Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Hellboy (2019)

Hellboy (2019)

Director: Neil Marshall 

Cast: Dave Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane

I have never cared for Rotten Tomatoes, like at all. They’ve been doing this thing where they’ll post an article based on the Rotten Tomatoes score saying such and such a movie has such a low Rotten Tomatoes score.  You know what I say to that? Who cares? More than once they have done that sort of thing, then I see the movie they have trashed and I end up enjoying it. So it’s getting to the point where if Rotten Tomatoes says a movie is going to be bad or has a low score, I immediately feel like I will more than likely like it. And I’m not just talking out of my caboose, I just saw Hellboy (2019) a film that Rotten Tomatoes and apparently the rest of the internet decided they were going to hate and I ended up having a blast with it. So let’s get that out of the way, this remake was fun as hell. It ain’t perfect, but it sure as hell wasn’t “worst film of the year” or “cinematic pond scum” as they were calling it. 

Hellboy is all about this evil witch who was so evil they cut her up into a million pieces and scattered her pieces throughout the land so that no one could put her back together again. You see, she’s so evil they chopped of her head and it still lives! Kind of like Vigo The Carpathian in Ghostbusters II (1989)? Anyhow, you just know someone is going to find all the pieces and resurrect her. This evil Blood Queen has world destroying aspirations and at the same time she’s looking for her King and she’s got her eye on good old Hellboy. Meanwhile, Hellboy is having he’s usual existential dilemas. Is he good? Is he evil? Is he meant to destroy the world or save it?

 The problem with this movie is that everyone is coming ready to rip it a new one, they are not even considering giving it a chance. Why? Because it’s not Guillermo del Toro directing, because it’s not Ron Perlman playing Hellboy, because there’s no Abe Sapien. But you know what, I’m fine with someone else directing because even though I love Del Toro’s movies, and I love his appreciation for all things horror and Lovecraft, I’m not a huge fan of his schmaltzy, over sentimental side. You know how he always manages to turn any one of his movies, even if its horror into a big old romance thing? Crimson Peak (2015) and the Hellboy movies are a great example of this. And to be honest, the romance between Hellboy and Liz never felt real to me, it felt forced. The good thing about Neil Marshall’s take on Hellboy is that it has none of that. It’s more of a horror film.

And in that sense, it is more faithful to Mike Mignola’s comic books, which have always been completely immersed in horror. Actually, this movie gets bonus points in my book for going into Hellboy's true origins about his real mother and father! No one had done that before. The cool thing about this movie is that it kind of takes all the different monsters we’ve seen throughout Mignola’s comics and incorporates them into one bombastic love letter to horror! We get witches, zombies, warlocks, the end of the world, giants, pig monsters, Baba Yaga, cannibalism…you name it, it’s in there. So the film is never boring. You can’t blame Guillermo del Toro for making his films romantic, because it’s part of  what makes a Del Toro film a Del Toro film, just like you can’t blame Neil Marshall for incorporating elements of King Aurthur and the Knights of the Roundtable into his films. I remember seeing Neil Marshall’s post-apocalyptic film Doomsday (2008) (now there’s a bad film!) and thinking why would he squeeze knights and horses into this movie? They just felt so out of place in a post apocalyptic film. And now he has also done it in Hellboy and I realize its his thing. Just like all directors have “their thing”, which they do in all their movies. On Hellboy, Marshall somehow found a way to incorporate Excalibur and Merlin into the story. Like I said, everything but the kitchen sink here. Is that a good or a bad thing? Depends. Do you like your movies fast paced? I personally dug the whole Excalibur angle to the movie. 

 Then there’s the issue of David Harbour; sure he aint Ron Perlman, from day one Harbour had huge shoes to fill. Did he pull it off? Well, I have to tell you guys that he is pretty much the same character. He is playing Hellboy. I really didn’t feel that big difference from Perlman to Harbour. Except that in some scenes it looks like Hellboy’s gained a couple of pounds. So I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with Harbour’s take on the character, I think he did a fine job. What does take a bit of getting used to is Hellboy’s new look. He looks slightly different, but no big deal either. The icing on the cake is Milla Jovovich as the Blood Queen, a new addition to the Hellboy universe. She makes a decent villain, one that attempts to acquire Hellboy’s affections. 

 Finally another awesome thing about this remake is that it has substantial gore and special effects. There’s this awesome scene in which Hellboy fights these giants that looks amazing, a show stopper, very interesting camera work going on in those scenes. There’s lots of decapitations, lots of bodies being ripped apart, I mean this movie really does earn its hard ‘R’ rating. This movie is certainly NOT for kids, just saying. So bottom line, I don’t get the hatred. It’s almost like ‘they’ don’t want you to see this movie, which obviously means you should. Powers that be don’t like horror films, have you noticed how much they’ve changed through the years? Have you noticed what is allowed and marketed in Hollywood? It’s films that make you want to go to church! If it’s about a demon who gets beaten by reading from the bible or by waving a cross at it, then the film is green lit! The Nun and The Conjuring come to mind. Hellboy goes against all that. This film goes against the grain, so of course, its going to get the hatred. I mean here we have a film that’s getting a huge theatrical release, and it’s a film in which a demon from hell is the hero of the picture! My conspiracy theory with this one is that this is why it’s being lambasted by the “critics”. Worst part is that a lot of the bashing happened even before the film was released? I mean, people who are saying its garbage are just going with the media, which apparently doesn’t want you to lose your faith or take it lightly. So anyways, is there anything negative I can say about this movie? Um, let’s see…it was fast paced? Story was a little generic? That’s about it? Too bad people tend to go with whatever crappy article they see posted on the internet. Oh wait, this movie has a kick ass rock and roll soundtrack, no wait that's a good thing. For a fun night at the movies, you can do a lot, lot worse than this. I say go have a hell of a time!  

