Hulk

  • Director:  Ang Lee
  • Writer:  James Schamus  /  Michael France  /  John Turman
  • Producer:  Avi Arad  /  Larry Franco  /  Gale Anne Hurd  /  James Schamus
  • Stars:  Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas
  • Studio:  Universal
  • Award Nominations:  VES
  • Length:  138 min
  • Genre:  Action  (Comic Book – Marvel)
  • MPAA Rating:  PG-13
  • Release Date:  19 June 2003  (#14 – 2003)
  • Box Office Gross:  $132.17 mil
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #108 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Notables:  none

Perhaps the first thing to point out about Ang Lee’s Hulk is that it was the fourteenth highest grossing film of 2003 but it had the sixth largest opening weekend of 2003.  Hulk earned 47% of its total domestic gross in its opening weekend.  Today, that’s not a surprising number and it happens several times each year and several films with far higher opening weekends have had a higher percentage of their total gross come from that number (mostly comic book films and Twilight films).  But back in 2003, it was unheard of.  Indeed, up until 2009, it continued to be almost entirely unheard of (that was when a film with a higher opening weekend (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) finally broke Hulk’s record).  How bizarre was it that Hulk opened so well and then faltered so badly?  I haven’t finished my own spreadsheet so I can’t properly do a comparison like this and Box Office Mojo’s new site doesn’t allow for an easy determination for that answer, but before Hulk, no film with an opening weekend over $20 million had ever earned that much of its total gross in its opening weekend.  Given its massive opening weekend (the 16th largest ever at the time, larger than any pre-1997 film and larger than any pre-2001 film except Lost World and Phantom Menace), it was expected to do much more.  Of the 15 films above it, the next highest percentage was 39.8% and only two films were above 35% (a number, that if Hulk had reached, would have been a domestic gross of $177 mil instead of $132).  What all of that says (with interesting statistics) is that lots of people went to see Hulk initially but either they didn’t tell their friends to go see it or they didn’t go back to see it again.  And I suppose I can relate to that.  Of the 15 higher grossing opening weekends to that point, I saw 10 of them in the theater and six of those I saw multiple times including the other two comic book films on the list, both of them Marvel (relevant in a minute).  Hulk had been an interesting film but it wasn’t a compelling film and it didn’t draw me back to the theater like Spider-Man and X2 had. (more…)

Frankenstein

National Theatre Live

  • Director:  Danny Boyle
  • Writer:  Nick Dear  (from the novel by Mary Shelley)
  • Stars:  Jonny Lee Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomie Harris
  • Designer:  Mark Tildesley
  • Lights:  Bruno Poet
  • Music:  Underworld
  • Length:  118 min
  • Genre:  Horror

Back in 2011, Nick Dear wrote a stage version of Frankenstein that was produced at the National Theatre in London.  A quick digression: if travel ever lets up and you can move around again, put seeing a play at the National Theatre on your bucket list.  I saw A Little Night Music there in 1996 with Judi Dench in the lead and it’s one of the greatest stage experiences of my life.  End of digression.  Dear’s stage version (at least the seventh in history according to Wikipedia) is an interesting take on the story; for all intents and purposes it divides the story in two and for the first half, we get a limited third person (if this were prose) from the Creature’s viewpoint and in the second half, limited third person from Victor’s viewpoint.  So, it provides two plum roles but balances them off against each other, as we spend the first half watching the Creature’s emerging humanity and in the second half, Victor’s descent out of humanity.  It proved once again that the stage can be a new and interesting way to reinterpret classic works. (more…)

My mom’s copy of the San Francisco Chronicle from July 21, 1969 which I now have, showing the event of the day before.

I haven’t been working much on posts the last week because I’ve got some work to get done on my summer job before I start my new job and because of ComicCon.  Yes, now that I live in San Diego I can finally make it to the annual event that’s geared right towards me.  I don’t have pictures yet (ADDITION – a picture is now down below), but, thanks to Matthew Pearson at the IMDb, I managed to get an invite to the IMDboat on Thursday and got a chance to meet Kevin Smith and get him to sign my Clerks poster (which he was thrilled to learn I bought at his comic shop during mine and V’s honeymoon).  I also got a chance to meet Col Needham and, hilariously, discovered that I have seen over 6000 more films than he has.  I guess what that says is I have more spare time than someone who both founded and has been the CEO of one of the world’s greatest websites.

