Transformers: Dark of the Moon

July 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring:  Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey
Directed by: Michael Bay (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”)
Written by: Ehren Kruger (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”)

Textbooks be damned. The use of alternative histories has been such a go-to fad in cinematic curriculum recently that no one should be surprised if impressionable movie-going kids really start believing vigilante superheroes helped earn America a victory in Vietnam (“Watchmen”) or that young mutants saved the country from nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis (“X-Men: First Class”).

Sure, there is an obvious difference between the allegorical political statements in Neill Blomkamp’s apartheid-inspired sci-fi thriller “District 9” and the renegade Jewish soldiers who unload a slew of bullets into Adolf Hitler in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” but it’s all in good fun when films mix make-believe scenarios and momentous events of the past. Wouldn’t more people know the history behind the Louisiana Purchase if Napoleon Bonaparte was really a French cyborg soldier?

If anyone in Hollywood needed to avoid rewriting the history books it should have been director Michael Bay, who had already mortified WWII history buffs by making 2001’s “Pearl Harbor” into a foolish wartime soap opera. And yet, a decade later, Bay is back with a unique variation on the Apollo 11 spaceflight in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” the third — and hopefully final — installment of the action- adventure franchise based on the Hasbro toy line of the ’80s. Yes, it’s better than “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” but that doesn’t say much, since the second movie had the aesthetics of what could only be described as rusty robot porn.

In “Dark of the Moon,” Bay and returning screenwriter Ehren Kruger decide the July 1969 lunar landing by NASA was more than just a space mission to beat the Soviets to the moon, a goal we see President John F. Kennedy lay out to Congress six years prior via old news reels and mediocre digital re-imaging. Instead, the objective for Apollo 11’s astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin is to investigate the mysterious crash landing of an object on the moon’s surface, which turns out to be an Autobot spacecraft containing technological secrets.

Flash forward to present time and a carefully crafted close-up of the panty-covered backside of Megan Fox replacement Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (a Victoria’s Secret lingerie model with Walmart-brand personality) strutting up the stairs to her hero boyfriend Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), who is quick to brag about the presidential medal he received for saving the world but can’t land a job that makes him feel as relevant as he did when he was part of the Autobot forces.

A regular 9-to-5 job will have to wait when an exiled Megatron (Hugo Weaving) returns to Earth to once again lead the Decepticons against Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and his Autobots, now working across the globe to protect the human race. When the Decepticons figure out a way to use the Autobots’ technology for their benefit, a new battle begins between the robot races. Sam and his military cohorts find themselves in the middle of a Chicago warzone leaping from crumbling buildings and dodging twisted metal, all in glorious and exhausting 3-D.

Some of the startling computer-generated visuals are what actually make “Dark of the Moon” tolerable, even at an inhumane runtime of 154 minutes. As with most of his films, however, Bay doesn’t take the less-is-more approach when it comes to spectacle. That he saves for his convoluted screenplay and flat human characterizations.

Quirky history aside, “Dark of the Moon” is exactly how you’d expect Bay to end the bankable trilogy. Let’s just hope a promise from LaBeouf to not return for a fourth will be enough to put this series to rest. At least, that is, until we find out Thomas Edison patented Megatron’s weaponry.


February 5, 2010 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson
Directed by: Scott Stewart (debut)
Written by: Scott Stewart (debut)

Apocalyptic thrillers are a dime a dozen, but “Legion” is one of those rarities. It manages to take a sub-genre, which usually promises nail-biting action, and suck all the fun out of it. It’s one of those movies that a mainstream first-time director/writer like Scott Stewart will be embarrassed of 20 years from now if his or her career actually goes somewhere other than the predictable horror avenue.

Tyrese Gibson – Legion

January 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

With 11 films under his belt, actor Tyrese Gibson, 31, isn’t a veteran just yet. There is still a lot of work to be done, he says, but is excited about his future in the entertainment industry. In his newest feature film “Legion,” Gibson plays Kyle Williams, a man who finds himself trapped at a deserted diner just when God sends a legion of angels from heaven to start the apocalypse. During an interview with me, Gibson, who has starred in such films as “Baby Boy,” “Transformers,” and “Death Race,” talked about working with actors like Paul Bettany and Charles Dutton and explained why he’ll never look at an ice cream truck the same ever again.

