Fantastic Four

This week we’ll take a look at the Josh Trank directed Fantastic Four, starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan. It is rated PG-13 for for sci-fi action violence and language.

Fantastic Four follows the story of a group of four young outsiders: Reed Richards (Teller), Sue Storm (Mara), Johnny Storm (Jordan) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), who are sent to an alternate universe, resulting in them gaining incredible powers. The team must learn to harness these new powers and save the Earth from an old friend turned enemy.

2 out of 10

Imagine this: you’re a big baseball fan, and your team is looking like good for the season. It has 4 star players, all of whom are proven and young. However, they go out there and have an absolutely destructive season. The manager makes all the wrong moves and the coaches hurt rather than help. In the end, everything is a failure. The players have solid seasons, but no one works together as a team, and damn, you have the worst season in baseball history.

This is what Fantastic Four felt like to me. They had four viable stars, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell. These are good actors! But then you go out there, and you have an awfully written script, horrible editing and a director who was being pushed as far away from the project as possible. That is a recipe for disaster. Fantastic Four is, quite frankly the most horrendous movie I’ve seen in a really long time.

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The script was just terribly written, both with dialogue and general storytelling. The only laughs I really got were from laughing at how absurdly written the dialogue was. “I’m so putting this Instagram” was the line that ticked me off more than any other. Sorry Josh Trank, this is not Gossip Girl. And the story made absolutely no sense. Lets go through standard team superhero storylines:

Step 1. Something bad happens that unites the group together
Step 2. They fight the bad guy, get their butts kicked because they have no chemistry
Step 3. They go through a bad-ass training montage where they get their act together
Step 4. They beat the bad guy. The world has been saved!

Step 1 was half-assed, Step 2 didn’t happen, Step 3 didn’t happen, and Step 4 was very underwhelming. There was no chemistry between the four characters, who weren’t really characters at all. They had no personality. None of them developed as they went on. Man, Johnny and Sue didn’t even know Ben, but look at that, all of a sudden they’re fighting side by side. I can’t recall what this film did for an hour forty, because it didn’t develop characters or relationships.

And the graphics were pretty terrible as well. Johnny Storm looked pathetic, the Sue Storm forcefield thing was horrific, and the Thing brought back bad memories of Green Lantern in terms of crappy CGI. How does a movie made in 2015 with a budget over 100 million dollars produce such poor editing and effects. That is real feat of cinema.

I really feel terrible for the quarter of Teller, Jordan, Mara, and Bell. They weren’t even that bad! Teller was horribly cast though. Reed Richards should have been an older, more experienced scientist. Mara’s dialogue was probably written the worst, resulting in a one-dimensional, boring character. Johnny Storm’s character was probably the least true to the comics, as the womanizing hothead we know and love was completely absent. And Bell was heinously underused.

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The last major crime this film committed was its short and anticlimactic climax. Doctor Doom appeared out of no where, randomly revealed his motivation— which made no sense, now that I think about it— opened up some black holes and then got beaten by the Fantastic Four within minutes. They had never fought together! Doom is a really strong character! That shouldn’t happen! That isn’t how it works! More exclamation points to express how stupid this movie is!!

The ending of this post will mirror the ending of this film. Abrupt and stupid.
~Zach

3.5 out of 10

Fantastic Four is a zombie. A frankenstein crafted with all the foul tropes and cliches people have come to hate in the modern comic book movie landscape.

It’s bedazzled with wasted talent. It’s plagued with the symptoms of production hell. It’s choppy, it stumbles, and it’s plain awful.

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Screw spoiler warnings. No more precious income shall be wasted on this film.

I’m going to jump right into it. If it were me making this film (adapting the Fantastic Four seems to be harder than curing cancer around Hollywood), here’s how I would’ve done it (just to prove that a 17 year old with no experience could’ve done this better). Sins of the actual film are in parentheses:

– They’re all actual adults, seasoned, veteran scientists (In the film, they have the dream team practically played by a bunch of twelve year olds).
– They’re all carefully handpicked and assembled (Not found while trolling Science Showcase as they are in this crapfest).
– Doom is not a shut in nerd, he’s an edgy manipulative badass (like Magneto) who tells it like it is. He’s cunning and clear cut. His motivation doesn’t just materialize in a few seconds. Seriously, Fox, it takes a lot of talent to screw up the character that inspired Darth Vader….
– The Four are assigned to be sent on the expedition (Yeah, they just kind of go for intergalactic spin drunkenly here) and then they get powers gradually (not in a lazy shopping list way).

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– Doom is envious/afraid of their gifts and creates a suit with his own powers after he witnesses their potential in order to protect the earth after they misuse their abilities a few times.
– The team actually, y’know, has chemistry and talks. They argue about the extent of their powers, collaborate in action and relish the victories (All Fox cooked up for the whole Four here was one bickering scene).
– The team combats Doom, wins some, loses some and BUILDS UP to a final climax.
(The final fight in this one gains on you faster than a speed-addled cheetah).
– Some actual pacing might help too here (Dissolving through time skips is not pacing).

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Bam. Better than that pathetic excuse for a film Fox puked up there. But I don’t really mean to punish them, their box office numbers are already doing that.

