This is really the story of five individuals forever changed by a freak bombardment of cosmic rays while on a routine space mission. On the good guy side we have leader Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) the super-intelligent and highly elastic Mr. Fantastic; his former flame Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) also a scientist as The Invisible Woman; her brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) a hotrod pilot straight out of a Mountain Dew commercial as the Human Torch capable of transforming himself into a walking and flying ball of fire; and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) whose transformation into the nearly inhuman rock creature The Thing makes him the tragic figure of the group. On the bad guy side is Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) the sneering industrialist and scientist who bankrolls their mission and becomes the evil and aptly named Dr. Doom. Once this dysfunctional family figures out its powers--in a pile up on a New York City bridge for which they are largely responsible for in the first place--all that's left is one showdown with their cloaked and iron masked villain who has very little objectives besides killing off his business partners and exacting some revenge on the Fantastic Four. Despite the ingenious idea of portraying these costumed characters as celebrities first and heroes second the clumsy story fails to connect. It's a concept that should have worked especially with today's tabloid and paparazzi obsessions. But like the rest of the movie that idea fails to take flight. In other words other than defending themselves the quartet doesn't really have anything fantastic to do at all. Hmmm. Maybe comic-book movies are getting more realistic.
It's difficult and unfair to pin so much disappointment in a movie on its performers. Good actors often bear the brunt of a poorly made movie. In this case the actors aren't bad--they're just miscast. Gruffudd as their reluctant leader has neither the angst nor the gravity of the real Mr. Fantastic. Instead he's a charming fop. Alba is indeed beautiful but suffers from bimbo scientist syndrome which she must have caught from former Bond-girl Denise Richards who played a nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough just as convincingly. Nip/Tuck's Julian McMahon channeling Kevin Spacey is decent but is given very little to do. Only Chiklis and Evans shine here. Although they deserve every bit of credit they are the only characters the writers--and there were many--cared enough about giving them full-fledged personas. Chiklis captures the morose quality of the Ben Grimm even under a full-body suit which works better than photos suggest. It's more of a departure from his TV role as a tough cop in FX's The Shield than you might expect. And Evans (Cellular) gets all of the best lines in the movie especially when he insists that everyone should enjoy their powers instead of fighting them. Of course it helps if you can become a human firebomb and still look really good.
While not on the iconic level of Batman and Spider-Man the members of the Fantastic Four are integral to comics history. They're the first superheroes created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby and from the moment of their debut in 1961 they not only created Marvel Comics they were also already different from the ones that followed. The characters called each other by their first names and harbored no secret identities. They fought and bickered like any family. Now we have the big-screen version--and unfortunately although faithful to the intent and style of the comics the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. Fantastic Four apparently languished for a decade in development so there is an unmistakable rushed feeling to everything. Not only does the film skimp on showing their trip to and from space but it also seems to have cleared out every other person except for the main characters who spend all their time talking only to each other. Other than the occasional small cheering New York City crowd or a brief appearance by Ben Grimm's blind love interest (Kerry Washington) where is everyone? And by opting for realism over sheer whimsy director Tim Story (Barbershop) seems to have fallen for another silver screen superheroes trap--the more realistic we try to make them the more unrealistic they become. It may have been best to leave Fantastic Four to the world of animation. In fact the best version of a family of superheroes--Brad Bird's The Incredibles--beat this movie into theaters by nearly a year.
Bosses of movie giant Disney are so desperate to tap into the Chinese cinema
Market--they are making a martial arts version of their 1937 animated hit Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Yeun Woo-Ping, the celebrated fight choreographer for Kill Bill, The Matrix
and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will direct the film, which will see Kung-Fu
Shaolin monks replacing the seven dwarves from the original Brothers Grimm
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon has written the script for the
film, which will be set in the 1880's in a British colony in China.
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"In this alarming cinematic event alone you will encounter a terrible fire dim lighting high tragedy a giant snake low comedy man-eating leeches and Jim Carrey " Mr. Snicket claims--and he isn't joking. It is indeed unfortunate times for the Baudelaire children who are left orphaned by a tragic fire that burned down their luxurious mansion and killed their parents. Violet (Emily Browning) one of the finest 14-year-old inventors the world has ever known her 12-year-old brother Klaus (Liam Aiken) a voracious reader and their baby sister Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) an excellent biter are now at the mercy of unknown guardians with vague connections to their parents. They include Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep) a widow terrified of almost everything but who insists on proper grammar; Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly) a kind and warm herpetologist who holds a well-kept secret on the Baudelaire parents' past; and the most malevolent of them all Count Olaf (Jim Carrey) a wannabe actor who sets about a series of ill-fated events for the Baudelaire orphans in hopes of obtaining their vast inheritance. It's almost too much to bear--but these orphans rely on their keen intelligence and unique talents to escape Olaf's clutches.
