Thursday, August 25, 2016



Transformers. If you were a kid during the 80's, you might've been a fan; whether it was the toy line, the TV show, and apparently there was even a comic. And in order to find a way to sell more toys, the guys figured they might as well make a live-action movie. Or something like that.

And hence, we have the first movie about the war between the Autobots (led by Optimus Prime) and the Decepticons (led by Megatron) as it comes to Earth, with both parties in search of the "All Spark," a mysterious cube that powered their home world, Cybertron. Obviously, one side intends to use it for good; the other for evil. And some teenager named Sam Witwicky holds the key to finding its location on Earth. 

Michael Bay was selected to direct this movie (and all its sequels), which is part of the reason there are often mixed emotions about this movie. To start, the action sequences are pretty doggone incredible. Watching the robots fight each other is what you came for, and the special effects department delivers and then some. The only problem with these scenes is that (if you're not already familiar with the various robots) without doing a little research you might have trouble figuring out which robot is which (save for Optimus, Megatron, and Bumblebee--Sam's guardian). 

The biggest problem by far with this movie is much of what goes on when we're not watching robots in general. We spend more time than I'd like with Sam Witwicky and his personal life; little of it even ties into the actual plot of the movie, aside from him and his new car (Bumblebee). The attempts at humor used are just plain awful; material that I'd expect to find in maybe a teen "comedy" movie, but not in an action/adventure movie about robots fighting each other. And often the script (especially during these "comedy" scenes, which really aren't that funny) is just awful.

And honestly, I'm not that big on Sam Witwicky at all. He gets better during the awesome final act, but he's just annoying for most of the movie. I like Shia LeBeouf, but this isn't one of his better films. But he's better than Megan Fox (who plays his love interest), who isn't an actress so much as she is intended to be eye candy. As it turns out, the two primary military characters (Lennox and Epps) turn out to be far more appealing than the two main human characters and I wish we'd spent more time with them instead when we weren't spending time with the robots. 

Really, what makes this movie worth watching at all is the Transformers themselves, their conflict and their battles. All of that is far more interesting, and it's what you came to watch in the first place. But we just spend too much time with meaningless human material that contributes little to nothing to the plot. The crude attempts at humor in most of this movie are awfully misguided and feel pretty out of place in a movie about robots fighting each other. 

Transformers leaves you with mixed emotions, indeed; you might be wowed by the action sequences, but you'll be pretty frustrated with a lot of other things. If you're a fan of the material, and you enjoy big action films in general, you'll want to see it; but if you're looking for something a little more serious and more well done on things other than the action, this is not for you. I was entertained enough to not regret watching it, but it's definitely only for a certain audience/demographic. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Last Witch Hunter


When you think of Vin Diesel, you might think of that guy from the Fast & Furious series who says things like "Let's go for a lil ride." You might also think of "I am Groot!" from Guardians of the Galaxy. Oh yeah, and there's also that "xXx" crazy-stunt franchise. Well, here's another possible franchise with him for you; one where he hunts witches.

This movie centers around an immortal warrior named Kaulder, who helps keeps the peace between humans and witches (who are allowed to live in peace) in the present day by defeating rogue witches, always accompanied by a "Dolan" (a priest) who records the events. He is forced to deal with an uprising of witches using incredibly dark magic to try to bring back their long-dead leader. Accompanied by a new Dolan (Elijah Wood) taking over for his predecessor (Michael Caine) and also by a "good witch" named Chloe, he'll have to keep the world from being turned into a wasteland.

As you might expect (especially if you saw the trailers), this movie is quite the action-fest that rarely lets up. Considering the poor reception, I wasn't sure what to expect from the plot, but I was actually somewhat impressed. Once you accept the idea of a movie taking place in a world where witches exist and are allowed to live in peace, everything else flows pretty well. There are a few pretty good plot twists; a couple which I didn't see coming at all.

The action scenes, for the most part, are actually pretty decent. The CGI occasionally is a bit overdone, but for the most part, the visuals are strong as well; carrying a dark atmosphere without being so dark that we can't realize what's going on at all. It's not a particularly boring movie by any means.

Most of the issues lie elsewhere; the script is average at best; and Michael Caine is tragically underused, not being in the movie nearly enough. That said, he's not given much to work with, so it's not that memorable of a performance for him. Elijah Wood actually fares better, but his character is more complicated. Vin Diesel is Vin Diesel; doing what he does. But his character is somewhat underdeveloped, even if entertaining.

If you're unable to accept the premise of the movie involving the witches, it's going to be a rough ride. And if you're looking for an action masterpiece, look elsewhere; this film is just flawed enough around the edges to avoid that distinction, and just a little more forgettable than some other recent action films. That said, it's still pretty entertaining, and better than I expected, and still really not that bad on the story front. If you're looking for an exciting action film without being *too* demanding of it, or you're a fan of Vin Diesel in general, give it a whirl. Despite the bashing it took reception-wise, you might be surprised. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Avengers


There was a time when the idea of this movie seemed risky; if it fell apart, it'd be a massive failure for everyone involved, and the successful build-up that they had created up to that point (with the solo Iron Man, Thor and Captain America movies) would ultimately have been for nothing. Four years later, now they're trying to do more and more movies like this; they're trying to do the same thing with the Justice League. 

This movie was pretty much every fanboy's ultimate dream ever; combining the forces of Iron Man, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and some archer guy named Hawkeye into one. And that was before they added even more guys later on in these Avengers movies! It's all of these guys versus Loki, Thor's brother, and some alien army he's allied with in order to take control of the Earth.

