'Hulks,' 'Happenings' and 'Encounters' On Screen Critic Daniel Holloway looks at this week's new movie releases, including The Incredible Hulk, Quid Pro Quo, The Happening and Encounters at the End of the World.

'Hulks,' 'Happenings' and 'Encounters' On Screen

'Hulks,' 'Happenings' and 'Encounters' On Screen

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Critic Daniel Holloway looks at this week's new movie releases, including The Incredible Hulk, Quid Pro Quo, The Happening and Encounters at the End of the World.

MIKE PESCA, host:

Speaking of quid pro quo, that's one of the new movies opening this weekend. What I like to do is leave little breadcrumbs so that I can make segues for it later on. And it turns out that in olden times on Friday the 13th, villagers would hang a tiny little Daniel Holloway in the archways of their home to ward off evil spirits.

DANIEL HOLLOWAY: That's true.

PESCA: We have taken no chances. Daniel is here with me, the real Daniel Holloway, the writer for Us Weekly, the movie reviewer from Metro. Hello, Daniel.

HOLLOWAY: Hello. I just want to point out that it wasn't very effective.

PESCA: No.

HOLLOWAY: I didn't ward off...

PESCA: They'd still be able to infiltrate the homes.

HOLLOWAY: Stray cats I could ward off, but the evil spirits got right past me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: "The Incredible Hulk." It's one of those movies were it kind of begs you, in the review, to, you know, to create incredible or not incredible (unintelligible)...

HOLLOWAY: Uh-huh. The suggested headline that I sent to my newspaper was, "Less Than Incredible."

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Somewhat short of the incredible bar. So what do you think of the movie?

HOLLOWAY: Ah, less than incredible.

PESCA: Well, the last one, the last - not the TV show, not the comic book. There was a movie in between. Ang Lee directed it. I had high hopes for it, because...

HOLLOWAY: Not a bad director.

PESCA: Ang Lee is a great director.

HOLLOWAY: Yeah..

PESCA: And the guy they got to write the script then is a master of classics at Columbia. He knows all about how stories are told, and that movie yet was terrible. So what did they try to do different in this one?

HOLLOWAY: Uh, they cut out a lot of - you know, the Ang Lee film was very ponderous, and you know, Eric Bana played the Hulk, gives a lot of, you know, shots of Eric Bana brooding.

PESCA: Yeah.

HOLLOWAY: And Jennifer Connelly brooding, and everybody brooding. And they tried to cut a lot of those out, and just play up...

PESCA: The incredible brood.

HOLLOWAY: Yeah, the incredible brooder.

PESCA: Yeah.

HOLLOWAY: They tried to cut a lot of that out, and focus mainly on the fight scenes, which you'd think would be good, because the movie is essentially about a green monster that wrecks stuff.

PESCA: Yeah. He's not the most cerebral of the superheroes.

HOLLOWAY: No, you don't want to over-think him.

PESCA: Not even the most heroic...

HOLLOWAY: You know?

PESCA: Yeah.

HOLLOWAY: Yeah, he's not really - and that's the thing. He's not really a hero. This is - this should be a monster movie.

PESCA: That makes sense. Yeah.

HOLLOWAY: "The Hulk" was born at a time when Marvel was transferring over from doing other genres of comics into doing superheroes, and he was really kind of a leftover idea from the time when Marvel was experimenting with monster comics, kind of tossed into a superhero world.

And the movie could have been interesting, if it was done as a monster movie. And monster movies are kind of fun and kind of silly, and even though there's a lot of fight scenes in this film, it's still got that sort of ponderous, Marvel-superhero thing, where everyone is so tortured, and so flawed, and...

PESCA: Yeah.

HOLLOWAY: At one point, you just - you want them to just start being silly, and just have it be about a green monster kind of stuff.

PESCA: Well, this might be a silly move. Here's is Dr. Bruce Banner in non-Hulk form about to jump out of a helicopter on the theory that, hey, it might turn me into the Hulk.

