Monthly Archives: June 2011

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (FILM REVIEW)

Writing in a mild state of delirium with the image still fresh in my mind, I have to say that the movie was good.  It did a lot of things I liked, a few things I didn’t like, and then just made me feel like I’d watched a previous Transformers’ film with a slightly different plotline.

THE GOOD

This movie follows the previous movie in terms of story and characters.  The only continuity break that was truly noticeable was the departure of Megan Fox (see THE BAD for more).

As expected with any Michael Bay film, and doubly so for his opus, the Transformers franchise, we’re treated to two hours of explosions and car porn.  Now, if you take a quick look at IMDB (it’s okay, I’ll wait) … (not), you’ll see that the movie runs just over two and a half hours.   So, why did I say two?  Well, this follows the Transformers’ model of providing a semblance of background story in the first twenty to thirty minutes to enable the film to revolve around a central concept or event.  This is then followed by the fire effects everybody bought tickets for.

THE BAD

Remember that little note after the departure of Megan Fox above?  This is where it comes back.  Now, I remained completely ignorant of the growing feud between Fox and Bay, only understanding that she would not be in Transformers 3.  I understand that and naturally assumed, for continuity’s sake, that the film would briefly allude to her absence and then proceed with the story.  In fact, I’d previously spoken to some friends about the exact situation.  I assumed the characters would bring her up (not by name) and say something about her dumping him.  That would have solved the problem completely.  And the scene began just so.  But then something a bit unprofessional happened.  Two of the autobots made comments about her, one saying that he didn’t like her, and the other calling her mean.  Perhaps this was prompted by history I missed, or written for comedy’s sake.  However, if it wasn’t, it seems more than just a little bit petty.

THE UGLY

After that obnoxiously long rant, what more could I possibly have to say?  Well, there were a few final details that stood out. 

First, this movie seemed to be making a lot of references that were funny to notice, but then immediately diminished the quality of the film.  For instance:

  • The “Boomsticks” (one of Wheeljack’s weapons),
  • “There can only be one” (uttered by either Sentinel or Megatron during the final battle),
  • and Optimus’s “Fight for Freedom” speech (not sure if this is original or not, but it has an Independence Day feel to it).

Second, the racism equilibrium.  If I remember right, a group of people claimed two characters from the previous Transformers film were derogatory towards African-Americans.  Well, this time the tables were turned with what my friend pointed out as being a few Nascar Transformers known as The Wreckers.  Sadly, I thought they’d been Scotsmen.  Not sure just how bad that is for my North-Western European heritage, but whatever.  Upon further investigation, it seems one of the three voice actors was British.  I feel slightly less wrong.  (God save my ignorant American soul…)

Third, this movie vaguely held a plotline similar to the previous films, but made the characters considerably more static.  In fact, the characters, having been caricatures in the past, became caricatures of caricatures.  The parents were painfully, disgustingly unaware of any impending danger or what matters of their son’s life should be left alone.  The new girlfriend was a standard damsel in distress for the entire film, not the tough-girl we’d come to expect from Megan Fox.  The human villain was evil to his own death, just progressing from casual jerk to harbinger of destruction.  Worst of all though, was Shia LaBeouf’s character, whose most consistent emotion was a temper tantrum involving screaming and poor displays of violence. 

Finally, this film seemed darker than the previous two, even when accounting for the death of Optimus and Sam in the last one.  Instead, this one goes over the top with betrayals and the utter destruction of Chicago.  It also makes use of guns similar to the weapons employed by the tripods of War of the Worlds.  Furthermore, the story doesn’t try to reconcile the thousands, or perhaps millions dead at the end of the film.  The loss of life isn’t even recognized after the final battle.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Well, looking at what I’ve written here, it seems that I felt negatively about the film more than anything else.  But that’s not really true.  The movie is not a cinematic classic and has plotholes that must’ve made the script look like swiss cheese.  That said, this film does exactly what it promised to do:  It gave you transforming robot-cars and explosions to satisfy even the most deranged of pyromaniacs. 

