Movie Reviews

Review: ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ is dense and dumb

Director: Michael Bay

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Stanley Tucci

Synopsis: Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth (IMDb).             

Rating: PG-13

Year: 2017

Thankfully, Hollywood averted a looming writers’ strike back in May. So can somebody please explain why it still feels like nobody bothered showing up to the writer’s room for Transformers: The Last Knight?

I get gruff for it, but I actually enjoy the first live-action Transformers movie from a decade ago. It has a good understanding of itself and never takes itself too seriously. Like its animated source material, it whole-heartedly embraces the ridiculousness of giant, alien robots turning into cars and fighting each other. Most importantly, though, it features a coherent story with somewhat relatable characters, which is something the other films seriously lack.

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It’s sad then to see that Bay seems uninterested in addressing this long-standing critique of the series in ‘The Last Knight’ (that or he’s completely oblivious). Again the emphasis for Bay is on beautifully framed action set pieces and not the cartoonishly dull characters who occupy them.

If you care about Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager at all during this movie, chances are it’s because you saw the previous film. Here Cade’s a shell of his former self. Instead of organically developing through character decisions, it feels like he is being artificially manipulated through an indecipherable narrative via convenient, clunky dialogue. It’s obvious by Wahlberg’s undying deer in the headlights look that even he’s not sure what’s going on. That’s no mark against Marky Mark; rather, it speaks to how dense and dumb the script is.

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Adding insult to injury, Bay has miraculously managed to annoy me with Sir Anthony Hopkins, one of my all-time favorite actors. He plays the head of a mysterious organization in charge of keeping safe the secret history of the Transformers, although I couldn’t tell you why or how that’s done. Whatever their techniques, it seems the cat is out of the bag and Hopkins is out of his mind, or at least his character is: constantly babbling on and ceaselessly insulting everyone around him. Eventually, shaking my head became a reflex each time he opened his mouth.

Wahlberg and Hopkins may be the sexy names atop the marquee, but Transformers has always been about Optimus Prime and the best stories always pit the Autobot leader against his nemesis Megatron. One of the more exciting additions to the cast is Frank Welker, who returns to voice the dominate Decepticon for the first time in this live-action run (with no explanation for the character’s apparent resurrection). Alongside Peter Cullen, there is novelty in hearing the two original voices together again but neither one gets significant screen time.

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Like everyone else in this movie, the pair are unfortunate victims of an over-bloated script that doesn’t much bother itself with what makes the most sense story-wise. Major characters move around the world with no explanation as to how, major damage from epic fight scenes just disappear, and looming conflicts are easily explained away as if they never happened. After a numbing while of exposure, I began to question my own competency.

Despite his blatant disregard for these characters or their story, Bay knows how to shoot action. This is readily apparent throughout these films, ‘The Last Knight’ included. The problem is that most of it becomes digital noise because we’re not invested in the outcome and we’re not invested in the outcome because either we don’t care about the characters or we don’t spend much time with the ones we do care about.

Grade: F

What did you all think of Transformers: The Last Knight? Or did you give up on the franchise a long time ago? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Review: Hollow script can’t keep ’47 Meters Down’ afloat

Director: Johannes Roberts

Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine

Synopsis: Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive (IMDb).

Rating: PG-13

Year: 2017

It seems every year or so we get a shark-based survival thriller. Last year Blake Lively was stranded just off shore by a Great White in The Shallows. This year Mandy Moore and Claire Holt are stranded at the bottom of the ocean. 47 Meters Down to be precise. Though despite the titular depth, this film’s script feels rather shallow.

Moore and Holt play sisters vacationing in Mexico after Moore’s boyfriend apparently left her for being “boring.” It’s here that younger sister Holt gets the bright idea that the two should go cage diving with total strangers whom they met the night before at a party as a way to make Stuart (that’s Moore’s ex-boyfriend) jealous. Take that, Stuart!

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It’s become a rule at this point: B-list thrillers must feature stupid people making stupid decisions. 47 Meters Down happily obliges. Actually, it’s borderline offensive how idiotic these ladies are. Neither of them point out how dangerous the whole situation is, even after something like, oh I don’t know, blatantly acknowledging the poor condition of the diving cage as well as the illegal chumming of the water that the men of the “Sea Esta” engage in.

When Moore does eventually begin to have second thoughts, Holt snaps her back to party girl mode simply by reminding her how totally jealous Stuart will be once he sees the pictures of them underwater with real sharks. That’s how shallow and cliché the catalyst that sets this plot into motion is. Ugh.

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As for the two handsome strangers who entice the ladies out to sea, they are not given names up to this point. They are only referred to as “the guys” by one of the sisters as a part of a throwaway comment. Even the captain of the ship (Matthew Modine) is introduced as “Captain.” Not Captain Taylor or Taylor, just “Captain.”

We learn so little about this trio of men during the course of the film that I was under the assumption that the filmmakers were intentionally withholding information for the purpose of revealing some shady intentions during an obligatory third act twist. Nope. The script simply did not call for any background development.

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The problem with not maturing your characters, especially in a thriller like this, is that your audience will be emotionally detached once the true horror starts biting down. Unfortunately, this was my experience with 47 Meters Down. There was so little to these characters that I felt isolated from and uninterested in what was happening to them.

In the end, that’s the true horror of 47 Meters Down. The script is so light on development that the venture feels like a waste of time in a world of films like The Shallows. Even sitting at the bottom of the ocean whilst consumed by darkness and running dangerously low on oxygen, Moore and Holt still find time to discuss Stuart. It’s script details (or lack there of) like that which had me rooting for the sharks.

Grade: D

What did you all think of 47 Meters Down? Are you looking forward to seeing it during your Fourth of July break? Let us know in the comments down below!

