Film Review: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Also known as: Fantastic Four 2, Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four: The Next Chapter (working titles)
Release Date: June 12th, 2007 (London premiere)
Directed by: Tim Story
Written by: Don Payne, Mark Frost, John Turman
Based on: Fantastic Four by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Doug Jones, Beau Garrett, Laurence Fishburne (voice), Brian Posehn

Marvel Entertainment, Constantin Film, 1492 Pictures, Dune Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 92 Minutes

Review:

“…I stayed in and studied like a good little nerd. And fifteen years later, I’m one of the greatest minds of the 21st century. I’m engaged to the hottest girl on the planet. And the big jock who played football in high school, he’s standing right in front of me asking me for my help, and I say he’s not going to get a damn thing, unless he does exactly what I say and starts treating me and my friends with some respect.” – Reed Richards

After revisiting the first film in this duology, which was really just an unfinished trilogy, I thought that I’d watch this one again too. Granted, I didn’t expect to be wowed by it, as I wasn’t wowed in the first place when it came out 11 years ago. But I’ve been slowly working my way through the Marvel films that existed before the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with Iron Man in 2008.

I thought that I preferred this one to its predecessor from what I remembered. However, having watched them again, this is the shitty one of the two films. Both are really shitty, mind you.

There is so much wrong with this film that it’s hard to pick where to start but I guess a lot of it can be lumped into one thing: tone. The tone just doesn’t work and this picture doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to be. This is a mish mash of extreme cheese, rom com cringe, buddy movie antics, sci-fi thriller elements, terrible villains and a pail full of wet turds.

The extreme cheese portion of the movie is the type of stuff that will make you puke in your mouth while experiencing uncontrollable shivers. If you don’t believe me, just watch the Reed Richards dance scene. Ioan Gruffudd is probably a nice enough guy but this whole sequence makes me hate him, the director and the special effects team. And ultimately, I cried inside because Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis had to be a part of it.

The rom com cringe comes from all the Reed Richards and Susan Storm marriage bullshit. There’s this ongoing joke throughout the movie about how their wedding keeps getting interrupted, it’s played up for comedy when it’s really not that funny and always takes a turn towards a serious attempt at stopping a threat which is poorly executed each time and falls victim to the extreme cheese residue that seems to be smeared over the celluloid that this was filmed on. Plus, this is one of the most unconvincing romantic relationships I have ever seen on screen.

When it comes to the buddy movie antics, the first film handled this stuff much better. I actually loved the relationship between Johnny and Ben in the first chapter. It carries over into this one but this story is more about how much of a fuck up Johnny is and it’s just not as funny. And since he becomes a responsible grown up by the end of the picture, it probably would’ve been worse in the third picture that didn’t get made. But where they try to push the buddy comedy shtick here, it just feels like a soulless copy of what’s already been done.

Then the film also tries to get serious and be a real science fiction thriller. The problem is that you are so bogged down by the cheesy bullshit that it doesn’t fit. I guess the best way to describe the confusing tone is to imagine taking a movie like Step Brothers and then trying to edit it together into one film with Terminator 2. The shit just doesn’t work and it’s weird.

Plus, Jessica Alba’s Sue Storm looks even more unbelievably bizarre in this film than the previous one. She’s a beautiful woman but the blonde hair and blue eyes are so exaggerated here that she looks like an alien in some scenes. I mean, it’s really fucking distracting. But in some scenes she looks fine too. Really, her whole look throughout the film is grossly inconsistent and when she does look weird, it’s super weird because 30 seconds earlier she probably looked okay.

I have to discuss the villain problem as well.

For one, I hated Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom in the first movie and he’s just so much worse in this one. The dude does everything he can to not wear the Doom mask, which is the main thing that makes the villain visually terrifying. But then when he does wear it, his dubbing is fucking deplorable. He doesn’t sound like a mad scientist in a cool mask, he sounds like a male dance choreographer trying to berate six year-old ballet students that don’t have the attention span to commit to his community theater production.

Then there is Galactus. Or isn’t there? One of the most powerful villains in the entire history of Marvel Comics is simply a cloud in this film. A fucking cloud. I don’t think I need to say anymore about that.

