Saturday, 12 July 2008

Journey To The Center Of The Earth 3D Review

Following in the footsteps of "Beowulf 3D" comes "Journey...", a family caper presented in Digital Real D, the first live action movie to be presented in the format. Starring Brendan Fraser as almost exactly the same character he played in The Mummy films (shabby, likable loser, quick to quip, made to mug) the film follows a relatively simple plot - cousin and uncle go on adventure, following clues and ideas from their long lost father/brother's ideas about Jules Verne's 1864 novel "A Journey to the Center of the Earth". It soon becomes apparent that perhaps Verne's book may be rooted in fact. With it's ideas about family values and balancing of humour, action and fantasy, it's a standard family adventure which is likely to enthrall those under 12, and nicely entertain those older teens and adults who will inevitably be dragged along.

First off, let's make something clear - there's no point in seeing this in 2D. That would be like watching Transformers on a tiny, tiny screen, or listening to metal with the sound turn way down - this film was MADE to be 3D. Also, there isn't really anything special at all about the film except for the 3D effects, and I feel that in 2D it would be, not exactly boring, but flat. In short, the 3D was incredible. Whilst regular films are a picture of what's going on, in 3D it's more like a window into the film, giving everything depth - however, thing's can also come out of that window. From the start, the audience is poked in the eye with the antennae of a bug, has toothpaste spat into their faces, and a yo-yo thrust into their faces. It's all brilliantly entertaining, leading to many instances when I found myself grinning from ear to ear in the most mundane of situations. It's these shots which would definitely feel out of place in the normal showings, and simultaneously make the 3D special. Also, whilst these "made for 3D" shots were great, they were not the moments that impressed me most. I found instead that the special format worked best for landscapes - a simple aerial shot of a mountain range was truly breathtaking, the crystal clarity of the special Real D glasses elevating the view from something relatively ordinary into something worthy of a genuine gasp. Similarly many of the views in the caves are great, the occasional stalagmite to the face receiving "oohs" from the audience.

The film itself is nothing special at all, really. Played out like King Kong for kids (erm... without the giant gorilla...), the magical land at the center of the Earth resembles a less threatening version of Skull Island, with razor-toothed fish, deadly plants and the odd T-Rex ambling about. And it's not just the setting that the film steals from other (better) films - a mine cart rollercoaster sequence? Temple of Doom. T-Rex running around? Jurassic Park. The estranged relationship between family members? War of the Worlds. Oh - and all of those happen to be Spielberg films. And this film is very much Spielberg-lite; perfect for those who aren't too fussy about what adventure they want to see, and are just bothered about being entertained. So, whilst the scenes aren't as good as they are in their "original" forms, they are still highly entertaining, especially in 3D. There are also a few moments of comedy (though a couple towards the end were unintentional), some visual jokes working brilliantly, contributing well to the film's family adventure feel.

Whilst there's nothing particularly wrong with the film, there always feels like there's something missing, scenes that should be totally thrilling merely making me sit back and enjoy. This could be due to the fact that I felt that I had seen it all before, though I'm sure that anyone under the age of 12 would think it's the best film ever. In conclusion, it's a diverting film merged to some amazing 3D effects, that will enthrall younger viewers and entertain any older teens and adults. If you've never seen anything in 3D before, it's definitely worth going - and don't expect any rubbishy green and red glasses. Here in the 21st century, 3D is almost a perfected art...

Entertainment Value: 3.5/5
Genre Value: 3/5
Style: 4/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles Review

A new entry in the "DVD" category is kid's fantasy/action/horror "The Spiderwick Chronicles". When a single-parent family moves into a dead relative's house in the woods, the children find a book with a big warning on it saying "DO NOT OPEN". Before you can say abracadabra, goblins, trolls and other beasties are fighting their way into the house to capture the book, due to the many secrets and information contained within it...

This is a surprisingly good addition to the genre, which is quickly becoming tired with lacklustre efforts such as Eragon and the like. Better than Narnia without reaching the magic of the Potters, it's perfect for those over-eight's looking for a new fantasy series based on children's books. More enjoyable than Narnia, its homely feel (the kids rarely leave the house) is more intimate than the isolating scale of other genre entries, and whilst the CGI is not terrible, the occasionally dodgy creatures have a ropey charm.

Comparable to Jumanji, the story offers more scares than Potter and Narnia, the story turning into a home-invasion horror for kids. Intense scenes may prove too much for younger kids to handle, and the big baddie is pretty scary. Most of the acting is pretty good too, especially Freddie Highmore in a dual role as identical twins Jared and Simon. Seth Rogen competently voices his character, who offers most of the film's
comic relief as the children's snouted, goblin-y sidekick Hogsqueal.

So, for those with slightly older kids and an hour and a half to spare (a decent running time - the film feels no need to have a bloated length), this is a good way to entertain all of the family. Whilst it may not have the sparkle and magic of Potter, it has an exciting narrative that'll be sure to entertain those of all ages.

Entertainment Value: 3.5/5
Genre Value: 4/5
Style: 2/5
Overall Rating: 3/5