Music Video of the Day: Sacred Emotion by Donny Osmond (1989, directed by Michael Bay)


I don’t know what amuses me more about this video, the fact that it suggests Donny Osmond can bring rain to the desert or that it was directed by the master of bombast, Michael Bay?

This song was the second single to be released off of Osmond’s 1989 album, Donny Osmond, and it was a part of an attempt to rebrand Osmond as a contemporary rocker.  Despite the popularity of both this song and Soldier of Love, that attempt failed because once an Osmond, always an Osmond.

The video is pure Michael Bay.  Donny, several hot women, and a group of construction workers drive out to the middle of the desert.  While Donny looks over blue prints and gives orders, the models and the day laborers start carrying boards and hammering nails.  Are they building a house or a temple?  No, it turns out that they’re building a stage so that Donny can perform in front of an audience that spontaneously shows up.  Donny does such a good job performing that it starts to rain and the video goes from being in black and white to being in color.  Bay directs with the same style that he would later bring to Armageddon and the Transformers franchise, except that instead of meteors and robots, he’s showcasing Donny Osmond.

It would be easy to mistake this video for being the most wholesome beer commercial ever made.

Here’s The Trailer For Bumblebee!


Yesterday, when I heard that there was a trailer for a film called Bumblebee, I was really excited because I assumed it would be a Pixar film about a bee who speaks with the voice of Martin Freeman and who wonders why he was given the ability to sting if he can only use it once before dying.

Then I watched the trailer and I discovered that it was just another Transformers movie.

Actually, to be specific, this is a Transformers spin-off.  In fact, it’s a prequel!  It’s set in the 80s, which means that there will be a lot of retro fun to be had!  So, this might be better than the average Transformers film.  Or it might really suck, again like an average Transformers film.

Regardless, I bet it will have a killer soundtrack.

(Also, there is a reason for cautious optimism.  Michael Bay is not directing.  Instead, the director is Travis Knight, who previously gave us the brilliant Kubo and The Two Strings.)

 

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2017: Transformers: The Last Knight (dir by Michael Bay)


So, I’m just going to be honest here.

I did watch Transformers: The Last Knight.  I didn’t see it at the theaters, of course.  To date, I’ve only seen one Transformers movie on the big screen.  It was the fourth one and not only did I get motion sick but when I left the theater, I discovered that I was having trouble hearing.  Even though I watched Transformers: The Last Knight on a small screen, I still made sure to take some Dramamine beforehand.  That may have been a mistake because this movie somehow drags things out for 2 hours and 30 minutes.  That’s a lot of time to spend trying to stay awake while watching something that doesn’t even try to make sense.

So, yes, I did watch Transformers: The Last Knight but I’m not really sure what I watched.  I know that there was a lot of camera movement.  There was a lot of stuff blowing up.  Robots would fly into space.  Robots would return to Earth.  Robots turned into cars.  All of the robots spoke in these gravelly voices and half the time, I couldn’t really understand what they were saying.  Mark Wahlberg was around and he spent the entire movie with this kind of confused look on his face.  His Boston accent really came out whenever he had to deliver his dialogue.  One thing I’ve noticed about Wahlberg is that the less he cares about a movie, the more likely he is to go full Boston.  To be honest, if I just closed my eyes and listened to Wahlberg’s accent and tuned out all of the explosions and robot talk, I probably would have thought I was watching Manchester By The Sea.

Anthony Hopkins was also in the movie, playing a character who might as well have just been named “Esteemed British Person.”  It’s always fun to see Hopkins in a bad movie, just because he knows that his deserved reputation for being a great actor isn’t going to suffer no matter how much crap he appears in.  He always goes through these movies with a slightly bemused smirk on his face.  It’s almost as if he’s looking out at the audience and saying, “Laugh all you want.  I’ll still kick anyone’s ass when it comes to Shakespeare…”  Anyway, Hopkins is mostly around so that he can reveal that the Transformers have been on Earth since time began.  Why, they even saved King Arthur!

The plot has to do with a powerful staff that can be used to bring life back to the Transformers’s home planet.  The problem is that using the staff will also destroy all life on Earth or something like that.  So, of course, the good Transformers are trying to save Earth and the bad Transformers are like, “Fuck Earth, let’s blow stuff up.”  Or something like that.  The main good Transformer — Optimus Prime, I guess — gets brainwashed into becoming an evil Transformer.  Of course, since Anthony Hopkins is in the movie, the majority of the film takes place in England and that can only mean a trip to Stonehenge!

