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Spiderwick's Problems Don't Outweigh the Fun

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

Over the past decade, the big wigs in Hollywood have decided to make a multifarious amount of family-oriented fantasy films. However, despite the legion of films released within this new genre, most of them revel in mediocrity. For every "Chronicles of Narnia," and " Lemony Snicket" out there, there are dozens more that can’t cut the cinematic mustard.

Let’s just say that "The Spiderwick Chronicles," directed by Mark Waters ["Mean Girls," "Freaky Friday"] isn’t the type of film that is comparable to the upper-echelon films of the genre, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an enjoyable 97-minute experience for some people.

Starring Freddie Highmore ["Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, "The Golden Compass] in a double-role as twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, "The Spiderwick Chronicles," has plenty of things going for it, like a colorful cast of characters and solid special effects, they just aren’t in a large enough quantity to make you want to jump for joy.

For instance, the magical land the no one else can see in the film is an extremely colorful one. The whole idea [which is based on the book written by Holly Black] is an excellent one as well, but it’s not developed as much as a great film should be.

There simply isn’t enough interaction between the rest of the world and the evil forces to make the movie-goer think that the threat being fought against is a serious one. You never get the feeling that the world really depends on the actions of Jared, Simon and their older sister, Mallory, played by Sarah Bolger ["Premonition," "Tara Road"]. Instead, you can’t fight the feeling that everything is going to end up okay. Not exactly the right frame of mind to be in when watching a fantasy film.

The performance of Nick Nolte ["Hulk," "Hotel Rwanda"] as the voice of the main baddy, Mulgarath, doesn’t do much to amplify the strong points of the film either. For a mystical being that is supposed to be leading a global coupe-de-tat, Mulgarath isn’t too intimidating. While his role in the film isn’t as important as Highmore’s or Bolger’s, having an impressive villain could have been the thing that got this film over the proverbial two-star hump it got itself in.

Unfortunately, the entire plot and story arc have similar problems as well. The film concludes with all the ends being tied up in a pretty little bow and doesn’t really leave anything for the imagination. Considering the fact that the whole object of a film such as this is to extend disbelief, always knowing that everything is going to be all right isn’t a good one.

However, despite its lack of depth and story polish, "The Spiderwick Chronicles" has enough charming, witty and endearing parts in it that young children will beg to see it again and again. Adults however, will be satisfied with one viewing and will be left pondering what could have been, rather than accepting the film for what it really is: average, with promise.

Austen’s Tale Retold, Sort Of

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

For all of you Jane Austen fans out there looking for the one movie to quench your need to find out everything you ever wanted to know about the amazing female author, it’s not going to be found in “Becoming Jane.” While you will have a good time sitting through the film, the feeling that it could have been something much more special is hard to avoid.

 

A more fictitious attempt to fill in the blanks of a woman’s life that has reveled in the unknown for quite sometime, writers Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams, both of whom made their big-screen writing debuts with this film, decided to take the film on a surreptitious journey through Austen’s writing career that eventually wound up focusing more on her desire to fall in love than anything else.

 

Making a huge social commentary on the rudimentary laws of inheritance in the 19th century, which forced young women to marry rich men to financially help their ailing families, Austen, played by Anne Hathaway [Devil Wears Prada, Princess Diaries] looks to find a man that will both satisfy her need for emotional and physical sustenance while helping her mother and father, played by James Crowell [Babe, The Green Mile] and Julie Walters [Harry Potter, Calendar Girls] pay the bills.

 

However, in her attempt to do so, she falls in love with the charismatic and charming Tom Lefroy, played by James McAvoy [Chronicles of Narnia, Wimbledon], who indoctrinates her in the euphoric intoxication of love, with both of them breaking each others hearts numerous times in the process, all while traveling through some of the most gorgeous scenery in the United Kingdom. While a bit drawn out and tediously paced at times, this process however is where we see the meat of the action in “Becoming Jane” and is where we see the blooming of a beautiful on-screen chemistry between  Hathaway and McAvoy that more than makes up for the ups and downs in the plot that may agitate some movie-goers.

 

However, the biggest problem in the film by far is its predictability. Everyone knows Austen dies alone at the age of 41 and having her come so close to love on so many different occasions with this one man that seems to have been made especially for her literally expends rational belief and patience. Trying perhaps to explain how an unmarried woman could write so passionately about love, “Becoming Jane,” does do a more than venerable job of fictitiously filling in the blanks of the great author’s life and putting her career in content, but falls flat on its Victorian face when trying to put everything together into something that is completely enjoyable.

 

Never feeling as natural as the solid performances of Hathaway, McAvoy, Cromwell and Walters, “Becoming Jane” forces the viewer to suspend their belief in a setting that is realistic and vivid as can be, proving that great on-screen chemistry and beautiful cinematography can never make up for a mediocre script.

