Alien Anatomy

Earth Girls Are Easy is something I’ve been putting off for a long time. Since I’m honestly not sure what I got out of it. Until I realised I shouldn’t overthink the very colorful 80’s cheesiness. Earth Girls Are Easy is based on a song from Julie Brown. Which details the sexual encounter between an alien and a valley girl. As the title suggests, every single female character in Earth Girls Are Easy is sexualized. All with ample cleavage, bikinis, and skimpy outfits that set the lightweight tone. Along with excessively 80’s pop songs including one about dumb blondes on the beach.

So Earth Girls Are Easy is obviously meant to be dumb fun. Geena Davis is valley girl Valerie Gail. A sexually repressed woman dating a cheating doctor. Her world turns upside down when three hairy blue, yellow, and red aliens crash their ship in her pool when she’s sunbathing. The aliens are all weird, random, and learn English through TV. Underneath they’re good looking guys. They’re attracted to the hairless Earth women. Spending the entire movie picking them up at nightclubs, gawking at them on the beach, and discovering they’re “compatible.”

With all the scantily clad women, I’m surprised they went with a PG rating. Jeff Goldblum stars alongside his real life wife for the second time. There’s just a happier ending for them this time. Damon Wayans and his very young In Living Color co-star Jim Carrey are the other aliens. Despite everyone’s reputation, the jokes didn’t really land for me. But Earth Girls Are Easy is still an enjoyable 80’s time capsule with intergalactic wackiness and hotties galore.

5e0fb7fc053c655f5eee9269ef7b6974

Valerie meets the aliens

Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown

Chinatown is often considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. With what many have called the greatest screenplay ever written. It’ll probably take a few more viewings for me to fully embrace that claim, but I agree that it would have definitely won Best Picture if not for The Godfather Part II. The only Oscar win went to Robert Towne for Best Original Screenplay. I don’t normally mention screenwriters, but Towne’s subversive tribute to the noir genre of yesteryear is impressive to be certain.

Chinatown actually barely spends anytime in Chinatown. It’s more of a clever metaphor for the harsh reality of the world. Something director Roman Polanski knew all too well in what would turn out to be his final American film. Jack Nicholson delivers one of many great performances as J.J. “Jake” Gitties. We exclusively follow the private investigator’s point of view as he’s roped into a tangled web of scandal, deception, and shocking family secrets. I never knew the central conflict revolved around a water crisis. A client of Gitties leads him on a trail that soon reveals the murder of a key figure in the water scandal.

Faye Dunaway’s Evelyn Mulwray is presented as a standard black widow femme fatale love interest, but she’s far more complex than that. Gitties’ nosey investigation earns him an iconic nose injury and increased danger that nearly costs him his life. Classic noir director John Huston is Evelyn’s corrupt father and an unexpectedly convincing villain. I won’t dare give away the twist, but the explosive tragic ending sealed it as one of the greats. Ending on those famous final words, “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.” But the impact of Chinatown will never be forgotten.

Chinatown

Jake drives with Evelyn

Shut Up and Deal

The Apartment is the final black & white film to win Best Picture in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Fitting since it’s a good transitional film. The Apartment may have a classic look, but its themes are distinctly modern and a bit controversial for the time. But that didn’t stop it from winning Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay in a landmark series of wins for Billy Wilder. The first person to win all three awards for the same movie. Like most great Wilder pictures, The Apartment is about an unconventional romance and boundary pushing subject matter.

Jack Lemmon shines as C.C. “Bud” Baxter. An insurance agent who climbs to the top by loaning his apartment to his sleazy adulterous bosses. Bud (or Buddy Boy) can’t catch a break however. Although his doctor neighbor thinks he’s this big lady’s man, the one woman he does fall for is tangled up in an apartment affair of her own. Shirley MaClaine also shines as Fran Kubelik. An elevator operator who’s pulled back into an affair with Bud’s boss Sheldrake. Fred MacMurray could’ve just been a standard villain, but he turns the ensemble into a believable character study. One that feels like a play since everything revolves around the titular apartment.

