A New Group Of Heroes

James Gunn

Chris Pratt
Zoe Saldana
Bradley Cooper
Dave Bautista
Vin Diesel
Lee Pace

It has been highlighted that I rate the Marvel Studios films very highly (by me, among others). Frustratingly, for a critic, when a franchise, director or actor continues to put out exceptional work, you start to look a bit sycophantic and your reviews come off as obsequious. While this isn’t the case, I can’t deny the pattern. But comic book movies, like comics themselves aren’t all about superheroes; they’re a medium, not a genre. And thanks to DC COMPLETELY fumbling with Green Lantern the space-based science fiction is unclaimed territory. Well, it was.

Guardians Of The Galaxy wastes no time setting the tone for its epic space adventure. We are treated to a very brief but very touching opening, explaining how a young boy lost his mother at an early age and was abducted by aliens. Twenty six years later Peter Quill [Pratt] is the self fashioned adventurer, scavenger, pirate going by the name Starlord (well.. trying to). His latest mark is a mystical orb hidden in an ancient city on a distant world. We quickly learn this orb is wanted by multiple parties and Quill, unable to fence the stolen item, gets into a scrap with an assassin (Saldana as Gamora) and two bounty hunters (Groot and Rocket voiced by Diesel and Cooper respectively) and winds up in prison. Here he learns that the item he’s been carrying is not only valuable but world-destroyingly dangerous. With a weak alliance between his fellow captives and another convict by the name of Drax The Destroyer, this rag-tag group set out to make a stand against Ronan [Pace], a religious alien zealot hell-bent on wiping out the galaxy’s military force, the Nova Corps (to start with). And if they happen to get into mischief and make some money on the way, so be it.

A lot of this movie comes off as fresh and new, giving MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) detractors less to whine about. Guardians Of The Galaxy takes the standard Marvel Studios formula and heavily tilts in the humour direction. The misinterpretations between characters, the fish out of water pop culture references (very indicative of Farscape), the pratfalls and incessant screaming at each other while everything falls apart – we’ve seen these in the first nine films in Marvel’s “Phase 1 – 2” megaplan but they’ve predominantly taken a backseat to the action; utilised as a way to bring levity to the situation. Here, the levity is the backbone that runs throughout, with the peril, action, drama, heart and wonder as the secondary devices. One of the reasons for this is the multiple perspective narrative. Sure, Starlord is the main character but it’s a team flick. Before you open your talk hole and prattle on that “The Avengers was the first team superhero movie,” just stop. You’re wrong. The Avengers is a crossover movie and everything to date has been about a central standalone character (I’m naturally excluding things like X-Men and The Fantastic Four). This is the first team film, wherein each component is part of a whole; rather than ‘this individual accidentally became a superhero and now he fights crime and stuff’. Each character is introduced well in this movie and goes on to contribute to elevate the group. Quill, the leader with next to no leadership skills but a strong honour-among-thieves attitude is perfect for Pratt, who is going places FAST with his success in The Lego Movie and upcoming appearance in Jurassic World. I initially felt Saldana’s casting as Gamora was a tad obvious but they played well to her skills and didn’t include the character as just ‘the girl on the team’. Drax, played by Mr. Bautista. I was really worried about this. The man seems to possess little/no charm or charisma in anything I’ve seen him in to date but he was angry, funny, deep and a real surprise. The second Vin Diesel was cast as Groot, I knew we’d basically have the wooden version of The Iron Giant. And I wasn’t wrong! The man took a handful of words and gives the audience so much. That fucking tree will break your goddamn heart. Seriously. And finally, Rocket. If Rocket didn’t work, this whole film would flop. Anyone who has actually seen an interview with Bradley Cooper will immediately pick up that he’s not his character in The Hangover, he’s a multi-faceted, funny guy and this performance will silence anyone who thought otherwise. Bring them all together and you have an exceptionally well rounded group that delivers more heart, laughs and violence than most action films or comedies combined.

I’m particularly stunned this film has been directed by James Gunn. The man started out with Troma Entertainment and while Slither and Super were admittedly flawed but amusing, I never would have thought him capable of something like this. This kind of imagination, control, precision and spectacle (while retaining all the mainstream tick boxes) is usually reserved for someone like Guillermo Del Toro. But then, the Russo brothers, who I knew through watching the offbeat comedy series Community, produced arguably Marvel’s best film in the form of a dark espionage thriller. Alongside the keen direction is the beautifully immersive CGI. As we all know, visual effects age horribly but when they’re first witnessed they defy reality. Such is the way with this movie. The digital characters live and breathe believably, the landscapes and deep space exploration is captivating and the action is truly riveting.

