A few not-so-shocking giveaways about this week’s new movie releases, including Justice League and Frank Serpico
Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
A you-can-have-it-all inspirational tale. More precisely, you can be a seven-year-old chess prodigy (Max Pomeranc) and still be "decent," have fun, study simultaneously under two teachers of radically differing philosophies, go fishing for two weeks prior to the national championship tournament, walk off with the trophy. The movie goes through the motions of tearing its hair and wringing its hands over the necessity of making difficult choices in life, and then decides at long last that, so extraordinary is its little hero, no choice need be made after all. How nice for him! If that were not annoying enough on its own, there is the visual style of the film to put it over the top. First-time director Steven Zaillian (several-time screenwriter) spends the bulk of his time making difficult choices between a closeup and an extreme closeup. And when, for variety, he throws in a mere medium closeup, he makes sure that it has so narrow a focal range that it will be pressing right up against the plane of the screen, and against the spectator's nose, anyway. Cameraman Conrad Hall, a notorious fancy dan, has adorned these massive images with a lot of decorative lighting effects -- half-light, shafts of light, pools of light, puddles of light -- so that the movie seems continually to be grasping after the top-money prize in a Sunday Supplement photo contest. With Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, Laurence Fishburne. 1993.