Tagged: Michael Bay

Review: <i>Bumblebee</i>

Review: Bumblebee

When I first saw the trailer for Bumblebee last June, I liked a lot of what I saw. The fact that the hero is a Volkswagen Beetle instead of a Camaro. The more faithful robot designs. I also liked the idea of the focus on a single character, since it suggested a stripped-down type of story, which after the cacophony of twisted metal that was the Michael Bay film series, was a welcome prospect. I had wanted to see this film earlier, but with all the holiday goings-on and other films to watch, it kinda got lost in the shuffle until now.

It was pretty good. Aside from the kid next to me that wouldn’t shut up because his typically discourteous parent wouldn’t do the right thing by instructing his child that you’re not supposed to talk during a movie (which are often found in theaters I frequent today), it was an enjoyable experience. It didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it was what the first Transformers movie should’ve been.

Storywise, the plot is a fairly straightforward prequel set in 1987, using the classic troubled-child-meets-alien framework, which evokes films of the era like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Reagan era pop culture references abound, and it’s clear that 1987 was chosen not just to establish the Transformers on Earth before they met Shia LaBeouf, but to call back to the era that saw that first wave of the Transformers franchise, when the first comics filled my back issue bins (actually an old white bureau that I still own), the action figures populated the shelves of a healthy company called Toys R Us, and Orson Welles was literally a planet. Songs from the 1980s fill the soundtrack, providing not just a sense of time, but some in-jokes for Transformers fans, and for that matter, current Internet culture. I imagine that the choice of time setting may also have made it easier to write some of the film’s scenes. Without the ubiquity of cell phones, a nighttime prank carried out by characters can plausibly be pulled off without it being filmed. And without the Web to instantly learn everything about Earth history and culture, the titular hero has to learn it through his interactions with his primary contact on Earth, a talented but troubled teen tomboy (say that three times really fast) named Charlie Watson, who is given a beat-up old 1967 Volkswagen Beetle on her 18th birthday. As a prequel, the film does a good job of establishing how the Cybertronians came to Earth and why Bumblebee doesn’t talk, and answers a number of other continuity-related questions.

Hailee Steinfeld does a good job of portraying Charlie’s angst, her conflict with family and peers, and her wide-eyed astonishment at her new friend. She’s a dedicated mechanic, but sullen and withdrawn, owing to unresolved bereavement, until meeting the eponymous robot whose damaged memory and voice synthesizer helps her to confront her demons. John Cena also goes a good job as Lt. Jack Burns, a U.S. Army Ranger who comes into conflict with the Cybertronians. While I surmised from the trailer and Cena’s interviews that his character was a typical one-dimensional hardass authority figure, Cena and screenwriter Christina Hodson dial down the jingoism that might normally be on display in one of the earlier films. Burns’ actions are understandable, given the circumstances, and he is at times overzealous, but is not the cartoonishly obtuse horror movie sheriff-type that often populate films like this. There are moments when he is depicted to be as skeptical of the Decepticons as he is of Autobots, and even genuinely sympathetic. Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux voice Shatter and Dropkick, the two main villains in the film, Decepticon triple-changers who follow Bumblebee to Earth, and who easily earn the label “evil” from their surprisingly grotesque treatment of humans, including innocent bystanders.

I mentioned my hopes for the Transformer designs from the trailer, and the film doesn’t disappoint. If you were a fan of the Transformers when you were a kid like me, then you’ll appreciate that right from the opening war scene on Cybertron, you can tell which character is which. Ratchet. Arcee. Brawn. Optimus Prime. Soundwave. Shockwave. And it’s not like they copied the animated series designs slavishly. The designers struck a nice balance between the simple designs of the animated Transformers, and the greater detail needed for a modern HD theater screens. If a character had a completely red arm in the comics or animation, for example, in this film their arm might consist of a red panel on top and maybe on the sides, and then an underside of detailed mechanics. The result is a gorgeous realization of what the Transformers should look like, a welcome change from the ugly mess of Erector Sets coughed up by a wood chipper that characterized the look of the Michael Bay Transformers. This isn’t just a question of aesthetics, mind you; these designs also exhibit a greater clarity, with the greater amount of color panels making it not only easier to identify characters at a glance, but to discern what’s happening during fight scenes. Instead of an incomprehensible tangle of twisted metal that typified robot-on-robot fights in the Bay films. I also especially liked the human-looking fight moves that Bumblebee displayed in one scene, which left me to wonder if there was a scene left on the cutting room floor of him watching martial arts movies and professional wrestling on Charlie’s television that had been intended to set this up.

