Fantastic 4 Review

fantastic 4So with much trepidation I finally saw Fantastic 4.  It is of course the huge flop produced by Fox and I guess the question is- ‘is it as bad as people say it is’.  I guess it depends on what lens you are looking for and I think how invested you are in comic books and superhero movies.  I have little investment in either so in the end I thought it was mediocre with some of the worst special effects I’ve ever seen.

fantastic 4-2The script is also kind of lazy.  It is an origin story which is very predictable with the origin part coming very late in the movie. I’m surprised Simon Kinberg who wrote the terrific X-men Days of Future Past would allow for such a cliched story to get approved.  I understand there were problems on the set and the studio interfered but that wouldn’t effect the entire story and the extremely predictable writing.

I also can’t give director Josh Trank a pass either because the story from start to finish was cliched and silly.  It wasn’t just one scene that you could tell the studio messed with; although the last 20 minutes is definitely worse than the rest.  It’s surprising with Trank because he made Chronicle a superhero film on a small scale that I really love. The special effects in that film on a minimal budget are much better than anything here. I don’t know what he was thinking with the special effects. The editing was also really amateurish.

fantastic 4-8I also didn’t like Reg E Cathey as Dr Franklin Storm.  For being the father of 2 of the characters he seemed flat, unemotional and like he was delivering motivational speeches instead of being an authentic character.  I always felt like he was reciting lines and not feeling the emotions of a parent.

Toby-Kebbell-Doctor-Doom-Fantastic-Four-2015Toby Kebbell is also shockingly bad as Victor Von Doom (one of the worst names in superhero villains IMO).  He was so great in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but it’s not really his fault here.  He is given little to do and the special effects are so bad.  People who were critical of Ultron in Avengers 2 need to take a look at Dr Doom because the characters aren’t that different but one is executed so much better.

fantastic 4-4I can’t overstate how bad I thought the special effects were.  Especially every time we see Mr Fantastic (Reed Richards played by Miles Teller)’s arms stretch I couldn’t believe it.  Also there were a lot of times when it was so obvious they were in front of green screens and it looked extremely fake. I guess The Thing (Ben Grimm by Jamie Bell) looked ok but he had this strange voice that was distracting.

Other than that I can’t think of a special effect that worked.  They were on a syfy Sharknado level.  (have you gotten the point that I hated the special effects…)

fantastic 4-5As far as things I liked I thought the 4 young leads were all good in their parts and I could see them being a good Fantastic 4 in another movie with better special effects and script.  They save a lot of scenes with their charisma and chemistry.  The music by Marco Beltrami and Phillip Glass was also a standout.

I thought they  could have gone somewhere interesting with using the Fantastic 4 to help the military which they do with the Thing.  On one hand he saves lives.  On the other he is an agent of war.  There was something there they could have worked with.  The sets all look nice and while the origin of the super powers takes way too long I thought it had ok moments. I was also surprised how bloody the ending was for a pg-13.  Normally blood=R

fantastic 4-3I would have been a lot angrier if it had been like Transformers: Age of Extinction and been almost 3 hours.  This was 100 minutes so it left me just shrugging.  And again I am not a huge superhero person.  If I was I am sure this would have engendered a Maleficent response from me because I love that character and world.  As it is I just kind of shrugged it off.  It’s a lame superhero movie.  Not the first and won’t be the last.  In fact, the genre is probably past due for a stinker.  Ha.

If you are curious to see if it is as bad as people say it is go see it.  I think you will be shocked by the bad special effects like I am but I have friends who liked it.  I’ve warmed up a lot to superhero movies in the last few years with movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 1 and 2, Captain America 2 and Big Hero 6.  This is way, way, way, way, beneath that level but I had a few little things I liked.  Overall, I just thought it was super mediocre.

