Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Transformers 2Released: June 24, 2009. Directed by: Michael Bay. Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel. Runtime: 150 min.

The Autobots’ relationship with the humans has strengthened. They’re even helping them wipe out the remaining decepticons who may have stuck around after the first film, after Jon Voight thought everyone would believe nothing happened if they wiped out all the evidence and placed Megatron at the bottom of the ocean. After a seriously weird opening sequence taking place in 17, 000 BC where a Davy Jones-looking Decepticon fights off against humans. The Davy Jones looking-guy is called the Fallen, who wants to regain power on Earth – even though he just sits on a weird satellite throne and doesn’t do anything for most of the film. (But you can tell he’s a villain when he addresses the nation in one of them “I’m a terrorist” videos). Shit, I didn’t even realize his name was Fallen, because what type of name is that?

The film gets its footing back after a stupid opening sequence, but what is getting stupider is the humans’ reasoning to cancel relations with the Autobots after something just happens to go wrong. Also worse than the first one: The chemistry between stars Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. Mikayla (Fox) really wants Sam to tell her that he loves her, and this weird opening dialogue shared between the two of “I’m breaking up with you, Sam” as a joke is weird because it seems like they’re having issues. It just adds too much excessive filler to the film in an already exhausting effort. 

And Bay’s preference to round and round shots during kissing scenes doesn’t add much depth to anything. Their chemistry gets a bit boring at times. Adding to their complications in their relationship is a woman at Sam’s college named Alice (Isabel Lucas) who has a thing for Sam and nice cars. This allows Bumble Bee to show his personality with his funny song choices. Also interfering with Sam’s mental processes is the fact that he’s seeing futuristic algorithms in his head which lead to a few mental breakdowns that might or might not be purposefully comedic, but it’s believable if the objective is to look like he suffers from premature ejaculation. Just sayin’. 

It’s the same story as the first one, where the Autobots have to find some newly introduced artifact before the Decepticons. The problem with these films is a finale that feels like it goes on forever, no help from the extraneous slow motion sequence. Technically speaking, the film’s special effects are pretty good, even though the quick edits of dizzying action sequences don’t let us see them well enough. This film largely arrives on comic relief characters to make the film go a bit quicker. Two Autobots that remind me of the twins from Fast Five are present, and they get a few laughs. The voice of Spongebob Squarepants, Tom Kenny, goes a lot PG-13 as a shit-disturbing Decepticon called Wheely, whose car version of himself is one of those remote-control cars. He’s easily the film’s biggest source of enjoyment for me. 

There’s one character named Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), a theorist on all things Transformers, who is funny at first and only advances the story as a mutual contact for Sam and Mikayla. Thereafter, and even at times before that, he becomes something of an utter annoyance. It feels like he does more than Megan Fox gets to do as Mikayla in this movie, but even Sam’s Mom is more memorable than her presence this time around. The only fundamental difference between this film and the first is a weaker chemistry between stars Fox and LaBeouf, and a change of scenery for the finale – from the city to an Egyptian desert. Although, since there was some time spent in Qatar in the first one, even the scenery of the finale feels too “been there, done that.” 

Score: 50/100

 

 

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

X-Men Origins WolverineReleased: May 1, 2009. Directed by: Gavin Hood. Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston. Runtime: 107 min.

While a seasoned fan of the X-Men franchise will surely be disappointed by this film, I’m think a casual fan could be entertained. This is a popcorn flick more concerned with just giving its audience a mildly entertaining 107 minutes. Obviously, this is a prequel that follows the origins story of Wolverine, and while future Wolverine won’t know the answers to his past, at least we as audience members get answers. That’s one of the reasons that this film is partly a delight. Though, his transformation scene to be inserted with an adamantium exoskeleton feels nowhere near as raw as it did previewed in X2

By the way, Logan had a much less cool set of bone claws before he got his awesome ones. I’m not being picky because if I had a set of any sort-of claws, I’d be pleased. There’s a cool scene where we learn why Wolverine is called that. His relationship with Kayla Silverfox (portrayed by a great newcomer Lynn Collins) is nice, as they share a great chemistry. We learn that Wolverine was born roughly around 1838 in the Northwest Territories of Canada. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? We also see him go through a bunch of wars in a decently directed sequence by Gavin Hood. 

