#52 - The Lost Art of Conversation

Dedicated To
Daniel Robert Epstein
1975 - 2007

Added 6/21/07

Welcome back to the Electric Theatre, kiddos. A day late and a dollar short but this time, at least, the lateness wasn’t my fault! Technical difficulties in cyberworld hit the whole Digital Bits family of sites, and I think we all know what that means…

As for the relative lack of movies this time around…that’s all me. Things have been busy, so I’m afraid I wasn’t able to get to see Nancy Drew. Sorry. I’m sure it’s great. Unlike, for instance…


Now Playing at the Hell Plaza Octoplex - Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

When I was a kid, I read both Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer comics and liked them quite a bit. After sitting through two FF movies, the latest of which features the Surfer, I can’t for the life of me remember what I enjoyed about them. And that may be the worst thing you can say about any movie adaptation. It actually makes you forget what you liked about the source material in the first place. This time around, Reed and Sue are about to become Mr. and Mrs. Fantastic when the ceremony is interrupted by the appearance of the Silver Surfer in the skies over Manhattan. The Torch goes after him only to have his ass handed back, which results in some trouble with his powers later on. Meanwhile, Dr. Doom is back and wants to get his hands on the Surfer’s Power Cosmic, while everybody else just wants to prevent Earth from being devoured by Galactus, a big cosmic cloud that if you squint and tilt your head just so, bears a vague resemblance to its comic book counterpart in certain shots. To be fair, I had exactly the same reaction to Rise as I did to the first Four. This is no better and no worse than the original movie. The problems are still pretty much the same. The visual effects are still a mixed bag, with Mr. Fantastic and the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing coming across the worst and the Surfer looking pretty good. The cast, including Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba and Julian McMahon, are almost uniformly bland, better suited to a Fantastic Four soap opera than a movie. McMahon is a particular liability. His character needs to be eliminated immediately so the real Dr.. Doom can show up on screen someday. Only Chris Evans as Johnny Storm registers anything even close to enthusiasm for the gig. It’s kind of cool seeing the Silver Surfer on screen but really, it’s not a great character to build a movie around. Stories about somber, philosophical aliens who ride surfboards through the cosmos are a little easier to take seriously in comics, if indeed you’re able to take it seriously at all. Now I know what defenders of this movie will say. It’s aimed at kids, lighten up. I readily acknowledge that the Fantastic Four movies are geared toward younger audiences and I actually applaud Fox for that decision. We certainly don’t need anymore “dark” superhero movies. But the old FF cartoon that replaced the Human Torch with H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot was aimed at kids, too. That didn’t mean it was any good. (* *)


The Super Inframan

You may also be familiar with this Shaw Brothers monsters ‘n martial arts opus as simply Infra-Man but I prefer the actual on-screen title, definitive article and all. China finds itself under assault by demon-monsters from beneath the earth’s crust, so The Professor recruits Danny Lee to become Inframan, a back-flipping red-clad superhero with such awesome powers as Solar Ray! Lethal Kick! Laser Blade! And Thunder Fist! This is goofy, colorful fun all the way with plenty of kung fu fighting between our heroes and guys in spectacularly weird monster suits. For best results, watch this as a Saturday matinee. (* * *)


Loosely based on the Lt. Blueberry comics by French sequential artist Moebius, Renegade is an odd, almost-successful psychedelic western. Vincent Cassel stars as Blueberry, raised by Indians after an encounter with bad guy Michael Madsen leaves him injured and his girl dead. Years later, Cassel and Madsen’s paths cross again as Cassel has been appointed marshal and Madsen returns to town in search of mountains of gold. Renegade is watchable but occasionally uninspired with a cosmic ending that suggests that director Jan Kounen was equally inspired by the films of Sergio Leone and Alejandro Jodorowsky. He may have been better off pushing harder in one direction or the other. Renegade is interesting but a few steps away from being the cult classic it could have been. (* * ½)


I’m approaching the end of the AfterDark Horror Fest movies and not a minute too soon based on this DOA entry. Corri English stars as a med student who “feels things”. She quickly picks up some bad vibes from her cadaver in anatomy class, sensing that the corpse’s spirit is not at rest. Unrest was promoted as the first horror movie to use real bodies which (A) I don’t think is true and (B) is a pretty crass way to plug a movie even if it were. Assuming there are some real corpses scattered around as set dressing, Unrest is worth watching only as a demo reel for the makeup crew, sort of an is-it-live-or-is-it-Memorex test. The story is beyond stupid, makes little sense from moment to moment, and generates all the tension of a particularly unmemorable trip to the bank. (* ½)

Your pal,