And…

Look, I’ve exhausted myself.  I’m not going to say that Transformers: The Last Knight is a terrible movie because, obviously, someone out there loves this stuff.  I mean, they’ve made five of these movies so someone has to be looking forward to them.  They’re not for me, though.

Some day, I hope Micheal Bay directs a Fifty Shades of Grey movie.  I look forward to watching Christian and Ana discuss consent while the world explodes behind them.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #17: 13 Hours (dir by Michael Bay)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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I recorded 13 Hours off of Epix on October 14th.

Before I say anything else about 13 Hours, I would like to be point out something that I haven’t seen mentioned in any of the other reviews of this film.  13 Hours is not just a recreation of the September 11th, 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.  (This attack led to death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tyone Woods, Sean Smith, and Glenn Doherty, all of whom are portrayed in the film.)  13 Hours is also a very unexpected The Office reunion.  On The Office, John Krasinski played Jim Halpert while David Denman played Roy Anderson, the ex-fiance of Jim’s wife, Pam.  In 13 Hours, they both play members of the American security detail who spend 13 terrifying hours trying to protect the compound from a violent and heavily armed mob.

They’re both surprisingly well-cast.  As someone who absolutely loved The Office, I had my doubts as to whether or not I’d be able to believe John Krasinski — he of the iconic smirk and the adorable eye roll — as a battle-hardened, former Navy SEAL.  Jim Halpert with a gun!?  I wondered.  But Krasinski brings an unexpected gravity to his role, as does David Denman.  For that matter, the entire cast — and this is truly an ensemble film, even if it is dominated by Krasinski and James Badge Dale (in the role of Tyrone Woods) — does surprisingly well.  If I sound surprised, that’s because 13 Hours was directed by Michael Bay, a director who is not exactly known for his skill with actors.

It says something about how messed up 2016 has been that, for a few weeks in January, 13 Hours was the most controversial film in America.  When the film was first released, many commentators and critics were convinced that it was all part of a grand conspiracy to keep Hillary Clinton from being elected President.  Now, 11 months later, we can look back and — well, hmmm.  Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected President but that probably has nothing to do with 13 Hours.  If I remember correctly, 13 Hours didn’t exactly set the box office on fire.  It was pretty much forgotten by February.  Unless 13 Hours somehow convinced Hillary Clinton to not campaign in Wisconsin or Michigan, I imagine that it had little influence on the actual election.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor, for that matter, Barack Obama are ever mentioned in 13 Hours.  (Then again, the film also never tries to convince us that the attack was solely the result of a YouTube video, either.)  That’s not to say that there isn’t a political subtext to 13 Hours.  (It’s impossible to make a movie about Americans with guns in the Middle East without there being some sort of political subtext.)  However, that subtext has less to do with what happened during the attack and more about whether or not the U.S. should have even gotten involved in the Libyan Civil War in the first place.  If anything, 13 Hours seems to be suggesting that any sort of American military intervention in the Middle East is doomed to failure.

Make no mistake about it.  Thematically, 13 Hours is Michael Bay’s darkest film.  It starts with disturbing footage of the Libyan revolution and it ends with shots that linger over the ruins of the compound that several men were either killed or wounded attempting to defend.  Even those who manage to survive the 13-hour battle are left scarred, both physically and emotionally.  For perhaps the first time in a Bay film, no attempt is made to make war look heroic or inviting.  There’s none of the over the top sentimentality that typifies so many of Bay’s other films.  Instead, there’s just John Krasinski sobbing as he realizes that his friends are dead.

That said, Bay has to be Bay.  In some ways, 13 Hours is his most mature film to date but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t showcase a lot of Bay’s flaws as a filmmaker.  At 2 and a half hours, the film is at least 50 minutes too long and the scenes of Krasinski talking to his pregnant wife feel like they were lifted from an unpolished second draft of American Sniper and, as a result, they’re never as powerful as they were obviously meant to be.  As usual, Bay does better with the action sequences than with the human element.

In the end, 13 Hours is a frequently harrowing, if rather uneven, film.  If nothing else, it may be remembered for heralding the unlikely emergence of John Krasinski, action star.

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Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles {2014} (dir. by Jonathan Liebesman)


teenage_mutant_ninja_turtles_ver15_xxlg-720x1066Before I start, I’d like everyone in advance to understand I’m aware this is a kid’s movie. So, when I complain, feel free to throw it out there like the hula hoop in The Hudsucker Proxy (“You know…for kids”). I may be nitpicking about this movie, looking at it with eyes that are older than the intended audience. It may also be somewhat spoiler filled, so a little warning beforehand.

