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Michael Bay’s death march of fun continues: “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

July 1, 2014

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Transformers: Age of Extinction is the fourth installment in Michael Bay’s Transformers trilogy. Mull that over a bit; it makes as much sense as anything else in this movie. And speaking of, okay, I just have to vent a bit. This was supposed to be a trilogy, as in “three films and then sweet release.” Not “three films and, oh fuck it—they’re a license to print money and I can’t yet buy my own island where I can people like sport.” So now we have this. And there are dinosaurs this time. (Sigh) okay, let’s just get this over with.
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The (cough) conclusion of the trilogy: “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

July 1, 2014

[And that brings us to the first not-terrible installment in the franchise, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.]

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I’m trying to think of some pithy intro here, but, hey, it’s the new Transformers movie. I mean, if you get trampled by an elephant and end up with a compound fracture of the femur, the doc who looks after you doesn’t drop a witty bon mot before he yanks on your foot until the bone slides back in through the flesh and then resets it, does he? I don’t really know. That’s never happened to me, but I bet he doesn’t. No, he just does it. If he’s smart he gives you a slug of whiskey first. The point I’m trying to make is,, we both know this is going to hurt. Might as well get on with it. So: Transformers: Dark of Moon. The good news is that it’s probably the best of the three movies. The bad news is, that’s a little like saying last night’s prison rape was the politest gang-sodomy you’ve ever had. The praise is indeed faint.

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Another look back: “Transformers: Rise of the Fallen”

July 1, 2014

[And here we look back at the low point in this franchise--and that's saying something--with the execrable Transformers: Rise of the Fallen.]

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If you’ve read my review of the first Transformers movie, then you know that I didn’t love it. I thought it was loud, stupid, obnoxious, and not all that exciting. It was as if Michael Bay thought if he bludgeoned us with enough activity onscreen, he could convince us we were seeing a fun summer movie. A lot of people thought I was being too hard on what was meant to be a silly summer action movie about giant robots fighting. Kassandra the Work Wife brought up this point on several occasions, “Big robots whaling on each other. What more do you want? I don’t want to think too hard about a movie, Mr. I’m-All-Cool-Because-I-Use-My-Higher-Brain-Functions. Just eat your damn popcorn and enjoy Optimus Prime stomping Deceptacon ass, Mr. Thinkee.” The problem I have with this argument is that the classic summer movie’s that we’ve come to love were well-made­ pieces of disposable entertainment. We still recall and love them precisely because they were so well-made. Transformers was not. Quick, tell me your favorite line or scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Terminator 2, Escape from New York, or Die Hard. Okay, now tell me your favorite line or scene from Transformers (and none of that “One will rise; one will fall” bullshit. That was on the poster). Right, I didn’t think so. Well, the bad news is that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is everything the original was and much, much  more. If the first one was a cinematic pummeling, this one is the Bataan Death March.

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A look back: “Transformers”

July 1, 2014

[Since the latest in the Transformers, ah, trilogy? Series? Purgatory? Whatever. The latest Transformers movie just came out, so I figured I'd repost my original reviews...]

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“Before time began there was The Cube…”

Uh-oh.

Yet this opening voiceover was but the latest evidence that Transformers the movie and anything associated with it is simply bad, wrong, and possibly evil. Others include the Transformers logo bumper stickers that grown men have begun affixing to their cars, the chat room arguments that the robots in the movie lack the depth of personality present in the cartoon series of the mid-‘80s, and the fact that GM—a once-mighty American corporation—is using this movie to hawk their cars the way McDonalds uses Shrek to sell green milkshakes.

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Going off the rails: “Snowpiercer”

June 29, 2014

[Well, it looks like Snowpiercer has finally been released in the US. So, here is a repost of my review from December 13, 2013]

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If you dislike winter as much as I do—heralding as I do from a place that transforms into a frozen wasteland seven month out of the year where the wind howls like a soul in purgatory over a landscape of desolate snowdrifts—then the environmental cataclysm that forms the backdrop of the quirky new sci-fi parable Snowpiercer will likely strike a chord. If you’re one of those fortunate people who’ve never experienced sensation of feeling your hair freeze or don’t understand why you’d need to let your car run for a half an hour before driving it into the unforgiving elements…well, then Snowpiercer’s tale of social injustice will probably hook you. Because no matter what climate you were brought up in, no one wants a schoolmarmish Tilda Swinton lecturing you day in and day out.
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The Godzilla we deserved: 1998’s “Godzilla” in Context

May 21, 2014

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Well, the new Godzilla movie has stomped all over the US box office to the tune of 90+ million bucks, but his arrival hasn’t been a smooth one—and I’m not just talking about the property damage. Godzilla has turned out to be  a polarizing film, with some audiences considering it one of the most nuanced and well-crafted blockbuster in years, and others frustrated that the titular green guy isn’t in the movie enough. That and the characters are boring. What we can all agree upon—what seems to be common ground in any discussion of the film—is that the 1998 version sucked. Now, I’m not going be one of those hipster contrarians who likes to challenge the popular opinion of roundly despised films just to show how much more insightful they are (“Sure Pluto Nash was a massively expensive flop that decimated Eddie Murphy’s career, but when looked at in a different light it’s also one of the boldest films of the post-9/11 era…”) No, I too think the 1998 Godzilla gulped down rhino shlong in epic proportions, but I would suggest that we probably weren’t going to get anything much better. Why? One reason: the 1990s.
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Hail to the King, baby! “Godzilla”

May 19, 2014

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Well, the summer movie season is upon us in full force with the arrival of a 60 year-old classic movie star, whom movie execs are hoping will set the box office aflame with his radioactive breath (no, not Tom Cruise—his movie comes out later this summer). Of course you know who I’m talking about—the poster’s right up above this post, and even if it wasn’t we’ve all been deluged with ads for this movie. But aside from the normal box office-related expectations, hanging over this movie is also the vague dread that springs from what happened the last time the US tried to handle this property. Well, let’s lay that fear to rest right now: this Godzilla movie does nothing less than return the G-man to his rightful place as King of the Monsters. It’s an amazing film It’s the most visually-distinct summer movie I’ve seen since I-don’t-know-when. I hope Roland Emmerich watches it and cries.
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