The film takes an oddly simplistic approach, having established its universe in previous films. Bad guy shows up (previously thought dead). Team comes together; fails against the bad guy on first try. Team then *truly* comes together, and defeats bad guy easily. That's more or less how it goes. It's a formula we've seen before (and since, probably). 

So what made this movie such a huge success? Well, the tougher question to ask would be what *wasn't* successful about it. It's undeniably awesome to see all these heroes together at once and fighting against different enemies; and the script is brilliantly written, courtesy of Joss Whedon (also directing), loaded with humor at every turn; whether it's the film poking fun at itself, or characters poking fun at each other (physically or verbally). The film's all-star cast delivers.

So what ultimately is there negative to say about this film? Very little; and what there might be to gripe about are very, very minor occasional gripes. Even non comic-book fans can get in pretty easily without being confused (as long as they've seen the previous movies in this series, anyway).

This movie is basically the perfect blend of action and comedy; it's pretty likable even for people who aren't quite as big of fans of superhero movies. It's definitely one of the best movies of the decade, if not the best. You've probably already seen it, but if you haven't, you still should; this is an action movie that's about as much as fun as they come. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice


People have been clamoring for a cinematic standoff between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight for some time now. It's pretty clear that they hadn't exactly thought the whole thing through, because a fight between those two goes only one of two ways: either Superman kills Batman with a flick of his finger, or Batman kills Superman... but only because he had Kryptonite. In other words, there's not much you can do with this story. But Zach Snyder and the DC Extended Universe decided they wanted to do it anyway. 

The story they come up with in the background is actually decent; Superman is dealing with a world that is concerned about him and his all-powerfulness and his battles which sometimes lead to deaths of civilians; one of them being Batman, whose company and employees were pretty much obliterated in the climactic battle in Man of Steel. Concerned about the unchecked power that Superman has, Batman decides he has to destroy him. 

Now where exactly do I begin? Because there is a *lot* to cover when talking about this movie. And that's part of the problem. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which took multiple movies to tell its story leading to the Avengers, this movie tries to cover all too much. There's of course, the battle between Batman and Superman to deal with, but they also try to set up for Justice League by giving us little very brief intros to the other guys (Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg) while giving us a full intro to Wonder Woman; who really doesn't have much of a reason to be in this movie... she just is. (Not that I'm complaining; she's actually one of the brighter spots of the movie.) Not to mention all the suggestions of interesting stuff that happened *before* this movie regarding Batman that is unexplained, trying to set up for the future of the franchise in general with teases at future villains. Oh yeah, and there's Doomsday to deal with too. Even though it's only our second movie in this series. 

Perhaps we should start with the big fight itself. Which actually is arguably the dumbest thing about this movie. As you might expect, the only way they can make it an even fight is to weaken Superman with kryptonite; the effects of which sometimes randomly wear off, of all things. So ultimately the big fight is rather anticlimactic; but then again, if you think about it, you were probably expecting it. 

The story following Superman is actually pretty interesting as he struggles with a world that doesn't entirely accept him. But there's really not much else to say about it; the character that requires more conversation is Ben Affleck's Batman. On one hand, a couple of the action sequences involving him are some of the best parts in this movie; a fight scene in a warehouse, and a car chase scene. But on the other hand, this Batman is totally out of character from what we've seen in recent years. This Batman actually kills. This Batman doesn't want to kill Superman because he thinks he has to; he wants to kill him because he *wants* to. Despite how the ending ultimately pans out, he seems borderline psychotic at times. 

And then, of course, there's the Doomsday conundrum. On one hand, the fight with Doomsday is actually quite awesome, and we get to witness Wonder Woman in action in it, which also turns out quite well. What's the problem, exactly? The fact that he's in this movie at all; considering he's pretty much one of the biggest (if not the biggest) juggernaut of the DC Universe, why are you bringing him in this early in your movies? Save him for later. 

As you can see, I have very mixed feelings on a lot of facets of this movie. And I haven't even started on Lex Luthor yet. I enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg's performance more than most; but sometimes it's just a little too goofy and over-the-top. One thing I don't have particularly mixed feelings on, though, is the ending (destroying Doomsday, and the aftermath). It's just stupid, plain and simple. I won't say anything as to not spoil it, but if you *have* seen the movie, you probably know what I mean. And it leaves me wondering just how they're going to handle certain things in Justice League. 

So what exactly about this movie does stand out? Well, visually, this movie is a work of art (kudos to Zach Snyder). Filled with brilliant scenery, cool camera angles and shots, and (in a dream sequence) some awesome post-apocalyptic imagery, and the action scenes (save for the main fight) are incredibly appealing visually and exciting. The acting is, for the most part, quite strong (though Laurence Fishburne is poorly used). 

Quite simply, this movie, despite driving you crazy at times and occasionally making no sense (even though I found out a few certain things are explained in the Ultimate Edition), is quite entertaining and fun to watch at times. This movie is loaded with some well-done action, and much of the plot itself that sets certain events into action is quite competent (even if the fight it's building up to is dumb). 

The movie is often pretty stupid. But it's also often pretty entertaining. It's entertaining stupidity, you see? And it is possible to enjoy entertaining stupidity to a certain degree. Now, as for the future of this franchise, I am rather concerned. Although I am looking forward to the Wonder Woman movie, I am more concerned about the Justice League movie and how they intend to follow up certain events that happened at the end of this movie and how they intend to raise the stakes after Doomsday. There is definite reason for concern regarding this franchise. Hopefully they can manage to at least keep it entertaining.