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Monday, July 13, 2009

TARSON'S SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER WRAP UP!

Tarsonites prepare!

Sit down, buckle in, and get ready for the ultimate movie review on films you've already seen a dozen times.

Okay seriously, I thought I would add a little boffo magic to this blog thing of mine, and give you my take on this years big summer tentpoles. So in the words of one, Michael Sebastian Bay - "This is going to be fucking awesome!"

Enjoy.


"See the guy in red? He just farted."

1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

A lot of industry insiders and critics were under the impression that the leaked workprint, which spread throughout Bit-Torrent sites and Peer 2 Peer networks, were going to cause the financial death of this film. They may have been right. Despite the leak, fandom still got behind this and contributed to average ticket sales. With a production budget of $150 million, the film raked in $178,841,391 domestically. Hardly enough to set the Box office on fire. It took $363,597,899 worldwide - a moderate success.

If 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' suggests anything, it's that living, breathing people in big-budget mainstream movies are rapidly becoming obsolete >Cue Avatar footage< Hugh Jackman may be the contractual star of this Marvel juggernaut, which explores the history of one of Marvel's most popular and conflicted heroes, but technology is what makes the movie what it is, a film with the personality of a $150 million video game.

Is that a bad thing?

Depends how you look at it.

Your enjoyment of Wolverine will be dictated by three things:

1. How much you enjoy Hugh Jackman as an actor.
2. Whether or not you follow the Wolverine character
3. Whether or not you enjoy superhero movies

The story starts in 1845, in darkest Canada, where young brothers James and Victor see the man they think is their father gunned down. Before the intruder can spit out what he has come to tell them, he gets skewered on the irate James's nascent bone claws.


"Logan's lack of fibre was becoming a real problem."

Wolverine is full of angst, and yet it has virtually all the humanity wrung out of it in an effort to create a live-action cartoon. Cartoons, however, are rarely so unwieldy or force a director (in this case, Gavin Hood) to juggle so much impossible plotline. It all comes out eventually. But a character's motivation is a lot less effective dramatically when it's delivered at the tail end of the movie. In fact, you could end up feel a little cheated. I know I did.

Granted, I'm not the biggest Wolverine fan - but this was an above average romp through Wolverine's stomping grounds. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend a few hours in a cinema, but just don't go into this with any high expectations. I do however hope they keep the ball rolling on X-Men Origins: Magneto. I've read the Sheldon Turner draft of that script, and it was really, really good.

Rated: 5/10

2. Star Trek

Now, as much as I love Science Fiction, I must admit, I'm not a huge Trekkie. I can certainly appreciate it, and I do enjoy the original TV series - and yes, I've watched most of the films, but you won't catch me at a Star Trek Convention, wearing Spock ears, barking, "set phasers on stun", anytime soon. Of course, I'm always open for bribes, so if you're willing to pay me an appearance fee, I'll come dressed as a Quad-nippled Orion Hooker, if that's what you want. You have my email address.

Anyway... Star Trek was J.J. Abrams' big Blockbuster entry for 2009. There's no denying, J.J., along with screenwriters, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, certainly know how to craft compelling, mainstream fare. For the most part, I was impressed. Very much so. This has all the trappings and trimmings of the quintessential summer tentpole: shiny things that fly through outer space and make big booms. Plus plenty of merch potential: Mommy, can I have a phaser?


"Kirk's mid-battle Twitter updates were starting to annoy Spock."

Star Trek was also Paramount's latest effort to jump-start and reboot a profitable but long-stalled franchise, to do for James Kirk what MGM did for James Bond. Studio execs know that just enough time has elapsed since the original to engender just enough nostalgia for characters named Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Not only does this Star Trek proffer smart thrills and slick kicks, but it builds upon the originals history–from its very first pilot episode to Robert Wise's 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture and beyond–while creating an entirely new future.


"Kirk's elf joke left them both red-faced."

