Review: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

maxresdefault On September 11, 2012, the English language was gifted with a word that would be repeated non stop or the next 3 years. Benghazi. To this day I challenge anyone that knows about the events that transpired that night to point it out on a map. As a matter of fact just tell me what country the city is located in, I'll wait. For those that do not keep up with current events, an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi was attacked and four American citizens were killed. Since that fateful night, we still don't know what really happened but, thankfully, we have Michael Bay to set the record straight.

In Michaels Bay's latest love letter to the United States Military we have Jack (John Krasinski) an ex Navy Seal now contractor, making his way to Libya to watch over a bunch of CIA operatives. Along with him is his best friend Tyrone Woods (James Dale Badge) and eventually Kris Paranto (Pablo Schreiber). When we reach the compound we meet up with the rest of the rag tag crew of incredibly similar looking soldiers. We have Dave Benton (David Denmon), John Tegen (Dominic Fumusa) and Mark Geist (Max Martini). If you asked me to pick these guys out of a lineup, I could not do it. From here on out we embark on a journey where our hero's are willing to sacrifice themselves to save the lives of others.

Michael Bay is an interesting person to say the least. When you hear that he's directing a movie you know what you're in for. Now add the military element and you know EXACTLY what your are going to get. A cacophony of explosions, bullets ricocheting off of every possible surface and very little nuance and not much substance. Sure it's shot well with his signature style but the subject matter that this movie touches on should have been handled by someone that understands what character development is. At a hefty 144 minutes we should have at the very least gotten that much.

The biggest issue with this movie is the fact that it's incredibly difficult to care about anyone. Bay tries to give these characters a back story and a reason for us to care about them by doing a "Hey we all have families back home" montage. It's literally a montage of all of the members of the team talking to their significant others over Skpe, on their smart phones and tablets. We get the prerequisite "Hey Jack, I'm pregnant" which is supposed to add more weight to the situation that our main character finds himself in. It just falls flat. Not unlike the majority of the corny ass jokes that were bandied about. I know I nodded off at least 3 times. The damn movie felt like it was 13 hours. If that's the effect he was going for, bravo Mr. Bay, bravo. By the time the attack on the compound starts I was prepared to exit the theater stage left.

Once the action starts it doesn't really stop. I can speak ill of Michael Bay all day but the one thing the man does well is shoot action. Here he does what he does best. The action sequences are shot fine but they drag on and on and are pretty exhausting. One could say that this was stylistic choice to show that combat is terrible but as movie going experience, it didn't work for me. There was one stand out sequence that involved a bullet proof Mercedes Benz SUV. The rest of the action was tightly shot incredibly violent gun battles that drone on and on. In between these battles we get Bay's attempt at human drama that occasionally works.

Throughout the movie there's always an element of who are the bad guys. This particular element could have been touched on a little bit more to give the "enemies" a little more substance but who are we kidding, there's no time for that. We've got 2 hours and 25 minutes to empty as many clips into these brown people as possible while the American flag waves in the background. Yeah, no thanks Mr. Bay I'm over your shenanigans. I don't like this movie at all. It doesn't matter what I say though, it's going to make its money because, AMERICA!!!!!!

[easyreview title= "Review of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" cat1title="Nerdpocalypse Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.0" overall= false]

Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT Revamping a beloved franchise isn't an easy task. Just ask Michael Bay, he gets an incredible amount of well deserved hate for his reboot of the Transformers series which are indeed garbage. However, they make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office so someone likes them. I am not one of those people. So, it stands as no surprise that when he announced that he would have a hand in bringing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle back to the big screen everyone had there reservations. After over a year of controversy and script rewrites and fan hate before the movie even came out once again, director Johnathan Liebsman and the John Cena of the film industry delivers a movie you'll either accept for what it is or rip to shreds.

