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Let me start this off by saying that I am a Michael Bay apologist. I don’t know why, really. I just like his movies and am not sorry for it. He may not be able to make an Oscar-Bait late-fall type of movie, but he’s probably the second best in the summer movie business (behind JJ Abrams).
I haven’t written many reviews recently because most of the movies that’ve come out this summer have sucked. Hard. And I don’t mean that in the typical “story was flat, effects were okay” type of way but in the way of they left absolutely no impression on me.
Take Green Lantern for instance. I saw it the Monday morning after it came out. By the evening, I had to remind myself that I had seen it. It was like watching a $200 million cut scene from a video game. None of it stuck with me. Maybe it’s because, at this point in the game, we’ve seen the origin story a hundred million times. It’s a necessary evil I wrote about in my Thor review.
X-Men First Class was the same way.
But Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon actually left shrapnel in my brain, left me breathless by the end of it’s 2 hour and 40 minute run time.
It’s also the only movie I’ve seen this summer that led the audience to applaud at the end of it. Which usually says something.
It’s not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I promise.
A lot of the flack that this film’s predecessor got was deserved. Revenge of the Fallen was overlong and bloated by a plot that made no sense because of the fact that it was written in three weeks (thanks writers strike). This was probably also the reason for all the racist/sexist humor–when you’ve only got three weeks, you’re gonna reach for the low hanging fruit just to fill out the pages.
It was basically a boat with a screen door for its hull. It couldn’t hold water.
But it tried to entertain us with giant action sequences in interesting locations despite not making much sense.
This one, though, returns to the first Transformers in the sense that it really feeds my sick addiction for explosions and destruction. It never lets up. It piles on the tragedy to the point that, yea, I honestly thought that everything was fucked before the third act took hold.
Death and Destruction
Seemingly taking a cue from all the recent “urban warfare” films, this movie takes its major sequences from the Pyramids of Giza to the streets of Chicago. What this does is make the deaths of civilians that much more prominent. I’m a little surprised with how much they were able to get away with in this film because some if it is fairly grisly, even if it is just CGI people.
This doesn’t even begin to describe what happens to the city itself. It’s really something you have to see to believe…
Before going in, I had heard from several different reviewers that the 3D in this film rivaled that of Avatar and it’s true. Especially since Bay employed some of the same techniques like slowing down a shot mid-action so you could really get a sense of what was happening. Or simply not shaking the camera so damn much.
The technology was used to its full extent by adding a lot of depth to scenes and having the giant fighting robots brought right to the forefront. Nothing ever felt too gimmicky or out of place, which I guess is the beauty of the PACE 3D cameras. They make things pretty.
How Best to Enjoy this Movie
See it in 3D; turn off the critical/analytical part of your brain; sit close; enjoy the action. If you’re willing to give yourself over to this movie, you’re bound to be entertained. Which is more than I got from the rest of this summer’s lineup thus far.
But where Did Megan Fox go?
Shut the fuck up.
I just finished watching Kanye West’s 34 minute music video called Runaway. It features nine songs from his upcoming album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and the video lives up to the title of the album.
This is what happens, in a nutshell: a phoenix falls to Earth, becomes Kanye’s girlfriend (or kidnap victim, it’s never quite clear), finds the world absolutely repulsive, and then flies away after one good night with Mr. West.
It’s basically a breakup story as told in the strangest way possible. All the emotions he was dealing with on 808s and Heartbreak are brought to light here in a symbolic way. Any women he dates has to fly away or be turned to stone–he can’t seem to keep any woman around for long enough before he, ultimately, sees them suffer, and has to let them go.
The phoenix herself must deal with the question of “What is being?” in this strange world of violence on television, these weird things called cups, and the fact that birds often get eaten. Where does she fit into all this–and does it matter if, in the end, she must rise again lest be turned to stone?
For some reason, there’s a lot of shit blowing up in this film–and most of it in the 10 minutes during the fall to Earth, then during a Michael Jackson memorial/fireworks show/marching band performance. These explosions are returned to periodically to represent emotional turmoil–or simply because explosions in slo-mo look fucking cool. I’m okay with either.
If you haven’t already gathered, this video is fucking weird. And completely worth your time.
It’s a fun video to watch, trying to parse together how the lyrics Kanye be spittin’ make sense to the images he be directin’.
And why all the roles of servants, of newscasters, of any public/private servant is white. It’s a role reversal that came as unexpected and yet wholly expected from West, who’s a subversive character that wants us to pay attention to racism and his broken heart.
Pardon my skepticism, but I had no idea that Kanye West had such a cinematic eye. By directing he proves that he might be able to conquer the world of cinema next. He has the good vision, and maybe with actual actors (not himself, who’s good at music, but not acting.) he could continue his conquest of being the voice of this generation.
9x9x9 is simple. A nine day series in which I review 9 movies I’ve seen at least 9 times.
I don’t know if 9 is the magic number for viewings, but it sounds cool, so we’re gonna run with it. I figure this’ll allow me to re-review some movies I did awhile ago, too. Kind of redeem my shitty writing of years past with currently-good-but-soon-to-be-shitty-writing.