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I will say on the issue of clarity, however, that the film’s opening scene could’ve benefited from a more lucid layout of the geography of the battle. We open on an aerial shot of Cybertron, where tracer fire is blasting in half a dozen different directions from as many sources, making it difficult to discern any particular “front” between opposing forces. This wouldn’t be a big issue if it were the intention of director Travis Knight to convey a disorganized and decentralized collection of factions scattered across the Cybertroninan landscape (cyberscape?). But after we are introduced to the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons, Autobot leader Optimus Prime tells his forces to “fall back,” which is a bit confusing, since it wasn’t clearly established what was “forward” for them to begin with. Still, it’s a relatively minor point, since the story immediately moves to focus on Bumblebee, who is sent to Earth, where he’s the sole protector of humans against the two Decepticons who seek to use the planet’s satellite system to summon the entire Decepticon army to Earth. This provides a more intimate conflict, with greater breathing room for character work for both Charlie and Bumblebee, or simply Bee, as she comes to call him. The motivations are simple to understand, and action flows naturally from the conflict.

If you’ve been turned off by the last several Transformers films, and prefer a more accessible and likable story, try to catch this one before it’s gone completely from theaters.

Box Office Democracy: Transformers: The Last Knight

It’s strange to describe a movie as Michael Bay’s id run amok.  Bay is already seemingly the living embodiment of the collective id of every even slightly repressed filmmaker to come before him.  Transformers: The Last Knight is dozens and dozens of bad ideas stuck together with slow motion CGI and glistening skin.  There’s a Transformer in this movie who has a gun that makes things move in slow motion.  That’s either proof that Bay has no idea that people use his cliches to ridicule him, or proof he doesn’t care because no one will ever stop giving him giant piles of money to figuratively light on fire every couple of years.  This is not the loving work of someone who grew up loving the toys or the cartoons or any of that; this is someone who smashed his toys together until they broke and then cried until they were replaced.

I’m honestly not sure there’s a synopsis of The Last Knight that would read as anything other than the ravings of a madman.  It turns out Transformers have been on earth since Arthurian times.  They’ve been involved with every major human event in history including World War II.  A secret cabal of historical figures have been involved in keeping them secret.  They also protect a magic artifact that can only be used by the descendant of Merlin.  Also, Optimus Prime is evil and wants to destroy earth— but honestly, that doesn’t have much effect on the events of the film.  The movie we get is two hours of running around trying to prevent something from happening, and then an underwhelming 20 minutes during which the bad thing happens anyway but is stopped like it’s no big deal.

It feels like there’s so much less spectacle in this movie which can’t be true because giant robots fight each other for no reason all the time.  Maybe it’s just that the fights have no discernible stakes and no one making any decisions about the plot is ever involved in the fighting.  The Transformer with the most lines is a C-3P0 ripoff (called out as similar in the movie itself) that doesn’t seem to transform in to anything.  Megatron and Optimus Prime stay on the sidelines while third string robots from the last movie that I can’t be bothered to remember fight over and over.  It must be hard to make giant robot fighting seem so inconsequential.

The Last Knight does an honestly amazing amount of metaphorical nerd punching.  Every character that has studied something is a naive idiot and real knowledge can only be attained from being near Transformers.  Oxford professors don’t know anything, NASA physicists are smug idiots with bad ideas, and the Prime Minister of the UK is a schmuck. If you’ve ever read a book on purpose, Michael Bay wants you to know he thinks you’re an asshole and have nothing of value to contribute to society.

I don’t know what the point is of telling you this.  If you’ve watched Michael Bay movies since Bad Boys II went to overthrow Castro for no reason after the story ended, you’ve probably known Bay doesn’t care anymore.  He’s chasing the rush of the big explosion and the nine figure gross.  People go and see his movies because they like his visual style, and while it’s absolutely not for me it’s definitely for someone.  When the lights came up on this two-and-a-half-hour unintelligible wreck of a movie, people in my theater applauded.  I love a dessert but I would prefer it be a part of a meal that includes a sensible entree; some people just want to eat Pixie Stix for dinner and wash it down with Red Bull.  The Last Knight is a movie for them. I hope they like it.