The movie opens with a brief voice over by Splinter voiced by Tony Shalhoub about how the Turtles are about to face there biggest threat NYC has ever seen. Of course if you are well versed in the Turtle lore you know he is talking about the foot clan. They want to "reclaim" the city for some reason. April O'Neil played surprisingly solid by Megan Fox is introduced as a head strong reporter who isn't happy with her station at the Channel 6 News. She wants to cover the hard hitting (no pun intended) news that's taking place in the city but she's stuck reporting on the feel good stories with her trusty cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett). Once she goes out on her own to find out whats going down she brings information back to her boss Bernadette Thompson (Whoopi Goldberg). She's basically laughed out the room. It's not clever or inventive but it gets the movie going.

Once the Turtles are on screen we are introduced to four six foot plus hulking beasts. You've got Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville) Raphael (Alan Ritchson) Donetello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noe Fisher). They look like they're on steroids and you know what, I've got no problem with there redesigns. I don't know what a giant bipedal turtle looks like but I'd have to imagine, they might look like this. Once the whole crew is acclimated to each other we are treated to the new incredibly convenient origin story of the turtles and master splinter. It's far fetched but I wasn't mad at it. I feel like the origin story was created to simply showcase O'Neil a little more then she needed to be.

The best parts of the film are the Turtles interactions with each other. They actually feel like they're brothers. The dialog between them is amusing more often then not and the comradery was actually endearing. The humans take a backseat to these four halfway through the movie as it should be. I didn't come to see people talking to each other, I came to see Turtles beat people up. It didn't disappoint. The fight sequences between them were actually coherent. Liebsman pulled the camera back so we could actually see what the hell was happening on screen. When they go toe to toe with Shredder who is the main villian of the film all of those sequences were damn entertaining. The stand out set piece is easily the downhill chase sequence.

Speaking of Shredder, this brings me to the worst aspect of the film: The villains motivation. It really makes no sense whatsoever. It's the worst Saturday morning cartoon motivation you can think of. Maybe that was the point but come on man, do better. I don't know which one was worse The Dark Knight Rises or this (Yeah I said it and what?). William Fichtner's performance as the evil Millionaire Sachs was fine but then again I've never seen a bad performance by him. He really didn't need to exercise his acting chops. No one does honestly. It all boils down to the Turtles in action and if nothing else, it at least delivered on that front.

I'm probably going to be in the minority but the kid in me that used to watch the cartoon every day and still loves the original live action movie enjoyed it. Is it a good movie? By hollywood standards probably not. To me, it accomplishes what it sets out to do and it's incredibly entertaining. There were some genuine laughs throughout the movie and those of use that know the turtles will appreciate the nods to the cartoon intro, the script controversy and a host of other things. It never takes itself too seriously and it shouldn't. I've no doubt that the movie will be slammed by critics for being brain dead and stupid but let's just remember what the name of the movie is. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES.

[easyreview title= "Review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cat1title="Terrence's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.0" overall= false]

Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Optimus-Prime-Transformers-4-header Ok, guys. Up front I am the biggest Transformers fan on staff. Though I’m not one of those people that says they are a huge fan but goes on about how dumb Beast Wars is and can’t actually name all the Dinobots. I love Beast Wars because the writing turned into something amazing. I know all the names and I know that die cast metal is a bad thing because it makes toys break. I have friends in the industry that currently or have in the past designed the toys you see on the shelves. In fact, shameless plug, I was just featured in LA Weekly for my appearance at Botcon selling my custom figures. So yeah, I’m a giant Transformers nerd. All that said I kinda really hate this movie. Did I enjoy the random action? Sure, of course I did. I laughed at some jokes and cheered a bit when awesome things happened. But between those moments we were stuck with a movie that was two effing hours and fortyfive damn minutes long. All of that time was wasted as there was no reasonable sense of story telling or any real explanations of rather important things.

