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Monday, June 30, 2008


Well, upon returning from four days of the extremes of human emotion — elation through to sadness — I found a mountain of work that was supposed to have been handled in my absence, so I'm buried and will probably not be able to get to writing up the adventures from this past Thursday through Sunday. But what I can do is whet your appetite with a couple of pictures. First up is Yer Bunche at Thursday night's Devo show at Greenpoint, Brooklyn's McCarren Pool venue after removing my Energy Dome and discovering my hair had formed itself to the red helmet's contours.

No, this is not a Photoshop gag.

Next is a shot of a nasty, carved wooden bear that stands in front of a gas station in Hopewell Junction:

This hideous bit of nightmare fuel looks like what would happen if Papa Bear became a serial child molester and wandered about the fairytale forest grinning maniacally, totally unconcerned about the plethora of cum-stains adorning his Sportabouts as his 'batin' hand stands at the ready. Fucking ghastly.

Anyway, I'll be posting as soon as possible, so stay tuned.

Friday, June 27, 2008

WALL-E (2008)

This latest effort from the amazing Pixar CGI animators is a quiet, intelligent piece focusing on lonliness, romance and, believe it or not, environmental concerns, and is well worth the entire family's time.

I basically liked it a lot - it ranks at number three on my list of Pixar flicks, with RATTATOUILLE at number one and THE INCREDIBLES at number two - so that's all you really need to know, but for those of you who need to know just what the hell it's about, here's the poop: it's 700 years since mankind abandoned a terminally polluted earth for the stars, leaving behind robots to enact "Operation Cleanup," a self-explanatory program of global waste management in anticipation of the planet someday sustaining life again. As the centuries pass only one robot remains, a mini trash compactor on treads named Wall-E (who looks like a blending of Johhny-5 and one of the SILENT RUNNING forest-keepers), and during his lonely duties he develops a personality that enjoys movie musicals and collects sentimental remnants of the long-departed human race.His only companion is a loyal cockroach, that is until a probe ship arrives and discharges E.V.E., an advanced robot whose directive is to find plant life, evidence that the planet is once more fertile. The two robots develop a budding romance, but their bliss is cut short when E.V.E. discovers a tiny, growing shoot and sends a signal to the probe for retrieval. When E.V.E.'s masters collect her, WALL-E stows away aboard a massive star-liner and the two soon discover something dire that could change the course of mankind's fate...

The only other thing to note is that the story is told almost entirely through the visuals and the music; when the robots converse, it's through a series of largely R2-D2esque sounds, but when the humans on the ship enter the story there are about five or ten minutes of dialogue, but the rest of the film is silent. Fascinatichildren in the audience were held in rapt attention during the silent bits, having to hang onto the images to tell them the story, but they wouldn't shut up once the humans began talking. I don't know what that means, but it surprised me.

Anyway, TRUST YER BUNCHE and check out WALL-E on the big screen. The visuals are spectacular, and will lose a lot when seen at home on DVD or cable.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Just got back from Devo and they rocked as per usual. I also ran into an old friend I hadn't seen since Jewish Warrior Princess' wedding in Atlanta eight years ago, but more on all of this after the weekend.


Note to Mickey Dee's: don't fuck with the Smart Patrol.

A couple of months ago I posted about unexpectedly finding a McDonald's Happy Meal toy related to the heinous AMERICAN IDOL and dubbed "New Wave Nigel" and how it was blatantly obvious it was based on the famous "Energy Dome" look sported by Devo beginning with their 1980 FREEDOM OF CHOICE album and tour. Well, now it looks like the Spud Boys aren't taking it up the ass from the fast food corporation ripoff artists and are suing them for copyright infringement. This piece of news makes my day, and this news comes mere hours before I see Devo perform in a Brooklyn swimming pool (more on that after it happens). Anyway, here's what had on this, and thanks to Scraps for the heads-up:

Devo Suing McDonald's Over Happy Meal Doll
Wednesday June 25, 2008 @ 05:00 PM
By: Staff

You know those red flower pot hats that Devo wear on their heads? They're now the centre of a lawsuit involving the band and McDonald's.

McDonald's introduced a line of American Idol Happy Meal toys in April. The set of dolls focused on particular musical genres. If you bought a Happy Meal, you could get Disco Dave, Country Clay, Rockin' Riley, Soulful Selma or… New Wave Nigel. The latter doll sports an orange jumpsuit, pink sunglasses and… a flower pot hat.

Devo's "Energy Dome" hat, designed by bassist Gerald Casale, is apparently copyrighted and trademarked. Devo discovered that McDonald's were selling the doll, which also plays a "Devo-esque song" that they say "sounds a bit like a mutated version of Devo's 'Doctor Detroit.'" Devo have posted a video of the little doll in action on their website. They were pretty offended and they've taken legal action against the fast food behemoth.

New Wave Nigel's headgear: look familiar?

"They didn't ask us anything," Casale told Australian Associated Press. "Plus, we don't like McDonald's, and we don't like American Idol, so we're doubly offended."

Devo first began wearing the flower pot-resembling Energy Dome hats when they released their Freedom Of Choice album in 1980. Devo sell Energy Domes through their Club Devo site. The band have also worn the hats in numerous commercials over the years. Considering the Energy Dome was originally a form of social criticism that mocked industrial and consumer culture, Casale told AAP he finds it ironic that McDonald's has used it.

"The very same people that wanted nothing to do with Devo and looked down on Devo and condescended (to) Devo... enough time's gone by that they go, 'Hey, you know those guys are synonymous with what was new about new wave,"' Casale said. "'So if we're going to do New Wave Nigel, what do people recognize iconically better than Devo and the red hat?'"

—Kate Harper


In less than twenty-four hours I will turn forty-three, thereby ending my year as a representative if the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Forty-two was an onaky year, but I'm hoping forty-three will be even better. In order to get things off to a good start I took today and tomorrow off from the design 'ho house and gave myself a four-day weekend in which things get off to a rockin' start with tonight's Devo show out in Greenpoint, then tomorrow I'll head out to New Hyde Park to get a head start on the cooking for Saturday's 18th (!!!) annual BuncheCat Birthday Barbecue Loooooooove Sensation. It's a pretty full plate, and the fun really got started this morning when, in my capacity as a Journalist for Publishers Weekly, I got to interview one of my favorite creative talents, namely Gilbert Shelton, a laid-back sixty-eight-year-old Texan now living in Paris, who happens to be the loony mind behind Wonder Warthog and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, two landmarks in the history of what used to be called underground comics.

Gilbert Shelton, circa 1998.

