Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Doctor Comes…

Yes, my friends, there is more newsy goodness about Joss Whedon’s upcoming musical epic web-stravaganza, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

First…an official website is now up, where you can watch the teaser trailer and sign-up to receive updates via e-mail.

B…or, second…the Whedon One himself has posted a bunch of information about the series here. In true Joss fashion, he tells us why he decided to make Dr. Horrible, when each of its three acts will be available online–July 15th, July 17th and July 19th–and mentions the awesome, extras-packed DVD that will eventually be released. Oh, and there’s some stuff about dancing mushrooms and Teamsters.

Third…or, um, C…Joss asks everyone to spread the word about DHSAB (did I just create its official fan-cronym??), so that is what I am doing. And, I ask that you all do the same.

By George!

In memory of the late, great George Carlin, here are a few random clips that always make me laugh.

1. “Fuck Tucker.  Tucker sucks”

2. Baseball vs. Football

3. “Big time, major league bullshit”

4. The Ten Commandments

5. “Cockpit!”

At least we still have Denis Leary and Lewis Black to speak for the cranky and curmudgeonly amongst us.

My Master Rises!

Joss Whedon returns (sort of), and he’s bringing friends.

A teaser trailer for Whedon’s new web series, Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, has been posted here. The series features the captain-y Nathan Fillion, the legen…wait for it…dary Neil Patrick Harris, and the always delightful Felicia Day.

Hulk Smash?

With an opening weekend box office of about $55 million, folks are calling The Incredible Hulk a “hit” and a “success.” Maybe. But, is it any good? That’s the question people should be asking. Let’s be honest, making tons of money doesn’t mean a movie is any good–I give you Titanic and Ang Lee’s Hulk (which had a $62 million opening). All I can say is this: The Incredible Hulk is pretty much the movie I would have made.

I feel that it’s important to begin by telling you that I was not a fan of 2003’s Hulk. I like Ang Lee and all, but you really need to think before you hand a comic book movie to an “art house” director–panels, Lee? Really? Fucking panels!!–especially a comic book movie starring a character like the Hulk. There’s a lot of subtext in the character that could, if you’re not careful, lead to a lot of psychoanalytical Freudian wankery. But, the problem is, as legitimate as this analysis might be–particularly given Hulk’s Jekyll and Hyde pedigree–the Hulk is not what one might call introspective. No. Hulk…well, Hulk smash! That’s it. That’s the Hulk’s reason for being. He is an unstoppable, rage-fueled engine of destruction. Lee’s Hulk was too light on smashing and too heavy on hashing–as in “hashing it out.” Sorry, Ang, but you’re movie just spent way too long talking about shit and not nearly enough time showing it. I had no problem with the abusive father back-story or (believe it or not) the Hulk-dogs–they’re both canon, so I’m okay with them. I did, however, think the climatic “battle” between Eric Bana’s Banner and Nick Nolte’s Pa Banner was a bit…um…strange. Seriously, was Nolte supposed to be the Absorbing Man? Oh, and did I mention those damned on-screen panels? I did? Okay then.

I guess that brings me to Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk. Now this is a Hulk movie. This Hulk takes liberally from both the Marvel comic and the classic ’70s television show. Edward Norton does an admirable job as Bruce Banner (a role he almost played back in 2003), who’s on the run in South America. Norton’s Banner is a quiet intellectual with that goofy charm that Norton can do so well when he’s not playing a complete prick. Norton’s Banner doesn’t have to tell you how much he hates the thing inside of him. You can see it on his face every time his heart-rate approaches 200, or in the moment when he reaches the inevitable conclusion that sometimes the best tool for the job is a massive, green-skinned juggernaut. Norton is ably assisted by the rest of the cast–including the always eeevil Tim Roth as aging soldier Emil Blonsky, who juices up on Banner-gravy to become the Abomination, and William Hurt as perennial Hulk-hunter General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (although I am curious to know what happened to Sam Elliott…were he and his mustache busy?). The only real weak link in the cast was Liv Tyler. Don’t get me wrong, I love Liv. I’ve always loved Liv, ever since Empire Records and those oddly sexual music videos she made for her dad’s band. Hell, I’d crawl naked over broken glass and swim through a mixture of rubbing alcohol and lemon juice just to be in the same room as Ms. Tyler…but, I had a bit of a hard time believing her portrayal of scientist Betty Ross–granted, it was nowhere near as difficult as it was believing that Denise Richards could spell “nuclear scientist” much less be one. I guess that’s why Leterrier had her put on her “smart girl” glasses whenever she had to be all science-y.

As for the Hulk himself, I think Hulk ’08 is an improvement over Hulk ’03. Leterrier’s redesigned Hulk looks dangerous. He’s all muscular and veiny. He looks like power incarnate:


Lee’s Hulk looks like he’s trying to sell you frozen vegetables:

I’m willing to chalk this up to technological improvements in CGI in the last five years (yes, I’ve accepted the fact that there is no way that Hollywood would make a Hulk movie without a CG Hulk). Of course, given the numerous ways that the character has been portrayed over the decades–grey, green, smart, stupid, gigantic, not-so-gigantic–both versions are, technically, valid. This new Hulk, however, is just closer to the way I prefer the character to be. I like my Hulk big and dangerous. I like him to throw shit and cause ridiculous amounts of collateral damage because he doesn’t know better. He should be a little talky, but not overly verbose or intelligent. I can’t remember if Lee’s Hulk spoke, but Leterrier’s does, and his sparse dialogue (yes, including “Hulk smash!”) is roared by Lou Ferrigno (television’s Hulk), who also has a cameo as a security guard (yes…again).

