Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Review

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie posterSynopsis
As Sam (Shia LeBouf) heads off to college, he is once again pulled into the Transformers’ war when an ancient being known as β€œThe Fallen” (Tony Todd) makes his return to Earth.

Review
After greatly enjoying Transformers, I was excited to see Optimus and the rest of the Autobots return in another live-action outing. With Michael Bay returning and his pension to go big, I was expecting much of the same but more of it in the sequel. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen definitely takes a sequel’s β€œgo bigger” approach to heart but the rest is left wanting.

As I said in my review of Transformers, the Transformers have had multiple cartoon series over the years since Generation 1 came out in the 1980s. Transformers pulled primarily from the original incarnation but something I really liked about this sequel is that is also pulls much from the later series as well. Things like Energon being a fuel for Transformers, Optimus Prime and Jetfire combining, the first Primes and The Fallen, and a transformer having multiple vehicle modes are all pulled from later Transformers cartoons. There is a rich history in the multiple series over the years and the film pulled from many of them that a fan of any Transformers series is sure to recognize something.

Taking place a couple years after the first film, many new Transformers have made their way to Earth and are introduced in this film. With the expanded robotic cast, not many of them are expanded on. Much like the original series, the movie only focuses on a handful of characters while the rest are there to look cool and show off the latest car models at the time. However, since the human characters are the most important in this story and most of the time is focused around them, I’m not too worried about learning everything about every Autobot and Decepticon that is in the film.

Like the first film, Revenge of the Fallen has a pretty lengthy run time. This time, however, the pacing feels more smooth. There are still plenty of explosions and much exposition but the transitions between the two wasn’t as jarring as the film before. However, it’s a catch-22 because more time is spent making sure the transitions feel better but with that comes a feeling that there is too much packed into this film.

I am not one to be turn away from a film because of toilet humor or if it goes for the easy joke. However, this film was very juvenile, even for me. I understand that this is based around a children’s show (something I have brought up before) but that’s no excuse to treat the audience like children.

I thought Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was OK 😐 After enjoying the first live-action Transformers film so much, I was disappointed in its sequel. While I liked aspects of this movie, there was so much excess of everything that it squandered what I did enjoy. I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece, but I wasn’t expecting such a let down either.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Ehren Kruger – Writer
Roberto Orci – Writer
Alex Kurtzman – Writer
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Shia LaBeouf – Sam Witwicky
Megan Fox – Mikaela Banes
Josh Duhamel – Major Lennox
Tyrese Gibson – USAF Chief Master Sergeant Epps
John Turturro – Simmons
Ramon Rodriguez – Leo Spitz
Kevin Dunn – Ron Witwicky
Julie White – Judy Witwicky
Isabel Lucas – Alice
John Benjamin Hickey – Galloway
Glen Morshower – General Morshower
Rain Wilson – Professor Colan
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
Jess Harnell – Ironhide (voice)
Robert Foxworth – Ratchet (voice)
Andre Sogluizzo – Sideswipe (voice)
Reno Wilson – Mudflap (voice)
Tom Kenny – Skids / Wheelie (voice)
Mark Ryan – Jetfire (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Megatron (voice)
Charlie Adler – Starscream (voice)
Frank Welker – Soundwave / Devastator / Reedman (voice)
Tony Todd – Fallen (voice)

The Man Who Knew Too Much Review

There is still a little time left if you are interested in participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon 2021. Check out all the details here.


The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) movie posterSynopsis
While Ben (James Stewart), his wife Jo (Doris Day) and son Hank (Christopher Olsen) are vacationing in Marrakesh, they get entangled in an international assassination plot.

Review
My journey so far through my Alfred Hitchcock collection has been full of excitement and surprises. I guess it was only a matter of time before I found one that wasn’t as exciting to me. The Man Who Knew Too Much is very Hitchcockian but there is just something about it that didn’t tickle my fancy. The two leads, James Stewart and Doris Day, are fantastic. Stewart, a staple of Hitchcock films at this point, captures the every man character so well. I was surprised by Doris Day. I recognize her primarily as a singer but her acting here was incredible. The mystery it built was intriguing and the climax was exciting, especially in the backdrop of the Royal Albert Hall and with the score having such a prominent presence. However, I didn’t find it as thrilling or suspenseful as Hitchcock’s previous films. The plot of the characters traveling from place to place, learning more about a secret plot at each stop reminded me of a similar format in Saboteur. Maybe it was because I wasn’t absorbed by this film but it felt like it ran too long. Several of the stops made by Ben (James Stewart) and Jo (Doris Day) could have been taken out and it probably wouldn’t have affected the plot too much.

