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Review – Transformers III: Dark of the Moon (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

In a recent Daily Mail article, Brian Clark Howard accuses Transformers director, Michael Bay (Transformers I & II, Armageddon, The Rock), of using footage from his previous films, Pearl Harbour and The Island, in the latest Transformers movie. Of course, Transformers III: Dark of the Moon is not entirely made of recycled parts of other films. Then again, whilst watching the last volume of the Transformers saga (although, one can never rule out a fourth instalment these days), one does get the impression that he/she has seen it all before, much to the film’s detriment.

Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), the leader of the Autobots, fighting to defend the city of Chicago from the Decepticons.

Dark of the Moon begins with America launching the first shuttle into space in 1961, and continues with the first man landing on the moon in 1969. It is on the moon that a party of astronauts discover the ruins of a lost Autobot space shuttle, called the Ark. Inside the remains of the Ark are the Pillars, energy fuel in a cylindrical containing the power to open a bridge to Cybertron, the Transformers’ lost-world; and Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy – Star Trek), the lost leader of the Autobots.

After finding out about the mission, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen – Transfomers I & II), the leader of the Autobots in the absence of Sentinel, leads an expedition to rescue his wise master. Only Sentinel understands how to manipulate the Pillars to forge the bridge between Earth and Cybertron. (The bridge can travel through time too.) Optimus hopes to use Sentinel to bring good to Earth and, perhaps, force the victorious Decepticons out of Cybertron. However, Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving – The Matrix I-III, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit I), the leader of the Decepticons, has other ideas. He intends to use Sentinel to his own advantage.

Meanwhile, Sam Whitwicky (Shia Labeouf – Transformers I & II, Disturbia, Fury) has finished college and is unemployed. As he looks for a job, he finds himself embroiled once more in the war between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons.

A mean-looking Decepticon flying through Chicago as the bridge to Cybertron is being activated.

Whilst the film’s plot may appear decent, the pace is slow and quite dull. It is strange to think that a film with loud booms, explosions and a super-gorgeous girl would be tedious. But Transformers III is tedious! That the storyline loses its way less than half way through the film (some would say twenty minutes) and the movie is two and a half hours long, may have something to do with it.

But what is more surprising is that the film’s second-half descent into a chaotic over-indulgence of action and destruction seems quite ordinary. The music is epic and up-lifting, and the CGI is undoubtedly awesome. Yet, those are things that viewers of Transformers III have heard and seen in volumes I & II. (In addition, the mass assault of the Decepticons upon the city of Chicago looks like scenes from the recent far-from-spectacular alien invasion movies, Battle: Los Angeles and Skyline.)

Nevertheless, the action scenes in Dark of the Moon have not been done well at all. The scenes are badly choreographed and don’t follow on from one another, leaving gaping holes in the storyline. (How Steven Spielberg, one of the film’s executive producers, did not notice this is remarkable.)

Sam’s stunning new girlfriend, Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), stepping out of an expensive Mercedes.

The structure of the film is not the worst part of Dark of the Moon by a long stretch. That award goes to, once again in the Transformers saga, the dialogue and the acting. The former is laughably appalling and the latter, almost as a consequence, is pathetic. If a brilliant actor like John Malkovich is made to look poor (and he did not even achieve such a feat in the disaster movie Eragon), then there is virtually no hope for the rest of the cast, such as Shia Leboeuf and Megan Fox’s replacement, Rosie Huntigton-Whiteley. (And yes, Bay can’t help but take a not-so-subtle swipe at Fox for comparing him to Hitler.)

So Dark of the Moon has dreadful acting and dialogue; the same old war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and the usual inspiring music to go with it; as well as exceptional CGI. Does that mean one has seen it all before in the Transformers franchise? The tedium would suggest so, but with one difference: a sexy brunette bimbo has been replaced by a sexy blonde bimbo.

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Review – Source Code (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3/5

A friend of mine billed Source Code as ‘The Matrix meets Minority Report.’ While this may be a tad broad, it is not an entirely inaccurate explanation of Source Code. Although a Sci-fi film at its core, Source Code is more enjoyable to the general public than many other titles in its genre and will leave one thinking afterwards too.

Source Code is about sending someone into a computer-regeneration of a specific incident in the past in order to find out (useful) information. Throughout the movie, Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal – Rendition, Brothers, Nocturnal Animals), a US soldier in a helicopter unit, is constantly sent into the Source Code for an eight-minute stint. Each time, Colter finds himself on a train sitting opposite the cute-looking Christina (Michelle Monaghan – Mission Impossible III, Eagle Eye, Due Date); and at the end of the eight minutes, the train blows up. Himself included.

Earlier, a bomb went off on a train in Chicago and it is rumoured that another one will go off in the middle of the same city later that day. Colter’s task is to find the bomb and discover information about the bomber. His superiors, the pretty Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Up in the Air, The Judge) and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright – Casino Royale, W., The Ides of March) believe that the information could be crucial in deterring the next attack. Yet, after going into the Source Code a few times, Colter’s motives change. He intends not only to complete his mission; but also to save the passengers on the train and ask out Christina.

Source Code’s plot has numerous holes that one can pick at without difficulty. It can also feel quite repetitive at times. The director, Duncan Jones (Moon), a relative novice to the industry, puts forward some interesting ideas that bring to mind tenuous comparisons to The Matrix for de facto teleporting someone into a computer-generated world; and Minority Report for preventing an incident from occurring by using highly futuristic and technologically advanced methods. Yet, Jones also leaves several aspects of the plot with a lot of explaining to do; most notably the paradox of time-travelling and the ending.

One thing, however, that works in Source Code’s favour is that it does not descend into a mushy love-story like so many other films. The dialogue is not bad either and there are humorous moments too. Again, Jones fails to explain the quantum physics behind the invention of the Source Code; but, speculatively-speaking, he has done this deliberately knowing that the majority of the film’s viewers will neither understand nor be interested in such terminology.

Captain Colleen Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge urging Colter to go back into the Source Code so as to unearth more information about the bomb and the bomber.

That Jake Gyllenhaul plays well as the main character gives the movie the credence the plot lacks. He is not given a particularly challenging role, but he still performs decently enough. The same can be said for the other members of the cast. Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright may act competently; however, they are not given enough screen-time for their characters to be anything other than two-dimensional.

Alike the acting, the choreography is fine. For a movie that is cyclic and teleports the main character suddenly and regularly, it does not feel overly jerky to watch. This takes some skill and credit must go to Jones for this.

All-in-all, Source Code is a surprisingly entertaining film. It has a decent cast, some good jokes and clever ideas. Nevertheless, the storyline is deeply flawed and the ending rubber-stamps it. Ironically though, the film’s very flaws are what will keep viewers thinking long after the film finishes.

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