But there are flaws. While this movie is packed from start-to-end with exceptional pacing and non-stop development, it often felt just a little crowded. Case in point, the roles played by Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz and Benicio del Toro were largely underused and little more than lacklustre cameos – which is unfortunate. But on the other hand, if these characters, races or groups were explored more than they were, I could easily see the lore of the universe quickly bogging the film down with exposition and spooling sci-fi jargon. Quill’s also a weird one. I understand his character, his motivations, it’s his backstory I have a little difficulty with. You don’t question it at the time but when you think about it, there are a lot of odd unanswered questions. Specifically, a little more information about the timing of Quill being abducted from Earth might have been useful.. and he survived in an environment that he really shouldn’t have survived in very well. And where’s he been getting AA batteries for that walkman? Furthermore, the convergence of everyone looking for this ancient orb, all at the same time, seems a little too convenient. Then there are the technical issues: as with most of the recent Marvel releases, Tyler Bates’ score fits well at the time but is completely forgettable afterward. Perfectly serviceable but still the weakest element (excluding Iron Man 3 of course). Which leaves us with the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 compilation of seventies and eighties tracks that add levity and make up for the incidental nature of the main score. Personally, I think it’s a great touch and highlights Quills connection/disassociation with Earth and his past life but if it becomes a staple on the series, it needs to be something stronger.

You may want to know more about Thanos and the infinity stones and the credit sequences and all the other shit that bloggers and critics pack their reviews with but I’m going to happily gloss over all that. This is a wonderful standalone science fiction film; the fact that it even exists in the same universe as The Avengers is an added bonus. So whether you’re a fan of Marvel, superhero films or science fiction, do yourself a favour, give this movie a go and treat yo’self.

Release Date:
1st August 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
I’m going to try and describe this without giving anything away.. which considering the scene, is going to be tricky. As the film reaches its final showdown between hero and villain, we are treated to one of the most hilarious and uniquely confident distractions ever. Brilliantly done with absolutely no shame. Oh. And we get the phrase ‘turd blossom’ as a bonus.

Notable Characters:
How can I put this…? Rocket Raccoon.

Highlighted Quote:
“Nothing goes over my head.. my reflexes are too fast. I would catch it”

In A Few Words:
“The word fun is one which is heavily overused in reviews but Guardians Of The Galaxy is a genuinely fun, fresh, exhilarating space adventure”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #125

[20 July 2014]

Winning Team:
Friends Of Prot Pay It Forward

Genre – Science fiction do-good film

Runners Up:
Some Damn Good Ribs
Genre – Kevin Spacey turns cannibal
Genre – An alien searches the earth for a solution to his menstrual cycle problems, so that he can do every day activities such as roller-skating, rock climbing and pillow fights

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of the villainous king in Richard III?
2. Who directed Close Encounters Of The Third Kind?
3. What colour is Luke’s first lightsaber in Star Wars?
BLUE (arguably the hilt was black and silver)
4. Big Daddy, Little Nicky and Happy Gilmore all starred which actor?
5. Groundhog Day was released in which year?
6. Jigsaw is the name of the killer in which film series?
7. Highlander mostly takes place in which two countries (one point per correct answer)?
8. What animal is the Sheriff of Nottingham in Disney’s Robin Hood?
9. How many films have been released titled Planet Of The Apes?
TWO (1968 / 2001)
10. In the Marvel movie of the same name, what is The Punisher’s logo?

ROUND II: Filming [Kevin Spacey]
1. Which character did Kevin Spacey play in Superman Returns? Superman? Lex Luthor? Perry White?
2. Seven was released in which year? 1995? 1996? 1997?
3. What colour are the ants in A Bug’s Life? Blue? Green? Red?
4. How many men are seen in the line-up in The Usual Suspects? Four? Five? Six?
5. Margin Call is supposed to be set in which year? 1991? 2001? 2008?
6. In Ordinary Decent Criminal, the stolen portrait Michael is unable to fence was painted by whom? Rembrandt? Caravaggio? Picasso?
7. What nickname is given to Sergeant Exley after he apprehends the NiteOwl killers, in LA Confidential? Machine Gun Eddie? Pistol-Packing Edmund? Shotgun Ed?
8. Who directed Glengarry Glen Ross? James Foley? Alan Pakula? Bruno Barreto?
9. Kevin Spacey plays the role of Chris Sabien in which film? The Negotiator? Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil? Outbreak?
10. Despite brandishing his gun in almost every scene in The Ref, Denis Leary’s character only fires it once. True or False?
TRUE (at a smoke alarm)

