Double Feature: Astro Boy (2009) & When in Rome (2010)

And we’re back with another double feature!

In the neverending quest to catch up with Netflix and diminish the outstanding titles on my Netflix list before they vanish from selection, I’ve decided to choose movies primarily already on the list whenever I watch something which lead me to trying out a new way than the normal alphabetical approach and that’s to choose a common factor between films, mostly director or actor/actress in whichever role. I honestly don’t know how long this can go for but from the preliminary test, I have at least 20 movies drafted in so we’re in for a ride. I’m liking this new way as it gives variety.

This time will be a lovely Kristen Bell double feature with Astro Boy and When in Rome!

Astro Boy (2009)

Astro Boy

Director: David Bowers

Voice Cast: Freddie Highmore, Charlize Theron, Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Bill Nighy, Kristen Bell

When an android replica of a boy is rejected by his aggrieved creator, he goes off to find his own identity in an adventure that would make him the greatest hero of his time. –IMDB

While I can’t hate on animated films. Astro Boy really is quite average. Back when this was announced, I had my doubts and I was also travelling when it came out so I never caught it in theatres. A lot of the story here is quite generic and its not very exciting. However, the art is quite nice plus the world is very pretty with lots of colors. The characters are brought alive by its immense talent behind the voices. Kristen Bell does a great job but we also have Bill Nighy as the scientist and Nicolas Cage as the dad and of course, Donald Sutherland as the villain. During that time, Freddie Highmore had a lot of these kid roles and he does a fantastic job as Astro Boy. It may be average but in all its generic and predictable moments, it still has a few decent fun and funny moments.


With that said, Astro Boy could be a fun movie for a younger audience. It has a lot of science-y fun and brave kids and takes in the parents angle. Plus, its not terribly long running at about 90 minutes which is always nice because it keeps the pacing decent.

When in Rome (2010)

When in Rome

Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepherd, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Alexis Dziena, Kate Micucci

Beth is a young, ambitious New Yorker who is completely unlucky in love. However, on a whirlwind trip to Rome, she impulsively steals some coins from a reputed fountain of love, and is then aggressively pursued by a band of suitors. – IMDB

I’m pretty forgiving with romantic comedies. They are really just silly and funny sometimes. There has been widely a shortage of good ones and When in Rome honestly doesn’t do much for itself. Its quite ridiculous in parts and I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes at everything. However, When in Rome has some charming characters. Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel are incredibly fun to watch together and separate. The premise is really where things are a little odd and shaky. Just take a look at the cast, Danny DeVito, Dax Shepherd, Will Arnett are all fantastic as the enchanted lovers chasing after Kristen Bell and they offer some pretty comedic moments. Its always a good time to watch Dax Shepherd and Kristen Bell as they always do these roles and can get the whole not into each other thing really well. When in Rome just seems like it doesn’t have anything special about it other than its charming cast. But then, you can always watch this charming cast in other movies they’ve done better roles for making this one seem not so appealing.

Overall, Astro Boy and When in Rome fall in the very average range. I’m still a fan of Kristen Bell and its definitely not her issues that makes for the downfalls of these two selections.

Have you seen Astro Boy and/or When in Rome?
What is your favorite Kristen Bell film?

Remembering James Horner Blogathon: The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

As always, hitting the brink of the deadline, here is my entry for the 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central. Last year, I took a look at Once Upon a Forest for this blogathon and it was a great one to revisit. You can check out the review here. This year, I decided to check out another family fantasy film adapted from a children’s book series that I haven’t read called The Spiderwick Chronicles. I’m a huge fan of Freddie Highmore as a child star, even now in Bates Motel. I think he’s fantastic and for a while, I did take the time to catch up a lot of his movies a few years back and this was one of them. I’m excited to have a reason to revisit it and hope that the magic is still as charming as I remember.

Let’s check it out!

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

spiderwick chronicles

Director: Mark Waters

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Sarah Bolger, Andrew McCarthy, David Strathairn, Seth Rogen, Martin Short

Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures. – IMDB

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fun little fantasy adventure children’s movie featuring a double dose of Freddie Highmore as both Jared and Simon Grace who along with their sister, Mallory (played by Sarah Bolger) are taken to a home that their mother inherited from their great aunt while she goes through a separation. Jared takes this the hardest and after a fight realized that there is something in the walls. As he chases it down, he finds a secret room accessible by a dumbwaiter and there he finds a book that warns him to not open it. Being a child, of course, he does. Whether it was an act of rebellion or thoughtlessness or curiosity, this opens up a realm of fairies and other more dangerous creatures that have been seeking this field guide of the magical creatures to use it as a way to control the world. This one dangerous individual is a giant ogre, Mulgarath (voiced by Nick Nolte). Some of the gentler creatures who create quite the comedic relief is Hogsqueal who looks like a hog and is obsessed with birds (voiced by Seth Rogen) and the protector of the book, Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short). Its fun adventure with some pretty cool CGI effects and an all around entertaining story. While the start might show some over acting in Freddie Highmore, he soon settles quickly as they put away the family and sibling rivalry and jump fairly quickly into the meat of the fantasy world and its just a quick ride to the end.

