What the Hellboy

Hellboy

Apologies to anyone who thought my punny title insinuated a predominantly negative review. It’s actually more medium positive. Ahem. Shall we begin?

I didn’t know Guillermo del Toro did Hellboy. Huh! The costumes and CG definitely make sense now, which is to say, they’re over-the-top but tolerable… for the most part.

Hellboy is the action-packed story of a demon summoned into the world by Nazis only to be captured by America and raised to fight the forces of evil. Those of you who have played Bloodrayne basically already know the entire plot, so watching the movie is a formality. On top of the perfunctory involvement of the Third Reich in Satanic affairs, Grigori Rasputin is set in the seat of the antagonist. You’d think a perverted false-prophet freeloader would warrant a less important position, but there you go.

HellboyThe story resembles something out of a comic book (which it is): Spunky, strange-looking heroes with unusual superpowers, and villains looking to do something outlandishly evil and apocalyptic for no real reason. Take Abraham Sapien, one of the non-combat sidekick types. He’s a fish-man with the “unique” frontal lobe that lets him read minds and sense the timelines of objects he touches. Or Liz Sherman, a humanoid pyromancer with a past full of bullying and misfortune, who so happens to be Hellboy’s love interest. Hellboy himself gets immunity to fire and a big stone hand that he uses for smashy fun time. I suppose his tail counts as a part of his hero loadout, but he only ever uses it to steal a six-pack of beer, so I’ll leave that judgment up to you.

HellboyThe deal is, the Nazis want to use Hellboy to open up a special gate that will free a terrible Eldritch beast and subsequently turn Earth into Hell. They begin their devious scheme by releasing a hellhound called Sammael, the uh… dog of many titles. He regenerates from grievous wounds and lays plenty of eggs, so most of the fight scenes are engulfed by his generous presence. This is rather unfortunate, because several of the concluding fights seem particularly quick if not rushed, whereas ol’ tentacle chops gets three or four chances to hump Hellboy to death. No humping actually happens, okay?

Despite its sometimes icky CG and silly-angsty sense of humor, Hellboy is a fun movie to watch. It’s two hours long, which unfortunately doesn’t manage to escape the inescapable time-crunch of turning a written work into a movie. It’s not too harsh an impact, though, so despite the fact that you’re going to wish Hellboy spent a few more minutes slapping the giant purple tentacle cactus, you’ll be satisfied with the film as a whole.

HellboyKim Newman of Empire Online liked del Toro’s movie adaptation of Mike Mignola’s comic. It’s a comic, by the way. Thought you should know. As it turns out, Guillermo remained extremely loyal to said comics, so fans will be able to enjoy a good watch without too many “THAT NEVER HAPPENED” moments. And newcomers might have reason to check out the source material! Here’s the alt review link for your perusing: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=9788

Mama is Not Fond of Your Sanity

Mama

Javier Botet is pretty good at playing women. Not normal women, in the sense that normal women wouldn’t eat someone’s face or raise feral children in an abandoned shed. The latter’s what we’re looking at here, because mama-mia, this movie review’s about Mama! In all seriousness, it scared the jack-ripping shit out of me, and I can honestly say that it’s yet another Guillermo del Toro masterpiece. Let’s talk about it.

A man murders his coworkers and wife, kidnaps his daughters, and crashes his car out in the snow wilderness. They happen upon a small cabin, which is where dear daddy decides to kill himself and his daughters rather than have them all face starvation and solitude. That’s when you meet Mama. Mama kills daddy, and raises the girls in her own unique way, unique here meaning they become like animals.
MamaSo daddy’s brother hires a search party to hunt the three down. His girlfriend Annabel is in a rock band, and she’s not fond of children. BUT ALAS. The two old guys and their bloodhound find the two beastie girls, and Doctor Gerald Dreyfuss swings things in court so Uncle Lucas gets the kids. There’s a compromise, though. In exchange for giving them a big, child-suitable place to live, Doc wants access to the kids so he can do a case study.

Of course Mama don’t like nobody givin’ love to her kids; It is ALL downhill from there. I genuinely like this movie, so you’re getting zero essential plot spoilers. You’ll thank me later.

Now, let’s talk a bit about what makes Mama scary. The character and the movie, I mean. My favorite bit is that each and every jump scare is telegraphed. Yes, this is scary. It is about to get even scarier. Will seeing it coming help you? No. No it will not. Even on the third view, the bigger scares still make me wince. Of course, knowing that Mama is always watching tends to creep you out.

MamaMama herself is terrifying. A quick Google search of “Javier Botet” will give you a pretty good idea of the physique you’re dealing with. Tall, lanky, bony. Handsome guy, but now when he’s playing freaky-ass women who like to kill people. They keep her unseen for the most part, but you get plenty of opportunities to gander at her pretty, pretty face later on.

