‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ Review

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Dir: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Sophia Myles, Bingbing Li, T.J. Miller, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, John Goodman, John DiMaggio, Mark Ryan, and Ken Watanabe
Synopsis: An automobile mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that brings down the Autobots – and a paranoid government official – on them.

 
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction is the fourth installment of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. Even though the movie is supposed to be a reboot/sequel, but the movie is more or less the same of the other movies, which some people will probably be okay with, but at the end of the day it really isn’t.

 

Five years after the “Battle of Chicago” Transformers are seen as a threat and are being hunted down by shady government agency agent Harold Attinger (Grammer) and his agency known as Cemetery Wind, since his lead by his right hand man Savoy (Welliver). Meanwhile, down on his luck robotics engineer Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) spends his time working in his barn trying to come up with new invention, but of course they do not work the way they are suppose to. He then comes across an old beat up truck that of course turns out to be a Transformer and none other than Autobots leader Optimus Prime (Cullen). While Cade is too busy working he doesn’t notice his daughter Tessa (Peltz) and her secret older driver boyfriend Shane (Reynor).

 

Once Attinger finds out that Cade is keeping Prime hidden, he sends Savoy and others to get them which leads Prime to come out and saves them. This leads to Prime, Cade, Tessa and Shane going on the run. Little do they know, Attinger is working with tech company developer Joshua Joyce (Tucci) that runs a company called KSI, that has created his own Transformers by finding the matter that makes Transformers tick that he called “Transformium.” However, they themselves are also working, albeit a little shaky alliance, with a Transformer bounty hunter that has no allegiance to Autobots or Decepticons, Lockdown.

 

Seems like a lot going on right? That’s because it is. The movie is two hours and forty-five minutes, which turns out to be the longest installment so far. Add in the fact that we have a whole new batch of characters. For the Transformers we have; Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are the only cornerstones we have from the original series. The new Autobots are Hound (Goodman), Drift (Watanabe), Crosshairs (DiMaggio), and later another familiar face that I won’t spoil. Then there’s Lockdown, who is also followed by his massive ship that looks kind of cool.

 

Then there are Joyce’s new Transformers. The idea behind them would be cool if the idea did not look similar to other ideas from other movies. There was also a set up early in the movie that never really fully happened and I was quite disappointed by it.

 

The new characters, Mark Wahlberg does is usual thing as Cade Yeager. He plays a tough guy that happens to be an inventor. He’s overprotective of his daughter Tessa, who is about to graduate. Add in the fact that he finds out Tessa has been dating an older boy, which leads to one of the cheesiest and one of the dumbest scenes in the movie. I get that it might be an actual thing but for the movie to bring it up, it just did not work for me. Wahlberg, like I said, is fine. Whether you like him or not, he brings a presence to the screen and add in his overprotective father to it, he does okay. A side note, I don’t miss Shia.

 

Nicola Peltz is the youngest damsel-in-distress in the series but unlike Megan Fox or Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Peltz is an actual teenager playing a teenager so it makes sense for her to be a little rebellious and, without sounding mean, a bit dumb so you probably want to smack her a few times, especially when you have giant robots and the government chasing you. Newcomer Jack Reynor, who plays the older boyfriend Shane has some charisma and presence to him but overall he does not bring much to the movie, besides a cool chase scene in the beginning of the movie.

 

Grammer always looks like he has a smug look on his face but doesn’t really do anything worthwhile despite being the main human villain. Sure he is menacing but that is due to Grammer being that good. Titus Welliver’s Savoy is just evil just for being evil it seems like. Stanley Tucci is also great, and seeing him here playing a snobby-like business man who thinks the Autobots are “inferior” to his creations to later depending on the Autobots to save him and the world.

 

The rest of the supporting cast is just filler. Sophia Myles plays a geologist that really does nothing for the story or characters. Bingbing Li, who I’m a fan of, plays a Chinese businesswoman that has a connection to KSI helps Tucci and has a scene that has her show off her martial arts skills, which again, really does nothing for the movie. T.J. Miller plays Cade’s partner that is more a comic relief but adds nothing to the movie either. Thomas Lennon shows up playing a Chief of Staff, and while it’s nothing more than a cameo, it was one of my highlights of the movie.

 

But of course the new addition to the cast that everyone was looking forward to was the Dinobots. The trailers and TV spots all showed Optimus riding Grimlock and you would assume that it is going to lead to some badass cool moments. Sadly it doesn’t. The Dinobots show up in the third act in the movie and even then have about ten to fifteen minutes of screen time. Even with that, they never really do anything cool and when they are in robot form, you don’t know who they are.

