Tag Archives: Michael Bay

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Transformers: The Last Knight is the loudest movie of the year. And it still made me fell asleep. Twice.

Yes, the fifth and latest instalment in the Transformers franchise is, as most expected, very bad. I don’t know if it’s the worst of the lot — mainly because I can’t remember any of them after the solid first one — but it sure feels the same old crap that Michael Bay keeps rolling out, the same old crap that keeps making over a billion dollars at the box office.

This one was supposed to be different, I had some hope for a different kind of Transformers movie after early reports that they gathered a clan of renowned writers to brainstorm new and innovative ideas. Optimism quickly turned to doubt when I heard they were going to go draw from the well of King Arthur, and that Nazis were also going to be involved. It just sounded like they were grasping at straws.

Indeed, neither idea worked well, though I think at least one of them was pivotal to whatever the plot was. I’m still not quite sure what it was all about. All I know is that Marky Mark Walhberg came back for another paycheck, and he dragged Sir Anthony Hopkins along with him. The storyline was simply all over the place, a mish-mash of tired ideas executed much better in other films. You have the Autobots fighting the Decepticons still, with the humans dancing on the sidelines pretending to be relevant. Optimus Prime is for some reason hypnotized by some evil robot, and there’s Sir Anthony Hopkins playing the guy who explains everything, an annoying teenage girl (Isabela Moner) who runs around war zones acting tough, an annoying blue robot who can only say one word, an annoying and obvious rip-off of C3PO, and British Megan Fox (Laura Haddock).

I don’t know why I expected something different from Michael Bay this time.

Anyway, despite all the explosions and car chases and robot-fighting action, Tranformers: The Last Knight is mind-numbingly dull. And it’s 149 minutes long. Marky Mark is a professional and does his best to pretend he’s not in utter trash, but all the other returning characters appear to have no idea why they are in the film, or care. Josh Duhamel is back as a military commander who again does almost nothing, while John Turturro spends most of his time acting like an idiot in Cuba. I don’t remember that Stanley Tucci is in the movie.

As for the newcomers, Sir Anthony Hopkins appears to have a smirk on his face throughout every scene, probably thinking about his bank account. He basically has a role similar to Ian McKellan’s in The Da Vinci Code, ie, a wealthy old man who lives in a mansion and seems to know everything the protagonists need to know, and then goes about explaining it to the audience. British Megan Fox (Haddock) is basically just that, except she plays an Oxford professor (I’m not kidding) with multiple PhDs. She also likes wearing tight outfits, which is all that matters.

The bulk of my disdain goes to this young teenage girl named Izabella (Moner), who is supposed to be this symbol of courage and likable, but turns out to be the complete opposite. She’s like nails on a chalkboard unbearable from the moment she appears on screen. The more the movie tries to make us like her the more I could not stand her. The funny thing is that after the film spends ages building her up to make her seem like the new protagonist of the franchise, she then disappears for pretty much the rest of the movie. Not like I was complaining.

Ultimately, there just isn’t much to like about Transformers: The Last Knight. Stupid premise, stale ideas. Tons of pointless exposition. Tasteless and unfunny humour. Unlikable characters. Poor performances. Cringeworthy dialogue. Way too long. It’s very messy and noisy. And despite all the crazy robot fights and excellent special effects (which, let’s face it, we’ve all seen before), it simply isn’t exciting or compelling to watch. I honestly fell asleep twice, and the second time was when the film was in the middle of its climactic final battle. I guess that says it all.

1.5 star out of 5

Movie Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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It’s a sad world we live in that Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, is 2014’s most successful movie, not only in Taiwan but around the world.

To be honest, I actually quite like the first Transformers film — watching special-effects-made giant transforming robots battle it out on the big screen while humans ran around screaming and making cheesy jokes was kinda fun. The second film, Revenge of the Fallen, was more of the same, but made some improvements both visually and stylistically, and though I found the experience wearing me down by the end I still felt there were some positives to take out of it. By the time Dark of the Moon rolled around I was firmly entrenched in the anti-Michael Bay crusade. It was far too loud, too long, too abrasive, too obnoxious. It was just too…everything, and it made me wonder how the hell I ever enjoyed the first two.