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Who played Donald Kimball, the detective hunting Patrick Bateman (in theory), in American Psycho?
2. How many films has Guy Ritchie directed?
SEVEN (Lock Stock, Snatch, Swept Away, Revolver, RocknRolla, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes 2)
3. Who directed the 1986 film Blue Velvet?
4. What are the names of the two lead characters in Superbad? (one point per correct answer)
5. How old is Mathilda in Leon?
6. Which film features Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien and John Myers?
7. What is the subtitle of Terminator 3?
8. The Mel Brooks spoof Spaceballs was released in which year?
9. Which film starred Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland and Julia Roberts?
10. How many James Bond films featured Roger Moore?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. The following quote is from which film, “I eat breakfast 300 yards away from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge and make me nervous”? Rules Of Engagement? A Few Good Men? Behind Enemy Lines?
2. Which of the following did not feature in 1990’s Dick Tracy? Dustin Hoffman? James Caan? Harvey Keitel?
3. My Fair Lady, Mad Max 2, The Colour Purple and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button were all distributed by which studio? Warner Bros.? Universal? Paramount?
4. Which actor made his film debut as Mitch’s son in City Slickers? Jake Gyllenhaal? Elijah Wood? Josh Harnett?
5. In The Karate Kid, what is Mr. Miyagi’s first name? Sato? Toshiro? Kesuke?
6. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning”? You’ve Got Mail? When Harry Met Sally? When A Man Loves A Woman?
7. What is the entire economy of Swallow Falls based on, in Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs? Beetroot? Milk? Sardines?
8. The 2003 film, Girl With A Pearl Earring, is set in which country? France? Holland? Belgium?
9. What is the title of the film in which an IRS auditor discovers he is the subject of an author’s book? A True Story? It’s My Life? Stranger Than Fiction?
10. Kevin Spacey was cast to play the villain in The Patriot but after Mel Gibson recouped his 25 million dollar fee, the budget couldn’t accommodate Spacey, so they had to recast. True or False?

Screenshots: Gangster Squad / Carlito’s Way / Mystic River
Poster: Milk
Actor: Sean Penn


One Last Chance For Peace

Matt Reeves

Andy Serkis
Jason Clarke
Gary Oldman
Keri Russell
Toby Kebbell

Set ten years after the outbreak of the virus at the end of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, the human population has dissipated down to a low percentage of survivors. Meanwhile, Caesar’s [Serkis] colony of apes is slowly thriving in peace, the next generation are learning the values of their leader and life carries on harmoniously. And yet, Caesar worries that despite not seeing humans for at least two years, they are more dangerous when at their most desperate. One day, two young apes stumble across a man who panics and shoots one of the apes. We soon learn that the man is accompanied by a group of survivors who are residing in the ruins of San Francisco, who are trying to restore power to the hydro-generator, deep in ape territory. The co-leaders of this group are the level headed Malcolm [Clarke] and the ex-military man, Dreyfus [Oldman] both of whom want what’s best for their colony but primarily operate under the idea that the second humans lose power, they will turn on each other. As a show of strength, Caesar descends on the human colony and explains that the apes have no intention of going to war but will do so if necessary. The reality of a talking, horse-riding ape unnerves the populace and Malcolm agrees to spend time among the apes to simply get the generator back online. But, as things always do, matters escalate, people die and paranoia and fear overtake logic and reason.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was a solid, clever and entertaining reboot/prequel. It was treated with respect and maturity and therefore graced us with a wonderful story; on top of that, the state of the art visuals were spectacular and Andy Serkis’ performance moved audiences. Amazingly, this film goes four or five steps further. It’s obvious that Matt Reeves is a Planet Of The Apes fan. The story focuses heavily on the apes’ perspective (probably 70/30) and explores all characters and personalities on both sides. The fact that people who aren’t Planet Of The Apes fans are enjoying it, is down to the simple relatable themes of family, trust and survival. The story is compelling, the visuals are above and beyond what we’re used to and the characterisation is exceptional. Case in point, this movie does not have a villain. There are certainly two clear antagonists in the form of Koba [Kebbell], Caesar’s second in command and the mistrustful Carver [Kirk Acevedo] but neither of them are black-and-white villains. Koba, having been experimented on for years, knows nothing but hatred and resentment, Carver, having lost his family like so many others, blames the apes due to the virus being dubbed ‘Simian Flu’. But arguably, they are both simply victims who cannot move on from their issues. This non-stereotypical exploration of characters ensures that audiences have divided opinions and what should be a simple ‘Us Vs Them’ becomes an analysis of fear, misinformation and distrust.

