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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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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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Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) — All The Eye-Popping Spectacle You Want, No Strings Attached

But of course this is a Marvel Studios film, and ALL strings are attached, but does Avengers: Age of Ultron surpass the original? Luke Miksa reviews:

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Avengers: Age of Ultron is a movie that genuinely needs no introduction. If you are not familiar with billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark (aka Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.), Asgardian prince Thor (Chris Hemsworth), or time-displaced World War II super-soldier Steve Rogers (aka Captain America, Chris Evans), then perhaps you have been in suspended animation the last eight years. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to the 2012 superhero team-up film The Avengers and the 11th film in the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time, the Avengers must again team up to fight a power of their own creation, the sentient artificial intelligence known as Ultron (James Spader), a being with the intent of cleansing the world of humanity.

The boys are back (plus a girl or two, I guess).

The boys are back (plus a girl or two, I guess).

The movie opens right in the thick of The Avengers raiding the Hydra base of Baron von Strucker to regain the sceptre seen in previous films. Director/screenwriter Joss Whedon doesn’t bother with building up the opening — we have seen this before — so jumping straight into the action from the get-go is the perfect way to establish what this movie is all about: all action, all the time. This opening scene in particular features a wonderful long tracking shot following all the characters battling the Hydra army, with many insta-iconic imagery coming from just this single scene; welcome back, everyone!

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MIFF 2014 Review: Oculus (2014) — The Evil Antique That Doesn’t Deliver in Horror Fizzer

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The psychological horror film Oculus tells two parallel stories: The first is set in 2002, where a family move into a new house with new furnishings; including an ornate, antique mirror. Slowly the demonic mirror starts to take a mental toll on the parents (Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff), leading to the deaths of both, with the 10-year old Tim accused of the heinous murders. 11 years later, Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is released from psychiatric care, convinced that the mirror played no part in what happened to his parents. Little does he know that his older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has spent the past decade researching the mirror, waiting for her brother’s return so that she can finally destroy it and redeem her family’s legacy.

"I need the optometrist, first thing in the morning."

“I need the optometrist, first thing in the morning.”

Oculus is based on the 2006 short film Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man With the Plan, which is also the brainchild of writer/director Mike Flanagan. I haven’t seen the short, but I can only imagine that the premise of Oculus works so much better as a short than a feature. The movie isn’t bad, it just doesn’t have enough substance, scares, or relatable characters. I found all the 2002 scenes to be better than the 2013 ones; the 2002 storyline has a solid structure and some genuinely gruesome moments, but when the plot switches to 2013, I feel that the tone becomes almost farcical. Because the two stories are being told simultaneously, whenever I start to feel an attachment to the 2002 plot, we cut back to 2013, which drops whatever tension was developed the prior tale.

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MIFF 2014 Review: Life After Beth (2014) — Disappointing Zom-Com That Lacks Bite

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Life After Beth opens with Zach (Dane DeHaan) mourning the recent death of his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza). He takes solace in the companionship of Beth’s parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon), until they suddenly break contact with the confused Zach. While desperately attempting to re-ignite contact, he realises that Beth has mysteriously reappeared and her parents have been hiding her. Zach takes this opportunity to re-establish their romantic relationship, but over time the resurrected Beth begins to grow increasingly aggressive and unpredictable, and a level of physical decomposition begins to set in. But Zach soon realises that his zombie girlfriend is not alone as more and more of the undead begin to appear in town.

Somebody's cranky...

Somebody’s cranky…

From first-time writer/director Jeff Baena, Life After Beth suffers from a lack of inspiration. It fails as a zombie film, it fails as a comedy, and it fails as a relationship film; but it’s not terrible — it’s just unbelievably mediocre. After the gimmick of ‘zombie girlfriend’ is played out after the first 30 minutes, the movie plods along without any major developments until it ultimately fizzles out at the climax. It’s an idea that would have worked in a smaller time-frame, but the feature-length hurts it.

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