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Josh Tests His Endurance and Takes In Transformers: Dark of the Moon

July 15th, 2011
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I can’t help it.  I really love The Transformers.  As a kid, I loved the cartoon show, I loved the toys, I loved the crazy-dark animated movie, I loved Marvel Comic’s comic book series, I loved it all.  And that’s why, even after suffering through the abysmal Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (click here for my review — and in hindsight, I went VERY easy on that terrible film), I bought a ticket to see Michael Bay’s latest installment, the woefully titled Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

This third film isn’t nearly as terrible as Revenge of the Fallen, but since Revenge of the Fallen was one of the worst movies I have ever seen, that’s not saying much.

Somewhere, buried deep within Transformers: Dark of the Moon, is a good movie.  That would be a movie about the Autobots miraculously discovering their original leader, Optimus Prime’s mentor Sentinel Prime, alive and well.  But they’d gradually discover that their once-great leader had become broken by the long millennia of bitter war with the Decepticons, and that his discovery would lead to a terrible betrayal which would decimate the Autobot ranks and leave Earth helpless before a Decepticon invasion.  In the rubble of a shattered planet, a brave few Autobots and their human allies would fight desperately for some way to turn the tide and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

That would be a pretty damn good movie, I think!  That story, accompanied by Michael Bay’s clear mastery of constructing action sequences, plus the technical wizardry of the ILM craftsmen who can bring living, talking, Transforming robots to breathtaking life, could be the elements that would combine to form a powerfully entertaining piece of summer popcorn entertainment.

Sadly, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is not that movie.

First of all, Michael Bay and his writers (this time the script is credited to Ehren Kruger) seem relentlessly unwilling to allow any of the actual Transformers to be the main characters in the movie.  That was sort of understandable in the first film, in which it made sense to allow the audience to discover these crazy, outlandish characters (big talking robots who transform into planes, cars, etc.) through the eyes of a human “everyman” audience surrogate character.  But here in the third movie, every time I found myself watching scenes of Spike Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) trying to get a job, or bickering with his parents, or engaging in ridiculous physical “comedy” (and I use the term loosely) with Ken Jeong, I found myself desperate for the movie to cut back to the robots, already!

We do actually get to spend a bit more time with … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Apparently police officers in Pittsburgh spent eight hours investigating “the most grisly murder scene in 35 years” before discovering it was, in fact, a movie set.  Pretty funny.

The breaking news this week, of course, is that Jon Favreau won’t be returning to direct Iron Man 3.  I’m somewhat disappointed.  I like Mr. Favreau as a director, and I think he was a key component of the first film’s success.  And I like it when the creative teams for these super-hero sagas remain consistent from film to film.  (Look at what happened to the X-Men franchise once Bryan Singer departed after X2.)  On the other hand, as much as I adored the first Iron Man (click here for my original review), I think the second one was pretty mediocre (click here for my review of Iron Man 2).  So maybe some fresh blood is in order.  I’m a little nervous about just what Marvel has planned following their grand Avengers crossover film in 2012.  How does one go back to making Iron Man movies after The Avengers?  I hope they find a talented, steady hand to guide this franchise forward.  (And psst!  The Mandarin would be awesome!!)

Speaking of Marvel, last week they released the first full trailer for Thor, and it’s a much more substantial look at the film than I’d been expecting.  I really want this film to work, but I’m still a little dubious as to whether they’re going to be able to pull off all of the Asgardian stuff convincingly.  Fingers crossed….!

Speaking of trailers, have you seen the preview for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides? Click here to check it out.  Is this going to be any good?  So far it certainly looks of a piece with the previous three films, despite Rob Marshall’s taking over from director Gore Verbinski.  On the other hand, I was never all that wild about any of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so it’s difficult to get too excited about the prospect of a fourth (and possibly a fifth and sixth) installment.

Since I’m posting links to trailers, I guess I should also note that, sigh, Paramount has released a trailer for the aren’t-they-missing-a-word-in-that-title third Transformers film, Dark of the Moon.  Click here to check it out.  It’s actually a pretty clever, well put-together trailer.  If I hadn’t seen the first two Transformers films, I’d probably be pretty excited.  But I did, so I’m not.  (Also, many on-line writers have already noted how the trailer is basically just a souped-up version of the original teaser trailer for [continued]

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A Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen F.A.Q.

July 5th, 2009

Was I too gentle on the staggeringly mediocre Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in my review of the film on Friday?

