60 Years Of The Marvelous Fantastic Four

“A brilliant scientist—his best friend—the woman he loves—and her fiery-tempered kid brother! Together, they braved the unknown terrors of outer space, and were changed by cosmic rays into something more than merely human! MR. FANTASTIC! THE THING! THE INVISIBLE GIRL! THE HUMAN TORCH! Now they are the FANTASTIC FOUR—and the world will never be the same again!” Introduction to the Fantastic Four comic books during the 1970s,

Not much can be said about the Fantastic Four that hasn’t been said before. It’s widely regarded as one of Marvel Comics’ greatest teams and to this day, it deserves the title of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine- as it was advertised proudly on the covers of the comic books. They were called “the First Family of Marvel”, and during the silver and bronze age the creative teams, which began with co-creators Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, spun tale after tale involving the main four characters with their supporting cast as they figured out how to solve their problems or win the battle against the bad guys.

As we celebrate the 60th anniversary the FF, their story has proven to be as timeless as it is popular. First, we got Dr. Reed Richards, who becomes the stretchable Mr. fantastic, we have Sue storm who marries Reed and she becomes the Invisible Girl (and later rightly renames herself the Invisible Woman), then we have her younger brother Johnny, a hot rod-riding hothead, who loves fast cars and is always dating pretty girls, and then we have the family’s trusted friend Ben Grimm, who becomes the ever lovin’ blue-eyed Thing.

Why these characters work together is because the creation is structured around a family dynamic. A family who is close and loyal, yet bicker and banter, but at the end of the day come together as a team to win the day.

Why the setting works is that this is no ordinary family. Each one has been imbued with super powers based on cosmic ray irradiation when they rocketed to space on a test flight. Reed can stretch his body, Sue becomes invisible, Johnny bursts into flames and fly, and Ben became a rocky layered bulk of a humanoid. In terms of personality, Reed is the level-headed leader, Sue with her invisible powers also has a force projection where she could solidify the air around her making her a telekinetic, and effectively the most powerful member of the team. Johnny usually flies when he is fully engulfed in flames and can project flame blasts from his hands. And the Thing is so strong he could almost beat the Hulk, if not hold his own against the green goliath.

Also, the creators skillfully mixed the situation of the mundane and juxtaposed it with the cosmic. While Johnny and Ben were bickering over a meal, there might be something going on in the universe, a catastrophic threat of some kind or a massive universal event so they had to suspend their meal and arguments until later.

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Top 10 Sci-Fi Horror Films

It’s that time of year when we dread the things that go bump in the night…or in deep space or in a mad scientists’ lab. Science fiction and horror have gone together hand in hand for ages. Ever since the dawn of film, these two combined genres presented some of the most memorable genre films for fans. Here for your examination are the top 10 sci-fi horror films.

10. Pandorum (2009):

Colonists onboard a generational starship wake up early during their voyage. They soon learn that their ship is crawling with savage mutants that endanger them and the ship. Full of jump scares, tension and thrills, Pandorum is an underrated gem that continually surprises you until its end.

invasion of body snatchers

9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956):

Echoing the 1950s paranoia about communism, this adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel about aliens taking over humans from within is unsettling. It may make you afraid to go to sleep after watching it! The loss of identity, emotional bonds, and one’s humanity are the central themes in this sci-fi classic. Its 1978 remake is also noteworthy for the same reasons.

frankenstien and gril

8. Frankenstein (1931):

One of the first sci-fi horror films is the legendary James Whale-directed version of Mary Shelley’s literary classic. Featuring Boris Karloff as the resurrected Creature, Frankenstein is still atmospheric and creepy, while evoking sympathy for the Creature.

7. A Quiet Place (2018):

The most recent member of this list is one of the most frightening. Earth has been overrun by vicious alien creatures that hunt by sound, forcing humanity into hiding. A Quiet Place overflows with tension and fear as a family struggles to survive against the alien predators by not making noise.

The Fly brundlemonster

6. The Fly (1986):

David Cronenberg’s classic body-horror classic outdoes the cheesy original version it is based on and is an apt AIDS allegory for its time. Quirky and likeable scientist, Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), experiments on himself with his teleporting machine not realizing he is genetically fused with a fly. Tragically, he begins a hideous body transformation into a human-insect hybrid that will disturb viewers as the completed metamorphosis is revealed in The Fly’s final scenes.

