Just a few weeks after Marvel Comics’ "Iron Man" set the movie world on fire, we now get the "Incredible Hulk." It feels a little like we’re overdosing on screen superheroes this spring at a time when we need them in real life.
This "Hulk," directed by Louis Leterrier, will be a hit, no doubt, but it’s quite a bit darker than "Iron Man." It also comes with some baggage, as star Edward Norton attempted to rewrite the original script by Zak Penn. Norton does not get screen credit for his efforts, although I’m told that many of his revisions are felt in this final version.
Norton plays Bruce Banner, the scientist who somehow becomes infected with a concoction that turns him into the beastly Hulk. William Hurt is his nemesis, an army general whose daughter, played by Liv Tyler, is in love with both Bruce and the Hulk.
All the actors are fine, and Tyler, especially, brings a welcome jolt to the patented Marvel superhero’s patient girlfriend. Tim Roth is well-cast as a villain who attempts to out-Hulk Banner in several fights, and Tim Blake Nelson makes an excellent ally as a scientist who thinks he can help Banner. Both Tims are underrated presences in studio films and are refreshing to watch.
There are some nice touches. The movie starts with Banner watching actor Bill Bixby in "The Courtship of Eddie’s Father." The very likeable, late Bixby played Banner in the "Hulk" TV series. Also, Lou Ferrigno, the Hulk from that show, gets a cameo. So does Marvel creator Stan Lee. All that gives the film a comfortable introduction.
The new film has nothing whatsoever to do with Ang Lee’s failed "Hulk" from 2003. That movie was so unmemorable that no one at Tuesday night’s showing could recall who played the main roles.
For the record, it was Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly. Ferrigno played the same security guard as in the new film. Interestingly, "Hulk" was much criticized in 2003 for its use of computer-generated graphics. There’s just as much in the new film. So there.
Norton, like Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man" and Christian Bale as Batman, ushers in this new generation of the thinking man’s superhero. Unlike the others, he is not slam-dunk handsome, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Buffed up, he and Roth — also not the first guy you think of in these situations — are like chess players who were sent to gym class.
"Incredible Hulk" ends with a surprise twist. Maybe you’ve heard about it, but I’m not going to give it away. All you need to know is you must stay till the end of the film to see it. What it means, exactly, is unknown, but rest assured, sequels are on their way.
I have a clear memory of seeing the Wallflowers perform in 1995 at a big party for Giorgio Armani. They were wonderful, fresh, exciting. That they featured Bob Dylan’s son was just icing on the cake. And their album, with "Three Marlenas" and "Sixth Avenue Heartache," was superb.
If only that excitement could have been reproduced Tuesday night when Dylan played songs from his new solo album at the Gramercy/Blender Theater. It didn’t help that the air conditioning was out and the place was sweltering. Maybe that’s why the production kept the stage lights oddly low — too hot? I don’t know. But a key light on Dylan would have helped. Instead, he faded into the backdrop.
Dylan’s new songs are bland and unfocused. Most of them are deadly shuffles that go nowhere. One of them sounded like it was lifted from the Eagles’ songbook. How did this happen? The singer may have some idea. After he performed "Something Good This Way Comes" and "Evil Lives," (verb, not noun), he actually addressed how these two disparate thoughts could be in the same set.
"I believe evil lives, but hope for something good," he said. Oy! The single actually contains the line, "Ain’t got much on my mind." I’ll say.
I don’t want to sound mean, but I don’t get the whole Wallflowers/Dylan thing at this point. They’ve released four albums since 1992. OK, Bill Clinton was president when they began. This is an alarming lack of output.
Maybe they didn’t have much to say. Or maybe they were just lazy. The result is that they belong to no generation. They’ve made no statement, and no one is attached to them. It’s a shame. There was a lot of potential there.
Liv Tyler (see above) is said to have grabbed the lead in a new film directed by István Szabó ("Being Julia") called "A Half of Two Lives" based on the novel of the same name. …
Contrary to some reports on Tuesday, there is no "Mission: Impossible 4" being planned at Paramount with Tom Cruise. If there were a secret deal, it’s a surprise to my sources, who know about all projects at the studio. Where does this stuff come from? A top Paramount exec told me a few weeks ago that if "M:I" were revived at the studio, he’d like to see it return to the format of the TV show, with a group of spies and not just a single hero. …
If there’s a silver lining in that management debacle at Capitol Records, it’s that Ian Ralfini will serve as interim head of the label. Ralfini is one of the great guys in the record biz. We wish him great Godspeed. His job won’t be easy but he’s up to the task. …
They say Madonna has asked not to have her ridiculous Africa documentary shown at the Glastonbury Festival. The given reason? Overall festival ticket sales are down. The real reason? Lack of interest in the actual film, which documents Madonna’s realization that there are poor people in Africa and that she can turn them on to Kabbalah. …
Nothing fishy about it: I always knew that Barney Greengrass and I had a lot in common. It’s both of our birthdays today. For its 100th, the famed dairy and smoked salmon emporium of the Upper West Side rolls back prices to 1908 just for Wednesday. In this town, owner Gary Greengrass’ lox is pricier than high octane gasoline — and worth every penny! ...