Overall Grade- D

Anastasia Review

This blog is from my column on ldsblogs.com. I would love if you guys checked that out. http://ldsblogs.com/30014/family-movie-night-anastasia

This week’s choice for Family Movie Night is the 1997 animated film Anastasia.  It is not a perfect but I find it very entertaining and I think your family will as well.

Anastasia was one of only two films from Fox Animation Studios which was formed in a merger with Sullivan Bluth Studios after their Thumbelina hadn’t done very well. Unfortunately neither of the films were big successes and they closed in 2000 but Anastasia has remained popular among animation fans and with good reason.

Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, Anastasia combines a real story with a fairytale feel, which is normally something I do not enjoy.  For instance, I have big problems with Disney’s Pocahontas.  The reason I think Anastasia fares a little bit better is most of the characters are fictitious where nearly all are real people in Pocahontas.  Plus in Anastasia the characters are a little more nuanced than the ‘natives good, white people bad’ you see in Pocahontas.   I don’t give it a complete pass on the inaccuracies but Anastasia does not make me as uncomfortable as other films.

What’s especially peculiar about Anastasia as source material is it is not about the princess but about the woman Anna Anderson who in the 1920’s claimed to be the princess.  It’s a strange place to start a story but it works as kind of a mystery.

Basically the plot starts when the Romanov family led by Tsar Nicholas are murdered by a military coup led by Rasputin.  This is done mostly in flashback and is not as scary or bloody as it sounds.  The youngest daughter Anastasia is rescued by a kitchen boy and flees the city.  Next, we jump ahead 10 years and Anya is an orphan who doesn’t remember who she was or where she came from.

Meanwhile the Dowager Empress Marie, Anastasia’s grandmother, has put out a reward for anyone who can find the princess.  Tempted by the prize, two con-men, Demitri and Vladimir, hold auditions Anastasia_Goldento find a princess they can pass off to Marie and get the money.  Anya stumbles upon them and naturally gets the part.  They begin training her on the ways of the royal family and house and start a road trip to Paris to meet with Marie.
Rasputin is naturally the villain in the picture and he is voiced by Christopher Lloyd.  His song ‘In the Dark of the Night’ is very well done even if it does look a lot like Be Prepared from The Lion King.  Rasputin in this version has sold his soul to the devil in order to remove the Romanov family from the earth, so deep is his hatred for them   Once he finds out Anastasia may be alive and going to meet her Grandmother he of course tries to kill her.  One especially dramatic sequence involves a train crash which is so well animated.

The animation in Anastasia is lush, vivid and beautiful.  I kind of wish Don Bluth hadn’t completely abandoned his signature more sketchy style but it cannot be denied how good the movie looks.  The plot is also tightly paced and engrossing.  They did a good job with the chemistry between Demitri and Anya and aside from a lame liar reveal subplot they are believable as a couple.

All the vocal performances are good except it is annoying to me that aside from Lansbury and Grammer nobody does their own singing.  In a film like this celebrity voices aren’t necessary.  They don’t add anything to the story and I think they should have just gone with the singers for all the vocals.  Let’s put it this way: nobody went to Anastasia to hear John Cusack’s vocal performance, so at best it is an unnecessary expense.

That said, the songs are the real standout to Anastasia.  It feels like a Broadway play and that is probably because they are written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who have done many shows including Ragtime, Once on this Island and My Favorite Year.  In some cases the lyrics are actually stronger than Disney offerings such as Tarzan or Hercules (which I adore both).  The score is also good by David Newman.  I think if Anastasia had been a bigger hit they could have had a great Broadway musical out of it.

To see the rest of Rachel’s reviews, click here.

Overall, Anastasia ends up being a very entertaining animated film.  There is a nice heart to the picture and the romance really works.  The songs are well done and the animation is lush and vivid.  If you watch it with your family it might be a good chance to talk about some of the true history and the adaptation process within different mediums.  You can also discuss honesty, self-discovery and the importance of family.  In the end it will be a great choice for the entire family for Family Movie Night.

Overall Grade B