Tag Archives: explosions

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Remember what happened in Transformers? Me neither, so I’ll join you in reading that review before I proceed. Yeah, right, okay, no new giant robots, missing Allspark, etc. Anyway, I know they had a happy ending in which the bad guy was vanquished and I guess the Allspark bit it, so no more giant robots? Except: now there’s a new bad guy that’s even badder and more important than Megatron, except we’ve never heard of him before. Which, okay, fine. And the giant robots have been on Earth for 17,000 years instead of showing up when their Allspark crash-landed by random chance. Which seems maybe less plausible?[1] And they have a new plan for making giant robots, although it technically involves the death of every living thing on the planet. Lucky it’s the giant robots having this debate; if it was humans who needed to destroy Cybertron to perpetuate our species, the giant robots would all be toast before you could finish Clapping Off.

Still, Transformers 2 was a pretty good movie. Megan Fox remains hot and occasionally runs in slow motion. There were a lot more tiny robots, the same amount of giant robots[2], a few distressingly racistly-typed robots[3] to detract from that, and at least two ancient robots. The military dudes were acceptably military, the conspiracy dude was John Turturro, and he’s generally good, right? And Shia LeBeouf was that young guy that gets lots of big roles for teenagers in movies these days; whether that is deserved, I choose not to speculate.[4] Plus, another cosmic-scale plot. So, yeah. Michael Bay has done quite well, here, putting together a solid, entertaining, explosions-filled movie filled with only a few missteps. Ninety minutes’ worth of adrenaline, entertainment and such, and through the art of movie magic, skillful casting, and blindingly-talented script oversight, he was able to cram that ninety minutes of entertaining film, with I’m sure no small amount of effort, down into a mere two and half hours of screen time.

Oops. Still, the good movie is in there, if you want to dig for it and can let your lizard brain be entertained by explosions, overt racism, and Megan Fox in the meantime.

[1] I grant the possibility that I missed some explanation for this during the first reel. But I’m pretty sure not.
[2] Though they look distressingly similar in robot form
[3] I could have gotten past the accents and attitudes with little more than an eye roll, but buckteeth, and one of them gold? You’ve got to be shitting me. I mean, seriously.
[4] Clearly, starring opposite Megan Fox is not deserved, though. I mean, it’s possible she’s going to be the better actor of the two of them in another year or so, which just indicates what I’m trying to say here.

Terminator Salvation

MV5BMjA5MzE0MTMyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDYwNjAzMg@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_So, it’s a Terminator movie, right? These are basically brilliant studies of predestination versus free will and where humanity exists, set against the backdrop of evil robots bent on making explosions happen. Very much a win-win. The latest entry in the series, Terminator Salvation, made the good decision of ignoring the third movie (without necessarily contradicting it) and the understandable decision of ignoring the recently lamented Sarah Connor Chronicles. With all of the time travel events over the course of the series, pretty much anyone could create a canonical Terminator story these days, saving only that it doesn’t contradict the first two flicks. I still haven’t completely decided how I felt about this one, but I’ll say this in its favor: it made me want to rewatch the originals.

Our setting is some years after Judgment Day. Skynet has broken humanity but not destroyed it. There are still roving bands of civilians, and there is a serious resistance against the machines, and a young man named John Connor has had some solid successes thanks to his mother’s advice and foreknowledge, enough that people see him as at least a mascot and possibly a prophesied savior. And while Connor is preparing to fulfill the destiny that will cause Skynet to try to kill him via Austrian time travel desperation, an unexpected new party, Marcus Wright, shows up with information about the whereabouts of one very necessary Kyle Reese[1] and a decided lack of information about himself, such as where he came from and why he’s a robot. And suddenly our hero is adrift in a sea of questions with no more prophetic answers.

As far as the whole question of where humanity exists, this movie was a champion. I know I just called Connor the hero, and he’s always been half of the hero of the series. But for this movie, and without intending the claim to be a spoiler, Wright was very much the hero. Or, let us say, main character, as that’s equally precise and far less prejudicial. The predestiny part was kind of handwaved but ultimately irrelevant, which makes it hard for me to accept this as a pure Terminator movie; except that the original ignored questions of humanity, so I’ll let it pass. As part of a likely series of sequels, there’s still some time to address all relevant philosophies. So, for explosions and things, yeah, it’s here and Connor is ready to deal with it. But for philosophical discussion, the camera is firmly on Wright from start to finish.[2]

[1] John Connor’s father, thanks to a crazy-ass time loop. But seriously, I’m sure you must already know that.
[2] Well, and on the talented but tragically named Moon Bloodgood.