The human aspect is remarkably well done, utilising tiny scenes to get across incredibly important plot points and personal developments. Any ham-fisted director can linger on an emotionally manipulative moment but it takes a very clever individual to manipulate the audience without them even realising what’s happening. But no matter how good the human element is, this film is an Apes movie and it’s really their story. Enter Serkis, Kebbell and a host of incredibly talented and under-appreciated actors and artists. Serkis is one of the most underrated character actors working today, he’s essentially the modern day Lon Chaney. The levels of intensity and emotional outpouring present in just his face and posture is astounding. Enter Toby Kebbell, an actor whom I have always held in high regard. He voices the role of Koba (who appeared in Rise) and matches Serkis’ wonderful ability with his own. At times I could see both these actors’ faces come through the CGI performance and it’s a surreal moment – it’s sort of like recognising a childhood friend that you haven’t seen in twenty years; the features are almost unrecognisable but the movements are undeniable.

The sound design is great and mixes the feel of the forest and the deserted city streets but a special mention needs to be made regarding Michael Giacchino’s brilliant score. Giacchino has already proved he is more than capable of delivering an array of styles and themes but it was actually his monster inspired epic, ‘Roar’ for Cloverfield which really highlighted to me how much he understands the concept of genre appropriate melodies. With that same expertise, he has created something contemporary and primal but very reminiscent and indicative of the bombastic scores of the late 1960’s. All-in-all, this is a very mature, well-rounded release delivered by an individual who clearly knows, loves and respects the source material enough to continue and expand the universe without unnecessarily cannibalising or regurgitating the original.

Release Date:
18th July 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are so many great and powerful moments in this movie, it feels a little cruel to expose them. Instead, I’d like to highlight something that appeals to me greatly as a critic and filmmaker. The use of symmetry onscreen and narratively is always a sign of a well thought out project. Something I noticed, which really startles the audience (for different reasons), is the fact the film opens and closes with the same image. Staring straight into the eyes of the lead character. Everything that’s come before, everything that lies on the horizon, the future of his family and group, all contained within those eyes, presented under an extreme close-up. Striking stuff.

Notable Characters:
There are some fantastic performances here but it would be impossible to highlight anyone other than Serkis or Kebbell. The two play off each other with great ease but display and underlying animalistic tension throughout. Things we try to subtly capture in human performances but lack the primal setting to convey it. No doubt people will assume it’s just computer animation and forget there are in fact actors romping around the set, rather than coldly delivering lines in a sound studio – which is a damn shame.

Highlighted Quote:
“From humans. Koba only learned hate. Nothing else”

In A Few Words:
“As far as sequels/prequels go, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a glorious example of how they can build upon and surpass everything that came before them”

Total Score:



Rise Above It All

Dean DeBlois

Jay Baruchel
America Ferrera
Cate Blanchett
Gerard Butler
Djimon Hounsou

How To Train Your Dragon was a charming rarity; a beautifully animated family film that thrilled and entertained without pandering to children or flinging about unwelcome pop-culture references for adults. But no matter how wonderful or original a film is, sequel territory is always difficult. From the outset it’s obvious How To Train Your Dragon 2 isn’t a simple regurgitation of its predecessor but a bold evolutionary step forward for the franchise with a healthy mature story, improved visuals and a fittingly resonate score.

Since the first movie, the inhabitants of Berk have accepted dragons as an everyday part of life, altering their livelihoods from weapon-making to saddle construction and incorporating dragon riding races as a local pastime. And yet the instigators of this change, Hiccup [Baruchel] and his dragon Toothless, are often missing from the village’s day-to-day life. Now in his early twenties, Hiccup has become a restless explorer, developing his own gliding equipment and venturing further and further into unchartered territory. On one such expedition, he encounters a ship of dragon trappers who have been tasked to hunt every dragon and bring them to the dark and powerful Drago Bludvist [Hounsou]. Convinced he can negotiate with Drago (after successfully educating his own village), Hiccup sets out to arrange a meeting. Before he can do this, however, Hiccup is ambushed by a mysterious and ever-so-slightly feral masked dragon rider, named Valka [Blanchett]. I’d say spoiler but it’s in all the trailers.. it’s his long-lost mum.. so.. surprise! After finally meeting Drago and witnessing the size of his dragon army, it quickly becomes apparent that the threat is very real and all of Berk and every dragon in the land are at risk of uniting under Drago’s banner, with the aid of a behemoth dragon known as the alpha.