Fans of Carrey Will Find a Sleeper-Hit in ‘The Number 23’

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

At first glance, Joel Schumacher’s “The Number 23” seems like a bland hybrid of successful movie genres, combining conspiracy theory elements from films such as “Seven” and  “Saw,” while incorporating quick camera shots and flashback elements made famous in “Pulp Fiction” and “Fight Club.”

 

However, after watching the film, it’s obvious that while “The Number 23” seems to be inspired from the success of other films in its genre, the way it achieves its success makes it completely original and equally as entertaining.

 

Known for years as a comedic actor, Jim Carrey [The Majestic, Batman Forever] has proven time and time again that he can do a lot more than make people laugh. In “The Number 23,” Carrey plays the protagonist, Walter Sparrow and does an amazing job of portraying a normal every day Joe, to only find out his world is nothing like it seems.

 

Helping create that notion of disbelief are both Virginia Madsen [Sideways, Dune] and Danny Houston [The Aviator, Marie Antoinette] who manage to give the film the brevity and wit that it needs to stand on its own. Madsen plays the concerned wife, Agatha, who stands by her husband during his horrific self-discovery and Houston is the suspiciously-concerned friend. Together with the stellar performance by Carrey, “The Number 23” has the talent on-screen to survive and entertain, but like most films Joel Schumacher directs, that doesn’t necessarily mean the movie has the luster and polish to be enjoyed by the masses.

 

Fortunately for Schumacher, this doesn’t happen because the plot of “The Number 23” is well thought out, witty and is soaked with charisma. Seeing Carrey transform into an obsessed lunatic because of a book, to only see his whole world change because of it is an amazing experience that any fan of thrillers like “Seven” will surely enjoy.

 

Throughout the film, while Carrey is obsessing over this number and what its purpose is in his life, the viewer will see that the number appears everywhere, in license plates on the cars passing by, on the clothes worn by extras, even on billboard signs, giving this huge conspiracy theory the biggest focus of the film.

 

The successful way that Schumacher and cinematographer Matthew Libatique [Gothika, Inside Man] manage to incorporate the theory in every facet of the film make the story an entertaining one and one of the biggest reasons for its overall success.

 

However, by the end of the film, one thing becomes apparent; this role was tailor made for Carrey. Utilizing his humor early in the film on a toned-down scale makes him a believable character and makes his plummet much more shocking and entertaining. Fans of his work may be a bit apprehensive to watch the film because they see Schumacher’s name in the directors credits, but have no fear, even Joel Schumacher can surprise us once in a while.

Ghost Rider Stumbles and Stalls Down Big-Screen Highway

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

Corny, lame and uninteresting; definitely not the words one would associate with Marvel comics character the Ghost Rider. However, Mark Steven Johnson’s big-screen adaptation of the Spirit of Vengeance is an absolute joke, void of the darkness, charisma and intelligent storylines that made the series a cult classic. Not even the heaving bosoms of the luscious Eva Mendez can save the viewer from the debauchery this film will induce upon them. Much like the rider’s penance stare, once you watch this film, you will never be the same again.

The biggest problem with Ghost Rider is that the story is extremely loose, practically void of a back story worth following or understanding for that matter. Rather than feeling like everything is happening for a reason in the film, you get the feeling that Johnson [Electra, Daredevil] sat down with Uwe Boll [director of atrocities like Blood Rayne and Alone in the Dark] and wrote a script under the influence of some kind of narcotic. That in all honesty is the only way a film can turn out this horribly.

 

Having Peter Fonda play the devil is another.

 

If that wasn’t enough, Nicolas Cage’s performance as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider is laughable at best. Fans of the comic who were expecting a badass biker like Johnny Blaze or even a young rebel like Dan Ketch [the second Ghost Rider in the comic book series] will be sadly disappointed when they see Cage [World Trade Center, Leaving Las Vegas] eating jelly beans, listening to the Carpenters and talking like Elvis.

 

In this day and age, it’s expected that directors and producers take creative liberties and change the title character to depict the type of movie they want to make. However, the changes made in this film make the character far less attractive, demonic and edgy, a far cry from the types of changes made to characters in other recent super-hero films such as Spiderman and the Punisher, where they were mainly superficial and the aura of the character was maintained.

 

However, despite the creative atrocities committed in this film, there is one amazing thing present and that is Eva Mendez. While her acting is a far cry from stellar in this film, she looks absolutely amazing and nails the buxom, super-hero love interest look to a T. That obviously has something to do with the fact that she’s wearing skin tight shirts and brassieres throughout the entire film, but there’s something else going on here as well.

