Movie Reviews: "Hellboy 2", "Mamma Mia", And "The Dark Knight"
I just realized that I've been to a lot of movies this summer. In addition to seeing the "Big 4" movies in May, I also saw (but never got around to reviewing) "Hancock" (liked it), "Get Smart" (liked it more), and "WALL-E" (hated it viscerally).
This "weekend", we went to see three more movies in a 48 hour period from noon Wednesday to noon Friday. Here are my reviews, from a guy's perspective:
On Wednesday afternoon, we went to "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army". Having never seen the original, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get into the flow of the story with little difficulty. There's lots of humor (I especially liked Hellboy's antipathy towards his new German boss) and some pretty good fighting scenes, along with some clever social commentary -- when the existence of the Hellboy is made public, the religious right is less concerned with the fact that the U.S. Government has a demon in its employ than with the possibility that there might be "interspecies marriage". Unfortunately, the movie never really seems to live up to its potential; this is probably a function of it being the 2nd in a planned series of films as much as anything. It advances the story in a workmanlike manner, but nothing is really resolved. This, along with some slow-moving parts that (literally) put me to sleep, results in the movie getting a solid 3 Stereotypical German Gasbags out of five.
On Thursday night at midnight, it seems that most of the country was lined up to see "The Dark Knight". That's why I took the girls in my family to check off my quarterly PM and see the midnight showing of "Mamma Mia". I'm always excited when I can fulfill my "chick-flick" obligation with a musical, because I generally like those. Seeing the trailers, I was a little worried that this film was going to suffer from the problem that "Sweeney Todd" had, wherein the "big name" actress they got for the female lead ended up being a bad singer. Despite an uneven performance in the title track, it turned out that Meryl Streep was a pretty good singer; the bad singing in this film was provided by Pierce Brosnan, who pretty much ruined what could have been a really good version of "S.O.S". The rest of the cast did pretty well, especially Amanda Seyfried playing the bride. I hadn't been sure where I'd seen her before, but soon remembered that she plays the oldest daughter in "Big Love" -- hopefully she won't get typecast by appearing in a movie having three dads on the heels of a cable TV series where she has three moms. The story pretty much depended on the three potential fathers not thinking to ask for several hours how old the bride-to-be was, but I suppose disbelief must be suspended in any movie where townspeople spontaneously break into song. Overall, the movie was simply O.K. -- I was going to give it a 2 until they finally included my favorite ABBA song ("Waterloo") as part of the closing credits. As a result, it gets a mushy 3 Clueless Dads out of five.
Eight hours later, we were back in the theater for the morning showing of "The Dark Knight". I'm not going to beat around the bush... this movie is really, really good. My only question I had as I left the theater is if it was better than "Casino Royale"; if so, it would move up to 2nd place on my list of "Best Films of the Naughties" (behind "Serenity"). The movie effectively drew the viewer into the director's world; the actors were well-cast (Maggie Gyllenhaal is a big upgrade from Katie Holmes as the love interest from the first film in the current franchise) and the action was non-stop. Although the film clocks in at 2 1/2 hours, it didn't seem like it lasted that long. The big thing that pushes this movie above almost all others, though, is the re-definition of a well-known character by a single actor's performance. When the Oscars are being handed out next year, you might hear someone say that Heath Ledger is only getting the Best Supporting Actor award because he died. If so, please ask them if they actually saw the movie, and if they say "yes", suggest that they actually watch the screen rather than shave their back the next time they go to the theater. Whereas Daniel Craig had Sean Connery to go to for inspiration to "re-create" James Bond, Ledger so completely redefined -- and made his own -- the Joker character that no other incarnation is even conceivable. He commands the screen in any scene in which he appears. This one performance is enough to push this movie into the "great" category, and earns my rating of 5 Overshadowed Superheroes out of five.