As if the affairs weren’t edgy enough, Fran attempts suicide in Bud’s apartment after leaving Sheldrake. The unconventional romance comes when Bud looks after her and she opens up to him over a game of gin rummy. Fortunately Bud manages to stand up for himself and Fran does the same. Ending on another ambiguously hopeful Wilder line, “Shut up and deal.” The Apartment is a funny, honest depiction of old & new ideas.

The Apartment

“Shut up and deal”

Fourth Time’s Not the Charm

Fantastic Four (2015) is so aggressively awful I call it Fant4stic out of disrespect. Which is the stupid title stylization it has on the poster. Fant4stic is easily the second worst movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen bad movies, but there’s something especially bad about a movie that offends you on a personal level. As I’ve said in my previous Fantastic Four reviews, the Fantastic Four are a team I’ve loved since childhood. It breaks my heart that all 4 (seriously, 4!) Fantastic Four movies have never been fantastic. Stan Lee’s seminal superhero team deserves so much better. Since Fox wanted to be a bunch of a-holes, they withheld the rights for 8 years. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was a failure before the MCU even began.

Yet Marvel Studios is clearly better equipped for such a lighthearted team. I was cautiously optimistic when the reboot was announced. Approaching it with the same level of interest I’d give to any other Marvel film. I was a big fan of the found footage original superhero film Chronicle, so director Josh Trank was promising. Then I grew increasingly nervous each time they casually tossed around the word gritty. The problem of darkness in Fant4stic is the exact opposite of the problem of lightness in Fantastic Four (2005). Fant4stic somehow ended up worse, with a record low 9% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a shared Razzie win for Worst Picture. Fant4stic is worse than any Marvel movie I’ve ever seen (and that includes Howard the Duck)…

5. Fant4stic

The Fantastic Four brood

Fant4stic misses the point of the superhero team completely. According to behind the scenes rumors that sound more entertaining than the movie itself, Josh Trank was a bit of a jerk on set. To the point he either quit or got fired by Fox. You can tell where the studio started interfering. Despite Trank’s objection that a fantastic version of the movie exists, the movie would have sucked regardless. Making a movie dark & gritty does not automatically make it good! The Fantastic Four are the furthest thing from brooding, tormented, or complex. The Thing can get that way, but he still knows how to have fun once in a while. There’s nothing fun, humorous, or even pleasant about Fant4stic. And Trank didn’t seem to care. In retrospect, hiring someone who directed a subversive superhero movie was a horrible idea. He turned down all the lighthearted scripts in favor of something “relatable.”

Despite the horrendous reception, I still dragged myself to the theaters to see Fant4stic. Then I ranted all the way back home. Fant4stic makes the exact same mistake as Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man. By opening on a pointless childhood flashback. Reed Richards is a boy genius presenting a scientific method to a class taught by Homer Simpson. Why they cast Dan Castellaneta in that part I’ll never know. Ben Grimm is fascinated by Reed’s idea and sneaks over to his house to learn more. But not before seriously pissing me off by turning the Thing’s fun catchphrase, “It’s clobberin’ time!,” into something his abusive brother told him before beating him. Reed invents a way to transport matter between dimensions, yet that’s still not enough to impress his teacher years later. Another distracting problem with Fant4stic is the decision to make everyone teenagers. They were younger in Ultimate Fantastic Four, but when were they ever this young?

Miles Teller is good in most of the things I’ve seen him in, but he has a very punchable face. There’s Reed being an awkward genius and then there’s just being lifeless. Then again, every actor in the movie is monotone and almost never smiles. Easily the worst casting choice is Jamie Bell as Ben. He has little to no personality and no part of him screams muscle. Reed & Ben are approached by scientist Franklin Storm and his daughter Sue Storm. Who happen to be looking for young scientists at a science fair. They’re taken to the Baxter building, which is now a science institute. For no reason whatsoever, Ben leaves because he’s not smart enough. Reg E. Cathey lowers his standards by playing Professor Storm. Yet he’s still the only actor trying even a little bit.

