Sunday, June 29, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

For a lot of people, Transformers has ruined everything. And not just the whole Transformers franchise, but everything! It's not hard to sympathize as I sat down and watched these movies only to realize that, yeah, these movies were as horrific I was hearing. But, even after so much complaining, a couple of people in charge felt like they were missing a couple of million dollars from their money bin, so they decided to bring Michael Bay back for round 2. Everybody was in a state of resignation by then, saying "Ugh, fine, let's get it over with." but things were looking up a little. We found out that Shia The-Beef and the rest aren't coming back for these sequel, the trailers made it look like Michael Bay learned how to keep his action scenes coherent, and....robot dinosaurs.

With all of this coming together, Michael Bay has manage to make the best movie of all of the Michael Bay Transformers movies. It's still not very good though. In fact, the movie isn't really good at all. It's just another mess that seem destined to happen from another Michael Bay Transformers movie. However, things seem to have improved from making terrible, incoherent messes to barely-watchable, incoherent messes.

Probably the most significant improvement to the Bayformers movie is the fact that there's actually a plot to speak of, for the most part. Mark Whalberg plays a guy who has a daughter and they live out in the middle of Tea Party land(which is out in the middle of nowhere). He collects and invents a bunch of helpful robots, yet, none of these robots have gotten him anywhere, which is pretty drastic because these guys are broke and are on the verge of getting kicked out of their property. Also, Mark Whalberg is having trouble taking care of her daughter as she is...well, a teenager. I have to say, placing the burden of being a protagonist in a Transformers movie on a "hard luck" father figure who has to try to figure out what to do with the mess that's handed to him is more compelling than having this burden be placed on an actual teenager who doesn't learn ****ing **** through out any of the movies.

But, in the midst of a bad situation, Mark Whalberg manages to find a truck that he decides to take back home and it turns out that this truck is a damaged Optimus Prime who is hiding from the government as the government has decided that all Transformers are evil. Also, there are other Evil Transformer robots that are helping the government and there's this one company that's trying to make things that can transform into anything which manages to produce even more Evil Transformers robots. After two hours of mucking around, there's a giant battle and, after the group goes to China for some reason, there's another, bigger battle that lasts 40 minutes long, they call in robot dinosaurs, and then, eventually, the movie ends.

Can I go home now?

Credit where credit is due, Michael Bay, a big problem with the first one was that there were 5 or 6 different subplots going on that didn't have any direct affect with each other which made the movies feel disjointed, messy, and one of the major reasons why they were genuinely awful. This movie has different subplots happening as well, but these plotlines are directly affected by each other. While things are overly bloated and somewhat confusing, because there is still so damn much that happens in the movie, this different approach helps make this movie to be watchable until the end. I'm not sure why they haven't opted for a simpler, more approachable story to work in to their movies, but things work a little bit better this time. So, whatever.

The thing that doesn't help this movie? Overly bloated action scenes. The action scene at the two hour mark of the movie sort of felt like it could have helped end the movie right there and it was simple. But that last battle scene...ugh. This is easily the loudest and busiest movie since Man of Steel, but Man of Steel was at least well shot through out that entire battle sequence. This new Transformers movie shoves in as much crap in your face as possible and, after a while, I had a hard time knowing what was going on and I had a hard time figuring out why I should be caring about all of this in the first place.

If it's hard to tell who the good guys in the bad guys are in a giant toy robot movie, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

There were a couple of shots in this movie I liked, most of them coming from the end where Optimus Prime and Bumblebee were fighting the baddest robot of the baddest robots. Everything else goes off the deep end of incomprehensibility with long shots obscuring what's going on in these battle and giant explosions. By the end of it all, I was exhausted and I was ****ing glad I managed to not see this in 3D.

While the whole movie will leave you in a state of sensory over-load, at least the robots are a little more well designed than last time. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee have had a little bit of tweaking and they introduce new robots that are all unique and readily recognizable from each other. There's one sort of military robot who wears this sort of cloak and is mainly green and there's even a blue samurai robot with a sword. The other guy is more of the gun-ho military, demolitions guy who's round and overly busy and the guy that I didn't really care for from an aesthetic stand point. Yeah, all of the robots are still overly busy looking with too many moving parts for any sort of brain to get a handle on and none of them get to do much, but a step in the right directions is still a step in the right direction.

