'Hulk': Nice effort, but not incredible

Rene Rodriguez
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

This past summer's reboot of the Marvel Comics mainstay "The Incredible Hulk" earned $134 million in the United States, which is only two million more than Ang Lee's much-maligned "Hulk" grossed in 2003. Although the new version, which starred Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner and was directed by Louis Leterrier, generally received better reviews than its predecessor, the near-identical grosses imply there may be a built-in ceiling to the character's popularity as a movie star, no matter who is in front of or behind the camera.

Although the green-skinned Goliath is one of Marvel's most visually appealing and malleable superheroes, there is something about the character that doesn't come across onscreen (it may just be that the Hulk is a computer-generated effect surrounded by a live-action movie, so there's an immediate distancing effect whenever he's onscreen).

Whatever the reason, "The Incredible Hulk" remains as adequate but unremarkable on home video (Universal Home Entertainment, single-disc DVD $30; three-disc DVD $35; two-disc Blu-ray $40) as he did in the theater, despite the excellent quality of the transfer's image and sound.

The DTS-HD Master Audio track on the Blu-ray version is particularly impressive: When the Hulk squares off against the villainous Abomination on the streets of Harlem in the film's climax, the thuds, crashes and explosions are loud enough to guarantee a complaint from the neighbors.

Whatever the film's faults, director Leterrier's care with the action sequences is not one of them. On a commentary track accompanying the movie, he and actor Tim Roth (who plays the chief villain) talk at length about his shot choices and the overall design of the picture. They also comment briefly and politely on Lee's version and the entire concept of rebooting a franchise, as if the previous movie had never existed.

The movie is accompanied by a slew of extras, including 40 minutes' worth of deleted and extended scenes, most aimed at developing the romance between Banner and Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), and the problem it creates for her disapproving father Gen. Ross (William Hurt). There is also an alternate opening sequence of Banner turning into the Hulk in the North Pole, which seems completely random and unrelated to the rest of the film.

Other supplements include a 30-minute making-of featurette, which includes interviews with Norton, who was reportedly displeased by the final cut of the film and declined to participate in any publicity when it was released, and another documentary that focused on the new and improved computer-imagery technology used to bring the Hulk to life while retaining Norton's facial features. There is also a neat comparison between a sequence in the film and the comic-book pages that inspired it, which proves the maker of "The Incredible Hulk" certainly wanted to do right by fans of the character. Whatever the movie is missing, it's not for lack of trying.


A surprise early-summer hit, the nihilistic home-invasion thriller "The Strangers" (Universal, $30 DVD, $40 Blu-ray) is even scarier in the comfort of your living room, where the film's superior sound mix will have you jumping out of your couch repeatedly, wondering if that pounding on the door is coming from the movie or your own home.

First-time director Bryan Bertino (who also wrote the script) uses sound so fiendishly throughout the film - employing both sudden noises and unexpected silence to give you the creeps - it's a huge disappointment to discover the disc includes such a sparse selection of extras. All you get are a pair of deleted scenes between Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler that fill out their relationship a tad more, along with a perfunctory 10-minute making-of featurette that reveals much of the film was shot on a soundstage.

Both the DVD and Blu-ray versions offer an "unrated" cut of the film that is two minutes longer than the theatrical version, but the only difference I noticed was one prolonged shot of a character's agony that was previously excised for some reason.


A "Collectors' Edition" of Rob Zombie's pointless remake of the 1978 John Carpenter classic is being re-released in time for the annual holiday (Weinstein Co., three-disc DVD $25, two-disc Blu-ray $35) with the main attraction being a "four-and-a-half hour" documentary - "Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween" - that turns out to be more engrossing than the film itself. Covering every one of the film's 38-day of shoot, the movie is long enough to turn the production's crew members and bit actors into veritable characters and delivers an exhaustive (and exhausting) look at the making of a feature film.

The rest of the extras in the set are recycled from the previously-released two-disc Special Edition, including a commentary track with Zombie, 20 minutes of deleted scenes, an alternate ending and a blooper reel.



In honor of its 30th anniversary, Warner Bros. is preparing a special edition of the Peter Sellers classic "Being There," for release on Feb. 3. The DVD will include a retrospective documentary, but in an unusual move for a catalog title, the Blu-ray will feature an exclusive assortment of deleted scenes and an alternate ending.

The Ben Stiller comedy "Tropic Thunder" will land on DVD and Blu-ray on Nov. 18 in two incarnations: a single-disc theatrical cut and a two-disc director's cut, promising more outrageous (and unrated) comedic bits. Extras will include a commentary by Stiller and Tom Cruise's makeup tests for the film.

Further proof that the Blu-ray format is taking hold, two cult classics are heading to the high-definition discs. John Carpenter's 1976 thriller "Assault on Precinct 13" will hit stores on Dec. 2, while the terrific (and little-seen) chiller "Dead and Buried" will arrive on Jan. 27 as an extras-laden special edition.





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