Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This might be the right week to grab a new DVD.

With The Love Guru and Get Smart rolling out this week, it might be the best weekend for an outdoor activity that we could ever hope for.
For cinephiles everywhere, it's time to catch up on what's been out for a while that you forgot to see or didn't have time because you've seen Iron Man too many times. Okay, maybe that's just me.

Besides good casting, the Get Smart remake looks like a terrible idea with a big budget managed to get good actors. This one is directed by the guy who made the only bad Naked Gun installment, the three weakest Adam Sandler comedies and a bunch of collaborations with Tom Arnold. Written by the guys who wrote Failure To Launch. How could this go right?

Mike Myers is trying too hard. That might sum up The Love Guru completely. A tinge of racism and a lot of stupid puns cushioned by some of the lamer jokes from the Austin Powers movies. That is about what I'm expecting after seeing the glut of previews and commercials that have been overloading the TV and previews at the theaters.

You'll have to wait for Tuesday, so it won't help for this weekend, but In Bruges comes out on DVD next week. That is the most entertaining bet in the near future.

--John Berry, Online Editor--

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mixed bag of a weekend

The Happening was a let-down and The Incredible Hulk was surprisingly good.

After the 2003 Ang Lee Hulk failed to impress audiences nationwide, most people thought that not much could really expected from another Hulk movie a mere five years later.

This new installment, which Marvel Studios is quick to point out is NOT a sequel, harkens back to the television classic with Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby. There are several homages to the classic series with the "Lonely Man" theme song making a scene in the new film, as well as a cameo and vocal work from the still massive and clearly working out Ferrigno. And Stan Lee's obligatory cameo actually had him do a little acting this time instead of just appearing.

Edward Norton's performance was way better than Eric Bana, and moderately better than Bill Bixby.

The story also is a throwback to the old tv series. Dr. Bruce Banner is in hiding as he tries to figure out ways to reverse his condition. The update is clearly in the special effects and, unlike the 2003 film, culls more from the comic books that originally told Hulk's story.

Hulk's nemesis in this installment is a character named Emil Blonsky, as well as the classic story of General Ross chasing Banner with the U.S. military.

With a lot more action and a lot less introspection compared to Ang Lee's Hulk, it is a faster-paced, more compelling story that will thrill fans of the old show and of the comic series.

Not quite as good overall as Iron Man, but containing a nice little appearance from Tony Stark, it does help set the table for the next step towards the Avengers movie that is in the works.

M. Night Shyamalan's latest outing shows us why it's good to let go of the past and try new things. Shyamalan's attempt to get back to scary movies with bizarre twist endings leaves us wishing for the good old days of Lady in the Water.
The Happening feels like an old-school disaster movie, but with a modern environmental twist. The idea isn't bad, but the acting surely is. I always thought Mark Wahlberg was better than this airy, weak performance, but he sure doesn't show us the same caliber of performance we saw in The Italian Job, or The Departed, or Four Brothers, or even Shooter. Zooey Daschenel is a better singer and a better model than she is an actress.
The bad acting was enough to kill any suspense and intrigue that a solid story idea could have created. And the severe telegraphing of his typical twist ending ruin and chance for shock value that M. Night could have had in store.

So, The Incredible Hulk gets a B and The Happening gets a D+
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This week is BIG!

Nerd overload.
The Incredible Hulk is hitting theaters this weekend. As is the new M. Night piece The Happening. And not being released this week, but coming to my favorite local theater (The Ambler Theater) this week is The Fall, a foreign film being billed as the best visuals since Pan's Labyrinth.
Being a child of the 80s, I grew up watching the old Hulk tv show with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, as well as all of the Marvel Comics related cartoon shows that flooded the airwaves in the 80s. All of these cartoons ushered me right into the world of comic books. So the glut of Marvel Comics movies that have come out recently and will in the next few years have me very excited. (The little tease of the Avengers movie that is in the works is worth sitting through the Iron Man credits for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.) The new Hulk movie looks to make up for the lackluster Eric Bana outing from 2003. I believe in Ed Norton. He rarely steers us wrong (we can forgive Everyone Says I Love You). With Louis Leterrier at the helm, it should have some solid action as well as a good story. His Transporter movies were nothing short of action movie perfection.
The Happening is a return to the roots of what somehow made Shyamalan a household name. After disenchanted audiences griped and moaned about Lady In The Water and The Village, M. Night goes back after the audiences he won over with The Sixth Sense and Signs. Although, people seem to forget that his first major studio film was about a ten-year-old kid's hard time in Catholic school. All of these movies were great films in their own right when compared to the genres of film they belong in and not expecting Lady to be like Signs just because it's the same director. You have to respect a director's desire to dabble in different genres because they want to and not to appease fickle audiences. Shyamalan and Danny Boyle are perfect examples of how a good director can make good movies no matter what the genre.
Ambler getting The Fall is just giving me a chance to be lazy and not drive to Philly. All I really know about this one is that the visuals are stunning and the main premise is a little kid hearing a fantastical story from some dude in a hospital. That, and my friend Shannon LOVED it. Not that it would mean anything to anyone else, but she never steers me wrong either. Maybe I should hook her up with Edward Norton.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Strangers

This past weekend I checked out The Strangers because it looked like it was going to be something a little different than the recent glut of crap that Hollywood tries to pass as horror movies.
It was a little different. Just a little.
That little bit was enough to make it better than a lot of recent horror movies, but it's no masterpiece. When your standard is The Ring and Scream though, it's not hard to look good in comparison.
Our protagonists begin their adventure with a moody car ride to a nice little house in the middle of the woods that turns out to be the male lead's parents' vacation home. He and his love interest clearly have had a fight. James, played by Scott Speedman from Felicity and not Scott Speedman from Underworld:Evolution since James is a giant baby, decides to leave Liv Tyler's Kristen alone at the house so they can have some time apart.
Enter scary people in masks.
The good part is that they make the villains much scarier by making them just human with no allusions toward extraordinary talents or strength. The realism pushes the story along by not calling for the audience to reach too far to believe in the situation. Some genuine suspenseful moments and some real tension are created by mood and not by gore, which is a lot more than can be said for most of the poor excuses for scary movies that have come to theaters recently.
The better part is actually Liv Tyler. She's pretty good in a role that seems like it could have been disastrous in another actress' hands.
The bad part is watching them telegraph the standard suspension building tactics, like Kristen running outside, falling in a ditch and hurting her leg. Who didn't see that coming? And James' buddy showing up and getting shot in the face. Wow, creative.
The worse part is the continual shaky, hand-held camera use trying to create mood. Yeah, lots of movies have used it to try to look cool and creative, but it comes off just looking cheap and contrived. Good use of hand-held camera work is based around moderation. Making the vast majority of your movie hand-held just looks like you didn't want to try to compose your shots or put effort into cinematography.
Overall, I give The Strangers a C- because it is watchable, but not good.
--John Berry, Online Editor--