Marc Alan Fishman: JL Fashion Statement “Gritty Is the New Black”

DC released the image that precedes this week’s via a puff piece in USA Today. In it, we see the Aveng-err-Justice League being scowly amidst steam and metal and stuff. It’s really striking, ain’t it?

As the image made its way across the social media networks I frequent, a common theme rose to the surface: Vomit. While I typically love to play devil’s advocate in situations like this, offering a nice counterpoint to typical rantings in lieu of some of my own delicious snark, I honest to Rao can only pile on. Let’s carve this screencap into a thousand angry pieces, shall we?

First off, I’m fine with Batfleck. He’s grumpy and gray. Which is exactly what I expect Batman to be. I think the one fine thing to come out of Batman v Superman was the portrayal of Bruce Wayne and his emo counterpart. He’s weary. He’s underpowered. He’s overcompensating for a lot. The actual look of the armor is good. Flat, simple, thick. The added Oakley shades over his eye holes make me think he’s got some gadgets on this suit. I like the look, as it’s basically Frank-Miller-Meets-the-Arkham-City-Games. Fishman’s Tim Gunn Grade:  A-

And then we come to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Diana here is actually pretty comic accurate, no? While someone forgot to saturate her suit with any actual color, the basic forms here are as we’d hope. Her corset-like top over a weird armor-skirt, bifurcated by an ab-piecing belt reads wholly to her pulpy counterpart. In the shot we also see her shield, sword, and lasso. She’s even got her tiara and gauntlets in place. While she doesn’t feel Amazonian to me — she’s clearly not smaller than all save for Flash — everything else is checked off the list. If someone could add 33% more saturation, I’d be in love. Fishman’s Tim Gunn Grade: A-

Cyborg is depicted as a Michael Bay Transformer nightmare. As someone denoted to me on Facebook, his crotch literally looks like Megatron’s maw from Bay’s atrocities. Vic Stone here is a mangled mess of wires and tubes. It’s as if the CGI department just couldn’t help but scream “look what we done did!”

Look, I get it. The tragic accident that left Stone a small meat pile being grafted onto a T-1000 frame is a nice idea. But the look here is severely unfetch. From a practical standpoint, one would think maybe Batman would tell Cyborg to add layers of protective plating over the exposed machinery? Or perhaps not declare boldly “look at my lights. They show you where to start shooting and punching”? For Rao’s sake… the AI Bots in I, Robot had better armor. Fishman’s Tim Gunn Grade: F

Flash. Oh, Flash. This picture clearly is of a team that prepared a bit before battle. See Batman’s shades, Wonder Woman’s armament, and that trident. Flash clearly found some leftover maroon gym mats and Bungie cords and decided to try his best at a Pinterest costume tab. I pray that Mr. Allen figures he’ll move so fast people won’t notice the mélange of oddly shaped armor bits held together by string and sheer force of will. The only smart move he made: his helmet covers a good part of his face. It’s a shame when the CW’s Flash is better appointed to fight crime than a Flash with several hundred million dollars more in the coffers. Fishman’s Tim Gunn Grade: Whatever constitutes something worse than an F

Last in our assemblage of angst is Artie “Aquaman” Curry. This shark of a man is a big ole’ brute, ain’t he? The Snyderverse version of the once orange-adorned aquatic superman is clearly kin of WWE’s Roman Reigns. It’s a bold take. And we get it by now, don’t we? No one will make fun of him now! We can hear DC’s movie investors chortle. While Aquaman is shrouded in plumes of hate-smoke, there’s enough to go on here: He’s scale-armored. He’s got a bitchin trident. He’s got a massive beard. And he stole some shoulder pads from the set of Spartacus. Good on him. The look is different. But it’s intriguing. It looks stiff. But I’ll hold out hope it looks good in motion. Fishman’s Tim Gunn Grade: C+

So, what say you of this new League of Justice? Or perhaps the better question to answer… Who wore it better?

The Point Radio: Taking ANGRY BIRDS From App To Big Screen

These days the one genre that rules the box office consistently are animated family films (even more than super hero flicks). John Cohen came from projects like ICE AGE and DESPICABLE ME to convert the smash phone game, ANGRY BIRDS, into an even bigger movie hit. He talks about that journey plus his love for animation in general. Plus Mark Geist was among the brave men who lived the real life story of Michael Bay’s film, 13 HOURS:THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI . We find out what really happened that dark night in 2012.

