Hey guys! I just wanted to quickly share with you my latest Obscure Animation review. This is a monthly series I do over on my youtube channel profiling an animated film that is less well known and why you should see it. This month’s pick, Transformers: The Movie, is loved by many but I still feel like it counts as it isn’t as well known as say a Disney or Pixar film.
People might be surprised to see me praise a Transformers movie as I am not a fan of any of the recent live action versions by schlockmeister Michael Bay. It’s frustrating because this film is actually a good scifi movie with emotion and heart which none of the Bay films have and I feel it is maligned by association when it shouldn’t be.
There are a lot of things Transformers: The Movie does right, which the live action films don’t do. First of all, it gets us right into the action. There is no origin story or lame humans finding the transformers. This is a movie about transformers!
Spoiler alert! (It’s 30 years old guys. See it!)
It starts out with the Decepticons and Autobots fighting and Optimus Prime is battling Megatron to protect Autobot City. They battle and it is awesome but Optimus Prime is wounded in the fighting. And then in an emotional scene Optimus Prime hands over the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Mangus and then dies.
It was a bold move to kill off your lead character but it is handled so well and creates an emotional tie to all the action throughout the rest of the movie. It’s interesting because they had cynical motives of wanting to sell new toys so they killed off a bunch of characters to introduce new characters, but it works. It creates real stakes behind the story and isn’t just mindless dopey action like Bay films.
So Megatron and the Decepticons end up getting gathered by a giant planet transformer named Unicron who makes a deal with Megatron. He turns Megatron into Galvatron and in return he must get Unicron the Matrix of Leadership.
This starts our story (great start right!) and we get a ton of cool characters like Hot Rod, Kup, Ultra Mangus, Arcee, Springer, Perceptor. There are only 2 humans in the film Daniel and his father Spike but they are treated just like any other characters and used sparingly. It really is a scifi story and the story is taken seriously by all involved.
Director Nelson Shin does a wonderful job with the animation which is bright and colorful and the story by Ron Friedman is smart, keeps you guessing and has moments to breath combined with the great action. It’s a movie you can watch multiple times and get new things out of it on each viewing.
The voice cast is iconic with Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron, Orson Wells as Unicron, Judd Nelson as Hot Rod, and Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime. And the music by Vince DiCola is intense and entertaining.
I feel like many reading will discount this movie as silly nonsense but I would encourage you to watch it with an open mind as it is a very good film. It has a good story with action, emotion, and fun. The animation is well done, and it has a nice message about leadership and finding your calling. It dares to take kids seriously and challenge them with themes of death, loss, sacrifice and even war, but it still entertains them at the same time.
Give it a shot. I think you just might like it
Overall Grade- A
(and if you feel so inclined I would love if you watched my video review and left a comment/thumbs up. Thanks. Also, if you have any suggestions for Obscure Animation let me know! Obscure animation doesn’t have to be unheard of but just less celebrated than the Disney or Pixar classics).
I guess some spoilers below if you care about that kind of thing.
I’ve been trying to go out of my comfort zone in the last few months. Movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, Ex-Machina, and Furious 7 are outside of my wheelhouse and all 3 of those I enjoyed or was at least entertained by.
So today I had the choice to see Aloha or the new disaster film San Andreas and normally I would go right for the romance but it had such horrible reviews and I like Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson so I decided to give San Andreas a shot. Unfortunately even as an absurd dopey action movie it didn’t work for me. To put it in perspective it is more Armageddon than it is Deep Impact. It is more 2012 than Independence Day. There is a way to do these types of movies and make them work. The first is the cast has to be charismatic and large. If you think about movies like the Poseidon Adventure or Airport from the 70s they had huge casts and all of those people got time spent with their characters.
In Independence Day we spend the majority of the time with three huge talents of Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. In San Andreas The Rock is very charismatic but he needed two or three stars of that caliber to carry the film. That is one thing that Michael Bay gets right is he does stack the Transformers movies with a lot of charismatic talent.