 

Her radiant looks aside, she provides this sub-par film with some of the only witty dialogue in the film, saying things such as, “Do you think I’m pretty?” If one was forced to answer such a question, their answer would undoubtedly be yes; however, if this film looked like anything, it would be an obese dog with no personality, thus ruining the glowing effect Mendez has on the camera.

 

Bottom line, stay away from this film and anything that is associated with it, except for Mendez. Anything this bad must be contagious and could ruin someone’s life [or Johnson’s career]. As far as Mendez is concerned however, it’s a risk worth taking.

Eragon Provides Ample Thrills in Solid Fantasy Adventure

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

Considering the success films like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings have had over the past ten years, any Hollywood director would be out of their minds if they didn’t snatch up every screenplay based on any successful fantasy novel they could. With that being said, it was only a matter of time until Christopher Paolini’s Eragon was translated to the big screen. The only question was how well it would be adapted to the big screen.
 
Thankfully for fans of the novels, Eragon, while not being in the same league as the Harry Potter Series or Lord of the Rings, it’s a competent and enjoyable fantasy adventure that may remind many of the sleeper hit, Dragonheart.
 
Directed by Stefen Fangmeier [Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dream Catcher] Eragon combines an endearing story with a cast of vibrant young actors such as Ed Speleers [who makes his big screen debut in Eragon] and Sienna Guillory [Resident Evil Apocalypse, Helen of Troy] with talented veteran names like Jeremy Irons [Dungeons & Dragons, Kingdom of Heaven] and Djimon Hounsou [Gladiator, Blood Diamond] that light up the screen and create enough atmosphere to make up for some noticeable holes in the story.
 
Speaking of which, the script fails to provide enough background information for the movie-goer to get a firm grasp of the characters involved and really never takes the time to explain anything in great lengths [something that The Lord of the Rings did almost perfectly]. However, the performances of Irons and Guillory go to great lengths to provide drama and importance to a story that unfolds almost too quickly. At times, it almost feels like the characters have been thrust into situations and battles that haven’t been explained enough, making the viewer wonder why the battle is so important in the first place.
 
Despite this, the film’s star, Speleers and his dragon, Saphira, voiced by Rachel Weis [Constantine, The Mummy] form a charismatic and entertaining bond that manages to make up for some of the loose ends in the film and in the process make it an enjoyable fantasy adventure for all ages. Younger viewers will find themselves wanting to own their very own pet dragon, while older viewers will wonder how Irons managed to make himself into such an impressive hero after years of roles as the villain with the equally villainous voice, making it equally as memorable as it is satisfying.
 
It may not have the production values of some of the epic fantasy films that have appeared in theaters over the past decade, but if given a chance, Eragon can prove to be an entertaining film for both fans of the novel and newcomers alike.

Babel’s Rich Story Wins Over Audience

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

Usually, when one decides to venture to a movie theater, they tend to either look to attain a cheap laugh or to be scared out of their pants. It seems the art of great storytelling has been lost from the imaginations of modern movie makers in an attempt to cash in comic book inspired or animated movies that always pull in huge audiences.

 

However, there is one film this holiday season that manages to tell a phenomenal story and doesn’t feature any animated penguins or English double agents. “Babel,” directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, shares the story of a few families interlocked in one unbelievable tragedy, pulling no punches in telling this remarkably touching and deep tale of circumstance.

 

The single element that is responsible for Babel’s depth and richness are the many twists and turns that envelop the plot development of this film [Those familiar with films like Crash and Pulp-Fiction will feel right at home because of this]. As a matter of fact, sometimes it feels that “Babel” could have been four separate films, due to the amount of brevity, intrigue and drama each lend to the entire plot as a whole.

 

Also helping the plot development are solid performances by Hollywood big-wigs Brad Pitt [Seven, Fight Club] and Cate Blanchett [Lord of the Rings, The Aviator] who play a troubled American married couple on vacation in Morocco that are brought to the brink of disaster to only find themselves more in love with each other than ever before.

 

Despite the performances of Pitt and Blanchett however, Rinko Kikuchi steals the hearts of the audience as the young Chieko, a deaf/mute Japanese teenager trying to find herself in a world that can’t accept her for who she is. This ability to have such a diverse cast in various locations all over the world also lends to the film’s quality and in the process, gives every viewer watching something they can relate to and are interested in.

 

Simply put, films like this don’t come around often and because of that, “Babel” is easily one of the best films this year. The acting is great and the plot is so strong and heartfelt that many may find themselves going to the theater to see it again. Those looking for a great movie that will have them talking at the water cooler the next day need to look no further; Babel will make you think more than any other film this year and will make you wonder why more movies aren’t made the same way.

