FANTASTIC FOUR REVIEW

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The Fantastic Four – The College Years, more like.

A mess. A watchable one but a mess all the same.

A pointless rehashing of the same old origin story does nothing for the franchise and somehow manages to make their flawed predecessors look like a masterpiece!

I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed the other Fantastic Four films. What? They never took themselves seriously and that was their winning charm. Okay, The Rise of the Silver Surfer really did push it but I liked the cast. And no! Not just because of Jessica Alba. They also stayed true to the source material.

Did Marvel and Sony just reboot it because they suddenly realised that the Human Torch was Captain America?! Because Alba and Ioan Gruffudd were certainly not past it.

A younger cast was certainly ambitious and smart (in theory) if there was to be more of the little money makers. BUT this latest offering from Chronicle director Josh Trank didn’t set things off with a bang, I’m afraid.

A contemporary re-imagining? Well, it certainly changed things about but it didn’t quite impress and no matter how much you changed the package, it was still the same old guff inside.

So what is this one about? 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.

So no cosmic rays?! Crazy. The alternate dimension was a promising set up and had potential but it never really went anywhere. Merely a backdrop for their origin and for smash em up action. Nothing more.

The opening chugged along as we watch a young Reed Richards try and wow his uninterested school mates with inter dimensional travel and teleportation. Corny but watchable. He soon befriends a classmate whose family own the local scrap yard. That friend is Ben Grimm.

And that the rest is . . . A mess. I respect that the filmmakers tried to focus on aspects that the other films didn’t. Establishing Reed and Ben’s childhood friendship was a nice touch but it took up too much of the screen time. PLUS one of Marvel’s characters completely changing occupation? Astronaut to scrap nut? Really?

After some tame high school tomfoolery with a bitter Dan Castellaneta (Yes, Homer Simpson!), the film started heading in the right direction. Or so I thought. I kept saying to myself, “This is definitely just going to be build up”. BUT I didn’t care if the finale delivered.

The casting selections were a mixed bag. Miles Teller fared better as Reed Richards than I thought. When he was delivering quick witted sarcasm, I feared that he was just doing his usual spiel. BUT by the end, he made the role his own.

I didn’t have an issue with the “controversy” surrounding Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. If anything, I had full confidence after seeing his impressive filmography. He was more than up to the task but he was just wasn’t given enough one liners or memorable dialogue. His Fast and Furious introduction got him into the mix well but his character was nowhere as charming or as entertaining as Chris Evans’ counterpart.

Kate Mara wasn’t that bad as Susan Storm BUT she was just too passive. Happy to let the guys get on with it. Alba was very active (Careful now) in the other movies. Plus how Mara’s Susan got her powers was a little silly. Seriously, an energy slap? You’ll know what I mean when you see it. The force field stuff was pretty cool, though.

Toby Kebbell was pretty good as Victor Von Doom. A much more troubled and demented villain. I always felt that Julian McMahon was too smug and smarmy for Dr Doom. An easily beatable Bond villain. BUT they rushed Kebbell’s transformation way too quickly and wasted a promising opportunity.

My biggest qualm with casting was The Thing. A Hulk-esque powerhouse. Chiklis was perfect for the role. So surely someone of his build and gravitas would be considered, right?

Jamie Bell.

facepalm

Billy Flippin’ Elliott?! Tough guy? What? Surely not because he’s Northern? Behave. The muscle? What muscle? He’s a lanky git. Does The Thing dance in the comic books? Anyway . . .

The special effects weren’t bad on The Thing. If you don’t mind him looking like a rocky Cheeto. But the voice work? He didn’t even sound like Bell. So why choose him?

Reg E. Cathey was excellent as Dr Franklin Storm. The man that would unite them all. His voice. Move over, Morgan Freeman. He should have been a baddie with those gravelly tones. It was a shame that his character got pushed further into the background as the film continued.

Tim Blake Nelson played the creepy corporate drone well. The meddling middle man more concerned with money than welfare. BUT it was all too predictable. How could the young “geniuses” not know that he had a hidden agenda?

The action set pieces and CGI were like the superhero flick. Hit and miss. Impressive in one second and disorienting and cartoony the next. The force field tricks and Reed’s face changing were decent BUT by the finale, it was all too frantic. There was too much going on that the effects became one big blur.

It didn’t help that the tone was all over the place. It tried to be too serious which worked for the first hour but it also took away a lot of the fun. Dr. Doom’s introduction via a lab massacre was deliciously violent for its 12A rating. Promising.

BUT with its darker tone, Reed’s elastical talents didn’t fit. If anything, every time he threw an outstretched punch or kick, it was hilarious. It just didn’t tie in with the other’s abilities.

The plot was shoddy. We spent an hour waiting for the inevitable. Waiting for the gang to get their powers. Hardly spoilers but then . . . POSSIBLE SPOILERS! It flashes forward a year. All that build up and we don’t get to see the guys adjust to their abilities? Granted we had two films of that before but for all the build up and time invested, why the hell not?

Just a quick two minute summary? Really? What made me laugh was that for all it’s re-imagining; we still had Ben and Reed fight. Ben bitter over Reed breaking his promise to make him human again and the same old love triangle between Doom, Reed and Susan.