Robots who have their faces turn into guns not withstanding.

Even with all of the improvements and things that I liked a little better this time around, Transformers 4 doesn't exactly come out from the bad movie realm. It shows some glimmers of hope and there were some things I liked about it. The human drama feels a little more like...well, drama, the robots look a bit better, some of the action shots I could really get behind, and, most importantly, robot dinosaurs. But, in the end, the whole thing is still big, loud, noisy, and dumb. The plot is a mess, most of the Transformers barely get to do anything, and the robot dinosaurs don't really have a lot of impact on the story.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Transformers Series

Michael Bay made the same movie three times in a row, so it's going to be easier for me and for all of us if I just don't give off a synopsis on all of these movies and on why all of these movies are terrible, festering pieces of monkey chunks thrown at the audience while they were being too busy being distracted by all of the explosions going on to notice that their popcorn was tasting a little funny midway through the movie.

I saw the first movie when I was in 8th grade, my last year of middle school. This was probably around the age where things would have been more impressionable for me to where anything would seem good enough for me(I was an xbox live, multiplayer, Halo fan nut back then and a lot has changed), but even the first Transformers movies didn't seem to live up to actually being good to my 14 year old's standards. I never saw the other two when it came out. But, the thing is that I didn't like the first movie back then even before I became a "high-minded, well-respected, universally-loved intellectual" But now that another movie is coming out, I decided to actual sit through all three of these movies. So, how did they fare to the me of "now" than to the me of "back then"?


Would have made a more compelling story if all they said was "protect" or "destroy"


I seriously cannot believe how low a movie can go. After watching the first movie, I realized that "Holy shit! There are still two more of these movies that exist." I don't know how else to put it than just to use a quote, which called this movie "One of the worst films of the ****ing decade!" I've never seen such a blatant disregard to story-telling, characters, consistency, plotting, or everything. After actually watching the other two movies, I've just come to the conclusion that these movies have ruined everything!

Not just Transformers or movies in general, but EVERYTHING!

So, here are the plots to all three of these movies. The military gets involved into finding out that there are giant robots or that they find out there's an end of the world macguffin. Suddenly, off to another part of the world, we are introduced to Sam Witwacky who is going through relationship and life problems. What does his story line have to do with the Transformers? Well....he eventually gets involved in their story-line and then he eventually learns something in the end and he gets the girl. Actually, a really, really, really weird thing about these movies is that you could take out the Transformers out of the Transformers movies and you wouldn't have affected the movie a lot. The title characters are inconsequential in their stakes and conflicts in their own movie. How is it that the Transformers feel like they're getting in the way of their own movies?

Also, the Transformers themselves are basically the worst from their design all the way down to their personality. All of them are one note, boring, and sometimes just out right racist(that part specifically goes to the second movie). Maybe the idea was to make a car changing into a giant robot look more realistic by giving busy and ugly designs with all of the moving parts look like they're being strung together by junk yard piles, but did anyone realize that they'd be worse off for doing it?

"Haha, very funny guys. Who smeared this crap all over my sunset picture?"

I think one of the biggest problems about this movie is how scattered it all feels. The movie is always running 4 or 5 different plot threads and they usually have nothing to do with each other besides having something to do with the giant robots. It's not just jarring to me that to movie has the audacity to switch from a complicated military issue to Sam's love life to government politics to a Tyler Perry movie, is it? And that's what it all seems to come down to as the movie just throws so much at us without giving any of it time to be fleshed out or workable in a story, making all of these movies feel like 500 hours long.

I have to give a special mention for the first movie as some people have told me that it was actually "pretty good, it just all went down hill by the second one" To that I have to say is...did we just watch the same movie? Did we see the movie that displayed blatant contempt for the franchise, its own characters, and even the audience? I'll say that out of all three of the movies, this one definitely felt more scaled back in terms of "noisiness" but I'm left in shock that anyone is able to say that "this was the 'good one'" without any hint of irony.