The crew is a bunch of untested Starfleet cadets: Kirk is a know-it-all horndog with a penchant for green-skinned boobies; Pine plays him like he's starring in an episode of Dawson's Kirk. McCoy is, well, a simple country doctor who abhors space travel; some things never change, as Urban, among all the cast members, comes closest to spot-on imitation. As for the rest: Sulu is a guy who likes swords and steers the ship; Chekov is a wunderkind who speaks with a Russian drawl; Scotty is working miracles in the engine room; and Uhura is still trying to hail Starfleet on all frequencies to no avail.


"When bucks nights go bad: Nero realizes it's permanent marker on his forehead and chin."

Spock however, is the centerpiece–not only as played by Quinto as the tormented youth in revolt raised by the Vulcan Sarek and human Amanda (Winona Ryder, almost unrecognizable), but also in the form of Leonard Nimoy, the once-dead first officer who's lived long enough to travel back in time to offer sage advice to old friends in need of–dare one say it–the human touch. Nimoy's scenes elicit genuine emotion, not just the nostalgist's thrill of familiarity or the newcomer's delight at discovery.

When Spock tells a young Jim Kirk, "I have been and always shall be your friend," or when he realizes a "Live long and prosper" salutation simply will not do, it's enough to move even a Star Wars fan to tears.

Rated: 9/10

3. Terminator: Salvation

Love him or hate him, McG proved at least one thing with Salvation: that he can craft a decent action movie.

The problem with Salvation, and this is why I suspect a lot of fans hated it, is that it does little to reflect on previous films. If you were to take away the machines, this would be a completely different movie. Now I for one can understand what McG's intentions were, and to be fair, he made no qualms about what was on offer. We knew what we were in for, months before the films release. Salvation's purpose was to not only reboot the franchise, but steer it in a completely new and fresh direction. This was 'not' going to be another road movie, or another James Cameron-esque style romp. It was the future war with Skynet. In that respect, Salvation succeeded. But, that's easier said than done. Why? Because people generally hate change. And this film was a major change - both in tone and from a visual perspective.


"Don't test me bucko'. You should see what I did to the lighting guy,"

This was all-out war, right? So was Terminator: Salvation epic enough? I don't think it was, even with an estimated budget of $200 million. But regardless, McG gave it a solid shot. This was never going to be a perfect film, so I think many of the fanboys rants and raves missed the mark on this one. Whether or not the bulk of the hatred spawned from a built-in disposition about McG as a credible talent, remains to be seen, but Box Office wise, it certainly was a disappointment on the US domestic front. However the film did perform much better with international audiences. Why? I'm not exactly sure, but the current worldwide Box Office gross rests at: $355,856,879. Enough Benjamins to greenlight another film? Remains to be seen. IMDB already has Terminator 5 listed as being in development. But as anyone who's reading this, and works in the film biz knows, the gap between development and an actual film, is a very wide abyss.


"Insert 'Kawasaki' product placement here."

McG drops us in 2018, with the machines of the malevolent Skynet well into their barrage against mankind. Leader-to-be of the human rebellion John Connor is an insubordinate lieutenant but has been prophesied to be the savior of humankind. One of the things I found refreshing with this take, was that Connor wasn't automatically hailed as the 'savior of mankind.' He still had to earn the right to become the fully-fledged leader of the human Resistance. I would have liked to have seen this played on a little more than it was. I never felt Connor was in that much conflict with his colleagues. Conflict in action movies is what keeps the film afloat. You can have all the explosions in the world, but it will have little impact if the characters are not conflicting over the films ultimate goal. Don't get me wrong, there's lots of conflict in this film, just not enough. And not enough depth either. The characters, apart from Marcus, came off as being wafer thin.

Which leads me to Marcus.

