Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Suck Of The Bay

Before I get into rant mode, let me give you a positive review of a movie. After watching Transformers 2 this afternoon, I watched the Sam Mendes film Away We Go. I really can't recommend it enough. Mendes' last film, Revolutionary Road, was great but soul-destroying. This one is very much the opposite, a short, sweet, funny film about two expecting parents and their cross-country trip to find a place to settle. Funny is an understatement, it's actually hilarious in that subtle chuckle-to-yourself kind of way. The script is very good and the filmmaking, as you might expect from someone of Mendes' talent, is exceptional. The kind of film that you watch after a bloated blockbuster to regain your faith in the art form.

But that bloated blockbuster... When I first saw Transformers: ROTF(L) back in late June, I ranted a little about how stupid it was. It's on DVD now, so I grabbed it from Netflix to watch again. While some movies -- The Hangover -- are even better on second watch and some -- Face/Off -- are worse, I felt the same way about this movie that I did when I first saw it. It's a chaotic piece of crap. I tried to watch this time with an eye for what exactly it was that didn't work. I've liked some of Michael Bay's movies in the past, like Bad Boys or even the first Transformers, so why is this one so inane? The answer is "impulse control."

On the DVDs for The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, M. Night Shamalayan talks about the editing process and how hard it is to cut certain things out of movies. A director has a good idea, the scene seems to work, but it has to go because it doesn't actually advance the story at all. Transformers 2 is the prime example of a movie that fails at this restraint. At two-and-a-half hours, nothing got trimmed. And almost all of it does not advance the story because, hello, there really is no story in the movie. The plot: the All-Spark wasn't totally destroyed, there's an ancient Transformer that controls Megatron and wants to activate a machine to destroy the sun, there's a race to find the Matrix of Leadership that can power this machine. That's all. You could knock that out in considerably less than 150 minutes. First of all, the movie would be a lot shorter if half of it wasn't in slow-motion, but it really comes down to that restraint.

I imagine that the writing of this movie went like this: "Okay, we're going to make a billion dollars no matter what we put on the screen, so let's have some fun. Dogs humping each other? Let's do it. Mom eats pot brownies and freaks out? Put it in! A scene at a frat party so that we can do an obscure Revenge of the Nerds homage? Yes!" That's just in the first thirty minutes or so of the movie. You end up with racist robots (the writers were racist, not the robots), multiple scenes of characters that seemingly have no place in advancing the meager plot, and a lot of really stupid jokes. Like John Turturro ruining his career by standing underneath a robot's scrotum. The kicker is that on top of all that fluff, the main bad guy, who seems to be moderately kick-ass, only shows up in a battle for like three minutes before he is easily dispatched. Also, they made a huge deal about Devestator, right? He could have been completely cut out of the movie and nothing would have been missed. He doesn't even kill or significantly wound one main character.

There is some ridiculous geography. I know that I got overly sensitive about 24's liberties with the District, but Bay just poops on the atlas. The characters go to a desert in Egypt, all wearing jackets and sweatshirts the whole time, and then drive to Giza, but they have to go to Petra to find something. Good thing Egypt and Jordan share a border! So they drive from Giza (outside of Cairo) to Petra and back in, oh, two minutes. The final battle takes place in Giza -- with shots of Luxor thrown in for good measure -- and the characters rush to it from Petra by coming down from a hill. They even talk about Egypt and Jordan. Is Michael Bay anti-Semitic, too? Does he just not recognize that Israel exists? Or maybe he failed Geography in school because he was too busy wondering what his teacher would look like in slow-motion with harsh sunlight shining on her.

Also, Shia LeBeouf dies and goes to robot heaven where Optimus Prime's ancestors talk to him. So, yeah, it's pretty awful. Can't wait to see how much lazier they get for the third one.

NFL Week 7 (8-6 last week, 54-36 overall):

  • Minnesota (+5.5) at Pittsburgh: I think the Steelers are going to win, but I've done very well going against them with the spread.
  • New England (-14.5) vs. Tampa Bay (in London): My favorite line of the week was from, I think, Bill Simmons regarding how the people in London should hate New England because the idea of Patriots is, by definition, anti-British.
  • Kansas City (+5) vs. San Diego: Would not be surprised to see the Chiefs take this one outright. I have no faith in San Diego's ability to not crap the bed.
  • Houston (-3) vs. San Francisco: Not really believing in the 49ers after that shellacking by Atlanta.
  • Green Bay (-9) at Cleveland: The only chance the Browns have is if they can give their swine flu to the Packers.
  • Indianapolis (-14.5) at St. Louis: The best team in football versus the worst.
  • Oakland (+7) vs. New York Jets: How are the Jets possibly giving seven to anyone at this point?
  • Carolina (-7) vs. Buffalo: This is a big ol' who cares game.
  • Atlanta (+4) at Dallas: Nobody believes in the Cowboys. When Wade Phillips is your coach, Wade Phillips is your coach.
  • Chicago (PK) at Cincinnati: This opened up at Bengals +2 and swung hard.
  • Miami (+7) vs. New Orleans: Miami coming off of the bye, at home, with their ball-control offense. I'll take a touchdown.
  • Arizona (+7) at New York Giants: Thinking this will be a close, exciting game.
  • Philadelphia (-7) at Washington: Tough, because it's a division matchup, but who can pick the Skins?

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