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.

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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.

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SAN ANDREAS REVIEW

SANANDREAS

It’s everything you could possibly expect.

For some, a nauseating clichéd ridden mess of epic proportions. For others, a special effects extravaganza with The Rock having some B-movie fun.

FINALLY! THE ROCK HAS COME BACK . . . TO CALIFORNIA!

In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his daughter (Alexandra Daddario).

You knew from the opening five minutes what you were getting yourselves into. A big, dumb, incredibly stupid blockbuster.

I was in tears of laughter. We watch a young ditzy girl look set to crash head on with oncoming traffic as she drops her cell phone and mindlessly looks everywhere else but at the bloody road. A perfect advertising campaign for DRIVE SAFE if ever there was one.

That’s not the funny bit. After narrowly avoiding two cars, her car is swallowed up by the ground after a ferocious seismic wave. But my God! Her car. Boy, it rolled and rolled and rolled. It was like something out of the Animal. Remember that movie? You know the silly Rob Schneider animal comedy? Not sure what I mean. Check out the link. It was just as ridiculous as that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4vwUX0qZBQ

And the girl? Miraculously only has a few scratches and a bit of dirt on her cheek. Hollywood for you. If that little segment made you sigh, then San Andreas is most certainly not for you.

It’s very much in the same vein as The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. That means two things; the first being that the special effects will be ground breaking (Pardon the pun) and second . . . Uh . . . Well, it’s got the Rock.

I’m sorry but no matter how many times he tries to reinvent himself as Dwayne Johnson; he will always be THE ROCK! BUT I’m getting worried that he will always play this type of character. Don’t get me wrong. The Brahma Bull bossed it. Playing it with the right balance of seriousness as the daring dad.

And hey! If you wanted anybody saving you from an earthquake, your money would most definitely be on this jabroni.

The special effects were intense. The 3D wasn’t bad. The detail and set design were fantastic. The panning sequence as we watch the plate shift through San Francisco in one giant seismic wave was almost worth the ticket price alone. Almost.

BUT then we had to suffer with the same old guff and cliché-ridden characters. The Rock in the middle of a divorce. Paul Giamatti playing the doctor that nobody listens to until it’s inevitably too late. Archie Panjabi playing a pointless news journalist.

So many fantastic actors playing terrible and bland character types. I mean it wasn’t that much of a surprise. I knew what I was getting myself into. I just wish it could have surprised me. That’s all.

The lovely Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters) did her best as the doomed daughter but you just knew no matter how smart or stupid her actions were; she would still need to be saved by the main hero.

Kylie Minogue didn’t do a bad turn as Gugino’s bitchy sister-in-law. To be honest, her character had potential to be a much needed spanner in the works to spice up the dreary exposition. But nah! Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat. Just a quick cameo for the ageless Aussie.

Ioan Gruffudd played the (Put another tick at that disaster movie checklist) douchebag step father well. BUT it’s been done to death. Counting down the minutes until he decides to do something dastardly that will make you shake your head. Not even his inevitable outcome was that adventurous. You could see it coming a mile off.

Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson played the nauseating and irritating British brothers. No seriously? Why British? Why were they in it? Just why? They were annoying and stereotypical. Parkinson doing his worst Hugh Grant impression. Bumbling and waffling away. Oh good golly. One needs a stiff cup of tea to get over the excitement.

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Johnstone-Burt’s dreadful romance with Daddario was as dull as dishwater. The heroic Will Yun Lee was one of the most interesting characters BUT he only lasted 10 minutes.

The lovely Carla Gugino had good chemistry with The Rock which made their schmaltzy relationship a lot more enjoyable. A cheeky exchange between her and the former WWF champion got a chuckle out of me. As they parachute to safety landing on a baseball stadium, The Rock simply says, “It’s been a while since I took you to third base”. He might as well have winked at the camera.

And Paul Giamatti did everything he could with his doctor role but all his passion couldn’t hide the stupendous theorizing or the fact that his only real sound advice during a mega-earthquake is to hide under a table.

