National Treasure. Juvenile adventure yarn about a treasure hunt for the legendary booty of the Knights Templar, handed down to their natural successors, the Masons, and squirreled away by the American Founding Fathers, with clues to its whereabouts written in invisible ink on the back of the Declaration of Independence. The Jerry Bruckheimer treatment (Jon Turteltaub the nominal director) blends bombast and grandiosity with insolence and insouciance, in such a way as to appeal strictly to the tone-deaf or tone-indifferent (or more exactly, juveniles). Nicolas Cage reverts to his action-hero mode, which is to say his take-the-money-and-run mode. Justin Bartha, the mentally challenged younger brother in Gigli (if you're one of the forty-two people who saw it), is the sardonic sidekick who seems to be doing an impression of Dennis Miller. Diane Kruger, the Face That Launched a Thousand Ships in Troy, is Just Another Pretty Face. And Sean Bean is just another British baddie, albeit slightly more justifiable as a present-day descendant of the Redcoats.
Christmas with the Kranks. Holiday comedy, adapted from an anomalous novel by John Grisham (The Firm, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The this, The that), about a suburban couple who opt, after their only offspring has flown the coop into the Peace Corps, to buck the Christmas tradition and resist the social pressures of their neighbors. A promising premise, unfulfilled in the early stages and broken to bits once the offspring announces her return to the coop with a Peruvian fiancé. One tradition upheld from the start, ripe to be bucked, is that of the annual Tim Allen Christmas film. He has one scene, at least, that Chaplin could have been proud of, had Chaplin lived in the age of Botox: trying to eat fruit cocktail with immobilized mandibles. And the sight of the middle-aged Jamie Lee Curtis in an itsy- bitsy bikini arouses admiration for her courage, if it arouses nothing else.
Older but better (or maybe, older therefore better) are the pair of films, in fresh new 35mm prints, that split the next week at the Ken, On the Waterfront (50th Anniversary!) from Friday through Sunday and La Dolce Vita (44th Anniversary!) from Monday through Thursday.
And should you wish to show your faith in the future, there's the annual Film School Confidential program of local student shorts at the Museum of Photographic Arts on Wednesday.