Transformers 4 Is A Hot Mess Worth Forgetting

Michael Bay dulls our senses and kills our clocks with this overlong sequel.

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XXX TRANSFORMERS-AGE-EXTINCTION-MOV-JY-4661-.JPG A ENTI wish these robots would have stayed hidden. Please Michael Bay, enough is enough. Turn in and allow the Transformers cartoon to shine as the greatest representation of this story. Once again, an exercise in extremes and over excess derails a potentially fun time at the movies here in the summer season.

I won’t make the mistake of complaining about story development or the strength of a tale in a Michael Bay production, because when it comes to summer action and Bay explosions all bets are off as far as the composition is concerned. I will say this. Transformers 4: Age of Extinction is tired old junk that gets repetitive very fast, like around the 90 minute mark. The one thing that Bay has never championed in this racket of filmmaking is allowing an editor to make solid cuts to your film. This movie is too long and full of the same old fights between robots that we once loved and now get an odd feeling in our brain when we see on screen for nearly 3 hours. That’s right. Bay’s latest Robot flick is 2 hours and 45 minutes long, or roughly the same length of Oscar Winner Schneidler’s List.

The cinematography is very well done and Mark Wahlberg adds loads of credibility as the hero at the center of the tale, but the dialogue is absolutely horrible. Co-star Stanley Tucci seems to be in on the joke as the big billionaire CEO trying to create his own army of robots until he realizes that..uh oh..innocent people may be killed. Tucci has a load of fun with dialogue that may as well be written by Bay’s son with a few crayons at daycare one day. Tucci, a wonderful character actor who gets to wear 5 piece rich looking suits for the duration of the film, gets it! I am in a shitty film so let’s laugh and have fun. He should have lent a fair measure of that sense of humor to Kelsey Grammar, who looks as stern and stiff as a piece of lumber playing an old government lion who doesn’t mind killing people if it makes him rich.

The rest of the cast is by the numbers with no punch. T.J. Miller shows up for a few scenes and adds some comedy. There is an Irish sounding dude named Jack Brayton who gets annoying after 5 lines of dialogue. Wahlberg’s daughter in the film is just your generic pretty blonde who can scream and look distressed very well. Titus Wellever has some fun as a bad guy who wears black, talks mean and has evil silver locks of hair to confirm his menace.

I grew up on the heroic and dynamite voicing of Optimus Prime by the gifted voice actor Peter Cullen. The first Bay/Transformers film was great for me because for the first time I saw my childhood heroes in live action kicking ass and taking names and Cullen’s voicing was superb. In this film, Cullen even seems tired and detached, making for a very different Prime. If you know the cartoons and what this leader stands for, this film will make you feel uneasy. Prime has always deemed hurting humans to not be an option, but due to some hardship he now says I am going to kill that guy when I find him at one point in the film. This is a bleak Optimus Prime and it didn’t sit right.

Megatron sort of shows up, but it’s an add on and tacky and so fleeting that it never adds any punch to the legendary duel with Prime. Robot dinosaurs show up. John Goodman voices a hillbilly shotgun toting robot and Ken Watanabe is a Samurai robot. Mark Ryan’s villainous Lockdown makes for some fine moments but overall doesn’t leave a mark.

Consider this. The best scene of the film came when two humans fought each other and for a robot film, that just isn’t right or noteworthy. There is a difference between tongue in cheek fun and overblown action. Bay simply can’t find it.

The story is extremely clunky even for a Transformers film. It’s ridiculous beyond ridiculous and gave me a headache. The special effects are excellent but that isn’t enough. Optimus riding a dinosaur through a city with a sword in his hand was supposed to be awesome and when it finally arrives, I had to check my watch first. One can only see Bumblebee(the Camaro clad hero robot) jump from one building and save our human heroes so many times before it gets repetitive. That’s the main problem with Bay’s films. They are simply too damn long to admire or like. In the end, it’s just too much.

Four films. Around 9 hours of screen time. Still, Michael Bay just doesn’t get it. You don’t have to blow everything up or shove a boring speech about honor and pride into every other scene to make a good Transformers film. A quiet moment between Wahlberg and Prime about legacy doesn’t produce much when it’s sandwiched inside 41 similar action sequences.

