Fantastic Four

August 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan
Directed by: Josh Trank (“Chronicle”)
Written by: Simon Kinberg (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”), Jeremy Slater (“The Lazarus Effect”) and Josh Trank (debut)

During various stages of production, there were whispers that the reboot of “Fantastic Four” was turning into a bit of a mess. Though there were reshoots and rumors that director Josh Trank was causing all sorts of on set issues, it was hard to tell if this was true or just Hollywood hearsay. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Trank left his job as director of one of the upcoming “Star Wars” spinoffs. Again, reports cited his erratic behavior and directorial performance on the set of “Fantastic Four” as one of the catalysts for the decision. Fox entered damage control mode, but the chatter hasn’t subsided as Trank’s “Fantastic Four” finally arrives in theaters, mired in all sorts of controversy.

After finding a way to send objects through other dimensions and return them back, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is given a scholarship to a research institute. Once there, he along with scientist Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and technician Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) finalize a full size model of the project. Under the threat of losing the project, the team sneaks out to claim their stake of the newly developed alternate universe. Disaster strikes, however, and the team find themselves altered, with unexplainable new powers.

It may seem like with Teller, Jordan, Mara and Jamie Bell, “Fantastic Four,” Trank put together a great cast of likeable actors who can each shine in their own way and as an ensemble. Unfortunately, that isn’t even close to being the case. Bell is barely in the movie and adds nothing, Jordan has almost no character arc, and Mara just kind of exists in the background. Teller is the only one that gets any semblance of character development, and even he is a blank slate compared to charismatic roles in many of his other films.

In fact, almost anything character related in “Fantastic Four” goes absolutely nowhere. There’s an attempt to find connection through friendships, family strains and relationships, but nothing ever develops in any meaningful way. It’s the fault of a pretty mediocre script that is somehow both slow developing and way too accelerated. “Fantastic Four” spends most of its 100 minute run time in exposition mode, giving the full origin story treatment. It then hits the gas and clumsily stumbles into the climax, which takes place over a span of merely minutes, wraps up neatly, and ends with one of the worst scenes in a comic book movie in recent memory.

The strange thing about “Fantastic Four” is that there are a few glimmers of hope. There is something oddly refreshing about its early scenes, where we see members of the team as somewhat normal people, working research jobs. There are no suits, no super powers, and most importantly, no super vague world ending threat. It’s a situation that is ripe for creating a character driven, intimate superhero movie that we haven’t seen much of. It isn’t great by any stretch, but there are moments where Trank creates almost an anti-comic book movie atmosphere. Of course, this is something that is short lived and once it takes off into generic comic-book movie territory, complete with obligatory gaining of powers, lame villain turns (minus the head-exploding powers of Dr. Doom which was, admittedly, awesome), super lame one-liners, and shoddy CGI, anything unique about the film vanishes into a puff of smoke.

“Fantastic Four” is perhaps best described as an incredibly frustrating experience. There are moments throughout the film where the viewer can actually see what Trank was trying to do. The problem is that they are fleeting, and have no lasting impact. The actual experience of watching “Fantastic Four” is not agonizing, but under scrutiny, and as soon as the credits role it becomes abundantly apparent that literally nothing about the film works. It’s a waste of talented actors, a well-known property, and perhaps most valuable, our precious time.

127 Hours

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”)
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and Danny Boyle (debut)

If the only reason you’re questioning whether or not to see Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle’s newest film “127 Hours” is because of the graphic amputation scene supposedly causing audiences to pass out in their popcorn, that’s not a good enough reason to skip one of the best films of the year. Suck it up, skip the snack, and go on this stylish journey of survival and self-discovery as soon as possible.

“127 Hours” is based on the true story of adventurer Aron Ralston, who in 2003 gets his arm caught between a boulder and a canyon wall in Utah and lives to tell about it after he makes the brave decision to cut through his own limb to free himself.

Trapped in the crevice for more than five days, we watch as Aron (James Franco in the best performance of his career) uses the few tools he has to chip away at the rock pinning him down, conserves the little food and water he’s brought along into the isolated canyons, and slowly lose all hope as the days get longer and nights get colder.

Through compelling flashback scenes and others where Aron hallucinates, Boyle makes some remarkable directorial choices to help us understand exactly the situation Aron has found himself in. Unlike the film “Buried” where our main character spends 90 minutes literally laying in a coffin, Boyle takes audiences deeper than just the idea of how claustrophobic the experience is.

Boyle allows us to enter the mind of our protagonist and into the crevice itself. When he takes short drinks from his water bottle, we’re aware of just how much time he has left. When he holds a sincere conversation with himself or records a message on his camcorder, we become transfixed in Aron’s need to escape and his acceptance of his own mortality.

Franco captures this through an emotionally-charged performance that will surely earn him an Oscar nomination. It’s a role unlike anything we’ve ever seen him in before and one that will truly be labeled as career definining when all is said and done. “127 Hours” is a fascinating example of what an actor can do with a intense screenplay and so little room to maneuver.

As graphic as the final scene is, it is not gratuitous. By that time, you will be so invested in Aron the pain he feels during these excruciating moments will become all too real. Boyle doesn’t let up and the film is all the better for having a director bold enough to make those tough decisions.