Avengers Assemble

11-Oct-11 10:08 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 2 comments.

Ladies and gentlemen… boys and girls… I present to you: the summer blockbuster of 2012.

Marvel superheroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and Thor join forces as the Avengers, under the direction of Joss Whedon of Buffy and Firefly fame. The team's individual films have, on the whole, been good to great, so even I, only an occasional fan of Marvel Comics, find myself with high hopes and expectations for this collaboration.

This raises the question: Why can't DC Comics do this with their stable of legendary heroes? Their Batman franchise is going gangbusters, but they've so far failed to gain traction with Superman (though a reboot is coming in 2013) or Green Lantern. The IMDb lists a Wonder Woman TV show coming later this year, with a movie in 2015. By contrast, Marvel assembled their team in just four years.

We'll likely not have an answer until well after The Avengers' May 4, 2012, debut.

UPDATE: Do not be fooled by cheap imitations!

Or wanna-bes!

Hulk LAUGH!

17-Oct-08 1:04 PM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on Hulk LAUGH!

Michael J. Nelson is THE HULK!It's Friday — and what better way to start your weekend than with a RiffTrax? As if this week's release of the Iron Man riff weren't attractive enough, the generous geniuses that brought us MST3K have now delivered a FREE riffing of an entire episode of the Bill Bixby series The Incredible Hulk.

It gets even better: not only is no purchase necessary, but neither is any downloading or syncing. This riff comes with audio AND video in one tidy package, streaming at you courtesy Hulu. Check it out at RiffTrax.com. (Available in the USA only)

Hulk (a) Smash!!

27-Jun-08 11:05 AM by
Filed under Reviews; 1 comment.

Bill Bixby's Hulk impressed on me the quintessential rendition of the monster, which made Eric Bana's take all the more monstrous. I have spent the last five years submerging memories of that 2003 Hulk film, and I worried that this summer's second attempt at the green giant would be more of the same. But with the reassurances of Marvel devotees, I paid my admission and steeled myself for the worst.

It's amazing what a difference is made when a film's star shares my opinion. As Ed Norton said on Jimmy Kimmel, "We're trying to rescue this franchise from the crapper!" He thus took a heavy hand in the scripting and editing of this outing, resulting in a much more engaging and fluid tale.

From the opening, it's clear this film is neither sequel nor remake. Dr. Banner's backstory is told primarily through brief vignettes that play out under the opening credit sequence. This encapsulation suffices for comic book buffs; others will pick up the details from ensuing dialogue. The story is clearly an homage to its television namesake: Within the first few minutes of the opening is a cameo by Bill Bixby, and later there's Lou Ferrigno in a much more noticeable and respectful appearance than in the last Hulk film. This is not a movie-length episode of the television series, but there are many common elements, such as a protagonist on the run, looking for a cure, which could not be present in an "origin" story such as Ang Lee's. The renewed focus on character development is a welcome change from the 2003 version that featured arena-type combat, a ridiculous villain, and a hero we could neither understand nor sympathize with.

The supporting cast here creates a valuable context for Banner to develop in. Like Jeff Bridges in Iron Man, William Hurt has aged into an excellent villain almost unrecognizable from his usual throwaway fare in films such as Michael and A.I. His brassy, hard-as-nails general is someone whose motivations we can almost understand, smartly keeping him from being the true villain. General Ross is also a more interesting father figure than the one Nick Nolte tried to play in the last Hulk film; Banner's relationships are sufficiently complex and painful without introducing unnecessary and villainous family.

As for the Hulk's actual adversary, I was hesitant by what the trailers suggested: essentially an evil Hulk, manufactured through the same means that brought us our original hero. Yet the smallest of details banished my concerns and instead subtly incorporated the Hulk into the rich Marvel mythos. It seems the gamma radiation which put Banner on the lam was a byproduct of research into creating the perfect "super-soldier" — a phrase that should hold meaning to any fan of the Marvel universe.

The Incredible Hulk has a good mix of action and dialogue. Banner is subjected to only three transformations, and in the style of Alien, his first appearance is kept almost entirely in the dark. Action fans may've expected more of the title character and less of his human counterpart, but I think the film's focus is exactly where its cinematic predecessor showed (by counterexample) it should be. (There could've been even more; I'm told there are over 70 minutes of deleted scenes, several of which are visible in the trailers.) Director Louis Leterrier deftly works the threat of the Hulk into even non-action sequences. There's a tense scene in which a metamorphosis begins and Betty climbs atop the thrashing figure to offer calming words, piercing Banner's confused haze to remind him who he is. Perhaps this act struck me for being so similar to my mother's own actions when my father had a seizure.

