It's that time of year when I try to catch up with any of the Oscar nominees available on DVD that I haven't yet seen, so here's the reviews of two movies that couldn't be more different. First, Man on Wire, a film nominated for Best Documentary Feature (along with The Betrayal, Encounters at the End of the World, The Garden, and Trouble the Water). It's the story of an act of wonder and awe that took place in 1974 in New York City that would no longer be possible today. Philipe Petit describes how he and some friends managed to rig a wire between the newly built Twin Towers and how he wirewalked for 45 minutes at 1350 feet in the air, without any sort of net or protective equipment. He previously had walked between the towers of Notre Dame de Paris, and the Sydney Bridge in Australia, both of which were illegal. They carefully describe sneaking into the unfinished top floors of the WTC, avoiding guards, stringing the wire, and then the wonder that accompanied doing something like that just because you can. Petit is a masterful performer and has such a whimsical character that watching him describe his own dreams of doing this is fun and engaging too. Just given it's popularity, I'm guessing this will win the Oscar. If you're a Netflix subscriber (and own a PC or Roku) you can stream this movie through them. 4 Lamb/Stars
The other movie I saw was Hellboy, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (the mastermind behind Pan's Labyrinth). I told you the pairing was as random as it gets. But the reasoning for watching the first Hellboy is that the sequel was nominated for Best Achievement in Make-up, which is the category I will be documenting in the 2009 LAMB devours the Oscars feature over at the LAMB. I figured I might as well see the first one before watching the second (I've always been someone who took homework seriously!). My dad was a huge fan when it came out, so I knew it couldn't be that bad, and it wasn't. It's very funny, somewhat confusing, a little scary, and very sci-fi fantastic. This is what I think it's about. It starts during WWII, where we see a group of soldiers in Scotland trying to figure out some paranormal activity. We later learn it was Rasputin (advisor to the Czars of Russia) trying to unlock the power between worlds, which if the Nazis gain control of, they'll win the war. Our brave soldiers thwart their effort, cause things to go wrong, and somehow bring forth a devil-boy nicknamed Hellboy. He's kept undercover by the FBI, but brought out to solve crimes involving monsters. We see where he's been raised by Prof. Broom at the FBI Bureau of Paranormal Research. A new agent, Myers, has been assigned to assist Hellboy, and meets his sidekick, Abe Sapien (an aquatic contortionist acted by Doug Jones and voiced by David Hyde Pierce) who can see the past in objects. They also used to have another roommate, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a fire-starter who now lives in a mental facility. Anyway, Rasputin returns in the modern age and our group of misfits has to go off and make sure he stays dead this time. Ron Perlman (from the old TV show Beauty and the Beast) is Hellboy, "Red", trying to fit in better by filing off his horns (hence the stubs on his forehead that always confused me) and having a wicked sense of humor. It's a very funny movie and I can't wait to see the next one. It almost makes me want to see Pan's Labyrinth just to see more of del Toro's work, but we'll see.
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