So what is this movie about? Who cares, really? You have Mark Wahlberg as an inventor/joke that has a 17 year old daughter that is played up as the eye candy… which is creepy, right? But she’s also a stick with no features to display other than having tiny shorts so I guess they get away with that. In fact as a straight man I would have to say her boyfriend was the more attractive one and since he was on screen most of the time I guess that makes up for that… or something. Ugh, I’m trying to talk about the human characters but it’s difficult, guys. At no point do you honestly care about them. One dies pretty early on and you don’t really care. Markie Mark won’t let his daughter date AT ALL and it’s obnoxious and you just kinda dislike him. The inventor angle is eventually forgotten and you have even less reason to care about him. But oh! Kelsey Grammer is the bad guy with weird motivations that get down right nonexistent by the end of the film. Seriously, I have no idea what his deal was after a couple of hours when all his plans were gone and he was just running around being a douche.

Alright look, there’s very very little plot in this movie so I’ve not going to discuss any of it so as to not spoil it for anyone crazy enough to go see it after I’ve written this. So let me talk about what I did like for a moment.

The robots are all very distinct. No more complaints about not telling robots apart. Very distinct body shapes and colors make it clear who is who throughout the film. All of the Autobots also have very distinct personalities. Good, right? Well… I'll touch on that in a second. Anywho, the action scenes look fun and loud as usual. There are some jokes I laughed and some things I laughed at that weren’t jokes. There was a lack of US military which was a welcome break. Also a lack of terrible humor that Bay is known for with these movies. In that regard it is the least embarrassing of the franchise. Oh, and Hound. He was John Goodman having fun with a voice over role and it showed. Everyone will leave this movie loving Hound. Though fans may say he fits Bulkhead a lot better but that picking nits.

What did I hate? Well the effects were randomly not good. I saw it in 3D and I did so because the last film was very good in 3D. With this we had oddly flat explosions, really fake looking robots and that pixel-forming effect in the trailer looked SUPER fake. That effect was almost neat but it was never used to really accomplish anything and the way it worked was by rebuilding the form like a wire frame in the video game and each polygon would be filled in. Thank god only the bad guys did this. Not that it mattered because you RARELY saw the Autobots actually transform. In fact most of the time they just showed up in which ever form they needed.

In reference to transforming, the autobot Drift, the Bugatti, was also a helicopter. This was never explained nor did we ever actually see him change to or from his Bugatti mode. That car was simply there sometimes when he wasn’t. We also never hear his name out loud though it appears on the screen. This leads me to the lack of real characterization. Drift is a former Decepticon. You would never know this because it’s never even hinted at in the film. You also might not know he’s a Bugatti as you only actually see the helicopter transformation. Now the Autobots do have distinct personalities but they are almost all versions of “dickhead”. It’s not really fun to watch them be assholes to everyone around them including each other. Optimus has a tendency to yell, “I will kill you!” at everyone. Even humans. Hell, Hound randomly kills a creature for spitting at him and calls it, “Bitch.” Very off putting. And Bumblebee may as well just talk now. The radio sounds are now just actors speaking for him. It makes no damn sense.

Speaking of making no sense the plot was… crap. The first 20 minutes felt very schizo with scenes jumping between plot threads that never mesh into a plot that feels like anything more than threads. Though, once again, the Earth is the center of all alien activity and we have yet another origin for the Transformers kinda. Oh, and Knights. The villain, Lockdown, captures things and locks them in his ship. He wants Optimus. Why? Turns out Optimus is a Knight. What does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine as it is never explained. He’s put in a cell upside down in a room with other Knights being treated the same way. The Knights never speak. Ever. Eventually this room, which is on an escape pod, is taken by the Autobots and kept for a while. The Knights are left hanging… until Optimus needs them for something and frees them and makes them work for him under penalty of death. They transform and run around kicking ass. The Knights never speak, we barely see them in robot mode and in the end they are never even given so much as names let alone a reason for why they exist. Have you figured out that the Knights are the Dinobots shown in the trailers? They are never called that. Hell, they stop calling them Knights as soon as they are freed. Optimus makes a comment about, “The legends are true,” and they move on. Giant monsters fighting just because.

