Review – I Always Preferred Formula 409 (“Fantastic Four”)

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking… didn’t I already see this movie only a few years ago? Yes. Yes, you did. But in today’s “recycle the recent and make another like it” cinema, you might as well get used to it. I’m expecting the entire Harry Potter franchise to be re-booted by 2020 because, well, just because. (uncontrollable sobbing into corn flakes). I don’t know whose idea it was to remake the Fantastic Four, but it was a very bad idea. Some say the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films weren’t very good. I disagree; in fact, I’ll go on record and state that I enjoyed them, so those without sin cast the first stone.

But I digress…

In this re-boot or re-re-boot (or whatever you want to call it), director Josh Trank, who only directed 2012’s Chronicle, co-wrote this with first-time writer Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past). If you saw the 2005 origin story (or just read the comic book) you already know the Four: super-smart and stretchable scientist Reed Richards, (Miles Teller), Ben Grimm, aka the rock-like The Thing (Jamie Bell), smart and independent Susan Storm, aka The Invisible Woman (Kate Mara), and her hot-shot, wise-ass brother Johnny, aka The Human Torch (Michael B. Jordan). Their arch villain is the sinister and nasty Victor VonDoom, aka Doctor Doom (Toby Kebbell). Got that? Good. The twist here is that Susan Storm is adopted, hence the difference in the African-American Storm family. No backstory or explanation, just accept it.

Anyway, we see Reed grow up from a genius kid to a genius 20-something who invents a teleporter (the “Quantum Gate”) that can sent an object from here to (??) somewhere and back again. With his BFF, Ben, they are grabbed by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) of the mega-institute, The Baxter Foundation. There, Reed meets another whiz-kid, Dr. Franklin’s young protege and hot-head rebel, Victor, who’s secretly in love with Susan Storm. Added to the team is Franklin’s thrill-seeking son, Johnny, who just wants a job to get his crashed car back. With the teleporter experiment a success, the military steps in (naturally) and takes over.

Now run by a gum-chewing weasel named Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson), the facility is under U.S. government lock-down, but that doesn’t stop Reed, Johnny, Ben, and Victor from going ahead and zapping themselves to the other somewhere; a place called Planet Zero. But things go very bad and the three (except for Victor) return home, each experiencing those well- known, life-altering changes. . . including Susan. Don’t worry, guys! The U.S. military is here to help! Reed manages to escape and disappear, but the others remain behind.

We click ahead one year and see that Ben is an apathetic lethal killing machine for the war effort, Johnny does recon work, and Susan helps out with her invisibility. Yes, they’re all part of the gub’ment with the promise that one day they’ll be “normal” again. Normal, that is, IF they can find Reed who can fix the new Quantum Gate gizmo they’re building. Dr. Allen’s idea is to subject more soldier’s to Planet Zero’s weird environment (like Ben and friends), so he can have an army of unstoppable super-soldiers! Once Reed is located, brought back, and the machine fixed, the soldiers are blasted inter-dimensionally to the alternate planet, but uh-oh! Victor is still alive?! And boy, is he ever pissed!

Coming back to our world and filled with rage (and unstoppable killing powers), Victor goes back to Planet Zero and plans to destroy Earth with a black hole! Can the rag-tag team of Johnny, Sue, Reed, and Ben stop him? They better, they already scheduled a sequel for 2017.

After a terribly long set-up that offers no backstories on any of the main characters, what we have here is essentially a dull and plotting movie with some nice CGI effects thrown in that takes itself too seriously. Director Trank does a good job directing, but it’s the screenplay that crashes and burns. The actors have nowhere to go with the script and lack any chemistry with each other. The dialoge is rudimentary and listless and the entire film is almost void of any fun, heart, or compassion. Compared to this movie, the 2005 version sparkles and pops with excitement, fun, humor, and life. I actually saw people walking out of the theater during the film, never to return!

There’s been a firestorm of controversy over WHY this movie is so bad and who’s to blame. The finger-pointing began weeks before the movie was ever released and starting popping up on internet sites like Buzzfeed everywhere. The director, producer, studio, and screenwriters have all gone on the attack trying to defend this movie against the backlash of negative press. Not a good sign, people. And they STILL want to put out a sequel? Seriously? Guys, either cut your losses now or hire better writers!

Mystery Men (1999)

Superhero’s come in all shapes and sizes, as we’ve seen with the Fantastic Four. But what if the superhero’s weren’t all that fantastic? What if the superhero’s were just a bunch of guys hangin’ out at a sleazy diner and only thought they were superheros? That’s the wacky premise for a terrific movie based on a series of Flaming Carrot Comics.

The best friends with “powers” are Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), who gets really, really mad, the Blue Raja (Hank Anzaria), who throws cutlery with remarkable accuracy, and the Shoveler (William H. Macy), who wields a mean shovel. They’re always looking to make a name for themselves in Champion City as crime fighters, but alas, they keep getting usurped by the one and only TRUE superhero in town, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear).

But the ol’ Cap is bored with the local riff-raff he arrests and longs for real danger, i.e., Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), his arch-nemesis! So, he arranges Frankenstein’s release just so he can have some fun, but Captain Amazing gets hopelessly captured instead. Looks like the other superhero guys are gonna have to rescue him, but not without back-up. They arrange try-outs (a hilarious montage) and come up with more superheros: the Spleen (Paul Reubens), who has deadly flatulence, the Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), who can vanish–if you don’t look at him, and the Bowler (Janeane Garafalo), who throws a supernatural bowling ball.

However, their efforts to rescue Captain Amazing epically fail, as they end up killing him! Oops! Now Casanova Frankenstein aims to take over the city unless the wanna-be heroes can stop him. United by a mysterious cloaked figure called the Sphinx (Wes Studi), who spouts silly Yoda-like advice, and a goofy inventor (Tom Waits) who only makes crazy non-lethal weapons, the gang goes after Frankenstein and his all his minions.

This is one crazy and wacky film written by Neil Cuthbert and Bob Burden, based on his comic books. A mystery itself, the movie was directed by Kinka Usher (who never directed before or since), but it’s widely rumored that this movie was actually directed by Tim Burton and that he used ‘Kinka Usher’ as an alias. The action is set up just like a dark Marvel superhero film, but it has brilliant comedic undertones of Stiller, Anzaria, Garafalo, and Macy, all playing it straight as can be. And to see Rush playing a foppish super-villain with a weird accent is too just much!

Look for a handful of surprise appearances in this movie as well: English comedian Eddie Izzard as Frankenstein’s henchman, Tony P., director/producer Michael Bay as the leader of the Frat Boys gang, master card magician Ricky Jay as Captain Amazing’s publicist, singer Cee Lo Green as a Not-So-Goodie gang member, comic Dane Cook as the Waffler, and composer/musician Mark Mothersbaugh as (what else?) a bandleader.

*** Editors Note: My uncle, James Duke, appears in this film as the villainous “Big Tobacco”.   Terrific cast aside, I think it’s a terrible movie.