Logan’s brother is a guy named Victor Creed (played leeringly by Liev Schreiber), who’s Sabretooth. He has the fingernails of a bag lady. But, since Creed is obviously Sabretooth, it really doesn’t explain why he didn’t recognize Wolverine in the original X-Men. Hey, what can I say, I’m a fan of logic. Victor obviously has rage issues and is trigger happy, and is uninspiredly cruel. It gets explained later in the film, but his rampage of violence against his old team is just a bit strange at first to base a story around. Victor’s readiness for violence makes this feel all a little clichéd. 

The timeline of the film isn’t that enjoyable because you can never really tell where it’s set without doing research, since Logan doesn’t age. I assume the film is set in the late 1970s or early 1980s because I learn that the last war in the montage was the Vietnam war. But does that really make sense when Stryker looks like 25 in another movie in the franchise? My point: The film is awful at establishing a strong time period. 

I like the mutants that are on the team that Logan was on. One cool one is Bradley (Dominic Monaghan), who is a telekinetic. He has a really cool scene at a carnival. Will.i.am is also good as a teleporter. Stryker gets a cool characterization, and we can see that he’s always been a dick. Though, Cox is an infinitely better Stryker than Danny Huston. There are some awesome action sequences (notably Logan fighting a helicopter), but there are also a lot of silly comedic attempts, and just silly occurrences in general. Take for instance: An idiotic fight that’s started by a trucker who wouldn’t get off the road to let Logan pass. Logan confronts him about it, and in a very short dialogue exchange, the guy takes a swing at him even though Logan asks nicely. It’s ridiculous. There are some strong attempts at comedy, though, which hit. This is only sporadic. 

The characters are boring. Especially Victor, who’s just a boring psychopath. You have to question why he uninspiredly hates his brother so much, just for walking out on the mercenary group. When Logan and him meet again, they fight – and you know it’s a brawl in Canada when there are a whole bunch of logs nearby. Logan has an idiotic tension with Agent Zero, shown when Zero shoots Logan’s cigar in a hideous and artificial visual. I learn that there was an early copy of the film leaked online, and I’m almost convinced I watched that copy – because the visuals are absolutely hideous at times. They look partly unfinished and unconvincing. Since I am not sure if I watched the good visuals of the film, I won’t take marks off for that. Well, as many marks. Because, crap, the film looks so ugly at times. The poor visuals make this look like a crappy video game. The lackluster storytelling doesn’t help, either. Nor does the god-awful editing, the quick edits just suck. At times, this isn’t fun to watch because of it. Kevin Durand’s character is hideous when he’s a CGI-assisted fatty.

It’s not that great when Agent Zero’s powers are never explained, because he just seems like an assassin who’s good with a gun and has impossibly cool acrobatic ability. I mean, how could one gain so much momentum to do a twenty foot backflip just catching guns? The film’s worst misfortune is featuring Gambit, an awesome mutant who deserves so much better than this. What’s unrealistic in the direction is how many times people are stabbed, and how there’s hardly any blood throughout. The occasional poignant occurrence rings true, but they’re just that – occasional. This is popcorn-munching, illogical fun. Take it or leave it, really. The finale is a bit fun, but if characterization is your favourite part about the franchise, you won’t get any of it this time around.

Score: 55/100

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsReleased: September 18, 2009. Directed by: Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Starring: Anna Faris, Bill Hader, Bruce Campbell. Runtime: 90 min.

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is, I’ll admit, much better than I thought it would be. I had no interest in seeing it when it was initially released, because it sounded a bit too silly for my tastes. But then I realized the guys who are behind this movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, directed one of my favourite action comedies of the last few years, “21 Jump Street.”

So, I thought I’d give it a shot since it was playing on television. And, if I get the chance to see the sequel, I can – because now I’ve seen the original. The premise is simple, adapted from an apparently beloved children’s story written by Judi Barrett. I’m not sure if it’s a good adaptation or not, but the basic ‘I wanna be something!’ character arc is present.

The main character, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), has been inventing unsucessful, but sorta awesome, things all of his life – and that’s his dream, to be a revered inventor. His father (James Caan) disapproves of the choice, as he doesn’t understand his son as well as his late wife did.

He finally gets his shot with a machine that turns water into any kind-of food that you desire. He manages to inadvertantly launch his machine into rain clouds, after a run-in with the law, and it rains cheeseburgers. This puts the island below the ‘A’ of Atlantic Ocean on the map; even though the town was previously known for its sardines, until everyone realized they are gross. The mayor of the  town (voiced by Bruce Campbell) sees this as an opportunity to make Swallow Falls a real tourist hot spot; so he aggressively urges Flint to make it rain three meals a day. The news reporter, Sam Sparks (Anna Farris) who is in town, becomes a weather girl and takes advantage of this weather phenomenon.