Wonder Warthog was an uber-silly exploration of superheroics, while the Freak Brothers formed the template for stoner humor, predating the antics of Cheech & Chong by a couple of years, and both works had a profound influence on me when I discovered them in a musty box in the back of Fairfield, Connecticut's Bookfinder used book store. The somewhat shady proprietor didn't give a fuck what he sold to kids as long as he made a quick buck from them, and as result I ended up with an impressive library of classic, ultra-filthy undergrounds starting at the age of thirteen.

I called Shelton at his Paris studio and we shot the shit on a variety of topics, including his influences and current projects like the upcoming 684-page Freak Brothers Omnibus, as well as the Freak Brothers stop-motion animated film that's currently seeking funding, and I intend to have the piece up on the PW Comics Week site by Monday. I'd met Shelton three years ago at the UK's Bristol Con and found him charming then, but talking to the guy at length was some of the most fun I've had while interviewing a comics celeb.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted, but now I'm off to drop off laundry and run errands before the events of the birthday weekend get underway. I'll post a full report late on Monday, so 'til then, "Ta!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Special thanks to my old friend Captain Psycho for alerting me to this latest bit of madness from those wacky filmmakers in Japan. How could I not want to see a film entitled THE GIRLS REBEL FORCE OF COMPETITIVE SWIMMERS, especially when judging from the poster it will be replete with ridiculous violence and mayhem perpetrated by a bunch of weapons-wielding cute girls in one-piece bathing suits?

I wholeheartedly vow to get my hands on this motherfucker as soon as possible and let you know how it is, but until then go here for more details.

Monday, June 23, 2008


"I know what you're thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum—the most powerful handgun in the world—and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question. 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
— Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood)

The above quote has gone on to become not only one of the most famous badassed lines ever uttered, but it has also entered the lexicon of general, universal manliness. Harry Callahan is a seriously bad motherfucker and you had damned well better believe it, Jack!

Coming as the peace & love era fizzled out and the Viet Nam conflict ground on as a seemingly-unending charnel house, DIRTY HARRY exploded onto American movie screens with the impact of a blowtorch to the nuts, a work of visceral cinema that seemed at odds with the socio-political climate at the time but was a return to a genre Americans had thrived upon for decades. DIRTY HARRY reimagined the laconic, gun-fighter sheriff hero as a world-weary San Francisco detective whose, er, unique style of crime-fighting often resulted in the nearby area looking like all Hell had broken loose and placed him in the bad graces of his superiors. Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood in a career-defining performance) does not fight for the "law," but upholds and enforces justice in the most direct and no-nonsense way humanly possible, taking no shit from the vile creeps who infest his city, corralling them with extreme prejudice or dispatching them with his trusty .44 Magnum revolver (you know Harry's bad because he can fire shot after shot from that hand-cannon one-handed and not be affected by the recoil in the least). He's a John Wayne for the Viet Nam era, and such violent times call for an enforcer every bit as hard and merciless as the time in which he exists, and while we've seen eleventy-jillion "cop on the edge" types since 1971, this is the electrifying film from whence the whole genre sprung, and it's impossible to beat for sheer quality across the board.

Harry is introduced as he investigates a murder in an all-business, by-the-book way, but his proper introduction that tells us everything we need to know about him occurs while he's scarfing down a hot dog, looking like a worn-out old bloodhound with an Elvis 'do, and having his lunch interrupted by a bank robbery taking place across the street. As he continues munching on his dirty water dog, Harry strides out onto the street and begins non-chalantly firing at the getaway car, blasting the living shit out of the perps and their ride, scaring the bejeezus out of innocent bystanders, and driving up Smith & Wesson stock shares.

"You fuckers owe me a goddamned hot dog!!!"

By the time the scene is over we realize we're about to follow an urban hunter as he deals with the daily nightmare of the city and attempts to come to grips with the latest in a very long line of partners (Reni Santoni). During the bits with his new partner, we get to know and understand Harry as a loner and throwback to the days when the written law didn't get in the way of a peace officer using gratuitously violent means to get his job done, an aproach that comes in quite handy when psychotic sniper Scorpio (Andrew Robinson, delivering the textbook example of the seventies movie psycho) starts picking off people at random and demanding two-hundred grand to get him to stop his murderous spree. What follows is a brutal, suspenseful and absolutely gripping two-man war of balls, madness, and cunning as Harry's dogged efforts appear to have little effect on the clever loony while simultaneously putting Harry higher and higher on his superiors' shit list. By the time the film reaches its climax you'll be ready to blow Scorpio's head off yourself, and you won't be disappointed by the way the whole thing wraps up.

Directed by the awesome Don Seigel — the genius who helmed the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, inarguably one of the scariest movies ever made — DIRTY HARRY is a literal blast from start to finish, and its willful mutation of the classic Western formula works to great effect. Taut, mean, and surprisingly witty, the film proved to be a hit that spawned four sequels — of wildly varying quality, as we'll discuss when I get around to reviewing them — and gave birth to a genre whose classics are largely pale imitations of what Seigel and Eastwood pioneered, and now the film is out in a fuckin'-A excellent 2-disc special edition that features commentary, documentaries, trailers, and all kinds of other shit that makes this a bargain at the price — I picked it up new for $15.95 — and a n essential for any serious action film-lover's collection. No bullshit, DIRTY HARRY is the real deal, in all its fascistic, ultra-violent glory, and it's finally received the edition that it so richly deserves.

"Trust Yer Bunche, asshole, or I'll blow yer head clean off!"


So I saw the new FUTURAMA made-for-DVD feature, THE BEAST WITH A BILLION BACKS, and after the fun and thoroughly entertaining return from the cancellation grave that was BENDER’S BIG SCORE this second movie comes as rather a letdown. As a series, FUTURAMA always prided itself on being clever and having a fairly good grip on the logic of its own universe, but somebody on the creative team was definitely asleep at the wheel this time around.

Picking up about a month after the events in BENDER’S BIG SCORE, the rift in the fabric of the universe caused by the overuse of a one-way time travel code is still there, looming in the sky like a gigantic rip in the ass of the sky’s jeans. While a terrified populace ponders exactly what lies within the anomaly, life goes on as usual for the Planet Express crew as Fry (Billy West) introduces his colleagues to Colleen (Brittany Murphy), a woman he talked into bed after meeting her on the street amid a throng of fearful anomaly-watchers. Seeming to have instantly forgotten his long-held torch for sexy cyclopean mutant Leela (Katey Sagall), Fry moves in with Colleen and discovers that she’s majorly polyamorous, already sharing her apartment with four other live-in boyfriends. Swiftly tiring of his status as a romantic also-ran, an emotionally crushed Fry breaks up with Colleen and stows away aboard an expedition to explore the rift. Meanwhile, Bender (John DiMaggio), feeling rejected when Fry leaves him for Colleen, seeks and gains entry into the legendary League of Robots, a gathering of such notable automatons as Calculon and Hedonismbot who sit around drinking and kvetching about the overall uselessness of humans while doing nothing to further the state of robotkind. But as Bender’s social life takes off, Fry discovers a gigantic, tentacled life form within the anomaly, and the strange being extends its appendages through the rift to physically link with every sentient being in our universe via shoving its tentacles into the back of people’s necks. In no time the world is under the thrall of the alien Yivo (David Cross) and its wiggly cult of universal love, with Fry as its Pope, and a mistrustful Leela uncovers the diabolical secret behind the alien invasion: Yivo’s tentacles are not intended for harmful conquest, but are instead sexual organs with which it seeks to mate with our galaxy’s sentients. Essentially, when plugged into by Yivo an individual is filled with euphoric feelings of love and sexual satisfaction, and Yivo’s only desire is to bond with other intelligent life forms in a mutually beneficial relationship.