5. The Mist (2007):

The third Frank Darabont adaptation of Stephen King’s literary works is genuinely disturbing and frightening. Residents of a Maine town take refuge in a supermarket after a military experiment accidently opens a dimensional passage that allows monsters into our world. More than a monster movie, The Mist explores the theme that we are our own worst monsters. It also features one of the most unsettling endings in film history. It’s a true gut punch.

4. Event Horizon (1997):

Think of this film as a haunted house in space story. The crew of a rescue spaceship board a lost spaceship that suddenly re-appears on the edge of our solar system. The crew discovers that the lost ship’s experiment with FTL opened a doorway to a hellish dimension and they become the ship’s latest victims. Event Horizon is a chilling cautionary tale with disturbing imagery about how we should be careful about pushing the boundaries of science.

3. 28 Days Later (2002):

This film helped jumpstart the recent zombie craze even though it is not technically about zombies. A man-made virus is accidently released and decimates the UK, rapidly turning its victims into mindless, bloodthirsty killers.

Enhanced with a pounding score, expert direction and a harrowing sense of dread, this film set new standards for sci-fi horror films. 28 Days Later is kinetically terrifying with scenes of the fast-moving killers chasing the film’s characters, while offering a sobering humanist drama about survival and holding onto your humanity.

2. The Thing (1982):

The remake of the 1950s film The Thing From Another World outshone the original while being more faithful to its literary roots. Much more than an alien invasion thriller taking place in an Antarctic outpost, John Carpenter’s The Thing is a claustrophobic and disgusting horror film with ghastly physical effects that still hold up to this day.

However, what made The Thing so memorable was the way Carpenter injected deep paranoia into the film as the isolated characters turned against each other. What is even more remarkable, is that even though the film was remade in 2011 with “modern” CG effects, it pales to the practical effects and makeup of the Carpenter classic, which was also more moody and blood curdling.

alien and ripley1. Alien (1979):

The crew of an interstellar mining ship bring onboard an alien life form that proceeds to kill them off one by one. As simple as that sounds, Alien is much more than its plot implies. It is one of the most influential sci-fi horror films of all time and set standards for gore, character development, thrills, pacing and atmosphere. Let’s not forget that the visual design of the alien xenomoph is disgustingly unique and has never been topped in terms of showing a distinctly inhuman look.

The starship itself functions as its own haunted house with foreboding shadows and corners, which gives the xenomorph perfect hiding places, while entrapping the crew themselves. Then there is the infamous chestburster scene, which is still horrifying to watch today. That scene alone set Alien above all other sci-fi horror films and is one of many reasons why this film is at the top of this list of top 10 sci-fi horror films.

Do any of these films make your own top 10 list of sci-fi horror films? Leave a comment below.

José Soto

Stranger Things: A Tribute To Classic ’80s Sci-Fi and Horror

Stranger Things Poster

Summer TV series, especially genre ones, have been hit or miss in terms of quality. Sadly, many often fall into the miss category (see Under the Dome and Zoo as examples). But Stranger Things streaming this summer on Netflix is definitely one of the best TV series to come out in a summer season.

Will and Mike Stranger ThingsTaking place in a small Indiana town during the ’80s, Stranger Things is an homage to all the memorable sci-fi and horror tales from that period. Many critics are comparing it to early Steven Spielberg films but that isn’t a fitting description. This series is darker, less whimsical and a better comparison would be to an early Stephen King novel that has had a superior live-action adaptation. Then it throw in elements of the lower-grade genre efforts from that time but executed better and a soundtrack that would fit in nicely with a John Carpenter film. It may sound like a mish-mash but it works. The reason why is that despite its ’80s trappings and callbacks to films and stories from the era, Stranger Things has a timeless and unique feel.

The eight-episode series begins when a boy, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), disappears after a night out with his buddies. A mystery develops as other characters try to find out what happened to Will. But we, and his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder), learn that he is actually trapped in a dark, parallel dimension and stalked by a flesh-eating monster without a face. As this happens, his friends Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) meet a strange and quiet girl known only as Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown), or El for short. It turns out she is an escapee from a nearby government facility run by Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) that has been developing her telekinetic and telepathic powers to enter the same dimension Will is trapped in. These experiments opened up a gateway between the two dimensions and the monster that threatens Will is now also preying on our side. Naturally, Dr. Brenner and his associates don’t have her best interest at heart and are pursuing her as she hides out with the boys.

