Hellboy Gets Smart

30 Aug 2008

I was intending to start writing up films I’ve been to see, with an individual entry for each. I haven’t quite managed that, so here’s a grab bag of things I’ve seen recently. First up, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Going to see the original when it came out a few years ago, I was expecting a fairly standard two hours of mild diversion, but nothing more. In fact, it turned out to be great - visually inventive, a good ensemble cast, and most importantly, never taking itself too seriously. Everyone involved seems to be enjoying themselves immensely, and it comes through in the finished product.

The sequel is more of the same, with a sprinkling of tight white t-shirt flashbacks and a dash of the non-Franco bits of Pan’s Labyrinth. The same sense of fun is still present, and the effects are if anything more impressive. This is possibly the only black mark against the film; the original felt small in scope, which was part of it’s charm, whereas the sequel tries for something more grandiose. As a result, it doesn’t have the same amiable feel. Still, it’s one of the most entertaining films of the year so far.

Next, Get Smart. It’s by no means a classic, but it’s worth seeing. Most heavily-promoted movies starring Steve Carrel leave me cold, and the trailers for this didn’t fill me with confidence, but I’d enough fond memories of the TV show to give it a go. I’m glad I did. Carrel is excellent as Max, the other headline names (Anne Hathaway and Dwayne Johnson) and supporting cast (notably, Masi Oka from Heroes) all acquit themselves with aplomb, and an unexpected, cantankerous bonus appears in the form of Alan Arkin as the Chief (random fact; Arkin also starred with Carrel in the superb Little Miss Sunshine). Another nice touch is that, unlike most of the regular-Joe-is-forced-to-become-field-agent genre (and it is a genre), Smart is actually competent, as well as being a bit of a buffoon. Not an easy trick to pull off, but Carrel manages it.

Finally, a random assortment of slightly less recent films. There isn’t really much to say about Wall-E - it’s Pixar, so even if it was their worst film ever, it would still beat the crap out of pretty much everything else in the box office. In any case, it isn’t their worst film by a long shot - in fact, it’s vying with Toy Story and The Incredibles for my favourite Pixar of all time. The short is one of their best, too. Hot Fuzz isn’t even slightly new, but it’s well worth digging out the DVD, as it just gets better and better every time you watch it.

Finally finally, The Prestige deserves a special mention - fantastic performances and intelligent plotting with genuinely unpredictable twists. The only slight flaw in this gem of a film is the exposition sequence at the end, complete with flashbacks to fill in the gaps. I only just figured out what was going on, dammit! Don’t take that away from me!

Sorry. I’ve calmed down now.

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