Which brings me to the next thing that needs to happen. There needs to be a sense of a superhero to the leads. The Rock does that but it is nearly always in the service of his family only. There is one scene where he gathers a bunch of San Francisco citizens on the safe side of the stadium and they all thank him for saving the day.
That was a good scene but it is one of the only one’s that is not exclusively The Rock saving his daughter or wife. We really needed a Vin Diesel or a Kiefer Sutherland to round out the cast and co-save the day. As it is San Andreas ends up feeling like the Sylvester Stallone turkey Daylight than a great disaster flick. Another thing is the special effects need to give us something new or forget it. When we saw the white house blow up in Independence Day none of us had ever seen something like that before. When a tornado races through Twister none of us had seen that before. All of the effects in San Andreas we’ve seen before and especially on the 4th or 5th building that topples over it feels more like Transformers 3 than a quality movie.
I thought the scenes on the ground in San Andreas were much better than anything we saw aerial. The real howler is a scene on a boat where the rock out races a giant tsunami with a little medical coast guard boat. It’s so absurd. (At least there is no comic relief like Michael Bay would have had. That is the worst!). A movie like Deep Impact or Independence Day stick pretty close to the disaster going on whereas movies like Armageddon venture off into stupid romance and really bad dialogue. (When I was in high school I remember watching Armageddon with my friends and looking mystified they were enjoying the garbage. My least favorite movie for many years). San Andreas isn’t that bad but the little asides are pretty groan inducing. We get The Rock and his wife Carla Gugino arguing about their divorce and her new squeeze Ioan Gruffudd who we are supposed to instantly dislike because he is rich and has his own plane. No The Rock is the helicopter guy. That’s legit! Ha. There is an absoloutely ludicrous scene where The Rock rescues Gugino from off of a skyscraper in the middle of a 9.3 earthquake. (and again back to main problem where we are only concerned about rescuing one person). There’s also his beautiful daughter Blake played by Alexandra Daddario who I guess is the Liv Tyler of this movie and she’s ok but there is little to no chemistry with her rescuer Ben played by Hugo Johnston-Burt. Let’s just say you can see why Ben is highly motivated to help rescue Blake because it’s definitely the only shot he has of getting a girl like her! The last group is Paul Giamatti as an earthquake expert who laughably discovers how to predict earthquakes literally about 2 minutes before the first giant earthquake that destroys the Hoover Dam. And then later he is upset because nobody listened to him. When were they supposed to listen? I guess because nobody bought his book but according to the movie they hadn’t been able to predict anything so why should they have listened to him? It’s kind of a joke when Giamatti has to get students to hack into the local media and warn the people in San Francisco to evacuate after the first earthquake. I don’t think any hacking would be required to have an expert on the 24 hour news cycle and I think people were evacuating after a 9.3 earthquake already! Plus, the half a day notice he gives them is hardly the lifesaver that the narration claims at the end.
It had me howling with laughter and the rest of my theater as well. I so wish I could have tweeted Giamatti’s line when asked, ‘who do we need to call?’ . ‘Call everyone…”. Ha.
On a certain level you know what you are getting into with San Andreas but even with those limited expectations it fails. On the wikipedia page it only has 13 listed in the cast. Only 8 get any major screen time. That’s just not enough for a movie like this and like I said the spectacle isn’t new. It feels stale and the sideplots aren’t very engaging. I can see if people think it is a dopey good time but I feel there are many movies where dopier is done much better.
Are you guys going to see San Andreas? Let me know what you think when you do. What disaster movie do you like?
Overall Grade- D I’m sorry. It’s bad folks. Rent Twister, Independence Day or Deep Impact and skip this.
When I tell you that Furious 7 is one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen I mean it. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing but it is completely absurd. So let me try to explain why it might be worth your seeing…
First of all, there is a friend of the blog who I had a recent discussion with about Guardians of the Galaxy being a ‘turn off your brain popcorn movie’. I disagreed with that conclusion; however, my friend Guardians should win a Pulitzer prize compared to this nonsense. I guarantee you will not like Furious 7. It is not the movie for you.