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Amy

This week, we’ take a look at Amy, Asif Kapadia’s documentary based on the life of renowned jazz singer Amy Winehouse as she deals with the pressures of being a superstar while battling alcoholism and drug use.

9 out of 10

Oddly enough, I’m not one for artsy movies. I stick to mainstream blockbusters, movies with Oscar buzz, and some other random ones here and there, but the low-key, Indie hits and artistic documentaries have never been my forte. However, I went out to see Amy because my friends thought it looked interesting, and I won’t lie, I found it extremely appealing myself. And as we found, our instincts were right; Amy was beautifully well crafted documentary. filled to the brim with intriguing storytelling and an incredible use of music.

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One of the more unique things about this documentary is that the actually footage is completely put together from real footage, meaning home videos, photos, tv broadcasts, paparazzi filming, etc. There is not a single minute of this film (that I can recollect) that is artificial. There are audio overlays of interviewees that really drive the story along and take us on this journey through Amy Winehouse’s life. Her ex-husband, her manager, her best friend, her father– all these people (and more) made up the overlay. The film was so uniquely crafted from beginning to end. All the overlays did their part in moving Amy’s story forward. It was our way of getting to know her characters. Paired with real, genuine home video, we started to fall in love with this extremely talented woman, flaws and all.

The other thing that really stood out to me was the incorporation of Winehouse’s music, specifically her lyrics. Every so often, the action would shift from interviewers and video to footage of Amy in concert or in a recording studio singing a song, with the lyrics captioned on the screen. What was so incredible about this was that the lyrics and the tone of the song always matched up with the feeling of the documentary of the time. You would expect a documentary about a musician to feature their music, that goes without saying, but this music was not just featured. It was incorporated along the seams of the story. It helped to tell that story. It really was the story.

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The last 20 minutes of the film, I was absolutely on edge. Since we all know the ending– she dies of alcohol poisoning– it may seem hard to believe there is any sort of climax. However, I felt quite the contrary. The film used the dramatic irony– that the audience knew the ending– to its advantage. Instead of sugar-coating her death, they attack it full force. It really forces you to think about everything she went through. Her death was not her own ignorance and addiction. It was a combination of her father’s pressure, her husband’s own addiction, and the paparazzi absurd standards that drove her off a cliff. 

Amy is a fantastically crafted documentary that does a fantastic job exploring a number of things, including alcoholism & drug abuse, eating disorders, and the pressure of being a celebrity, all issues that were inflicted upon one of the most talented musicians we’ve ever seen. I can say before I saw this film, I didn’t think there was much to Amy Winehouse. I thought she was someone who really fucked up her life, and that its was her fault and no one else’s. Amy provided an eye-opening perspective on her, and all people with addictions. If you get a chance to see it, do yourself a favor and do so. It really is a work of art.
~Vig

9 out of 10

I really like documentaries on niche topics. A film that takes a topic I know nothing about and just absorbs me even without a direct message or commentary on said issue. In this case, that topic was the life of Amy Winehouse.

I think we all know the basic trajectory of Winehouse’s career: she was a celebrity that fell victim to the fact that we seem to love to see a talent get tossed up and dragged down regularly and recreationally.

Amy sheds light on this process and shows us the nitty gritty of her career, her time with loved ones and her struggle with addiction in between. Does it assign blame at all for her deeper problems? No, it remains pretty agnostic on that question. It doesn’t drop to the depths of being a VH1 or MTV “rise and fall” flick, it just shows you an artist and how she ticked.

The film expertly weaves in voicemails, interviews and archive footage to paint its portrait. I honestly can’t imagine how much work it took to assemble all the footage the filmmakers did, let alone configure it all effectively but their work definitely does shine here.

The documentary also makes use of the songs that you may or may not know with some bullseye interludes of just the music and the lyrics artfully juxtaposed with Winehouse’s story. The words are about one hundred times more resonant when paired with its singer’s strife and tooth and nail technique.

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As I said earlier, the film does not exactly point fingers. However, I’d be quite surprised if any viewer left the film without at least a little anger towards the media and paparazzi, both of whom the doc portrays as actively hungry and vicious. All the raw footage from sources like TMZ feature a barrage of flashes and an assault of reporters that highlight the sheer unpleasantness of being famous (a label Amy herself denies a substantial amount of times in the movie).

The Winehouse family is also not spared from a bit of scrutiny; the parents are implicated in a number of instances where they seem to brush off their daughter’s spirals as being in character. I’ve been told that several of her family members didn’t care for this documentary and, while it doesn’t explicitly draw connections between Amy’s upbringings and her eventual problems, I can see why.

No matter who the viewer chooses as the root cause of this talented musician’s passing though, there’s one question that the film persistently asks: could anything have been done to help her? Plenty of those interviewed do use “could’ve” and “should’ve” yet others imply that they did their part and that nothing else really could have been done to solve Winehouse’s deeper demons.

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Whether you sympathize more with the former or the latter, there’s no denying that Amy is an intriguing, powerful look into what it really means to be an addict, a celebrity and a divisive music legend.
~Zach

Trainwreck

Up next is Amy Schumer’s potential breakout film, Trainwreck. Directed by Judd Apatow, starring Schumer, Bill Hader, and Brie Larson, the romantic comedy is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use.

