Super Cops II (Bad Boys II, 2003)

Bad_Boys_II_POsterThe Boys are back. The bickering couple stuff returns.  The hot babes as props returns.  The Gay subtext of the relationship of Lowrey and Burnett is here again. The fast and confusing visuals are back.

Honestly, I found the second Bad Boys film painfully tedious. There are few bright spots. I mean, Gabrielle Union is good. Peter Stormare is always fun. But this film tired me out quick.

Super Cops (Bad Boys, 1995)

Bad_Boys_PosterIn 1995 Will Smith was still primarily known as the Fresh Prince (with a lot of acclaim for his role in Six Degrees of Separation) and Martin Lawrence was riding high with a successful sitcom, stand-up and supporting roles in film. And Michael Bay? He had directed music videos.

Bad Boys is set in Miami and follows the exploits of two risk taking cops with attitude, Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett.  When there is a heist that steals all the drugs from a recent major bust right from under the noses of the Drug Task Force’s vaults, they start trying to  determine how it happened. When a call girl, Julie, calls in demanding to speak with Lowrey. This leads to “comic hijinks” as, since Mike is not in, Burnett pretends to be Lowrey.

This forced Mike to stay with Marcus’ family as they pretend to be each other to keep the trust of Julie. They take shots at each other via putting themselves down and so on.  This is the Bickering Couple style of buddy cops, in the vein of Riggs and Murtaugh. Except, Mike has no death wish, instead he perceives himself as super awesome and is very into style and appearance.  Like, I have no idea what a detective in Miami makes, but I still feel like it is very likely they cannot afford the lavish lifestyle of Mike Lowrey.

This film kicks off poorly aging humor about how it sure seems like they are a couple and both men getting hyper sensitive about it. Bay’s use of women as either unpleasant scold wives/authorities or hot objects is on full display here.

It can be hard to follow the action and the film often feels more like it is a bunch of rock videos strung together.

Bad Boys really cemented Bay’s style very early on and not really for the best.  A lot of his weaknesses on display here have carried on through his career.


Let’s Visit Texas Part 5 (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2003)

texas_chainsaw_massacre_2003_posterPeople stopped trying to make sequels and the franchise looked to be quietly slipping into history.  Then, in the early 2000’s Michael Bay formed Platinum Dunes and purchased the rights to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Instead of going the sequel route, Bay opted for a remake.  This was also a reboot of the franchise.  The film was still set in 70’s and featured a young CW TV type of cast…before the CW existed.

The film opens with the same basic narration of the original (with John Laroquette reprising his role as narrator-which is a fun reference to the original) before introducing us to a group of friends on a road trip.  They pick up a hitchhiker (much like the original), a young woman who seems very traumatized (unlike the original).  She kills herself, which results in the kids looking for help.  They meet local sheriff Hoyt.  He is gruff and seems a bit off, but it is only later the kids realized what danger they are in.

Directed by music video director Marcus Nispel (among his video work?  An Amy Grant video short) the film is definitely stylish.  There are all sorts interesting camera shots (one gruesome shot pulls out from the terrified friends through a head wound an out of the bullet hole of the van’s rear window).   The various citizens of the small Texas Community are all slightly creepy. Every location is unnerving.  The film’s color scheme causes it to feel like it could be filmed in the 70’s, giving a gritty look to the film.  Nispel went on to direct the glossy Friday the 13th reboot a few years later.

Leatherface is big and imposing…and R. Lee Ermey steals a lot of scenes with a character who is like his Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant, but slightly nicer.  Okay, kidding.  Ermey’s Sheriff Hoyt is disturbing and genuinely frightening.

The film’s cast is actually quite good, though the central young women are overly sexualized (not a big surprise from a Bay production).  The film lingers especially on shots of Jessica Biel in her midriff top (well, technically, Erika Leerhsen is in less).

This is one of those remakes that manages to be pretty decent in it’s own right.  It manages to take the things that matter from the original while choosing to tell it’s own version of the story.  After the first two films, this is probably the strongest entry in the franchise.

Alien Bomb Coming Through! (Transformers: Age of Extinction, 2015)

transformers-age-of-extinction-posterThe title of the review comes from an actual line in the film.  Of course, nothing seems to challenge Michael Bay’s toy based Franchise…as of this writing there are three more films (one being a Bumblebee spinoff film) in the pipeline.  There is no stopping it…not even this film.  It picks up ten years after the destruction in Chicago.  They have repaired and now the government is trying to wipe the Autobots and Decepticons out entirely.  To that end they have a space robot helping them who has an agenda of his own.

Nobody knows where Optimus Prime is…and it turns out he suffered massive damage and is now asleep in an abandoned movie theater.  He is found by failing inventor Cade.  Cade and his hot daughter are on the verge of losing their house.  His friend Lucas, hot daughter Tessa and her street racer boyfriend escape their house after government agents show up to claim Optimus Prime (who Cade revived).  Much of the film seems to be going in the direct of Cade finally being less distrustful of his daughter and accepting her boyfriend Shane.  Shane shows himself to be highly competent throughout much of the film.  So it makes sense that maybe they become friends.

