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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Guillermo del Toro
Cast:
Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, James Dodd, Jeffrey Tambor, John Alexander, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Seth MacFarlane
Writing Credits:
Guillermo del Toro (and story), Mike Mignola (comic book & story)

Tagline:
Saving the world is a hell of a job.

Synopsis:
The fate of mankind hangs in the balance when a ruthless prince awakens an unstoppable army of creatures and wages war with the human world. It's up to Hellboy and his team of paranormal outcasts to face off with the forces of darkness in the ultimate battle of good versus evil!

From the visionary director of Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army takes you into fantastical worlds with imaginative creatures and thrilling fight sequences unlike anything you've ever seen before!

Box Office:
Budget
$72 million.
Opening Weekend
$34.539 million on 3204 screens.
Domestic Gross
$75.754 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 11/11/2008

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo Del Toro
• Audio Commentary with Actors Selma Blair, Luke Goss and Jeffrey Tambor
• Set Visits
• Troll Market Tour with Guillermo Del Toro
• “Zinco Epilogue” Animated Comic
• Deleted Scenes
• Previews
DVD Two:
• “Prologue” Introduction from Director Guillermo Del Toro
• “Hellboy: In the Service of the Demon” Documentary
• Production Workshop
• Pre-Production Vault
• Marketing Campaign
• DVD-ROM Script
DVD Three:
• Digital Copy


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Special Edition (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 10, 2008)

Although 2004’s Hellboy didn’t soar at the box office, it boasted a strong enough life on home video to ensure a sequel. That came with 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army, a flick with a more intriguing release date. While the first movie came out in the relatively quiet month of April, Army hit the screens in the middle of the crowded summer schedule.

Which was a mistake. While Army earned a pretty good $34 million during its opening weekend, it immediately hit the skids for its second weekend. Why? Because it ran up against the Dark Knight juggernaut. Since Army and Knight competed for the same audience, Batman mopped up the floor with the big red warrior.

Would Army have done better at the box office had the suits picked a more advantageous release date? Probably. Who in their right mind figured that it’d be a good idea to put out a flick with a semi-obscure superhero only a week before the arrival of one of the summer’s most anticipated films? The person must be a relative of the Decca Records executive who passed on the Beatles.

It remains to be seen if we’ll get a third Hellboy movie, but if we do, I hope it earns a more logical release date, as the series deserves better. In Army, a prologue tells us about an ancient war between humans and mystical creatures. Elf King Balor (Roy Dotrice) agrees to allow goblins build him an unstoppable mechanical “Golden Army”. Those of royal blood can control these warriors if they wear a special crown.

The Golden Army handles the humans pretty well – perhaps too well, so King Balor experiences some serious regrets. He instigates a truce with the humans and splits the crown into three pieces to make it more difficult to access. This agreement also separates the various groups: the humans stay in the cities while the magical folk remain in the forests. Not all like this, though. King Balor’s son Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) protests and goes into seclusion to await his chance to return and reactivate the Golden Army.

A time that arrives in the current day, of course. A piece of the crown goes up for auction so Nuada seizes the opportunity to capture it. Aided by his right-hand-monster Mr. Wink, Nuada stages an assault on the auction and attracts the attention of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), a secret government group that uses powerful beings to do their dirty work.

Being who include Hellboy (Ron Perlman), his fiery girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), and their aquatic pal Abe (Doug Jones). They follow up on the mess made by Nuada and this sets them down a path to find out why the prince wanted the crown. The story also involves Nuada’s peace-loving twin sister Princess Nuala (Anna Walton) and a mix of complications as Hellboy and the others attempt to halt Nuada and prevent the return of the Golden Army.

Maybe I’m just a stooge, but when I saw Army theatrically, I must admit that its story left me a bit befuddled. I think much of this stemmed from the dense prologue. The film packs tons of information into that quick opening and it can become too much to digest.

Or at least that’s how I felt during my initial screening. During the second go-round, the information seemed less complex. Of course, that’s not surprising since I heard it twice, though I must admit that matters don’t appear quite as complex as I originally believed. Honestly, I’m not sure why I was so confused during that theatrical screening; maybe I was just sleepy that day.

In reality, Army presents a pretty simple story, one that favors the battle between nature and man. In his commentary, director Guillermo Del Toro denies any ecological message, but it’s hard to see the tale as anything else. The movie highlights the damage man does to the environment in such a way that it doesn’t feel coincidental.

