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Review: Fantastic Four (2015) — Fantastic Faux Pas: Defying the Odds to Become the Worst Fantastic Four Movie

Fantastic Four is back, and this time it’s serious. Luke Miksa reviews:

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Based on the popular Marvel Comics characters, Fantastic Four is another attempt at a big-screen adaptation for Marvel’s First Family. Directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle), Fantastic Four (Fant4stic if you’re an idiot) is a more serious take at the origin story of the super-team and follows a young Reed Richards (Miles Teller, Whiplash), a hyper-intelligent young man who is recruited into the “Baxter Foundation” and joins a team including Sue Storm (Kate Mara, House of Cards), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station), and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell, RocknRolla). The team develop a transporter capable of inter-dimensional travel, but when the team, including Reed’s childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell, Snowpiercer), encounter problems on “Planet Zero”, they return with their molecules altered, resulting in various powers and abilities which will change them forever.

Fantastic Four is a movie that has been plagued with well documented production problems. I shouldn’t be getting into on-set dramas while reviewing a film, but the squabbles between director Josh Trank and 20th Century Fox have unfortunately manifested into the finished film, which is a jumbled mess of ideas, tone, and plot. What we have with Fantastic Four is two movies. One being the directors vision: a serious scientific exploration into inter-dimensional travel combined with Cronenberg-esque body-horror. The second: an action based movie where the team gets together to stop a cataclysmic event. It’s obvious where the different visions intersect and the resulting mess is the worst-reviewed Marvel-based movie to date.*

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Review: Trainwreck (2015) — Amy Schumer’s Breakthrough in Judd Apatow’s Return to Form

Ladies and gentlemen, Amy Schumer. Luke Miksa reviews her new film Trainwreck:

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“Monogamy isn’t realistic” is the quote a very young Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) repeatedly has drilled into her head by her womanising father (Colin Quinn) in the opening flashback of romantic comedy Trainwreck. As an adult, Amy works at a popular men’s magazine, and her personal life is filled with heavy drinking, carefree sex, and partying — clearly adopting her father’s advice all those years earlier. Amy is assigned to write an article on successful sports doctor Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), mainly because she has absolutely no interest in the subject. As they spend time together, Amy and Aaron develop a romantic relationship, which can only survive if Amy can overcome her pre-existing conceptions on monogamy.

Ah, the look of regret.

Ah, the look of regret.

Trainwreck was written by star Amy Schumer, and is her feature debut both in screen-writing and in a leading role. Schumer’s success thus far has been relegated to stand-up comedy and her very successful sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer. Here, Schumer shows that not only can she write a strong, realistic, and hilariously outrageous female character, on-screen she can carry the whole film to boot! Schumer was a breath of fresh air that has been needed, and she brings a feminist voice to mainstream comedy which has been sorely lacking.

Director Judd Apatow has been in somewhat of a rut for his last few films, with Funny People and This is 40 receiving mixed reviews and mediocre responses. Trainwreck is the first feature directed by Apatow that he hasn’t written himself and it is quite obviously reflected in the final product, as Apatow hasn’t directed something so fresh since 2007’s Knocked Up. Gone is the free-wheeling style of filmmaking, replaced with a fairly tighter script. Although the runtime of Trainwreck still clocks in at over two hours, it moves briskly and is nowhere near as over-long as his previous efforts.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Just the Important Bits

Luke Miksa's: The Negative Space Bar

Last weekend was the annual San Diego Comic-Con, which is increasingly less about comics and more about movie and TV studios pushing their slate of upcoming projects, while giving fans a chance to see their favourite actors and film-makers in-person at HUGE panel events. The big news for 2015 was abundant, so I picked a few of the tastiest morsels to focus on:

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

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The biggest buzz of San Diego Comic-Con this year surely came from Hall H during the much-anticipated Star Wars panel. With practically everybody in attendance — including wheeling old old-timers Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and post plane crash Harrison Ford — all cast and crew involved shared an evident enthusiasm for the project which infected the packed hall. While they didn’t reveal a new trailer, the following behind-the-scenes video actually does a better job at rekindling fond memories and selling the movie more than a new trailer ever could.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens makes its long-awaited debut this December.