I’ll admit I haven’t seen the spin-off/tie-in series which acts as a bridge between this film and the last one. But that evidently doesn’t matter because the film brings all the character development up to speed with complete ease. Once again, Jay Baruchel proves that he is a very capable and emotive actor, who just happens to have a nasally voice, and commands this entire feature with ease. The inclusion of Cate Blanchett and Djimon Hounsou are welcome additions and provide almost unrecognisable performances as Valka and Drago respectively. If I’m honest, I think the inclusion of Kit Harington as Eret the dragon trapper is a little on the nose, considering his Game Of Thrones origins but I’ll admit he serves his purpose well and offers a solid performance. With regards to the returning cast, the character development feels very natural. The scenes with Hiccup and Astrid display a completely believable relationship without stooping to the typical cinematic tropes, Stoick and Hiccup’s interactions with Valka are wrought with painful awkwardness that neither feels forced nor rushed, the friendship between the other dragon riders is apparent but indicative of actual interactions. In a way, this animated film about Vikings riding dragons is more realistic than the majority of films and programmes depicting teenage life. Speaking of realistic portrayals, Toothless continues to be a tremendous character that avoids the trappings of “make the animal like a dog so kids can relate” which appears in almost every animated film. Furthermore, I love the notion that the group alpha isn’t always the biggest or smartest but the one with the strength of will to confront danger and protect the group.

From a technical standing, this film is visually lush and insanely detailed with exemplary use of stop-motion adding to the surreal realism (you know, ’cause of the very cartoony looking characters). On top of that, John Powell returns with another lively score laced with darker tones that add to the suspense and danger. But in earnest, the technical aspects are merely the tools used to populate and present this fictional land. Even the voice actors are effective place-holders to a certain degree. One of the film’s strongest elements is the aforementioned mature evolution. The first film is a touching story of a boy finding his best friend and connecting with his father. Here we have the story of a boy becoming a man and finding his societal place in the process. I mean, these are incredibly simple themes but they are layered and presented with a deft subtlety that they ring true. And it’s this respect for the concept of what a sequel should be that elevates the entire proceeding. Another point of note is the avoidance of using heavy-handed emotional manipulation, as so often depicted in Disney. Instead, Dreamworks have managed to capture that golden quality that only Pixar seemed capable of delivering (before they were bought back by Disney). Sure, you have the scary bad guy, the love interest, the bickering friends, the love triangles, the reuniting of a mother, the death of a major character, animals doing things they regret and displaying remorse and courage – things which are stable drag-and-drop attributes for countless disappointing family films but it’s the way in which they’re packaged and utilised that makes them standout.

Truth be told, there aren’t a great deal of negative points about this movie. The biggest frustration is the lack of time dedicated to supporting character exploration. Arguably, this could be present in the TV series and therefore would feel like repetition for fans of both the film and series but it still leaves a slight hole. Either way, it’s not that much of an issue, the real problem stems from the villain, Drago Bludvist, who is glazed over a little. His origin is shrouded in mystery and all we know is that he suffered greatly at the hands of dragons and set out to master them through fear and dominance.. with a dragon-skin cloak and metal arm.. that he acquired.. somehow. But aside from that minor setback, it’s pretty much gold and with another season on the way, I should imagine another film won’t be far behind – something I’m actually optimistic about.

Release Date:
11th July 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoiler of the largest kind within**
Ok, so a main character dies. And in a way it’s a really obvious choice. After patching up with his father in the first film and resisting the burden of being announced as chief (i.e. replacing his father) in this movie, there was going to be an eventual emotional conflict. But thankfully, it’s actually a surprise. You half think they’ll bring him back somehow or he’s not really dead or he’ll have some God-awful wisdom to impart in his final breath but there’s none of that. He’s just dead and it’s cutting and the assailant doesn’t realise what’s happened; the whole thing is exceptionally orchestrated and only confirms the prowess with which this story is handled.

Notable Characters:
I must confess, I really like the silly love-triangle competition between Snotlout, Fishlegs and Ruffnut. And adding Eret to the complication only heightened the humour every time they referenced it or brought it back. So. Them. All four of them.