Kate Mara is a pale imitation of who Sue is supposed to be. All I know is that she’s vaguely scientific and likes music. Her hair was dyed blonde, but it’s clearly a wig later in the movie. Surprisingly this isn’t the only awful superhero flick she starred in (Zoom being the other one). Reed & Sue have zero chemistry that amounts to what some people might call flirting. Sue was clearly adopted, because the rest of her family is black. Michael B. Jordan is a fantastic actor who’s proven himself time and time again, but he is not Johnny Storm. Race changing only bothers me when it’s being done to an iconic character with a well defined appearance. Johnny is a rebellious street racer who’s forced to work with his dad just to get back his car. They may only be step-brother and step-sister, but that’s no excuse for zero chemistry between Sue & Johnny. I just want to see the Fantastic Four I grew up with, but it’s obvious that’s not gonna happen.

Since The Incredible Hulk didn’t go anywhere, Tim Blake Nelson appears as the government scientist heading the project. He was supposed to be Harvey Elder/the Moleman, but his last name was changed for no apparent reason. Speaking of name changes, Victor von Doom was nearly called Victor Domashev. It was literally the only fan backlash that worked on the movie. Although it wasn’t enough to change Victor from being a weird anti-social reclusive tech guy. Toby Kebbell was passionate about the villain, but this isn’t it. The project Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Victor work on is a larger version of the matter transporter. Since they lazily forgo them being astronauts. The transporter is a success after they send a CGI ape, but the team is disappointed when they aren’t allowed to go.

I kid you not, Reed, Johnny, and Victor get drunk and call useless Ben to join them on a mission to the other dimension. Leaving Sue behind for no apparent reason. Although it should have been the Negative Zone, they instead give it the inane name Planet Zero. A barren wasteland with green goo in it. Victor is left behind after a storm and that’s how they gain their powers. Inappropriately shot like a horror movie that makes another terrible decision to have all their powers be on all the time. It’s not just Ben who’s always a rock monster. Reed is constantly stretching, Sue is constantly invisible, and Johnny is constantly on fire. Completely missing the point of the Thing’s difficult situation. I was happy to finally see a CGI Thing, but why did it have to be wasted on this? Reed then abandons his friends and the movie actually jumps ahead an entire year. Skipping all the action of Ben being used by the military and Sue & Johnny still perfecting their powers.

Since they seriously thought Fant4stic was gonna crossover with X-Men, Fox stupidly makes the costumes unrecognizable from the comics in 2015. Nobody wants to see bland grey containment suits! They’re the only thing keeping everyone normal, except Ben who’s always naked. Reed is out searching for a cure while the government tries to track him down. His stretching is a bit more realistic, but it’s still silly in a movie trying to be serious. “Flame on” is just a way to turn on Johnny’s flames, which look no better than what came before. Sue’s invisibility and force fields are increased to include the flight she never had in the comics. Ben finds Reed and their fight ends before it begins. After endless miserable discussions in dark rooms, we finally get some action at the end. Which may be the worst climax in Marvel movie history.

Doom somehow survived being stranded in the dimension, but it’s given him unexplained power and a suit that’s fused to his body. This horrifically butchered version of Doctor Doom wants to destroy the world to save his new world. The PG-13 was already earned, but they go a step too far by having Doom seriously explode people’s heads with his mind. Doom’s grand villainous plan is to set off the sky beam that you see in literally every superhero movie. The final straw for me was having Marvel’s first family only be together in the last 18 minutes of the 1 hour & 47 minute movie. They seriously kept the 4 of them apart the entire movie. Amounting to a team of jerks with no chemistry defeating the crappy Doom by punching him real hard. They’re taken in by the military at the end and they’re too embarrassed to even say their team name out loud. Fant4stic is just plain insulting. I was so happy to see it bomb at the box-office, for the sequel to get cancelled, and for Marvel to finally get the rights back.

