13 June, 2008

Surfin' Multiplex: The Incredbile Hulk, Gone Baby Gone, Mongol the Rise of Genghis Khan + unsurfed Sex and the City and Indiana Jones

The Incredbile Hulk (The somewhat credible Hulk -- would be more apt.)

They are kind enough not to put us through much of the "origin" story, which occurs under the opening titles, a montage of Banner's POV during the fateful Hulk inducing accident, news clippings, schematics and "top secret documents" (some usefully namecheck other Marvel stablemates, Stark and Nick Fury). The downside of this, is we don't get much character development of Bruce Banner or his love interest Betty Ross. Ed Norton and Liv Tyler bring enough to the roles to squeak by, but it doesn't have the lovably goof factor that Robert Downey, Jr brought to Iron Man. William Hurt and Tim Roth fill out the cast as military Hulk pursuers with some questionable motives. It also is a pleasure to see Tim Blake Nelson in a role that doesn't require blacked out teeth and a Banjo.

It's OK, passes the time well enough, but is mired in predictability. Apart from the first pursuit through a Brazilian slum, which has a Bourne trilogy vibe with Norton attempting to evade peril and Hulk "incident", most of the action is of the "bring a bigger weapon - fire at Hulk - fail - get even bigger weapon" variety (or lack thereof). Not to mention yet another climactic battle between the Marvel hero and a villain with nearly identical powers (see Iron Man and Spidey3).

We do get a bit of Norton training Capoeira to control his anger (also makes his non-Hulk fight moves believable). But the film is otherwise low on invention, and skimps on details (like how does Banner cross several borders without being detected?) OK, I'd happily sit still just to adore Liv Tyler. I would like to see the Iron Man - Hulk - Nick Fury film hinted at in the last scene. It's better than the Ang Lee misfire, but perhaps only looks good in comparison.

Gone Baby Gone

Give up the day job, Ben! (An excellent film, and if it's just a d├ębut fluke, we'll have him away from the front of the camera).

Well directed ensemble. Excellent slice of down and out in Boston. Much better than the horribly contrived Greek Tragedy of author Lehane's Mystic River (which covers similar child endangerment ground). The cavalcade of twists/endings could possibly have been a little better paced, considering the slightly predictable end. Despite this, you're unlikely to see a more gripping modern noirish thriller actually informed by a whole coloring book of moral greytones.

Mongol the Rise of Genghis Khan

Beautiful epic scenery, good performances, and good insight into a nomadic and war torn culture. However this is stretched out over a film that spends a bit too much time on the young Temudgin (his pre-Khan name) in adversity, getting his ass kicked, not enough of his kick-ass strategies. It begins well enough in his boyhood, as we're introduced to Mongol customs and life, with his father taking the nine year old to select his bride from another clan. After his father dies, there follows an endless cycle of enslavement, escape, and wives stolen into ignominy. We're shown a few skirmishes along the way, but once he emerges from his final imprisonment, we're shown little of Genghis' actual gathering of forces and power. They jump, more or less to the big budget battle for the end of the film. This does dull the impact of the climactic scenes, which is a shame as the first hour is excellent, if only the middle of the script had been tightened a bit.

Worth seeing in a theatre for the cinematography, but be prepared for lots of slow bits (not even artsy slow, just pointlessly slow). You may lose out on the scenery watching this at home, but at least you'll be able to fast forward.... And of course, infinitely preferable to the little known Dr. Seuss version of the story "Who got HURT in the YURT!"....

Sex and the City

Enjoyable enough. But the strong current of body fascism (apparently if you're near fifty and have a belly, or don't Brazilian your pubes, you're a slob), seemed strangely anti-feminist. Empowerment only available to those with designer labels. Also a few hefty slices of melodrama that would have passed on TV seem risible on the big screen.

It does, at times feel more like watching a Tribute act than the real thing, some incidental characters appear only as box-ticking cameos, only to be ditched when this function has been performed (or in the case of Stanford and Anthony, incongruously/awkwardly/pointlessly hooking up in a montage). Why the entire universe isn't simply waiting for this on video, I can't understand. Attendance seems to be more of a party for the initiated, the movie itself is an afterthought. Which is exactly what it is.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

If only it had been the Kingdom of Greyskull, now there's a missed cross-over opportunity! This time passage acknowledging entry in the no longer "trilogy" but now "series" of Indy jumps 20 years or so into the middle of the Cold War, complete with a Rasputin in fetish gear Cate Blanchett as a Ninotchkaesque psychic (seriously, if they are ever stupid enough to do another Boris and Natasha movie, hey, 3rd times the charm, she's your N. Fatale).

Great to have Karen Allen back, Lucas was a fool for excluding her character from the other episodes of the series, and even here, she's slightly underused (more Marion/Indy banter/bicker, please). Hopefully Lucas is now too busy retconning titles (I see that IMDB lists Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark as the video title of Raiders, perhaps he should go on to Ep 1 A New Disappointment, Ep 2 The Cloned Merchandise and Ep 3 A Streaming Pile of Sith). Also, just hearing Marion's theme back in the soundtrack (one of William's best from past scores), is almost enough justification on its own. (Maybe we can have John Rhys Davies as Sallah back in the next one.)

Slightly better than Last Crusade. The best snake scene since the original. A bit lax in parts, but a welcome return all the same.

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