But I wanted to say something about today since I do have that copy of the San Francisco Chronicle up above.  Also, I wrote a review of First Man when I saw it (in IMAX) which didn’t end up with a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars (idiots) so it hasn’t run yet.  Rather than wait until the 2018 Adapted Screenplay post, if I even continue all of this that long, I decided today was the appropriate day to post it, especially since HBO, with some great planning, starts airing it tonight.  It was my #2 film of 2018 and won seven Nighthawk Awards including Best Director and my review explains why. (more…)

In some ways, they couldn’t appear more different.  The Other Side of the Wind was filmed in the the 1970’s (some in the early part of the decade, some in the middle), considerable portions are in black and white, it’s filmed mostly within a house, uses many people whose primary profession wasn’t acting and is clearly a film that was only fully constructed in the editing room, over four decades after filming was completed.  The Man Who Killed don Quixote was filmed just two years ago with one of the great British actors currently at work and a rising star who is the current villain in a massive franchise and a recent Oscar nominee.  Indeed, while few of the actors in the former have much on their acting resumes, four of the main actors in the latter film combine four of the biggest films franchises in history (Star Wars, Pirates, Marvel Cinematic Universe, James Bond).  It clearly had more of a budget, is shot on incredible natural scenery in Europe and started filming just over two years ago.  Yet, the films are also so much alike and their stories are so painfully similar that it makes you weep to see the shit that inhabits so many movie theaters every week given how long it took these two fantastic films to even be seen. (more…)

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook (2013)

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook (2013)

“This is why events unnerve me
They find it all, a different story
Notice whom for wheels are turning,
Turn again and turn towards this time.”
“Ceremony” – Ian Curtis (music by Curtis / Hook / Morris / Sumner)

In the spring of 1996 I was getting very serious about music.  I had just come back from London and I had the spark of an idea to write a novel about punk.  It would be broken down by its various years with an epigraph for each one and it would begin with that brilliant line from Patti Smith: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.”  I had Horses and I had Never Mind the Bollocks and Boys Don’t Cry and they were fueling all of it.  But clearly there was stuff I was missing.  And, already being a fan of New Order (thanks to my sister Stacy who had Substance on LP), one line in the Rolling Stone Album Guide: “Bassist Peter Hook, drummer Steven Morris and guitarist Bernard Sumner founded New Order on the ashes of their previous band, Joy Division.”  lead to me reading “Joy Division’s brief recorded legacy towers over the subsequent efforts of its imitators.  The suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis in 1980 guarantees that the group always will be misunderstood, or stupidly romanticized; for all the harrowing detail of Curtis’s obsessed monotone, Joy Division breathes fresh musical ideas into punk rock.”  So I knew what I was missing.  I needed to hear Joy Division and I knew that I needed to hear some Clash.  So I went to Tower Records and, without listening to a second of either, I bought The Story of the Clash and Permanent: Joy Division 1995. (more…)

I snagged this image of the cover from the author's website. And if she reads the review, I'm hoping she'll be okay with that. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow (2010)

Serendipity is a funny thing.  It can mean that you end up working on a Tuesday night when you are normally off to cover for someone out of town.  That will mean you drive in to Brookline instead of taking the bus.  So you might be listening to “All Things Considered.”  And so you happen to listen and hear a writer talk about her first novel, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  And she might talk about Nella Larsen, whose great novel, Passing, you read in Graduate School.  In Portland, Oregon, where the bulk of this new novel takes place.  So when you get to work, you look it up to make sure you have copies.  Then someone comes in ten minutes later and asks about it, because it turns out she was also listening to NPR and you know right where it is.  And so you pick up and read a book you might normally never have grabbed and you find yourself transported to a city where you spent the largest portion of your life.  And then you make it to the end and realize that it is one hell of a book, the first brand new novel by any novelist, first-time or otherwise, that has rocked you in a long time. (more…)