The attack (?) of Yivo.

THE BEAST WITH A BILLION BACKS may read like a straight-up winner, but it’s FUTURAMA at its most mediocre and even the majority of the voice cast seems uninterested in the proceedings. Bender’s interaction with the League of Robots is at best a throwaway gag stretched past the breaking point and offers nothing to the overall story, while Fry’s sudden hookup with Colleen makes no sense whatsoever in the wake of the previous film’s events; Fry’s deep and unrequited love for Leela is one of the forces that drives the character and makes him sympathetic, so to have the writers suddenly forget that aspect of his personality seems like sloppy and careless writing, a point addressed by the creative team in the commentary and given a pass because they felt that the fans wouldn’t notice it and figure a lot more time had passed between features, thereby allowing Fry some time and emotional distance from the object of his affections. The arcs of the rest of the Planet Express gang don’t amount to much either, and other than a newly-married and widowed Amy getting it on with the ever-assholish Zap Brannigan there’s little else to speak of.

The one saving grace to all of this is the wonderful Yivo, a huge, hermaphroditic alien presence that’s kind of the anti-Starro the Conqueror (look it up) and realizes it has conquered when it should have played fair and courted, so Yivo suggests a “do over,” a second chance at romance that shows us how sweet, considerate and just plain downright lovable the Lovecraftian thing is, resulting in every sentient in this universe legitimately falling in love with it and agreeing to live with it forever on its side of the rift (Yivo’s main body cannot survive the “atmosphere” of our universe). Once there, the sentients discover that Yivo as an environment is what has long been held as the image of Heaven, complete with angels (actually humanoid birds that help Yivo by eating unwanted parasitic organisms), and anything they want or need being available in abundance. The good vibes are so strong that everyone thrives on Yivo’s positive influence and message of universal love, completely shedding their inhibitions and jealousies and existing in a hedonistic paradise. That is, until Bender decides to “rescue” Fry from his fate.

So taken for what it is, THE BEAST WITH A BILLION BACKS is worth a look only for FUTURAMA die-hards, and even if you find yourself in that category you will probably be disappointed by what you find, although Yivo does totally rule. FUTURAMA can be considered its own worst enemy thanks to the very high standards it has set for itself, and its creators can certainly do better than this lackluster effort, so let’s all hope that the next feature, BENDER’S GAME, a spoof on fantasy role-playing and all the lunacy that goes with it, is as much fun as its preview trailer. That one’s due in time for the winter holidays, and I’ll be there waiting; FUTURAMA has never let me down before, so it was probably inevitable that sooner or later there would be a clunker of an installment and I’m willing to write off THE BEAST WITH A BILLION BACKS as a place-holder until the more riotous-looking followup. Too bad Yivo couldn’t have had a feature as worthy of its inclusion as it deserved…

R.I.P. GEORGE CARLIN (1937-2008)

Comedy legend George Carlin has died, and I have to be honest and say that during his heyday in the mid-1970's I never saw why people found him funny. His work mostly seemed to me to be a stoner-era variation on standard observational humor with more coarse language than that used by his predecessors, and at times I felt he came off like a vaguely interesting uncle holding drunken court at a family gathering. Richard Pryor's humor appealed to me much more than Carlin's efforts, so for years I ignored Carlin’s work and slagged him off as concrete proof that you had to be high to enjoy the majority of 1970’s comedy.

Then Carlin hit his autumn years and developed a nihilistic and cynical worldview that I could really get with, but it was when he began to rail against something that has driven me crazy since childhood that I became a convert to his latter-day material. Carlin’s diatribes on religion and its inherent hypocrisies greatly appealed to me, and I wonder how many fans he gained thanks to that material while possibly simultaneously losing members of his original fan base. So while I may have been late to get on the bandwagon, I do respect what Carlin did and meant to the world of American comedy. For more on George Carlin, go to his entry on the mighty Wikipedia, and check out a sample of his views on religion over at good ol’ YouTube.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Here's the latest scam email to come my way, and it was entitled "FROM MR BANGU MALI /URGENT NEEDED AND CONFIDENTIAL." This was received twice in the past two days, and I love how it's basically the same email I've been receiving for the past few months from many diverse sources. And I'm sorry, but "Bangu Mali" sounds like a delicious soft drink to be had in any of the plethora of Indian restaurants found on Manhattan's Lower East Side:


Dear Friend,


I am MR.BANGU MALI , the manager in charge of auditing and accounting section of Africa Development Bank.(ADB) Ouagadougou Burkina-Faso West Africa ,with due respect and regard. I have decided to contact you on a business transaction that will be very beneficial to both of us at the end of the transaction.

During our investigation and auditing in this bank, my department came across a very huge sum of money belonging to a
deceased person Mr.Andreas Schranner who died with his wife and their only daughter on 31 July 2000 in a plane crash and the fund has been dormant in his account with this Bank without any claim of the fund in our custody either from his family or relation before our discovery to this development.

The said amount was U.S $10.150M ((Ten million one hundred and fifty thousand US dollars)).

As it may interest you to know, I got your impressive information through international search in Burkina-Faso here in Ouagadougou Burkina-Faso. Meanwhile all the whole arrangement to put claim over this fund as the bonafide next of kin to the deceased, get the required approval and transfer this money to a foreign account has been put in place and directives and the needed information will be relayed to you as soon as you indicate your interest and willingness to assist me and also
benefit your self to this great business opportunity.

In fact I could have done this deal alone but because of my position in this country as a civil servant (A Banker), we are not allowed to operate a foreign account and would eventually raise an eye brow on my side during the time of transfer because I work in this bank. This is the actual reason why it will require a second party or fellow who will forward claims as the next of kin with affidavit of trust of oath to the Bank and also present a foreign account where he will need the money to be re-transferred into on his request as it may be after due verification and clarification by the correspondent branch of the bank where the whole money will be remitted from to your own designation bank account.