I thought The Man Who Knew Too Much was OK 😐 This has all the hallmark staples of a film by Alfred Hitchcock but there is just something about it that didn’t capture my attention. I never found myself on the edge of my seat like other Hitchcock films. I know this sounds like blasphemy but I don’t see myself revisiting this particular Hitchcock film any time soon, not when there are several other movies of his that do the plot better.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
John Michael Hayes – Screenplay
Bernard Herrmann – Composer

James Stewart – Dr. Benjamin McKenna
Doris Day – Josephine Conway McKenna
Christopher Olsen – Hank McKenna
Brenda de Banzie – Lucy Drayton
Bernard Miles – Edward Drayton
Ralph Truman – Inspector Buchanan
Daniel Gelin – Louis Bernard
Reggie Nalder – French Marksman

2001: A Space Odyssey Review

2001: A Space Odyssey movie posterSynopsis
After discovering a mysterious artifact buried beneath the Lunar surface, mankind sets off on a quest to find its origins with help from intelligent supercomputer HAL. 9000. (via IMDb)

Review
Let me preface this review by stating the science-fiction genre is one of my favorite film genres. They can tell a variety of stories that speak of optimism for the future, serve as warnings for humanity’s destiny, or provide simple popcorn entertainment with cool visuals and an exciting story. Now, with that said, do you want to hear my unpopular opinion? Here it is: I don’t particularly care for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Before you stop reading because of my blasphemous statement, let me say that I do see why others hold it in such a high regard; I do appreciate the influence and historical significance this film had on not just in the science-fiction genre in cinema but in the industry as a whole; I do understand the imagery and allegories presented in this film. I enjoyed director Stanley Kubrick’s use of classical music as opposed to a traditional score. I felt the cinematography is one of the best in the genre, with beautiful wide shots and vibrant colors throughout. Its comments on technology’s influence in humanity’s past, present, and future and its comments on humanity’s origins are presented in a thought provoking way that deserves the exploration and dissection it has received over the decades.

With all that said, I didn’t feel entertained for most of the film. The beautiful cinematography I mentioned contained a lot of shots of nothing or lasted way longer than necessary. 2001: A Space Odyssey could probably lose 40 minutes off its run time and it would still get its themes across but without feeling like it is dragging on. There is so much to enjoy in this film but with all the extra stuffing around it, it took me out of the experience. Maybe some like the expansiveness of it but for me they just don’t work.

I thought 2001: A Space Odyssey was OK 😐 I get that this is a very unpopular opinion but I can live with that. When I watch a film, I want to be entertained. This film has entertaining moments but they are interspersed with glacial pacing. The provocative and deep themes presented are worth thinking about but the presentation was not engaging for me. I’ve heard several people say that they got more out of Stanley Kubrick’s crown jewel during subsequent viewings. Maybe I’ll revisit this film again sometime down the line and see if my views change. Until then, I’ll maintain my sacrilegious position.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Stanley Kubrick – Director / Writer
Arthur C. Clarke – Writer

Keir Dullea – Dr. Dave Bowman
Gary Lockwood – Dr. Frank Poole
Douglas Rain – HAL 9000 (voice)
William Sylvester – Dr. Heywood Floyd
Leonard Rossiter – Dr. Andrei Smyslov
Margare Tyzack – Elena
Robert Beatty – Dr. Ralph Halvorsen
Sean Sullivan – Dr. Bill Michaels

Career Opportunities Review

Career Opportunities movie posterSynopsis
Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley) has a hard time holding down a job and an even harder time holding back his wild imagination. As a last option, Jim is hired as the night janitor at the local Target. During his first night on the job, he discovers Josie McClellan (Jennifer Connelly), daughter of a local wealthy businessman, also inside the store. As the night goes on, they learn more and more about each other.

Review
I didn’t know anything about Career Opportunities besides the famous shot of Jennifer Connelly riding the penny horse. When I eventually learned what movie that scene was from, and learning it was from a film written by John Hughes no less, I quickly sought it out. That excitement had died down by the time the credits rolled. If I hadn’t known it was written by Hughes going into the film, I would not have believed it if I had learned that piece of information after watching it. Career Opportunities lacks the charm I have come to expect from his scripts. The set up is pretty standard fare for a Hughes’ coming-of-age film: a young man and a young woman who appear to be complete opposites of each other come together and form a bond. However, if this is a story you want to watch from Hughes, there are plenty of his other films that do it better. I will say that Frank Whaley as the fast talking Jim Dodge is a highlight of the movie and has the charisma needed to carry such an intimate movie. On the other hand, Jennifer Connelly, as beautiful as she is, is flat and not very expressive. Whaley and Connelly together are the driving force of Career Opportunities, so to have their chemistry be less than perfect becomes a liability to the film.

