Movie Journal: The Incredible Hulk

As a longtime fan of Marvel Comics characters I’m having a blast with all the movies that have been coming out in the last eight years or so, going back to 2000’s X-Men. But while they’ve been alternately fun or exciting it’s just now that it’s getting interesting, with Marvel now tying all their movies together in anticipation of 2011’s The Avengers.

The Incredible Hulk is quite good, and this is coming from someone who actually more or less enjoys 2003’s Ang Lee-directed Hulk. Edward Norton does a good job as Bruce Banner and everyone else, including Liv Tyler, is enjoyable as his love interest Betty Ross.

What The Incredible Hulk manages to do is both be more serious and be more of a comic book movie. It’s fast-paced and exciting. Plus there’s a lot of inside Marvel stuff going on, including a lot of stuff about the Super Soldier serum that’s likely to tie into the upcoming Captain America movie.

Movie Journal: Clerks, Clerks 2 and Mallrats

I decided, prior to the release of Zack and Miri Make a Porno (which I’ve yet to see) to watch a few Kevin Smith flicks. But instead of doing them in the usual order (chronological by release) I decided to just watch both Clerks and Clerks 2 and then, because I had just been talking about it with FilmCouch‘s Paul Moore, Mallrats.

Can’t say as I got much new out of them, though this was also, I think, the first time I’d watched both Clerks movies back-to-back for some reason.

Movie Journal: Death at a Funeral

Gotta say, having just seen it, that I’m greatly disappointed by the news that Hollywood is planning a Chris Rock-starring remake of Death at a Funeral.

The movie is laugh out loud funny as it tells the story of a British family dealing with the death of its patriarch, whose funeral becomes the forum for airing out all sorts of hidden secrets. Things go from bad to worse throughout the course of the movie as lies are piled on top of each other as members of the family attempt to hide certain revelations and developments. On top of all this Alan Tudyk’s characer, who has accidentally taken a heaping helping of hallucinagens, gets increasingly paranoid and naked and inadvertantly becomes the instigator of much of the troubles at the wake.

If you’re someone who enjoys the dry wit of the British you’ll definitely enjoy Death at a Funeral.

Movie Journal: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is just an enormously funny movie, even if I’ll never really be able to look at Jason Segal the same way now that I – and the entire rest of the movie-going world have seen his unwrapped package.

There’s actually not much more I can even say about it. It’s one uncomfortably funny moment after another, with everyone having a lot of fun with what they’re doing.

Movie Journal: Speed Racer

It’s actually kind of funny that Speed Racer wound up being the in-flight movie on my return trip to Chicago from San Fransisco. It’s funny because at The Converation, one of the graphic artists who worked on the movie was on a panel and joked, after showing a clip, that the amount of people who had seen footage from the movie had just doubled.

I did not think Speed Racer was as bad as some of the release reviews made it sound. In fact it’s quite enjoyable if you decide to go with the flow of the movie. I’m still no fan of Emil Hirsch (insufferable in Into the Wild) but he’s not bad here. And the rest of the cast performs admirably, especially John Goodman as Speed Racer’s mechanic father.

It’s fast and light-weight, and the comments about the colors popping off the screen certainly hold true even on a tiny airplane seat-back screen. And I think the opinion that it was made for and perfectly acceptable for kids is more or less true. Sure there are some things that are going to have to be explained but that’s true in just about anything that’s not Blue’s Clues.

After watching such a poor presentation I actually found myself looking forward to watching it again on a bigger screen and so have kept it in my Netflix queue.

Movie Journal: Be Kind Rewind

My enjoyment of Be Kind Rewind was probably hampered by the fact that I watched it on an airplane. But even giving it the benefit of the doubt I have to say it was not very good. At least I didn’t quite get what Michael Gondry was going for with it.

I get the story – two local characters try to save a neighborhood video store when one of them somehow becomes magnetic and accidentally erases all the tapes by shooting their own versions of the movies and renting them to an unsuspecting clientele. But it’s the execution that gets in the way of my enjoyment. Black is mostly just annoying as the cause of the problems and Mos Def tries to be charming as the one who takes charage of the store’s revitalization but he’s just not that good an actor.

Plus, there’s this whole thing where occassionally the screen fills with static like Black’s magnetism is effecting the camera that’s shooting the movie and that wound up just bugging me the more often it happened. I have no problem with breaking the fourth wall but this little affectation served no purpose other than to make Gondry seem clever.

It’s not a bad movie, it’s just pointlessly amused with itself.