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Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015) — Quick, Someone Go Back in Time and Save This Franchise

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Terminator: Genisys (yes, that is a real title) is the fifth film in the Terminator franchise and follows the same basic premise of all but one: robot/human is sent back in time to kill/protect John Connor; an important figure in a future war with machines. In the year 2029, Skynet — in a last-ditch effort to win the war against humanity — sends a T-800 Terminator back in time to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Connor, the mother of resistance leader John. In response, Connor (Jason Clarke, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, Live Free or Die Hard) back to protect her from the unstoppable machine. Upon arrival to 1984, Reese soon learns that things are not as they were anticipated, as Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones) has been raised by a re-programmed T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, reprising his famous role) since the age of nine. Now that the timeline is changed, the trio must now embark on another mission to prevent Skynet from initiating Judgment Day, the end of humanity as we know it.

Does that sound confusing? Don’t worry you’re not alone, as Terminator: Genisys (real title) is one hell of a convoluted time-travel story, and the retcon from the first act is only the start of the insanity. Director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), struggles to balance the many, many various plot threads and the result is a garbled mess of a film with mediocre performances, a nonsense plot that makes less sense the more you think about it, and that frankly doesn’t even look that good.

"I'll be back. Again. And Again. And..."

“I’ll be back. Again. And Again. And…”

Honestly, the first hour or so of the movie was pretty good. I was on board for the alternate 1984, and it was fun revisiting scenes we’ve seen before, but altered slightly. This is something I also liked from Back to the Future II. Unfortunately, there is another time-jump that takes place which sends the story to the year 2017 and that’s where the movie completely implodes.

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Get in the Bin!: The Localised Product Placement in San Andreas

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Product placement is a long, rocky bridge to navigate. It generally pays for a large portion of a film’s production budget, therefore it is a necessary evil. You can only hope that the product placement is subtle and natural to the story being told. Is someone in a movie using an Apple iPhone, using a Dell laptop or wearing Nike shoes? That’s okay, as these brands are a part of our everyday lives as well.

Award: Converse All-Stars Vintage 2004I even have an award I give out for my movie reviews for bad product placement. It is based on an early scene from the Will Smith movie i,Robot where Smith’s character fetishises over his ‘vintage’ (vintage as the movie was set in the future, but the sneakers were currently available at all major stockists) Converse sneakers. The dialogue was clunky, and the product shilling was apparent, and it is these things that drive a viewer directly out of the movie-going experience. It’s reverse movie-magic.

Bad product placement sticks out as it actually looks like an advertisement mid-movie as opposed to harmonious integration. Wayne’s World perfectly skewers the perceived product placement faux pas by tackling it with comic effect (and no doubt paying some bills at the same time):

It’s up to the filmmakers to not throw in brands so gratuitously that it affects the viewing experience of the audience. Michael Bay can’t do this, and he’s the prime example but he’s not alone.

This is the scene!

This is the scene!

This brings me to the recently released disaster movie starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, San Andreas. Without getting into the plot too much, Rocky is an air rescue pilot who finds himself swept up in the middle of an massive earthquake that devastates many Californian cities based on the San Andreas Fault line. There is a scene where Johnson and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) crash-land a helicopter into an outdoor goods store. Upon leaving the store we get a hero shot of Johnson exiting the flaming wreck to reveal the product placement that caused my neck to whiplash due to the speed of the double-take: that outdoor goods store was Australian retail chain Ray’s Outdoors. (more…)

Review: Spy (2015) — Bending Genres and Stereotypes, Spy is Surprisingly Full of Cultural Relevance and Laughs

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Popular director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) tackles the spy genre with the aptly titled Spy, which sees Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) as a desk-jockey for the CIA, working as a liaison for one of the agency’s super-spies Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Cooper is a terrific analyst, but an underachiever and a joke to her fellow operatives, but when Fine is apparently killed in action by mob queen Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), and the identities of many top CIA agents are compromised, Cooper must leave the safety of her desk and go undercover to expose the plot of Rayna and her arms dealer associate (Bobby Cannavale) before it’s too late.

Both serious and in comedy, the spy genre is already loaded — the freaking sequel to Cars was a spy movie! — and 2015 alone will see the release of new instalments of James Bond and Mission: Impossible films, amongst others. The question is whether Spy contains anything to make it stand out from an already crowded sub-genre. The answer is yes, Spy does hold it’s own in many ways, but it may not be what you were expecting.

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