Review: ‘It Comes at Night’ leaves everything to the imagination

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough

Synopsis: Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge (IMDb).    

Rating: R

Year: 2017

Writer-Director Trey Edward Shults is a true filmmaker. He knows how to effectively manipulate the technical aspects of the art form in such a way that compels viewers deep inside the minds and lives of his conflicted characters. The young artist proved so with his debut feature Krisha, which was one of the most engrossing dramas of last year.

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Shults now gives us his take on the popular post-apocalyptic subgenre, employing much the same approach. His latest film is slow burning moral tale that’s more interested in exploring the small scale, psychological toll of a deadly virus outbreak and less so the mass repercussions of one.

It Comes at Night takes place deep within the wilderness where Paul (Joel Edgerton) and his small family live an isolated life inside a boarded up home. Their intrinsic existence goes mostly uninterrupted until Will (Christopher Abbott) and his desperate family stumble upon them in search of sanctuary. The encounter leaves both families questioning each other’s intentions as well as their own judgment.

Shults takes unsettling advantage of the mounting paranoia. Slow, lingering shots stack the anticipation while faint, undiscerning sounds coupled with the unrelenting blackness of night keep you questioning what’s really going on just off screen. At times It Comes at Night plays more like a haunted house flick than anything else, but it’s Shults’s way of helping moviegoers access the inner turmoil of his characters. He is keenly aware that it’s our imaginations, not witches or bored teenagers, that conjure the most frightening scenarios.

 

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The strength of the film’s tone is matched by its equally impressive performances. Joel Edgerton is an expressive actor capable of conveying a multitude of complex feelings in a single expression. As Paul he’s simultaneously courageous and fearful, angry and heartbroken. It’s an intricate performance that seems rather simplistic because of how believable it is. Kelvin Harrison Jr. also deserves praise for his convincing portrayal of Travis, Paul’s teenage son, who acutely conveys the inner struggle of an innocent youth coming to grips with the harsh realities of his new nightmare.

Despite the film’s technical achievements and resonate performances, It Comes at Night would have benefited from further developing a couple ideas that it plants earlier on. As it stands, the film is so strong overall that nothing is lost by not following through on some of those thoughts. It’s just unfortunate that Shults didn’t see them through as they could have added to the characters’ psychoses.

It Comes at Night is another enthralling effort from Trey Edward Shults.

Grade: A-

What did you all think of It Comes at Night? Did you dig the psychological thriller aspect? Or would you have preferred a more straight forward horror film? Let us know in the comments below!

The storied histories of the ‘Wonder Woman’ movie

comicsIt’s just beginning its theatrical release and already there is a lot of history behind the new Wonder Woman movie. For starters, there’s the story behind the titular heroine herself. Diana Prince of Themyscira first debuted back in 1942 as the creation of one William Marston, an American psychologist and inventor of the polygraph machine (think Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth).

That was 75 years ago. Since then, Wonder Woman has become one of the most iconic and influential superheroes of all time (joining Superman and Batman as a founding member of the Justice League and one-third of DC Comics’ so-called “Holy Trinity”). She even had her own television show starring Lynda Carter back in the late 1970s. Though despite these successes, the Amazon Princess hasn’t been able to break into the movie business until now.

It is fortuitous then that the responsibility of lyndabringing Wonder Woman to life on the big screen should fall to Patty Jenkins, who’s had difficulties of her own trying to make it in Hollywood. And though Jenkis directed Charlize Theron to her first Academy Award in Monster (Jenkins’ first film), the director has not made a movie since. That was fourteen years ago.

Now flash forward a decade. Though Wonder Woman is still a few years out, Hollywood is proliferated by superheroes. Marvel has struck box office gold by bringing their comic book characters together on the silver screen. They’re experiencing so much success, in fact, that now every studio is grasping at straws for some semblance of a cinematic universe and Marvel’s “Distinguished Competition” over at DC and Warner Bros. is no exception.

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Enter Zack Snyder, who at this point has established himself as a visionary filmmaker with films like the Dawn of the Dead remake, 300, and Watchmen. WB has brought Snyder on to direct the Superman reboot Man of Steel and to establish what he would later deem the “DC Extended Universe” (or DCEU for short).

Man of Steel ultimately crushed at the box office, but Snyder’s film was divisive among fans and critics. Over the next few years Warner Bros. continued to build their universe with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Though financial successes, neither film put up the boffo numbers that Warner Bros. executives were hoping for and both films were critically panned. To make matters worse, a myriad of potential writers and directors were signing onto then leaving future DCEU projects. Suddenly, the skies were not so blue for the House of the Big Blue Boy Scout.

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Now, standing at the edge of oblivion, a hero emerges. Not only is Patty Jenkins’ second film the first DCEU entry to earn a fresh rating on the Tomatometer (60%), but it’s blown past expectations earning a 93%. Critics and early audiences obviously love Wonder Woman but will this be a case of too little, too late?

It’s a story 75 years in the making and it’s still not over. How will Wonder Woman fare at the box office after three disappointing DCEU outings? Will the combined popularity of the storied Amazon and the underutilized talent of a neglected superstar be enough to accomplish what no man has yet to achieve? Only time will tell.

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Wonder Woman hits theaters today. You can catch our video review here!

Wonder Woman– Video Review

After 76 years, Wonder Woman finally gets her very own movie! Is it worth the wait?

Have you seen the film? Do you plan to? What were your thoughts? Drop down in the comments below and share with us!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)– Video Review

Director(s): Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario

Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow searches for the trident of Poseidon (source: IMDb). 

Rating: PG-13

Should Disney abandon ship with these movies? Here’s what we think! Let us know your thoughts by hitting up the comments section below!

The Void (2017)– Video Review

The Void is one of the most… Unique films of the year. Check out our video review below and let us know what you guys think!