FILM REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

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Sue Storm: Music is just a series of altered patterns. The musician creates the pattern and makes us anticipate a resolution… then holds back. Makes you wait for it. There’s patterns in everything and everyone.

Director: Josh Trank

Starring: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell

Synopsis: Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

2015’s Fantastic Four had so much potential – an amazing cast, a hot new director, a dark and gritty new tone and the opportunity for Fox to create their own Marvel Universe with the successful X-Men franchise. However in the beginning of August 2015 this film was released and critics and fanboys alike all came out with their pitchforks claiming this as the worst superhero film of all time! The film was a commercial flop only making $25 million in its opening weekend and eventually only making $56 million in America against its $200 million budget. So what went wrong? There are many theories of the behind the scenes action with director Josh Trank tweeting on the opening weekend ‘A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though’ which was soon taken down. It’s obvious that Trank butted heads with the studio and they came in to reshoot most of the film. Unfortunately all of this does appear on screen with a disjointed narrative and a confusing plot, Fantastic Four, just could not compete in our over saturated superhero film landscape.

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The reviews are mostly correct this film is bad and could not compete with the excellent superhero films we’ve gotten in the last decade and even in 2015 alone. However I don’t believe it is the worst superhero film of all time. Or even the worst Fantastic Four film. I think what’s most disappointing is the potential in this film. Like I said these actors are in their prime Miles Teller hot off the popular and critically acclaimed Whiplash and Michael B. Jordan coming off the equally successful and critically acclaimed Fruitvale Station and about to blow up with the far superior Creed later that year. There was also Kate Mara coming off the popular House of Card’s Netflix series and director Josh Trank coming off the successful superhero found footage film Chronicle. This film should have been great with a whole new vision of the Fantastic Four spawning sequels and a new Marvel Universe. Instead what we got was a bunch of scientists hanging around a bunker talking science babble for half the film and then gaining powers without much explanation and a tacked on ending where the four are all of a sudden combat trained and ready for more adventures.

THE FANTASTIC FOUR

The plot revolves around Reed Richards (Miles Teller) a young science genius who is recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm played by Reg E. Cathey (who has the best speaking voice) to join a company where they are exploring travelling to different dimensions. His childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) joins him. There he meets Sue and Johnny Storm (Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan) who are Franklin’s children. Sue is also a scientist and Reed is attracted to her immediately. However she does have history with another scientist working there named Victor Von Doom (classic villain name) played with intensity by the always interesting Toby Kebbell. They eventually travel to another dimension and acquire powers that change them all uniquely. The scenes involving them all exploring their powers is quite horrific and there are signs of a more interesting film here. The film cuts to a year later where they have gotten used to their powers and have combat training. They need to find Von Doom who is still trapped in the other dimension. However I could be wrong this film was very confusing.

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This film is ultimately really boring with no stand out performances or action scenes or even comedy. These characters are meant to be fun and I would argue director Tim Story captured that in his two Fantastic Four films. Those films weren’t that bad they had a fun vibe when most superhero films took themselves too seriously. I cannot recommend this film and it’s disappointing that everyone involved failed to produce an entertaining superhero adventure when Marvel Studios is doing it so effortlessly.

Rating: 1 Star

REVIEW: X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)

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Professor X: Logan, I was a very different man. Lead me, guide me, be patient with me.

Logan: Patience isn’t my strong suit.

Plot Synopsis

In a dark and desolate future mutants are hunted and killed by the indestructible robots named The Sentinals. Professor X and the X-Men plan to transport Wolverine back to the 1970s to stop an assassination that could change the future for the better.

