Nick’s Picks – August 12, 2015

FANTASTIC 4

Fantastic Four

Fantastic 4 is a super fantastic flop in this retelling, revamped, repeated, regurgitated super hero tale of four unlikeliest teens being transformed into super heroes because of their colossal geeky-ness of stupidity despite their high IQ. Dumb + dumber = fantastic flop.

If you’re one of the few that have been living under a rock (not yet, Ben) and you don’t know anything about the Fantastic Four story, either thru the comic books or the previous unimaginative earlier films, then this nonsensical tale of how the four young adults and the villain came into existence may not be the painful snooze fest I endured. But if you’re a Marvel fan, having read and followed the Fantastic Four over the course of a decade or longer, run… run and don’t look back, because this film will have you wishing you were the one being teleported to the alternate dimension where none of these aberrations exist.

Directed by Josh Trank (best known for Chronicle), this film is tailored to the teenage crowd but it misses the mark in making you root for and empathize with the main characters. The entire film falls flat in striking any emotional cords between each of the Fantastic Four before or after their unlucky teleporting experiment. The story Trank fails to weave is a simple one, the story of two best friends, Reed (the science nerd) and Ben (the street smart kid), along with Sue and Johnny Storm (brother and sister) and how this unlikely foursome form bonds of friendship and family after they are all transformed into beings with human abnormalities from a failed teleporting mission into an alternate dimension.

Miles Teller, fresh off his success in Whiplash, is Reed Richards, the genius among the group that invents the machine that enables objects and humans to teleport to another dimension. He just wants to help people. Ben (Jamie Bell), his best friend since elementary school is the quiet, tough guy, having Reed’s back, more like a bodyguard than an intellectual equal. Reed is accepted into a special school for genius nerds where he can finish his invention after being discovered by Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and her dad, Dr. Franklin Storm who have failed at building the same type of teleporting machine. Dr. Storm takes in genius foster kids and adopts them, thus explaining away the different ethnicticity between Sue, being white, and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) being black. Trank directed Jordan in Chronicle which I can dedeuce is the only reason he’s in this film. Diehard Fantastic Four fans will not like the wooden, obstinate, sullen portrayal of the Johnny Storm and his alter ego the Human Torch.

As far as the characters go and their super hero counter parts, Teller fails as Reed Richards, the father figure and leader of the group. He’s a reluctant hero finally accepting his elasticity after altering everyone’s life. The first 40 minutes or so is pure back story. Reed as a kid, then Reed as a college student; Ben as a kid, Ben left behind but called upon to share in Reed’s adventure to another dimension. Johnny as the angry child, rebelling and at odds with his dad who pays more attention to his nerdy students, so he rebels by street car racing. Sue as the reliable, studious, intelligent daughter albeit introverted, immersed in her work, hiding under her headphones. Then the villain, Victor (Toby Kebbell) a genius, former student and son of Dr. Storm who is anti-establishment. He comes back to the laboratory after Dr. Storm tells him that he needs him and they figured out a way to make his machine work. Reed is the missing piece. Reluctantly he joins forces because he wants to save the world. The true villain is the government depicted as sneering, lying, greedy idiots (no foreshadowing there) who gets it in the end.

After a few pats on the back by the government who tells the group that they will take over the machine, Reed, Johnny, Ben and Victor decides to take the machine on a test drive and be the first humans to teleport to another dimension. Their reasoning is that everyone knows who Neil Armstrong is but no one knows who built the spaceship he took to the moon. From there the movie falls into a crevice of predictable outcomes, uninspiring dialogue, unimaginative special effects and uncomfortable relationships as they fall into the radioactive crevices. Here the movie just falls apart once they return to earth and begin to adjust to life using their newfound superpowers to help the government until all hell breaks loose when Reed decides to teleport back and reverse what happened. Victor/Dr. Doom (left behind in the radioactive dimension) is hell bent on destroying earth but if the four of them work together they can beat him.

It’s a story about family and friendship, even if Reed did turn his best friend into a human rock quarry. This is one family reunion we should abandon to the alternate dimension. One main rule broken was the obligatory glimpse of Stan Lee in this Marvel film. Maybe he knew this film was going to be a total loss and refused to show his face, even if it’s just for 5 seconds. Like Stan, the audience should avoid this film as well.

Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell
Director: Josh Trank
Company: 20th Century Fox
Now Showing: In Theatres
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence, language and some sci-fi action)
Grade: D

 

RICKI AND THE FLASH

Ricki

This is the type of film that you know before watching it that Meryl Streep will sink her teeth into it, knowing to the bone, never letting go. It has all the ingredients of being a tear jerker, hip shaking, finger snapping, and family vs. career that is uncompromising, artful and elegant drama, which should have you laughing through your tears. Unfortunately, how can Diablo Cody (best known for helming Juno and Young Adult) fail at this when you have Oscar winners, pop stars and Tony winners at the hands of director Jonathan Demme?

Meryl Streep does her best as the aging wannabe rock star that returns home to reconnect with her daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real life daughter) after she tries to commit suicide following her failed marriage. Streep also has two sons, one of whom is getting married, the other is gay. Her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) is currently married to Maureen (Audra MacDonald) who took over the role of raising Ricki’s family after she escaped to go pursue her dream.

This story is just a bag of poorly executed stereotypes and lackluster dialogue that screams predictable outcome. Streep can rarely do anything wrong but even her “better than average” performance can’t save this film. If you go into this movie with high expectations, you’ll be flabbergasted and disappointed at the drivel that makes up this film.

When there’s a faceoff between a Meryl Streep and a Audrey MacDonald, the world should shake with vibrancy that causes an avalanche. These two powerful actors alone would’ve been worth the ticket price, but Demme and Cody misses out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Mamie gives a solid performance drawn straight from the mother-daughter rule book and although their relationship is rocky at the start, we all assume that everyone will be dancing and singing and holding hands ala “kumbaya” at the end of the son’s wedding.

For romantic comedies or dramas where there’s a conflict or issues between mother and daughter, Ricki and the Flash misses the bullseye. Streep was better in Mama Mia, or when she left her son in Kramer vs Kramer or in A Cry in the Dark when the dingo ate her baby, and even in the most recent August: Osage County where she made you believe all the dysfunctionality of being true to yourself coupled with being a mom. Here, it felt as if she was just tuning her guitar, strumming along until she struck the right cord. The fault lies with the director and the script. Too many clichés does not a good story make.

This film could have struck a nerve if it really delved into ageism, choices, maternal instincts, dreams and family values without being preachy. Instead it squandered the many talents of these celebrated stars and leaves you scratching your head as to why Diablo Cody and Jonathan Demme could be so out of tune. Go and enjoy just so you can see Streep sing and play the electric guitar with Rick Springfield. That alone is enough of a reason to sit through almost two hours, the same it’d take you to do your laundry.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Rick Springfield, Audra MacDonald
Director: Jonathan Demme
Company: Sony Pictures
Now Showing: In Theatres
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (drug content, language, sexual content)
Grade: B-

 

FREE DVD GIVEAWAY

Police Story GIVEAWAY Hot Pursuit GIVEAWAY

We are doing a Free DVD Giveaway! If you are interested in a chance at winning a free copy of Police Story: Lockdown or Hot Pursuit, it is really easy! All you have to do is send me an email at HoustonMovieGuy@gmail.com. The subject line of the email should read DVD GIVEAWAY. In the body of the email, be sure to put your name, full mailing address and which DVD or Blu-ray you would like. Winners will be selected by random drawing. Best of luck!

POLICE STORY: Lockdown – WellGo USA

Police Captain Zhong Wen (Jackie Chan) knows all about sacrifice. He s always been too busy chasing bad guys to be a father to his daughter Miao (Jing Tian). Tonight, he s seeing her for the first time in years and meeting her fiance, club owner Wu Jiang (Liu Ye). But Wu knows Zhong. And his plans for the evening include taking Miao, Zhong, and the entire club hostage. Zhong knows about sacrifice. What will he give up to save his daughter?

HOT PURSUIT – Warner

In “Hot Pursuit,” an uptight and by-the-book cop (Reese Witherspoon) tries to protect the sexy and outgoing widow (Sofia Vergara) of a drug boss as they race through Texas, pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen.

MAY ALLAH BLESS FRANCE! – Strand Releasing

Regis, a young, black teenager whose sole aspiration is to be a successful rap artist, must first overcome the underprivileged, drug-ridden French suburbs of his upbringing in this black and white debut from hip-hop musician Abd Al Malik. Amidst his double life as a petty criminal and an aspiring artist, Regis eventually finds Islam after the death of a close friend. The film, based on Malik’s real-life experiences, follows the young convert as he navigates the music industry, street violence and racism, leading him to newfound fame in the world of rap and slam-poetry.

I AM BIG BIRD: The Caroll Spinney Story – Cinedigm

For 45 years, Caroll Spinney has been beloved by generations of children as the man behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch and at 80 years old, he has no intention of stopping. A loving portrait of the man in the yellow suit, I AM BIG BIRD features extraordinary footage of Spinney’s earliest collaborations with Jim Henson as it traces his journey from bullied child to childhood icon. And as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the puppet, who will steal your heart.

