Posts Tagged 'CGI'

Jurassic Park & Me: 20 Years Later

jurassic-park-3d-poster

Chills.

My first viewing of Steven Spielberg‘s Jurassic Park, on June 11, 1993, at the age of 13, at a sold out show in the biggest and best movie theater in my hometown, was one of the 5 most significant events of my life. At least half of the people I know today would not have met me were it not for that night. Continue reading ‘Jurassic Park & Me: 20 Years Later’

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (PLUS the fallout of its massive success, and looking ahead in the Marvel movie universe)

Before we get into the review, I just wanted to do a little bookkeeping, especially with regards to the money this thing is bringing in. The Avengers is officially a cultural phenomenon. People who don’t normally see movies in theaters have seen it. People who don’t normally see comic book movies have seen it. People who don’t talk about these kinds of movies are talking about it. People who don’t talk about box office results are talking about it. The fact that everyone on earth was talking about how much money it made helped it make even more money. I was watching Bill O’Reilly‘s show the Monday after that huge opening, and even he made mention of the crazy records it’s breaking. It’s insanity. I am finishing this piece after seeing it 3 times (at 3 different theaters!) and having thus contributed $19 to that billion-plus dollar haul. Let’s face it, without me, this movie is a total bomb. You’re welcome, Marvel.

Continue reading ‘REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (PLUS the fallout of its massive success, and looking ahead in the Marvel movie universe)’

Review: BATTLESHIP

If you’ve read this blog for any significant length of time, you’ll know I’ve been very much looking forward to Peter Berg‘s Battleship. (See my post Can we talk about the Battleship trailer for a minute?) However, I wasn’t looking forward to it because I thought it looked great, I was looking forward to it because I thought it looked so bad, so dumb and so poorly planned that I would actually enjoy it as a classic “good bad movie”. I thought this would take its place in the annals of history among good bad movies I love like Batman & Robin, Godzilla, xXx, Snakes on a Plane, and perhaps even the Godfather of good bad movies, The Room. I can honestly say this is the first time in my life I’ve wanted a movie to be bad. Alas, it was not to be. God help me, but…GULP…I legitimately enjoyed Battleship. Sigh…I’ll explain.

Continue reading ‘Review: BATTLESHIP’

IT ALL ENDS: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Deux Review (and series retrospective)



In case you hadn’t heard, it’s all ending.







The Harry Potter behemoth has endeth, at least in theaters. At least for now. Like I’ve said a billion times, I’m not a “real” Harry Potter fan. I’ve only read the first 3 books, and honestly, that was so long ago that I’d need to read them again before I started the Goblet of Fire book. One day down the road, I’ll probably sit down and read the books, but probably not anytime soon. I think the entire world could use an extended Harry Potter vacation once this movie dies down. The previous movies didn’t really inspire me enough to want to immediately dive into the books, and The Deathly Hallows won’t, either.

In terms of wrapping up various plot elements and storylines, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 certainly does that, but as we’ll discuss, I feel it does so far too quickly in some cases. Regardless, as an “ending” to a series, it satisfies all the basic requirements from a storytelling standpoint.

Having just rewatched Part 1 and now seen Part 2, I really just wish they’d had the balls to make one Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a gigantic 3 hour, 15 minute movie. A true epic. At the very least, Part 2 should have been as long or longer than Part 1. Currently, Part 1 is 150 minutes long (that’s 2½ hours, noobs) and Part 2 is 130 minutes long. That split should have been 130/160 or thereabouts. I did enjoy Part 1 more the second time I watched it (it looks amazing on Blu-ray), but I still feel it’s very different than the previous 6 movies, and it should’ve been shorter so that Part 2 could be longer. It just seems logical to me that Part 2 should’ve been longer, ESPECIALLY given that it’s the last movie in the series.

Where do the Deathly Hallows movies rank for me among the entire series? It’s tough to tell. For a long time, I said Goblet of Fire was my favorite Potter movie, then I rewatched Prisoner of Azkaban this past winter and really enjoyed that one (Azkaban seems to be the unanimous “best in show” amongst movie geeks, Potter diehards and critics, but that’s never been a foregone conclusion to me). I also like the original film a lot. Chris Columbus is a fairly….we’ll call him “non-visionary” director to be nice, but he did a wonderful job introducing moviegoers to this fantasy world back in 2001 and should at least be given credit for that. So the short answer is that Deathly Hallows (both films put together) is among the top 3 Potter movies. If I were to watch them all in a row, I might end up putting Part 2 as #1 in the series, but again, I need to watch some of the others again to have a definitive favorite. If I were to choose a “least favorite” from all 8 movies, it would probably be Deathly Hallows: Part 1 or The Chamber of Secrets. But even with Chamber, I haven’t seen it since it first came out (in 2002), so maybe that opinion would also change upon further review. Long story short, I have no idea in what order I’d place these movies.

Honestly though, in the end I really don’t care enough to rank them all. I really LIKE the entire Harry Potter series. I don’t love it. I like all of these movies, but none of them were truly great on the whole. The only consistently great thing about all the movies is the craftsmanship that went into them, but we’ll get to that. I think Part 2 is good enough to consider for Best Director and Best Picture nominations (and even potentially some of the supporting acting categories) at my own awards come January, but it’s unlikely they’ll make the final cut given how backloaded this year appears to be. Miserable 2011 remains wide open for the taking as far as awards season goes.

That’s the big picture. Now let’s bust out the magnifying glass and get our hands dirty, shall we? As always with the Potter series, my opinions are based on what we’ve seen in the movies only. If I criticize something that’s addressed properly in the books, goodie for the books. I’m talkin movies, baby.

WHAT I LIKED

The cast. Duh. Almost every noteworthy British actor has been in at least one of these films, and almost all of them are here in one capacity or another. With regards to our trio of heroes, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, they are each as good as ever. I say that as a good and bad thing. It’s good because they’ve been consistently solid over a 10-year span, which is amazing in itself, but none of them have any truly great dramatic moments, even in this, the finale. There are hero moments aplenty, but nothing that required any of them to really stretch, and I was disappointed by that. The movie goes through the key beats, but doesn’t take any great risks with any of the characters. It’s frustrating. I think Radcliffe, Watson and Grint are pretty good actors, but it’s impossible to determine from these movies what their true range is. I’m just guessing though, that in 50 years, when you look back at each of their careers, you won’t list any of the Harry Potter movies as their best work. Hopefully not, anyway. I know that sounded like faint praise, but most of the best lines and individual character moments in these movies have gone to the professors or villains or other student characters.


Ron is no longer impressed by your evil.

It was good to see Ralph Fiennes finally get some serious screen time, and his Voldemort is certainly a worthy villain, but I still feel there was potential for more. I also wish Voldemort were more hands on. He prefers having other people do most of his dirty work, and even when it’s time for him to kill Snape, he has the snake finish him off. Man up, son! If it’s so important that Snape die (as you’ve just spelled out in your exposition), kill the fucker yourself! Voldemort is a villain, but we’re never made to truly despise or fear him through any of his direct actions. Truly terrifying villains do their own evil in critical moments. The best recent example of this is Heath Ledger‘s Joker in The Dark Knight. In that film The Joker kills almost everyone that opposes him himself, which makes the audience fear him and puts us on edge whenever he’s on screen, because what will he do next? You never really get that sense from Voldemort, and I really never have. He pops in and out of the earlier films, but is never the primary antagonist until this last one. It’s like the Potter movies were a video game, and Voldemort is the Big Boss at the end of Level 8. He’s looming over the proceedings, making quick sneak attacks or talking shit, but you don’t actually get to fight him til the end. I’m not a fan of that. It would have been much cooler to me if he and Harry had had another epic confrontation in at least one of the earlier films. He inspires fear in his fellow bad guys just because he’s the most powerful among them, but how often is that power truly put on display in any of these movies? I’d argue very rarely (though his 1 vs. 1 with Dumbledore in Order of the Phoenix was pretty epic). Voldemort is a good villain, but definitely not a great one. People fear him more on reputation than actual deed, which works much better on the page than it does on the big screen (take note, screenwriters). In movies, we have to see people do things to understand what they’re capable of. Voldemort fights Harry man-to-man (or man-to-teenage boy) at the end, but that’s about all the fighting he does in the movie. He comes in at the very end of the Hogwarts devastation after his minions have done the heavy lifting. Anyway, I’m off point a bit, but I got my Voldemort “Like” and “Didn’t Like” out of the way.

Make no mistake, Fiennes definitely brings a lot to the role, and has the most fun with it in this movie. I was happy whenever he was onscreen. I really liked the forest scene when Potter finally confronts Voldemort face-to-face. When it first seems as though Potter won’t show up, Voldemort seems genuinely sad when he says, “I thought he would come.” Awww.


“AHHBLOOBAKADOOBA!!!”

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore. I was wondering how they’d bring him back for this one, and I’m really pleased with the way it was done. We get to learn some new details about the motives of his actions in previous films, and I found that whole sequence of Harry viewing Snape’s memory fascinating. That “Wizard Heaven” scene with Harry near the end is also excellent, because the focus is primarily on the writing. I like how the movie uses death as a major theme, and I thought it handled that theme both delicately and profoundly, with Dumbledore acting as Harry’s sort of Grim Reaper. I wasn’t expecting that.

Dumbledore has some wonderful dialogue in this film, and Gambon is up to the task in delivering it perfectly. As a writer, this line was especially meaningful to me,

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

Ain’t that the truth?

