Transformers: The Last Knight (Full Review)

At this point, Michael Bay directing Transformers films is like that friend of yours at the party who was drunk hours ago but keeps tossing back shots. When he first arrived he was the life of the party, but now he has to drive home and you realize that someone should’ve snatched the keys from him a long time ago. The Transformers movies started off as a goofy, but fun and action packed thrill ride with low expectations due to the fact that it’s based off of a line of action figures. But now, the series has effectively become dumb and redundant.

timthumbIf you thought that the plot to Transformers 2,3, and 4 were overly convoluted, then get ready for this shit. Yeah, I said ‘shit’, and if that bothers you then you probably shouldn’t see this movie because the word is used in every other sentence like the entire cast are fifth graders who think cursing makes them cool and edgy. The heroic Optimus Prime has left Earth in hopes of finding and killing his creator. Back on our planet, the military has outlawed all transformers and is hunting them. You’d think after the Autobots have saved their asses in four movies that they’d stop blowing up the good guys… but whatever.

Meanwhile, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and some 14 year old we’re made to think is relevant but isn’t (Isabela Moner) are fugitives for harboring Bumblebee and the rest of the Autobots. Yeager finds a medallion that belonged to twelve ancient transformers that fought with King Arthur and the wizard Merlin, which brings him into contact with Anthony Hopkins and his annoying robot butler who want to recover the staff of Merlin (portrayed as a buffoon by Stanley Tucci) that they’ll need to keep Earth from being devoured by Cybertron, the Transformers’ home world. Laura Haddock plays Merlin’s successor (that’s a spoiler but you shouldn’t care) and Josh Duhamel and John Turturro reprise their roles for no real reason.

There. Those are the overt basics of the plot and that doesn’t even mention Autobot arch nemesis Megatron who also returns in a useless subplot. So you can only imagine how meandering this nearly three hour film is. At a certain point, there isn’t any reason to care about any of the story, because you know its eventually going to turn into a robot war with a bunch of military aircrafts and explosions. But even that action is often muddled and disorienting.

There are so many robots that you wonder if the writers even remembered them all. Constantly, at every corner one comes, makes a corny joke, blows something up, gets shot, then leaves, appearing on screen just long enough to make you question why it appeared in the first place. The dinobots return from Age of Extinction only to be inexplicably absent during the finale. And if you were excited about the battle between an evil Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, get ready to be Batman v Supermaned (“Why did you say that name!!!”). In fact, Optimus Prime is barely in the movie, so putting him on posters is like putting Hawkeye on the forefront of Avengers promotions.

The goofy humor, which gets less funny with each film, has finally hit rock bottom. There’s barely a chuckle to be had. There’s no Bernie Mac, T.J. Miller or Anthony Anderson here. No one brings the physical comedy that made Shia LaBeouf necessary. Mark Wahlberg looks bored and the feeble attempt at romantic chemistry between he and Haddock is lifeless. So by the time you actually get through the two hours of bull crap and get to the climactic battle, you just feel exhausted. There are just too many characters that are lackluster and irrelevant.

This series has run its course. The writing no longer makes any sense and other than Bumblebee, no character is truly likable or memorable. Even Fast and the Furious knew how to shake things up a bit. Enough with the transformers made to be stereotypes and the quirky, dumb humans searching for some magical McGuffin. The animated films and TV shows can be taken more seriously, so it’s clear that this franchise needs new blood. This is supposed to be Michael Bay’s last time directing Transformers. But after watching his final monotonous entry, it just feels like we’ve already been enablers to our drunken friend who ruined the party.

FINAL GRADE: A big fat Decepticon sized F

Transformers: The Last Knight (Full Review)

All Eyez on Me (Full Review)

Having great source material does not guarantee a great movie… especially when it comes to Biographical films. Some true stories may work best as mini-series’ or documentaries, but making a feature length film requires finding the right actors and fine-tuning all of the compelling facts into a cohesive under-three hour story. Tupac Shakur is already an interesting subject, even if you were never a fan, but making a film about his life needs more than that to live up to the hype of one of music’s most iconic figures.

AllEyez_posterNewcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. takes on the difficult role of playing rap legend Tupac Shakur, a man that went Platinum from prison and had 7 albums released after his death. Navigating through his rise to fame, problems with the law and untimely murder, the film highlights his relationships with his former Black Panther mother (Danai Gurira), friend Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham), lover Kidada Jones (Annie Ilonzeh) and violent manager Suge Knight (Dominic Santana).

As I mentioned, when making a biopic, the most important elements are landing the right cast and creating a sound story. Straight Outta Compton nailed both. The James Brown biopic Get on Up had a great cast but lacked narrative structure.  All Eyez on Me doesn’t really secure either one. The cast has a few bright spots. Danai Gurira is clearly the best actor on screen as Pac’s mother. Kat Graham doesn’t look like Jada Pinkett, but she has the mannerisms down pat and Jamal Woolard, reprising his role from Notorious, is also once again great as Biggie Smalls. But this is a Tupac movie, and it helps if the guy at the forefront can consistently carry his weight.

