Film Friday: ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ & ‘Hellboy II’

by W. Andrew Powell

Journey to the Center of the Earth

A scene from Journey to the Center of the Earth

Join star Brendan Fraser on a 3D Journey to the Center of the Earth, while Guillermo del Toro reinvigorates his kitten-loving hero in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Other new arrivals at movie theatres this week include Eddie Murphy‘s laughable, but odd Meet Dave, and Indie comedy The Wackness.

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Every time Walden Media releases a new film, I die a little inside. Their fantasy films not only suffer from brain-dead plots and storylines, but on top of that, in an age when special effects are nothing less than photo-realistic, Walden Media creates films with creatures and visuals that somehow always look fake. Case in point, The Chronicles of Narnia films and Bridge to Terabithia.

Journey to the Center of the Earth could be the company’s first film where I’m a bit more excited, but that’s based more on the 3D concept and Brendan Fraser than anything else. Fraser stars as Trevor Anderson, a science professor travelling in Iceland with his nephew Sean, played by Josh Hutcherson, and their guide Hannah, played by Anita Briem who take a wrong step inside a cave and drop miles beneath the Earth. What they find is a whole other world, populated by dinosaurs, strange creatures, and a weird landscape, and they have to find a way to escape.

First-time director Eric Brevig, who was formerly a visual effects supervisor for some of Hollywood’s biggest action films, is a good man for this job considering his history with effects-driven films. Journey to the Center of the Earth may technically be an action movie, but then again, as a 3D film, there are a whole other set of expectations for the film to deliver as an experience for the audience.

Critics are urging movie fans to see the film in 3D, calling the regular version a waste of time. In all its 3D glory though, the reviews are very favourable, with John Anderson of Variety saying that the film “probably has the highest screams-per-capita ratio in the history of action-adventure pics, and a better thrill-per-minute deal than most.”

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Where some film companies give me cold sweats, writer and director Guillermo del Toro still gives me hope that filmmaking hasn’t become a lost art. The Oscar-nominated director made his mark with the film Pan’s Labyrinth, but he also wowed me with his highly enjoyable action horror hybrids, Blade II and Hellboy.

Returning to his dream franchise, del Toro delivers Hellboy II: The Golden Army with everything Hellboy followers have come to expect. Ron Perlman returns as Hellboy, the hellish man-child from another dimension who works for an American organization that is protecting the world from evil. Selma Blair also returns as the extremely flammable Liz, plus Doug Jones as Abe, an empathic aquatic man.

After saving the world last time around from the gigantic entity known as Ogdru Jahad, this time Hellboy is fighting an army of creatures that are released after an ancient truce is broken. Hellboy also must choose whether he will continue on, acting as humanity’s protector, or venture out into the unknown that is calling to him.

“With writer-director Guillermo del Toro given free license to go where his singular vision takes him,” Michael Rechtshaffen of the Hollywood Reporter said in his review, “Hellboy II plays like Guillermo’s Greatest Hits with even hotter visual effects.”

Meet Dave
Hey, remember when Eddie Murphy was a talented star, making funny live-action films. Those were the days, but apparently they’re long gone.

Set in New York City, Meet Dave is the farcical story about tiny aliens visiting our planet in a spaceship named Dave… a human-shaped spaceship. Eddie Murphy plays the role of the captain, as well as the ship, with Elizabeth Banks as the ship’s love interest, Gina.

Really, that might be the weirdest description I’ve ever written for a film, but I’m not surprised in the least considering the film was also directed by Brian Robbins, the man responsible for Murphy’s last work of genius: Norbit. Murphy’s career in non-animated films seems to be spiralling down the tubes, and with an estimated $100 million budget, I might have to question if any studio will take a chance on him again after this film inevitably flops.

The Wackness
Opening in a limited number of cinemas this weekend, The Wackness is the offbeat Indie release of the month, which is set to be one of the real underground hits of the summer. Set in 1994, Sir Ben Kingsley and Josh Peck star as unlikely new friends with life-rattling issues that has them scouring the city for girls. Offbeat, funny and moving, the film is getting high regard for its portrayal of the era, and clever dialogue. Claudia Puig of USA Today says it is “both darkly funny and life-affirming, in an offbeat and offhanded way.”

Film Friday is a weekly syndicated column produced by The GATE for print and online and examining the latest new arrivals coming to cinemas, with reviews, or a look at the critical consensus on each movie.

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