Friday, May 18, 2012

Worth Mentioning - Hulk Smash

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody watches the jade giant and Lou Ferrigno decimate.

HULK VS. (2009)

I ended up watching this because I, like many people, caught a case of Incredible Hulk fever from watching The Avengers. I've been rewatching some of the previous live action and cartoon adaptations of the character, and intend to make a run through the late '70s - early '80s TV show soon.

This release from Marvel Animation and Lionsgate is actually two action-packed shorts put back-to-back, and it's all about watching Hulk beat the hell out of fellow Marvel characters.

First up is Hulk vs. Thor.

It's the time of the Odinsleep, and Asgard is at the end of a seven day stretch of being constantly under siege from enemies who are taking advantage of the father god's slumber. Thor and his fellow defenders of the realm have been successful in fighting off the attackers, but his mischievous brother Loki has something else in store for them. With the help of The Enchantress, Loki brings Bruce Banner/the Hulk to Asgard and manages to separate the man and the beast, sending the Hulk off to wreak havoc. With all traces of Banner's humanity removed from within it, the Hulk is pure, unstoppable rage incarnate and more dangerous and powerful than ever. As the Hulk busts up Asgard, Thor has to figure out how to stop it and reverse what Loki has done.

Characters like the Warriors Three, Sif, and the Valkyries also get involved, and there's even a journey into the afterlife. It's enjoyable, but like I said in my Marvel marathon write-up, I'm not all that into Thor's world of gods, mystical realms and magic.

The second short is more my speed. Hulk vs. Wolverine.

The Hulk has been rampaging through the U.S. countryside, but when it crosses the border into Canada, Department H dispatches Wolverine to track the beast down in the wilderness and put an end to it. Wolverine finds the Hulk and a surprisingly bloody fight ensues, but it's interrupted when a team of mercenaries from the same Weapon X program that gave Wolverine the adamantium on his bones and claws capture them. The Team X mercenaries - Sabretooth, Deadpool, Omega Red, and Lady Deathstrike - take them back to their headquarters, where the scientist at the head of Weapon X reveals that he wants to take control of the Hulk.

More entertaining violence follows. Blood splatters, flesh is sliced, body parts are severed, Hulk batters around what he refers to as the "claw people." This story is very cool and right up my alley, Wolverine has been one of my favorite characters since the beginning of my comic book reading days. The only downside is that the Wolverine half of "Vs." is about 10 minutes shorter than the Thor half.

Overall, Hulk Vs. is a really fun 78 minutes and delivers a whole lot of what you want most from a quick Hulk fix: destructive mayhem.

CAGE (1989)

My Hulk/Avengers kick also led me to this movie, which is sort of a Marvel crossover itself: it stars Lou Ferrigno, the Hulk from the live action TV series, and Reb Brown, who played (the son of) Captain America in two 1979 TV movies.

Here Ferrigno and Brown are Billy and Scott, soldiers serving in Vietnam together. When Scott misses getting onto the evacuating helicopter during the battle that opens the film, Billy catches him by the arm and holds on to him as the chopper takes flight. A bullet hits Billy in the head, and even though he loses consciousness and blood is pouring out of his wound, he never loses his grip on Scott.

Billy sustains brain damage that leaves him functioning at the mental level of a child, so Scott repays his heroism by taking care of him. Twenty years later, Billy and Scott live together and Scott owns a bar in Los Angeles.

Also operating in L.A. are underground cage fights, run by the mafia, where people can bet on matches that often end with the death of one of the fighters. One of the regular spectators, "Lucky" Tony Baccola, has not been having such good luck with his bets and fighters, and is deeply in debt to the head of the organization.

When Baccola witnesses Billy cleaning house in a fight at Scott's bar (a fight instigated by a ne'er-do-well played by Branscombe Richmond), he thinks he's found the answer to his problems. Baccola lures Billy away with him and goes to work trying to convince him to fight. Billy's actually a gentle, kind guy who doesn't like to fight, but Baccola attempts to trick him into the cage by saying it'd be a way to help Scott out financially.

Finding that Billy has gone missing, Scott arms himself with a shotgun and goes hunting for the person he suspects can lead him to his friend, "an asshole with a devil tattooed on his arm." Scott is out to find Billy before anything bad happens, but while the audience doesn't want to see Billy hurt or corrupted, of course we also want to see some fights.

A lot of the running time is spent on Billy and Scott's lives and Baccola's manipulative tactics, but it gets around to some good action, and when Billy fights it's simultaneously impressive and sad. Ferrigno and Brown are the reason I watched the movie and the main reason why I'm mentioning it, but it's a decent one to check out if you're into low budget late '80s / early '90s action flicks.

Bonus points: Al Leong in a supporting role!


Some time later, Billy and Scott are shopping in one of the shabbiest grocery stores I've ever seen in a movie when a gang wielding machine guns busts in. Their weaponry seems like some major overkill for the robbery of this place, but it turns out they're not there to empty the cash register. They're there to gun down Scott, then tranquilize and kidnap Billy.

Within six minutes, this sequel makes it so that the first movie might as well have ended on a cliffhanger instead of having a happy ending. Billy is back in the clutches of the same villain and back to being a cagefighter. But thinking that Scott's dead, Billy has fully embraced the fight life. He seems to enjoy pummeling guys in the ring, he plays to the crowd, he even smacks around a girl at one point. The fight set-up is really raking in the dough this time, the matches are now broadcast on worldwide pay-per-view.

On the plus side, putting Billy in this situation so quickly that it's like he was never taken out of it does give viewers more of what they waited most of the first movie to see - fight scenes. And this time we don't have to feel bad about him being tricked into it or worry that he'll be corrupted. He's already doing it, and he has been corrupted. Although, we'll later find out that Billy isn't in his right mind during the fights, he's being injected with something to boost his aggression levels.

Meanwhile, Scott isn't dead. The machine gun bullets the bad guys fired at him were all stopped by the bodies of the two women he was talking to at the time. When their bodies knocked him to the ground, everyone just assumed that he was dead. Now he's desperately searching for his friend, out to rescue him from a life of death matches. Again.

Along the way, Billy even gets a love interest, a servant girl named Mi Lo, who's played by the very cute Shannon Lee, daughter of Bruce/sister of Brandon.

Cage II isn't available on DVD, which is a shame, because if you check out the first movie you might as well check out the sequel as well, especially since it has a higher amount of ass kicking. This one has a more sequel-ready ending than the first did, unfortunately there never has been a Cage III.

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