Film, Film Reviews

Film Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Few directors know how to throw a farewell party the way Michael Bay does. With this, the supposed final installment of the globe conquering Transformers series, he proves once again that there are few that truly understand the movie-going public as well as he does. Dark of the Moon is leaps and bounds above Revenge of the Fallen, narrowing the scope of the film while taking advantage of 3D and amplifying its excess and sonic poundage. Rarely will a film ever be this loud and unforgiving on the human senses, an audio/visual hammer with the subtlety of a brick to the skull. But that is what makes this film so ridiculously brilliant; it is what we, as a global movie-going audience, wants. If you don’t believe a word of the previous sentence, feel free to check the box office in a few days time.

Dark of the Moon reaches far deeper into the Transformers mythology bringing the world of Cybertron closer to Earth than ever before. It back tracks to the human space race of the 1960s to set the tone of the film, giving Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s (who makes a cameo appearance) moon landing a more sinister undertone. Humanity is once again at peril as it stands between the Autobots and Decepticons’ never ending galactic battle for supremacy. Yet in Dark of the Moon, we find that there may be more than meets the eye when it comes to the role of humans in the historical context of this great fight. It almost circumvents the plot of Revenge of the Fallen, but this progression of the Transformers history seems much better (or maybe Revenge just sucked so much that they hoped to simply sweep it under the rug) as soon as you throw out any sense of plausibility (but what’s plausible about Transformers anyway?)

Shia LaBeouf continues to do a lot of running and yelling and kicking as Sam, struggling for a job after the events of the first two movies, stumbles into employment thanks to his new squeeze, the rather well shot (God bless Michael Bay and the way he shoots lingerie models) Rosie Huntington-Whitely. And for all the hullabaloo, she is genuinely better than Megan Fox, a far less irritating caricature and a better actress. We are given some genuinely funny moments as his struggles for employment crosses paths with the likes of a slightly underused John Malkovich, an as-expected Ken Jeong and Alan Tudyk. The cast in general (which includes Frances McDormand and Patrick Dempsey) is far more rounded, having jettisoned the annoying Ramon Rodriguez and keeping the role of Sam’s parents to a minimum, which gives the film a solid human presence amongst the sentient destruction. Most of them do the best they can with the lines they’re fed, that while isn’t quite Aaron Sorkin, is better than “I’ll drive, you shoot”.

Writer Ehren Kruger does the film its biggest service by limiting the film’s landscape to but a few destinations. While we traveled to the far reaches of the Earth in Revenge of the Fallen, we are most restricted to only a few (setting the film’s final set piece within the city confines of Chicago), avoiding the travel fatigue we got in the second.

With these parts in place, Michael Bay gives the film its much-needed finality. It is unlikely that another film in our lifetime will showcase the kind of visual magnificence displayed in Dark of the Moon (unless Bay signs on for Transformers 4). A highway chase scene featuring Decepticons gunning after the Autobots is particularly mesmerizing; turning the frenzied blur we’ve seen in the previous two films into a refined, almost beautiful piece of futuristic roller derby. And there are nuances and subtleties that lacked before- the perfectly timed musical accompaniment to a scene for instance (when Sam is driving into Chicago)- that adds a rare moment of tranquility. For fans of the history, Leonard Nimoy returns to voice Sentinel Prime (the first time Nimoy returns to this universe since he voiced Galvatron in the original animated film), while the likes of Shockwave, with his newly added aura of destruction, will surely please diehards.

Critics enjoy savaging Michael Bay because he doesn’t bring the same kind of sensibilities to the art of filmmaking a Godard, a Fellini or an Orson Welles does. Yet they all had their trademarks that earned them their distinction; Godard with his Nouvelle Vague jump cuts, Fellini with his elegant imagery and Welles with his all-around innovation. And Bay, like them, has his cannon for generation now: explosive, A.D.D. ridden, sex-infused, glossy storytelling of excess proportions. You cannot compare Dark of the Moon to À bout de soufflé, but you can compare their connection to the cultural and global landscape of their time. As much as critics will pound and holler about the merits of Terrence Malick’s latest film and how we should go see that instead of Rosie Huntington-Whitely in her underwear, their gracious calls for cinematic justice will fall on deaf ears. Why? Because Michael Bay and Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the way we are now (and really, what the hell do you want from a movie about giant robots? Optimus Prime wandering the streets of Paris smoking cigarettes?) The collective applause by the audience through the film (and at its conclusion) will attest to that.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon isn’t perfect, and its conclusion rather abrupt, but as a send-off for this franchise (for now?), you couldn’t possibly ask for a bigger, more ridiculously explosive final chapter.

[rating=3]

 

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Ehren Kruger
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Josh Duhammel, Tyrese Gibson, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey
Website: transformersmovie.com

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Featured, Film, Film Reviews

Film Review: Super 8

There was always an aura to Steven Spielberg’s earliest film work; a magical storytelling tone above all else that made films like E.T. and Jaws true cultural icons. Decades removed, J.J.Abrams, a new scholar in the Spielberg filmmaking cannon, does the very best ode to Spielberg in a film not so ironically produced by the man himself. Super 8 is a film borne of the many traits that became the Spielberg palette. It is a wonderful sequence of ideas that has elements of The Goonies, E.T. and yes, Cloverfield as it’s backdrops, juxtaposed together in a colorful weave of 70s nostalgia and the very tool in which a young Spielberg honed his craft; the 8mm film camera.