Shipp Jr. isn’t terrible. He definitely gets better as the movie goes along, but aside from physically resembling Tupac, it never really feels like he embodies the artist. Tupac had a boyish charm to him that made him incessantly charismatic while also carrying a serene wisdom that transcended others in the industry. Aside from spouting some Shakespeare, that intelligence doesn’t really come through in Shipp’s performance and the charm only appears in doses.

As for its narrative structure, the movie takes nearly half of its two and a half hour runtime to find its footing. The first half works like a spark notes version of Pac’s life, fluttering between scenes without cohesive transition or focus while being filled with as many cliché monologues as possible. A prison interview is used as a framing device and then is completely dropped halfway through, making the much more compelling last half feel like it has a completely different director.

All Eyez on Me succeeds in being interesting, but never thoroughly entertaining. It’s hard not to compare it to Straight Outta Compton, but considering its subject matter, those comparisons are inevitable. Without a stellar lead, and without cohesion, the movie never truly becomes the homage it wants to be.

FINAL GRADE: C

 

All Eyez on Me (Full Review)

The Mummy (2017) Full Review

Welcome to the age of cinematic universes. Marvel did it. DC is doing it. Even Lego has one going. And now Universal is trying to cash in on the action by using their old monster movies. The Brendan Frasier Mummy movies weren’t the greatest, but there is a fun 90’s camp feel to them that makes them enjoyable. Looking to launch their interconnected Dark Universe, The Mummy tosses Tom Cruise into the fold to reboot the series.

The_Mummy_(2017)Cruise stars as US soldier, Nick Morton, who scrambles around the middle east with his friend and fellow soldier (Jake Johnson) recovering artifacts from insurgents to sell on the black market. After stealing a map from an archaeologist (Annabelle Wallis), he inadvertently releases Princess Ahmanet, (Sofia Boutella), an evil mummy who wants to turn him into the god of death and unleash hell on earth. Oh yeah… and Russell Crowe plays Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde ‘cause cinematic universe and stuff.

The movie certainly earns points for some solid special effects and a few successful jump scares, but it’s hard to ignore how out of place everything is. Tom Cruise has never been one for slapstick humor, and this movie is full of zany jokes that would work best if Brendan Frasier were the one leading the charge. Instead, this movie switches between horror and campy action adventure, never truly settling on a correct tone and fading into a failed attempt to be what it thinks audiences want to see in a summer blockbuster.

Cruise is also not the only one out of his element. Russell Crowe is useless, to both the plot and as a casting choice and Annabelle Wallis’ Dr. Halsey is dull and unoriginal. And if the meandering story and unnecessary easter eggs don’t make it completely obvious that this movie is designed to set up spinoffs and sequels, the somewhat inexplicable ending does its best to shove that concept as far down your throat as possible. There are worse films to watch, even in the Mummy franchise (Scorpion King anyone?), but this Mummy reboot is just a soulless attempt to cash in on the hottest Hollywood trend without actually doing anything to make you care about any of it.

FINAL GRADE: D

The Mummy (2017) Full Review

Wonder Woman (Full Review)

In baseball, when you’re losing, you don’t always need a homerun to restore the hope in your fans. Sometimes, you just need a solid base hit to get your team back into a rhythm. 2016 had two strikeouts for the DC Comics Extended Universe. Batman v Superman was the most dreary, self-indulgent superhero movie ever and Suicide Squad was a sloppy mess that had to rely on a seasoned cast to make it watchable. But now Wonder Woman is up to the plate, and after being one of the few bright spots in Batman v Superman, the most iconic superheroine in comic book history looks to get DC and Warner Bros. back in the cinematic game.

Wonder_Woman_(2017_film)Gal Gadot returns as Diana, the youngest of an island of Amazonian women created by Zeus to defend mankind from Aries, the God of War. Trained by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright), Diana becomes the fiercest Amazonian warrior, much to the dismay of her protective mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). When a World War I spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on their hidden shores, Diana embarks on a mission with him and his friends (Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock) to find Aries and end the war before a German General (Danny Huston) and his chemist partner (Elena Anaya) can release a deadly gas on all of mankind.

From the beginning, when we see Diana as a starry eyed little girl, the movie has a charming tone to it that never ceases. All of the supporting protagonists are likable and the chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine always comes off as genuine. Both Diana and Steve Trevor are wonderfully layered characters that uplift each other. Diana is portrayed as a strong but naïve fish out of water who learns the nuances of mankind from Trevor while he is a brave soldier who lacks faith until being inspired by her strong willed and unyielding nature.

Great chemistry between the cast is coupled with a strong dose of well timed humor that, unlike Suicide Squad, never feels forced. It should also come as no surprise to anyone that saw the character in Batman v Superman that the battle scenes are thrilling. So despite being over two hours, the movie paces beautifully with only the beginning feeling a tad slow.

Wonder Woman isn’t without some glaring flaws. There is an overuse of CGI which often clashes with the more tangible scenes in the film that feature well choreographed fights and gorgeous costumes and scenery. The movie also has some hokey moments and lacks a strong central antagonist (The final reveal seems a bit forced). So while it isn’t quite a homerun, Director Patty Jenkins does manage to make it DC’s first film that feels smart, fun, exciting, and endearing throughout. And that makes it a solid double off of the back wall and enough to give us faith in the studio again.

FINAL GRADE: B

Wonder Woman (Full Review)