Hellboy II: Big-budget bizarro

Guillermo del Toro's dazzling sequel

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WALL-E (G) The animation whiz kids at Pixar are no strangers to wringing emotion from talking toys, endearingly anthropomorphic fish and other decidedly non-human creations. But some of the most poignant moments ever found in a Pixar film occur in the first half of WALL-E, a nearly wordless journey through a decimated future where humans are conspicuous by their absence, and by the mess they’ve left behind. Those first 45 minutes alone make WALL-E arguably the first genuinely post-apocalyptic kid flick, and also Pixar’s masterpiece, a pitch-perfect blend of epic sci-fi and comedy pantomime recalling the glory days of silent cinema. The titular hero — a rickety robot who might be Chaplin’s Little Tramp reincarnated as R2D2 — spends his solitary days cleaning up the mountains of trash left by vanished humankind, an endless routine that’s finally shattered when our hero falls for a visiting fem-bot and follows her back to the mothership, where more than a few surprises await. The smoothly digestible freneticism of WALL-E’s last act is a bit of a letdown after the near-minimalist poetry of the unconventional opening passages (scenes of WALL-E silently trying to make sense of our cultural bric-a-brac are particularly eloquent), but the amazingly human (and humane) robot-to-robot romance here is one for the ages, and the movie almost always gives us something wonderful to gawk at while serving up nods to everything from Silent Running and A.I. to Jacques Tati, 2001 and beyond. And don’t miss the short film that precedes the main attraction, another concentrated dose of Pixar’s slapstick brilliance that, with nary a word, sets the stage nicely for WALL-E, one of the best films of the year. Features the voices of Ben Burtt, Jeff Garland, John Ratzenberger, Sigourney Weaver and Fred Willard. 4.5 stars

WANTED (R) Timur Bekmambetov, director of the acclaimed Russian imports Night Watch and Day Watch, hits the Hollywood big time (or, if you prefer, sells his soul to the devil) with this action-fantasy extravaganza based on a popular graphic novel. Stars James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. (Not Reviewed)

WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? (PG-13) Solidly cast and handsomely crafted, but also more than a little monotonous, this rigorously sober British drama stars Colin Firth as a middle-aged man coming to terms with the impending death of his charismatic, scene-stealing father (Jim Broadbent). The always reliable Broadbent runs with the role of the domineering dad, expertly treading the fine line between charmer and a manipulator, but the movie doesn't do much beyond juxtaposing Firth's endless, one-note moping with flashbacks to earlier episodes with his dad. Based on the memoir by Blake Morrison, the film constantly appears to be in danger of sinking under the weight of its consistently glum tone, and comparisons to the somewhat better Big Fish are all but inevitable. Also stars Gina McKee, Matthew Beard, Sarah Lancashire and Elaine Cassidy. Opens July 4 at Regal Hollywood 20 in Sarasota. 3 stars

YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN (PG-13) Adam Sandler stars as a super-tough Israeli secret agent gone undercover as a NYC hair stylist. Don't expect subtlety here — the director is the guy responsible for Benchwarmers and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. And if that weren't scary enough, the movie also features Rob Schneider. (Not Reviewed)

[email protected] (PG) A singing group composed of senior citizens (average age: 80) belting out oddball renditions of rock 'n roll classics, the Massachusetts-based chorus [email protected] are the subjects of a new documentary called, appropriately enough, [email protected]. There's nothing fancy here — filmmaker Stephen Walker basically just alternates between documenting the chorus during an eight-week rehearsal period and showing us interview snippets with individual members — but the old coots are generally colorful enough to hold our interest, and it all culminates in a big, sold-out performance that provides the requisite emotional pay-off. Among the standouts are James Brown's "I Feel Good," The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" and a smoothly effective take on Bowie's "Golden Years." There's certainly some fun to be had here but not without a degree of the gawking-at-the-geezers factor attached, whether it's watching the seniors trying to relate to the atonal dissonance of a Sonic Youth "song" or observing a couple of octogenarians trying to figure out which side of a CD faces up when you put it in the player. Walker's intrusive, slightly condescending interview style doesn't help much, either, but all is forgiven when he finally shuts up and allows the old folks to speak for themselves. Stars Jim Arementi, Bob Cilman, Joe Benoit, Helen Boston, Louise Canady and Eileen Hall. 3 stars

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