Movie Review: Hellboy (2019)

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Hellboy (David Harbour) is about to hit the crapper in Neil Marshall’s 2019 reboot. (Source: Wall Street Journal)

It has been fifteen years since Guillermo del Toro brought Mike Mignola’s comic-book series to life. Although far from perfect, the film managed to showcase del Toro’s talents as a writer and director. It featured an excellent visual style (mixing CGI with practical effects), great characters, and almost wall-to-wall action. No one could play the half-demon/half-human better than Ron Perlman, who brought so much charisma and humor underneath all the makeup. The sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, contained a bigger fantasy atmosphere. It’s a shame there wouldn’t be more adventures with the original cast.

Director Neil Marshall (The Descent) thought it would be a great idea to reboot the franchise. Sadly, even with an R-rating, meaning more gore and profanity, doesn’t mean it’s any good.

Hellboy (David Harbour), the adoptive son of Professor Trevor Broom (Ian McShane), trains to become an agent of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). He gets sent to England to help the Osiris Club to take down a group of giants.

After being betrayed by the secret society, he eventually joins forces with Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), who has magical abilities after being kidnapped by fairies as a baby, and a hot-headed M11 agent Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae-Kim), with the ability of turning into a jaguar. They learn about ancient sorceress Nimue (Milla Jovovich), whose head among other body parts were dismembered by King Arthur in 517 AD. She comes back to wreak havoc on humanity, as if we have never seen it done to death already (*ahem* The Mummy (2017)).

Everything about Hellboy feels rushed to the point of feeling like a trailer to a movie that never happened. Its pacing goes all over the place. Throughout this trainwreck, we see the characters go from one location to the next; flashing back or giving too much exposition. Hell, even the action sequences are nauseating to watch. The CGI looks like something out of a video game for the XBOX. This movie contains the most blood I’ve ever seen in a comic-book movie.

Fresh from playing Officer Jim Hopper in Stranger Things, David Harbour is not a bad choice to play Hellboy. He does have the physique and attitude to play someone as tough as the red Nazi demon. Unfortunately, his portrayal comes off as immature and whiny; making terrible jokes and shouting even worse one-liners (“Quit while you’re a head,” he says to a dismembered head after letting it go). Not only sucking out the wit and charm that made Perlman’s version so good, there is also no chemistry between him and his co-stars. McShane’s Professor Broom is so over-the-top that it’s hard not to laugh whenever he appears on the screen (he’s better off training John Wick). Even in limbs, Jovovich still comes off as dull playing a whitewashed character. The weirdest performance of all is Thomas Haden Church as a vigilante who kills his victims and branding them with his lobster-claw symbol.

The new Hellboy is about as entertaining as a two-hour car accident. There is no fun to be had with it whatsoever. Everything about it is incomprehensible and obnoxious to the point where making everyone sick to their stomach and having a headache. It’s charmless, humorless, lifeless, and cringe-worthy. Not only is it one of the worst movies of the year, it’s one of the worst comic-book movies I’ve ever seen. Of course, a movie like this will end on a cliffhanger; leaving room for a sequel. It’s blockbuster hell.

0/10

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Movie Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

 

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Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is back; this time, with a new team in the superior 2008 sequel to Hellboy, The Golden Army. (Source: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema)

After the success of Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro decided to give the sequel to Hellboy a fantasy atmosphere. With a budget of $85 million ($20 million more than its predecessor), The Golden Army is a superior sequel with a lot more humor, wall-to-wall action, and wonderful characters from before–as well as introducing some new ones. Ron Perlman, again, plays Hellboy with the wit and charm as the original.

Here, he and his team of paranormal researchers–his pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), Dr. Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), and a German ectoplasmic psychic named Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth MacFarlane, the only movie where he doesn’t turn in a bad performance) to take down Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), a creature from a mystical underworld who has collected pieces of the crown, so he could be in charge of a massive army of mechanical soldiers, known as “The Golden Army”. Resulting in a battle between the humans and his people.

