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No-Prize Animated: Hulk Vs.

Tie-ins are the lifeblood of any successful comic franchise and essentially every major blockbuster film.

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No-Prize Animated: Hulk Vs.

Tie-ins are the lifeblood of any successful comic franchise and essentially every major blockbuster film. Of course, when you get down to it, these ventures tend to be vomited out as one-shot comics, coloring books or god-knows-what-you-get from a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

In the latest of Marvel’s animated DVD outings, which began with Ultimate Avengers, the Hulk is the mindless, rage-filled destructive force that we all know and mildly anticipate. In lieu of the norm, Hulk vs. begins with the assumption in mind that everyone knows the basic back story that Bruce Banner was caught in the wake of a Gamma Bomb, a Gamma engine, or something vaguely Gamma powered depending on your familiarity with the story and which film or TV show you saw.

Little time is wasted on this since it isn’t integral to the Vs. title. Hulk Vs. Wolverine pulls the old “start in the middle” trick, as we’re given 18 seconds to hear Wolverine (Steven Blum) go through the trademarked line, “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do—isn’t very nice.” Playing with the established time-lines that the live-action films have given us, Wolverine is back working for the Canadian Department H and agrees to hunt down the Hulk, who appears to be tearing through small towns in the Great White North. A few minutes later, Wolvie is leaping out of a plane and into the Canadian wilderness where he happens upon a regressed Banner. And then, the fight happens.

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Comic “team-ups” of ancient lore (i.e. “the eighties, nineties and whenever”) always came in two varieties: the “Oh hey, you look like a bad guy and I’ve never met you before, despite being the Number Two Main Character in this universe. Let’s fight. Mm. You know, you’re not a bad guy. There’s another bad guy. Team-Up time!” Or: “Hey, you’re a superhero too and fighting this bad guy? Let’s team-up and stop him!”

The Vs. shorts are perfectly shoe-horned into the former category as whoever the Hulk meets is destined to fight the lumbering beast thanks to the power of “Comics’ Logic.” Wolverine fights for a while until Weapon X appears and reveals—shock—the Hulk went ballistic because they were hunting him. Similarly, in the second short, Hulk vs. Thor, it takes nary 8 minutes, after we’re given some back story about how Odin must enter “Odinsleep” to recharge his “Odin Battery.” Luckily, dastardly half-son Loki captures Bruce Banner and explains that he has once almost beaten Thor as the Hulk. Loki takes over the Hulk after mystically separating him from Banner and begins to make his way toward Asgard. Why? Well, unlike the brief back story we’re thrown in Wolverine, we must simply accept this as fact. Yet Thor still ranks in as the longest short, taking up half the running time at 45-minutes out of the combined 78.

Classic shots are recreated, such as the cover of The Incredible Hulk that introduced Wolverine for the first time. Of course, this turned into “Team Up #1” again when they joined forces to fight the Wendigo—which conveniently ties into a future episode of new Nicktoons show, Wolverine and the X-Men.

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For two shorts that will inevitably wind up on Cartoon Network—such is the fate of all Marvel animated DVDs sold through Lionsgate—there’s nothing overly damning or special here. Wolverine does feature at least five arms being torn or chopped off—in fact, four of them are always the left arm. The fifth mixes it up by making it the right. And the battles involve some instances of blood, but wounds heal as if the animators forgot they ever existed. Thor is slightly more action-packed, but draws on far too much history to pick up the first-time view that Wolverine was supposed to do. Oddly, these one-off shorts are no better than the concept behind Kill, which is a series of “final fights” that draw upon classic genre plots you don’t need to watch.

Hulk vs. is perfect as a series of straight-to-DVD shorts featuring fights, but all of them seem better suited to an open-ended online series or TV show that makes Monsters of the Week and instead turns him into an opponent. But there’s no way to justify buying something that you’ve already read countless times in the comics.

John Lichman is a freelance writer who contributes to The Reeler, Primetime A&E [print only] and anyone with cash. He works odd jobs to afford his vices, sleeps on couches and can drink Vadim Rizov under a table.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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Who Killed My Father Is Heartbreaking but Prone to Pat Sociological Analysis

Édouard Louis’s latest is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts.