The visual effects. As always with this franchise, the effects are nearly flawless. Whatever these movies cost, you can always be sure every penny of it is on the screen. I’ve nominated 5 of the first 7 movies for Best Visual Effects at the my own awards, and this will likely make it 6 of 8 total. Special kudos go to the Gringotts dragon sequence (the moment where it busts through the glass dome of the building and takes a moment to enjoy the fresh air was absolutely wonderful- it’s little moments like that that elevate good effects work to the stuff of legend), all of the work done on Voldemort’s snake, Nagini, and pretty much every second of the final battle scenes. I particularly enjoyed the look of the evil giants. Very cool stuff. The thing I found curious, though, was that ILM was not involved with any of the effects on either Deathly Hallows film. They had been the primary effects company on every Potter flick until this one. I’m sure I could do some research and find out, but I wonder why they weren’t involved with the finale. They were probably too busy creating all those spikey gray robots for Michael Bay‘s movie. Special shout out also to visual effects supervisor Tim Burke, who has worked on every Potter movie but the first one, and also supervised the effects on Ridley Scott‘s Gladiator, Hannibal and Black Hawk Down. I’ll be very interested to see what Burke does next now that Potter is finished.

Eduardo Serra’s cinematography. Gorgeous wide angles, closeups only when they’re needed, an excellent sense of mood in the visuals. I don’t see how this movie could’ve been photographed any better.

-All the other technical aspects. The sound design is superb, and of course, as always, the production design, art direction, costumes and makeup are A++. These movies are a wonder just to look at. They really ought to keep some of these sets in place (many of which have been standing since the first film) and save them as tourist attractions. If I were in England for a week, that’s something I’d want to see. Production designer Stuart Craig should get a Knighthood for his work on these films. He was a damned good designer before the Potter series, but has done nothing but these movies for the past 10 years; a remarkable achievement.

Alexandre Desplat’s score. Desplat [IMDb] is one of the most overused composers in Hollywood right now, and though he’s done a lot of good work, he didn’t seem capable of the kind of grand, thematic score a movie like this demands. His score for Part 1 was downright mediocre, so imagine my delight when his work on Part 2 was actually damned good! I was hoping for it to be a tad more epic/grand, but it’s an excellent score by any standard, and in my view the best work he’s done yet. There were a couple of very good new motifs in this film. Of course, when compared to The Great One, John Williams, no one really measures up, but I was glad to see Desplat bring back some of Williams’ Potter themes on this one. I just wish they’d had one composer through the entire series. It’s one of the only areas they weren’t able to stay consistent. For example, I can’t help but imagine what would have been had Howard Shore done the music for this entire series like he did for Lord of the Rings, or if Williams had at least come back for the final film. A boy can dream, can’t he?

For today’s Recommended Listening, here’s my favorite track from this score, called “Courtyard Apocalypse”, as performed by the almighty London Symphony Orchestra. I’m sure you can guess what scene that title refers to.


-Last but certainly not least, the fine direction of David Yates. Yates, previously known only for directing various British TV series, has directed every Potter film since Order of the Phoenix, and he’s been steady every step of the way. He’s a natural at big budget effects filmmaking, while showing equal skill at handling actors of all ages. You rarely get both qualities in a director, and more recently you don’t seem to get either. It’s tough to tell how much of his own visual style is in these movies, but the visuals in all 4 of his Potter movies have been a sight to behold. British directors are awesome, I think it’s just that simple. I’ll see pretty much anything this guy does next, but first he’s said he’s taking a long holiday (British speak for vacation), and no one can begrudge him that. I’m always relieved when directors this good are given considerable clout. It’ll be interesting to see how he wields it going forward.


WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

The run time. As I explained above, I think the runtimes of the two films should have been reversed, so that key moments in Part 2 could have been stretched out, or rather given the time they deserved. Where the runtime most affects Part 2 is in the handling of the deaths of some memorable secondary characters. The two that stick out most to me were the deaths of Lavender Brown (Ron’s jealous, obsessed girlfriend from Half-Blood Prince played marvelously by Jessie Cave) and Fred Weasley (played by James Phelps). Brown of course had a major role to play in Half-Blood Prince, then in Part 2 she appears in a couple scenes (with no lines), and is killed off as a footnote. Fred Weasley’s death is much more egregious, primarily because we don’t even see it occur. This is a character who has appeared in every single movie, a character (along his twin brother) who audiences have come to love. Not only do we not see him die, but the scene where we see his body laid out on the floor, with the other Weasleys mourning him is way too quick and kind of dismissive for such a popular character. At the very least, he should have had a really good death scene, with the other twin seeing it and avenging him, or something like that. But no, here, it’s…we see the twins just before the battle, we see him dead, family has a quick cry, and we’re moving on. We lose track of a lot of the main characters during the final battle. What was Ginny doing the whole time? This is Harry’s future wife, and she has about 2 minutes of screen time in the final movie. FAIL.

In general, the secondary characters are underserviced in both Hallows films. Snape appears in literally one scene in Part 1 and is then a major player in Part 2.
Bellatrix Lestrange (played by the marvelous Helena Bonham Carter), who had been a very good baddie since first appearing in Order of the Phoenix, has a few important scenes in Part 1, then appears in Part 2 basically just so she can get killed. It’s these kind of inconsistencies between the final films that bugged me. My point is that you can’t have a character play a huge role in one movie (i.e. Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody in Goblet of Fire) and then have that character quickly killed off, sometimes offscreen, in the final movie (or in Gleeson’s case, the first 10 minutes of the first part of the final movie). You gotta give them at least one moment of glory. These are problems that could have been rectified with that extra 20 minutes of screen time, which no one at all would have minded (at least no one who has enjoyed all of the other movies).

They brought back pretty much every big-name actor from the previous films, seemingly just so they could say, “EVERYBODY was back for the last film!” Well, that’s great, but simply cutting to them one or two times (which they did with Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney and Jim Broadbent as Professor Slughorn) doesn’t really qualify as having them all “back”. The only person that got a bump in screen time from the previous few films was Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, which was great. She had been greatly reduced in the past few films, and didn’t appear at all in Part 1. Last, but not least, in Part 2, we don’t see Hagrid at all until the final 20 minutes or so. When, where and how was he captured?

I can’t help but compare certain moments here to how Peter Jackson & crew handled similar situations in The Return of the King, so let’s compare The Battle of Hogwarts to the battle at Minas Tirith, the centerpiece of the final Lord of the Rings film. I’m gonna separate the battles into 3 categories: Buildup & Preparation, The Battle Itself, and The Aftermath. Mmkay? Now, on a scale of 1-10, Return of the King would get a 10 on all 3 fronts (criticize the long endings all you want, but that battle is undeniably one of the best extended sequences of any kind in movie history). In comparison, I’d give Deathly Hallows: Part 2 a 7 on buildup & preparation (it happens a bit too fast, we don’t ever see Voldemort’s army gathering- they just kinda show up at the outskirts of Hogwarts), an 8 on the battle itself (great action and effects, nice busy frames, but points off for losing track of some key characters and dismissing the deaths of others), and a 6 on the aftermath (didn’t like how they handled reactions to the major deaths, and the movie is rushed to its conclusion immediately after the battle is over). Almost every beef I have with the last hour of the movie could’ve/should’ve been solved with another 20 or so minutes of runtime. Part 2 is the shortest film in the entire series by 8 minutes. Boo! Hiss!

-I wasn’t crazy about finding out ahead of time that Harry would be brought back to life after being killed by Voldemort in the forest. Kinda lessens the impact of that confrontation. I dunno if it’s the same way in the book (I’m sure it is), but in general, you don’t want your audience to be more in the know than your characters that deep into the story, especially about something that important. If we didn’t know (or simply weren’t blatantly reminded) that Harry had the resurrection stone in hand before facing Voldemort, you would have at least maintained some level of suspense and doubt, especially amongst those of us who haven’t read the book. And you could have even kept the Harry & the ghosts scene. It would have come across logically as a 17-year old kid knowing he might be going to his doom. Just don’t tell us that he already knows he’ll be brought back to life. Again, the execution of these scenes as they stand was wonderful, but if you simply rearrange a couple of details, it would’ve been more compelling.

-It doesn’t make any sense at all that at the beginning of this movie, Hogwarts is seemingly operating business-as-usual. Apparently, classes are still in session, even with Death Eaters hovering above the premises and evil henchmen on the grounds abusing students. You’re telling me that in the magic world’s darkest hour, with the long-standing headmaster having just recently been ASSASSINATED, with the “Dark Lord” imminently returning and his evil operatives operating a fifth column inside the school, parents are consenting to send their young kids (first-years are mentioned specifically at one point) to Hogwarts like everything is hunky dory? I’m sorry, that’s fucking absurd. That’s not just a plot hole, that’s a black hole of logic.

-This is sort of a non-issue in the grand scheme of things, but for credits sequence geeks like me, it’s kind of a big deal. I thought the series deserved a more fitting final end credits sequence than we get here. Don’t you? Something more than just names over a black screen? I feel really strongly that they should have done a big picture credits sequence at the end of this one. I mean, you’re wrapping up 10 years of movies here. Indulge a little. They did something like this after Return of the King, with those really nice illustrated photos of basically every cast member. What I would have done for Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is something akin to what you saw at the end of Slumdog Millionaire. Of course, it wouldn’t be that flashy, but for all of the kids, I’d have put their names up, and then 3 pictures or really quick video clips; one showing how they looked in the first movie, another from Azkaban or Goblet of Fire, and then the third of what they look like now at the end of the series, so the audience could see their progression. It would have been a cool way to remind everyone how cool it is that all of these kids have been there since the beginning. Then each adult character would get two pictures/clips and the actors’ name, one showing them in a lighter moment, and the other showing them in serious mode. It would be nice recognition for the adults, because I doubt most of the general audience could tell you who Michael Gambon is. Or who Robbie Coltrane played. Yes, that would have added a couple minutes to the runtime, but you’re telling me 90% of the people in the audience wouldn’t stay through the entire picture credits sequence? I say they would. For the diehard fans, and people who have seen every movie in theaters, this would have been a much better final sendoff than the typical, boring end credits that we got. It’s the little things, people.

