With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to define this franchise. The first film was solidly entertaining, but the sequels have been hit and miss. And this jarringly chaotic episode never finds its feet. Is it aimed at teen boys (robots hitting each other), young children (a random little girl in the cast) or action fans (Mark Wahlberg being heroic)? Meanwhile, the plot only barely connects a stream of wildly overblown set-pieces.
We find Wahlberg's mad inventor Cade now in hiding protecting the good Autobots, while government meathead Lennox (Josh Duhamel) chases the evil Decepticons. Somewhere in space, tentacled temptress Quintessa (Gemma Chan) has turned heroic Transformer Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to the dark side, and now they're heading to suck the life out of Earth, as you do. Humanity's only hope is in a mysterious talisman Cade possesses and the staff of Merlin the magician (Stanley Tucci in an Arthurian prologue), which only Oxford professor Vivian (Laura Haddock) can wield. She's accompanied by dotty Sir Edmund (Anthony Hopkins), who helpfully explains the mythology with the assistance of robot butler Cogman (Jim Carter). Then everyone converges on Stonehenge for an epic battle.
To be fair, Bay does have an eye for spectacle, and the film looks properly amazing in Imax 3D, especially as Bay throws everything he can think of at the screen, including some adorable baby dinosaur robots, a submarine chase, various elements from Star Wars and Alien, and a military invasion that desperately wants to outdo Saving Private Ryan's opening scene. All of this is piled into a blender and edited together with absolutely no sense of logic or geography.
Continue reading: Transformers: The Last Knight Review
With each film in the Transformer saga, Michael Bay makes it clear that all he's interested in are massive metallic special effects bashing into each other and usually exploding. Because otherwise this is a vacuous thriller without any characters to speak of, no sense of plot coherence and an appallingly simplistic sense of geography. There's plenty in this franchise to enjoy (just watch the original 2007 film again), but Bay takes everything so seriously that only die-hard fans will have any fun this time.
The story picks up five years after the cataclysmic Transformers' battle in Chicago, as Texas inventor and overprotective single dad Cade (Mark Wahlberg) builds gadgets in his rural barn, oblivious to the fact that his 17-year-old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) is secretly seeing 20-year-old Shane (Jack Reynor). Luckily, Shane is a race driver, so he's handy to have around when black ops agents commanded by shadowy CIA director Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) raid Cade's farm looking for an old truck that turns out to actually be Optimus Prime in hiding. This sparks a return to Chicago for more mayhem, followed by a hop to Beijing and Hong Kong, where Optimus Prime and a handful of remaining good-guy Autobots take on the villainous Lockdown. Helped of course by Cade, Tessa and Shane, plus billionaire inventor Joshua (Stanley Tucci).
The new gimmick this time is dinosaurs, building on a prologue showing the real reason they went extinct. This comes back in the climactic battle in the form of Dinobots, ancient Transformers that will have fanboys squirming in their seats with joy while everyone else yawns and looks at their watches, astounded that Bay has somehow managed to stretch this paper-thin story out over nearly three hours of metal-on-metal chaos. As in the earlier films, the action is quite literally cartoonish, purely animated mayhem that's not easy to decipher. At least the humans help keep it vaguely approachable, as they provide running commentary in their dialogue and bounce through the air like plastic action figures who never get hurt.
Continue reading: Transformers: Age Of Extinction Review
Spirited and very funny, this movie should actually be rather disturbing since it's a true story about torture and murder. But director Michael Bay is so slick with the action and comedy elements that he lulls audiences to sleep, entertaining us with events that really should send chills down our spines. So the movie feels rather tasteless when you begin to think about it.
Wahlberg stars as Daniel, an obsessive bodybuilder in 1990s Miami who works as a personal trainer at a local gym. But he's becoming increasingly annoyed by the fact that his clients are much wealthier than he is. So he convinces his steroid-addicted colleague Adrian (Mackie) to help him kidnap a customer (Shalhoub) and steal his fortune. Realising that they need some help, they enlist born-again ex-con Paul (Johnson) in their plan. But none of them is very smart, and the kidnapping goes badly wrong from the start. Still, they manage to steal quite a lot before a tenacious private detective (Harris) notices something isn't right.
For a story that deals with such intensely serious themes, this is an oddly broad comedy. Bay never even tries to find dark irony here; he just focusses on how stupid these criminals are, convinced that they are as cool as the characters from their favourite movies and eerily unbothered by the fact that they are inflicting pain and even death on people for their own greedy ends. The actors inhabit the roles with a disarming naivete, so we can't help but laugh at their idiotic actions. Wahlberg plays Daniel as a muscle-head so focussed on getting what he wants that he doesn't notice the carnage in his wake; Mackie at least gives Adrian a sense of self-doubt, plus some comical romance (with scene-stealer Wilson); and Johnson has a tricky role as a religious guy with a weakness for drugs and women.
Continue reading: Pain & Gain Review
Starting as a clever Contagion-style investigative thriller, this fiercely paced apocalyptic adventure begins to fall apart early on when smart logic is jettisoned for the more visceral thrills of seeing Brad Pitt save the planet. Sadly, almost every major plot point makes no sense at all, and by the time the film reaches its corny finale, we can no longer suspend our disbelief. But at least it's packed with exciting set pieces that get our pulses racing.
It's set in the present day, as strange unrest breaks out around the world. And when the marauding hordes of undead arrive in Philadelphia, the Lane family barely escapes with their lives. Gerry (Pitt) is a former UN military officer who gets help from an ex-boss (Mokoena) to evacuate his wife (Enos) and children to the safety of an aircraft carrier off the coast. Then he's put to work on a globe-hopping mission to find the source of the infection, travelling first to ground zero in Korea, then to infection-free Israel and finally to a World Health centre in Wales. Along the way he picks up a sidekick in the form of feisty Israeli commando Segen (Kertesz).
The script is only ever interested in Gerry, so the filmmakers never bother deepening any other characters. There's some nice chemistry between Pitt and Kertesz, but she remains essentially irrelevant. As the film goes along, Pitt assumes the responsibilities of experts, soldiers and scientists, so he can singlehandedly solve the mystery. It's utterly preposterous, especially since he has to miraculously survive frequent zombie attacks that kill everyone else. And we won't speak of a shockingly ill-conceived plane crash, which removes what's left of the plot's credibility.
Continue reading: World War Z Review
I am serious. And while The Island isn't exactly a great film, the case for Johansson as action starlet has been made, handily.
Continue reading: The Island Review
After a dozen or so years of fantastically bitter legal wrangling, Spider-Man has finally crawled to the big screen. For the uninitiated (and even for those of us who grew up with the comics but can't remember all the details), Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is the whipping boy of his New York high school. He's got a crush on the girl next door, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), and his best friend Harry (James Franco) is the son of the local millionaire/scientist Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe).
Continue reading: Spider-Man Review
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