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After the unusu­al occur­rence last week of actu­ally lik­ing everything, reg­u­lar read­ers will be reas­sured that nor­mal nit-picking ser­vice is resumed this week.

Firstly, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third in the series of big budget adapt­a­tions of CS Lewis’ beloved alleg­or­ies (and the first to screen in 3D). Roughly three years after the last film ended two of our hero­ic child-royals are returned to Narnia via a magic oil paint­ing of a ship at sea.

Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Lucy (Georgie Henley) and their annoy­ing cous­in Eustace (played with gusto by young Will Poulter) arrive in Narnia to join the Dawn Treader on a search for the sev­en lords (and sev­en swords) who will finally unite all the war­ring coun­tries and bring peace, etc., etc. All is much as you would expect from the pre­vi­ous install­ments, apart from the fact that Caspian (Ben Barnes) has lost that annoy­ing vaguely Mediterranean accent and the talk­ing mouse Reepicheep now sounds like Simon Pegg instead of Eddie Izzard.

What fol­lows is a stir­ring tale told mostly on the high seas as all the char­ac­ters (but mostly the human chil­dren) dis­cov­er that their secret insec­ur­it­ies are what they should most be afraid of, not the mys­ter­i­ous green mist of evil they think they are fight­ing. These are good les­sons and this review­er found the third Narnia film to be much more sat­is­fy­ing than the sev­enth Potter film, and much more respect­able. The kids are bet­ter act­ors, too.

Talking of mor­ally respect­able, young star­let and gif­ted comedi­enne Emma Stone (Zombieland) gets her first lead­ing role in Easy A, a teen com­edy that sur­prises simply by being much more inter­est­ing than it has a right to be. Stone is mostly anonym­ous high school­er Olive who lies to her friend that she lost her vir­gin­ity to a col­lege stu­dent when in fact she spent the week­end groom­ing her dog.

They say that a lie will be half way around the world before the truth has even got its pants on, and at high school it’s even quick­er. Stone soon finds she has a new (and not unwel­come) notori­ety but keep­ing up her repu­ta­tion without actu­ally liv­ing up to it soon back­fires. Smart, witty and sin­cere, Easy A is eas­ily recommended.

Megamind (in 3D) tries very hard to be enter­tain­ing and some­times suc­ceeds but you can see Dreamworks’ strain of com­pet­ing with Pixar’s effort­less storytelling skills is start­ing to show. Super-villain Megamind (mis-named, mis­un­der­stood and voiced by Will Ferrell) finally gets rid of the lantern-jawed fly­ing hero Metro Man (Brad Pitt) and takes over the city. He soon finds out that a vil­lain without an arch enemy isn’t much fun so he con­structs a nemes­is (Titan, voiced by Jonah Hill from Get Him to the Greek) hop­ing that he will get his mojo back. Megamind has its moments but there are some big gaps between them.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,” the poem goes, “Not a creature was stir­ring, not even a mouse.” Except in the bizarre new film Rare Exports where at a moun­tain in remote Northern Finland a secret pro­ject aims to uncov­er the buri­al site of the real Santa Claus, dig him up and – um, not sure actu­ally, the plans are vague, but appar­ently they think he’ll be worth something.

What these big busi­ness sharks don’t real­ise, in fact only loc­al kid Pieteri (Onni Tommila) does, is that the real Santa wasn’t the friendly, jolly Coca Cola Santa we all love but a demon whose pun­ish­ment of the naughty went a lot farther than the with­hold­ing of presents. Rare Exports: A Christmas Story is a very strange beast indeed, played with beau­ti­ful Scandinavian dead­pan by the entire cast and it’s destined to find a cult following.

The relent­less need for Hollywood to find new and more explos­ive ways to have civil­isa­tion des­troyed by ali­ens reaches a new low with The Strause Brothers’ Skyline in which some (sup­posedly) good look­ing non-entities watch the inva­sion of Earth from a Los Angeles beach­front pent­house. Arguing amongst them­selves, these nar­ciss­ist­ic wretches are power­less against the ali­ens and the film­makers are power­less to res­ist the urge to use even more digit­al toys rather than con­struct a com­pel­ling narrative.

Everything about Skyline is deplor­able except first-timer Michael Watson’s cine­ma­to­graphy – the stun­ning aer­i­al foot­age of Los Angeles at dawn and dusk is mem­or­able, even if it even­tu­ally gets ruined by the Strause’s digit­al tomfoolery.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 8 December 2010.