So I just watched the pilot of The Aquaman series. It was actually pretty cool. I am surprised that it didn't get picked up. I think that it is a pretty fresh and interesting take on a character who takes alot of flack for being kind of lame. (Which he kind of is.) Aquaman is pretty darn hunky, and yes that is Ving Rhames who plays the Obi-wan to the young Aquaman. Awesome!
Hello folks. It's been awhile since I've taken the time to jot down a few notes here on my little corner of cyberspace. If I have fans who actually visit here looking for new content I apologies. (See, it's me I still can't spell.) It's been a pretty good summer so far. Been having a lot of fun. Spending a lot of time with The Showmen". I've now done stand-up comedy twice. The second time went even better then the first, and I am finding that I really enjoy it, and have a TON of fun. I almost don't care if people laugh. (It helps that they do though.) It's really awesome just to be back up on stage.
So it being summer there are plenty of fun movies coming out and I have been making more of an effort to see them. So far I've seen 2 of the big blockbusters so far. One REALLY GOOD! One that just left me feeling...ehhhh.
Well...let's start with the bad. One movie that I had been really looking forward to this summer was Michael Bay's Transformers. Sadly, folks I must say that I was rather under whelmed. Very under whelmed. i have been a bit worried that I am forming these opinions of mine from an extremely fan boy perspective. I can't lie, I have been a huge fan of the 80's cartoon Transformers since they first appeared. I find it difficult to to detach myself from that mindset. This movie clearly was not the transformers that I had been hoping for. However, I think that the reasons why I found the movie lacking as a Transformers movie also directly relate to why it was just not a very good movie.
Now hearing me say that I am a huge Transformers fan, I can imagine that you think my first criticism might be with the way that the Transformers looked. You would be right. However, my displeasure doesn't stem from the fact that the robots in this film do not resemble the versions I am more familiar with. The idea of updating the character designs actually sat OK with me when I first saw pictures of the new robots. I am not opposed to the reimaging of classic stories to a newer visual aesthetic. I always feel that movies should be viewed as a separate continuity from the comics or cartoons that it may be based upon, providing that under the varnish of a new design the characters and story maintains the elements that attracted us to the characters in the first place. (With that reasoning I totally love the X-Men movies even though they tend to not follow the story arcs of the comics exactly.) In this respect, I think is the movies biggest failing. With the exception of Optimus Prime the updated character designs are rather uninspiring. They feel as if they could have been taken from any random Japanese anime. I will certainly not knock Industrial Light and Magic's ability to create fantastic looking images on screen. The new robots look and move really well. (Although I felt on occasion during fight scenes that the robots did not seam to be carrying the weight that you would expect.) The problem, is that Transformers has always been about the personalities of the individual Transformers. The newer designs all look and feel very similar, and make telling the robots apart extremely difficult. Often times during the final battle sequence I had no idea which was the Autobot (the good guy) and which was the Decepticon (the bad guy). Trying to figure out which individual characters were actually fighting was darn near impossible. It's hard to root for the good guy, when you're not sure who he is. Combine these similar character designs with the fact that little attempt to define the personalities of the various Transformers (especially for the Decepticons) and you end up with a lot of computer generated metal that is impossible to relate to.
The fact that little attempt is made to create actual characters out of the Transformers has the added effect of making us realize how annoying the human characters are in this movie. Our main human protagonist Sam Witwicky is portrayed by Shia LaBeouf. (I can't help but wonder if every time he gets cast in a movie he realizes that the producers really wished that they could have cast Elija Wood instead.) As a hero Sam leaves a lot to be desired. His sole motivation at the start of the movie is to a) get a car then b) get a girl. Typical high school stuff I guess. The only problem is that Sam seams to be the only one who isn't aware of the fact that he's a real dork. We know he's a dork, because employs an acting style that can only be described as talking really really fast in a nervous and scatter brained fashion. As if he is hoping that if he talks fast enough eventually something witty will come out of his mouth. (He very rarely gets that lucky.) As a rule, the dialogue that the human actors are given is pretty laughable. Sadly, as a rule in this film, this is the status quo. Some fairly competent actors are given ridiculous dialogue and situations to try and make sense of. It was often times painful to watch some fairly decent actors (Anthony Anderson , Jon Voight , John Turturro and Josh Duhamel) struggle through their dialogue. The brightest part of the human cast for me was Megan Fox who portrays Sam's love interest Mikaela Banes. That may be because she may have been given the fewest ridiculous lines to say. Sam's parents are also pretty entertaining (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) but appear very briefly in the film. Basically, what you are left with here is a movie that focuses on human characters not really worth caring about and giant robots that should be actual characters but are not.
