REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR (1994): THE COMPLETE SERIES

CAST
Beau Weaver (Transformers)
Lori Alan (Family Guy)
Chuck McCann (Ducktales)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Quinton Flynn (Digimon)
Neil Ross (Being John Malkovich)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Clyde Kusatsu (Alias)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Jane Carr (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
John Vernon (Batman: TAS)
Simon Templeman (The Neighbours)
Launched in 1994 as part of Marvel’s Action Hour in the USA (alongside Iron Man), this then new cartoon attempted to bring Marvel’s First Family  to the attention of a new generation. The main US comic book of the time included a free ‘animation cel’ with #394 to promote the series and later a spin off comic book of the cartoon was launched. In its first season, the show is disappointing. Reduced to a crude sitcom, the show is creaky, toe curling and cheesy beyond belief.  Worst of all, Sue Richards is reduced to mere ‘damsel in distress’ for the entirety of the season, functioning only as a simpering wife and mother to the men on the team. Compared to the superior Batman: The Animated Series of the time and even Marvel’s other cartoons of the period Spider-man, X-Men and Iron Man, its not hard to feel disappointed with the translation of the Fantastic Four to the small screen.

Thankfully, the approach of Season One , with its comedy landlord and irksome stereotypes don’t seemed to have found favour with audiences either and the show was given a serious overhaul for Season Two. The improvement in storytelling is immense and does a much better job of servicing the characters and situations they find thermselves in. The theme tune and accompanying score are still pretty naff though, all synthesized fanfares and flat sounding parps.
 The Inhumans three parter is my favourite, giving all its key characters a chance to shine and the romance between Johnny Storm and Crystal is nicely done, There’s also some neat guest appearances for The Avengers, Black Panther and even Ego – The Living Planet. As with all of Clear Vision’s Marvel releases, the set is attractively packaged with some nice artwork by Simon Williams and the picture is pin sharp and vibrant. The sound is superb as well, being dolby 5.1 stereo. There’s nothing in the way of any extras though, just the usual language and episode selections.

REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR (2005)

CAST
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
Jessica Alba (Machete)
Chris Evans (Captain America)
Michael Chikilis (Gotham)
Julian McMahon (Bait)
Hamish Linklater (The Crazy Ones)
Kerry Washington (Save The Last Dance)
Kevin McNulty (Tin Man)
Pascale Hutton (Sanctuary)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Gina Holden (Flash Gordon 2007)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Physicist Dr. Reed Richards is convinced evolution was triggered millions of years ago on Earth by clouds of cosmic energy in space, and has calculated that one of these clouds is soon going to pass near Earth. Together with his friend, astronaut Ben Grimm, Reed convinces Dr. Victor Von Doom, his former classmate at MIT and now CEO of Von Doom Industries, to allow him access to his privately owned space station to test the effects of a biological sample of exposure to the cloud. Doom agrees in exchange for control over the experiment and a majority of the profits from whatever benefits it brings. Reed brings aboard his ex-girlfriend and Von Doom’s chief genetics researcher Susan Storm and her ex-astronaut brother Johnny.
The quintet travels to outer space to observe the cosmic energy clouds, but Reed miscalculates and the clouds materialize ahead of schedule. Reed and the Storms leave the shielded station to rescue Ben, who had gone on a spacewalk to place the samples. Ben receives full exposure in outer space, while the others receive a more limited dose within the station. Back home they soon develop superpowers: Reed can stretch his body like rubber, Susan Storm can become invisible and generate impact resistant force shields, Johnny Storm can engulf himself in fire and fly unaided, and Ben becomes a rocklike creature with superhuman strength and durability. Meanwhile, Von Doom faces a backlash from his stockholders because of the publicity from the space mission, and has a scar on his face that came from an exploding control console on the station.
Ben’s fiancee Debbie cannot handle his new appearance and leaves him. Ben goes to brood on the Brooklyn Bridge and accidentally causes a traffic pileup while preventing a man from committing suicide. Ben, Reed and the Storms use their various abilities to contain the damage and prevent harm. The media dubs them the Fantastic Four. They move into Reed’s lab in the Baxter Building to study their abilities and seek a way to return Grimm to normal. Von Doom, himself mutating, offers his support but blames Reed for the failure of the spaceflight, which has lost him his company.
Reed tells the group he will construct a machine to recreate the storm and reverse its effects on them, but warns it could possibly accelerate them instead. Meanwhile, Von Doom’s arm has become organic metal, giving him superhuman strength allowing him to produce bolts of electricity, and he begins plotting revenge. He drives a wedge between Ben and Reed, who has rekindled his relationship with Susan Storm. Using the machine, Von Doom restores Ben to human form, while accelerating Von Doom’s condition, causing much of his body to turn to metal. Von Doom knocks the human Grimm unconscious and captures Reed.
Now calling himself Doctor Doom, he puts on a metallic mask to hide his disfigurement, tortures Reed and fires a heatseeking missile at the Baxter Building in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat Johnny Storm. Sue confronts Doom but is outmatched. Ben arrives to assist her, transformed into the Thing again by reusing the machine (speaking his signature line, “It’s clobberin’ time!”). The battle then gets spilled into the streets and The Storms combine their powers to wrap Doom in an inferno of intense heat, and Ben and Reed douse him with cold water, inducing thermal shock and freezing Doom in place. In an epilogue, Grimm informs Reed that he has accepted his condition with the help of Alicia Masters, a blind artist for whom he has developed feelings, and the team embraces its role as superheroes. Reed proposes marriage to Sue, who accepts. Meanwhile, Doom’s statue-like remains are being transported back to his homeland of Latveria when the dock master’s electronic manifest briefly undergoes electromagnetic interference, suggesting that Doom is still alive.
This is a fun movie and I liked it. It had a solid origin story, some good action, and pretty good SFX. Each character was clearly defined

REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR: WORLDS GREATEST HEROES

MAIN CAST

Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Lara Gilcrhsit (Defying Gravity)
Christopher Jacot (Mutant X)
Brian Dobson (Dragon Ball Z)
Samuel Vincent (Totally Spies!)
Paul Dobson (Transformers: Armada)
Sunita Prasad (Bates Motel)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Mark Acheson (Elf)
Michael Adamthwaite (Stargate SG.1)
Andrew Kavadas (Ninja Turtles: NExt Mutation)
Venus Terzo (Arrow0
Lee Tockar (Beast Wars)
John Novak (Wishmaster 3 & 4)

This series, which started in September of 2006, features the four core characters of the series: Reed Richards (a.k.a. Mister Fantastic, a scientist whose body can stretch like rubber and the brains behind the operation), his girlfriend Susan Storm (a.k.a. The Invisible Woman), her younger brother Johnny Storm (a.k.a. The Human Torch), and of course, Benjamin Grimm (better known as the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing), a rock encrusted strong man. These four live inside the mammoth Baxter Building in the middle of Manhattan where they also have their base of operations and a wide array of technical gadgetry courtesy of Richards’ incessant inventing. They use their powers for good, to protect the people of not only New York but of the world against many different antagonists, specifically their arch-enemy, Doctor Doom.

Marvel, in conjunction with Moonstone Animation, has done a very good job with this series. While the animation is obviously very influenced by Japanese manga and anime, the show is very much in the spirit of the early Lee/Kirby comic book masterpieces and it turns out to be a lot of fun. The fact that the Fantastic Four do more than just square off against Doctor Doom each week leads to encounters with familiar villains such as The Mole Man, The Puppet Master, and even the Super Skrull! Guest appearances from instantly recognizable heroes such as The Hulk, Prince Namor The Submariner, and Iron Man add to the fun but what makes this series work is the way that the writers have nailed the team dynamic so important to the comic book’s success. The stories may be a little simple by some standards and you could make the argument that they’re geared towards a young audience than they maybe need to be but they really are in keeping with the early episodes of the comic books that inspired them and for that reason they turn out to be quite enjoyable doses of action and escapism.

As mentioned, the animation has been inspired by Japanese culture and so the characters don’t always look as Kirby-esqe as purists will probably want them to. Likewise, some of the CGI used in the backgrounds doesn’t blend as flawlessly as it could. That said, Kirby’s sense of grandeur and design is apparent throughout the series in the gadgets, the villains, and many of the backgrounds in the series. The voice actors suit the characters well with Brian Dobson as The Thing really standing out/p>
Ultimately this material isn’t going to blow your mind. It isn’t deep or particularly Earth shattering in any way but it does feel in tune with the source material and as far as superfluous bits of animated entertainment go, it’s just a lot of fun.