I would recommend this film for teenagers (probably not the best film for children under 8 ) and anybody else looking for an explosive action film that doesn’t require great thought.

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IN BRIGHTEST DAY, IN BLACKEST NIGHT… (GREEN LANTERN FILM REVIEW)

Yeah, that was far from an imaginative title, but who could blame me?  This isn’t exactly an imaginative film.  Nay, it’s based off a seventy-or-so year-old comic book hero.  And that’s brilliant.  Green_Lantern_poster

IT’S NOT BAD

I’d like to start this by taking on the critics that said this movie was poorly written or lacking plot. 

Well, what did you expect?  The film was based off 32-page pulp comics whose prime audience was children from 12-18.  This movie intended on commercializing an audience of families with children, teenagers, men of all ages, and young couples.  This was not a film for Roger Ebert and his ilk to analyze the character development (or lack thereof) over the 105 minute runtime.  It was the faithful reproduction of a golden age comic book. 

What does that mean?   Simply, that the colors should be vibrant and the characters be caricatures.  Your hero will be glowing green and he’ll battle a foe who’s bent on destroying the planet without reason.  The hero will be the edifice of good, whilst the villain hates everything he stands for.  The villain will only become more villainous as the hero becomes more heroic. This was expected and delivered.

BEYOND THE CRITICISMS

The film was enjoyable, certainly, but that should be a given if I’m defending it from the critics.So, plot issues aside, what did I think of it?

610-green-lantern-2I thought it was fun to view.  In more words, the images stood out.  Hal Jordan wore a glowing green, skin-tight suit.  Parallax was a giant, city-sized smoke monster with a dreadful face.  Giant fists, artillery cannons, and race cars made of “will” were entertaining CGI constructions.  Furthermore, the fish-like creature, Tomar-Re, creates a magnificent cyclical construct that I could have stared at for much longer than the fifteen seconds for which it was on-screen.

I thought the acting was enjoyable for Hal Jordan, Sinestro, and Tomar-Re’s voice over.  Ryan Reynolds pulled the goofy playboy act that he’s known for, Mark Strong looked good embodying a soon-to-be foe, and Geoffrey Rush was as supportive to the fresh Lantern as we hoped.GL_tomar-re_Crop

WHAT DIDN’T I LIKE?

The female characters were painfully underdeveloped.  Sadly, anything I say here is more or less negated by my comic book explanation.  The female characters were often minimal and static.  Likewise, the women in this film did not develop beyond being something to save or attracting the eye of certain male characters.

Also, I could have done without the screaming.  Not of damsels in distress, but of Dr. Hammond.  I understand that his character was experiencing nightmarish pain and probably envisioning horrors unheard of.  That said, watching his writhing and listening to the screams left a bad taste in my mouth.  To that same end, I applaud Peter Sarsgaard for fulfilling the demands of the role.green-lantern-hammond-poster-thumb

FINAL THOUGHTS

This film was fun.  It was a comic book brought to the big screen without losing anything. 

It was fun.

It was cheesy.

And it was green.

greenlantern-440x440

I’m only eleven years late (Kitchen Confidential book review)

jody-bourdain-7996841I’d like to start this book review by noting that at one point in his long, miserable life, Anthony Bourdain was a wreck of a human being.  And, while he may be upset that some random college student is saying this, he cannot disagree.  That said, I would like to follow it up by saying that I truly like Bourdain.  I find him funny and believe that his cooking and attitude is deserving of his celebrity status and notoriety.

But that’s the man.  What of the book?  Well, the book is the man.  Often touted and cited as a guide to life in commercial kitchens or an insider-exposé of what goes on behind the counter, Kitchen Confidential is truly the memoires of a middle-aged Anthony Bourdain.  x4800

Beginning with the tales of a childhood trip to France, inspiration for his lifelong love of food, we’re presented an alien Bourdain.  Beside the obvious age difference, this child dislikes foreign food, commenting distastefully especially on the cheesy butter served in the French cities.  All this comes to a head though, when his parents abandon him and his little brother (in their car) whilst dining in on of France’s most acclaimed restaurants.  Bourdain decides to turn this on his parents by being the first in his family to eat a raw oyster, offered to him by his uncle. 

