Reboots are often a dirty word in today’s movie community. Except in rare cases, they’re often seen as a cash grab in order to make money off a known property rather than give a chance to a new property. This is especially true when the original is beloved by many fans as is the case with Hellboy. While the first two movies didn’t garner huge box office numbers, they remain a well loved pair of films with plenty of support given to director Guillermo del Toro’s unique vision of the comic book world and the great cast. This time around the director is not nearly as much of a visionary and turns the interesting world of Hellboy into a world full of gore and swearing more akin to Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters than what you might expect from a Hellboy movie. And while I wasn’t expecting a whole lot considering the lack of early reviews and those that came out days before release were pretty awful, I still gave it a chance and while the movie as a whole failed, at least the heroes were characters that I could get behind and I still had fun with the movie. And as usual with new movies, this review contains spoilers so read on if you’ve already seen the movie, or don’t care.
Moving my way down in quality for this year’s Graphic Horror before hitting the planned high point at the end comes this lovely gem that came out the same year as the Matrix but with a wholly different interpretation of special effects. It actually started its life as a movie script, but was considered to be too special effects intensive at the time and so it was first made into a comic book from Dark Horse. John Bruno was cutting his teeth working on special effects under James Cameron before getting this film as a director, and unfortunately it really shows that he was more of a special effects guy than a full director. There are many issues with this film, but the special effects work really is not one of them. While there are a couple name actors with Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Sutherland, they are definitely not bringing their A games. It’s a horror film with a small cast that doesn’t know whether it wants to be a slow burn thriller, a gore fest, or a survival action film, and the blending of these genres do not work very well at all. It has some fun moments here and there, but for the most part, it’s a rather boring slog-fest.
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I decided that I wanted to make a list of 100 superhero movies that I thought were the essentials, the ones that everyone needs to see at one point in time if they want to be a fully fledged superhero movie afficionado, and while I am having guest bloggers this month help me fill out the list, there are many much more obvious choices that were easy to make and I’m here to share some of those with you. I’ve made a few different lists from Marvel and DC comics, but those aren’t the only two companies out there that make superhero comics, and now it’s finally time to take a look at some of the other superhero movies that come from comics outside of the big two.
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I think it’s funny that the last time I participated in The Lamb’s movie of the month it was Demolition Man, a 90’s sci-fi movie that featured an 80’s action star and someone getting frozen and shattered, and this time around I watched a 90’s sci-fi movie that featured an 80’s action star and someone getting frozen and partially shattered. Anyway, this is one of Jean Claude Van Damme’s biggest movies from that era and with good reason. It came out a year after Demolition Man, but it tried to be a much more serious movie than the former. There is a heavily sci-fi mumbo jumbo plot, but instead of just jumping forward in time to a utopia, there is quite a bit of jumping back and forth through time with the occasional alternate timelines, and surprisingly I thought they were actually fairly well thought out and intriguing. It also featured Mia Sara who I remembered from the Ridley Scott fantasy movie Legend and she has a bit of a sex scene in the beginning of the movie that I wasn’t quite expecting. Overall the movie wasn’t quite as much 90’s cheese as I was expecting, and while it’s not the greatest sci-fi action movie by any stretch of the imagination, I had a really great time watching it and it was better than I was expecting it to be.
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The Mask 1994
For a while, I was trying to figure out what I should watch next. I was thinking about watching some superhero movies with some relation to the holidays, but the only ones I could think of were Batman Returns which I already watched, and Elf Man which looks horrible. So, I just picked a random movie from my collection I hadn’t gotten around to yet: The Mask. I was never a huge fan of Jim Carrey’s old comedies even though I did watch them, and the catch phrases made their rounds at my school. This movie also has the distinction of being the debut of Cameron Diaz. It’s based on a Dark Horse comic, and it’s typically thought of as more of a zany comedy rather than a superhero movie, but it works for me.
Now I know that many movie blogs end the year with a big top 10 list, and I’m no different. I also ask everyone who I have on this site the same question: “What’s your favorite superhero movie?” and from the beginning, I’ve dodged answering that question myself. My go to answer is “the next one”. But now that I’ve watched 100 superhero movies, and this site has technically passed its one year registration date even though I didn’t have my first real post for a couple weeks, I figured it’s time to narrow them down and give you a list of my top 10 favorite superhero movies. I know that movies are a highly subjective art form, no matter what movie it is there’s someone out there who likes it, so I’m not claiming that these are the all time best superhero movies, but they are my own personal favorites. I have also cheated a little bit and added some “runner up”s that have some connection with each entry, but shouldn’t be looked at as a possible replacement for that spot in the top ten, but more like a movie contending for spot #11. So without further ado, let’s get to the list.