Really though, this isn't anything that you probably haven't heard already. We all know that these movies are bad and we all know the reasons why they are bad. Mostly because these movies are directed by Michael Bay, who isn't really a bad director(I really liked his last movie "Pain and Gain"), he just didn't seem to care to make these movies. There's a story that I've heard where he declined directing these movies the first time he was requested to do so, saying "I'm not doing that stupid, silly toy movie".

But it might have worked out with a toy car movie...

Of course, he isn't being done any favors when he's helped by *shivers* Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. I swear to god, everything those two writers touch just turns to solid crap by their inability to even tell the most basic of stories. I mean, they probably could, but it feels like they just don't want to. If Star Trek Into Darkness shows anything, they'd rather give off a plot that seems really complicated and meaningful only til you realize that there really isn't a plot at all and it's all being strung together by references and action scenes.

So, it's really all coming down to the fourth movie now and if it will be any good. Well, in the midst of all things, even if the first three were horrid abominations without any respect for anything ever, I'm still hoping it turns out to be...well, I was about to say good, but even just hoping for the movie to be "good enough" seems like your raising the bar too high. Let's just say "watchable" It does feel like that Michael Bay is getting pulled back in because the studios feel like he's the one for making them all of the money they need to build that dooms-day device, but at least the series looks like it's going to try something different. In the end, we can only wait and find out. But I guess I can say I'm caught up now.

Having said all of this, I think all I need to say is that the next person who asks me "What's the difference between Transformers and Pacific Rim?" is getting strangled.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Netflix Night

How to Train Your Dragon Again and 22 Jump Street seem to have no problems earning money over the weekend. Also, I'm not sure if this upcoming weekend is going to be good on their releases, although there is some hope with one of them(No, it's not Think Like a Man Too, how dare you!).

Since 22 Jump Street is review proof, not in that there's nothing I can say about the movie that would quantify as any sort of meaningful criticism because these movies "aren't supposed to be taken seriously" but in that anything I have to say about the movie would just be spoiling it on why it works and why the movie is just so damned funny.

So, let's do a one off thing! Are you looking through all of those Netflix titles and thinking to yourself "Man! There are just too many options. I don't know what to watch." Well, let me point out some of the more interesting titles. I can't guarantee that you'll like every one of these movies, but they are all "different" enough to warrant some kind of viewing.


I'm going to start off with a movie that's a little more simple. Not very many people went to see Dredd when it came out but, as far as action movies go, this one outshines even the biggest blockbusters. It's one of those movies that "goes big" by going small just by having the entire movie take place in one building. But, having everything feel contained is what works in the movies favor, much like in The Raid, as all of the stakes revolve around the main characters and it's not about some "end of the world" macguffin that tries to hide the fact that the makers didn't know how to actually put a story into there movie. So, it's really no wonder why a movie this small hits the mark better than most summer action movies with a wide scale in destruction. I think the most effective way to describe this movie is Die Hard but with Judge Dredd.

And, no, it's NOTHING like that one Stallone movie.


Once again, trying to keep things a bit simple here and to guarantee that what you'll watch is going to be something enjoyable. But Bernie goes for incredibly hard biting commentary on the life style in a small town and what was going through the mind of the person who committed an actual murder that happened in real life. Bernie mixes between this sort of faux-documentary style with actual movie story telling, but the transitions are seamless and it's engaging all the way through as it is funny. The fact that the movie can go into a true story with this sort of black comedy angle takes guts and skill; this movie has both.


So, how would a film play out where Elijah Wood plays a serial killer and the entire movie takes place in a first-person perspective in the eyes of said serial killer? If nothing else, the provocative nature of this movie is what makes it memorable but I'd go so far as to say that it's also just really, really good. Yes, the movie isn't going to be for everyone. Yes, the film is very dark, gruesome, and disturbing. But a film that's this bold and audacious plays out to be more than just a standard "slasher" movie. The movie is intimate on Elijah Wood's character while also having no problem with saying that, yeah, what he's doing is wrong.

At the same time though, it's definitely not for somebody with weak stomachs. I really liked this movie but be warned that this isn't really a fun movie to get into even if you are into this kind of stuff.