When it comes to Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I grew up on the 90’s Era cartoon. Truth be told, though, the Turtles started way back in the early 80s and the new movie may be closer to that in some ways. I can’t really say for sure due to my unfamiliarity with the comics.

I can say that while Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may not be my Ninja Turtles, but they may end up being someone’s Ninja Turtles. That’s really the kindest thing I can say about it. A number of kids in my audience seemed to really enjoy it, though the adults who came for the nostalgia factor (myself included) looked a little disappointed. It’s not a horrid movie. I had moments – particularly the snow sequence – that I truly enjoyed, but at best this Turtles feels like an action demo reel sliced together.

The beginning of the movie explains the Turtles, the Foot Clan, and The Shredder in the space of five minutes. This is helped along with some drawings down by Kevin Eastman himself. Everyone in the city is aware of the Foot Clan, and reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is trying to crack her first big story with anything she can find about the Ninja groups criminal acts. This leads her to discovering the Turtles, Splinter and together they try to stop the Shredder’s master plan – one that involves poisoning all of New York City with a deadly mist from the top of a tower. This involves the Turtles because their blood still contains remnants of the Mutagen used to change them, which assists in their amazing healing factors. The Mutagen also acts as an antidote to the poison. It’s almost the same premise used in The Amazing Spider-Man and Batman Begins. Would it hurt to have a little creativity? Didn’t anyone in the writing department say “wait, we’ve seen this trend in movies about as much as we’ve seen the ‘Captured-Villian-taken-to-Hero’s-Base-who-Springs-Trap-that-Disables-Hero’s-Ability-to-do-Good’. Maybe we should try something different here?” Nope. Let’s simply take a tired plot line and do it again. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles deserves to be the final film that uses the Toxic Mist angle for a while.

A moment of silence, if you will:

R.I.P. “Toxic Mist, a.k.a. Mutagen Mist, a.k.a. Scarecrow Dust” – Born 2005 (Batman Begins) – Died 2014 (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Here’s what I had a problem with:

Exposition by way of Explanation –
The rule of “Show, don’t Tell” states that it’s better to reveal information on screen – to the characters and the audience – than it would be to have someone just tell you what’s up. Most of Turtles moves in this fashion. When April witnesses a crime thwarted by Raphael, she runs to her boss, her room mate and pieces it all together, telling everyone exactly what we just saw – that a vigilante is fighting back against the Foot Clan. The argument could be made that the explanation is done to help kids understand what’s going on, but the scene before that already covered it.

Plot holes within plot holes-
Turtles also suffers from giving the audience information that the writers completely ignore later on. At one point, one of the members is wounded and the remaining Turtles have to get Mutagen to save them. Wait. The story already mentioned that they all had Mutagen in them – the “Mutant” part that accelerates their healing – so why would you need to administer more when what they have can already save them? It’s face palm moments like these that show how much focus was done on making the movie look good, compared to writing a solid plot. Some things don’t make sense here.

What did work:

Brian Tyler’s score for the film may be the best element of the entire movie. It may sound similar to Thor: The Dark World in some ways, but it’s a good theme for the heroes overall. I’ve had some of it on repeat on Spotify, truth be told.

The action is actually pretty good, though it takes some time to get there. Some of the fight scenes suffer from the Bourne Identity and Batman Begins blur effects, but overall, it works out. Again, I wouldn’t mind seeing that snow sequence again if I didn’t have to sit through the entire film. From that point forward, the action picks up. Each turtle (and Splinter) has their own moment in the spotlight and when it happens, it can cause a smile or two, however brief that may be. The Turtles themselves are huge and highly mobile, which make the fights look like Power Rangers battles before the enemy grows to a huge size. There aren’t as many Bay like explosions in this as you’d find in Transformers, but you can feel his influence on this. That could be considered a problem when you compare Turtles with Battle: L.A. (which I enjoyed).

The In Between:

The casting on this movie is a mixed bag. Megan Fox isn’t a bad April O’Neil by any means (she’s good), but April herself in this version isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. By that, I mean she is as abbreviated in this as Lois Lane was in Man of Steel. In an age where we’re trying to see more well rounded female leads on screen, O’Neil becomes just another Lara Croft / Carol Marcus / Sydney Bristow with issues circulating around her father. Not saying it’s unlikely, but they could have found something else to work with as background. Again, it’s a kid’s movie. Maybe it doesn’t need to be that complex. Will Arnett felt like a sidekick in this, and I found it a little difficult to not hear his Lego Batman when he spoke, but that’s just me. The Turtles themselves could be voiced by anyone, really. I didn’t feel too much of a difference between them, save that they played to their archetypes. Raphael always seemed angry, Mike is playful and so on.

Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a kid’s film and maybe only young kids will really enjoy it. There’s action for both old and new fans of the Heroes in a Halfshell, but it’s wrapped up in stories we’ve heard before. This probably one you’ll want to wait for video, at best.

Embracing the Melodrama #48: Coyote Ugly (dir by David McNally)


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“Never give up on your dreams!” is such a familiar movie cliché that I have to admit that there’s a part of me that really wants to see a mainstream, big budget studio film that proudly declares, “Give up!”  We’ve seen so many films about photogenic people who leave pretty but predictable small towns and end up in big, scary New York City that we pretty much know exactly what’s going to happen as soon as they step off that bus.  They’re going to get robbed.  They’re going to end up at an all-night dinner.  They’re going to meet the lover of their dreams.  They’re going to get quirky friends.  They’re going to become a success.  And, most importantly, they’ll be advised to “never give up on your dreams!”  It’s not that I’m cynical or that I don’t enjoy watching people succeed.  It’s just all so predictable that I found myself yearning for a film that will not slavishly follow the formula.

Unfortunately, 2000’s Coyote Ugly is not that film.  In fact, Coyote Ugly is such a thoroughly predictable film that it’s perhaps not surprising to discover that it’s also a film that’s been embraced by a lot of people.  It never ceases to amaze me how, whenever Coyote Ugly shows up on cable, twitter is full of viewers declaring their love.

Coyote Ugly tells the story of  Violet (Piper Perabo), who may look like an ordinary waitress from New Jersey but who aspires to be a songwriter in New York City.  As the film begins, she is in the process of leaving her loving but overprotective father (John Goodman) and her best friend (Melanie Lynesky) so that she can move to the big city and never give up on her dream.  Before she leaves, she’s asked to sign a piece of paper so that it can be tacked to the wall of the local pizza place.  It’s a tradition, apparently.  Before anyone leaves town for New York, they’re asked to leave behind an autograph.  The wall is covered with signatures, indicating that apparently every waitress in New Jersey thinks that she’s a songwriter.

Violet moves to New York and, at first, it seems like she might not make it.  Her apartment is a dump and her neighbors get mad whenever she sings.  (Violet responds by setting up a small recording studio on the roof of her building.)  Nobody is willing to listen to her demo.  About the only good thing that happens to Violet is that she meets Kevin (Adam Garcia), an Australian who encourages her to never give up on her dreams.

Eventually, Violet finds herself in one of those all-night diners that always seem to pop up in movies like this.  She notices that the girls seated at a table near her seem both to be happy and to have a lot of money.  It turns out that they work at the Coyote Ugly Saloon and since one of them (played by Tyra Banks, in a cameo) is quitting so she can go to law school, that means that there’s soon going to be an opening at the bar.

After talking to the Coyote’s owner, Lil (Maria Bello), Violet manages to get a job as a bartender.  Along with serving drinks to a combination of hipsters, frat boys, and stock brokers, another part of Violet’s job is to jump up on the bar and dance.  Eventually, she even gets a chance to sing when it’s discovered that the sound of her voice (or, to be technical about it, LeAnn Rimes’s voice since Rimes provided Violet’s singing voice) can somehow inspire drunks to stop fighting and act civilized.  Violet bonds with her fellow bartender Cammie (Izbella Miko) while the other bartender, Rachel (Bridget Moynahan) takes an instant and almost pathological dislike to her.  Lili is tough, Cammie is a flirt, and Rachel likes to set things on fire.  That’s about all we find out about them.

Even when her father disowns her for working at the Coyote and even when she and Kevin have a fight over her extreme stage fight and Kevin’s refusal to talk about his troubled past, Violet never gives up on her dreams!

And, if you can’t guess every single thing that happens in Coyote Ugly before it happens, then you really need to start watching more movies.

Despite the fact that the movie is named after the Coyote Ugly Saloon and it’s full of scenes of Violet and her co-workers dancing on top of that bar, the Coyote Ugly itself is actually pretty superfluous to the overall film.  The film itself is all about Violet pursuing her dream to become a songwriter and the bar itself really doesn’t play that major of a role into her eventual success.  Instead, it’s just a place where she works.  Violet could just as easily have worked at a particularly rowdy Dave and Buster’s and the overall film would have turned out the same.