Highlighted Quote:
“I was so afraid of becoming my dad.. mostly because I thought I never could”

In A Few Words:
“Colourful, playful, dramatic and surprisingly tender, How To Train Your Dragon 2 is an extremely commendable continuation that defines the term ‘good sequel'”

Total Score:



The Rules Have Changed

Michael Bay

Mark Wahlberg
Nicola Peltz
Jack Reynor
Kelsey Grammer
Stanley Tucci

Set several years after the last Transformers film, we find Earth a hostile environment for the robots in disguise. Chicago is slowly being rebuilt and the Autobots are being systematically hunted by a black ops unit run by the CIA. Enter Cade Yeager [Wahlberg], a plucky Texan single father and inventor (apparently) desperately trying to do odd-jobs to put his teenage daughter through college and on the right track. On one particular salvage operation, he comes across a beat up truck and purchases it for $150 in the hope he can break it down and sell the parts. After a bit of investigating, he discovers the truck is in fact Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. Unfortunately, word gets out that Yeager may be harbouring alien fugitives and a hit squad is sent to search his premises. When Cade’s daughter is threatened, Optimus launches into action and the Yeagers go on the run from their own government, with the assistance of Tessa’s secret boyfriend, Shane. I have so much to say about these two but I’ll save it for later. The story progresses (well the runtime ticks along, there’s no real story) and we learn that the CIA are working with a tech company called KSI to create their own transforming soldiers – run by Joshua Joyce [Tucci] – and a transformer bounty hunter called Lockdown. It’s basically a big mess with a ridiculous ‘average Joe’ at the centre talking about protecting his daughter and how shit’s crazy right now. *sigh*

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (the second one, if you didn’t know) was ridiculous and obscene and offensive and a diabolical onslaught but Transformers: Age Of Extinction commits a sin some may not have even considered possible; it’s boring. In truth, these have never been good films, they’re money generating blockbuster monstrosities that capitalise on adult nostalgia and pre-teen stupidity. But at least the first instalment was fairly novel and the third provided a pretty decent final third action set-piece. This is just a gruelling marathon of nothing. Packed and bloated with filler, unnecessary character types and rather uninspired direction, it’s just wall-to-wall formulaic tedium. There is also a clear but strange desire to make this film ‘darker’. Unfortunately, according to the screenplay, ‘darker’ means torture and murder. Optimus’ first line of dialogue in the movie is, “I’ll kill you! I’ll kill all of you!” and by the end of the film he actually straight up murders a dude. I appreciate how ridiculous that sounds considering the death-toll that the severe amount of collateral damage generated over the last four films but this feels different. Even the murder in Man Of Steel can be argued and somewhat justified, this is just unnecessary brutality for the sake of it. And while we’re talking about Optimus, the movie version of Prime is weak. At no point have I seen anything that establishes him as a leader. Every film he turns up, makes a speech, gets beaten up and/or killed then comes back with a new look (and fresh model of toys to buy), tears another robot limb from limb, then finishes off by making another pointless speech. I’m not saying the 80’s cartoon was anything more than it was but at least Optimus had a simple function: strategy and command of his companions to protect human life and thwart the Decepticons. Another contemporary misconception that we’re forced to endure is that all will be revealed in the sequels. I’m a big fan of cinematic setup/payoff and the clever use of foreshadowing but it’s a skill that most screenwriters don’t actually possess. Teasing a series of questions and baffling events only to turn to the audience and announce, “Who are the creators!? Where did Galvatron go? Now the Dinobots are free where are they off to? Who were the knights? Why is Optimus taking the seed into space? Find out in the next exciting instalment of Smashy Crashy Robo Nonsense!” is neither intelligent nor subtle.

The mistake every Transformers movie makes is thinking audiences won’t be able to relate to robots and that there needs to be a human interest story. This may not be entirely inaccurate but it’s one of the biggest scapegoats used to shoehorn in a myriad of obnoxious douchebags. I don’t think anyone goes to watch a Transformers flick for the humans, we all know that they’re placeholders that are cheaper to film than having a team of talented people render giant digital automatons. And yet all the robots are equally stupid. None of them are given any personality, they’re just injected with an abundance of stereotypical attributes. For anyone unable to see the difference, a personality is a recognisable set of ethics, codes, drives, experiences and neuroses which manifest in psychological and physical form. But this takes a lot of time and effort, so what we’ve got is Optimus the leader, Bumblebee the hothead, Hound the fat guy with the beard and a cigar.. somehow.. for some reason (voiced by John Goodman), Crosshairs the kill happy rogue [John DiMaggio] and Drift the Japanese samurai who’s calm and up his arse about honour (voiced by Ken Watanabe). This is not a set of individuals, it’s a marketable set of voice-boxes for toys. What’s worse, the concept of “robots in disguise” has never been utilised well but here’s it’s flat out insulting. Rather than tricking children into using their imaginations and gleefully whispering, “I wonder if that car is a transformer!” the robot/car transformation is solely used so Bay can show off concept cars and slick paint-jobs. Seriously, how ‘in disguise’ are you as a massively expensive sports car in the middle of the fucking desert? And what the absolute fuck was with the ten minutes of dinobots!? Who were they fooling? Are we to believe that they’re in disguise on a world of metal dinosaurs or were they on Earth previously, breathing fire and doing their best to blend in!? AND WHY IN THE SHIT HASN’T BUMBLEBEE’S VOICE BOX BEEN FIXED YET! That whole sound bite sampling nonsense is beyond irritating and I can never really make out what the hell he’s supposed to be saying.

