Wednesday, July 1, 2009

[Movie Review] Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

Sequel to the 2007 morphing robots flick, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen reminds us that sequels should never leave the drawing board. Put simply, the film is over the top. The original had excessive amounts of special effects, lots of action a mildly worthwhile plot and a few corny jokes. Revenge of the Fallen has explosions coming out of its arse, barely time to breathe between action sequences, no plot nor sense and a slew of quick and fast corny jokes. I was about to say that the latest movie went for much too long, but it only beat its predecessor by six minutes. But it still seems much too long. Where in his first attempt at adapting the Hasbro toy line to the screen director Michael Bay’s style worked, this second installment makes his beloved special effects are downright annoying.

The actors don’t even try to make the ridiculous dialogue in the script flow. Every line is supposed to be some sort of pun or melodramatically meaningful. Humour is drawn from slightly disgusting sexual innuendo, jokes so corny they have children in them, and stereotypes. In the first film, the characters didn’t have much depth, which can be forgiven for its being an action movie, but the scripting of this installment seemed to want to show such attributes, for people who it surely did not exist. The plot is a hole that imploded on itself. For most sci-fi fantasy, I have to suspend my disbelief, for this I found I was suspending my belief, in logic. There are stereotyped characters a plenty in this foray into sci-fi. From the screaming mother, to the paranoid conspiracy believer, there’s even a black guy who I am sure is “just in this movie to say things like “damn!” And smile.” On top of that are the two robots who further portray African American stereotypes, though this is allegedly pure coincidence. It’s quite obvious that some actors, namely Megan Fox, are just there for eye candy. Her first scene wherein she is dressed in a leather jacket and denim micro shorts proves this. I thought that that would be more than enough of a display, but no, not for Michael Bay. Cue Megan for running in slow-mo for the latter half of the film, with a clean face despite her ever diminishing clothing.

The CGI was incredible; credit must be given to whoever made that. The stunning cogs of each automaton blew me away. Or they might have, if I was that at all interested in CGI. These effects are great, but one must understand that they alone cannot carry a movie. Such is the crux of Michael Bay, notorious for his indulgence into the computer generated scene. Every scene has a computer generated something or other. Unavoidable given the subject matter but still, highly orchestrated explosions, with helicopters flying every which way looks cool the first few times, but after the fourth or fifth explosion of the minute, it gets a bit gimmicky. It’s as though CGI was used because they couldn’t think of anything else to do. Let’s put lots of things on the screen, so the audience forgets that nothing of any value is actually happening. Good on the actors, though, for having to work so much with tennis balls on sticks for all of their scenes, bravo.

If we say the action is needed to identify with the target demographic, which judging by those around me is 14-20 year olds, it would be great it fit were coherent. To be perfectly honest I was in the front row of the cinema with the Xtreme screen, but I found myself having to look away from the mechanized violence on screen for a few seconds. My kingdom for a mounted camera. Seriously, the movie was shakier than The Bourne Ultimatum and at least in that the handy cam was used to an effect, for this it seems it was used just to disorientate and confuse. The final battle was so discernable that I saw the film only a few hours ago and I can’t tell you what happened, though I know Megan Fox ran in slow motion. The slo motion may have contributed to this, but the movie was so long. Its prequel came close to its finishing time, bt it wasn’t nearly as long. The reason: less drawn out melodrama and nonsensical robot fights. The movie clocks in at a mammoth two and a half hours for Pete’s sake.

Word is that Revenge of the Fallen is a contender in the up and coming Razzies, befittingly so. This sequel smeared the name of a movie that I considered the greatest film adaption of an 80’s children’s phenomena ever (yes, that means I thought Transformers > TMNT).

If you find my paragraphing difficult, I was attempting to imitate the storyboard.

And for the record, Megatron originally transformed into a Walther P38, not a lame-ass tank.

The Fallen is not megtron's boss in the real (animated) canon, Unicron is.

A funny excerpt from South Park, describing various directors styles:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

[Movie Review] Watchmen

The Watchmen is based on the critically acclaimed 1986 comic book series, I will make some references to the “graphic novel”, but this review serves to state my opinion on the movie.

The story takes place in an alternate timeline wherein costumed vigilantism was commonplace in the forties. These “heroes” were ordinary humans and, were ultimately eclipsed when a nuclear accident births a true superman. Fast forward to the mid eighties, masked crime fighting is now illegal, and thanks to the work of former “mask” The Comedian and the radioactive Dr Manhattan, the US have one in Vietnam. However, the Soviet Union continues to stockpile weapons with each passing day, and the threat of Nuclear Holocaust seems omnipresent. Coupled with that, a single masked crime fighter still walks the streets, under the pseudonym of Rorschach.

Edward Blake, The Comedian, is found dead. Someone did it, was it one of his former archrivals, the Soviets, or the very government by which he was employed. Who ever it is Rorschach is compelled to find out who. What unfolds is a story of mystery, identity and meaningfulness.

For fans of the comic, many of the scenes are faithfully recreated, yet some plot points or chronologies are changed. For running time’s sake (the film still clocks up over two hours), many of the subplots are culled, but lots of key points remain. One of the appeals of watchmen was that it showed its heroes fornicating, committing acts of real violence and most importantly, it showed a nuclear powered superhuman’s penis. The penis was a big part of the movie for me, I was worried that they wouldn’t have the gonads (how fitting) to reveal it, but I think they even showed the appendage more times on screen than in the source.

