Archive for June, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is shitty garbage

June 29, 2011

What a shitty piece of garbage. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is actually worse than you’ve heard and also fucking boring. It has zero narrative connecting events in the first half of the movie to the latter, and it literally ends because there is no one left to brutally murder. Oh and the action sucks. You might have heard that Dark of the Moon is better than the second Transformers movie that everyone involved agreed was terrible(after the fact). I’m sure they’ll say the same thing about this one too in a couple years.

Believe it or not, the moon landing was spurred on because a Autobot ship crashed there and the U.S. government wanted first crack at it before the Soviets so an animatronic/stock footage JFK sent NASA into action to retrieve the ship first. Michael Bay tries to get creative in presenting a convincing CGI Kennedy but fails miserably and instead gives us something out of Disney’s Hall of Presidents. He also has some shots of CGI Kennedy that have the same film texture as the Zapruder films because why not. There is a very lazy shot of a Fake Nixon on the phone with the Apollo 11 astronauts. Fake Nixon sits slighty out of focus in the background while the foreground has a monitor showing actual footage of the real Nixon on the phone, except real Nixon is moving his lips while the fake Nixon is clearly just sitting there.

All of the 60’s flashback stuff is delivered with the utmost seriousness and I paid attention since I assumed that this information would relate to events later on in the film. NOPE. Like so many things that occur in these movies, this is just a thing that happened to the Transformers and we don’t need to think about it anymore. There is a shot late in the film where a bunch of Decepticons rise out of the surface of the moon, but no indication of how they got there is ever given. I guess they crashed another time but we didn’t go back up to check because Patrick Dempsey’s dad cut NASA’s funding. Everything you know is a lie.

Shia LaBeouf’s character Sam is an asshole in this film. He’s a prick to everyone; his parents, his girlfriend, his girlfriend’s boss, Bumblebee, random government personel, and job interviewers. His sense of entitlement is unbearable and frankly unearned.

Sam’s plot at the beginning of the film is some lame horseshit about not being able to find a job out of college even though he went to an Ivy League school. Super sympathetic plot, yo. Before we meet Sam again though we meet his girlfriend’s ass, which Bay lovingly shoots as she ascends the stairs, sans pants. The only attractive shots in the entire film are of women and cars, Michael Bay’s true passions. He also loves boats(The Island).  Megan Fox has been replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who accomplishes the impossible by making me miss Megan Fox. Fox’s character Mikaela was a gearhead and automobile enthusiast. She was a woman with a story(of sorts) and genuinely interested in Sam. Huntington-Whiteley’s Carly is a lazy fill-in, introduced as a White House intern who then goes to work for Patrick Dempsey’s classic car restoration business because they used to race cars together? What? Wikipedia states:

Initially cast to play Mikaela’s boss, Dempsey’s role was reassigned when Mikaela was written out of the film.

Reassigned in the sense that the scriptwriter did word replace with “Mikaela” and put in “Carly” instead.

Miss you, girl.

Sam goes to a series of interviews where he’s a douche and doesn’t get any offers before meeting with John Malkovich. This entire sequence serves no purpose but to pad out the running time because Michael Bay wants you leaving that theater with those pants done pissed, boy. Ken Jeong shows up for ten or so minutes of gay panic and “funny” behavior before a Decepticon pushes him out of a window to his death. Malkovich tells everyone to get back to work because “you all know what happens when someone falls out of building”. Casually brushing off the death of a human being is a Bay trademark. You could say the death of Jeong’s character is Transformers: Dark of the Moon‘s “That is how you shoot” moment.

MEANWHILE, various ancillary characters, ‘Bot, ‘Con, and ‘man discussed the discovery of an autobot engine part found in Chernobyl. Turns out the U.S. government never told ol’ Optimus Prime about the how’s and why’s of the space program and the spaceship that is done lodged itself into the crust of the moon. Optimus Prime is pretty pissed about this but then they introduce him to Buzz Aldrin. Buzz Aldrin says it is “an honor” to meet Optimus Prime and Optimus is all no, no, it’s an honor to meet you, Buzz Aldrin. This scene is kinda funny and sad, you guys. Also, it fucking exists forever.