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Who Killed My Father

Author Édouard Louis’s father has been an important figure in each of his previous works, even when he’s never seen or mostly at the periphery (as in The History of Violence). With his latest, Who Killed My Father, Louis finally turns to directly examining his most important, damaged relationship. Both in his previous books and interviews, Louis has repeatedly acknowledged this broken relationship, largely stemming from the author’s open homosexuality. Alongside this, Louis’s prior works have circled around a number of themes to which he returns here: the French political and working classes, the small-town prejudices that surrounded his upbringing and drove a closeted homosexual boy to escape to more cosmopolitan Paris, and the role of state power in producing social and physical illness.

With Who Killed My Father, Louis invites inevitable comparisons to Abdellah Taïa, another talented French writer who’s also gay and largely estranged from his place of origin, and also primarily an autobiographical novelist. Like Louis, Taïa incorporates his complicated relationship with a parent into several of his books. Taïa also connects that relationship, his writing, and his experience with the society he left behind in Morocco and the one he found in France. But what distinguishes his writing in, for example, Infidels or Salvation Army from that of Édouard Louis in Who Killed My Father is a strong sense of meaning. Taïa incorporates his relationship with his mother, M’Barka, to convey something more meaningful and developed.

Louis begins down this same road before clumsily inserting a political tract at the end of Who Killed My Father that doesn’t knit as effortlessly with parts one and two. The book situates Louis’s relationship with his father front and center as compared to his previous work. It’s clear that he’s exposing the painfulness of their relationship for the purpose of speaking about political power and its physical and social toll on those who don’t possess it, but Who Killed My Father stumbles in conveying its message adequately.

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Louis’s account of his father’s suffering and violence toward those around him is both painful and sharp. Who Killed My Father is strongest when Louis is demonstrating his father’s most private acts of kindness, as when the father gives Louis a copy of Titanic for his birthday after trying to convince him to ask for a more “masculine” gift. After Louis realizes that his carefully planned tribute to the pop band Aqua at a family dinner has embarrassed his father, the man reassures Louis that “it’s nothing.” In the book’s first and strongest part, Louis expounds not only on the relationship with his father, but also excavates what might have made his father the man he grew up with. At one point, he recounts finding a photograph of his father in women’s clothes—undoubtedly some adolescent joke, but also inconceivable from the man who insisted to his son that men should never act like girls.

Regrettably, part one ends with a trite conclusion that says everything and nothing at the same time. In part two, the story attempts to braid together all the malignant threads of Louis’s family narrative. Louis recalls igniting a violent outburst between his father and older brother as a result of his mother shaming him for acting too much like a girl (“faggot” is what some others in the neighborhood more precisely call him). The insinuation hurts and angers him so much that he betrays his mother’s confidence on another family secret, setting loose a new wave of violence. Part two is short and important to moving Who Killed My Father toward some wider evaluation of the questions Louis begins the book with, but it ultimately fails to find its footing by pivoting in part three to an unearned polemic against the political classes.

Who Killed My Father is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate (except in brief moments of tenderness) through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts, but the book at its weakest when trying to ham-handedly force this narrative into some broad theorizing about power and society and structural violence. Part one aligned beautifully with a narrative of meaning more comparable to Taïa at his best. Unfortunately, the story quickly falls apart when Jacques Chirac is indicted for destroying Louis’s father’s body through changes in health care coverage. It’s not that the questions Louis ends with aren’t necessary and important ones; it’s that there’s so little threading the narrative together into anything cohesive. What was the point of the first two-thirds of the book? His father was cruel, occasionally loving, but never mind because the state is killing him? The life of the poor is one of abject powerlessness against an unremittingly powerful and callous “ruling class”?

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Louis deserves credit for the attempt to tie it all together into some grander commentary on the political class and its ambivalence, but the conclusion is simultaneously glib and condescending. Perhaps Louis didn’t intend it, but the book’s conclusion drains away responsibility for the cruelty and bigotry of those like his father, and patronizes them as with a quick How could we expect any better of the noble, working poor? Is it the state’s or the ruling class’s subjugation of his father’s body that’s somehow also responsible for his inability to sympathize with gays or immigrants? Of course, the poor are subjugated by the rich and Louis has written more meaningfully about the implications of that relationship elsewhere. But in Who Killed My Father, he inadvertently demonstrates that the answer isn’t to sanctify them any more than it is to demonize them.

Édouard Louis’s Who Killed My Father is now available from New Directions.

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