I kept trying to decide why such insanity is better than the explosions and over the top antics of a Michael Bay movie. Why are his films so nauseating but something like this still feels fun? I honestly don’t know if I can explain it. If any of you have insight I’d love to hear it. The best I can determine is Michael Bay movies attempt at humor distances the audience from the characters and then he tries too hard to create a reverence around characters instead of just being an over the top action film.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was probably the best he’s done (I know not technically directed by Bay but having his stamp) in a long time. The problem with turtles is it was edited so poorly I had no idea who they were fighting and where they were so it was just confusing when it should have been fun. The villain was also muddled and confusing when it should have been awesome Shredder.
Furious 7 has over the top set pieces but I always knew who they were fighting, who the bad guy was and what they were after. It isn’t as coherent and exciting as 5 and 6 which were basically heist pictures but it ups the anty on the insanity. Plus, the actors sell the crazy scenes in a way that Bay’s films never do. It feels like they are having a blast
Anyway, the plot to Furious 7 (not that it matters) is Owen Shaw’s brother played by Jason Statham is out to get revenge for his brother. He attacks Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and they fight (The Rock against Statham not much of a fair fight but it works). Statham ends up getting information about where the team are and how he can hurt them.
Then Kurt Russel’s Mr Nobody makes a deal with Dom, Brian and the team if they get a macguffin known as the God’s Eye away from terrorists played by Djimon Hounsou he will help them deal with Shaw. The rest of the movie ends up being a search for the hacker who created God’s Eye and then all over the world to find the actual device.
I wish that the trailer didn’t spoil a couple of the over the top scenes. It would be more fun for the audience if they didn’t know a car was going to jump from one skyscraper to another but when it is actually happening my theater was laughing and I don’t think that is a bad thing. It’s so over the top they are asking for that kind of response. Plus, the actors play it like it is no big deal. There is no Kate Capshaw type character screaming at all the antics . They are all tough guys and girls with tough guy one liners that made me laugh every time.
Maybe it helps I went into this with extremely low expectations, just wanting to be entertained and I was. As far as flaws it’s a little too long. By the end I was starting to grow less amused with the antics. The quick cuts and shaky cam in some of the fight scenes is a little nauseating and got old and some of them go on a little bit too long. They also don’t use The Rock very much. He’s in the movie for about 15 minutes which seems like a shame with his charisma. Although when he rips his own cast off and says something like ‘it’s go time…’ I was on the floor laughing. Still, he could have been used more. They also love the booty shots of the women which got a little old after a while but at least the women actually did something unlike a Michael Bay movie where they are only gratuitous eye candy.
They did a flawless job dealing with the death of Paul Walker. Evidently some of him was added in CGI, some was using past movies, film he had shot and his brothers standing in. I certainly couldn’t tell. It all looked like him from beginning to end to me. They also have a lovely tribute to him and a very nice sign off.
With certain movies you have to look at what it is trying to do and then ask ‘did it do it well?’. With Furious 7 they were trying to make an over the top action film and they do a great job with it. I’m normally not a big fan of those type of movies but I was entertained by it. I had a good time. Take that for what you will. It’s kind of a hard movie to give a grade too because its so absurd but entertaining.
I will go with…
Overall Grade- B-
Content Grade- C for violence, fighting and gratuitous booty shots.
My youtube review. If you could watch it and give it a thumbs up that would be amazing.
I know you have all been on pins and needles waiting for me to review the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Well, I avoided it for a long time but there’s nothing on TV this week and it was a huge hit in 2014 (I try to see the big hits and I always go to every movie with an open mind, even Michael Bay movies) so I decided to watch it.
Let me start out by saying thank goodness for Marvel and Christopher Nolan because at least boys have something to hold onto and root for. Without their strong movies all their beloved franchises have been destroyed one by one. First Star Wars, then they had to suffer Batman and Robin, Daredevil, Spiderman 3, XMen 3, and Transformers. Believe it or not all these franchises were actually good in the 80’s but many modern adaptations have been dreadful.
The Ninja Turtles is a particularly nostalgic brand for many men (and some girls) my age as we grew up on the cartoon, which was fun, silly and engaging. Then we had the Jim Henson’s movies which the first two are also a lot of fun. People love this series. It’s important to them.