Optimus Prime and some other Autobots go to the moon and retrieve Sentinel Prime from the crashed space ship. Turns out he was Optimus Prime’s old boss and that when he disappeared Optimus Prime got promoted. Optimus is a standup dude and after he revives Sentinel Prime they go sight seeing in Africa and Sentinel Prime makes some in hindsight ominous statements about how great Earth is.

Well, turns out ol’ Sentinel Prime is a jerky turncoat. When he flew away from  the battle of Cybertron(don’t ask) it wasn’t to get help or whatever, it was to join the Decepticons. I know.

Optimus Prime feels bad about trusting Sentinel Prime and that that trust lead to the death of a fellow autobot and a bunch of people on the freeway. Sentinel Prime teams up with Megatron(voiced by Agent Smith!) and they tell the United Nations to ban all of the Autobots from the Earth. The U.N. folds like fucking oragami and says sure, shoot those fuckers into space, you guys seem like ok people.

Patrick Dempsey is in Dark of the Moon because Michael Bay only works with *stars*.

MEANWHILE again, Sam learns that Patrick Dempsey is actually Evil Patrick Dempsey, in cahoots with the Decepticons due to the fact that his father was also in cahoots with Decepticons and one can only assume that Evil Patrick Dempsey’s children will also be forced into an alliance with the Decepticons as well. Dempsey forces Sam to wear an evil Decepticon watch(sorry, I couldn’t see what brand. A rare product placement miss for T:DOTM) that will allow the Decepticons to eavesdrop on Sam’s conversations with Optimus Prime and also force Sam to act like he is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. I would hate to have the job of listening in on conversations with Optimus Prime because Optimus Prime is boring. Seriously, he gives about five to ten speeches during Transformers: Dark of the Moon and they’re all about trust and legacy and whatever you know all of the other autobots tune that shit out too. If only it’d been Optimus with the vocal cord issues instead of Bumblebee.

Sam asks Optimus Prime what his plan is after they get shot into space and Optimus Prime says, “No plan, Sam. We’re just going to sit around in space. Whatev’s. See you, be brave, the power of greyskull, silverhawks, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Then the Autobots are launched into space and a Decepticon flys over and blows up the spaceshuttle, visually evoking the horror and sadness of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. Does Michael Bay have a tattoo of the word “classy” on his body because if not he should totally get one. Everyone is sad about the autobots dyin- Wait. No, I’m sorry. No one is really that upset about the autobots. No one reacts in any way that would indicate that the robotic characters who have inhabited the last two films of this series have horrifically perished in a space shuttle explosion. I guess that is what I should expect from a film that also doesn’t acknowledge the fact that in the last film the Decepticons revealed their existence to the planet and then demanded the world turn over Sam and yet every new person Sam meets in this movie has no idea who he is. HIS FACE AND NAME WAS BEAMED AROUND THE WORLD DURING AN ALIEN INVASION! C’mon, somebody must remember that.

Screen shot from a movie made for children.

The Decepticons promptly set up base in the center of the world, Chicago, and begin their plan of blowing it to pieces. Sentinel Prime sets up some bars or some shit to begin the process of remaking Earth like Cybertron, even though Earth’s climate is pretty hospitable to Autobots and Decepticons. Based on the damage they do to our architecture, perhaps they just hate our design sense. Evil Patrick Dempsey explains to Not Megan Fox (as he drags her from room to room in Trump Tower) that the Decepticons are going to need humans as slave labor to recreate Cybertron on Earth and Evil Patrick Dempsey just needs to squeak out forty more years of life, even if it is as a slave of Decepticons. Now, considering that the only skill set displayed by Decepticons(and Autobots) is changing their appearance and destroying anything and everything they encounter, I would have been genuinely interested in the Decepticon’s plans for construction of a New Cybertron. Are there blueprints and specs? Training videos for your new slave labor so that your Decepticon Split Level is built to the correct specifications? I must express some doubt on how much rebuilding the Decepticons planned this human slave labor to do since they spend most of their time murdering people. Some are crushed, others vaporized into bones. This goes on for awhile. No additional demands are ever issued by the Decepticons for the human population to surrender and begin work on the Decepticons Only cyber golf course.