Only God Forgives

Directed by the same person behind Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn, this one is more interesting on a visual level more than anything else. I think it also might be fair to say that it's kind of indulgent as well, not in the sense that this guy just likes to see violent imagery and people getting killed in some horrific ways but in the way of how the director likes to film his movies. He's all about playing with the audience on this one with long visual cues and scenes that I'm not even sure if they really make any sense. However, I think I did like this movie even if I didn't completely understand it.

God Bless America

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was shocked, horrified, and even scared. A movie where a guy decides he's had enough with the sick trends and the blatant worshiping of being an anti-intellectual, so he decides to kill everyone who's a part of the problem? I mean, I agreed with the things that the main character was saying but I wasn't sure if I could handle the fact that he was going out killing people because of it.

But, after my trip to California, I feel a lot more okay about this movie than I did earlier. I think it really had a lot to do with being exposed to more reality TV than I would have like to have been(IE any reality TV at all). The movie is about as pitch black as a comedy as you can get with the movie still having a light hearted feeling to it. I guess that's about the only way you could really approach this movie without it seeming like a threat to most of humanity.

And, honestly, I think I did really like this movie.

Hot Rod

This about the goofiest movie I've ever really seen anyone attempt. Yes, it's even more off the walls than either of the Anchorman movies. A young man wants to live out his dream as a daredevil and, as you know, hilarity ensues. But the movie goes a step further by not just having its jokes be about the main character failing spectacularly but by also having all of the characters act in all of these bizarre ways in incredibly bizarre situations.

After showing this movie to my brother, he said it was pretty stupid even though he did laugh through a lot of the movie. And yeah, this movie does seem to aim for that kind of humor, but it does so with skill. It's not a smart movie but it's smartly made and these guys know how to tell their jokes.

So, cool beans!

Robot and Frank

A man with Alzheimer's is forced to have a robot helper because his son is really worried about him. Also, this guy likes to go off and steal as a hobby. It would have been easy to just have the movie be about a guy who's showing in his years and finally finds the strong friendship with his robot pal, but the extra turnaround where Frank actually doesn't really have a clean hobby and manages to get his robot to help him out is what makes the movie a little more complex than how it could have been. This movie has the ability to show that what Frank is doing isn't right while also being able to make us care for the character as it takes you along for a heartfelt ride. It might hit a little too close to home for some people but this movie really is quite a watch.

Fat Kid Rules the World

You know what I hate about some recent movies? How they try to frame one of their characters as an outsider, outcast misfit and it just becomes absolutely stupid because they are no different than any of the other actors in the movie. Movies like the terrible Carrie remake, the terrible Amazing Spider-Man movies, and the somewhat decent The Spectacular Now all fall into this problem where we're supposed to believe that the main character or one of them is supposed to be "weird" or someone that no one would want to be around for some reason.

Fat Kid Rules the World is pretty much the antithesis of that terrible drudgery. The main character is passive, alienated, hateful towards himself and others, but he is really sympathetic throughout the whole movie. However, something happens(I'm not going to say what) that ends up with him getting dragged around by a kid who wants to start him up in a punk rock band, even though the kid doesn't know how to play anything. I was a bit disappointed by the end of the movie when it the movie takes a shift onto the kid who's dragging the main character around because he has problems of his own. I mean, they give the main character an arc on how he starts taking a more proactive role in life, but, since this is one of the few times where I actually related to character, it kind of wasn't enough for me. However, the movie is really well written and well directed.

There were a couple of other movies I wanted to talk about but I wasn't sure if they were really "good enough." The two that stick out in my mind, and are actually kind of similar in strange ways, are Cash Back and The Lifeguard. Interesting in some parts but also sort of mind boggling in how they "miss the mark" as well. Maybe you'll see me talk about them later, who knows.

Friday, June 13, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Before I start, you should make an effort to go see 22 Jump Street. I can't delve too much into it to talk about why the movie is as good as it is, but it should suffice to say that it's really funny, incredibly smart, and it has a pseudo love story that plays off better than movies with serious love stories.

Also, Mild Spoilers from here on out, but it was either spoiled by the trailer or something that I'm sure people should be able to easily guess about a kids movie. So, here we go!