On the source, many things, like the details of the ending were changed. The new ending, while arriving at the same conclusion though taking a little while longer to get there, is slightly more logical. However, I disapprove of many of the effects used. A bullet time affect was used in almost every fight. The effect gives the impression of superpowers, but that’s exactly what the original book was against. There is also a lot of blood, and heroes seem to have the strength to break bones in a single punch. The blood I can understand, it makes a statement. It says, “This movie breaks traditional molds but having heroes break the mold of enemy cartilage”. Yet many throws are enhanced by strings, not greatly, mind you, but altered to the point of unrealism no less.

The actors are all relatively unknown, a good move. They also do good jobs of their characters, though I think breathing more life into some than necessary. I find that Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks a bit too much like Robert Downey Junior, leading me to believe posters of him in costume were for a new Iron man movie.

The soundtrack is fantastic. Great songs of the pre-eighties era. If I didn’t own all of the songs anyway, I’d buy the soundtrack. It was only let down by a bad track of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I Honestly, I would see the movie for the music alone.

On a side note, while the movie lacks many of the subplots that really hooked me on the Watchmen universe, there are rumors of a four hour long director cut edition which includes many times more footage.

Whilst not having quite as much depth as the page original, the Watchmen movie still retains much of what makes the canon great.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

[Book Series Review] Twilight

The Twilight series totals four books and has recently jumped into the international reader’s eye, even if one disregards the recently released movie. The series has gained a massive following in its demographic (which, as far as I can tell, is teenage girls), unfortunately it’s not as good as Harry Potter, despite being almost the same size as the series page wise. The first book in the series, Twilight, came as quite a shock to me. I had become used to books gaining mild popularity despite bad writing, but I had to stop for a minute or two and say, “This? This!” I could not honestly fathom how the book could have gained popularity. The story contains characters that were so perfect in all aspects: the girl is clumsy and has never had a boyfriend, but is not objective to a boy who wants to be with her all the time and have her straddle his chest three weeks into their relationship. The boy is all too perfect, handsome, smart and caring. But wait! He’s a vampire. Oh, no, he doesn’t eat people. On top of that, he’s special for a vampire. The characters were so shallow in Twilight, they had no hobbies, no faults that didn’t fit their cliché, they were horrible. Not only that, many of the subjects of the tome are quite…well…bad. Lots of what the main character says is sexist (against women) and the males of the book just play along, all of them heroes, doting upon every girl in the class (of which there seems to be four). I found this book repulsive. I was shocked that so many bought the 130,000 book about nothing. I was so aversive to this book that I honestly could not justify reading the rest of the series. Fortunately, my mother bought them, so I was backed into a corner, lest I let money go to waste.

I was glad she did, because the second book was better. Mind you, not much better. The characters actually had a bit of emotion, but this became mere melodrama. “I can’t live without you, I love you.” The universe is expanded a bit, and the books become more of a fantasy. In addition to this, an actual conflict is presented. It was a little better, but not much. Still, it laid seeds that kept me wondering if Meyer had green literary thumbs. I then moved on to the third book of the series and my heart dropped.

Oh my god. It was as though someone had taken an enema of good writing skill and doused Stephanie Meyer. The book, while still not being a massive literary achievement, was leagues above its predecessors. There was a great conflict, action and a growing romantic tension. Meyer’s writing style is a double edged sword, its word heavy, but extremely light really; I finished this book in a day and a half. I felt proud to read Meyer’s work. Her first book was so bad, but her third… it showed that she had grown, I really felt like commending her. Though the book still had to appease its target demographic, so it didn’t have an all too compelling storyline, and the ending was not close to what my dark mind conspired. Still and all, it was a great Summer read. Its worth noting that it was this book that brought the series international success which, as a children’s book, it is more than worthy of.

The fourth and final book was just more of the third, not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just found it a bit of a let down. Though I knew in my heart that this would be the case, for Stephanie was bound to serving her dark and hungry god; the tweenage female market. I found myself left with a feeling of solace by finishing the series, knowing from what terribleness it had risen, I would now be proud to have that book in my personal library.

In conclusion, the end latter parts of the series are good examples of want young girls want in a book, though overall the series loses points for it's beginnings.


Bravo Stephanie Meyer, bravo.

Please click the ads at the side, help a brother out.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

[Movie Review] Mamma Mia

Straight off, I will say this: Mamma Mia is not meant to be a movie, it is supposed to be a stage musical, which is why it fails as a movie. It was never meant for the silver screen, this is obvious with it's weak plot and focus on breaking into ABBA song. Still, it's shortcomings are helped by a simple fact; its fun. While not holding a candle to the great screen musical that was Grease it is a fantastic delight to sit and sing-a-long to your favourite Swedish pop (especially on DVD special karaoke mode).

The plot centres on twenty-year-old bride to be, Sophie, who steals her mother's diary in an attempt to find the identity of her father. She arrives at three possible matches and invites them all to her Greek island home in the hope that she can have her dad walk her down the aisle. Of course, things go awry when neither the men, Sophie or her mother, can shed light on the paternity. With the wedding looming, Sophie must unravel the mystery, whilst singing song that every peasant seems to know by heart. Overall, the story acts as a loose segue from one Abba hit to the next.

The cast, headed by relative newbie Amanda Seyfried, is okay. Though being studded with veterans (Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep), Mamma Mia seems a little flat in the non-singing department, though this could be due to weak dialogue. Each cast member sings, which is an achievement, though the females certainly do much better than their penis owning counterparts.

The singing segments are quite fitting of a musical, though it looks utterly ridiculous on screen. During these segments, former Abba members make cameos. These are both the films strongest point and its undoing, if you know the words and can join in (in my primary school many of the tunes were mandatory) then you will find this fun and great experience. Conversely, if you're not into musicals, singing or ABBA, then you should not attend a screening of this picture.