Friday, June 27, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction review

The fourth installment of the Transformers is the most Transformers-esque Transformers movie ever made. 
The newest Transformers film takes place after the catastrophic events of the last film. The supposedly good Autobots are now being hunted by the government, apparently no longer being welcome here on planet Earth. Inventor and single father Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) just wants to make some money to put his daughter (Nicola Peltz) through college, but he's having some trouble with it. That is, until he finds a huge beat up truck in a decrepit movie theater. Said truck turns out to be the head Autobot, Optimus Prime. After the CIA raids Cade's barn and threatens the life of his daughter, Cade escapes with Optimus Prime to go fight some alien threat or something. Many explosions and slow motion robot fights ensue. Michael Bay is a director with a penchant for big action films with bigger pyrotechnics. His movies are a violent barrage of actual explosives and expensive CGI. In some ways, I respect the man. People have almost always given him guff about his films. "Too many explosions!" shouts the irritated moviegoers. "I don't care." replies Michael Bay. No matter how much critics have berated his pictures, no matter what people have said, Mr. Bay has still made his big explosive movies the way he wants to make them. Are the movies any good? In my personal opinion, they aren't most of the time. Yet they all fulfill the insane creative vision of one Michael Bay. He makes these convuluted set pieces, massive explosions, and slow motion shots of attractive females. The guy has his own style, and I applaud him for that much. Despite all that, the new Transformers movie is still really bad. So bad it actually made me yearn for the older Transformers films. The film was so atrocious that I actually started to enjoy it's blatant awfulness after a while. At one point, Mark Wahlberg's character crashes a spaceship into a truck carrying Bud Light beer. The driver angrily asks him "Do you have insurance for that?" Wahlberg responds by picking up one of the prominently placed Bud Light bottles and taking a swig from it. It's such obvious product placement I couldn't respond in any other way than confused laughter. The dialogue here is quite awful. Some of it is just plain expository, bland, and boring. Yet, at times it's unintentionally genius. Lines like "My face is a warrant." will go down in cinema history as some of the most befuddling and genuine lines to ever be spoken in a movie. One cannot react in any other way than shock and awe. This film is loaded with problems. They're all just so obvious and consistent that after a while I started not to mind. My biggest problem with this movie was probably it's pacing. People have been complaining about this film's running time, but a long movie isn't a bad thing. I wouldn't mind the film's 165 minutes if it was more enjoyable at times. The robot fights often run several minutes too long and the story is much too confusing and half-baked to really follow. This caused me to slump back in my seat with my eyes glazed over just sort of staring at the images flashing in front of me. What irritates me most about this is that it actually could be good. Imagine if Bay hired a decent writer to do something awesome and creative with this material? Think  of The Lego Movie. On first glance it seems like a mediocre kids film designed only to make money. Yet, it's actually a wonderfully creative film that all ages can enjoy and it has plenty to say. What if they did that with the Transformers films? What if instead of a two-plus hour spectacle of constant explosions it was used to convey messages and emotions and a raw human story? Maybe I'm just a romantic, but I imagine a Transformers film where the CGI and pyromania take a backseat to an engaging story with sharp dialogue and memorable characters. A film where the female characters were there for more e than just eye candy. All this technical wonder could pair perfectly with a terrific screenplay. Bay isn't an awful director. If he really applied himself to the right material, he could create something beautiful. But hey, that's just me. For now we'll all have to deal with this unintentionally hilarious explosion fest. At least it's not as bad as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, right? I give Transformers: Age of Extinction 2.5 out of 5 stars. 
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Enemy review

