Film Review: Bumblebee

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Michael Bay completely torpedoed a cartoon and franchise that molded many lives of my age group.  He did a great job with the first film but with each subsequent sequel, managed to out suck the previous installment.  Yes, even Bay gave the short shrift to one of these easiest characters in to make grandiose on a movie screen, the Dinobots.  Screwed the pooch big time. And after that, I swore after Transformers 4 that I would never see another Transformers film in the theater.  I waited till Netflix to waste another 2+ hours of my life watching the Transformers: the Last Knight.  I spent most of that time wondering how much they had to give Anthony Hopkins to appear in that stillborn.  So when they announced they were doing the origin story for Bumblebee, I still wasn’t caring that much.  After seeing Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm for this, I gave this a better than fighting chance.  After seeing the preview and seeing old school Transformers and see the battles on Cybertron (the home planet of the Transformers), I was hooked.  

I’ll give this review 2 parts and the first part of this review is for those who are not hardcore Transformers fans.  The second half of the review is for those who are going in with a more critical eye and have an affinity or solid background in Transformers.  Scroll down for the nitpicking.  So if you’re completely Transformers naive, here’s your review: 

The Transformers come from Cybertron and there are 2 types, Autobots and Decepticons.  Autobots, good guys, Decepticons, bad guys.  Decepticons have won the battle for control of Cybertron, forcing Optimus Prime (leader of the Autobots and one of my all time favorite characters) to send one of his top soldiers, B-127, to Earth and set up a new base for the Autobots.  Of course, the Decepticons track down B-127 to Earth and they want to take him out and set up their own base.  Charlie (Hailee Steinefeld) is a teenager living in the 80’s who just lost her dad and is full of angst.  She and her dad used to work on cars and uncovers B-127 who is hiding in a junkyard.  Surprise, she fixes B-127, brings him home, and uncovers his secret.  Bumblebee earns his name by Charlie finding in bees in the VW bug.  

John Cena plays Jack Burns of sector 7, probably the MOST cliched army-esque character of all time.  You’ll remember sector 7 as the agency John Turtorro worked for who made it his life’s mission to lock up the Autobots.  He was hilarious, Cena is not.  Burns encounters Bumblebee when Bee crashed landed onto Earth and made it his life mission to track him.  Arnold Schwarzennegger had the best action cliches, Stallone had some good ones too.  But they were tongue in cheek.  Cena doesn’t have that affable nature the Rock has but to his defense, even the Rock couldn’t deliver these lines without vomiting.  Yes, these are word for word: “I will personally rip off your face.”  Good to see he can do his own face ripping and not delegating a lacky to do that.  But my favorite: “There’s a door in my way.”  And then had his guys blow up a door.  How fun would that be?  I would love to loudly announce there are tourists in my way.  And then blow them up.  Stuck behind some asshole on the turnpike who refuses to move over but does 55 in the fast lane?  Blow them up.  Someone sits directly in front of you in the movie theater while there are 5234 other open seats?  Blow them up.  God, this character made my skin crawl.  

Let’s also discuss Charlie’s family.  The mom (Pamela Adlon) and stepdad (Stephen Schneider) try to recapture the Witwickis goofiness from the first 3 Transformer films.  Although it’s a little more deep and tumultuous with Charlie still holding on Even the brother Otis (Jason Drucker) gets in on the laughs as a karate student who is hell bent on kicking ass.  And why oh why is someone naming their kid, Otis?  What kind of sadist would do that, even in the 80’s?  Let’s cut that shit out, that name is now reserved for pets only.  But another problem with this film is it revolves WAY too much around Charlie.  The name of the film is Bumblebee.  The basis is robots coming to Earth and fighting.  Yes, I do want to see the relationship the Transformers have with humans.  And the cartoon/cartoon film/first Michael Bay film did a great job with balancing out robot battling and human interaction.  But this is too much on everything else but as Michael Bay said, “Giant fucking robots.”  