A group of 12-year-olds, led by Joel Courtney’s Joe Lamb and Riley Griffith’s Charles (a rambunctious filmmaker that is positively a tip to Spielberg’s imagination-laced youth), aspire to film their little 8mm zombie flick before an unexpected military train derails in their fictitious small town of Lillian, Ohio (an in action sequence fitting for one of the best in a very long time). From here, we discover that this Goonies-esque troupe is every bit as resourceful while their town becomes ground zero for unexplained alien-like activities. They band together with childlike wonderment and humor, buoyed by first loves and hopefulness to reach a befitting, heartfelt finality. Elle Fanning is just enough as the film’s primary ingénue and propels much of the young cast’s motivation. Abrams has been very good at divulging to the audience the film in slow trickles- and while the action is loud and eventful, the crux of the story is revealed with a sieve fine enough that it all unfolds with timely gravitas.

This is what is essential to Super 8; because it is not just a monster film and it is not just about a group of teenagers on an adventure of a lifetime, it is all of the wonderment found in good filmmaking that became synonymous with Spielberg. A great deal of Hollywood is as subtle as a hammer to the skull, while arthouse is far too consumed in its self-importance. While it isn’t perfect, Super 8 is simple storytelling made with a seemingly long-gone nuance, like a moonlit bike ride over the forest.

Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: J.J. Abrams
Produced by: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney
Website: http://www.super8-movie.com
[xrr rating=3.5/5]

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Film, Trailers

Trailer watch: DJ Caruso’s I Am Number Four

Awhile back, we previewed the first teaser for the DJ Caruso-directed science fiction flick I Am Number Four. Now the first official trailer has made its way online and can be viewed above. The new trailer better explains the film’s story, giving a bit of depth to what we had previously seen.

Directed by DJ Caruso (Eagle EyeDisturbia) and starring teen stars Alex Pettyfer (Stormbreaker) and Dianna Agron (Glee) alongside Timothy Olyphant (DeadwoodJustified) and Teresa Palmer, the movie is the big-screen adaptation of a novel (of the same name) written by Jobie Hughes and James Frey. It details the arrival of nine aliens to Earth who are being hunted in sequential order by another invading species.

I Am Number Four hits cinemas February 18, 2011

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Film

First look: Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Adventures of Tintin’

The first stills and images from Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the classic Herge comic Tintin have now been released courtesy of Empire. The first look we get at the 3D motion capture version of Tintin appears on the magazine’s December issue and can be seen in full below.

Two stills from the film have also been released, showcasing the WETA-done special effects of the escapade. These shots are also the first glimpse we get of Captain Haddock, who is being portrayed by Andy Serkis in the film.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn stars Jamie Bell as the titular character and features Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig and Nick Frost. Helmed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, the adventure steams into cinemas December 23rd, 2011.

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Film

JJ Abrams’ ‘Super 8’ gets June 2011 release

JJ Abrams’ viral-fueled movie Super 8 has got itself a release date. The film, first exposed through this excellent viral trailer, has been shrouded in secrecy, with director Abrams only releasing the following tidbits regarding the film:

1. It takes place in 1979.
2. It pays homage to Steven Spielberg’s earliest super 8 (hence the title!) films.
3. Science fiction and supernatural elements are most definitely part of the experience.

The cast of the film thus far includes Friday Night Lights’ star Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning (Dakota’s sister) and relative newcomer Amanda Michalka (of the teen pop group formerly known as Aly & AJ) and has now been given the release date of June 10th, 2011.

Much of the pre-release hype comes from the film’s lack of information, viral campaigns, and like all of JJ Abrams’ projects (both film and television), there seems to be an underlying connection between them all (no matter how small it may be).

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Film, Film News, Photography

Set photos: Steven Spielberg’s The Pacific

The Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks mini-series Band of Brothers was both a triumph in cinematic achievement and audience enjoyment. It was as if they were able to stretch out the best aspects of Saving Private Ryan into a 10-part epic; succeeding in capturing a moving, and historically important story from the era. Its success of course, would inevitably lead to a follow-up, and both Spielberg and Hanks are back producing the new series, The Pacific. And while the original focused on the story of Easy Company, a parachute regiment, the sequel will be based on what happened in the Pacific Theatre. Similarly, the new series is based on books written; this time around the tales are based on work by both Robert Lockie and Eugene Sledge.

What strikes me most is how there seems to be an omission of bigger name stars attached to the project- with the names I am most familiar with being James Badge Dale (24), Joseph Mazzello (that annoying kid from Jurassic Park), Nathan Corddy (Studio 60), and William Sadler (the grim reaper!). The project has of course, been filming here in Australia since August of 2007. And while primary locations have been around Queensland and rural parts of Victoria- the set moved right into the heart of the city this past weekend shooting scenes directly in front of where I work. Sure, Flinders St. isn’t exactly the 40s, but with a little bit of cover, some handy props, and the street is looking very old indeed.

I was able to snap a few shots on my mobile phone of the set (hence the quality), and so here’s Flinders St. station as depicted in The Pacific. On a side note, you can view a recent article about the filming here, as well as other photos (using what I can only guess is an actual camera) right here.

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