Sam teams up with Tyrese(Hey! Tyrese! Good to see you. Fast Five was great!) and his friends and they decide to storm Chicago and save Sam’s girlfriend? Yes, save Sam’s girlfriend. Not defeat the Decepticons, just save the girlfriend. They get about a mile into city limits and Tyrese admits that it is just too hard and that they should go back home and get ready to work for Cybertron McDonald’s. But then Optimus Prime shows up! Holy shit! I thought that guy was dead! “No,” says Optimus Prime, clearing up that confusion. Turns out the Autobots snuck out of the Space Shuttle right before it exploded. This is not shown and no one asks any other questions.

HOUR LONG ACTION SEQUENCE!

Various Transformers crap happens. A professor autobot gives Sam a weapon and later is murdered, execution style. Have I mentioned that this movie for children is very callous and blasé about murder and death? Anyway, this whole sequence isn’t very good. In fact, it is very bad. Events and encounters occur with no indication given towards geography and locations. Characters fly in and blow up shit at random and disappear and reappear as they are required for the action sequence itself to “work”. Since having any autobots during the 9/11 sequence would diminish the danger, they are all curiously M.I.A. I call it the 9/11 sequence since Sam, Tyrese and gang are inside a toppling building, falling out of windows and screaming. Seriously Michael, think about that tattoo.

Optimus Prime flys around and after destroying a random Decepticon he becomes tangled in some wire. I’m pretty sure he was stuck there for about twenty minutes of screen time before some other Autobots cut him down. I wonder what he thought about when he was strung up there. Do you think he pondered the strange twists and turns his life had taken? Did he perhaps find a dark humor in his situation, hanging upside down under a bridge while others fought for humanity’s future? Y’know what, let’s never ask him because I’m sure the answer is nothing that interesting.

Eventually, Optimus Prime faces off against Sentinel Prime. Sentinel Prime tears off Optimus’s arm, but then Megatron appears and sucker punchs Sentinel Prime because Not Megan Fox called Megatron a pussy. How did that happen, you wonder? Oh, Not Megan Fox found Megatron sitting in an alley and said, “You know, Sentinel Prime thinks you’re a Megapussy, Megatron.”

Optimus Prime thanks Megatron by ripping out his spinal cord(that’s what it looked like) and chopping off Sentinel Prime’s head. Then Optimus Prime started on with another speech and I think but I’m not sure that they cut him off and went to the Directed by Michael Bay card.

As the credits rolled on Transformers: Dark of the Moon a Linkin Park song began playing and a man sitting behind me loudly sang along. This was unexpected to say the least and unbelievable as it continued while his seatmates calmly discussed the film and then departed the theater, singer in tow.

There is an article in GQ this month that offers a oral history of Michael Bay. It’s a fun read but it’s existence is Bay and his defenders doth protesting too much. For all the talk of Bay’s skill at “awesome” it would be self evident. But over and over again this has proven to not be the case. The Transformers movies have crammed in romance, drama, comedy and action and failed at all of them. The best you can say about the rest of Bay’s career is consistent mediocrity. Everyone who has followed in Bay’s footsteps(McG!) have not achieved similar box office clout and thus lack the defenders that Bay has acquired. Michael Bay is the movie industry’s Goldman Sach’s, too big to fail. If Michael Bay wanted to answer his critics he’d make a good movie. Simple as that. That he hasn’t is either a testament to his stubborness or more likely, a lack of ability.

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13 Assassins

June 22, 2011

A couple years ago my good friend Justin Muschong lent me the film Samurai Rebellion and insisted I watch it because it was a “great movie”. It sat on my shelf for a long while because I just wasn’t in the mood to watch a great movie and instead I read comic books and watched Demolition Man. My mistake. When I finally did get around to watching Samurai Rebellion I was pleased to find that it was indeed a “great movie” and that I was a better person for watching it. Samurai Rebellion is great for it’s themes of honor and loyalty, but what makes it also enjoyable is the slow buildup of tension that finally explodes when there is a fucking samurai rebellion. 13 Assassins follows this same template but does give you more bits of action before the grand finale because audiences would get impatient if all these guys with swords just kept talking all the time. 13 Assassins also owes a debt to Seven Samurai but of course it does.

