Hellboy II: The Golden Army

The Baltimore Sun

Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair. Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro. Universal Home Video $29.98 (blu-ray $39.98) *** 1/2

Guillermo del Toro might well be the most exciting, imaginative director making films today. If Pan's Labyrinth didn't convince you, watch Hellboy II: The Golden Army, then try to argue otherwise.

This go-round, demonic do-gooder Hellboy, dedicated to saving mankind even while it despises him, is up against a frustrated, power-mad, fratricidal elf tired of watching man have all the fun. The nefarious plan: Unleash an army of 70,000 soulless, Middle-Earthian Transformers to wreak all kinds of havoc. Standing in his way is Hellboy (Ron Perlman), his girlfriend Liz Sherman (Selma Blair as a distaff Human Torch) and their gilled sidekick, Abe Sapien (del Toro perennial Doug Jones).

What other filmmaker could weave a demonic tale that includes tooth fairies, Barry Manilow and the troll living under the Brooklyn Bridge, and make it look like something out of a nightmare world created by the team of J.R.R. Tolkien and Henry Ford? Del Toro's unrivaled visual palate is a treasure worth savoring again and again, and a convincing argument for the value of high-definition video.

Also out today: The Boys In the Band (Paramount Home Video, $26.98) is William Friedkin's 1970 adaptation of Mart Crowley's groundbreaking play. The cast, lifted directly off the stage, is superb. The film works well as a relic from the days when making a film about openly gay men was groundbreaking in itself, and as an intense character study of 10 friends with more to hide than they care to admit.

Other releases: George Lucas does one for the kids with the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Warner Home Video, $28.98, $35.98 Blu-ray); new editions of Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina and Roman Holiday, part of the Paramount Centennial Collection (Paramount Home Video, $24.99 each); the Lone Ranger and Tonto (Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels) ride again in the 13-disc The Lone Ranger: 75th Anniversary -- Seasons 1 and 2 (Classic Media, $119.95). And, no, it's the characters turning 75, not the TV series; it's a comparatively young 59.

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