REVIEW: THE FANTASTIC FOUR (1994)

CAST

Alex Hyde-White (Pretty Woman)
Jay Underwood (Uncle Buck)
Rebecca Staab (Love Potion No.9)
Michael Bailey Smith (Men In Black 2)
Joseph Culp (Mad Men)
Kat Green (Hits)
Carl Ciarfalio (Species III)
Mercedes McNab (Angel)

Reed Richards (Alex Hyde-White) and Victor Von Doom (Joseph Culp) are college friends who use the opportunity of a passing comet to try an experiment; however, the experiment goes wrong, leaving Victor horribly scarred. Sue (Mercedes McNab) and Johnny Storm (Phillip Van Dyke) are two children living with their mother (Annie Gagen), who has a boarding house where Reed lives. Ben Grimm is a family friend and a college buddy of Reed’s.

Ten years later, Reed, Sue (Rebecca Staab), Johnny (Jay Underwood), and Ben go up into an experimental spacecraft as the same comet passes by Earth. They are hit by cosmic rays from it, due to a necessary diamond being exchanged for an imitation of itself by the Jeweler. Reed dedicates this mission for his friend Victor, believing he was dead years before.

Upon crash-landing on Earth, the four discover that the cosmic rays gave them special powers: Reed’s bodily structure has become elastic; Sue can become invisible; Johnny can generate fire on demand; and Ben has transformed into a creature with stone-like skin: the Thing. They are later captured by Victor’s men, who pose as Marines, and meet villainous monarch Dr. Doom. After escaping from Doom’s men, the four regroup at the Baxter Building, trying to decide what to do now that they have gained superpowers. An angry Ben leaves the group to go out on his own, feeling he has become a freak of nature. He is found by homeless men and joins them in the lair of the Jeweler (Ian Trigger).

Victor had needed the diamond necessary to capture the comet’s powers. The Jeweler would then give the real diamond to the blind artist Alicia Masters (Kat Green), who was also kidnapped by homeless henchmen working for the Jeweler. The Jeweler wants Alicia to be his bride, with the diamond as his wedding present to her. However, Doom and his henchmen locate the Jeweler’s lair. Doom’s henchmen first try to make a deal with him, to no avail. Doom, displeased, seizes the diamond and threatens to kill Alicia, whereupon Ben enters the room, only to revert to human form. Pursued by Doom, Ben runs out onto the city streets, frustrated at his helplessness. He somehow reverts to the Thing.

A gunfight ensues between Doom and the Jeweler’s men. Doom takes the diamond to power a laser cannon that will destroy New York City. Ben returns to his friends; by now, Reed has learned that Doom is actually Victor. Realizing they are the only ones who can stop Doom, they don costumes and travel to Doom’s castle. There, the Fantastic Four battle a series of Doom’s military. Reed has a final battle with Doom, which ends with Doom supposedly committing suicide, though after falling into the fog, his glove, still on the balcony, starts to move. Johnny becomes the Human Torch to stand between the laser cannon’s shot and the city, pushing the beam into outer space. Ben frees Alicia and finally introduces himself to her. She feels the rocky surface of his face but is not fazed by his altered appearance. Thereafter, the Four dedicate themselves to fighting evil, and Reed and Sue marry.

The Fantastic Four is delightfully cheesy and fun just like many old school cartoons and comics. The budget and FX can’t compare to those of today, but so what? The old school comic book vibe is fantastic. There’s absolutely nothing boring about it. It’s too damn fun to be boring! it’s a  blast of highly entertaining low budget escapism from start to finish.

REVIEW: THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW – SEASON 1-2

CAST (VOICES)

Charlie Adler (Wall-e)
Alimi Ballard (Sabrina: TTW)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and the X-Men)
Dave Boat (Ultimate Spider-Man)
Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck)
Grey DeLisle (The Fairly Oddparents)
Mikey Kelley (Gravity Falls)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Travis Willingham (Dragon Ball Z)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
John Barrowman (Arrow)
A.J. Buckley (Disturbing Behavior)
Ty Burrell (Muppets Most Wanted)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Taye Diggs (Private Practice)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Suisan Eisenberg (Justice League)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: TNG)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Nika Futterman (Futurama)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth)
Josh Keaton (Justice League: Gods and Monsters)
Wayne Knight (3rd rock from The Sun)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Phil LaMar (Free Enterprise)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
James Marsters (Smallville)
Jennifer Morrison (Urban Legends 2)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: TLJ)
Ray Stevenson (Divergent)
Fred Stoller (Little Man)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Michelle Trachtenberg (17 again)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Jim Ward (Danny Phantom)
Adam West (Batman 60s)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)

When I saw a preview of The Super Hero Squad Show back in February of 2009, I thought it looked pretty interesting, but certainly aimed at the kiddies, and as it aired on Cartoon Network, I never saw an episode. In fact, I forgot all about it, and when I got my hands on this disc, I thought it was an animated take on the old Fisher-Price Marvel kiddie figures. So I had no expectations coming in. Well, my only expectation being that it would be bad. So it was with a good deal of shock that I found it to be a pretty entertaining action-comedy series, if you don’t mind the cheese-level of many of the jokes.