Trainwreck tells the story of magazine writer Amy– a woman living a life without commitment, without inhibitions, and without shame. She sleeps around, drinks, and smokes pot all without limits. However, when she falls for for the subject of her new article, renowned sports doctor Aaron Connors, she starts to wonder if its time to change her ways.

7 out of 10

Amy Schumer is an extremely polarizing figure in entertainment. You either hate her, or you love her. Her first feature film, Trainwreck, has been getting a lot of buzz, albeit positive buzz. Does it deserve that buzz though, is the question at hand. In my mind, Trainwreck is a solid movie with plenty of laughs– but nothing more than just that.

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I’ll start with the headliner of the film: Ms. Schumer herself. I personally am not a fan of her. I just don’t really like the whole gimmick she has going on. She is very clearly a sketch comedian and I don’t think that kind of sketch acting translated over to the film. Every scene felt like an individual sketch largely due to Schumer’s acting. It’s very detached. The same thing goes with Vanessa Bayer– an actress primarily known for Saturday Night Live, a sketch comedy show. She’s just in her own little universe out there. That same thing is prevalent in Schumer, but less noticeable, since she basically is the movie. 

This being said, I did find Trainwreck really funny. I think the script is really well written, had a nice arc, and managed to not grow stale. The movie trusted that we would continue to laugh at this semi-alcoholic, promiscuous pot-head. That her gimmick wouldn’t get exhausting. And surprisingly, it didn’t. I think what made it funny is that, the individual character arc went off the rails– meaning, she started as the women who had to get her life together, and by the end… she really didn’t, now that I think about it. She was still an alcoholic and smoking pot at the end of the film, it was just accepted. I think thats what makes this film funny; the stereotypical hero’s arc is kinda thrown out the window.

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Bill Hader pleasantly surprised me. Typically a sketch comedian like Bayer (he was on SNL for a long time too), I really liked him in this film. He was excellent, as his character was awkward but likable. He did a really good job with the serious moments of the film as well, something I’d imagine is a bit more difficult for comedians such as him.

In the end though, the most memorable thing about this movie was easily LeBron James. Boy he is just incredible, isn’t he. His scenes were probably the most hilarious part of this film for me, though it definitely helps that I’m an extremely passionate sports fan. Power to him.

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Trainwreck is a pretty funny movie. Does it have flaws? Definitely. At times it feels more like a collection of sketches than an actually film. But there’s no overlooking the fact that it’ guaranteed to make you laugh. Amy Schumer’s first feature film is far from perfect, but anything but a train wreck.
~Vig

8.5 out of 10

I’m not a rom-com man. I think it’s the same thing everytime. I think it’s a good fifteen minutes of something being off in the main character’s life, thirty minutes of them falling for someone unexpected and their cutesy antics then twenty minutes of a misunderstanding or moping then the remained is just them reforming and getting back together.
Yeah, no rom-com’s ever done it for me except Fever Pitch (which was of course saved by its own admiration for the city of Boston and my dear Red Sox) so I wasn’t the happiest camper in the world headed into Trainwreck. But, magically, only a few minutes in, Amy Schumer’s magnum opus won me over.

There’s no bones about it: Schumer’s writing is crass, candid, and crude (perhaps too much so for some viewers’ palettes but certainly not mine). It takes a lot of raunchy plot detours that serve for nothing but pure, ugly entertainment. There’s really no doubt though that the film earns respect for its sheer honesty. The character’s are pretty much vehicles for these sideways shenanigans.

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That’s not to say they aren’t fun though. I was shocked with how well these actors were used. Schumer is, of course, pitch perfect as our leading, not so ladylike-lady; Bill Hader is her solid foil. John Cena (I know, right?), Brie Larson and Ezra Miller just to name a few are all as likable or unlikable as they should be.

That’s not to mention the celebrity cameos which the film is littered with. There are plenty (maybe too much for it’s own good; just enough for some enjoyable wheel-spinning) and so many of them hit bullseyes. And I must say LeBron James started his acting career off with a sonic bang here that has sharply peaked my interest in a second Space Jam feature. Each star is given enough material and thrown in at the right time.

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Those plot points we talked about early? The deadly rom-com tropes? Yeah, they’re there. The film is clever enough though that I can actually question whether it’s visiting them ironically or not. It’s so solid I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt but I will mention I let out a few groans when it really took its time. Those sighs were few and far between though, I assure you.

There’s also a pretty serious plotline throughout and it’s weaved in relatively well. It can feel like the movie is trying to gain a little depth but the actors pull it off well enough and it’s eased in with the comedy nicely. Overall, I don’t feel too strongly about it either way but I guess I’m glad it was there.

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If you’re not a rom-com-friendly viewer, don’t worry, you’ll most certainly enjoy this latest Apatow-sponsored feature. If you love yourself a “chick flick”, take a few friends who don’t and you may convert them to the dark side. All I know is that I’m a hundred times more excited for the next Schumer picture….and Space Jam 2 too apparently.
~Zach