I will not fail to inform you that this transaction is 100% risk free. On smooth conclusion of this transaction, you will be
entitled to 35% of the total sum as gratification, while 55% will be for me as the founder of the deal, while 10% will be for expenses.

Please, you have been advised to keep "top secret" as I am still in service and intend to retire from service after we conclude this deal with you.

I will be monitoring the whole situation here in this bank until you confirm the money in your account and ask me to come down to your country for subsequent sharing of the fund according to percentages previously indicated and further investment, either in your country or any country you advice us to invest in.

All other necessary information will be sent to you when I hear from you. Trusting to hear from you. you can contact me
through this number(00226 78 80 16 64). And i will advice you to reply back on my private email address:( )

You can visit the sit /world/europe/859479.stm
yours faithfully,

Friday, June 20, 2008


Special thanks to Andy, the New-Fangled Creature Man for alerting me to this.

Apparently the Russians have erected a monument the the might and majesty of the enema, so click here for the straight poop.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


NOTE TO LONGTIME READERS: parts of this post are cribbed from an earlier piece on Tarzan flicks that ran a couple of years ago and are used here as a time-saving means by Yer Bunche, so if some of this seems familiar give yourself a fish.
Johnny Weissmuller, cinema's definitive Tarzan.

Every now and then I lose all hope for the entire human race and I need a dose of the unwavering moral certainty put out by superheroes and what they represent, especially the pre-1960’s variety of good guys. Back in the days there were no real shades of gray to our heroes; you were either a good guy or a bad guy, it was that simple. Some were more violent and cynical in their methods than others — the Shadow and the pre-Robin Batman spring immediately to mind, since both did not hesitate to send villains to join the Choir Invisible — and others handed out ass-kickings that came from a more primal, earthy standpoint, such as Conan, Billy “The Mucker” Byrne, and Enkidu, co-star of the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh (how can you not get with a superhuman wildman who is civilized in no uncertain terms by the twin influences of friendship and serious pussy?). But none of those resonate in my estimation quite like Tarzan of the Apes.

I have absolutely fucking loved Tarzan for as long as I can remember, one of the very few things my father and I had in common, and I still smile at the memory of my dad telling a five-year-old Bunche about how the word “Umgawa” was the jungle lord’s all-purpose word that could literally be applied to any situation whatsoever and work like a charm, a fact proven time and again throughout twelve of his films ranging from the early 1932 through around 1948. Perhaps my father’s one positive lasting influence upon me was spurring my interest in the heroes of his youth, especially Tarzan and Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century, both of whose comic strips amazingly launched on the very same day in 1929 (although both had first debuted in pulp magazines years earlier)…

But I digress.

In the Connecticut area during the 1970’s, kids got their education on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ seminal pulp hero, Tarzan the ape man, from weekly Sunday afternoon screenings of films about him on New York’s Channel 5 — and the seldom seen reruns of the Ron Ely television series from the 1960’s which was pretty good — and I can honestly say I saw all of them, but the details of many of the earlier entries faded from my childhood memories and were only awakened and really understood when seen again from a grownup perspective. Cases in point: TARZAN THE APE MAN (1932) and even more so TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934), both films from before the hypocrisy and bullshit of the Hayes code (look that one up on Google; way too much to cover here).

The first two of the MGM Tarzan flicks are violent as hell, politically incorrect to an alarming degree for modern viewers (depictions of Africans back in those days were less than flattering, to say the least), and surprisingly hot when it came to the Tarzan and Jane romance. What really blows me away upon seeing the MGM entries nowadays is how wrong I was in my original assessment of the films; as a child I loved them but upon getting older and reading creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels I was shocked to find the jungle lord was extremely articulate, fluent in several languages (French was his first non-simian tongue), and that Jane was a blonde American rather than the British brunette of the MGM movies, and I perceived those deviations from the source material to be both insulting and a flagrant example of dumbing down some really great stuff. Well lemme tell ya, sometimes things that are altered for the movies can work out to be exactly right for the onscreen medium.

The casting of non-actor and badass of the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, Johnny Weissmuller, proved to be brilliant since his Tarzan exhibited an animal wariness and athletic physicality that I honestly do not believe could have been gotten across by a stage or screen thespian. And don’t get me started on the absolute perfection of Maureen O’Sullivan’s Jane; here was a love interest who was not only utterly lovely, but she was every bit as savvy and fearless as Tarzan (once she said “fuck civilization” and started swinging through the trees), and was also the kind of lady that guys just plain love and unless some ass-kicking on a rubber crocodile or rallying of an elephant herd was needed, Jane was pretty much the brains of the operation. Pretty radical for the 1930’s, I think.

1932's TARZAN THE APE MAN: not the first of the Tarzan flicks, but the one that helped define the genre and its elements/clichés.

The first two of the MGM Tarzan flicks really focus on Jane and her rebirth as a “natural” woman after accompanying her father on a quest for the mythical “Elephant’s Graveyard,” a site that exists on a remote African plateau — the inaccessible Mutier escarpment — that also happens to be the home of Tarzan. In TARZAN THE APE MAN our nature boy abducts Jane from the safari, strictly out of innocent curiosity, and when he hauls her up to his tree home Jane is terrified — as is the audience — when it appears that Tarzan’s rough attentions are a preamble to rape rather than a desire to check out someone who is obviously different from him, different in a way that he has never encountered since he is the only human where he resides (or so we are supposed to believe, despite an abundance of black people all over the goddamned place). Jane soon realizes that she is in no danger, and begins to warm to the ape-man, openly voicing how hot she thinks he is and her relief at the fact that she can make such statements since he can’t understand her nattering in English. The smoldering gazes between the two are volcanic in their heat, and before long Tarzan scoops Jane into his arms, looks up at his tree and nods to her as if to ask “Are you feeling this too?” Jane buries her face in his neck in silent agreement and the two retire to the arboreal love-nest, at which point the scene fades out and the screen goes dark for a surprisingly long time…

When next we see Jane, she is unusually relaxed for a 1930’s movie heroine and embraces the Big Guy while blatantly expressing her obvious pleasure in his unrefined charms. It’s plain to even the most obtuse member of the audience that the Beast With Two Backs has been made, and by the time the story winds up Jane has ditched both the British stiff who digs her (Neil Hamilton, the guy who some thirty-odd years later would go on to play Commissioner Gordon opposite Adam West as Batman) and the British notion of modest social propriety in general for the wild life with her loincloth-clad Lothario (and his chimp companion Cheeta).

