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Hellboy (Two-Disc Special Edition)
(Discounted DVD from Amazon)
. "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

If the objective of the Hellboy series is to showcase the fallibility of a superhero forged from the furnaces of the supernatural and to make him so "human" that he appeals to audiences who wouldn't normally set foot in a theatre playing a CGI-enhanced action film, this sequel should cross that labyrinth. This homespun, beer-swilling, cigar-smoking thoughtful grump (irreplaceable Ron Perlman) could be your lovable old uncle if he didn't have two horns and a red tail

Which is funny, since he's balancing a desire to settle down with his beloved and fiery Liz (Selma Blair) and his instinctual need to fight evil in his work for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, a secret government organization, under chief Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), an emulsive bureaucrat. And, it's evil aplenty that comes his way ever since he was molded out of an alliance between Satan and the Nazis, rescued and raised by genial Professor Trevor "Broom" Bruttenholm (John Hurt).

In a prologue scene, Broom reads pre-teen Hellboy to sleep from an old tome which describes an ancient, unhuman kingdom defending itself with an invincible army of gold giants. So powerful and unmoral were these warriors that the three-part golden crown which controlled them was divided in order to save the human race.

Wouldn't you know it that in these times, the summer of 2008 to be exact, the evil Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) is trying to agitate the status quo by putting the three hidden parts of the ancient crown together in order to arouse the secretly buried Golden Army, destroy humanity and rule the universe. What a guy. But, he's got a couple of flies in the ointment. For one, his twin sister Princess Nuala (Anna Walton) is against his ambition and she holds the third part of the crown. For another, there's that cranky Hellboy who won't go away.

When our hero isn't battling an impossibly humongous, tentacled creature on the streets and buildings of New York with a baby in his arms, watching TV or getting drunk (which he does in a hilarious change-of-pace, down-to-earth scene with fish-like pal Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, "Pan's Labyrinth," "Fantastic Four: Rise of the The Silver Surfer"), he's trying to get some quality time with Liz, his loving cohort at the Bureau who is another superhuman with flame power, aka pyrokinesis, and who hasn't told him yet that she's pregnant with his child (sequel, sequel!).

This beer-buddy scene between non-humans is daringly integrated into an action thriller to greatly humanizing effect--one which characterizes director Guillermo Del Toro's ("Pan's Labyrinth") conceptual brilliance in the sub worlds of creatures light and dark, human and not. He fashioned the screenplay with Mike Mignola who created the Dark Horse comicbook on which the Hellboy franchise is based.

The creature creations take first place for bizarre brilliance. The score by Danny Elfman functions with similar originality and solid range. Art direction and cinematography support all concepts at pro levels.

The weak link in Del Toro's chain of restrained might seems to be in envisioning characters who are less than they ought to be. Doug Jones in the fish mask functions as an effete, brainy sidekick, seemingly patterned on Star War's C3PIO, and brings little credibility to a romantic engagement with the princess; Walton's princess is awfully wan in her role; and, worst of
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all, the profound evil that Goss is representing here poses little physical threat in so slight a figure, though what he lacks in body size is conpensated for in his martial arts speed and fight choreography.

Happily, such shortcomings don't apply to our principals. Is there such a thing as a demon everyman? As said, Hellboy would be inconceivable in any incarnation other than Ron Perlman whose size, head shape, bluster and irrepressible grumpiness endear him to us and make for full acceptance of his relationship with exquisite Selma Blair, whose presence leaves us wanting so much more. This sexy, dark-haired beauty just wipes us out with her expressions of love for her demon lover. This babe could light any man's fire.

So... when can we expect Hellboy III?

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Selma Blair and Ron Perlman
The pyrokinetic Liz and boyfriend Hellboy.

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