July 11, 2008, - 3:59 pm

Weekend Box Office: Okay “Center of Earth,” Ho-Hum “Dave,” FANTASTIC “Roman De Gare”; UPDATE: “Hellboy II” Review Added

By Debbie Schlussel
This week doesn’t bring a lot of exciting fare, but it does bring a couple of good movies to take your kids to see. Because of a screening conflict, I did not review “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” but will try to see and review it before sundown (and will post here if I do). By far, the best new offering is “Roman De Gare,” one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in a long time.
* “Hellboy II: The Golden Army“: I’m not a huge fan of Hellboy–either the first movie or the comic books. It’s just not my kinda superhero. I find Hellboy dull and the guy who plays him–Ron Perlman–even more so. He’s just not interesting or cool. Simply boring. Ditto on all of that for his girlfriend, the firestarter played by Selma Blair, who is just not a good actress.

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(For the record, I went to Hillel Day School–a swanky private Jewish Conservative day school in the Detroit area (I was the poorest kid in the school)–with her and her sister. She is now such a self-hater that she denies she was ever Jewish, and according to Jewish law, she may not have been. Her real name is Selma Beitner (Blair is her middle name).)
I didn’t think this sequel was bad. It was just the same as the original: just okay, and kind of dull. Not much to write home about. In this installment, Hellboy and his fellow cast of friendly monsters must stop an evil Prince from a non-human race from re-awakening the Golden Army into battle against earth’s humans. Ho-hum. Not exciting, or even suspenseful, and it’s like you really don’t care much what happens. And you know a superhero movie is weak when two of the superheroes sing Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” at length. Pure filler, and not very funny. Just cutesy and corny.
I also noted that, while a number of the monsters were interesting, a lot of them looked similar to the unusual monsters with eyes on their hands and wings that I saw in “Pan’s Labyrinth.” And that’s no surprise, given that Guillermo Del Toro directed that and this.
There was at least one joke, about the F-word, that I was surprised they put in this movie aimed at kids. I also thought the movie was pretty violent and bloody for a kids movie. At almost two hours, though, this slow-moving movie might either make them restless or–as it did with me–put ‘em to sleep.
ONE-AND-A-HALF-REAGANS
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* “Journey to the Center of the Earth“: This movie, based on the Jules Verne sci-fi novel of the same name, is remade almost every decade. In my view, none of them topped the charming, if hokey, original 1959 version, starring James Mason and Pat Boone. And this one is no exception to that view.
That said, this Brendan Fraser remake is a not-bad update though it’s very dumbed down. It does, however, have a few very cool tricks because it’s 3-D (though I’ve seen better 3D, as in “Beowulf“). Characters twice spot in what seems your face because of the 3D, and we see a tape measure sprung in our eye, among other cool 3-D tricks.
It’s not nearly as exciting, scary, or cliff-hanger-esque as the 1959 version, but it’ll do. The story is basically the same–a professor travels to Iceland to explore the inside of mountains and volcanoes and finds amidst the earth’s center, a whole panoply of wonders–dinosaurs and other giant beings, jewel-impacted walls and caverns, giant plants and mushrooms, and a number of other cool, unusual life. And as in the original, the professor tries to escape and come back to earth.
If your child is interest in science, this is a great movie. But if your child is not interested in science, perhaps this will trigger that interest. Recommended, though kinda cheesy and sappy for my taste.
TWO-AND-A-HALF-REAGANS
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* “Meet Dave“: This latest Eddie Murphy vehicle is being heavily marketed to urban audiences. The movie isn’t inane or terrible. It’s just okay–very dull, ho hum, with bathroom humor mixed in to entertain the less sophisticated kiddies.
A group of advanced aliens–who like like tiny humans–populate a space ship that looks like Eddie Murphy, who is also the ship’s captain. They’ve come to earth because their planet will die in less than a generation, and they have a rock-like sphere that will magically suck the salt out of the oceans and re-energize their planet. But earth will die in the process, which doesn’t bother them because they see us as despicable, lower life forms.
But the sphere has disappeared, and while they are searching for it, they meet Gina and her son, and eventually come to like them. In the meantime, two cops are on the trail of the alien.
If the story doesn’t sound too exciting, that’s ‘cuz it isn’t. It’s not very funny, and the juvenile bathroom humor and stupid gay jokes don’t make it more so. “Coming to America” it ain’t. And why Murphy, alone among the aliens, has a bad foreign accent is not explained. The rest of the aliens look and sound like Americans.
Not objectionable, just not great or worth ten bucks. It’s fine to take your kids to see, though. It’s just that “Journey to the Center of the Earth” is a far better choice.
ONE-AND-A-HALF-REAGANS
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* “Roman De Gare“: I hate subtitles as much as the next guy. (In this case, I didn’t really need them because I understand most French.) But don’t let the subtitles and the work you have to do reading them quickly, dissuade you from seeing this. Roman De Gare” is one of the best thrillers I’ve seen, as much as I hate to recommend anything French. The movie is mostly at arthouse theaters.
It’s hard to explain the plot much without giving it away, but it’s a very clever set of twists and turns you can’t predict and which keep you guessing (though I thought the ending was a slight robbery). A woman is dumped by her fiance at a gas station, when he drives off in her car. She’s stranded there all night, when she finally decides to accept a ride from a strange looking stranger. At the same time, a serial killer of women is on the loose, a woman’s husband is missing, and a famed mystery writer employs a ghostwriter. Which is the strange looking man? Is he more than one of those, or is he none of them at all? I can’t say more, or it will ruin the movie.
So fun and enjoyable, you want it to keep on going after it ends and you forget you’re reading subtitles. A terrific mystery. Definitely see it, if you like a good thriller. But not for kids because of suggestive situations and four-letter words.
FOUR REAGANS
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6 Responses

Foreign movies are just better made than American remakes of them. There was a particularly chilling thriller I saw in the last decade “Spoorloos,” a Dutch film by George Sluizer. It was based on the novel, “The Golden Egg” by Tim Krabbe. Basically, the plot revolves around a man’s trying to learn what happened to his girlfriend and he learns her fate through his own death. The ending is really quite shocking and it haunted me afterwards. It was produced in Dutch and French so following the subtitles was well worth the effort. I was really hooked from the first reel to the final scene. The American version, “The Vanishing,” is eminently forgettable. There are cultural circumstances that just don’t lend themselves to translation. Its better to let some things be as they are.

NormanF on July 11, 2008 at 6:28 pm

As a child I read many Jules Verne books. I read Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20’000 leagues when I was probably 8 or 9. It amazes me how so poorly read Americans are.

PrincessKaren on July 11, 2008 at 11:55 pm

At least President Husein will have you give up english and start you speaking Spanish…. if you ever study guerilla tacticts.. first you must divide the enemy…. if you get amerika split on language speak Spanish rather than english.. that is a start.. divide the people on language… Huessein is smart

PrincessKaren on July 12, 2008 at 2:07 am

I think Selma Blair did a very good job in Legally Blond, although she did mess up one key line.

c f on July 12, 2008 at 9:26 am

Was Selma Blair’s mother not Jewish? I thought Conservative schools required the mother to be Jewish.
I’ve not seen Blair deny being Jewish in any interview.

murphol on July 12, 2008 at 5:36 pm

I saw the original “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” when it first came out. It was a big hit then, primarily for its Iguana “dinosaurs.” As for suspension of disbelief, too bad Jules Verne didn’t know of the Earth’s molten core; he put lake whirlpool in the center. Hey: go with what you know in the 19th century.

supercargo on July 12, 2008 at 10:35 pm

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