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Molly Jackson: Re-Embrace Nostalgia

Last week they announced a remake of 1970s cult classic The Rocky Horror Show. Social media collectively said “Are you &)$!* kidding me?” and expressed their righteous anger to the world. I was among them, filled with fury.

The biggest outcry to these remakes/reboots/retcons is that our media tends to forget the original in favor of the newest one. The first time I noticed this is with the movie Yours, Mine and Ours. I adore the original 1968 movie starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. Every time I saw it was on, I watched it. That is, until the remake starring Renee Russo and Dennis Quaid came out in 2005. Then, I never saw the original playing on TV. It was like the media world forgot about it.

Then, a few months ago, Marvel released a number of pictures hinting popular stories would be reprinted starting in 2015. We know now that is due to their upcoming Secret Wars universe reboot. Still, they gave off the air of “Let’s just give them what we think they want, which is the same story over and over.” I complained about that one too. If I really want to read Civil War, I’m going to grab the original before anything else. Granted, me complaining about lack of innovation in comics isn’t new. Still, enough is enough.

I have decided not to let the remake of comic books, TV shows, and movies get me down. If I loved something, remaking it doesn’t affect my personal feelings for it. Or, at the very least, it shouldn’t.  I can still love the ‘90s live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies without cursing Michael Bay’s name – even though he deserves it. His crappy movies don’t change my love for the Turtles or those films.

I have always had strong connections to characters. If they get abused, I want to defend them. They are as real to me as the woman giving me a weird look on the subway right now. I’m going to remember my characters for who they were when I loved them, not the current shlock in which they are currently featured.

I’m still going to give remakes a chance. Some of them might even be good but most, I wager, will disappoint me. Still, I am not going to be upset that a story lives on – even in name only. I’ll just be nostalgic for the good ol’ days.

 

Box Office Democracy: Blackhat

Blackhat has a germ of a good movie buried in it; I was very interested to see how a director like Michael Mann would make a movie where most of the action happens in a virtual world. Hacking is perhaps the least visually interesting thing there is you’re probably doing something very similar to it right now while reading this article. Early in the film there are signs that Mann plans to tackle this dilemma there are sweeping, focused, shots of the inside of computers that switch to shots of code moving through virtual space. Unfortunately, it seems that Blackhat completely lost its collective nerve in this regard as after the first act the movie basically refuses to return to any kind of hacker stuff and just becomes a bad action movie.

The clichés in Blackhat are so brazen that I had to stop and consider that it might be some kind of brilliant subversion of the form, it isn’t. Viola Davis plays an FBI agent who cares more about stopping criminals than following the rules because her husband died on 9/11. Chris Hemsworth talks about being in prison and sounds like a professional wrestler doing a bad interview segment. Characters die but usually only after they have a moment of catharsis with another character. These Are things that have been tired and overdone longer than I’ve been alive and I can’t understand why anyone thinks it can fly anymore.

I always hate being this person but the movie is so spectacularly implausible that it destroys my suspension of disbelief. The movie opens with a nuclear reactor exploding and our heroes are walking around inside of it within a handful of days and perhaps this isn’t common knowledge but nuclear meltdowns make places completely inhabitable for centuries. They follow that up almost immediately by having a hack push the price for soybeans up by 250% and that’s almost equally impossible. There are so many ways to make money if you’re a crazy genius hacker and I wish they had picked one that wasn’t completely impossible. Furthermore, I don’t think you can have a private army roving through and shooting up Hong Kong murdering police whenever you want without having some kind of response from the Chinese government. These are immersion destroyers.

This isn’t directly related to the quality of the movie per se but I spent a lot of time focused on the aesthetics of Chris Hemsworth in Blackhat. He’s so much less bulky than he is when he’s playing Thor and I can’t decide if I think this is his natural size and he bulks up for Marvel films or if this kind of dramatic change in physique is just par for the course if you’re in the Chris Hemsworth position in Hollywood these days. He spends an incredible amount of time wearing button down shirts with the buttons open to the navel which is a look I’ve never seen in real life and can’t imagine a context where it makes sense outside of a beach. It felt like objectifying of Chris Hemsworth in a way that I’m quite surprised to see in a movie seemingly exclusively aimed at men. I don’t know how many women you can get to a rather violent movie advertised as a dry cyber crime film just by having a bunch of strong PG-13 male nudity. It’s another curious choice in a movie that can’t stop making head scratching decisions long enough to string together anything remotely coherent.