Geosynchron: the finale of the Jump 225 Trilogy

When you’re an unpublished writer and someone you know gets a book published, it’s a tough thing.  If you like the person, you should support them and buy the book.  But it can still leave you feeling a bit ambiguous, in that they are successful in a field that you have not found success in yet.  It makes it a hell of a lot easier when the book is good.  I’ve known David Louis Edelman for close to thirty years.  He has been a friend of both me and my sister and his sister is one of my dearest friends.  That said, my full-on recommendation of his Jump 225 Trilogy, which concludes with Geosynchron, has nothing to do with that connection.  It did have something to do with why I heard about it in the first place and read the first one.  But it is my enthusiasm for the series, my joy at what I have read over the course of the three novels, and the notion that this book is great fun that leads me to encourage people to read it.  And I am most certainly encouraging people to read it.  If you ask for a book at the Brookline Booksmith, I’ll recommend it.  I’m writing about it here so you can go find it.  I’ve put in an official recommendation to Indiebound, the official brochure of Independent bookstores. (more…)

Orson Welles in Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Orson Welles in Chimes at Midnight (1965)

“Welles never approached such posterity again, although ‘Touch of Evil’ (1958) is a fine example of the then-fading film noir genre.”
Steve Persall ST. PETERSBURG TIMES (as syndicated in the San Diego Union Tribune)

First of all, when you’ve just explained that Citizen Kane is widely regarded as the greatest film ever made, obviously he never approached such posterity again. Neither did anyone else. That’s kind of the point. But in Persall’s article, he dismisses Welles among other directors that “once were giants.” What that misses is that Welles may have been forced out of the studio system, but he hardly failed to continue to be a giant (fat jokes not withstanding). (more…)

Multireal by David Louis Edelman

Multireal by David Louis Edelman

On the night that I first started reading David Louis Edelman’s Multireal, I was undergoing a sleep study at Mt. Auburn Hospital.  My neurologist was trying to determine a cause for the headaches I have been having for the last twenty years or so (dating back to high school, which makes this a good time to disclose that David and I went to high school together).  While immersing myself in the intricate story of the way Bio/Logic programming has brought about an amazing new world and open up the possibilities of the future, I turned my head to the left and noticed that the 17 electrodes attached to various parts of my head were hooked up to an electronics box made by a company called Bio-Logic.

So the first thing David’s book does is pass the Hunt for Red October test.  In Hunt, when trying to determine what the doors that house the Caterpillar Drive could be, he asks Jeffrey Jones, “Could you launch an ICBM horizontally?”  Jones replies, “Sure.  Why would you want to?”

Any good Science Fiction novel must pass the Hunt test.  It’s not enough to create a world of amazing possibilites and incredible technology.  There must be a reason these technologies were developed.  Things that people don’t need eventually fall by the wayside.  They can sound neat on the page (and eventually look neat on screen), but if they don’t have a practical purpose, then it’s just flashiness.  In other words, sloppy writing.  Well, Multireal passes the test with flying colors.

(more…)

we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…

The Rumble in the Jungle was fought the week after I was born. Yet, by the time Hunter S. Thompson shot himself on a Sunday evening in early 2005, I was thirty years old, married and it was the day my son turned seven months old. Those intervening thirty years, my lifetime, are barely covered in Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson, the new documentary released today. And it’s not hard to see why.
Sondi, Hunter’s first wife, mentions that people have written her about how Hunter went out on top with a bang. She corrects that notion in the film. He wasn’t on top anymore, hadn’t been on top for a long time. His best writing was behind him and he knew it. And so those last thirty years flash by in just a few minutes, with the various interviewees discussing how hard it was for him during those years, how little he accomplished in terms of his writing. It is at this point that Jann Wenner, describing his friend, becomes so choked up that he actually stops the interview. (more…)