-Here’s a final nitpick for ya regarding the “19 Years Later” sequence at the very end of the film: Are you really telling me that at age 36, Harry Potter is still wearing the circle glasses? He wouldn’t have chosen a new design that actually made him look like an adult? He couldn’t have undergone some wizard lasik by then and just been rid of the glasses altogether? Hermione doesn’t have a spell for that? Retinus Improvus! There, I just made one up.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
8/10 (IMDb), 4/5 stars

Wow. That’s the first movie in a while where the likes greatly outnumbered the dislikes. More of this, please.

Here’s the bittersweet finale of Desplat’s fantastic score:
 

A DECADE OF POTTER

I have called The Lord of the Rings trilogy the greatest accomplishment in cinematic history. What I mean by that is that not only was it the most difficult adaptation to get right perhaps EVER, but that they shot them all at once over a 3-year period, and that they all turned out as masterworks is astonishing (the extended cuts are among the greatest films ever made, in my view). Seriously, check out the documentaries on the Extended Cuts and you’ll understand what I mean. On a “degree of difficulty” scale from 1-10, having those films turn out the way they did is an 11.

As far as degree of difficulty, I might have to put this decade’s worth of Harry Potter movies in second place all-time. That doesn’t mean I think this is the second-best series of movies ever (I don’t), but the fact that this has been relatively smooth sailing from a production standpoint is a frickin miracle. There are literally hundreds of things that could have derailed this franchise over the years, or at the very least forced it to lose a lot of momentum. They only had to recast a couple of parts (one, Dumbledore, because Richard Harris died in 2002 after playing the role in the first two films), none of the kids ever quit (I believe they were originally all signed up for the first 4 movies, then all had to be re-signed after Goblet of Fire), none of them ever had a drug problem or had to leave the movies and go to rehab for an alcohol addiction (though Mr. Radcliffe has recently come out saying he had a drinking problem, but has been sober since 2010), and you never heard about anyone in this cast or crew being difficult on set or making egotistical demands. In fact, when the movies were being made, you never really heard anything about them until it was time to reveal the first trailer. This kind of good fortune is unheard of in the movie industry. Just ask the people who made Citizen Kane, Jaws, Apocalypse Now, Titanic, or just about anyone making a high profile, big budget movie in the past 50 years. It ain’t easy to make one, let alone 8 in a row. Hell, even a movie coming out next year, Men in Black 3, has had serious production problems since day 1.

Warner Bros. has kept this train rolling, and a lot of credit has to go to producer David Heyman, who has overseen every Potter movie, and who I believe is the one who first showed interest in turning the books into movies in the late 90’s. All told, there was never more than 2 years between movies, an amazing logistical feat. Then you have Steve Kloves, who wrote the scripts for every movie but Order of the Phoenix (where he was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict). How does one choose what to include and what to exclude from these increasingly massive books? And when do you rearrange the sequence of events, or place certain events in different locations? And how will that go over with the fans? The fact that Kloves was able to handle that with such consistency for 10 years is quite impressive, no matter what you think of these movies as adaptations. Most movies this big have 3 or 4 writers (sometimes more who go uncredited). J.K. Rowling never actually wrote any of the scripts, but every indication is she happily cooperated with Kloves and the filmmakers every step of the way, even telling certain actors what their characters’ futures held before the books came out so they could take that information into account for their performances. Pretty damn cool.

Consider also that these kids (all of whom are still under 22) have now been involved in 8 movies that cost $100 million or more. That’s something the majority of actors and filmmakers twice their age can’t say. That takes a hell of a lot of mental and physical toughness. The combined production budget of all of these movies is well over $1 billion. Really, after all this time and fame and money, all before the age of 21, it’s a miracle these kids are still sane. And imagine if one director had made all 8 movies? I don’t think even Peter Jackson would have survived that. I can’t express strongly enough how surprised I am that Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint seem to have turned out so well after all these movies. Kudos to Chris Columbus and his casting team for making such solid choices from the beginning. Not only did they fill the main parts with good actors, but it seems like they’re all good people as well.


OH, HAI!
U IZ GROW’D UP!?


I won’t call her “hot”. How about “insanely cute”?

OH, HAI, Luna!

So I can’t pick a favorite movie just yet, but who are my favorite Harry Potter characters? That’s easier to do. Of the Big Three, Hermione is easily my favorite. I feel like she was the most fleshed out character in the series. She had the most personality and some of the best individual character moments throughout. I like Ron, but he was mostly one or two notes, either the loyal friend or the comic relief. It’s funny, because Harry Potter himself is not a very compelling character, and easily the least interesting person of the three. Really, “chosen one” characters are rarely that interesting aside from the fact that they have the most world-changing potential or inherently have the most skill or power amongst their peers. As far as being strong, three-dimensional characters, The Chosen One rarely fits that bill. He or she is usually introduced into a story as a necessity in defeating an imminent evil. They usually don’t have to grow or change much as people or adapt to their new hero roles. They were born for it, so they just end up doing it. That’s pretty much Harry Potter in a nutshell. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Frodo, for instance, is a normal guy who has to adapt to being The Ring Bearer. Luke Skywalker is the son of a Chosen One, but he has to learn all his powers and adapt to being the only Jedi in existence after Obi-Wan and Yoda die. Other characters I loved; Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch, pictured beautifully above), because I love characters who speak their mind plainly, and because she seems to not have a filter. I was a big fan of Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright), but she never got the screen time she deserved. I’d also have to go with Mad-Eye Moody, Hagrid, and the Weasley twins. I really like a lot of these characters. Credit to Rowling for coming up with so many characters and giving each of them their own voice.

I’d actually be interested in seeing a movie about Albus Severus Potter one day down the road. What is the wizarding life like for the son of the Chosen One? Is it a big budget spectacle where he faces new evils and does heroic deeds like his father? Or is it a low budget drama where he grows up as a rebel, feeling a sense of entitlement because of who his father is, commits crimes while in London, then he knocks up an older girl at Hogwarts (or Ron & Hermione’s daughter, which REALLY fucks everybody up), and overdoses on some experimental hallucinogenic potion? I’d pay to see that movie, wouldn’t you? Albus Potter and the Gryffindor Gangstas. Coming Summer 2015.

Wrapping things up, the only place I feel Warner Bros. fucked up with this series is in the quality of the DVD and Blu-ray releases. I only own a few of the movies, but most of the special features are either lackluster or aimed primarily at children. There’s nothing for a geek like me to dig into; no hour-long documentaries, no commentary tracks, and very few deleted scenes. Maybe they do have stuff like that and they’re just sitting on it for a huge box set release sometime down the road, but I’ve heard nothing to that effect. And why didn’t anyone think to do extended cuts? I hate to compare Potter to Lord of the Rings again, but how many additional copies would they have sold of each movie, with 30+ minutes of completely finished, fully integrated new scenes? Come on. Shit, Warner Bros. owns New Line, which released the Lord of the Rings extended cuts. After those were so popular, nobody thought to do something similar with Harry Potter? With all these fans clamoring to see more stuff from the books that wasn’t included in the theatrical releases? I immediately thought of it years ago, yet I don’t have a job at Warner Bros. Marketing. What’s wrong with this picture?

I hope somebody writes a really good behind-the-scenes book about how this all came together, with a bunch of cool facts, photos and anecdotes that people haven’t yet heard about. I’d buy such a book the day it came out. That’s all I got at this point, or all I care to discuss anyway. I hope all the Potter diehards out there are able to cope now that it’s all over. There’s still two more Twilight movies coming, right? Right? Bueller? Not the same audience? How would I know.

If you’re wondering, yes, this was a pain in the ass to write. I’ve been working on it on and off for two weeks. It probably would have been much easier if I were a Potter diehard, but I’m not. The reason I wanted to be so thorough is because I deeply respect the work done by everyone involved with these movies. Like I said, the fact that they pulled this off as smoothly as they did is something that may never happen again, so even if you’re sick of Harry Potter and happy beyond words that the movies are over, you need to at least be able to appreciate the simple fact that it happened in the first place. Would you rather a franchise like THIS has eight movies, or a “franchise” like Saw or Final Destination? I’ll take 8 Harry Potters over 8 thousand shitty Scary Movie spinoffs like Date Movie, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie or Vampires Suck any day of the week.

Finally, congratulations to Warner Bros. and the thousands of hard-working people involved in making these movies the global phenomenon they are. Your success is well-deserved.

LINKAGE:

There have been endless amounts of Harry Potter retrospectives on all manner of websites these past few weeks. I have neither the time nor the desire to seek out all the good ones, but here are a few tidbits that I’ve stumbled upon in my travels that I think are worth your time to check out.