Also, the plot makes no sense by the time you get to the end. The Silver Surfer is helping Galactus eat planets because if he doesn’t, Galactus will eat his homeworld. But then in the end, Susan Storm convinces the Silver Surfer to stop him. So how does he do it? The Surfer flies into the cloud, tells the cloud he isn’t his servant anymore and then the cloud blows up and goes away. Couldn’t the Silver Surfer have just done this like fifty planets ago? Hell, couldn’t have just gotten Galactus’ power and then instantly turned on him without actually leaving his own planet and not only saving it but also all the worlds he prepared for his master like duck confit with a side of foie gras and truffle risotto?

Fuck, this movie is so stupid.

So I must put this movie through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: 2005’s Fantastic Four and the 2015 reboot. And I can’t forget 1994’s unreleased Fantastic Four film, which can be tracked down and seen nowadays. However, all these movies are terrible.

Film Review: Fantastic Four (2005)

Release Date: June 29th, 2005 (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago)
Directed by: Tim Story
Written by: Michael France, Mark Frost
Based on: Fantastic Four by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Laurie Holden, Maria Menounos, Hugh Jackman (cameo in extended cut)

Marvel Entertainment, Constantin Film, 1492 Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Typical of Victor Von Doom to build a 30 foot statue of himself.” – Ben Grimm

I bought this on DVD in 2005. I’m not sure why, as I was not a fan of it in the theater. And frankly, this was still in shrink wrap until I opened it recently to rewatch the film for review purposes, as I am working my way through all of the early comic book movies before the Marvel Cinematic Universe came into existence.

I think that my opinion of the film is actually worse than it was back then. Maybe my palate is more refined and I’m less likely to accept sub par comic book movies in a day and age where we sometimes get to experience great ones. When this came out, I didn’t care that most of these films sucked, I was just glad that comic book motion pictures were being made.

But man, oh man… this is one atrocious turd pie.

If the film’s poster isn’t enough to tell you that this is some sort of shit festival, then you probably deserve to be kicked in the eye by a pissed off mule. Because let’s be honest, your eyes don’t work anyway.

Let me point out the only two highlights of the film so I can get them out of the way and get back to trashing this movie with fury and gusto.

The two highlights are Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans. I liked these two guys as their characters and I thought their camaraderie was perfect. But they’re also the most talented people in this film by a wide margin and I almost feel bad for them being subjected to this picture and its 2007 sequel.

Now back to the negatives!

All of the actors apart from the two I just mentioned were terrible. Jessica Alba is never really good but her line delivery in this film is probably her worst of all-time. She doesn’t feel like Sue Storm, doesn’t act like Sue Storm and frankly, just shouldn’t have been cast as Sue Storm. Her blonde hair and blue eyes just looked really bizarre and were kind of a distraction.

Ioan Gruffudd also didn’t feel like Reed Richards. He was just a total fucking dork and I get that Richards is a brainy guy but that doesn’t mean that he’s some sort of socially inept doofus. He was like a caricature from The Big Bang Theory if you were to strip away any attempts at making bad jokes.

Julian McMahon just didn’t work as Doctor Doom either. His character was just weird and he never had the presence or the weight that Doom should have. When we do finally reach the finale of the film, I like his look but by that point it’s too late and his dubbed lines, once the mask is on, just feel out of place and strange.

Fantastic Four also suffers from having a shitty script, bad direction by Tim Story and atrocious special effects.

But still, the Chiklis and Evans scenes do effectively reel me back in and keep this movie from being a total pile of shit, even though I hate the Thing’s rubber suit. In 2005, he didn’t need to look like a villain from a 1967 episode of Ultraman.

I think it is safe to assume that I will probably never watch this movie again. But I do have the tough task of having to watch its sequel once more, as I keep working through the pre-MCU comic book films for review purposes and because I like torturing myself with horrible films.

But seriously, this was like chugging diarrhea.

And because of that gross analogy (and my low rating), I do have to run this through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Its sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the reboot, 2015’s Fantastic Four. And I can’t forget 1994’s unreleased Fantastic Four film, which can be tracked down and seen nowadays. However, all these movies are terrible.