6. Fant4stic

The Fantastic Four look at a sky beam

The Coming of Galactus

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the highest rated Fantastic Four movie, but that isn’t saying much. After the less than Fantastic Four proved successful enough to warrant a sequel, Fox just sorta threw something together. You can tell by the shockingly short 1 hour & 32 minute runtime. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the only PG rated live-action Marvel superhero movie. Both the rating and runtime make the sequel feel more like a kids movie. I agree that the Fantastic Four are lighthearted, but it’s still a strange decision to make. Especially after Fantastic Four tried extra hard to secure a PG-13.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is based on two major comic storylines. “The wedding of Sue and Reed!” from Fantastic Four Annual #3 and “The Galactus Trilogy” from Fantastic Four #48-50. Rise of the Silver Surfer does about as much as you’d expect from an hour & a half version of such game changing storylines. Yet I was still excited to go see the sequel just for the promise of a live-action Silver Surfer and Galactus. Little did I know it would end up being the last Marvel movie in 2007 before the MCU took things to the next level. For all his faults, director Tim Story tried to stay faithful to the comics (to a degree)…

3. Fantastic 4 Rise of the Silver Surfer

The Fantastic Four in Shanghai

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer promises the coming of Galactus. One of the most devastating supervillains of all time. Since Galactus is an enormous galactic entity who literally eats planets to survive. It’s always a major event whenever the Devourer of Worlds threatens the Marvel universe. All that is thrown out the window the second they decided to make Galactus a space cloud. I can defend Tim Story on some things, but making Galactus a cloud is easily one of the dumbest decisions made for a superhero movie. It’s beyond offensive to us comic book fans. It’s not enough for his shadow to sort of resemble his helmet. Since Galactus is a let down, Silver Surfer had to steal the show. Stan Lee & Jack Kirby both created Galactus as a larger than life villain, but the Silver Surfer was all Kirby’s idea. Since he figured a villain like that should have a herald of sorts. Although skeptical of the silver nut on a flying surfboard, Stan Lee embraced the character as a chance to interpret the folly of humanity from an aliens perspective.

As sadly the only live-action Silver Surfer in existence, Rise of the Silver Surfer does justice to the redeemed superhero. Frequent creature character actor Doug Jones physically portrays the Silver Surfer. Managing to pull off the half naked silver design with CGI laid over. Laurence Fishburne gives the Silver Surfer the booming voice you’d expect from an alien of power cosmic proportions. The Silver Surfer flies at light speed and draws energy from his board. Earth is chosen as the next planet for consumption and it causes weather anomalies all around the world. But that’s not as important as Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s celebrity wedding. Ioan Gruffudd feels even nerdier as Reed, but he still can’t make it work. Jessica Alba is still mostly eye candy with even more distracting blonde hair and very blue eyes. Chris Evans still makes the most of Johnny Storm. Thankfully growing his hair out. Michael Chiklis had an easier time playing Ben Grimm, since his Thing suit was less restricting.

The Fantastic Four put almost all their energy into mundane activities like wedding planning, branding, throwing a bachelor party, and invisible zit removal. Reed is mostly distracted by scientific study when the military tasks him with building a machine that can track the Silver Surfer. Sue is almost entirely concerned with her wedding and even considers leaving the team with Reed. Johnny is still self obsessed, but he has a sort of arc that helps him become less selfish. Which is why stern soldier Frankie Raye is his sort of love interest. She’s much more important in the comics. Meanwhile, Ben and Alicia Masters are happy together. Kerry Washington’s role is a lot bigger than it was the first time, but she isn’t the one who finds the humanity in the Silver Surfer. The wedding was one of the earliest major events in Marvel comics. Since the superhero marriage was attended by Spider-Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, the X-Men, and the Avengers. Story wanted to use superheroes, but that was off limits for Fox. The only reference to the comic is Stan Lee’s cameo as himself being turned away from the wedding.

