Hey there, True Believers! Joltin’ Joe Crowley here with three incredible new DVD releases to brighten your Merry Marvel Marching Society day! We’ve got Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer [2-Disc Edition]; The TV Set [I’m told the reality behind getting a TV series on the air is uncannily like this], and Pittsburgh – a mockumentary that incorporates real events from the life of Jeff Goldblum. Crazy, no? Well, Onweird and Excelsior!
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They said it couldn’t be done! [They being the critics – who covered Fantastic Four with a blanket of indifference…] The Bullpen at 20th Century Fox went ahead and did it, anyway – a sequel to Fantastic Four, the movie that brought Bashful Benjamin J. Grimm, the idol o’ millions to the big screen!
In a burst of creative inspiration they [Avi Arad, Kevin Feige, Stan Lee and assorted other Marvel and Fox luminaries] decided that only one character could be the subject of this fabulously ferocious and fairly funky feature film: that Sentinel of the Spaceways, the one and only herald of Galactus: The Silver Surfer [and just to be fair, they gave Galactus a bit of quasi-face time, too]!
You’ve gotta know going into the theatre that these FF films are not intense, edgy affairs a la the spectacular Spider-Man movies. No sirree bob! These are lighter, fluffier and funnier films. Sure the planet is on the verge of destruction. What really matters is that dynamically dysfunctional Fantastic Four family. Everything about the film is superior to the first one. The plotting is tighter; the acting [except for uber-babe, Jessica Alba] is better; the effects are vastly superior [and check out the final sequences of Galactus if you really thought he was just going to be a cloud!!!].
Without credits, FF:RotSS rings in at a sleek ninety minutes [four minutes of credits, most of which are dedicated to the CG and stunt people who more than earned their money on this one, boys and girls!]. That means there are no extraneous scenes; no wasted babble [and almost no technobabble/Reedspeak]. From the ruined wedding to the final frelling fate of the FF [and the world], the film does its job with no superfluities.
Titanic Tim Story takes the words of Delightful Don Payne and Marvelous Mark Frost and parlays them into a suspenseful, action-packed extravaganza. There are no fatal flaws here, but a few less than fabulous moments keep the thing from reaching genius level [partly the rehiring of Alba, whose beauty far exceeds her thespic talents – and partly the use of the fit and flirtworthy Frankie Ray [Beau Garrett] who is there just to shoot down The Human Torch, Johnny Storm [Chris Evans].
Thankfully, Yancy Street’s favourite walking orange rockfall, The Thing [Michael Chiklis] helps keep the film grounded [you should only forgive the pun]. Meanwhile, the dangerously dastardly Dr. Doom [Julian McMahon] continues his feud with Mr. Fantastic, Reed Richards [Ioan Gruffudd] – just so we can get our daily recommended dosage of duplicity.
The Marvelous Madmen Behind-The-Scenes have graced this two-disc edition with a veritable cornucopia of fabulous features: Disc One: Two audio Commentaries [one with Terrific Tim Story, one with Producer Awesome Avi Arad, Co-writer Dandy Don Payne, and film editors Princely Peter S. Elliot and Wondrous William Hoy]: Disc Two: Extended and Deleted Scenes [with optional commentary by that swell Story guy]; Family Bonds: The Making of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer [Pre-Production and Production]; Interactive Fantasticar [View the state of the art super car from various angles]; Featurettes: The Fantasticar: State of the Art; The Power Cosmic; Sentinel of the Spaceways: Comic Book Origins of The Silver Surfer; Character Designs With Spectral Motion, and Scoring the Fantastic!
Grade: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – B
Grade: Features – A+
Final Grade: B+
The TV Set
Remember Thank You For Smoking? Jake Kasdan wrote and directed it. He wrote and directed The TV Set, too. If you enjoyed Thank You For Smoking, you will probably like The TV Set, too – especially if you’ve ever wondered how a TV series gets on the air…
Mike Klein [David Duchovny] has sold a script for a pilot. Richard [Ioan Gruffudd], a new honcho at the network [imported from Britain, where everything he touched has turned to gold] bought it. Lenny [Sigourney Weaver] is the network honcho that provides notes that rip the still beating heart out of the story and hand it to Mike while saying things like, “You don’t want to be too original. Frankly, original scares me a little bit [which nicely explains Cavemen, when you come to think of it!].
Mike’s pilot goes downhill almost from the start when his preferred lead – an actor blessed with the gift of subtlety – is passed over for a guy who has two speeds: dead halt and all out. Then one of Lenny’s suggestions [posed as a question…] disembowels the piece [it’s funny because of people’s uncharacteristic behaviour following a suicide – she wonders if the character has to commit suicide – “That’s a little bit of a downer”].
Mike needs the regular paycheck because his wife, Natalie [Justine Bateman] is very, very pregnant, and money will soon become an issue. Richard thinks he should fight to maintain his vision. Lenny is a steamroller. You can see how this will go. And so it does – and in a manner that I am assured is far too close to what really happens [which explains October Road, and the dumbing down of Roswell].
Thanks to Jake Kasdan’s keen insight, we get to laugh at every stage of Mike’s journey. The TV Set works its low-budget magic and… Hey, Kids! Comics! … we’re sufficiently distracted from the reality by the satirical tone just long enough for Kasdan’s point to sneak up on us and thump us upside the head.
Features: Two Audio Commentaries [Jake Kasdan, David Duchovny, Lindsay Sloane and Aaron Ryder on the making of The TV Set; Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow on the inspiration for The TV Set]; The making of The TV Set, and Deleted Scene: Small Talk at the Upfronts.
Grade: The TV Set – A
Grade: Features – A+
Final Grade: a
Here’s what you need to know: Jeff Goldblum really did meet Canadian actor Jennifer Antkowiak and they really became engaged rather quickly. She really did have green card problems which they solved by appearing in a Pittsburgh production of The Music Man – and Goldblum’s friends Illeana Douglas and Ed Begley Jr. also appeared in the play.
Pittsburgh, however, is a mockumentary that incorporates these real life details into the story of how Goldblum and his fiancée managed to deal with the her green card problems – and how everyone whom Goldblum approached for help had a quid pro quo for Jeff [the best being a portable solar power panel device being flogged by noted environmentally friendly actor Begley.
Pittsburgh is a blast from start to finish. It incorporates actual footage of the rehearsals and mixes it with odd sequences involving friends of Goldblum’s [a sequence were he and Jennifer run into Scott Caan and Claire Forlani on the beach is particularly hysterical. Really. These guys should write comics!
The deadpan style and the completely natural performances are enough to make you wonder – is this real or is it Memorex? Pittsburgh is just so real that it stands up well in the company of the Christopher guest mockumentaries and Rob Reiner’s classic This Is Spinal Tap.
Features: Audio Commentary with Directors Chris Bradley and Kyle LaBrache; thirty-one minutes of Bonus Scenes [with optional commentary by the directors]; the Theatrical Trailer.
Grade: Pittsburgh – A
Grade: Features – A-
Final Grade: A-