Stranger-Things-Lucas-Dustin-Mike-Eleven

 

One of the reasons why Stranger Things works so well has to do with the characters and how they are portrayed. This is critical in the case of the children. Their performances seem genuine and their dialogue is authentic. By listening to them, it doesn’t feel like some adult wrote their words. If any of the young performances were sub-par, the series would’ve tanked. But thankfully, these young actors were well chosen especially Brown and Wolfhard. El says little but is very expressive and tortured while experiencing life outside the facility. All the while, El displays an appropriate childlike response to the outside world.

Joyce Byers and Company in Stranger Things

Other standout performances include Ryder as Will’s distraught and determined mother and David Harbour as Chief Hopper, a broken disgruntled sheriff who finds a path to redemption as he gets drawn into the mystery of Will’s disappearance. Other young performances that deserve shoutouts are Natalie Dyer as Nancy Wheeler and Charlie Heaton as Will’s older brother Jonathan. Aside from the stock evil government types, the characters are not one-dimensional. They have flaws and quirks but rise to the occasion when the time comes.

And there is plenty of meat for genre fans in this story. El confronts monster Stranger ThingsOwing thanks to classic sci-fi films from that time like The Thing, Alien and The Fly, Stranger Things delivers actual jump scares and gross out moments and the monster is disgustingly original and disturbing. The people behind the show (The Duffer Brothers) wisely kept its appearance vague until the final episodes and its full revelation won’t disappoint horror and sci-fi fans. Finally, Stranger Things has many Easter eggs and tributes to classics from that time that would delight fans of Star Wars, The Thing and more, but it doesn’t go overboard. With that said, the series isn’t perfect. Although its characters and dialogue are fresh and above average, the same can’t be said for some of its plotting. At times there are contrivances and certain developments are too familiar. Still, the series on the whole is enjoyable and hits its goals.

At eight episodes, the series took the right amount of time to tell its story while dropping hints of further developments. At the same time, not every question is answered so hopefully a second season will be commissioned because the warmly familiar and disturbing worlds of Stranger Things are worth revisiting.

Lewis T. Grove

The Merits & Flaws Of Past Fantastic Four Films

ff cast 2

The Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics’ first superhero team, always had a hard time with its live-action adaptations. The new reboot isn’t an exception. Filmmakers can’t seem to be able to properly translate what worked for this team in the pages of comic books into movies. Still, putting aside what went wrong with the three previous movies, they did get many parts right. It’s just that they missed the mark, sometimes by a mile.

The Fantastic Four (1995)

Bernd Eichinger and his Neue Constantin studio bought the film rights to the Fantastic Four back in the ’80s, but couldn’t raise the funds for the movie. By the next decade in order to prevent losing the rights the studio with Roger Corman’s help produced The Fantastic Four a quick, cheap adaptation.

old ff castOh boy, this movie was a mess, it’s on the level of those Godawful monstrosities made by The Asylum. The acting was hysterically bad, particularly Joseph Culp as Doctor Doom. Talk about hamming up the scenes! Then there were the zero-grade special effects. It’s hard to believe that a million dollars was spent on this fiasco when you see that they used animatics during the one scene that the Human Torch (Jay Underwood) used his full powers. Want a guaranteed laugh? Check out the film’s final scene when Mr. Fantastic (Alex Hyde-White) waves goodbye with an obvious fake arm from the sunroof of his wedding limo!

Yet, as terrible as the film was, it had a certain charm. The production nailed down the team’s look right down to the costumes, even The Thing (Michael Bailey Smith) was impressive. This is amazing considering how far off the mark more professional productions were with their versions of The Thing and Dr. Doom. Never mind the acting, at least they looked like their comic book counterparts!

bad ff

Despite their inexperience, you could tell that the actors and production team were trying their best. They honestly believed this was going to be a big deal, but tragically for them it wasn’t. The cast and crew didn’t know that the film was never intended to be released and it wasn’t. Nor did they expect the film to get its infamous reputation as bootleg copies of the film circulated. Still, while it’s a terrible movie, it warrants a viewing for either fans who want to see a more faithful adaptation or drunks needing a good laugh.

Fantastic Four (2005)

When the superhero movie boom started early last decade, it wasn’t long before the FF got their shot at the limelight. 20th Century Fox released Fantastic Four in 2005, which turned out to be a modest hit, but received mixed reactions.

ff cast

Even though Fantastic Four was a more polished and professional film with a $100 million budget (compared to the reboot’s $122 million) it seemed routine and bland at times. doomWhat was worse was that Fantastic Four was hobbled with a poor villain, a vital component of any superhero film. Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon) was completely wrong from the casting to his backstory. In this version, he was your typical evil CEO who was part metallic and had electric-based powers. Those kind of changes wouldn’t have bothered people so much if the actor was a good fit. But, McMahon just didn’t have the gravitas that Doom requires because he’s a larger-than-life villain.

