Movie Reviews for 7/5/07

By Aaron Allen and Danny Letz

“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”20th Century FoxDirected by Tim StoryWritten by Don PayneStarring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evan, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Andre Braugher, Doug Jones and the voice of Laurence FishburneRated PG/94 minutesOpened June 15, 2007Two-and-a-half out of four stars

Four reasons why “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” is better than its predecessor:

1. The Silver Surfer. He’s got the slick metal skin of the Terminator, the sober attitude of Rodin’s The Thinker and the lordly voice of Laurence Fishburne, not to mention the surfboarding grace of a penguin. He makes big holes in the earth because his master, the planet-devouring Galactus, prefers his meals pre-chewed. The Surfer may have an evil job, but what a cool evil job.

2. Jessica Alba on fire. I always thought she was smoking hot in a purely figurative sense, but when her character, The Invisible Woman, accidentally switches powers with her brother, The Human Torch (Chris Evans), she literally bursts into flames.

3. Something is actually at stake. The first movie suffered from a villain who had no greater ambition than to destroy the Fantastic Four. Yawn. As far as megalomaniacal plots go, that was weak. In the sequel, the world might actually come to an end. I can sit up for that.

4. The little details. The Invisible Woman complains to her hubby-to-be — the stretchy Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) — when the city bills them for collateral damage caused during one of their heroic deeds. I’ve always wondered who pays for all the destroyed police cars, wrecked buildings and cratered asphalt after an apocalyptic, superhero smack-down. Superman is smart — he has no billing address.

And now one reason why this sequel still doesn’t stack up to other, better superhero movies: the sitcom-level script, which gives its characters dumb one-liners and petty spats. The world is being eaten from the inside out and all The Invisible Woman can do is pout about her wedding? Grow up, girl.A.A.

“Evan Almighty”Universal PicturesDirected by Tom ShadyacWritten by Steve OedekerkStarring: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill and Molly ShannonRated PG/90 minutesOpened June 22, 2007Two out of four stars

An auditor goes into Universal Studios to discuss the budget of “Evan Almighty” with the movie’s producer.

Auditor: So, by my records, the budget for “Evan Almighty” was $175 million; the most expensive comedy ever.

Producer: That’s correct. We felt we couldn’t do justice to the story of Noah and the flood told in a modern day setting without lots and lots of money. It’s how God would’ve wanted it done.

Auditor: You talk about God in the past tense, as if he’s dead.

Producer: In Hollywood, God is dead.

Auditor: I see. With $175 million at your disposal, couldn’t you have bribed Jim Carrey back to the franchise he started so hilariously in 2003?

Producer: No, he passed on the script, unfortunately. Steve Carell is a popular guy right now, though, so we brought him aboard our “ark.” We’ve watered down his smarmy anchorman character from “Bruce Almighty” into a family-oriented congressman who sincerely wants to change the world. It’s a fantasy film.

Auditor: No doubt. So then God visits Carell and tells him to build an ark?

Producer: Exact-a-mundo. And Carell grows a white beard, wears a Bible-ish robe and all sorts of exotic animals flock to him to board the ark, two-by-two.

Auditor: Yeah, I was confused by that. Considering that the flood is only meant to impact the citizens of Carell’s small valley community, why do elephants and zebras show up? Or are there wild African animals in the forests of Virginia that I’m not aware of?

Producer: He’s Noah! It wouldn’t be a Noah story without all the animals! And besides, we had money to burn. So what if the animals and the beard and the robe don’t really make sense? They’re funny in and of themselves!

Auditor: Uh, not exactly. And that leads me to my next question: Exactly how much of your extravagant budget was spent on laughs?

Producer: About $2.34. Animal-poop jokes are cheap.A.A.

“Sicko”The Weinstein CompanyWritten, Directed and Narrated by Michael MooreRated PG-13/113 minutesOpened June 29, 2007Four out of four stars

With Michael Moore’s penchant for inflaming partisan discontent, it seemed tackling something as large as the United States’ health care industry would only result in adding fuel to the political conflagration.

“Sicko,” however, is perhaps Moore’s fairest, most comprehensive documentary to date.

Rather than focus on the 50 million or more Americans without health insurance, Moore focuses on fully insured Americans and how these people have “slipped through the cracks” — and by this, I mean the preventable injury, maiming and death of the dozens of Americans profiled in the film.

“Sicko” profiles an industry steeped in greed and corporate profits, not to mention political lobbying — Moore notes there are four times as many insurance lobbyists as there are members of Congress — and the results of these motives on the health and treatment of Americans across the socio-economic spectrum.

Holding the American system against a backdrop of other universal health care systems (for instance, France and the U.K.), Moore justifiably answers the universal care naysayers, while posing the question: “Is this what we [as Americans] have become?”

Definitely a must-see for all Americans — conservatives and liberals alike.D.L.