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Comments Off on Transformers


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When I saw they were making another Transformers movie, I responded in pretty much the same way I did to the news of a live action Garfield movie: Oh yuck, who cares, and I’m certainly not going to see it.  As momentum (and nerdly peer pressure) built, I realized I couldn’t escape.  I wasn’t expecting much, but man, this movie pissed me off.  I like Michael Bay movies for what they are.  I defend The Rock and Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and The Island for the fun, exciting hoots and hollers that they are.  Armageddon has a great cast having a great time in space (romance notwithstanding).  Pearl Harbor has an outstanding bombing sequence (romance notwithstanding).  The Island has a sexy fish out of water technophobic adventure with two extremely sexy stars losing their virginity to each other.  Hello!  All watchable.  Transformers had no virtues at all beyond immaculate CG effects and crazy stunt driving, and it was painfully stupid to boot.  Michael Bay, we are in a fight!

The Transformers are and have always been pure hokum (hey, I didn’t just poop on your childhood, Bay did), since we were collectively 8 years old.  The kids behind us who looked about sixish did not seem impressed with the bloated, content-free 140 minute running time or the theme-park preshow hackery that was the dialogue (especially once the robots actually appeared).  I have seen cereal commercials with more complex story arcs.  The adults I was with (fans of the robots in disguise) alternately slapped their foreheads, sought inner peace, or bantered cleverly to pass the time.  I myself, a staunch anti-cell-phone-in-movies person, grabbed mine out of my purse (it was too dark to read Harry Potter) and turned it on 2/3 of the way through the movie, a desperate reflex to text my friends and warn them to stay away.  My concern for further disappointing my fellow wretches in the audience kept me off my keypad until the credits rolled.  Late in the movie, I whispered to one of my companions, “I feel so sorry for the actors in this movie,” and he said, “I feel sorry for all of these people,” indicating the stuffed theatre.

I’ve said it before – entertain me, don’t insult me, and I’ll probably like your movie on some level.  (For evidence: see past 10 years of reviews.)  I’m not saying such a work would be art, but it would be worth seeing.  I was bored and insulted!  A long, mid-film digression while hapless star Shia LaBeouf searches his room and thudding non-comedy attempts to happen drags the movie down like a lead scuba mask – for 30 minutes!  Insanely hokey and painful dialogue – we’re talking that scene in a recent Star War where Annakin and Padme love each other more – especially on the part of the robots churned my stomach.  Why do they need eyelids?  Will dust get in there?  Must the GMC logo stay on the front of your chest, sir?  John Turturro?  What the hell are you doing in this movie?  I mean, besides slumming.  The whole thing felt like those bad idea movies that somehow go straight to landfill unmourned (Vin Diesel babysits!  Garfield goes to England!), but instead of sitting through a mercifully short preview, it’s two hours and 20 minutes, or what felt like two hours and 120 minutes.  When it was (on paper) exciting, it’s incomprehensibly tightly shot and boring, beige villains in nonspecific forms in extreme closeup.  When it should be funny, it’s stilted and worse than Captain Obvious high on reefer.  The chihuahua exists to set up two equally failed “jokes” but I am convinced he was in the movie because he wrote it.

And I haven’t even started on the continuous military commercial or the much more egregious GM commercials.  The fans I was with were already crushed that their childhood icons had been turned from Beetles and Porsches to Camaros and Solstices.  To add insult to injury, a Beetle and a Porsche each get zinged in the movies ham-handed attempts at humor.  It only would have been worse if someone had thumbs-upped them with a “cool ride, man,” while they were in pursuit of the stupid thing they had to find and do nothing with.

I had hopes that it would be OK early on, when the crazy helicopter turned into the exciting scorpion you see in the preview (this is in prologue # 1 so it’s hardly a spoiler) and Bernie Mac was actually funny.  Those hopes were dashed when, over an hour into the movie, it still hadn’t started yet.  (The thirty minute comedy digression was probably prologue #7 or 8, I lost count.)  And then, on top of that, Transformers wasn’t really very much about robots and had an annoying Jar-Jar-bot dragging the movie down to a lower common denominator than I could have dreamed possible.

LaBoeuf did his best to commit to his role and squeezed all he could out of it, but he was fighting an uphill battle with his bored, sexy costar with a “who cares” past and a whole other side line of sexy characters doing nothing to solve the problem either, never mind robots that talk like an animatronic Santa.  Transformers felt more like something George Lucas would have ruined than Michael Bay.  Oh, by all means, do not give any money to this studio!  It’s too late for the long morning lines, but not for you!

Why rate it Catch the Network Premiere?  Well, it’s not quite as execrable as The Cat In The Hat or Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever, and it has enough visual interest (effects, stunt driving, insanely hot chicks) to merit the same rating as Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, but let’s just say it was a close call.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/3/07
Time in minutes 140
Director Michael Bay
Studio Dreamworks/Paramount Pictures

Comments Off on Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation

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Eric Schlosser’s non-fiction book Fast Food Nation is a dense but fascinating (and nightmare inducing) read, an in-depth dissection of the many elements that feed and influence the fast food machine in the U.S. I have to confess I couldn’t get all the way through it – about half way through the chapter concerning how the companies prioritize profit over the safety and welfare of their teenage employees, I threw it across the room in horror.

The roots of the industry as we know it today are so deep, so entrenched, and so high-dollar, it’s terrifying. It’s much more alarming and pervasive than a few industrial accidents, exploited teens, or nasty-tasting product. Schlosser’s book goes into the how and the why and who benefits and who suffers, and it’s more than just the obvious hierarchy of capitalism.

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Comments Off on Jurassic Park III

Jurassic Park III

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If they remade “It’s A Wonderful Life,” they could make it about Steven Spielberg being shown what American cinema would be like if he had never lived, and Clarence would show him this movie. Director Joe Johnston is not entirely to blame. He has enormous shoes to fill, the shoes of a man who, as even as his detractors agree, has a gift for presentation. Johnston previously helmed Jumanji and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, which are in their ways, very similar to JP3: lots of crashing, noisy, exciting sequences, with enough of a story to keep you interested but not necessarily to transport you to another world.

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Comments Off on Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest

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The first time I saw this preview, I thought, the only way this movie could have been funnier is if they actually got the real crew of Star Trek to play these roles – have Shatner as Shatner, being forced to become a real hero as his Captain James Tiberius Kirk role is made real, etc. It’s a fantastic little plot idea that was played out very well. At the beginning of the movie, my companion and I were recasting the movie, first with original Trek actors, then with the various Kids in the Hall playing the aliens who seek the Galaxy Quest crew’s help. By the end, however, I don’t think either of us would have had the movie any other way (and we still got a cameo by Kevin MacDonald from Kids in the Hall!).

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