Ant Man is still playing at the Village 8 and its zany comic energy holds up even better when compared with the latest Fantastic Four reboot that opens this week. The Four was Marvel Comics' original superhero team and the plot of this latest film does draw from the early Stan Lee-Jack Kirby comics — a group of youngsters gain incredible powers after being teleported into another dimension, and back. Sadly, not everyone is stoked on their new abilities and you can bet there are problems that slip over from the other side. Who's ready to save the world?
The young cast is anchored by Miles Teller (Whiplash, Project X) and everyone gives a decent performance, but overall this Fantastic Four feels a bit overstuffed and lacks the zing and humour that the best comic flicks seem to hold.
And, also, why reboot these characters at all? True comic movie geeks will recall the unreleased, low-budget Fantastic Four film executive produced by Roger Corman but shelved by Marvel for fears it would water down the franchise (there are bootleg versions of the film online, it's definitely more Toxic Avenger than Marvel Avengers but at least it's fun). Marvel took another shot in 2005 with the Jessica Alba Fantastic Four and the easily forgettable sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. While this latest version seems to be an improvement, the time might be upon us all to just admit that the Fantastic Four simply suck: they're not gritty enough to be X-Men, the characters don't gel like the Avengers and they're nowhere near as lighthearted as Guardians of the Gallaxy. Enough already.
Reboots can work though, even when they come less than a decade after the last attempt — few people will argue the quality of Christopher Nolan's Batman films which came less than a decade after Joel Schumacher's double crap-fest of Batman Forever and Batman and Robin back in '95-'97. Most critics (and fans) shat on the latest Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man reboot in 2012, but it had to be done after usually awesome Sam Raimi neutered the greatest hero of all with 2007's idiotic Spider-Man 3.
The 2012 Dredd reboot was a huge improvement on Sylvester Stallone's 1995 camp-fest and Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class prequel breathed new life into a franchise that, although awesome, had seemingly run its course. One thing is certain, there have been enough crappy comic-book movies over the past 20 years that we'll continue to see more reboots coming down the pipe (and you can bet Nic Cage will not get the call for the next Ghost Rider attempt).
A bright note this week for little kids or anyone suffering from superhero fatigue: Shaun the Sheep also opens at the Village 8. Another stop-motion animated feature from Aardman studios (of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run fame) and based on a series of successful animated shorts, Shaun the Sheep is notable because it's essentially a film with no dialogue that will keep the kids (and parents) entertained and delighted for the full 75-minute run time.
When their farmer ends up stuck in the city with amnesia, it's up to Shaun and the other sheep to go to town and bring him home. With quality gags, delightful animation and no dialogue to bog things down, Shaun the Sheep is not only the closest thing we've seen to the Hollywood silent classics since Wall-E. It's also three bags full of good times and the ideal flick for youngsters just learning to love the art of cinema.
The download of the week is Muscle Shoals, a music doc on Netflix about how a little swamp town in Alabama became one of the most important recording locations in rock 'n' roll history.
Music fans already know the place but the story behind just how that Muscle Shoals sound came to be is perfectly captured in this engaging and beautiful film. Bonus points for the amazing Rolling Stones footage from their whirlwind sessions in Muscle Shoals back in 1969. It's hard to beat vintage Stones and they're not even the stars of this one. A must see.