The sequel, TARZAN AND HIS MATE, is considered by many — including Yer Bunche — to be the best Tarzan movie ever made, and is chock full of all the excitement, sex and violence that one could want in a movie even by today’s standards — short of up-close-and-pink imagery of Jane getting righteously plowed by the jungle lord — so when it came out back in 1934 it raised a major ruckus. This time around, a party of irritating British shitheads (including kicked-to-the-curb Commissioner Gordon) arrive at Tarzan’s escarpment with the intention of returning Jane to England since there is no way that any sane white woman would enjoy being out in the wilds of Africa, what with all the animals, heat, negroes, and that smelly, yodeling white guy in the leather banana-hammock. Well, they are in for a big shock when after hiking up the dangerous escarpment face for the first half-hour of the movie, they find Jane not only happy to the point of near-lunacy, but also clad in as little as Hollywood would permit in 1934, an immodest state that she doesn’t even notice since she’s having the time of her life and has absolutely no intention of fucking up such a good thing by going back to Blighty (I told you she was smart!).

Jane: the poster girl for "going native."

On the other hand, Tarzan is proven to be an attentive, playful and considerate lover, and since he doesn’t bear the taint of uptight Western bullshit-as-values he is not jealous of the former suitor of Jane’s who has led the expedition to find her since he knows that they are perfect mates and that nothing short of death could part them. Tarzan’s almost entirely silent love for his woman is truly powerful to behold, and when both characters are looked at as archetypes for both genders — the non-verbal he-man type and the talkative nurturer — their enduring appeal can be readily understood, an appeal made that much more interesting by the plainly illustrated fact that Jane is obviously the real power in their dynamic.

The thing really stuns modern viewers when they see TARZAN AND HIS MATE is the obvious sexual and loving relationship shared by the protagonists, and the fact that such a situation was seen in a major Hollywood film from 1934. There are a couple of scenes wherein we encounter our heroes after a night of flaming osh-osh and Jane is sexily bare under some sort of animal skin, lovingly gushing to Tarzan, and let us not forget the infamous nude swim scene in the river where we see a crystal clear bare-assed Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan doubled by an Olympic swimming champion) and the lord of the jungle innocently frolicking together in the same way that couples do if they happen to be nude and not engaged in the aforementioned flaming osh-osh. I could go on about all of this, but the simple fact of the matter is that we are witness to this couple’s charming and prurience-free intimacy and the plainly expressed joy they take in each other’s company, something that religious figures at the time had a real problem with and actually told their flocks that they’d go straight to Hell if they mustered up the temerity to see such a work of vile filth.

Also causing ire was the fact that the film was entitled TARZAN AND HIS MATE, seemingly rubbing the viewer’s nose in the fact that Tarzan and Jane were — shock and indignation!!! — not married. Well the nay-sayers can fuck themselves in the ear; what the two have is what students of myth call a “sacred marriage,” a joining that needs no sanction by a church because it’s pure and right in the first place, and more often than not a union of a deity and a mortal. While not explicitly stated to be a deity, the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan is a presence at one with nature in a way that’s about as close to mystical as you can get, and is in many ways a personification of the essence of “Man,” and unlike his literary source apparently has no origin; Weissmuller’s Tarzan lives in a mountainous plain that’s nearly impossible for outsiders to reach, yet has all the same flora and fauna of the Africa of our world and may be that Campbellesque mythic realm into which heroes must venture to be tested and forged before they can return home and use their new-found skills for the benefit of their people. But this Tarzan has no people (unless you count his legion of loyal animal peeps), and the local natives accept him as having simply just been there like some force of nature, so for all we know he could be some solitary equivalent to the forest spirits found in many of the world’s myth systems, and Jane is his human bride, the element that serves as a bridge between himself and the “civilized” world, whether he likes it or not. As we shall see in subsequent films, outsiders are constantly showing up atop the escarpment to fuck up Tarzan and Jane’s — and later Boy’s — isolationist paradise, and those douchebags usually come out of it much the worse for wear.

Sorry, again I digress. I’m starting to over-analyze movies that are meant to be no more than fun, escapist entertainment, so I’ll cut that shit out right now.

So, by way of critical assessment, I’d have to steer you straight toward TARZAN AND HIS MATE, a film that is in every way the Tarzan movie equivalent to what THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was to the original STAR WARS flick. It’s more or less a remake of its predecessor, only with a bigger budget and just plain more of everything that made the original work. Also TARZAN AND HIS MATE is just a little further removed from the silent movie era and its style of filmmaking, so gone are the loooooong pauses between some of the dialog, and the acting isn’t quite as arch. It’s quite suspenseful, graphically violent and sexy as well, so what’s not to like? And while it’s not a bad film by any means, TARZAN THE APE MAN is worth seeing nowadays solely to see the debuts of Weissmuller and O’Sullivan’s indelible takes on their characters, and for the great sequences of Tarzan and Jane first getting to know one another. But TRUST YER BUNCHE and experience them back-to-back in order to note how far apart the two films are in the way they’re crafted. Considering that scarcely two years had passed between the release of the original and the sequel, there’s marked improvement evident. UMGAWA!!!


From the mighty Jewish Warrior Princess, here's a shot of the marquee being dismantled after last night's Odeon Theatre premiere of HANCOCK in London's Leicester Square:

Eat your heart out, Batman!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


"If an animal can act like a man, why not a man like an animal?"
Tarzan, surprisingly not describing himself.

Intended to be serious, TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN is a grandly entertaining flick that you'd swear was a parody of the genre if you didn't know for a fact that it wasn't. It's fast-paced, loaded with overripe scenery chewing — you know you're in trouble when Johnny Weissmuller as the monosyllabic Tarzan is the most normal character — , features a rare female villain, and includes a tribe of white-ish killers who dress up in leopard drag and dance around like Twyla Tharp on a fistful of Bennies (a Tarzan movie with no bruthas? What the fuck???).

When travelers and merchants departing from Zambezi are waylaid and torn to shreds by what appear to be hordes of leopards, the local commissioner asks Tarzan, who just so happens to be in town while this is going down, to investigate. Being the lifelong jungle dude that he is, Tarzan immediately realizes that the violence is not the work of his wild colleagues, but is actually the work of crazed leopard men, servants of the evil Queen Lea (played by, get this, "Aquanetta," nee Mildred Davenport, best remembered for this role and her classic B-monster part in CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943) and Ameer Lazar (Edgar Barrier; who?), her Western-educated lover and right hand man.

The Leopard Men: gettin' down and lookin' fabulous.

Also involved is the queen's ratbag of a little brother, Kimba (Tommy Cook, turning in an over-top-performance if ever I saw one), who seeks to earn his place among the leopard-warrior ranks by ripping out Jane's heart as a rite of passage, and Boy (Johnny Sheffield) must sort that shit out before he's rendered motherless for a second time (long story; I'll get around to TARZAN FINDS A SON soon). Anyway, there's much ass-whuppin' and unintentional camp insanity to be had here, so I'd probably recommend TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN as the most balls-out entertaining of the post-MGM run. No joke, while watching this movie the other night I seriously contemplated getting a bunch of friends together to wander about in the annual Halloween craziness in the West Village as a gaggle of leopard cultists in the cheesiest costumes possible, complete with one of the girls in my crew as Queen Lea, and my skinny pal Hughes in a loincloth. TRUST YER BUNCHE and don't miss this one when next it turns up on Turner Classic Movies!



