Film Review: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Release Date: June 8th, 2008 (Gibson Amphitheatre premiere)
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Zak Penn
Based on: Hulk by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Craig Armstrong
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt, Robert Downey Jr., Martin Starr, Lou Ferrigno

Marvel Studios, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Universal Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[Preparing to finish the Hulk off] Any last words?” – Abomination, “Hulk… SMASH!” – The Incredible Hulk

A few months after the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with Iron Man, we got the second film in the now massive Avengers franchise. I feel like people actually forget about this movie now, as there has never been a sequel to it and the character of the Incredible Hulk was recast by the time 2012’s Avengers rolled around. Edward Norton, like Eric Bana, only got to play the Hulk once. Granted, Bana’s Hulk film is not a part of this continuity.

The Incredible Hulk is pretty decent as an introduction to this version of the Hulk character. It benefits from not being bogged down by an origin story, as that was covered in that earlier, unrelated Hulk film and the two movies are only separated by five years. However, the details or a rundown of the origin should have been mentioned, as opposed to just giving the audience a flashback scene cut into the opening credits.

A problem with this film and it being a part of the larger MCU canon, is that everything that happens in it doesn’t really matter to the bigger picture and really, this could be removed from continuity and no one would notice. In fact, I feel like it should be non-canonical.

One, the Hulk role was recast and given to Mark Ruffalo. Two, where the hell has General “Thunderbolt” Ross been since this movie? He had a meeting with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark but for what reason? Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross has also never resurfaced in favor of Marvel switching Hulk’s love interest to Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Where are these two people who were so important to the Hulk’s story? Also, Tim Blake Nelson is exposed to magic Hulk juice and was turning into the Hulk villain, The Leader. Seriously, where the hell is The Leader? I want the f’n Leader! I love The Leader!

Granted, they’d probably ruin The Leader, as Marvel doesn’t do anywhere near as good of a job developing their villains as they do their heroes. Which is a big bone of contention for me in regards to the larger Avengers franchise.

Time also hasn’t been kind to this film and watching it now, when there’s like two dozen more MCU films, makes it feel even more out of place.

And while I’m speaking of time not being kind, the CGI is less than impressive and the film is pretty slow because it doesn’t have the flow that the later Marvel movies have. While I did like the slower pace in Iron Man, that film managed its time better and developed its plot and its characters very effectively. The Incredible Hulk doesn’t develop much of anything, it just relies on you knowing these characters based off of the unrelated Hulk film from 2003. But even then, the characters here still have a different personality. Norton’s Hulk is different than Bana’s and the same goes for Liv Tyler in the role Jennifer Connelly played and William Hurt taking over from Sam Elliot.

The Incredible Hulk is far from a bad movie and it’s decent as a standalone story but it just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the MCU and relies on knowledge and history that the film doesn’t actually give you. The actors did a good job with the material but it was still a weak effort, overall.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Iron Man and Iron Man 2, as its wedged between the two. Also, Avengers, as that’s the next time that the Hulk is seen.

Film Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Release Date: June 28th, 2017 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr., Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Martin Starr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Evans, Paul Rudd, Jennifer Connelly, Hannibal Buress, Kenneth Choi, Selenis Leyva

Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures, 133 Minutes

Review:

“You need to stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.” – Aunt May

For lack of a better word, Spider-Man: Homecoming was amazing.

While it isn’t a perfect film, it is the best that any of the Avengers related properties have produced in awhile, minus the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

Finally, we get a Spider-Man that looks and feels the appropriate age. Tom Holland was magnificent and a perfect choice to play Peter Parker and thus, Spider-Man. Tom Holland brought something special to the role and he was the first actor to truly feel like the Spider-Man of the comic books.

Bringing Spider-Man into the bigger universe that has already been established by Marvel was long overdue and thankfully, the famous webslinger fits right in. The chemistry between the young Holland and veteran Robert Downey Jr. was uncanny. I hope we get to see them come together more often in the future, even if Downey Jr. feels like his time as Iron Man is winding down. Ultimately, even if Avengers: Infinity War fails to deliver like its two predecessors, at least these guys will make it fun. Assuming they aren’t an afterthought with all the heroes that are getting squeezed into that picture.

Michael Keaton stole the picture, though. He played the villainous Vulture but only went by his real name: Adrian Toomes. It was cool seeing him play the bad guy and it was a stark contrast to him being the hero in the Tim Burton Batman films from 1989 and 1992. He was chilling and bad ass and was the best on-screen villain for Spidey since Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin back in 2002. Keaton may have surpassed Dafoe overall but Dafoe was just pure intensity and a maniac, which worked really well for his character, fifteen years ago.

We also get other appearances by other Marvel characters. Jon Favreau returns as Happy Hogan, in his first appearance since the solo Iron Man films. Gwyneth Paltrow also makes an appearance as Pepper Potts. We even see Chris Evans in some really funny cameos as Captain America.