-Here’s an interesting breakdown of where all the Potter money has come from. It’s estimated the franchise (books, movies, TV rights, video games, merchandise) has brought in $21 billion total. [HOLY $HIT]

-Here’s a cool set of “then and now” photos showing the progression of most of the Potter kids through the years. [Yahoo!] Really, just search “Harry Potter kids then and now” for about a trillion galleries like this.

-Also, take a look at the domestic box office of every Potter film listed on one page. Interesting that it’ll be the first and last movies that made the most. Actually, I guess that makes sense. [Box Office Mojo] Those are some frighteningly high numbers. Even more frightening? Avatar‘s worldwide gross (close to $2.8 billion) is more than the domestic grosses of the entire Harry Potter series. I’ve just gone cross-eyed.

-Film School Rejects did an amusing, but also mostly accurate list; “7 Reasons Why Hogwarts is the Worst Cinematic School Ever”. [FSR]

Now, related to that list, can I toot my own horn here for a moment? I’ve been knocking the logic of the Potter universe for years on most of those points. Here is what I said in a Livejournal post 5 YEARS AGO, on March 8, 2006, in a post called “I bet Harry Potter gets attacked in the 5th year, too!”:

I have a fundamental issue with J.K. Rowling’s storytelling, as should you.  And it’s this…when is Dumbledore gonna wake the fuck up?  Every single year, there’s a massive conflict at the school involving Harry Potter which places every student and teacher’s life at risk, yet each year they go in all happy dokey like nothing’s wrong and it’s gonna be a swell year of peace and prosperity and learning at Hogwarts.  You’d think by now this kid would be in protective custody.  Or they’d send him packing because he’s such a massive insurance risk.  At the very least, enrollment at Hogwarts should be down.  Shit, you send your kid there and he or she could be killed because of Harry Potter’s feuds.  This kid could get my kid killed!  Over a stupid lightning bolt on dude’s forehead!  I ain’t sending my kids to Hogwarts!  Fuck that.  The point is that the good guys in the Harry Potter world play on the defensive constantly.  This is bad battle strategy at the very least.  They just sit there and wait for trouble to come to them, no matter who it puts in danger.  Dumbledore even says it, “Dark times lie ahead, Harry.”  SO!?  DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!  God forbid Dumbledore prevent something from happening.  No no no, he’s gonna wait until his students are attacked.  Think about it.  In Star Wars, the Rebels attack the Death Star (twice!).  The Jedi try to find out who the Sith are and understand they must be destroyed first.  In Lord of the Rings, the Hobbits take the Ring to Mount Doom to destroy it.  They don’t sit around and wait for Mordor to come get it.  The good guys have to take the fight to the bad guys, because the bad guys aren’t gonna quit.  You can win the battle, but they’re just gonna regroup and come back at you.  And eventually they’re gonna win, or at the very least do some major damage.  You can’t just sit there and assume “Oh next year’s gonna be nice and quiet around here.”  Are you kidding me?!”

This is me doing a curtsy.

-Another important series has recently come to an end, this time on NBC. That would be Friday Night Lights, one of the best TV dramas of all time. I thought this was the type of show that could have run for 8-10 seasons, but because of poor ratings, it lasted only 5 (and we were really lucky to get the 5th). Its fans, myself among them, are passionate, and for years we’ve been telling anyone who would listen to check out the show and be converted. Well, it’s over now, but every season is available on Netflix or for purchase, so I’ll now ask you all one more time to do yourselves a favor and give it a chance. Most of the seasons are HBO-length (13-15 episodes), so if you got into it and really loved it, you could probably finish the entire series in a week, week and a half.

For people like me, who don’t even try to get into most TV shows unless they come recommended by others, it was a refreshing breath of fresh air. It’s not a cop show. It’s not a medical drama. It’s not a legal drama. It’s not a generic romcom. It’s not shot in L.A. completely on soundstages. It’s REAL. It’s also not a sports show, if that’s what’s held you back from giving it a chance. People who don’t care about football love this show. There’s typically only one football scene in each episode, and the discussion of football is always secondary to the personal conflicts between the characters.

There have been several rumors going around that they may still make another Friday Night Lights movie, this time with the show’s cast, but I’ll believe that when I see it. However, I fully endorse the idea. Duh, WINNING.

Here’s a pretty cool oral history of the show, with actors, producers and other filmmakers describing what it was like making the show, from inception to completion. A fascinating read for fans, or for anyone interested in alternative filmmaking methods, which was one of the primary ingredients to the show’s creative success. [GRANTLAND]

RANDOMNESS:

This gave me a pretty big LOL last week. George C. Scott watches Jack and Jill trailer:


I had completely forgotten this movie even existed. For good reason, too, it seems. I guess Adam Sandler is long overdue to try the dual role/cross-dressing gimmick. It’s such a fresh angle. When was the last time he made a good comedy? It’s not even worth checking. I guess I just never thought Al Pacino could be so reduced as to appear in one of these Sandler movies. Mr. Pacino, I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

-I try my absolute best to avoid celebrity gossip as much as possible, but…WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, TODD PHILLIPS?!?! This has not been a good year for my favorite working comedy director, creatively, and apparently, personally. I just died a little inside, bro.

On that note, we’re finally finished here.

Epic Review for an Epic Fail: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON

A Film

Well, that’s the last time I put a Michael Bay movie as my “most anticipated movie of the year.” Lesson finally learned. Movie gods, I surrender! I used to be a Michael Bay defender. No more. The man has no desire to stretch his limits, and despite admitting his mistakes from Revenge of the Fallen, he learns nothing from them in his execution of this film. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a 2 hour, 37 minute hyperventilating mess. I’m actually hesitant to even say that it was better than Revenge of the Fallen. I’m not sure that it is. I am sure of this; Michael Bay is the most immature filmmaker on the planet. I’m sick of his visual “style” (which is simply moving the camera in every single shot and shooting every exterior during magic hour so that white people’s skin is yellowy orange instead of pale). He doesn’t care about making movies that stand the test of time. He cares about making movies that make a lot of money, and that’s it. But hey! He’s immensely successful at doing what he wants to do, so who am I to judge? Unfortunately, that success not only means he gets to continue making big expensive movies the same way over and over again, but it has also made him one of the most arrogant and stubborn filmmakers in Hollywood. Arrogant to the point where now nobody can tell him to his face how stupid some of the shit he’s doing is. He has no financial incentive to change, and that’s precisely what it would take for him to change. Back to the aforementioned question, I’m one of his paying customers, so I get to judge all I fucking want. And today is Judgment Day.

Dark of the Moon has no heart and no soul whatsoever. At least the first Transformers movie had some of both. This one is cold and crude, devoid of any intelligence, and lacking any characters, robot or human, that the audience can embrace.

A bit of a disclaimer here: The reason I’ve been so passionate about Bay and his team getting these movies right (I’ve been very outspoken about it since the day they announced the first Transformers in 2006) is because this is the one geek franchise (that didn’t start as a live-action movie or TV show, like Star Wars/Trek) I can legitimately say I grew up with. I never read comic books as a kid, so when Hollywood screws up something like Green Lantern, I don’t really care, because I was never invested in those characters before seeing the movie. I used to watch the Transformers cartoons every day, and I had more Transformers toys than any other kind of toy (Legos were a close second). In fact, my most prized youthful possession was probably that massive, battery-powered Trypticon toy [PIC]. I worshipped Transformers as a kid, and as such it means a lot to the kid in me to see it brought to life the right way on the big screen. This isn’t me being anal for the sake of being anal or because I have a grudge against Michael Bay. I have a personal history with a lot of these characters, and I think most of them have been handled poorly in these movies. The exceptions (for the most part- none of them have been handled perfectly) would be Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ironhide, Megatron and Starscream. Long before Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg brought these alien robots into theaters, it was always one of my goals to one day write and direct a live-action Transformers movie myself. And I do mean long before. I was a teenager when I first came up with that idea. Funny enough, I also desperately wanted to remake War of the Worlds, too. So thank you, Mr. Spielberg, for stealing two of my dream projects from me. Just know that when I get heated about this stuff, it’s coming from an honest place. I’m not expecting The Godfather from these movies, but I assure you, Transformers movies infused with heart and soul and humanity are a possibility.


One of these things is not like the other.

There are people like me, who have come out of these last two Transformers movies immensely disappointed, and there are the people who go in and claim to not care that these movies are soulless and utterly incompetent. It’s the old “just show me some giant alien robots fighting each other” defense. These people (and I know several of them) apparently don’t expect that those fights be exciting, or memorable, or well-choreographed, or, I dunno, comprehensible in any way. Sorry, but I can’t turn my brain OFF when I go into a movie I desperately want to be awesome. I’m not gonna excuse shitty storytelling just because there’s a lot of nonsensical action. I also require that the action be good. The next time I hear someone excuse this movie by calling it a “ride”, I’m gonna rip out my armpit hair and feed it to them. If Michael Bay and the studio want to make a Transformers ride at Disneyland, go ahead and do it. Putting 3D glasses on does not turn shitty, mindless action into a “ride”. This is being advertised as a movie, which is what it’s supposed to be. Movies have stories and plot structures that are supposed to make sense. Forgive me for refusing to let go of that expectation.

The good news is, despite the fact that I keep hearing (from sources I trust) that this is the best live-action 3D since Avatar, I don’t have to shell out 12 bucks to go see it again in 3D, because the movie is bad, and I don’t want to see it again, in 3D, 2D or otherwise. I don’t see good movies in 3D, so why would I see this in 3D? My New Year’s resolution of No 3D in 2011 is still intact, and this was the most serious threat to that resolution of any 2011 movie I can think of. Viva 2D!