A man lives a repetitious, dull life. By day he teaches history. By night he grades papers and has loveless sex with his girlfriend. His apartment is gray and cramped. One night he rents a movie, via a recommendation from a colleague. He notices something odd about the film. One of the actors in it looks exactly like him. Thus starts the eerie turn of events that comprise Enemy, the newest movie by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. I can already tell Villeneuve is a great director, having seen his very excellent Prisoners (also starring Jake Gyllenhaal) last year. Prisoners was a very straightforward movie. Enemy is not. Enemy is what you would get if David Fincher and David Lynch had a movie love child. It's dark, gritty, and brooding. It's also really, really strange. There's one scene where a naked woman with the head of a spider walks down a hallway. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a dream sequence either. One of the many interesting things about Enemy is that Jake Gyllenhaal plays the two main roles, Adam and Anthony. I consider Gyllenhaal one of the most talented actors working in cinema today. He's been really great in some really great stuff like Donnie Darko, End of Watch, and Brokeback Mountain. He's just as good, if not better here. Gyllenhaal shows us he can play sad schmuck or sneering villain. Melanie Laurent plays his blonde foreign girlfriend. She proved herself to be a wonderfully capable actress in Inglorious Basterds. Unfortunately, she's not given much to do here. It's not a huge problem, considering the movie's not about her, but I do feel her potential is being wasted a little. What I really liked here is how the two guys are shown. At first the two identical men seem quite similar in personality. As the film progresses it becomes quite clear that one has much more malicious intentions. Like an evil twin, if you will. The two become like split personalities of the same person. Although the film hints at prospects like the men being brothers or just simply insane, it never lets the answer be that easy. Why exactly do these two men look exactly alike is never directly addressed. Immediately after viewing I went online to try and find a reputable analysis of the film. I found one that was quite good and believable. While this was fun, I don't recommend doing it. Let the film soak in your mind for a while and create your own theories before looking one up. It's more fun that way. I haven't seen any of Villeneuve's other films besides this and Prisoners, but I can already see a style forming. His films seem to often poke at moral questions without being too outright about them. The story and atmosphere is often filled with noir elements. If he plays his card right he could very well be the next David Fincher. His direction here is really great. Villeneuve keeps the air of tension so tight throughout the film. I often had to remind myself to breathe. The cinematography certainly helped this. The feel of this film is something like A Serious Man meets Zodiac. That combination works extremely well for the film. Giving it a very claustrophobic vibe often characterized by horror films. I don't think I noticed too many of the clues about the true nature of the film on my first viewing because I was too drawn into the plot tension. I definitely think a second viewing would benefit me greatly. A bit of the tension would be stripped away and I could really delve into the film fully. I do think that's the sign of a great movie, when one wants to watch it again soon after the first viewing. A24 films, which released this, also released the very awesome Under the Skin earlier this year. Those are two of what have the potential to be some of the best films this year. Releasing this great experimental semi-small budget sort of indie flicks is obviously really working for them and I hope they keep it going. The film world could use a few more movies like Enemy and Under the Skin and a few less like The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Enemy isn't for everyone. It's weird and alienating, but it's also awesomely cerebral and well done. I do recommend it, but be wary going in. You're in for quite the experience. Happy Viewing everyone. You can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at            

