Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: * ½ out of 4
Optimus Prime is back in Transformers: The Last Knight

            Ten years ago, director, Michael Bay (The Rock, Armageddon, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi) and executive producer, Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones franchise, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park) brought the world of Transformers to the big-screen and was a massive hit and even won several critics over. The first Transformers movie released in 2007 was an ambitious film especially because of Michael Bay’s reputation as a director, but with Spielberg onboard as well as some dazzling special effects and thrilling action sequences he turned out a decent product, undeniably flawed but a fun dumb movie with some impressive effects and action; one of my favorite films from that summer.
            I was down for a franchise after the spectacle of the first movie, sadly none of them were able to live up it. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen offended, Transformers: Dark of the Moon just existed, and Transformers: Age of Extinction kept the audience hostage for nearly three hours.
            Now Michael Bay has given us his supposed final Transformers film, Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth installment in the franchise and the second movie to star Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job, Deepwater Horizon, Patriot’s Day) as inventor, Cade Yeager. You’d think with this being Bay’s final movie in the series he’d put more thought, effort, and care into it…he doesn’t.
            Transformers: The Last Knight is a rusty rehash of the exact same things we’ve seen in the earlier films. Despite being shorter than the previous sequels, the film is clocked in for a two-and-a-half-hour runtime with a thin script stretched out and filled with overblown action sequences, poor character development, obnoxious and at times pointless side characters, an incredibly stupid plot even for Transformers standards, and really, REALLY bad humor.
            After the events of Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) has left planet Earth and the Autobots in search for his creators on the remains of planet Cybertron. He confronts the creator of the entire Transformers race, a sorceress named Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan-Doctor Who, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) who corrupts Optimus Prime so he can do her bidding to bring Cybertron back by destroying Earth.
            Meanwhile the rest of the Transformers remain outcasts on Earth and as more of them arrived the government formed the Transformers Reaction Force (TRF) to hunt and destroy them whether an Autobot or Decepticon. After a few kids sneak into a war-torn part of Chicago and stumble upon a crashed alien ship that was piloted by a Cybertronian Knight they get attacked by a TRF Walker and shortly saved by Cade Yeager and the Knight gives Cade a metallic talisman.
            Yeager has been hiding out in a junkyard which serves as a sanctuary for many of the surviving Autobots including Bumblebee, Hound (voiced by John Goodman-Monsters Inc., 10 Cloverfield Lane, Kong: Skull Island), Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe-Letters from Iwo Jima, Inception, Godzilla), Crosshairs (voiced by John DiMaggio-Futurama, Kim Possible, Batman: Under the Red Hood), and Wheelie (voiced by Tom Kenny-SpongeBob Squarepants, The Powerpuff Girls, Adventure Time), and while there he finds out one of the kids he saved named Izabella (Isabela Moner-100 Things to Do Before High School, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, Legends of the Hidden Temple) followed him home because she has nowhere to go due to her family being killed by Decepticons during the Chicago battle and she wants to stay and fight them.
            An astronomer and historian named Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins-The Silence of the Lambs, Thor, Hitchcock) calls in Cade and an English Literature Professor named Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock-How Not to Live Your Life, Da Vinci’s Demons, Guardians of the Galaxy) to explain the history of the Transformers and the purpose of his talisman. Apparently, the Transformers have been around since medieval times and fought alongside King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable and have battled in many of the world’s wars.
            Burton tasks Cade and Viviane to obtain a powerful staff to prevent an ancient machine from being activated and a collision between Earth and Cybertron that could result in the end of the world. It’s up to Cade, Viviane, Izabella, and the Autobots to find the staff, bring Optimus Prime back, and stop the Decepticons, led once again by Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker-Scooby-Doo, The Transformers, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) before they obtain Cade’s talisman and destroy the planet.
            The film also stars Josh Duhamel (All My Children, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Life as We Know It) as former N.E.S.T. commander and unwilling member of the TRF, William Lennox, John Turturro (Barton Fink, Mr. Deeds, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) as former Sector 7 agent, Seymour Simmons, Santiago Cabrera (Heroes, Merlin, The Musketeers) as TRF commander, Santos, and comedian, Jerrod Carmichael (Neighbors, The Carmichael Show, The Disaster Artist) as Jimmy, and features the voices of Omar Sky (The Intouchables, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Jurassic World) as Hot Rod, Mark Ryan (The Bill, Charlie’s Angels, Black Sails) as Bulldog, Steve Buscemi (The Sopranos, Monsters Inc., Hotel Transylvania) as Daytrader, Jess Harnell (Animaniacs, The Emperor’s New Groove, Cars) as Barricade, Reno Wilson (Heist, Crank, Mike & Molly) as Sqweeks and Mohawk, and DiMaggio also provides the voice for Nitro Zeus.
            Overall, Transformers: The Last Knight is just another lousy Transformers sequel and quite possibly the one I disliked the most. Yeah, I thought it was worse than Revenge of the Fallen despite this one being less of a pain to sit through, because the action sequences have gotten stale, the humor is really terrible this time around (Not once did I laugh), and the inclusion of the Mohawk Decepticon; without saying much imagine the Twins from Revenge of the Fallen combined together into one robot and evil (Every time he appeared onscreen I wanted him dead).
            On a positive note, the climax doesn’t rehash the desert and city battle and despite looking like Transformers and Top Gun crapped out Avatar it’s actually kind of a fun sequence and a refreshing location change for a Transformers fight scene. Sadly, the movie doesn’t improve on its character development Wahlberg’s just doing his usual shtick, Haddock is just another Megan Fox/Rosie Huntington-Whiteley clone, Optimus Prime is barely in it, the side characters are forgettable, and the only standout character is Anthony Hopkins for reasons I dare not ruin here, also Michael Bay manages to make kids dumber in this movie.
            This is it, the worst Transformers (and Michael Bay) movie I’ve ever seen and I really hope Bay sticks to his word on his departure from the franchise. Because he managed to “Transform” a huge 2007 action spectacle with a lot of potential into a complete joke and lazily rehashing the exact same stuff.

