"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Running time: 150 minutes

G’day internet inhabitants! I come here today with an apology, I have not seen a film in the cinemas this week so I have nothing current to review. Today, however, I did discuss with some friends about my plans to go see Transformers: Dark of the Moon in a few weeks when it launches here in Australia. This led to a discussion about the previous Transformers films and that gave me the idea that in the lead up to Dark of the Moon, I could review the previous Transformers film: Revenge of the Fallen. So, here we go!

Now Showing this week is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, directed by Michael Bay (the director of the entire trilogy thus far) and released back in 2009. Following the conclusion of Transformers, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has made an attempt to return to normal life and is studying at university. However, when Sam touches a chunk of the Cybertronian “All Spark” cube left over from the first film, his mind is populated with images of Cybertronian hieroglyphs that he does not understand. Little does he know that the Decepticons are seeking the information contained in his head so they can find a thing called the “Matrix of Leadership”, which is the key to the “Sun Harvester”. An evil transformer dubbed “the Fallen” is wanting to use the Sun Harvester to destroy the world. That’s basically the premise in a nutshell, it is a bit more detailed then that but if I wanted to write a complete synopsis of the plot I would be here all night!

Much to my dismay, when I went to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen two years ago when it launched, I noticed that it was a terrible film. Seriously, just terrible. With such a fantastic film preceding it, I was so sure that the sequel would at least be decent but no. It was awful. Not Hangover Part II or The Notebook awful but awful nonetheless. I just thought I would say that upfront before going into the nitty gritty details so as no one was unclear of my opinion: it’s really bad.

The foremost thing that made me loathe the film was it’s use of humour. The original Transformers was quite funny and clever, but all the humour was born out of the ridiculousness of the scenarios and the natural human reactions to things such as giant robots walking around! I believe the writers of Revenge of the Fallen thought: “wow, everyone seemed to really enjoy the humour that appeared in the first film, so let us write the second film to be a comedy!” Bad idea writers, really bad idea. The humour is so stupid and unnecessary and often wasn’t even funny! Oh man, those two dogs are humping each other/the Sector 7 man keeps referring to his mother/Sam’s mother accidentally had some weed ha ha ha!; it’s all so pointless! And the entire awfulness of the film can be summed up by this moment: the giant destructive Decepticon they fight at the end has two wrecking balls hanging between its legs and the Sector 7 man states while standing under it “I am located under…enemy scrotum!”

I’m just going to let that atrocity resonate….

Further more, the racism. “Wait a minute,” I hear you say, “Revenge of the Fallen wasn’t racist. It’s all about robots!”. Oh how wrong you are, whoever you are; the film was shockingly racist. Do you remember those two robots referred to as “the Twins”? Remember how they had the occasional gold tooth and spoke like they were from “the ghetto”? You do! Well what racist stereotype does that remind you of? That’s right, a racist stereotype for black people. And further more, in the scene where Sam writes down some Cybertronian hieroglyphs in the sand and asks the Twins if they can read them and tell him what they say, they reply “nah man, we can’t read…”

Wow…. the stereotypical black robots are illiterate. Just…wow.

Finally, I come to a massive loophole in the plot of the film. Those of you who are really adamant to avoid spoilers (if you’re one of the small group of people who have not seen the film), you should skip this paragraph, just saying. Ok, so about halfway through the film Optimus Prime gets killed in battle and the remaining good guys know that the Matrix of Leadership can revive him. So they head off to find it and they go through an epic battle just to revive Optimus because only a Prime can kill the Fallen. Sam had to die in the process of this so that the Dynasty of the Primes could magically reassemble the Matrix of Leadership and lots of carnage and bloodshed was suffered in order to bring Optimus back. Except, earlier in the film, the Decepticons resurrect the dead Megatron using a chunk of the All Spark cube that they managed to salvage. Logically, that means that a chunk of the All Spark cube could bring Optimus back to life, and Megan Fox has a chunk of the freakin cube in her bag the entire time! And they know it’s able to resurrect robots, because they waste it on some other robot who can take them to the thing that can resurrect Optimus! What the hell?! How could these writers miss a plot hole that large?! That’s the final insult for me, that plot hole is inexcusable.

