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Welcome Back Hellboy

Plus: Journey, a wholesome fun family flick

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With Emily Hobelmann

Previews

DARK KNIGHT.Batman returns to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace. 152 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

MAMMA MIA!Film adaptation of musical uses the music of ’70s supergroup ABBA to tell the story of a bride-to-be searching for her real father. Rated PG-13 for some sex-related comments. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

SPACE CHIMPS.Slacker grandson of first chimp blasted into space joins other astro chimps for zany other-planetary adventure. Rated G. 81 m. At the Broadway.

The next installment of the “Based on the Book” film noir series is the 1958 film Touch of Evil. Based on the novel Badge of Evilby Whit Masterson, the film follows the dark and twisted story of murder, kidnapping and police corruption in a Mexican border town. Orson Welles stars in and directs the noir classic. The screening is hosted by Philip Wright and will start promptly at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 22, in the multipurpose room of the Eureka Main Library.

Reviews

HELLBOY II:The new film from director Guillermo Del Toro, Hellboy II, is greatly anticipated, since it follows his highly acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth. Since his first film, Kronos, Del Toro has had a bifurcated career, alternating small, personal Spanish language films like with bigger budget Hollywood fare (Mimic, Blade II). The Devil’s Backbone is not merely the cynical one-for-me, one-for-the-money-men trade off so common in Hollywood. Del Toro is genuinely a fan of pulp fantasy and horror, and even at his most commercial he still has a style that’s quite distinctive and feels invested in the material.

The first Hellboy film, based on the comic series by Mike Mignola, was perhaps the best of Del Toro’s Hollywood output, though still nowhere in the league of Pan’s Labyrinth, which stakes a claim as one of the finest films of the fantastic to be released in the past 10 years. Hellboy, the story of a red-skinned creature who fights other monsters for a secret government agency, married Del Toro’s love of monsters and creepy atmospherics with a pulpy sense of fun. The film never took itself too seriously, but still infused its characters with more soul than a typical popcorn blockbuster. With his simian looks and devil-may-care attitude, Ron Perlman was born to play Hellboy, a hard-boiled, cigar-chomping demon with a soft heart, and Selma Blair underplayed his love interest, the firestarter Liz Sherman, with a simmering intensity. Their chemistry was the heart of the film.

The new film centers on a mythical rebel prince (Luke Goss) who decides that his father’s truce with humanity must be broken, and the forest spirits must once again rule the earth. In the process, Del Toro lets loose a phantasmagoria of creatures and monsters, from creepy, little chattering “tooth fairies” to tentacled plant-like behemoths that tower over New York. It’s over the top, and visually stunning.

This new film falters in ways the first one didn’t in the character department though. Though it attempts to continue the story of Hellboy and Liz’s relationship, the lover’s spats feel a bit pro forma and sitcom-ready. Abe Sapien, the gilled underwater empath, returns, but disappointingly is not voiced this time by David Hyde Pierce, who gave the character such distinction in the original film.

In some of the latter scenes, the excessive CGI effects and fight scenes conspire to make the film seem overlong and dull, especially compared to the joie de vivre of the first Hellboy. The puppet battle that begins the film is much more enchanting than the ham-handed finale, and probably was delivered at a fraction of the cost. Hellboy II is not a bad film, just superfluous if you’ve seen the first one. I’m waiting for the next Del Toro film en español. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language. 120 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

— Jay Herzog

JOURNEY: Hollywood funny man Brendan Fraser hits the summer big screen in the latest adaptation of the 1864 science fiction novel by Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth.The film is advertised as 3D. Most of our Humboldt County theaters just don’t have the projectors for that kind of high tech stuff. The Fortuna Theater is offering the feature in 3D; there is a $2 addition to the ticket price to get your souvenir glasses.

Now, I have never seen the classic 1959 version of Journey —I only know what I’ve heard from film aficionados and old-timers. The older movie sounds quite trippy and awesome, with giant mushrooms and state-of-the-art special effects (state-of-the-art for 1959, that is). Also, my favorite Back to the Futurecharacter, Dr. Emmett Brown, refers to the works of Jules Verne as the inspiration to devote his life to science. It suffices to say that I had pretty low expectations for the 2008 version of the film, given that movies of late tend to suck and that this film is based on such an epic work.

