Tag Archives: Michael Bay

An Insult to the Sneaker Pimps — “6 Underground”

“6 Underground” has the worst opening half hour to a film I’ve seen in ages. I think it’s Michael Bay’s attempt to make a Tony Scott film. Scott was most famous for directing “Top Gun” and “Enemy of the State”, but it was films like “Man on Fire” and “Deja Vu” that showed him taking larger chances. Scott’s orbiting helicopter shots and outside-of-time editing were ways of evoking the intense isolation and dissociation his action heroes often felt.

Scott’s protagonists became lost in geographic and temporal landscapes, the plot in front of them the only thing they can do because it’s the only thing to do. The norms they might help someone else hang onto were worth the sacrifice of throwing themselves further down a rabbit hole they had no clue how to escape. Character was often a combination of circumstance, coincidence, and willpower.

Michael Bay understands exactly zero of that shit. The circumstance he’s interested in is a billionaire who hires a team to assassinate people because he thinks he’s just the super best at deciding who should live and die.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are dictators and mass murderers who we could all probably agree should be wiped from this earth. So why shouldn’t a billionaire independently decide to do this? Cause they might think like Michael fucking Bay, that’s why.

Billionaire Ryan Reynolds – his character goes by “1”, but is probably most immediately and fully comprehended as “Ryan Reynolds”…. Where was I? Right. Billionaire Ryan Reynolds is set on exacting justice that only he can realize in this world because he wants to topple a dictator in a made up country.

Why does he want to do this? Because this dictator has massacred thousands of innocent people. How is he going to do this? It’s not really communicated, but it involves car chases and action set pieces where thousands of innocent bystanders get massacred as a result. Wait, what?

Did you ever want to see an action movie where innocent bystanders are gunned down by the dozens? This is your movie. Also, please never contact me.

In the very first sequence, a 20-minute car chase takes place. I wish I could tell you more than that, but its only reason for taking place is that it takes place. Fascinating.

Perhaps I can best describe the experience this way:

The experimental documentary “Koyaanisqatsi” presupposed that viewers could see multiple images that had nothing to do with each other, and that the brain would try to build a narrative out of them anyway. The viewer would attempt to make sense of why those shots followed each other, even if there was no sense to be made. In this way, a viewer can take completely unrelated scenes and images and still build a cogent narrative they’re then able to communicate to someone else.

Michael Bay takes this as a personal challenge. It is insulting to him. How dare someone think they can make unrelated images form a cogent story. The great challenge Michael Bay engages as an auteur is making images that should go together make zero fucking sense.

You want to be driving on a road? You’re driving through a building now! It’s a museum, you just destroyed Italian fine art. Now you’re in a construction zone. Now you’re in a parking garage? What the fuck? Fuck the what. The cars that are chasing you drive through barriers and plummet to explosions for no apparent reason. One’s driving down the stairs at you under control. Now it lands vertically on its nose in the next shot and all the people inside come flying out of doors they all forgot to close for some inexplicable reason so you can sideswipe them into a wall. To be fair, I have experienced that before, but only because the A.I. was so shitty in “Far Cry 4”.

You wanted a cogent fucking narrative? This is Michael Bay territory. What are you doing here?

I don’t think I’ve ever done this, but I desperately want to quote a Metacritic review I saw, because I think it tells you…well I think it tells you something. I always want to know the viewer that something is built for, even if I really, really dislike it. Strongly. And intensely. The comment’s by user HealingToolbox. Please be kind if you should ever cross paths:

“I wasn’t sure what I was watching til halfway thru. Then I realized this is Mission Impossible Michael Bay-style. If you are male and want violence, mayhem, destruction, and civilian deaths turned up to “11” this is for you. If you are female or an iNtuitive Feeler male, the more genteel charms of Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible retreated with Michael Bay tires is likely to leave you cold after it’s over. The primary value and primary point of view this exercise and all its gorgeous production values supports is: violence is good, violence is fun. To anyone with a iNtuitive Feeler conscience, this is going to feel like Armageddon turned up to “11”

Such is the perfect viewer of this film. They gave it a 4 out of 10.

In conclusion, I’m really disappointed that I chose this over watching “The VelociPastor”.

“The VelociPastor” is available on Amazon and is rated 16+.

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10 Things I Thought While Watching “King Arthur”

King Arthur and his Merry Men

by Gabriel Valdez

1. Ah, King Arthur. It takes a special dedication to make a movie so inaccurate when it’s based on events no one can agree on because they never happened. This is what Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) made when his Strangers on a Train remake fell through. It’s too bad. Denzel would’ve killed that. Instead, Fuqua took over for King Arthur after Michael Bay left. How well does a film designed for Michael Bay marry with the sensibilities of the guy who directed Training Day? Pretty much how you’d expect.

