Saturday, August 15, 2015

FANTASTIC 4 (2015) is actually good!

I remember seeing the trailer for the new FANTASTIC 4.  I couldn't help but laugh.  It didn't take a crystal ball to know that this movie was going to fail. And fail it did!  The trailer depicted a bland colorless film that was going to use the tired old superhero movie formula of telling an origin story but confining the comic book element to a realistic Christopher Nolan approach with our heroes finally appearing in costume in the final act when the movie is over.  There was nothing new here.  It was also obvious that this movie was made just so Fox Studios could keep the movie rights to the FF franchise.  Worse yet there was an embargo on reviews for the film before opening day.  Were any of us surprised?  Of course when the embargo lifted all the reviews were negative. Despite all of this I had a strange desire to see it.  So I did.....and....I....liked it.  WHAT?!!!

FANT4STIC(?) tells the origin story of the Fantastic 4.  That is a good idea to start off a franchise......if it was the year 1999!  When it comes to comic book movies we no longer need to spend an entire movie telling a story we already know the ending to.  We have had two Spider-Man origin movies as well as a Ghostrider origin, a Green Lantern origin, Wolverine had one, Superman and Batman both had one Punisher too.  Enough already.  Nowadays it is extremely painful to sit through a trailer for an origin story let alone an entire movie.  That is the first big problem with this movie.  Oh, yea I said I liked this movie.  Maybe I should start with the positives.

The story is a good telling of our hero's origins.  This is more of a science fiction film rather than a straight up super hero film.  That's a good start.  From what I have been told (I am no expert on the Fantastic 4.) our heroes are more like explorers of science rather than traditional super heroes like Spider-man and Captain America.  All the actors are great in this movie.  If anyone complains about the acting ask them to compare them to Sandra Bernard in HUDSON HAWK.  That is an example of bad acting.  As a bad actor myself I can tell you with absolute authority that the acting in the new FF is good.  Kate Mara, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell and Reg E. Cathey are terrific portraying a make shift family that formed from the tragic event that gave them their powers.  These people are a genuine family.  That is very important and ultimately what FF is all about.  This is probably why I like this movie so much.  I sympathized with them.  When they suffer from their trip to the alternate universe or whatever that place is, I care what happens to them.  I want to know how they are going to deal with their physical changes and how their personalities have changed because of it.  Don't let the negative people who probably never even saw the film as evident from the box office results say that the acting sucks.  It doesn't.

When he finally appears, Dr. Doom is quite a scary presence in the film.  Ignore the internet memes.  Toby Kebbell is not given much to do with the mishandled back story to the Fantastic 4's most iconic villain.  But as a testament to his acting ability he has made Victor Von Doom, a flawed jealous driven individual, likable.  He has a too brief scene drinking at the lab with Miles Reed Richards and Johnny Storm.  The three are building a short lived camaraderie that works.  This scene emphasizes the tragedy of losing Von Doom in the chaos of the alternate dimension planet thing.  They lose a real friend.  When he returns as Dr. Doom he lives up to his name.  Walking through corridors of the army complex killing soldiers left and right with "Force" powers is truly frightful. He is a monster that wants to return to the alternate world to build life his way.  I kind of like that even though I would have preferred a more accurate to the comics story of Dr. Doom.  I think the end fight was really good too even though it is extremely predictable.  Apparently the Fantastic 4 was too busy doing science stuff to watch the original TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movie.  If they had they would know not to attack Dr. Doom individually but together as a team.  Watch more t.v., kids.

Like all comic book movies there are some changes.  Reed Richards is young, Johnny Storm is black.  So what!  None of this detracts from the movie.  Even Dr. Doom's origin isn't terrible.  Its just different.  There is a lot of negative to write about with this movie but it is not a terrible movie.  Its way better than THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and THE WOLVERINE.  Those two movies have more problems than the new FF movie but receive all kinds of praise.  THE DARK KNIGHT RISES shows that Joker defeated Batman in the previous film since Wayne stops being the Caped Crusader.  I don't think the creators of TDKR meant to imply that. Wolverine in THE WOLVERINE pretty much just beats up some old guy in a supped up wheelchair after having his own butt handed to him by a bunch of ninjas. FF didn't bomb because its a bad movie.  There is more to it than that.  Give this movie a watch.  See for yourself.  If you had lower than low expectations like I did going in you may just be surprised. I plan on writing a part 2 to this review dealing with the problems of this film and the circumstances that I believe led to the box office failure and poor review scores but that is for another time.