I thought Career Opportunities was OK 😐 There’s a standard expected from a film penned by a writer of John Hughes’ caliber. Unfortunately, this film does not fulfill those expectations. While Frank Whaley carries this movie the best that he can, the script and his co-stars don’t quite rise to his level. It’s no surprise that this film has barely been re-released on home video compared to Hughes’ more notable films. There are many movies in his filmography where any one aspect of this film is done better, so if you’re itching for a Hughes’ teen comedy, go watch one of those films instead.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bryan Gordon – Director
John Hughes – Writer
Thomas Newman – Composer

Frank Whaley – Jim Dodge
Jennifer Connelly – Jose McClellan
Dermot Mulroney – Nester Pyle
Kieran Mulroney – Gil Kinney
John M. Jackson – Bud Dodge
Jenny O’Hara – Dotty Dodge
Noble Willingham – Roger Roy McClellan
Barry Corbin – Officer Don
Andrew Winton – Boy #1
Andy Greenway – Boy #2
RonReaco Lee – Boy #3
William Forsythe – Custodian
John Candy – CD Marsh

Mulan (2020) Review

Mulan movie posterSynopsis
Mulan (Yifei Liu) disguises herself as a man to join the royal army when the Emperor (Jet Li) decrees that every family must send one man to enlist after China is attacked by BΓΆri Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and his army.

Review
The live-action Disney remake train just keeps on rolling. This time it’s Mulan’s turn, following in the footsteps of remakes of other Disney Renaissance films such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. The animated Mulan film is one of the favorites in my family, so we watched Mulan together. We’ve had mixed opinions about the recent live-action remakes but we went into this film hopeful that one of our favorites would be just as enjoyable as the original. But like Disney’s other attempts to translate beloved animated classics to live-action, Mulan fell short.

Before I get into what I didn’t like, I’ll talk about what I did like. Mulan looks beautiful. The color palette is very vivid and bright. The fight sequences were well choreographed, taking inspiration from classic Kung Fu movies with characters performing acrobatic feats. During the fight sequences, the action was mostly in-frame without much shaky cam, one of my personal pet peeves. So to summarize, everything looked nice.

However, a movie is not going to stand on visuals alone and unfortunately, that’s about all this film had going for it. From a characters perspective, there was little to no growth for any of the characters but particularly for Mulan (Yifei Liu). From the opening scene, she is shown to be someone with extraordinary ability and talent, possessing a large amount of β€œchi.” Since she started out with immense power, she didn’t have anywhere to grow. For example, in the animated original, Mulan learned to use her intelligence to overcome obstacles. There was none of that learning here. In the animated original, we could see Mulan wasn’t that strong, but through hard work we saw her grow into a formidable warrior. There was none of that growth here. When Mulan wanted to do something, she was just able to do it. This type of character who can do everything naturally has been a favorite of Disney’s lately but it is not the correct way portray characters who are supposed to be role models for younger audiences.

Another great part of the 1998 Mulan is the abundance of different and memorable characters. Characters like Yao, Po, and Ling each have their own personalities and different aspects that make them unforgettable. And I can’t say enough about Eddie Murphy’s Mushu, who single handedly carries the movie with his charm, charisma, and humor. The 2020 Mulan has none of these fun characters. In fact, it was very hard for me to tell Yao, Po, Ling, and Cricket (who is a human character now instead of an actual cricket) apart from each other. During their introductions it was easier because they quoted lines from their animated counterparts but after that, I couldn’t tell you who was who. Even Mulan’s love interest blends in with these characters and doesn’t stand out in any way. All the supporting characters simply felt the same.

A large part due to the fun characters mentioned above, the animated classic, despite its setting of war and some dark moments, is still a light and joyous film. This film, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, which I guess isn’t that surprising given it lacks any kind of entertaining characters and Yifei Liu gives a mostly wooden performance, making it difficult to tell any emotion she is feeling. This film takes itself way too seriously and completely misses what made its animated predecessor so endearing.

