"FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER"
In “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” the fantastic foursome are getting ready for the wedding of Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba). However, they are distracted by the appearance of a mysterious Silver Surfer, who is scouting planets for Galactus to consume. The Fantastic Four work with the Silver Surfer to save Earth and defeat the giant planet-eating cloud from space.
In general, both “Fantastic Four” films have been maligned by critics and fans alike, and these complaints are not without warrant. Ultimately, though, both movies have been more comic book than action film, and they do skew to a younger audience. The dialogue is pretty bad, and the acting isn’t that great. However, I watch the Silver Surfer blasting across the screen, I can’t help but love it.
“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” is the kind of comic book movie I wish they had made when I was a kid. My children love them, in all of their unrefined and cheap-laugh glory, and so do I. Both films served as excellent escapism for myself, which is much needed as we lumber into awards season.
Overall, I liked this movie, more than most critics I know. Sure, it’s childish and goofy, but that’s been the spirit of the Fantastic Four since they came on the scene in the 1960s. The double-disc DVD has some nice features on it (including two commentary tracks, extended and deleted scenes, a fly-on-the-wall behind-the-scenes video, still galleries and five short featurettes), but it remains a bit thin for two whole discs. Perhaps if they just crammed all (or almost all) of these features on one disc, it would have been a more impressive release.
"MICHAEL MOORE HATES AMERICA"
Instead, with “Michael Moore Hates America,” you get a relatively sober look at America’s most controversial documentarian from the eyes of a filmgoer. Michael Wilson saw that his life was very much like Michael Moore’s, so he wondered why they ended up with such different ideologies. (For the record, Wilson is a libertarian, not a died-in-the-wool Republican, but he still parts ways with Moore on many issues.)
Don’t let the title fool you. Instead of a hit piece on Michael Moore’s politics, Wilson examines Moore’s techniques, particularly the dishonest approaches he uses in filmmaking. Wilson interviews people from Moore’s films “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” to show how Moore had played with facts, presentation and chronology to make a political point.
Rather than discovering truth within his title, Wilson discovers more about himself – that he feels compelled to be honest in his own filmmaking, even if it puts his product in jeopardy.
Since Moore’s indelible and entertaining (yet arguably dishonest) impact on documentary filmmaking, Wilson’s journey is a necessary one. He proves that one can still use the documentary technique to discover truth rather than create it, and he challenges others to take the higher ground.
Whether you’re liberal or conservative, whether you like Michael Moore or hate him, this is an honest film that deserves an honest look.
"PUMPKINHEAD 4: BLOOD FEUD"
As far as fourth generation horror films released directly to DVD, “Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud” isn’t bad. It doesn’t live up to the quality of the original “Pumpkinhead” (which was only mildly impressive as pseudo classics go), but it’s not a complete waste of time for the horror fan.
This film follows two feuding families in the south (the not-so-subtle Hatfields and McCoys). When a young Hatfield girl and McCoy boy try to get together, the Hatfield brothers accidentally kill a McCoy sister. This prompts the McCoy lover to call on the evil revenge creature Pumpkinhead to wipe out the Hatfields. However, he soon learns that once the monster is summoned, it cannot be put to rest easily.
Like “Pumpkinhead” before it (and presumably the middle two films), “Pumpkinhead 4” is really a revenge story. Yes, the Hatfield/McCoy reference is a terrible device, and the southern hick stereotypes are a bit much, but it’s a decent monster film. There’s enough gore to keep the fans happy, and Lance Henricksen returns for a supporting role.
The film is okay for a rental, but the unfortunate lack of any special features makes it not worth it to purchase.
With that said, I was impressed with the “Death Proof: Extended and Unrated” DVD release. It’s not the greatest Quentin Tarantino DVD release to come down the pike, but it’s better than the split-up “Kill Bill” releases several years ago.
Like many, “Death Proof” wasn’t my favorite of the two films in the “Grindhouse” theatrical release. It got off to a slow start, which was lethal to the movie that was already clocking in at the two-hour mark. To a certain degree, digesting this film alone makes it better in many ways. I still contend that the inane dialogue from Tarantino’s characters isn’t his best writing by a long shot, but it’s not as tedious as it was watching in the theater.
“Death Proof” follows a psychopathic stuntman named Mike (Kurt Russell), who hunts pretty young girls with his souped-up Chevy Nova. The first half of the film shows a successful stalking of some girls on the town in Austin, and the second half shows a stalking-gone-wrong on the Tennessee back roads.
Anyone who has seen enough original grindhouse films will realize that when it comes to pacing, Tarantino nailed the genre. However, in paying homage to the cheap car chase films, he manages to bog the audience down in pointless conversation (which was all-too-common in the substandard grindhouse release). Still, by the end of the film, Tarantino delivers on the action with a car chase that will get anyone’s engine revving.
The added footage doesn’t kill the film and even ads to the suspense at times. But the real gem of this release is the second disc that goes as deep into the stunts of the film as you might care to go. Special features on the second disc include profiles on Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, editor Sally Menke and the supporting cast of girls and guys.
As the lesser of the “Grindhouse” film, “Death Proof: Extended and Unrated” is a great first step. I can only hope that “Planet Terror” – due out later this month – will be even better.