And so I thought the fourth Transformers film would be a welcome and much-needed fresh start. They kept the machines but got rid of unbearable leading man Shia LeDouche, replacing him with the likable Marky Mark Wahlberg. Instead of unrealistic love interests in the form of Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, they got Marky Mark a daughter (Nicola Peltz), who probably never (mistakenly) thought she’d be a in worse movie than The Last Airbender. They also threw in a new hunky race-car-driving boyfriend, played by Irish actor Jack Reynor. The rest of the cast was filled out by solid veterans like Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammar, all of whom are, let’s face it, looking for a paycheck. Surely it couldn’t be worse, or so I thought.

I don’t know if Age of Extinction is worse than Dark of the Moon when judged as a standalone film, but if you’ve seen the other ones in the franchise you’ve effectively seen them all, and the accumulated damage is something that’s almost impossible to overcome.  Age of Extinction is vintage Michael Bay. It’s 165 minutes of robots blowing shit up and beating the crap out of each other, with the gaps filled in by bad acting, trite dialogue and cheesy humour.

Marky Mark is a struggling — albeit very buffed — inventor (yeah right) who finds a dormant Optimus Prime while trying to ways to pay for his daughter’s college education. Meanwhile, there are some government agents who are trying to kill all robots, good and bad (makes sense to me), a Transformer bounty hunter wreaking havoc, and a desperate need to get the film to China at all cost to appease its Chinese co-producers.

If the film was cut down to about 100-120 minutes and it was the first time I ever watched a Transformers movie, then I can see how I might have enjoyed it. Instead, I spent the entire film trying to shake the feeling that I had seen all of this before, except not as loud, not as excessive, and certainly not as long. After a while, I became totally numb to all the colourful robots causing carnage to each other and their surroundings. Ironically, all the “action” made the film less exciting. It actually wasn’t that easy to tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys amid all the rolling around and explosions and shit, and frankly, I didn’t care. And every time I thought the movie was about to end, more stuff happened.

It was just too much of the same, cranked up to 11 (and that’s Michael Bay’s 11, which is like 37 for everyone else). There’s always some special, magic object that bad guys want to get their hands on. For some strange reason humans, who are basically like ants to the Transformers, always tend to be tasked with important things and are the key to saving the universe. The male leads love to act macho but are goofy and love to spew one-liners. The girls are always dressed in tight outfits, love to scream, and have no brains. And there’s always some massive battle in the end where half a city gets destroyed before the humans help the good robots claim an unlikely victory.

I do see attempts to add something fresh to the franchise, like the idea of the Transformer bounty hunter. But seriously — Tranformer dinosaurs? Transformer rabid dogs? Transformer laser guns that are perfectly human-sized for some reason? Ken Watanabe as a Samurai Transformer? And that whole “Chinese elements” crap that dominated the whole second half of the movie. I was more distracted by Li Bingbing trying to speak English and all the cameos from Hong Kong and mainland actors — and even Chinese boxing Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming — than trying to keep up with what was happening in the movie.

Fans of the over-the-top nature of the franchise — and they are clearly in abundance — will likely lap this shit up as they wait for the fifth and sixth instalments, which will probably be exactly the same as every entry except longer and louder. Personally, I can’t imagine anything worse. Transformers was never that good to begin with, but at least it was fun and flashy. What Age of Extinction proves is that the franchise is in dire need of a new direction, something I doubt Michael Bay will grant us as long as he’s raking in the big bucks.

1.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Pain & Gain (2013)

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I had no idea Pain & Gain was a Michael Bay film until the credits started rolling at the end. I was surprised, because the film was, for the most part, perfectly adequate. Even fun.

Supposedly based on a true story from the 90s, Pain & Gain follows three dimwitted body builders — Marky Mark Wahlberg, The Rock and Anthony Mackie — who kidnap their dickwad of a wealthy client (Tony Shalhoub from Monk) and try to steal everything he owns. Naturally, being nitwits, their plan goes all kinds of wrong, especially as a private detective (Ed Harris) starts looking into the case. It’s a cautionary tale about how the American Dream can become the American Nightmare — if you are a moron.