I thought Mulan was OK 😐 This film’s biggest fault is that it doesn’t understand what made the original work so well and become a beloved instant classic. It’s a pretty wrapping surrounding a humorless, lifeless husk inside that is stuck going through the motions. There’s no fun, there’s no drama, and there’s no reason to like or care for any of these characters. Years ago when Disney announced plans for live-action remakes of many of their films, I was cautiously optimistic. Now, after several films that haven’t lived up to the legacy of the originals and failed to bring anything new to their stories or characters, I think it’s safe to say I am no longer excited for many of the upcoming live-action remakes. Now I’m just scared.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Niki Caro – Director
Rick Jaffa – Screenplay
Amanda Silver – Screenplay
Elizabeth Martin – Screenplay
Lauren Hynek – Screenplay
Harry Gregson-Williams – Composer

Yifei Liu – Mulan
Jason Scott Lee – BΓΆri Khan
Li Gong – Xianniang
Donnie Yen – Commander Tung
Yoson An – Honghui
Tzi Ma – Zhou
Rosalind Chao – Li
Pe=Pei Cheng – Matchmaker
Xana Tang – Xiu
Ron Yuan – Sergeant Qiang
Jun Yu – Cricket
Chen Tang – Yao
Doua Moua – Po
Jimmy Wong – Ling
Jet Li – Emperor
Nelson Lee – Chancellor

Vacation Review

Vacation (2015) movie posterSynopsis
In effort to reconnect with his wife and kids, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) takes his family on a cross-country trip to Walley World like his family did thirty years ago.

Review
One of Hollywood’s go-to moves lately has been revisiting franchises that have been dormant for 20 or 30 years and making sequels or remakes or reboots. Often, these attempts are not received well. Movies like Dumb and Dumber To orΒ Total Recall fail to capture that certain something that made the original films so popular and beloved in the first place, attempting to cash in on nostalgia rather than make a film that is worth its legacy. Vacation, more of a sequel than reboot, falls into this category. And like all the others, it’s a pale comparison to the films that came before it.

I will admit that this film did make me laugh. In the same way the 1983 Vacation was a good fit for Chevy Chase’s style of humor, this Vacation highlights Ed Helms’ comedic talents. The types of jokes and gags it has are a bit juvenile at times and what I call β€œstupid funny” but honestly, it makes me laugh. If you’ve seen Helms’ films like Cedar Rapids or The Hangover then you’ll have a sense of what to expect from him. The dynamic between the two Griswold kids, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), was unexpected and created for some humorous moments. Chris Hemsworth continues to prove that he can do comedy as well as he does action. His timing and delivery are spot-on. If the Vacation franchise somehow manages to continue, he should be the Cousin Eddie of the β€œreboot.”

In movies like this one, there is an extra emphasize on homages that try to cash in on the nostalgia of the franchise. Sometimes the filmmakers go overboard with the callbacks that feels like they are pandering to the audience. Luckily, Vacation doesn’t fall into that trap; it has just the right amount of references to the previous films, particularly the original Vacation, that it doesn’t feel heavy-handed or too much.

I think the what I was most disappointed about was the portrayal of Rusty. I know it’s around thirty years after the original Vacation but this Rusty seems like more of a push-over than what was portrayed in the other films. As much as I like Helms, his personality doesn’t match the Rusty we’ve seen in the four previous films. Maybe it’s just me but that’s how I felt. I think it was less of how Helms portrayed Rusty and more of how the part was written.

Another problem with making a film simply to cash in on nostalgia is that often it lacks the charisma or charm of the first one and Vacation unfortunately does not buck that trend. The characters lack the appeal of Clark and Ellen, and the Griswold kids even less so. The actors also don’t have the same chemistry as the original cast. It’s not like this brand of comedy cannot be full of heart, plenty of other movies have proven that it can happen, but this film is more focused on trying to capture the magic of its inspiration that it forgets what made it memorable in the first place.

I thought Vacation was OK 😐 It’s simply another attempt to ride the nostalgia wave popular in Hollywood right now and it falls way short of capturing the magic of the original Vacation. Maybe this film might have fared better if it wasn’t attached to a franchise like the Vacation franchise. But then again, if it tried that, I imagine it probably would have been compared to the original Vacation and then still would have been looked at in a less than positive light. Moral of the story is let’s stop trying to remake or reboot beloved and popular franchises simply because it can be done. If you want to watch a great film like Vacation, simply watch Vacation.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
John Francis Daley – Director / Writer
Jonathan Goldstein – Director / Writer
Mark Mothersbaugh – Composer

Ed Helms – Rusty Griswold
Christina Applegate – Debbie Griswold
Skyler Gisondo – James Griswold
Steele Stebbins – Kevin Griswold
Leslie Mann – Audrey Crandall
Chris Hemsworth – Stone Crandall
Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Catherine Missal – Adena
Charlie Day – Chad
Ron Livingston – Ethan
Norman Reedus – Trucker