Credit where it’s due. The love triangle was merely suggested but you just know where it’s heading. The only thing that I did find interesting was how The Thing became an army weapon but we only got little video clips. Johnny uses a suit to switch on his abilities to “FLAME ON”. He never needed that before. If he takes it off, is he just fire? Hmmm . . . Didn’t really explain that.

The finale was rushed. Were they afraid to break the two hour marker or something? Doom was finally brought in. Things getting tasty. At last. Nope. They dispose of him in a matter of minutes. It didn’t help that it was done in such a dreadfully corny and deflating way. A chance to improve from the originals and somehow managing to make the same mistakes even worse.

The closing scenes promised the laughs and charm with the team finally gelling. A hint of more fun and cheesiness. But hang on, I thought that was why the other two were panned? I understand a young cast was an investment for more movies. BUT you kinda need to make people want to see more of them?

It just wasn’t good enough. It killed 100 minutes, I guess. There could be promise in the next installment but it should make you want to watch the next one. NOT consider it.

Pretty poor from the four.

2.5 (Just)/5

*I did laugh when I waited with a packed screen of eager Marvel fans through the endless credits. I’ll save you the time. There wasn’t any! No Stan Lee cameos (Well, he was in the other two, I guess). Nothing. Just a nice thank you for all the people who are keeping their jobs. I think some of them will be missing them after this flop.

PRIDE REVIEW

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A film that should have taken more pride in it’s story and cast. Solidly acted, well written but a case of hype helping an easygoing biopic that seemed to hinder as it reached it’s conclusion.

To be honest, I think it may be a sign of the time. Despite it’s subject matter appearing “controversial”, it seems to be showing that we are very much past that era. The fact that nowadays a film like this can be viewed and received positively says it all. I know I wasn’t around during that period and I can certainly empathize. But I’ll never really know what these groups truly went through. Director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford capture that perfectly and there are endearing moments as the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group suffer the scrutiny of the miners as they try and show their genuine support.

An attempt to publicise their beliefs soon becomes so much more once they meet the mining community and realise that despite conflicting sexualities, the groups very much share something in common and unite in a time of desperation, anger and torment. My main issue is that the film deals with it far too lightly and for it’s all hype, I wasn’t really laughing that much nor did I shed a tear.

At times, the story felt like it was going through the motions. It’s tough to stick to a true story without exaggerating certain facts to make a little more drama. However, I feel maybe a little more could have been exaggerated to justify the 120 minute length. When I saw the trailer, I expected an OTT, feel-good laugh a minute British dramedy. It certainly ends uplifting and brings the odd chuckle but most of them are revealed in the heavily flogged trailers. If you’re lucky then the jokes will certainly be fresh to you.

One thing I will definitely commend is the cast of British talent at Warchus and Beresford’s disposal. It was a surprise to see ol’ McNulty from The Wire in drag. Dominic West plays the role perfectly, balancing it with the right level of camp and heart. Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton are, to be expected, superb taking roles with completely different temperaments. Nighy’s deadpan but gentle Cliff to Staunton’s domineering outspoken chairman Hefina. Paddy Considine played Dai brilliantly. A complete change from his more introverted and volatile roles (Dead Man Shoes being a personal favourite).

The film also gave opportunities for up and coming actors. Ben Schnetzer was fantastic as group leader Mark. He is one to watch and has made a huge transformation from his supporting role in the highly enjoyable The Book Thief. He certainly carries the group in their time of peril and indeed the film. Jessica Gunning’s performance as the ambitious Sian was also worth noting. She has been around on the UK TV circuit for a while now and was most memorable for her small role in Great Night Out. She certainly proved that she can take a bigger role and deliver just as much gusto.

Menna Trussler was superb and in scene stealing form as the gullible and naïve Gwen. A loveable sweetheart whose intentions are in the right place, even if they may have come out the wrong way. “Where are my gays? I’ve missed them”, as well as her bizarre questions that she wanted rectifying after hearing from a friend down the market. She certainly delivered the one liners. Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) was finally able to make an impression once his character was allowed to open up. A meeting with his mothers after years of being shunned seemed like a missed opportunity that was dealt with far too easily and quickly for my liking. Faye Marsay (Fresh Meat) was very good as Steph, the only lesbian in the group.

Joseph Gilgun played the role incredibly straight faced, which made a change after his role as Rudy in Misfits. However, you really wanted him to have some of that eccentricity as his character is hardly memorable. Liz White (or Annie from Life on Mars) played the role of Dai’s supporting wife as well as she could but is somehow pushed into the background.

With respect to the miners, Warchus and Beresford do not portray them as oafish or as naïve as you first anticipated from the trailers. Beresford has established an array of well rounded characters that stand out and are easily relatable to. At Pride’s heart it is still a story of two groups of people that were being shunned and downtrodden by the public, the papers and the government (most importantly). The AIDS propaganda campaign. The red band coverage of the miners’ strike. It was a surprise to believe that the majority of the events did happen and as the credits appeared over each character explaining what happened after this unifying moment, there were some surprisingly revelations which did hit home.

The soundtrack was brilliant and really ignited that nostalgia for the 80s. Well acted, well written, bit long at the tooth but . . .

For all the hype, the best British film of the year? En par with The Full Monty, Brassed Off and Billy Elliott? A film that will stand time and be remembered in the future. Not to me, I’m afraid pet.

3.5/5 Still one of the better ones but for it’s all hype, falls short for me and could have been more. Worth a gander most definitely.