 

Review:

The latest X-Men film reunites the original cast from the early 2000 trilogy with the cast of the recent X-Men: First Class (2011). First Class was set in the 60s and returned to the roots of the X-Men mythology where Charles Xavior became a Professor and Eric Lencher became the evil Magneto. First Class was in my opinion the best X-Men film made. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) created a pulpy retro adventure with career making performances from James McAvoy (Atonement), Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games). In 2014 these three actors have become A list stars, all nominated for Academy Awards (with Lawrence winning in 2013 for Silver Linings Playbook). I wonder why the producers at Fox thought it was necessary to bring back the original cast of Patrick Stewart (Star Trek), Ian McKellan (The Hobbit), Halle Berry (The Call) and Ellen Page (Juno) who have somewhat fallen off the A list in recent years. If they had done a direct sequel to First Class and included all of the 70s set story found in this film, I believe the film could have been tighter and far more enjoyable with the opportunity to investigate these characters further and explore the wonderful retro setting. This film works best when it’s in the 70s and we follow the young Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique.

The most enjoyable scene takes place in the Pentagon where our heroes attempt to break out Magneto from an underground prison. The introduction of the enjoyable Quicksilver (Evan Peters) allows for some much needed humour and a clever slow motion sequence to follow. Unfortunately Quicksilver disappears without an explanation soon after.

The films tone is episodic and fragmented and is filled with ‘moments’ rather than fluid continuity. The scenes in the future are where the film really lacks. The future scenes are too dark and filled with unknown characters quickly getting killed by the sentinals. The action doesn’t add up to anything entertaining and the characters aren’t evolved enough for us to care. The future sequences aren’t needed and don’t add to the film overall except for give closure to the fans who are still upset about X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) which killed off a lot of the fan favourite lead characters.

My review may sound negative but the scenes in the 70s revolving around Professor X, Magneto, Mystique and Wolverine are the best in the franchise. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is excellent as usual. His character has become the star of the series appearing in every X-Men film so far with two solely based on his character. He appears very comfortable in his role and has time to have some fun in this film instead of his usual brooding. James McAvoy has also grown comfortable in his role as the young Professor X. His struggle with his new addiction and coping with the loss of his school and students is heartbreaking and makes his redemption all the more satisfying. Michael Fassbender doesn’t have enough screen time as he did in First Class however he still excels as the tormented villain. A persona he has perfected in his previous roles from Shame (2011) and 12 Years a Slave (2013). Jennifer Lawrence was also terrific as Mystique. Lawrence has been getting a lot of critical acclaim over the past few years. I’ve enjoyed the Hunger Games films but I didn’t think she deserved all the attention. However in this film she has brought real emotional depth to the broken character of Mystique. Mystique is still torn between her former mentor Professor X and her new dangerous mentor Magneto. Magneto saw the anger inside of her and knew that she shared his hatred for what the humans had done to their people. He has unleashed her on to the world and now can’t control her as he watches her travel on a path of destruction. Her Mystique is possibly the best character in the film. You can’t keep your eyes off her.

With solid direction from Bryan Singer (returning to the franchise after 2003’s X2) and amazing special effects, X-Men: Days of Future Past succeeds as a solid summer blockbuster however next time just stick with the past.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Hq’s Top Ten – Top Ten Superhero Films of the 2000’s

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Top Ten Superhero Films of the 2000’s

2014 will be another year full of blockbuster superhero films, starting with Captain America: The Winter Soldier in April to the epic X-Men: Days of Future Past this July. From 2000 to 2009 films based on comic book superheroes became huge global blockbusters. Most of them easily grossing over $100 million. Beginning with the popularity of Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000 and ending with the dark Watchmen in 2009, superhero and comic book films have become the genre of choice for most studios who wish to have a hit. Over the next couple of weeks I will look back at my favourite superhero films from the past decades. Today I will look back at my personal favourites from 2000 to 2009 where most of today’s hit franchises had their beginnings.

MV5BMTYxMTEzNTgzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjg1MzAwMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR11,0,214,317_10. X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000)

Plot: In the near future, people have developed mutant superhuman powers such as psychic abilities, healing abilities and weather control. Professor Charles Xavier runs a school to help these people control their abilities and use them for good.

