The Incredible Hulk

The green giant is in shape.

There was a time when comic-books were not treated with much respect on the screen. Then one day Marvel released Spiderman, and saw it was good, and then got really excited with the money-making machine and went on to release and release films that were not in fact that good. Fantastic Four 2, to take a case in point, was a most painful experience.

Having finally rethought their concept of film business, they revamped their franchise with Iron Man and now continue with this The Incredible Hulk. The now rightfully named Marvel Studios are finally paying greater attention to their final product and clearly going for a new generation of super-hero films. Now the story and the characters are far more important than just having spectacular shots, and the complex “marvel” universe is finally taking the place that is its by right.

The film shows off (although doesn't rely on) fantastic visual effects, as expected. The jade giant looks a bit different than he was in Ang Lee's very personal and venerated version, but he is as impressive and powerful as ever. And Edward Norton's unheroic constitution in this film seems to make him a much better candidate for Hulk's human alter ego than Eric Banna was. It seems filmmakers didn't want to use much of the first film, and of that particular vision of the character that make so many people so enthusiastic. This new film opts for a more commercial, but also a more loyal version of the comic-books, respecting the original characters and using them to orchestrate a most human story with power and responsibility as the main points.

Especially enjoyable are a few moments that one wouldn't expect in this type of film in which interesting aspects of Hulk are shown from a very human point of view, far away from superheroes. These scenes help understand what might be like to have to bear a burden like that of the protagonist's. Further into the movie, tender “beauty and the beast” moments, enormous critters fighting, and Lou Ferrigno's appearance (from the Hulk TV series), are there to keep entertaining and surprising you.

Please keep it up with the incoming Magneto, Captain America, and so on, Marvel. And no rush with Fantastic Four 3...

The Happening

Whatever you do, don't insult the audience.

It is hard to imagine a film worse than The Happening.

The seemingly endless series of scenes itself seems to get lost in nonsenses. The script is over-dramatic and incoherent. The acting, painfully executed through some of the most senseless lines of the film history, is just terrible. Both main actors, Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel give very poor performances, sadly matching the quality of the story. We can almost feel the pain as we watch in astonishment, denying what our eyes see, and force ourselves to smile before a few scattered jokes. This is a film that doesn't move forward. Nearly every scene of the film is either unnecessary, or badly built, or both. Ridiculous moments and easy scare shots degrade the genre and insult the public over and over.

Before watching this film, after seeing the promising trailer, one would want to go out of his way to compliment M. Night Shyamalan, director of The Sixth Sense and would even be inclined to forgive his momentary slip-up with the lamentable The Village. But the truth is that, in The happening, the script is as weak as the directing work. And the actors' delivery is just one of many tokens of it.

Out of respect to filmmakers who love what they do and make films for intelligent audiences, films like this should, quite simply, not be made.

The "open souce" wonder

If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” - Isaac Newton

The idea of isolated creation is vanishing. In its place, a collaborative Internet-linked world takes shape. This is good news. The more people are allowed to participate, the better humankind's creations will become, and the greater and more numerous our resources will be.

The so-called Web 2.0 played an important role on collaboration. Open source software, however, is to me one of the most interesting creations that this new world has come up with. Program packages created, bug-fixed and maintained by people, for people. Free, and very often more efficient that their commercial counterparts. Here is a brief list with some of my favorites, all of which I use or have used in the past.

  • OPEN OFFICE: Yes, it is like Microsoft Office. Spreadsheets, its own version of the popular Word, databases, ... Some options may be in a different place, but everything is there. And if it is not, it probably will be in the next release. You would have to wait longer (and certainly pay) for Microsoft to update their package.
  • GIMP: For all your image manipulation and digital retouching needs. Much like the popular Photoshop.
  • INKSCAPE: For those more into vector graphics, here is the alternative to Freehand, Illustrator or CorelDraw.
  • BLENDER: Excellent 3D package, just as 3D max, Softimage, Maya, etc.
  • CLAMWIN: Scans your computer for viruses, just as Norton or Panda would. Only, more discreetly and without Panda's spooky voices talking to you all the time.
  • AUDACITY: A great simple-looking yet powerful sound editor.

I even, not long ago, found a way of finally writing a script without having to worry about the format at all, celtx. Of course, I use it now.

All I can say is that if any of these fall within your area of interest, you HAVE to try them. If not, well, why don't you try to run a search for “open source” for whatever your interest are? Why not? You might be surprised. Have a taste of open-source software, at least. In most cases, it's a most rewarding experience of discovery. In the unlikely case that you don't enjoy it, well, you can always go back to the old conception of “paying for your software must mean that it is better software”.

I am so happy to be living this technological revolution.

By the way, if you want to understand better how open source software develops, or if the consequences really are the fall of empires like Microsoft's, I would recommend a fascinating book called Wikinomics (of which, not surprisingly, a wiki, editable version of is available on-line too).

Mongol, the rise to power of Genghis Khan

Spectacular is not enough.

I like to think that when we watch “personal journey” films, we subconsciously expect genre conventions and a wide range of subtleties to eventually give us an overview of the character's motivations, as well as a good understanding of his life, all this packed in two hours of well-built narration. When this doesn't happen, I personally feel very disappointed, and somewhat deceived. What, after all, if not the rise to power of Genghis Khan, do we expect to see in a film about the rise to power of Genghis Khan?

Mongol starts off in a very promising way. We enjoy the first steps and taste the excellent performance given by Odnyam Odsuren, the boy playing the protagonist's young counterpart. Soon, something terrible happen. The necessary gradation to make scenes flow through time seems to be forgotten and the story stagnates in a series of unfortunate scenes that, although still remarkable, contribute very little to the personal story of the main character. When it is finally resumed we are only left with the battles to be entertained with, and of course Khulan Chuluun's strong character, far more interesting than the protagonist. The clumsy captions and voice-over narrations become additional testimony of the script's inability to tell a story for the screen.

The remarkable premise -the human right to choose- probably comes later than it should too and, since it is not maintained convincingly throughout the film, we don't get to really get attached to the character's principles. A real shame, after bringing a figure like Genghis Khan to an innovative human level, far away from the brutal, infamous conceptions that are common in historical data (Tadanobu Asano's looks and acting contribute to this end in a laudable but eventually vain effort for turning the protagonist into something that he is not).

Yes, the stunning photography, the astonishing natural scenery and a couple of spectacular battles are of course there as expected. But that is about it. In short, enjoyable (no one said otherwise) although not-that-epic film that could have been a lot more convincing and much better built.