ORBzine - Adventure Movies 2008 Movie Reviews


At The Earth's Core

At The Earth's Core This is one of the Amicus adventure films from the 1970s, adapted from the Edwardian pulp novels of Edgar Rice Boroughs. Doug McClure ( Warlords of Atlantis ) and Peter Cushing ( Dracula, Star Wars: ANH ) are a pair of scientists who drill into the Earth's crust. They emerge in a strange land ruled by Dinosaurs and Neanderthals, where humans are enslaved ...

Doug McClure, as in the other films, leads the slaves in revolt. He even gets the girl ( Caroline Munroe )!

The film was shot entirely on a sound stage - naturally enough, since there are no filming locations which resemble the Jurassic era in an enormous cavern. The dinosaurs are primitive animatronics rather than Ray Harryhausen -style stop-motion. The results? Certainly by today's standards the SPFX look a bit cheap ...

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  • Journey To The Centre Of The Earth 3-D

    Journey To The Centre Of The Earth 3-D A scientist (Brendan Fraser - The Mummy ) and his teenage nephew follow the path outlined in the books of Jules Verne. They venture down a cave in the crater of Icelandic volcano Snaefells, and eventually find themselves in a vast cavern many miles underground.

    The film was intended to be shown in 3-D, but works very well in standard 2-D as well. It is an enjoyable adventure.

    Brendan Fraser is much better-suited to play the bachelor uncle than the middle-aged father of a 20-something, as he does in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ! Anita Briem , the mountaineering guide, looks like an Icelandic Kirsten Dunst .

  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1960s)
  • At the Earth's Core
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  • Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

    Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor This is a standard blockbuster sequel in a franchise we all thought was dead. Stephen Somers , the original creator, has been relegated to the job of Executive Producer. Rob Cohen , regarded by many as a hack director for hire, is in the big chair and Gough & Millar ( Smallville ) are responsible for the script. And the result? Better than this reviewer expected. It is certainly better than the biggest disappointment of the decade, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull !

    The film starts out with a flashback to ancient China. Yes, it is a typical Hollywood bastardisation of Chinese culture, but to be fair it is also quite reminiscent of the Chinese blockbuster Hero . The greedy Emperor (Jet Li - ) hires a powerful witch ( Michelle Yeoh ) to give him immortality. She is smart enough not to trust him, and he ends up mummified.

    Thousands of years later, the story takes up in 1946. Rick (Brendan Fraser - Journey to the Centre of the Earth ) has apparently aged a decade since the last movie, though the actor is only a few years older. Edie is now Maria Bello , a completely different actress! The pair have retired to a life of boredom, and take the first opportunity to visit Shanghai. Edie's brother (John Hannah) owns a nightclub there, and her son by Rick is now a 20-something archaeologist excavating the Dragon Emperor's tomb!

    Luckily for the plot, at least 2 of these coincidences are explained by the fact that the ChiComs are plotting to revive the Emperor. And once he's out and about, the heroes have to stop him from gaining immortality. The climax, as glimpsed in the trailer, involves two undead armies fighting each other. This much CGI hasn't been seen since the Star Wars prequels, but in this film it actually looks good!

  • The Mummy
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  • Inkheart

    Inkheart Ironically, the cinematic release of this film included the trailer for Bedtime Stories , a comedy that has a very similar premise. Certain people have magic powers that can bring a fictional story to life ...

    Brendan Fraser ( The Mummy ) is an American Bookbinder living with his teenage daughter in Italy. He has the magic power, but refuses to use it ever since his wife ( Sienna Guillory ) disappeared.

    Fraser is pursued by formerly fictional Paul Bettany ( Knight's Tale ), a firejuggler who wants to return to his book, where Jennifer Connelly (Bettany's real-life wife) is waiting for him.

    Fraser and his daughter hide out with Great Aunt Helen Mirren . Our heroes are pursued by the villainous Capricorn (Andy Serkis - Lord of the Rings ). They must seek out the original author (Jim Broadbent - Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ). It is never explained why so many English people are living in Italy!

    This is a mildly entertaining adventure, although it is slightly over-long. Also it may have been over-aimed at the childrens' audience. There is no real sense of jeopardy for the protagonists, so there is no real link with the audience.

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  • King Kong (2005)

    King Kong (2005) This was Peter Jackson 's follow-up to Lord of the Rings .

    This is not just a remake of the 1930s film. While both the original and the 1970s remake had contemporary settings, this is a period piece. The result of the huge budget is enough CGI to give us the film we would have gotten if Willis O'Brien had been given the technology!

    Naomi Watts is a hard-up Vaudeville performer in Depression-era NYC. Jack Black ( Be Kind, Rewind ) is a film producer making a film about a shipboard romance between characters played by her and Bruce (Kyle Chandler - Early Edition ). The result is reminiscent of 1930s romance films, or even of Titanic . The actress instead develops a romance with the writer (Adrien Brody - The Village ).

    The rest of the bunch include Production Assistant Colin Hanks ( Roswell ) and cabin boy Jamie Bell, whose favourite book is Heart of Darkness ...

    Black claims to be taking everyone to Singapore, though his true destination is a mysterious island somewhere in the Dutch East Indies.

    The natives are living in a stone age society, but have developed technologies using wood and rope. Unfortunately they ire every bit as vicious as the Orcs in LOTR.

