Piggy-backing, Marrying Ponies and Remakes

Okay then, it’s about that time for my self-instituted weekly blog post. I’ve got a few things to talk about, and I’m not exactly the most eloquent, so I’m just gonna dive right into this one.

First of all, the Hulk review is almost at 1300 views. That’s nuts. I never expected to get that many views in my first couple months, let alone on a single blog posting. I’m guessing this is mostly due to inadvertently piggy-backing off of The Avengers‘ popularity, which makes the most sense. On DeviantArt, I did the same sort of thing with The Gorillaz, although it was intentional that time. I made a deviation which was Gorillaz-related in a flagrant attempt to garner page views and favourites… and it worked like a charm. This was almost 3 years ago and I still get new favourites because of that quite often. That just goes to show you that a quick n’ easy way to get noticed is to tap into a fan base and ride their coattails to victory.

Speaking of tapping into fan bases, I’m planning on starting the next retrospective sometime in April. I’m going to be working on final assignments pretty hardcore until the 10th or so, so after that time period I will likely begin work on that series. Be sure to stop in for them, they’ll be sure to leave you howling.

The only other things of particular note at the moment are a bunch of links I’ve been collecting all week. There has been quite a few interesting things that I’ve read about this week that needed sharing… some for different reasons that others. I’ll just leave that one at that.

Anyway, one of these links was gun control-related. I know I’ve harped about gun control a lot on this blog, and I honestly could have done so even more, but I’ve intentionally refrained from doing so on multiple occasions. For one, ranting about it too much can conflate me as someone who hates guns and wants them eradicated or something, which is definitely not the image I’m trying to foster. For the record, I advocate reasonable levels of gun control and gun owner responsibility, and plan on owning firearms myself someday. As for political issues, I generally will fall on one side or the other, but I like to acknowledge other perspectives when I do so. For that matter, I generally hate all political rhetoric in either case. Anyway, getting back on track, I recently read an article on one of my favourite websites which I felt showed gun politics from a very different (and balanced) angle. I certainly recommend giving it a read as it covers some issues which no one else bothers to mention.

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog (I won’t lie, you probably aren’t), then you might remember my first article about Idris Elba as James Bond. Since then, it has become increasingly unlikely that the man actually will be cast in the part, but there has been a (potential) development. Barbara Brocolli has talked to Elba about a Bond casting… but maybe as the villain in a remake of Live and Let Die. Now if this is true, then it will be quite interesting indeed. It definitely sits better than casting him as Bond (especially since he’ll be too old by the time that Daniel Craig leaves the role), and going back to the novels is certainly a good idea – especially since the original films did not hew too closely to the source texts anyway (with very few exceptions, like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I am told). Anyway, there’s not much info at the moment about Bond 24, but I’m very intrigued at how this whole rumour pans out…

Hulk, Genital Mutilation and Iran, Oh My! Some Garbled Commentary

Hey, it’s been a while since I did a non-movie related post so I figured it was about time for a bit of personal commentary. I’ve actually got a few random things to comment on which occurred part-way through the retrospectives series, but I didn’t want to interrupt the series for them. Hopefully you find them interesting.

First of all, during the Final Destination retrospective, I was checking some of the sites which have apparently been driving pageviews here. I’m really popular with German Google for whatever reason. One refferant in particular seemed very strange since it was a file sharing site with no actual link to I Choose to Stand (from here on out, I pronounce IC2S the official abbreviation). However, some of the “most popular” searches on the site caught my eye: check ’em out.

So, umm… yeah. Totally random. The Internet is a dark place. A very funny, dark place.

On a related note, I’ve recently gotten a pageview EXPLOSION. Normally I average 25-50 pageviews per day, but over the last couple days I’ve been suddenly getting 125+ pageviews. I’m not entirely sure why, but I get the feeling it’s because of my Hulk review. The Hulk review has always been my most-viewed post, it has almost 800 views right now, almost double my next most-popular post (and around 100x more views than most of my posts). I think that the cause of this Hulk exposure is because of Google Images. Recently, IC2S has been anywhere from the #1 to the #3 image when searching for “Hulk Movie 2003”. Hardly an uncommon string of words, so that’s very impressive (and unexpected!):

Hmm… maybe I’ll have to do a review of The Incredible Hulk soon… It seems that movie reviews are basically all that’s giving me exposure, so a bit more focus on that area is probably a good idea. I might spam IMDb with some links to my reviews too.

And speaking of IMDb, next thing of note is a really stupid (and therefore hilarious) post I read on the message board for The RuinsCheck it out here for a good laugh. If you didn’t bother to, then I’ll summarize really quickly: in the unrated cut of The Ruins, one of the characters randomly gives her boyfriend a handjob, to which the first poster asked why she’d do that to him without any lubrication. Then the very first commenter launches into a tirade about circumcision, and it all goes downhill from there as people start quoting totally biased sources… if they even quote sources at all, that is. Most of them just said you were a horrible girlfriend if you preferred mutilated male genitals, and that if male circumcision is fine then we might as well circumcise all the women as well. The degree of ignorance and stupidity in the thread made me laugh for a good ten minutes as I read the comments.