The reviews are pouring in how this is the greatest Transformers film.  I get we’re all eager to wash out the Michael Bay shlock from our mouths but slow the fuck down, people.  This films isn’t that great at all.  And how soon you forget about the animated movie?  And the first Bay incarnation was solid.  But this is the best film of the lot?  Please.  Is it because it’s a female lead and we’re savages if we all don’t agree that it’s the best, we’re sexist?  Please.  This film was almost 2.5 hours long and I felt myself looking at my watch as this dragged.  The final battle was meh at best and the ending was beyond lazy.  This is the 3rd best Transformers fan but that’s not high praise as all of the sequels were awful.  This isn’t in the same league as the animated film or the first installment.  

If you’re not a big Transformers fan, you’ll give it ~5.

Now, for a deep dive analysis for those who are fans of the franchise.

Here are my problems with this film.  You have the chance to undo some of the Michael Bay choices.  The film opens with Autobots and Decepticons fighting on Cybertron.  IMMEDIATELY, I was ecstatic to see some of my old time favorites on the screen.  Optimus Prime, Starscream, Soundwave, Wheeljack, and Shockwave to name a few.  No exaggeration, I let out a mini, “yes!”  THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR YEARS.  But this euphoria only lasts for 3 minutes before Bumblebee is shipped to Earth. You get another flashback to Cyberton fighting and yes, a Ravage sighting.  So explain to me why the opted to use Shatter and Dropkick as the main 2 Decepticons who track down Bumblebee.  Who are they?  EXACTLY, THEY DIDN’T USE ANY OF THE MAIN DECEPTICONS?  These are 2 made up Decepticons for the film.  And Christ, not even one Megatron sighting, really?  You do see Prime in a few video messages, fine.  And we even get a great Easter Egg.  They play everyone’s favorite song, “You’ve got the Touch” so be ready.  So they do get a few nods in there but man, such opportunity wasted.

I have no idea why these writers don’t utilize the perfect recipe.  All of the ingredients are here and mixed, all you have to do is throw in the oven and wait.  Like Mariano Duncan said of the 96 Yankees, We play today, we win today.  Das eet.  Have Cybertron battles.  Use the characters in the cartoon as they were.  Have more screen time focused on the Transformers but a nice dose of the human relationship. Das eet.

This wasn’t good by any stretch and the fake love from the critics is staggering.  As I write this article on Saturday afternoon, the news is already in that Aquaman is going to win the weekend.  Aquaman, the lamest of superheroes.  Aquaman, of the DC universe who hasn’t made a quality film yet.  Calm down Wonder Woman fans, that was just fine.  I understand the Bay has ostracized a ton of the fan base.  But to lose to a perennial loser superhero and franchise screams volumes.  Maybe if they get this franchise right, people will go back to the theaters to see the greatest cartoon series (next to Looney Tunes) ever.  But for now, I’m going back to my edict of not paying to see Transformers films.  

Autobots, transform and stay home.  I give it a 4.  And that’s only because of the Cybertron scenes.

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Film Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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There are some franchises that motor on because of the success and quality of those films.  See: 90% of Star Wars films, Rocky 1-4 as well as Balboa and Creed, Indiana Jones Trilogy,  (I don’t acknowledge the 4th like no one recognizes the third Godfather), 75% of the James Bond films, and most of the Star Trek films/reboots.  And there are some franchises that people feel obligated to stay with no matter how mediocre or films have become and they still make boku bucks, hence another sequel every 3 years.  See: Fast and the Furious, Saw, Transformers, and Pirates of the Caribbean.   What do some of these franchises have in common?  The first one is fantastic.  The second and third ones, meh.  By 4, you barely keep up with them and skip over them when they pop up on cable (I know, I just made myself look old by still having cable).  Sometimes, they manage to surprise the hell out of you by hiring new writers/director for the 4th or 5th and reinvigorate the franchise.  Fast and the Furious 5 is a perfect example, it brought me back in because it was excellent.  And then I sat through the next 2 oversized turds.  Guess what?  Now you’re hooked for at least 2 or 3 more films. And bang, you’re just like a vegan who came to their senses and started eating meat again.  

Let’s review Jurassic Park.  The first one, very solid but the book ending was MUCH better than the film ending but 8-9 times out of 10, that’s the case.  JP2, not great except the scene where the dino hunters ran through the field of velociraptors and most of them ended up looking like Jenna Jamison’s b-hole when she retired from porn.  JP3 was even worse, not even the pterodactyl scene saved this monstrosity.  And next thing you know, the franchise was shelved.  

