Transformers: Revenge of the Giant Robots

I will make no bones about the fact that I absolutely adored Michael Bay’s homage to the Hasbro toys of my youth. The original Transformers was everything that you could want in a popcorn flick:

  • explosions
  • tons of action
  • and giant freaking robots that transform into cars.

So. Awesome.

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Look, if you pay to go see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and expect anything else than 2 ½ fun-filled hours of some combination of those three things, you will be seriously disappointed. Don’t expect a rock-solid plot. Don’t expect great acting. Don’t expect perfect logic. You won’t get any of those in this movie.

However, if you enjoyed the first movie for those three things, you  will be entertained. I was on the edge of my seat for most of the flick. It’s a ten tons of explosive, effects-laden fun. There’s a typical Armageddon/Pearl Harbor love-story-buried-in-an-action-movie (Bay can’t seem to help himself). There’s an opening action/effects sequence in “Shanghai” that gets you ready for the rest of the movie. And there’s a lot of Shia Lebeouf and Megan Fox running. Running from robots. Running from explosions. Running from exploding robots.

Look, Transformers: ROTF won’t win any Oscars (maybe one nomination for effects, which are terrific), but it’s going to make Spielberg and Dreamworks a crap-ton of money.

This is the type of movie that is made for summer. And if you don’t enjoy movies like this, there’s just no talking to you.

Angels & Demons

(Author’s note: I realize that this “Every Day in May” post is a bit late, but you will have to forgive me, especially since the only person who really cares about the every day part is me.)

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On Saturday, we headed out to see Angels & Demons with Alli’s folks. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of The DaVinci Code, I’ve really liked Dan Brown’s books and I was hoping that they would make a better movie out of A&D since the actual source material is better than DaVinci Code. (It’s not that DaVinci Code is a bad book, it’s just that Angels & Demons is better.)

My issue with the movie adaptations had first and foremost to do with Tom Hanks. I never really bought him as symbologist Robert Langdon, so that was an issue that I had to come to terms with. Honestly, I still think that another actor would have done a better job with the role, but at least they cut his hair in A&D so that he didn’t look so ridiculous.

The plot of Angels & Demons centers around an age-old conflict between religion and science as played out by the Catholic Church vs. The Illuminati, a secret society of scientists led by Galileo that opposed the way the church was teaching the Earth as the center of the universe.

The movie runs two and a half hours long, but I could find very little stuff that I would have taken out of the movie. It’s intense and suspenseful and Ron Howard does a good job (although not as good as Dan Brown) of keeping secret the identity of the main villain behind it all.

I really thought that they did a great job of portraying Rome, considering there were only certain elements that they were able to shoot on location.

And as far as book adaptations go, I’m always hesitant to go see books that I like, but I really enjoyed this one. It’s enjoyable and it doesn’t taint the original source material too much. Also, the movie leaves out the absolutely ridiculous ending to the book (those who have read the book will know what I’m talking about) and I’m beginning to get on board with Hanks as Langdon.

I say go see it, even if you haven’t read the book. It’s a good, suspenseful action movie and the scenery is great.

Watchmen

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Just as many did today, I went out and saw Zack Snyder’s movie adaptation of the crazy popular cult classic graphic novel  Watchmen. Prior to seeing the movie, I picked up the full graphic novel at Target and finished the tome an hour before Alli and I went to see it at the Fork & Screen over lunch.

I enjoyed the book. It’s heavy and dark, but it’s extremely well-written. Alan Moore’s words and Dave Gibbons illustrations create the alternate-history 1985 in which Richard Nixon is entering his 5th term as President and the Cold War is at the height of madness, enough for there to be a Doomsday Clock, which scientists use to count down the annihilation of the world via nuclear weapons.

The movie follows the same basic plot, but lacks much of the depth that makes the graphic novel a classic. Zack Snyder is a good filmmaker, but the source material that he was provided with does most of the work for him here. Snyder recreates some scenes frame-for-frame identically to Gibbons’ original drawings.

That’s not a bad thing, but there are parts of the movie that got cut over others that I felt shouldn’t have. Snyder manages to find five minutes for a 5-minute long softcore porn scene, but other more critical plot points are glazed over (I would have liked to have seen more development of the New Frontiersman vs. the Nova Express part of the story, which is absent entirely from the movie until the last 5 minutes when it doesn’t even make sense).

Unfortunately, our experience with the movie was not great. The movie started and stopped 5 times before it finally continuously began and even then, we still missed the first few minutes. That was unfortunate because I felt it would have set the stage of impending doom better than what we saw.

The other thing that bothered me was something that bothered another reviewer (that I can’t remember now) regarding the ending. I won’t reveal what happens, but here’s what I’ll say: the ending is really one of the only major plot changes the movie makes to the book. And if you’re going to make a shot-for-shot recreation of a graphic novel, you should go all the way. By changing the end, it alters the story enough that it is noticeable.