Black Hawk Down

First Netflix movie in quite a while, I am thinking! I’ve been watching some TV there, so that’s part of why, but certainly my extremely slow usage rate is involved as well. I’m so glad there are now lots of streaming options, as it makes my membership almost valid again, monetarily. Anyhow, what I saw was Black Hawk Down, the moderately (and perhaps excessively) true story of a peace-keeping mission in Somalia in 1993 that went entirely pear-shaped.

And, you know, it was in no particular way a bad movie. It’s chock-full of actors that have since gone on to be awesome, plus several more who already were. It was pretty damn dramatic, and tense and actiony with all the shooting and the explosions and the certain death lurking around every corner, and, y’know, that was the problem. I went ahead and watched it because I had it, and I couldn’t guarantee things would change anytime soon, but I was just not in the mood for a story about tragic, hopeless odds, and the non-overcoming of adversity. Heroism galore, yes, but it still left me entirely depressed, and that was with realizing I wasn’t in the mood for it and doing internet stuff at the same time instead of focusing my full attention.

In the unlikely event that I see it again and (more importantly) am ready to see it, I’ll try this review again, because it’s just completely unfair as presented.

The Legend of Zorro

A random Friday movie occurred, and thusly, I update. The Legend of Zorro had, to the best of my recollection, everything I expected, and a few things I did not. In no particular order, then:

Swashbuckling swordplay. Defenestrations. Explosions. A casual at the best of times approach to historical accuracy. (An Alabama general in 1850 referring to himself as Confederate, not to mention Abe Lincoln signing CA into statehood in that same year. Also, he had a southern-accented gravelly voice. Oy.) All kinds of annoying child sidekick scenes. Elements of a cop/animal buddy movie, complete with animal vices. Multiple nods to The Miller’s Tale. Enough modern references to kill the suspension of disbelief still standing by now, but not nearly enough to convince me that they were doing it on purpose. A Christian bad guy so cartoonishly laid out that he has a never-explained scar on his face, in the shape of a cross. Shipments of evil soap. Translatable Latin and a secret society bent on world domination.

Worst of all: over two hours of film spool to leisurely tell the story that combines all of those elements. Best of all: Catherine Zeta-Jones has acceptable cleavage. Random: Although the music was composed by Howard Shore, I kept hearing phrases that sounded like Raiders of the Lost Ark, or occasionally Revenge of the Sith. Plus, it was Amblin Entertainment, so I was pretty well shocked to see it not be John Williams.

Transporter 2

There is a formula in Hollywood. One of many, of course, but this one goes as follows: Car chases + chopsocky = $$$. Car chases always include a) cars that explode, b) cars that drive up ramps on two side wheels to flip them upside down in mid-air, and c) cars that drive off the edge of a conveniently partial bridge. Chopsocky always includes a) people that punch each other, b) people that kick each other, and c) people that jump around a lot, avoiding certain death.

That’s right, Friday was double feature day at the local mallplex, and the next thing I saw was Transporter 2. Frank the ex- special forces guy plays the role of Neo if he knew how to drive, dodging as many bullets as a National Guardsman sitting out of the Vietnam War while beating up Generic Enemy 1 through 57 with as much of the scenery as Jackie Chan.

The plot, to be perfectly frank, is irrelevant. It involves the driving and the chopsocky, not to mention a soulless female assassin who spends the majority of her screen time in wet, transparent lingerie. Even the French guy was worthwhile. I’m not saying movie of the year, here, but it is the year with Serenity in it, so that explains why.

Stealth

Stealth, aka I Saw It So You Don’t Have To. Only, it had things going for it. The obvious ones are lots of explodey action sequences, and that’s virtually always enough to keep me entertained. I will say that I kinda thought Jamie Foxx was at a point in his career where he could do better than this, though.

But, I was talking about things going for it. Some eye candy, and the explosions, a shadowy government conspiracy, Russian MIGs, and a wise-cracking AI that is just waiting for a chance to go rogue. So, all that, sure. Plus, the script was written by someone with ADD. I’m serious about that. Basically, if at any point you find that you’re bored of the plot, then have no fear; it changes directions completely with every single reel change.

I know it sounds like I’m down on it, and I want to be, but I can’t quite manage to be. At the end of the day, it was a workmanlike, by-the-numbers action flick, and those are worthwhile. It had nothing as bad as the romance scenes in Armageddon or the pet scenes in Independence Day. And when you think about it, Top Gun is really only as good as it is in our memories because we haven’t watched it lately. (Trust me on this one; it’s not worth it.)