I love the attention to detail in the wonderful sets, particularly the troll market where Hellboy and his colleagues go through. I’m certain it will take many repeated viewings to catch everything going on in that sequence. For someone who is a sucker for fantasy, the atmosphere works for this kind of movie. With its great action set pieces, the movie also contains some of the most hilarious moments in any superhero movie. I love the scene where Abe and Hellboy discuss issues about women, after Abe falls in love with Princess Nuala (Anna Walton), and sing Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” while drinking some beer. It’s hard not to crack a smile during that scene.

It’s a shame to hear Hellboy III will never see the light of day. I will miss the great adventures with these actors, and I’ll watch them for the rest of my life, especially Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

10/10

Movie Review: Hellboy (2004)

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Hellboy (Ron Perlman) rids the Earth from paranormal threats while also dealing with personal issues in Guillermo del Toro’s first superhero movie. (Source: IMDb)

Years before he won an Oscar for The Shape of Water, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro adapted Mike Mignola’s graphic novel series, Hellboy, to the big screen. It became a modest box-office success when it hit theaters in 2004. Although it didn’t break any new ground in the superhero genre, it contains enough humor, fantastic visuals, and historical intrigue to outweigh its flaws.

Ron Perlman hits it out of the park as the title character, a demon who came out of a paranormal portal built by the Nazis during World War II to free the “Seven Gods of Chaos” to defeat the Allies. However, things don’t go according to plan as the Allies defeat the Nazis. Dr. Trevor Broom (the late John Hurt) adopts the creature and, eventually, training him to be an agent of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) to secretly protect the world from paranormal threats, with the help of a psychic half-amphibian/half-human Dr. Abe Sapien (Doug Jones; voiced by David Hyde Pierce), John Myers (Rupert Evans), and Dr. Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor). While a demanding role (considering the red make-up), Perlman plays Hellboy as a selfish yet charismatic creature who smokes cigars, loves Baby Ruth candy, and has a soft spot for cats (similar to Vito Corleone from The Godfather).

There is plenty of action in this movie, particularly one exhilarating scene leading to a subway station. For the most part, the movie works, due to del Toro’s sensitive directing and screenplay (though ridden with holes), the energy, the atmosphere, and the great characters. 

8/10

Movie Review: Shazam!

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14-year-old Billy Batson (Zachary Levi) becomes the adult superhero Shazam, who needs help from his foster brother (Jack Dylan Grazer) in David F. Sandberg’s first outing in the superhero genre. (Source: New York Post)

It looks like the DCEU is starting to gain its mojo, after the surprises of Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Fresh from directing two horror movies–Lights Out (based on his own short film) and the surprisingly solid Annabelle: Creation, Swedish filmmaker David F. Sandberg directs a superhero origin story described as Big meets Superman. Shazam! has been in development for years. At one point, Dwayne Johnson was attached to play Black Adam. However, Sandberg and screenwriter Henry Gayden decided for a more light-hearted tone with some frightening imagery thrown in the mix.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a 14-year-old from Philadelphia, who has escaped from numerous foster homes to search for his biological mother. He spends his days getting into trouble with the law until he gets sent to a new foster home with Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa Vazquez (Marta Milans). One day, he heads on a subway to get away from a couple of bullies, which leads him to a secret lair known as The Rock of Eternity.

There, Billy meets the ancient wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), who explains to him he has been looking for a Champion who is “pure of heart”, and must prevent the Seven Deadly Sins, a group of monsters, to wipe out humanity. Reluctant, at first, Billy touches the staff and shouts “Shazam!” This turns him into the adult superhero (Zachary Levi, Chuck and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), who wears a red suit with a yellow lightning bolt on his chest. With the help of his new foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, It), a comic-book fanatic, Billy tests his new superpowers, while the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) is out to get him.