Now producer Michael Bay and Jonathan Liebesman directing have their hands on it and boy does it suffer.
I will say that this is more tolerable than the Transformers movies as it is only 1 hour and 41 minutes where Transformers is nearly 3 (KMN) but it has so many problems. Turtle fans deserve better.
There will be some spoilers in this review so if you want to see it first go for it!
Megan Fox as April O’Neil
Malina Weissman as young April O’Neil
Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick
William Fichtner as Eric Sacks
Alan Ritchson as Raphael (motion-capture performer and voice)
Noel Fisher as Michelangelo (motion-capture performer and voice)
Pete Ploszek as Leonardo (motion-capture performer)
Johnny Knoxville as Leonardo (voice)
Jeremy Howard as Donatello (motion-capture performer and voice)
Danny Woodburn as Splinter (motion-capture performer)
Tony Shalhoub as Splinter (voice)
Tohoru Masamune as Shredder
Whoopi Goldberg as Bernadette Thompson
TMNT starts out with a graphic that feels like a strobe light leading you down to the sewer. It is a good introduction for a movie that feels extremely schizophrenic. It is edited very poorly and often I was caught in an action scene and left wondering how did we get here and who the heck are they fighting? There are scenes where characters will just stop fighting and the room will literally freeze so a pun or one liner can be uttered by usually Michelangelo (although sometimes it’s a nerdy comment by Donatello or a grumpy comment by Rafael- these really are the 7 Dwarves of comic books).
For example, there is a long fight scene on a mountain with a semi-truck and 3 hummer-like cars. I had no idea who they were fighting or how they got out of New York to a place with snow. It’s especially strange because the main villainous plot has just been laid out by William Fichtner’s character who oddly enough is not Shredder but some sub-villain, and Master Splinter has been taken hostage. Splinter is then forgotten about for about an hour of the movie as we battle someone in the snow?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk first about the look of the movie. The turtles are motion capture animation and they look like a roids fest at a WWF fight. They in no way look like teenagers or talk like teenagers. And I thought they looked more like ducks than Turtles (and who knew that turtle shells front and back are bulletproof?). I guess going with a tougher, grittier version of turtles is creative but did they have to make them look so unpleasant?
April O’Neil is played as probably the most unrealistic reporter in movies by the great thespian Megan Fox. In this case it turns out she has a very close connection with the turtles which she figures out in an insanely short period of time. I mean if I had lost turtles and was saved from the ‘foot clan’ (as the generic bad guy soldiers are known) the first thing I’d think of is my turtles had been mutated into ninja warriors. Of course!
All the lighting in this movie feels extremely yellow, like a fluorescent light bulb. Her lipstick looked ultra pink in many shots and I almost wondered if my TV settings had been changed. There were scenes when it seemed like she had rosacia or was wearing too much blush. All the human characters looked strange. I guess at least most of the movie she is properly clothed unlike the women of Transformers.
Shredder who is such a bad, menacing villain in the show, comes and goes. And then William Fichtner also comes and goes. They are never together but one brief shot in a tunnel that looks cropped together, and yet they are planning this massive scheme for money. What it screams of is when they first announced Fichtner as Shredder people were upset because he is supposed to be Japanese. There was a big fan backlash. My guess is they shot new scenes with a new Shredder and changed things around so Fichtner was this bland scientist William Sachs. I could be wrong but that’s what it feels like. It does not seem like these characters are working together.
So here’s the scheme. Tell me if you don’t think of a million other movies and shows that have had a similar mad scientist story-
So Fichtner and Shredder have developed a ‘toxin’ that they want to release out of a building in NYC. This will render everyone catatonic and then they plan on blackmailing the American government to purchase at high cost ‘the antidote’. Ah yes, there always seems to be an antidote to all these toxins… I bet you will never guess where they need to get the antidote from- well if you guessed the ‘mutagen’ in the blood of the turtles you would be right.
