RIC MEYERS: Fantastic Up Creature – Rise of the Surf’s Comforts
There were rumors to the effect that the first Fox Fantastic Four movie was the victim of studio interference that somehow moved a mid-film confrontation to the climax. But given its success, FF2 would be the full, unadulterated vision of director Tim Story. Right?
Well, with the “Power Cosmic 2-Disc Edition” DVD release of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, it appears those rumors were merely wishful thinking. If you liked #1, you’ll probably be fine with #2, but if, like me, you felt #1 was lacking, you, like me, may find #2 essentially insupportable in terms of comedy, drama, action, and/or romance.
On the one hand, Sue Storm — a.k.a. Invisible Girl a.k.a. Jessica Alba — is given a nice wardrobe, especially her pre-wedding robe. On the other hand, she’s given Cleopatra’s make-up and has gotten the same disease as Lois Lane in Superman Returns and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3 – that is, the safety of the world is nothing compared with her bee-otchy, selfish, superficial ego needs.
But what of the special features, which, nominally, this column’s about? If you’ll remember last time, the first film’s DVD was saved by some above average history of comics and the graphic FF. This time just about the only thing that buoys the effort is the “Sentinel of the Spaceways: Comic Book Origins of the Silver Surfer Documentary.” There’s also some interest inspired by the “Character Design with Spectral Motion Featurette,” but the rest of the many, many extras are self-congratulatory ego-boo fests for a job mediocrely done.
Salving my agitated eyes are two worthy animated efforts which slipped under the cinematic radar. Surf’s Up was a loving satire of reality TV and surfing documentaries that suffered from penguin fatigue. Apparently audiences simply weren’t in the mood for yet another veneration to the tuxedoed birds following their Oscars-winning March… and Happy Feet, no matter how charming it was.
Movie viewers’ loss is DVD’s gain as the amusing effort dazzles on disc, thanks to the spectacular surfing animation. There’s plenty of special features as well, although my main criticism is that they didn’t go far enough. Once I saw one filmed voice over session, I wanted more than they gave me. There were also one doc too many which was basically just clips from the films spliced together. Even so, the many featurettes (not to mention games), like the film, charm and entertain. The intros and commentary by the two directors and one producer also did the trick.
Then there’re the ChubbChubbs. I’m not sure the two slightly vicious sci-fi cartoons included here quite mesh with the surfing penguin flick (especially one about Xmas which is three months off), but I suppose I shouldn’t look at cute, fuzzy, homicidal, aliens with garbage disposal teeth in the mouth, especially when they have some sweet ET, Forbidden Planet and Star Wars jokes thrown in. All in all, the Surf’s Up Special Edition is worth a ride, or, at least a wave.
Speaking of overlooked animation, Creature Comforts America hardly made it to the second episode when shown on CBS this past summer, but Aardman Animation, the creators of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, had already made seven half-hours. So all seven are included on a two-disc “Complete First Season” DVD, as well as some odd extras. I never thought I’d be writing this, but on the basis of what I viewed, the delightful show would have been better served by a single disc.
Creature Comforts was originally an award winning short film which was extended into a very successful BBC-TV series (both of which are also available on DVD). In either format, they were Aardman’s clever clay-animated vignettes starring animals who mouthed the words of interviewed humans. The pleasure came when the animals’ attitudes and environments (a panther in a zoo) cleverly counterpointed with the humans’ opinions (the feelings of claustrophobia and weather changes for an African in London).
So the Aardman folk interviewed a whole bunch of Americans and did the same thing. The result is still amusing, although, if the deleted and alternate scenes included here are any evidence, less inspired, since CBS and the BBC’s opinions of what is suitable are very different (most of the deleted scenes involve slightly more risqué subjects – such as ass-sniffing dogs, and, most spectacularly, a bird sucked into a plane’s jet engine).
Sadly, that’s where the extras should’ve stopped. Instead, the box also promises “Live-Action Videos,” giving the connotation that fans would finally see the real subjects who the animated animals were based on. But within minutes it becomes clear that these live action videos are of the same Aardman employees over and over again, mouthing the real interview subjects’ voices – apparently creating source material for the animators to use as inspiration for positioning and mouth movements. I say “apparently” because it’s not explained.
So, for whatever it’s worth, if there’s ever a second season of Creature Comforts America, include the episodes, the deleted/alternate scenes, and be done with it … unless you’re willing to cough up the real subjects. But, please, no selfish, superficial bee-otches who think their petty needs are more important than the safety of the world.
Ric Meyers is the author of Murder On The Air, Doomstar, The Great Science-Fiction Films, Murder in Halruua, For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films, Fear Itself, and numerous other books and has (and sometimes still is) on the editorial staff of such publications as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Starlog, Fangoria, Inside Kung-Fu, The Armchair Detective and Asian Cult Cinema. He’s also a television and motion picture consultant whose credits include The Twilight Zone, Columbo, A&E’s Biography and The Incredibly Strange Film Show.
This column was supposed to run last Sunday but, due to an unfortunate fart in the Internet, was delayed until today. Our apologies to Ric.