            I’m sure kids and tweens will eat this movie up, buy the toys, and be thrilled by watching giant robots punching each other with fiery explosions in the background, and they’re such troopers. After you’ve watched the exact same thing for ten years now with little variety or new things put in, it’s time to throw it into the scrapyard.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

Resident Evil: Vendetta review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Chris Redfield is locked and loaded in Resident Evil: Vendetta

            You wanted a faithful Resident Evil movie? You got it with Resident Evil: Vendetta, the third CG animated film based on Capcom’s popular Resident Evil video games, the first two being 2008’s Resident Evil: Degeneration and 2012’s Resident Evil: Damnation. The movie completely scraps anything Milla Jovovich or Paul W.S. Anderson related and delivers a thrilling and dazzling film that is sure to put a smile on any fan’s face.
            Set in between the events of Resident Evil 6 and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the film follows BSAA, Chris Redfield (voiced by Kevin Dorman) as he enlists the help of American government agent, Leon S. Kennedy (voiced by Matthew Mercer-Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, Kill la Kill, Sailor Moon) and Professor Rebecca Chambers (voiced by Erin Cahill) to stop a death merchant named Glenn Arias (voiced by John DeMita) with a taste for vengeance and plots to spread a new deadly virus on New York City. After a tragic incident on his wedding day Arias seeks revenge by transforming everyone in New York into flesh-eating zombies and undead mutant experiments.
            Chris, Leon, and Rebecca lock and load and blast their way through the zombies and other threats to stop Arias and find a cure for the virus. What follows is action overload with gunplay, gore, motorcycle stunts, and some encounters with horrific zombie experiments.
            Overall, Resident Evil: Vendetta delivers everything fans want, over-the-top action sequences, familiar characters, terror, winks and references to the games, and some imaginative zombie designs as well as dazzling computer animation. The film’s animation was created by Sega’s Marza Animation Planet who will also be providing the animation for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and it’s absolutely stunning and energetic especially during action scenes, had my eyes glued to the screen and couldn’t look away haven’t felt like this since Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
            I really applauded this movie for not making up their own protagonist like what the live-action films did. They stuck with characters from the games and nothing more…Well, okay there are some characters made just for the movie but no Alice.
            It pisses me off that this film only has a one-night theatrical run while the live-action movies were given wide releases. The original Resident Evil movies aren’t the worst adaptations of a video game but they’re action/sci-fi-driven movies by name only with characters from the game as side characters…Weak.
            This on the other hand is a thrilling action extravaganza with some zombie scares thrown in that understands its source material and delivers what most video game movies don’t. It probably won’t sit well with mainstream movie-goers, if you have no idea what Resident Evil is like I wouldn’t recommend watching it on its own.
            Resident Evil: Vendetta is the best Resident Evil movie I’ve ever seen, one of the best video game movies I’ve seen, and a film I’d buy on Blu-Ray when it comes out. It’s no masterpiece but a movie based on a video game turning out to be good is so rare today and I’d rather be watching this several more times than any of Milla Jovovich’s movies.