2. Look, writer David Franzoni had to cash in on his Gladiator cred somehow after Gladiator 2 failed to get off the ground. King Arthur would be his last screenplay, however. Of Gladiator‘s two other writers, William Nicholson would hit a dry spell until 2007’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

John Logan, who essentially reworked the Gladiator screenplay into the film we know and love, would be the only writer to build his career off the Oscar-winning film. After a bumpy run through The Time Machine and Star Trek: Nemesis, he hit his stride with The Last Samurai, The Aviator, Sweeney Todd, Rango (I’d argue his best work), and Hugo. He’d then regress (all the way to the bank) on Skyfall and is now the go-to James Bond writer.

3. The cast here is ridiculous, especially in retrospect. Clive Owen is King Arthur, Ioan Gruffudd is Lancelot, Keira Knightley is Guinevere. Also featured are Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Hugh Dancy, Ray Winstone, Ray Stevenson, and Stellan Skarsgard. Unfortunately, how they’re used is also ridiculous. Arthur and his knights are enslaved Roman soldiers. Knightley is a Boudica analogue who will slice your throat unless there’s a handsome protagonist nearby, at which point she gets awful short of breath and goes all Wuthering Heights on you. Merlin’s her Celtic chieftain, and everyone’s running from Ray Winstone and his army of Saxons.

4. Poor Ray Winstone. Always the villain leading an evil army. I like to think that he has a real life army devoted solely to him, and even when he’s not playing an evil general, they follow him onto set in homemade costumes anyway. They watch Noah and cheer for him, and hang photos of Winstone above their fireplace so they can pray for vengeance on fools and knaves every night. You know what I’d like to see? A buddy comedy starring Ray Winstone, Sean Bean, Mark Strong, and Ben Kingsley. You know, like Wild Hogs, only good. Jack McBrayer plays the villain.

5. That’s pretty annoying, Ioan Gruffudd, I’m fairly certain Keira Knightley could’ve axed that guy in the face all on her own. King Arthur likes to pretend it’s on the side of Guinivere being a badass, but really, she only gets to be a badass when she’s in flowing, idyllic robes or in her Celtic stripper uniform (all the men wear anachronistic, full plate armor). Her costuming subscribes to a virgin/whore dichotomy and she ends up marrying whoever lives out of the Arthur/Lancelot duo. At least Camelot is about an affair Guinevere can enjoy. Here, Guinevere’s just a prize for the victor.

King Arthur Keira Knightley forgot her armor at home

6. Knightley’s always been intriguing to me. King Arthur may include her worst performance, but that can be said for much of its cast. The very first Pirates of the Caribbean had come out a year earlier, and when she was engaged for the sequel in 2006, she insisted that the film include swordfighting scenes for her Elizabeth Swann. Hence, she got a barfight and was as crucial (and capable) a part of the climactic beach battle as Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp.

7. Some of these shots are ridiculous. Clive Owen comes riding out on his mighty steed, from the gate of Hadrian’s Wall. Never mind that it’s a pretty thin wall when it comes to military fortifications, and since the Romans have abandoned the whole thing, the Saxons could just avoid what they know is a trap, trot a few miles down the road, and bind up a few ladders to cross over it.

8. One more thing on this dumb wall: when Owen comes riding out, you can’t see the fields and buildings that are supposed to be beyond the gate. No greenery, no matte backdrop. There’s no existence, no sign of all the Roman facilities we saw earlier. I get that the wall set is built in a completely different place than the Roman settlement set is, but not having what would’ve been ten feet worth of backdrop to connect the two is just lazy. Through the gate you can only see very artificial blackness and fog. It’s like Gandalf recollecting a Saruman warning: “Hadrian’s Wall…You fear to go into England. The Romans delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Bowness-on-Solway…blackness and fog.”

Clive Owen reacts to King Arthur

9. The fight choreography in this leaves much to be desired. The stunt coordination of larger battle scenes isn’t bad, but when it gets to the one-on-one fights, half of the Celt choreography is to spin 360 degrees for no reason whatsoever. The Saxons, meanwhile, never bother to take advantage of their enemies’ unprotected backsides. They wait for the Celts to get done spinning, at which point the Celt swings his axe willy-nilly, the Saxon kind of stands there looking at it, and everyone’s suddenly surprised it’s buried in his lung. “We are defeated, my lord. The Celts – we had no idea they might spin!”