The first How to Train Your Dragon was a real surprise for pretty much everyone. It wasn't just a good movie but it was also an enthralling and engaging one with some admirable lessons about science and exploration. I'm not sure if it was really memorable enough to be more than just a really tight story hidden inside a big-budget kid's animation film, but everything really did come together so nicely in it. The visuals were great, the process of Hiccup training his dragon was fun to watch, and all of the designs for the dragons were just down-right awesome!

After we got things settled from the last movie which established Vikings having pet dragons in order to help their colony, where else could the story go in order to expand on a dragon-filled Viking universe? Well, this films answers this question by having more people needing to realize that they too can train their dragon.

Yeah, I'm really not all that sure about this one.

It's not that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is bad, in fact, there are lot of things about it that are really good. But my first instinct was to just write it off as a retread of the first movie, however it feels a lot more accurate to describe it as a celebration for the first film being an unexpected hit. The movie just sort of jogs in place as it just lets itself have a lot of things happening in it that might constitute as some sort of story or plot, which there is one, but it's pretty disjointed and thin. But, here it goes.

"Tell me the one again where nothing happens!"

So, the story starts off by showing how well the Vikings have taken to siding with the dragons and integrating them as a big part of their culture. Stoick, the chief of the entire Viking gang, has decided that his son, named Hiccup, is fit enough to become the new chief. However, Hiccup doesn't feel prepared into becoming the new Chief and he's been avoiding his dad because of this. When his girlfriend, named Astrid, finds him, she's excited for him and wants to push him along into this noble honor.

All of a suddenly, Astrid and Hiccup get attacked by seemingly rogue vikings. Though, it turns out that their village was attacked by a trained dragon army and they immediately place blame on the two people they see riding tamed dragons, thinking they are under the enemy master of Drago I'm-an-Evil-Badguy. When Hiccup tells his father of this encounter, it turns out that Stoick and Drago have had a history and that it's really hard to change Drago's evil ways. Hiccup is unconvinced and wants to try to change the heart of Drago.

Oh, and there's one part of the story that should have felt like a really big reveal only to come off as a way to just fit in a lot more dragons into the movie so it can lead up to the climax of the story.

So, even though this film is trying something a bit new and different with it coming down on the side of the grumpy disapproving father figure who knows that you really can't change the baddest of bad guys minds, it all really comes down to Hiccup still being more right in his methods than anyone else and that it's kind of hard to just not see that coming. Where as Hiccup and crew embrace the dragons as friends and loyal followers, Drago is the bad guy in that he takes the more hypnotic and cruel approach in controlling the dragons. Guess which side gets the award for winning by being good guys and by being nicer to the dragons which causes them to win the battle?

And, no, there aren't any prizes if you guess correctly.

It's not that I couldn't accept a plot like this in that Hiccup must learn to embrace responsibility as he inherits the role as chief, but I couldn't help but feel that the plot was a bit clumsily put together. It all starts off incredibly nicely and everything feels really tight. But, when it comes time for the second act , it just sort of feels like the movie is waiting around until an impressive big finale(No, not every movie follows a three act structure, but this one does and think it kind of suffers because of it).

At this part of the story, everything sort of takes this abrupt halt and lets everyone that isn't the main character go off and make sure that a plot is going to eventually happen. I was so disengaged with this part that even a big dragon battle just didn't feel like it was enough to keep me from feeling bored through the second act. But things do pick right back up at the end, as everything really comes together for an awesome closing act. It was finally around the time when the stakes to the story actually felt like it mattered.

If nothing else, it's definitely a great looking movie. It introduces even more dragons and all of their unique designs are just so awesome. There a lot of great scenes of Hiccup flying on his dragon and that he even gets to partake in flying on his own. Also, Hiccup has A FREAKIN' LIGHTSABER FIRE SWORD and one of the characters wore this unique costume that I just fell in love with. I really like the unique style of this film and how compelling everything is just on a visual level. This is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing movies since the last time vikings got involved on the big screen(Thor 2, in case you were wondering).

I'm not sure if they explain how this awesome sword works, but who cares? It's awesome!

