Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Every cineaste and their dog is going to be putting together his or her own "Best Movies of the 2000s" list by the end of this year, so I thought, what the hell, I'll do one of my own! Making up a list of the best films from the past decade is an ultimately unfair venture -- unfair to the year 2009, namely. One, because it's hard to judge a movie's lasting power less than 12 months after its release, and two, because I can't wait three more months to do this list, so if something amazing comes out between now and December, it'll have to sit on the bench of honorable omissions to be published at a later time.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
While watching Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” I was aware that something was happening on screen in front of me, something frenetic and flashy, accompanied by booming explosions, witless dialogue and a substandard action movie score that wanted me to know something action-packed was happening right now, at this very moment! For two-and-a-half very long hours, I was aware of a movie happening, but never engaging me. “Revenge of the Fallen” is like watching bad porn—except the ticket buyer is the only person getting fucked.
I kind of came around to the original “Transformers” (2007), which, in comparison to its noisier, longer, more exposition-crammed sequel, is downright quaint and cuddly. At the climax of the first movie, the Autobots and Decepticons decimated a city block to get back a cube. At the climax of part two, the ‘bots tear a gaping hole in the Great Pyramid to uncover a giant laser that will destroy the Sun. What’s left for part three? Can’t really top a Sun-Destroying Laser. Maybe Megatron will crack open the Easter Island heads and find chocolate?
Oh, the story is so much nonsense, but you expect that from a movie based on a line of toys, right? The story picks up with Sam Witwickey (Shia LaBeouf) relocated to college and separated from his two loves: Autobot Bumblebee, who cries lots of valuable windshield wiper fluid when he learns his master is going to Princeton; and hot girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox), who straddles the motorcycles she repairs at her dad’s auto shop like girls straddle mechanical bulls. There’s nonsense about Sam and Mikaela’s inability to say the L-word to each other, nonsense about Sam’s mom (Julie White) getting high on pot brownies she gets at her son’s dorm, nonsense about Sam obsessing over strange alien symbols after he touches a shard of the All Spark (that cube thingy from part one that could, I dunno, do whatever the movie needed it to do at any given moment).
The nonsense spreads and spreads. The symbols Sam is seeing lead to a key called the Matrix that powers the aforementioned Sun-Blasting Laser. The bad ‘bots, led by Megatron and a mysterious new foe called The Fallen, badly want this laser to go off, and the good ‘bots badly want it not to. Oh, and there’s some juicy power source to be harvested, to what purpose, I’m not sure. Evil ‘bot babies gestate in gooey pods back on the home planet. Maybe the juice is for them. Gotta feed the kids. Why the Sun has to be destroyed… this is where I threw my hands up and simply waited for the action sequences to come, hoping they would perk things up.
Sadly, the climatic battles in “Revenge of the Fallen” fall victim to the same problems the first movie suffered from—robots pummeling robots with little sense of who’s who, who’s doing what and why. Robots wrestle and throw one another through historic landmarks and all we see is an incomprehensible tangle of arms, legs, fists, rotors, gears, mufflers, swords, flames and leaky jaws. For sure, Michael Bay knows how to shoot large-scale pandemonium with a slick, blown-out, fetishistic hunger for all things shiny, sexy and slow-motion-y cool, but he’s lapsed into self-parody. What should be a 90 minute movie is bloated to nearly three hours simply because Bay can’t get enough of Bay. “Bigger. Fucking. Robots,” is what it said across the chest of the T-shirt he wore to Comic-Con last year. Maybe it should have said, “Big. Fucking. Ego.”
The actors do what they can—which is mostly scrambling out from under the stomping feet of the huge ‘bots. LaBeouf continues to represent geeks across the world who dream of bedding a hottie like Megan Fox. He’s charming enough. Fox is the most convincing robot in the cast (Jolie-Bot 2000). The underutilized Josh Duhamel continues his streak of thankless roles, playing an Army dude who gets less dialogue than a remote controlled truck—and at least the truck gets to dry hump Megan Fox’s leg. John Turturro is back as conspiracy-nut Agent Simmons. The remote controlled truck makes fun of his “Jew-fro.”
Which brings up the movie’s nasty streak of racist stereotypes, ethnic slurs and male chauvinism. Two new Autobots have been added to the cast: Skids and Mudflap, jive-talking African-American stereotypes who confess they don’t like to read, and one of them even has a gold tooth. Fox’s character is called a “bitch” on more than one occasion. On every occasion she’s shamelessly dangled like a piece of meat to the slobbering boys (and boys at heart) in the audience. She’s just another doll in Bay’s toy box.
As I sat watching this movie under the giant dome of the Arclight theatre, I noticed something: the kids in the audience were getting restless. One in particular, sitting in front of me, started playing with his hot dog wrapper about two hours in. That little boy invested more fun and imagination into playing with that hot dog wrapper than Michael Bay invested into all $200 million dollars worth of "Transformers." Wow.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Say you're a big fan of those wacky "Ernest" movies. You think "Ernest Goes to Jail" is a comedic gem and "Ernest Scared Stupid" is the funniest horror movie since "Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan." Maybe you like these movies so much, you're thinking about naming your first born after the titular buffoon.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I love making lists. Grocery lists, to-do lists, lists of people to hug when I see them next (will it be you?). I draft at least 5 different versions of my list to Santa Claus; that includes spell-checking, adding hyperlinks to Amazon.com, and sending the drafts to five of my friends for constructive feedback ("Rethink this Tickle-Me-Elmo doll, Aaron").
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Out from the shadows comes Aaron, here to begin the new year with a vengeance. That's right, I'm ready to kick the tires and light the fires. I'm ready to whup E.T.'s ass. I'm ready to say, "Now that's what I call a close encounter." All in all, I'm ready to move on from these hokey "Independence Day" quotes and begin the new year with a list of resolutions. But what list of resolutions would be complete without a snide, self-defeating scale from 1 to 10, rating how likely I am to break them (1 being will-power wins the day, 10 being who the hell was I ever kidding?) Let the pessimism commence!