Just so I can end on a positive, I guess the fight scenes in the film were good. The Decpticons are all grey with  little defining features at speed so when they fought you couldn’t tell who was who; but other then that they were alright. So, I guess now you should be asking why on earth am I going to see the third film given this one was so mind numbing terrible? Well, I am an admitted sucker for good marketing and the first trailer I saw for the film (the one set entirely during the moon landing of 1969) contained a premise that intrigued me enough to give it some benefit of the doubt. But mark my words, it has a lot to make up for. If those racist Twins are in it, I call the film dead and buried.

See you next time!

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"Super 8" (2011)

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Super 8 (2011)
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Running time: 112 minutes.

Hey everybody! Sorry about the lateness of this review, I’ve been away and have recently started up my second semester of university so I’ve only just gotten around to writing this review. I promise to be back into the full swing of things by next week. While I was away, however, I did manage to go see the film Super 8 and I thought I would say now that in order for me to actually comment/discuss the film I may have to reveal a few things from the film that anyone who hasn’t seen it may not want to know. So this is a spoiler warning I guess, you have been warned! Yeah, you at the keyboard, I’m talkin’ to you. Go see the film if you haven’t already!

Now Showing this week is Super 8 directed and written by J.J. Abrams who is the creative mastermind behind the film Cloverfield and hit TV shows Lost and Fringe. The film has been described by many other critics as a homage to the earlier works of Steven Spielberg, in the sense that it is set in the 1970s, involves science fiction elements and has children as the main protagonists. The film is about a boy named Joe who is making a zombie movie with his friends on a “super 8” video camera (the first kind of camera to record sound and video at the same time). Joe has recently lost his mother in an industrial accident and is now having a hard relationship with his father who is still recovering from the ordeal. During filming, Joe develops a crush on the lead actress Alice who is the daughter of the man whom Joe’s father blames for his wife’s death. One night while filming, Joe and his friends witness a train accident of epic (and I mean EPIC!) proportions and they flee the scene. Over the next few days, dogs start vanishing; people are being mutilated; the US Air Force has taken over the town; and some unnamed thing that was on the train is believed to be the cause behind it all.

Already you’ve got a freakin’ awesome film in the works, that premise is so good! And if it’s one thing J.J. Abrams is good at it is mystery. Now everyone has a go at Lost for not telling us anything but that’s what was fantastic about Lost. The fun in it was theorizing, based on what we did know, what the heck was going on; and then the thrill of being wrong was intoxicating! But I digress. The huge question for Super 8 is: what is the thing that’s causing all this mayhem? Abrams is fantastic at shooting action scenes involving a scary thing and not showing us what it is. He seems to be a big believer in the idea of “less is more”, which is something I think every horror/suspense filmmaker needs to learn. Things are scarier the less you see of them, and  it takes a long time for Super 8 to give you a good look at the thing itself. Many people I know who saw this film said they were disappointed once the thing was revealed but I had the opposite reaction. I thought the reveal was fantastic as it was nothing like what I was expecting from what I know of Abrams’ work. I like that he isn’t predictable, as all good filmmakers should be. He’s up there with Christopher Nolan in that regard.

But the mystery of the thing isn’t the point of Super 8, it’s simply the framing device. The real point of the film is the perspective that film is seen from: the children’s. The adults are running around either freaking out about all the strange occurrences or they’re the Air Force guys who are blind as to their sins as it were. Only the children were able to see things the way they should be, given their innocence and that they are not blinded by greed like us adults. I feel that’s where the Spielberg homage comes in; his films like E.T. the Extra Terrestrial are all about morality seen through the eyes of a child. That’s the only homage element I would place on the film, as all the other things people have drawn to it such as the time period and setting etc. isn’t a trademark of Spielberg; but perhaps that particular morality theme is.

One thing I need to mention is the acting. The acting is fantastic in this film, particularly from the children. Joe, played by Joel Courtney, is earnest and convincing the entire way through. And Alice, played by Elle Fanning, is fantastic. She absolutely nailed her role, and there was a particular scene where she is rehearsing a scene for the zombie film they’re making, where Fanning has a beautiful moment of honesty and gives an amazing performance of a performance of a pleading lover. I’ve been so annoyed that every reviewer has given her an honorable mention as Dakota Fanning’s sister, as I feel this isn’t fair to her. Dakota Fanning, while very talented, has never impressed me as much as Elle Fanning did in that one moment in Super 8, and Elle should be praised based on her great performance and not on her relation to her sister.

