Words don’t really do justice in attempting to describe the wondrous array of misfits and monsters Guillermo del Toro has concocted in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army.” Truly, his is a world you have to experience for yourself to appreciate it fully — if you dare, that is.
At times, there’s almost too much to take in all at once — everything from hulking trolls with thick tusks to tiny tooth fairies that look delicate but actually delight in feasting on human bones.
The visuals are the star, of course. But the sequel wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without Ron Perlman returning as its beer-guzzling, kitten-nuzzling hero.
As the film’s title character — who grows from boy-devil to man-devil to reluctant, noir-style crime fighter — Perlman shows not just perfect comic timing but also an irresistible ability to laugh at himself.
This time, Hellboy and the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense must stop the power-hungry Prince Nuada from awakening a dormant army of indestructible golden soldiers. Seems all the underground creatures and the humans forged a pact long ago to keep the peace, and keep the Golden Army from causing any more death and destruction between the two races. Nuada has grown tired of that and takes action — even though his twin sister, Princess Nuala, has begged him to back down.
For Hellboy, though, the potential obliteration of all humankind is just one more hassle with which to deal. He’d rather just hang out.
The on-again, off-again battle between Hellboy and Nuada drags on a bit, causing the pacing to sag. But by about the two-thirds mark, “Hellboy II” runs out of steam.
Their journey does provoke a clever “Wizard of Oz” reference, though. But the best pop-culture moment of all comes courtesy of Barry Manilow, because in del Toro’s beautifully bizarro universe, where creatures come in all shapes and sizes, there’s even a place for 1970s schmaltz.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language. 110 minutes. Three stars out of four.
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Rated PG for intense adventure action and some scary moments. 93 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
Hollywood wisdom through the ages has always been that no technological innovation could ever make a bad movie into a good one.
Yet the three-dimensional breakthroughs employed in “Journey to the Center of the Earth” come close.
In just two dimensions, Brendan Fraser’s subterranean adventure to the planet’s midsection probably would play as what it is at its core.
With crisp images and depth that make you feel you could reach out and stick your hand into the middle of the action, the movie projected in digital 3-D actually makes that theme-park ride kind of fun.
The trouble is, there are nowhere near enough theaters yet equipped to project digital 3-D flicks in Hollywood’s nationwide pattern of 3,000-plus cinemas.
This is not Jules Verne’s sci-fi classic retold, though the movie does use his book as a template for a modern trek down below.
Essentially a three-character story, the movie casts Fraser as absent-minded geologist Trevor Anderson, who forgets his nephew Sean is coming for a visit.
Trevor’s brother, the boy’s dad, mysteriously vanished years earlier on a field expedition in Iceland. Just as Sean arrives, Trevor stumbles on clues left by his brother that lead him to believe Verne’s fantasy novel actually was based on a real journey to the earth’s center. So he takes the boy along to Iceland to follow his brother’s footsteps.
They meet up with local guide Hannah, and the threesome almost instantly finds themselves tumbling and racing through the planet’s interior, encountering glowing birds, ravenous sea creatures and a pasty-faced dinosaur aiming to snack on them.
This is a movie made solely as a thrill ride. But be warned: The ride may not be too thrilling if you see it in conventional 2-D cinema, so try to catch the 3-D version.