(Soundbite of movie "The Incredible Hulk")

Ms. LIV TYLER: (As Betty Ross) What are you doing? Think about this. You don't even know if you'll change. You don't have to do this. Please, this is insane!

Mr. EDWARD NORTON: (As Bruce Banner) Betty, I've got to try.

HOLLOWAY: Boy, Liv Tyler can act.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of movie "The Incredible Hulk")

PESCA: Ah, lordy, lord. Did it work? Did he Hulk it up, or did he just go splat on the ground?

HOLLOWAY: I don't want to spoil it for people...

PESCA: Tell me. Oh, man. And so how'd the Hulk look? CGI-ish? Real, like a real Hulk, like you'd find in nature?

HOLLOWAY: Yeah, he looks - I've got my own pet Hulk at home, and my - and he looks kind of cartoonish. In nature, they look like cartoons. In the movie, they look like cartoons.

PESCA: I would not have objected if they spent a good 20 minutes in the movie just explaining the dynamics of how the purple pants stay on, where everything else breaks away from his body.

HOLLOWAY: There's a couple pants jokes actually. You know, there's...

PESCA: That's all they do. They make the jokes.

HOLLOWAY: Yeah, he buys a pair of pants at one point with an elastic waistband...

PESCA: Uh-huh.

HOLLOWAY: And holds them up to a fat lady's behind, to see if they will, you know, give...

PESCA: Oh, lordy, lord. And I heard...

HOLLOWAY: When his butt expands.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: I heard Iron Man shows up.

HOLLOWAY: Iron Man does show up, and actually, the screening that I saw, I saw it with an audience, and the loudest applause of the film came for the (unintelligible) moment where Tony Stark shows up. And I think that says a lot about - I won't say when it was placed, but I mean, it was already kind of toward the end of the movie. So, I think that says a lot about audience - what audience reaction to this movie is going to be like, that (unintelligible) most enthusiastic reaction came for a character from another movie.

PESCA: Uh-huh. And I guess they just guessed right that "Iron Man" was going to be success, because they had to shoot the scene a long time ago.

HOLLOWAY: Yeah. I mean, they may have been holding it and banking on it, but I think...

PESCA: Oh yeah. That's true.

HOLLOWAY: You know, I think it's - and just tacked it in there. I - but I think both of these movies are kind of guaranteed to be somewhat of a success. I don't think this is going to be the success that "Iron Man" was. And also what they're doing with that "Iron Man" cameo, they are setting up - Marvel's announced a slate of movies. You know, they're making their own movies now, actually, and have a distribution deal with Universal, and they've got - after "Iron Man" took off, they announced a slate of movies going all the way through 2011...

PESCA: Right.

HOLLOWAY: Of, like, "Captain America," and "Thor," and then bringing all these characters together for "The Avengers" and...

PESCA: And they can all interrelate and instead of, like, when all the different studios had the rights. Now, they can all be in each other's movies.

HOLLOWAY: Exactly.

PESCA: Let's move on to the next one. A real change of pace, it's something called "Quid Pro Quo." Here's a little of the trailer.

(Soundbite of movie "Quid Pro Quo")

Mr. NICK STAHL: (As Isaac Knott) I don't remember any of what I'm about to tell you. I only know what the police and the coroner's report said.

Unidentified Woman: Up next, life in the city with Isaac Knott.

Ms. VERA FARMIGA: (As Fiona) Last week, a man who walked into Bayside Hospital and bribed a doctor into chopping off his leg.

Mr. STAHL: (As Isaac Knott) And what was wrong with his leg?

Ms. FARMIGA: (As Fiona) Nothing.

Mr. STAHL: (As Isaac Knott) If they're chopping off good legs for money, that's hard news. The caller who gave us this tip, ancient Chinese girl.

Ms. FARMIGA: (As Fiona) She wants to meet Isaac.

PESCA: That's Nick Stahl playing a public radio reporter in a wheelchair. What's the plot like? I heard a lot of strands of things?

