Archives for posts with tag: Michael Bay

Grade A

 

Good and evil alien robots that have the ability to transform into other mechanical objects come to Earth seeking a powerful artifact that can bring life or destruction.   Shia LaBeouf, who plays a teen who unwittingly owns an object that has a clue to the whereabouts of the valuable artifact, finds himself in the middle of a war between the Autobots (good Transformers) and the Decepticons (evil Transformers) when he buys a used Camaro that turns out to be an Autobot named Bumblebee.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Transformers” is the scene when Megan Fox (the love interest of LaBeouf) asks why Bumblebee, with all his alien robot technology, would transform into an old, piece of crap Camaro.  Bumblebee comes to a sudden halt, throws out LaBeouf and Fox, and speeds off.

There are many who are not fans of Michael Bay.  I think most are in the category of film snobs.   Michael Bay is great at what he does: make fast-paced, action movies that have a dramatic, driving score that accentuates the numerous fleeting but highly dramatic moments.   Realism is not his forte; but when it comes to dramatic spectacle, there are very few who can rival Bay.  He has made “Transformers” not just about robots fighting humans fighting robots; it’s also about a boy’s taste of freedom when he finally gets his first car and the opportunities it opens up with the girls.   With all the outrageous, action sequences and amazing special effects, what really connected me to this movie is the love LaBeouf has for his car —  you really have to be a guy to understand this.

— M

Grade A

On the anniversary of the September 11, terrorist attacks against the U.S., hundreds of terrorists attack two American installations in Libya.  One installation is a compound that houses a U.S. Ambassador his few, lightly armed guards; the other installation is a “secret” CIA base that has 6 heavily armed contractors — highly trained mercenaries with previous lives in the U.S. military — as the primary defense of the spies who work there.

The first attack is against the U.S. Ambassador’s compound.  Despite numerous calls for help from the CIA base, help is not authorized.  The compound is quickly overrun, and the Ambassador’s life is in serious jeopardy as the terrorists burn the building that he and his few guards are in.  Defying orders to stand down, the leader of the mercenaries (played by James Badge Dale) takes his men to rescue the Americans under attack just a few thousand feet from where they are.

By the time Dale and his mercs arrive, it is complete chaos.  Dozens of Libyans are walking/running around, fully armed.  No one knows who is a terrorist, an ally, or just some citizen walking around with a gun for protection.  That the mercenaries didn’t shoot any Libyan they saw with a weapon is a testament to their discipline, courage, and professionalism.  With the Ambassador’s compound destroyed and the Ambassador missing, the mercs leave with whatever survivors they can find and fight their way back to the CIA base.  And the long night has just started.

Throughout the night, the terrorists will attack the CIA base repeatedly, and the 6 American mercenaries/contractors will take the lead in heroically defending their “home” and the dozens of civilians who work there.   But as the fight rages on, ammunition gets low, defenders get wounded, and extreme exhaustion sets in.  CIA personnel desperately make one call after another to U.S. military forces, as well as U.S. allies, but only a handful arrive.  Without more substantial help, the Americans and their few Libyan allies will eventually be overrun and killed.  Why the might of U.S. military power was not brought down to crush the terrorist attacks is still not completely known.  Some reasons are given in this movie, but many questions remain, as they still do today.

One of my memorable moments of “13 Hours” is the scene near the beginning of the movie when Dale and another merc who happens to be a close friend are surrounded by dozens of terrorists.  Dale makes a bluff that a drone is above them, watching everyone and taking pictures of all involved.  If the terrorists attack, the Americans will find the terrorists and their families, and justice and vengeance will quickly follow.  After a few seconds that probably felt like years to the Americans, the terrorists lets them go.  This highly tense scene is a prelude to the rest of the movie, setting the tone and giving the audience a taste of what the next two hours will bring.

My most memorable, movie moment of “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi” is the scene when mercenary Mark “Oz” Geist is badly wounded, his left arm mangled.  He staggers into the building where the CIA civilians are huddled and asks for help for another soldier, instead of for himself.  This man’s courage and selflessness is unreal.

There are many who fault director Michael Bay’s talents.  I was never one of them.  Bay is a master of directing movies to maximize drama, intensity and fast pacing.  His talents once again shows in “13 Hours…”  He wisely chose not to put too much politics in the movie, as that would have bogged down the pacing and steered the focus away from the American fighters who sacrificed so much.

Of course, this is an action film, meant to entertain, first and foremost.  On that front, it succeeds.  Secondly, “13 Hours…” is meant to tell the world of the bravery of the few men who fought, suffered and died saving the lives of dozens of Americans.  On that objective, the movie also succeeds.  I suggest every American watch this movie.  It not only entertains, it teaches about an infamous event that should not have happened.

— M

Michael Bay takes a break from the high intensity, action genre to delve into a high intensity, comedy/crime drama genre.  Bay being Bay, cannot do anything small and quiet.  So a story that can be served well in a 2 hour, Dateline NBC show has become a super-pumped, super-charged, theatrically released flick that gives lots of laughs, shocks, and action.  “Pain & Gain” is based on a true story of bodybuilders in Florida who kidnap, torture, and kill people for money and property.

Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie portray the three criminal bodybuilders; and Tony Shalhoub plays their first victim.  Wahlberg, Johnson, and Mackie are big on muscles but are intellectual midgets.  Not able to gain wealth with their brains, they try to achieve it with their brawn.  Enter Shalhoub, who is a multi-millionaire entrepreneur whose personal trainer is Wahlberg.  Endless blabbing about how much money Shalhoub has to Wahlberg gives Wahlberg the idea that Shalhoub would be a good candidate for some forced, property exchange.

Wahlberg and his 2 bodybuilder friends soon have Shalhoub in their clutches, torturing him so that he would sign over all his property to his 3 kidnappers.  And here is where I stop describing what happens in “Pain & Gain,” because this movie has so many twists and turns and shocks that I don’t want to ruin any of it for you.  And yes, as crazy as this movie gets, most of what you’ll see is true.

You’ve heard of the saying “truth is stranger than fiction?”  For the most part, that’s bulls#@t.  Come on, what truth can compare with “Star Wars” or “The Lord of The Rings?”  But, with “Pain & Gain,” that saying is true.  Bay’s talents has turned a made-for-tv story into a mesmerizing train wreck that is impossible to look away from.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Mackie and Johnson are at a strip club.  While Johnson is focused on the strippers, Mackie keeps pestering Johnson about mixing breast milk with steroids to get bigger; and how Mackie’s breast milk source is clean, and how Mackie wants to get so big he has to walk through doors sideways.  Mackie’s more obsessed with being muscular than the Bubba character was obsessed with shrimp in “Forrest Gump.”

Coming in first place for my most memorable, movie moment of “Pain & Gain” is the scene when Johnson was grilling the fingerprints off the severed hands of his victims…while he was outside and waving to a neighbor.  At the bottom of the screen the words “this is still a true story” appear!

Oh, boy.  Bay got some flack for making the true-life criminals into likeable goofs who just want to get a bigger piece of the American Dream.  I can understand how someone — especially families of the victims — would be upset by this.  But keep in mind that this isn’t a history lesson; that movies are always subject to the interpretations of the writer, director, producer, lead actors, so on and so forth.   And yes, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I liked the Wahlberg and Johnson characters.  And I sure as hell like this movie!

–M

There are more subplots to “Transformers 4” than there are submenus on the latest smart phone; and so I will stick to the main plots or else this will be a very long review.

Because of what happened in the previous movie, all Transformers (the good Autobots as well as the evil Decepticons) are hunted down by the U.S. government.   But it’s not as black and white as keeping humans safe.   The government has a secret reason for hunting and destroying the alien robots: to use them as spare parts and for experimentation.   Corporations have partnered with government agencies to reverse-engineer the Transformers in order to gain knowledge of their technology, and ultimately be able to build their own Transformers.

Not wanting to go the way of most Native American nations, the few surviving Transformers hide from the humans.   Enter Mark Wahlberg, who plays a mechanic/failed robot inventor.  Spotting a wrecked truck, he buys it for salvage, and soon finds out that it is the badly damaged body of Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots.  Wahlberg fixes Prime so that he is at least functional — and just in time, too, as the government’s eyes and ears are always watching and listening; and the goon squad arrives at Wahlberg’s house to collect Prime, by any means necessary, including threatening to put a bullet in Wahlberg’s daughter, played by Nicola Peltz.

Wahlberg, Peltz, and Prime are now on the run, seeking help from the Autobots that are still alive.  They’ll need all the help they can get, because it’s not just humans that are after them, there are government-created transformers that are activated to destroy the Autobots; and there is an alien race that have come to collect and punish the Transformers whom they implied were created by the alien race.

One of my memorable, movie moments of “T4” is the scene that shows us the first appearance of the Dinobots.  Dinobots!  Remember them?  If so, then you’re at least as old as I am.  Oh, the memories of watching the “Transformers” cartoons after coming home from school.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is the scene when Bumblebee (taking the guise of an old Camaro) is in the corporate headquarters of where Transformers are secretly being built.   Bumblebee’s driver looks at a mock-up of a corporate made Transformer, and mentions how good they look compared to the real thing.  Oops.  This guy obviously doesn’t know the Transformer he’s in is sensitive to remarks about the way he looks.  Bumblebee punishes the driver by shoving his steering wheel into his body.  Serves him right!

I’ve seen all the Transformers movies, and “T4” would rank last among the four.   That’s not to say it’s a bad movie.  I like “T4,” it’s just my least favorite of the four.   Typical of the other 3 movies, you have large, action sequences, humor, heart, great special effects, and a long running time.  It’s about 165 minutes, and I really felt it.   That’s a sign that something is not working right with the movie.  For example, one of the characters  —  who plays Peltz’s boyfriend — was not engaging.  His character needed more work to get the audience to care about him and root for him.  Then you have Wahlberg’s constant whining about how he just found out his daughter has a boyfriend, and the endless warnings to him about keeping his hands off his kid.  That got annoying very quickly.  But most of the problems of this movie is that some of the action sequences were too long.   It felt like a song that is overdone: you know, when a singer takes 10 seconds to sing one word, trying to show off her range and power.

Bottom line, if you enjoyed the previous Transformers movies, you should watch this one.  It’s not the best, but it’s still a good movie…better if you watch it at home so you can pause it and go to the bathroom and get snacks — you’ll need to do those things with a near 3 hour movie that drags sometimes.

I happen to have watched it at the drive-in, and that in and of itself makes “Transformers: Age of Extinction” more appealing.

— M

My friends and I at the drive-in theater to see "Transformers: Age of Extinction."

My friends and I at the drive-in theater to see “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

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