No other actor can capture the young-at-heart charisma while having a violent side than Levi. While he is no stranger playing dorky characters, this is the first time where he plays a superhero. This is by no means a simple role to pull off. Balancing his physicality with the emotional weight, he is nothing short of perfect. There is excellent chemistry between him and Grazer, who provide enough comic relief to keep the movie going. Prepare to laugh your head off when they test out superpowers, which contains the best use of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” since Shaun of the Dead.

Strong plays the best villain in the franchise, by far. It’s no surprise he can play these types of roles in his sleep. However, there is something about him as Sivana I find so captivating. Like its protagonist, he is dealing with family issues. His nasty nature shows in an unflinching prologue where he enters the lair as a child, but gains different powers when he becomes an adult.

For a movie to feature foster parents who expect their kids to respect one another is a breath of fresh air. There is plenty of thrilling action set pieces, but there is an uplifting theme about the importance of family. Seeing where Billy is coming from, it’s almost impossible not to get teary-eyed over. We are with him every step of the way.

For his first movie outside the horror genre, Sandberg hits it out of the park! Shazam! works as a superhero movie, a light-hearted comedy, a trip into nostalgia, and a Christmas movie. Expect to see more wise-cracking and ass-kicking from Shazam soon, since a sequel is currently in the works.

9.5/10

Movie Review: Hotel Mumbai

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Arjun (Dev Patel) notices something going wrong inside the hotel in Anthony Maras’ first feature-length film Hotel Mumbai. (Source: The Hollywood Reporter)

Movies based on real-life events have been around ever since the beginning. They will never go the way of the dinosaurs. Dramatizations of the events being portrayed are hailed and criticized for their historical accuracies. Schindler’s List, GoodFellas, The Social Network, Captain Phillips among others work so well not just because of how accurate the events are portrayed, but how much respect the actors and directors give to the subject matter. On the other hand, movies such as Pearl Harbor and Annabelle don’t work, due to the poor quality and being unfocused garbage.

There’s a movie called Hotel Mumbai, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, recounting the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Over the course of four days, approximately 160 people were killed while 300 others were injured. Australian director Anthony Maras crafts a film reminiscent to the films of Paul Greengrass and Peter Berg.

On November 26, a group of terrorists arrive in Mumbai by boats to wreak havoc throughout the city. They start at the train station and a nearby cafe. Eventually, they end up at the five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. There, kitchen worker Arjun (Dev Patel) and the head chef Hemant (Anupam Kher) are working on that day. American newlyweds David (Armie Hammer) and Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) arrive with their newborn child and nanny Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). The two eat at the fancy restaurant inside the hotel while Sally looks over the child. Once the terrorists arrive, everyone must fight for their lives.

For a first feature-length film, Maras makes a thriller that is impressive and expertly-staged. It’s far from a masterpiece, but it’s never boring and the tension hardly lets up. The shootings are as brutal as expected and realistic. Patel has come a long way since Slumdog Millionaire. Now–it seems he is auditioning to become the next James Bond. He and Hammer are the highlights of the movie. Hammer plays David as someone who desperately tries to keep his family safe. It’s different than what we have seen him before. His performance is more powerful than the disastrous Sorry to Bother You. As for everyone else, they are there as stock characters. In the end, Hotel Mumbai feels somewhat mundane.

6.5/10

Movie Review: Us

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Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) faces her worst nightmare in Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out. (Source: Deseret News)

“Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?”

Jordan Peele exceeded audiences’ expectations with 2017’s Get Out. After the five-season run of the hit sketch series, Key and Peele, he made a directorial debut that perfectly balanced humor and thrills. Due to winning his first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, he digged deep with the allegory of the Black Lives Matter movement that has been discussed since its theatrical release. As the host of the upcoming Twilight Zone reboot, it’s no surprise he’s going to become the next Alfred Hitchcock. His filmmaking skills show in his slightly superior sophomore film Us, an allegory of killing the American Dream.

Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) spends vacation at her childhood beach house outside Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe (Wilson Duke) and her children, Jason (Evan Alex) and Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph). Although stricken with fear and anxiety after a creepy incident on the boardwalk when she was a child (in the film’s spine-tingling opening sequences), she and Gabe befriend a wealthier couple–John (Tim Heidecker) and Kitty Tyler (Elisabeth Moss). Maybe she will have a fun, peaceful time after all. One night, Adelaide’s past begins to haunt her when a family ends up in their driveway. It reveals they are their doppelgangers in nastier appearances. All hell begins to break loose.

Nyong’o leads a great ensemble as the overbearing mother whose horrifying dreams would soon come a reality. The audience emphasizes with her as she attempts to keep her family safe during this horrible event. Her interactions between her husband and the kids does generate some good laughs and is never a dull moment.

The core theme of Us involves the biggest evil of all is ourselves. However, In an interview with IndieWire, Peele decided to dig deep with his own interpretation. “I was stricken by the fact we are in a time where we fear the other,” he said. “Whether it is the mysterious invader that we think is going to come and kill us, take our jobs, or the faction that we don’t live near that voted a different way than us. We’re all about pointing the finger and I wanted to suggest that maybe the monster we really need to look at has our face. Maybe the evil is us.”

Peele’s writing and direction is wonderful. The suspense is not shaky and the humor is never shied away. Kudos to Mike Gioulakis’ unnerving cinematography, the atmosphere in this is guaranteed to generate chills and gasps. There is also something so subtle it would require plenty of rewatches to catch what everyone didn’t catch up on before–from the images of Jeremiah 11:11 to the rabbits roaming around in the underground hallway. One of the obvious influences is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which both have a similar tone. Like the timeless horror movie classic, Us will be discussed about for many years to come. I’ll never listen to The Beach Boys the same way again.

10/10

Movie Review: Apollo 11

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Three American astronauts go to the Moon in the documentary Apollo 11. (Source: New York Post)

A movie called First Man came out last year, which was Damien Chazelle’s first blockbuster. Although Neil Armstrong’s emotional journey to the Moon was an incredible experience to see in theater, it became a box-office disappointment after it sparked controversy surrounding its real-life patriotic moment being absent from the film. There is no doubt it will earn a cult following.

Now–the latest documentary Apollo 11 has landed in theaters after its strong premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, showing never-before-seen footage, shot in 70mm film. It works as a companion to Chazelle’s overlooked masterpiece.

Everybody knows how July 20, 1969, became a monumental day in American history. Following JFK’s promise, NASA recruited three American astronauts to the Moon and safely back to Earth at the end of the decade. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were up to the task. A lot of people not only watched (or heard) the Saturn V rocket lifting off, but they were ecstatic about the journey home.

This morning, I watched an episode of The Grand Tour where James May was talking about the Apollo program. You might ask: What does space have to do with a show about three guys giving each other a hard time while talking about cars?

Well–he wasn’t just talking about the history of the space program, he also talked about what cars the astronauts owned after going into space. Aldrin and Armstrong drove a Corvette, while Collins drove a VW Beetle (makes sense since he stayed inside to control the Lunar Module while the other two took their first steps on the Moon). There was a program where a dealership leased astronauts Corvettes for $1 per year, and trade them in for the latest Corvette. Armstrong owned a 1967 Corvette Sting Ray, the one which May drove down the runway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. His passion for this material is nothing short on infectious. It’s as if his wildest dreams have come true. But–I digress.

This breathtaking documentary only features footage inside the control rooms in Cape Canaveral and Houston, in space, inside the rocket, and the heart-racing sequence of traveling to the moon. Also, featuring the occasional voiceovers of Walter Cronkite’s news broadcasts and Nixon’s phone call from the White House congratulating the astronauts in outer space. It’s an experience to behold on the big screen.

10/10