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Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Where once creativity and originality were the bywords of Tinsletown, it now seems sanitised remakes/sequels of former glories rule the day.  Rather than take a risk, the norm is to go for the safe option.  That philosophy is in plentiful supply in this sequel, featuring inoffensive heroics amidst a backdrop of earth’s destruction the whole family can enjoy.
On their wedding day, Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) are interrupted by a silvery alien being. Dubbed The Silver Surfer, he reveals himself as the herald of Galactus, destroyer of worlds.  Along with Johnny the Human Torch (Chris Evans) and The Thing (Michael Chiklis), it’s up to the fabulous foursome to battle the triple threats of the Surfer, Galactus and a resurrected Dr Doom (Julian McMahon).
If that synopsis sounded threadbare because that’s all there is to the plot.  One of the edicts handed down to the filmmakers was to deliver a PG rated extravaganza for the broadest possible audience.  The corny dialogue, numerous plot holes and shoddy script attest this.  The screenplay fails to capture the essence of the comic book with the cosmic magnitude of events erased in favour of yet another earth bound battle against Dr Doom.  The villains generate no menace and the imposing benevolence of Galactus in the comics is reduced to a display of GCI pyrotechnics.
The main quartet of actors don’t gel as well as they should, seemingly going through the motions.  The lame and childish script gives the feel of a morning cartoon.  It’s a shame that this franchise has been successful because it gives the other genuinely interesting ones a bad name. The real ’star’ of the show is The Silver Surfer whose depiction stays true to his comic origins.  The colour and special effects are up to comic book standards, but the script seems like a string of spectacular stunts in search of a story.  
With the strictures of the ‘family friendly’ rating, Rise of the Silver Surfer becomes confined to being a dumbed down version of what should have been an exciting film.  With the characters defanged and no bite to the script, this film feels more like a ‘product’ than an actual movie.  This mediocre entry plays like an extended advert for a Silver Surfer film, which naturally enough is currently in the planning stages with a script written by sci fi maestro J. Michael Straczynski.  It can only be hoped that it improves on this very vanilla effort.
Rating out of 10:  3
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Blades of Glory

The graceful and balletic sport of championship ice skating receives a drubbing with this comedy. Chazz Michael (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) are two rival skaters whose icy daggers at each other match the coldness of the rinks they skate on. After a very public fight both men are disqualified for life. Years later Jimmy’s coach hatches a plan that allows them to re-enter the game by becoming a dynamic skating duo. The musical strains of Bolero have never been used for such an unlikely match, with the guys up against an evil brother/sister duo who will stop at nothing to maintain their winning streak.
After years of watching the rather kitsch skating extravaganzas on TV, it’s a pleasure to see a film that taps into the rivalry and tackiness the sport produces. The bizarrely themed skating routines themselves are amusing, which this film increases up another weird notch. Scenes like those show the importance of the physical as well as verbal comedy that each actor leaps into with gusto. There isn’t any heavy message here, it’s a fun film and relishes its own brand of stylish camp.
A lot of people either like or loathe Will Ferrell, but given a good script he can be fantastic, which he is in this. Ferrell plays the egotistical machismo very well and carries that through with his lowbrow role. Jon Heder is a perfect foil, as a shiny wonder boy who is the polar opposite to Ferrell’s ‘take no prisoners’ part. The rest of the actors perfectly convey the heightened reality of the humour not going in comedic excess.
The superb costuming and music show the writers wear their neon 1980s influences with pride. The comedy level stays at the same quirky rhythm until the end and doesn’t become bogged down in any unnecessary subplots. The leanness of the script allows the actors to go off on their own amusing tangents with Ferrell displaying his mastery of ad-lib situations.
Blades of Glory is a very entertaining comedy, which unlike recent films, is actually funny. The offbeat humour can be enjoyed on many levels, deftly mixing the satirical and broad comedy with confidence. The actors and screenplay manage to thaw the sometimes frosty demeanour of skating with glee.
Rating out of 10: 7
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