FILM: THE FANTASTIC FOUR
CAST: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, JAMIE BELL, Toby Kebbell, REG E. CATHEY, TIM BLAKE NELSON
DIRECTOR: JOSH TRANK
‘Fantastic Four’, a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team, centres on four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their daunting new abilities and work together to save earth from a former friend turned enemy.
Set in contemporary New York, this retelling focuses on the Four before they become a team – when they were four young idealistic adventurers who make a headstrong leap into the unknown.
Like many modern day inventors and geniuses, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has humble origins. At age 12, he toils countless hours in his mom and stepdad’s garage in their suburban home in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.
There, the young inventor designs a unique matter transportation device that he cleverly cobbled together from parts scavenged from the salvage yard of his classmate, Ben Grimm. The tabletop-sized device, a “cymatic matter shuttle,” can transport objects from one place to another.
Four years later at his high school science fair, Reed’s innovation catches the interest of Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), Dean of the Baxter Institute, a school and think tank dedicated to incubating the best new ideas from high school and college students.
Dr. Storm asks the young visionary to be part of his elite group of brilliant students. Reed moves to New York City and joins the Baxter program, where he helps develop a shuttle that runs on the breakthrough technology he’s developed.
One night, Reed decides to test his device, which had never been used on human beings, so he enlists his childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), along with Dr. Storm’s son, Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), and fellow Baxter student Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) to travel with him to another dimension that resembles a primordial Earth — an entire planet full of natural energy resources that have unlimited potential for those who can control it.
Unfortunately, the amateur astronauts’ mission goes awry, leading to an explosion. Reed, Johnny and Ben are seriously injured along with fellow Baxter student Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Dr. Storm’s adopted daughter, who stayed behind in the lab. Meanwhile, Victor is missing.
In the aftermath of the Baxter incident, the government quickly ushers the four young people to a top-secret facility known as Area 57, where over the course of three years they are contained, stabilized, probed, and analyzed.
Reed, Johnny, Sue and Ben begin to exhibit unique physical conditions that provide them with incredible abilities: Reed can stretch his body into extraordinary shapes; Johnny can light himself on fire; Sue can render herself invisible and create powerful force fields; and Ben has transformed into a six-foot eight, thousand pound rock creature.
While Washington DC’s political and military industrial brass assess and attempt to harness the these fantastic powers, these four young people must band together as they grapple with their new abilities and, ultimately, attempt to save the Earth from the mysterious and powerful force.
The Fantastic Four possess a vaunted position in the venerable history of Marvel Comics. Created by the legendary Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, ‘The Fantastic Four’ issue 1 debuted in November 1961. The groundbreaking creation of Marvel’s first superhero team humanized and brought humour to comics and ushered in the Marvel Age, preceding other iconic Marvel characters such as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and The X-Men. In that historic period of creativity in the early 1960s, Lee and Kirby were inspired by the atomic bomb scares that were part of the zeitgeist of the Cold War. The speculative effects of radiation from these nuclear bombs became the root of the superpowers possessed by many of their iconic characters.
The Fantastic Four stories are about characters who did not have to wear masks, and who sometimes clashed with each other. The comics were set in the real world so readers could identify even more with the Four.
A contemporary update, ‘Ultimate Fantastic Four’, a 60-issue series that arrived in 2004, reimagined the origins of the Four. Along with various stories and themes from the original Fantastic Four books, the Ultimate series inspired the storyline of the new ‘Fantastic Four’ film.
CAST: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson
DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow
Since she was a little girl, it’s been drilled into Amy’s (Amy Schumer) head by her rascal of a dad that monogamy isn’t realistic. Now a magazine writer, Amy lives by that credo – enjoying what she feels is an uninhibited life free from stifling, boring romantic commitment – but in actuality, she’s kind of in a rut. When she finds herself starting to fall for the subject of the new article she’s writing, a charming and successful sports doctor named Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), Amy starts to wonder if other grown-ups, including this guy who really seems to like her, might be on to something.
While driving to work and listening to ‘The Howard Stern Show’, ‘Trainwreck’ director Judd Apatow grew intrigued by a young stand-up comedian named Amy Schumer, whose ‘Inside Amy Schumer’ on Comedy Central had debuted in 2013 and became a hit with audiences and critics alike. On the radio show, the comic who is known for her ribald routines and her program’s hilarious, caustic sketches – ones that frequently upend accepted social norms – discussed her serial relationships, sex life, family and her father’s battle with multiple sclerosis. Apatow grew more curious the longer he listened and found her dark humour fascinating.
The filmmaker, whose movies have helped to make stars out of comedic talent from Steve Carell, Leslie Mann and Jonah Hill to Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, was moved by what he heard and found himself unable to leave his car until Schumer’s interview was over. “She was hilarious but was being very candid about relationships,” recalls Apatow. “I thought this was someone who would be great starring in a movie and telling her story. Amy’s very honest and vulnerable, and that’s my favourite type of comedy. It’s very human.”
After listening to her entire interview, Apatow reached out to Schumer and suggested that they meet. “I couldn’t sleep the night before,” Schumer shares. “I was too excited to meet Judd because ‘Knocked Up” changed my life.” The longtime fan of the director/producer’s work knew that the next day could mean everything to her burgeoning career.
Fortunately, that meeting, and the subsequent ones, went very well for all involved. Barry Mendel, who has collaborated with Apatow on ‘This Is 40’, ‘Funny People’ and ‘Bridesmaids’ and has been nominated for Academy Awards for his work on ‘Munich’ and ‘The Sixth Sense’, explains that he was as impressed as his fellow producer. “We met Amy, and she was just super-intelligent and fun, and seemed like the type of person Judd likes to work with,” he recounts. “If somebody is really good and makes him laugh, he’ll seek them out and meet them. He wants to hear what they have to say, and ask, ‘What do you want to write about?’”
Schumer’s initial idea for a script was a high-concept comedy, but Apatow worked with her to explore another direction, one that has given him so much success and many audience members catharses of their own. “One day, I said, ‘I think it would be better for you to write something more personal,’” Apatow states. “We started talking about her life, her relationships and what she thought was holding her back from having more successful ones. We realized that’s what the movie should be all about.”
The comedian’s decision to get more intimate with her writing changed everything, according to Mendel. He says: “When Amy sent in her first set of pages, Judd was working on five or six projects at the same time. He said: ‘There are more jokes that make me laugh on the first page of this than in all my other projects; her writing is so good.’ It was clear how great a writer she was.”
As Schumer’s development collaboration with Apatow got more satisfying and deeply creative, he decided to helm ‘Trainwreck’. This would mark the first time in the director’s career that he would lens a motion picture he hadn’t authored. ‘I was having such a great time working with Amy, and I felt like we were in sync. It just occurred to me one day: ‘This would be a really fun movie to direct,’” Apatow says.