Presto-chango! The Prestige Makes Movie Magic

Best bet this weekend: The Prestige

How strange, in our blockbuster era of saturation releases that instantly crash and burn, to see a weekend on which no new film will open at more than 3,000 venues. The Prestige certainly seems like the movie that might have actually justified so wide a release -- it's got geek cred out the magic top hat, what with Batman Begins's Christopher Nolan behind the camera, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) as well as Batman himself (Christian Bale) in front of it, and a story that promises to be a weird, delicious amalgam of fantasy, science fiction, and mind-messery. (And it delivers, spectacularly; my review is here.) As Mark Beall said recently on Cinematical, "If any of you out there are not excited for this movie, I simply do not understand your existence." Will all those geeks be shut out of showings of the film? Or is -- hope against hope -- the studio, Disney, expecting to support the film throughout the fall? Cuz apart from the sheer geekiness of it, it's got plenty of appeal for nongeeks, too.

I want to like Flags of Our Fathers [my review] more than I do, but Clint Eastwood lets himself fall into lecturing us about why the Greatest Generation is so darn great. There's plenty to appreciate in the film -- if only Eastwood had snipped off the last 20 minutes or so, where most of the scolding occurs, it might be even great.

Sofia Coppola looks at the end of the French monarchy through punk-colored glasses in Marie Antoinette, which people are either gonna hate (this is the film that was booed at Cannes) or love for its defiant refusal to be another stuffy costume pageant. Kirsten "Bring It On" Dunst is not exactly the go-to girl for historical drama, but wouldn't it have been cool to hear her say, "This is not a democracy -- it's a me-ocracy"? And Jason Schwartzman as Louis XVI? It works, in a crazy Rushmore kinda way, but how many will agree with me? I'm guessing not too many.

The widest release this week? The girls-and-their-horses porn of Flicka, arriving on 2,877 screens. Haven't seen it, don't plan to. But I was never a dreamy 12-year-old anyway, even when I was 12.

Indie watch: If you're a fan of Augusten Burroughs' childhood-from-hell memoir, then you're probably whom Running with Scissors is intended for. The film tries a bit too hard to be "weird" and not hard enough to make you really believe all the crap Augusten went through could be true. But Annette Bening's performance as a crazy suburban mom is just the kind of actorly extravaganza that Oscar loves. ♦ It's not exactly indie, but Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D is getting a re-release limited by the demands of the makeover its gotten: it's been IMAX 3D-ified, so there are relatively few theaters in North America capable of showing it. But any theater that can would be foolish not to; I haven't seen the spiffed-up edition [my review of the non-3D version], but IMAX 3D is spectacular, and this would have been my pick for the first existing film to go through the process. I bet it looks amazing.

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MaryAnn Johanson

author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride

minder of FlickFilosopher.com