Tag Archives: Nicola Peltz

Movie Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

transformers-age-of-extinction-poster

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: The Last Airbender (2D) (2010)

The Last Airbender is not as bad as people make it out to be.  In fact, I quite enjoyed it.

That said, I did have lower than low expectations for the film (given it recorded an abysmal 6% at Rotten Tomatoes), and perhaps more importantly, I have never seen the popular cartoon series on which the film is based.  Keeping that in mind, I think writer and director M Night Shyamalan did a pretty decent job (and let’s face it, he had an extremely difficult job) in creating a ‘kids film’ that is, for the most part, entertaining and enjoyable.

The Last Airbender dropped the word ‘Avatar’ from its title because of that highest grossing film of all time.  It’s set in a fantasy land where people are born with the natural ability to ‘bend’ one of the four elements — earth, fire, wind and water.  Kind of like Captain Planet (he’s a hero, gonna take pollution down to zero).  However, there is only one person in the world that has the ability to bend all four elements, and that’s the Avatar.

Naturally, for a bunch of reasons, the tribes of the various elements are at war, largely thanks to the ambitious Fire Nation people.  Conveniently, the Avatar reappears, seeking to restore balance to the world with the aid of his friends from the Water tribes and a big flying animal that reminds me of The Neverending Story.

So yes, the idea and the story is actually pretty cool.  There’s an obvious Asian influence with all that martial arts and those taichi-like moves they do to ‘bend’ stuff.  The battle scenes are grand and reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings (or perhaps, more accurately, Narnia).  The special effects were genuinely excellent.  In terms of aesthetics, The Last Airbender is solid.

But of course, the film fails in a few other key departments.  It squeezes a ridiculous amount of stuff into 103 minutes, and as a result, the story jumps all over the place and is rarely coherent.  You just have to go for the ride and accept all the things that suddenly pop out of nowhere for the sake of progressing the story.

And the acting…poor Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire does all that he can to bring out the character of Zuko, and he’s by far the best of the youngsters despite some awkward lines.  Katara, played Nicola Peltz, received high praise from Shyamalan but didn’t feel like anything particularly special.  Her brother Sokka, played by Twilight‘s Jackson Rathbone, was, well, a bit on the stiff side, though to be fair he wasn’t given a whole lot to work with.  However, it is the strange kid with the constantly flaring nostrils, Noah Ringer, who plays the Avatar, that fails to deliver any semblance of real emotion whatsoever.  It’s his first acting role, so he deserves a break, but if he’s going to be in the sequels he’ll need to work on his performance.

Look, The Last Airbender was never going to be a great movie.  M Night Shyamalan has been absolutely caned over his last few movie-making attempts (in my opinion not all deserved) and he was always going to be on the back foot defending himself from critics.  The complex story required so much explaining that it was always going to be an uphill battle to begin with.  Taking all of that into account, I think things could have been a lot worse.  For all its flaws, it still has an interesting concept, great fight scenes and terrific special effects.  I certainly think it’s significant better than Dragonball: Evolution.

The film is actually only the first of three parts, and from what I understand, Shyamalan has already done a rough script of the second film.  If they make it, I’ll watch it.

3 stars out of 5

PS: So glad I watched the 2D version and not the 3D crap (which I hear added nothing).  We had a choice of a 2D and 3D session and went with 2D, even though that meant we had to sit in the fourth row.  And get this — we went on cheapo Tuesday which has $10.50 tickets (that’s supposed to be cheap?), but for 3D films there’s conveniently no discount.  And guess how much each ticket would have cost if we watched the 3D version?  $24.50!  That’s just insane, and another reason to hate 3D.