It’s one of those “so crazy it’s gotta be true” stories. Being a rather violent kidnapping film, Bay could have tackled Pain & Gain as a really sharp dark comedy in the vein of say Fargo, though he decided to make a straight-up crime goofy comedy. The problem is that in taking this route, Bay had to make our protagonists likable — albeit immensely stupid — dudes, even though from their motivations and actions we can tell they are clearly some nasty people. Misguided and naive, perhaps, but still difficult to root for. Just because you find their stupidity amusing doesn’t mean you have to like them. Sure, their victim is a twat, but there’s only so much a director and good actors can do to make this trio affable. The rest is up to the audience’s disposition and tolerance.

Marky Mark, The Rock and Anthony Mackie are, under ordinary circumstances, a fun trio to be around. The Rock, in particular, stands out as a thick-headed and tick-bodied lost soul trying to balance his violent temper with his desire to please God. Marky Mark, on the other hand, shows a bit more of a mean streak as the ringleader, while Mackie kind of fades to the side a little more, getting overshadowed even by his own love interest, played by the always-brilliant Aussie gem Rebel Wilson. The other female role, a semi-retarded Russian bimbo (played by Bar Paly) is also a hoot, though neither female character does much to improve the perception of how Bay treats women in his movies. (Also gotta mention Ken Jeong, who does his best Ken Jeong impersonation in a small role as a motivation speaker.)

That said, for a Michael Bay film, Pain & Gain is actually pretty good. It’s fairly funny, especially in the first hour or so, and the satirical bite had a surprisingly strong edge to it. The mood was light despite the violence, though the further the film progressed the more serious — and less compelling — it got. At 129 minutes, it was also far too long, and my interest waned dramatically as the film stumbled to a predictable conclusion. However, on the whole, and by Michael Bay standards, I’d still call Pain & Gain a relative success.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (3D) (2011)

I’m a sucker for big blockbusters and they don’t come much bigger or louder than Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon (let’s just call it Transformers 3).  And even after telling anyone who would listen that 3D is a complete waste of money, I inexplicably forked out the extra dough for the 3D experience. (Why am I such a tool?  Is it because Transformers 3 was allegedly filmed with the same 3D cameras as Avatar, the only worthy 3D film I’ve seen?)

Anyway, I had heard some good things about the film (apparently ‘the best of the series so far’) and I knew Steven Spielberg was an executive producer, so I had reasonably high hopes.  But ultimately, while it was visually spectacular, full of star power and contained some fairly good action sequences and clever ideas, Transformers 3 was one insanely overlong, unnecessarily convoluted and uncompelling disappointment.

The Story

Transformers 3 takes off not long after Transformers 2 finished.  Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has just graduated college and is looking for a job, while his Autobot friends have all but abandoned him for top secret government missions.  Megan Fox’s Mikaela is of course gone after that very public dismissal, replaced by British lingerie model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (horrible replacement in my opinion, and it’s not just because she has a Cameron Diaz-ish face), who plays Carly, his new girlfriend.  A bunch of stuff happens and as it turns out it was all related to the original Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 (hence ‘Dark of the Moon‘).  Autobots and Decepticons fight, humans get in the way, things get blown up.

Stunning Visuals

The good thing about Transformers 3 is that visually, it is another step above the previous two films, which were already amazing.  I’m not sure if it was the 3D (I highly doubt it), but from memory the robots from the first two films were not this finely animated, to the point where you could see each scratch mark on the outer shells and every little piece of machinery moving inside.  And as I recall, the robot fight scenes in the previous films (especially the first one) were criticised for not being very clear — there are no such issues in this one.  Every move, every thrust of the sword, every blast of the gun is crystal clear in Transformers 3 (complete with crafty slow motion shots for emphasis), creating by far the best robot-on-robot battles in the series yet.

Tremendous Action

Speaking of battle scenes, there were some whoppers.  Sure they were improbable and ridiculous, but man they were fun.  Without giving away too much, there was one particular sequence inside a building that ranks as the best in the franchise.

