Saturday, July 07, 2007

Quasi-Bachelorhood Strikes Again!

I just realized that I did not mention in the past few days that Stacy and the girls are on vacation. I put them on the plane back on July 3rd, just before my first viewing of Transformers and a day before my visit to Jamie and Casey's for a barbeque and Wii playing to celebrate the 4th. The girls are visiting our families out in Utah for the next six weeks. I'll be playing quasi-bachelor again here at home until mid-July when I fly out for a few days to visit and come back to work.

I miss my family, but it is important to Stacy and I to reconnect with extended family at least yearly. This way our kids know who their uncles, aunts, cousins, and most importantly, grandparents, are.

I'll be filling my time with a mixture of work, school, video games, and probably more than a few movies. Also, my blog will more than likely be a bit more active as I have much more free time on my hands without the girls at home. Enjoy my prolificity (it is so a word, spell checker!) while you can, suckers!

Secondary Thoughts on Transformers

It’s Friday night and I have just finished watching The Transformers for the second time in three days. The way things are shaping up, I will probably see it a third time within the next week.

And I am perfectly fine with that.

The movie is quickly moving up on my list of favorites. It has action, it has humor, it has a struggle between good and evil, it even has a romance. Perhaps most important of all, it didn’t rape my childhood memories.

Hollywood has been getting it wrong for so many years, that we moviegoers are trained to expect adaptations of our favorite things growing up to be crappy. In recent years, a few brave directors have stood up to the onslaught of sewage that Tinseltown spews upon us and are struggling to close the sluice gates. Peter Jackson was one with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sam Raimi has done it with the Spider-Man trilogy, Bryan Singer did it with the first two X-Men movies before losing his way and crapping out the polished turd of Superman Returns, and Christopher Nolan delivered a shining example in Batman Begins.

I’m not going to spend time on all of the horrible television, movie, toy, and comic book adaptations that have moistened the silver screen with their waste (too much with the sewage references?)

Now, we have Michael Bay. He already proved himself in the action arena with Armageddon and The Rock (the movie, not the Dwayne “Look at my eyebrow!” Johnson,) among others. He has now proved himself high among the ranks of creators that have lovingly cradled childhood nostalgia, polished it carefully, cut off the detritus, and delivered it to the masses.

Bay didn’t play with no Go-Bots.

So, a couple of things that stood out to me this time. I noticed that Bumblebee seemed very feline in his transformations. He almost took on the appearance of a yellow panther crouching to spring before becoming the Camaro. I noticed a few more subtle placements of the autobot and decepticon symbols on the respective robots. Not as many on the decepticons, but they were still there. Frenzy actually talks. At first listen, he seems to just chitter, but if you know what he’s talking about, you can make out words, (such as “Witwicky, Witwicky,” or, “Megatron, Megatron, Megatron!”) As I watched Starscream transform in midair, I thought to myself,

Self?

Yeah?

It’s totally time for someone to make a Robotech live action movie.

Totally.

I’m glad we’re in agreement.

Yeah, now quit talking to me, people are going to think I’m crazy.

Oh, and the soundtrack and score for the movie were perfect as well. While the following was not in the movie, perhaps because it’s on the cheesy side, it is still kinda cool. Don’t know who did the song, but the footage seems to be a mix of scenes from the trailers. Trust me on this, as cool as some of these scenes are, the coolest were saved for the movie itself. Do yourself a favor and check this one out while it’s in the theaters. For my part, I’m eagerly waiting the sequel.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Transformers Kicked @$$

Jon and I caught a screening of Transformers yesterday. The question about this movie is not whether it is awesome or not. No, we need only a determination of how awesome it is.

Pretty damn awesome.

So little was wrong in this movie and so much was right. The LaBeouf's comic timing was perfect, much as I've come to expect from the boy-man. My concern with him is that he is rapidly approaching Colin Ferel levels of movie role saturation. Ah well, I don't blame him for riding that gravy train until it hits the last stop. He was a perfect choice for the lead role in this movie.

Did I say lead role? Perhaps only in the human sense. This is a movie about frickin' transforming robots, right? They were excellent. The animation was so seamless as to make you forget they weren't real. I just realized that as I look back on the movie. I had no problem believing that these giant robots were rampaging in the deserts of Iraq and the streets of New York. Michael Bay did such an artful job of integrating them into the scenes that I did not for one second come up out of that level of disbelief to say, “Now hang on a minute!” Bay also played to the fans of the old-school cartoon. Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime among many others on the cartoon, voiced, you got it, Optimus Prime. How awesome is that? For my money, it doesn't get any better than Prime blurting out, “Oops, my bad.” after inadvertently crushing a lawn ornament.