After reading this extraordinary evisceration of the movie, every single point of which I agree with, I am beginning to think I was!  If you’ve seen the movie, you MUST follow that link.  It is hilarious.… [continued]

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Out of Energon: Josh Reviews Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

July 3rd, 2009
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I was pretty forgiving when I saw Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie in theatres for the first time, two summers ago.  Sure, it had its flaws, but nevertheless it was just an enormous amount of fun to see a live-action Transformers movie realized, complete with amazing over-the-top Michael Bay-style mayhem.

Even through my enjoyment, though, it was clear to me that this wouldn’t be a movie that would hold up well upon subsequent viewings.  (And, indeed, when I watched Transformers on DVD last year I was much less captivated that I had been that first time seeing it on the big screen.)  I immediately began to think of Michael Bay’s Transformers as a movie just like Independence Day — a sci-fi action spectacle that was a TON of fun to see in a packed theatre on an enormous screen, but one that would be hobbled, upon repeat viewings, by the simplicity (and often-times stupidity) of its script.

So what did I think of the recently-released sequel, Revenge of the Fallen? Well, to an astonishing degree, it has exactly the same strengths and weaknesses that the first film had.

As in the first film, Bay’s ability to stage enormously complex, epic action sequences filled with intense, visceral robot-on-robot combat is pretty jaw-dropping.  These movies look EXPENSIVE.  There’s no trickery used to hide a limited effects budget.  No, what we get are wall-to-wall chases, explosions, exotic locales, and a staggering array of CGI characters (mostly beating the stuffing out of one another).

Also as in the first film, sadly, there is a lot of annoying, unfunny attempts at comedy that feels like time-wasting to me.  And, as in the first film, I was constantly frustrated by the movie’s unwillingness to allow us to get to know any of the robot characters other than Prime and Bumblebee to any sort of degree.  There are an ENORMOUS number of robots in these films — and it’s a strength of Bay’s that he is unafraid to think BIG — but it’s a terrible shame that I couldn’t tell most of them apart from one another, and even if I could, I didn’t get a chance to know or care about any of them one whit.

Let’s flesh out the above statements a little bit.  (Some minor spoilers ahead.)

There were definitely a lot of things I liked about Revenge of the Fallen.  There were so many robots of so many different shapes and sizes, that it was a lot of fun to keep seeing what new robot would be in the next scene.  I particularly enjoyed getting to see Soundwave this time (who was utilized very well by the story, by the way — … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Big dumb summer movie trailer alert!  It’s the new trailer for Transformers 2, filled with lots of robot smashing action, and the new trailer for G.I. Joe, filled with Ninjas and, um, Eiffel Tower smashing action!  Sigh.  Hard to believe these two iconic and beloved cartoons of my youth are both now big-budget blockbuster movies coming out this summer.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were both really awesome?  Isn’t it sort of sad to know that they definitely won’t be?

For a peek at a movie that might actually be good, click here to check out District 9, the new sci-fi flick directed by Neill Blomkamp and executive produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of The Rings).  Color me intrigued.

Keeping up with the trailers, here‘s a glimpse at the new film from Francis Ford Coppola, Tetro.  I never saw his last film, the critically-demolished Youth Without Youth, but this looks really interesting.  It’s a new film from Francis Ford Coppola!  Of course it looks interesting!

Did you know that Robert Rodriguez is working on a new Predator film??  If it happens, it’ll be called Predators (in a clever nod to James Cameron’s sequel to Alien, entitled Aliens).  Check out the tantalizing details here.  I need to see this movie RIGHT NOW.

So it’s been ten years since The Phantom Menace, huh?  Here’s an interesting look back.  I agree with this fellow’s thoughts about the two Phantom Menace trailers (among the finest trailers ever crafted), but I certainly don’t think anywhere nearly as highly of that dreadful turd of a movie as he does.  (You can read my memories of first seeing Episode I in theatres here, and my thoughts on the movie looking back almost a decade later here.)

Did you not have enough Star Trek content here on the site for the past two weeks?  Then check out this great piece from the Onion A.V. Club: “Space Racism is Bad and 17 Other Not-So-Subtle Lessons Learned From Star Trek.”  If you’ve never seen it before, you MUST scroll down to the clip of William Shatner’s Kirk reading the Preamble to U.S. Constitution in selection #12, from the absurd Trek episode The Omega Glory.  “WE… the… PEOPLE… not written for thekingsorthechiefsortherichorthepowerful but for ALLTHEPEOPLE!”  Classic Shatnerian magnificence. 

