Saturday, June 21, 2014

Streaming fun -- an old-fashioned British boy's adventure and a starry cast highlight THE ADVENTURER: THE CURSE OF THE MIDAS BOX

It's been awhile since TrustMovies had a dose of old-fashioned boy's adventure, British-style, featuring missing parents, kidnapped kids, secret passages, underground caverns, first love, and, of course, last-minute escapes. If this sort of thing appeals to you, or should you want to introduce same to your children or grandkids, then by all means, try the new-to-streaming THE ADVENTURER: THE CURSE OF THE MIDAS BOX. This film was originally to be titled (as you can see from the poster image I've used, rather than the somewhat drab version that the marketing team finally chose), Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box. Maybe those marketers were frightened off by the moniker Mariah, which sounds feminine but is actually the given name of our hero, nicely played by the new British hottie, Aneurin Barnard (shown above and two photos below).

As directed efficiently (but no better than) by Jonathan Newman (shown at left), from a pretty good screenplay by Christian Taylor (of the unforgettable Showboy!) and Lindy Heymann, adapted from the novel by G.P. Taylor, the movie is a throwback in most ways. But it's one that I thoroughly enjoyed, mostly because -- in this age of nonstop special effects coupled to little content -- the experience proved rather like watching a old-fashioned classic come to surprising new life. Set in 1860s London, the tale is fun, silly, enjoyably predictable, and easy-as-pie to sit through.

Much of that ease and fun comes from a surprisingly starry British cast that, by virtue of its utter professionalism, gives an extra goose to everything from the dialog and banter to the pacing and plot. As the villain supreme we have a cold-blooded, highly intelligent performance by Sam Neill (below, left), and as his right-hand-dame (and maybe paramour, though this guy seems incapable of much amour), there's Lena Headey (below, right), at her bitchiest and coolest.

Mariah has a cute younger brother, Felix (Xavier Atkins, below), whom he must protect but is constantly fumbling that job -- never more so than when Felix gets up to his ears (eyes and nose) in a watery tomb.

Above everyone, however, stands the real star of the film, Michael Sheen, below, who plays a fellow named Charity -- who turns out to be the kids' real protector and a kind of jack-of-all-trades (and disguises). Sheen, as always, adds immeasurably to the fun here.

As Mariah and Felix's parents, we have two Brit stalwarts Ioan Gruffudd (below, left) and Keeley Hawes (below, right), who disappear toward the beginning and only appear again -- very oddly indeed -- at film's end (stay for the final credits, please) with a major surprise in store -- which simply demands a sequel.

I am not certain we'll ever see that sequel, though, as this first film, I believe, didn't do so well in recouping its cost. Still, we can hope -- for Mariah, his family, friends and foes make for charming viewing, at least for those of us still into the old-fashioned type of "boy's adventure" genre.

In addition to that good cast, the movie offers some delicious sets and a fine production design. There are times here when you just might imagine that you've stumbled into another, less bizarre and twee version of The Grand Budapest Hotel (a movie -- twee or not -- that I dearly loved, by the way).

You can stream The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box now via Netflix and probably elsewhere.

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