Happy Feet’s Charm Doesn’t Solve the Problem of Shallow Story

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

Extremely cute, yet eventually forgettable; those will be your initial feelings after watching “Happy Feet,” the newest animated film from Warner Bros. that features A-list voices with a D- story.

 

While there are plenty of giggles to be had during the course of the film, most of them will be had by the younger audience attending, leaving the older viewers with a mixture of slight smiles and sighs of disappointment by the film’s end.

 

Despite that disappointment however, one would have to have a pretty cold heart to say that the world of Happy Feet isn’t an adorable one. The closest thing it could be compared to in real life would have to be either finding a puppy under your Christmas tree or even better, finding two. Yes, it’s that cute. Regardless of its aesthetic appeal however, the movie is lacking something to tie it all together, most obvious, a deep and engaging story.

 

It’s not that Happy Feet is a bad film, because it’s not. From start to finish, the film is sprinkled with charm, charisma and wit; however, there just isn’t enough to keep adult audiences watching. For instance, while Elijah Wood [Lord of the Rings, Sin City] puts in a solid performance as the voice of the main character, Mumbles, Robin Williams [Dead Poets Society, Robots] steals the show as Ramon, Lovelace and Cletus, but isn’t around enough to keep the laughs coming on a consistent basis.

 

Instead, the movie flops around, concerned with following Mumbles on his boring journey and achieving the ever so important “happy ending” [making it feel generic by the end], and fails to focus on the relationships between these gorgeous little penguins that are witty, charismatic and cool; all at the same time.

 

Much like Everyone’s Hero and Over the Hedge, Happy Feet is a prime example of Hollywood spending too much time getting A-list talent and not enough on writing a story that everyone can enjoy. The kids will love it, simply because of the lush environment and likeable characters featured throughout, but adults and teenagers will leave disappointed and go home looking for an old copy of Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc to get their animation fix.

Grudge II, a Mediocre Fright-Fest at Best

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

When one usually thinks of The Grudge II’s executive producer, Sam Raimi, they either think of the nonstop action of the recent Spiderman films he produced, or the scary, yet witty storylines of the Evil Dead films. Unfortunately for movie-goers, The Grudge II has neither.

 

The movie is so bad that Sam Raimi may want to take this film off his resume.

 

Taking place after the end of the first film, The Grudge II does succeed in the sense that it uncovers some very interesting back story. However, the acting of Amber Tamblyn [The Ring, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants] and Edison Chen is rather flat and equally as boring, provoking nothing but yawns and sighs of frustration.

 

The supporting cast isn’t nearly as bad, powered by Jennifer Beals [Flashdance], who still looks amazing nearly 25 years after her first movie appearance and former Soap Opera star Christopher Cousins. However, it isn’t long until the storyline ruins their solid performances as well, leaving one to think what the director of this film, Takashi Shimizu was thinking.

 

Considering the horrid starring performances, one would obviously expect the storyline to suffer as well and it does. Many fans of the first film will enjoy the fact that they now understand the story a little better, but will be looking for something much more potent as far as the structure of the film is concerned and will be horrendously disappointed my the film’s end, feeling so emotionally exhausted by the verboseness of it all that they wish the ghost would kill them instead of everyone else.

 

However, the biggest ingredient in the flopping of this sequel isn’t the haphazard starring performances or the spotty storyline that constantly jumps from one place to another [not allowing the viewer to get a grasp of what’s going on], it’s the fact that the movie is not scary at all.

 

The first film had its fair share of frightful moments, but Grudge II is completely void of them and in the end, that’s what hurts the film the most. Fans of the first film will enjoy the attention paid to the origins of the story, but will nevertheless be frustrated and appalled at the quality of this film, wishing they never paid to see it at all.

Saw III Slices and Dices Its Way to the Top

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, deprived from human contact the past three years, you know that the Saw series is without a doubt the hottest horror movie franchise in Hollywood today. Combining thriller and horror movie elements with gruesome depictions of blood and pain, Saw is one of the few horror films left that can scare its viewers and have them clenching their stomachs in disgust at the same time.

 

Considering this, Saw III continues to give viewers what they want, while shedding light on some back story that was never mentioned in the previous films, thus making Saw III a solid addition to the franchise and a film that can stand firmly on its own two feet.

 

Known for playing “games” with people that don’t appreciate their lives, Jigsaw, played by Tobin Bell [Saw, Saw II] must not only find a way to save his own life, but must try and continue his legacy by teaching Amanda, played by Shawnee Smith [Party Crashers, The Island], the ways of pain and torture that have taken control of his life.

 

However, Amanda is a far cry away from her mentor Jigsaw and feels that murder is a better way of handling her victims than pain and torture. This creates a much darker and gruesome aura around Saw III when comparing it to the previous films in the series and gives it some stand-alone versatility in the process.