Ben Grimm/The Thing (Michael Chiklis) was also altered, but with different results. His look didn’t match the comic books’ version because he was human sized and lacked that famous protruding brow line. Also, his story was altered in that he was married, but his wife (briefly played by Laurie Holden of The Walking Dead) left him after she saw how he was disfigured by the accident that gave him his powers. But these changes weren’t too jarring and more importantly, Chiklis and the production captured Ben Grimm’s essence. Like in the comics he was downtrodden and full of self pity. He quarreled with his teammates, especially Johnny Storm (Chris Evans), who loved pulling pranks on him.

real torch

The other highlight was Johnny himself. Evans channeled the nature of this young superhero brilliantly. He reveled in his powers, he was brash, brave and loved life, which is why he was a good foil for the moody Thing. Evans was so convincing as the happy-go-lucky Human Torch that when he was announced to play Captain America, some people doubted he could portray the more mature and grounded hero. He proved them wrong. Continue reading

Let’s Recast The Fantastic Four The Right Way

ff21It looks like 20th Century Fox is going ahead with their reboot of the Fantastic Four, and many fans are already up in arms over that development. They fear the reboot will be as bad as previous attempts and the negative reaction is so intense that many are hoping it stays in development hell rather than being filmed.

What is so troubling for them and myself included are the casting choices being mentioned in the trade papers. While Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch is an intriguing, though out-of-left-field possibility, some like Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic just left me wondering what the hell is going on with the casting director. Has anyone looked tellerat this actor? He looks like a dweeb! I’m sorry but nothing about Teller gives the impression that he is a gifted scientist type. And given how young he is, it’s pretty clear that the filmmakers are going to emulate the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book, which if you ask me wasn’t good at all. The comic book isn’t even being published anymore! Making the superhero team a bunch of child prodigies was a mistake and took out vital parts of what makes the team so fun. See, they’re a family unit, with Reed Richards as the father figure, Ben Grimm as the grumpy but lovable uncle, Sue Storm as the mother figure and her brother Johnny being the impulsive kid in the bunch.

But that doesn’t seem to be the way that Fox is going. Getting a bunch of young actors for these roles is more important to them since they want the movie to appeal to the teenagers. The problem is that the kind of teenagers they’re trying to attract don’t care about the Fantastic Four and probably wouldn’t see the reboot anyway. Then many of the teenagers that do care about the FF will probably be so turned off by the radical changes that they will boycott the film.

Let’s pretend that we’re actually in charge of casting the Fantastic Four reboot. Forget about trying to get the popular young actor and let’s try to stay faithful to the comics. After all, the Fantastic Four put Marvel Comics on the map with their novel approach to super heroics. Now I know that the following choices won’t even be considered, but they’re who I would pick for a new Fantastic Four film.

hammReed Richards/Mr. Fantastic: Going with a twentysomething is the wrong approach to Marvel’s premier scientist. Reed is the 21st century equivalent of an Einstein and he should look the part. As the leader of the Fantastic Four, Mr. Fantastic should be portrayed by a more mature yet fit actor. There are many excellent choices out there for the role and even Ioan Gruffudd did a decent job as Mr. Fantastic. For the reboot Jon Hamm would be fabulous (pun intended) as Reed Richards. He’s the right age for the part (Reed is roughly in his early forties), looks intelligent and emotes a grounded and mature quality needed for the leadership role. Other choices: Casey Affleck; Misha Collins

Sue Storm/Invisible Woman: Jessica Alba, the previous actress to portray Richards’ fiancé then wife rankled many alice evefans who didn’t think she was right for the part. Putting aside her ethnicity, Alba lacked that motherly/big sister/peacekeeper quality needed for the role, but she wasn’t the worst casting choice–more on that later. Now hands down, Alice Eve, most recently seen on Star Trek Into Darkness is a perfect pick for Sue Storm. She looks the part and has the acting chops to pull off the role easily. Eve can do the more brainy and modern interpretation of Storm seen in the comics and can be a tough lady when needed. Other choices: Evan Rachel Wood; Blake Lively Continue reading