How can you not smile from ear to ear at the mere thought of a film best summed up as "Tarzan kicks Nazi ass?"

TARZAN TRIUMPHS was the first of the Johnny Weissmuller apeman flicks made after Maureen O'Sullivan decided to ditch the Jane role once and for all, after which MGM lost interest in the series (among other reasons, including feeling Weissmuller was too old to still be playing Tarzan); to be fair, O'Sullivan's Jane was inarguably one of the chief reason's for the series success, and there has not been a Jane since who was anywhere near as good as she was, so I can understand MGM saying, "Well, so much for that." But once MGM dropped the jungle lord, producer Sol Lesser and RKO were there to offer him a new vine. The RKO Tarzan flicks lacked the budget and grandeur of the MGM run, but they hit the ground running and offered some of the liveliest entries in the genre. And once O'Sullivan was out of the picture, the Tarzan series focused less on the three-person family unit and turned its attention to the charming father and son relationship of Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) and his adopted offspring, Boy (Johnny Sheffield), one of the few kid sidekicks who was never an annoying little douche. Unlike the intent stated in the creation of Robin the Boy Wonder, namely that kids would like to accompany a hero like Batman rather than be Batman, I always thought Boy was pretty cool, and what kid wouldn't want Tarzan — especially Weissmuller's Tarzan — to be his dad? Much is made of what a great pair Tarzan and Boy are, and Jane's absence is explained away by having her caring for her ailing mother in England.

The plot here is really kind of incidental, but all you need to know is that a bunch of Nazi assholes take over the lost city of Pallandria in an effort to rob them of their metal and oil resources. The princess of Pallandria, a hot brunette named Zandra (Frances Gifford) escapes and begs Tarzan to help her people and kick some Nazi ass, but Tarzan's attitude basically amounts to him not wanting to get involved because "strangers always bring trouble" and his expressed feeling that if nobody fucks with and his, he won't fuck with them. Period. Plus, thanks to an earlier letter from Jane (read aloud by Boy), Tarzan knows about the evils of the Nazis and war, and flatly states that he doesn't understand "civilized" man's need to kill each other. But Zandra and Boy are relentless in their attempts at swaying Tarzan, even going so far as to dress Zandra up in Jane's signature jungle shift and have her go swimming with the lonely and Jane-sick apeman; that's more fucked up than it sounds because the Tarzan and Jane swimming scenes, though quite chaste — or not, as anyone who's seen the nude romp in TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934) will attest — , are symbolic of their obvious intimacy and sexual attraction to each other. Fucking around like that with Tarzan's emotions didn't sit well with me, and Tarzan wasn't too keen on it either, once he twigged to what was going on.

Tarzan and Zandra.

Finally admitting defeat, Boy and Zandra set off to the lost city on their own, but a downed Nazi pilot that Tarzan had rescued tries to kill Boy. The lad's death is averted with the aid of series regular Buli the elephant, who picks up the Sieg Heiler and chucks him off the top of the Mutier escarpment, adding insult to injury by dumping a huge fucking boulder on his ass for good measure. Boy nonetheless gets kidnapped by other Nazi swine and Tarzan finally is motivated to kick ass, grabbing his knife and glaring into the camera while declaring, "Now Tarzan make war!!!" Obviously I don't need to tell you what happens next, although I do urge you to stick around for the hilariously stupid coda in which Cheeta the chimp contacts Germany via radio and is mistaken for Der Fuhrer.

"Eine kliene mit der Nina Hagen, das David Hasselhoff, undt der apple strudel! Das Kaviar Dinner! Ja, mein schiesse!!!"

Not in those exact words, but seriously! We get German officers saluting a goddamned chimp, for fuck's sake! It's not as funny/offensive as Mantan Moreland mistaking Cheeta for a "colored boy" in TARZAN'S NEW YORK ADVENTURE (1942), but I'll take what I can get.

Great fun from start to finish, TARZAN TRIUMPHS is a kiddie film to be reckoned with and should be checked out by all fans of Saturday afternoon matinee thrills. And if I'd made the sumbitch, you can bet your ass that I would have had a scene in there in which Tarzan swam to Berlin with his knife clenched between his teeth, strolled straight into the Reichstag, and kicked Schickelgruber square in the batch before cutting off his head and using it to feed the "cannibal fish" back home. Woulda been awesome!

Monday, June 16, 2008


The latest of the rebooted FIST OF THE NORTH STAR series has hit, and I have to ask just what the fuck do the makers of this series think they're doing. As Elvis Presley once said, "A little less conversation, a little more action," words the filmmakers would have been wise to heed, as this short feature could use a heavy dose of the martial arts violence that made this series a classic over twenty years ago. Much like the majority of the Japanese franchise reboots, this current FIST OF THE NORTH STAR installment is a wimpy and somewhat turgid shadow of its former self, sort of like a once-badassed junkyard dog that has grown fat and lethargic after having its balls cut off and dumped into the veterinarian's trash bin.

This chapter in the continuing retelling of the Hokuto Shinken brothers and their struggle for succession in their fighting art deals with the final confrontation between ambitious, malevolent Raoh and the gentle, pacifistic kung fu Jesus that is Toki, a classic segment in both the original manga and the 1980's television anime series that was rich with characterization, poignant back story, and an unavoidable, tragic showdown between polar opposites who love and respect one another, but only one can survive. It was great stuff back in the days, but this new series reads like a haphazardly abridged version of the famed warrior epic, skipping huge chunks of characterization and plot, even eliminating some of the most action-packed parts of the whole series; Kenshiro's storming of Cassandra Fortress to rescue the imprisoned Toki was the stuff of superhero legend when originally seen, a segment that occupied nearly a whole volume when collected in a paperback volume, and here it's given barely three minutes of screen time and manages to completely eliminate the presence of Mamiya, Raiga, Fuga, and, most egregiously, Rei (if you follow this stuff, you know this is like excluding all of the characters in the original STAR WARS except for Luke, in other words it just doesn't work). Even Toki's cosmic decimation of his would-be assassins comes off as lukewarm (though it is nicely rendered).

Toki: dying of radiation sickness, but still takin' no shit.

