The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hulk (2003)

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In my post on Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, one of my readers, Heolstor, wondered why everybody was so down on Ang Lee's Hulk. Last week on the Catwoman post, another debate ensued about what to make of the 2003 film. I realized then that it had been a while since I'd seen it, and so maybe it wasn't as bad as I originally thought.

Hulk has Eric Bana as a dude who inherited some altered gene from his scientist dad (eventually played by Nick Nolte), then becomes a scientist, is bombarded with gamma rays, but with the altered gene, survives-- only to find out when he gets angry he becomes the Hulk. Now his ex-girlfriend/research partner's (Jennifer Connelly) dad (Sam Elliott), a four-star general, wants Bana so he can make super soldiers, while Nolte wants him so he can make himself stronger. It's just a big old mess.

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Any questions as to how I was going to receive this film now after some time away from it were quickly answered when I saw the CGI Hulk in action on the DVD's menu screen, and I laughed out loud. He looked like that fat, beady-eyed, obnoxious guy at every frat house in college whose whole raison d'etre was simply being big. You know the type: gets drunk, breaks things, then brags about the stuff he broke the next day. It's one thing to have him look cartoonish, but to also have him look like a tool made it impossible to like. And considering the film wasn't all that beholden to special effects, why even have him be a CG Hulk? The one from the old TV show worked fine for me, and when you consider stage make-up for movies has gotten so much better in that time, it would've been a better choice.

I watched a little of it with Ang Lee's commentary, and it was apparent that he tried here, and that he had the best intentions to make a quality film-- maybe not Brokeback Mountain-- but something better than what we got. One thing he said though that showed how wrong he was about this one was something to the effect that his CG Hulk could show more emotion than an actor. The old Avatar apologist syndrome. First of all, Lou Ferrigno was a great Hulk, and he brought his own personal demons he had been fighting with to the role, emotions that none of us would've had had they gone with a fake Hulk. Second, are you going to tell me Heath Ledger should've been replaced with a CG cowboy in Brokeback? Finally, the Hulk is right behind Superman, Batman, and Spiderman as far as popularity and status as an icon in our culture, and a big part of that is from the TV show. If you're going to give it a reboot, you need to improve on it, and going from a real person to a CG tool is a step in the wrong direction.

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A step in the right direction, of course, was mega babe Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross. Not only is she hot, but she was believable as a genius scientist. I was trying to think, and you may have to go back to Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns to find as attractive a woman in a comic book film. My sense is that one probably only has one shot with an actress like that to get it right, and when this one missed, she wasn't available for the 2008 reboot, which left us with Liv Tyler, who wasn't believable as scientist at all. That's too bad.

Another thing Ang Lee tried was a cinematic technique that attempted to replicate comic book panels. I'm kind of a minimalist when it comes to films, so it didn't really work for me. People have also suggested that this was supposed to be deeper or somehow existential or something. I'm not sure I saw that either. For me it was two hours and 14 minutes of I don't know what. The old TV show had six seasons and however many TV movies to explore all of these issues. It's just hard to both give the whole backstory, then try and tell a new story too; but I can think of a lot of success stories, so that's not an excuse.

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When I used to watch the old show, one of the big things for me was making sure the heel or bad guys were dislikable (I made that word up) enough to make me want Bruce Banner to turn into the Hulk and trash them. Ang Lee definitely hit the mark on the head there by casting Josh Lucas from Sweet Home Alabama in that heel role. Who would you want more than a Romantic Comedy lead to get fake thrown around by the Hulk? But then he followed that up by casting Sam Elliott as Connelly's dad. Not so good there. No matter what comes out of his mouth, all I hear is "Beef: it's what's for diner", or "Coors: The Banquet Beer" (what the hell does that even mean, anyway?); and most of all, I expect Connelly to find him lying on a bar with a note stuck in him with a knife that reads "It was Tails", put there by Nick Nolte.

So six or seven years later, my thoughts on this movie haven't changed, and in fact, after seeing the old show again and Lee's amazing Brokeback Mountain, I'm even harder on it than I was before. We'll see tomorrow how I feel about the 2008 one, but at least for right now, I'll stick with the old TV show on RTV, or Netflix Watch Instantly.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0286716/

4 comments:

  1. My favorite part of this movie is when Hulk is in that containment unit thing and he transforms and starts breaking the place apart, I though the effects were really good during those scenes.

    I personally didnt have a problem with the Hulk itself, but Ill admit I wasn't too fond of the Hulk dog. I mean, just the idea of "Hulk Dogs" sounds so freaking stupid! Not to mention how silly it was to see Hulk fighting a hulked out poodle!

    But everything else clicked for me, I did find Jennifer Connelys performance a bit too wooden. The second Hulk film was much more fun then this one.

    The movie does play around with father/son issues, the father not accepting the son, the son, not wanting to be like his father, and finally, how they join in the end.

    What really rubs some people the wrong way about this movie is that it really isn't as exciting as a comic book movie should be. Theres too much blah blah blah in it. By the movies third half people are practically on their knees begging to see the hulk already.

    Great review Matt.

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  2. I forgot about the Hulk dogs. Lee said he wanted the Hulk to be able to let loose in a fight against something that could be killed and it wouldn't matter to the audience, but you're right, a poodle?

    I think the parts where Connelly was wooden came from her acting with nothing in front of her, again making my point that a real Hulk would've been better here than a fake one.

    The father/son thing is an interesting point, but look at Star Wars and how much better that was done. I know Lucas had three movies in which to do it, but still. I think I could've handled less action if the non-action parts weren't so blah, blah, blah...

    As always, thanks for your comments.

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  3. Hey Matt, off topic, but wanted to let you know I finally got around to Blood and Bone last night. I was totally impressed, just wow. I've always been a fan of Michael Jai White, but he was just phenomenal in this. For a guy his size especially, his move set is very impressive. I had issue with the odd non linear storytelling, but in the end it all added up so no big deal. I will say the one scene that made no sense to me was when Bone shot all those guys at the club. It was the only time in the film he used a gun and it felt way out of context for that character. Anyway, I hope we get a sequel and I really need to catch up on White's catalog to see if there are any other gems I missed. You're going to love Black Dynamite I think. He was great in it.

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  4. Yeah, the gun scene was iffy for me too, which kept it lower in the Top Ten. I think movies sometimes write themselves into corners, and they had trouble figuring out how to have White come out on top of Eamonn Walker's character. I'm glad you liked it in spite of that though.

    I'm just waiting for Netflix to send me Black Dynamite. It's in Long Wait limbo right now.

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