Having said that, we’re accustomed to expecting wild, crazy action from Transformers, so to some it might not be anything special.  I guess that’s also true to some extent because, to be honest, we’ve seen most of these action sequences before (there’s only so much robots can do), just not with such great execution.

Alternate History

Another thing I liked about Transformers 3 was the clever intermeshing of real-life people and events, something I enjoyed immensely in the recent X-Men: First Class.  In this case, it was the Apollo moon landing (amongst others) but I was appalled by the atrocious ‘lookalikes’ they got for famous figures.  Even with the intentional blurring and angling it was embarrassingly unlike the real-life counterparts.

Super Cast

The Transformers films have always had star-studded ensemble casts, and this one is no different.  In addition to the regulars such as LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and Tyrese Gibson, Michael Bay brought out the big acting guns this time with John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey and Francis McDormand.  While it’s always good to see these three on screen, it was sad to see how poor their roles were.  They played important roles but terribly lean characters with horrible dialogue that was unworthy of actors of their calibre.  And I think it showed.  None of them looked like they were there for anything other than the money.

The highlight of all the additions was actually Ken Jeong, the Asian guy from The Hangover movies.  Unfortunately he didn’t have a meatier role.

As for Shia LaBeouf — I do like him, even though I think he has been over-exposed the last few years — but by now Sam Witwicky’s in-your-face personality was wearing a little thin.  LaBeouf isn’t afraid to make fun of himself, but at times he treads a fine line between being funny and being  obnoxious, and I think this third time around he fell to the obnoxious side more often than he should have.

The big replacement — Huntington-Whiteley — was better than I expected as an actress, but I still don’t think she was right for the role.  And it’s not just because I don’t like her face.  Her chemistry with LaBeouf was almost non-existent.  Not even the 3D could bring her character to life.  On the other hand, it just shows how thankless the female lead role is in the Transformers franchise.

Convoluted Plot

Now that I’ve ventured into the negatives, I might as well keep going.  I’ll admit I didn’t entirely understand what was going on with the robots and their business, and it was because I didn’t care enough to put in the effort.  I have no idea why they had to make things so convoluted but it was totally unnecessary.  Was it so they could throw in some plot twists?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that I didn’t go to see a Transformers movie for the brilliant plot, that’s for sure.

Far Too Long

Another thing I didn’t understand was why the movie had to be 155 minutes long (and it felt that long too), which was 5 minutes longer than the already overlong Transformers 2.  And like that film, it didn’t have to be.  This was at the very most a 2 hour movie.  So much of the fluff at the start of the movie could have been condensed.

The staggering length of the film was not helped by the strangely uneven tone, which made it feel like several different movies.  Transformers 3 started off as kind of a teen comedy, then morphed into a serious historical re-envisioning before becoming an all-out alien invasion action movie for the final hour or so.  It didn’t quite fit together.

Conclusion

While we’re on the subject of far too long, so is this review.  So I’m going to wrap it up.  For me, Transformers 3 was better than Transformers 2, but not as good as the original.  There were parts I found enjoyable, but despite being bigger, louder, and with better special effects and being in 3D,  it just didn’t have that freshness and spark it once had.

2.5 stars out of 5

PS: Was the 3D worth it?  I can’t be conclusive as I haven’t seen the 2D version, but I can’t honestly say I noticed that much of a difference.

PPS: I heard in an interview with Patrick Dempsey that Michael Bay goes off at people who cross his line of vision.  What a nut.  Maybe Fox wasn’t exaggerating after all.

Movie Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

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I’ll tell you a conversation I heard in the men’s room straight after the film between two young boys (that probably just hit puberty) that sums it up pretty well:

“Man, what an awesome movie!”

“Yeah!  But what I didn’t get was why they had to [spoilers].”

“I didn’t get that either.  And who was the robot that [spoilers] and the one that [spoilers] in the end?”

“I’m not sure.  I think it was [spoilers] and [spoilers].”

“Really?  I thought it was [spoilers].”

“Who cares?  Megan Fox was hot though.”

“And the cars and robot fights were really cool.”

“Yeah, what an awesome movie!”