However, upon exiting the feature-length action film, my companion echoed my sentiments about the movie by saying “I didn’t hate it as much as I thought it would.” Sure enough, the film was surprisingly funny with no shortage of bitchin’ action sequences throughout.

Brenden Fraser stars as Trevor Anderson, a somewhat absentminded professor who lacks the teaching and researching skills he needs to have his university bosses appreciate him. Trevor runs a soon-to-be shut geology lab named in honor of his late brother, Max. Max had mysteriously disappeared some 10 years earlier when he went on a quest to research abnormal geologic behavior in Iceland.

Lo and behold, Trevor has to babysit Max’s 13-year-old son Sean (Josh Hutcherson) for 10 days while Sean’s mom deals with some unavoidable life issues. When Sean’s mom drops him off, she also delivers a box of the late Max’s possessions to Trevor. The box includes such items as Max’s baseball glove and his copy of the original Journey to the Center of the Earth.Trevor discovers handwritten notes and codes in the margins of the text, and so begins his quest to Iceland with his nephew to find out what really happened to his lost brother.

Sean and Trevor turn out to be quite the awkward comic match, and their characters become even more cheesy and hilarious when the chick enters the story. Anita Briem plays Hanna Ásgeirsson, the super-hot daughter of some Journey-obsessed scientist. Hanna agrees to lead Sean and Trevor up the mountain that has the passage to the center of the earth for an exorbitant fee. Hanna knows all about the quirkiness of “Vernians,” people who believe that Verne’s writings are true. It turns out that Trevor’s lost brother was a Vernian, and it looks like Trevor is one too.

As soon as the crew hits the mountain, the action-adventure roller coaster ride begins. We see the cast go through the same trials and tribulations that all of the other travelers to the center of the earth have endured. The action sequences are pretty awesome, and there is some gratuitous sexual tension between Hanna and Trevor. The adventure levels stay high throughout the remainder of the film, and we see Fraser’s character turn into a total badass by the end.

All in all, I found the film to be laughable, entertaining and family friendly. And it was probably that much better since I have no real Journeybackground. Rated PG for intense action adventure and some scary moments. 92 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

— Emily Hobelmann

Continuing

CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN. Newest installment of series based on C.S. Lewis’s sci-fi/fantasy books. Rated PG. 144 m. At The Movies.

GET SMART.Maxwell Smart and his partner, 99, take on arch-villain out to brainwash and exploit Nobel Prize winners. Rated PG-13. 111 m. At the Broadway.

HANCOCK.Hard-living superhero who has fallen from grace gets help from a public relations pro. Rated PG-13. 93 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

HAPPENING. Episodes of strange, chilling deaths suddenly erupt in major American cities. Rated R. 90 m. At The Movies.

INCREDIBLE HULK. Live action film features classic character from Marvel Comics’ series. Rated PG-13. 114 m. At The Movies.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. Intrepid archaeologist becomes entangled in Soviet plot to uncover secret behind mysterious Crystal Skulls. Rated PG-13. 112 m. At the Broadway.

IRON MAN. Action/adventure flick based on Marvel’s iconic comic book super hero. Rated PG-13. 126 m. At The Movies.

KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL.Clever 9-year-old growing up during the Great Depression aspires to be a writer.Rated G. 94 m. At The Movies.

KUNG FU PANDA. Po the Panda Bear lays down bamboo shoots, takes up martial arts. Rated PG. 92 m. At the Broadway.

MEET DAVE.Crew of tiny, humanesque aliens arrives on earth in a spaceship shaped like a man. Rated PG. 91 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

SEX AND THE CITY. Continuing adventure of HBO series’ four main characters as they live out their Manhattan lives. Rated R. 145 m. At The Movies.

WALL-E.Robot love/adventure story from the director of Finding Nemo.Rated G. 98 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

WANTED.Apathetic nobody turns into enforcer of justice with help of super-hot babe. Rated R. 110 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN. Adam Sandler as the titular Israeli commando-turned-hairdresser. Rated PG-13. 113 m. At The Movies.

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