 

Speaking of versatility in the film, the performances of supporting actors Angus Macfadyen [Braveheart] and Bahar Soomekh [Crash] add a flavor and depth to the film that hasn’t been seen since Cary Elwes and Ken Leung’s performances in the first installment of the film. This ability to take advantage of the sudden twists and turns the series is known for, while maintaining a constant level of good actors on screen, gives Saw III a bit more of an edge when it’s compared to it predecessors.

 

In the end, there’s more blood and guts in this film than a vampire could throw a hat at, while the on-screen talent adds to the terrifying and thrilling plot, making Saw III a worthy edition to the series that fans of the previous films will surely enjoy.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Is Back, This Time In 3-D

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

Originally released in 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas quickly became a cult-classic, setting a standard in stop-motion animation and producing legions of devoted fans in the process, with many of them born after the movies release that memorized every line and song in the film and prayed for the day when they could se the film on the big screen.  

 

Now, some thirteen years later, Tim Burton’s crowning achievement is back in theaters, this time in 3-D, making it a must-see for any loyal fan and despite a few noticeable changes, is a great way for anyone else to be introduced to the film.

 

Fans of the film that have seen it numerous times will be the first to tell you that this is a much prettier, vibrant and livelier version of the original picture. The original film’s palette of color consisted mainly of black, black and more black, with very few instances of color, except for Christmas town and the lair of the evil Oogie Boogie.

 

This time around however, the film has been engulfed with color in every place they could add it without drastically changing the tone of the picture; everywhere from Jack Skellington’s teeth, which have turned a slight yellow from the perfect whites he sported in the original, to the clothes of all the monsters, which have been brightened up as well. While ardent fans may consider this a detriment to the film, believing that nothing should have been changed, the brighter colors help each character stand out more in 3-D, making the picture a true work of three dimensions, rather than a quick project that is void of any original creativity.

 

In addition to the look of the film being slightly changed to maximize its quality in 3-D, the score and sound of the picture has also been optimized, making everything, including all the great music, sound clearer and sharper, giving life to the smaller characters in the film, thus helping make an already great movie almost a work of art that stood the test of time.

 

With this changes implemented in this version of the film, The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D is a must-see for anyone that has always wished to take off their head and recite Shakespearian quotation or those as well that have always felt the need to scream at the fury of such recitations. However, those who have never seen the movie before will also enjoy it immensely due to its great story and unrivaled charm.

Norton Weaves Magic in the Illusionist

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

Combining fantastic performances from Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell and Paul Giamatti, with an entertaining story, the Illusionist is a tour-de-force that will keep movie-goers on the edge of their seats until the very end.

 

Taking place in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century, Norton [Red Dragon, Fight Club] plays a young magician named Eisenheim, who comes back to the city to reclaim his lost love, Sophie, played by Jessica Biel [Blade Trinity]. Unfortunately for the two however, there are a few obstacles in the way of their love, including the Prince of Vienna, played by Rufus Sewell [Helen of Troy, A Night’s Tale] and the Chief Police Inspector played by Paul Giamatti [Private Parts, Sideways] that will do anything to keep them apart.

 

On paper, having Norton and Biel involved in a love affair doesn’t sound too enthralling, but the shrewdness of Sewell, who Biel’s character is also involved with, makes it possible for Norton and Biel to pass off as a compatible pair. Paul Giamatti also plays a huge part in their compatibility as well, trying to balance his morals and ethics while being the corrupt errand boy of the Crown Prince that works to keep them apart as well.

 

With this love story providing the backbone of the film, fans of Norton and his days in movies like Red Dragon and Fight Club will fall in love with The Illusionist due to the many twist turns that engulf the movie and keep viewers guessing throughout. Movie-goers will also be wondering if Eisenheim’s elaborate and shocking magic tricks are a sham or in fact real, making him a modern-day Messiah, rather than a common theater magician.

 

This diversity in the plot of The Illusionist, being able to have significant development in both the area of love and magic, is, in a sense, the straw that stirs the film’s drink. Those who are turned off by love stories will have no problem contemplating if Eisenheim has super natural powers or not. The struggle between Sewell, Giamatti and Norton is also an entertaining one that adds even more brevity to the film and goes as far to prove that Sewell and Giamatti are ready to assume more leading roles, instead of being shackled in supporting roles for as long as they have.

 

On the whole, The Illusionist does a splendid job of combining elements of the romance, mystery and thriller genres in creating a movie that can be enjoyed by a wide array of audiences. The sense of style and charisma from its protagonist and supporting cast is enough in itself to watch the film, while the depth of the plot and sound atmosphere will eventually force one to see it again.

Jackass Sequel Does Original Justice

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr.

 

It may have taken almost five years for a sequel to the original cult-classic Jackass to hit theaters, but if the reception the film has gotten its first week and a half in theatres is any indication, it was well worth the wait.

