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Not so ‘Fantastic’ 

Enough is enough with the comic book movies; ‘Rize’ explores ‘krumping.’

FORGETTABLE: The not-so-Fantastic Four.
  • FORGETTABLE: The not-so-Fantastic Four.
When they make a movie out of the “Fantastic Four,” the comic-book-turned-into-a movie genre has finally hit rock bottom. Let’s face it: “Fantastic Four” might be the corniest comic book series going, and it doesn’t make a much better movie. The plot: Looking to finance his research into a radioactive cloud that’s coming perilously close to earth, scientist Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) goes begging to billionaire rival Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), asking if he can borrow his space station for a day or so. Von Doom agrees, but only if he can tag along. Also along for the ride are Richards’ old girlfriend, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), friend Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) and hot shot pilot Johnny Storm (Chris Evans). You know the rest: Flashing lights! Massive dose of radiation! Superpowers! Back on Earth, all five of the folks on the ill-fated mission realize they can do sumpin’ special: Von Doom becomes a metallic energy vampire; Richards can stretch himself into any shape; Sue Storm can become invisible and project force fields, while her brother Johnny can douse himself in flame and burn as hot as the sun. Grimm, who took a higher dose of the cosmic radiation, becomes a rock-skinned monster called The Thing. When Von Doom seeks to take over the world, the other four have to set aside their reluctance and differences to stop him. While “Fantastic Four” has a lot in the action department, it’s mostly just so much pretty wrapping paper on an empty box. Often predictable and wooden, with more skin-tight outfits than Jacques Cousteau’s closet, in the end only Evans looks like he’s having any fun with his character. Alba dishes up her lines like cold chowder (though she does wonders for that spandex suit), while Gruffudd practices his Scholarly Look. As for Chiklis, it’s hard to tell what he looks like under all that carefully tinted latex. You might say: Weren’t you the guy gushing over “Batman Begins” a few weeks back? Guilty as charged. But “Batman Begins” was a good movie, comic book roots or no, full of interesting twists and genuine emotion. With “Fantastic Four,” pulp comics beget cardboard movie characters. The result: largely four-getable. — By David Koon “Rize,” opening Friday at Market Street Cinema, is a documentary that captures the underground culture in South Central L.A. of a new dance movement called “krumping.” In the middle of gangland, an ever-growing group of kids decided to invent an alternative to the senseless violence. As one of the innovators of krumping says, “This is not a trend,” as if to say it’s a pure art form that exists solely as an alternative means of expression. The story opens with Tommy the Clown, a former gang member who ended up in jail –- luckily, so he says. After his release, he began performing as a clown at kid’s birthday parties and was attracted to the positive attention it drew to the neighborhood. Tommy took on the persona full-time and soon garnered some fame in the area, and started a dance club. Soon there were more than 50 clown groups operating in the South Central area, all hoping for a positive solution to the angst and negative atmosphere surrounding them. Krumping parties erupted everywhere, where dance moves are so fast and physically volatile that it serves as a means of expressing the same anger of the gang life, but in a far less destructive way. While director David LaChapelle has captured a fascinating encapsulation of black culture, it is far too much an amateur effort to really capture much earned attention from film critics. The beginning of the film tries to tie in this small group to the Rodney King riots over a decade ago, as if through some cultural synergy, the angst felt by these krumpers is equivalent. Instead of reaching so far as to incorporate all black oppression –- even back to tribal roots, where they also painted their faces and danced in circles –- the film would have been far more convincing had it only dealt with itself instead of positing this small, unrecognized group of kids as a model for all black history. — By Dustin Allen Meanwhile at Market Street, “Saving Face,” from first-time director and screenwriter Alice Wu, describes the cultural struggle between the conservative values of a Chinese family, newly settled in New York, and their integration into American culture. While the premise is simple — the old generation holds on to tradition, while the younger one embraces a set of more lenient values — it nevertheless remains fertile territory for a semi-engaging plot. Wilhemina Pang (Michelle Krusiec), a workaholic surgeon, is the granddaughter of three generations who live in Manhattan. The twist of this cross-cultural dilemma is Wil’s struggle with being a closeted lesbian. Also, her mother (Joan Chen) becomes pregnant at 48 and refuses to say who the father is, and is then banished from the family, only to come and live with her daughter. As Wil’s girlfriend pushes her to come out of the closet, and her mother has to come to terms with her separation from family (and culture), both learn to restore confidence in themselves. As a result, Wil and her mother end up strong-arming the rest of the family — not without some guilt of their own, for sure — into becoming more tolerant of American values. While interesting, the movie seems to be saying that, despite its empathy for Chinese heritage, the family is better off abandoning that heritage and tradition and that only defiance of those values can lead to freedom. Almost all of the conservative characters are cliches and given soap opera dialogue. It’s more like the director was so accustomed to the cultural conflict herself that she couldn’t help but overdramatize them. — By Dustin Allen
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