Thus began his relationship with food.  That said, it would be long before he became a chef.  Rather, he was a delinquent for the younger years, up through college, and then some.  However, at some point in his degenerate life, he went to a beach town over the summer and was forced to work lest he starve to death.  So he got a job washing dishes at a rusty spoon called the Dreadnaught.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Actually, it’s the next two hundred and fifty pages of this three hundred page book. 

So what’s the rest of it?  Well, a lot of it has to do with Bourdain’s addictions to pot, heroin, and a slew of other controlled substances, tales of sexual antics and gratuitous acts of violence, all while travelling through various kitchens up and down the eastern seaboard.  Their are anecdotes of hilarious hijinks and tales of his mentors, interspersed with tips on professional cooking and advice to never join the restaurant industry. 

Final judgement:  The book is certainly funny and engrossing for anybody who enjoys biographies or food.  Bourdain’s flippant tone and acts of self-deprecation help to lighten what could otherwise be a dark recounting of a life that’s seen some great highs and disappointing lows.  I recommend it for anybody who has enjoyed one of his shows (or never wishes to eat again in a restaurant).

It’s named after the film (Super 8 film review)

On the way home from the theatre, a passenger in the car began to question the film’s title.  The driver responded that it may have been an allusion to the film’s alien, but I knew otherwise:

To my 21st century brethren, allow me to enlighten you.  Once, long ago, digital cameras were not the primary means of recording images and video.  The older among us will still remember these days, filled with cassette tapes and rolls of kodak 35mm film.  Beyond them though, in the time of the ancients, video was recorded on film.  Not playable in your VCR, and not transferrable to any player.  Rather, the reels had to be developed similar to the 35mm kodak rolls.  This, Super 8mm film, is the source from which the movie derives its name.220px-S8cartridg

Now that you know this, let’s look at more important matters.  How was the movie?  In short, good.  Yes, it was a good movie. But that shouldn’t surprise anybody.  J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg routinely produce loved box-office hits.  Bringing them together was the beginning of what could have been the greatest sci-fi movie ever released.  Did it reach this level of excellence?  No, it did not.  That said, it didn’t hit a Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull level of bad either.  It fell somewhere between these two extremes, and I’d say it was considerably closer to the former than the latter.

While I will not spare this movie any criticisms I may have, there were a few things it did very well.  First was the fun meta-film aspect.  I don’t mean this in the way that The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield are told through recovered film.  What I mean is that the movie folds over on itself as we’re viewing the filming of an unrelated story as the movie develops.  This allowed for the characters to move the plot along and develop meaningful characters while being exactly where they were needed to experience the alien’s rampage first-hand. 

Second, I congratulate Abrams and Spielberg for not overdoing the alien.  One gripe I had with Cloverfield was that the alien seemed to be the size of a city block and as tall as a skyscraper.  While we’re not allowed to observe most of the alien until the very end of this movie, he was something between the height of a bus and a house and about as long as a commercial truck (maybe a truck and a half).   Furthermore, he did not have the futuristic or weapons-enabled appearance of some aliens, while apparently retaining intelligence and perhaps a semblance of mercy.  220px-Super_8_Poster

Third, and finally for my brief list of positives, I enjoyed the young, innocent romance between Joe (Joel Courtney) and Alice (Elle Fanning).  The evolution of their “relationship” was entertaining to watch as it had few, if any, cringe moments while never seeming superficial or forced.  Likewise, we don’t have the relationship that stems solely from their mutual involvement in an hour-long disaster.  Rather, they share several instances of dialogue that bring them together emotionally while simultaneously building their characters for the viewer and answering questions pertaining to events just prior to the beginning of the film.

