Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Blockbusters: A McBone Mini-Review

Although summer is technically just three days old, the summer blockbuster is already in full swing. And what does summer mean for the local moviegoer? Excess! Though I'll probably be brain-dead by September, I'll admit that I've been giddy for months knowing what the summer lineup held in store: superheroes and more superheroes. Iron Man, Hulk, Batman, Indiana Jones, who could ask for more? Let's take it film by film.

Iron Man. I'm not going to qualify my comments by saying something like: "it's what a superhero movie should be." No, this is what a movie should be, period. Don't give me any of that genre crap here; Iron Man hovers damned close to perfection. What makes it so great? Start with the fact that the centerpiece of the film is not the action, but Robert Downey Jr. as the spoiled, wisecracking, womanizing genius Tony Stark--a performance for the ages. But can one performance carry a film, fill theaters, sell action figures, force sequels? Actually, this one might just be able to. Happily, we're treated to so much more, like a well-wrought story of transformation, a script that is terse and witty, and acting that is spot-on by everyone. Check out Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's assistant, Pepper Potts, and Jeff Bridges as his friend and mentor, Obadiah Stane. And what about that action? Superb and exciting but never over the top. Haven't seen it yet? What the hell are you waiting for?? Not a comic book fan? Doesn't matter. Get to the cineplex. Official McBone Rating: 5.0 McBones.

Speed Racer. This movie gets worse and worse the more I think about it. Speed Racer is kind of like being really drunk (which I've never been). You want it to end; you feel sick, but the world is spinning in beautiful colors around you. I can't hate it as much as I want to hate it, but I still want my money back. Yuck. 1.0 McBones.

The Incredible Hulk. The Hulk has been a lifelong source of fascination with me, especially the television show. Always it was the same trick: green contact lenses signal Bruce Banner's impending transformation. Extreme closeups show green muscles tearing through clothes. The Hulk scared the crap out of me when I was seven, and yet I couldn't stop watching. Now Marvel tries to improve upon Ang Lee's coolly received adaptation from 2003. I loved that Hulk. I like this one, featuring a breathtaking chase through a Brazilian favela and some competent acting by Ed Norton and Liv Tyler. What's lacking is the depth that Lee gave to his monster. And just like in the comic, the show, the Lee picture, we pretty much know the gist of what's going to happen. So why do we keep coming back to the Hulk? Because lurking beneath Banner's exterior is all that rage, and I think something about that rampaging green colossus appeals to us at a primal level. Norton & Co. deliver plenty of satisfying rage in 2008's adaptation. Of course, I had a huge grin on my face when I heard those two words uttered, a caveman-like promise of destruction: Hulk smash! 4.0 McBones.

Get Smart. I doubted Steve Carrell and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I was wrong. I doubted Carrell and Get Smart. Wrong again. And yet, I have a feeling that if someone other than Steve Carrell slipped into Maxwell Smart's shoe-phone, the jokes, so many of them of the hackneyed bathroom variety, would have fallen flat. As it is, Carrell is a comic master, one of those guys who can make you laugh without uttering a single word. Anne Hathaway is terrific as Agent 99 and Alan Arkin is an acting god and should be recognized as such. What a delight to see him as the Chief, or in any role, really. This movie, contrary to all my expectations, is funny. I'll not doubt again. Yeah, sure.

Now, I don't want to come off as some kind of chauvinistic pig or anything, but Anne Hathaway's legs are reason enough to pay the price of admission, because they are, frankly, amazing. I don't care if you are male, female, straight, gay, asexual, bisexual, trisexual, black, white, human, android or Martian--the legs are good. Damn good. Dazzling. Perfection. I'll stop.

Film: 3.5 McBones. Anne Hathaway's legs: 5.0 McBones.

The Happening. Say what you want about M. Night Shyamalan and the seeming downward spiral that has become his career--his films have, at there very cores, an inspired spark of creativity. Always they are worth seeing. Well, maybe not always, because The Happening mostly sucks. I suppose things start off well enough. People in New York City start committing suicide in droves. Why? Mark Wahlberg wants to know. So did I, for a while. Then I kind of stopped caring. So, how about the acting? Hammy as hell. Satisfying Shyamalan payoff at the end? No and no. Much of this film is downright risible (watch for the lions if you want a good chuckle), and I just don't think M.N.S. was fishing for laughs. 1.5 McBones.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. There are now officially two categories for Indy flicks. In one column you have the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade, two graceful and defining action adventure movies. On the other side are Temple of Doom and Crystal Skull--enjoyable Indy that too often falls into long-winded action and silliness. Should you shell out to see Kingdom? By all means. Spielberg and Lucas deliver great fun that just never quite achieves the transcendent. The highlights? The return of Karen Allen and those giant red ants! The downfall? A whole lot of bad jokes. 3.0 McBones.

The Chronicles of Narnia; Prince Caspian. Somebody please, please take this series out of the inept hands of Andrew Adamson before he kills it. C.S. Lewis deserves better. We all do. Adamson delivered mediocrity with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. How is it that with Caspian, featuring sooo much action, I was nearly stupefied with boredom? If any redemption is to be found in this mess it is with the two charismatic female leads. Oh, and a very cool cameo by Tilda Swinton. As for the title character as portrayed by Ben Barnes? It's hard to decide what is cheesier: his haircut or his ridiculously affected accent. And where is Aslan? The defining character of the series is an afterthought when he should be ever-present, even when off screen. 1.0 McBones, godammit!

Coming soon: The Dark Knight, Wanted, Hellboy II, Kung-Fu Panda, WALL-E, The Clone Wars, Hancock.

No interest: Sex and the City.

Hell, hell no: You Don't Mess with the Zohan, The Love Guru, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Meet Dave.



Kid Shay said...

Thank you, McBone, for your extensively researched summer movie reviews.

I was uncertain on whether or not Get Smart would be worth the price of admission. Now I have my answer. ("Yes.")

Also: Adrianne says Sex and the City was worth it, even without flesh-eating ants.

Nate and Jeff Bowler, Co-Captains said...

My pleasure, FRNP. I notice that this endorsement of Sex and the City conspicuously excludes yourself.

If you like legs, if you have any appreciation, however minute, for legs, then get your ass to Get Smart. They were worth at least one half of a McBone.


Anonymous said...


What happened at Wimbledon? Out in the Second Round!?! And to Marat Safin!?

Have you been skipping the training due to watching all the summer blockbusters?

Better get back in training for the US Open...I'm calling Apollo Creed! The hell with Indiana, you're hitting the gym in LA.