I used to think finding a different writer and director would help Transformers and the viewing public. Now, I am happy to report that The Age of Extinction for these robots may be the best thing.

I will advise you to skip this movie and instead sit down and watch the original cartoon with the kids. That is time well spent.

Fathers and Sons

What Fathers Day means to me and how my dad helped shape me as both a parent and a good man.

IMG_0347When Father’s Day comes around, I instantly think of my dad and how he shaped me as a man. It’s as simple as that. While others celebrate your parenthood and try to give you rest and gifts, I always think of my dad and our interactions when I was growing up. Those interactions made me as strong as I am today. Without being overly stern or too soft, my dad taught me how to be a good guy and also be direct and blunt at the same time. My wicked sense of humor comes from my dad. My volume and the ability to take over a room with my voice comes from the old man. When you are given a good set of parents, it’s hard to mess up your relationship with them as you get older and take on responsibility.

When my son was born, I knew I was going to have to rely on my own instincts and abilities to make it work. It’s not impossible to be OWNED by a human being who stands up to your waist and doesn’t have to use a toilet yet. You have to be ready. It has been an interesting run and most of the time, I am coming up with a plan on the fly. Then again, I would be lying if I said I didn’t incorporate my own dad’s teaching when trying to discipline, protect and generally take care of my 2 year old son Vincent.

I am still close with my dad and that won’t change, which makes the idea of Fathers Day kind of trivial. I don’t need to have one day a year where I hang out and appreciate my dad. I do that pretty much on a weekly basis. That’s the way it should be. Only bad children disregard their parents when they get past the teenage years. Remember the next time you are embarrassed by your parents or don’t want them around that many kids are deprived of their parents at a young age or stripped of them at birth. Remember that thousands of children had their dad taken from them on 9/11. Remember the hundreds of thousands of parents fighting overseas and protecting our country on a daily basis who can’t be with their children.

When you don’t take advantage of a good chat with your mom or dad, there are few more sad things in life. When I am down and need a lift, I call my dad. I try to call him just for the hell of it and not just when I need help with a bill or a car repair. Good kids celebrate fathers day a lot more than just one day out of the year. That being said, call your parents more often. Trust me, they won’t get tired of hearing their kids filling them in on their lives.

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Jon Hamm Gets His Night At Busch

Jon Hamm brings together my two favorite things, baseball and the land of movies and TV. He gets his day at Busch this summer.

Jon-Hamm-2013-ESPYSWhen I first heard the name, Jon Hamm, back in 2005, my first reaction was…”Who is this guy?” I had heard the name many times over the course of a few weeks.  I was sitting at Panera in Florissant and was throwing down a sandwich and reading the New York Magazine article about this hot new show called Mad Men.  Flash forward to today and I am one of his biggest fans and developed a fully equipped man crush on the St. Louis native TV/Movie/Local star. After reading that article, I quickly got a hold of Mad Men, watched the first season, and became addicted to this show about tortured souls in the 1960’s hiding their true identities, selling advertising, and drinking and smoking way too much. At the center of that addiction was a man named Hamm.

He is the heart and soul of the show, which just finished airing the first part of its 7th final season. In a way, he is the heart and soul of the entertainment community of St. Louis. Hamm is an avid Cardinals and Blues fan, and doesn’t hesitate to show his love for IMOS pizza. Every time he goes on Jimmy Kimmel(a well known hater of the St. Louis style pizza), Hamm brings him an IMOS pizza. That’s Hamm. He is synonymous with this city.  If it’s him wearing his beat up Blues and Cardinals hat in Los Angeles or on the set of Million Dollar Arm(his solid leading role vehicle released last month) or him simply talking about the Cardinals in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Hamm is always going to carry the Midwest around with him. don-draperWith the departure of David Freese to Los Angeles, the LA based Hamm takes over as the face of the city.

Hamm will officially get his day at Busch Stadium on August 18th, when the Cardinals promote Jon Hamm Bobble Head Day. That’s right. This prodigy son is getting his day in the sun right here in St. Louis. Excuse me if readjust to hide the boner beneath this keyboard. When I heard about Hamm Bobble Head Night, I had to come here to the Dose and fire something up. Whether I attend the game, climb up the side of the stadium or parachute into the stadium, I will acquire this item and proudly display it in my house. For me, Jon Hamm connects the two things I love most in life(outside of my family of course). The St. Louis Cardinals and The Land of Make Believe, the movies and TV shows. Hamm brings those two together.  That could be where the love comes from.

