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Film Openings 

Week of December 7, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (PG) Reviewed in this issue.

Loggerheads. (Not Rated) For those who pay attention to such things, Loggerheads is an unusual departure for edgy Strand Releasing. This is about as mainstream as you can get, taking into account that it involves an unwed pregnancy and two gay characters. The subject is intolerance — middle-American intolerance. Inspired by true events, the film interweaves three stories: a lonely drifter (Kip Pardue) longs for love and a sense of belonging; a minister's wife (Tess Harper) misses her adoptive son, who was disowned by the minister when he learned the boy was gay; and a sad, middle-aged woman (Bonnie Hunt) still mourns the child she was forced to give up for adoption 25 years before. Ironically, the saga opens in a North Carolina town called Eden. Good, but not great, Loggerheads is both touching and listless. Harper and Hunt are very good, as is Michael Kelly, as the owner of a diner who comforts the young drifter. (Jean Oppenheimer)

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. (PG-13) As she did in Far From Heaven and The Hours, Julianne Moore plays a 1950s housewife, a coiffed beauty in cinched dresses whose dreams of a happy family have been dashed on the rocky shores of her husband's error. In this case, the husband (Woody Harrelson) is a raging, blubbering alcoholic, the kind of man who can be depended upon only to make things worse. But never you mind: Evelyn can handle it. She can also keep the family afloat financially. While Kelly drinks down most of his paycheck, Evelyn generates income by winning jingle contests. With a flair for rhyming couplets, she submits multiple entries in every contest she can find, using her 10 (!) children's names so as to have more chances. Essentially a hagiography in praise of Evelyn Ryan, Prize Winner lays its slender plot at her feet, offering her effusive thanks in every scene. Indeed, she seems to have been a hero — but, dripping with sentimentality and awash in gauzy, "woman-centered" wisdom, the film is just no good. (Melissa Levine)

Protocols of Zion. (Not Rated) You'd think that anyone possessed of the notion that "the Jews" are one monolithic whole that think and act alike need only take a look at, say, wrestler Bill Goldberg, Hollywood hottie Natalie Portman, shock jock Howard Stern, and nebbishy right-wing scold Michael Medved to have that idea dispelled. Yet conspiracy theories persist — undoubtedly you've heard the one that no Jews died in the World Trade Center attack because they all knew about it in advance. Documentarian Marc Levin was inspired to make a movie on the subject after hearing an articulate Egyptian cab driver endorse that theory, and Protocols of Zion delves deeper into anti-Semitism and its popularity among other dispossessed minorities. The point here is not so much the debunking of outlandish conspiracy theories as it is keeping a dialogue alive so that prejudices can come out and be challenged. None of which is as didactic as it may sound. Levin's on-camera presence is wry and even-tempered, and he never feels the need to rub anything in. (Thompson)

Syriana. (R) Reviewed in this issue.

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