Were you excited to star in “Legion” since it is your first horror-type film?
Yeah, but you know it’s just another beautiful day in the garden. The genre is one thing but I just really enjoy being around people that I can learn from. That’s what I look forward to the most. It just so happened to be a horror/thriller-type of movie, but I just had a great time working with everybody, including the crew. I like to hang out with everybody. It’s good energy.
What do you learn from an actor like Charles Dutton who has been in this industry for 25 years?
I’m a student. Anybody who knows me knows that I show up ready to learn. I never come on the set pretending like I’ve been acting forever. Actors like Charles Dutton and Paul Bettany are great. I always look forward to working with powerful guys like that. The whole time I’m thinking, “Man, these dudes are heavyweights.” You pull up their pages and it’s like page one, page two, page three. These dudes have been at it forever.
Is that something you want in your career – staying power like that?
Yeah, I’ve got so much more work to do man. I’ve done about 11 movies. I hope I’m able to do this as long as Morgan Freeman.
As an actor in the past nine years, has anything changed in how you take on your roles?
Not really. I just always want to be a part of the filmmaker’s vision. The beautiful thing about writing screenplays and directing movies is that filmmakers allow people to see their interpretation of how they see the world. James Cameron said everybody’s blue and has big eyes and tails – “Avatar.” That’s the way he sees the world. That the way it happened on “Legion.” I just showed up and [director] Scott Stewart had a vision and a dream. I wanted to help make that vision come to life.
One reason this film looks scary from the trailer is because things that are usually considered harmless like an old lady or an ice cream man are turned into these inhuman creatures…
I never hung out with that man [actor Doug Jones who plays the spider-like ice cream man]. He scared the hell out of me.
I’m guessing you’ll never look at an ice cream truck the same ever again, huh?
Yeah, if I buy something from an ice cream truck I’m gonna look at the man and make sure his arms aren’t stretching out. That’s a scary situation.
How is your comic book “Mayhem” doing and why did you decide to get into this part of the entertainment industry?
You know, I was promoting “Death Race” at Comic-Con and I felt the energy out there – the selfless passion these fans in the comic book world have. There were all these people wearing costumes and T-shirt and different hairstyles. I had never seen anything like it. I needed to figure out how to be a part of this world. My team and I put together this “Mayhem” concept and came up with a storyline. We made history on so many different levels with it. We’re talking about the first-ever digital comic book sold on iTunes. Just click the space bar and you can watch it like a movie. It’s being sold in 38 different countries. It’s crazy. I’m so proud to make history with that.
Would “Mayhem” be an idea you’d like to adapt into a movie if something like “Luke Cage” doesn’t work out?
We’ll see. We’re talking to some film companies about “Mayhem” and seeing if anything makes sense. But I want to make sure we establish a fan base with “Mayhem” first before we just jump out there and turn it into a movie.
And I’m guessing you’d want to play the superhero, Mayhem?
Absolutely. I’d love to play Mayhem. I am Mayhem.

Transformers 2

June 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro
Directed by: Michael Bay (“Transformers”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”)

The robot war wages on in the inevitable summer blockbuster that is “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” While the 2007 film may have filled a void for fans of the 80’s animated TV series and Hasbro action figures, director Michael Bay and crew prove that bigger, louder, and more obnoxious isn’t always better when it comes to nonstop action sequels. Who knew endless explosions and computer-generated combat could be so tedious?

In “Revenge of the Fallen,” actor Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Whitwicky, the geeky high school kid in the original who is now on his way to college and looking forward to putting the intergalactic battle of two years ago behind him. Sam wants a regular life and even goes as far as leaving his beloved Camaro Bumblebee in his parent’s garage. Even more irrational, he leaves his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) behind and hopes occasional web chats will be enough for their relationship to survive a long first semester.

Sam goes to school just long enough to meet his roommate, Leo Spitz (Ramón Rodríguez), a conspiracy theorist who runs his own website on the subject. Before Sam realizes it, the two shape-shifting robot species, the Autobots and the Decepticons, begin to butt machine parts again in an attempt to save the universe and destroy the universe respectively.

In the sequel, many of the same robots are back. You can’t have a “Transformer” movie without leaders Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving). For diehard fans, more advanced characters rear their metal heads on screen including Jetfire, Sideswipe, Soundwave and, of course, The Fallen, who is considered one of the original and evilest Transformers. There are also annoying additions to the CGI cast like Mudflap and Skids, who are about as funny as electric shock therapy.

Aside from the chaotic and devastatingly long script penned by return writing team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and newcomer Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”), “Revenge of the Fallen” is brash and boring and exactly what you would expect from director Bay, whose cinematic track record is consistent at best. It’s always the same with Bay. There is no volume button; no room to breathe; no climax. Everything he does is in one whirling motion where by the end of it you feel more scatty than satisfied.

It might be a visual bonanza when you can actually tell what’s going on as the robots fight to the death (that’s probably why we see more slow-motion action in places where you can’t distinguish one metal appendage from another), but “Revenge of the Fallen,” like its predecessor, is a meaningless diversion that’s an hour too long and devoid of any human value or emotion.

Tyrese Gibson – Death Race

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Interviews

Whether he’s dragging a broken-down plane through the Mongolian desert in “Flight of the Phoenix,” toughening up recruits as a Navy officer in “Annapolis,” or battling it out in uniform against the evil Decepticons in “Transformers,” actor Tyrese Gibson does it all with effortless intensity.