Not that Army beats us over the head with its message, as it remains a good action flick at heart. Though perhaps not as strong as the first Hellboy, Army offers a nice mix of characters and drama. Perlman continues to delight in the lead role. He seems well suited to the gruff but lovable Hellboy, and Jones gets more opportunity to shine here as Abe. Not only does this film let him speak for himself – David Hyde Pierce dubbed the character’s voice in the first flick – but also Abe develops his own romantic subplot with Nuala. Liz gets the shaft to some degree; while she has her own personal concerns, the movie doesn’t seem very interested in that part of the tale.

Actually, at times Army appears to be more fascinated with production design than anything else, and I’m not wild about the developments there. While the first flick came across as a good combination of Del Toro's style and the look of the source comics, Del Toro’s preferences dominate here. In visual terms, that means Army often feels more like a sequel to Pan’s Labyrinth than part of the Hellboy universe.

And I don’t view that as a good thing. I thought Labyrinth was overrated and not particularly compelling, so the presence of similar visual elements leaves me cold. Or maybe I just don’t like the creepy earthy look to so many of Del Toro’s creations. Whatever the case may be, Army too often seems excessively fascinated with its own visual weirdness and not concerned enough with its characters.

Nonetheless, the good easily outweighs the bad in Army. Del Toro may be too enamored with his own visual style, but he also brings a strong sense of inventiveness and creativity to the superhero genre. We find more than enough exciting and clever sequences to make this a fun flick.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio A-/ Bonus A+

Hellboy II: The Golden Army appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While much of the flick looked quite good, a few too many problems emerged.

Some of these connected to sharpness. I noticed examples of moderate edge enhancement, and those elements gave some shots a loose, tentative feel. Though most of the image looked concise, the occasional softness and the edge haloes created distractions. No concerns with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, though. As for print flaws, they seemed absent, though I thought the flick displayed more grain than usual.

Colors also could be somewhat erratic. The film used stylized tones that favored a mix of blues, golds and reds. The first two came across well and looked vivid, but the reds tended to appear a bit too heavy. For the most part, though, colors seemed good. Blacks were deep and rich, but shadows were less pleasing. Some low-light shots displayed slightly murky definition and could be too opaque. At no point did the transfer become unattractive, but I thought a big flick like this deserved a more consistent presentation.

At least Army featured strong audio, as the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundfield offered an active environment. All five channels received frequent use, whether for the vivid action sequences or just to provide generally spooky music and ambience. The different elements seemed nicely delineated and placed within the spectrum, and they blended together smoothly and cleanly. The surrounds played a very substantial role in the process and provided a high level of discrete information. As a result, the soundfield consistently gave us a lively and engaging presence.

Audio quality also seemed terrific. Dialogue sounded natural and distinct, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music appeared bright and vivid, and the score and songs demonstrated solid dynamics; highs came across as crisp and clear, while low-end sounded deep and warm.

Effects provided the highlights of the track, of course, as the myriad of elements kept the mix active. Those components sounded clean and accurate and they featured excellent low-end response. Bass consistently appeared loud but it remained tight and never became overwhelming; that spectrum accentuated the process and didn’t become a distraction. I found nothing about which I could complain as I listened to this positive mix.

Like virtually all Guillermo Del Toro movies, Hellboy II features a ton of supplements. On DVD One, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Guillermo Del Toro, as he provides a running, screen-specific chat. Del Toro discusses story, themes and characters, the development of the sequel, sets and locations, visual design and cinematography, makeup and effects, inspirations and influences, and other production specifics.

Del Toro always offers interesting commentaries, and his chat here continues that trend. The director comes across as thoughtful, funny and unassuming as he discusses his film. He digs into a mix of fascinating topics and turns this into yet another terrific track.

For the second commentary, we hear from actors Selma Blair, Luke Goss and Jeffrey Tambor. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. They talk about their experiences during the shoot as well as some character notes and performance specifics.

After the excellent chat from Del Toro, it seemed inevitable that the second track wouldn’t be as good. The actor commentary indeed falls far short of the level achieved by the director, and it often doesn’t give us a lot of substance. Oh, it proves to be reasonably entertaining, mostly due to the chemistry among the actors, but we simply don’t learn much about the flick.

Next we find a collection of seven Set Visits. These run a total of 17 minutes, 51 seconds; the clips vary from one minute, 29 seconds up to three minutes, two seconds. These provide raw footage from the sets; we go to the locations and watch the cast and crew at work. I like this kind of behind the scenes material, so I think these are quite satisfying. I would’ve liked a “View All” option, though.

A Troll Market Tour with Guillermo Del Toro lasts 12 minutes, 21 seconds. During this, the director leads us through the troll market set and tells us a little about it. Since I still enjoy behind the scenes elements, I find a lot to enjoy here. Del Toro is always such a fun host, and we get a nice sense of the details in the complex set through his chat.