For a Takashi Miike film 13 Assassins is subdued and polished. It says something about Miike’s other films that 13 Assassins contains numerous acts of harakiri and decapitation and yet still counts as a more subtle work from him. The plot is that the now retired samurai Shinzaemon is pulled back into active service by the shogun to assemble of secret team of assassins to kill Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira, who is a fucking asshole. This is the only accurate description of this character after we see him rape a woman, murder her husband and use another family for archery practice. Oh, and he cut a woman’s arms and legs off and left her in the rain. Yup, we got it Miike. Naritsugu is a grade-A jerk.

Shinzaemon is thrilled to have the work because it means he gets to die in battle. Whatever floats your boat, Shinzaemon. Shinzaemon gets to work recruiting his team of assassins including a sloppy old dude with a spear, a badass with a dirtstache, and Shinzaemon’s nephew who has taken to gambling because it’s the only thing that makes him feel alive.

Shinzaemon: Wanna feel alive? Lets go kill some people.

Nephew: Aight. (to wife) Light a torch.

Dirtstache has one of best moments in the film when he comes to the aid of another samurai but not before introducing himself as a ronin and then KILLING EVERYBODY.

The best feature of 13 Assassins is the light touch given to what could be weighty, pretentious material. Just because a film takes place in the past and deals with outmoded social strata and rituals does not mean we have to be glum and po-faced all the time. Shinzaemon has an easy smile and the character of Kiga is what the old showbiz fatsos would call a “crowdpleaser”. The final 45 minutes of 13 Assassins is devoted to a fullout samurai war between some two hundred warriors against the titular thirteen. Lives are lost, lessons are learned, and severed heads are kicked like soccer balls.

Thor

June 15, 2011

A classic comic book maneuver is to place a character on the cover of low selling title to get non-fans and completists to pick it up. “Guest Starring Wolverine”, “Featuring an appearance by Gambit!” moved plenty of units and tended to amount to a mere single page or panel where Wolverine would nod to Ghost Rider or The New Warriors and say, “Not bad. Maybe next time I’ll help you out.” And you’d be stuck with an issue of The New Warriors that you didn’t want to begin with but hey, Wolverine, love that guy. Thor is the film version of one of those comics I never cared enough about to read month to month, padded out with small nods and cheeky asides to assure the audience that Thor plays an important part in the Marvel movie universe and one day we’ll get a movie that proves this point. So in between off hand references to Tony Stark and an appearance from Hawkeye where he doesn’t even shoot a fucking arrow(I know!) you get a Thor movie, which is everything you expect and a little less. Thor is a nice guy but a little cocky on account of being a prince with a magic hammer. Thor is such a nice guy that he ends up a tad boring. Oh sure he is plenty arrogant in the first twenty minutes of the movie but not in any off-putting way. Should I be surprised that the character of Thor has all the tarnish and grit of a new shoe fresh out of the box? No, I shouldn’t.

The script is a mess of cliches we have all sat through a million times before. Yet, these are good performances. Idris Elba just stands there and holds a sword for most of the movie and the dude straight kills it. I believed he’d been guarding a rainbow bridge his whole life. However you start to question his abilities after he makes the point that nobody gets past him and the rest of the movie has anyone and everyone getting past him.

Does it irritate anyone else that when we are shown a world of gods and impossible wonders that it only amounts to waterfalls and people who can fly but otherwise it is the same as anywhere else? Hell, we have waterfalls on earth too! You ain’t so impressive, Asgard.

Other things I had time to think about while watching Thor:

  • Hiring practices for women are still draconian in Asgard. Thor appears progressive by having a woman, Sif, on his team of warriors but later holds his decision to hire her over her head in order to get her to go along with his foolish plan. Not cool, T.
  • Tom Hiddleston is a good actor but his portrayal of Loki is too good for a movie like this. The character is written as a two dimensional jerk but played by Hiddleston as a three dimensional guy with feelings and doubts. When Loki goes genocidal during the third act it feels sudden and undeveloped, like the movie ran out of time to fully flesh out his plan and persona and needed to get our asses out the door to make room for the 5:45 show(I took in a matinee).
  • They sure hid Kat Dennings under a lot of layers.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are instructed to have wrestling matches with all intruders on government property, instead of shooting them.
  • What is Asgard’s economy based on? Gold? Space gold?
  • Every room in Asgard has a tremendous amount of open space. Good for camera placement.
  • Odin’s stroke during his argument with Loki was HILARIOUS.
So it wasn’t very good, you guys.