Although known mostly for his work as a Hollywood actor, Gibson started his professional career as a model for Tommy Hilfiger and Guess at the age of 17. From there, he switched gears into the music industry and released his self-titled R&B album, Tyrese, in 1998.

Gibson became a triple threat when he made his film debut in John Singleton’s “Baby Boy” in 2001. Since then, he’s made a name for himself in Los Angeles with another eight movies under his belt and has worked alongside actors including Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Eva Mendes and Dennis Quaid.

In his most recent film, “Death Race,” Gibson, 29, plays the character Machine Gun Joe Mason, a convict who can win his freedom if he survives a brutal car race, which is being broadcast for blood-lusting customers on pay-per-view.

You always give off this intensity, which is probably why you’re cast in all these manly roles. But I was wondering, is there a softer side to Tyrese Gibson?

Yeah, man. I’m a gentle giant. I’m a nice guy. But for me, I love playing those types of roles – roles with real high octane and those that are real intense. I never went as dark as I went with “Death Race” in any other film I’ve done.

You’ve been in quite a few movies featuring cars, whether they’re turning into robots or racing down the highways. So, would you consider yourself a “car guy?”

Yes, absolutely. I got a slew of fast cars. I’m always jumping on the freeway with one of them and taking care of business.

Which of your cars is your favorite?

Well, I love my Bentley and I love my new Maserati I just got. I just love modern, sleek really fast sexy cars that you can drive every day.

So, do you just like driving them or can you actually pop the hood and fix one if something is wrong with it?

I don’t like working on cars, but I know a few things. But right now, these engines are so difficult compared to older-model cars. It’s a totally different world.

In “Death Race” you are taking on the same role as Sylvester Stallone did in the 1975 original film. Had you seen the film or did you want to go into the remake with a clean slate?

I didn’t see the first film out of respect of just wanting to bring whatever new dimension and elements I could bring to it. From what I hear, Sylvester Stallone appreciated what I was able to do with Machine Gun Joe.

I read Jason Statham trained with an ex-Navy Seal for his role in “Death Race.” Did that put any added pressure on you to look as good as him on the first day of shooting?

Jason really went all out to make sure he showed up doing that super sexy thing on me with all those muscles. I had to step it up another level, too.

“Death Race” gives a new meaning to reality TV. When it comes to that genre, do you watch any of those shows?

I’m not big on reality shows anymore. I used to be, but come on. Every other week they’ve got some new cheesy contest like “Win Your Husband,” “Win Your Wife.” It’s pretty lame.

Do you think something like death racing could ever happen in real life?

Hey, listen, anything is possible. When you’ve got these guys in prison and they have nothing to do but sit in their cages all day, you’ve got to give them something to do. What they need to do is bring down the level of crime happening in prisons by doing some extreme boot camp military training and send some of these guys overseas and let them fight these wars.

You’re reprising your role in the sequel to “Transformers” next year. Is there more pressure this time around since expectations are higher now?

Listen, the world is not going to be disappointed in this sequel, I promise you. We did some really special things in this movie and I think they’re going to be really happy with this film.

Another film coming up for you is “Legion,” which has an apocalyptic-type story. Do you think we’re going to start seeing more of these end of the world movies because everyone is interested about what’s going to happen in 2012?

Yeah, man. I think right now it’s written in the Bible and people are telling so many different versions of scriptures. I think it’s pretty spooky at times to be on the set working on these types of films. You hope you’re not crossing the line in religion.

How has your life changed since having a baby in 2007?

It’s taken my work and my focus to a whole other level. Now, it’s time to focus and get shit done for real and not play any games.

How do you balance all the industries you work in – modeling, acting, music?

You know, it’s a no-brainer for me. I just love being busy and love doing what I am excited and passionate about. It’s just one of those things I really enjoy.

What have you learned about yourself as an actor since your debut in “Baby Boy” until now?

I’ve learned a lot, man. To not know what you’re doing in a film and then discover what to do and what the best way to go about do it is definitely a learning experience. I’m really happy and honored to be able to do these films, man. It’s really flattering that I’m even a part of these things.

I saw some pictures of you at the film premieres of “Seven Pounds” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Do you go to a lot of these premieres or is it more about supporting friends and actors you’ve worked with in the past?

Yeah, my girl Taraji [P. Henson], who I did “Baby Boy” with, is in “Benjamin Button.” I know Brad [Pitt] and Angelina [Jolie]. I’ve met them numerous times. I felt like I was there to support all three of them. As far as Will Smith, he’s my good friend and mentor, so it was a no-brainer for me to show up to that. You want to go where you’re welcome and where you are celebrated. We always have to show up and support each other.