Hellboy II: Big-budget bizarro

Guillermo del Toro's dazzling sequel

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GET SMART (PG-13) True to the spirit of the 1960s TV series without parroting or postmodernizing it to death, the big-screen Get Smart gets by on goofy charm, a higher-than-average percentage of jokes that hit their target and a winning comedic performance by Steve Carell. Carell steps neatly into Don Adams' shoes (and inherits his trademark shoe phone) as Maxwell Smart, aka Agent 86, a likeable but somewhat delusional bumbler who's convinced he's the greatest secret agent since that Bond guy. 2008's Get Smart humanizes Smart by having Carell's character start out as an underappreciated intelligence analyst who's frustrated at being a middle-aged "invisible man" and who only gets to realize his dream of becoming an agent when all the other spies are conveniently compromised. Once Max gets his groove on, though, the movie doesn't look back, whisking around Russia and other exotic ports of call rooting out enemy agents and foiling assassination attempts in a plot that's short on logic but long on breezy energy. Meanwhile the gags fly thick and fast, as the movie liberally spices up its action with some choice bits that allow Carell to shine, mostly slapstick-ish routines involving the comedian falling out of airplanes, imitating an idiot and repeatedly shooting himself in the face with a mini-harpoon. The rest of the cast is pretty solid as well, from Anne Hathaway (channeling a Shrimpton sister via smashing '60s fashions and foot-long lashes) to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's pitch-perfect parody of a slick super-spy to the elegantly villainous Terrence Stamp. Look close and you may even find Bill Murray in there, lurking within some innocuous clump of flotsam and jetsam. Also stars Alan Arkin. Terry Crews, David Koechner and James Caan. 3.5 stars

HANCOCK (PG-13) Will Smith stars as a surly, alcoholic superhero in Hancock, and sad to say, that concept is all there is to this glum Hollywood product. Devoid of a compelling story, Hancock relies instead on star power, gimmicky direction and the de rigueur assemblage of CGI effects typical of would-be summer blockbusters. As the titular hero, Smith has a penchant for drinking excessive amounts of whiskey and causing millions of dollars' worth of destruction during his rescues and crime-stopping endeavors. Even at its best, Hancock doesn't reinvent the superhero genre's template so much as invert it, to mild comic effect, and it never makes satisfactory use of the issues it raises, namely fate, responsibility and duty to one's fellow man. While Hancock the hero embraces his potential, Hancock the film squanders it away. Also stars Jason Bateman, Charlize Theron and Eddie Marsan. 2 stars —Anthony Salveggi

THE HAPPENING (R) No one's talking much about the new M. Night Shyamalan movie, so all we can tell you is that the story concerns a family on the run from some sort of catastrophic, humanity-threatening event and that the stars are Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel. Oh, and there's just the slightest possibility that some sort of twist ending might be involved. Also stars John Leguizamo. (Not Reviewed)

THE INCREDIBLE HULK (PG-13) The Hulk, for those who may be unfamiliar with Marvel Comics' green-skinned man's man, is rage personified — a towering, pea-brained inferno who bubbles up from the depths of mild-mannered Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) whenever BB gets agitated — and The Incredible Hulk's most salient feature may just be the heaps of unfiltered aggression it offers audiences like holy communion. Gone are the moody convolutions and Oedipal mumbo jumbo of Ang Lee's poorly received 2003 Hulk, and in its place we have nearly two hours of pure id, complete with CGI effects that turn the Hulk into a steroid casualty resembling nothing so much as a big, green penis. This isn't exactly one of the more sophisticated narratives you'll encounter this season, but the sound and fury can be seductive. Hulk might essentially be a combination of unchecked hormones and unlimited strength that speaks directly to adolescent boys, but by the end of the movie, he's oozing a raw power that even the Sex and the City girls might find attractive. Also stars Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, William Hurt, Ty Burrell and Christina Cabot. 3 stars

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (PG-13) A surprisingly satisfying return to form, the new Indiana Jones movie is an old-fashioned adventure so expertly crafted and consistently entertaining we barely have a moment to consider the empty calories. Set in 1957, exactly 19 years after the last installment took place, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gives us a naturally aged Indy, wrinkled and graying but still iconic under that familiar fedora, much as an aging Humphrey Bogart (circa The African Queen) might have played him. The movie barrels along, delivering one super-charged set piece after another, sequences all the more remarkable for largely avoiding CGI and relying on proudly old-school building blocks like skillful, intricately orchestrated stunts and a well-placed camera. It's a perpetual motion machine as impressive as something like Speed Racer, but infinitely closer to the natural charms of Buster Keaton or Jackie Chan than to the vacuum-packed, post-Matrix shenanigans of the Wachowski Brothers. What computerized trickery is here is generally so seamlessly integrated into the action that we barely notice it, the one notable exception being the movie's finale, a lazily conceptualized mish-mash of digital explosions, big-eyed aliens and other elements rehashed from earlier Spielberg productions. It's an unbecoming send-off for a movie that for the most part manages to remain faithful to a formula while revitalizing itself through sheer energy and imagination. Also stars Cate Blanchette, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone and John Hurt. 3.5 stars

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