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Friday, June 27, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction - Movie Review

Optimus Prime confronts Galvatron as Lockdown's Knight Ship approaches in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

I watched the newest installment in Michael Bay's fighting alien robots franchise during a midnight screening last night, and the first thing that comes to mind is: Since when did Optimus Prime have booster rockets on his legs? While Transformers: Age of Extinction had lots of great action sequences like in the previous films (the Dinobots definitely lived up to expectations), the story was inconsistent in regards to a major plot point featured in the first two movies. So if it was mysterious beings known as the Creators that built Transformers, then did the AllSpark build the Creators themselves? Or did the Creators construct the AllSpark—which in turn created Optimus Prime and company? I'd mentioned that this discrepancy will hopefully be explained in Transformers 5, but this is a Bay flick; the only thing constant throughout this franchise are giant ass-kicking extraterrestrial robots, plenty of explosions, hot girls in skimpy clothing and more explosions. But at least the cast is different.

Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) stumbles upon Optimus Prime, disguised as a decrepit truck, inside an abandoned Texas movie theater in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Replacing Shia LaBeouf as the main human protagonist in Transformers is, of course, Mark Wahlberg. While he plays a down-on-his luck inventor named Cade Yeager, Wahlberg is better suited for the action sequences that Cade, his daughter Tessa (played by Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend Shane Dyson (portrayed by Jack Reynor) go through once they encounter Optimus Prime at a barn in the Yeager's Texas homestead. Lucas, played by Cloverfield's T.J. Miller, was initially part of this group...but the main robot antagonist of Age of Extinction, Lockdown, would change all of that. Titus Welliver, who appeared in 2010's The Town and the hit ABC TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., did a nice job portraying a Transformer-hating CIA operative named James Savoy. Doing an even nicer job as the human bad guy of Age of Extinction is Kelsey Grammar—who, as Savoy's CIA boss Harold Attinger, is so sinister in his quest to wipe out Optimus and his kind from the face of the Earth that Grammar tended to sound like Sideshow Bob (his evil but bumbling persona on FOX TV's The Simpsons) when he spoke. But stealing the show, human-wise, in the second and third acts of Age of Extinction is KSI executive Joshua Joyce (played by Stanley Tucci)...who got to have the movie's most interesting character arc by going from being a CEO bent on earning a profit at the expense of the Transformers, to trying to make up for his folly by disposing of a device (known as the Seed) that would've allowed him to make billions of dollars and cause Optimus and his species to become obsolete once and for all.

Ratchet is hunted down by humans and alien bounty hunters alike in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

In terms of the Transformers themselves, they looked absolutely fantastic in Age of Extinction. Bay should get props for having Optimus transform into the classic "G1" truck that fans know and love from the 1980's animated series...even if the truck was riddled with bullet holes and covered in worn-out paint. Bumblebee was his usual child-like but fierce-warrior self from the original trilogy, while John Goodman humorously stood out as the voice of the Autobot who kicked ass while moving around in battle like a "fat ballerina:" Hound. Ken Watanabe was cool as the voice of Drift...the Autobot who looked like a blue Samurai that can transform into a helicopter as well as a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse. Crosshairs looked cool as well...though one wonders why Bay didn't just feature Sideswipe instead. Crosshairs transformed into a Corvette Stingray—Sideswipe's vehicle mode of choice in Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon.

Lockdown is dispatched by mysterious beings known as the Creators to apprehend Optimus Prime in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

In regards to the Decepticons, there was only one who appeared in this movie. Galvatron makes an appearance, but the evil bot that gets the spotlight in Age of Extinction is Lockdown...a cruelly efficient bounty hunter who was sent to Earth to nab Optimus Prime and bring him back to his Creators. When he's not traveling on a giant spacecraft known as the Knight Ship, Lockdown is hunting down prey by driving around as a Lamborghini Aventador. Like Megatron and Sentinel Prime before him, Lockdown was a respectable antagonist who was responsible for the death of a well-known Autobot (as well as hundreds, if not thousands, of people living in China). But not to be upstaged by Lockdown are the numerous man-made Transformers that were built by Joshua Joyce's company, KSI. Combined with Galvatron's influence and their unique way of transforming, these robots were not to be trifled with in the movie's final act.

Cade Yeager hides behind a damaged vehicle as Lockdown approaches in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

For me, what makes the Transformers movies worth watching aren't just the great visual effects and mindless entertainment value (plus Megan Fox before Dark of the Moon came along), but the cool orchestral score by Steve Jablonsky. However, it seems that with each successive movie Jablonsky's music is becoming less and less memorable (which may have to do with him collaborating with popular music bands like Linkin Park for Dark of the Moon and Imagine Dragons with this one). I understand that he's trying to come up with something unique and different for each installment, but my favorite music moment in Age of Extinction was when the original Autobots theme from the 2007 flick was played while Optimus Prime summoned the help of the Dinobots in the movie's final act. Speaking of the Dinobots...