In the end, I think I just wish the story was tighter through some parts and that it wasn't as predictable as it was. Sure, the movie sets itself up through a lot of surprising things, but it doesn't feel like it really does much with it. I felt like a couple of characters who were actually supposed to feel major and vital to the story just ended up being there in order to get the everything going. Still, there's enough good in here that I wasn't thinking that I wasted my time after leaving the theater. There are enjoyable and even engaging parts with the story and especially with the visuals. It just takes a bit of patience to get to these parts.

But at least the kids will like it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Edge of Tomorrow

I sort of have a feeling that I'm supposed to hate Tom Cruise at this point. With him being a super egocentric, Scientologist nut-job, he hasn't exactly been scoring any cool points as of lately. As for me? I just don't care one way or the other. As far as I'm concerned, he's a good actor who specializes in movies where he runs a lot. Last year, that movie was Oblivion, an epically boring science fiction film with no real story or depth as it disguises its fault with plot twists in order to make itself look smarter than it really is. Granted, I wasn't exactly looking forward to that movie coming out, but it wasn't like I wanted it to suck though, it just...did.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I actually was looking forward to The Edge of Tomorrow(even if the title is just soooo dumb, why couldn't they have just left it at All You Need is Kill?), but that was mostly because the premise in this movie was pretty killer. Tom Cruise lives through the same day over and over in his life in order to improve his fighting skills and strategies against an alien invasion. How he acquired those powers was kept away from the trailers, but it all gets established early on in the movie. Tom Cruise plays a character where he runs around a lot, but, this time, he's aided by wearing a weaponized robot suit that was built for winning against the driving conflict of an alien invasion. So, in short, what we have here is a killer time-loop premise mixed with robots and aliens.

Yeah, I can dig that even if the movie was less than stellar.

Luckily, the movie goes in with a surprisingly tight screenplay and story. It'd be one thing to have an action hero gain the super power to go back in time and redo his action scenes in order to get better in the fights he's had before, but what if this was happening to a guy who wasn't an action hero or anyone special? What if it happened to one of the most inept people to get thrown into combat in the first place? That's the clever turn around in this movie as Tom Cruise plays an incredible loser who they just throw into the lower ranks of "grunt combat" because the guy he plays is sort of a scumbag that nobody really wants to deal with.

As Sinistar once said "Ron Howard!!!"

After an extended war sequence where Tom Cruise runs around and barely survives every single alien encounter he goes through, he kills one of the alien forces through dumb luck but dies due to the aliens acidic blood pouring all over him. Of course, a guy like this would have died through combat, but, after his death scene, he awakens back to the beginning of the day where he finds himself in the lower ranks. This time, it's realized that they are fighting a losing battle and it must be something to do with the alien blood that got dumped all over Cruise's face. Of course, as he tries to explain that he's been through this day before and tries to warn everybody that the battlefront they are getting into is actually going to be a death trap, nobody believes him. So, it's up to him to use this new found power to his advantage.

I've talked with people who were worried that the scenes were probably going to get repetitive since he would have to be living through the same day over and over again, but the movie is way too smart to let this happen. Sure, we'll see the same scenes play out differently after Tom Cruise realizes that this certain action is what's going to kill him, but they cleverly cut out all of the scenes that we don't need to see again. Most of the time when they do repeat a scene, it's usually back to back as they show Tom Cruise perform an action, die due to something stupid, a shot of him getting mad and frustrated, and then back to the same scene but he corrects his mistake this time. You could probably compare it to a video game only if it were the kind of video game that will let you choose the point you would want to redo again.

This movie also highlights something weird that inevitably crops up in every action movie, which is how improbably skilled and lucky our main hero is as he goes through these impossible endeavors. Nearly every action-lead to any kind of movie will have his reflexes amped up to actually see the danger that will come upon him. Even if a bad guy is pretty good at hiding his own telegraphed attacks, the good guy is always one step ahead of him, being able to predict each move and what he needs to do in order to counter it.

But who needs that kind of skill when you have rockets strapped on to your back?

Had The Edge of Tomorrow been your standard action flick, we would have gotten something very much like what I just described. But then the movie highlights that it'd be impossible for the main hero to survive unless he didn't know what was going to happen before hand. Movies can compensate by actually making it feel like the main character is going through split second decisions, but the premise to this movie gives it all of the excuses it can have in order to provide for some really inventive action scenes while also pointing out that action scenes can only happen like this if the main character had a super power like this.