Spiderwick Chronicles

As this is a blogathon for James Horner, its important to discuss the score. James Horner makes some of the best orchestral scores that help build the atmosphere. Here he carries mystery and suspense when the world is first discovered, then takes us on a musical journey that aids as the adventure picks up where these siblings bond together and truly find their courage as they plot their protection for their home. The score compliments and accentuates the adventure particularly. Adding onto a well-executed film to begin with, this makes it even more engaging to watch. Its hard to ignore the seamless score that James Horner puts together for Spiderwick Chronicles.

Sarah Bolger is a familiar face now. While I have yet to check out Into the Badlands, I’ve seen her as Princes Aurora in Once Upon a Time and especially in Emilie, a psychological thriller released last year that was very well put together. I can’t remember if I had actually written a review but its a great movie that truly showcases her acting skills and the potential she has. Her sister role as Mallory brings a sense of balance, not because she’s a girl but also because she’s very tough as she wield her fencing sword in all her fights. Its an impressive character.

Spiderwick Chronicles

In terms of the double Freddie Highmore, Jared and Simon have relatively different personalities and it gives them a more unique character and lets us see the difference other than how they dress. Freddie Highmore wasn’t great in the Jared role when he starts but it might just have to do with his difficult child act and once it was dropped, it was really fun to watch, even though Jared is more of the central character here.


In terms of voice actors, we have Nick Nolte as the baddie. For a children’s movie, it worked really well. I was pretty invested into the movie and the villain even if he didn’t really show up that much and there was one part where he was human and the transformation was pretty cool. Other than that, Thimbletack (Martin Short) and Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen) are really fun to watch in a silly way. Their creatures themselves are rather creative and in a somewhat adorable way, they are pretty appealing. I have to say that Hogsqueal could have had more screen time although as a non-Seth Rogen fan, I actually thought this was a great performance but it had to do with this silly character that added a lot of entertainment value.

Spiderwick Chronicles

Overall, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fun and fast-paced fantasy adventure movie. It has great performances all around and a good balance of comedy and adventure, making it incredibly entertaining and engaging to watch. The CGI is done very well and not to mention, a well-executed story that is accentuated by a great score.

Have you seen The Spiderwick Chronicles? 

Arthur and the Invisibles Trilogy (2006-2010)

Another little movies series!

Arthur and the Invisibles (aka Arthur et les Minimoys) has been on my to-watch list for a while.  Mostly because I really love Freddie Highmore in any age of acting.  He’s very impressive all the time and this one is adventure and animation all wrapped up together.  It sounds extremely fun! Netflix decided that it was going to expire in about a week the second and the third so I couldn’t watch those without the first one so I spent the weekend checking this out 🙂

Let’s see how it turned out!

Arthur and the Invisibles (2006)

arthur and the invisibles

Director: Luc Besson

Cast (live and/or vocal): Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow, Ron Crawford, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, David Bowie, Jimmy Fallon

Ten-year-old Arthur, in a bid to save his grandfather’s house from being demolished, goes looking for some much-fabled hidden treasure in the land of the Minimoys, a tiny people living in harmony with nature.- IMDB

arthur and the invisibles

Arthur and the Invisibles or the Minimoys (as referred to in the movie also) is a fun family adventure animation.  I love movies that blend the whole live action and animated sequences and this movie transitioned between the two and used real life world blended into the animated worlds for different tools and names.  Its shows a certain level of creativity and imagination that makes it even more enjoyable.

When the movie starts, the  narrator takes us into the life of Arthur, who is an intelligent 10 year old that seeks to discover and explore the world and its mysteries.  He tries to figure out why his grandfather is missing and also save his grandmother’s home, leading him to his brave adventure to ask for the help of the Minimoys.  The vocals here are great.  Although, the plot here is a little generic and predictable and why I believe its mild enough for a younger audience and is probably targeted to a younger audience.  8-10 (?) years old might be my best guess.  I don’t have kids so I can’t really determine it.