And that’s a shame because, while watching the film, it’s hard not to feel that a movie about either Lil, Cammie, or Rachel (or, for that matter, a film about Tyra Banks going to law school) would be a thousand times more interesting that any film about boring old Violet.  I mean, here we have a film named after a business that is owned by a woman and that specifically employs and potentially empowers other women and what does the movie do with all of this material?

It tells a story so predictable and so simplistic that it could just as easily been generated by a computer program.

Coyote Ugly is a massive mixed opportunity but, for whatever reason, some people seem to love it.

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And good for them.

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Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Transformers : Age Of Extinction”


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You can accuse Michael Bay of many things — overblown spectacle, formulaic hackery, using CGI as a massive crutch, general lack of anything resembling original vision — but false advertising ins’t among them : when you go see a Bay-directed flick, particularly a Bay-directed Transfomers flick, you know exactly  what you’re in for.

Oh, sure, his latest — Transformers : Age Of Extinction — alters the basic cosmetic trappings somewhat, most notably by banishing Shia LaBeouf to whatever hell for dead careers Megan Fox was earlier castigated to in favor of proven “action hero” star Mark Wahlberg, and yeah, Stanley Tucci is about the only major holdover (as far as human beings go) from previous entries in this series (look for more newcomers in the form of Kelsey Grammer and Nicola Peltz as Wahlberg’s daughter), but this is no reboot, by any stretch.

For one thing, the story continues directly on from the previous efforts, with the Transformers having been “driven underground,” so to speak, thanks to a government witch-hunt until no less than Optimus Prime himself is discovered and “resurrected” by Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager (there’s a focus-group-tested name if I’ve ever heard one) character, who —

Oh, fuck it. Does this even matter? Does even the most hard-core fan of this franchise — and that’s precisely what it is, a franchise — care what the plots of these films are about? If so, you have to feel a sort of pity for them, because Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger (who was supposed to be the “next big thing” once upon a time for a few minutes there) clearly don’t. Every single “slow” or “quiet” scene is obviously just set-up to carry us into the next big CGI set piece, so we won’t waste our time here with a terribly detailed breakdown of the story. Sound fair?

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All in all, Transformers : Age Of Extinction is all about getting the job done, slapping the finished product up on the screen, and opening up those cash register drawers. In that respect — and that one only — you’ve gotta say “mission accomplished” here. This movie is making money hand over fist and evidently the public’s appetite for more and more robo-carnage is proving to be flat-out insatiable. We apparently love this shit.

The question I have is — who’s “we”? Like the ever-ephemeral “they” of “well, they say you should — ” and “they say it’s not good for you to —” fame, the target audience for these films eludes me. I don’t like ’em. Nobody I know likes ’em. Nobody whose reviews I read online likes ’em. Nobody anywhere seems to like ’em.

And yet there it is — an 87% CinemaScore rating and another sequel already germinating somewhere in the pipeline. How, exactly, does this happen?

transformers-age-of-extinction-trailer

The short answer is — I don’t know. There’s obviously an appreciative audience for these things out there somewhere, but I can’t figure out where it is, beyond perhaps in junior high schoolyards. That’s not enough to explain the phenomenon, though. I know it’s purely anecdotal, but when I went to see this film, the theater had maybe 30 or 40 people in it, and the crowd remained silent throughout. No clapping and cheering. No gasping in awe. No chuckles at the limp one-liners. And yet it wasn’t a rapturous, devotional silence these folks were in the midst of — it was just a kind of “blah” sense of resignation. We were here. This was happening. Everything, apparently, was as it should be. Until the end credits rolled, and we all left to do whatever it is we were  supposed to do next.

And maybe that’s the genius and/or malevolence of what Bay and company have come up with here in a nutshell : Tranfromers movies, for all their empty-hearted and empty-headed spectacle, aren’t huge pop culture events anymore. But a lot of us — myself included — keep going to them because they’re supposed to be. And we’re supposed to be there for them. It’s almost like a kind of Orwellian mass conditioning going on : we’re told this is a big deal and, lemmings that we are, we don’t want to miss out on that. Final score : Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures 1, hope for humanity 0.

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Pessimistic? Sure. But is there any reason not to be? A family of four left the theater at exactly the same time I did and their car was parked right next to mine. We followed the same route for a few blocks (I wasn’t purposely tailing them, I promise!) — until they pulled into a McDonald’s. And that pretty much says it all right there.