 

The movie isn’t without humor but it is slightly darker in tone than the previous films. The hunt down of Ratchet might cause some Transformers fans to fidget in their seats but it also shows you just how far the Autobots have gone down in the pyramid. The hunting down of Transformers make us see a different side of Optimus, at least for the first half of the movie and even amongst the other Transformers. Even they don’t want anything to do with humans. Even Bumblebee gets a little hot-headed.

 

But really, the reason we all are watching this movie is because of the action, and Age of Extinction does have a lot. From the Yeager farm to Chicago and finally in Hong Kong, the action is almost non-stop once it kicks in. However, at times, watching all of it you kind of feel that you’ve already seen a lot of the same beats in the previous movies. Nothing really new is bought into the fights and some times, once again and a repeated issue in the series, it gets a little hard to notice who’s who when everyone starts fighting.

 

I’m not going to lie to you, I was not expecting a lot from this. When I first heard it was going to be a reboot/sequel I was okay with it, and then Michael Bay decided to return for one last go around. Look I’m not a total Michael Bay hater, I love his early stuff but Bay has a tendency of making the Transformers movies looking like car commercials or filling the screen with the most explosions ever. I know some people want to see that, and I’m with you, I do to…sometimes. Bay really did not do anything to make this movie different. Even the “new designs” don’t look that new, they might have some sleekness to them but overall they look almost exactly the same as before.

 

All in all, Transformers: Age of Extinction has things that work and things that don’t work from the previous Transformers movies. Whether that is a good thing for fans or bad, it already has made a ton of money at the box office. I don’t complain about lengths of movies because it’s nitpicky and if the movie is great than it shouldn’t matter but the length was a bit too much for a movie like this. There were some standout moments for me and even some callbacks to Generation 1 Transformers but overall the series continues to be a bit disappointing and lackluster.

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction
3 out of 5

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‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Review

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Dir: Doug Liman

Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Noah Taylor, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Charlotte Riley, and Brendan Gleeson

Synopsis: An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Live. Die. Repeat.

 

 

Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel “All You Need is Kill” (with some changes obviously, although I don’t know how many because I haven’t read it), Edge of Tomorrow is a Groundhog Day-like movie with sci-fi elements, aliens, and the fate of the world. What more could you want?

 

Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage. More of a PR guy than a solider – even says he can’t stand the sight of blood – Cage goes to London to handle the media before a big attack, but ends up at odds with United Defense Force General Bingham (Gleeson) orders him to join the first wave so he can deliver a first-hand account of proceedings. That is if he can make it. Unsurprisingly, Cage sucks on the battlefield, even with the use of the weaponized suit. Once he finally gets a handle of the suit, he manages kill one of the aliens named Mimics and dies.

 

That’s right. Tom Cruise dies in the movie’s first ten minutes. And not some half-ass death either, no, it is a pretty gruesome death that I really did not see coming. But, of course we all know the twist is that Cruise doesn’t really die. It’s when he dies that he gets the power of a Mimic and he wakes up earlier in the day before the attack on the beach. Not knowing what’s going on at first, Cage relives the day over again and gets back on the beach but this time runs into war hero Rita Vrataski (Blunt). Rita soon realizes that Cage has gotten the ability that she herself once had before she lost it. She soon helps him to stop the all out extinction of the Mimics and destroy the source of their power.

 

One of the cool things about Edge of Tomorrow is the concept. Yes, we have seen it before but what the movie does it that it keeps a bit fresh. It is almost like a video game, Cage gets killed in a violent way every time but comes back and makes it a little farther every time. Every time he comes back, Cage is wiser and trains harder to become an actual soldier and stand side by side with Rita.

 

But with movies that involves some sort of time travel or repetition element to them, there is bound to be question raised on how everything works. Filmmakers can leave it up for the audience to figure out, or they have a character that describes it to them. Edge of Tomorrow has that character in the form of Dr. Carter (Taylor), who knows how the Mimics work and how the power that Cage has works. A lot of people usually see this as a sort of cop out because how does a guy know soo much about the enemy? This also leads to expositional block explaining how everything works and why it is important. Again, here Edge of Tomorrow begins to both distinguish itself from other films and is necessary, at least for this type of movie. But it does not mean it make mistakes along the way.

 

As you suspect, Cruise gets most of the screen time here, and does great. It’s nice though to see one of the biggest stars in Hollywood die over and over again, but also play a bit of a coward. We usually see Cruise play this hard, tough guy but here Cruise’s Cage will do anything to get out of fighting at the beginning. Emily Blunt is also good as always, and while I do not always agree with critics, Blunt should have gotten more screen time but thus is the position you play when starring alongside Tom Cruise.