Unlike its predecessor, The Incredible Hulk takes full advantage of the forty-plus years of Hulk-story, not to mention the new toys in Marvel’s movie sandbox. Borrowing from Bruce Jones’ run on the Incredible Hulk comic, Banner is assisted in his search for a cure by the mysterious Mr. Blue, with whom he communicates via instant messenger. In the movie’s universe, the creation of the Hulk is tied to the U.S. military’s attempts to recreate the super-soldier serum that created Captain America, which is lifted from Marvel’s Ultimate Universe (where, in case you didn’t know, Nick Fury looks suspiciously like Samuel L. Jackson). In addition to General Ross and Blonsky, Banner has a run-in with Samuel Sterns (played by Tim Blake Nelson), who’s destined to become Banner’s super-intelligent nemesis The Leader. Other characters who pop-up in one form or another include sidekick Rick Jones (whose name appears on a list of Banner’s known associates) and Doc Leonard Samson (played by Ty Burrell)–although, if you hadn’t been following the pre-release media machine, you could have missed that Burrell’s character is actually Doc Samson. In a nod to the television series, the iconic “Lonely Man Theme” is used while Banner hitchhikes his way across Central and South America, and one of the Hulk’s rampages is caught on film by college journalism major Jack McGee. Sadly, the classic line–“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”–is once again missing, in English anyway. There’s a Portuguese version, played quite effectively for laughs, where Banner confuses the Portuguese word for “angry” with the word for “hungry.” And, in addition to the veiled reference to Captain America, Stark Industries is mentioned numerous times, and Robert Downey, Jr. steals the movie with a forty-second cameo as Tony Stark.

In the final analysis, The Incredible Hulk isn’t as good as Iron Man (which has raised the bar for super-hero movies as far as I’m concerned), but it’s a pretty good sophomore attempt by Marvel’s new film division. It’s certainly earned a spot in my DVD collection, something that Ang Lee’s Hulk didn’t accomplish.

Hasta La Vista, Stan

Stan Winston, the Oscar-winning special effects and make-up artist, has passed away at the age of 62.

Winston is probably best known for his work on the Terminator movies, Predator 1 and 2, and Aliens.  But, his company–Stan Winston Studio–also provided effects for Edward Scissorhands, Jurassic Park, and The Monster Squad.  He recently worked on the armor for Iron Man.

Stan will be missed by lovers of aliens, killer robots, dinosaurs, and werewolves everywhere.

A History Lesson

I wrote this about a year ago, but wanted to share it with you all anyways:

A History of Violence

It’s a pretty standard plot: deranged underworld killer turns his back on his former life, reinvents himself, moves to a small town and raises a family. I’m not against standard plots. I like them. Film, television and literature are full of standard plots—boy falls in love with girl he can’t have, son must confront his father’s murderer, young woman is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love. Nothing wrong with standard plots. It isn’t the plot, it’s the execution. I think that is where A History of Violence falls flat.

Based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, and lovingly directed by David Cronenberg, Violence tells the story of small-town diner owner Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen). Stall has everything you would expect a small-town diner owner to have: a beautiful and successful wife (Maria Bello) who dresses up like a cheerleader one night so she and her husband can “be teenagers”; an adorable daughter (Heidi Hayes) who graduated from the Dakota Fanning School of Adorable Daughters; and a quiet, somewhat scrawny son (Ashton Holmes), ready for the role of “geeky best friend” on Fox’s next teen drama. Of course, Tom has a secret past which comes back to haunt him when two killers walk into his diner and threaten his employees and customers. Aragorn snaps into action and does his best Jason Bourne impression, dispatching the ne’er-do-wells with a coffee pot-handgun combo. Hailed as a hero by his beloved small-town neighbors, Tom’s actions draw the attention of someone from his less-than-law-abiding past. Enter Ed Harris, doing his best impression of Captain Ahab and Major Toht from Raiders of the Lost Ark. It seems Harris’ Foggarty is under the impression that Tom is actually Joey Cusack, the Philadelphia hood who took his eye with barbed wire. Tom does his best to convince Harris and his family (and himself, one gets the feeling) that he is not Joey. Where does it go from there? Well, they say “You can’t escape your past” for a reason.

I haven’t read the graphic novel this movie was based on; but, from word-of-mouth, it sounds like a good read. However, a good read does not translate into a good movie—witness every movie ever made from a Michael Crichton novel (well, except The Thirteenth Warrior…that was pretty fucking sweet). A History of Violence moves too slow to be a blood-splattered celebration of mindless violence like Reservoir Dogs. However, it doesn’t take the time to be a true psychological thriller. I never once got the feeling that Tom isn’t Joey. It does have its moment, though. Mostly violent ones. A lot of people get shot. A few just get their faces mashed into chopped meat. One of the best scenes involves Aragorn’s young son going all Fight Club on the high school bully. There’s also a rather unsavory staircase love/rape scene, which (I assume) is used as a heavy-handed way to juxtapose the Stalls’ earlier playful lovemaking with their new post-Joey existence. And, although Mortensen seems equally uncomfortable playing small-town nice guy as he does playing ruthless killer, both Harris and William Hurt (in an Oscar-nominated role as Joey’s older brother, Richie Cusack) seem to be enjoying every minute of screen time, which in Hurt’s case adds up to about 15 minutes. Hurt’s Richie is one of the most wasted characters in recent history. He manages to be creepy, somewhat psychologically unstable and physically imposing, so much so as to make you wonder how he let Gary Oldman screw with his family in Lost in Space. Are these bright spots worth watching the entire film? Maybe…maybe not. On the up side, Violence isn’t that long, so by the time you start getting bored Harris is there to keep things mildly interesting, at least until Hurt appears.

Me? I’d rather watch Get Carter or The Long Good Friday.