ORBzine - Adventure Movies 2008 Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

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 ( Saoirse 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 ( Shawshank Redemption ) 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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  • 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 fire-juggler 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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  • 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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  • Centre Of The Earth Movies

    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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  • Fabulous Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1976)

    Fabulous Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1976) The Professor (Sir Kenneth More - ) picks up a hand-written journal in an antiquarian bookstore. The book is the record of an expedition to the centre of the Earth. He takes along his niece and her fiance.

    The expedition enter the Snaefels volcano in Iceland, and descend down the passages towards the centre of the Earth. They discover they are not alone down there. A foreign explorer, possibly a Russian, is also there.

    This may have been made in 1976, but the special effects are from a much earlier era. Instead of Harryhausen-type stop motion, they use the old-fashioned man-in-a-suit method.

    The story goes full circle. The twist is never fully fleshed out, but it is implied that the Russian they rescued later time-travels back to plant the journal in the bookstore. Just like in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey , a time loop is created.

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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 (Josh Hutcherson - Futureman ) 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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  • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

    Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) As in the original movie, the teenager (Josh Hutcherson - Futureman ) follows the path outlined in the books of Jules Verne. This time, instead of his uncle to help him, it is his stepfather (Dwayne Johnson - The Mummy Returns ). The reason for the re-casting is simple: Fraser was loyal to the original film's director, so when the Producers went with a new director they also picked a new star. The Rock was a natural choice - after all, he is Franchise Viagra. GI Joe and Fast and the Furious franchises are both proof of that.

    The teen and his stepdad travel to the island of Pelau in the Pacific ocean. They try to hire a boat to explore a storm-ridden area, but Branscome Richmond ( Tremors: The Series ) refuses to take the chance. Luckily Luis Guzman ( ) and his daughter Vanessa Hudgens offer them a ride in the family helicopter.

    The adventurers arrive at the mysterious island. The good news is that they meet up with the teen's grandfather (Michael Caine - The Dark Knight Rises ). The bad news is that thanks to the evolutionary effects of island life, small animals have evolved to giant size. For example, the bees are big enough for humans to ride like pegasuses, although the humming birds are big enough to chase and eat them.

    This is a nice good-hearted adventure romp. The characters all have an obvious motivation, and the one who risks everything to go after the gold only does it because of the best of intentions.

  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth 3-D
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  • King Kong Franchise

    King Kong (2005)

    King Kong (2005) This was Peter Jackson 's follow-up to Lord of the Rings . It 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 ( Jumper ), 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)
  • King Kong vs Godzilla
  • King Kong (1976)
  • King Kong Lives
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  • King Kong Lives (1986)

    King Kong Lives (1986) This was John Guillermin 's follow-up to King Kong (1976) . It is a well-made film, and the director was familiar with both the story and the technologies involved in telling it. So what went wrong? Well, a sequel should be released two years after the original - not ten.

    The story starts with the climax of the original film. We see stock footage of Kong falling to his apparent demise. Then we fast forward half a dozen years. Kong is in a coma, but otherwise almost entirely unharmed by his fall. However, he is in desperate need of a heart transplant. Since there are no compatible donors, lady scientist ( Linda Hamilton ) has constructed a massive artificial heart. Now she just needs to install it.

    A white hunter (Brian Kerwin - ) stumbles across another giant ape somewhere in South America. He sells the ape to the University that owns Kong, and somehow the blood is an exact match. This is in spite of the creatures coming from different continents. The lady scientist is the only one who thinks it is risky, because the new ape is a female.

    Kong makes a full recovery. However, the female ape must be in heat because he can sense her when she is literally a mile away. Naturally, he busts out of confinement and pays her a visit. He carries her off in his arms, like a groom carrying a bride over the threshold, and takes her to a place called honeymooners' ridge.

    The lady scientist and the great white hunter follow the apes, and since romance is in the air the humans hook up too. This is actually the most unrealistic part of the whole movie; the automatic hook-up between the male and female leads who really do not have much in common.

    The US Military sends in Colonel Nevin (John Ashton - Beverly Hills Cop). Naturally, he goes full Ahab and becomes obsessed with killing Kong. What would the sympathetic monster's story be without a villainous human antagonist? As a side note, Linda Hamilton's career peaked with The Terminator (1984) and this failed as her follow-up movie. In a strange coincidence, the film's biggest break-out star is the villain who went on to be a comedy sidekick in an Eddie Murphy series.

    Kong disappears into the wilderness. This film was shot on location in Tennessee and North Carolina, so that must be where he is supposed to have hidden out. Luckily the uninhabited swamps of Dixie-land contain many alligators, so an enormous ape can eat all the protein he needs. Eventually he gets spotted, and hunted by rednecks led by Leon Rippy ( Alcatraz ).

    Kong's female is held in a disused nuclear missile silo. He comes looking to save her, but he has to get past the US Army first. This leads up to an impressive climax.

  • King Kong (1930s)
  • King Kong vs Godzilla
  • King Kong (1976)
  • Kong: Skull Island
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  • The Mummy Franchise

    Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior

    Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior This is a made-for-DVD prequel starring a bunch of unknowns. The protagonist escapes from Egypt, and seeks revenge for the death of his family. To get a magic weapon he must enter the labyrinth and defeat the minotaur.

  • The Mummy
  • The Mummy Returns
  • Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
  • The Scorpion King
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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 - Spartacus: Blood And Sand ) owns a nightclub there, and her son by Rick is now a twenty-something archaeologist excavating the Dragon Emperor's tomb!

    Luckily for the plot, at least two of these coincidences are explained by the fact that the ChiComs are plotting to revive the Emperor. And once he is 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 has not been seen since the Star Wars prequels, but in this film it actually looks good!

  • The Mummy
  • The Mummy Returns
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