 

Raking in over $29 million dollars in its first 10 days at the box-office, “Jackass: Number Two” is a blast for anyone who appreciates the hard work that goes into a great prank or anyone who’s in need of a laugh.  Easily outclassing its predecessor in terms of mainstream appeal and comedic genius, this film will have you gagging in disgust and laughing in delight more times than you ever thought possible before entering the theater.

 

Despite being close to their thirties, or in the case of Johnny Knoxville, Evan Lacy, Jason Acuna [Wee-Man] and Steve-O, closer to their mid-thirties and almost forties, the cast of “Jackass: Number Two” still have the capacity to go all out and do the crazy things that make a movie like this so funny, including drinking Horse Semen and pouring bottles of beer in places on the human body where it was never intended to go.

 

Much like the first film, “Jackass: Number Two” is filled with over-the-top stunts and pranks that border on the psychopathic. Throughout the film, many viewers will ask themselves why anyone in their right mind would perform half the stunts seen in the movie, while the rest of the audience will be too busy laughing and spitting up soda and various food products to care.

 

While many critics ripped this film due to it’s lack of depth, brevity and overall character [Mainly Jennifer Reaves from the Chicago Tribune who said, "...the movie never deviates from its sole purpose: making the audience wish it was deaf, blind or, even better, not seeing this movie."], they failed to recognize the fact that this movie is supposed to be as dumb, gross and silly as humanely possible; this is what one comes to expect in a Jackass film.

 

No one, regardless of their lack of intellect, pays 11 bucks to see a Jackass movie and expects to see an Oscar-winning performance; that’s like asking a teenager not to fall asleep while watching an Oliver Stone movie.

 

In the end, those looking for a film to shut their brain off to and enjoy for the sole purpose of meaningless laughter need to look no further. Those looking for an intense story, filled with intricate plot twists however, will be forced to make it a blockbuster night.

 

Everyone’s Hero Strikes Out Swinging

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr

 

Over the past few years, there have been a slew of computer animation companies that have tried to make big bucks off the success of movies like Shrek, Toy Story and The Incredibles. Most often than not, these films, while displaying beautiful animation, fail to produce the solid stories that the successful movies in the genre are known for.

 

Such is the unfortunate case with “Everyone’s Hero.” 

 

While its lighthearted attempted to educate the younger generation about old school baseball doesn’t fail miserably, there aren’t enough memorable moments to hook either the children watching it or their older siblings or parents that get stuck paying their way into the theatre.

 

Centering on the life of a young Bronx-Bomber fan named Yankee Irving in the mid 1920’s, played by Jake T. Austin [Ant Bully], “Everyone’s Hero” is a tale of imagination and baseball history.

 

Joining Irving is his talking baseball named Screwie, played by Rob Reiner [All in the Family, the Majestic] who together, must bring Darlin’, Babe Ruth’s talking baseball bat, played by Whoopi Goldberg [Girl Interrupted, Rat Race], back to the Yankee slugger in time for the last game of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs.

 

While the story is helped along by the comic relief of Reiner, there aren’t enough witty comments from him to keep adults awake during the film.

 

Despite the fact that the movie is rated G, more often than not, viewers will be confused as to what age group directors Christopher Reeve, Colin Brady and Dan St. Pierre were actually marketing this film towards. Children will find the slapstick comedy throughout the film entertaining for a while, but will find it forgettable by the film’s end.

 

In the end, the baseball nostalgia emanating from all corners of this film is obviously a treat for older viewers, but younger movie-goers looking for something along the lines of “Finding Nemo” will be sadly disappointed.

‘Invincible’ Scores Big At Box Office

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr

 

Combining a solid soundtrack and heartfelt performances from Mark Wahlberg [Rockstar, Boogey Nights] and Greg Kinnear [Someone Like You, As Good As It Gets], “Invincible” is this generations version of “Rocky,” telling the remarkable story of former Philadelphia Eagle Vince Papale with realism, energy and compassion.

 

Produced by Mark Ciardi [Miracle, The Rookie], “Invincible” does a wonderful job of depicting the downtrodden Philadelphia area during the 1970’s, combining dark and dirty city landscapes and muddy bar scenes and factories, that capture the desperation of Papale and the people around him that are anxiously awaiting for a hero to get them through tough times.

 

Playing the reluctant hero is Wahlberg, who many will notice has bulked up considerably for this part and fits the role of the rough, but caring Papale to a t. Trying desperately to make something of his life after his wife leaves him, the substitute teacher/ bar tender tries to make the team he grew up rooting for after new coach, Dick Vermeil [played by Kinnear] announces open tryouts.

