review

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!

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!

Alien: Covenant (2017)– Video Review

It’s been a long time coming, but is Alien: Covenant the Alien movie we all thought Prometheus was going to be? Check out our video review of the new pre-sequel and find out!

Have you seen the film? What did you think? Hit up the comments section below and let us know!

T2 Trainspotting 2 (2017)– Movie Review

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremmer, Robert Carlyle 

Synopsis: After 20 years abroad, Mark Renton returns to Scotland and reunites with his old friends Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie (source: IMDb). 

Rating: R

Despite the fact that there is and always will be only one “T2” (Terminator 2: Judgement Day), I really enjoyed Trainspotting 2. Yes, after two decades Danny Boyle and company finally reunite for the highly-anticipated sequel to the 1996 classic. And unlike a lot of recent sequels to twenty year-old classics, Trainspotting 2 genuinely feels like the natural progression of an initial story rather than an exploitation of a beloved title.

The film picks up in real time with Renton (Ewan McGregor), now middle-aged and sober, returning home to Edinburgh, Scotland where he reunites with his rag-tag friends. The catch is he hasn’t seen any of them since turning his back on them twenty years earlier.

Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) has a talent for peeling back the layers of the bigger picture to examine stories through the eyes of his characters. It’s an intimate approach that helps us understand where each character stands both with him/herself as well as with each other after all these years. Some relationships have been damaged more than others but everyone’s actions (both of the hilarious & more dramatic varieties) as well as the resulting chaos feels warranted because we know where they’re all coming from.

Unlike our protagonists, Trainspotting 2 has matured with age, at least when you’re talking about the technical aspects of storytelling. It’s as kinetic as the original, but the focus is more on presenting a coherent narrative. There’s not as much an emphasis on the trippy shots and cracked coloring that helped make the original so iconic. This refined technique mirrors the “cleaner” state of life that most these guys are now living. Credit to Boyle for letting the progression of the overall story dictate the technique instead of simply going with what worked the first time.

Visually, the Trainspotting films are pop art where the colors pop off the screen and the camera is living almost as an equally frantic character within the stories. But the artistry doesn’t stop there. The soundtracks are equally dazzling, with tracks from Iggy Pop to Queen, Blondie, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and more. Your senses are always engaged with this film.

Trainspotting 2 is the perfect compliment to the original cult hit.

Grade: A

What did you all think of Trainspotting 2? Are you glad we got a sequel after all these years or should Danny Boyle and team simply left well enough alone? Hit up our comments section and let us know!

King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword (2017)– Video Review

Another year, another King Arthur movie. BUT WAIT. Could Guy Ritchie have made the King Arthur film for the ages? Find out with our video review of King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword here!

Don’t forget to hit up the comments below and leave us your thoughts on the film! What did you all think?

The Founder (2016)– Video Review

We take a bite out of the McDonald’s biopic The Founder starring Michael Keaton! Check out our video review here!

Don’t forget to leave your thoughts on the film and/or our review in the comments below!