Film Review: Idle Hands (1999)

Release Date: April 30th, 1999
Directed by: Rodman Flender
Written by: Terri Hughes, Ron Milbauer
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Henson, Vivica A. Fox, Jessica Alba, Jack Noseworthy, Robert Englund (voice), Fred Willard, Connie Ray, Kelly Monaco, The Offspring

Licht/Mueller Film Corporation, Team Todd, TriStar Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“There is evil out there, and I’m gonna kick its ass!” – Debi

Idle Hands is a bizarre and fun movie.

It follows a stoner and his buds. The main stoner, played by Devon Sawa, who was a hot commodity circa 1999, has a possessed hand. His hand murders his parents very violently while he is asleep. The rest of the film sees him trying to control his hand, as it yanks him around like a rag doll while looking for more people to murder.

This isn’t a film that did well when it came out and critics weren’t kind to it. It is sort of a niche movie that found its audience once it hit video stores. I remember that it developed a cult following pretty quickly and when I was in my early twenties, this was on the TV at a lot of parties. And rightfully so, as it is unique, cool and has a certain charm to it.

I have always been a fan of horror, especially when it has a comedy element to it. This film has the right balance between its scares and its laughs. It is also pretty gory, which was still fairly normal in 1999 before the ’00s brought tame PG-13 horror.

Seth Green has played a lot of good characters, the best of them always seeming to be an extension of himself. Here, he plays maybe his best character as one of the stoner buds. After he dies, early in the film, he is basically a zombie pothead with a bottle lodged into his forehead. The other stoner, who walks around holding his decapitated head, was played by Elden Henson, who modern audiences will probably recognize as Foggy Nelson from the Daredevil series on Netflix.

Jessica Alba is also in this, as the apple of the stoner’s eye, and she’s never been more adorable. Most guys my age fell in love with her in the TV show Dark Angel but it was Idle Hands that got me crushin’ on her hard.

I also love that Fred Willard is in this, albeit briefly, as the father of Sawa’s character. He meets his violent demise pretty quickly in the film but Willard is enjoyable in everything. Here, he is a straitlaced dad that’s sick of his stoner son being a useless coach potato with no ambition.

This movie has really good style. I love the set design, the characters’ looks and the score is actually pretty damn good.

I love the opening theme by Graeme Revell, as it truly sets the tone of the picture. The rest of the film is accented by Revell’s score mixed with a lot of notable ’90s rock. The Offspring even play the school dance, where they cover The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated”.

Idle Hands is just a good time if you are into horror comedies with a good amount of gross out moments.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Disturbing BehaviorThe FacultyCan’t Hardly WaitBrainscan and Final Destination.

Film Review: Sin City (2005)

Also known as: Frank Miller’s Sin City
Release Date: March 28th, 2005 (Mann National Theater premiere)
Directed by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Based on: Sin City by Frank Miller
Music by: John Debney, Graeme Revell, Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Jaime King, Michael Madsen, Nick Offerman, Marley Shelton, Nick Stahl, Tommy Flanagan, Devon Aoki, Rick Gomez, Frank Miller (cameo), Robert Rodriguez (cameo)

Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, Miramax, 124 Minutes, 147 Minutes (unrated recut)

Review:

“Most people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield swinging an axe into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman arena, taking his sword to other gladiators like him. They woulda tossed him girls like Nancy back then.” – Dwight

When Sin City came out, it was a bit of a phenomenon. Well, at least with fans of comic books and especially those who love the work of Frank Miller.

I haven’t watched this in a really long time and I wanted to revisit it after spending a lot of time delving into classic film-noir, which this picture takes some major visual cues from. Well, the original comic this was based on used a lot of noir visual flair, so it was only natural that this film adaptation followed suit.

As an overall cohesive story, the film doesn’t work that well. I get that it is a linked anthology with overlapping characters but it feels like it is just running all over the place. Frankly, this would work better as a television show where all of these characters could be better developed and jumping around with the narrative would just seem more organic.