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow review

Tom Cruise is awesome. Stop trying to deny it.
When Edge of Tomorrow started its marketing campaign it very much came across as a run-of-the-mill sci-fi action flick that was probably going to be very mediocre. The only reason I was interested in it was because of the cast and the director. Doug Liman, though he's had a few shaky movies since, is the director of the excellent first Jason Bourne film. Emily Blunt was terrific in Looper, and I was looking forward to seeing her do a science fiction flick again. Tom Cruise, despite all the hate he gets, is one of my favorite actors and I'll watch him in practically anything. Plus, Tomorrow is written by The Usual Suspects scribe Christopher McQuarrie. Sure, the trailers looked very bleak and stale. But with the people involved, how could it go wrong? The answer is, it couldn't. Edge of Tomorrow is a fun, exciting, and just really awesome movie. It's the kind of summer blockbuster fare we should be seeing in the movie theaters. It's about William Cage (Tom Cruise) for the army. Aliens have invaded Earth and he's trying to sell the war to the public. A series of events lands him unprepared in the thick of battle. Soon, he dies. But reaction with alien blood makes him relive the same day over and over when he dies. What follows is one of the best action movies of the year. Although Tom Cruise has made some impressive dramatic turns in films like Magnolia and Born on the Fourth of July, recently he's been mainly an action star. Cruise is always able to bring an air of suave badassery to his action pictures. Here, he not only carries that action star persona, but exercises his serious dramatic acting chops as well. The guy is extremely capable of carrying a movie and he shows that here. Yet, he doesn't need to carry the film on his shoulders. Emily Blunt is excellent here. She plays this sort of Joan of Arc type solider who helps Cruise's character defeat the alien onslaught. She's funny, cool, and perfectly delivers some of the films best dialogue. Of course, these great performances wouldn't be much without a script. I can enjoy a decent action flick regardless of a great script. But that doesn't mean the movie will be very good. A film with solid and believable characters and good dialogue can only be good. Edge of Tomorrow is filled with great set pieces and edge-of-your-seat action, but it has a damn good script also. Christopher McQuarrie is a more than capable screenwriter. He's done some great stuff, but he's also done some not so great stuff. This movie is him at his peak. Everything just clicks. The premise may seem a little familiar, and it is. Movies like Groundhog Day have dealt with the living the same day over and over again plot before. And the whole alien thing is nothing new. It's the way McQuarrie crafts his story and his characters that make this film seem fresh. Not only is the film tense and awesome, it's actually very funny. I found myself laughing out loud at some scenes. Weirdly enough, the comedy doesn't feel out of place at all. The terrific cast certainly helps with that also. Doug Liman hasn't really made a great movie in a number of years. Luckily, this is his comeback film. Liman seamlessly directs the action sequences. A movie like this could fall into a jumbled incoherent mess under a different director (think McG with Terminator Salvation). Liman makes it work really, really well. Edge of Tomorrow may seem like just a summer blockbuster, and that is what it is. But it's more than that. It's a good summer blockbuster. Really good. Most big movies seem like they put in human characters and emotion just because they have to. This movie seems like the characters and emotion are in there because the makers of the movie actually want them in there. It's fun and all, but it's also a solid movie on its own. I give Edge of Tomorrow 4.3 out of 5 stars. Remember, to keep up with my reviews and movie stuff in general you can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at    

Monday, June 9, 2014

Aguirre, the Wrath of God review

There are few things I appreciate more in a movie than ambition.
Big, grand landscapes and bigger and grander ideas. Movies like Apocalypse Now and 2001: A Space Odyssey that strive to be something more and succeed in doing so. I think that's why I liked Werner Herzog's 1972 film, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, so much. The movie tells about a failed Spanish expedition to El Dorado. The trip is initially led by Gonzalo Pizarro (Alejandro Repulles). After things start to break down, he sends Don Pedro de Ursa (Ruy Guerra) and Lope de Aguirre (the titular character, played awesomely by Klaus Kinski) on a separate party to search out El Dorado. Things go bad quickly and Aguirre mutinies, overthrowing Pedro de Ursa. Lope de Aguirre then begins his descent into insanity, bringing his entire crew with him. So, before I saw this film, I knew director Werner Herzog only by his role in the Tom Cruise actioner Jack Reacher and by the few documentaries he's made. I had no idea what to expect. I had heard very good things about this movie, but I didn't really know what I was getting into. That was probably a good thing. Aguirre, the Wrath of God is beautiful, horrifying, and deliberately strange. After I watched it, I had no idea what to make of it. Honestly, I didn't even decide if I liked it until a few days after seeing the film. I think that's good. Most great movies take time before they make their presence and meaning clear to you. They seep into your bones and invade your consciousness. I love big Hollywood blockbusters as much as the next guy. Yet, most of them are missing the towering cerebral quality that movies like this have. What's really interesting is how sparsely written this film is. Apparently, Herzog didn't figure out the dialogue for some scenes until moments before shooting. I've never said this for any movie before, but the dialogue doesn't matter for Aguirre. Werner Herzog's hypnotic images of the Amazon are enough on their own. Paired with the ambition and ideals of it's main character, this film makes for an intimidating watch. Watching this movie gave me actual chills down my spine. I've never seen any movies Herzog has directed before. But by seeing just this I can tell he is a fantastic director. The score, by German group Popul Vuh, plays a big part here. It's frightening and cold, yet hopeful and heavenly at the same time. It fits the movie so, so well. The opening scene shows looming mountains, shrouded by thick white clouds. The score sings like a choir of angels from hell. Herzog's camera cuts to below the clouds where the army of Spaniards make their way down the dangerous mountain pass. Without the music alone it's haunting. With the score, it stays in your memory long after the credits have rolled. I can't finish this review without pointing out Klaus Kinski's awesome performance. Here he's playing an insane man, and I've never seen anyone do it quite like this. His eyes blankly look into the camera and his face twitches. Every aspect of this film is hauntingly beautiful in its own way. Kinski's performance is no exception. Aguirre, the Wrath of God seems like it's too ambitious and messy to work. Under less skilled hands, the film would collapse under its own weight. With Herzog, Kinski, and Popul Vuh; the movie becomes a masterpiece of epic proportions. I recommend it for sure, but don't be too quick to form an opinion on the film. Let it soak for a while. Then, you may understand it's insane genius. Happy Viewing. You can like me on Facebook at and follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past review