The Law Is A Ass

BOB INGERSOLL: THE LAW IS A ASS #304 GREEN ARROW MAKES HIS POINT– RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES

prometheus_1_superRepeat after me, as I repeat for the I don’t know how manyth time: Murder is bad for children and other living things.

Murderers are also bad.

So you can just imagine how I feel about murderers who murder.

Which brings us to the conclusion of Justice League: Cry for Justice. In issue 7  of said mini-series, the super-villain Prometheus– actually the second of three super-villains to use that name in the DC Universe, don’t ask – has been cornered by the JLA. He told them that he has hidden devices in Star City and the other home cities of the other JLA members which will teleport those cities through time and space. But he promised to tell the heroes where the devices were hidden, if they let him escape.

Green Arrow refused to negotiate, so Prometheus activated the devices; the one in Star City first. The device in Star City goes off first. Unfortunately, it malfunctioned and didn’t teleport Star City. Instead it demolished much of the city and killed ninety thousand people. While the other devices were about do the same to the other heroes’ home cities. At this point, Green Arrow relented and the JLA agreed to let Prometheus go in return for him telling them where the devices are and how to deactivate them.

Now in my day, if you’ll allow me a slight digression into Cranky-Old-Man mode, the heroes wouldn’t have agreed to Prometheus’ demands. They would have apprehended him and figured out a way to keep his devices from doing any damage at all. That’s why we called them “heroes,” they were that good.

But nowadays, in a comics world which has been thoroughly corrupted by the excesses of the destruction porn which continues to generate big box office through the oeuvre of directors Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich, Zack Snyder, and anyone else who thinks computer graphics should be used in place of things such as story, plot, or characterization, the heroes can’t be heroes. They had to stand by helplessly and watch the destruction porn destruction of Star City and let Prometheus go. Okay, they did stop the other devices. But not before Star City was partially destroyed and ninety thousand people died. And not before they let Prometheus get away.

Let Prometheus get away, that is, until the final page of Justice League: Cry for Justice # 7. That’s when Green Arrow tracked Prometheus down, put an arrow through his eye – How Werthamesque – and said, “Justice.”

Green Arrow didn’t act as a hero, he acted as an executioner. He acted expediently. And, as Tony Isabella has said, “expedience isn’t heroism.”

A quick aside: I was amused by the description of this scene in Wikipedia’s entry on Prometheus, that the villain is “apparently killed by Green Arrow,” because, let’s face it, this is a DC Comics story, where death has about as much meaning as a Kim Kardashian’s wedding vows.

Cut to some days in the future when, in Green Arrow and Black Canary # 32, Green Arrow acknowledged that he crossed a line and turned himself into the police. A speedy trial followed later that same issue. I said it was speedy, didn’t I? I just didn’t realize that it would be speedier than Speedy Alka-Seltzer  and Speedy Gonzales combined. It wasn’t much of a trial, given that Green Arrow freely admitted his act and, the trial moved speedily to the verdict.

Where the jury found Green Arrow not guilty.

Did I say, “not guilty?” Well, no, I didn’t. The foreman of the jury said that. Yes, even though Green Arrow freely admitted his guilt in open court, the jury found him not guilty.

It’s called jury nullification and it happens from time to time in the criminal justice system, or, if you want to believe the trials that David E. Kelley used to show us in The Practice, it happens nearly every freaking week.

Jury nullification happens when the jury is aware that the defendant violated the law, but, for some reason, sides with the defendant and doesn’t want to convict. In this particular trial, it was probably because Green Arrow did what the jurors wished they could have done, brought ultimate justice – read vengeance – to Prometheus for the ninety thousand Star Citizens who he killed. The jury liked what Green Arrow did, even if it was against the law, so it found him not guilty.

They judge presiding over the trial wasn’t as forgiving as the jury. He decided that the verdict notwithstanding, Green Arrow deserved to be punished. So the judge ordered Green Arrow exiled from Star City.

Hey, Your Honor, what was so difficult to understand about the words “Not guilty.” It couldn’t have been the “guilty” part, you judges hear that word all the time. It must have been the word, “not.” That’s the one you’re not familiar with.