A table? Even when vents and air conditioners are dropping down on top of it? COME ON!

The pace zipped along surprisingly well and I wasn’t bored. Entertained is another story. It was corny as hell and cliched to the max. It really was everything I expected so I wasn’t disappointed and it did the job. I was able to laugh and switch my brain off for 2 hours! BUT impressed? By the effects. Absolutely.

Everything else? Meh. It was a vast improvement from 2012 but I don’t think a film has come close to the legendary nature disaster flick that is Twister!

Watchable enough fun. Just don’t expect anything else.

2.5/5

THE AGE OF ADALINE REVIEW

adaline

Lively and Huisman excel in an easygoing and endearing love story. Even if you may have seen it all before.

A young woman (Blake Lively), born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man (Michiel Huisman) who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

The concept is Forever (The recently cancelled immortal drama with Ioan Gruffudd). A freak accident and suddenly a young girl is unable to age. Predictable and a little corny BUT with an enigmatic cast and characters I actually cared about, I was happy to indulge.

Lively (Gossip Girl) delivered a sterling performance and wasn’t too bad on the eye either. What? Come on, ladies. You have Huisman’s torso to look at.

The film goes at an easygoing pace as we flick back and forth through the life of Adaline. The narration by Hugh Ross was okay to begin with. Filling in the blanks as we flash through the early years. Straight to the point and easy character building.

However, the ongoing commentary in every other scene soon got really annoying and a little unnecessary. His detailed explanation of how the lightning strike activated Adaline’s immortality just made the whole thing sound even more ridiculous. Some waffle about a scientific theory in 2035 proving this probability really didn’t help its case. Anyhoo . . .

It wasn’t long before people suspect something’s not right when Adaline hasn’t aged a day at 45. A simple traffic infraction with a local officer soon puts her on the run for the next 60 years! It was good how they tied in Adaline running from the law with the Communist witch hunt that consumed America in the 50s.

The paranoia, the questions, the reason why she stays living a life of secrecy but never truly living. She still has to make secret rendezvouses with her own daughter who has to pretend to be her grandmother. Yes, just like Forever. Ellen Burstyn (Interstellar) and Lively worked well together. To be honest, I would have been happy to see more of their relationship. Not enough of Burstyn.

We join Adaline as she is preparing herself another identity and a quiet peaceful life. That is until Ellis Jones arrives on the scene.

Huisman and Lively have fantastic chemistry and make the inevitable luvvy duvvy stuff that much more bearable. Huisman (Game of Thrones) was charismatic and made some of the cornier chunks of dialogue that bit more bearable. I don’t mind watching a couple inevitably get together as long as it isn’t too OTT and the characters are not irritating. So well done to the pair of them as we see Adaline desperately trying to turn down the advances of a man who is transfixed.

The courting ensues while the chemistry bubbles. Adaline finally lowering her guard. That is until (Not again!) she meets Ellis’ father, William. An old flame from her past.

Harrison Ford was brilliant. A return to form for Solo. He played the melancholic moper well. It certainly spiced things up as William refuses to accept that Adaline is a mere relation. The flashback sequences with younger William and Adaline melded with the present worked well.

Anthony Ingruber. I couldn’t believe how much he looked like Harrison Ford. It was uncanny. Did they have a good make up artist? CGI? If Lucas was considering bringing back the Indiana Jones franchise than look no further.

Amanda Crew (Sex Drive) was the only actress that I was disappointed with. But that was because her role was so unmemorable. If anything, her character wasn’t really needed. Other than to be another player in a family game of Trivial Pursuit. A shame.

Everything comes to a head and ends oh so predictably. BUT it was endearing, highly watchable and wasn’t the worst way to kill a couple of hours. Just don’t think too much into the not ageing thing because the explanations just made the plot hole even worse.

A great cast and great chemistry makes this one to give a go.

3/5