Wanted dead or... well, pretty much just dead

Ok. If you're one of those "Wesley was blond in the comic so the second they cast James McAvoy I McAvowed not to see the movie" people, or of you're one of those "I'm actually not that fascinated by slo-mo shots of personalized bullets customized with witty messages exploding out of foreheads" people, this is not the movie for you.

Anyone else, get ready for a revenge tale with a heaping helping of gun porn. Wanted is based on a nihilistic supervillain comic (I could get all fanboy on you and say that it's "inspired by," as they lost the superhero angle entirely, but hey – the creator doesn't seem to have a problem with it; why should I?) about a cubicle-bound drone who's snapped out of his wage slave existence by learning that he isn't, in fact, an Account Service Manager... he's the son of the greatest assassin who ever lived. Oh, and that, with some training that primarily consists of getting beaten up, knifed and shooting pigs he has the ability to move super-fast, curve bullets and absorb an astonishing amount of pain.

Sounds fun, huh? Surprisingly, it is. While the movie diverges from the source material fairly seriously, it retains the WTF-like attitude that propels the audience through a series of increasingly impressive action set pieces. It's a little difficult to decide who to root for, as while Wesley's the protagonist, it's hard to call him a hero, but pretty early on you'll have seen cars flip over each other to land on and accelerate off buses, bullets crash into each other and dent in mid-air (on purpose!) and Angelina Jolie climb naked out of a healing bath of translucent wax, so it's also a little difficult to complain.

It's far from perfect – somewhat uneven, halfheartedly satirical and admittedly illogical, but it's by and large a blast. This isn't one to analyze to death, it's just one to check your head and enjoy... to death.


Maybe not Incredible...

...but far from terrible. The Incredible Hulk, the announcement of which most people reacted to with an Incredible Huh? turns out to be pretty good. It's still sort of minor summer entertainment – one of those flicks you can't remember much about as you're walking out – but it's a huge improvement over the Ang Lee-led disaster that almost killed the franchise.

First, it starts off strong – the Hulk's (retconned) creation is told in quick flashes during the opening credits, proving my theory that you don't need a whole movie of origin story when people know the characters. Second, Ed Norton Hulks out pretty quick and the movie's off to the races. There's still a bunch of Jekyll and Hyde haranguing and it's not exactly the deepest story (short version: Hulk meets and tries to beat a bigger, uglier Hulk) but if you're looking to watch a big rubbery CGI monster beat the hell out of a bigger somewhat less rubbery CGI monster, this delivers.

And Hulk looks about as good as he's going to, I think. In one of his many misfires, earlier director Ang Lee strapped on the mo-cap suit and performed the Hulk's movements, turning him into a prancing, mincing green jelly bean. Here he comes across as an out-of-control feral force of nature, which works much better. I spose one could sit thru the whole film pointing out that he looks kinda fakey, but at that point one's made up their mind to not enjoy the movie. This all-CGI Hulk holds up far better than, say, Michael Chiklis in The Thing suit, so I'll take it.

In terms of the cast, it's generally solid. Ed Norton is a significant upgrade from Eric Banna – he manages the internal angst of Bruce Banner without completely drowning the character. Liv Tyler's fine in a pretty thankless role and Tim Roth is a bit overeager as the main enemy Blonsky. William Hurt isn't great as the age-old trope of the General who doesn't care about anything except creating weapons, but he doesn't derail the film. There's one great cameo and a couple tired ones (Marvel Comics movies are no longer a novelty – can't we be done with Stan Lee?) and a pretty whiz-bang ending that sets up a sequel or Avengers movie pretty nicely.

Overall, it's a pleasant surprise, albeit a huge green angry one. Worth a watch.


Dunno about America, but this guy's Got Talent

Tuned into America's Got Talent last night, a show I'd always dismissed as a garish freakshow, perhaps because the combo of Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, David Hasselhoff and Jerry Springer doesn't exactly scream "Talent!" to me.

And for much of the evening, I thought I was right. Sure, there was a cute four-year old singer and a nice moment with a male baton twirler, but overall nothing that made me consider the show any more than vaguely harmless summer filler.
Until Neal E. Boyd, an insurance salesman from a lower-class background took the stage and absolutely blew everyone away. Take a watch – I got chills.

If this guy doesn't win, this show doesn't deserve to be on. Whether it holds up for a whole season is yet to be seen, but I'll tune in weekly to watch Boyd sing. You should too.


I doubt it'll be like this...

...mostly because Kal Penn isn't invited. Anyway, I'm off to Sin City for the weekend. I'd promise to post tales of debauchery and such, but as they say:
(yeah, that's not happening either ;)


Tenacious P

In this weekend's smash hit, Jack Black basically plays himself in a CGI panda suit. It's not a timeless classic, but certainly a ton of fun. Detailing the plot for you would be pointless (short version: Unlikely Hero Saves Village); the film succeeds as an incredible animation showcase and a forum for Black's scattershot humor.

While DreamWorks' stuff always has a different edge than Pixar's, it's a terrific looking flick. It's packed with action (you can see the individual hairs of fur during the dramatic slo-mo shots in the fights) and the characters (including Dustin Hoffman, David Cross, Angelina Jolie and more) are incredibly animated. Black's the clear star of show, as the entire film is built around him vamping a bunch of kung fu humor.

Plus, it's appealing for parents without resorting to lazy parody (like much of Shrek) or being smarmy (like the rest of Shrek). It's light and breezy, the kung fu is fun, and the kids'll love it. Enjoy.