Archive for June, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Posted: June 27, 2009 in Movies

Transformers®:  Revenge of the Fallen

 (2009)

A Movie Review

By

Jonathan Moya

3 Out of 5 Stars or B

 

The Plot: (from IMDB.com)

The battle for Earth has ended but the battle for the universe has just begun. After returning to Cybertron, Starscream assumes command of the Decepticons®, and has decided to return to Earth with force. The Autobots® believing that peace was possible finds out that Megatron’s dead body has been stolen from the US Military by Skorpinox and revives him using his own spark. Now Megatron is back seeking revenge and with Starscream and more Decepticon® reinforcements on the way, the Autobots® with reinforcements of their own, may have more to deal with then meets the eye.

The Review:

Halfway through Transformers®: Revenge of the Fallen I realize why this Michael Bay explode-a-ganza was becoming a slight guilty pleasure. Socks: spell it out s-o-c-k-s.   A mnemonic for the Spanish “esto si que es”: it is what it is.  Bay does not pretend or ascend to anything than directing big glorified action trailers that run way over their five minutes.  T2 could be a choppy and loopy preview for T3, possibly a coming attraction for another Spielberg scion of Jones or a historical romance without the Japanese bombs.  It is all there and nowhere at the same time.  It is what it is. 

Transformers are those fiendish Hasbro® toy cars that morph into robots and others things with years of patience and a thirty-page instruction manual.   Most kids can do it in a minute or less while their parents are still trying to assemble the one from four Christmases ago.   Michael Bay and I count among the frustrated adults able to get them open but not closed—and certainly not into the cool third level planes and weapons.  The fights between the autobots® (the good) and the decepticons® (the bad) are lumbering pinwheel bouts filled with clanging-banging metal effects.   Think Mighty Morphing Power Rangers with better lines and a bigger costume budget. T1 had fourteen speaking robot parts while T2 has 46 —three times the metal but only one and half times the pot and pan cacophony because Bay plays funereal music and slow motions thing down on the big blows.   The eternal punches count for most of the extended 150 minute running time- six minutes longer than T1. 

The screenplay by current Star Trek reboot writers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman (with additional support from Ehren Kruger) does not go boldly beyond the original.  It sticks to its Hasbro® world.    The human soldiers do their own G.I. Joe® thing—grunting, puffing, shooting and running away whenever one of the big bots decide to do a fanny fall.  The autobots® and Joes® are an elite fighting team rooting out and destroying the last of the decepticons® left from T1. A very closely-knit group of boy toys in play here.  Shia LaBeouf  seems to be grooming himself for the upcoming Indy Jones five, practicing his snide repartee and comic fighting skills and donning an almost classic jacket (sans fedora) when T2 goes through all the Egyptian artifacts and sets of Indy 3 (The Last Crusade).  Yes, the Jones action figures are also part of the Hasbro® universe.

In between the trailers there is almost a comic romance going on.  LaBeouf and the recently voted sexiest woman in the world, Megan Fox generate a candlewicks worth of heat despite all the balls on action around them.  The romance speeds by at 200 words per minute, in true screwball style but without the precision and timing.  Kevin Dunn and Julie White (and a manic John Turturro) as the flappable parents provide the main laughs.

Bay lets the product placement provide the rest of the reality.    Chevrolet is still the only car on the block, the factory worth of destruction probably keeping it viable between government funding and chapter 11.   Still, it is disconcerting to see LG (a Korean company) providing all the monitors for the military. 

I give Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 3 out of 5 stars or a B.          

The Credits:   (From AllMovie.com)

Michael Bay  – Director / Executive Producer Ian Bryce  – Producer Tom Desanto  – Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura  – Producer Don Murphy  – Producer Ehren Kruger  – Screenwriter Alex Kurtzman  – Screenwriter Roberto Orci  – Screenwriter Ben Seresin  – Cinematographer Steve Jablonsky  – Composer (Music Score) Linkin Park  – Featured Music Roger Barton  – Editor Tom Muldoon  – Editor Joel Negron  – Editor Paul Rubell  – Editor Nigel Phelps  – Production Designer Brian Goldner  – Executive Producer Steven Spielberg  – Executive Producer Mark Vahradian  – Executive Producer Deborah L. Scott  – Costume Designer Industrial Light & Magic  – Animator / Visual Effects