And, in an effort to make up for the original run's famous lack of female characters, there's a new character, Sarah, a doctor who accompanies Toki as he wanders the post-apocalyptic wasteland healing the sick. Sarah quite literally adds nothing to the story since she's barely introduced before she fucks off into the wastes with kung fu Jesus and we know nothing about her other than that he's a physician who was hanging around the Hokuto Shinken temple for no particular reason.

When we do get to the Toki/Raoh set-to, it's rather uninteresting since the digest version of the story completely robs the sequence of its tragedy, giving us nothing more than two Hulked-out dudes droning on and on about destiny while they blurrily hack and slash at each other.

And if you're a Kenshiro fan, there's no reason for you to see this film because Ken's one sequence of fighting has been reduced to virtually nothing, and he can't get involved in Toki and Raoh's business because it's for them to hash out on their own.

So while well-crafted, SHIN KYUSEISHU DENSETSU HOKUTO NO KEN: TOKI-DEN is rather lackluster on its own merits, and will be a major disappointment for old school NORTH STAR diehards while simultaneously causing newbies to wonder just what the hell the big deal was when this series was in its heyday.


One of the all-time great special effects visionaries has left us, and I'm numb from the shock. Stan Winston's resume is festooned with classic work spanning a career of thirty-plus years, and any fan of quality genre effects work will recognize the films he's contributed his creative skills to, among which can be counted INVADERS FROM MARS (1986), ALIENS (1986), PREDATOR (1987), THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987), TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991), JURASSIC PARK (1993), GALAXY QUEST (1999), and this summer's best blockbuster, IRON MAN. And those are just some of his best-known pieces, so I think you get the idea of how totally awesome this guy was. Hell, the guy took home four Oscars, well-earned accolades for his totally believable work on T2, JURASSIC PARK, and the heavyweight of the lot, the incomparable ALIENS.

Winston died at home, surrounded by family, after a seven-year battle with multiple myeloma, so I bid you good rest, imagineer. You helped bring the impossible to vivid life, and I'll be forever grateful.


After churning out mostly mediocre or rubbish animated films for years (SHARK TALE, the SHREK sequels, MADAGASCAR, BEE MOVIE), Dreamworks finally manages to release a piece that gets everything right from start to finish. It's apparent from the film's opening frame that a lot of care and thought went into the making of the delightful KUNG FU PANDA, and while the story is certainly nothing new — especially to those of us who live and breathe martial arts flicks — , it tells a familiar tale with a great deal of heart, enthusiasm, and respect for the viewer's intelligence while completely eschewing the anachronistic and largely inappropriate pop culture jokes that worked in the first SHREK and nowhere else since.

Po (voiced by Jack Black) is the fat son of a noodle chef who, though being groomed to take over the family business, has dreams of one day becoming a great kung fu master and hero of the people, but while quite game and enthusiastic, he's lazy, clumsy, and has no skills whatsoever. The unlikely wannabe gets his shot at glory when the prophesied escape of the villainous and incredibly skilled Tai Lung (DEADWOOD's Ian McShane) looms imminent and a martial arts master must be named as the sacred Dragon Warrior in order to handle the threat. Po, quite by accident, finds himself awarded the vaunted title, much to the horror and dismay of the diminutive Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and his balls-out badassed students, the Furious Five, each representing an embodiment of a classical animal-based kung fu style (specifically tiger, mantis, crane, snake, and monkey). All are dumbfounded that a fat load like Po could be the Dragon Warrior and all are at first determined to make sure that he gives up and leaves the temple, but they didn't expect Po's genuine love of what they do to fuel him to give it his best shot. While he's pretty much a washout, Po's girth and enjoyment of his training work to his advantage, and Master Shifu figures out just how to motivate his unwanted new student to greatness, all while his adopted daughter, Master Tigress (Angelina Jolie), seethes at the role that should have gone to her is usurped by one she feels is unworthy. As Tai Lung approaches and Po leaves the temple to accompany his father as the local villagers evacuate before the coming martial apocalypse, the Furious Five advance to stop him, but are unceremoniously handed their asses in a butt-kicking of painfully disheartening proportions. When Master Shifu, no slouch himself, proves unable to defeat Tai Lung — who, by the way, is also his adoptive child, one in whom he is deeply disappointed because he turned to evil — , Po returns to save the day after reaching a philosophical epiphany unwittingly provided by his noodle chef dad, providing the ages-old lesson of "believe in yourself, and you can achieve miracles" for a new generation of moviegoing little ones.

I would have had a great time with KUNG FU PANDA even had I not been a devotee to the martial arts, so I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fun "hero's journey" or training film, as well as advising lovers of quality animation to see this on the big screen in order to get the full effect of its visual grandeur. As for the individual points of note:
  • The one element of the film that I feared would make or break the film turned out to be quite praiseworthy, namely Jack Black's voice acting. I loved Black in the excellent SCHOOL OF ROCK, but find him mostly annoying in just about everything else he's been in because his approach to comedy often strikes me like he's both trying too hard and is attempting to convince everyone watching that he's as funny as he thinks he is. This time, though, he gives a genuine performance that is full of heart and charm, and the viewer definitely comes to love and root for his character.
  • Dustin Hoffman was the last person I would have expected to be able to pull of playing that mainstay of kung fu movies, the seasoned master, but he's absolutely perfect as Shifu, a character whose triumphant martial abilities are reflected in Tai Lung's misuse of his teachings, and Master Tigress' feelings of resentment at being passed over as the Dragon Warrior. Shifu conveys a weary exasperation and sadness seldom seen in a character of this type, and I find him much more interesting than many of the master types found in the literally hundreds of martial arts films that I've seen. He's no Simon Yuen, or even Keye Luke for that matter, but he's nonetheless terrific.
  • And speaking of terrific master types, Randall Duk Kim's ancient Master Oogway is the finest of this breed since Yoda first showed up in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), before his mystery and wonder were flushed down the toilet in the cinematic Montezuma's Revenge that was STAR WARS: EPISODES I-III. This centered, contemplative figure is a tortoise whose every slow movement conveys both his advanced age and now effortless mastery of his art, as well as his wisdom and connection with the natural world around him. He's even Shifu's master, and Shifu defers to his decree when Oogway pronounces Po to be the Dragon Warrior; Shifu has his doubts about that, but in the end Oogway is proven right beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Shifu and Master Oogway.

Truly beautiful in every way, I wish Oogway had more screen time.
  • The Furious Five are a load of fun and a formidable group of warriors if ever I saw one. Viper (a perfectly cast Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Crane (David Cross), Monkey (Jackie Chan), and especially Tigress (Angelina Jolie) are a joy to watch, and I demand to see more of them in the inevitable sequel. That goes most strongly for Jackie Chan's Monkey, a brilliant bit of casting that unfortunately went nowhere because the character has perhaps five lines of dialog.
  • Don't walk out during the end credits because they are a triumph or design and amusing character art vignettes, as well as having a sweet, silent coda at the very end.
So don't wait for KUNG FU PANDA to hit DVD or cable. Go see its plethora of visual storytelling wonders on the big screen as it was intended, and I highly doubt you'll be disappointed.



