The Incredible Hulk

June 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
Directed by: Louis Leterrier (“The Transporter”)
Written by: Zak Penn (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) and Edward Norton (debut)

Hulk returns to the big screen, this time as “The Incredible Hulk,” a reimaging of the underappreciated and artistic Ang Lee version of 2003. Sadly, the film feels like a brittle stepping stone for the bigger picture at Marvel: setting up for an “Avengers” flick sometime in the near future.

Although the new cinematic version of the mean, green superhero wants to completely disassociate itself from its predecessor, the story seems to begin right where the Lee picture left off. Bruce Banner (Eric Bana then, Edward Norton now) is living in Brazil trying to control the monster inside his gamma ray-filled body.

This means if you don’t know the mythology of the Hulk, polish up on your comic book history because “The Incredible Hulk” doesn’t have time to explain. Head screenwriter Zak Penn (“X-2”) decides to simply breeze through Banner’s background and scientific discovery, which comes by way of a cliché montage during the films opening credits

It’s been 158 days since the Hulk has emerged when we see Banner, who is making a living working in a bottling factory. On his wrist he wears a small watch-like monitor that lets him know when his heart rate increases, which, in turn, warns him that the big green guy could make an appearance if he doesn’t control himself. This is an unwarranted and erroneous addition to Banner’s story. While the comic book, TV show, and 2003 film versions explain that Bruce only transforms into the Hulk when he became angry, this Hulk has to take deep breath for everything including running long distances and getting overly excited while in bed with Betty Ross (Jennifer Connolly then, Liv Tyler now).

Betty and Bruce are reunited when Bruce returns to the states after Betty’s father, Gen. Thaddeus Ross (Sam Elliott then, William Hurt now) and the U.S. government locate the drifter and attempt to capture him so they can create more Hulks as military weapons. To help, Gen. Ross recruits super soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who later becomes the Abomination, to hunt for the Hulk and subdue him.

In more mainstream fashion and with far less style and originality, “The Incredible Hulk,” helmed by unproven action director Louis Leterrier (“Unleashed”), follows the same pattern of most superhero/comic book movies. Although this “Hulk” tends to lean more toward the 1970’s TV series, which starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, there’s really not much emotion behind the Hulk to say the audience is immersed in his personal story and conflict. Simply playing the TV show’s theme song during one part of the movie isn’t going to cut it.

For those Hulk fans who were critical of the lack of action in the Lee version, there’s more in this one. But really, are a couple extra smashed tanks really benefiting a story that should be focusing on a tormented soul? Lee’s version was brave enough to try something completely different that all the trivial comic book adaptations. In “The Incredible Hulk,” Leterrier and crew are just mixing up the same imitative concoction and pouring it out green this time.

Funny Games

March 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt
Directed by: Michael Haneke (“Cache”)
Written by: Michael Haneke (“Cache”)

There are so many reasons why someone would want to remake their own film shot-for-shot after the original premiered 11 years ago. For German director/writer Michael Haneke, one of those reasons could be that in 1997, “Funny Games” was seen by only a handful of art house aficionados looking for a horror picture they could see and still tell their elitist friends about.

There is no reason Haneke shouldn’t feel pleased with the warped story he conjured up back then. If this was the only way he thought he could earn a second chance to get it out to them masses and take advantage of the torture porn fare that is so popular today, by all means have at it.

Haneke’s film, however, is more multi-layered that the psychotic games Jigsaw plays with his victims in the “Saw” series and much more terrorizing from a humanistic perspective than any number of hillbilly mutant killers living in “The Hills Have Eyes.”

When you aim to terrify someone from a psychological point of view, you have to be spot on. With “Funny Games,” Haneke delivers an obvious statement about America’s love of violence all the while playing hypocrite to his own beliefs by adding to the genre in uninspiring fashion.

Still, it’s a chilling tale, which follows two affluent young men who take a family hostage in their vacation home and make them play sadistic games for their own amusement. Actors Michael Pitt (“The Village”) and Brady Corbet (“Mysterious Skin”) do make the perfect incarnates of evil as they mess with the minds of Ann (Watts), her husband George (Roth) and their son Georgie (Deavon Gearheart). Like Christian Bale in “American Psycho” or Matt Damon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Peter (Pitt) and Paul (Corbet) are sharp and always one step ahead of those they make suffer.

Its pretentiousness, however, is too much to handle at times. Haneke is a talented filmmaker. If you’ve seen “Cache,” you will realize how well he can pace a story and twist a viewer’s imagination. But in “Funny Games,” it’s more of a long, well-planned out experimental project that is attention-grabbing but ultimately meaningless. If you want to see some recent mind-screwing at its most brutal see “Hard Candy” and skip out on these “Clockwork Orange” wannabes.