Movie Review – The Incredible Hulk

Ed Norton is Dr. Bruce Banner, The Incredible HulkThe Plot – After being exposed to gamma radiation, Dr. Bruce Banner is transformed into a green creature of incredible size and strength. Hunted by the government for a power he has no control over, Dr. Banner is on the run, looking for a cure. While he cannot control the transformation, Dr. Banner has learned his rage is the trigger. Will he find a cure before the government finds him?

The Review – I have to agree with John, this version of the film beats the Ang Lee version. Not only does the story arc follow the comic series more closely, there are some nods to previous renditions of the Hulk. Younger viewers main not recall the Hulk TV series, but Marvel Studios acknowledges the work of Bill Bixby (who played Bruce Banner) with a television snippet, and Lou Ferrigno (who played the Hulk) has a cameo in the movie, while also doing the voice of the green monster. (Side Note – Lou Ferrigno at over 50yrs old still looks HUGE… GINORMOUS even.) There were items that I caught, but a few I overlooked. John has more tidbits listed in his review.

Marvel Studios should pay attention to what is making certain films successful, e.g., Spiderman, Iron Man, The Hulk versus ones that are mediocre, e.g., Fantastic Four, Ghostrider. The story is a big part, but I think the casting has played a more important role. Toby Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., and Ed Norton have all done a fantastic job humanizing the heroes they portrayed. In my opinion, character development separates the Marvel films from their DC counterparts.

With the release of Iron Man & The Hulk, Marvel Studios has stirred up the buzz around future releases. There are references to Captain America, SHIELD and other phenomena of the Marvel universe, which can only build the hype for anticipated future releases

GRADE: A- (The only knock I have against the film is the CGI rendering of the Hulk)

UPDATELaura just saw the movie and she used “humanizing” in her review. Great minds think alike. LOL.

Movie Review – Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian - The Chronicles of NarniaThe Plot – It’s been over a thousand years since the High Kings & Queens ruled Narnia and it is not the same magical place. Telmarines have invaded & conquered the land, leading many Narnians to go into hiding. It is only when Prince Caspian, heir to the throne, is betrayed by his Uncle Miraz that events are put into motion that bring the Pevensies (Peter, Edmund, Susan, Lucy) back to Narnia in its time of need. Will the High Kings & Queens be able to save the Narnians once again?

The Review – I first became aware of the C.S. Lewis series when I was in the third grade. I watched the first story, “The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe” on TV as an animated movie. Within the next few months I had read the entire series of books. When word came that the series was going to be launched in epic movie fashion, I envisioned something grand along the lines of the Lord of the Rings series. The first movie was a bit of a disappointment. Good, but not great.

I found that I enjoyed the sequel a lot more. The original actors reprise their roles as the Pevensie siblings, and new faces are introduced. Unlike the Lord of the Rings & Harry Potter, this series does not call upon the same characters in every book, which may allow for all seven stories to be brought to screen. I thought the characters & story were better developed in the sequel, and overall it drew me more into the film.

While not Oscar winning performances, I was moved by Peter’s growth through the story as his arrogance leads to failure at the expense of Narnian life, and his willingness to accept his failed faith brings about a moment of redemption. The pace of the movie kept the Peter/Pevensies story arc from overtaking the rise of Prince Caspian, but the Prince felt like a support character at times.

Overall I was happy with the film, and hope the quality of the series continues to improve as the next books are brought to life in film.

Grade: B+ (The series hasn’t quite reached EPIC status yet)

Movie Review – Redbelt

Redbelt MovieThe Plot – Mike Terry is a Jiu-Jitsu instructor who shuns competitive money fights because he believes competition weakens a fighter. He seems content to run a small dojo west of Los Angeles until a series of events begin to intrude on his daily life forcing him to evaluate his principles, and their impact on others.

*Spoiler Alert*

The Review – This is not an action film. This is a drama about the internal struggle of a martial artist, and his principles. The movie trailer, and IMDB reviews would lead you to believe that this is a film of emotional substance. Fans a David Mamet showered IMDB with praise for message of this film, and its artistic qualities. I must have missed all that.

While Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a good performance, and spouts some memorable lines, I found the lack of character development makes the movie fall flat. Now I can appreciate the minimalist approach to setting up the story arcs, but when the film ended (with a hug) I found myself asking what did any of the characters have to do with the story?

One of Mike Terry’s students is a brooding police officer. Maybe it’s not important to know why he’s brooding, or what troubles he has with his wife, but these plot points are just dropped on the viewer as factual items. When the officer in question commits suicide, I was neither compelled to feel the honor of that act, or the impact it had on his family. In fact, the introduction of his wife could have been completely left out, and it wouldn’t have changed the impact of that scene.