Regardless, the best part of this was actually hearing Freddie Highmore’s actual accent.  Since I’ve watched Freddie Highmore, I’ve always thought he was American until a few years back when I realized he’s actually British.  Imagine my surprise, right? So its refreshing to hear that voice here, plus these movies work for the younger him.  I didn’t expect much from Madonna voice for Selenia but it was pretty good as well.  And c’mon, Jimmy Fallon is great in general so I don’t even need to mention that much about it. David Bowie does the voice of Evil M, the villain in this trilogy, although not voiced by him after this one.  Evil M is effective as a villain for an animation geared for a younger crowd, meaning I found him more funny than threatening 😉

Arthur and the Minimoys was a pretty enjoyable animation (more for a younger crowd). There were some slower parts but the sum of it was pretty good.  It keeps everything with a level of intensity that is well balanced with using natural elements in the human world and implementing into the world of the Minimoys who actually live underground and in the garden.  Creativity and imaginative points there as well.  I’d say to give it a watch if you get a chance 🙂

Arthur 2: The Revenge of Maltazard (2009)
(or Arthur and the Great Adventure)

arthur 2 the revenge of maltazard

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow, Selena Gomez, Jimmy Fallon, Lou Reed, Fergie, Snoop Dogg

Arthur answers a distress call from Princess Selenia, who is menaced by the nefarious Maltazard. – IMDB

arthur 2 the revenge of maltazard

Continuing on from the previous one, Maltazard (aka Evil M) returns with a cunning plan. I’m not going to lie to you.  I absolutely believe that Arthur and the Minimoys should have ended with the just the first one.  Continuing it was pointless especially when it was pretty hard to finish.  The second movie was so empty and boring that I fell asleep somewhere in the middle and woke up near the end and shut off the movie, to resume the next morning with a big cup of tea.  The vocal changes comes from Selenia (who doesn’t show up much) with Selena Gomez and Evil M is now voiced by Lou Reed (who I don’t think I’ve heard of before).

The majority of the movie is spent trying to get back to the Minimoys kingdom to answer the distress call.  So its a lot of venturing around, finding Betameche and then seeing characters from the last movie that helps them on the way.  I have nothing much to say about this one except that whole Evil M suddenly having a revelation that being little didn’t make sense and to take over the human world being his main goal was a little too much for my taste.

The animation is fine, the vocals were fine but the plot of The Revenge of Maltazard wasn’t really eventful or fun.  It felt a lot like the first movie replicating into the second.  You wouldn’t miss much if you had stopped with the first one in my opinion.

Arthur 3: The War of  theTwo Worlds (2010)

arthur 3 the war of the two worlds

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Selena Gomez, Jimmy Fallon, Mia Farrow, Ron Crawford, Robert Stanton, Penny Balfour, Richard Davis

With Maltazard now 7 feet tall and Arthur still 2 inches small, our hero must find a way to grow back to his normal size ans stop the Evil M once and for all, with the help of Selenia and Betameche. – IMDB

arthur 3 the war of the two worlds

With Maltazard now in the real world, the third movie is a blend of being in the animated Minimoys immersed in the real world with the live characters bringing Arthur’s extremely silly parents and his knowledgeable grandparents into the movie more.  That is a good thing because it gives this one a little more dynamic interaction and just a little something more.  Arthur, Selenia and Betameche also end up exploring Arthur’s actual life in their house as they find a way to stop the now full human size Evil M.

Although The War of the Two Worlds is a whole lot more fun and entertaining than the second one.  Trust me it is. There still is a little something that makes it feel unnecessary.  The second one ended with to be continued, which leads to this one, which made the second one feel even less important (more like a bridge).  There were some great moments during the whole process in the house and with the parents and M and whatnot.  The whole exploration reverse mode of the tiny Arthur trying to grow up again, focusing more on the inappropriate timing of the relationship between Arthur and Selenia.  It just felt like a ton of loose ends forcing to be tied up. Plus, the ending was just stretching it quite a bit.

arthur 3 the war of the two worlds

I’m not saying I didn’t have fun with this one.  I’m usually not too hard on animations but while this one was more fun, you actually have to get through the very boring second one to watch this one, making this not so necessary.  It entertaining and there’s a lot more adventurous moments here.  I leave it up to you whether you want to battle this through.  I hold true that if you have 8-10 year olds, they might enjoy it.


Arthur and the Minimoys was great decent fun.  The whole trilogy bit was a bit much though.  The second and third was not exactly necessary.  It kind of tried to give an extra mission for Maltazard and to cash some extra dollars.  The second wasn’t any fun but the third had some adventurous moments.  The premise itself is creative and imaginative with the characters and the details.  The vocals were pretty great.  The plot was the main thing that made or killed the whole movie experience in each of these.  By the end of the last one, I just didn’t really feel much for it. It killed the charm that I liked in the first one.  The more I think about it, the more I really wish I could undo those last two….haha!