10. If you’re looking for a better version of this, go with Neil Marshall’s far more badass Centurion, which stars Michael Fassbender and Olga Kurylenko. It has nothing to do with King Arthur, but it’s a better movie about Roman soldiers in ancient Britain who are abandoned beyond the wall by an untrustworthy empire. It’s more focused, has spots of gorgeous cinematography that stick in my head, and includes a rather poignant twist – which is rare in an historical action movie:

Neil Marshall also made this educational documentary about life in Scotland starring Rhona Mitra.

EDIT: It’s been brought to my attention that Stellan Skarsgard actually played the leader of the villainous Saxons, and Ray Winstone played one of Arthur’s knights. My mistake. I maintain everything else I say about Ray Winstone cult worship. Skarsgard probably just got the Ray Winstone Army as a loan by promising some sort of blood oath or firstborn or Daniel Craig’s autograph.

How to Fix and Break “Transformers” in 3 Hours

Transformers 4 high res coat zipper

What the Transformers franchise lacked before was real star power at its center. Former lead Shia LaBeouf could play a displaced rebel without a cause in his sleep, but that meant he became redundant once he found his cause, and he lacked the charisma to turn into something new. Megan Fox may have been that dynamic core, but she was never afforded the opportunity to do more than scream and run in slow-motion.

Fourth entry Transformers: Age of Extinction shakes off the baggage of previous casts that tended to be more dramatic off-screen than on. In LaBeouf’s place is Mark Wahlberg, one of the few actors you can watch having a sword fight with a robot alien bounty hunter 40 times his size and think, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

He plays failed inventor Cade Yeager, who’s converted his Texas barn into a robotics lab. The first half hour follows Wahlberg in full exasperated 12-year-old mode, a role he’s perfected over the years. He’s broke and he can’t pay for his daughter’s college, but all he really wants to do is build robots. He poses in front of sunsets and American flags while looking across his land as if marking off a country music video checklist, but you know what? Wahlberg pulls that off, too.

Transformers 4 the good part

One day, Cade tows a rusted big-rig in for salvage. Turns out the truck is really Optimus Prime, leader of the heroic Autobots, in disguise. The CIA is hunting him down. The reason why is pretty clever: defense contractor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) is reverse engineering Transformers to develop his own patented robots. Sure, it’s illegal, but he’s promised government insider Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) millions in stock to sign off on it anyway. If this sounds suspiciously similar to how Congress works, it’s because that’s exactly how Congress works.

It’s the last kind of wrinkle I ever expected in a Transformers movie, but with all the other summer blockbusters developing a social conscience, writer Ehren Kruger brings a little subtext. It’s not much, and the movie runs away from anything heavier as soon as things start blowing up, but I’ll give Age of Extinction credit for trying something a little deeper than its predecessors. It’s also refreshing to see director Michael Bay go back to basics, even if it doesn’t last – with Wahlberg front and center, there’s more focus on the humans in the chaos. This means more car and foot chases.

Things are complicated when transforming bounty hunter Lockdown shows up. He wants to capture the Transformers. Good or bad, he insists they’re a threat to humans. He’s supposed to be evil, but given that millions of civilians slaughtered in the first three movies would still be alive without the bunch of them, Lockdown has a point.

Transformers 4 whose extra limb is that

It’s disappointing when Bay’s worst tendencies inevitably take over at the end. If you thought the last movie’s two-sided conflict was filmed confusingly, get ready for Autobots vs. Decepticons vs. CIA vs. Wahlberg vs. China vs. Lockdown vs. Dinobots (don’t ask).

The franchise’s biggest draw and biggest problem remains its action. There are neat shots, but they all happen independently of each other. It’s like paying to see the game but all you’re given is the highlight reel. How many evil Decepticons are there? We’re told 50, but after 20 minutes of battle, are there 45 left or do only three remain? Your guess is as good as mine. Sure, the world’s at stake, but isn’t it always? The moments in between – the juxtaposition of heroic deeds against physical struggle and underlying fear – give action movies their weight. Age of Extinction forgets this halfway through, just about when the Transformers take over as the lead actors.

Go for Wahlberg, or the car chases, or to see Texas filmed beautifully in the first half hour. If you’re looking for an action movie, I’d recommend Edge of Tomorrow instead, especially as 3D goes. Bay’s camera is always moving quickly, backgrounds are usually bright, and the man is a lens glare addict, making the 3D in Transformers: Age of Extinction some of the most headache-inducing around.

It’s rated PG-13 for violence, language, and innuendo, but killing robots instead of people lets Bay get away with much more brutality than PG-13 would usually allow.