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BY John Lilly
Even if, like me, you’re a comic book
fan, the latest DVD releases of a pair Marvel Comics adaptations aren’t worth
your time — either at their original theatrical running lengths or in the new
DVD extended-edition versions.
and directed by Daredevil filmmaker (and comic-book fan) Mark Steven
Johnson, Ghost Rider is the latest in a string of supernatural comic-book
movies (other examples include Hellboy, Constantine and Spawn)
that depict the powers of hell running amok on
the earth while the powers of heaven seem distant and uninvolved. Johnson
synthesizes elements from four decades’ worth of disparate source material into
a single story about Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), a carny stunt cyclist who
makes a deal with the devil for altruistic reasons.
the film undercuts the very elements that were most interesting about the comic
book, from the agony of Blaze’s Jekyll-and-Hyde curse to the Ghost Rider’s
mission of vengeance against the wicked, whom he punishes with Dantean poetic
justice, crushing their souls with the weight of their own sins.
original theatrical version of Fantastic Four was lousy — dumb, trashy and
bizarrely lacking in
action. Naturally, it was positioned as a family film, though the relentlessly
one-note portrayal of the Human Torch as a randy, insufferably egocentric
tomcat and glory hound is hardly family viewing. The rest of the characters are
just as boring (well, the Thing is okay). Dr. Doom, in the comics a villain of
Vaderesque proportions, comes off as a dull Donald Trump with ill-defined super
does the extended edition offer? See the Torch heat up elevators to make young
women take off clothing! See Reed and Sue enjoy some private time under boxes
of old files in a storage room! See HERBIE, the annoyingly cute robot!
Sometimes deleted scenes get cut for a reason.
week’s best bet: Thirty Seconds
Over Tokyo, released last Tuesday
(the week after Memorial Day — go figure). Based on the 1943 account by Capt.
Ted Lawson and shot a year later — only two years after the events it depicts,
and while the Pacific War was still in full swing — Thirty Seconds tells the
story of the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, the first American attack on
Japanese soil, carried out 131 days after Pearl Harbor.
above-average World War II-era World War II film, Thirty Seconds provides a
docudrama recreation of the training, execution and aftermath of the Doolittle
Raid, combining actual footage of the raid with dramatic recreations, special
effects and a human-interest plot focusing on Lawson (Van Johnson), his
pregnant wife of six months (Phyllis Thaxter) and his crew. Spencer Tracy has a
small role as Gen. Doolittle.
Ghost Rider: Stylized action-movie
demonic imagery, including several gruesome supernatural killings, occasional
obscene language and a couple of instances of profanity. Fantastic Four:
Stylized violence; some sexually themed humor and
innuendo; at least one instance of profanity. Teens and up. Thirty Seconds Over
Tokyo: Wartime violence and anti-Japanese rhetoric; some
innuendo. Might be okay for older kids.