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Posts Tagged ‘Transformers’

Robots And Dis Guy

July 6th, 2011 No comments

This week it’s fashionable to chastise American moviegoers for dropping $180 million on Transformers: Dark of the Moon, never mind that the rest of the world seems equally willing to spend 154 minutes watching robots explode. It’s an easy target for sneering hipsters who resent the masses for not sharing their love of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Look, folks. Transformers isn’t hurting you. It’s not going to emerge from your closet in the middle of the night and belt you with a sockful of quarters. It’s not going to hold down Wes Anderson and mercilessly pummel him until he promises never again to pick up a camera. It’s not going to launch whipping mechanical tentacles to drag you out of your free trade coffee bar and force a pair of 3-D glasses onto your head.

Which is my way of saying that, yes, I saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon. And shut up.

I was pleasantly surprised by Michael Bay’s first Transformers film. It was fluff to be sure, but well-produced and enjoyable fluff. I skipped Revenge of the Fallen, partially because of its minstrel-show automatons, but mostly because even the people who like movies about exploding robots said that it didn’t have enough exploding robots.

This was not a problem with Dark of the Moon. The final third of the movie was a running battle through the streets of Chicago. And I’ll admit that the chief appeal for me was the opportunity to see Chi-Town take its lumps for the sake of the summer blockbuster.

3-D suits Michael Bay. It not only plays to his visual strengths, but it forces him to eschew hyper-active editing in favor of establishing spacial relationships. And, of course, it allows him an additional dimension in which to fetishize his female stars. The very first shot in the modern-day section of Dark of the Moon is a lingering embrace of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s panty-clad hindquarters. Walking up a flight of stairs. Bay knows what he likes.

One thing that I liked about Dark of the Moon was the lengthy alternate-history sequence that saw the ’60s space race recast as a struggle to capture the remains of a Cybertronian spacecraft. (Amusingly, the real-life Buzz Aldrin showed up too.*) Between this, X-Men: First Class‘ mutant spin on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Doctor Who‘s own Apollo 11 moment, it’s been a summer for divergent timelines.

Another famous spaceman, Leonard Nimoy, lent his gravelly voice as Sentinel Prime, former leader of the Autobots. And there were not just one, but two references to The Wrath of Khan, including a wicked twist on Mr. Spock’s classic “needs of the many” quote.

The human characters in Dark of the Moon were a strange lot. What I’m saying is that John Malkovich was in it, and he wasn’t the weirdest person on the screen. He would’ve needed a tiny John Cusack inside his brain to match up against the Bizarro World scenery-chewing of Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk and Ken Jeong.

Yet the most off-putting person had to be Shia LaBeouf as ostensible hero Sam Witwicky. I don’t know what happened to Witwicky in Revenge of the Fallen, but Dark of the Moon had him pissed off and put upon, even though he managed to swing a huge Washington, D.C. loft apartment and a second smoking-hot girlfriend. I find myself wondering whether Michael Bay made a deliberate, subversive choice to make the good guy a douchebag, or whether LaBeouf showed up on the set that way and Bay said, “I can work with this.”

But, let’s face it, no one is going to see Transformers for the humans. Some days, you just want to watch Chicago blow up. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Don’t look at me like that.

*Yes, from the Apollo 11 mission to chatting with Optimus Prime.

Suspension of Belief

June 15th, 2009 No comments

You know, I have absolutely no problem believing in giant robots from outer space that transform into sports cars and boom boxes.

Know what I don’t believe?

That this…

Yeah, right.

…is a high school student.

And that she would be dating this guy.

It's student picture day!

No, really, this guy.

When I look back on this moment, I'm gonna totally regret that I was holding this surfboard.

Besides, he’s got other ideas.


2007 At The Movies

January 7th, 2008 No comments

Time for my annual wrap-up of my previous year at the multiplex. Here’s the list of all 2007 releases I watched, two of which I saw on home video, and one (Juno) I just caught yesterday. Films are listed in terms of domestic box-office because I’m cribbing this from the yearly summary at Box Office Mojo.

  • Spider-Man 3
  • Transformers
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • 300
  • Ratatouille
  • The Simpsons Movie
  • Knocked Up
  • Enchanted
  • Ocean’s Thirteen
  • Beowulf
  • Juno
  • The Mist
  • Grindhouse
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Waitress
  • Dragon Wars

Wow, seventeen. That’s actually up five from last year. I saw seven of the top 10 films, two more than in 2006.

I found myself less annoyed by the moviegoing experience in 2007 than I had in previous years. In large part, that’s because the local theaters switched over to spiffy, new digital projection systems. I can’t and won’t debate the merits of these newfangled contrapulations; all I know is that everything I saw was both framed properly and in focus, so that in itself represents a huge over the previous film screening technology: lazy teenagers.

However, it bugs me that my dad is twenty minutes away from a huge, gorgeous Imax screen, even though he lives in Northwest Indiana, yet the nearest one to my house is over two hours away in Indianapolis. (300 in Imax was absotively frickin’ breathtaking.) I could take limited solace in the knowledge that digital projection now allows fancy schmancy 3-D movies like Beowulf to play the sticks, but still, going to the movies doesn’t feel like an event.

As for the flicks themselves, I don’t know that my increased attendance was any sign of their quality. More likely, it’s just because they released a bunch of films in the genres I enjoy.

I didn’t find the curse of the three-quels as egregious as many did. The third Pirates and Spider-Man were largely entertaining, though both certainly rattled on a good half hour too long.

Harry Potter delivered the goods when it came to adapting my favorite book in the series, but the popcorn flick I had the best time at was, of all things, Transformers. I attribute this to low expectations, as well as a lack of concern over whether it would stay true to a cartoon that was pretty shitty to begin with. Transformers was fun, silly and knew when to take its bow.

Of the animated fare, The Simpsons was agreeably humorous, while Ratatouille wound up being my one of my least favorite Pixar flicks. Not that it was anything less than good, but that I simply expect bigger things from them.

2007 was the year that I gave up on zombie films. I skipped 28 Weeks Later and I Am Legend. The “Planet Terror” section of Grindhouse was passable, but aside from Rose McGowan and her machine-gun leg, there wasn’t anything there that hadn’t been done–and done better–in at least half-a-dozen ghoulish apocalypse flicks over the past few years. At least it was better than the second half of Grindhouse, which sported not one, but two interminable women-in-a-bar scenes that, as my coworker aptly put it, sounded like four Quentin Tarentinos talking to each other. If the two films comprising Grindhouse had been 60-70 minutes apiece, the end result would’ve been much more fun than the flabby, self-indulgent mess it became.

On the comedy front, I thought Knocked Up was decent but overrated. Juno had a lot of great, quotable dialogue, but it did strike me as odd that everyone–not just Juno herself–talked like a precocious fortysomething. I thoroughly enjoyed the British buddy cop spoof Hot Fuzz, and fell in love with Amy Adams’ performance in Enchanted. Why the latter made only half as much as the ghastly horror that is Alvin and the Chipmunks is beyond my comprehension.

The year to come holds a great deal of potential. Some are already comparing it to 1982, the watershed for sci-fi/fantasy that brought us E.T., Star Trek II, Blade Runner, Tron and The Road Warrior. Certainly, there are some promising projects coming up: Cloverfield, Speed Racer, Iron Man, The Dark Knight (despite my misgivings about the Joker), Hellboy II, Star Trek, and of course, Indiana Jones.

See you at the movies!