Hamm will attend the game and throw out the first pitch. I am sure he will think about firing a fastball down the middle with some heat behind it but I am guessing a direct shot to the catcher’s chest with a nice hang to it will do. This will definitely be an event worth checking out. This relationship between Hamm, the Cardinals, and this city will only grow as Hamm’s movie career stretches its legs. The city needs a good representative in Hollywood and Hamm fits the bill.

It doesn’t hurt that he is a good actor and likes to be a part of ensembles. While Million Dollar Arm didn’t gross a ton of money, it was an enjoyable summer dose of true baseball story mania. Hamm anchors Mad Men because his restrained deeply emotional performance as Don Draper makes the show run so smoothly and brilliantly. Hamm has quietly put together a fine movie career before this summer. He shared the screen with Ben Affleck in The Town, had a small role in Bridesmaids and is slowly breaking out. He has guest starred on 30 Rock and hosted Saturday Night Live a few times. His comic timing is as sharp as his throw from third base in the Celebrity softball game before every MLB All Star Game. Hamm has the talent to back up the reputation.

Check out his hilarious bit as Lex Luthor asking the President for a bailout.

jimmy-kimmel-320x240On August 18th, Jon Hamm comes to St. Louis and gets his day. That’s not for a guy who lost both his parents before the age of 10, worked on a porn set for cash, taught English at Webster to pay back a debt, and packed all his shit into a car to go to Hollywood only to not make it for a few years. Hamm is an easy guy to like because he’s famous and he earned it.

Thanks for reading,

DLB

 

Miguel Cotto Takes Back His Life

In one TKO victory, Miguel Cotto regained his life and opened a new chapter on his boxing career.

If you watch and love boxing, you know it’s an emotional sport unlike any other. A person steps into the ring with the intent of hurting another man and it’s a brutal practiceimage and way of life. Your knees, jaw, and legs give out at some point and your will starts to follow suit. Watching it makes you feel as if you are in that ring with the fighters and throwing and taking punches. Football and hockey are physical sports, but boxing is a blunt old fashioned way of demoralizing someone’s spirit. In the words of HBO commentator Jim Lampley, “You don’t play boxing. You fight.” That’s it. Before looking at the amazing Miguel Cotto victory over Sergio Martinez on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City, let’s look at Cotto and how he got here.

Miguel Cotto is a one of the most respected fighters in the sport of boxing. He’s a proud Puerta Rican student of the sweet science and a man who can do damage to another in the ring with tactics built around years of training. He has four losses in his career and all have come against the best, with one omitted(in my mind) because a fighter used an illegal substance on his gloves.

That is the fight that is required when discussing Cotto’s career. He faced a dirty fighter in Antonio Margarito years ago in a fight that shaped his boxing life in a horrible way. In the fight, Margarito used illegal hand wraps that were discovered in pictures after the fight. When a fighter’s hand is wrapped, several layers of gauze and tape are applied to produce a pad on the knuckles. Water or any other substance isn’t allowed. Margarito pummeled Cotto in a brutal fight in 2008 due to the application of plaster like pads inside the tape on his hands. This substance was found before Margarito’s next fight against Shane Mosley, and Mosley promptly destroyed Margarito. Cotto avenged the fight a few years later in beating Margarito himself, but in my mind the 2008 damage lingered. In boxing, a bad fight can stick with a guy and Cotto was unable to cut this loss loose in his head. Before the fight, Cotto was undefeated and unstoppable. Margarito took that away from him that night and even when Cotto regained it during the rematch, something still wasn’t complete. Cotto lost to Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout as well, all seasoned good to great fighters. However, the Margarito loss seemed to weigh on Cotto’s psyche for years. You don’t take a beating like that and shed it with a couple wins and good fights. For a more in depth look at Margarito’s foolhardy acts(for which he was stripped of his license), check out Thomas Hauser’s piece right here.

