Today I saw The Golden Compass, starring Dakota Blue Richards and Nicole Kidman.
I must confess—I went into this ignorant, having never read the book it's based on. But in this case, I think I probably enjoyed it more as a result.
The story follows the orphan Lyra (Richards), a petite spitfire in the possession of the last magic golden compass. The power it holds is immeasurable, as it has the ability to display the truth in any situation. This upsets the magistrate (a.k.a. church) and the evil Mrs. Coulter (Kidman) pursues her to retrieve the compass, at first kindly offering her a trip north (where many of Lyra's friends have been kidnapped to, and are having their free will revoked) then fiercely hunting her after she escapes.
The way the characters get through this is somewhat confusing, but the ride is so visually stimulating, you can forgive the jumble. A parallel British town is illuminated at each glimpse, while the scenes in the great north make you nearly shiver in your seat, they're so remarkable.
And I musn't conclude my review without a mention of the polar bears. These aren't your typical Christmas-Coke-commerical polar bears, these look and sound like the real deal (well, except when they don human voices and carry on conversations). The growls and snarling teeth are terrifying; the fluffy fur and awkward bodies are endearing. I really wanted my own 'armored bear' after seeing the final fight scene, too.
So really—this film was pretty entertaining. Good, solid acting from the female leads and supporting actors like Daniel Craig and Sam Elliot, and cinematography that's nothing short of beautiful. An easy choice for holiday viewing.