In response to all that silliness, I have a few things to say. First, studies have pretty conclusively shown that circumcision is not bad. However, it’s not vastly superior to non-circumcision either. People throwing around a stat that it does such-and-such are ignoring the big picture, because circumcision and non-circumcision both have their benefits and drawbacks. I read a very interesting article about it, I recommend checking it out. Second, people turn it into a human rights issue. “Let the baby decide!” they’ll argue, which, of course, is just a rhetorical flourish. Prior to the message board posting, I had seen anti-circumcision propaganda thrown about on Facebook which said similar things (I have strange friends-of-friends). To this, I say that babies and children are the wards of their parents, and circumcising a baby is far preferable and easier than doing it later when they’re actually going to remember it. Furthermore, there is evidence which points to circumcision helping to reduce HIV rates, and considering that the spread of HIV actually is a human rights issue, I think they cancel each other out at the very least. Third, male circumcision is in no way comparable to female circumcision. There’s a reason why the World Health Organization has officially dubbed the practice as female genital mutilation – it’s rather perverse. Like I have said, circumcision has health benefits beyond its cultural significance, whereas female circumcision largely takes away a woman’s ability to enjoy sex. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just wrong. If someone wants to decry a practice as barbaric, they should focus on female genital mutilation first and foremost.

On a somewhat related note, I don’t exactly support abortion on a moral level (and had some difficulty keeping it out of the “let the baby choose!” argument), but at the same time, as a male I do not believe I should dictate what a woman may do with/to her body. Oddly enough, it seems to me like the majority of anti-circumcision proponents I’ve seen are female… just an observation and might not even be true of the greater population, but I just wanted to throw that out there. Wow, I didn’t expect to write 3 paragraphs on sticking knives near penises and vaginas. I hope that was more comfortable for you than it was for me.

To bring back the happy thoughts, here’s a picture of my dog. Awwwwwww.

Next, I want to advertise a movement I’ve recently joined on Facebook. Yes, the humanitarian effort I’ve aligned myself with is… a call to make a Dredd sequel. Ok, maybe it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things, but if you’ve read by review of the movie, you’ll know that I loved it. In an age where the shoddiest movie can get a sequel if it made somebody rich, a truly deserving effort shouldn’t be left out. I sincerely doubt that the Facebook group will have any effect, but I’m willing to do whatever I can to see Karl Urban and company come back for a Dredd sequel.

Finally, I was originally going to end this post with the previous paragraph, but a friend of mine on Facebook drew me to this article about a war simulation between Iran and Israel. Suffice to say, it was chilling. I really recommend reading it, it is quite frightening in its realism and intensity.

Anyway, that’s it for this post. Be sure to come back soon – I recently saw a movie that I absolutely hated (yes, more than Noobz) and am looking forward to tearing it apart with brutal glee.

Movie Review: Hulk (2003)

Apologies, I have been busy lately and so haven’t had much time to update the blog. It’s not a matter of lack of content/inspiration… on the contrary, I have a notepad file with more than a half dozen ideas I could use in a pinch. In any case, I’m not shirking my commitment to make a post at least once per week – unlike my past blogs, I want this one to last long enough to get some sort of readership!

So this week I’m tackling a bit of a personal review. I recently saw Ang Lee’s Life of Pi in theatres, and quite enjoyed it, it was an almost perfect adaptation of the book (although I wish that M. Night Shyamalan had gotten the director’s duties, but I’m not about to complain about the movie we did get). However, there was only one other Ang Lee movie I had seen up to this point, and that was his 2003 blockbuster Hulk… which for at least half a decade I had proclaimed “the worst movie I’d ever seen”. Now, the last time I saw it I was 14 or 15. Both the superhero genre and myself have changed mentally and physically. I decided that it was time to give Hulk a second chance. Was I just harsh on it as a stupid teenager, or did it really deserve my righteous indignation? Well hang on, we’re gonna take a trip back to the past…

Let’s travel back to the year 2003. Superheroes were just starting to get really cool again. Spider-man had blown our minds, and its sequel would soon top it. Batman Begins would revolutionize the whole genre in a couple years, but at the time comic book properties were treated as… well, comical properties. I had watched some of the Hulk cartoons on TV as a kid, so when I heard they were making a movie adaptation I thought that it had the potential to become the new Spider-man. Of course, when I saw the movie itself, I was extremely disappointed with the direction Ang Lee went in. It was more of an art-house film than a superhero blockbuster, and so I was very bored with it. However, I also noticed some rather… questionable elements of the film that further added to my distaste for it. I hadn’t been more disappointed in a movie before, and so I proclaimed Hulk the worst movie I had ever seen (it wasn’t until my mother made me watch The Santa Clause 2 years later that it was finally knocked off its “lofty” position).