While the delicious food makes the townspeople happy, the excessive use of the machine can dangerously mutate the food, but the shady mayor ignores Flint’s pleas to make it stop; by telling him the whole town loves him. As expected, chaos ensues – on the day when spaghetti and meatballs are the main course.

The premise is effectively simple, and allows really colourful scenery to happen. I like the animation a lot, even though the character design for Flint makes him look like an odd type of bird. The character design for the acrobatic police officer Earl Devereaux is truly clever. He is voiced by Mr. T, and he has a T-shaped bald spot. Bill Hader, Anna Faris and even James Caan aren’t particularly memorable. It’s a good thing that Mr. T, Bruce Campbell, Neil Patrick Harris and the purposefully irrtating Andy Samberg are there, because they balance out the voicework and make it better. Neil Patrick Harris plays the role of a scene-stealing monkey named Steve, who can speak through the invention of Flint’s. This film is silly and fun for the kids, and there’s enough clever humour to keep older folk mildly entertained.

Score70/100

The Hangover (2009)

Hangover, The

Release Date: June 5, 2009

Director: Todd Phillips

Stars: Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms

Runtime: 100 min

Tagline: Some guys just can’t handle Vegas.

Doug is getting married. So by tradition, him and a few friends go to Vegas as a bachelor party.

In this wolf pack there is Phil, the practical leader of the group; Stu, the smart dentist, and the newcomer to the group, Alan the guy with the one man wolf pack, and who is like a gremlin because he just comes with so many rules. After a night of partying, they wake up to the hotelroom trashed, a tiger in the bathroom and a baby in the closet. And Doug is missing. They must find Doug by using clues from their pockets like receipts and notes (with that sounding so reminiscent of Memento, think of this as that film with a comedy twist to it) and get him home to the wedding in time for the “I do’s.”

Alan is the scene-stealer of the group, and (inarguably) the funniest. Ken Jeon is great in the small role of Leslie Chow. It occasionally becomes silly and really predictable, but only every so often. Alan is easily the most memorable part of the hilarious comedy. It’s just a surprise gem for the comedy genre.

The rest of the characters are generally likeable, as they can be pretty funny; well, with the exception of Stu’s potential fiancé Melissa who’s just straight-up rude and needs a nice smack to the face. She is easily one of the most annoying female characters in cinema history (that crown would probably go [out of the ones that pop into mind] to either Carolyn Burnham of American Beauty, Amy Sumner of Straw Dogs or Heather Donahue of The Blair Witch Project) or at least comedy history of recent decades. She’s not a flaw of the movie, though, mostly because she’s written that way. 
This is one of those rare comedies with solid comedic momentum throughout. On initial viewing this film is hilarious, but after about four or five views it starts to feel a bit worn out. It does have high must-see status as far as comedies go. It’s generally really enjoyable upon its first few viewings.

80/100

Fast and Furious Franchise Recap (2001-2013)

As you may have noticed, I’ve reviewed the entire Fast and Furious franchise so far in the past week and a bit. I thought I’d make a post for all the reviews, and only take my best one or two thoughts on each movie, in case you don’t have time to read every review. Here we go!

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

“The care is implemented on the cool physical appearance of the cars, and there’s not as much care implemented on the intellectual level of the movie; but who really cares?  It gets the adrenaline going, and that’s the movie’s intention.” 74/100.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

“To truly enjoy the hell out of this, you will have to turn the logical part of your brain right off. To a point where it might actually cause brain damage; and frankly, this movie just isn’t worth that. I remember this being much better; so suffice to say, this is 2 big of a disappointment.” 40/100.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

 

 

 

“The star cameo is one of the only things worthwhile about this bland endeavour. It’s a formulaic plot; but the drifting feels fresh and fun. The cinematography looks the most pristine out of the first three. It also has Han and fast cars.That’s almost all this has going for it.” 52/100.

Fast & Furious (2009)

Fast & Furious (2009)

“The racing scenes are lots of fun, and it’s an adequate revenge story. The title is really the only lazy thing about the movie. However, for a racing movie, there’s a lack of non-stop kinetic energy.” 65/100.

Fast Five (2011)

Fast Five (2011)

“Fast Five fills up its gas tank and the cast and crew bring it all to this fast-paced, energetic, compelling ride. It’s not only fun, but a good movie, as well.”  82/100.

You can just click here and read my review of Fast & Furious 6.

And so far in the franchise, the average score is 67.167.

