REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

CAST
Miles Teller (Divergent)
Michael B. Jordan (Creed)
Kate Mara (Iron Man 2)
Jamie Bell (King Kong)
Toby Kebbell (Dawn of The Planet of The Apes)
Reg E.Cathey (Seven)
Tim Blake Nelson (The Incredible Hulk)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Friends Reed Richards and Ben Grimm have worked together on a prototype teleporter since childhood, eventually attracting the attention of Professor Franklin Storm, director of the Baxter Foundation, a government-sponsored research institute for young prodigies. Reed is recruited to join them and aid Storm’s children, scientist Sue Storm and the somewhat reckless technician Johnny Storm, into completing a “Quantum Gate” designed by Storm’s wayward protégé, Victor von Doom, who begrudgingly agrees to help due to his unrequited feelings for Sue.
The experiment is successful, and the facility’s supervisor, Dr. Allen, plans to send a group from NASA to venture into a parallel dimension known as “Planet Zero”. Disappointed at being denied the chance to join the expedition, Reed, Johnny, and Victor along with Ben use the Quantum Gate to embark on an unsanctioned voyage to Planet Zero, which they learn is a world filled with otherworldly substances. Victor attempts to touch the green-lava like substance, causing the surface they are on to collapse and the ground to erupt. Reed, Johnny, and Ben return to their shuttle just as Sue brings them back to Earth. Victor is left behind after he falls into the collapsing landscape. The machine explodes, altering Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben on a molecular-genetic level, affording them superhuman conditions and abilities beyond their control: Reed can stretch like rubber, Sue can become invisible and generate force fields of energy, Johnny can engulf his entire body in flames and fly, and Ben becomes bigger and develops a rock-like hide which gives him enhanced strength and durability. They are then placed in government custody and confinement to be studied and have their conditions and abilities tested. Blaming himself for the accident, Reed escapes from the facility and tries to find a cure for their changes.
One year later, Reed is now a fugitive and has built a suit that is able to adapt to his body’s plasticity and also helps him control his ability. Hiding in Central America, he is eventually found by the United States military with Sue’s help and captured by Ben, who has become a military asset along with Johnny and Sue. Johnny and Sue have been outfitted with specialized suits designed to help them stabilize and control their abilities. Reed is brought to Area 57, where Dr. Allen conscripts him to open another portal to Planet Zero in exchange for giving Reed the necessary resources to find a cure. Arriving in Planet Zero, Dr. Allen’s explorers find Victor, who has been fused to his spacesuit and can now control the elements, as well as having telekinetic abilities, and bring him back to Earth. Believing the human race needs to be destroyed so he can rebuild Planet Zero in his image, Victor kills scientists and soldiers in the base including Dr. Allen and Professor Storm and returns to Planet Zero using the Quantum Gate, with Ben, Johnny, Reed, and Sue in pursuit.
Now dubbing himself “Doom”, Victor activates a portal on Planet Zero using a structure he made while in the realm, that begins consuming the landscape of the Earth. He is confronted by the four and, after a destructive battle, Ben punches Doom into the portal’s energy beam, disintegrating him, while Johnny closes the portal. Returning to Earth, the group is rewarded for their heroics by being given a new base of operations by the US military. They decide to use their powers to help people and adopt the mantle of the “Fantastic Four”.

It’s certainly different from the comics, so if you go into it with an open mind you may find a better experience than if you want it to remain the same. It’s inventive, there’s an engaging cast, the Marco Beltrami/Philip Glass score is wonderful, but ultimately it goes against a lot of the superhero conventions. The big action setpieces had to be scrapped due to budgetary concerns and it shows. It’s a slow moving film but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out. It’s notably darker with some elements of Cronenberg-esque body horror, yet it still has elements of humour and the ending isn’t really that bad. Some aspects could have been developed better and some of the reshoots are laughably bad – like with Reed asking Sue if she’s adopted. But it’s definitely worth watching even just to see what aspects didn’t work so well or to see the elements that do work. Because the elements that work are really gripping, and it’s very interesting to see superheroes reduced to test subjects in Area 57 and government stooges. It’s just unfortunate the good elements are often only glimpses. But if you can put up with that it’s a nice contrast to Marvel Studios’ output.

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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)
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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.
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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: 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: IRON MAN (1966)

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CAST (VOICES)

John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Bernard Cowan (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Peg Dixon (Strange Paradise)

Thirteen episodes of the animated Marvel Comics’ tough-as-steel superhero – Iron Man. In ‘The Mandarin’s Revenge’ when military missiles begin disappearing, Iron Man allows himself to be captures by the Mandarin. He fights the Mandarin and stops missile from exploding.

In ‘The Moleman Strikes’ the Mole Man captures Iron Man and steals an earth digging device. Iron Man frees himself and must face a fire-breathing Dragon. He defeats the monster and tricks the Mole Man into destroying the digging device. In ‘The Death of Tony Stark’ Happy Hogan and Pepper think that the Mandarin killed Tony Stark, but the Iron Man is alive and facing a series of death traps.

The Mandarin tells Iron Man his origin, battles him and Iron Man escapes, returning as Stark to his relieved friends. In ‘If I Die, Let It Be With Honor’ Iron Man faces death if Happy doesn’t bring him a needed component in time. Happy is wounded but saves Iron Man’s life. In ‘The Crimson Dynamo’ when the Crimson Dynamo battles Iron Man and defects, the Black Widow’s partner dons the Dynamo armour. The original Dynamo sacrifices his life so that Iron Man can defeat his evil counterpart.

In ‘Double Disaster’ Tony Stark discovers that a trusted employee is stealing from him and fires him. The ex-employee becomes Jack Frost and vows revenge, but Iron Man heats him up before he can do more damage. In ‘Enter Hawkeye’ Hawkeye decides to become a super hero but falls prey to the Black Widow. Hawkeye and Widow fight Iron Man but flee before Iron Man can stop them. In ‘Ultimo’ Tony Stark is captured by the Mandarin and the giant Ultimo. He must stop them before getting back to a congressional hearing or the Senate will cancel all of Stark’s industry contracts.

In ‘The Dream Master’ Count Nefaria causes Iron Man to believe he is fighting the Unicorn and the Crimson Dynamo in his nightmares. Iron Man must defeat Aliens from outer space to stop Nefaria. In ‘My Life For Yours’ Iron Man loses power when trying to rescue Happy from the Black Knight’s mysterious castle. Happy is turned into a monster and Iron Man must save his own life and that of his friend. In ‘Beauty And The Armour’ the evil Countess is behind the Mad Thinker, who kidnaps Tony Stark.

The Countess steals Iron Man’s armour to defeat Titanium Man. In ‘The Other Iron Man’ Hogan takes on the Guise of Iron Man when Stark collapses and is captured by the Mandarin. Tony builds a new suit of armour and comes to Happy’s aid. In ‘Cliffs Of Doom’ The Chameleon and Kraven the Hunter battle Iron Man to get a new laser gun. The Chameleon convinces Iron Man that he is the real Captain America. The two heroes do battle until they realize the dupe. Crude animation, but a fun show, out of all the 66 animated shows this one has to one of my favorites.

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.