Friday, July 22, 2005
Signs and portents
Let's see. Last time I left off I was being posty and headed to the movies to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the ever sexy and surprising and incredibly talented Johnny Depp and The Fantastic Four with hot and juicy stud muffins, Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced YO-an Griffith), Julian McMahon and Michael Chiklis. You heard me, I said Michael Chiklis. Ever since he went buff and brawny for The Shield he has gone from cute and cuddly to dangerously muscular and hot. Julian McMahon is predictably and deliciously dark and intelligent with that demonic edge to his subtle charm and Ioan Gruffudd is cool, intelligent and cuddly. Of course there is Chris Evans who plays Johnny Storm, but I never did go for the irresponsible attention seeking types. Still, he is cute and when he flames on he FLAMES ON.
FF is what I expected when I heard that one of my favorite comic book hero crowd was making its way to the big screen. There are dazzling special effects, but they do not over shadow the characters. Granted, I missed the first few minutes of the movie and came in after they had been zapped by the cosmic cloud and were faced with altered DNA that took them by surprise, but what I saw was a lot of fun and true to Stan Lee's vision of FF as a group of scientists, misfits and reluctant heroes. Each of the characters was fully formed and fit the view I have always held of them in my mind. The only clinker was the olive-skinned brunette Jessica Alba as blonde Sue Storm, but that is because I actually expected an actress who looked feminine and fragile and not a decided blonde and Alba is nowhere near fragile or naturally blonde. Her character did, however, fit Ioan Gruffudd's Reed Richards and didn't detract too much from the overall story.
All in all, FF was good summer fun and worth paying to see. In fact, this is one I will probably buy when it comes out on DVD. I'd like to see it again and again. Chiklis nailed the confused, angry and heroic Ben Grimm during and after the change and when he chose friendship over comfort.
As for Depp as Willy Wonka, do I really need to say that Tim Burton has added a creepiness level beneath the surface with his back story and with Depp's portrayal that outdid my wildest expectations. Having seen Gene Wilder's portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I expected something darker and not so frothy and silly, but I got more than I bargained for. The combination of Burton's darkness and Depp's flawless immersion in the kid hating character of Willy Wonka is priceless.
There have been claims that Depp's Wonka closely resembles Michael Jackson, but I think those people are on crack. Depp's surface civility is a super thin veneer hiding a palpable and visceral disgust and hatred of children that goes to the bone. Even his rubber gloves to keep him from touching the children or their parents is reminiscent more of Howard Hughes or the germophobe in Creep Show's They're Creeping Up On You than Jackson's childlike and childish antics with children. Where Wilder was a happy and approachable Wonka, Depp is more like the scent of death and putrefaction found aboard a derelict ship marooned in the deep cold of space. Roald Dahl's vision under Burton's direction is well worth the price of a ticket if only to feel the creepiness crawling its slimy way across your skin. The only sour note is the schmaltzy ending, but it is a children's story after all. No getting away from the schmaltz when entertaining children is the main focus.
Coming out of the theater into the sledge hammer of heat that greeted me was nearly enough to make me run screaming back through the doors, but I decided to stick it out and go home. I still had errands to run. I did, however, forget that I-25 is torn up between Fillmore and Garden of the Gods, so I exited the freeway at Fontanero and headed north, getting turned around along the way. My navigational mistake did take me past a trashy lot full of nodding sunflowers beaming in the blazing heat abuzz with bees and I found out I didn't need to go to Garden of the Gods Road to finish my errands because a new store was opened on 19th and Uintah where I again met a lady who greeted me with, "Hi. You're the author." We dispatched my business and talked about books and authors for a few minutes before another customer rushed into the cool air conditioned lobby out of the brutal heat and I left to go home to the sweltering semi-comfort of my treetop apartment just in time for a rare and magical event that was repeated in a little different way the next day.