When Cotto switched to Freddie Roach, a Hall of Fame caliber trainer, after the Trout loss, something started to change in the boxer. Call it a way of life or boxing style but Roach had an impact on Cotto.  I usually don’t put too much stock in trainers because once training stops and the fight begins, a boxer only has himself to truly take through a fight. Roach is different. He connects with his fighters on an emotional and professional level. He notices strengths and defeats their weaknesses. Cotto had abandoned his left hook in his recent fights, and when he took to the ring against the overmatched Delvin Rodriguez in 2013, the fight ended in three rounds due to a devastating left hook that gave Cotto a technical knockout.

Instead of picking Canelo Alvarez for his next fight, Cotto picked seasoned veteran Sergio Martinez, a great boxer with 51 wins and only 2 losses, one coming in controversial fashion against Paul Williams. Martinez was a good pick because fight fans needed to see just how much Roach had taught Cotto and what kind of future Miguel had in the sport. Martinez needed the fight too because of doubts about his own health and status.

It turns out that Roach didn’t just acquire the best parts of Cotto and put them to use but he simply allowed Miguel to leave that damaging Margarito loss in the past and become a new fighter. Instead of being a boxer who had to fight 7-8 tough rounds and try to out slug opponents, Cotto was a master of the sweet science again, attacking opponents with a variety of weapons.

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CHEF: The Best I’ve Seen in 2014

Easily the best movie I have seen in 2014 and lately, there have been quite a few. CHEF dazzles.

Ladies and gentlemen, I watch a lot of movies and I try to be blunt and brutal in my critique. Jon Favreau’s latest, CHEF, was a masterpiece and the finest slice of cinema I have digested in 2014. The movie season is starting to find its legs so there will be more and the last month has produced some fine films, but CHEF was something else. A special blend of comedy, food lovers delight, old school storytelling, great acting and crackling sharp dialogue. Here is my review.

851433-chef-movie-poster

Movie-Chef

Rating-R

Running Time-115 minutes

Written and Directed by Jon Favreau

Cast-Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johnansson, Dustin Hoffman, Emjay Anthony, Oliver Platt and Robert Downey Jr.

Plot-When Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman), he is left to figure out what’s next. Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), his friend (John Leguizamo) and his son to launch a food truck. Taking to the road, Chef Carl goes back to his roots to reignite his passion for the kitchen — and zest for life and love.

Buffa’s Take-Great food can make a fine palate for heartfelt filmmaking, and Jon Favreau has created a masterpiece here with his latest, Chef. The title of the film is as simple as it gets and when cooking is done right, master chef’s stick to the basics and go where their heart takes them. Favreau sticks to genuine funny character interaction, a juicy script, great ensemble acting and a sure handed direction. Chef is easily the best film I have seen in 2014 and one of those films you simply want to root for and push into the street and urge people to be a part of.

The opening of the film hooks you instantly, with Favreau’s long time “El Jefe” Carl Casper slicing through veggies, fish and assorted fruits as he preps his kitchen for a day of service. Favreau must have gone to culinary school because the man’s love for food here is no act and is invested with something personal and romantic. The best cooks love their food as much as they appreciate the next gasp of oxygen and we get that right away with this guy. Casper is a lion in a growing world, and wants to open his creative recipes up on the high end Los Angeles customers at his restaurant, but the owner (a signature stern and blunt Hoffman) wants him to stick to his old boring menu of classical dishes. Casper wants to spice it up, and when his restrictions lead to a legendary food blogger trashing his food, the chef’s life crumbles.  He finds his mojo again in a food truck and that’s when the film takes off.

The food indeed plays a supporting role, but Favreau wisely integrates the rapid growth of social networking into the film’s story. Twitter plays a huge role in Casper’s collapse and his ability to rise up. As a writer who hinges his work and interaction on the social media site, it’s great to see a filmmaker putting it front and center and taking his moviegoers to school on how powerful the underground media and social party hound site has become. Tweets are shown above the characters like Archie comics as they type away and it’s not a gimmick. Favreau is telling you how it is but doing it with classy appeal and wise comedy so the story of redemption never seems too far away.

The film never gets too heavy and keeps the engine moving but the scenes between Casper and his son, Percy(a sharp newcomer in Anthony) bring an equal dose of emotion and suave confidence. A father teaching his son not only the ropes of cooking but the high appointed tasks of making a living and doing something you love.  The two actors are better than two performers showing chemistry. They convince us that in some far off land they could be embody these two desperate souls.

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