Fast & Furious (2009)

Fast & FuriousFast & Furious

Release Date: April 3, 2009

Director: Justin Lin

Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster

Runtime: 107 min

Brian O’Conner, now working for the FBI in LA, teams up with Dominic Toretto to bring down a heroin importer by infiltrating his operation.

This tries hard to be intelligent, and it works to a certain extent. This is better than the first two sequels. I certainly don’t groan at this as much as I do with 2 Fast 2 Furious. It really shows that bringing the main cast back together returns the franchise to a fine form. This time around, Paul Walker is tolerable. Justin Lin is a really good director for this type of movie. The racing scenes are fun, and it’s an adequate revenge story. The filmmakers try to hard to give us a great one here, and they don’t quite succeed with that, this isn’t a bad movie by any means. The title is really the only lazy thing about the movie. For an action movie with lots of racing, there’s a lack of non-stop kinetic energy. The ending really does set up something special for the next movie.

65/100

Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek

Release Date: May 8, 2009

Director: J.J. Abrams

Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy

Runtime: 127 min

Throughout elementary school, my dad would turn on the TV at 5 P.M. to channel 50; the Space channel. That’s the time Star Trek: The Next Generation (or whichever Star Trek TV show it was) would play. I’d make a face and say, “Do we have to watch this?” My dad would reply, “Yes.” Suffice to say, I loathed the show. I comprehend why it has such a fan-base, but man, did it bore me to tears!

If a future me told me that, one day, I’d like, let alone love, a movie that had Star Trek in the title, I would call myself crazy. It looks like I should be calling every mental institution in town; because this Star Trek is freaking awesome!

The brash James T. Kirk tries to live up to his father’s legacy with Mr. Spock keeping him in check as a vengeful, time-traveling Romulan creates black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time.

Star Trek is built to introduce a great franchise to a younger generation, and I’m really glad that it’s so great. The viewer doesn’t have to be a Trekkie to understand what’s going on or even enjoy the hell out of it, for that matter. It’s fairly easy to follow, for a movie that has a lot of time-traveling. Even people with little brains who don’t understand science fiction so well would be able to follow this. To me, that’s very cool. Someone doesn’t have to be a Trekkie to enjoy what’s going on, mostly because it’s actually an amazing action movie.

There’s explosions, flying bullets, cool creatures, et cetera. All in space. Sweet! J.J. Abrams is able to bring excellent direction to the feature and some humour to the feature. This makes me want to re-watch all that I’ve seen of Abrams’ work, and re-assess my opinions of some of his movies (Cloverfield, Super 8). He truly brings everything to the table, here; and the movie has some great cinematography and visual effects, as well.

Whilst the film has an excellent pace, I don’t think the story is incredibly impressive. The story is very good for what it is, but it is limited and it doesn’t have much room to elevate itself above a mere revenge story. It has a lot of time travel, but I think the story is only slightly above average. There’s lots of action and some nice drama, and the witticism of it all is very awesome. I think the movie’s strongest aspect are its characters and its ensemble cast.

Chris Pine portrays James T. Kirk this time around, and he’s the great face of the franchise for a new generation. The character becomes suffocated by the shadow of his late father, because he wants to live up to everyone’s expectations. This doesn’t stop him from being very confident and having a good time while performing his duties on the U.S.S. Enterprise. The relationship between he and Spock is a fascinating one. Spock is the main target of the villain Nero (Eric Bana). The Romulan villain is out for vengeance of something Spock did or possibly didn’t do, and that’s what thirsts his anger. Bana is intimidating at the time, but truly forgettable.

Anyway, about Spock. Spock is faced with much emotional turmoil throughout the feature, and it hardly helps that he doesn’t know how to effectively portray – or put into words – what he’s feeling. He’s played awesomely by Zachary Quinto, and I think he and Pine are great to lead the Enterprise. It’s great to watch Quinto, because he reminds me why I spent my time watching every episode of TV’s Heroes (I did that task for Hayden Panettiere, too, though). The rest of the cast (Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Bruce Greenwood, among many others) helps make the fantastic ensemble. They’re an ideal cast to lead the Enterprise. Simon Pegg is also part of the crew, and his role of Scotty reminds me why I enjoy watching him perform so damn much. He’s perfect for this role, and he brings the most wit to the feature. After he shows up, it becomes that much more entertaining and hilarious.

Star Trek isn’t able to elevate itself above a solid revenge story, but there’s hardly anything wrong with that. This enjoyable film will still appeal to both Trekkies and newbies to the franchise. This is immensely entertaining, a great space adventure, and an excellent action film.

88/100