Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Transformers 3Released: June 29, 2011. Directed by: Michael Bay. Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Tyrese Gibson. Runtime: 154 min. 

A fault for me for the Transformers films is the fact that they can work as stand-alone films because Optimus Prime gives a little narration at the beginning of each film, which also introduces a new artifact where the Autobots will have to find this thing before the Decepticons do. Essentially, these films are exactly the same. But some of them are kind-of fun. This one improves on the first sequel by giving a stronger narrative, but its length is still exhausting. The Autobots, this time around, have to find the pillars that was on a spacecraft piloted by Centennial Prime that crash-landed on the moon (a creative spin for the reason the members of Apollo 11 went to the moon) in the war of Cybotron. The Autobots have to get there before the Decepticons to save the world. They harbour a powerful enough energy to cause that Chernobyl mishap, which is a kind-of creative reason to describe it, too. I like those blockbuster twists on past events to add alternative causes. 

Shia LaBeouf is back as Sam Witwicky, who gets a bit of an annoying characterization since he wants to matter again, and he flaunts his Hero’s Medal to anyone he meets. It’s a a funny difference from his reluctance to initially help in the previous film. He really wants recognition and it gets to the point of being whiny. The only one who hasn’t been too impressed by the medal was Megan Fox’s Mikayla, because now Sam has a new hottie named Carly (a meh Rosie Huntington-Whitely, a super model turned actress), who is a personal assistant to a billionaire, Dylan, portrayed by Patrick Dempsey. (He must be some sort-of entrepreneur because he collects a lot of cars.) The chemistry shared between LaBeouf and Huntington-Whitely is nothing special. Ms. H-Whitely doesn’t do much, except just look dirty and somehow manages to survive during action sequences. The ending of the finale is a bit lazy, and if it were any other movie I’d be mad at its laziness, but since it drags on so long it was welcome. Villains who still opt to help the Decepticons when they don’t really have to anymore is uninspired and it just prolongs the flick. 

In terms of ambition, some action sequences are pretty spectacular, but too long, and they’re reminiscent of several other sequences we’ve seen so far in the franchise. There a few characters who make this something fun. Tom Kenny is still very funny as Wheely, a Decepticon turned Autobot. John Malkovich shows up as Witwicky’s boss in a funny role. John Turturro is also good, but he gets outshone this time around by his sidekick Dutch, who is portrayed by a very funny Alan Tudyk. They are some redeeming aspects of an otherwise stupid film where there’s a Decepticon that reminded me of the huge worm from Men in Black 3, and where a character quotes Spock as a reason for attempting to take over the world.

Score: 50/100

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Transformers (2007)

TranssformersReleased: July 2, 2007. Directed by: Michael Bay. Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel. Runtime: 144 min. 

Michael Bay (who utilizes many low-to-the-ground looking up camera angles and a lot of slow-motion) takes on the Hasbro toys: the Transformers. They are an intelligent mechanical race from the planet Cybotron, where the main battle is between the Autobots, the good guys led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), and the evil Decepticons, led by Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving). They come to Earth in search for a cube called the All Spark, which, if put in the hands of the Decepticons, could endanger the human race by perfecting human technology to do so. 

I think Michael Bay is the director for a film like this because it’s loud and often dumb, but it also has a nice sense of humour. Bay is able to add some depth to the action sequences with the dynamic camera angles. The film also has a lot of nice cars, so those and Megan Fox will please the guys. There’s not much for the women here besides Shia LaBeouf, who brings some good comic delivery to the feature. (There is also humour found elsewhere in the screenplay.) 

He plays an average guy character, Sam Witwicky, placed in a crazy, larger-than-life situation. He’s relatable in this way, and he believes in some sacrifice to achieve victory. The reason he gets embroiled in this is because he is a great great grandson of one of the first explorers to set foot in the Arctic Circle, and who discovered Megatron in the ground way back when. Also, his new car is an autobot called Bumble Bee – a Ford Camaro with the colour scheme of a Bumble Bee, and he easily has the most personality of the Autobots. He communicates with his car radio because of a vocal chord injury in battle. He also is very good at picking songs for various situations. There’s also some amusing fish-out-of-water humour when the Autobots are hanging around at Sam’s house. Ratchet (the medical autobot) and Jazz seem to be the most generic autobots in this feature. 