An exciting chase between the Silver Surfer and the Human Torch leaves Johnny with the ability to switch powers with the team. A gimmicky side plot that serves a few purposes. Namely as an excuse to get Sue naked and to show Ben in his human form again. The Reed power switch is a bit more serious since it nearly topples the London Eye ferris wheel. If only the CGI hadn’t gotten sillier than it was before. Mr. Fantastic’s stretching is taken to even cartoonier levels. The Human Torch looks fine, but it’s less convincing when anyone else switches powers. The only powers that continue to look good are the Invisible Woman’s invisibility and force fields that really demonstrate her immense power. The army general running the show is meant as a stand in for Nick Fury. Something else Story wanted before realizing who held the rights.

The general foolishly trusts Victor von Doom to lead the team after they fail to prevent a disaster. Doom was released from his statue prison by the anomalies, then de-scarred after an encounter with the Surfer in Latveria. All to lazily give Julian McMahon some face time. Doom sets a trap that separates the Surfer from his board. But not before the Surfer explains his actions to Sue. The Fantastic Four are taken prisoner for some reason and Sue has to sneak to see the Surfer and get more answers. She learns of Galactus and even a little about his past as Norrin Radd. Shockingly, Doctor Doom double crosses the military and uses the board for his own unexplained benefit. McMahon recorded his lines later on and it really shows in his cheesy cliché dialogue. The Fantastic Four escape in the awesome Fantasticar. One of the coolest comic vehicles that can hover and split into individual ships. It ended up looking great in live-action. Doom fights the team in Japan until he mortally wounds Sue.

With their powers combined, Johnny finishes Doom off with Reed’s stretching, Sue’s invisibility, Ben’s rock hands, and his flames. The crappy cloud Galactus shows up at the last possible second and the Silver Surfer uses his power to give life back to Sue and destroy Galactus with his power cosmic. In the end, Reed and Sue have a hasty wedding in Shanghai and decide to stay with the team. Closing on a “4” that sets up a threequel that never came and the awakening of Silver Surfer that sets up a spin-off that was also never made. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer came at a simpler time. When superhero movies could be mediocre to mildly entertaining with no aspirations to set up a universe.

4. Fantastic 4 Rise of the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer attacks

Preceded by: Fantastic Four

It’s Clobberin’ Time

Fantastic Four is less than fantastic, but it is four times better than the first movie attempt. As I said before, the Fantastic Four may be the most important Marvel superheroes ever created. Without Marvel’s First Family, we never would have had the Silver Age of Comic Books. Stan Lee was close to leaving Marvel, but his wife persuaded him to make the comic he wanted before exiting. The Fantastic Four #1 debuted in 1961 with the collaboration of long-time artist Jack Kirby. The team was an unexpected success that changed superheroes forever. By having no secret identity, no costumes (until issue #3), and the realistic bickering you’d expect from a family.

The Fantastic Four are actually my personal favorite superhero team and second favorite Marvel comic to read when I was a kid (after Spider-Man). So I was already well aware of who they were before I turned 10 in 2005. It’s the fun team dynamic and colorful adventures that I loved more than anything. I was very enthusiastic to discover a big-budget movie was finally being made. Unfortunately, Marvel foolishly sold their rights to 20th Century Fox for the third time in a row. After already owning X-Men and Daredevil. Since the unreleased film was strictly made to keep the rights, Fox quickly jumped in to make a real movie. Although lower quality directors that eventually became Tim Story, weren’t a good sign. Despite seeing Fantastic Four 2 times in theaters, there’s a noticeable lack of big screen presence to the movie…

1. Fantastic 4

The Fantastic Four are applauded

Fantastic Four won me over the moment I saw the first teaser. Which was the first trailer I saw On-Demand. The quick flashes of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, the Thing, and even Doctor Doom were enough to hook me. My brother and I had action figures, got all 5 toys from Burger King, and I even subscribed to receive 13 issues of Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four. Fantastic Four is one of the last Marvel movies I enjoyed without giving it a second thought. I ended up watching it more on FX and that made it feel more TV quality than they probably intended. A big reason is the fact that none of the stars were big names in Hollywood. Almost all of them were more known for TV or lesser roles in movies.