Plus, nine is the amount of players in a baseball lineup, so expect those analogies.
There’s a lot of good movies I need to see again in spite of their emotional torment–Requiem for a Dream, Apocalypse Now, etc. –and so I would write about them if I had seen them nine times.
And, for shits and giggles, movies that didn’t make the cut: Observe and Report, Knocked Up, Breathless, Brazil (mostly because I just reviewed it), Young Frankenstein, and Observe and Report.
First up in the lineup is Transformers, the speedy Center Fielder who plays fast and loose and pisses you off on defense, but redeems himself with bombs to deep left center. I’ve been wanting to write about this movie and I also figured that I’d get the absolute (hypothetical) schlock out of the way.
This is the first and only movie I’ve seen in the Cinerama Dome–that 800 seat, 35-speaker giant-ass theater at the Arclight in Hollywood. It was 11 o’clock, I was with my friend Jasmine, and I think I had to be up early the next morning for school or something far less important than seeing Transformers on a giant-ass screen.
And, needless to say, I was unimpressed with the movie the first time around. It just didn’t deliver in a way that I had expected it to. The visuals were cool and everything, but I was on such a cinematic high horse at the time that the story and the lack thereof totally brought the movie down for me. I couldn’t appreciate the pure, empty, spectacle of it.
However, a little over a year later, I was living with my good friend Nate and we had basic cable plus HBO.
And throughout that time, it seemed like there were two constants that were always on television: Full House reruns on ABC Family and Transformers on one of the five HBO channels.
So I wound up watching both quite a bit. And Transformers, I don’t know what it is, but it grew on me as I started to let my guard down and stop trying to be such a goddamned elitist about cinema.
Between then and now, I’ve fallen in love with the batshit story, with John Turturro’s character and Sector 7 (I even named my next WiFi network that) and Shia and Megan Fox’s love story and the fact that everyone looks like they sweat Vaseline. How the tires in the film squeal in such a completely different way (there’s kind of a bounce to the sound effect, more akin to tires on airplane touching down), all of that. I absolutely love it.
This movie sparked in me a weird kind of affectation for the films of Michael Bay–of which I own all except for Armageddon Pearl Harbor, and the Island. Pearl Harbor and the Island are terrible.
Let me tell you why: see, Michael Bay is good at one thing, and I think he got sick of people saying he was a one trick pony and couldn’t make a real film. So he went out and tried to make a real film. Y’know, criticizing the critics by making a response film, very French New Wave.
But the problem is this: Michael Bay is a one trick pony. His one trick is blowing shit up and showing off kickass CGI, sweet looking cars, and hot women. Okay, that’s four, but you get the drift.
So Transformers was the perfect film for him. He got to use all of the cards in his hand to their highest potential. He launched Megan Fox’s ass to the top of Google search bars everywhere (as well as her weird-ass thumb) because he just gets how to photograph women (much like David Lynch and Michael Mann, both of whom seem to really like sex scenes). It comes as no surprise that he started out directing videos for Playboy.
But, so, this may very well have been his return to form, coming back from being Michael Bay to being Michael Motherfucking Bay.
Nobody does it better, and there’s no better proof than the Transformers films.
He removes all morality and sensibility and just simply sees what happens when the rules get broken/bent/thrown out the window.
His movies are exciting because they’re blatantly nihilistic–there’s nothing, nothing at all, so let’s fuck shit up.
I love this movie in spite of how terrible it is. I can put it on and watch it front to back and enjoy the insanity and the bad jokes and watching Optimus fight the Decepticons.
It’s because of this I can forgive the fact that the first film existed in a secondary universe when LA streets were used for the metropolis known as Nevada City (hell, the theater where I saw Iron and Wine is featured in most of the final battle scene) and then the second movie (and probably the third) exists in the real world.
I love that the cinematography is so shaky and confusing that it makes you want to throw up. A lot of folks hate this because it’s disorienting and, well, makes you want to lose your Spaghetti-Os. But, I dunno, it works for me in a weird, faux-cinema-verité kind of way. Like, if this were a documentary, and CamOps were running through a giant robot battle zone capturing everything in the moment. It’s like Don’t Look Back on high doses of amphetamines. This, I guess, has been dubbed “BayCam,” and I like that.
The term “BayCam” kind of also speaks to his impact as a director: he’s redefined the genre of action. He’s added to its vernacular. He’s made it his own. And this was the film that added back his middle name of Motherfucking.
But really, if you’re looking for high art, Sundance/IFC/Oscar bait films, don’t look to this film. Don’t look to the genre in general. But really, don’t look at this film. Because to about 97% of the smart-movie-goers, this movie is absolute bullshit and a travesty.
But I remain staunchly in the 3%. All because of it being on over and over and over again on HBO. Then I bought it so I could watch it front to back whenever I wanted. And it turns out that, on the single disc, zero-special-features versions, if you watch all the way through the credits you get a special feature/GM commercial on the cars used in the film.
Tomorrow, it’s what we laugh about when we laugh about racism.