The Super Hero Squad (sort of a loose version of the Avengers) is made up of an assortment of Marvel heroes, including Iron Man (as the leader), Captain America (who provides aid on a regular basis), Wolverine (adding the X-Men’s popularity,) The Hulk, Thor, a spacey surfer-dude version of the Silver Surfer, and Falcon (obviously added to bring some diversity.) Joining them is the mostly unknown Reptil (a dinosaur-powered bit player from the Avengers comics) who is both a young guy and Hispanic, helping fill out the P.C. scorecard a bit more and give younger viewers a stand-in.  They go up against Doctor Doom and his legion of bad guys (and ineffective henchmen), as he searches for the Infinity fractals, shards of the Infinity Sword (which seems connected to the Infinity Gems of the Infinity Gauntlet. Infinity.)


Though the storylines are pretty solid and offer big action-packed battles, the bulk of the show is comedy, with the character’s out-sized personalities carrying the jokes, be it Thor’s overwhelming concern about his appearance or Captain America being stuck in the ’40s. Maybe I don’t give kids a lot of credit, but I can see a large portion of these gags flying over their heads, which will make the show far more enjoyable for adults than one would have expected. There was more than one joke that got a genuine laugh out of me, though many of them rely on bodily functions or pratfalls for the punchline. The wordplay and character-generated jokes are much more entertaining and fun, especially Thor’s Asgardian versions of modern language, the Silver Surfer’s alien view of Earth life, and anything involving the always-ridiculous floating head known as M.O.D.O.K. (voiced hilariously by Tom Kenny.) One joke about the Hulk swallowing a yo-yo is technically genius. The only thing about the show that doesn’t really work is Reptil, who feels like the Poochie of the show, coming off as a bone tossed to kids, with his dino-focused power, youthful role and extreme behavior.


This version of the Marvel Universe smartly keeps the same look for its characters, giving long-time Marvel fans an in for the series, but presents them in a super-deformed style (squat bodies, large heads and feet, four fingers) that’s kid-cartoon friendly and which easily separates it from any other version of the Universe you’ve ever seen. That way, there are no issues with continuity or previous incarnations, and the show can be enjoyed on its own merits (allowing them to do something like make Dr. Strange a complete lunatic.) That’s a good thing, because the show is loaded to the gills with fan-service goodies, like the episode titles (which reference famous comic titles) and title cards which replicate memorable cover art. The show also pulls characters from the depths of the Marvel roster, like Screaming Mimi and the Melter, and having silly cartoon fun with them. Taken simply as a silly, almost What The–?! treatment of the characters, it’s well worth a look for comic-book fans out of grade school.

On a non-story note, the theme song, provided by Parry Gripp of Nerf Herder, is an energetic blast, while the voice cast for this series has to be one of the best for a non-prime time animated series, with tons of veterans of the cartoon industry, like Kenny, Tara Strong, Jess Harnell, Grey DeLisle, Cree Summer and Charlie Adler, along with plenty of genre stars, including Robert Englund, Tricia Helfer, Jennifer Morrison and Adrian Pasdar. It’s rare to see a show like this pull this kind of voice cast.

the overall plot of the cycle will feature the villain Thanos seeking the six stones of the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful cosmic weapon. Opposing him will be the titular Super Hero Squad, which is made up of goofball takes on Iron Man, Thor, Falcon, Wolverine, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, original character Reptil, Scarlet Witch, and sometimes Captain America. While the first two shows focus specifically on the Thanos plot, other episodes detour into one-off excursions. For instance, “World War Witch!” takes the heroes back in time to when Cap was fighting the Red Skull alongside the Invaders in WWII, while “Support Your Local Sky-Father!” pits Olympus vs. Asgard, and it features the Marvel Universe rendition of Hercules.