Review: The first Marvel Comics film of the new millennium. Many people overlook this film as the first major hit featuring comic book characters. The film is expertly crafted by comic book fan director Bryan Singer. The X-Men pop off the page and onto the screen with relative ease, Singer tones down the colourful comic costumes with black leather military style costumes. The action scenes aren’t the best however the performances are top notch with the breakthrough definitely being Hugh Jackman as the popular Wolverine. Jackman created his signature career role as the indestructible loner. Also performances from Patrick Stewart as Professor X and Ian McKellon as Magneto help keep this superhero film feeling as realistic as can be. The film introduced a new aesthetic to the superhero genre and helped get other Marvel Comics off the page and onto the screen with great success.

Blade_II_movie9. Blade II (Guillermo Del Toro, 2002)

Plot: Blade is a “Day-Walker” a half human, half vampire who can walk in the sun but keeps his vampire strength and spends his nights fighting vampires with his samurai swords. In this sequel Blade must make an uneasy alliance with the vampires as there is a deadly threat to vampires and humans called ‘The Reapers’.

Review: Wesley Snipes returns as Blade in a blood soaked adventure that mixes horror with action. Incredible action sequences and Guillermo Del Toro’s imaginative eye for monsters and make up effects make this a sequel that easily surpasses the quite boring original.

MV5BMTc0NjI2OTYxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTcxMjkyMg@@._V1_SX640_SY720_8. Watchmen (Zach Snyder, 2009)

Plot: In an alternate 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.

Review: An excellent adaptation of Alan Moore’s epic graphic novel ‘Watchmen’. Snyder brings his visual flair from 300 to this dark more adult comic book film. One of the first superhero films to be rated R in America and to feature high impact violence, blood, language, nudity and sex scenes. Top performances from all involved especially Jackie Earle Haley as the tormented Rorschach. Costume design, special effects and direction are all brilliant. However clocking in at almost three hours it did test the patience of most of its viewers. One of the more underrated films of the 00s which should have had a stronger audience.

Ironmanposter7. Iron Man (Jon Fareau, 2008)

Plot: Billionaire arms dealer Tony Stark is kidnapped in Afghanistan and forced to build weapons for the enemy. He instead secretly builds himself a super suit and escapes. Upon his return he decides to change his past ways and become a hero.

Review: The film that brought Marvel Studios and Robert Downey Jr. to extreme success. This is a very tight, fast paced story that set the tone for the numerous Marvel adventures yet to come. Jon Favreau’s sharp direction matched with Robert Downey Jr’s confident portrayal of Tony Stark made this film endlessly watchable and enjoyable for all film lovers. The film became a financial hit and helped Marvel establish their own studio and follow up with other hits such as The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor and the all star ensemble The Avengers. Looking back it all started here with a relatively unknown superhero compared to Spiderman and Batman, Favreau and Downey were able to transition Iron Man into the mainstream with a realistic and modern take on the character. Mixing real world politics with excellent special effects and playful dialogue it’s hard not to love Iron Man.

X2 ONE SHEET A • Art Machine Job#5263 • Version A •  02/28/036. X2: X-Men United/X-Men 2 (Bryan Singer, 2003)

Plot: The X-Men reunite to confront a new threat in the form of a mutant assassin and a deadly politician behind a conspiracy to end mutant life once and for all.

Review: The epic sequel to X-Men is bigger in every way than the original. The characters all have more at stake, the themes are richer, and the action bigger and better and the direction and performances are all at their peak. Possibly the best X-Men film yet as each actor is more confident in their roles. Singer is more confident in his directing, staging epic battle sequences like the airplane chase and the final in the secret bunker. The threat is greater also as the mutants have to fight each other and politicians who wish for them to be gone once and for all. This film changed the way superhero films could be with a bigger budget and more confidence from the studio, the age of the blockbuster superhero film really began here.

unbreakable-pstr5. Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan, 2000)

Plot: An average family man begins to discover he may have supernatural powers after surviving a dangerous train crash.