 

The supporting cast has some real great moments, mostly over shadowed by Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farrell. Paxton of course is no stranger to alien and genre fare movies so it is nice to see him here chewing up the scene. The actors that play J-Squad (Armstrong, Way, Gurry, Drameh, Riley) have their moments are, by the looks of them, the “loser” squad. Brendan Gleeson is nothing more than a glorified cameo, but is still nice to see him on screen, especially being a little antagonistic toward Cruise. Finally, the Mimics are interesting. Their designs look a lot like the Sentinels in The Matrix but are far quicker and deadlier looking.

 

Finally, despite all the action you see in the marketing – there is a lot – the movie is also really funny. The movie takes itself seriously, but never to the extent that it can not make fun of itself. Some of the funny moments come from Cage’s deaths, and some include Rita shooting Cage during to training. What’s also nice about the movie is you see the toll it takes on Cage to live day in and day out. Stuck in a loop you can’t escape from until you die, and then you have to restart. Yeah, that would suck.

 

All in all, I did not really expect to like Edge of Tomorrow as much as I did. The movie is fun and everything you want to enjoy in a summer movie. Everyone is either split of hates the ending of the movie. While I can see why people would have problems with it, I did not have a problem with it. If you want to have some fun, laugh, and see some pretty descent action Edge of Tomorrow will fill that need.

 

Edge of Tomorrow

4 out of 5

‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ Review

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Dir: Seth MacFarlane

Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris and Liam Neeson

Synopsis: As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger, announces his arrival.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note #2: Reviewing comedies for me is hard for a couple of reasons. One, you risk the chance of ruining a joke or can’t get into a joke because, again, you might ruin it. And two, what you find funny may not be funny to other people. So I’ll do my best to review this. Bare with me. *

 

A lot of people in Hollywood make a big deal about a first time director’s second movie. And a lot of the time, those people don’t end up liking the second movie. While sometimes it is justified, other times they say the director didn’t do what worked in their first movie (did you get all that?). Seth MacFarlane gets back in the directors chair after his hit comedy Ted two years ago. This time he actually puts himself in front of the camera without the help of a teddy bear. But MacFarlane still keeps his humor in tact, which is probably what fans of MacFarlane, including myself, like to see.

 

Albert (MacFarlane) is an unhappy sheep farmer living in the Arizona frontier town of Old Stump in 1882.  He hates everything about living in the West, but his life gets worse when he’s dumped by his girlfriend Louise (Seyfried) after talking his way out of a duel and she ends up dating the town’s “Moustachery” owner Foy (Harris). Even though his friends, the virgin Edward (Ribisi) and his prostitute girlfriend Ruth (Silverman), try to cheer him up it doesn’t work. That is until he meets Anna (Theron).

 

Anna takes a liking to Albert, that she evens tries to help Albert get Louise back. What Albert doesn’t know is that Anna is hiding the secret that the only reason she’s in Old Stump is so she can lay low until her husband, the notorious outlaw Clinch Leatherwood (Neeson), comes to pick her up.

 

Like I stated before, if you’re a fan of MacFarlane’s humor then you will enjoy this, if you’re not, you are most likely going to be really offended or feel really dumb for spending your money on a movie you knew you weren’t going to like. MacFarlane this time around doesn’t have any animation or funny voices to fall on, it’s all on him and his great supporting cast. Luckily, for the most part, they manage to hold everything together.

 

MacFarlane as the main character does a pretty descent job playing a guy that would rather talk things out then risk getting shot during a duel. Albert is also the only person who can observe all the absurdities of the time period but still be confused and dumbfounded as everyone else when it comes to some things. Even with all this, Albert isn’t really the perfect character, he’s a coward after all but he’s also in love with a girl that he’s done everything for and hasn’t really done anything for him. As for directing, you have to give it to him that he can pull a great supporting cast. But also that he can get great performances out of the cast. Whether it’s physical comedy or even having the gull to make fun of one his actors, and it’s not a knock against their career past roles but how they look. And despite the movie really being a comedy, MacFarlane does do a pretty good job making A Million Ways to Die in the West feel like an actual Western (including the opening titles).
The supporting cast is great. Charlize Theron’s Anna is quick witted just as much as Albert is and teaches him how to shoot. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman are dopey but sweet and their relationship is just ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh every time their relationship is bought up or talked about. Seyfried is okay as the ex but doesn’t really have much to do. But Neil Patrick Harris, who is almost always a scene stealer in what he does, that yes you guessed, steals some of the scenes that he’s in. I think his “Mustache Song” might be a standout sequence for some people. Liam Neeson’s even though he’s playing the villain, doesn’t have a ton of screen time. He does fine although his villainous gunslinger is menacing just because Neeson is playing him.

