Friday, July 6, 2007

Last week two Giant, Popcorn, Effects-A-Palooza Blockbuster films opened within a week of each other. Each film involved an 80s franchise which meant a lot to tons of people. One was a sequel to series of beloved action films, the first of which many claim is the best Action Film of all time. The other was based on a series of classic cartoons and toys, beloved by many and remembered by even more.
I am of course talking about Live Free or Die Hard and Transformers. Being the Cinemaniac that I am, I of course saw both of them. One was better than I expected and one was somewhat of a let down. But should you spend your money to see either in theaters?

Live Free or Die Hard
If you've seen a Die Hard movie before you know the basic premise, Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) fights a group of terrorists for some reason or another. This time the plot centers on a group of terrorists trying to cause a "Fire-Sale" which involves taking out all computer-run systems, including national defense, power, gas, etc. Basically "Everything Must Go!" ala a Fire-sale.
When the FBI gets wind of something going down they ask the NYPD to send an officer to pick up a young hacker (Justin Long) for questioning. When McClane gets there, a group of assassins try to kill the hacker and McClane must keep him safe and get him to the FBI. Along the way they meet up with a uber-hacker played by Kevin Smith (who does a great job, essentially playing himself) and the terrorists kidnap McClane's daughter Lucy.
The movie has a serious of amazing action sequences and with the exception of one involving a 18-Wheeler that goes disastrously over the top, the action is fantastic. And all and all it feels like a Die Hard movie. If you like the Die Hard series you'll enjoy this film. I'd place it as 2nd in the series in terms of level of enjoyability coming in only behind the first in the series. A lot of the reason this film works rests on the shoulders of Justin Long, who adds a wonderful amount of humor to the film.
All in all it's everything a blockbuster action film should be, fun over-the-top action, humor, and a good plot line. Definitely worth the price of admission.

Directed by Micheal Bay and Produced by Steven Spielberg, this one is definitely Micheal Bay's baby and his fingerprints are all over it. The movie follows Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, in his third movie of the year) the descendant of a man who led a crew to the antarctic and discovered a "Snow Monster". Sam is trying to hock some of his Grandfather's things in order to save money to purchase a car. As he and his father go to buy a car they find a 70s Camaro which looks as if it could use a little work. It turns out that Sam's new car is really an Autobot named Bumblebee.
Bumblebee and the rest of the Autobots, including their leader Optimus Prime, have come to Earth in search of "The Cube" or the "All Spark" a life giving item that caused a civil war that destroyed their planet. The Autobots must find it, and it needed destroy it, in order to keep it out of the hands of their dreaded enemies, the Decepticons, led by the evil Megatron, who fell to Earth decades ago. The two teams of Transformers come together in a battle near the Hover Dam, for several reasons I won't go into here, fighting until the bitter end.
The movie also contains several other subplots involving the military, and the government as they deal with the discovery of these intelligent robots. But really they were mainly a distraction for me, and some of them could have been left out entirely (see below).
The movie has some great things going for it, The effects are top notch and really do set a bar as far a special effects go. The transformers look amazing, and any one who grew up with there guys will be amazed seeing their childhood imaginings up on the screen in full live action glory. And LaBeouf once again steals the show, proving that he just might be on his way to being the next Tom Hanks (who he's said more than once he'd like to have the genre-spanning career of)
But the movie also has some big problems. The biggest problem is a very "Bayian" problem that many of Bay's movies suffer from, it's just too dang long. Clocking in at 144 minutes, the movie goes on for about 30 minutes too long. Had Bay gone with a tighter edit of the film he would have had a much better movie, and a more profitable movie, because if he cuts 30min of the film it could have been played about once more per screen per day, which would equal more money (not that the movie needs any help in that area.) Don't get me wrong I love long movies, I'd rather get 2.5 hours for my $10 than 1.5 or 2 hours, but the movie must warrant that amount of time and quite simply this one doesn't. In fact there is an entire sub-plot starring Anthony Anderson which takes up about 15 min of the movie which could have been dropped completely. Leaving out the sub-plot means losing a few jokes, which weren't that funny, and not much else, the one place where the character was needed, it could have been one of several other characters already in the movie and no one would have noticed.
There are two other problems I had with the movie, first Soundwave. As a kid Soundwave was one of my favorite Transformers, a boombox, with a cassette tape the came out and becomes a bird. But this movie turns him into some kind of mentally handicapped robot. He runs around making strange noises and ultimately reminded me of the moronic, simpleton of a mogwai, Daffy from Gremlins Two (you know the one who looks like Gizmo, but has loopy eyes and acts like he's mentally handicap) and he's annoying as all get out.
The other problem involves the ending and how it suddenly just works out to end, but there's not any real explanation, and it was confusing.
Overall Transformers was fun, but it went a little long, and left me feeling confused and didn't quite live up to my hopes for the movie. So if you're a fan it may be worth your money, if not you can always wait for DVD.


Matt said...

I actually enjoyed both films quite a bit. Die Hard took a ton of ideas and action sequences from other movies (Enemy of the State, True Lies,etc.) and smushed them together into a very explosive package.

I also enjoyed Transformers but I think it's because I'm a shallow person and like watching Megan Fox despite the fact that she looks like she's 21 going on 30. On the negative side, every moment the group of U.S. army guys were on screen could've been deleted with little difference in the storyline.

And other people may put down Anthony Anderson but you can't argue that he eats a mean donut.

Anonymous said...

Travis, Travis, Travis...
Of all the movies I have seen this summer (probably a tenth of what you have seen), Transformers was the only movie that has exceeded my expectations. With Spiderman Dancing and Captain Jack Sparrow going crazy, I expected Tranformers to be another let-down... But I got to see Optimus Prime in all his glory (i.e. robotic sword to the head). I totally support your call for the editing of the entire Anthony Anderson storyline, but this movie was MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE. The special effects were top notch and LaBeof was fantastic (which you noted). Soundwave was one of the coolest, but I appreciated the comedic take on it. Perhaps my expectations for movies this summer plummetted after Spidey and Pirates, but this movie has to go down as my favorite movie of the summer. But, nothing compares to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!

The CineManiac said...

Anonymous (Kenny),
I think the reason I was disappointed was two fold. First I had really high expectations for the movie because I had only read good things about the movie. So I was a bit disappointed.
But mainly I think my reason for not really enjoying it was this: I went with someone who didn't enjoy it. I think when you go to see a movie with someone who doesn't want to see it changes your opinion, their attitude completely affects your movie-going experience.
I was excited to see the movie and found a friend to go with me, thinking he wanted to see it, but he wasn't thrilled about the movie, just wanted to hang out. Because he wasn't enjoying it, I wasn't enjoying it.
I have already decided I need to see it again to decide my feelings on the movie.
And yes I agree the Special Effects were amazing.

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