SHARK WEEK: Dominating the Deep – Cinedigm

Jump into the feeding frenzy for your favorite summertime ritual with this 3-disc set. Now more popular than ever, cable s longest-running programming event needs no introduction or explanation. So, strap on your gear, climb into the cage, and watch the ocean explode into a wild fury as Great Whites, Hammerheads, Whale Sharks, and others take you on a fin-gripping ride through their underwater world. Featuring Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, these 10 episodes bring you more than 8 hours of remarkable new insights into the lives of these magnificent, elusive creatures.

MYTHBUSTERS: Collection 13 – Cinedigm

This lucky thirteenth MythBusters season is packed with its infamous scintillating scientific mayhem, along with a few rocket-powered surprises. With 30 years of special effects experience, Adam and Jamie will answer the craziest questions viewers can think up and then make up a few of their own! Can balloons protect you in a car crash? Does the smell of fear really exist? Can you cook lasagna in a dishwasher? And what exactly tastes like chicken? They ll also team up with movie director James Cameron to tackle a Titanic myth the most requested in MythBuster history! Plus, this 2-disc set includes perhaps the perfect episode ever: Explosions from A to Z, highlighting some of the show s 752 detonations and counting.

HELL ON WHEELS: Season 4 – E1 Entertainment

In Season 4 of AMC s top-rated drama, Hell freezes over. Following the brutal winter of 1868, the railroad is at a standstill and restless workers wreak havoc on Cheyenne. Cullen Bohannon is trapped in a fort with a pregnant wife and the Swede. Thomas Durant is broke and Elam Ferguson is presumed dead. The task of uniting America by rail remains undone and the costs and consequences are rising, for everyone.

THE FRENCH LIEUTENANTS WOMAN – Criterion

An astounding array of talent came together for the big-screen adaptation of John Fowles’s novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman, a postmodern masterpiece that had been considered unfilmable. With an ingenious script by the Nobel Prize–winning playwright Harold Pinter (Betrayal), British New Wave trailblazer Karel Reisz transforms Fowles’s tale of scandalous romance into an arresting, hugely entertaining movie about cinema. In Pinter’s reimagining, Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep star in parallel narratives, as a Victorian-era gentleman and the social outcast he risks everything to love, and as the contemporary actors cast in those roles and immersed in their own forbidden affair. The French Lieutenant’s Woman, shot by the consummate cinematographer Freddie Francis and scored by the venerated composer and conductor Carl Davis, is a beguiling, intellectually nimble feat of filmmaking, starring a pair of legendary actors in early leading roles.

THE KNICK: Season 1 – HBO

Set in downtown New York in 1900 – The Knick is a groundbreaking new scripted drama from Oscar® and Emmy®-winning director Steven Soderbergh starring Oscar® nominee Clive Owen, who also received a Golden Globe nomination for this series. The Knick centers on the Knickerbocker Hospital (dubbed The Knick), which faces a major upheaval due to poor finances and an exodus of wealthy patients. The one remaining star is Dr. Thackery (played by Clive Owen) who along with the hospital staff of surgeons, nurses and other personnel must struggle to keep both themselves and the hospital going.

UNFRIENDED – Universal

Unfriended unfolds over a teenager’s computer screen as she and her friends are stalked by an unseen figure who seeks vengeance for a shaming video that led a vicious bully to kill herself a year earlier.

BLAZE AND THE MONSTER MACHINES: High Speed Adventures – Nickelodeon

What a fun time this is! Jam packed with monster machines, stunt trucks, bouncy tires and many more, this program is sure to keep you glued to your seat. Stuntmania is a track that every monster truck wants to experience. There is even a Team Truck Challenge!

TWO BROKE GIRLS: Season Four – Warner

The comedic duo that goes together like cupcakes and frosting is back in business and more hilarious than ever! It’s season four of 2 Broke Girls, from Emmy winner Michael Patrick King and starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs as two fast friends and roommates who work together at a Brooklyn diner where they dish up sarcasm and smarts. They also have their own start-up business selling Max’s Homemade Cupcakes at the diner’s pop-up window, where they also dish up the laughs! Lots and lots of laughs. Also starring Garrett Morris, Jonathan Kite, Matthew Moy and Jennifer Coolidge, get ready for another season of outrageous adventures and guest stars in this hit half-hour comedy.

Synopsis used with permission

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