The film also gives a few small roles to some of my favorite people from television. Silicon ValleyParty Down and Freaks & Geeks‘ Martin Starr plays a teacher. Other teachers are played by Kenneth Choi from Last Man On Earth, Selenis Leyva from Orange Is The New Black and Hannibal Buress.

The plot of the film benefits from not being an origin story. Spider-Man already exists with his powers and how he got them is just casually mentioned and then the movie moves on. Everyone already knows the story, just like any future Batman films don’t need to show Bruce’s parents being murdered.

The movie is about Peter Parker becoming a hero. Not just a masked vigilante but truly learning and understanding what it takes to be a real Avenger. There is friction and tough love from his mentor Tony Stark and for good reason. This picture is really Spider-Man’s training wheels. It is his first big test to see if he has what it takes to stand alongside Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk and the others.

Everyone in the film did well with their roles. The story was entertaining and there was a good balance between action and the coming of age drama that fans can expect from a Spider-Man story. It doesn’t get bogged down in the romance side of things and Parker isn’t chasing either Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane in this version.

There is a good twist in regards to his romantic relationship in the film but that relationship is just used to add a bit more weight to the bigger story and the emotional and heroic development of our beloved main character.

Spider-Man: Homecoming may fall a bit short for some when compared to the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies but I think it stands above them. It is more genuine and closer to the roots of the comic series, especially the old school stories. Plus, seeing him enter into a larger universe opens a lot of doors for what’s next for the spectacular wall crawler.

Also, comic book fans will probably be happy to see cameos from villains the Shocker, Scorpion and the antihero Prowler.

TV Review: Silicon Valley (2014- )

Original Run: April 6th, 2014 – present
Created by: Mike Judge
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Cast: Thomas Middleditch, T. J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Christopher Evan Welch, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods, Matt Ross, Suzanne Cryer, Jimmy O. Yang, Stephen Tobolowsky

Judgemental Films, Altschuler Krinsky Works, Alec Berg Inc., 3 Arts Entertainment, HBO Entertainment, 28 Episodes (so far), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Mike Judge is mostly known for his animated shows Beavis & Butt-HeadDaria and King of the Hill but when he does live-action stuff, it is still pretty darn good. Just look at Office Space and Idiocracy for examples.

Silicon Valley is almost a spiritual successor to Office Space but with a tech industry spin. It also benefits in ways that Office Space couldn’t, as that film was confined to just 90 minutes. The episodic format and now multiple seasons of Silicon Valley gives it more wiggle room and lots of different ideas can be explored in more depth. We have time to get to know our characters more intimately and the story of their company (and rival companies) is allowed to flourish in a broader way.

The cast is literally an all-star team of talent, many of whom have been on the scene for awhile but never really had the right project to shine in a long-term sense.

The cast is led by Thomas Middleditch, who had bit roles in a lot of television shows and movies but never had much time to stand out. He is backed by T.J. Miller, who would go on to be awesome in Deadpool but also worked in Cloverfield as well as a slew of other projects. Then you have Josh Brener, who I found to be hilarious in Maron but never got to see much else from him. Kumail Nanjiani may be recognized from small roles in Portlandia, as well as some commercials, but this too, is his first real long-term project. Martin Starr, who has probably had the most success, started his career in the cult classic television show Freaks & Geeks and went on to be integral to another cult show Party Down. Starr has really found the perfect role for his personality. You also have Zach Woods, who is mostly known as the unlikable character Gabe from the later seasons of The Office. Woods’ Jared is the antithesis of Gabe however, as he is one of the most likable characters on Silicon Valley. Finally, you have Amanda Crew, who should probably be featured on the show more than she has been in the first three seasons because she is great and adds a needed feminine element to the show’s male dominated cast.

The show also boasts a good supporting cast. Matt Ross is great as the dastardly villain of the series. Jimmy O. Yang is great as the Chinese roommate of the main cast. Christopher Evan Welch was enigmatic as the bizarre Peter Gregory but he unfortunately passed away during production of the first season. Chris Diamantopoulos is perfect as the douchebaggy rich guy Russ Hanneman. One of my favorite actors in any role he plays, Stephen Tobolowsky is fantastic as a short-lived CEO of the main characters’ company. Lastly, Milana Vayntrub, best known as Lilly in those AT&T commercials, plays Starr’s girlfriend in a few episodes and I wish she was in more.

The show is stellar and it is consistent throughout its first three seasons. I’m glad to see it coming back for a fourth but the show could run its course pretty soon and hopefully it doesn’t stick around longer than it should, like most successful shows these days.

Everyone is fairly likable and the contrast in personalities is what makes the show work. The show is perfectly cast, the funny look into the tech world is executed brilliantly and the balance between its lightheartedness and more dramatic parts is handled well.

Silicon Valley is one of those shows that is a perfect storm. While it isn’t a perfect show, the scale tips much more towards positives than negatives and it is hard not to care about the characters and appreciate the talent of the actors that bring the show to life.