The movie doesn't hit its mark all the way through however as the final action scene loses a lot of momentum when it ironically becomes Generic Action Movie: The Movie. This might be due to Tom Cruise losing his time loop power during the last bit of the movie(No, I don't consider this a spoiler, because it gets established really early on that it is possible to lose this power. When they establish it, you can pretty much set your watch to how long it takes for him to finally lose his power since the movie feels it needs a way to increase the tension), but, where as the earlier fight scenes involved guys in robot suits and aliens trading off super power attacks against each other, the final part doesn't even bother to try to get creative when they strip off Tom Cruise's robotic suit to fight the final boss fight. There's a couple of gun shots, a grenade gets thrown, and then other stuff happens that's supposed to resemble conflict.

Also, while I do think the robot suits are really well designed, I'm not sure if I'm a fan of there drab, brownish-grayish color. For one thing, this isn't exactly a dark kind of movie where it needs to have this sort of "grey look" in order for it to have a dark tone. This movie is a lot more fun than that and a little more color to these things would have gone a long way(save for a little bit of red on Emily Blunt's costume). Also, the design for the aliens look overly-complicated and messy. There's not really much in the way of separating the aliens in this movie to a lot of other movies. They're just kind of boring and not all that memorable.

Also, more samurai swords would have gone a long way as well!

However, when it all comes down to it, what we have here is actually a pretty daring and solid film. What could have been an empty action movie with a some-what clever premise goes in for a tight and character-driven screenplay that makes The Edge of Tomorrow more than an empty-shell. I'm not sure if this movie is going to go down as any sort of classic or if it will really strike anyone as more than just a solid sci-fi action flick, but it does everything it needs to pretty admirably. I had a good time with it and I'm pretty sure it will please many others as well.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Fault in our Stars

The terrible truth that plagues all of these adaptions of "young adult" novels is that the reason why the movie is bad is because the original source material is bad. I may not be the biggest fan of the Hunger Games, but they're a god send in the midst of sparkly vampires, the "oh crap, the Hunger Games is popular, let's cash in on that"(Divergent), and the "oh crap, the Hunger Games is popular, let's cash in on that but tailor it to boys."(The Maze Runner) But if there's one person who you wouldn't think fall victim to this tragic plight is John Green. John Green is one of  the most important people to get famous on the internet. I'm not his biggest fan, but his ability to explain and break down incredibly tough and complex issues to help people learn and understand is highly admirable. So, if anybody is going to create a good young adult novel that's based on tough and complex issues, why not the guy who's known for being really good with tough and complex issues?

So, I just really have to ask...what happened, John?

When I found out that The Fault in our Stars was by John Green, I almost felt assured that it'd be at least pretty good. But when I was done reading the first chapter of the book, I had to go back and make sure with other people that I was reading the right book and not some dumb knock off. The book is so simple and contrived that I was kind of offended by it. I could tell something was off just by the fact that Green had to reassure everybody that this was a made-up story but fictional stories still have their value. I was halfway expecting him to also remind us that this was a story that we're about to read; you'll experience it through this thing called a book. Not that he actually says that, but some of the things the narrator says throughout the book can be along the lines of that kind of attitude. One of sentences explaining, and I am not joking, that this part happening in the book doesn't happen like this in other stories when it comes to standard narrative conventions. I think that was the one part where the novel was actually showing signs of getting good, but then Green has to show off by writing in "Ooohh, look how edgy I got there!"

The story is written in a blog-like manner, which I can see it being something that could be potentially interesting but Green doesn't seem interested in exploring that kind of story-telling. The parts where he thinks he's getting clever in the story made me re-read the part as I couldn't believe someone let him get away with this in the editing process, especially one part where he cuts a sentence off as the narrator was talking about a book that ends right in the middle of a sentence. (A-ha! I see what you did there!)

What ever hope I had for the movie was absolutely shut down after reading the book once I knew that Green consider the movie a really faithful adaptation. But it sort of saves me time, because whatever I have to say about the movie is pretty much the same thing on what I have to say about the book. Asides from the usual big difference of a book having a constant narrator and a movie having to have the visuals tell its story, the book and the movie go hand in hand and its really baffling to see all of the things that went wrong with The Fault in our Stars.