            Hopefully this will lead to more CG films based on video games in the future and it shows that adapting a video game into film is possible with the right amount of thought, effort, and understanding of the material it’s based on. If you don’t understand it then you’re no less evil than the Umbrella Corporation.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cars 3 review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Lightning McQueen is back in Cars 3

            Pixar Animation Studios has been known for creating some of the best animated films of all time through the eyes of both children and adults. However, they are also the studio responsible for one of the biggest movie cash grab franchises of all time, Cars which pretty much exists just to entertain little kids and boost some profits for both Pixar and Disney.
            The first film released in 2006 was definitely a step backwards for the studio after the first all-human character Pixar film, The Incredibles was released two years prior. Cars wasn’t terrible or even bad but it wasn’t great either, mostly harmless kids flick with some colorful animation and a few likable characters.
            The 2011 sequel, Cars 2 on the other hand marked Pixar’s first and so far only dud and while the film did well financially it was widely despised. A secret agent car movie with tow-truck, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy-Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Delta Farce, Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy) as the main character was insufferable and had a confusing environmental plot that left no impact.
            So, after that travesty and two pointless Planes spin-off movies (Because Money!) Pixar gets back on the track with Cars 3, the third installment of the Cars series and their second film trilogy after Toy Story. Thankfully this film learned from what worked in Cars 2 and what didn’t and pushed Mater off to the side again and brought the focus back to racecar, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson-Zoolander, Wedding Crashers, Night at the Museum trilogy) becoming the best again, much more tolerable than last time.
            After being blindsided by a new generation of racecars and a fatal accident on the track Lightning McQueen is pushed out of racing and possibly forced into retirement. To get back in the game McQueen gets the help of an eager race technician named Cruz (voiced by Cristela Alonzo-Mind of Mencia, Cristela, The Angry Birds Movie) with her own plan to win and was heavily inspired by the Fabulous Hudson Hornet himself, Doc Hudson.
            With Cruz’s skills and the support of his friends from Radiator Springs, Lightning McQueen will train long and hard to outrun his new rival, Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer-The Social Network, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Free Fire) and go down in history as a Piston Cup Racing legend.
            The film also features the voices of Bonnie Hunt (Rain Man, Jumanji, The Bonnie Hunt Show) as Lightning’s girlfriend, Sally, Chris Cooper (Adaptation, The Muppets, August: Osage County) as Smokey, Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2) as Sterling, Tony Shalhoub (Spy Kids, Monk, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as Luigi, Pixar visual effects supervisor, Guido Quaroni as Guido, Kerry Washington (Bad Company, The Last King of Scotland, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer) as Natalie Certain, Lea DeLaria (The First Wives Club, One Life to Live, Orange is the New Black) as Miss Fritter, Lloyd Sherr (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star VS the Forces of Evil) as Fillmore, Paul Dooley (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Insomnia, Sunshine Cleaning) as Sarge, Cheech Marin (Cheech & Chong Up in Smoke, The Lion King, The Book of Life) as Ramone, Jenifer Lewis (Beaches, The Preacher’s Wife, The Princess and the Frog) as Flo, Formula One racer, Lewis Hamilton as Hamilton, sportscaster, Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass, Bob Peterson (Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Up) as Chick Hicks, Katherine Helmond (Soap, Who’s the Boss, Everybody Loves Raymond) as Lizzie, John Ratzenberger (Cheers, Toy Story, Monsters Inc.) as Mack, Michael Wallis as Sheriff, Tom and Ray Magliozzi as Dusty and Rusty, Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Wire, Gotham, Chi-Raq) as River Scott, former NASCAR driver, Junior Johnson as Junior “Midnight” Moon, and Margo Martindale (Days of Thunder, The Rocketeer, Secretariat) as Louise “Barnstormer” Nash.
            Overall, Cars 3 almost makes up for the taint of Cars 2 and despite existing only for the sole purpose of making money, the filmmakers and studio decided to put some thought and effort into it to at least make it serviceable for parents. The plot isn’t nearly as ludicrous as the second film, has a few decent jokes, and at times has some touching moments put in.
            However, at times the film feels like a rehash of the first movie, think about it Lightning McQueen starts off as a superstar (Literally starting with his opening monologue from the first film), then he becomes an underdog again, and must work his way back to the top. Sounds familiar doesn’t it, well at least it makes more sense than throwing in secret agent cars and forced environmental messages.
            Something that I praised about the movie was the inclusion of flashbacks and unused audio recordings from the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson that was originally intended for the first movie. Sure, Doc doesn’t actually appear in the film but it’s a touching tribute to the actor and character.

            This is what I’d like to consider the true follow-up to Cars, Cars 2 never happened folks and if this was the second movie I’d probably be satisfied. Definitely not one of Pixar’s best and not quite as good as the first film but you live and learn from your mistakes and can get out of a ditch with a solid follow-up, something I doubt Michael Bay will listen to when Transformers: The Last Knight comes out next week.