Doesn’t that scream of 1960’s batman scheme? It’s right up there with Mr Freeze planning on Freezing all of Gotham if he doesn’t get the diamonds. They couldn’t rob a bank or extort a millionaire? This was really the best way to get money for these evil-doers? It reminded me of in Toy Story when Woodie’s voice box says ‘somebody’s poisoned the water hole’ all the toxin talk would be hokey in a bad Western in 1950’s.
But even an ultra silly plot can be entertaining if it is handled with the right spirit but it isn’t. What happens with this movie is we get long stretches of fighting (again with and against people we don’t know and often in environments and for purposes we don’t understand). For about the first 1/3rd of the movie the Turtles are just fighting footmen and we don’t know why? How do they know about the footmen? Are they fighting them because they are ‘bad guys’ or is there some other moral reason they dislike them (for example, we know clearly why the Joker hates Batman. No such illumination here).
When we do see Shredder he is such a CGI bore. He looks like Predator with blades and of course he is a bore because he’s had no dialogue. All of the evil dialogue has been from Fichtner and yet the Turtles never really fight Fichtner but fight Shredder (again another sign they made the switch late).
The movie also will have a fight, and then a comedic moment, and then more fighting which just screams Michael Bay’ s influence.
Take a look at this scene in the elevator. They have just been released from having their blood drawn and almost dying. They are about to go up to the roof to face their biggest foe but we get a beat boxing routine followed by a big fight. Give me a break!
As I said we don’t get to know the Turtles beyond their basic characteristics and the voicework is uniformly awful. I particularly hated Johnny Knoville as Leonardo. Tony Shalhoub is Ok as Splinter but he’s in the movie for very little and he looks awful.
Whoopi Goldberg’s part must have been cut because she’s in about 2 scenes as April’s overbearing cliche of a boss. I mean she’s an Oscar winning actress so to be in about 3 minutes of the movie is strange.
Will Arnett is also wasted as Vern Fenwick who is April’s pal at work. He is literally the driver for most the movie and doesn’t even get any good sarcastic lines. He is about a billion times funnier in the Lego Movie doing similar schtick (just shows what a difference good writing does).
Minae Noji plays an assassin character but even reading the Wikipidia I have no idea who she is or why she was in the movie so much. She just kept popping up in battles. No dialogue or character development at all.
It is also really not a movie for kids. It earns it’s PG-13, is pretty violent, showing turtles and others getting tortured and nearly dying. And some of the dialogue is too adult like the Turtles seem to only like April because she is ‘smokin hot’. Upon first meeting, Michelangelo says ‘she’s so hot I can feel my shell tightening’. I don’ t think such innuendo is appropriate for children.
And the movie is too stupid to appeal to adults and the turtles look so awful that it won’t appeal to nostalgic males. So who this appeals to and why it made so much money is beyond me?
Especially when you had Edge of Tomorrow in the theaters with the same video game feel but a good script and action that felt palatable and real, characters you cared about. Why anyone saw this over that quality movie I will never know. Someone out there explain it to me please?
Worst of all it isn’t even fun. It’s so hacked together and the plot makes no sense. And then we end with a damsel in distress hanging from a skyscraper cliche that goes back to King Kong. Groan.
We also get the digital read-out clock on the ‘release of the toxin’s’ that has been in every action movie since 198o’s (although they do make a joke about it being 15 year old technology but still doesn’t get a pass from me!).
And then we get an ending with the Turtles goofing off and destroying Will Arnett’s car for laughs. It shows what Michael Bay’s idea of fun is. Let’s just destroy things and all have a good laugh. When they are on the rooftop there are shots where crowds of people are outside with debris flying down from the tower. Why would people be outside? It reminded me of Amazing Spiderman 2 where there seem to be crowds cheering on everything Spiderman did.
With those crowds the ending seems especially ridiculous where April agrees to keep the Turtles existence a secret despite her top notch reporting ethics. Groan. There’s no security cameras in the miles of havoc they have wrecked in fight after fight from mysterious New York mountains to downtown Manhattan? Nobody has a cell phone or a news camera to catch 4 mutant turtles fighting a giant man in a steel suit? That’s the kind of idiocy this movie expects people to accept.
