Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Another very good (and this year, all too rare) sequel that outshines its original by a bright sun or two, Guillermo del Toro's HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY manages to be involving, funny, moving, and visually stunning -- as one expects from the guy who gave us The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth. Finally, here's a movie in which the special effects are truly special. Doug Jones' Abe-the-Fish character (shown on the poster above) gets his chance to sing (literally and metaphorically), and he manages to touch our heartstrings without a false move. Selma Blair and Ron Pearlman are delightful, too, but it's del Toro (shown at top) who provides the most pleasure. After you've seen the film itself, watch his charming guided tour of the Troll Market from the Special Features section and be amazed at all the work that goes into -- and often barely gets seen -- a movie such as this. Yes, you'll begin forgetting the film almost as soon as it is finished. But its pleasure-while-viewing factor is high indeed.

Anand Tucker's quietly affecting WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? surprised me. After its first few minutes, I thought, "Ah: one of those looking-back-at-your-family movies that will be OK but little more." By the end, however, I was greatly moved. Tucker (directing David Nicholls's adaptation of Blake Morrison's autobiographical book) gives us a lot of short scenes that offer information and feelings, gradually building into a strong and powerful whole. His film lasts only 90 minutes, but that's enough to provide the sense of loss and aloneness that arrives with the death of one's parent, even a parent for whom one has experienced little love. We also get a taste of how selfish grown children can become when faced with this loss, as well as how the adolescent view -- necessarily rigid and self-involved -- when carried through into adulthood can cramp and diminish a life. The title, a rather obvious question, becomes a unique and necessary one by the movie's close. Jim Broadbent (above, left) and Juliet Stevenson (above, right) play the older generation, while Colin Firth and Gina McKee (shown center, about to canoodle) essay the younger. All four, as well as the fine supporting cast, are splendid.

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