 

Paralleling each other the entire film, Papale and Vermeil both have something to prove and lean on one another to accomplish their goals, inducing many memorable moments that are sure to have football fans and movie-goers alike on the edge of their seats. In addition to Wahlberg and Kinnear’s solid performances, Elizabeth Banks and Kevin Conway round out the acting in this film extremely well, providing comedy and sincerity with great performances as Papale’s girlfriend and father.  

 

While the cinematography and acting in “Invincible” is something to behold, the musical score adds depth and familiarity to a film that was already amazing. The opening scene of the film fuses Jim Croce’s “I Got A Name” with the dark, dismal streets of Philadelphia, making it one of the best introductions to any movie in quite some time. Doby Gray, Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad, and Rod Stewart all make appearances on the soundtrack as well, making the music in the film just as strong as the cinematography and acting.

 

Overall, “Invincible” is a sure-fire hit at the box office that is destined for big time sales at theaters and on DVD. Disney may not be able to cut the mustard with their animated pictures anymore, but with this film, they have proven once again that they’re slowly becoming the cat’s meow as far as sports-drama’s are concerned.

‘Underworld: Evolution,’ All Style, No Substance

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr

 

While “Underworld: Evolution” does provide fans of the original film with exactly what they want, all the nudity, fighting scenes and special effects in “Underworld: Evolution,” can’t shake the hollowness the movie ultimately leaves by its end.

 

Continuing the story from the previous film, Selene, the vampire warrior, played by Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor, Van Helsing) is still stuck in the middle of a war between the Death Dealer Vampires and Lycan Werewolves, while her only ally, a Vampire-Werewolf hybrid named Michael, played by Scott Speedman (Duets, The 24th Day) is still adjusting to his new found power.

 

While on the run from the death dealers, Selene and Michael uncover Selene’s strange and unknown past, finding out that her family played a much bigger role in the war between the Death Dealers and Lycans than she originally perceived.

 

It’s around this same time that Marcus, the father of all vampires, played by Tony Curran, (Flight of the Phoenix, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman) is awoken from a 500 plus year sleep and is hell bent on uniting with his brother William, who just happens to be the first ever Lycan.

 

While the story sounds great on paper, the execution of it on film is below mediocre. Throughout the movie, so many things happen without explanation or reason. Why is it that all of a sudden Selene begins remembering her past? Why does Selene fall for Michael, when in the first movie she’s a loner with no intention of being with anybody?

 

If these things were explained, it would not only make the movie more interesting to watch, it would give more people a real reason to see the movie other  than to see Kate Beckinsale naked and in a skin tight leather outfit, a-la Catwoman, for almost two hours.

 

While no one is complaining about Beckinsale’s performance in the movie, it’s just sad to see a film that had so much going for it ruined by a hap-hazard script with so many holes in it.

 

Even despite the horrendous script, “Underworld: Evolution” is still not a bad action offering, you just have to go into the theater not wanting to be blown away by a deep and intricate story.

 

For those of you that wish to see your typical action movie, with tons of blood, naked women and special effects, “Underworld: Evolution” will not disappoint. However, for those that like their action flicks with just as much substance as style, take your coke and popcorn into another theatre.

Eight Below Will Warm Your Heart

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr

 

Based on a true story, “Eight Below” uses the always successful formula of having incredibly talented and beautiful animals telling the film’s story, rather than actors.

 

While Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious), Jason Biggs (American Pie) and Moon Bloodgood (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton) all give memorable performances, it’s the dogs of “8 Below” that eventually capture the hearts of the audience, making the movie a must-see.

 

Stationed at a scientific base in Antarctica, Jerry Shepard (played by Walker) is a tour guide for scientists who wish to explore the area, using his pack of Siberian Huskies to reach any destination on the continent.

 

When scientist Davis McClaren (played by Bruce Greenwood) comes to the frozen land to look for a meteorite from Mercury, Shepard and the dogs escort the scientist to his destination. Unfortunately, McClaren gets seriously injured and is forced to be flown to a hospital, Shepard, in saving him, suffers serious frostbite and is also taken to the hospital.

 

As the two are taken to the hospital on the other side of the continent, a storm of epic proportions hits and everyone is evacuated from the base, except the dogs. Unable to get his dogs out for months because of the storm’s severity, Shepard becomes miserable and travels all over the country in an attempt to raise the money necessary to save the animals he cares so much about.

 

From then after, “Eight Below,” becomes more like a national geographic feature about the life these animals were forced to live for almost a year by themselves in Antarctica, before eventually being saved by Shepard and his friends, than an actual movie.

 

Simply put, the animals in this movie are not only incredibly intelligent; they are equally as charismatic and beautiful. Any dog lover owes it to themselves to see this movie. Movie-goers who are not avid dog lovers will still be amused enough by the actions of these amazing animals to become not only fans of the movie, but animal lovers as well.

