What’s In the Box?! (Bird Box, 2018)

bird_box_posterOne day, the monsters arrived.  People seem to be taken by a force and then kill themselves. If that sounds familiar, you actually remember 2008 M. Night Shyalaman film the Happening.  That film had people committing violent suicides and people trying to flee the city and solve the mystery.  The twist was that it was the trees that did us in.

Oh, sorry…spoilers.

The Happening is (for good reasons) not fondly remembered. It does have a couple very well done freaky moments. But it just becomes laughable.

Here, the problem is that…well…if you see the monsters…you are toast. And so, the only way to survive is to keep your eyes closed. For artist Malorie, this situation is even more troubling as she is pregnant.

Malorie soon joins a group of survivors in a house. Blocking the windows, they find themselves finding inventive ways to survive. But as the months tick by, they find that they must take bigger and bigger risks.

The film is focused on Malorie and her children and her detachment from life. The children are born after the event and simply named Boy and Girl.  The three are trying to take a boat down river to a sanctuary. Using flashbacks, we get to see how the relationships within the house grow and break down…where trust becomes hard to come by.

The “keep your eyes closed” part is the most gimmicky, and yes, does evoke last year’s wonderful a Quiet Place. Unlike a Quiet Place, we do not share in the characters’ experience. With Bird Box, although there are a few brief moments seen through the blindfolds of characters, the camera remains in third person.  Admittedly, forcing us to be blind whenever the characters are would get pretty obnoxious.

One of the really nice tricks is the film never tells us what the monsters are. We know people see them and then also seem to see loved ones… but we only see or hear the effects of their movement, not the creatures themselves.  There are some really interesting artist renderings at one point, but really, who knows if this is really what the creatures look like or merely what the artists saw in their heads.

Bird Box is, thankfully, a much more effectively done take on a general idea like the Happening.  The film has a really good cast and some really effective sequences.

Gonna’ Get Me A Dragon (Eragon, 2006)

Eragon_Posterin 2001 we got the two biggest film franchises of the new century.  Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter proved the appetite was there for fantasy films.  And so everyone was trying to get the next major franchise, snapping up young adult fantasy novels.  One of those was Christopher Paolini’s Eragon.

Eragon is a young farm boy in a land that used to be protected by the Dragon Riders.  The dragons were wiped out, but there is a prophesy of an egg yet to hatch. Eragon discovers the egg and upon hatching the baby dragon hatches.  He and his dragon Saphira find themselves hunted by the evil King Galbatorix, who desires Saphira for himself. Or he wants to destroy her.  Whatever is necessary to keep his power. With the evil Wizard Durza, he has kept the princess Arya prisoner.

Eragon is trained by the secretive Brom as they prepare to take on Galbatorix and his minions.

While the books were modestly popular, this did not translate into success for the film.  And frankly, it is not much different from Dragonheart ten years earlier.  The film fails at offering all it’s twists.  Brom’s secret is pretty obvious, so it is not a surprise when it is revealed.

The film also takes poor shortcuts.  The Dragon seems to grow to adulthood in a matter of days. The effects are decent enough, but the film makes the choice of allowing us to hear the psychic connection between Eragon and Saphira…and it just does not work as effectively as simply having the dragon speak as they did with Dragonheart.

Eragon just never feels like anything beyond a want to be fantasy epic.  And it really feels like a direct to video knockoff, in spite of a cast that includes Rachel Weisz, John Malkovich and Jeremy Irons.

Moonshine (Transformers: Dark of the Moon,2011)

Transformers-Dark-Of-The-Moon-PosterSo the Autobots came to earth in an attempt to escape with a weapon the Decepticons wanted.  It was lost when it bumped into our moon.  On board is Sentinal Prime.  Turns out when they established Optimus was the Last Prime in the previous film…it was incorrect.

Sam is no longer with Mikaela, instead he lives with his new hot girlfriend who is introduced to the audience with a five minute tracking shot focused solely on her ass.  Because what better way to introduce you cast member.  It is not presented with any eye of satire or self criticism.  The Autobot’s relationship with the Government is a bit stressed, and when there is a betrayal, the Decepticons make a threat to the world to get rid of the Autobots.  Chicago is totaled as they take over.

Again, the effects look great and the cast is absurdly good.  Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk, Leonard Nimoy and John Malkovich join the mostly returning cast.  But the frustrating thing here is that some of the characterization feels off.  The fact that Sam is still lacking any confidence is tremendously nervous is tiring.  He is a goof, yet (among other things) gets stunning girlfriends and has directly saved the world twice before this film.  There is no evidence that people think he is a joke, so the idea he cannot get a higher level job than a mail-room clerk is hard to believe.  The character has not grown at all since his introduction in 2007.

In the beginning, Optimus Prime is pretty in character as a noble leader and warrior.  But towards the end of the film he lets thousands die to teach Earth a lesson about how needed the Autobots are.  He coldly kills characters who are surrendering and begging for mercy.

I noted in the Revenge of the Fallen review that Fox was gone after that.  According to production interviews with Bay the reason Fox was gone?  She looked different when she came in for the third film.  He heavily implies that she had enough surgery that she looked nothing like her character anymore.  Bay laments that “for some reason” women in the entertainment industry feel a need to “change their looks”.  Has Michael Bay actually seen one of his movies?  Because if he has, he might get a clue as to why actresses “change their appearance”.  And to replace Fox?  He hired a model (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) who had never acted before.  Because being an actress is unnecessary for a Michael Bay film.

The story is another revision to the series…every film to this point revises why the Autobots and Decepticons are here.  The effects and stunts are the high point.  And that is about it.  Maybe these are the best they can do with a toy robot collection.  But that should not be the case.  Creativity should be possible, even with a toy based franchise.

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