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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Whiplash

This week, Zach and Vig takes a look at the music-drama WhiplashDamien Chazelle’s second feature film. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, and Melissa Benoist, Whiplash is rated R for strong language including some sexual references.

Young and talented drummer Andrew (Teller) is attending a prodigious music school and is taken under the wing of one of the most well-respected teachers at the school, Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher never relents in his abuse towards the students, torturing Andrew on his journey to become the greatest drummer of all time.

9.5 out of 10

I’d seen Miles Teller in two things before Whiplash: The Spectacular Now and That Awkward Moment. In both films, he appeared to play the same whiny and lazy character. Not only that, but he wasn’t really great in either of them. There’s no doubt that he has potential, but so far he hasn’t really shown it. However, Whiplash is an intense, meaningful and well crafted story of determination and hard-work, greatly due to Teller’s stellar performance.

Teller, as aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Nieman, is great. While his tendency to act like a kid is apparent at times, Teller’s intensity is what this movie needs in a lead. He holds his own against J.K. Simmons (who I’ll get to in a second) and never relents. Every decision Nieman makes, even if it is a tad extreme, is believable and interesting. Teller practiced drumming for hours for this role, and let me tell you, it’s pretty damn good. Overall, Teller does a really solid job.

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However, I’m not head over heels about Teller simply because he had to go head to head with J.K. Simmons, who was absolutely incredible. Channeling his inner Sergeant Hartman (from Full Metal Jacket), Simmons, as Terence Fletcher, is relentlessly entertaining as a determined, unconventional, and excessively harsh music teacher. From beginning to end, he is the most entertaining character of this film. If you haven’t seen the “Rushing or Dragging” clip, it’s breath-taking. This transition from nice guy to absolute asshole is the greatest sequence in this film and is one of the greatest individual film scenes I’ve seen in a while. Simmons is what makes the movie great, and I think and hope he wins Best Supporting Actor.

While the acting is really good, the technical aspects are also spot on. The cinematography adapts to fit the pacing of the movie, specifically the fast paced rehearsals or performances. In the final scene, camera shots flow in and out of the drum set, highlighting each drum and cymbal while scrupulously displaying the sweat and blood that pour onto Andrew’s drumset. The shots were unique, capturing the art of drumming in stunning fashion. Meanwhile, the lighting is consistently dark but sets an appropriate gritty tone. It uses shadowing to its advantage, portraying Andrew as the star by lighting him while keeping Fletcher in the shadows, and sometimes vice versa. It isn’t groundbreaking, nor is it going to be winning a ton of awards, but it is still great work by Damien Chazelle.

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Alas, this film was not perfect. There were certainly some parts that were undeveloped, to say the least. Actually, there was only one real issue, and that was with the character of Nicole, Andrew’s girlfriend. Melissa Benoist wasn’t bad at all, my gripe is more with the way she was written. Rather than being an actual character, Nicole was more of an object that was used to get different things out of  Andrew’s character. At first, she was used to show a different side of him: rather than being a drummer 24/7 he actually had a life. But in her next scene, she was used to show how obsessed Andrew was with drumming, really the exact opposite of the first scene. And the worst is that I think there was a lot of potential to utilize her character so much more efficiently. Instead, her two scenes left a bad taste in my mouth because her second, and last scene, was really kind of random and ultimately pointless because there had been no build up. And towards the end, when he *spoiler* kind of tries to get her back, I felt no sympathy.

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But in the end, there is no doubt that Whiplash is an excellent film. Music is a volatile yet beautiful thing, and this film shows both sides of it. You can love it more than anything in the world, but it can also drive you to the brink of insanity. This film’s success is derived from the passion and intensity of both lead actors, interwoven with the intimidating task of discovering the answer to one not-so-simple question: What does it take to be great? The answer, in the end, is Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and the power of sheer human will.
~Vig

9 out of 10

Whenever I have a pretty hard-line teacher, I’m torn up. On one hand, they are pushing me past my limits and slapping me with genuine truths about the competitiveness I’m going to face in the real world relentlessly. But on the other, they’re, well, in the most eloquent word choice of my career, dicks. At least, in the moment they are.

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But whenever I’m leaving a really strict teacher’s class (Thankfully, I haven’t encountered too many) I almost always find myself wanting to impress them and defy their view of me. There’s a nagging thought that throbs in my head: what can I do to win this guy over? Whether its about passing those high standards they set or stickin’ it to ‘em, that aspiration to stand out is always there.

Whiplash is an ode to this- prepare yourself – whiplash in thought. Like the drums its main character thrashes, it’s a surprisingly fast-paced picture, filled with crashes and booms.

And there’s simply no getting around this: it’s damned brutal. This is coming from me here. The guy who loves Tarantino, has always had high tolerance for gore and did not even squinch once during Gone Girl. Whiplash tight-ropes the line between “amazingly real and impactful” and “mean and brutal” (You know, the one Darren Aronofsky plays jump-rope with) and it luckily most leans towards the latter. But there are charged, charged scenes in this thing with some (Somewhat questionable but afforded) brutal twists and abrupt turns.

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Who navigates these sharp-curving courses? The actors of course! And this movie has got some terrific ones. Teller (Whom I’ve honestly never heard of before this, sorry) entrusted to play an ambitious character without being arrogant. This is yet another line the movie straddles with astounding ease: Teller’s character can, occasionally, come off as selfish but his actor plays this role so that we mainly see a student chasing his dream (Which has been distorted by a startlingly competitive atmosphere).

Simmons delivers one of those performances that I can say so much about yet so little at the same time: it nearly speaks for itself completely but its so polished, layered and well-done that I’m tempted to dedicate the entire review to it. I’ll give it a paragraph. Remember that “whiplashing” feeling I talked about with strict teachers? I had flashbacks. I sat in disbelief at how well he can evoke the conflicted feelings (and suspense!) a strict teacher often commands.

Meanwhile the directors and editors are there to make music exciting. When I heard of this and one of my friends raved to me that it was “incredibly exciting”, I kind of laughed it off in my head. Yet my friend wasn’t lying. I compared the pacing to the drum sets played in this film and the editing completely compliments it. Percussion is no background score for this film: it’s the heart of the band, one that hammers with an undying excitement as the plot increasingly closes in. The music is entrancing and intense-just like the class it’s played in.

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If I had to assign one arching idea to Whiplash its the conflict between talent and education. How much talent can we squeeze out of ourselves and what is it in the first place for that matter? When did arts become so gruelling? I remember talking to my a group of colleagues about those grad schools that teach film, art and music and asking whether it was a true way to go about discovering your talents ($50k to have a professor discover them for you is a little steep) and one guy capped it off with this single, albeit arguable conclusion:

“If you find yourself trying really hard and impressing others, then it stops being art.”

Bonus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqUq2Da7d5c

(Couldn’t resist)
~Zach

Like Whiplash? Hate it? Let us know in the comment section below!