Kong Is King At Box Office

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr

 

When Peter Jackson went public with his desire to make a new three-hour version of “King Kong,” Hollywood believed that the success of Lord of the Rings had finally got to his head. Those who have seen the movie however, are convinced that Jackson is truly the best producer of our generation.

 

Despite the film’s initial plot development being on the slow side, Peter Jackson’s version of “King Kong” is a masterpiece. Phenomenal special effects, a stellar cast and a heart-warming story set it apart from every other King Kong movie ever produced. Anyone that was a fan of the old movies owes it to themselves to this version of the movie. This is King Kong the way it should have always been.

 

Set in the same time as the original, King Kong is drenched in classic Americana. It’s almost as if Peter Jackson combined every Norman Rockwell painting ever created with his own interpretation of the classic, creating a movie that looks absolutely beautiful.

 

Equally as beautiful is young starving artist Ann Darrow, played by Naomi Watts (The Ring, Tank Girl), whose gorgeous blue eyes are worth the price of admission alone.

 

Desperate to make it in acting, Darrow entrusts her career in Carl Denham, played by Jack Black (Shark Tale, School of Rock), a struggling movie director, whom against the wishes of the movie company he works for and the movies writer, played by Adrien Brody (The Village, The Pianist), decides to film a movie that will make or break his career on an uncharted island.

 

Thinking the island is uninhabited, Darrow and his crew begin filming and find out that not only is the island home to a renegade and extremely freaky tribe, but it also harbors huge prehistoric beasts, the most dangerous being a 25-foot tall ape, in which the natives have named “Kong.”

 

After being captured and offered as a sacrifice to the ape, Darrow and Kong form a bond that brings out a side of him that no one else sees. Thanks to some great special effects and fighting scenes, Kong shows Darrow just how gentle, caring, loving and protective he can be.

 

Unfortunately for Kong, he refuses to show that side to anyone else and that ultimately leads to his demise.

 

Due to the amount of heart-warming moments throughout the film, many will try and classify “King Kong” as a movie that women will prefer much more than men.

 

Don’t be fooled, there are just as many great action scenes and funny moments in this movie as there are moments of candor and awe inducing splendor that will keep all different types of audiences in their seats for the entirety of this film.

 

Despite Initial Charm, “The Brothers Grimm” Provides Few Memorable Moments

 

By Patrick Hickey Jr

 

Uninspired, mediocre and decent; all of these words can describe Matt Damon and Heath Ledger’s new fantasy/comedy, “The Brothers Grimm”. While it has a few entertaining scenes and Damon and Ledger’s on-screen chemistry is apparent, “The Brother’s Grimm doesn’t attach itself to a genre in the worst way; making viewers confused to either be scared at “The Brothers Grimm” or laugh at it.

 

Damon and Ledger play Will and Jacob Grimm, masters of the unknown … well sort of. The Grimm brothers have a talent for tricking the townspeople they encounter on their journeys into thinking their towns are enchanted with evil spirits and charge large sums of money to get rid of the evil doers. The first 20 minutes of the movie highlight their knack for recreating the unknown, proving the brothers are an 18th century version of Spielberg and Lucas.

 

It’s not until the French government finds out what their up to when they force the brothers  to catch someone whom they believe is up to the same games as they are. What unfolds is the brothers’ actualization of the unknown things in the world, with Jacob Grimm embracing the unknown to the fullest and saving the day and the life of Angelica, played by Lena Headey (The Cave, The Devils Advocate) who helps Jacob and Will find out the truth about the town and her “cursed” bloodline who are being secretly controlled by a 500 year old queen, played by the extremely vivacious Monica Bellucci (The Matrix, Tears of the Sun).

 

Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean, Ronin) and Peter Stormare ( Minority Report, Constantine) provide some laughs as Delatombe and Cavaldi turning in solid performances but not even that can shake the confusion this picture creates.

 

The reason why “The Brothers Grimm” doesn’t strike gold at the box office is simple; it doesn’t set itself apart from other films in its genre. The special effects aren’t up to par with “Harry Potter”, its production value isn’t anywhere near “Lord of the Rings” and while there are some funny scenes in the movie, there aren’t enough in the film to make the movie a great fantasy/comedy picture.

 

Taken at the sum of its parts, “The Brothers Grimm” is a decent movie with good on-screen chemistry between its two stars that is worth watching. When compared to the bevy of great Sci-Fi fantasy movies out on DVD right now however, “The Brothers Grimm” doesn’t add anything new to the genre and despite the few smiles it may induce, it isn’t worth the price of admission.

To comment on the following articles, e-mail Mr.Hickey @ Patrickhickeyjr@yahoo.com