Not that it’s a big deal, but we will be getting into some minor spoilers during this review. Oh, fuck it…the Autobots win! The Autobots win! Good prevails! And Sam gets to keep his British supermodel girlfriend! There, I ruined it. Now can we proceed?

WHAT I LIKED

-I still find Shia LaBeouf likable in the Sam role, but hopefully this is the last summer action movie he does for a long time. The kid is too talented to be wasting his time with this stuff anymore. It’s time for him and his agent to start making better career choices going forward. For now, Shia can rest comfortably, knowing that no man has ever screamed as often as he does in this movie. No, really, he screams a lot. Girls who get cast in future horror movies should look at this performance for inspiration.

Sam’s big character struggle in this movie is that he’s angry that he can’t find a job where he “matters”. No, I’m not kidding. He can’t find a job, and he’s very upset that he can’t openly brag that he saved the world from the Decepticons twice. THAT is Shakespearean depth, people. That’s literature shit right there. No fear! He doesn’t really have to worry about money, anyway. He’s got a British supermodel girlfriend who’s paying his rent, so he doesn’t have to face the real world, or the economy that most of us in the real world have to deal with every day. Woe is Sam.

-I like that they finally gave Optimus his trailer, and that when it transforms, it becomes his armory. Very cool. As always, they make the first Optimus Prime transformation count. The problem is we only see the trailer in action once, at the beginning of the movie, and only briefly. They really should have done just one scene where Prime transforms, and the trailer mysteriously floats away and vanishes, like it always did in the cartoons.

-I liked that Sam’s parents were only in the movie for a couple of scenes. The mom in particular was so goddamn annoying in the second movie that I never wanted to see her again. They’re both cartoons again here, but they’re only in a couple of scenes, so the effects are mitigated. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these two weren’t anywhere close to this obnoxious in the first movie, right? They were almost normal? Really, it’s not even the dad (played by Kevin Dunn, who I usually like) so much as the mom (Julie White), who can’t utter a single line of normal dialogue. It’s joke after insult after joke after awkward sexual reference after SHUT THE FUCK UP, LADY.

-I like the idea of Leonard Nimoy voicing a Transformer. I did not like the execution of that idea in this movie. Sentinel Prime is a muddled character with unclear motives (so of course he ends up being the main villain), and I didn’t like his character design at all. Unmemorable, to say the least.

-I would love to have been in the room while Michael Bay directed the Bill O’Reilly cameo scene. Wow. Talk about two dominant personalities.

-I like that this is probably the last Transformers movie Michael Bay will ever direct. You’ll not destroy my childhood any further, sir.

-I like the conceit at the beginning of the movie about the secret mission behind the original moon landing, but I don’t think it was executed particularly well. That was like 6 minutes without an explosion, and you could sense Bay’s patience running out as the title card came up. Also, the CG work trying to alter and recreate John F. Kennedy‘s face was pretty bad.

Now that I think of it, doesn’t this re-write the entire history they established in the first movie? In this one, we first came into contact with the Transformers in 1969, but in the original movie, none of them showed up on Earth until they were looking for the Cube. Then, in Revenge of the Fallen, it’s revealed that the Primes were on Earth thousands of years ago. Which is it?! I have to LOL at the whole thing. Seriously, watch the intro to this movie and the intro to the 2007 movie. Dark of the Moon pretty much ignores everything that happened in the first one. Continuity is for pussies!

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

The script. Need I say more? Well, I’m not going to. The script is terrible. If I talk about it in depth, my own ability to write a screenplay will decrease. Eat shit, Ehren Kruger, you hack. You haven’t done anything worth a damn since you adapted The Ring…9 years ago.

-Despite the fact that dozens of human actors appear in the movie, there are hardly any human characters to be found. Almost every woman you see onscreen is a lingerie model, and every male is a wise-cracking spasmatic. Then you’ve got John Turturro‘s sidekick Dutch, played by Alan Tudyck, who is, I dunno, a flamboyantly gay German ex-intelligence officer? He had to be one of the strangest movie characters of all-time. Bay just can’t help himself. No person or situation can be straightforward. How about that stupid bit with the Latina girl in the office, where she’s wearing a tight half-shirt with her tits hanging out while the super nerdy guy scolds her for her attire. And she’s wearing all white, and all the guys are wearing white shirts in this ultra-modern all-white room? What the fuck? I don’t know what movie that scene belonged in, but it did not belong in this one. If you cut out idiotic scenes like that, you’d trim 5 minutes off the run time, easy.

-The Rosie Huntington-Whitely character, Carly. I mean, COME ON! Aside from men wanting to have intercourse with her, what are audiences supposed to find appealing about her as a person, or as a love interest for Sam? Why can’t Sam have a normal looking girlfriend? Why can’t ANYTHING be normal in a Michael Bay movie? Does he not fucking understand that if Sam had even an above average looking girlfriend, people would like her a lot more? No, it has to be one of the hottest females alive. Women can’t root for a supermodel, and men don’t believe a supermodel would date this character. That’s a big fuckin conundrum. That is…if you’re not Michael Bay, and you take things like logic into consideration. Nobody UPGRADES from Megan Fox to Rosie Huntington-Whitely. That’s absurd even by movie logic. You don’t make that upgrade unless you’re famous or incredibly wealthy, or both. Even then, it’s a stretch.

Put it this way, in REAL LIFE, Brad Pitt went from Jennifer Aniston to Angelina Jolie. But in doing so, Pitt had to take on Jolie’s 43 adopted kids as his own. Justin Timberlake couldn’t pull off what Sam does here, and he was with Britney Spears and Jessica Biel in their primes. Shia LaBeouf’s character in these movies outclasses Brad Pitt and Justin Timberlake in real life. That is riotously funny.

I guess if Bay doesn’t have a supermodel on set at all times, he can’t function. Maybe that’s his reasoning. For the record, I didn’t give a shit that they got rid of Fox, because she was mostly an empty character. If, after two movies, your only real character trait is that you’re good with cars, then it’s not gonna be tough for me to miss you when you’re gone. But at least in the first movie, Sam had to chase the hot girl. He had to win her over through deed and circumstance, so it wasn’t totally ridiculous when he finally got her. The scene in this movie where Sam first meets Carly at the goddamn White House is off-the-walls unbelievable. Obviously, in Michael Bay’s White House, every foreign ambassador has a supermodel assistant who is ready to leave her promising career behind and move to D.C. to support an American civilian she just met. I’m sure that happens all the time in the real world.

Given enough movies, I think Sam could give Wilt Chamberlain a run for his money. Really, Sam Witwicky belongs in the Lothario Hall of Fame.

However, all of that said, I thought Rosie H-W did a good enough job with what she was given, considering it was her first acting role. The key words there were “with what she was given.” You can’t tell if someone’s a good actor by watching a Michael Bay movie.


Sure, she’s mildly attractive.

-Like all Bay films, there’s all the usual military porn, but it dawned on me how differently Bay treats certain military characters. He clearly respects soldiers and their commanders, but I guess he doesn’t think much of National Security Advisors (see Revenge of the Fallen) or, in this case, National Intelligence Directors (check out that Wikipedia link to see what this job entails in the real world). I love Frances McDormand, but her character is such a fucking clown here that it’s not even POSSIBLE to take her seriously.

-They wasted Shockwave here like they wasted Devastator in the last movie. Shockwave is supposed to be the Decepticons’ best tactician and second-in-command only to Megatron. Here, he’s…I don’t know how the fuck to describe him. He rides around inside a giant robot…anaconda? So strange. Apparently he drives this giant thing, and of course, it appears anywhere in the world he needs to be at the snap of a finger. We first see it in Chernobyl in Russia, and then when he finally reappears, it’s in Chicago. (I was under the impression that Shockwave was gonna be the primary villain in this movie. Clearly, I was misinformed.) So I guess this giant robosnake dug its way across the globe (and swam across the ocean), showing up in Chicago just in time to fight the Autobots at the end of the flick. Convenient. By the way, I love how it screams, too. It has no discernable face or eyes, but the front “mouth” part of it screeches, even when Shockwave isn’t inside it. Very interesting. And speaking of talking (speaking of talking?), when he first appears in Russia, Shockwave pops out of his driver’s pod/seat/thingie, just to say “Optimus!”, and then he and the snake give up and leave without a fight. That was cute; pop out to say hi real quick, and then leave. How courteous. Wait, no, that was stupid, but what’s more stupid is that anytime you see Shockwave for the rest of the movie, he can no longer speak English. He just grunts and mumbles, walking around the city looking for Autobots like a dunce. Then they kill him off like a bitch, and he barely puts up a fight. I hated it. This is not the Shockwave I know, and though the effects were cool, he was completely wasted as a character and villain. There was no need to call him Shockwave. They should have just called him Slithermumble or some shit like that. Or Serpentor. Wait, that name’s taken.


Sorry, bro.

-I was more than a little peeved by the way they magically reintroduce Soundwave. In the second movie, I thought it was cool and fitting that he was a satellite, intercepting military communications and hacking into U.S. satellites to eavesdrop and gain information. That was one of 3.5 things in that movie that made sense. In this one, for some reason product placement purposes, he’s now a brand new $200,000 Mercedes sports car instead. HUH?! But oh goodie, he retained his Doctor Octopus tentacles! So yeah, I’m pissed off that they fucked up my two favorite individual Decepticons. Unacceptable.