Bay humour. Bay direction. Bay intelligence. None of it works. I don’t know who sits down to watch a Michael Bay film and laughs solidly at all the terrible jokes and horrendous one-liners but I desperately do not want to meet them. I know I allocate part of my review to a highlighted quote but there are so many terrible lines of dialogue that even the most desperate of screenwriters wouldn’t admit to authoring them: “My face is my warrant” “I’m a wicked warrior robot” “You’re an inventor like me, so I know you have a conscience” “Whenever you look to the stars, think of one of them as my soul.” Some of them don’t even make sense, it’s as if a group of self-congratulatory eight year olds got drunk and started scribbling all over the script. “Then.. then! The dying Autobot’s all like I’ll never tell you! And then the bad guy, the bad guy says, Never is here! And stick his.. his hand in the.. in the dying Autobot’s chest and he’s all like Nooo! Blerrgh! Arghh! And then he dies and the bad guy just walks away.” It’s absurd and it’s a wonder that it goes through X amount of drafts and actually makes it to the final cut. Incidentally, I’ve been doing the maths and the way I see it, this movie wastes the talent of four Oscar nominations, six Golden Globes, 8 Emmies and 1 BAFTA – and that’s just between five actors. So with all that money spent and the talent involved, you’d think something half decent could be produced. And I know that Bay is capable of making unique cinema because he managed to slip out Pain And Gain which, while pretty mediocre, demonstrated that the man has a few experimental directorial ideas left in his head.

But surely there must be a handful of positive elements to raise this trash from a damning 1/10 to the 3/10 I settled on? Indeed. As with its predecessors, the visual effects are very impressive when you actually get to see them, as is the sound editing and design. The music is regrettably background, void of anything remotely resembling a theme but the Imagine Dragons track works well and is actually a decent song. Furthermore, the concept of humans being xenophobic of alien life after it was directly responsible for wiping out half of Chicago is a very interesting thread to follow. And the use of Kelsey Grammer is particularly praiseworthy, feeling reminiscent of his appearance in the thoroughly underrated Boss. Having said that, District 9 did it better and didn’t need nearly three hours to do it.

Age Of Extinction is somehow more than just another journey into an amber hued shaky-cam nightmare (that only stabilises when there’s some product placement to flaunt), it’s the death rattle of this franchise. I know there will probably be another two sequels but in the same vein as Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the studios pushed the franchise too hard and audiences were just fatigued and unimpressed by the lack of originality (which actually takes a lot so that’s saying something). By all means bemoan Transformers for being an explosion-happy immaturity fest but at least it was watchable from start to finish. This is just an exercise in tedium and you can only ask so much of the paying public.

Release Date:
11th July 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
In order to track the villains .. wait .. that’s not true. That’s the fallout of the action. I don’t think there was any motivation. Sorry, I appreciate I’m having an openly private ramble on a review but I’m actually trying to break down a mind-boggling setup. While the CIA’s hit squad blow up the Yeager residence, they broadcast back to the director, Attinger [Grammer] via little spy-cam helicopters. One of which, Cade manages to grab.. then reverse engineer to pilot and do their bidding. It’s a premise that doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s only used twice – the first time is to arrogantly test police response times at an ATM, the second is so they can go to the manufacturer’s headquarters and thirdly to take a picture of a KSI staff member’s ID tag. I have a great deal of issues with all of this. Side-stepping the ridiculous biometric security steps most companies have to go through, a blurry picture of a badge wouldn’t cut it, furthermore, no one reported it but all of this is a genuinely moot point. You can suspend disbelief or argue the plausibility of any of it but right from the get-go you need to convince yourself that an inventor in name only has the ability to steal CIA tech that is apparently untraceable. It shouldn’t matter but enough excuses are made for big dumb action films (I myself make some of these excuses from time-to-time) and it’s this kind of stupid writing that is responsible for the film’s weakest element: the plot.

Notable Characters:
Tessa and Shane. Just utterly deplorable irredeemable characters played by actors who are probably quite capable but are asked to do so little. What can I say that hasn’t been said countless times before about these types of individuals? Pretty faces employed to do the bare minimum; to look good and grunt or scream their way through the film. No real emotional drive, no arc, no redeeming features and no point in caring about them.