With:  Shia LaBeouf  – Sam Witwicky Megan Fox  – Mikaela Banes Josh Duhamel  – Major Lennox Tyrese Gibson  – USAF Tech Sergeant Epps Kevin Dunn  – Ron Witwicky Peter Cullen  – Optimus Prime [Voice] Julie White  – Judy Witwicky Ramon Rodríguez  – Leo Isabel Lucas  – Alice John Turturro  – Agent Simmons John Benjamin Hickey  – NSA Advisor Theodore Galloway Rainn Wilson  Hugo Weaving  – Megatron [Voice] Tony Todd  – The Fallen [Voice] Charlie Adler  – Starscream [Voice]

 

Copyright 2009 by Jonathan Moya

Home    Archives

Gran Torino (2009)

Posted: June 10, 2009 in Movies

Gran Torino

 (2009)

A Movie Review

By

Jonathan Moya

Rating: 4 out of 5 or A-

 

The Plot: (from AllMovie.com)

A racist Korean War veteran living in a crime-ridden Detroit neighborhood is forced to confront his own lingering prejudice when a troubled Hmong teen from his neighborhood attempts to steal his prized Gran Torino. Decades after the Korean War has ended, ageing veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is still haunted by the horrors he witnessed on the battlefield. The two objects that matter most to Kowalski in life are the classic Gran Torino that represents his happier days working in a Ford assembly plant, and the M-1 rifle that saved his life countless times during combat. When Kowalski’s teenage neighbor (Bee Vang) attempts to steal his Gran Torino as part of a gang initiation rite, the old man manages to catch the aspiring thief at the business end of his well-maintained semi-automatic rifle. Later, due to the pride of the Asian group, the boy is forced to return to Kowalski’s house and perform an act of penance. Despite the fact that Kowalski wants nothing to do with the young troublemaker, he realizes that the quickest way out of the situation is to simply cooperate. In an effort to set the teen on the right path in life and toughen him up, the reluctant vet sets him up with an old crony who now works in construction. In the process, Kowalski discovers that the only way to lay his many painful memories to rest is to finally face his own blinding prejudice head-on.

The Review:

Gran Torino hints at everything Clint Eastwood while cleverly dismantling it.   There is the Dirty Harry snarl and racist litany; the cigarette smoking antihero silence of the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns; the shotgun of Unforgiven existing in uneasy calm with the Magnum-like semi-automatic and even the heavy memories of war wounds past.    Those parts of the Eastwood legend exist in the manicured lawn and well-maintained home belonging to the recently widowed Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), the Korean War vet living in the slightly shabby neighborhood taken over by the “gooks” that haunt his past, the Hmong— a war removed (Vietnam) but still the same in his mind.

Walt wants to be left alone to mow his grass, wash his 1972 Gran Torino, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon on his porch or to go out occasionally to the local bar or barber shop for some man talk with his war buddies.  “Keep off my damn grass,” he snarls with shotgun in hand to those who violate his well kempt legend.  His family only jostles for their share of the inheritance.   The niece wants the Torino and the son wants to put him out to pasture and sell the house.   The local priest Father Jovanovich (Christopher Carley), just barely out of seminary, wants Walt to quit handling things his own way with the local Asian gang and let the church and police handle them.  The Hmong community venerates him for what he has done.  

Eastwood delights in giving his legend closure.   Gran Torino is both the last Dirty Harry and Eastwood Western- even though it will not be the last curtain call as Clint once teasingly suggested.  The screenplay by Nick Schenk echoes the great Eastwood themes:   violence, vengeance, redemption and finding peace with the past.   It chisels down the fascism and racism to Archie Bunker softness while still keeping the will.   Walt’s ploy is the two-finger shooter backed up with the real weapon in his jacket.   Pay attention to those who really do the shooting in Gran Torino.   The twist at the end is a two-hanky surprise.  Walt gets all the Jesus, peace and redemption that Hollywood allows.

Gran Torino gets to have it all.  Walt gets almost a real daughter and son.   The legend gets closure.  In addition, the audience and this critic get to see a master create a minor masterpiece on time and under budget with the simplicity of his movie-making genes. The legend gets an A and a place in The Hall of Fame.   The movie gets an A-.    