Speaking of conspicuous product placement, Bay has long been the king of it. Did you happen to notice the 39,384 Lenovo LCD computer monitors in the office Sam works at? Did you notice the baffling closeup of a Cisco router? Or Sam’s mom taking a swig of a Bud Light can (immediately after being served a s’more by her husband! Gross!)?

-The Ken Jeong cameo. Sorry, it was just too much, and the Ken Jeong bandwagon is already full, Mr. Bay. Moreover, his shtick as the over-the-top Asian guy is wearing thin. Either way, a Ken Jeong character in a Michael Bay movie is even more insane than you could possibly have imagined. If Jeong’s intensity in the Hangover movies is an 8, they dialed him up to a 10 for this. His character here is so ridiculous that, like almost everyone else, you can barely call him human. He’s more like a crazed chimp. He struts around the office being paranoid and ultra-awkward, mumbling under his breath, and also keeps two pistols under his desk. You know, just in case. Then, he accosts Sam in a bathroom stall and screams conspiracy theories at him. I mean, he seriously may as well have had a tail and been hanging upside down from the ceilings. It wouldn’t have appeared any stranger than this Jerry Wang character already is. Then, for the grand finale, Laserbeak throws him out of his office window, and the movie treats his death like high comedy! Nobody in the office really cares, and John Malkovich‘s boss character (another cartoon character) immediately starts making jokes about it. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried, people. At the midnight show I went to, 90% of the audience was roaring in laughter when he died, but even the annoying 17-year old who was sitting next to me (and chewing gum with his mouth open the entire fucking movie) was intelligent enough to say out loud, “I don’t think that’s supposed to be funny.” Only, apparently it was supposed to be funny. Sigh.

Speaking of Malkovich, have you ever seen a more inconsistent accent? It was like someone had a child sitting on the floor behind the camera, and that child had an on/off button for Malkovich’s goofy New York accent and just kept bashing it repeatedly.


Too. Much.

-What the fuck is this apartment palace that Sam & Carly are living in? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that absurd characters are living in an absurd apartment, but holy shit. This place seemed to be bigger than the entire house the Witwickys lived in in the first movie. The main living area is so expansive in this place that at one point in the movie, Bumblebee is in the room STANDING UP and moving around. I don’t know the Washington D.C. area very well, but I challenge someone that does to find me where this apartment could actually exist. It’s got a massive spiral staircase, a huge chandelier, and a freight elevator. Because people often park their cars inside their apartments in big cities. That’s common, right? We’re made to understand that Carly is paying for the place herself (poor Sam can’t find a job), and maybe I missed where this was explained, but I’m not quite sure how she could afford it by herself.

-It was kinda dumb the way Tyrese re-enters the picture, was it not? The Autobots are about to be shipped off into space via NASA shuttle, and HEY! There’s Tyrese working as…one of the guys who walks behind the giant shuttle platform? Huh? Okay, then when Sam wants to get to Chicago, Tyrese and his boys are only too happy to take him. Then they apparently drive from Houston or Florida (wherever that shuttle was) to Chicago overnight (or instantaneously if you follow the editing), and of course require no rest before they join the battle. What was even funnier was when they finally do get to the outskirts of the city, after all that traveling, Tyrese takes one look at the devastation, and in all seriousness declares, “We’re not goin in there!” WHAT?! You just drove a thousand miles, dude! And now you want to puss out? Ridiculously bad writing.

And now to the action scenes…

-Due to the way Bay’s team designed these characters, when they’re fighting in closeup you can barely tell what’s going on, because so many of these robots have similar colors and/or the same spikey gray features. This makes the one-on-one fight scenes unintelligible and uninteresting.

The overkill on the slow-motion action shots. Basically, every time this happens, it’s pure audience manipulation. It’s Bay telling you, “This is the awesome part! Cheer wildly when it’s over!” He tries to tell me when I should be impressed instead of letting it happen naturally. This is certainly not a new technique, but when you tell me “This is the awesome part!” 20 friggin times, they all get less awesome due to saturation, and it’s hard to top yourself 20 times within one movie, even if that movie is 157 minutes long. Quick, tell me the best slow-mo shot in this movie! You couldn’t do it off the top of your head, because there were so many of them. You have to pick and choose your money shots. More importantly, the last thing Michael Bay’s action scenes need are an infusion of Zack Snyder.

-There was an awful lot of unnecessary spitting and drooling by the Transformers in this movie. It seemed every time one of them got punched or fell to the ground, there was some form of liquid spewing from their mouths. And it was usually in slow motion, like you’d see in a boxing movie. That was probably at least $250,000 in effects shots they could have saved or spent elsewhere.

The whole concept of the space pillars/teleporters. Ehh, just didn’t work for me, especially when Sentinel uses his 5 rods to teleport the Decepticons off the moon and into D.C. Let’s break this down, in case you didn’t notice just how dumb it was. So the Decepticons have had spaceships and extra soldiers chillin’ underground on the moon for several decades, but they needed a teleporter to get them down to Earth? Huh? Umm…WHY NOT JUST STUFF THEM ALL INTO THOSE GIANT SPACESHIPS AND BRING THEM DOWN WHENEVER THE HELL YOU WANTED!?!? Why didn’t Megatron think of this in either of the first two movies? Did he not know he had an army on standby the whole time? I guess these teleporters also act as alarm clocks for the 200 Decepticons who were hibernating on the moon. What happened to the Transformers being launched down to Earth inside those meteors like in the first movie? There I go bringing common sense into the equation again. Sorry.

-I wasn’t impressed by the final 45+ minute battle in Chicago, either. Sorry, just wasn’t. But this is what most of the film’s fans are saying is worth their hard-earned money and time. Raise your standards, people. It wasn’t that impressive. It wasn’t. You have a bunch of random bad guys that we don’t care about (Sentinel and Megatron are just chillin on the top of a tower while everyone else does the dirty work) mostly shooting missiles into buildings. WOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!! For what purpose though, we’ll never know. Unless you live in Chicago, you don’t have an emotional investment in seeing your favorite skyscrapers destroyed. Occasionally, they kill some random humans, and the effects are pretty good, but none of the main characters even come close to death. Also, because there’s nothing groundbreaking being done here effects-wise, I was never awed by it. This isn’t like the first time you saw the alien invasion sequence in Independence Day. There were cooler spaceships in Independence Day, and much cooler, scarier alien weapons technology in District 9.

Was I supposed to be blown away by the soldiers jumping out of the planes in chutesuits? It was cool, but they used those in the damn Tomb Raider sequel, and I saw a much cooler feature story on people who base jump with those on 60 Minutes a couple years ago.

And what was with the War of the Worlds weapons the Decepticons were using? They were blasting humans with these lasers that left behind only the humans’ skulls and clothes. Umm, why just the skulls and not the rest of their bones? I digress. In general, I don’t like the Transformers’ guns in this movie. There’s no impact or violence or intensity to them, they just make these cute little popping, “pew pew!” sounds that I can make with my mouth. When they hit something with them, all you see are sparks. There’s no real impact damage. They’re not scary or loud or intimidating at all.

Am I missing anything? What else was there that was so fucking spectacular to some of you?

I have a question for the “I loved it because it’s huge alien robots fighting each other!” set; did you love the hour and 45 minutes the giant alien robots weren’t fighting, too? If not, what were you doing during these parts of the movie? Smiling with glee at the shitty humor and subhuman characters? Did you find the rest of the movie a “ride”, too? Or did you really find these action sequences so exciting that you can dismiss the rest of the movie, which is undeniably awful. Seriously, if you think I’m overreacting, how do you excuse the parts of the movie that didn’t have any action? Because that was most of the movie.

-I won’t even bother bashing the Patrick Dempsey character or the whole thing where certain humans were conspiring with the Decepticons. It wasn’t interesting enough to even mock.

NITPICKS

-It was kinda gross that Megatron walks around the whole movie with the right side of his brain exposed. They can bring all these new Decepticons to Earth between the two movies (how they snuck Shockwave down I have no idea), but Megatron can’t get his head repaired?

-It’s cool that he’s in the movie, but Laserbeak doesn’t talk, dude. And he’s certainly not some maniacal, trash-talking schemer. Aye vai.

-Optimus Prime carries this massive sword on him and various other projectile weapons, right? So why, after killing Shockwave’s anaconda, does he get tangled up in a bunch of construction cables for like an hour? And he has to get cut down by his little “wrecker” Autobot buddies? Lame.

-I’m no astrologist (or geologist or physicist, whatever field of study applies), but wouldn’t suddenly teleporting Cybertron into orbit have significant effects on Earth’s gravity? Or the tides? Or my bowel movements? Just sayin.

Other than that, I fuckin LOVED this movie!

To wrap things up, I’m just glad this will be the last Transformers movie for a good while. Yeah, they’ll probably try to “reboot” it 5-10 years from now with another director and a new cast (the series has made too much money for them to just say OK, it’s over, that was nice while it lasted), but we’ll worry about that in 5-10 years. There’s no indication what Michael Bay’s next movie is going to be, but let’s just assume it’ll come out in June, cost a lot of money, have no real people in it, and feature a lot of explosions. Does it really matter what the title is or what it’s about?