My last major gripe with the film is the treatment of the Decepticon leader Megatron. Megatron might be the most evil robot in the universe. We would never know this from the movie, but the character developed in the cartoons is a cold blooded killing machine who will take any advantage no matter how under handed to get a leg up on the Autobots. If you expect to see any sort of character out of Megatron forget it. He doesn't even appear until the final 45 minutes of the movie when he is awoken from a cryogenic sleep just in time to brawl with Optimus Prime. He maybe has 10 lines of dialogue the entire film. We know Megatron is evil because Optimus Prime tells us that he is. It would have been much cooler to actually see him being evil. Sadly, the Decepticons are pretty absent from the movie as a whole until the final battle when they show up to destroy a city. We never see them interacting with one another. It's almost pointless to mention which secondary Autobots and Decepticons appear in this film, as they can just as easily be called "Good Robot #1" and you wont miss a beat.
Transformers is not without it's good points. There are some funny moments in the film courtesy of Bumblebee. (The only robot to display anything close to a personality.) I also found that there was a good number of inside jokes that were clearly aimed at the fan boys in the audience. Bumblebee takes out some aggression on a yellow VW bug (in the cartoon Bumblebee's car form is a yellow VW Bug. He's a camaro in this movie.) and before their final battle Optimus Prime and Megatron speak lines of dialogue directly from the 1986 Transformers: The Movie. We even get to hear the classic transformation sound effect from the cartoon series the first time we actually witness a transformation take place. (Why it disappears for the rest of the movie I certainly don't know.) Actually, this opening scene is one of the highlights of the film. Here we get to watch as a Decepticon disguised as a helicopter destroys an entire military base. The other part of the movie that really got my fan boy heart pumping was the first appearance and transformation of Optimus Prime. I wont lie. I cheered!
So in conclusion, Transformers might pass as some very light and mildly entertaining pop corn fare. If you are looking for something that will remind you of the characters and drama that is more true to the spirit of Transformers, and also features far better characterizations you should certainly take a look at the 1986 cartoon film. You wont find what you are looking for here. However, the movie is not without some merit but at the end of the day unsatisfying as a Transformers experience.
So obviously, Transformers was the movie i didn't like. What about the one I did? Well, let me say that Bruce Willis's return to the character of John McClane in this summer's Live Free or Die Hard more then met my expectations and in fact far surpassed them. Being a huge fan of the Die Hard series (We watch the original every year on Christmas Eve) I say with no hesitation that this most recent installment is the best one in the series since the 1988 original. The set up is basically the same as before. A well organized terrorist kicks off a plot to take over the world or steal money or something, and NY police officer John McClane just happens to get caught in the middle as the only one apparently able to stop this mad man's plans. This time around we get treated to a villain portrayed by Timothy Olyphant. An actor who has found his way on to my list of actors I am always happy to see show up in a film. Olyphant's Thomas Gabriel is a computer security expert who decides to illustrate first hand to the US government exactly how correct his assessment of the weakness of our national computer security is by systematically disabling the computer systems we depend on to run our modern society one at a time, causing wide spread panic and chaos. A plan that just like in the first film is actually a front for larceny on a grand scale. This new high tech world is a place where John McClane certainly is out of place. Great effort is made to emphasize the point that McClane is an analogue anachronism to our current modern digital age. Lucky for McClane he is joined in his adventures by Matt Farrell (played by Justin Long) a college age computer hacker who unknowingly helps the terrorists and then becomes their target after they try to cover their tracks. Casting Justin Long in the role is perfect, as he is most commonly know to people as the "Mac" from Apple's "PC vs. Mac" add campaign. They make a good team and certainly an interesting couple, as you can see that both characters have a difficult time relating to each others world view. All this tech stuff clearly goes right over McClane's head and Matt is very happy to leave the bad guy punching and explosion making to McClane.
When you go to see a Die Hard movie, one thing that you expect is that stuff is going to blow up nice and good. This movie certainly does not disapoint in that category. The stunts and action sequences are all excellently put together. The use of practical old school stunt work instead of CGI effects only helps their believability. It is a wonderful change of pace to the standard CGI fare that has become the norm for action films these days. The reliance on practical stunts versus CGI glitz even plays directly into the themes of the film surrounding the modern digital age vs McClane's extremely old school world. Another way that the movie shines is that the stunts are often times very novel and creative as McClane uses everything at his disposal to dispose of his enemies in very creative ways. A chase scene involving a helicopter is worth the price of admission by itself.
This movie also excels due to it's cast. Not only is John aided by his new friend Matt, but he also gets a hand from a another computer hacker named Warlock (played by Kevin Smith) who works out of his "command center" in his mother's basement. We also get reacquainted with little Lucy McClane, who has certainly grown up quite a bit since we last saw her in the 1988 original. Lucy is played well by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and shows us before the end of the film that in the McClane household the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree when it comes to fighting the bad guys. Showing us that just like her mom she is more then just a pretty hostage.
So in conclusion, if you want to see something fun this summer with lots of big explosions both of these movies will satisfy that requirement. However, if you want to see stuff blown up right by characters that you can actually relate to see Live Free or Die Hard. You wont be disappointed.