Welsh actor with the difficult to pronounce name Ioan Gruffudd, had a starring role on a British series and limited movie appearances to his name. Jessica Alba was rapidly becoming a sex symbol after starring in the series Dark Angel and appearing in another comic book adaptation the same year. Long before he was Captain America, Chris Evans was that guy from Not Another Teen Movie. Michael Chiklis was almost exclusively known for his role on The Shield. As was Julian McMahon for Nip/Tuck. Since Kerry Washington’s most notable TV role was still a ways away, she was closest to having a big screen presence. Fantastic Four may feel less cinematic, but it’s nothing compared to Fox’s previous “effort” with Elektra. The main theme is alright, but it always sounded too similar to the Spider-Man theme.

The opening follows scientist Reed Richards and his best friend/muscle Ben Grimm. Reed seeks funding for a space project from the always ominously named Victor von Doom. Doom is dating Reed’s ex-girlfriend Susan Storm. Sue brings her brother Johnny Storm along for the expedition where they’re struck by cosmic rays just like the comics. Unlike the comics, the four aren’t just astronauts making an unauthorized rocket flight to the stars. Reed uses the space shuttle of his college rival Victor. Who attends the mission to test the effects of cosmic rays on biological life. Since the movie needs to explain Doom’s origin sooner rather than later. Although it’s a crucial moment in the comics, the team doesn’t discover their powers after crash landing on Earth. Instead they all wake up in a secure hospital where they discover their powers one by one.

Reed is the smartest man in the Marvel universe, but Gruffudd’s scientific dialogue always sounds forced. He’s also about 10 years younger than his comic counterpart. Which is why the cosmic rays are what gives Reed his white temples. Reed gains the ability to stretch his body like rubber. Something live-action special effects can never make look convincing no matter what. The CGI always looks cartoony. Sue rightfully gains the intelligence she received later in the comics, but it’s difficult to take seriously from Alba. As one of the hottest celebrities, the movie finds any excuse to get her out of her clothes. Not that I’m complaining. Sue gains the ability to turn invisible and project force fields. Something CGI is equipped to handle.

Johnny is a major highlight, because Evans perfectly captures his youthful rebellion and womanizing. Along with a sexy nurse, New York is filled with attractive women. Johnny fully embraces the ability to create & catch fire. Which is where most of the CGI budget went. Ben experiences the pain of becoming a monster so well that Stan Lee called Chiklis’ performance his favorite in a Marvel movie. While it makes sense for the closeness of the team, creating the Thing with makeup was a bad call. He’s not big enough and his orange rocks are duller with less prominent eyebrows. Like the comics, the team has a family dynamic. Reed and Sue’s relationship is explored in a lot of detail. If only Gruffudd and Alba could sell it better. Sue and Johnny bicker like siblings, but it’s hard to buy Alba and Evans as brother and sister. Since Alba is a very hispanic woman given blonde hair & blue eyes.

The strained relationship Ben has with the rest of the team is at least well represented. As is his sense of humor. Ben finds love again after meeting his blind sculptor love interest Alicia Masters. Apart from the race change, Kerry Washington is a convincing highlight. The Thing and Alicia’s relationship can be seen more in the Extended Cut. Which also contains a reference to H.E.R.B.I.E. and Reed stretching his face to resemble Wolverine. Fox may have dropped the ball on the X-Men costumes, but at least the blue costumes the Fantastic Four wear look accurate. The team gains celebrity status after saving people on the Brooklyn Bridge. Which leads them to set up shop in the famous Baxter Building. Where Stan Lee has one of his best cameos as mailman Willie Lumpkin. His only cameo as a comic character. Although it’s faithful to the comics, the Fantastic Four doing nothing but sit around and explore their powers is one of the biggest problems with the movie. There’s a scientific study, family hijinks, Johnny doing extreme stunts, media coverage, dating, and fighting amongst the team. All more than an hour in without any superhero fighting whatsoever.