This is not really John Connor's film. We know Connor, and we know what he becomes. This film, essentially is about the wild card, Marcus Wright, a Death Row inmate-turned-cyborg. "You think you're human," Connor tells him, and indeed he does. The rub here is that Marcus, the machine, is a far more interesting character than Connor.


"Bale just spotted that lighting guy again."

The world McG presents to us is scorched and hostile, and the action is startling and visceral. The machines are grimy, covered in soot, and look fantastic. Once again, a testement to the late Stan Winston's talent, and a hat tip to the effects giant, ILM. The color grade of the film is washed in a grainy haze, almost like post-nuke fallout. I personally loved the look of the film. Significantly, Terminator Salvation takes itself far more seriously than its predecessors. That might have come off as pretentious but instead seems believable -- as believable as a movie can be, anyway, when it's about besieged humanity, occupational forces, rebel insurgencies, torture, lawlessness and warfare by remote control. When all is said and done, Terminator Salvation was a good action movie, but could have been much, much more.

Rated: 6/10

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

Michael Fucking Bay! Everything about him oozes excess. He thrives on it, demands it, lives by it. Notoriously noted for harboring an inflated ego, and driving both a Porsche GT3, and a Ferrari 430 Spider to match it, you can't deny - when it comes to cash generating blockbusters - Bay delivers in spades. There's plenty of people who hate him, but there's millions more who love him. Why? Because he's the textbook example of a 'Hollywood Action Director.' A true Maverick. I for one admire the man, because he's livin' the life. Fast cars, fast movies, fast cash, and fast woman. And on a professional level, he's one of the most technically proficient directors working today. Some of those camera angles he implements simply make you go: oh snap!


"I don't give a shit if it's an IED. Drive over it."

It's been reported that on the first Transformers film, Bay wavered his traditional directors fee in order to grab a percentage of Box Office and merchandising profits. Smart move. Bay's estimated residuals tally up to be a whopping $73 million. Naturally, the film got canned by critics, but the kids never batted an eyelid. The first film clocked in $708 million in worldwide takings. More than enough to get studio execs excited. So they gave Bay the greenlight, and he went straight to work on a sequel.

I have a problem with film critics who slag off Bay's Transformer films. To be honest, it really fucking annoys me, because they just don't get it. Most of them never will. These are not films which are meant to appeal to intellectual, chin stroking audiences, they're action films based off a toy franchise. Argue all you want, the key word here is 'entertainment.' Kids entertainment. It's designed to be big dumb fun for kids, and it's designed to appeal to global mainstream audiences. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. Transformers is what it is: an action movie about robots kicking the grease out of each other. Why and how is this such a bad thing? All you hear about online, is people complaining that Bay just wants to blow shit up, that Bay sucks, and Bay is a hack, and these films lack character development, and oh, I feel like my body has been violated, blah, blah, fucking blah.

Ebert even went so far as to note on his blog - "Those who think "Transformers" is a great or even a good film are, may I tactfully suggest, not sufficiently evolved."

Give me a break.

Okay, granted, Ebert's pushing 100, and is clearly way out of touch with anything remotely youth orientated, but come on, by now we should all know what we're in for. Bay's made eight feature films to date - we know what the guy is about, so when people jump online and act all shocked because their eardrums were nearly perforated, it just makes me mad. For me, going to the movies is all about having fun, and with the exception of Pearl Harbor, Bay has delivered for me, every single time. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen was no different. Bigger, louder, bolder, it's the mother of all robot action movies. Sure, there's not a plot in sight, the characters are one-dimensional and the visuals are so intense, my eyes nearly orgasmed, but you know what? I had a blast watching this.


"I know, $708 million from toy robots. It's awesome. Blow me Ebert."