This is still a cool movie with cool characters but sometimes they feel more like caricatures of pulp comic and noir archetypes. There isn’t really any time to get to know anyone beyond what’s on the immediate surface. Nancy and Hartigan are the only characters with any sort of meaningful backstory and even then, it is pretty skeletal and doesn’t have the meat it needs to really connect in an emotional way.

The film is highly stylized and while it looks cool, it almost works against it, as the grit and violence almost becomes too comic book-y. But this is supposed to be the comic stories coming to life and it represents that with its visual style. And I like the visual style but this is still a live action motion picture and it sort of forgets that.

I’m not saying it can’t have immense and incredible style but it needs to have a better balance between what would exist on a black and white comic book page and what works best for the medium of film. Being that this is the first film to sort of use this visual technique, I think people looked past its faults. I also think that once it was done here, the initial surprise and awe was gone, which is why no one cared much when the sequel came out and why the visual flare didn’t work to hide the faults of Frank Miller’s very similar film, The Spirit.

Additionally, sometimes the comic book elements seem very heavy handed and forced. The scene where Marv escapes the SWAT team may work in the comics but it felt bizarre and goofy in the movie. It would have been more effective if it was toned down and reworked, as opposed to Miller and Rodriguez trying to copy the comic panel by panel. This never works well, which was also why 2009’s The Watchmen had a lot of problems. Personally, I’d rather just stick to the comics if the filmmakers want to just recreate everything panel to shot.

Another problem with directly adapting comics is that the dialogue that works in one medium sometimes sounds terrible in another. Some lines when delivered on screen were cringe worthy moments. Still, I mostly liked everyone’s performance in this despite the sometimes questionable direction and script.

Sin City didn’t blow my mind like it did when I first saw it thirteen years ago. That’s fine. It is still pretty damn good and enjoyable but at first glance, way back in the day, I probably would have given this a nine out of ten rating. But at its core, it just isn’t that good of a film, even if it caused me to fanboy out in 2005.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and The Spirit.

Film Review: Machete Kills (2013)

Release Date: September 19th, 2013 (Austin Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez, Marcel Rodriguez, Kyle Ward
Music by: Carl Thiel
Cast: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Walton Goggins, William Sadler, Demián Bichir, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Jessica Alba, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, Tom Savini, Elon Musk, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan

Quick Draw Productions, Troublemaker Studios, Open Road Films, 108 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2013.

“Machete don’t tweet.” – Machete

I was a big fan of Machete when it came out. It kept alive the modern revival of grindhouse cinema, which was reintroduced to the world a few years back by the films Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s own Planet Terror. Both films were released together as a double bill feature called Grindhouse. Between the two films, there were a series of faux trailers for other grindhouse pictures. One of those was for a film named Machete. The fake trailer was so popular that Rodriguez decided to make the film. Once that was successful, he decided to make this film. There is also a third planned.

Machete Kills doesn’t hold a candle to the first Machete film. Don’t get me wrong, it was enjoyable and had some awesome moments but it was lacking in energy and in scope. It felt smaller and more linear, whereas the original film was a wild ride taking many different unexpected turns. This film went from point A to point B and then introduced us to a point C. Had it not been for the awesome performance by Mel Gibson as the main antagonist of this film, it would’ve fallen much flatter than it did.

The cinematic style of this movie, mirrored the first and for the most part, stayed somewhat true to the grindhouse vibe. The problem I have with these modern grindhouse films though, is the use of CGI effects. I get that it is more affordable and that these films have a tight budget but the whole essence of grindhouse films is over-the-top violence and action and often times gore. In the old grindhouse days, they had to find ways to pull this off with very limited resources. Part of what made those movies so effective and respectable, was the ingenuity of the filmmakers. This film, like its predecessor really lacks in this area. It takes the easy road and frankly, I expected more from Robert Rodriguez.

I do love that Danny Trejo finally has a starring vehicle though and I do look forward to the next sequel. I could watch new installments of Machete for years to come. He’s a great character and at the end of the day, despite the few issues mentioned above, these films exceed the standard blockbuster action fare that Hollywood keeps pumping out at $300+ million dollar price tags.