Doctor Doom is the greatest villain in Marvel comics, but McMahon doesn’t come close to replicating that. Doom is supposed to be a power hungry foreign dignitary from Latveria with the powers of technology and mysticism. Here Victor pines for Sue, loses his company, becomes jealous of his archenemies, has a metallic facial scar, and creates generic electricity. Although it could have very easily been PG, Victor shoots holes though people just to warrant a PG-13. Victor’s plan is to manipulate the machine Reed’s been working on to cure Ben. The metal mask and green hood Doctor Doom wears is like the comics, but it’s ruined by a weird trench coat. After curing Ben, Doom goes after each remaining team member. Mr. Fantastic is frozen, the Human Torch finally says “Flame on!” and out flies a missile, the Invisible Woman is subdued by Doom, but the Thing returns in time to say “It’s clobberin’ time.”

The Thing and Doom take their fight to the streets where we finally see some action. The New York climax makes good use of all the powers of the Fantastic Four. Until Doctor Doom becomes a statue. In the end, Doom is shipped off to Latveria, the team have a party in their honor, Reed proposes to Sue, Ben is happy with Alicia, and Johnny creates a “4” in the air. Fantastic Four may be bland with lame attempts at humor and barely any fighting, but I actually feel like Tim Story wasn’t too far off with his interpretation. Almost like the MCU if their winning formula had the opposite effect. A genius level scientist, frequent jokes, a team that has arguments, a misunderstood monster, Chris Evans in his first of many comic book roles, Fox just couldn’t make it work back then. It didn’t help that The Incredibles already did their job way better the year before. But Fantastic Four is still a childhood pleasure that’s the only version that comes close to being watchable.

2. Fantastic 4

Doctor Doom takes aim

Followed by: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Flame On!

The Fantastic Four was so bad it was never released. Thankfully ending Marvel’s woefully misguided attempt at live-action movie’s with non-existent budgets. The next victims to be pawned off as a cheap B movie were Marvel’s First Family. The extremely important team of superheroes that made Marvel who they are today. Thanks to Stan Lee & Jack Kirby creating them in 1961. The Fantastic Four had their share of animated shows, but it was a mistake to even attempt a live-action movie in 1994. With Roger Corman’s involvement no less.

The Fantastic Four was something I knew existed due to its infamy, but I honestly never thought I’d be able to see it. The movie is just as lazy as the 1990 Captain America. Which meant faithful costumes at a bargain price. Along with terribly overacted (or underacted) performances from actors who were once again chosen because they looked like the characters. Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab, Jay Underwood, and Michael Bailey Smith/Carl Ciarfalio barely make an impression. Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic is bland with ridiculously slow stretch arms. Susan Storm/Invisible Woman is just a pretty face with poorly rendered invisibility. Johnny Storm/Human Torch tries too hard and he just throws fire. Until he flames on at the last second with atrocious CGI.

Ben Grimm/Thing is the worst among them. Ben has no presence and the makeup used on the Thing is laughable. Made worse by his melodramatic delivery. It’s definitely not clobberin’ time. The Fantastic Four sticks to the comics to a degree, but then they throw in a crappy original villain like the Jeweler. Victor von Doom/Doctor Doom is always present, but he’s just maniacally overblown. Alicia Masters is the closest thing to a serviceable interpretation. The origin lasts way too long with only the last 15 minutes devoted to costumed heroics. The Fantastic Four is an embarrassment I’m sure Marvel would like to hide away forever.

The Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four ready for battle

P.S. Since it was unreleased, I’ve supplied the full movie underneath.

East Meets West

Heaven & Earth details the seldom talked about Vietnamese perspective of the Vietnam war. After closely following the war in Platoon and its life changing aftermath in Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven & Earth was the final piece of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam war trilogy. Although it’s not as acclaimed or talked about half as much as the first two. I guarantee I’d probably never have seen it if not for the trilogy.