Monday, August 10, 2015


What a lazy and horrible title for this post, isn't it?  You probably clicked on this post just to mock the writer of such a title and you would be right to do so.  But let me ask you this.  Does the new TMNT movie deserve a better effort?  I think not.  What a way to mess up a potentially terrific franchise from the start!  You would think that a movie about teenage mutant ninja turtles would be full of originality and with today's special effects the look of our heroes in a half shell can finally be made to look right.  Nope!  This movie is a rehash of what we have already seen before which is fine to establish key elements of the Turtles but then you realize that you have seen all of this in recent movies from the past few years as well.  Heroes in a half shell?  More like heroes in a half-assed story.

I am going to get real stupid when describing the plot so bear with me on this one.  I want to show how stupid the story is by being stupid myself.  So  a rich guy and a ninja watched THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and THE TRANSFORMERS and decided to be bad guys and put a thing on top of a building that makes a poison cloud to poison the city for the sole purpose of being rulers of the world and really really rich.  They are already rich but whatever.  Don't pay attention to that part of the story.  Teenage mutant ninja turtles show up and stop them.  There are some hijinks that happen along the way, some weirdo shows up in what looks like an inflatable Whoopi Goldberg costume but very little in the way of real character development or bonding occurs.  We the audience are never drawn into the story.  Maybe we are amused by the colorful special effects and flashy camera work or distracted by the haphazardly strewn random shots of movement that make up most of the poorly staged fight sequences.  In any case it looks like a wreck..

The good news is that the turtle characters are each unique individuals.  Each one stands apart from the other in personality and design.  Other than their disturbingly too human faces they look great.  There were a couple of times Michelangelo actually said something that made me laugh.  He is the funny one.  That is what he does.  Leo is still the leader.  Don wears googly goggles to indicate that he is into high tech gadgets and stuff.  Raph is still the wannabe loner that loves his brothers too much to be apart from them.  They are likable enough to give me hope for a better sequel.  The turtles are fine except for one glaring problem.....

They are not ninjas!!!

Remember when us Turtle geeks were in an outrage because supposedly the studio was making the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aliens instead of mutants?  I remember.  Studios love jacking up important details of characters from comics and cartoons when making a movie version of them.  It happens to them all but this was too huge of a change.  Apparently that whole story was a lie or the studio changed it back to not upset the target audience.  Now that the movie is out and I have seen it and had time to ponder it I have realized that the 'Ninja' part of the Turtles is not true at all.  Master Splinter isn't a master of anything.  He found a book of martial arts in the sewer that was probably written by Napoleon Dynamite and suddenly they are well trained ninjas.  What would a rat know about ninja stuff?  The only thing I know about ninjas is that they wear black pajamas and have their butts handed to them by Michael Dudikoff.  Its a good thing Splinter didn't find a cook book.  What would motivate them to train so hard and become martial artists anyway?  Its not like they had any connection to Shedder or expected him to show up sometime in the future.  He was just in the same building they were kept in before they became mutated.  The foundation to build a strong character confrontation is absent.  They have no past together.  When Shedder and Splinter meet for the first time down in the sewer they act like they know each other but we know they don't.  The whole scene has no effect except to highlight the badly written first draft story.

Shredder poses no threat to the Turtles whatsoever.  The movie hyper sizes everything.  The Turtles are pretty much four Hulks running around with super strength.  There is no reason for them to have martial arts training.  Their mutation has made them super strong and super fast.  Shedder who is trained in martial arts and ninja stuff could do nothing to them.  Thankfully he is really really into the TRANSFORMERS movies and made himself a fully functioning Megatron suit.  If he hadn't happened to make that suit he would be no adversary.  Why would a ninja who relies on his own physical abilities create a robot suit?  No reason. I guess originally Shedder was the white dude.  That would explain the suit sort of.

There are all kinds of weird moments that don't make much sense when you think about it.  Splinter gets mortally wounded and the Turtles decide to get the ooze that transformed them because that will heal him.  Since when did the ooze have healing powers?  I could be wrong but the ooze was never considered something that could heal.  It just mutated you into whatever thingy that could be made into an action figure and sold in stores.  In TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES 2: SECRET OF THE OOZE was the secret that the ooze had aloe vera in it?  Did I miss that part?  I think it would be funny if the Turtles got the ooze to Splinter and tried pouring it down his throat and he said "Why are you feeding me toxic waste?"  That is what the ooze is anyway.   Another time Raphael is the only one not captured by Shedder.  Raph goes to save them but when he finds them Shedder shows up as Megatron and beats the poop out of our turtle hero.  Instead of killing or capturing Raph, Shedder just abruptly walks out of the room like some kind of badass.  Maybe Shedder was just caught up in the moment to realize that he just left Raph alone to free his brothers and eventually ruin Shedders plans.

People need to stop blaming Megan Fox for the film not being very good.  She does a fine job with what she is given.  Her character is given plenty to do even if we the audience don't care.  She is just a victim to the bad script.  Hopefully in the next installment things will come together with a more pleasing outcome.  Hey, at least they have casted Steven Amell as Casey Jones in the next installment.  That's a good start.