The battles between the Autobots and the Decepticons is pretty awesome. For anyone who don’t know cars so well, sometimes it’s difficult to see who the bad guys and the good guys are because of a sometimes too generic robot design for both sides. That fault seems to lie with both the Hasbro character designs, and the filmmaker’s choices to feature which action figures. Sure, it’s easy to see which ones are good and bad as to whoever loses the battle, and it’s easier to see when they’re in huge robot killer form – but most of the decepticons are black, and two of the protagonists are black (Ironhyde and Ratchet, and maybe Jazz too, I believe) so it’s hard to tell who’s who at some points. I think the story is a pretty effective and simplistic story, featuring some fine chemistry between stars Fox and LaBeouf. I also like Tyrese Gibson on an army team that doesn’t really feel like they actually belong to the story as something other than just an army until the third act. The decepticons that attack them in Qatar throughout the film feels random at times and interrupts the flow of the film; it worked as an opening action sequence after the opening background info sequence that is sometimes necessary for a new franchise. Also on the army squad (of about seven, as they’re survivors of an attack at the beginning of the film, where decepticons were trying to extract information) is Josh Duhamel, whose character is boring. 

These attacks do give the film some dynamic scenery and enable Bay to direct some nifty action sequences. At times the cinematography is dizzying, and the edits a bit too quick, but the special effects are consistently good, which seems like the most important aspect in a film like this. Because really and truly, these films are just visually pleasing and just a decent way to pass a few hours.

Score: 70/100

Lawless (2012)

LawlessLawless

Release Date: August 29, 2012

Director: John Hillcoat

Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce

Runtime: 116 min

Tagline: When the law became corrupt, outlaws became heroes.

Lawless is probably the most fun you’ll have not understanding half the words that come out of the actors’ mouths. They don’t exactly master Southern accents; especially, Tom Hardy. The guy’s a fantastic actor, but he’s no Christian Bale in mastering any kind-of American accent. The actors are fantastic in their roles, but you might have to put on the subtitles when the Bondurant’s are on-screen. And that’s almost the whole time. The ensemble cast is one of the more memorable of 2012; composed of Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain (she gets nude!), Dane DeHaan, Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska, and a very small role from the always-fantastic Gary Oldman.

The story follows a bootlegging gang (the Bondurant family) who get threatened by a new deputy and other authorities who want a cut of their profits. It’s a slow story at that, but it’s gruesomely violent and one heck of a gangster feature. It’s set in the fascinating Prohibition era in Franklin County, Virginia, and it’s essentially a story of standing up for oneself. Especially for the youngest Bondurant, Jack (LaBeouf), whose innocence is heavily contrasted by the incredibly tough Howard (Clarke) and the brain and brawn, Forrest (Hardy). They’re not the type to give away a cent of their profits, and it’s usually entertaining to watch the violent brawls and how they defend what’s right. If you like Prohibition era gangster movies, Guy Pearce playing a major nance, shoot-outs, great ensemble casts but a fairly forgettable story, and well-developed characters; check this out. Prepare to use subtitles whenever Tom Hardy speaks.

74/100

Holes

Holes

Release Date: April 18, 2003

Director: Andrew Davis

Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Jon Voight, Sigourney Weaver

Runtime: 117 min

Tagline: The adventure is down there… start digging April 18.

 

It’s a nice and unpredictable children’s flick that even adults can enjoy.

Stanley Yelnats the Fourth (Shia LaBeouf) is a poor young teenager who has a pretty unique family. The Yelnats family has been blaming their no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather for years, who brought a curse upon their family a while ago. Stanley hasn’t exactly always had the best of fortunes, and his bad luck is just beginning. After a pair of stolen shoes, belonging to a former speedy baseball player called Clyde ‘Sweetfeet’ Livingston, fall on his head from walking home one day; he gets sent to a juvenile detention camp called Camp Green Lake. The Camp doesn’t really have a lake at all, and the runners of the camp believe that digging holes everyday in the hot sun will strengthen the campers’ character. Stanley builds strong friendships along the way, and must solve a several year-long mystery of why they are actually digging there.

The characters are really good and the cast bring something great to the table, sometimes the screenplay feels a bit messy, but it all works pretty well together.

There are a few reasons why the film doesn’t work as well as the novel; there are just so many subplots that it can make the film pretty crowded. The subplots really are all interesting, so it isn’t a total loss. In the book, it is obviously divided by chapters so it is much easier to follow.

Some of the subplots include: how Stanley’s no-good (well you get the idea!) great-grandfather came to put a curse on his family; the story of Kissin’ Kate Barlow; and how actual Green Lake used to be a town and how it looked before the lake turned into desert. They are quite interesting and they all very much relate to each other in the end.