Highlighted Quote:
“I’m a fat ballerina who takes names and slits throats”

In A Few Words:
“I’d say more of the same but while the other Transformers films managed to be polarising, they were arguably entertaining.. or thoroughly offensive.. this instalment is lacklustre and uninspired”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #124

[06 July 2014]

Winning Team:

Genre – A mafia tale of competing ooze

Runners Up:
Goo’s Company
Genre – A buddy comedy

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. In Being John Malkovich, Craig Schwartz finds a door that takes you into the mind of which actor?
2. What is the name of Simba’s uncle in The Lion King?
3. Which prison is the setting for the 1995 action film, The Rock?
4. Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey appeared together in which film?
5. What was the title of the sequel to The Da Vinci Code?
6. What meal do the two lead dogs iconically share in Lady & The Tramp?
7. What does Antonio Banderas’ character use to store his guns in Desperado?
8. Which two actors play the roles of Special Agent Ashburn and Detective Mullins in The Heat? (one point per correct answer)
9. Which actor was nominated for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I at the 71st Academy Awards?
10. What was the title of the spin off to The Mummy Returns?

ROUND II: Filming [Films with ‘goo’ in]
1. What was the subtitle of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II? Back From The Sewers? They’re Back? The Secret Of The Ooze?
2. In X-Men, which character has the ability to spit a toxic goo? Sabretooth? Toad? Cyclops?
3. What colour was The Blob? Green? White? Red?
4. The Thing was released in which year? 1978? 1980? 1982?
5. Where does Peter attempt to propose to Mary Jane in Spider-Man 3? A theatre? A restaurant? A rooftop?
6. The title Flubber is an amalgam of which two words? Flying Rubber? Focused Blubber? Floating Tub?
7. Terminator II is set in which year? 1991? 1993? 1995?
8. Which director wrote the screenplay for Alien Resurrection? Joss Whedon? Shane Black? Jon Favreau?
9. What is the name of the song used to animate the Statue Of Liberty in Ghostbusters II? Lift Me Up? You Raise Me? Higher And Higher?
10. In Raiders Of The Lost Ark, only three sides (the front, top and side) of the ark prop were actually built. As such, it is almost always filmed from the side or a single corner without the camera moving around it. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Assault On Precinct 13 is a remake of which Western?
2. In Splash, what does Madison transform into?
HUMAN (from a mermaid)
3. What was the name of the main villain in the 2011 film, Captain America?
THE RED SKULL (Johann Schmidt)
4. In which film did Jesus Christ deliver his Sermon On The Mount at Tea Time (according to the on-screen caption)?
5. Which film starred James Stewart and Richard Attenborough, then Dennis Quaid and Giovani Ribisi in the same roles in the remake of the same name?
6. In Big Trouble In Little China, Wo Pan is looking for a girl with what colour eyes?
7. Finish the following quote from The Cider House Rules, “Good night you Princes of Maine, you Kings of..”
8. Which Indiana Jones film features the Cross Of Coronado?
9. What is the name of Robert Neville’s pet dog in I Am Legend?
10. Who directed the 1989 film The Killer?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What nickname is given to the Main Force Patrol in Mad Max? Bronze? Fuzz? Cowboys?
2. What is the name of the sword in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Green Destiny? Jade Oath Keeper? Emerald Fate Slayer?
3. The Story Of The Kelly Gang was the first film to run over an hour with a solid narrative and is therefore considered the first feature film. In which year was it released? 1897? 1906? 1911?
4. The following was the poster tagline for which film, “Mixing business and girls! Mixing thrills and girls! Mixing danger and girls!”? The Living Daylights? Goldfinger? For Your Eyes Only?
5. What was Orson Welles’ first name? William? Arthur? George?
6. What was Chihiro’s slave name in Spirited Away? Chi-Chi? Toph? Sen?
7. How tall is Arnold Schwarzenegger? 6’2″? 6’4″? 6’6″?
8. What colour are the Gingerbread Man’s gumdrop buttons in Shrek? Blue? Purple? Green?
9. The following quote is from which film, “It’s out of control and it’s coming your way. You got about fifteen minutes. Now, they wanna try something. They wanna blow those water tanks two floors above you.”? The Towering Inferno? The Poseidon Adventure? Speed 2: Cruise Control?
10. A Best Boy is a chief assistant to various departments. If this role is performed by a woman, they are credited Best Girl. True or False?

Screenshots: Nixon / Meet Joe Black / Beowulf
Poster: Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Actor: Anthony Hopkins