Heaven & Earth is based on Le Ly Hayslip’s personal experience during the Vietnam war. Painting a picture of how much Vietnamese villagers dealt with their place in the middle of conflict. Even dealing with the brutality of the Viet Cong before Americans even entered the war. The late Hiep Thi Le was chosen among many Vietnamese actresses. Although she had no acting experience, she’s natural enough to carry the film as Le Ly. Hiep’s performance, Stone’s filming techniques (especially in the gorgeous Vietnam fields), and less traumatizing aspects of the war itself are about all I got out of Heaven & Earth.

Le Ly’s narration dominates too much of the film. To the point important details of her life don’t have time to set in. Same with the out of place black & white flashbacks. Le Ly goes through a lot of personal trauma before meeting her American soldier husband. Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t appear until about an hour in. Le Ly becomes more Americanized, but everyone in Vietnam speaks English, so it’s not a big change. It’s depressing, but most of her American life was changed to increase tragedy. Heaven & Earth is a good perspective change that should’ve had a better presentation.

3. Heaven and Earth

Le Ly sits with Steve

Wounded Warrior

Born on the Fourth of July isn’t an easy film to discuss, but I’ll try my best to stay impartial. Happy 4th of July everyone! Born on the Fourth of July is the second film in what would turn out to be Oliver Stone’s Vietnam war trilogy. The only similarity is Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger. Since Stone has experience as a Vietnam veteran, he became the top choice to direct Ron Kovic’s autobiography. Kovic was an all-American Catholic youth so patriotic he was born on the 4th of July. So he severed by enlisting in the Vietnam war.

Reality sets in when a misfire results in the loss of innocent villagers and the accidental shooting of one of his fellow soldiers. The loss of his legs is what changes him forever. Maintaining his patriotism, but slowly losing faith when people turn their back on him. When fleeing to Mexico doesn’t work, Kovic returns to speak out against the war. Compared to Platoon, there’s actually very little war featured in the 2 hour & 25 minute movie. There’s just enough to take in the harshness of the war from someone else’s perspective.

Born on the Fourth of July was a major breakthrough for Tom Cruise. Earning him his first Oscar nomination and first chance in a dramatic leading role. Since before he was just the young heartthrob type. Cruise takes Kovic to every extreme he experienced. Spending nearly the entire movie in a wheelchair. Suffering through his post-war experience with genuine realism. It helped that the real Rob Kovic co-wrote the script. I don’t agree with everything, but Born on the Fourth of July is just another reminder of the folly of the Vietnam war.

2. Born on the Fourth of July

Ron Kovic protests the war

Loss of Innocence

Platoon is the most hellish depiction of the Vietnam war I’ve seen up to this point. Oliver Stone was the first war veteran to direct a Vietnam film. Giving Platoon a sense of realism that’s difficult to replicate. It’s the second Vietnam film to win Best Picture after The Deer Hunter. Stone made Platoon to counter film’s that glorified the war as anything other than a horrific war that should never have been fought. Platoon is far from the laugh riot The Naked Gun makes it out to be.

It follows a platoon of soldiers at the height of the Vietnam War. The opening Bible quote represents the theme of youth and the unfortunate loss of innocence. The ensemble cast is full of familiar faces that I was seeing in a whole new light. I didn’t even realise Johnny Depp had a bit part. This is easily the most serious role I’d seen Charlie Sheen in. He plays a young volunteer regretting his decision to enlist, but trying his best to maintain his humanity. Willem Dafoe plays the most moral commanding officer in a break out Oscar nominated performance. He’s the one who strikes the iconic pose that best represents the devastation of the war.

His exact opposite is Tom Berenger as an experienced soldier driven to an insanity that’s made him a murderous monster. Keith David and Forest Whitaker are moral soldiers, but most of their platoon is driven mad as well. The Viet Cong attack without warning, yet they aren’t the biggest threat that they face. The true enemy is within. Which is why the village scene is so difficult to get through. Platoon doesn’t hold back in depicting the harsh reality and moral loss of the Vietnam war.

1. Platoon

Sgt. Elias struggles to live