Transformers – A Movie Review

Before we begin, let’s just get one thing straight-this movie is based on a toy line from well over twenty years ago.

A TOY LINE.

So, if you’re going into this movie expecting Citizen Kane or The Godfather, please, think again.  If there’s one thing that drives me crazy, it’s people dissecting summer blockbuster action movies like they’re art house films.  They’re not.  And Transformers is as big of a summer blockbuster action movie as you’re going to get.  And it’s based on a toy line.  Repeat: a toy line.

That said, this baby actually was much better than I anticipated.  While the plot was just the sort of thing you’d expect to keep the action going full throttle without any speed bumps (like coherence), there were actually some very strong attempts at giving each human character a very distinct personality.  I actually was surprised by the charm and charisma of Shia LaBeouf who definitely gave this film its heart and soul.  Shia’s parents were a riot, and appearances by legitimate actors like Jon Voight and John Turturro gave the film some acting credence it didn’t really need-but I like the effort.  Bernie Mac also makes a hilarious appearance. 

But, let’s get to what this movie was really about-Transformers.  They were awesome!  I have no idea what a robot turning into a car would actually look like, but what I saw in the movie seemed pretty spot on.  Moreover, I love the fact that the robots were actually to scale.  Meaning, if a robot turns into an eighteen-wheeler, when that baby stands upright it’s going to be pretty big.  Bumblebee, coupled with Shia, stole the movie by far (as I’m sure they were intended to), but nothing beat Optimus Prime voiced by Peter Cullen, the guy who did it back in the cartoon from the eighties. 

Somehow, the digital artists made these robots fit seamlessly into the scenes with the live actors.  It honest to God looked like they were really acting alongside the real folks.  That sort of stuff can drive me crazy if it looks fake and I usually have a good eye for it, but they passed with flying colors.

Now, I realize the old schoolers out there are upset about the modifications made to their favorite cartoon characters, and to them I say, “Get over it.”  It’s a movie based on a toy line.  While they didn’t resemble their former cartoon selves in the least, the upgrades were necessary for the complex age we live in.  And I have to say, those freaky robots honestly looked like they could turn into something.  There were layer-upon-layer of gizmos and parts on them that were always spinning or percolating; it was visually most impressive.  I will give the haters one inch, though, it got kind of hard to tell everybody apart except for Optimus Prime (very blue) and Bumblebee (very yellow).  All the rest, in robot form, sort of blended in with each other.  Hard to tell the good buys from the bad.

I also thought it was sort of funny that there were only three female parts in this movie, and two of them were, as the kids would say, pretty smokin’.  (The third role was Shia’s mom.)  Most of the men, though, were fairly on the nerdy side.  Funny, huh?  Do the marketers know their target audience or what?

Finally, I appreciate a subtle, disciplined, contemplative film dealing with the nuances of the human condition, but sometimes I need those big summer ka-boom action movies.  Transformers director Michael Bay is the Leonardo da Vinci of over-the-top action movies, especially the summer blockbuster variety.  I mean, this guy brought us The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and Bad Boys I and II.  Oscar winners?  Well, no; but they sure were fun to watch.

In summary, the Transformers looked awesome (if not always recognizable), the action was spectacular, the acting better than expected, the plot exactly-as-expected (but it kept the action going; it kept the action going), the humor surprisingly well placed, and the charisma of Shia LaBeouf proved a nice surprise (we’ll see more of him in the next installment of Indiana Jones).  If you’re into this sort of movie, you will not go disappointed.  But, for the love-try to remember: it’s based on a toy line.  A TOY LINE!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – A Movie Review

Prepare yourself for the ultimate sacrilege.  I’ve read none of the Harry Potter books.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  So therefore, all of my working knowledge of the boy wizard comes from my wife, who’s a big fan of the books, and the movies.

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t care for the first three films.  I’m not a big fan of movies starring young kids.  However, the fourth film really impressed me and, while I was lost through most of it, I found it interesting and fun.

I wish I could say the same about The Order of the Phoenix.

