Summary Judgment: 'Happening' 'Hulk'
ALEX COHEN, host:
Back now with Day to Day. It's Friday the 13th, and you might think that would be an unlucky time to release a big-budget movie, but two possible blockbusters debut this weekend. And here to tell us what the critics think of these new films, and one smaller pick, is Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.
MARK JORDAN LEGAN: You know, there's a big superhero movie opening today, and I just have to go on record to say it's a bit of overkill. I mean, come on, "The Incredible Hulce"? Yeah, Tom Hulce was great as Mozart and Amadeus and all, but going scene for scene with F. Murray Abraham hardly makes one a superhero. And, you know, I just...
(Soundbite of telephone call)
Unidentified Woman: Uh, Mark...
LEGAN: What? (Unintelligible). Oh. Oh, "The Incredible Hulk." Oh, that's very different.
(Soundbite of throat clearing)
LEGAN: In this highly anticipated summer action film, Edward Norton plays the legendary, mean, green, comic-book character.
(Soundbite of movie trailer "The Incredible Hulk")
Mr. EDWARD NORTON: (As the Incredible Hulk) (Growling) Come on!
LEGAN: Even with some bad buzz brewing around this project, the reviews are quite muscular. The Arizona Republic rages, "fast-paced, well-acted, and it packs a wallop." And the Hollywood Reporter cheers, "a neat thrill ride with an intelligent script." First-time writer-director Carlos Brooks brings a strange story to the screen with "Quid Pro Quo," which focuses on a wheelchair-bound reporter who discovers a subculture of healthy people with a perverse desire to make themselves disabled.
(Soundbite of movie trailer "Quid Pro Quo")
Mr. NICK STAHL: (As Isaac) They were talking about someone named Ginger Jake.
People go to her to get paralyzed?
What does she do to them?
LEGAN: The critics applaud "Quid Pro Quo." Variety calls it "a strikingly original and provocative first feature," and Newsday raves, "a finely observed, compelling drama with the creepy tinge of a thriller."
And leave it to popular writer-director M. Night Shyamalan to release his first R-rated movie on Friday the 13th. In the sci-fi thriller, "The Happening," Mark Wahlberg plays a science teacher trying to figure out what is causing a sudden and total breakdown in human behavior.
(Soundbite of movie trailer "The Happening")
Mr. MARK WAHLBERG: (As Elliot Moore) What's going on? Hey, why would you just stop? You can't just leave us here.
Mr. DEREGE HARDING: (As Train Conductor) Sir, we lost contact.
Mr. WAHLBERG: (As Elliot Moore) With whom?
Mr. HARDING: (As Train Conductor) Everyone.
LEGAN: Unfortunately, most of the nation's critics say "The Happening" ain't happening. Even though the New York Times finds it "a divertingly goofy thriller with moments of shivery and twitchy suspense," USA Today snarls, "ridiculous, the dialogue is wooden and the suspense never really mounts." And the Village Voice complains, "what a bunch of nonsense, effective nonsense, chilling nonsense, occasionally wrenching nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless."
Look, Night. Can I call you Night? Nighty (ph), you've gotten away from what made you famous. Like in "The Sixth Sense," you've frightened audiences by keeping it honest. That's what you have to do again. Tap into what truly scares people at the moment. In fact, here is the tag line for your next movie. It can't miss.
(Whispering) I see gas prices.
COHEN: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer and a commuter living in Los Angeles.