HOLLOWAY: Yeah, I think the crux there was a guy walks into a hospital, and pays a doctor 250,000 to cut off his leg. Stahl, right, plays a public-radio reporter in New York who is confined to a wheelchair, and he starts in on this story. This leads him to finding a group of people who are self-proclaimed wannabes.

They're able-bodied people who sit in wheelchairs and want to be paralyzed, and they seem to do this for the same reason that a transgendered person would dress up in clothing of the opposite sex. This leads him to Vera Farmiga, who's kind of like the queen wannabe, and yeah, at one point, she has a great line. I'm not a wannabe. I'm a paralyzed person in a walking person's body. And she sells it, because she's that good an actress, and the line isn't that good...

PESCA: That's awesome. She is a good actress. She was great in - which is the Oscar-winning...

HOLLOWAY: Oh, the, you know...

PESCA: The Scorsese...

HOLLOWAY: The Scorsese film, the - with Ca - DiCaprio...

PESCA: "Departed," "Departed." Oh, lord, we didn't get that one. No, it's funny - you used, you know, the phrase "confined to a wheelchair." I'm sure a lot of people would say, wait a minute, that's not the politically-correct term, but there is something about him being in the wheelchair that has - well, let's not give away endings, but there's a twistiness (ph) to it.

HOLLOWAY: There's definitely a twistiness. I'm not giving away anything, because this is teased right at the film's beginning. There is a pair of magic shoes involved.

PESCA: Yes. So it could be psychological.

HOLLOWAY: You can imagine where that goes. It's actually a really good film. It's kind of a noir.

PESCA: Cool.

HOLLOWAY: You know, you've got a reporter, so you can kind of do the detective thing with him.

PESCA: Cool. And I'd like to see what his set looks like, because I actually lent some of my press passes and the stuff that I tack on my wall to the makers of this film.

HOLLOWAY: I have heard.

PESCA: To - I don't know if it showed up. I hope my press passes show up in this movie. The last movie we're going to talk about is a guy who was so hot, and now is so not. M. Night Shyamalan.

HOLLOWAY: Shyamalamalamaman (ph).

PESCA: Yeah, sure. "The Happening." At first I was excited. "What's happening?" Raj, Rerun and the gang!

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: But it's not. It's "The Happening." Let's not ruin endings. There's only one - I mean, we know how all these movies work. It's a twist ending and, you know, even the last one - which was the one - it was in - what was the last? "Lady in the Water," right?

HOLLOWAY: "Lady in the Water," yeah.

PESCA: I mean, it's a decent movie, if the ending worked. No one thought the ending worked, so everyone didn't like it. Don't give away the ending, but just tell us, does the ending work in "The Happening"?

HOLLOWAY: You know what? I think he kind of - saying this might be giving it away too much. I don't think you could really say there's a twist ending to this film.

PESCA: Ah, interesting.

HOLLOWAY: It actually, you know, at least he's given up that. At the same time, I think people have been waiting for Shyamalan to do something that wasn't sort of a genre-based.

PESCA: Uh-huh.

HOLLOWAY: And this is not that film. I mean, this is a disaster movie. It's kind of a horror movie, although I think the way that they've been building it as being a true horror picture, coming out on Friday the 13th, it's his first R-rated film.

PESCA: Is it slashery?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: It's bloody.

PESCA: OK.

HOLLOWAY: It's pretty bloody, but like the last few M. Night Shyamalan movies and, really, arguably like the ones that people like, such as "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs," it's not well written. And you have an actor like Mark Wahlberg, who's not very good at delivering lines. So...

PESCA: I agree with that.

HOLLOWAY: Problem.

PESCA: Daniel Holloway, writer for US Weekly. He writes film reviews for Metro, and comes in and helps us. Thanks very much, Dan.

HOLLOWAY: Thank you, sir.

PESCA: And next up, a new biography of Sonic Youth. This is the Ba - Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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