The distressingly talented if somewhat over-the-top Jim Carrey is tailored made for the ostentatious Count Olaf much like he was for the Grinch in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas--but this time he does it with a lot less green makeup. With a smelly disposition and one giant eyebrow Carrey sufficiently oozes the right amount of villainy as Olaf without getting too "Carreyed" away. Streep also has a marvelous time playing the skittish Aunt Josephine who is so concerned about any fateful event that may befall her inside her house she doesn't seem to realize she lives in a precarious perch above a roiling sea full of killer leeches. Connolly too takes great pleasure wrapping snakes around his neck as Uncle Monty the good-hearted reptile lover. Even Jude Law makes an appearance thankfully only in silhouette as the narrator himself Lemony Snicket. Yet even against veterans such as Carrey and Streep the stoic Baudelaire orphans make the film. They're played brilliantly by Browning (Darkness Falls) Aiken (Good Boy!) and the cute-as-a-button Hoffman twins. Unlike the inexperience of say the young Harry Potter cast when they first started out Browning and Aiken are pros bringing a rather bright and inquisitive yet suitably morose quality to their characters.
"I begged them not to do it. I begged them not to get a good director. I begged them not to cast anyone talented. I begged them not base the movie on any of my books and they chose three of them!" exclaims Mr. Snicket. Good thing the filmmakers didn't listen to Mr. Snicket aka author Daniel Handler because the story of the Baudelaire orphans and their misadventures is too sweet to pass up. It follows along the traditions of other children's literature--from the Brothers Grimm to Roald Dahl to J.K. Rowling--of absurdly awful things happening to perfectly nice children. Taking from the first three books in the series--A Bad Beginning The Reptile Room and The Wide Window--director Brad Silberling (Casper) expertly creates the Snicket world staying true to the visions and unusual style of Handler's bestsellers. Shot entirely on Hollywood sound stages the film is virtual eye candy dripping with austere sets--particularly Count Olaf's dilapidated mansion and Aunt Josephine's rickety house--that are reminiscent of Barry Sonnenfeld's creepy Addams Family and Tim Burton's bleak Sleepy Hollow (whose production designer Rick Heinrichs designed Snicket). Can't wait to see what they do in the next Snicket installment.
Top Story: Pitt To Host BBC Radio Documentary
Brad Pitt will host a music documentary on the late British singer-songwriter Nick Drake for BBC Radio 2, Reuters reports. Drake, who died of a drug overdose in 1974 at the age of 26, is regularly cited as an influence by some of Radio 2's core artists, including REM, Paul Weller and Badly Drawn Boy," said Lesley Douglas, Controller BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music. "I was introduced to Nick Drake's music about five years ago, and am a huge admirer of his records," Pitt said in a BBC statement. "When Radio 2 approached me to get involved in this project, I was delighted to be asked." The program, which airs on May 22, includes a Norah Jones version of Drake's song "Day is Done."
Queer Eye Aims at Straight Girls
Bravo has greenlit 13 episodes of their newest reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, which spins off their hugely successful Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. "It's something our female fans have been requesting since Queer Eye became a hit," Bravo topper Jeff Gaspin told Variety, adding that he isn't concerned the channel would be overpowered by the franchise. " Straight Girl goes on the air a year and a half after the original launched, so I think enough time will have passed," he opined. Variety reports a new team of gay lifestyle coaches will come to the aid of frumpy femmes. Casting is under way for a debut next year.
Limbaugh's Appeal May Keep Him Out of Court
Rush Limbaugh's attorney will argue before an appeals court in Florida Wednesday to keep Limbaugh's medical records sealed, citing patient/doctor confidentiality, in the criminal investigation currently brewing against the conservative radio host, AP reports. Limbaugh, 53, who sought treatment for an addiction to painkillers late last year, has been accused of illegally buying prescription drugs by "doctor shopping" or visiting several doctors to receive duplicate prescriptions of controlled narcotics, AP reports. Limbaugh--who believes he is being pursued by Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer, a Democrat, for political gain--has not been charged with a crime as yet and if the appeal goes through, the investigation against him could be stalled for good.
3000 Degrees Gets Cold
The production start on Warner Bros.' fire disaster flick 3000 Degrees, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Ed Harris and Woody Harrelson, has been indefinitely put on hold, Variety reports. The film, which centered on the real-life 1999 blaze at the Worcester Cold Storage warehouse in Massachusetts that claimed the lives of six firefighters, had been strongly opposed by relatives of some of the victims and firefighter groups in Worcester. But Variety reports the studio finally nixed the production when the International Assn. of Fire Fighters, the union that represents 85 percent of all firefighters in North America, told producers that out of allegiance to those families, its members would not assist the film's production, in effect denying production crews access to fire stations, fire trucks, other equipment and technical consultation services to ensure the accuracy of the film.
Motown Special To Air
The taping of ABC's television special Motown 45, which will air in May, featured the talents of Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Ritchie and Cedric the Entertainer, commemorating the label's legacy, Reuters reports. Performances taped on Sunday also included Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland teaming with Supremes' Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong on a Supremes medley and with Richie on "Endless Love," Michael McDonald covering Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" and Nick Lachey and Jermaine Jackson dueting on "I'll Be There." Click here to see the photo gallery!