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 ingredients to make a Transformer movie appear simple: epic mythology, mad machines, more mayhem and Megan Fox. Lots of Megan Fox. Slo-mo boobies Megan Fox. While Bay has certainly stuck with those core elements, he has delivered a balls-to-the-wall action flick, designed to give the fanboys what they want and then some. It's an exremely well crafted film. Everything from the sound design to the color grading is exquisite - in a glossy, sci-fi kind of way. Apart from the long running time, I did have some problems with the film - mostly Fox. I mean, even the most hormone enriched 14-year-old might get sick of the breathless sexy look Fox gives constantly from the first moment where we see her when she is – you guessed it – bent over in a very suggestive pose as she plays with a high-powered machine.


"When first dates go bad: LaBeouf tries to outrun cops on another DUI charge."

After a back story showing what happens when you match prehistoric man against metallic aliens, the story continues with two familiar soldiers, Josh 'Fergie's Toy-Boy' Duhamel and Tyrese 'Left Cheek, Left Cheek' Gibson, now part of an elite squad of soldiers and Autobots who track down Decepticons and destroy them in enormous battles that nobody is supposed to notice. Meanwhile our everyday hero Sam Witwicky is heading off to college, in order to indulge in copious amounts of sex and drugs, leaving behind the mechanically minded Mikaela and his transforming car Bumblebee.

But before he's even out the door, shit hits the fan.

Eventually, it turns out there is a secret power source that could either end the world or jump start Optimus Prime, and the fate of the world is in the hands of Sam, his room mate, the sultry Mikaela and disgraced government agent Simmons, again played by John Turturro who this time is in a G-string. The scenes of giant machines going toe to toe (assuming they have toes) are visually spectacular and once again, shows off what's capable within the realm of believable CGI these days.

With a movie like this, there's too much noise and too many explosions to worry about a plot, you just need to sit back and let Bay violate your senses. If you can bring yourself to do that, you may actually enjoy what Bay's trying to accomplish. It ain't Oscar bait, it's 40-something minutes too long, and it's far from being a masterpeice, but if you just want to get away from the day-to-day crap, sit in a dark cinema for a few hours, and be blown away, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen is the film to watch.

Rated: 6/10

Coming Soon --

Drag me to Hell
Moon
Bruno
Public Enemies
Jennifer's Body

Plus a whole bunch of Retro Reviews. Stay tuned....

8 comments:

  1. So it's okay for people that like Transformers to have an opinion, but those of us that despise it "just don't get it". I've had enough of people saying that. It's their way of implying that our opinions on the films are worthless.

    Ridiculous. I get it. I know what Bay is going for, what he's not interested in, and what my expectations should be.

    That doesn't mean his films aren't terrible. Action, pure idiotic action, is fine. His films go beyond that into brain dead crap.

    The Crank films are mindless entertainment, and they're a lot of fun. Bay's films lack heart, brains, tension, coherent storylines, good acting, good writing, and true balls.

    THere are things that happen for no logical reason, that aren't linked to the story in any way, and fall flat on their face.

    The pot brownie scene? Really? Not only did it come from out of nowhere, but it wasn't even well done.

    How many excuses can we make for why one film is so bad?

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  2. i agree with tarson. there's no reason why this film can't be enjoyed for what it is.

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  3. Tarson Meads clearly has a valid opinion - its just that I don't agree with it.

    Transformers 2 was a awful movie.

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  4. I'm sticking up for Tarson with this film, not because I think it's a wonderful movie, but because I believe these types of movies should be appreciated for what they are, without the hatred and flaming that people spew out over the internet. And as far as Michael Bay is concerned, I don't understand why people get so upset.

    Watch another movie, if you don't like Bay. It's simple.

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  5. MovieGuy2203@yahoo.comJuly 14, 2009 at 5:23 PM

    This is a great site, but I'm going to disagree with Tarson. Terminator Salvation and Transformers were nothing but rancid crap.

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  6. Actually tarson, there is. These types of movies are what's wrong with kids and this movie was just another reason to cash in on todays youth.

    They are not art.

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  7. "his movie was just another reason to cash in on todays youth."

    Chris, welcome to the movie industry.

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