Since seeing J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film, I’ve been enjoying reading all the different reactions on-line and in the press.  I always enjoy Alexandra DuPont’s film reviews when they appear (not often enough to suit me) on aintitcoolnews.com, and her take on the new film is well worth your time.  (I remember well … [continued]

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“One shall stand…one shall fall”

I don’t think I’m the only child of the eighties who was deeply affected by Transformers: The Movie.

I’m not talking about the Michael Bay CGI effects-O-rama, but the animated spin-off of the Transformers TV show that hit the big screen in 1986.

I actually never saw Transformers: The Movie in theatres.   I took notice of it when two things happened:   1) I started seeing ads for a lot of new Transformers toys, and 2) suddenly the Transformers TV show started featuring a lot of new robots.   (The second season of the show took place after the movie, and featured all the new characters introduced in the film.)

But I do remember when I finally saw Transformers: The Movie on video. I was blown away by the incredible animation (worlds better than the show), the violence (the whole first 40 minutes are one long extended battle sequence – and suddenly the laser blasts that each of the robots fired actually did damage!), and the rather merciless way in which all of the beloved characters from the show are wiped out – including, most notoriously, Optimus Prime himself.   I didn’t weep – but boy was I stunned!

Looking back on the movie today, there’s a lot that doesn’t hold up.   I recognize how the story points (killing off the old characters and introducing lots of new ones) were driven by the need to sell new toys.   The animation – so spectacular to me as a kid – looks a bit dodgy to older eyes.   The second half of the movie is rather boring.   (And what the heck is up with the Weird Al song that all the characters suddenly start dancing to on the planet of junk???)

But I still have a lot of affection for Transformers: The Movie. For whatever reason I still really love those characters, and the writers/animators/etc. were able to wring a lot of gravitas out of the way those characters were put through hell and back in the midst of what was, in the end, a 90-minute toy commercial.   I had a lot of fun seeing Michael Bay’s Transformers movie in the theatre for the 1st time last summer.   But I think that movie would have a much longer shelf life if it had half as much emotion as Transformers: The Movie from 1986.… [continued]

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Summer (Movie) Lovin’ (OR How Die Hard IV is like The Godfather Part III)

I thought 2007 was a tremendous year for movies. Here are just a handful of terrific ’07 flicks that I saw: Eastern Promises, The Darjeeling Limited, Grindhouse, Knocked Up, Superbad, The Simpsons Movie, The Mist, Gone Baby Gone, Margot at the Wedding, 300, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Juno, Charlie Wilson’s War, Ratatouille…I could go on and on.

And yet my recollection is that 2007 saw one of the most disappointing crop of big-budget summer movies in recent memory.   Other than a couple of the comedies mentioned above (Knocked Up, Superbad, and The Simpsons Movie), I found myself continually disappointed by practically every single summer flick I saw.   Those include:

Spider-Man 3 – What a disaster.   I’ve been mocking it for two weeks on this site, and we have barely plumbed the depths of my disappointment.   The first hour is pretty good (well, except for the whole Harry-has-amnesia thing), but then it just all falls to pieces.   Peter Parker combs his bangs over his forehead to show that us he’s evil.   Sandman agrees to help Venom kill Spider-Man for no reason whatsoever (an act made even more ridiculous considering that the whole first half of the movie bent over backwards to show us that Sandman is really an OK guy just trying to help his daughter).   That awful, awful dance number.   The way Gwen Stacy’s character is completely forgotten about.   That awful, awful dance number.   Ugh.

Shrek 3 –Mildly entertaining at best.

Transformers – Very much like ID4 to me — Big and dumb.   Like ID4, it was a ton of fun to see in the theatre for the first time – lots of eye-candy explosions, lots of great “audience cheering” moments – I would be dishonest if I claimed it wasn’t a blast.   But I really wish the movie was a bit smarter.   Optimus and the gang acting like idiots trying to hide around Spike Witwicky’s house (“my bad”) is kind of like Jeff Goldblum using his Mac powerbook to download a virus into the alien mothership’s computer.   I can’t see myself re-watching this too many times.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3 – I really didn’t like Pirates of the Caribbean 1 or Pirates of the Caribbean 2, so I’m not sure what I was expecting.

Die Hard IV – To me, Live Free or Die Hard is kind of like The Godfather Part III. Hang on, bear with me.   I have always defended The Godfather Part III. My assertion is that if it had some other title, people would think it was a pretty decent gangster flick.   Not amazing, but enjoyable.   But because it’s the Godfather Part III, viewers compare … [continued]