The Credits:   (From AllMovie.com)

Clint Eastwood  – Director / Producer Bill Gerber  – Producer Robert Lorenz  – Producer Dave Johannson  – Screen Story Nick Schenk  – Screenwriter / Screen Story Tom Stern  – Cinematographer Kyle Eastwood  – Composer (Music Score) Michael Stevens  – Composer (Music Score) Joel Cox  – Editor Gary D. Roach  – Editor James Murakami  – Production Designer John Warnke  – Art Director Bruce Berman  – Executive Producer Jenette Kahn  – Executive Producer Tim Moore  – Executive Producer Adam Richman  – Executive Producer Deborah Hopper  – Costume Designer Ellen Chenoweth  – Casting

With:  Clint Eastwood  – Walt Kowalski Bee Vang  – Thao Ahney Her  – Sue Christopher Carley  – Father Janovich Brian Haley  – Mitch Kowalski Geraldine Hughes  – Karen Kowalski Brian Howe  – Steve Kowalski Dreama Walker  – Ashley Kowalski William Hill  – Tim Kennedy John Carroll Lynch  – Barber Martin Brooke Chia Thao  – Vu Chee Thao  – Grandma

 

 

 

Copyright 2009 by Jonathan Moya

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Posted: June 2, 2009 in Movies

Drag Me to Hell

(2009)

A Movie Review

By

Jonathan Moya

The Plot: (from AllMovie.com)

Determined to impress her boss and get a much-needed promotion at work, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) lays down the law when mysterious Mrs. Ganush literally comes begging for mercy at her feet. In retaliation for being publicly shamed, Mrs. Ganush places the dreaded curse of Lamia on her unfortunate target, transforming Christine’s life into a waking nightmare. Her skeptical boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) casually brushing off her disturbing encounters as mere coincidence, Christine attempts to escape eternal damnation by seeking out the aid of seer Rham Jas (Dileep Rao ). But Christine’s time is fast running out, and unless she’s able to break the curse, she’ll be tormented by a demon for three days before literally being dragged to hell.

The Review:

Drag Me to Hell is Sam Raimi’s diabolical return party to the horror genre after a decade stuck in the Spiderman web. It is Raimi-lite, content with scary shadows, gypsy curses, putrefying hags vomiting all manners of emerald nastiness and a good old scary séance. Its PG-13 rating makes it almost quaint family fare by horror standards, a Tales from the Crypt to keep the comic crowd happy until 2011 and Spiderman 5. Sniff this butt and know that The Evil Dead remake scheduled for next year is going to bring Raimi back to his dismembering and blood projecting roots.

There is a lot of orifice horror in Hell. The evil slime not only falls on the fresh scrub face of the blonde Christine (Allison Lohman) but also is tongue kissed into her mouth, breathed in and plopped right into her eyes—hardhearted punishment for the softhearted loan officer misfortunate enough to administer tough love to the one mortgage defaulting, disease-eyed, talon, curse wielding gypsy woman (Lorna Raver) in the city. Lohman is the open-eye beneficiary of one of the great projectile face transplants of the last twenty years or so. It is the nasty stuff that gets inside that is really the best squirm inducing fright.

Raimi and his co-caballer brother Ivan conjured up the screenplay, a couple of catfights that sticks to the basic spooks. It is a Looney Tunes nightmare on Speed and Acid. There is a dandy bitch slap turned demolition derby that takes place in a parking garage that gives new meaning to click it or ticket. Lorna Raver as the gypsy crone provides some early character developing scares simply by jujuing with a set of moldy dentures. Adriana Barazza as the good counterbalance gets the most of her fifteen minutes of screen time in Hell’s séance scene. Allison Lohman (cast at the witching hour when Juno’s Ellen Page got spooked) musters enough Buffy the Vampire Slayer toughness while just barely passing her good girl acting test.

Still it is the scares before the scares that I remember: the diabolic shadows, the clanging pots and pans, an ectoplasmic handkerchief floating and attaching itself like a wind octopus. Raimi gets the little scares right so that the big horror matters. He messes with the head before taking the knife out. It is so old school old and well done that it looks brand new.

For its scary good fun, it gets a B+.

The Credits: (From AllMovie.com)

Sam Raimi  – Director / Screenwriter / Producer Grant Curtis  – Producer Robert Tapert  – Producer Ivan Raimi  – Screenwriter / Co-producer Peter Deming  – Cinematographer Christopher Young  – Composer (Music Score) Bob Murawski  – Editor Steve Saklad  – Production Designer Cristen Carr Strubbe  – Co-producer Joshua Donen  – Executive Producer Joe Drake  – Executive Producer Nathan Kahane  – Executive Producer Isis Mussenden  – Costume Designer John Papsidera  – Casting Howard Berger  – Makeup Special Effects Bruce Jones  – Visual Effects Supervisor Gregory Nicotero  – Makeup Special Effects

With: Alison Lohman  – Christine Brown Justin Long  – Clay Dalton Lorna Raver  – Mrs. Ganush David Paymer  – Mr. Jacks Dileep Rao  – Rham Jas Reggie Lee  – Stu Rubin Adriana Barraza  – Shaun San Dena Molly Cheek  – Trudy Dalton

Copyright 2009 by Jonathan Moya

D