But as Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum’s character in 2 and 1/10 films) says, “Life, ahhh finds a way.”  As does Steven Spielberg to jump start a dead franchise.  3 years ago, Jurassic World came out and ran roughshod through the box office like a T-Rex that just ate a Mexican village and is now looking for a bathroom.  What does that mean?  Fire up the sequel machine!!  JW recaptured the elements from JP and did it well with a bunch of cool nods to the first one.  It worked, even though it was just a blatant reboot of the first one.  But I dug it.  

Of all the previews I saw of FK, not one of them made me go, “Hmm, I’m looking forward to playing hooky from work to see this.”  But since I’m an (unpaid) film reviewer, I felt it was my civic responsibility to see this and comment.  FK starts off with the dino island in deep stegosaurus poop; a volcano is exploding and the dinos face extinction, sigh, again.  And of course, screenwriters Colin Trevorow and Derek Conolly, decide to make this one of the few social issues of the film.  Do dino lives matter?  According to Claire (one of the few attractive gingers, Bryce Dallas Howard), they certainly do.  She gets little resistance from persuading Owen (newly single Chris Pratt and who will be bedding GOTG nerds and film extras galore) to come with her to help save the dinos.  Financing the journey is Benjamin Lockwood (Jamie Cromwell) who apparently used to be partners with JP creator, John Hammond, until Hammond had the idea to make an amusement park with dinosaurs.  Standing in the way is Lockwood’s assistant, Mills, who has plans of his own for the Cretaceous creatures.

Here are several problems with this film:  

  1. What do people want to see?  Dinosaurs killing humans in cool ways with a little bit of gore. Yes, I know that a ton of little kids go see this but it’s rated PG-13 which allows them to get away with more.  When people get killed, it’s almost sanitary and really doesn’t scare you nor feel “real.”  
  2. This film DRAAAAGS.  The last 20-30 minutes should’ve been trimmed down, especially the scene you see in commercials where the dinosaur gets into the little girl’s bedroom.  The running time is just over 2 hours but it felt as long as the math section did of the SATs.  
  3. The plot fell into the same formulaic trap as some of the sequels did.  You know who’s dying within 10 seconds of the introduction of characters.  Asshole money- hungry assistant?  Surprise, he dies.  Overly aggressive and mean head of security?  Auf Weiderzehen.  Soldier who hits a woman?  Appetizer for T-Rex.  Just once, let’s see one or 2 of the good guys get picked off and not everyone making it home in time for dinner.  Let’s have the computer nerd get picked off.  Or the cute little girl.  
  4. Do we need a bunch of social issues in a popcorn blockbuster film?  I don’t think so. Do dino lives matter?  Should we let them acclimate into our world?  Is cloning humans acceptable?  And the last reveal was just plain lazy which ties into the ending.  
  5. You see 75% of Jeff Goldblum in the previews which obviously means he’s critically underutilized.  That character was great in the first and second films.  Maybe he didn’t want to do a full role but man, spread his scenes throughout the film.  
  6. JW hatched (I’m a cutup, I know) a hybrid dinosaur to mix things up.  So if it ain’t broke, Universal ain’t fixing it.  Yes, there’s another hybrid dinosaur and I immediately thought, “Ok, back to the well with this idea.”  20 bucks said the next sequel has TWO hybrids and one of them will involve a pterodactyl that looks like Kathy Griffin.  

I found myself over halfway through the film not really caring what happens next.  I honestly got bored through the final encounter.  I’m surprised I’m seeing more positive reviews than negative reviews for this one.  The poster should’ve had Spielberg, BDH, and Pratt holding bags with the $ sign while riding on the back of a Brontosaurus.  Because that’s exactly what this was, a vicious cash grab.  This film opened 60 million less than JW did.  But of course, it will be profitable and they’ll make another one.  Good luck getting me to invest me any more time in this franchise, I’m out.

I give it a 4/10.

NFL Picks week 6

3-4 last week, first losing week since week 1.  Bad week but not “new Wu-Tang album: bad.  