After this we get an animated comic. Entitled Zinco Epilogue, the piece fills five minutes, 14 seconds as it shows an extension of the film’s ending. It proves mildly interesting but not much more than that.

Six Deleted Scenes go for a total of five minutes, two seconds. These include “Blackwood’s Auction Video” (0:40), “Coffee Break” (0:59), “Minty Aftertaste” (0:32), “On the Beat” (0:45), “Prince Nuada Silverlance” (1:27) and “Big Baby Montage” (0:36). Liz and Manning get a boost in a couple of these, and we also find some minor exposition. “Silverlance” already appears in the final flick in shorter form; it’s the least interesting of the segments here. Nothing crucial appears, but the clips offer some interesting little bits.

We can watch these scenes with or without commentary from Del Toro. He gives us some basic notes about the segments as well thoughts about why he dropped them. As always, Del Toro amuses and informs with his remarks.

DVD One opens with a few ads. We get promos for Wanted, the Wanted: Weapons of Fate videogame, Knight Rider, Blu-Ray Disc, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior and Slap Shot 3: The Junior League.

Over on DVD Two, we start with a quick Prologue introduction from Del Toro. In this 23-second clip, he gives us a quick overview of his intentions for the extras. It’s painless.

The disc’s main attraction comes from a documentary called Hellboy: In the Service of the Demon. During this two-hour, 34-minute and 41-second piece, we hear from Del Toro, Goss, Tambor, Blair, creator/co-executive producer Mike Mignola, producers Lloyd Levin and Lawrence Gordon, creature and makeup effects designer Mike Elizolde, puppeteer/creature department supervisor Mark Setrakian, stunt coordinator Bradley Allan, animation lead Anders Beer, visual effects supervisor Michael Wassel, digital effects supervisor Andrew Chapman, animation lead Jay Davis, CG sequence supervisor Graham Jack, costume designer Sammy Sheldon, production designer Stephen Scott, assistant VFX supervisor Manex Efrem, animation supervisor Eamonn Butler, 2D sequence supervisors Jolene McCaffrey, Tom Rolfe and Paul Morris, 3D sequence supervisor Brian Kranz, sequence lead Stewart Love, technical director Graham Hudson, and actors Ron Perlman, Doug Jones, Anna Walton, James Dodd, John Alexander, Brian Steele, and Seth MacFarlane.

“Service” covers the development of the sequel, visual design and choices, characters and story, costumes and sets, creatures, makeup and effects, cast and performances, stunts and fight choreography, dubbing, and post-production CG. With more than 150 minutes at its disposal, “Service” gets a great deal of time to cover the production, and it does so very well. The show touches on a good variety of subjects and offers a fine combination of filmmaker notes and behind the scenes footage. This is a consistently stimulating and informative piece.

A Production Workshop gives us a “thumbnail storyboard progression”. The “Intro” includes some opening notes from Del Toro, but then it shows the Golden Army puppet prologue via a storyboard/final film comparison. We can watch the sequence sans intro but with added commentary from Del Toro. As always, he brings good information to the table and helps make this component worthwhile.

Two pieces appear in the Pre-Production Vault. “Director’s Notebook” starts with yet another Del Toro intro (0:43) in which he tells us what to expect. From there, we leaf through the pages of Del Toro’s notebook to see his sketches and pre-production ideas.

This area also includes six “video pods”. These provide short clips that offer additional information about the subjects depicted in the notebook. As usual, this collection gives us quite a lot of nice tidbits.

We also get a “Gallery”. It breaks down into “Creature Design” (174 images), “Mike Mignola Creator Gallery” (67), “Production Design” (83) and “Production Stills” (14). You can view the elements either individually in thumbnailed galleries or through slideshow presentations. If you choose the latter for “Creator Gallery”, you’ll find a 36-minute and 20-second commentary from Mignola as well. That makes the “Creator Gallery” particularly valuable, but all four are good.

Under Marketing Campaign, we begin with a “Print Gallery”. It includes 16 ads. “Poster Explorations” contributes another 57 stills. Both offer nice images, though I especially like the “Explorations” since they allow us to see unused advertising concepts.

For those with DVD-ROM capabilities, you can check out the movie’s script. ddashkdjsaadshdsajk

Finally, DVD Three includes a Digital Copy of Army. It seems like every DVD provides this option these days; it allows you to easily transfer the flick to a portable device. I have no use for it, but I guess someone must dig it.

While not quite as much fun as its predecessor, Hellboy II: The Golden Army provides a worthy sequel. I dislike some of its production aspects, but it still entertains and delights much of the time. Unfortunately, picture quality is erratic, but the film boasts excellent audio and a large, interesting roster of extras. Despite the visual inconsistencies, this is a positive release for a good comic book flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 15
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main