The casting hits about as much as it misses. Jackie Earl Haley is perfect as Rorschach but I thought that Matthew Goode was the wrong choice for Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias. I also was totally impressed by Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl, especially after reading the book. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a good Comedian, but I could take or leave Malin Ackerman’s Laurie/Silk Spectre.

Like I said before, the movie version really lacked the layers that make the graphic novel so good. I imagine that most fans of the book will nitpick the movie to death. Others will be turned off by the extreme violence, while others will say it’s not violent enough based on the source material. But there are a lot of people who will appreciate the movie a lot. I liked it. I probably would have liked it even more had I not read it. It has really interesting things to say about human nature and what it truly means to be heroic. Sure, those messages come straight from the source material, but at least they didn’t get muddled.

I’m not sure if I’d recommend this movie. If you’re interested, you might think about taking a look at the Wikipedia page for the comic just to get a plot overview.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Even though I couldn’t get it for a buck at Redbox (stupid Blockbuster exclusives!), Alli and I rented Vicky Cristina Barcelona today. Frankly, this is something that I did against my better judgment. I am not a Woody Allen fan. I absolutely loathed Match Point (not even worth a link) and enjoyed Annie Hall, despite Woody Allen actually being in the film.

I had low expectations going into this movie, but was intrigued because of all the Oscar buzz surrounding Penelope Cruz for her performance as Maria Elena.

The movie is basically about two categorically different American tourists, played by Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall who travel to Barcelona for the summer and both have affairs with the same dashing Spaniard, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a stereotypical free spirit painter who meets them by proposing a tryst of sorts. He is plagued by the memory (and presence) of his ex-wife (Cruz), who is also a painter and may or may not be absolutely crazy.

The movie plays against the gorgeous scenery of Spain and the subject matter is interesting. On one side, you have Cristina (Johansson), the free spirit, free-thinking, free-loving creative-type who wants perhaps a little too much to be a part of Juan Antonio’s “scene” (and yes, I punched myself in the arm 3 times for saying “scene”).

Cristina, Juan Antonio and Maria Elena have a picnic in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Vicky, on the other hand, is settled, engaged, and doesn’t seem too interested in Juan Antonio. All the same, he’s a dashing, handsome, Spanish painter. So you can imagine what happens.

Like I said, I’m no Woody Allen fan. I’m especially not a fan of Woody Allen the Actor. Fortunately, the annoying little Manhattanite does not pollute the screen, but if I liked this movie at all, it wasn’t because of Allen’s writing or direction, but rather the gorgeous scenery and the subjects that the characters discussed: love and life. Their dialogue wasn’t well written or even all that clever. Not only were they not all that clever, but  there was also the offensive, ubiquitous presence of a narrator, which at times seemed just a very lazy way of giving us insight into characters that we could have easily figured out for ourselves.

Ultimately, the reason we checked out this film was to see what all the hubbub was about Penelope Cruz. I’ll be frank. While it’s nice to see her be able to act in her native tongue, I didn’t think her performance was anything NEAR what Taraji P. Henson put forth in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. As far as supporting roles go in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, I was more impressed by Rebecca Hall than anyone else. But that’s just me.

There are so many people who attended film school and would I’m sure love to espouse to me the greatness of the Manhattan Midget director. Save it. I’m not buying it for a second. He may be one of the most prolific writer/directors of all-time, but there’s a reason that his movies don’t sell tickets. They are not very good. 

If you want to see this movie, I’d wait until Blockbuster’s exclusive runs out. It’s not worth the $5 rental. I’d much rather have watched it for free on a Monday from Redbox. I wouldn’t waste your money on this one.

Righteous Kill

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Alli and I used our free Monday Redbox rental to pick up Righteous Kill, a cop movie starring cop movie stalwarts Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. DeNiro and Pacino are Hollywood heavyweights who’ve only appeared together onscreen one other time in Michael Mann’s totally underrated 1995 cop movie Heat.

Righteous Kill focuses on long-time partners Turk (DeNiro) and Rooster (Pacino) as they investigate a series of killings in New York City that involve low-life scum who’ve been knocked off with very little evidence.

It’s a pretty straightforward cop movie with decent supporting roles for John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Carla Gugino and 50 Cent. Both DeNiro and Pacino are starting to look a little old to be chasing bad guys, but they’re still great actors. 

Righteous Kill didn’t get great reviews. I thought it was just OK. It certainly wasn’t the worst thing I’ve seen, but it wasn’t the best. Comparing it to some other cop movies out there, it certainly can’t hold a candle to some of it’s competition. But for a free rental, it was just fine.