 

The comedy is a bit all over the place. It can be physical at one moment, a dick joke the next, and then an offensive joke. Hell, maybe all three at once. But you have to hand it to MacFarlane, he does have great comedy timing and hopefully non-fans can at least appreciate that.

 

All in all, A Million Ways to Die in the West will have a split audience, even if you’re a Seth MacFarlane fan. When the jokes work, they’re hilarious. The cast is great and the tone that MacFarlane sets in the movie really works. Also, look out for some cool surprises.

 

A Million Ways to Die in the West

4 out of 5

‘Maleficent’ Review

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Dir: Robert Stromberg

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, and Lesley Manville

Synopsis: A vindictive fairy is driven to curse an infant princess only to realize the child may be the only one who can restore peace.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

It is a common thing in Hollywood now to retell classic stories from our childhood and give them a new take. Whether it be a gritty or realistic one, or even a total retelling of the story. In the case of Maleficent, it is not just a retelling but also a look at the point of view from the “villain.” The reason why I say “villain” is because Maleficent makes the title character, Maleficent (Jolie), a sympathetic character.

 

The start of the movie plays as an origin story for Maleficent. We see her at a young age, as the narrator – even telling us this is a story we never knew – tells us the magical world is not on the best terms with the human one. Nevertheless, Maleficent befriends and eventually falls in love with a human, Stefan (Copley). We see them as they grow and were told eventually Stefan stopped coming and worked his way into working in the castle for the king. With the king falling ill, and taking a beating from Maleficent and the other magical creatures, Stefan finds a way to become the king but the catch is he has to kill the woman he was once in love with. Finding not able to do it he takes something else from her, her wings.

 

The rest of the story you can probably guess; Stefan becomes king, Maleficent becomes evil, curses the baby Aurora, etc.  Where the story twists is when Maleficent begins to feel sympathy for Aurora, and becomes her unlikely protector since her official fairy guardians Flittle (Maville), Knotgrass (Staunton), and Thistletwit (Temple) are incompetent.

 

Now I will admit, I was a bit hesitant about Maleficent because it looked like it might suffer from Snow White and the Huntsman-syndrome. The movie is great looking for the most part. Although it should not be too much of a surprise since the director is not only a first time director but an Oscar winner for Special Effects, Richard Stromberg (Alice in Wonderland, Avatar). Stromberg knows how to make a scene look bright and vibrant but also dark and moody. Needless to say, he knows how to make a scene look cool but going back to Snow White and the Huntsman-syndrome, sometimes all the scene is, is just a pretty looking scene or cool wallpaper.

 

Now that’s not a knock on the special effects, like I said, a lot of is great to look at. But, even with a movie that has ton of special effects, it can not just rely on that, we need the story and even though the concept of Maleficent seems like a good, the movie sometimes falls flat on that end. Next to some of the effects, the best thing about the movie is Jolie’s Maleficent.

 

Jolie gives a great performance as usual. She displays the right amount of emotion ranging from pain, envy to sadness, but in reality, this is a redemption story for Maleficent. Having her heart broken and then cursing Stefan’s daughter Aurora (Fanning) to then feeling sorry for Aurora. Maleficent might be the best character in the movie, although that isn’t really saying much, when all the other characters seem either one-dimensional or are just not that interesting. The other best character is probably her minion Diaval played by Sam Riley, who gives a solid performance.

 

Elle Fanning’s Aurora doesn’t really have much to do. Really all her performance is smiling a lot. She does have some moments to do other than smile but it’s kind of a waste of Fanning’s ability.

 

Sharlto Copley’s Stefan will probably divide fans but needless to say, he’s not the King Stefan we knew in Sleeping Beauty. Also, the dark tone moments come from him and his interactions either with himself or with Maleficent. Copley is a great actor but just like Fanning, his ability is only limited to what the script and director wants.

 

The comedy here is mostly left to the fairies Flittle (Maville), Knotgrass (Staunton), and Thistletwit (Temple). Although there is some humor with magical creatures, Maleficent and Diaval having their moments too.

 

All in all, Maleficent is a great concept but doesn’t really pack the punch you want it to. Even the twists to the story aren’t great considering you might see some coming or just don’t pack the emotional punch I think the creative team thought they would. There are some pretty things to look at but Jolie and Riley make, or at least try, to make the movie mean something more.

 

Maleficent

3.5 out of 5