    The original film was inspired by The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, in the same way that Nosferatu was ripped from Bram Stoker's Dracula.

    Bearing in mind that everybody who watches this must already know the story (the original is seventy years old and this is the second remake), pretty much every scene counts as foreshadowing of some kind.

    Who is the real villain? The actor knows his own limitations and admits he is not like the characters he portrays. The writer is so obsessed with a woman who is probably dead that he will risk everyone else's life. The movie producer tags along in the hope of making his movie (and paying his debt to the others). Getting rich is portrayed as a bad thing, even though the characters all started out seriously in debt in the middle of the Great Depression!

    Kong himself is a very angry individual. Perhaps it is a combination of loneliness and sexual frustration, since there are no other gorillas (giant or otherwise) in sight. His only company is the neighbourhood bullies, a gang of T-Rexes. The actress's Vaudeville skills come in useful, keeping him entertained.

    The climax, back home in NYC, is a lot more emotion-packed. The Authorities send in the Biplanes in the insane hope that small-arms fire (even if it is belt-fed) will actually be any use against a fifty-ton ape!

    The resulting movie is about twice as long as the original. There is much more character development, and some very touching relationships.

  • King Kong (1930s)
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  • King Kong (1976)
  • King Kong Lives
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  • City of Ember

    City of Ember This is set in a city that has not seen the light of day in 200 years. It is peopled by pasty-faced folks like McKenzie Crook ( Pirates of the Caribbean ). African-American actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste is the token non-Caucasian! The infrastructure is failing, there is no manufacturing base to build spare parts, and food supplies are running out. It will not come as too much of a shock for people to learn that it was shot entirely in Belfast!

    Lina Mayfleet ( Saorse Ronan ) and Doon are the teenage protagonists, who discover that there may be an emergency exit from the dying city. The Mayor (Bill Murray - Ghostbusters ) does not want anything to upset his grasp on power, so he tries to stop them. Tim Robbins pops up briefly as Doon's dad.

    Naturally there are a few plot holes, and it does feel as if bits have been left out (it is based on a book) ... but this is a good old-fashioned adventure. If you liked The Goonies , you should like this.

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  • National Treasure: Book of Secrets

    National Treasure: Book of Secrets After re-fighting the American revolution in the first film, Ben Frank Gates (Nic Cage - Face/Off ) re-fights the American Civil War with creepy Southerner Ed Harris ( The Abyss ). The result is a cross between Da Vinci Code and a novel by Clive Cussler . It is dumbed-down and childish to an astonishing degree. Not only can they break into Buckingham Palace and the White House with astonishing ease, they can even have a gunfight and car chase in the centre of London (in broad daylight) without the police objecting! It also glosses over the negative side of American history - slavery, Reconstruction and Manifest Destiny.

    BFG's sidekick has become a published author, with a book of conspiracy theories. He is in trouble with the IRS, the tax-gathering arm of the US Federal government - the true legacy of Abe Lincoln!

    The treasure pre-dates the arrival of Christopher Columbus, so the treasure-hunters have to call on the services of a translator. By strange coincidence, BFG's mother ( Helen Mirren ) is an expert in pre-Colombian languages.

  • National Treasure
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  • Indiana Jones Franchise

    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom The story starts in Shanghai, where Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford - Star Wars ) gets into a James Bond style face-off with some Chinese gangsters. He gets out of it with a big-breasted blonde bimbo ( Kate Capshaw , who later married director Steven Spielberg ) and a teenage sidekick.

    However, the presence of a young boy character does not mean this was dumbed down for a childish audience. Things get quite gruesome and gory when they get to India and stumble into the Temple of Doom itself.

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
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  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Indiana Jones is back. Harrison Ford has aged two decades since the last film, so the film's set in the Fifties. The villains are Commie spies, out to steal America's super-weapons. It is enough to induce a Rocketeer flashback ...

    The commies steal a Crystal Skull from the warehouse - it is in Area 51, which is a test site for nuclear weapons. Their leader ( Cate Blanchett ) claims to have psychic powers, and the Crystal skull is from time-travelling aliens from another dimension. IIRC Lucas originally wanted to set the climax of Last Crusade in Atlantis ... but this is ridiculous, even compared to that!

    Back at the University, Indy is hassled by the FBI. His father (Sean Connery) has been written off as dead. Because Denholm Elliot is dead, his character (Marcus Brody) cannot make an appearance either. But as a reference, there is a statue of Marcus in the University grounds. In a typical step too far, this statue actually plays a part in the story.

    The big quest is to find the Lost City of the South American civilisation. Indy gets some help from a group of semi-famous actors. Shia LeBoeuf ( Transformers ) is a Marlon Wild Ones Brando impersonator, Karen Allen pops up for old times sake, and John Hurt ( Alien ) plays a doddery old Professor. Ray Winstone ( Robin of Sherwood ) is an old friend of Indy's, who is a bit of an unpredictable character ...

    There are three big chase scenes in the film. Yet we never get the sense at any time that Indy is in any jeopardy. After Raiders Of The Lost Ark we know Indy is invincible - but in the sequels he had sidekicks who were in jeopardy. This is just cartoonish in comparison.

    The whole Lost City thing was done in National Treasure 2 . The climax was ... just dumb. It fitted in well with the rest of the film, though.

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