Entry for July 15, 2008: Hellboy and other summer superheroes

Friends, I hope you had a good weekend. On Friday, 11 July 2008, after the latest solid episode of Doctor Who, I watched the season premiere of Stargate: Atlantis. I still prefer and miss the cast from Stargate SG1 (and look forward to the direct-to-DVD Continuum), but the military space-opera spin-off was decent, if predictable.

On Saturday, Janice and I drove to the book shops and restaurants of Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts. We had a pizza lunch at The Upper Crust before going to Thomas K.Y.'s condominium in Lexington. Beruk A. joined us, and we screened Hellboy II: The Golden Army in Woburn.

I've been a fan of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola's art since DC Comics' Cosmic Odyssey and Gotham by Gaslight, as well as Disney's Atlantis. Guillermo del Toro directed not only the first live-action Hellboy movie, but also the dark fantasy Pan's Labyrinth. Mignola's lovable freaks and del Toro's fantastical creatures are further developed in The Golden Army. I also own the direct-to-video animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron.

Ron Perlman, no stranger to heavy makeup since the Beauty and the Beast television series and the film adaptation of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, once again plays "Big Red" as cranky and good-hearted. He is well-supported by Doug Jones as the amphibious Abe Sapien (and the fey chamberlain and a weird angel of death), Selma Blair as pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, and Jeffrey Tambor as barely competent Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense head Tom Manning.

Once again, the BPRD must protect normal humans from a hidden world of magical monsters, this time led by Luke Goss as evil Elf Prince Nuada and Anna Walton as his sister Princess Nuala. Hellboy and his fractious band of friends are joined by Family Guy's Seth McFarlane as the voice of the insubstantial Johann Krauss as they try to prevent the fey realm from using the titular golden army to wage war on New York City. The plot is straightforward, but the characters are still fun. The officious Krauss is most changed from the original Dark Horse comics.

However, no text-based review can do justice to the many varied monsters of Mignola and del Toro's universe, which pay homage to folklore, classic Hammer horror flicks, and more recent movies such as Star Wars' cantina scene, Henson's Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, and Harry Potter's Diagon Alley. One huge flowering menace reminded me of the tragic nature elementals of Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind, and Spirited Away, as well as the recent kaiju Cloverfield. We'll see how well del Toro does with the planned Hobbit movie.

I've described Hellboy before as Men In Black with demons instead of aliens, and the same holds true for their respective sequels. While not as innovative as the first films in each series, I liked Hellboy 2, which was rated PG-13 for violence. I'd give it about a 7 or 8 out of 10, or B+, putting it in the middle of my ratings for this summer's comic book adaptations.

After the movie, Thomas, Beruk, Janice, and I went to New Jang Su, a Korean barbeque restaurant in Burlington. Dinner was good, and from there, we returned to Thomas' place, where we viewed my DVD of the anime Batman: Gotham Knight.

Like the postapocalyptic cyberpunk Animatrix, this video is meant to showcase a variety of Asian styles and serve as a bridge between live-action movies (in this case, Batman Begins and the forthcoming Dark Knight). Bruce Timm, who helmed the excellent DC Comics television series of the past 15 years, is in charge of recent animated efforts such as this, Justice League: New Frontier, and the upcoming Wonder Woman.

The superb Kevin Conroy returns as the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Each vignette is connected but takes a different stylistic and storytelling approach to the costumed vigilante's ongoing war on crime in Gotham City, which looks better than ever. Writers and animators proved that while Marvel may currently rule the box office, DC's iconic characters still have life in them. I'd give Gotham Knight a 9 out of 10, or an A.

Speaking of Ron Perlman and anime, I've been watching Samurai 7 on Thursday nights on the Independent Film Channel. It's a cyberpunky adaptation of Akira Kurasawa's classic Seven Samurai, which was brought to the Old West as The Magnificent Seven. Perlman co-starred in Magnificent Seven: the Series.

On Sunday, after the usual City of Heroes teamup, J
anice and I caught up on yardwork and housework, as well as the broadcast of a dog show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. BBC America's Robin Hood will soon be replaced by science fiction series Primeval, and Avatar: the Last Airbender and Psych are coming back soon. I was pleased with the return of Foyle's War to Masterpiece: Mystery. I've also caught up on local newspapers, but comic books and gaming still beckon.

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