Weekend Preview: Cold Hard Reality Trumps Fantasy in Ghost Rider, Bridge to Terabithia, and Breach

Hands up, who's excited about Ghost Rider? Funny, but I don't see any hands from Columbia Pictures: they didn't screen the film for critics, which is probably a good thing, considering how goofy and yet simultaneously uncomfortable Nicolas Cage looks in all the clips and trailers and TV ads. It's as if somewhere deep down he knows that the mere fact that he is himself a big ol' comic book geek does not justify his playing the part of a comic book superhero. Remember when there was talk of Cage playing Superman? It makes me shudder just to think on it.

If you're looking for a blast of fantasy this weekend and you'd rather not waste money on Nicolas Cage's self-indulgence, don't be too misled by the marketing of Bridge to Terabithia. This is a wonderful, wonderful movie, but it is not the Chronicles of Narnia-esque adventure romp in a whimsical kingdom that you may have come to believe. Very little of the film takes place in the land of Terabithia, which is, in fact, explicitly not a real place even within the confines of the film's fiction: it is purely the concoction of the clever imaginations of the story's young hero and heroine. The genuine magic of the movie is there, in its touching and heartbreaking exploration of the power of fantasy to transform our lives, and in the hard journey from innocence to knowledge. The bridge, see, it's a metaphor: it doesn't take you from your boring old backyard to the wondrous world of Terabithia, it takes you from childhood to adulthood, which is much more challenging an adventure.

And then there's the first really grown-up studio movie of 2007, Breach [my review], about the FBI agent turned traitor Robert Hanssen. You can watch it strictly as a suspense thriller, as a cat-and-mouse game between the secret spy and the honest agents trying to catch him in the act, and that makes for a fine film, and a good night out. But look at the events depicted in a larger light -- here's a hint: Hanssen was finally busted in early 2001, just months before one of the greatest failures of national security occurred -- and it gets deeply, bone-chillingly scary. Oh, and just an FYI: Chris Cooper is a god.

Hollywood and the whole celebrity-making machine of fashion magazines and gossip blogs have been trying to convince us for years, it seems, that Sienna Miller is a goddess, but Factory Girl, her first starring role, demonstrates that she emphatically does not have the charisma to carry a movie. The film gets its first major expansion this weekend -- not that I'm recommending you see it or anything. But just, you know, another FYI.


MaryAnn Johanson

author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride

minder of FlickFilosopher.com