Lilly and Victoria are the girls, by the way. Forgot to mention, but they get to scare you too. Between their creepy little crawl and their tendency to do cute yet startling things, you’ll love them! Wonderful little actresses, the both of them. Take any Stephen King movie, and the kids are all mental defects who like playing and singing and being stupid. Don’t get me wrong, Mama’s girls aren’t right in the head either, but at least their performance is convincing.

Speaking of actresses, Jessica Chastain is distractingly attractive as Annabel. Yes, quite the tasteless thing to note, but it can take away from the tension at times. Let’s be serious: a punk rock bass-playing lass with short black hair, raccoon makeup, and a gruff, sassy attitude. Survey says: Yes please.

MamaOh, and one last thing before the alt review. That scene where it’s supposed to be “late” and the sun’s blazing through the curtains? Happens a few times, but the movie’s good enough to make it forgivable. Also, Lilly eats moths. Several times. Icky. They’re Mama’s signifier, so moths mean Mama. Just thought you should know.

You know what? No alternate review. Maybe I just have a unique taste in movies. Maybe everything I like to watch is actually god-awful. But guess what? I don’t give a fuck! Too many critics are bogus. Mama is a damn good horror movie, and you should check it out. Slight chance of a once-off effect after you’ve seen Mama face to face, but still worth a rewatch or four. And with that, I’m done.


Pan’s Labyrinth is A-MAZE-ing


Pan's Labyrinth
Sure, the title isn’t funny, but the fact that Pan’s Labyrinth had to be tagged as “not a children’s movie” while being sold is. You look at the front and think it’ll be some cute story about a little girl in a fairy tale world, and then realize that you’re wrong; so wrong that you’re probably going to cry.

Pan’s Labyrinth is a story about a little bookworm, Ofelia, traveling out into the woods of 1944 fascist Spain with her pregnant mother and sadistic army officer stepfather. She discovers a mysterious insect that leads her through and ancient, broken labyrinth, dropping her off in what appears to be a well dedicated to a mythological god. A faun appears before her and explains that she is the daughter of the King of the Underworld, and that she has to accomplish three tasks before the moon is full.

I should note that Underworld in this context doesn’t mean Hell; it just means a world underlying the “real” world. Just thought I’d clear that up. Oh, and while I’m clearing things up, this entire movie’s in Spanish. No dubs, only subtitles.

Onward. As she departs from the well, the faun gives her a book that explains the three tasks as they occur. The first is to crawl into a dying tree and feed a giant toad a set of three stones in order to kill it. She manages to pull this off, but ruins the dress and shoes her mother gave her accidentally. The tree was messy and muddy. Poor girl.

Pan's LabyrinthBefore she can accomplish the second task, her mother begins to hemorrhage; a complication with her pregnancy. When she returns to the faun, he scolds her for not following through, but then gives her a mandrake root to put under her mother’s bed in a bowl of fresh milk. So long as she keeps the milk fresh and the root fed with two drops of blood each day, her mother’s health will improve.

A halt in the partial synopsis here to state that there are actually three perspectives going on throughout the movie. Ofelia’s is one. Then comes Mercedes, a servant to the fascist officers occupying the area. She’s spying for the rebels in hiding, and helping them by sending food and medicine. Finally, there’s Captain Vidal’s (Ofelia’s stepfather, the sadistic officer) perspective. He’s busy hunting rebels for the most part, so he doesn’t really ever join the party until Ofelia’s mother’s condition worsens, or when he begins to find clues linking Mercedes to the rebels. It’s high tension, bound to keep you on your toes until the very end.

Pan's LabyrinthYou know what, skip the synopsis. I don’t want to ruin it all. I’ll just leave it a little ruined. A major point I’d like to make is that Pan’s Labyrinth has no serious flaws. The acting is great, the emotional scenes hit home, the tone is dark and somber, and the visuals are, for lack of a less clichéd word, stunning. Seriously. That faun is freaky looking. And wait until you see the Pale Man of Ofelia’s second task. Yucko. The conclusion will definitely leave you wondering what really happened, since mixing fairy tales with reality never really tends to create a definitive plot. An ambiguous, satisfying ending, more or less. You’ll like it.

Lexi Feinberg of CinemaBlend shines the spotlight on this movie’s tendency to make you feel pretty bad about everything. It is, in essence, the anti-Disney movie of the year. Every time something changes, it drags the tone deeper down into the swirling black abyss of hopelessness. Shame, eh? Here’s the link, just in case you want to double-check and make sure I’m not making this up: http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/Pan-s-Labyrinth-1832.html