Yesterday I made my way to Greenwood Heights to meet my new niece, the two-week-old Aurora, at the home of her parents, Tracey the Waitress Goddess and Brendan the Hairy. I'd put off meeting the new arrival for two weeks in order to give her time to adjust to the noisy world she now finds herself in, as well as get to know the two primary big people in her life, and I'm glad I did because I feel that all newborns look like wiggling gerbils and I wanted to see her looking a bit more fully-cooked and comfortable.

When I walked in there was Tracey, sitting on the couch and looking as sleep-deprived as I expected — and, I might add, looking so good that you'd never know she'd recently had a kid — , holding the tiny creature to her breast, and once that meal was done I went in for a closeup look and was overwhelmed by this offspring of two of my favorite people. I'd held my nieces Sadie-Rain and Cleo on the day they were born, and the swell of raw emotion that I felt then was once more brought forward.

My first gander at the sprout.

After my initial wonderment the proud parents and myself retired to the kitchen and chatted about all things baby and recent developments in other aspects of our lives, all while Tracey sat on a huge rubber ball and bounced up and down to soothe Aurora; as Tracey bounced I found myself bouncing up and down along with her in order to keep my gaze focused on her as we talked.

I was then lucky enough to capture Aurora's "Wooo!" face for posterity, and I intend to use this shot should I ever need to draw that particular expression.

The "Wooo!" face.

Uncle Bunche scolds the baby for hogging all the good stuff.

The proud parents and their future menace to society. Hey, I'm her uncle, so it's only a matter of time.

A sleepy little pea.

Infants and the metal horns: two things that were meant to be together.

The kid's a cutie, and I can't wait until she's old enough to make her thoughts known. THAT'S when the real fun starts.


So I saw the new Hulk flick and I have to say that while in nearly all regards better than Ang Lee's 2005 borefest of a franchise-launcher, it still isn't all that.

Attempting to reboot the Hulk in the image of the old Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno television series, THE INCREDIBLE HULK comes of as exactly what an episode of that show would have been like if it had any kind of special effects. The sadness and loneliness of Banner's nomadic existence as he wages a war against his own rage is all there, and thankfully the pretentious family dysfunction melodrama of Ang Lee's take on the Big Green has been kicked to the curb in favor of giving fans of the character's comic book incarnation were dying to see in the first place: the Hulk destroying the people who don't understand that it's not a good idea to fuck with him, and kicking ass on another super-powerful man-monster.

This installment finds Dr. Bruce Banner (Ed Norton, taking over from Eric Bana and doing a much better job) living in Brazil and learning the martial arts and its breathing/centering techniques to control his anger. He's been on the run from the military forces of General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) for five years, but he's eventually tracked down and after Hulking out on some of Ross' team Banner once more goes on the run, his trail leading back to former lover and Ross' daughter, Betty (Liv Tyler). During his adventures Banner is linked via computer to a mysterious "Mr. Blue," a bio-researcher who promises Banner a cure provided he can have a blood sample for testing, while an ambitious, combat-addicted soldier named Emil Blonski (Tim Roth) undergoes a series of augmentations that first turn him into (comics fans take note) a "super-soldier," later a Hulk-blood-infused "abomination." It all builds to a head that climaxes with the Hulk taking on the Abomination in the streets of Harlem and pretty much rendering the place a smoking crater before the Hulk inevitably wins the day and once more runs away, leaving Banner just as alone and totally fucked as he had been since the day he was on the receiving end of a massive gamma ray blast.

The one thing that a Hulk movie needs to succeed (other than a good script with plenty of monster-to-monster smash time) is a Hulk that looks believable to some degree, and considering what special effects are like these days one would think would be readily doable, but one of the biggest gripes voiced by nearly everyone who saw the previous film was that the Hulk looked too "cartoony; that didn't bother me so much last time because Hulk's look reminded me of a Richard Corben drawing as brought to stop-motion life by Ray Harryhausen. But now, some three years later, the CGI still hasn't been sussed out in regard to Hulk himself, and he looked so rubbery and greasy — yes, greasy — that I kept expecting somebody to grab him and shove him up their ass (my friend Suzi came to the exact same conclusion, describing him as looking like a "big ol' green buttplug"). As for the rest of the movie, the story is largely uninvolving and lethargic, and considering how much they actively tried to evoke the old Bill Bixby show that comes as no surprise. The only points of real interest are:
  • The most blistering and violent superhero fight in screen history. Hulk versus Abomination is an amazing and bone-crunching set-to that had the whole audience awed and cringing, and while awesome parents may want to carefully consider whether theywant the younger kids to see it. I'd take my (hypothetical) kids, but that's just me.
  • They set up an appearance by the Leader (comics geeks know who he is) in case there's another one of these, but I note that solely because the geeks in the audience get it; the guy playing the pre-Leader is one of the most annoying actors I've seen in a long time,
    and I just wanted to punch his head in like it was an overripe melon. (Which brings
    me to the talent-void Liv Tyler. She's never brought anything to any movie she's
    been in and continues that here, with that annoying whispery baby-talk delivery of hers that makes her sound like Pebbles Flintstone with laryngitis. Yeah,
    she's kind of cute in that half-formed-looking way of hers, but that's not
    enough to make her inclusion in any way valid.)
  • The Abomination starts out as a guy augmented with a recreated version of the super-soldier serum (later enhanced with some of Hulk's blood), and there are allusions to there having been a previous super-soldier in the past, setting up the announced Captain America movie.
  • Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) shows up as a thwarted General Ross sucks down shot after shot after shot in a bar and ends the film by cluing Ross in on the fact that he and SHIELD are assembling a team to handle stuff like the Hulk, therefore setting up the 2010 Avengers movie.
  • They finally address a question I've had since I was old enough to connect the adrenaline rush with sexual excitement, and how such excitement would affect Banner; don't worry, Banner recognizes where his rolling around with Betty is leading, and does an agonizing self-cock-block, to which I observed aloud "Man, it REALLY sucks to be the Hulk!" to which half the audience voiced various expressions of agreement, but the funniest response came from a woman who shouted "I feel sorry for HER!" And while I'm no Tyler fan, there's little that I find more appealing than a woman in nothing but a large men's shirt who's clearly gagging for it, and she looks delicious as such.
  • The best Stan Lee cameo appearance yet.
So, the bottom line is that while THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a slight improvement over
the first installment, I suggest waiting for cable. However, if you're a fan of the old TV series, you will probably enjoy this a lot more than I did, so take that point into consideration. TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!