Notes from the back row 

Mummy hunter makes a comeback

Few leading men in recent cinematic history have made as many shitty movies as half-Canadian Brendan Fraser ( Monkey Bone, Blast From the Past.) >And yet, like a bad case of herpes, he keeps coming back. Fraser is a true “Yes” man – he’ll take any job – but with the opening of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D this week, it seems one of those chances has paid off.

            Journey is a kids movie, wherein Fraser plays a geologist who ends up taking his young nephew (and a hot chick) deep into a volcano in Iceland to find his long-lost brother. Instead he discovers the lands that time forgot and a dinosaur-plagued adventure begins.

            I’m unsure if the Village 8 is opening the 3D version on Friday (there is a 2D version, too) but by all accounts it’s pretty awesome – 3D technology, over 100 years old, has finally arrived and if you don’t believe it just wait till Fraser spits his toothpaste in your face. Take the kids to this one, if it’s in 3D. If it’s only 2D, your kid will probably get picked on and made fun of at daycare by the snotty little brat whose dad drove him to the city for the real 3D experience.

            Not 3D, but at least three times as imaginative, is Guillermo Del Toro’s HellBoy 2 - The Golden Army , a visually magical film that plays much better than the first admittedly cool installment. Del Toro’s unique vision and pathos-imbued monsters are unmatched and this flick, in which Hellboy and the rest of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense battle a Drow Prince from the underworld (and his golden army) is a real treat. Character and plot cohesion sometimes get pushed aside for visual effects, one-liner comedy, or domestic tension (Hellboy’s a slob and his pyro-girlfriend is fed up) but anyone who digs fantastical monster movies will be super into this.

Visually, Hellboy looks amazing, particularly the Troll’s Market sequence where all kinds of wicked beasts apparently do their shopping – this is the Star Wars ‘Cantina Scene’ for the next generation and Del Toro wisely uses lots of real costumes, animatronics and makeup rather than relying solely on CGI. The even better news is that Del Toro and Peter Jackson are teaming up to do two Hobbit movies in the near future – pretty hard to beat that if you’re into Fantasy movies.

            Not hard to beat, Eddie Murphy’s newest flick, Meet Dave, opening Friday, might be his last. Seems Axel Foley is considering giving up movies and returning to stand-up. Talented and ex-funny, Eddie might be the only leading man with more stinkers to his credit than Brendan Fraser.

            The DVD of the week is a documentary for you art kids – Frazetta: Painting with Fire > chronicles the life of Frank Frazetta, probably this century’s most accomplished artist. His easily recognizable and unforgettable oil paintings of huge barbarians, beasts, and half-naked chicks somehow tap into the primeval human instincts of drama, adventure, power and motion. From a “funny animal comic” illustrator through the Andy Capp stuff and into mainstream comics, film posters, and finally fantasy paintings, Frazetta set the standard with every new genre he delved into, influencing every artist, film director, cameraman, set designer, and art director that came after him. The documentary is a bit long but this guy is one of those true gifted geniuses. Case in point – after suffering his second stroke, which left his drawing hand almost totally paralyzed, Frazetta simply switched over to his left hand and carried on. I’d like to see Brendan Fraser pull off something like that. Not likely.

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