Stone Speaks at Tribeca Film Festival
Actress Sharon Stone is scheduled to take part in panels during next month's Tribeca Film Festival, joining other distinguished celebrities such as director Martin Scorsese and news anchor Peter Jennings, The Associated Press reports. Stone, known for sexy turns in films such as Basic Instinct, will discuss the evolution of sex in the cinema along with John Cameron Mitchell, the director, co-writer and star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Scorsese, who helped found the festival with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal of Tribeca Films, is set to talk about the use of music in his movies, while Jennings will moderate a discussion on "Jesus as Celebrity." Tribeca Film Festival will run from May 1-9.
Role Call, Part I: Fantastic Four Gets Director, John Woo Gets Metroid
Barbershop director Tim Story has been tagged to direct Marvel Comics' The Fantastic Four for 20th Century Fox. The film will follow follows the exploits of venerable Marvel Comics characters Reed and Sue Richards, Benjamin Grimm and Johnny Storm--better known to comic fans as Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Thing and the Human Torch. No cast has been set as …Director John Woo (Mission: Impossible 2) has optioned Nintendo's best-selling video game franchise Metroid for the big screen. The movie will center on the origins of the game's female protagonist, sexy bounty hunter Samus Aran, and relate her adventures battling the insidious life-sucking Metroids and their controlling force, Mother Brain.
Role Call, Part II: Diane Lane is Fierce, King's Men Remake in Works
Diane Lane has set her sights on Lions Gate's thriller Fierce People as her next project. The film revolves around a woman (Lane) who tries to start anew with her son after his brush with the law, when she is attacked and her new life is shattered…Schindler's List writer Steven Zaillian will direct a remake of All the King's Men, with Sean Penn being touted for the lead. Based on Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the story follows the rise and fall of populist Southern poli
Top Story: Jackson Weaves Voodoo Magic Against Enemies?
He dangled his child off a hotel balcony and admitted to sleeping with boys in his bed. Now Reuters reports that according to an article in Vanity Fair's March issue, Michael Jackson paid $150,000 to put a voodoo curse on his enemies, including director Steven Spielberg and music mogul David Geffen. The Vanity Fair article also says Jackson underwent a "blood bath" as part of the ritual (which took place in 2000 in Switzerland) and ordered his then-business adviser Myung-Ho Lee to wire $150,000 to a bank in Mali for a voodoo chief who sacrificed 42 cows for the ceremony . The magazine also reports Jackson wears a prosthetic nose and a wig and his extravagant lifestyle and declining record sales have left him $240 million in debt.
And Baby Makes Four
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld and wife Jessica welcomed their second child, a son named Julian Kal, The Associated Press reports. The six-pound, seven-ounce baby was born Saturday in New York and joins older sister, Sascha, 2.
Holy Smoke, Batman! A Reunion!
AP reports CBS will air the reunion movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, a behind-the-scenes look at the popular 1960s TV show Batman. The show's stars Adam West, now 74, and his dynamic sidekick Burt Ward, 57, will host the special and give some insights into the wacky antics that went on in making the show. It airs Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.
Dating, Newlywed Games Get New Look
Going back to the basics, NBC is developing new primetime versions of the popular early '70s games shows The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game for the 2003-04 season, Variety reports. "In terms of relationship shows, these are the godfathers of them all," Russ Krasnoff, president of programming at Sony Pictures TV, told Variety. "They're just simple, clean, classic formats about relationships and how well people know each other."
Singer Anastacia Has Cancer Surgery
Pop singer Anastacia underwent surgery to remove cancer from her breast and to reconstruct it. Her doctor told Reuters, "Her prognosis is good, as are her spirits, which figures into any patient's successful recovery." She will begin a six-week course of radiation therapy in the coming weeks.
Actor Horst Buchholz Dies
German actor Horst Buchholz, best known for his roles in The Magnificent Seven and Life is Beautiful, died Monday of pneumonia in Berlin. He was 69.
The Eagles Say Farewell…Again
This is the absolute last time--they mean it! Even after stating that their 1994 Hell Freezes Over tour was to be their last, the Eagles will embark on yet another farewell tour, starting May 9 in Richmond, Va. Hey, if the Rolling Stones can do it, why can't they?
ROLE CALL: Black Back to HBO; "Grimm" For Gilliam; "Giants" Among Us
According to Variety reports: Reuniting for the first time since the critically acclaimed HBO cult fave comedy show Tenacious D, Jack Black and his band will return to HBO to develop the half-hour comedy Black Market Music, about a group of twentysomethings who run a Hollywood record shop. Brazil director Terry Gilliam is taking on a feature film about fairy tale spinners the Brothers Grimm, a $75 million Dimension Films/MGM venture that casts authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm as traveling spell busters who claim they can protect townsfolk from enchanted creatures but end up facing a real magical curse instead (uh-oh, was Michael Jackson involved?). Director Peter Kosminsky (White Oleander) will take the reins on the Holocaust drama Giants, which follows a German soldier who tries to save a group of Jewish children from execution by leading them across the Alps with the Nazis hot on their trail.