Hellboy: Blood & Iron
This movie finishes out my Hellboy marathon and is my 99th superhero movie review of the year. I’m very happy to finish out my goal of watching and reviewing over 100 superhero movies this year. My 100th movie is a great one and a nice way to cap off my goal, though I will keep reviewing over the last couple weeks of the year. But back to Hellboy, Blood & Iron was the second animated movie and even though it came out after Sword of Storms, it takes place before the first Hellboy movie, focusing quite a bit on Professor Broom and shedding some light into his backstory. After many years of retirement from active duty, Broom takes on one more assignment that was initially introduced as a publicity stunt, though it ends up bringing back an old horror from the Professor’s early days in the BPRD. In other words, this is Hellboy’s take on vampire mythology. Taken as a whole, the Hellboy movie series really runs the gamut of different mythologies, giving them new life and putting the Hellboy spin on it. Instead of the typical vampire origin, this brings in the Greek Goddess of the witches, Hecate, and a figure from history just as infamous as Vlad the Impaler, Elizabeth Bathory. I was actually somewhat familiar with the story of the Blood Countess due to a City of Heroes player who created a custom mission arc with her history which I made a trailer for. Vampires, especially nowadays, are such a popular topic they have almost been done to death, and yet this movie was able to breathe some new life into the undead creatures, even though once again it briefly reminded me of Vampire Hunter D, the sequel this time. There was also a bit of Memento inspired chronological order shifting, with the flashbacks being intercut with the current day story in almost the same way.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army 2008
It had been a long while since I had seen this movie. I actually bought it on Blu-Ray before I even started this site and had not gotten around to watching it again until now, and that’s a real shame because this is such a gorgeous and amazing movie. It has so many things that are very different from the first movie, but what it does keep is the sense of fun and the fantastic visuals. What the first film did for the Cthulhu mythology, this movie does with a completely different set of mythology. Not only that, but it gives many of the characters extra depth, there aren’t really any bad guys, there’s a lot more moral ambiguity and really explores the grey areas of what Hellboy and the BPRD does. And mixed in through all of that are some amazing action setpieces.
Before watching this movie, I went through and did a full count of how many movies I’ve actually reviewed so far this year. My original goal was 100 superhero movies, and by my current count I’m up to 95. Plus, I’ve reviewed 7 “Almost Super” movies. So that means I’ve got five more movies to watch and review over the next few weeks to hit my goal. I’d like to pick something good for #100, I’ll likely put a poll up tomorrow. But for #96-99 I’ll be watching all the movies in the Hellboy franchise, both live action and both animated. I’ve enjoyed these movies ever since I first watched them, Ron Perlman was and still is the perfect casting choice for the big red guy. There’s so much in this movie to enjoy, from the practical effects to the amazing designs on everything, to Hellboy’s attitude, this movie is one of my favorites and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to watch it. In fact, the poster I’m using to headline this post was actually one of my first movie posters, and hung on my wall for years. Such a great looking poster.
Barb Wire 1996
Ok, so first off I should probably mention that it’s taken me about three days to write this review. It’s not that it’s a terribly complex movie, or that I’ve wanted to go on and on and on about it. It’s just that for about two days, I’ve been sitting with this post open on its own tab, and I’ve been finding any and every online reason to distract myself from writing it. I do have to admit that it’s been very refreshing to essentially take a break from blogging. I went from being quite disappointed that my traffic wasn’t increasing at the same rate it had been for a handful of months, and that it was way lower than several other sites that had started around the same time, and that posting daily was way more taxing than I realized and after a few days, I realized it wasn’t having a huge effect on traffic. I’m obviously getting less traffic than I was when I was posting daily, but it’s not a huge drop. And if I really cared that much about traffic, I would simply review more popular movies. But taking this break has helped me focus on what this site has really become for me, a way to seek out and share my thoughts on a little niche genre that I enjoy, a way to find the undiscovered little gems that others may get a kick out of. But before I go way off topic (too late), let’s get back to the movie at hand. Before I started looking into it, all I knew about Barb Wire was that it was Pamela Anderson’s attempt at acting, an adaptation of some comic book, and Pam Anderson showed off quite a bit of her body in it. After I started looking into it, one of the first things anyone mentioned about it was that it was essentially a remake of Casablanca. Now Casablanca is one of the few black and white classic movies that I’m a big fan of. I’ve seen it three or four times (which is a lot for me, I rarely re-watch movies unless it’s a favorite), so I was curious how many similarities I would be able to catch, which did kind of make it more interesting to watch, if only a little.