Tangent: Jesus, it’s like the Wu Tang doesn’t even try anymore.  We can all admit ODB was the glue that held them together, right?  Their solo works are fine but as a group; it’s like one leg of Devastor (Transformers reference.  I could’ve made a Voltron reference but I have standards. Sorry, not sorry, you commoners) is missing and he moves like a kid with polio trying to dance without his braces.  I know we all wish for our bands to reunite that have broken up due to death or hatred for other bandmates.  Sometimes you  can recapture the lightning in the bottle like Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, or Dead Kennedys.  But be careful what you wish for because you can easily get Guns N Roses with Buckethead, Misfits with Jerry Only as the lead singer, Van Halen with Gary Cherone, or Motley Crue with John Corabi

Here’s why gambling is both great and willing to give you a coronary at a moment’s notice.  I took the Minnesota under, 44, on monday night.  What’s the score at the half?  3-2.  Yep, you read that right.  30 minutes later I check again, they are 30 points in the game.  WHAT?? Look again 5 minutes later, 37 total points with 10 minutes left.  Jesus Christ, I could lose this game.  Then Chicago and the Vikings go back doing what they do best, do their best to get their coaches fired and not score.  The under hits, and your hero closes the loss margin to end the week.

This week is so chock full of huge spreads that Meredith Markovits may bust in like the Kool Aid man and start emptying trays down her horse face.  Taking a favorite with a big spread is like fucking without a rubber in the dark.  There are times where you catch pocket aces and get lucky with a good looking lady but more often than not; you get caught with a Lena Dunham lookalike who has a vicious case of anal warts.  So buyer beware on the big spreads and you better be damn sure that you want to lay double digits.  Let’s get to the picks!

My favorite team is the NY Giants and let’s call it how we see it.  I’ll see more life in Terry Schaivo than I will the Giants in Denver.  Let’s see who’s out: their star WR who does his best Simon Phoenix impression.  Hair, not bad ass-ness.  Their bi-polar WR and their slot WR.  Oh yeah, the center, starting LB and DE too.  And you think they’re going to come into Denver with a offense that makes the kids at an all Jewish school look like the 2000 St Louis Rams score points?  I don’t.  I know I just read you the riot act about taking big spreads (See, a literary curveball!) but when the obvious is right in your face like Hillary Clinton’s awful laugh, take the wallet out!  The Giants aren’t scoring and if they do, it’s because Goodell implemented a mercy rule overnight.  Denver is off the bye and oh yeah, 10-3-1 ATS.  And Den has hit been under in 4/6 at home. Denver could run this shit up and hit the over themselves so be careful about the under.  Lay the points and hope Mcadoo gets run over by the Denver Bronco horse.

I love Den -11.5 and kind of like the under at 39.  

The Rams travel to the white trash venus trap known as Jacksonville.  The Rams had 4 trips to the red zone last week vs Seattle to walk away with just 3 points and even had a chance to win in the last minute.  I say they gain redemption as the Jags are 2-5 at home ATS.  Rams are 6-2 SU in their last 8 and that bodes well as they’re getting 2.5 in Jax.

Take the Rams +2.5

The Patriots have had 10 days off to prep after they barely beat TB.  And the most dangerous thing the Pats can have is time to do is prep.  Oh yeah, Gronk is back too. The Jets are playing well and the Pats D is still rhino poop.  I can’t figure out if the Pats are gonna cover but I can tell you that they’ll be points a plenty.  

Take the Pats over 48

The Saints are back home from a bye after winning a stinkaroo in London against the Dolphins.  The Saints are 5-0 ATS after a bye and won 10 straight in October.  They’re 5-2 ATS vs Detroit.  Stafford is a bit banged up and Detroit doesn’t put up points on the road.  Don’t be a hero, just win money.  This is going to be as easy as betting on Harvey Weinstein vs a plant.

Take the Saints -4.5

Lastly, the Bucs travel to play a Cardinals team who looks as uninspiring as a new Amy Schumer special.  Bucs have had 10 days to prep after shitting the bed against the Pats (Again, fuck you Nick Folk) to play a Cardinals team that’s 1-5 ATS at home.  Winston and the boys look to avenge the beating they got last year in the desert so look for redemption.

Take the Bucs -1.5