Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, a bunch of polygons
Production Company: DreamWorks Entertainment
Release Date: June 24, 2009

“Transformers Revenge of the Fallen” appeals to the MTV generation in more one way. For the rest of us with longer attention spans, we’re bound to notice the lack of character development, the fundamental story telling flaws, and the visual and auditory assault on the senses that Michael Bay loves to stuff down our throats. Transformers as you might know is the love child of Japanese big robots with the Gung-Ho of Americanism chock full of child loving goodness, broadcast Saturday mornings to children all across North America. The problem with this premise used to be “how can we make giant robots LOOK cool?” Thankfully the geniuses at ILM made the mega monstrosities come to life in 5 storey fashion, but the story falls flatter than Shia LaBeouf’s personality. We have Michael Bay to thank for all this noise, and when I say Noise, I mean it. Sitting in a darkened theatre whilst giant mecha’s duel it out certainly can be grating – 2 and a 1/2 hours worth was plenty for me.

You can’t blame Steven Spielberg for this one, he has the executive producer rights, but his name, his image is nowhere seen close to or on this product at all. Like every other Michael Bay movie, the action is frenetic, choppy, and bright without any sort of shyness when it comes to being full bore on insane. And just like any other Bay-hem film, the action is tough to track; the enemies and good guys mix it up so frequently you can’t keep track of who is kicking whose butt. Other nuances, such as the average lifespan of a shot must be less a second, watching Sam (Shia LaBeouf’s) and Mikhela (Smoking Hot Megan Fox) say their respective good-byes to each other had so many tracking shots I nearly got motion sickness.

Bumblebee: missing a pair of converse high tops and a sweet kentucky waterfall

It’s simply mindless, it spends more time trying to build on non-existent back stories and continually going back to characters that don’t add to the overall plot, or contribute anything further than being racist stereotypes that Bay finds amusing. I’m of course talking about Skids and MudFlap, the Autobot twins annoying their way in each scene, showing up only to be more bothersome and irksome than actually adding to the storyline. Personally, the movie could have done without them. A,s I mentioned before, new characters are hastily introduced and just as quickly killed off without even any proper introductions. I wish I could have said the same about Sam’s parents, as their little escapade at Sam’s University was blown out of proportion and borderlines on fantasy of ‘what drugs can do to you’.

The one saving grace was and should always be the Transformers themselves, the stars of the show, who comfortably have more speaking lines than the last, and compared to the mindless banter of the humans is by far more welcome. Some approximated render times are far more fictitious in the age of Quad Core Computing, yet the finished product is something to awe. Especially worth watching in high definition television.

The Gundam happily crunched the racism-bots where they stood.

There’s been a lot of Michael Bay bashing over this movie, some I can understand, while others I’m little more lenient to dissuade. Mainly the naysayers that are advocating that he should stop making films altogether. Now, I’m a fair guy, and I like explosions, and The Rock was actually pretty good, even after a few viewings. People want him to stop because he’s inflicting more pain on the movie going-public than he should be. I for one think all that is absolute crap. Because, complain all you want, you have to admit the guy is a mega cash cow with regards to any movie he’s directing. Some small faction might not like his in your face, shoot-for-the-edit style of film making, but he’s pulling in the revenue to generate more mindless action vehicles.

And to prove a tired point, wouldn’t your 8 year old self want to reveal in watching gigantic mechanized Godzilla’s slugging it out on the big screen?

4.5 out of 10.0

Star Trek

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris PineZachary Quinto, Bruce Greenwood,
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Release Date: May 8, 2009

“Star Trek”, the titular science fiction/space opera known by all, watched by many, and appreciated by the few has been re-imagined in J.J. Abrams super summer blockbuster. This certainly isn’t your father’s Star Trek, filled with action, bright lights, lens flares and space; the final frontier.

2009’s Star Trek heads back to it’s roots introducing young versions of Kirk, Spock and company. A titanic task? Not quite, considering major back stories have been traded in for a time travel plot that lends to much needed explosions (Hey, I love my eye candy too). The plot plays it safe, not getting into any new ground and treats science with a ‘suspend your belief’ attitude. It’s seeing the characters assemble onscreen, and Abram’s deft use of scenery and characterization that really shine.

Folded Arms are the new thing in the future

Follow me now: Nero, a Romulan from 129 years in the future has come back to ‘the beginning’ (of the Trek universe) because future Spock couldn’t save Romulus from collapsing. The black hole formed from the collapse sucks in Nero and Future Spock, plunging Nero into ‘the beginning’, he destroys the U.S.S Kelvin where commanding officer Kirk Sr., has assumed control, his son is about to be born and he must pilot the ship on a collision course after evacuating the entire crew with busted warp drives. Nero sits around for about 25 years waiting for future Spock to arrive so he can get revenge by destroying Vulcan with the very technology the Vulcan Science Academy created (known as red matter). So it’s up to our very handsome/great looking crew of the U.S.S Enterprise to go in, destroy the ship, save the day and create a Star Trek for the masses. The Roddenberry-verse physics aside, as long as you know that black holes equal time travel, and class M planets exist with scary looking monsters, and total and complete coincidences happen, you should be absolutely fine. Just suspend your damn belief already.

“Did you seriously sign on for the sequel?”