Rating 4 out of 5 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2019)

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2019)

Director: Terry Gilliam 

Cast: Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce 

If you look at the repertoire of films in director Terry Gilliam’s career, you’ll see that a lot of his films have a Quixote quality to them. Many of his films deal with a man who escapes to fantasy worlds in order to avoid the harshness of the real one. For example, in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989), the aging Baron Munchausen calms a war torn town with his tall tales of fantasy and mayhem same as Quixote’s tall tales. Like Don Quixote, the Baron rides a horse wields a sword and fights fantastical creatures. Like Quixote, the Baron gets old when life grows stagnant and only adventure brings him to life! The Baron and Quixote are always avoiding death…from old age…or simply having death itself (read: the grim reaper) literally chasing you around. They are both in love with the “beautiful ladies”. And that’s not the only Quixote like example in Gilliam’s career, Jonathan Price’s character in Brazil (1985) is also a man who escapes into fantasy. In his fantasies he sees himself (much like Quixote) as an armor wearing sword wielding warrior, fighting giant buildings that emerge from the ground…similar to how Quixote has to fight windmills who are “giants”. 

 So yeah, Quixote has always been very close to Gilliam’s heart. And it makes all the sense in the world, because after all, isn’t Gilliam like Quixote himself? A man avoiding the horrors of boring old reality by escaping into his fantasy films? Fighting the giant windmills of Hollywood and life to make his films? I’ve always appreciated Gilliam’s defense of the great escape, the importance in our lives for storytelling, the beauty of theater, the comedic tragedy that is life. It’s one of the reasons I personally connect with director Terry Gilliam’s films and the overall message of his films. They are against reality and all for high adventure and bewilderment! His films are for the zany, crazy part of life as well, how we shouldn’t take things so damn seriously. His films have a feel of someone who wants to amaze and entertain you with the many possibilities of pure fantasy. Of escapism of the highest caliber. 

 Which is why I appreciate The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2019) and how it got made. I mean, here’s a film that Gilliam at one point attempted to make but failed. It’s such a sad tale, yet such an amazing one at the same time. A documentary was shot of the whole thing called Lost in La Mancha (2002) and it’s just mind-blowing. Here’s my review for it, read it and find out why it’s such an amazing experience to see. But in a nutshell, everything went wrong that first time Gilliam attempted to make this film in Spain back in 2000. The actor who was going to play Don Quixote got a back pain and couldn’t ride his horse, a storm destroyed all the sets, millions were lost and all for nothing because quite literally, Gilliam pulled the plug on the film. He gave up on it. Or did he? Thanks to the folks at Amazon, he finally got the chance to make the film. It’s been 25 years in the making so this film is kind of a miracle! 

Here's a picture of Gilliam, on location with Jean Rochefort; Gilliam's choice for Quixote in the first attempt at making this film. Gilliam's face on this pic says a thing or two about what a grueling experience that first attempt was. 

 Was it worth all the pain? The answer is a resounding yes! It’s Gilliam going back to his roots, to that pure fantasy escape, but told in a closer way to Gilliam’s true inspiration in his career: Cervante’s Don Quixote. Of course, this isn’t the Gilliam of the 80’s who would get 60 million dollars to make The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989), this is Gilliam on a tight budget. I’m sure this film could have been made with more special effects…to bring that fantasy to life, but it’s not.  This is a slightly restrained Gilliam in terms of going nuts with special effects. We do get one fun moment in which ‘Quixote’ fights with three giants which is gloriously good, it reminded me of what Gilliam loved to do in the 80’s, it brought to mind that giant that comes out of the ocean with a pirate ship on his head from Time Bandits (1981). And there’s little things here and there throughout the whole film that will remind you of previous Gilliam films, loved that about it. 

 When directors hit their mature years, they tend to make films that are deeper and more profound and not so focused on pure spectacle, and this is that type of film. It’s not special effects left and right, it’s a more character driven tale about this self-centered film director that reconnects with an actor he made his first film with, the film he made is called The Man Who Killed Do Quixote. The actor believes he is Don Quixote and at times, you believe it. Maybe he is? Who knows. That’s for you to decide. But the film once again hits one Gilliam’s favorite themes, fantasy vs. reality. The fear of death and the wanting to live life with an adventurous spirit or die trying. It’s all told from a very meta perspective in the sense that it is a film about filmmaking, the frustrations and the pleasures of being a creative mind. How making a film is a true struggle. 

 I loved this movie for many things, among them that shift between fantasy, memory and dream world, then back to reality. That code switching between worlds is excellent and vintage Terry Gilliam territory. So this is basically like Gilliam’s life thesis, encapsulating everything his learned about life and filmmaking and giving it to us. It’s such a pity that the film is actually going through legal issues (the struggle continues!) and it could only be shown one day in a few theaters…I was lucky to see it on the 42ndStreet Regal Theater in New York. I was kind of hoping he was in the audience…because it’s a one-night event and it was New York. I could have sworn I heard his peculiar Terry Gilliam laugh at one point...I swear he was watching it with the audience. Or was it a fantasy in my mind? I’ll never really know. Final take on Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is that its Gilliam going back to his roots. It has a lot of what made Brazil and Adventures of Baron Munchausen great, but on a smaller budget and more focused on story and performances. Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce deliver amazing performances and make the film that much more pleasurable. Glad to see Gilliam is still making great films. Through Gilliam, Cervante’s heart and spirit beat fierce and free still!  

Rating: 4 out of 5 


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