Cade Yeager and Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) arm themselves with alien weaponry as they search for Tessa, Cade's daughter, aboard Lockdown's Knight Ship in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

True to the TV commercials and theatrical trailers, the Dinobots' appearance were the highlight of Age of Extinction. It was fitting that they didn't talk at all in the movie (only growled)...seeing as how the Dinobots were portrayed as an ancient band of legendary warriors—knights, to be exact—who had to earn their rightful place in Transformer lore (according to Prime) by helping Optimus confront Galvatron and his army of man-made robots in China. The fact that the Dinobots are of extraterrestrial origin is an amusing twist; since the opening scene of Age of Extinction makes it look like the Dinobots were on Earth since well, the real dinosaurs 65 million years ago. I wonder if the Dinobots will appear in Transformers 5? They can't lurk around in China forever...

Cade Yeager, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), Shane Dyson and Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) try to bring a device known as the Seed to safety in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

All-in-all, Transformers: Age of Extinction was an epic movie. For professional movie critics, it was epic for all the wrong reasons. For me though, it was epic in the way that these giant alien robots are wreaking havoc in an increasing number of places around the world with each film. First, in Qatar for the original Transformers movie. Then, Shanghai, Diego Garcia, Jordan and Egypt for Revenge of Fallen. And then, Russia, the Middle East, Hong Kong (again) and Cambodia for Dark of the Moon (though technically, these last two locales only served as launching points for Pillars that would activate Sentinel Prime's Space Bridge and bring Cybertron to Earth in that flick). One can be sure that other countries will feel the influence of the Autobots and the wrath of Galvatron in the next installment..though one also ponders if we'll get more scenes that take place in outer space. SPOILER AHEAD: Optimus Prime did, after all, use booster rockets that came out of nowhere to depart from Earth and look for the Creators that sent Lockdown after him. We'll see what Michael Bay (if he's directing) and Ehren Kruger (if he's writing) have in store for Transformers 5. Oh, and will Tessa Yeager join a sorority in college for the next movie? If so, her stint there will be short-lived. Long live the Transformers!

In Hong Kong, Optimus Prime is confronted by Chinese security forces at the end of TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Get Ready for Pacific Rim 2!

The Gipsy Danger is ready for combat in PACIFIC RIM.

Guillermo Del Toro's much-anticipated sequel (if you enjoyed the first Pacific Rim movie, which I totally did) to last year's Jaeger vs. Kaiju flick just got greenlit by Warner Bros. for production! Pacific Rim 2 gets released in theaters nationwide on April 7, 2017... Can't wait!

A Kaiju attacks the city of Sydney in PACIFIC RIM.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Star Wars: Episode VIII Gets A Director!

Only STAR WARS: EPISODE IX needs a director now...

While J.J. Abrams is hard at work filming Star Wars: Episode VII in England, Disney has just announced that Rian Johnson—who helmed previous sci-fi flicks like Looper and acclaimed TV shows like AMC's Breaking Bad—will write and direct Star Wars: Episode VIII. This is great news, what with Looper being a terrific movie and all. (Admittedly, I never watched an episode of Breaking Bad before it came to an end last year.) What I want to know is: Will Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Emily Blunt (won't mention Bruce Willis out of being realistic about this) have any type of role in the second installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy? Blunt showed that she can handle sci-fi action films quite well with Edge of Tomorrow and Gordon-Levitt is Batman's heir in The Dark Knight Rises, so this isn't a far-fetched idea. Here's hoping that Harrison Ford, assuming he returns as Han Solo in Episode VIII, will stay injury-free during this movie's production. In case you didn't know yet, Ford is out for about 2 months after recently breaking his leg during filming on Episode VII. Let's wish him a full and speedy recovery.

STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII director Rian Johnson directs Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Paul Dano in a scene from the 2012 sci-fi action film LOOPER.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Get Ready For Transformers 5!

The Autobots and Dinobots prepare to battle the Decepticons in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

With a little over a week before Transformers: Age of Extinction hits theaters nationwide, it has been reported online that Paramount Studios has officially greenlit Transformers 5! While there are no reports as to whether or not Michael Bay will return to helm the fifth Transformers live-action flick, there is no reason to believe that he would forego making millions of additional dollars by not directing another installment in the fighting alien robots franchise. Transformers 5 is targeted for release in 2016...the same year that Captain America 3, Independence Day 2 (a.k.a. ID Forever), Star Trek 3, Avatar 2, the first Star Wars spin-off flick and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gets released in cinemas everywhere. And I thought 2015 was gonna be an action-packed year for sci-fi and comic book-loving moviegoers...

Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) joins the Autobots in fighting the Decepticons in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Tessa Yeager (Nicola Peltz) shares a lighthearted moment with Bumblebee in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Lockdown may be the main villain of TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION, but a much more powerful foe awaits in TRANSFORMERS 5.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction...

A billboard advertisement for TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION in Culver City, California.

One thing's for sure, Paramount Studios knows how to design really awesome advertisements for its Transformers movies...and ensure that they are extremely visible at cinemas everywhere, particularly outside AMC theaters. I took all but one of these photos with my smartphone while I was at work, the lone exception being that kick-ass poster for Age of Extinction at the bottom of this entry.

An advertisement for TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION outside the AMC 16 theater in Burbank, California.

Advertisements for TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION outside the AMC 30 theater in Orange, California.

Advertisements for TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION outside the AMC 30 theater in Orange, California.

Advertisements for TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION outside the AMC 30 theater in Orange, California.

A TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION theatrical poster.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

More on Dumb To...

A screenshot from the DUMB AND DUMBER TO theatrical trailer.

In case you didn't catch the trailer for Dumb and Dumber To during The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night, scroll down to the bottom of this entry to see the preview. Usually, I only post screenshots for action-packed flicks like Transformers or epic blockbusters like The Hobbit on this blog...but since this is the sequel to one of my favorite film comedies from my adolescent years, I'll make an exception here. Welcome back, Lloyd and Harry!

A screenshot from the DUMB AND DUMBER TO theatrical trailer.

A screenshot from the DUMB AND DUMBER TO theatrical trailer.

A screenshot from the DUMB AND DUMBER TO theatrical trailer.

A screenshot from the DUMB AND DUMBER TO theatrical trailer.

A screenshot from the DUMB AND DUMBER TO theatrical trailer.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To!

I can't wait to see what hilariously moronic shenanigans Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) have up their sleeves when they return to the big screen this November! And when does the first trailer come out? Will we be privy to another funny moment like the scene in 1994's Dumb & Dumber where Lloyd falls off a jetway (again)? Dumb and Dumber To can't arrive at theaters soon enough!

DUMB AND DUMBER TO theatrical poster.
Universal Pictures

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow...

Cage (Tom Cruise) and Rita (Emily Blunt) must fight their way through Europe and defeat the alien threat posed by the Mimics in EDGE OF TOMORROW.

Yesterday, I watched the new Tom Cruise flick at my local theater...and suffice it to say, the movie was pretty darn entertaining. Edge of Tomorrow was a cross between Groundhog Day, Saving Private Ryan and Halo (plus Gears of War and essentially any other sci-fi video game you'll play on Xbox and Playstation). Clearly, the filmmaker was inspired by the D-Day landings of World War II (Edge of Tomorrow officially opened at theaters domestically on June 6, which marked the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy)...with the central plot revolving around how Cage (Cruise) and Rita (Emily Blunt) had to figure out a way to get their fellow soldiers off a French beach. This locale was a meat grinder as alien creatures known as Mimics (who came to Earth via asteroid and decimated much of Europe) mowed down the human invaders the same way the Germans mercilessly gunned down Allied troops trying to wade their way across the shores of Normandy in 1944. Of course, unlike the ultra-realistic but grim portrayal of D-Day in Private Ryan, there was a nice touch of humor as Cage desperately tried to survive the onslaught of Mimics charging at him on the battlefront—only to die and relive that moment over and over (which is where the Groundhog Day reference comes along) until he emerged victorious.

Rita trains herself for the fight against the Mimics in EDGE OF TOMORROW.

While Tom Cruise played the reluctant hero (unlike his fearless characters in other movies like say, Mission: Impossible and Jack Reacher) in Edge of Tomorrow, Emily Blunt showed just how comfortable she was in playing a bad-ass action hero who will do whatever she could to accomplish her objective. Also amusing in this film was Bill Paxton...who played a tough-as-nails master sergeant bent on making Cage pay for his initial attempt at deserting his army unit and avoiding the invasion of France. (Like in WWII, the Americans and British were amassing their forces in England and were going to strike at the extraterrestrials using the English Channel.) The Mimics looked pretty cool...with their designs reminiscent of the Sentinels from The Matrix trilogy, the Kaiju of Pacific Rim and the creatures known as Locusts from Gears of War. The special effects in Edge of Tomorrow were top-notch, and could've possibly earned this movie a Best Visual Effects Oscar nomination in 2015 if Godzilla, Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies weren't released this year.