There is some comedy, adventure, drama and mystery all mixed in here. There are some solid characters, like Stanley who just wants to fit in as the new kid – and soon assumes the nickname of ‘Caveman’. Zero is also a great character, a seemingly quiet and troubled character who can really talk once he’s interested. All the characters add something nice to the film, even if you don’t really like them – they’re charismatic either way.

Both the adult actors (like Jon Voight, Sigourney Weaver and Tim Blake Nelson) and the younger actors each act their parts very well. Voight plays Mr. Sir (whose real name is Marian), who is very irritable after quitting smoking, and is pretty-trigger happy with those CGI yellow spotted lizards (“If you get bitten by a rattlesnake, you won’t die, usually. But if you get bitten by a yellow spotted lizards, you will die, a slow and painful death…always,” my favorite monologue of the character). Weaver plays the lazy Warden, who hogs all the damn shade on the whole camp. Nelson plays Dr. Pendanski, the pretty stupid doctor of the camp.

Patricia Arquette also performs her role well as Miss Kathryn.

The film stars Shia LaBeouf, Jon Voight, Sigourney Weaver, Tim Blake Nelson, Khleo Thomas, Bryon Cotton, Henry Winkler, Siobhan Fallon and Patricia Arquette.

Something I found pretty interesting: Richard Kelly originally wrote an extremely dark and violent post-apocalyptic version of the story which proved much too mature for a children’s audience. Louis Sachar, also the writer of the novel, wrote a screenplay as well and the studio chose that one in favor of his over Kelly’s.

There’s also a really good book sequel to this, called Small Steps that’s a spin-off [of the first book] depicting Armpit’s life outside of Green Lake, and how he’s trying to merge back into society, befriending a mentally disabled (I believe she was epileptic) young girl on his street. Though, of course, a character from his life at Green Lake has to come and screw it all up with a business scheme, and who better than X-Ray to do the trick? Hey, Sachar, I’m still waiting on the movie! I say hopefully…

Holes offers a great and unpredictable experience. Adults can enjoy it, too, as well as kids and it is completely durable and sometimes comedic. The film can be pretty messy in some areas, but it makes up for it in the charm of it all. It’s a childhood favorite of mine and I still enjoy it to this day. It can get a little lengthy, but it doesn’t drag on too much. The cast do an incredible job, and there is a great music video at the end. The film is just really well done. It hasn’t been worn out yet after a large amount of views.

     88/100

Disturbia – A film review by Daniel Prinn – A film kind of reminiscent of Rear Window; bonus review.

Disturbia

Release Date: April 13, 2007

Director: D.J. Caruso

Stars: Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Carrie-Anne Moss

Runtime: 105 min

Tagline: Every killer lives next door to someone.

A lot of people say this flick is like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but when I was watching that film – I didn’t think of this one once. Well, after thinking about it; there are definitely some reminiscent themes, but it does posses new themes as well (like the teen romance thing), and the suspected killer in this film is much more haunting than the suspected killer of Rear Window (as in Rear Window, the suspected killer only has few lines of dialogue). If compared, R.W. is most definitely the more original piece, but for entertainment value I’d say they’re near in the same league, as this has a most interesting modern touch to it. They are both special in their own ways.

After Kale (Shia LaBeouf)  loses his father, he has become emotionally unstable. A year later, when there is an incident at school, it lands Kale under a court-ordered house arrest. When Kale is running out of ideas of things to do, he resorts to spying on the neighbours – and takes a special interest in a neighbour, Robert Turner (David Morse), whom he begins to suspect of being a serial killer.

The originality of the film isn’t the best, as a lot of the things of the film have been done before, but it really is a great thriller. The thrills and scares are big, and it is thoroughly entertaining and too has its fair share of comical moments. The cast really does an incredible job, from the young acting talents to the great performances by David Morse and Carrie-Anne Moss. Also, as occasionally predictable as the film may be, I was still thoroughly entertained by it all.

The film stars Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sarah Roemer, Aaron Yoo, Jose Pablo Cantillo, and Matt Craven, with Viola Davis.

I might be overselling the film so I guess I’ll say this, it gets predictable at times and the pacing feels off in some areas, so just don’t expect Oscar gold, but I think it’s great for a watch, it’s quality entertainment.

The character development of the film is really grand, and I really like the plot as well. It’s one of my favourite thrillers (well it is definitely one of the films that pop into my head first, as it was my first thriller/horror experience in a theatre); but not for its terms of originality, but for its pure entertainment value.

 90/100