Summer. The time for movies with big explosions, big stars, and bigger budgets. Often, these movies are shameless CGI fests with barely a plot (I'm looking at you The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Once in a while, a film will come around that not only satisfies our hunger for things blowing up, but also is a good movie in general. The newest X-Men film does that. X-Men: Days of Future Past is the newest installment in the canon of X-Men films. It's set in a dreary post-apocalyptic future where mutants are being hunted by giant super-robots called Sentinels. The plot involves one of the mutants, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), sending Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to the early 1970's to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Trask is the scientist who invents the Sentinels and killing him would only kick start the mutant hunting program and ensure the mutants a dark and painful future. Plus, there's a bunch of other stuff that happens involving more time travel and mutant stuff that I don't need to mention here. I know, that sounds incredibly convoluted. Movies about time travel often fall victim to being convoluted, even more so when you throw in a bunch of superheros and government plots. Yet, somehow X-Men: Days of Future Past doesn't feel convoluted and overtly confusing at all. It glides along at a pace rarely seen in a Bryan Singer movie, and doesn't stumble at the parts when things get tricky. It's probably Singer's most confidently directed film since The Usual Suspects. Best of all? It's fun. Like, really fun. Most of the past X-Men flicks have been too serious for their own good. The X-Men comics are very funny and tongue and cheek. A dark, serious tone doesn't work all that well for it. That's why the last film, X-Men: First Class was so great. Sure, it kept a straight face during the intense battle sequences and moments of extreme duress, but it never forgot to relax and smile a bit either. Bryan Singer never seemed to be able to fully grasp that concept in his X-Men movies. Not to say they were all bad. X-Men 2 was decent and fun, but it still had many issues. It seems Singer has learned a thing or two since then. X-Men: Days of Future Past is probably the best X-Men film since First Class. I sincerely mean that. It balances tension and comedy marvelously. The actors here are all at their best. Michael Fassbender, who's mostly a dramatic actor, plays his character with an expertise rarely seen in superhero films. James McAvoy is doing the same. My only complaint on the acting spectrum is Nicholas Hoult. He didn't do a bad job, but he really didn't stand out either. Hoult just kind of looks surprised and gasps when needed. The script didn't give him a whole lot to do, so it's not entirely his fault, but he could have tried a little harder. The screenplay itself dealt with the plot and characters very, very well. I've seen time travel movies butcher themselves from problems with that. This movie dances around it's time travel anomalies quite well. Despite all those great things, the dialogue here wasn't very good at all. It wasn't actively atrocious, but it came out very cliche and flat. Some memorable lines include "No!" and "Why did you abandon us!". I couldn't help but chuckle a bit at parts. Other than that I thought the movie was incredibly solid and super (pun very much intended) entertaining. I really liked how they set this film in the 70's. It worked really well with the characters and material. As I said above, the fun and light vibe is so much better for the X-Men films than the dark and brooding. That's why the last two films have been, in my opinion, the best of the series. Superhero movies are meant  to be enjoyable popcorn entertainment. Yet, they also need a heart and some actual plot that's at least somewhat original. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 couldn't do any of that, and that's why it was bad. X-Men: Days of Future Past was able to pretty much completely achieve equal levels of entertainment and emotional and thematic weight. I'll admit it. I kind of loved this movie. It was good. The ending (which I won't spoil) did irk me a little, but I can let it slide in favor of the rest of the movie. This isn't the best movie of the year, but it certainly isn't the worst. And it probably will end up being the best superhero film of the year. If you want to have some fun at the theater, this is the movie to see. I give X-Men; Days of Future Past 4 out of 5 stars. Happy Viewing. Also, if you haven't done so already: you can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at