And again I wouldn’t care if the movie was fun. I don’t care that Goonies is ridiculous because it is fun and I like the kids. Here I didn’t like anyone. I found them repulsive to look at, their humor juvenile and the fight scenes unending.
Don’t waste your time. Watch the TV series or the old movie from the 90s. That will make you smile and you’ll enjoy yourself. This is just junk. Again, it is better than Transformers because at least it is under 2 hours but why America? Why?
I thought this was a really fun discussion over on the Schmoes Know Podcast (which is one of the best movie podcasts next to the Rotoscopers!). It’s a real Sophie’s Choice. Who is worse Michael Bay or M Night Shyamalan?
They are both insanely bad but if someone put a gun to my head and said ‘you have to watch their latest movie’ what would I pick?
Here are the arguments on both sides.
His movies are demeaning to women, they are long, insulting to minorities and full of mindless destruction and explosions. His dialogue is terrible and I really don’t think he has made a good movie ever (haven’t seen The Rock which I’m told is his one good movie). I have seen Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, and all 4 Transformers movies. KMN. Now that I think about it the first Transformers movie isn’t that bad. It’s a fun big blockbuster movie (certainly a million times better than any of the sequels).
Pearl Harbor is especially insulting because it deals with real people, real heroes and reduces them to caricatures and a laughable soap opera romance with some of the worse dialogue I’ve ever heard.
(Language warning but it’s true)
The reason I might place him above Shyamalan is he does have a demographic that he services and that enjoy his movies. Whether I have respect for that demographic is one thing but I can’t imagine any demographic liking Lady in the Water, The Village, The Happening or Last Airbender.
M Night Shyamalan-
He made one good movie, and 2 movies that look good but are very silly. When I got home from my mission everyone was raving about Signs so I watched it and thought it was a very weak and even preachy movie. I did not get the hype. Lamest aliens ever…but it at least has style.
Post Signs they have been astonishingly bad. And I don’t know is it worse to make movies with talent and to try hard and produce junk or to half-bake it and produce mindless shluck? Shyamalan if he let someone else write and set his ego aside could make a good movie. I don’t know if I could say the same about Michael Bay.
But again at least Bay kind of knows his schtick and he makes it where Shyamalan doesn’t even seem to realize he is making crap. He thinks it’s all big and important and that us silly fools aren’t enlightened enough to understand it. You watch interviews of him trying to defend Lady in the Water or The Last Airbender and it is mind blowing. He acts like he is this wounded artist that people are unfairly attacking. I mean have you seen these movies? They are unwatchable films.
Lady in the Water is boring and so full of itself. It’s so awful and pretentious.
I mean The Happening is about the evil wind and the plants attacking people. I guess it could work if you went the B cheesy horror movie route (ala Sharknado) but this takes itself seriously and turns good actors into jokes. Mark Whalberg is so bad in The Happening (he’s apologized publicly for The Happening). Same with Paul Giamati in Lady in the Water (although that movie is not his fault it is bad). And with Last Airbender he took a show that people love and Westernized it, made it incredibly boring and it doesn’t even look good? The special effects are laughable. The fight sequences and the slow motion and the panning shots make me nuts.
In both Lady in the Water and Signs M Night casts himself as these prophet types who are the chosen one’s and again at least Michael Bay (I think) knows he’s making crap.
But he could make a good movie again and his movies aren’t demeaning to women or minorities like Bay’s are? (well not as demeaning at least and it isn’t real people).
I guess I would pick Shyamalan although I think he might be the worse director again because there is not any demographic for his movies. They are just junk. Avoid them both! And don’t get me started on After Earth. It’s right up there with Battlefield Earth in the terd heap.
When Johnny Depp thinks you’re strange M Night you need to take a look at yourself.
I guess it comes down to do you appreciate a pompous artist who tries but makes crap or someone that doesn’t try but makes crap that a lot of people for whatever reason like? One is full of his own genius and the other is lazy. I don’t know. Tough call. May I never be cursed with such a choice.