Saturday, January 03, 2004

Green Eyed Loco Man

One of the drawbacks of being generally perceived as a bit of a snotty-nosed smartarse by the teaching staff of my secondary school was being roped into the educational establishment's team for a local radio quiz show. Apart from the attractive girl who was also on the team (but rarely turned up, well, that's women for you, I guess) there were two moments of clarity I remember in the otherwise humbling experience of our vainglorious effort to get into the final of said tournament. The first was when I recognised 'It's Different For Girls' by Joe Jackson on the first note, which provoked indignation from the presenter. When I patiently explained that it was a bit of a distinctive intro, he mused on how it must then be like a certain Santana song, and we all thought, fuck off, you old hippy, and trim your beard while you're at it.

The second moment was when I was asked what was the green-eyed monster? Being at the tender age of 14 I had not experienced pangs of jealousy just yet, so I rather reasonably replied 'The Incredible Hulk'. At which point the presenter dissolved into giggles for a rather embarrassing length of time (a good 10 minutes, if I remember rightly, though his corpsing was tactfully edited out of the broadcast). It was a bit up there with the spelling bee in Peanuts when Charlie Brown gets a bit distracted when asked to spell the word 'maze' and says M-A-Y-S, as in Willie Mays the baseball player. And so I learned that when you're stumped for an answer, saying something really stupid with a straight face can provoke hilarious consequences, and so this humble school quiz show provided the birthplace for Dead Kenny's deadpan humour.

Which is all but a preamble to the fact that I finally got around to watching Ang Lee's recent filmic adaptation of the Marvel comic Hulk the other night. The film has had mixed reviews, and it certainly tries a different tack from the Spiderman and Daredevil adaptations, eschewing the flip hipness and fanboy faithfulness of those projects for a more serious, cinematic approach akin to the late 70s movies of Star Trek and Superman. The approach just about works, helped by oppressive atmospherics, Ang Lee's use of 'storyboard' visuals, and a terrific performance from Jennifer Connelly who mother earths the film with her beauty and decency in the role of Banner's estranged girlfriend Betty Ross.

It's all let down though by the 'creature' that represents the Hulk in his full green-eyed green-skinned glory, a CGI creation which feels like a throwback to the Harryhausen era after the fantastic transformations seen in 80s films like An American Werewolf In London; Cat People; Altered States (a film which, at times, Hulk resembles) and The Thing. The only Hulk effect that truly works is towards the climax when he visibly shrinks under the gaze of Jennifer Connelly, so a monster movie with an unconvincing monster undoes lots of Ang Lee's good work and brings the movie's Parallax View score back down to 7 out of 10.

Other DVDs I've watched this past week included -

Anger Management in which Adam Sandler's character has apparent anger issues which lead him to be treated by a psychiatrist (Jack Nicholson) who - get this! - is crazier than he is! So far, so predictable, and although occasionally there are glimpses that someone somewhere involved in the film had the idea of this film being a kind of It's A Wonderful Life for post-9/11 America, ultimately they bail out in favour of a lazy hodge-podge of obvious gags and guest star cameos. The resulting film is reasonably entertaining but a bit hit-and-miss on the hilarity and a missed opportunity considering the great supporting cast (John Turturro is particularly shamefully wasted in a demeaning broad comic turn). Just scrapes a 6 out of 10.

Terminator 3 - Rise Of The Machines is closer in spirit to the first of the franchise than the second, and shorn of the budget-busting pretensions of James Cameron, the film relies on the old B-movie ethos of ensuring not a minute goes by without something violent, funny or sexy happening. The film doesn't stop to worry about the time-travel implications or tieing up the plot of the first two films, and concentrates instead on giving you Good Arnie! Bad Arnie! Naked babe Terminator! Terrific visual gags! And some great, great one-liners! This is a much funnier film than Anger Management, and is arguably the funniest all year. In fact, the only weak link is Claire Danes, who capably does fiesty, but sadly also in this film does dowdy and asexual, in her role as John Connor's love interest and partner-in-arms. In a B-movie, however big budget, that should never have been allowed to happen. 7.5 out of 10 then, though if they'd ejected CD earlier, it could have been an 8.

Lilya-4-Ever covers the fairly topical issue of young girls from what was previously known as the Soviet Union being tricked into becoming sex slaves in Europe (here represented by Sweden). It's at times harrowing stuff (the sex scenes shot from the central character's POV are particularly effective) but director Lukas (Together) Moodysson isn't afraid to find magic, poetry and laughter (not to mention banging techno) as well as misfortune, inertia and tragedy in these ordinary lives, and it's this that raises the film above the level of your average kitchen sink drama. Special mention too should go to what is almost certainly the sexiest glue-sniffing scene ever filmed. 7.5 out of 10.


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