You all get a bonus today as I'm actually reviewing a movie still in the theaters. Un-figgin'-believable!
Off we go.
The Incredible Hulk: This is more like it. For the record, I really liked the first Hulk movie. I thought Ang Lee did a great job getting the comic book feel into the movie. Using multiple angles of the same scene on screen at the same time made even simple glances between characters exciting. It did fall apart during it’s last 20 minutes when Nick Nolte turned into…something…I still haven’t figured out what he was supposed to be or how he did it.
Regardless, this movie is much better. For one thing, it really has nothing to do with the first ‘Hulk’. This is the traditional, ‘whoops, I just irradiated myself and hurt the woman I love’ Hulk. It’s more a nod to the kids who grew up with the television show which, in turn, was more loyal to the original comic. There are delightful hints that the film makers grew up watching the same show: Banner stumbling across Bill Bixby in a rerun of ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s father’, Lou Ferrigno playing a security guard (I know he was in the first one, too), Jack McGee is introduced as an aspiring reporter who manages to get phone video footage of the Hulk in action, and there is even the classic shot of Banner’s eyes going green in that strip of light – just like every episode of the series. But to top all of that off, they use that wandering music!! You know at the end of every show where he was hitchhiking or walking down the road to his next stop? That sad, piano music? That’s here, too!
Unfortunately, the fans of that show won’t be the predominant fans of this movie. That would be the new generation and they won’t be disappointed here, either. After 20 minutes of laying the ground work, this movie takes off like a freight train and barely stops to take a breath. The Hulk effects are much more impressive (as they should be) and Ed Norton is a good choice for Banner although, let’s face it, it doesn’t take a great actor to play a nerdy scientist on the run. It would have been great if Brad Pitt in his ‘Fight Club’ persona made an appearance and was scared off by the Hulk or something. William Hurt is manically funny as the General (although Sam Elliot did a good job in the first one, too). Surprisingly, the scariest thing in this movie isn’t the Hulk or the Abomination, but the human decisions that are made behind the scenes by more than a few people to harness the power of the Hulk.
It does setup a sequel, if you’re wondering and I – for one – can’t wait.
I Am Legend: Man alive, what a colossal waste of an opportunity. First of all, I read the story this was based on and the title of this comes from a very specific ending. That ending is nowhere on display in this movie. There are encouraging hints that it’s headed in that direction, but things never materialize and this degenerates into a stupid monster movie during the last 20 minutes. What is it with the last 20 minutes of movies lately? ‘No Country of Old Men’, this one, the original ‘Hulk’. They all fall apart. I’m thinking it’s because they have great ideas, then nobody can figure out how to end things gracefully so they tack on some stupid, standard ending.
Despite a good performance by Will Smith and some cool moments, I have several problems with this movie I just couldn’t get past.
Warning! Some spoilers coming up!
1: What are the odds that one of the 1% of the human population that survived this virus JUST HAPPENS to be the guy the world’s leading virologist and could cure it? A billion to one? A trillion to one? Yet, that is exactly what Smith’s character is. The one guy that can save humanity and he just happens to survive. Go figure.
2: Smith’s character completely underestimates the ‘monsters’ and even says ‘de-evolution of the human species is complete’ during one of his video reports. Later the ‘monsters’ setup an elaborate trap the Smith falls for and nearly kill him and his dog.
3: On the same theme, there appears to be a leader of the pack with the monsters, but Smith either doesn’t pick up on it or it was edited out of the final movie. Several scenes tantalizingly hint at some organization and emotion within the monster colony, but this has either been ignored or discarded.
4: The ending. What the fuck? Look away if you don’t want to find out how this ends. I need to compare the book’s ending to the film’s so you know why I’m frustrated.
In the original ending the title ‘I Am Legend’ refers to Neville’s (Smith’s character) realization that he – not the monsters (in the book vampires) – is the one being feared. He has been going around randomly killing the monsters while they sleep in their own houses. After being caught by a new variety of vampires that can live in daylight, he is given the option of taking a pill and killing himself or being thrown to the mob outside. As he takes the pill while watching the crowd of vampires outside, the realization that he is the mutant and that a new form of humanity is taking form takes hold. He is the last of the original human species and is feared more than he feared the vampires. I am legend.
In the movie, it almost seems like they’re going in the same direction but cop out at the last minute and make it about the ‘cure’ he’s discovered. The cure is his legend and he saves a woman and a boy by blowing himself and a whole bunch of monsters up with a grenade he just happens to have in a drawer in his lab. You know, like all scientists have in their labs. ‘This is his legend’, the woman narrates as they reach some mystical safe house colony with, like, really big walls. It’s in Vermont, what do you want?
Can’t say I’d recommend this one, which is too bad. It seems like they had a good movie until studio head got their hands on it and cut it up so it was barely recognizable.
The Game Plan: I know, it’s the Rock, but I have to admit he’s pretty damn funny in this movie. It’s a typical Disney ‘both parent and child learn how to be better people from each other’ movie, but it’s well done and there are several laugh out loud moments (all involving The Rock and his obnoxiously funny quarterback). Cute, harmless and won’t hurt anyone’s career despite being completely unoriginal. As a bonus, it was filmed in Boston so it’s fun to see all the sites that are right in my daily area. Oh, if you watch this, check out Marv Albert’s play by play call at the very end of the movie. One of the least excited calls on a play to decide a championship game. I know it’s a movie, but that’s really the most enthusiasm he could muster?
Lives of Others: A German movie about a hard line government agent who spends time eavesdropping on a couple and….oh, fuck it. This thing was well done, but deathly boring. I turned it off after 45 minutes and it still had another 90 to go. Thanks anyway.
And one television note
Wipeout: Hopefully someone else has seen this and can back me up. I was skeptical going in to this game show that basically tries to get people to take the most spectacular spills possible, but I honestly have not laughed this hard at a show in a long time. Sure it’s stupid and inane, but to hell with that. I like watching people get punched in the face with automatic boxing gloves and go flying into a vat of mud. John Anderson (from ESPN) and John Henson (who I thought was hysterical when he hosted ‘Talk Soup’) host and add their own laughs. What’s great is I can watch it with the boys, who were both laughing at the people wiping out. Good times. Check it out if you haven’t already.
Today’s distraction: Errors from ‘The Incredible Hulk’. I didn’t notice the brown hair/dark hair thing at all. I must admit, some of these are extremely nit picky. How can anyone who catches these details ever enjoy any movie?