So let me explain it to you. “Not guilty” means Green Arrow wasn’t convicted. He has to be set free. It also means the Constitution of the United States forbids you from punishing him.

Look it up, it’s in the Fourteenth Amendment. You know the one that says you can’t deprive a person of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” It’s the one that says, if a person is found not guilty by a jury of his peers, you can’t punish him anyway.

Oh, it’s also in the Eight Amendment, the one that forbids cruel and unusual punishment. You know like punishing a person who was found not guilty by exiling him.

And, for good measure, it’s also part of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the United States Constitution, which the Supreme Court held gives citizens the right to freedom of movement as far back as 1823 in Paul v. Virginia, when the Court wrote that the Privileges and Immunity Clause gives citizens “ the right of free ingress into other States, and egress from them.”  So under this provision, Your Honor, you couldn’t have barred Green Arrow from traveling in your state or city without due process. Maybe, if he had been found guilty, you could have. But he wasn’t, so you can’t.

Am I getting through to you?

I mean, justice is supposed to be blind, not brain dead.

Box Office Democracy: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

It’s worth noting that I loved all three of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles released in the early 90s even though there is no way those movies hold up.  I looked at clips on YouTube this week and could barely stomach a few minutes.  This reboot of the franchise is objectively better than those movies.  I don’t know that people will look back on it fondly in 24 years but there’s a level of commitment in production design and casting that goes above and beyond what we got with cash-in kids movies two decades ago.  While this new revival of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is probably the perfect thing for the audience of pre-teen and pre-pre-teen boys it wasn’t particularly enjoyable for me.

The design of the Ninja Turtles is a revelation this time around.  Rather than being the lazy palette swaps they were for decades all four turtles have unique looks this time around.  They’re different in size, they wear different gear, and they even have different mask designs.  This does so much to communicate character that was ignored for so long I didn’t even consider it as an option.  I feel strange lavishing praise on this movie for something any competent costume designer could have done in 1990 with no problem at all (people have been wearing clothes in movies for decades) but they just didn’t try before.

The increased emphasis on production design is wasted a little on a movie that generally looks unpleasant.  I’ve been telling people that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looks like a movie I wouldn’t want to touch and that’s not just because there are reptile monsters as principle cast members.  Everything, even human-only scenes, looks so slick and shiny that it comes across as slimy.  It permeates the entire film and made me uncomfortable in the theater.  I might be an edge case but everyone I’ve shared this idea with has instantly understood what I was talking about.  I’m sure executive producer Michael Bay had very little direct hand in the visual look of this film but it sure felt like someone was trying, and failing, to imitate his signature style and it spilled in to something worse.

It feels terrible to say this but I’m not sure that I will ever really believe Megan Fox when she’s playing a smart character.  I don’t believe she’s smart in her day-to-day life and she isn’t a good enough actress to convince me her characters are.  Her April O’Neil is a more essential part of this story than past Turtles stories and this results in her having to carry an incredible narrative load and she doesn’t seem capable of enduring that kind of strain.  She never seems clever enough to deduce the things she does and the emotion she plays most often is a combination scared and confused that doesn’t serve the story.  Will Arnett is wasted as the vaguely pervy cameraman.  He’s the second most important human character almost by default and while he does great work with what he’s given it isn’t nearly enough and I found myself focusing on him when he was on screen waiting for moments that never came.  This is probably not a problem 12 year-olds will have.

Ultimately this movie is trying to appeal to two audiences: young people now who could become hooked on the franchise for life and people who were hooked on a previous incarnation of the franchise and are consuming the new product for nostalgia.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does a great job of appealing to the former audience but offers little for the latter half to really enjoy once they’ve gotten over the idea that Megan Fox is nice to look at.  The hype was good enough to bring enough of that older crowd in for a big opening weekend but they’re going to have to really hook that younger demographic to make this a winning franchise long term.  While this movie is certainly competently produced enough to do it I wish it had been able to do a little more for the six year-old inside of me.

Photo by AndarsKI

Marc Alan Fishman: Turtles the Size of Buicks!

No doubt you’ve watched it. If you’re of my generation? You’ve likely re-watched it several times over. And after each subsequent viewing… you ask yourself: Is Michael Bay destroying my childhood one license at a time? In response, I think we’ve all come to relatively the same conclusion– maybe a little bit. But the trailer in question reveals to us a Michael Bay at his Bay-ie-est.