Well, it seems like I haven’t really spoiled much at all! I thought I would have to mention a few things that you guys wouldn’t want to know having not seen the film but I managed to tiptoe around it! Huzzah! Well, go see the film if you haven’t, it’s really great! Another triumph from a very talented filmmaker. See you next time!

p.s. I also saw Predators and Kung Fu Panda again this week, and they deserve a mention. See both of them, Predators for the decent action/suspense film with some great plot twists; and Kung Fu Panda for being one the funniest films ever made!

"X-Men: First Class" (2011)

X-Men: First Class (2011)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Running time: 132 minutes

Hey hey folks, this week I was torn between reviewing X-Men: First Class or last year’s Buried, given I saw both of those films within the last week. They were both films I enjoyed, they both surprised me with how much I would enjoy them and I would love to talk about them. However, since X-Men is a newer film and is currently in the cinemas, then reviewing it will give my blog more traffic from Google so I decided to go with that!

Now Showing this week is film X-Men: First Class which is directed by Matthew Vaughn. The film revolves around the origins of the series’ previous head honchos Professor Xavier and Magneto. While they were arch enemies in the previous films, in this prequel they are two men who join together to combat that whole communist thing that was happening in the 1960s. Many of you may know this event to be called “The Cold War”. That’s right, the 60s weren’t all about the crazy, Austin Powers sex parties; there was some serious stuff happening too! Anyway, the film tells the story of how these two men met and formed a group of other mutants like them to help the CIA defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. I shan’t say too much more for the sake of spoilers.

Now I was very skeptical of this film, what with the last two X-Men films sucking more balls than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The trailer also put me off somewhat, with that cheesy: “before he was Professor X, he was Charles” crap. But I must say, the film itself is really good. It has an interesting political story-line, awesome action sequences, a good sense of humour, as well as a thought provoking exploration into the tolerance/intolerance of abnormalities. The film wasn’t without its faults, but as a whole it is a good film.

The biggest bullet point for me being in favour of this film is the portrayal of Magneto (or Erik Lehnsherr). The film delves into his history as a holocaust survivor and it being the cause of his unlocking his magnetic ability. It fuels his rage and sends him on a vendetta to kill all the Nazis who tortured him, ultimately leading him towards Sebastian Shaw, the villain of the film. And Magneto’s internal conflict of both loathing but also agreeing with Shaw was wonderful to watch. Actor Michael Fassbender should be very proud of himself.

The other cast members also do great jobs as their characters. Xavier is rather enjoyable, as is Mystique in her younger days. In fact I enjoyed Mystique for the same reason as I enjoyed Magneto, she has this conflict within her as to whether she wants to be normal or if she wants to fight for her own acceptance. Her conflict makes us look at the 1960s and go: “god, they were naive bigots back then. She’d be fine now, cause we’ve grown up.” But then you really think about it and see how we behave exactly as the humans in the films did, and therein lies the thought provoking exploration I mentioned earlier. Once again, I was impressed by the intellectual depth of the film; I honestly wasn’t expecting it.

But there were some faults with the film. I didn’t like the secondary villains. There was Riptide, a dude who can manipulate tornadoes or something who basically had no speaking lines and was pointless. The guy named Azazel was basically Nightcrawler only red so he disappointed me as he never did any moves that were as cool as the opening sequence to X-Men 2. Also, some of the political retaliatory strikes seemed a bit far fetched and I could poke holes in them, but for the sake of spoilers among other things, I will say this: this is a superhero movie. We know the governments these days wouldn’t dispatch giant fleets, bomb entire beaches etc. just to take out six or seven people. But if these people were superheroes who could potentially defeat said armada in their sleep, then they probably would! So I can’t really say that the political retaliations were far fetched, because within the context of the reality the film is set in, they probably aren’t far fetched at all.

My apologies that this review hasn’t been very funny, it’s hard to be funny about something you like. But, go see X-Men: First Class, it’s a good film. It’s worth it just to see Hugh Jackman’s cameo, trust me! Also, see Buried as well, it is also amazing. Well, that’s it from me! See you next time.

p.s. if Mystique is around 20 in this film, that must mean she’s in her 60s in the main films! Sweet jesus, that just blew my mind!