Chris Pine does an admirable job as James T. Kirk, successive captain of the Starship Enterprise. His energy and natural leadership slightly showing, although his douche bag like character is still lovable and enduring. Zachary Quinto was definitely born to play Spock, his cold demeanor picked up from his time as Sylar on TV’s Hero’s, he dons the Vulcan ears and detached voice with ease, simmering emotion under the surface as the half Vulcan/Human hybrid and Kirk’s best friend. The rest of the ensemble cast play their parts magnificently, no one seems to miss a beat and the slight nods to the original series are deft in execution. Even Leonard Nimoy shows up in Spock attire, his first outing in nearly a decade, proudly handing the touch from one generation to the next; although it seem like he was in this version a little longer than necessary. I’m sure all the fan boys were wetting themselves in excitement when the pointy eared one entered from stage right.

There’s only a few moments of disbelief, and it’s all in the science of show; consider that against the numerous times Scotty has outright bent the laws of physics in the original television show and movies. It’s all in good nature however, once you realize you’ve been beamed aboard another reality, one with much better looking people and alien races with humanoid bodies and slightly larger/smaller eyes or different skin color. Bridging the continuities was an immense task, keeping with the newer, sexier generation just got a whole lot easier.

No caption, just a green skinned Orion Girl in her bra and panties

If you haven’t witnessed the rebirth of Star Trek yet, I highly suggest you do so. Reading up on the pre-reviews of supposed mega-blockbusters as Transformers and Terminator: Salvation, I can already see a pattern emerging: All these franchises are getting slammed for lack of care, they’re not lovingly crafted as they should be, and are getting shoehorned with last minute rewrites and CGI over actual plot or any good character emotion. These movies aren’t meant to be overly cerebral, but it’s pretty clear the movie going public wants more substance than the flash and bang approach. Star Trek thankfully is light hearted enough to take all this in stride and put together a fun, exhilarating thrill ride that won’t disappoint.

9.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Jumper

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson
Production Company: 20th Century Fox

Jumper means well, in the same way that a homeless guy steals your wallet. Actually, it’s just theft, and it’s criminal. And that’s how I felt after viewing Jumper. I felt like I had been robbed.

If not for the supremely successful Bourne Trilogy, Doug Liman probably would have never even got a hand in directing this movie, and unlike his Indy roots, he whole heartedly sacrifices substance for style. Not the best move, especially for a film that looks this pretty, and makes you wonder about the possibilities of teleportation. And Hayden cardboard-whiny-as-all-hell-Darth-fucking-Vader Christensen as the lead character, I found myself rooting for the villains half the time. Well, let’s jump into the review shall we? No pun intended.

Christensen is David Rice, a being capable of teleportation simply by envisioning the place in his mind. He just thinks about the place he wants to be, and he’s able to ‘jump’ there through a series of wormhole like teleportation devices that only he can access. This allows him to rob banks, go anywhere in the world, do pretty much anything with no consequences whatsoever, that is until Mace Windu shows up to shove a light saber up his ass! Oops…wrong flick. Samuel L. Jackson in his most cartoonish role with snow white hair and beard accomplishes being a complete dick to Rice within the first scene (so, really he’s not that bad of a guy!) Jackson, as Roland, is the keeper of keys of long…distance…travel. He’s part of a sect called the Paladins and has been hunting down ‘Jumpers’ just like David for a long, long time, in a galaxy far far away…dammit…you get the idea. He’s a major bad ass.

David first learns of his ability when being bullied at school (this part is thankfully not played by Christensen). Once he figures it out, he’s jacks a bank vault and is actually dickish enough to leave an IOU note for all the millions he’s stolen. From his first few clumsy jumps, he starts to use it to travel and steal more money – because, wouldn’t you? Around the second act, the Paladin’s ultimate bad ass Roland shows up to kill Rice, a welcoming act, as we’re never shown any kind of motivations behind Rice’s actions; and really, he is basically a villain since he’s got no moral compass, he does whatever he damn well wants. So, yes, I for one was glad to see Jackson lay the smack down on Vader’s candy ass.

I can’t really say a ‘chase’ ensues, whereby I mean David jumps to another place. A chase is something that’s done when two bodies are in motion, one after the other. This was a little different, in that Rice could just jump to Japan, 10,000 miles away from the people pursing him.

Oh yeah, they also force a romance between Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen. Because he takes her to Rome, a place she’s always wanted to go as a kid. And because she’ll put out if she’s given nice stuff, great moral compass…yeah. I’m sure the filmmakers wanted to convey ‘compassionate longing’ into the script but somehow ended up getting ‘golddigger’. I’m sure it was a slight oversight.

If not for the appearance of a second jumper, Griffin (Jamie Bell), David wouldn’t learn anything about his ‘highlander’ -like back story. Griffin, who really should have been the main characters, saves David from the paladins during a fight in the roman Colosseum. Hell, even a video game was made of Griffin rather than David at the helm – that should tell you something right there: who’s more marketable?

The visuals of Jumper were simply awesome; you really felt that David was jumping all around the world in the blink of an eye, or all over the screen. His ability brings forth many new dimensions of ‘what-if’s’ but the filmmakers ultimately don’t use that tool, and just turn the it into a love story that’s clumsy and at times, silly. The introduction of Diane Lane as the mother also felt entirely tacked on, and a grasping at air attempt for a sequel – it fails miserably.

If this movie proves anything, it’s that in the age of special effects, story stands out above all else. Without a good story and good cast, you just have an empty shell that’s vacuous and tries hard to be something it’s not: great.

5 out of 10