Especially this part....

The main character in this story is Hazel Grace, who's suffering from a cancer that's affecting her lungs, so she carries an oxygen tank around. Her knowing that she's going to die anytime soon makes her depressed. I mean, that's what the movie informed me as Hazel Grace narrates the story at some parts to fill the audience in on stuff that they already know. Hazel assures her parents and her doctor that she's not depressed, even though her mom lists off symptoms and behaviors that Hazel has which suggests that she has depression along with a couple of shots of her lying on a couch watching TV.

Actually, this was probably the part where a narrator actually did fill us in on something that we wouldn't have known because, as far as I would have seen without that particular bit of information, I wouldn't have known she was really suffering from anything. Even before her "life-changing experiences," she acts about the same as she does through out the rest of the movie. She's snarky, she's energetic, and, since we don't really get any insight on her character besides her narrations telling us stuff, we never get to see what's really wrong with her. But the movie assures us that she has a problem and that there's going to be some sort of magical fix to all of this.

Are you ready for what that fix is? Because, here it is!

It's the dreamy guy from Titanic who knows all of the secrets to the happiness of life and is willing to share it with Hazel Grace because they both find each other physically attractive. And I'm not just being sly by making that Titanic reference, this story is pretty much Cameron's Titanic if everything in that movie went incredibly wrong. Titanic isn't exactly the greatest movie, but at least that had all of its basics right. The Fault in our Stars isn't even willing to go that far.

As they wait for something interesting to finally happen...

The guys name is Augustus and he's the plot device of this story. He's not really there to change, to grow, or to even straighten up from his usual douche-baggery, rather just be the sort of Manic Pixie Dream *insert gender here* that plagues so many other bad love stories. In fact, only one character throughout this entire thing actually feels like a real, breathing character and isn't there to just be a narrative tool to trudge the story along. It's a guy named Isaac where he had a pretty decent life he was enjoying until he had cancer and, in order to save him, they had to remove his eyes which turns his life upside-down. There's drama with this character, there are even emotions to him as well. In fact, his story feels like something that the main character should have in order for it to be a story. Instead, we get boring guy meets boring girl who do boring stuff together with a narrator that tells us how we should be feeling throughout each scene.

I'm not exactly the only one to point out that none of these characters feel like real people and it all has to do with the writing. It's not that I need every character to feel like humans with traits and emotions that humans generally tend to recognize, but they have to act in a way that makes sense. If they were trying to go for the "quirky" angle of this kind of story (and it feels like they were) where people are slightly more silly or less human than movie characters generally tend to be, you need to contextualize it(Wes Anderson is the master at this and I don't think it's a coincidence that I mention his name in a film like this) Character actions and dialogue hardly make sense throughout The Fault in our Stars, with Hazel's snark and jokes not even making sense or Augustus grossly misusing the word "soliloquy." It's like an incredibly poor knock off of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode.

Luckily, some of the performances do make the screenplay somewhat bearable, though I have to wonder why the actress for Hazel Grace looks like she's on the verge of smiling throughout most of the film. But a special mention has to go out towards Willem Dafoe. He is completely awful in this movie. He looks like he's so utterly bored and that he loathes himself for being here. You can almost see what he's thinking in his face "Just a couple of scenes and I get my paycheck. Just a couple of scenes and I get my paycheck." I won't say who he plays, as that is technically a spoiler, but I was actually really excited to see him in this movie only to find out that he doesn't even try to make the hellish dialogue in this movie sound good.

"I regret everything..."

Had I not known John Green and you told me that this story was by one of the smartest, most insightful, and most influential people of our time, I would have thought you were crazy. But since I do know who John Green is, I'm just sad now. How can someone so smart and cool have the capacity to just trudge out something like this? How can an optimistic guy who carries a positive influence among many people make me more tired, bitter, and cynical than usual? Just, why?

The faults within this story is just so tragic and grossly mishandled that I'm willing to just pretend that this was something that John Green wasn't behind. The Fault in our Stars is a terrible film with rarely any good qualities and, with all of that said, I am incredibly disappointed.