Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday Movie Day Reviews: Hulk, Kung Fu, Abortion, Stephen King, Consumerism, and French Thrillers

I watched a lot of movies this week! Had to make up for the withdrawals I was experiencing during summer camp. :)

The Incredible Hulk (2008): This was a good film. Not a great film, but a good film nonetheless. I'm not sure why, but it just didn't draw me in like Iron Man or Batman Begins. Still, it's better than Ang "Angsty" Lee's Hulk film from 5 years ago. There is a lot more Hulk in this one! It is a retelling of the Hulk story instead of a sequel, showing how scientist Bruce Banner was exposed to gamma radiation that causes a reaction when he becomes angry or excited. The story moves along at a good pace and the action is fantastic. Loved the chase scene through the Brazilian slums! Edward Norton does a good--not great--job in the role of Bruce Banner, giving the character a bit more depth than a lesser actor would. There a few significant plot holes in the film, mostly revolving around bad guy Emil Blonsky's character (especially the ending; what happens to him?). Overall, a good film, and a good addition to the superhero genre.

Kung Fu Panda (2008): A very fun film! I watched this with a large group of junior high students, which made it even more fun than it already is. Jack Black is hilarious, and the jokes are solid. It's kinda predictable--an unlikely hero has struggles and doubts, but finally learns to believe in himself and beat the bad guy. The silly humor makes up for the predictable plot. My only concern: parents with younger children who value non-violence, this film is not for you. There is quite a bit of action and cartoony violence in the film. I would recommend watching it with a large group of friends, or simply renting it when it comes out on DVD.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007): Disturbing and uncomfortable film about two college-aged girls attempting to get an illegal abortion in Communist Romania during the late 1980s. The film is strikingly realistic, down to the awkward silences and conversations between characters. There are long uncut shots, adding to the realism of the situation. The film deals with a controversial subject in a very raw manner, which left me feeling emotionally shaken. The film neither condones nor condemns abortion outright; instead, it presents an ethical situation and allows the audience to decide for themselves what they would do. While I do not support abortion at all, I must admit, I felt a great deal of compassion and empathy for the two main characters who are clearly filled with fear and pain. The film made me ask the question, "If these two girls somehow walked into my life--or my church--how could I respond with love and compassion, instead of condemnation and rejection?" It's definitely a conversation starter. Overall, it's a beautiful film that deserved its Golden Palm at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. (Note: the film has some very graphic scenes)

The Mist (2007): This film by Frank Darabont based on a Stephen King story is pretty darn creepy and disturbing. An eerie mist suddenly falls over a small town in Maine (just like all Stephen King stories, it's gotta be a small town in Maine!). Creepy things start happening involving some pretty crazy creatures. A small group of survivors find themselves stuck in a grocery store, trying to figure out what to do next. The characters are pretty cliche: studly leader guy, attractive female love interest, African-American guy, sarcastic old lady, younger couple, etc. The story is a look at the depravity of human nature in the context of a bizarre situation, especially when people are overcome with fear. Think "Lord of the Flies" meets "Silent Hill." There are a lot of religious and spiritual themes in the film, especially revolving around a very creepy fundamentalist Christian lady who claims the mist is God's wrath on humanity. It also has great directing and camera work, but that doesn't make up for its depressing ending. Not sure I could recommend this one. It has its merits (directing, concept), but falls short on the acting and ending.

What Would Jesus Buy? (2007): This humorous documentary came out last Christmas season. It follows Rev. Billy Talen and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. They aren't a real church, per se. Rather, they are a group of creative protesters who go on tour to promote a message against American  consumerism. Along the way, they stop at Walmart's headquarters to exorcise demons, go caroling in rich neighborhoods, and end up in Disneyland (Rev. Billy claims that Mickey Mouse is the AntiChrist). There are also some interesting interviews with families and ministers, including Jim Wallis. Lots of tongue-in-cheek humor and a solid message against consumerism. But the film feels scattered due to poor editing and directing, making it feel much longer than its 90 minutes. I am considering showing parts of the film to our junior high students next Christmas season; consumerism has a significant influence in the culture of suburban Mesa, and this could be a good conversation starter.

Diabolique (1955): This French revenge thriller is very suspenseful and very well done. I'd even put it up there with the best of Hitchcock. The wife and mistress of an abusive school headmaster plot to kill him, but when the corpse disappears after the murder, strange events and paranoia ensues. The leading actress was the real-life wife of the film's director and she does a phenomenal job as the guilt-ridden wife. It is one of the best suspense films I've ever seen, and the final scenes created an incredibly tense atmosphere (see the long dark hallway above!). The film effectively builds towards its intense surprise ending; the film even has an afterward telling the audience to not spoil the surprise! This is a classic that is definitely worth viewing.

1 comment:

  1. I want to see The Incredible Hulk and Kung Fu Panda, 'though I'm not in a hurry to see them. The Mist was decent, but forgettable (case in point, I totally forgot about it until this post).