Mike Terry’s wife chides him throughout the film for not being financially responsible, or more to the point his principles keeping him in the poor house. When she sells him out, I really didn’t see why she would have stayed with him for over five years in the first place.

Given the one-dimensional snapshots of every character in the film, the story was very predictable, and only Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as Mike Terry led me to believe something was about to happen. That’s probably my largest complaint about the film. The emotional moments that are meant to inspire the audience, seem pointless because of the lack of character development.

Grade: C- (Maybe this is the type of movie that requires multiple viewings to get the point)

In a time before Morpheus…

Laurence Fishburne is one cool characterSometimes staying in on a Friday isn’t such a bad thing. I grilled up some bacon cheeseburgers, then Michelle & I plopped down on the couch for some cable entertainment. After channel surfing a bit and sitting through pieces of movies I eventually stumbled on to the Starz Action channel. The Friday night pick was Deep Cover with Laurence Fishburne & Jeff Goldblum. My friends, this is a must-see classic.

I first saw this film back when it was released in 1992. Back when the actor who would one day become the sci-fi icon Morpheus was still billed as “Larry Fishburne”. I consider Deep Cover to be Laurence’s breakthrough performance and it wouldn’t surprise me if Denzel Washington took some notes for his film Training Day.

The film is about a young boy who — influenced by the death of his drug-addict father — grows up to be a cop. What follows is the tale of how Russell Stevens aka John Q. Hull learns that all his flaws as a police officer allow him to quickly excel through the ranks of LA’s drug cartel. Put on assignment by DEA agent Gerald Carver, John befriends David Jason (played by Jeff Goldblum) a lawyer who has aspirations of creating the next designer drug. As John gets closer to the top of the drug cartel the lines between right & wrong, cop & criminal blur to a point where John is forced to choose between loyalty and holding his moral ground.

The strength of this film lies not with the plot tricks and a “Who dunnit?” ending as much as the character development. John Hull comes to grips with his morality while his partner David goes from squeamish lackey to a power-hungry drug lord. The casting of the movie couldn’t be better as all the actors are important to driving the story. Notable characters include street hustler Eddie who has one of the best lines in the movie “…ain’t had pussy since the pussy had you.” and Taft a God fearing narcotics officer unaware of John’s duplicity.

Other memorable quotes:

Gerald Carver: “So, Officer Stevens, tell me. Do you know the difference between a black man and a n****r?”
Russell Stevens: “The n****r’s the one that would even answer that question.”

David Jason: “How come I like balling black chicks so much?”
John Hull: “I don’t know. Maybe you feel like you’re f#cking a slave.”

David Jason: “You ever been with two women at the same time?”
John Hull: “Yeah, your mother and your father.”

This movie is definitely worth renting from your local Blockbuster or NetFlix. Even better grab yourself a copy on DVD, I know I’ll be picking one up today.

MTV Trivia – This film introduced Snoop Dogg to the hip-hop community on Dr. Dre’s hit single “Deep Cover”.

Movie Review – 8 Mile

Well, rest assured this movie will be #1 at the box office this weekend. The fan base is LARGE and the PR campaign has been heavy so $20 million is a modest target number.

Fans of Eminem won’t be disappointed with his onscreen performance. He’s good. The general comparison around the `net is to James Dean which is a cool idol for any generation. Even though the storyline was predictably simple, the movie works because the audience only peeks a glimpse at one week in the life of “B. Rabbit” the protagonist played by Eminem. There isn’t a Scooby-Doo ending, our hero doesn’t run off with the girl or make the big record deal, but you’ll leave the theatre thinking he will.

I think I set my expectations too high and got caught up in the advertising hype. I did enjoy the movie, but the film pace seemed slow. Maybe it’s because I saw the video to “Lose Yourself” the soundtrack single. That video sums up the movie and lyrically I think it has a more powerful effect. The dynamic is there, the energy is there, but in the movie I found myself at times impatiently waiting for the next scene.

There was a scene that caught my attention midway through the film. I’ve only heard snippets of the controversy that surrounds Eminem for writing lyrics some people say are misogynistic & homophobic (don’t own a CD can’t comment personally), but in the movie his character stands up for a woman & a gay man lyrically in an afternoon rap “battle”. Later on towards the end of the film, it’s the gay guy who covers a work shift for Rabbit allowing him to take on his rivals in the film’s climax. I’ll be curious to read the reactions of Eminem’s critics.

My vote? I’ll be picking up a copy when it comes out on DVD.