Category Archives: Reviews

What I’ve been reading lately, part 32

Popcorn — Ben Elton

More Elton, this one the story of a film director, clearly based on Quentin Tarantino, who makes very violent but very stylish films; and about two copycat killers who break into his Hollywood mansion and hold him hostage.

Again, fast-moving and compelling. Ironically, though, it falls into exactly the trap that it’s accusing Tarantino of falling into: making the mindless violence seem exciting and sexy. I would like to think that Elton did this deliberately, as a sort of meta-comment, but I’m not sure he’s that clever. Continue reading

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 31

Breakfast at Tiffany’s — Truman Capote

I went back to read this source text after having been fascinated by the film. The novella is perfectly written: terse, just as descriptive as it needs to be, and economically outlining a Holly Golightly who is more to be pitied than envied or held in contempt. In both book and film she is an enigmatic figure, always holding contradictions in tension, and Capote was completely mad to think that Marilyn Monroe should have been cast for the role. Having read the book, I now see Audrey Hepburn as even more perfect for it than I already did — she has a combination of elegance, haughtiness, playfulness, shamelessness and insecurity that no-one else could have nailed so precisely.

Well worth reading the book first, then seeing the film. Continue reading

Hulks (five different ones). Part 4: the 2008 proto-MCU movie

I have much less to say about 2008’s The Incredible Hulk movie than I had to say about 2003’s Hulk, because the film is much less ambitious. It’s a strange thing to say about a superhero movie, but it feels … conservative. Safe.

It’s not a bad film. Apart from making Betty Ross a cipher, a love interest and nothing more, it really doesn’t do anything wrong. It makes a series of competent steps from its premise — that Banner has been living with his condition for five years — to its conclusion. You can’t criticise any of them; but you can’t really get excited about them either.

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Hulks (five different ones). Part 3: the 2003 Ang Lee movie

My friend and colleague Matt Wedel is not a fan of the 2003 Hulk movie. In an email exchange back in 2008, he classified all the then extant superhero movies into four bins and concluded: “You won’t be surprised to hear that I put Ang Lee’s Hulk in the fourth bin”. I was interested earier today to re-read my own response:

I don’t think it belongs in any of those bins. It belongs in bin i, which is at right-angles to the real-integer bins you’ve designated here.

And I think that verdict stands up pretty well. Hulk is simply not trying to do the same thing as other superhero films, and it’s a mistake to judge it a failure on the basis that it doesn’t do what other superhero films do.

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Hulks (five different ones). Part 2: the TV series

I’m watching my way through the first series of The Incredible Hulk, mostly with Fiona. When I’m in the mood for an episode, I invariably invite her to join me in the following way: “Would you care to watch the terrible late-seventies Incredible Hulk TV series?” In part, I suspect I’m unconsciously aping both Andrew Rilstone’s habitual references to “the dreadful Torchwood and Bob the Angry Flower’s reference to “Mille Bornes, the terrible French card game“. But the thing is, it really is terrible.

And yet somehow we’re sort of enjoying it.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 30

In Defence of Fascism (Bob the Angry Flower) — Stephen Notley

I went back to the very first collection of Bob the Angry Flower comics, which is wildly uneven but contains some superb strips.

It takes a little while for Bob to find his voice, but by the eighth strip (BtAF Joins the Circus) it’s laugh-out-loud funny, and some of the later stripes are genuinely thought-provoking and funny — for example, The Puppet Master. A fine beginning, pointing to yet better collections to come … Continue reading

Hulks (five different ones). Part 1: the original comics

Recently, I’ve been going through a Hulk phase. I thought it would be interesting to compare five different manifestations of the Hulk: the original run of comics starting in the 1960s, the 1970s TV series, the 2003 Ang Lee film, the 2008 proto-MCU film, and the fully developed MCU Hulk. I’ll post each one separately. First, the comics.

The Hulk debuted in May 1962, and it took Marvel quite a while to get him right. Most famously, he was originally grey in the first issue before quietly becoming green. But there’s much more: this, for example, from issue 2 (The Terror of the TOAD MEN!):

What’s the matter, Hulk? Haven’t you heard of SMASH?

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