Movie Journal: The Harry Potter series

I had watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone several years ago, shortly after it came out on DVD and found it among the least enjoyable movies I’d watched in quite a while. It wasn’t that it was bad – it was that it was, in my estimation, completely forgettable. I compared it at the time to a fast food value meal: Nothing about it would stick with me for very long. I’ll admit I went into it having not read it or any of the other Harry Potter books, but that didn’t seem to matter. I had no interest in exploring the Potter universe farther.

Then my brother-in-law, darn him, convinced me to read the books and I decided to indulge him and give them a shot. He was, after all, the one who had overcome my resistance to “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and so I’ve come to more or less trust his judgement on these things.

I, of course, wound up enjoying all seven books. So I decided to give the movies another shot.

While Sorcerer’s Stone still comes off as pretty flavorless – as does Chamber of Secrets, the second in the series, the movies do get progressively better from there. Prisoner of Azkaban is quite a bit darker than the first two and brings with it 150 percent more characterization effort than those two combined. If anything, Goblet of Fire is *too* fast-paced, trying to cram too much into its relatively short running time. The fifth and most recent movie, Order of the Phoenix, is probably my favorite of the bunch as it manages to contain not only some of the best action sequences of the series but also some very good continuation of the characer development Prisoner and Goblet really started in earnest.

All in all I’m glad I decided to give the movies a second shot and, much like I was when I was reading the books, I’m now anxious for the next couple movies to come out.

Movie Journal: Gray Matters

I’m not sure what exactly is behind the sub-genre that’s popped up over the last few years of movies about women who are leading perfectly normal, if romantically unfulfilling, lives and who wind up being lesbians. The transformation usually winds up impacting either their current husband/boyfriend in unexpected ways but always winds up with everyone being alright with the transformation, including the family that had been pressuring the young lady to start a family or whatever.

The latest entry in this arena is Gray Matters, starring Heather Graham, Bridget Moynahan and Tom Cavanaugh as this movie’s romantic triangle. Graham and Cavanagh play an unusually close brother and sister. Cavanagh then meets Moynahan’s character and the two of them begin a whirlwind romance. But on the night of their wedding Moynahan winds up making out with Graham and the two eventually come to realize they’re in love with each other, which of course leads to all sorts of misunderstandings, hurt feelings and other problems.

The problem is that Gray Matters is not as witty as Kissing Jessica Stein. Nor is it British, which is what made Imagine Me & You interesting and entertaining. Cavanagh and Graham’s charm is considerable and that bouys the movie through some of its rougher patches, but it’s not quite enough to overcome the script’s shortcomings as a whole.

Movie Journal: Baby Mama

There’s a lot of potential in a movie about a woman who encounters complication after complication as she tries to contract with a surrogate mother in order to have a baby despite the fact that she’s a busy career woman with little to nothing going on in the romantic prospect department. Heck, even the synopsis sounds pretty darn funny.

But while Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, both funny ladies in their own right, perform admirably in Baby Mama, they’re too often undone by a script that doesn’t quite know how to realize its own potential. Every time it comes close to really breaking through into really being laugh-out-loud funny it stops short and goes for sentimental instead.

The exception to that rule is whenever Steve Martin appears on screen. A lot of people made not of his performance when the movie came out and he’s worth every word that was written. His role as a new-age lunatic who also happens to own a huge, Whole Foods-type store chain is among his very best. In fact I’m tempted to say it’s his best since his roles in …And the Band Played On or The Spanish Prisoner. And if you’re noticing that his best roles are when he appears in small cameos as a character you would not normally associate with Steve Martin, you’re absolutely right.

Overall it’s a decently amusing movie if you’re looking for something to watch with your significant other on a Saturday night but if you’re looking for something as consistently funny as Fey’s “30 Rock” you’re probably going to end up disappointed.

Picking up the Spare: Zack and Miri edition

Christine and Film.com goes into the battles Smith and the Weinstein Co. endured with the various marketing materials they submitted, had to pull, had to redo or wound up getting approved. I think Christine kind of takes her argument to the extreme but it’s still an interesting read.

Wired’s Epicenter blog covers the campaign from the angle of intentionally making it seem dirtier than it really was in an effort to drum up publicity. There’s a lot to be said about this line of thinking, though I don’t necessarily think much of it wasn’t generated by what was really happening. Basically I don’t think the studio was making stuff up out of wholecloth, just taking advantage of what the MPAA was actually doing in the best possible way.

Part of the chat transcript by the WaPo’s Jen Chaney deals with the eventual striking of “Make a Porno” from the movie’s television advertising campaign.