Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Color me surprised, but Transformers: Age of Extinction is easily the best one yet. And really, it's not even close, it's the best Transformers by a ridiculous, stupidly large margin at that. Frankly, this is the Transformers movie that fans have been clamoring for from the get-go, it just took Michael Bay four tries to finally get it right.

That's not to say that this movie is perfect, not at all. It certainly has its flaws throughout. But the thing is that none of those flaws really stick out too badly and hold this thing down, as had become the case with the prior installments. In fact, for the first time ever, it actually appears that Michael Bay has finally learned from the countless number of errors that he continued to make over and over again throughout the first three, as most of the issues that gradually made those films worse and worse are either greatly diminished here, or outright gone.

To give a quick rundown on my thoughts of the first three movies, I actually do like the first movie. Sure, it's a problematic one, particularly with the editing and quick-cuts that made the action scenes a mostly incomprehensible mess, but it was still a mostly enjoyable movie I thought. And as hated as Revenge of the Fallen is, I actually didn't mind that one, either. That may well have been due to a handful of scenes, such as the fight in the forest, which was so awesome and an action scene that we could actually see for once, but overall, while it's certainly overly long and filled with a lot of stupid moments, I didn't all out hate it, though it doesn't quite hold up on multiple viewings. Dark of the Moon, however, I thought was awful, as it was not only needlessly longer than the other two, but also really forced the worst elements of those two to the forefront, making for an insufferable experience to sit through.

Basically, though, each new movie was essentially the same movie all over again, only much longer and much worse. And yes, while the trend of being even longer does hold true for this newest one, they actually do finally change things up quite a bit, as it's not just the same movie again, taking a different, more darker yet still appropriately fun approach in tone, a new, more likeable cast of characters, and more focus on the transformers themselves for once in these movies that are supposed to be about transformers.

Most of the groan-inducing, immature silliness from the first three is thankfully gone. Yes, there are still some comic relief, but there's no "enemy scrotums" or Ken Jeong shenanigans to be had here. It's a much more held back approach, which is a very welcome change of pace. And while there's still quite a bit of focus placed on the humans here, it's not nearly as dominating as has been the case up to this point. It's pretty much an even split of equal time given to both humans and transformers, which is much more favorable. And the fact that the humans this time around are much more bearable to spend such extended amounts of time with certainly helps in this regard.

Mark Wahlberg is such an infinitely better star for these films than Shia LaBeouf ever was. He's actually a likeable guy, and plays a likeable character who is also actually believable in the role he's playing. And the supporting cast including the likes of Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer are all played really well as well. In fact, the only character that I found getting even mildly under my nerves was the boyfriend character, and that was mainly due to the inconsistency of him supposedly being this daredevil risk taker who also happens to be the biggest coward in the whole movie, but even that's not that big of a deal all in all.

Also, for really the first time in this series, the action scenes are all shot completely clearly and coherently throughout the entire duration of this thing. There are no quick-cuts of the sort to be found, and in fact, there's quite a number of longer takes that even pull back the camera to really show you all of the exciting action on screen. And that's key there, as technically Dark of the Moon had fixed some of these action editing issues already, and yet I found myself bored by the action in that movie. Not so here.

And not only that, but they really went out of their way to give all of the Transformers very distinct looks to themselves and their characters, so that there was never a moment where I was confused as to who I was seeing in action at any given time. And they actually do some really interesting things as well, such as the man-made transformers that posses additional transforming abilities that even manage to wow the transformers themselves, not to mention how cool it is to see robotic dinosaurs running rampant on the big screen.

I gotta be honest, I wasn't looking forward to this one. Dark of the Moon had let me down so badly, and I was expecting more of the same here. And unlike prior installments, the trailers for this thing did nothing to dissuade that. And yet, I came out of this thinking that this was the best one yet, and the Transformers movie that fans of the franchise have been asking for all along. Sure, it's still a big dumb action flick that you could nit-pick to death if you were to be so inclined, and it is still a very long one at that at almost three hours in length, which could have easily been cut down to two. Yet even so, I was still very impressed this time around.

And as we now approach the halfway point of the year, I gotta say that, while this time last year I was pretty let down by the seemingly endless barrage of disappointments we were getting in theaters, 2014 has honestly been a really awesome year for movies so far, and that definitely continues with Transformers: Age of Extinction. It's not quite among the best I've seen this year, but it's definitely on the higher end of the spectrum, though if I were to give a quick Top 5 so far, it'd probably include the following: Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, The Raid 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and a toss-up between Need for Speed and 22 Jump Street. So yeah, pretty great year so far, and here's hoping it continues to hold up moving into the second half!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Rest in Peace, Stan

When I woke up and got out of bed this morning, I never imagined it would be the day that I had to bury our old cat, Stan.

I guess I just never really saw him growing old like he did. It still feels like it was just yesterday that he was the kitten of the house, back when Charlie and Velcro were still running around. He was such a skinny little thing back then, as he always followed Charlie around. It wasn't too long before he really fattened up, though, and before we knew it, he winded up becoming the senior cat in a house overflowing with cats. But he didn't just grow in size, but also in heart, as, even being the eldest cat, he never did lose that kitten-like innocence of his.

He was just always such a happy, carefree kitty, the one cat who all other cats could get along with, who never picked on or started trouble with anyone else. He was just the sweetest thing, and he never let up his whole life. But I guess that, though he remained youthful in spirit his whole life, time eventually had to catch up with him, and the past few weeks have been really rough.

He gradually began to decline in health, which was heartbreaking to watch, and even his girlfriend ended up leaving him in the end, right when he needed her most, that bitch. (Or perhaps he had asked her to leave, so that she wouldn't have to see him in his weakened state, in which case she's not a bitch.) But just last week, one night before I left for my trip this weekend in Alabama, I was about to go to bed when I heard a weakened version of Stan's high pitched meowing at my door.

I opened it up to find him sitting there, calling for me. And though I typically don't allow cats in my room these days, I scooped him up and brought him to bed with me, where he just purred and purred the night away. So even in the end, though he was suffering, it is at least a little comforting to know that even so, there still was that happy spirit residing somewhere within him.

Stan was a great cat, and he lived a great, happy life. And though he's gone now in the physical world, his legacy will continue to live on as I chronicle his own story within my Velcro: The Ninja Kat series, so that he may warm the hearts of everyone else who reads about his sweet, loving nature.

Rest in peace, Stan. You were one of the good ones.