But what of the negatives?  Well, there are only two things that I was even remotely bothered by.  The first is the portrayal of Joe’s and Alice’s fathers.  The former’s is shown from the beginning to nearly the end of the film as having no grasp of his mild-mannered son and consistently ignoring him for his responsibilities as deputy.  The latter is a raging alcoholic with emotional issues.  While Alice’s father helped to strengthen her character and even affected Joe’s character, Joe’s father only seemed to have his personality for a few father/son conflicts that did little to build characters or move the plot along.

super-8-train-crash11My other grievance with this film was an experiential issue that slightly diminished the enjoyment I had in theatre.  While the images were excellent, each scene was well shot and the special effects were brilliant, the sound did not work at the same level.  Unfortunately, it seemed like somebody had watched the film distracted and later said that the action sequences didn’t have proper visual cues but that the situation could be remedied with volume.  This produced ear drum shattering explosions and screams, often causing audience members to jump when the suspense alone should have sufficed.  If I make one recommendation to any future viewers, it’s that you cover your ears just before the train crash.  I’m sure you’ll still be able to hear it, but you won’t feel assaulted afterwards like everybody else in the theatre. 

Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.  The writing and videography was above average.  To anybody who wants the ultra-short synopsis: It’s a cross between E.T. (Spielberg’s influence was painfully obvious) and Cloverfield.  I would not recommend this movie for children under 8, but I’m sure that most others will enjoy it.

Vox Antiquus

Forcing myself to write at the moment to keep the semblance of regularity on this blog.  (I despise the term “blog”, but I also dislike saying “WordPress” and anything else is much too pretentious for my three daily readers.)  Less though than regularity, as a schedule has yet to be established and maintained, I’m simply trying not to allow weeks to go by between posts.  At the moment, I believe it’s only been 8 days. 

Onto the point of this post, look at the title.  Does it seem familiar?  Well, if it doesn’t, I really don’t know what to tell you.  Something like three months ago, I wrote an article called Vox Novus.  The purpose of which was to inform you, dear reader, of a new writer for atbreaksix.  Sadly, albeit predictably, this wish of mine never materialised.  See, Ed, while brilliant, is lazier than the dead.  So any requests to write were met with acts of procrastination and much gnashing of teeth.  This far into the game, I feel that I shouldn’t even bother asking anymore.  No, I, Major Failbucket, Captain TomAwesome, and the myriad of other personas and nicknames I’ve romped around as, will continue alone.  And likely go down with this ship, but whatever.  If anything, I will continue to write only so that my brain doesn’t turn to mush.

Perhaps, once I’ve finished Kitchen Confidential, I’ll talk about it here.  That seems like a marginally, if not painfully mediocre, good idea.  I could use this place to write about the incredible book list I’m racking up this summer.

Well, this is awkward…

Who has two thumbs and a terminal case of cabin fever?

This guy.

 

Now that I think about it, that line probably works better in person.  But who am I kidding, I don’t really care.  No, I don’t really care that I’ve been gone for two months.  What can I say?  School went into overdrive towards finals and I’ve been rehabilitating since I got home.  That’s right, school is over (I got A’s in everything but calculus, in which I got a C) and I’m back in Los Angeles.  So… where was I going with this?

Hmmmm.  Well, what is Tom up to these days?  Let’s see, I’ve…

  • purchased a gladius and have been practicing on a number of dummies in my backyard (not sure just how much longer the gladius is going to last, I’ve put it through a bit of a beating),
  • read through all of the Percy Jackson and Nicholas Flamel series,
  • begun cooking for myself again (this was an activity that I truly missed in school),
  • and wrote a résumé.

This last activity was both a major accomplishment and a source of my depression.  (It makes me feel old.)  It’s also grossly unlikely that I’ll hear back from the person I sent my résumé to, or the myriad of other businesses to which I applied.

So, what’s the point of this again?  Well, once upon a time, I had the inclination that this blog-thing would become popular and I’d be lavishing in fame and fortune.  But, true to life, I’m unpopular on the internet.  Ergo, neither fame nor fortune has entered my life.  This leaves me with the only two options: one, stop writing or, two, continue writing despite my (non-existent) audience.  I choose the latter.  Let the fame and fortune come in their own time.  I will continue to write for my own enjoyment.  (And because it will likely keep me from going mad.)

May the future be forgiving…

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