Have you seen Arthur and the Minimoys? How about the whole trilogy? What did you think about it?

The Art of Getting By (2011)

I’m really starting to like how Bates Motel is panning out and they are green lighting a second season already after 4 episodes.  With that, Freddie Highmore is once again on my radar. There is one movie that I’ve been hesitating to see and has been sitting next to my laptop for months and its this one: The Art of Getting By.  I have no idea why I initially got it.  I knew pretty much nothing about it but I do like Freddie Highmore.  I could be the fact that I’ve enjoyed all the movies that he’s been in (and own most of them) and I’ve seen him through most of his career thus far.

the art of getting by dvd coverDirector: Gavin Wiesen

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Blair Underwood, Rita Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser

I read a quote once when I was a kid “We live alone, We die alone. Everything else is just an illusion.” It used to keep me up at night

Thats pretty much the first lines of the movie said by our main character George (Freddie Highmore).  George is about to graduate high school and he has no motivation for homework.  He doesn’t understand the meaning of life and what life is all about and believes there is so much more and if everything was an illusion, then whats the point of homework.  Because of this, he never completes his assignments and frequents the principal’s office.  However, one day when he stands up for a girl, Sally’s mistake, things start changing.  Sally (Emma Roberts) approaches him to be friends.  Through each other, they learn more about not only each other because they are so different in personality and experiences but also George finds his motivation in her and as he starts falling more and more in love with her, he also finds a more clearly defined meaning to life.  However, both of them are still young and they both don’t really know how to express their love to each other.  With obstacles that come up with family, academic and friends, and graduation approaching and George being endanger of not being able to get his diploma, George and Sally both have to learn to be independent and choose how to find the meaning for their lives.

the art of getting by 1

This is a story about young love but at the same time, its also a story about the transition from realizing that you have to grow up and to decide on a future.  The main focus was on George and Sally.  Even though there were other characters, such as their parents and friends and teachers that entered the picture.  Some acted as obstacles, and others as muse, and some encouraged and guided them to the right path.  Their roles may not have been abundant but they were there to help the two main characters move forward in their lives.

the-art-of-getting-by 2

Freddie Highmore has grown a lot physically and as an actor.  I never knew he was English because he never seemed to have the whole English accent when he spoke in movies.  I love a lot of movies his done from when he was a kid and did August Rush, Spiderwick Chronicles and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He’s always done exceptional jobs in whatever he takes on.  This one was no exception. I found that George was a person that I could relate to (and probably many other people), regarding being afraid to express your feelings, not really knowing how to motivate for school and trying to find out what they want for themselves in life for the future or even the present.  He dives into deep thoughts.  Its having the trouble to find the courage to say whats deep down.  I’m going to say that we all go through this phase some point in our life.  Of course, I never was witty like him and had to do all my work no matter how messed up my mind was.  Not exactly sure my parents, my teachers, my principals or the school itself would have been so forgiving.

the art of getting by 4

Emma Roberts is pretty much a fresh face to me.  I’ve seen her in Valentine’s Day before this and I haven’t seen it in a few years.  She is a very pretty and charming actress.  In the role of Sally, she plays the role of the opposite of George’s introvert, no friends, deep in his own world type of person.  She’s social and its her personality that pulls George out of being the loner he believes he is destined to be.  She has the role of making this movie come alive and George come alive with her energy.  In time, she proves to be a complicated character as well.

This flick is fantastic and its not going to be the most original plot idea ever done but it focuses on the basics.  It gives us characters we can relate to.  We focus on two people who come together.  There is just one story that we need to look at or two if you look at each of their stories. We see that a person is greatly influenced in thoughts by those around them: our friends, the people we associate with, our family, etc. We can bring us to believe that love can motivate and inspire us.  However, we need to be able to have the courage to face it.  It also shows us that sometimes, we just need that one person that can understand us and makes us feel similar but different to at the same time and that one person will inspire us to find meaning in our lives.

The Art of Getting By is pretty cute and inspiring.  The meaning and the way they lay out this simple yet complicated story makes this great.  The characters make the screen come alive and it all dials back to the basic elements. Plus, they use real New York City scenes which look very nice.  There are some fun parts mostly due to the dialogue and the interactions between Sally and George. I think it merits a rewatch and I’m sure that something else will come to me and I’ll see something else.  It definitely gave me something to think about and made me remember past dilemmas that I’ve had when I was younger (and even some that I have today).