Honestly, the action element of Hulk hasn’t really changed at all. It really is a quiet, thoughtful production. If it wasn’t about a man who turns into a big, green, pissed, muscle-bound monster when he gets angry, then this might be more forgivable. However, the whole point of the Hulk is that he smashes things. It’s his thing. Ang Lee might have been brave tackling this property in such an intellectual way, but he also displays that he just doesn’t understand why people like the Hulk in the process. He compensates by trying to deconstruct the character, specifically asking “why is the Hulk so angry?” and then exploring the potential origins of that. The answer Lee comes up with? Daddy issues, and lots of them to go around. Lee also treats the film as more of a monster movie than superhero origin, in the vein of Frankenstein or (especially) The Wolf Man. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s just another source of disappointment for fans, it was marketed incorrectly and towards the wrong audience.

The Contemplative Hulk (this image seriously summarizes about half of his screentime).

If Ang Lee had pulled off his super-hero deconstruction project successfully, then I could have totally forgiven the lack of action… however, Hulk is caught in the uncomfortable crossroads between being very smart and very, very stupid. I mean, the film is attempting to work psychology into the superhero mythos and figure out what makes Hulk angry. That’s pretty interesting. However, that effort is sharing screen time with jaw-droppingly idiotic moments like this:

Nice acting dude…

…or this:

Ugh, those dogs would look out of place in a Star Wars prequel…

When the Hulk finally goes on his rampage, the smashing is frequently broken up by the big guy staring at things thoughtfully. This is where I can legitimately call out Lee for being overindulgent – the Hulk is impulsive, not contemplative. Bruce Banner can be thoughtful all he wants to, but Hulk should be the embodiment of aggression and impulse. Quite simply, Hulk can’t stick to a consistent tone. Whenever it tries to get you to take it seriously, a really intrusive and cheesy transition will pull you out of the drama, a CGI monstrosity will invade the screen or someone will do something maddeningly illogical that shatters all its efforts. Central to this issue is the plot itself. Lee wants to make a psychological drama, and while he gets the psychological aspect down well enough, the plot that it is hung on is, put simply, an atrocious mess. Here’s just a few of the biggest issues I noticed while watching it again:

  • How/why did Bruce become the Hulk?
  • How did David know that Bruce would become the Hulk?
  • Why does General Ross hate Bruce so much? He didn’t do jack shit to anybody.
  • Why does David NOT become the Hulk when he goes through the same process? It seems to be some sort of trauma-based process… but how does that make sense?
  • Why does David suddenly decide to join with Betty after trying to kill her earlier?
  • WTF is up with the ending…???
And who thought covering Hulk in fecal matter would be a good idea?

Ultimately, the writers would have been better off not changing the Hulk’s origin at all, because the version they came up with just plain didn’t work, nor did it make any sense, undermining the movie’s braver efforts in regards to its psychological focus.

This might be a controversial statement, but I wasn’t particularly impressed on the acting-front either. I have looked up some contemporary reviews such as this one in preparation for this review, and they seemed to like Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly and Nick Nolte’s performances. For my own part, I thought that Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly were unconvincing to say the least. As for Nick Nolte, he made David Banner batshit insane, although I’m not so sure that this was acting on his part or just him being himself. In all, I don’t think any of the leads were particularly awful (Josh Lucas doesn’t count as a lead), but they didn’t deserve the praise that some people heap on them either.

Finally, the special effects are one glaring noteworthy mention. At the time they weren’t exactly top-notch, and they look downright cartoonish now. You already saw the video with the dogs earlier, and they just look like cartoon characters. Check out the picture of Hulk covered in shit above, and focus on the pants. They don’t even look real, they look like someone photoshopped them on. And check out Hulk’s proportions here:

His proportions are all wrong. He doesn’t even look like a real being. And I can blame this one on Ang Lee himself, because he is directly responsible. The “overlay” effects were awful as well (as you can see most egregiously in the video of Talbot’s death).

Geez, I’ve really been ravaging this one. You might ask if there’s anything I enjoyed about Hulk, and to that I say that there were a few things. Honestly, when Hulk actually does start smashing things it’s pretty enjoyable. I also thought that the split-screen shots were pretty cool as well, and the film is shot with the eye of a true artist – I can give Ang Lee that (although he puts that eye to much better use in Life of Pi). I also quite enjoyed the Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno cameo, it made me chuckle and wasn’t too blatant. Finally, I appreciate Hulk for what it is – a risky experiment with the superhero genre which was honestly trying to elevate it. However, unlike some reviewers I do not consider this grounds for absolution, for if I could then Birdemic would fall under the same criteria. I think my younger self was a tad harsh on the film when it came out due to not appreciating its efforts, but I wasn’t totally wrong in my assessment. Hulk is a colossal failure, as both a disappointment for the people who went in expecting a smash ’em up, and just for people who love good movies in general.