Review:The first film on this list not to be adapted from a comic book however it deals with the idea and mythology of a superhero. A more realistic take on the superhero genre and a quiet, understated film that is often overlooked as director Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, which came out a year before, was so successful and audiences were expecting another horror story. However looking at it from a fresh perspective one can find an emotional drama filled with fully realised characters, excellent understated performances and a slow and carefully moving narrative that builds to a very satisfying conclusion. Excellent performances from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson and assured direction from an early and confident filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan. His films are now notoriously hated however his early works were brilliantly told tales of human drama mixed with a dash of the supernatural.

batman_begins_ver6_xlg4. Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)

Plot: After the traumatic death of his parents, a young Bruce Wayne plans on ridding crime on the streets of Gotham City forever by becoming a masked vigilante known as the Batman.

Review: After the disaster of Batman & Robin in 1996, the character and films of Batman needed a makeover. Director Christopher Nolan fresh off successful indie thrillers, Memento and Insomnia, proved up for the challenge of handling a big budget production and breathing new life into the Batman mythology by creating a darker, grittier vision of Batman and the citizens of Gotham City. Nolan gave shades of grey to every character in the Batman universe and populated his films with excellent actors such as Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman to give his film a respectability that was greatly needed in the 90s films. Nolan proved adept at bringing Batman into the new millennium and established himself as one of todays most successful and creative directors. This film reintroduced Batman to a new audience and paved the way for a more serious and adult audience for superhero films.

Spider-Man-2-movie-poster3. Spider-man 2 (Sam Raimi, 2004)

Plot: As Peter Parker struggles with his life as Spider-man he must face a new threat from his mentor Dr. Octavious aka Dr. Octopus.

Review: Sam Raimi again excels at bringing Spider-man to the screen. With another excellent performance from Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, we see the downfall of having an alter-ego. Peter must sacrifice his love, his career and his family to help the people of New York and as life becomes increasingly difficult he must ultimately face a choice of whether he is obligated to be Spider-man. An excellent sequel which delves deeper into the character of Peter Parker rather than piling on the action and villains (Unfortunately Spider-man 3 suffers from this). Raimi brings his Evil Dead style to the character of Dr. Octopus especially in the scene where his tentacles begin having a life of their own and attack his doctors. The train sequence alone is worth the price of admission. One of the great superhero films.

082. Spider-man (Sam Raimi, 2002)

Plot: A nerdy teenager named Peter Parker develops spider like supernatural gifts when he is bitten by a radioactive spider on a school excursion. As he becomes the superhero known as Spider-man he must deal with juggling career, love, family and friendship while defending New York City from the villainous Green Goblin.

Review: Although many critics prefer the sequel my heart still belongs to the original feature. Seeing Spider-man come alive on the cinema screen was truly inspiring as I loved the comics as a child and teenager. Sam Raimi showed real appreciation for the comic source as he not only dazzled audiences with Spider-man swinging through the city, he also spent time on the quieter moments and developed the characters of Peter Parker, Mary-Jane, Harry, Norman and Aunt May to add heart to a common origin story. Tobey Maguire excels as a nerdy teenager who grows in himself and realises his full potential as he slowly grows into a man with superhuman abilities. One of the biggest superhero films of the 00s this truly was the dawn of the superhero blockbuster.

MV5BMTMxNTMwODM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODAyMTk2Mw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_1. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

Plot: Batman meets a new force of evil in the Joker a diabolical clown hell bent on destroying not only Gotham City but the hearts of the heroes within.

Review:Truly a masterpiece. Not only the best superhero film of the 00s but one of the best films of all time. Christopher Nolan showed a new side to the superhero genre and proved that they can be ranked with cinema greats such as The Godfather and Star Wars. Building on the aesthetic he created with Batman Begins, Nolan pushes the characters into darker corners with the introduction of the Joker. The direction is flawless and the acting is revelatory. Heath Ledger’s iconic performance will never be surpassed and truly brings this film to another level. Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart also excel in their roles as the heroes obsessed with bringing down the criminals at any cost. A brilliant crime film and impressive in every way. Definitely one of my favourite films and truly a cinematic great.