There are a few inconsistencies. When Banner is driving at night with "a person of interest", he ducks down in his car seat; but the next morning, he feels comfortable strolling through an open glade with her in broad daylight. When threatened, he pushes his love interest away for her own safety — but later, when he knows he's about to transform, he makes no such gestures. Is this guy a brilliant scientist or not??

More to the point: is The Incredible Hulk a brilliant film? I'd say yes, and it's almost enough to make me wonder if the 2003 film was Marvel Comics' attempt at New Coke to make us appreciate the reboot all the more. Iron Man is still the summer film to beat, but as superheroes go, Ed Norton has created an unexpectedly incredible movie.

Summer Smashes & Strike-Outs

10-Mar-08 2:06 PM by
Filed under Films; 2 comments.

There's not been much blogging going on around here lately because there's not been much to blog about. Between rehearsing for both Brigadoon and StrawHat auditions, my nights don't leave me much time for movies.

Fortunately, I don't think I'm missing much, as the current fare doesn't offer anything that interests me. But that won't always be the case, and this month marks the beginning of spring — so let's take a look at what will constitute the highlights of this year's summer blockbuster season:

Superhero Movie (March 28): Though I'm not usually a fan of the [Fill in the blank] Movie spoofs, this one looks halfway decent. Unfortunately, it also appears to be a scene-for-scene parody of a movie that came out six years ago. Had this come out in 2003, I wouldn't've missed it in theaters. Now, I'm not sure I care.

Iron Man (May 2): Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor, from Heart and Souls to more recent sleeper hits such as Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (also based on a comic book). Casting him as Tony Stark is a stroke of genius. Though Marvel's past movie adaptations have been hit-or-miss, and Iron Man looks like it could be a bit goofy, I'm hoping it'll hit its mark.

Speed Racer (May 9): I've never watched the anime on which this film is based, and the live-action version looks to have a bit too much CGI for my tastes. Still, I like rooting for the underdog, and Speed's character definitely seems to be that. Plus he has one line that always gives me chills: "It's all I know how to do, and I have to do something." Must be nice to have such conviction…

Prince Caspian (May 16): The second installment in the Chronicles of Narnia is sure to be a hit. Though I recall Prince Caspian being a rather mundane entry in the literary series, I expect the film version will be sufficiently jazzed up.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (May 16): The Eighties seem to be back with a vengeance: not just with franchises like Aliens vs. Predator and Transformers, but also actors reprising popular roles, like Rocky, Rambo, Die Hard, and now Indiana Jones. Were these actors one-hit wonders, I'd be more skeptical of their clinging to the past, but their versatility and staying power justifies a look at these returns. I'm hesitant about Shia LeBeouf's role in Indiana Jones — he contributed to what I considered the worst film of 2007 — but for Harrison Ford's sake, I'll reserve judgment.

The Incredible Hulk (June 13): The 2003 take on this popular Marvel comic book character was a mess: phony CGI, awkward script, superfluous characters. This sequel, which exchanges Eric Bana for Edward Norton as Dr. Banner, may be more of a reboot than a continuation. If so, I'm all for it. Please let it be as good as the Bill Bixby series!

Get Smart (June 20): Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, and Ed Platt, all under the supervision of Mel Brooks, made this superspy spoof one of the best television shows of all time. I have no interest in seeing a remake that brings back none of that talent. (The omission of Mr. Brooks as a consultant is especially foreboding.)

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (August 1): I actually like this series, with its rock-em sock-em action and evocative cinematography; I always walk out of the theater wanting to go back to school for Egyptology. Brendan Fraser (who cleverly referenced this series in Looney Tunes: Back in Action) was absent from the last entry, 2002's The Scorpion King (which I found wonderfully reminiscent of Kevin Sorbo's Hercules), so I'm looking forward to his return to the franchise this summer.

This summer's charts will be torn up by plenty of other films, such as The Happening, Wall-E, and The Dark Knight — but I don't know enough about these titles to offer judgment at this time.

Of the eleven films I've mentioned, only two are original, not based on existing properties or licenses (three if you count Superhero Movie). Is that a good ratio? It may not matter, as both history and my write-ups above indicate that a known property is no guarantee of success. Regardless of their origin, what films are you looking forward to this summer?

[All release dates are courtesy Film-Releases.com]