The rest of the Autobots and Decepticons were excellent. The good guys were rounded out with Jazz (Darius McCrary,) Ironhide (Jess Harnell,) Ratchett (Robert Foxworth,) and of course, Bumblebee (Mark Ryan.) While Bumblebee makes the jump from perky little VW Bug in the old cartoon to beefy muscle car in this one, his spirit remained. The decepticons were led by Megatron (Jon called it, voiced by Hugo Weaving) of course, and included Barricade (dual role for Jess Harnell, but few lines here,) Bonecrusher (Jimmie Wood,) Blackout, Devastator, Scorponok, Starscream (voice by Charlie Adler and not nearly whiny enough), and Frenzy (Reno Wilson.) The creators seemed to have the most fun with Frenzy, a small vaguely humanoid robot that had echoes of Johnny 5. He was entertaining to watch.

Speaking of humor, the movie hit on the funny bone early and often. Something I did not expect. The LaBeouf was not the only one raking in the laughs. Everyone from the computer geek to the Autobots and even Frenzy brought a lot of laughs. Heck, The LaBeouf's parents had one of the funniest/cringeworthiest scenes in the movie! We even got a hilarious cameo by Bernie Mac as a used car salesman.

Speaking of the human characters, Anthony Anderson, one of my recent favorites, makes an appearance as the computer geek way out of his depth. John Turturro also plays a character a little out of his depth in his own quirky way. Josh Duhamel plays a tough sergeant with a soft side. Jon Voight played a predictable and a little clich├ęd defense secretary. Not a big complaint there, just not a great choice. The definitely hot (and according to Jon, not quite right,) Megan Fox (more than just a clever name) played The LaBeouf's romantic interest, which was a little too interesting to the Autobots at the end of the movie, if you ask me. Oops, I let something slip. Yes, the Autobots are alive at the end and the boy gets the girl. Dammit, I screwed it up for everyone.

There is so much to say about this movie, but I don't have the time or inclination to list everything that rocks about it. If you have any fondness for the Transformers from your youth, or you like Action movies with a capital A, or if you enjoy a bit of humor thrown in with your explosions, or if you just want to see a good movie, go see Transformers. I'll personally take responsibility if you come out of that theater disappointed (that and $3.50 will get you a snack at the concession stand.)

I give Transformers five out of five little autobot heads that transform into decepticon heads as we go to commercial on a scale I just made up that doesn't mean anything.

Monday, July 02, 2007

It Sounds Like Rat and Patooty, That's not Appetizing!

I took my two older girls to see Ratatouille this Friday. I'm afraid that I have become accustomed to a sort of mindless quality that has overcome the computer-generated kids flick genre in the last three or four years. Even Shrek the 3rd was unable to overcome it. However, I failed to realize that Pixar is exempt from this pitfall. Pixar has consistently delivered entertaining and heart warming tales that can amuse everyone in the family. That is a claim that is promised by many but fulfilled by few. Ratatouille is one such film.

The voice acting was superb. However, it caused me some trouble. All through the movie I wracked my brain to place the voice of the main character, Remy. It was so familiar, yet so hard to associate. I finally had my answer during the credits, Patton Oswalt. Patton Oswalt!? I was going through name after name of young Hollywood up-and-comers as that seems to be the preference for leading roles in CGI movies lately. Nah, not at Pixar. These are the people that cast Coach Hayden Fox as Mr. Incredible and Albert Brooks as Marlin, they won't bow to the trend (let's just ignore that blip on the radar with Mr. dicknose in Cars.) I don't know why I couldn't place Oswalt's voice. It's very distinctive. He did a marvelous job.

His costars were a mix of established actors and some unknowns. For example, his opposite, Linguini, was played by Lou Romano. A quick scan of his IMDB profile doesn't lead to any standout performances. However, Linguini's romantic interest was played by dame comedienne Janeane Garofalo. She's another one I didn't associate until after the movie. The ev-il food critic was played by none other than Peter O'Toole (he hasn't been knighted yet?) having been almost animated into the part as well as offering his voice to the role. The true villain of the story, however, was Skinner, played by Sir Ian Holm. Will Arnet, Brian Dennehy, James Remar, and Brad Garret (of Raymond fame) fleshed out the rest of the notable cast, though I'm sad to say none of them really made an impression on me. I was pleased to see that the old Pixar standby, John Ratzenberger made it into this one as well.

The movie hinges on the unlikely plot device of Remy the rat controlling Linguini the human's actions by pulling on various locks of hair. I readily overlooked this aspect as I had already suspended my disbelief of a rat that could not only read, but cook as well as a finely-trained French chef. It takes some surprising turns towards the predictable end, which is refreshing for a Disney movie. I have found that most of their recent offerings can be sussed out by the first fifteen minutes. I'm not going to offer any spoilers, however. Those of you that are interested will probably go see the movie, those of you that aren't don't care, so here we are.

As far as Summer CGI entries go, I predict that this will be the top of the heap, including Shrek the 3rd. Thankfully, The Simpsons Movie does not fall into that bucket, or I may have some words to eat. Next up, Transformers!

I give Ratatouille four out of four half-eaten pieces of stinky cheese on a scale I just made up that doesn't mean anything.