Cage confronts Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton) at a British military base in EDGE OF TOMORROW.

All-in-all, Edge of Tomorrow was a fun and inventive sci-fi film. The story didn't lend itself to having a sequel, but Tomorrow was as entertaining (but not campy) a flick as 1997's Starship Troopers. Edge of Tomorrow was also similar to Battle: Los Angeles, but the humor that Cruise got to employ and the toughness of Blunt's character set their movie apart from 2011's action-disaster film. Here's hoping Tomorrow will find box office success during its theatrical run...it deserves it.

Cage and his fellow soldiers battle against Mimics on a French beach in EDGE OF TOMORROW.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction...

Optimus Prime and his fellow Autobots confer with Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his fellow humans in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

With the release of Michael Bay's next installment in the fighting alien robots franchise only three weeks away, more footage of the Transformers that we'll see in Transformers: Age of Extinction are being revealed in commercials now airing on television. As the screenshots below show, we see that all of the Dinobots will indeed be featured in the upcoming film—joining forces with the Autobots in confronting Lockdown and his fellow Decepticons a few years after the events of 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon. One facetious question remains though: Did Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) used to date or be married to Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) before she hooked up with Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) in Dark of the Moon or something? If so, that would explain her uncanny likeness to Tessa (Nicola Peltz), Cade's daughter. Carly and Tessa both have a thing for white jackets... Just sayin'. (The real reason is that Bay just likes casting beautiful blonde actresses in his movies. Case in point: Scarlett Johansson in 2005's The Island and Bar Paly in last year's Pain & Gain.)

Optimus Prime is ready to fight the Decepticons again in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Tessa Yeager (Nicola Peltz) will be caught in the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Decepticon creatures are on the prowl in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Bumblebee comes to the rescue of Cade Yeager, Tessa and Shane (Jack Reynor) in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Hound (voiced by John Goodman) tosses his 'cigar' at Joshua's (Stanley Tucci) head in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

A man-made Transformer arrives on the scene in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

The Decepticon named Lockdown is knocked away by an explosion in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Optimus Prime and Grimlock prepare to ride into battle in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Sideswipe (foreground) and Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) are flanked by the Dinobots as they head towards battle in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

The Dinobot named Slug charges into battle in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Bumblebee impersonates Spider-Man in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Star Wars: Episode VII... Two New Cast Members, Plus The X-Wing Returns

Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o will be in STAR WARS: EPISODE VII.
Charles Sykes / Invision / AP

The last two days have been quite eventful in regards to J.J. Abrams' upcoming installment about that galaxy far, far away...with Lucasfilm announcing that two very-talented actresses have joined Star Wars: Episode VII's already-stellar cast, and the website TMZ.com posting photos of the Tatooine set in Abu Dabi, plus construction being done on two iconic spaceships from the Original Trilogy.

A Photoshopped GAME OF THRONES image depicting Gwendoline Christie as a Jedi Knight for STAR WARS: EPISODE VII.
Kristy Puchko - Twitter.com

Lupita Nyong'o, who won an Academy Award for her role in this year's Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave, joins Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie as the new cast members for Star Wars: Episode VII. Nyong'o and Christie unite with Carrie Fisher and Daisy Ridley as the heroines (and villainesses?) in the next film...with perhaps more noteworthy actresses yet to join the production.

A giant pig-like creature is prepped for filming on the Tatooine set in Abu Dhabi...for STAR WARS: EPISODE VII.
TMZ.com

Also released to the public, though unintentionally(?), are on-set photos of production taking place in Abu Dhabi...as well as construction taking place on the Millennium Falcon and an X-Wing starfighter. Considering the fact that Episode VII takes place 30 years after the events in Return of the Jedi, methinks that Han Solo's "bucket of bolts" and Luke Skywalker's trusty T-65 (the official designation for an X-Wing) will be the only vintage vehicles we see in the sequel trilogy. It's more plausible for the A-Wing and B-Wing fighters from Return of the Jedi to still be in use during Episode VII—with an updated version of the X-Wing (which itself was an updated version of the ARC-170 fighter seen during the space battle above Coruscant at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith) flying into combat in next year's film. We'll see.

UPDATE: Upon closer inspection, the X-Wing shown in the photo below is slightly modified from the classic version. While the long fuselage and laser cannons remain unchanged, the S-foils (err, wings) are attached to a single engine in this latest incarnation...as opposed to the twin engines that were on each side of the Original Trilogy's starfighter. Can't wait to see the completed version of this mock-up!

An updated X-Wing starfighter undergoes construction for STAR WARS: EPISODE VII.
TMZ.com

The Millennium Falcon undergoes construction for STAR WARS: EPISODE VII.
TMZ.com