They discover that businessman/genius has been building his own robots, his pride and joy being Galvatron.  You can probably see where this goes way wrong.  Eventually he teams with Cade to save the planet from a bomb left by the Robot Bounty Hunter who reveals that the folks who created the Autobots and Decepticons want to take them back and get rid of them.  Basically, it is the plot from Prometheus.

Remember my thoughts on Cade and his relationship to his daughter and her boyfriend?  Boy was I wrong.  For some reason they opted to make Shane totally incompetent and a complete fool that Cade has to suffer through.  And when Cade saves the days?  His daughter grabs her boyfriend and gives him all the credit for saving them.  It is a sudden and unnecessary character change to make Cade look good, but it just does not work in any way.  It is not even funny.

This is a better film than Revenge of the Fallen, but then, that is not saying much.  But it does have Optimus Prime Riding a Robotic T-Rex.


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.

What Script? (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 2009)

transformers-revenge-of-the-fallen-posterThe story goes that they started filming the movie without a full script.  Not a rough script…an unfinished script lacking an end…among other things.  It is a real mess of ideas and makes for a completely incoherent film.  Sam goes to college, leaves Mikaela behind until the action kicks in.  And  the army guys and Autobots are a team.  Remember how the Autobots came to Earth for the All Spark?  Wait, it is not why…now they came to stop the Fallen, who came to earth thousands of years ago.  And Optimus Prime is Autobot Jesus.  There are black stereotype Autobots (what is it woth Bay and race based “humor”?).  The film brings in the Constructicons who make one big vacuum cleaner.

The cast is, as before quite good.  But they seem lost and unsure where they are going…I almost expect to see a script supervisor to run into frame and hand people pages with their updated lines and story.  The mess has great effect, but raises weird questions.  The Decepticons send a sexy girl to go after Sam.  She looks and apparently feels human to the touch…if this is a possibility…um, why are they turning into cars and planes and tape decks?!


This is the film that got Megan Fox in trouble…she called Bay Hitler.  And word is Producer Steven Spielberg sent her packing.  But I suspect it was different than that.  Bay sticks with the Cleavage and Explosions formula.  But in the end…nothing save this from being a complete implosion of a film.

It Meets The Eye (Transformers, 2007)

transformers-movie-posterWhen it was announced that there was a live action Transformers movie on the way, former kids everywhere rejoiced.  Even when it was announced that Eye Candy & Explosions Master Michael Bay was directing the film, we did not let that stop our hopes for “Awesome”.  The final product?  Well, I guess it as as good as any Alien Robots That Turn Into Cars and Stuff movie could be.

Introducing us to Sam Witwicky…in the old cartoons there was a Witwicky, but if they are meant to be related or if it is just a fan service thing…I don’t know.  Sam is a …uh…jittery and nervous kind of guy.  He has his heart set on Mikaela…who hangs with a different crowd.  Unfortunately robots who turn into cars totally interfere.

It is hard to sum the film up, as the cast is huge.  HUUUUUGE.  There are army guys, secret undercover agents.  Sam’s overbearing parents.  Hackers (Cute Blonde and antsy black guy).  Racial Stereotypes abound.  In some way, most of them come together and help the Autobots fight the Decepticons.

Bay hires a lot of actresses for their eye candy factor.    When an attractive girl is on screen, the camera lingers as he makes her pose.  I can just hear him telling Megan Fox as she is looking over a car engine “Lean forward a little more!”  The Autobots came to earth to find the “All Spark” and we humans have been hiding it.  Okay…that is the basic plot.  Plus cleavage and explosions.

Remember that huge cast?  One thing that blows my mind is how Bay can populate his films with solid actors.  I mean, Armageddon had a cast made up almost entirely of indie movie actors and Bruce Willis.  The script is not confusing, but it takes awhile to come together as a whole.

The robots look quite good.  And it is fun that they cast Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Charlie Adler (Starscream) reprise their roles from the 80’s cartoon.  The film can be very exciting and it is a real effects spectacle.  Light on plot and characterization, it may be okay for a mindless evening.

Shell Shocked (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2014)

tmnt-posterAnytime I see Michael Bay’s name attached to something, I instantly start lowering any expectations I might have.  I have reached a point where disappointment is near impossible.

In a case like the updated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bay put it in the hands of another director, Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Beginning, Wrath of the Titans).  This did not bode entirely well, as I have made multiple attempts to watch Wrath of the Titans and have yet to manage to avoid falling asleep.

The latest version of the turtle does not evoke the silly fun of the cartoons or the gritty weirdness of the original comic books.  It tries to update itself as a serious action film, with flat jokes and attempts at cashing in on nostalgia.
Frankly, in a film called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we do not need a scene where the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles in question actually describe themselves as such.  We get it.

And seriously, having Will Arnett’s character be both April’s (Megan Fox) sole supporter at her job as reporter and be the guy suggesting they hook up? Creepy.

As Bay-related films go, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not the worst.  It is not the best.  The characters are dull, and the film entirely seeks to get by on nostalgia combined with Bay effects extravaganza.  And this is not enough to make the film actually fun and entertaining.  I do not ask that my blockbusters be life altering or challenge how I view the world.  But I do ask that they be engaging…and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not that.

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