I doubt anyone else will do this, but I wish I had the time to take the DVDs of all 3 Transformers movies, and create a 10-minute montage of all the stupid, random, gratuitous, unnecessary shit, just to show how absurd Michael Bay’s view of the world is (on the off chance I didn’t just make it abundantly clear). And again, I used to be the biggest Michael Bay defender out there. My assumption was that at some point he would mature as a filmmaker. At some point, I thought he would see all these movies being made by better, more competent directors (say, Christopher Nolan for one) and say, “Hey, I’d like to do something like THAT one day.” I’ve waited long enough for that day to come, and it hasn’t. Sadly, it seems as though he doesn’t have that desire, because he’s too obsessed with box office grosses, and making a different kind of movie might mean taking a creative risk that could result in fewer tickets being sold. God forbid. I’ve been defending Bay since Pearl Harbor, for 10 years now, but I’m done. I’m spent. Let him go make $200 million PG-13 summer movies for the rest of his career if that’s all he aspires to. If he doesn’t want more for himself (creatively), why should I? Fuck’m.

In the final equation, the 2007 Transformers is the only one in this series that’s on my love list. Even still, the best Transformers movie ever made came out in 1986, and it was animated. After what we’ve seen these past 4 years, it seems that animated may be the way these characters should stay.

Until next time! I can’t wait to be disappointed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in a couple weeks. Too pessimistic?

FUN READING:
GQ recently published a lengthy compilation of quotes from Michael Bay’s actors, producers, writers, friends and other collaborators, all giving their brief and various opinions of the man and his work. Very amusing/interesting read. [Blow Up: The Oral History of Michael Bay]

Here’s some telling quotes from Bay himself, straight from the article:

On making a different style of film for Pearl Harbor: “I don’t change my style for anybody. Pussies do that.”

On critics: “It’s funny with them. You are making entertainment. People get so angry about it.”

On deciding whether or not to make a third Transformers movie: “I’m not going to sit in my house by myself—what am I going to do? Leading the fat cat life—I don’t want to do that. I’d rather go back in the trenches.”

Still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen: Robot Chicken’s BAYSPLOSIONS trailer:


If this isn’t the quintessential Michael Bay photo,
I don’t know what is.

Fun fact: I wrote “Michael Bay” or “Bay” 35 times in this review.

IN OTHER MOVIE NEWS:

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is nearing a $1 billion global gross. It will be the 8th movie ever to accomplish this. Do you understand how depressing that is? Worldwide, it’s going to outgross The Dark Knight (though TDK still has it crushed by more than 2:1 in U.S. grosses). Note to self: for huge international grosses, have your movie take place outside the United States.

-A couple of highly anticipated trailers finally debuted this week, one for Steven Spielberg‘s new Oscar-bait movie, War Horse, and the other for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. I think each is exciting in its own way. Watch em, and I’ve got comments after each. As always, I recommend switching the video quality to at least 720p HD.

Will you look at that photography? Holy shit. At least visually, we know Spielberg has lost nothing off his fast ball as he’s aged. On my Most Anticipated Movies of 2011 list, I put this at #3, so I’m very happy to finally see a trailer for it. Spielberg hasn’t made a great film since Munich in 2005, and actually hasn’t directed anything since that horrid 4th Indiana Jones in ’08. Nothing would please me more than for this to be the best movie of 2011. And let’s face it, this year it won’t take much to be the best movie of the year. If nothing else, it shows that there’s still some hope left for the fall/winter lineup. Like I said on that previous post, I think this story is right in Spielberg’s wheelhouse, and again I have to marvel at Janusz Kaminski‘s cinematography in this trailer. Wow. Strangely, this clip has gotten a lot of ignorant negative feedback on the internet, with people making various unfunny jokes about this’ll be the first time a horse wins Best Actor. The movie isn’t just about the horse, idiots, it’s about this young man trying to find the horse and return it home in the midst of World War I. If it were a fucking dog, I’m betting those same a-holes would find the idea utterly compelling. Would you rather watch an interesting story like this at Christmas, or go watch the 57th comic book movie of this dreadful year instead? Get a clue. This should be a damned fine movie.

I like it, but don’t love it. Yet. What immediately sticks out to me is a seemingly gratuitous use of CG in the stunt sequences. That Kremlin explosion at the beginning looks cringeworthy, but I’ll withhold judgment because I’m sure it’s not a completed effects shot. But really, you couldn’t have done that with a big model? Again we have the struggle these franchises face as they get into movies 4 and beyond, and that’s the desperate desire to up the ante. In this case, they thought blowing up Red Square would be a good idea, and then later in the trailer you’ve got a giant cloud of CG dust chasing Tom Cruise. This makes me kinda nervous. By the way, does anybody sprint in a movie with more intensity than Cruise? I love it. Despite the CG, there’s still a lot of cool hand-to-hand combat and a car chase, and I absolutely can’t wait to see this sequence in Dubai, where they actually had Cruise climbing around on the world’s tallest building. Just seeing that monstrosity on film is pretty awesome. I wonder how far away you’d have to put a camera to get the entire building in frame.

As previously noted, this is of course the live-action debut for director Brad Bird, who did the underrated Iron Giant as well as The Incredibles and Ratatouille for Pixar. If ever there were an animation director ready to take the next step, I’d say Bird would on that shortlist. Allegedly, this will also be the Mission: Impossible film that transitions Cruise out of the lead role, and in a perfect world for Paramount, the franchise will continue with Jeremy “I’ve been cast in everything” Renner. It’ll be interesting to see how that transition occurs. I’m also very happy to see Tom Wilkinson and the beautiful Paula Patton join the cast. Anyway, smart move to use an Eminem song over the trailer. Gotta get those kiddies’ attention.

One more shits and giggles:

I’m posting this review on July 3rd, 2011, which is the 15th anniversary of the release of Independence Day, one of the movies that changed my life as a youngen. It currently sits at #40 on my list of all-time favorite movies.

This teaser trailer first appeared in January of ’96, attached to a now-forgotten sci-fi horror movie called Screamers. After seeing the trailer, I found it difficult to concentrate on the actual movie I came to see, and that was the longest 7 month wait of my life.

We’ve seen about a dozen alien invasion movies and TV shows in the last year (with at least one more coming in Cowboys & Aliens), and I’d say none of them compare to the excitement I experienced watching iD4 that summer. The visual effects still hold up today, and in fact are more impressive than most of this year’s “blockbusters”. Put it this way, almost everything you see being destroyed on the ground is real. It’s either a model, a miniature, or a practical explosion. Now, almost all of it would be created in a computer, which is the completely wrong approach. Hollywood has changed a LOT since 1996. For instance, that summer you had maybe 6 big movies. Nowadays, every single week there’s a new $150-250 million event movie cramming its way into theaters, and as a result, very few stand out anymore. Whereas in 1996, the biggest movies that summer were the first Mission: Impossible, The Rock (back when Michael Bay movies were good), The Nutty ProfessoriD4 and Twister (another of my favorites).

1996 was the first summer that I worked at a movie theater, and I remember this was the first movie I went to an employee screening for, which was quite a new experience at the time. Seeing a huge movie the night before everyone else could! Holy shit! I saw it at least 5 more times after it came out. I also vividly remember sneaking away from the concession stand and watching the alien attack sequence just about every time it was happening (I even had the timing down perfectly- it occurs about 45 minutes into the movie). I’d come back from watching it, and people would be like, “Where did you go!?” I’d always say the bathroom or something like that. Let’s just say I had a lot of 10-minute bathroom breaks. I must have watched that sequence 50 times the first few weeks it was out.

Independence Day grossed $306 million that year, back when $300 million put you among the highest grossers of all-time. Put in perspective, that 306 would be $544 million today. I would really love to watch this movie on the big screen again. Can someone over at Fox get on that? They should have put it out just for this weekend to celebrate the 15th anniversary. I’d have thought of that if I were a studio boss, but I’m not a studio boss, am I?

I don’t have any recommended listening to wrap things up, because I haven’t had time recently to listen to anything new. Feel free to give me some recommendations. If you managed to read all 6,000 words of this review, I applaud you and appreciate you. Good evening.

THOR review


OH, HAI Loki. OH, HAI Thor.


Pass through my portal? Sheeeeeee-it.

As a disclaimer, I went into Thor having read none of the comics (I was not a comic book reader as a kid) and with no expectations or loyalty to the characters. I thought it looked cool, I liked the casting, and I was very interested in what Kenneth Branagh would bring as a director, given that he was known primarily as a Shakespearean actor and director, and not someone who comes to mind when you think of “summer entertainment”. I was also curious what drew Natalie Portman to the project. Was the script that good (unlikely) or is she really a closet geek? She certainly doesn’t need to do this kind of movie anymore. If I were to rank this among the 4 big comic book movies this summer (X-Men: First Class, Captain America and Green Lantern being other others) according to my level of anticipation for them, I’d probably have ranked it second behind X-Men. I liked the idea of being introduced to a new fantasy universe in Asgard, but I was hesitant because the effects work shown in the trailers was not all that impressive. Also, almost every advance review I’d seen claimed that the two-thirds of the film that take place in Asgard were not as good as the one-third that takes place on Earth. No matter! I went in with an open mind, not expecting anything great, but hoping it would pleasantly surprise me. Ummmm…it did not.

I didn’t dislike the movie, and I didn’t really like it, either. It was just okay. It’s certainly harmless in the sense that it’s entertaining. I’m willing to bet it will be well-received by general audiences, but I thought there was more potential here. In the end, it just looks like Kenneth Branagh was not ready to be handed the reigns to a $150 million comic book/action/fantasy movie. At the very least, he wasn’t ready to deliver one in the short window that the studios now demand for these summer blockbusters. I blame the movie’s failures first and foremost on the script, and then on the inexperience of the director. Since this seems to be working well for me, we’ll again do the liked/didn’t like format. I’ll try to keep it spoiler free, but where I do delve into spoilers, I shall let you know.