Let’s start with the good. There’s plenty of hints that the film makers know the lore from which they are drawing. From April O’Boobs’ yellow jacket, the TCRI building, to the relatively recognizable Shredder armor… it’s clear that someone in the production watched a few cartoons in their pre-production meeting. (more…)

Jen Krueger: A Mislabeled Meltdown

Krueger Art 140114At least three nights a week, I do long form improvisation. Sometimes I do this in a blackbox theater for a handful of other improvisers, and sometimes I do it in a hall at the Staples Center for hundreds of comic book convention attendees. Either way, I get in front of my audience, take a suggestion, and spend the next 15 to 60 minutes pulling things out of thin air in the hopes of making that audience laugh. I’ve been doing improv for almost five years now, and though I’ve sharpened the skills associated with it, that doesn’t mean it is (or ever will be) easy to get in front of people and make something up.

I’ve also done my fair share of working with something written. Whether it be public speaking or performing from a script, I’ve gotten in front of a group of people with the objective of delivering some manner of copy more times than I can count. While some people find a script to be a comfort when speaking or performing, I definitely do not. There are hundreds of ways improvisation can go well or poorly, but having scripted lines means all you need to do to get it wrong is flub one of those lines. I feel pressure to be faithful to what’s been written and it makes this endeavor at least as challenging as improv, if not moreso. But whether dealing with improvisation or something scripted, it’s a pretty universal human feeling to be nervous in front of an audience since no one wants to look bad or mess up.

So why is everybody giving Michael Bay so much shit about the Samsung CES press event?

Look, I get that some of Bay’s works are so big and silly that they’ve been the source of many punchlines in the past. I’m sure I’ve even made a Transformers 2 joke or two myself at some point. So when I saw tons of tweets and Facebook posts about Bay having a “meltdown” on stage, I figured someone moved beyond good-natured ribbing and into mean-spirited mocking of his work to his face, prompting the director to lose his temper and storm off. Curious, I watched a video of his supposed “meltdown” and (god help, I’m going to sound like a Buzzfeed headline) I was amazed at what actually happened.

Bay later explained on his blog that after he accidentally skipped one of the lines of the host speaking with him onstage, the teleprompter feeding them both their copy tried to compensate for the jump and went on the fritz. Watching the video, the moment the script is lost is clear even before Bay tells the host that he’s lost the prompter, and it’s this moment that made me feel bad for him. The nerves jangling as he tries to continue after that are palpable, and it’s not long before he’s simply unable to continue and walks offstage with an apology. The clip I’d thought might give me a chuckle actually ended up making my skin crawl because it and the way people have been labeling it made me so uncomfortable.

Admittedly, there are better ways Bay could’ve handled losing his place in his copy. He could’ve vamped for a moment while the teleprompter operator got the script back on track, or taken a deep breath to shake off the prepared text entirely and fully committed to winging it. I’m sure the fact that he’s a hugely famous film director means many people assume he’s used to speaking off the cuff, but the difference between speaking from a script and improvising is the difference between having turn-by-turn directions to get somewhere and just going out for a drive. When you’ve left the house with turn-by-turn directions, losing them suddenly is nerve-wracking, no matter how many times you’ve been behind the wheel. So what exactly is it about Bay’s response to this script flub that bears labeling what happened a “meltdown”?

Nothing. There was no yelling, no veins bulging, no expletives or accusations laying blame. Bay left the stage calmly and quietly to save face when he knew the snafu had unnerved him beyond the ability to continue, which is a fairly tame reaction when all things are considered. I suspect Bay’s preexisting status as a pop cultural punching bag is the only reason he’s being mocked over this. If the same thing happened to a student in a high school play or a scientist giving a TED Talk, the reaction from those witnessing it would likely just be sympathy. Personally, I’ve never gotten so flustered on stage that I’ve had to walk off, but I hope that if I did, I’d handle it as gracefully as Michael Bay.

Wait, did I just use “Michael Bay” and “gracefully” in the same sentence? There’s a first time for everything.

Ba dum ching!

REVISED COLUMN SCHEDULE FOR  THIS WEEK:

THURSDAY 2:30 EST USA: Tweeks!

THURSDAY 5:00 EST USA: Mike Gold

FRIDAY: Dennis O’Neil, Martha Thomases, Michael Davis