amazing either. Huh. The next night, I popped in Temple of Doom and already I noticed that this movie takes place before the first one (Raiders is in 1936; Temple in 1935). Hmm. This one quickly degenerated into a boring yawnfest and I actually fell asleep until just before the heart-ripping-out scene. The next night, I reluctantly popped in Last Crusade. Immediately, I noticed a difference. Better dialogue. Better direction. This was, bar none, the best of the three (thank you, Mr. Connery, for bringing some life back to franchise). I did like a couple of things (the mountain in every opening scene, the flight scenes across the map, Indy's propensity to completely misjudge the situation), but all in all, I was pretty disappointed. It was only after packing up the movies to return to the library that I realised why I should have known I wouldn't like this: George Lucas had his filthy paws all over it. No wonder. If there's anything that man can do, it's ruin a perfectly good idea with bad cheese.

So, fresh from seeing the first three movies, I went into Crystal Skull expecting nothing. I wasn't surprised by the action or pithy dialogue. It was great to see Karen Allen (the least annoying of the Indy girls) and Jim Broadbent again. Leboeuf was his usual annoying-after-prolonged-exposure self. But, Mr. Ford, please say this will be your last action flick; you just aren't sexy any more (I don't care what Calista whispers to you). The plot was pretty good (though it reminded me a lot of AvP - it's true, don't laugh!) and the cheese was kept to a minimum. Blanchett's grew tiresome, but I'd rather see Catie with a bad accent than Gwyneth with a good one (I am not bitter). If you're a fan, you won't be disappointed; if you're not, you will go in expecting to be disappointed. Either way: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Now Playing: Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia)

Went to see Prince Caspian (finally! honestly, the things I do for friends...) last night. Spoilers abound in the following review, so please don't read it if you're interested in seeing it or reading the book.

Let's get the inevitable movie-book comparisons out of the way. Prince Caspian as a book only has a couple of "blockbuster" scenes (the castle and the battle at the end); as a whole, the book is quite slow. The screenplay does an excellent job of adapting the book into a familiar story (right down to quoting specific lines) and of keeping fairly true to the book (some minor exceptions revolving around Aslan and Caspian's tutelage aside, which, I understand, were cut due to time). The characters were also pretty true to form (especially Edmund and Lucy), though Susan was bit more forward than her literary counterpart and Peter felt a little over-confident. The Narnians, those that made it onto the screen, were great: more on them below. All in all, the adaptation is as good as it gets in Hollywood when given such a non-Hollywood story.

Now for the movie. I found prince Caspian lacking a backbone as his Uncle accused him; Ben Barnes couldn't seem to muster up any real passion (though I did enjoy his accent). All the kids (except Skandar Keynes) should probably brush up on their acting, especially Georgie Henley. They should hang out with that scene-stealer Tilda Swinton, who worked her own special magic to make her 90 seconds of the film probably the best 90 seconds in it. The Narnians were the best group, by far: Reepicheep's "you people have no imagination" is bang on; Trumpkin and Nikabrik were well-scripted and acted; even Bulgy Bear's paw-sucking moment during the duel and his little wave at the end were tiny perfections. The movie was well-paced, choosing to focus on the things that make this a cinematic (and not literary) success. I would have liked to have seen the castle raid scene expanded (I'm hoping for an extended edition on DVD) and more Aslan, but these are nitpicks.

Though the movie is an improvement upon the first one, it's still not as good as it could be, given the fantastic source material. I almost feel like director hasn't read the books and so can't seem to capture the spirit of the thing. Something is definitely missing, but I don't know what it is. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

One final note: if you haven't seen the first one, don't bother to start with this one. This movie is not a standalone and you will be lost.