Overview

The second film (there will inevitably be more) of Michael Bay’s Transformers series is bigger, louder, longer and dumber than the original.  So if you’ve seen the first, expect more of the same except with everything magnified.  For some, like the teenage boys described above, that’s awesome.  For most others, it’s downright unbearable.

As for me, I went into the film with sub-zero expectations because everything I’ve come across about the film shreds it to pieces.  And while the film does fail miserably in most departments, it is not a complete waste of time and money.  Some parts were exciting.  Some were a little funny.  So if you can put up with the rest of the parts that weren’t (and those were in the clear majority), then you might find it okay.

What’s it about?

Next.

The good

There were 2 things in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (let’s just call it Transformers II) that improved on the first film: (1) robot fight scenes; and (2) special effects.

One of my gripes about the original Transformers movie was that you couldn’t tell what was going on in a lot of the fight scenes between the Autobots and the Decepticons.  All you could see were some quick flashes and giant balls of metal rolling around before one of them would stand victorious.

Transformers II rectifies the problem in a big way.  The camera pans back this time and stays on the robots long enough for audiences to see and appreciate the action.  So much so that kids can probably recreate the battles with their licensed Hasbro toys afterwards.

Seriously, the robot action was a lot smoother and more fluid this time.

Less noticeably, perhaps, were the special effects, which also improved from the original.  Apart from the robots themselves, many of the fight scenes involved destroying well-known landmarks.  This was done with amazing realism.  Further, the robot transformations were even more intricate and visually impressive than last time.

The bad

Yep, there was a lot of bad.

For starters, the movie was way too long, clocking in at 2 hours and X minutes.  I wouldn’t have had a problem had the film felt shorter, but it didn’t.  It felt like a really long movie.

Secondly, the plot.  It’s hard to know where to start with it so I won’t even try.  I hadn’t expected it to be original but this was derivative to the point that you couldn’t simply ignore it.  Let’s just say they could have put a little more effort into disguising it better.

Even the jokes were bad this time.  There were some decent laughs too, but many of jokes in Transformers II fell flat.  Like bad ‘Scary Movie’ jokes flat.  Especially when it tried to be ‘cool’, it turned out to be lame.  The twin Autobots were the prime culprits.

The film took a turn for the better when John Turturro arrived.  Like the first film, he was the comic highlight, but although he had some good lines he had limited screen time and dare I say even some of his antics wore a little thin at times.

The ugly

Transformers II has some of the worst editing of any film I have seen in recent times.  It’s not bad to the extent that you don’t know what’s going on, but it provides plenty of ‘WTFs?’.  For a major blockbuster like this, there’s no excuse.  To me, it reeks of laziness.  It’s as though the makers only cared about the cars, the action and the girls, and forgot about everything else.

Case in point – you know how when lead actor Shia LaBeouf injured his hand in a motor accident in real life and Bay said that they would work that into the movie?  Not really.  They just kind of fudged it – the idea wasn’t awful, but the execution was.  If you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I mean.

The performers

The majority of the main cast from the original returned.  Shia LaBeouf is getting over exposed these days, so he may be losing his charm, but he still does a reasonable job as the hero.  There were a few scenes where he demonstrates that his head hasn’t gotten so big that he’s unwilling to be ridiculed.

Megan Fox returns to play another sexy role as his girlfriend and doesn’t do much other than trying to look and sound appealing.  She’s actually not bad, but for some reason really looks like she could use a nice long bath.

The key new addition is the new roommate, Leo Spitz, played by Ramon Rodriguez, who is the primary comic relief until John Turturro returns.  Both men provide a spark to an often sagging film, though their jokes can be uneven.

On the military side, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson return to their rather useless roles.  If they wanted to trim the fat off this movie then these guys should have gone first.

Final word

Michael Bay didn’t try to cater for all audiences like say JJ Abrams did with Star Trek – it’s very clear from the first few minutes that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is nothing more than a bit of brainless fun targeted at overly excited teenagers.  However, even if you accept the film for what it is, it doesn’t necessarily succeed.  It’s still far too long and disjointed, and everything other than the special effects and action sequences feel extraordinarily lazy, as though they didn’t think anyone would notice or care if they put no effort into it.  That said, if you can put all of that aside…

2.5 stars out of 5!