"The Hangover Part II" (2011)

The Hangover Part II (2011)
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Running time: 102 minutes

Howdy internet! My apologies for the lateness of this post, but I had a sudden change of heart when I sat down to write this week’s review. Last week I was lucky enough to see Grindhouse at a local cinema here in Melbourne. For those of you who do not know, Grindhouse is a double feature of two films: Planet Terror directed by Robert Rodriguez and Death Proof directed by Quentin Tarantino. I was going to review it this week and I was going to write it last night after I went to see The Hangover Part II and save The Hangover Part II for next week’s review. However, after seeing The Hangover Part II  I was suddenly compelled to write about it this week and skip Grindhouse altogether. Let me just say that Grindhouse is amazing, go buy and/or rent it now because it’s brilliant. Why did I skip out on writing about such a great film you ask? Because The Hangover Part II is unbelievably terrible.

In case you had not already guessed, Now Showing this week is The Hangover Part II directed by Todd Phillips. Now, the main reason that The Hangover Part II was a terrible piece of crap was because of its similarities to the first film. I would explain the premise for the first Hangover film thusly:

      “The Hangover is about three friends (Phil, Stu and Alan) travelling to Las Vegas with their soon-to-be-wed friend Doug. They have a big night of drinking to celebrate Doug’s last day of being a single man and the next morning they are all so hungover that they cannot remember what they did the night before, and Phil, Stu and Alan have lost Doug somewhere in Vegas. They must then retrace their steps in order to find him and get back to the wedding in time.”

Now, take that premise and replace the words “Las Vegas” with “Bangkok” and the first two “Doug”‘s with “Stu” and the last “Doug” with “Teddy” and you have basically read the premise for The Hangover Part II. They are exactly the freakin’ same! What’s even worse is the fact that the film acknowledges this with the character’s actually uttering the phrase: “uh oh, I think it’s happened again…”. As soon as that phrase was uttered, I knew that this film would be an awful example of any form of entertainment. And the first utterance was in the first three minutes, so it didn’t take long to reveal itself for what it was: shit.

What’s more, I never laughed once during the entire film. Not once. The reason for that is because the jokes are the exact same jokes as the first film! They wake up with a small creature they shouldn’t have and need to take care of, Stu does something he shouldn’t with a prostitute, they pissed off some mobsters, they pissed off the police, Stu does something stupid and permanently body altering, it’s all the same stuff. Only this time they are trying to outdo the last film so all the stuff is unnecessarily crude and ultimately pathetic. For example, the movie just shows you penises whenever it can for no reason but to make you laugh at seeing a penis. In the first film they achieved the random penis gag because of the fact that they found a naked man in the trunk of their car, and that was surprising and made one shocked/intrigued as to how this came to be the night before. But a man just waking up hungover with his dick hanging out does not have the same affect and is just there to make stupid football fan morons go “ha ha, look, it’s a dick!”. You know the kind of people I mean, they drive black cars with gold trim and have “sic cnt” as their number plate. You may also know them as “total wastes of space”.

One of the people I was with said that sequels should never be made since they are never any good, and I disagree with that. A sequel can be good, it’s been done, but when undertaking the challenge you can’t be lazy and just copy/paste the script of the last film with a few name changes. Alien managed to have an excellent sequel to its original because it was a different film and followed on from the story of the first one, but didn’t just copy the exact same series of events. James Cameron brought intense action into the mix of the suspenseful horror of the series, and to great effect.

But I get the feeling that The Hangover was a movie where a sequel was doomed from the start no matter how hard the filmmakers tried. If they made a film where the characters had hangovers after a huge, chaotic night of drinking and needed to retrace their steps so as to make it back to something on time, they would end up with the shitty sequel that they did end up with. But if they made a film about the characters from the first film just being regular guys following the events of the first one, then it’s not really The Hangover Part II is it? It’s just Three Dudes Regretting Their Trip to Vegas which would be a completely new film and it not be a sequel to The Hangover at all. They just should not have bothered and quit while they were ahead. The Hangover was an unexpected masterpiece of comedic timing and storytelling, something they could not possibly do twice and shouldn’t have even tried. Shame on them for tainting the original’s glory.

I’m betting a lot of proper people will describe themselves as getting dumber and dumber while watching this film, but I personally had the opposite affect. I know I come across as a pompous smart ass who believes he’s the cleverest man in the world, but I often have debates with my friends and teachers where they plough me into the ground with their intellect and knowledge so I feel kind of stupid. But watching The Hangover Part II and hearing all those football Neanderthals laughing at such pitiful humour, I realised just how much smarter I am then such a large group of people who are recommending this film to their friends. So at least I got one positive thing out of watching the film, I regained some intellectual confidence. I also gained foresight to not go see the inevitable The Hangover Part III that all that football cretin box office success will cause.

See you next time!