This movie felt absolutely rushed and made little sense.  I have no doubt that for those who read the books it was amazing, nor am I telling those people that they are wrong.  However, for the movie audience who haven’t read the books, this thing was rather boring and seemed to go nowhere.  The ending was probably one of the most anticlimactic conclusions I’d seen in some time, even if it is supposed to lead to a sixth.

Now, just let me say this: It is not the fault of the actors.  The kids do a great job, the grown-ups even better.  Very good acting, indeed.  But, somewhere along the way, the powers-that-be decided the Harry Potter movie franchise would be solely aimed at the book audience, and so while portions of the 800-page books are left out, the book audience is able to fill in those gaps.  The movie audience is not.  And considering that half the world reads the books, this is probably a smart decision by the powers-that-be.

And so, in summation, I didn’t really like the movie.  From what my wife tells me about the book, it could have been super cool.  The whole concept of the plot in the book is riveting, and judging from how much my wife liked the movie, that came across to the book readers.  However, if the movie stood alone, as it does for one such as me, it lacked any soul of its own, and it really wasn’t very fun at all.

For the non-book readers, there was very little movie magic.

Reno 911!: Miami – A Movie Review

I’m a big fan of the television show on Comedy Central.  My wife and I love it.  Unfortunately, as so often is the case, the TV show didn’t translate well to the big screen.

In thirty minute episodes of the television program, we are privy to several “calls” where the sheriff’s department can run up against just about anything.  And, if the scene isn’t going particularly well from a comedic standpoint, you don’t have to wait long for a shift in setting and a new “call” that is funny.  And, by the end of the show, a plot line with an actual conclusion has somehow emerged amidst all the zaniness.

The movie, however, tried to run one coherent storyline with a few of the smaller “on a call” scenes.  Reno 911!: Miami  simply doesn’t work in this format.  Yes, there were some genuinely funny scenes, but nothing compared to the television show.  The storyline felt forced and drawn out, and, honestly, wasn’t really that funny or entertaining.  Everything felt big, over produced, and murky.

Furthermore, half of what I love so much about the TV shows are the recurring criminals the sheriff’s department have to corral.  We only got one of them in the movie, and he didn’t play a large role at all.  And without the actual city of Reno, Nevada, much of the allure of this series disappears.

Finally, I’m not afraid of a little controversy or bawdiness, but this thing was raunchy.  I didn’t understand why we had to have a prolonged scene of almost all of the Reno sheriff’s department masturbating.  Granted, a few seconds might have been funny, but the scene was way too long and a bit too detailed, which, in essence, sums up the problem of the entire movie.  It’s also hilarious to hear all the beeps canceling out the profanity on the TV show, but when you hear the actual cursing in the movie, not so funny anymore.  Just a bit gratuitous.

My suggestion, rent the instant-classic television shows on DVD, avoid the movie.

The Simpsons Movie – A Movie Review

I should establish that while I occasionally enjoy watching the TV show, I am not a die-hard Simpsons fan.  I probably haven’t seen even a third of their total shows, so when the movie came out, I thought it looked pretty funny, but I was a bit concerned it’d be so convoluted in its own history with in-jokes and show references that I wouldn’t know what in the world was going on (i.e. Harry Potter movies).

I’m happy to report that my concerns were unfounded.

Yesterday was our third anniversary, and so we decided to check out The Simpsons Movie basically because nothing else looked good.  We both initially thought we’d probably see it on DVD, but, hey, when you want to see a movie, you want to see a movie, right?

We both laughed nonstop through the entire thing.  Some of it was highbrow humor, most of it was lowbrow humor, but all of it was funny, and that’s all we wanted.  Most Americans know all they need to know about the Simpsons before going into the film.  Even if you don’t watch the show regularly, you likely know Homer’s an idiot, Bart’s a hellion, Marge is a loving mom and caring wife, Lisa’s a responsible activist, and Maggie’s a … well, a baby.  And even if you didn’t know this, it’s quickly made apparent.

Most surprising of all was the fact that it had a coherent plot with actual foreshadowing and character development.  I didn’t require such things for this particular movie, but it was a nice surprise.  I figured it would simply be a series of gags, one bit after the other, but they actually had a storyline that made sense!

All in all, this was definitely worth seeing on the big screen, and I really felt like we got our money’s worth.