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

I am jumbled, and I wonder if I oughtn’t wait until another viewing. But screw it, first impressions are important, on top of which it’s one of my few first shot times, so I’ll take it. And then cheat by first talking atmosphere. I know I go on about the Alamo Drafthouse mystique, but it was in fine enough fettle tonight to run down. Someone went to the effort of editing up the Cartoon Network Clone Wars endeavour down to its essential “here’s the bits that are related to the movie” bones, and then showed it, interspersed with all kinds of Star Wars filmed coolness and uncoolness, from Troops to Anakin Dynamite to a Muppet Show appearance to the Turkish Star Wars rip-off to the much maligned (and rightly so!) 1978 Christmas special. A very pleasant way to pass a couple of hours while waiting for the last big event movie of quite a while, and I commend them once more.

Then, there’s the movie itself. The scroll cleared the screen just in time to drop into an unrelenting action spectacle with all the right touches of humor and explosions alike. And then… well, things got a little wooden. Never bad, but never quite great. Motivations that were a hair off, decisions that very nearly made sense, enemies that were inches south of believable. Nothing enough to make me stop enjoying myself, but so much that came close to working perfectly that I had to be disappointed when it didn’t. The real irony I think is that it was the longest Star Wars movie, yet really needed another ten or twenty minutes of scenes expanded in just the right ways to achieve the brilliance it was in sight of.

That said, there’s a moment that I choose not to ruin[1] in the main portion of this review past which everything comes together again. It’s still never quite as perfect as that opening sequence, but the complaints from that moment on are nits to be picked, not faults to regret. It’s a hell of a thing, to know essentially everything that’s going to happen (not due to spoilers but to the logical consequence of having already seen the galaxy twenty years down the road from that moment) and still be kept on the edge of my seat, wondering what will happen next, if there’s a way out of it, how it came to this. For that, I’ll offer Lucas my thanks and my kudos. When he got to the important part, he made it work.

If you watched the other two movies, like or dislike, go ahead and see this one, at least the once. Even with the mis-steps, it’s worth it.
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Sahara

The thing about buddy action-adventure flicks is: hard to talk about. Because, we’ve seen it all before. In Sahara‘s case, it’s James Bond (they nearly always are), but if he had retired from the secret service to become a deep-sea diver, and also if he had made friends with some guy at some point in his life.

The rest of it is exactly what you’d expect. Is there a pretty girl in danger because she’s stumbled across a secret that could threaten the fate of the world? Is there a power-mad industrialist willing to protect that secret at any cost? Is there a boss somewhere that wants the world safe, of course, but wishes his stuff would not get destroyed quite so often? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then there are more seminal works that you ought to see instead. If you do, though, this one is pretty good. They found the right balance of drama, comedy, and explosions. Plus, there’s a civil war treasure hunt, just to add a new flavor for the palate.

This Dirk Pitt guy seems alright. If I can figure out what the first book of the series is, I’ll probably pay Half Price Books a visit and attack the stories from multiple angles. The problem being, my to-read shelf is failing to get smaller. You’d think with the moving and packing things up, I’d have a little bit more discretion. Well, maybe you wouldn’t, but I really thought I would. In fact, though: I would not.

Cellular

I had a free afternoon and remembered I’d missed a couple of movies lately, so I took in a double feature this afternoon. (And for a change, I bought both tickets. Go, me.) One thing I don’t understand about movie-goers: what does it take to get them to laugh? I know you’ll hear laughter in a crowded theater when something funny happens, but once you’re down to twenty people or less, whether the movie is a comedy or a drama with tension-breaking dialogue, I find that typically only me and my rare company are the people who actually laugh at stuff. It’s very bizarre. All Village of the Damned-y.

Well, be that as it may, the first show of the day was Cellular. This is the heart-warming tale of Botox Barbie (played by Kim Basinger) who is kidnapped for the crimes of 1) owning a million dollar plus home in upscale Los Angeles on her high school science teacher salary and her husband’s real estate commissions, 2) Having a housekeeper and an alarm system on the same pair of salaries, but not having that alarm system go off if someone smashes the glass on one of the doors, 3) Despite having all of these perks on such tiny salaries, believing that the kidnappers have got the wrong person, and 4) Ensuring that her 11 year old son is the lamest kid in school by walking him to the bus stop every morning.

Luckily (well, for her), she hotwires a busted phone well enough to enlist the aid of beach bum Ryan, who has conveniently just set out to prove to his ex- that he can be responsible. He’s able to accomplish this in record time, running down the halls of a posh private school yelling for one of the kids to come out and trust the crazy man, carjacking $80k cars with alacrity rarely seen outside the Grand Theft Auto series, and line-cutting in phone stores at gunpoint.

Actually, as suspense flicks go, it’s pretty good. The plotholes are reasonably rare, the tension reasonably thick, and the gunplay/explosions reasonably compelling. Plus, you get William H. Macy for at least a good 1/6 of the film. This is a man who can bring gravitas to the act of wiping off a mud mask. Unfortunately for him, this role proves it.