WHAT I LIKED

Chris Hemsworth as Thor. He does a solid job with the opportunities he’s given, but never really gets the chance to shine. Like most critics, I agree that he’s at his best in the Earthbound scenes, where he does a very good fish-out-of-water routine (this is where the film gets most of its humor). He has the best line in the entire movie when he walks into the town’s pet shop and demands, “I need a horse!” That was one of maybe 2 times I LOL’d during the flick. I look forward to seeing him return in The Avengers, as I trust Joss Whedon will have a better idea what to do with him than Branagh and the screenwriters here did.

Idris Elba as Heimdall, the gatekeeper dude at the end of the rainbow bridge (which is what they actually call it). I like how they modified his voice, and he has an almost Klingon-like sense of duty and honor, which I really enjoyed. He was easily my favorite character in this movie. Heimdall is white in the comics, but apparently the filmmakers noticed the utter lack of minorities in their cast (Elba is one of two non-whites in the cast), and decided to throw the colored folks a bone ala Michael Clarke Duncan playing Kingpin in Daredevil. The fact that he doesn’t die is a fucking miracle.

-I also liked Anthony Hopkins as Odin, though I just wish the script were worthy of his talents. Regardless, it’s cool to see him hamming it up in a genre movie, and he certainly brings the required gravitas to the role of king of Asgard.

-And of course, it’s always good to see Clark Gregg playing Agent Coulson. An underrated actor if ever there was one. This may actually be the most screen time he’s had in any of these Avengers tie-in movies. Speaking of which, look for a couple of very quick references to Tony Stark and The Hulk.

-I liked Jeremy Renner‘s cameo as Hawkeye (who he’ll also play in The Avengers), but it was such a brief, throwaway scene that it may have been best if they actually threw it away.

-I REALLY liked Kat Dennings at the Thor premiere:


It’s great to see a young actress with some…curves.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

The script. The story and screenplay here are credited to 5 different writers, which is typically not a good sign. Some of these people have done great work individually in the past, but once you start putting rewrite on top of rewrite on top of rewrite, overall cohesiveness begans to evaporate. There are no truly memorable scenes, conversations end abruptly, and there are awkward one-liners. For instance (SPOILER AHEAD), the last line of the entire movie is literally, “She searches for you.” After that, it cuts to the end credits, and I was left sitting there going, huh? Very strange.

The lack of a memorable score/set of themes. This has been a continuing, inexplicable problem with comic book movies. If I think back to all the comic book movies since X-Men started this craze in 2000, only a few (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and that’s about it) had memorable music that I wanted to own. I don’t understand why this isn’t a priority for the directors of these films. Look, I’m not asking for “The Superman March” every time out, but I strongly believe every big superhero should have a strong theme, and all of these films should have their own motifs and unique musical stylings. In reality, most of them have incredibly bland scores, and sadly, Thor is no exception. Patrick Doyle is a good enough composer, but I think it’s pretty clear this genre is not his area of expertise. The score here isn’t bad, but it’s completely forgettable, and features no themes that I can recall. Unfortunately, it seems that there are only 5-10 composers working today who can truly handle this kind of movie properly. Off the top of my head, I’ll put John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard, Don Davis (the Matrix trilogy), Tyler Bates (300) and David Arnold (Stargate, Independence Day, all of the recent Bond flicks) in that group.

Most of my problems with the film have to do with how the Asgard parts of the movie were handled. During the Asgard scenes (which I’d guess take up 60% of the screen time), it’s a pure fantasy movie, and I think for the most part it falls flat on its face in giving us good fantasy.

The CGI. The visual effects throughout the film are average at best, but especially lackluster with regards to the Asgard scenes. You can tell about 90% of Asgard was created in a computer, and the place never felt real in the way that the fantasy worlds of The Lord of the Rings did. In fact, the filmmakers and effects guys should have followed the brilliant example set by the LOTR team. Apparently, no one on this crew has heard of a miniature, or a model, or realized that you have to combine practical effects with your CGI to make these fantasy worlds look real. Instead, they went the Star Wars prequel route and simply made EVERYTHING in the computer. When Thor and his boys go to the ice world (whatever it’s called), at no point did I feel they were even on a set. It looked exactly like what it probably was, 4 or 5 people standing on a soundstage surrounded by massive green screens. If you’re gonna do that, your CGI better be Avatar-good, and it certainly wasn’t. The main ‘castle’ of Asgard looks like a giant golden church organ.

The action. Despite having Vic Armstrong, one of the all-time greats, supervising the action and second unit, the fight choreography is incredibly boring and poorly shot. When Thor infiltrates the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound in an attempt to get his hammer back, he dispatches the soldiers mostly by punching them in the chest and/or pushing them to the ground. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that. When Thor and Loki fight at the end of the film, it should be an epic clash between rival brothers. Suffice to say, it is not.

-I was also disappointed by the sound design. There were a lot of opportunities here for the the creation of cool, new sound effects, and for the most part those opportunities are squandered. When Thor uses his hammer, it should be an EPIC auditory experience. Instead, it’s just meh. And again, I have to blame the lack of emphasis on this on Branagh, because he had two of the best sound mixers in the industry working on the film. Ugh.

-The main bad guys in the Asgard world are the Frost Giants. No, really. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how anyone above age 12 is supposed to find creatures called “frost giants” imposing. On top of that, the fact that they’re all CG doesn’t help, nor does the fact that they look cheesy. They’re 12-foot tall grey demons with dark orange eyes who walk around in their skivvies. Instead of using actual weapons, they turn their arms into giant ice swords. Ooo. And their primary power derives from what appears to be a blue Energon Cube. It’s just really f’n goofy.

-I don’t like that Thor only wears his helmet in one or two scenes the entire movie. It’s a small gripe, and I know the reason is so that we see the star’s face, but come on, that’s a badass helmet! His armor doesn’t look complete without it.

Rene Russo, who is completely wasted in a tiny role as Thor’s momz. She hasn’t done anything since Yours, Mine and Ours in 2005, and THIS is what she comes back for? I don’t get it. I’d say she came back for a payday, but Marvel is notorious for being stingy with their actors’ salaries.

Back in the real world:

-I’m supposed to believe that Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard‘s characters, who are super smart astrological scientists, choose to live in this tiny, no-name town in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico? This made no sense at all to me. It’s funny, because the Earth/New Mexico scenes are relatively low-budget. This tiny town required very few sets and interiors, and looks to have no more than 3 different roads in it. It looks very cheap, too cheap even. And they give no logical reason why scientists of this caliber would be calling it home. On top of that, they work out of what appears to be an abandoned restaurant or something. It just didn’t seem right. The movie reportedly cost $150 million, and I’d say that about 20 of that was spent on the New Mexico scenes. The rest appears to have been spent on manpower creating the mediocre CGI.

From reading this review, it probably comes across that I didn’t enjoy the movie more than is actually the case. I just thought there were a lot of blown opportunities from top to bottom. If you’re not as nerdy or picky as I am, you’ll probably enjoy the flick a lot more than I did. If you were interested in seeing the movie at all, I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t, but if my concerns mirror yours, your expectations should be drastically lowered. I had fun watching Thor, but it didn’t click with me the way I hoped it would. Plus, it’s easier (and more fun) to point out a film’s flaws than it is to praise what it did right. I’m not expecting this summer to produce a lot of high quality films, but summer movie season is always fun and I’m glad it’s underway. But if you’re choosing between this and Fast Five this week, go see The Rock vs. Vin Diesel instead.

POST-CREDITS BONUS SCENE SPOILERS AHEAD:

I of course stayed for the bonus scene at the end of the credits, as has become the custom for Marvel movies in the leadup to The Avengers. In this one, Stellan Skarsgard is brought into a S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘base’, where he meets Sam Jackson‘s Nick Fury, who opens a mysterious briefcase to show some glowing blue object that Fury proposes is potentially a source of unlimited power. I’ll have to do some research into what this thing was, but I didn’t recognize it from the Thor movie. The big reveal is that Loki is in the background watching them (he’s invisible to them), and we’re lead to believe he will soon make an attempt to take and use this power source. It doesn’t have that wow factor that previous bonus scenes had (like the one after Iron Man 2 where we first see Thor’s hammer), mainly because in Thor, we’ve just seen Loki as a primary villain, and he wasn’t all that impressive. My concern is the rumor that Loki is going to be the main villain in The Avengers, and the fact that this scene gives those rumors credibility. I’m not sure if it was the writing, Tom Hiddleston‘s performance, or the nature of the character itself, but I wasn’t that impressed with Loki as a bad guy, and I don’t know that he could be the memorable villain that The Avengers requires. The rumors could be false, but all of these bonus scenes have eventually led to something else, so Loki didn’t appear there just for shits and giggles. What I’m personally hoping is that it was merely a setup for the Thor sequel and not for The Avengers. If that’s the case, I’m fine with it, but if it’s a wink and a nudge that Loki will feature prominently in The Avengers, I may have to throw the red challenge flag. Anyway, that’s my two cents on that.

I gave Thor 2.5 stars out of 5 on Flixster, and a 6/10 on IMDb.

As summer movie season continues, I actually have pretty high hopes for Bridesmaids next weekend. I’m hearing good things, and the trailer is very funny. I think guys will be able to enjoy it, and women have been waiting for their own raunchy, R-rated comedy like this for a long time. Let the inevitable “it’s The Hangover for girls!” comparisons begin.


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