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Pic of the Week

Each week we pick a recommended "Pic" from our archives. Below are our most recent picks.

Art and Craft

***1/22014, Mark Becker, Sam Cullman, and Jennifer Grausman

An object lesson in how to make a good documentary

Mark Lanids makes — forgeries? Or shall we just say “copies”? — of lesser known works of master painters. The most egregious copies begin at Kinko’s, but all of them involve a skilled copier’s hand. Mark then dresses up, prepares his story, and donates these copies to museums, galleries, universities, and churches, as though they were the real deal.

Transformers

***2007, Michael Bay

A Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures presentation in association with Hasbro

Transformers is far and away Michael Bay’s best comedy.

The Darjeeling Limited

***1/22007, Wes Anderson

You’d think that the concept would be stale by now, yet it turned out rather fresh

MM: I heard the NPR critic say he liked Wes Anderson films, but he wasn’t “in the cult.” That’s where I’m coming from, too. Nevertheless, I think The Darjeeling Limited is one of Anderson’s better films. It all came together, and it didn’t seem as “forced” as some of his earlier films.

Satantango

****1994, Béla Tarr

Tarr is a canny student of the texture of humanity

When I told a friend that I was about to review Satantango for Movie Habit, his response was a surprised ” Did you watch all of it again?”... and this was coming from someone who likes Hungarian director Bela Tarr’s work. His wonder came from the fact that Satantango is 415 minutes long and that we had both seen it about a year ago. Hadn’t I already earned my Long Duration Film Merit Badge? Wasn’t once enough?

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

****

It’s the best so far, and that’s possibly this episode’s biggest odds-defying accomplishment.

This is what great summer movies are all about.

It’s the best so far, and that’s possibly the biggest odds-defying accomplishment in this sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible series, which debuted on the big screen 22 years ago. Time flies when you’re busy saving the world.

Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs

***2008

More chuckles than belly laughs, more episodic than Big Score, but still worth watching

Futurama, the Fox network’s edgy animated comedy sci-fi show had hardly run out of comedic or creative steam when it was abruptly canceled in 2003. The show burst back on the scene in late 2007 with Futurama: Bender’s Big Score, the first of four planned DVD movies. Fans of the show will be satisfied with the second movie, Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs. It serves up a steady stream of laughs, and has a good package of bonus features.

Broken Wings

***2004, Nir Bergman

A promising feature debut for both director and actress

Jewish population aside, most Americans probably know Israel only through the headlines. Broken Wings shows a glimpse of life inside Israel, apart from the border disputes and suicide bombings.

Inglourious Basterds

***1/22009

Basterds invade Blu-ray.

Quentin Tarantino sticks his shtick to the Nazis and, for the most part, it works.

Dead Calm

***1989, Phillip Noyce

Hulk

***2003, Ang Lee

Another enjoyable adaptation of one of Marvel’s more popular, though uncomplicated, heroes

Marvel Comics is on quite a roll. After this year’s well-done renditions of Daredevil and X-Men and last year’s megahit Spider-Man, Marvel has produced another enjoyable adaptation of one of its popular, though not one of its most complicated, characters in Hulk. Even those not familiar with the Hulk’s lore will be entertained by director Ang Lee’s version despite the parts where you wonder what Lee was trying to accomplish.

In the original comic, Dr. Bruce Banner was trapped outside saving an innocent bystander while a gamma bomb was detonated, thus giving him his powers and his split personality. In the movie, writers John Turman, Michael France, and James Schamus go a step further by making a four-year-old Bruce the unwitting guinea pig for his father’s military experiments. The elder Banner has been trying to accelerate cell regeneration through gamma radiation, but when his animal test subjects die, he starts experimenting on his son despite strict orders from his superiors not to use human subjects.

Banner’s “experiments” are abruptly shut down and little Bruce is taken to foster parents after a horrible family experience that leads him to suppress his memories of his original parents along with his anger. But he still has nightmares about his early years.

The adult Bruce (Eric Bana) is also working on cell regeneration with his ex-girlfriend Betty Ross, who dumped him because she could not get close to him emotionally. Their experiments have attracted the attention of Glen Talbot (Josh Lucas), who wants to use their accomplishments to crate an army of super -soldiers who can heal themselves in battle. Talbot is the sinister figure Who Is Obviously Up To Something, and his propositions are rejected by Betty and Bruce.

In an homage to the comic’s origin, an innocent assistant is trapped in a chamber just when lethal gamma rays are about to be sent his way, so Bruce uses his body to shield the poor assistant. Instead of killing Bruce, it gives him perfect health. But the gamma rays have only awakened the monster dormant in Bruce, and when Bruce’s father (Nick Nolte) tells him what he has become, it makes Bruce so angry that ol’ Green Skin finally makes his appearance.

The first hour is devoted to setting up the characters and their motivations, and while it isn’t too hard to follow the melodrama, it does delay what people will come to see: Hulk smashing things. This is the great necessary evil of a movie that is introducing a franchise, especially one based on already existing characters from another medium, so there you have it.

But when the Hulk finally shows up, the movie makes up for all the character setups that got hard to follow with their scientific doubletalk. It is a story Hulk creator Stan Lee(who has a cameo as a security guard) would be proud of.

Lee has taken an artsy approach to the project, making the screen appear as if it were a comic page brought to life, complete with split screens similar to the television series “24”, drastic multiple angle shifts, and scenes than transition one to another through creative wipes, zooms and dissolves.

You wonder if Lee is using these techniques simply to show off, since some split screens and dramatic angle shifts don’t do anything to add to the flow of the film. But it’s not distracting either, and you have to give Lee credit for not making this just another paint-by-numbers comic book adaptation. He wants us to take this story seriously, mainly by making the Hulk’s origin much more palpable. Maybe he goes too far, because much of the humor traditionally found in Marvel’s books is missing. Most of the movie’s few laughs seem a little forced.

Like in Universal’s monster movies of the 1930s, the Hulk becomes the unabashed star. He doesn’t just grunt or growl like Lou Ferrigno (who also has a cameo, by the way) in the TV series form the late 1970s. He also doesn’t shout broken sentences like “Hulk mad!” from the comic books. This Hulk is created just for this movie to stand on his own, and what a wonderful lug he turned out to be. He’s a big special effect who also becomes a tragic hero, a victim of other people’s dubious intentions.

The effects work so well in Hulk because they back up very strong characters throughout the movie, despite their sluggish development. The most complicated is Betty’s estranged father (Sam Elliott), an army officer who only wants to protect humanity from the dangers of the Hulk. And Connelly is an actress who only gets better with each new role she gets. Her performance is by far the best of the movie, not because of the fear of being upstaged by the copious CGI effects, but because she’s playing a woman who could be the only force that could control the big green monster.

Many fans were upset by the low quality of the effects seen in early trailers, but rest assured, the final product more than makes up for it once you get through the lethargic first hour. You get to see Hulk smash a lot of stuff without killing anyone, so what could be more fun than that?

Amelie

***1/22001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Maybe 4 times (including the commentary) is enough, but certainly withstands that many viewings

Amelie is a great movie. I’ve seen it three times now, four if you count watching the commentary track. I won’t say it’s still getting better each time. Maybe four times is enough. But it certainly withstands that many viewings.

The Conspirator

***2011, Robert Redford

The Conspirator is an extremely well-crafted court drama.

The Conspirator is an extremely well-crafted court drama, but it doesn’t make an entirely convincing case.

2016 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

***1/22016

No duds in this mixed bag of cartoons

Each year, the Oscar-nominated shorts are released to theaters in three programs: Documentaries, animated, and live-action.