This movie sucks. Almost three hours long and they couldn’t bother to effing explain ANYTHING!!! It looks pretty most of the time and it made me chuckle but for the most part I was just bored and by the end I was annoyed because the trailers are almost entirely made from the last 30 minutes of the mess. Did I mention it was LOOOOOOOONG. No reason for that, folks. There was a scene with an elevator door that remained open on its own for at least five minutes. Why did this happen? How do you make a movie this long using a property with a very extensive bit of lore to dip into and still somehow come out with this hollow pile of CG and explosions that have no real reason to exist?!

If you go to the movies this weekend go see something else. Edge of Tomorrow or 22 Jump Street. Good movies await you. Transformers: Age of Extinction is not one of them.

PS: I just checked out a bit of Revenge of the Fallen. It's still a piece of garbage but at least it isn't boring and had a good score that could keep you semi invested. So yeah... TF4 is by far the worst. Even worse than the one that didn't have a script.

[easyreview title= "Review of Transformers: Age of Extinction" cat1title="Rob's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="1.5" overall= false]

Review: Pain & Gain

Pain And Gain

The true story of criminal bodybuilders in mid 90s Miami is a match made in heaven for a director like Michael Bay. He couldn’t have come up with a better piece of fiction himself. Based on the crimes of the so called “Sun Gym Gang” the movies follows Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), and Paul Doyle (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) as they decide to kidnap, murder, and steal to live the lives they have always wanted for themselves.

The story begins with Daniel Lugo not being happy with his current situation, financially speaking. As a personal trainer he isn’t pulling that much money to live comfortably. Tired of the day to day struggle he talks his fellow gym rat, Adrian, into working on a scheme to make a lot of money fast. Adrian who isn’t particularly much of a leader or thinker goes along without very much coercing. The two then recruit resident hulk Paul Doyle. Doyle is fresh out of jail, loves Jesus, and yet is a violent loveable fool.

The three embark on a plan to kidnap one of Daniel Lugo’s rich gym clients, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub). Kershaw is a first rate jerk so you aren’t suppose to feel too much sympathy for the guy. All the interactions that Kershaw and Lugo have are just an exercise in Lugo silently hating Kershaw and wishing he had his wealth. While watching the movie I could sympathize with Lugo here. Once the kidnapping begins we start to see just how utterly useless this so called gang is in pressure situations. Hilarious in parts and downright horrible in others the gang’s behavior pulls you in to their world. I found myself just wondering what they could possibly do next, and being equally as shocked as the time before. When the story is all said and done you are happy with what happens to these would be criminals. While I thought the movie was laugh out loud funny, I didn’t want them to win in the end. They were horrible human beings and they deserved everything they got. However, following them on this ride was incredibly satisfying. The movie was a 2 hour fun run of criminal stupidity. The performances in this movie were basically just a bunch of guys having a blast. Mark Wahlberg is clearly loving the idea of beefing up and playing a know-it-all. Tony Shalhoub plays maybe the least sympathetic victim in movie history. His over the top dickish rich guy portrayal made you root for the bad guys for a time, and not feel forced. Anthony Mackie was just ok, but I thought he could have been more on. He seemed to just show up in scenes and deliver mediocre one liners and walk off; I expected more from him. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson by far stole the show. Every line delivered was with such earnest idiocy that you might have worried that he was hit in the head early in the filming process. Deadpan delivery of his ridiculous lines made the crowd laugh every time. This is one of 4 movies Johnson is doing this year, and for this one he nails it.

The Michael Bay we all know is officially back. While critically panned for his work on those abysmal Transformers movies, Pain & Gain is right in Bay’s wheelhouse. Never straying away from what made the Bad Boys movies so popular and pushing the comedic elements even further. Pain & Gain if nothing else was absolutely beautiful to watch. Set in 1994-95 Miami, the bright colors were there and the feel of the times stood out. The costuming in this movie was dead on, and you laughed and cringed at the thought of being seen in those clothes just a few years ago. All and all, Bay does well here, but drags us along for too long of a ride. At 2:10 Pain & Gain could cut about 25 minutes and still be a tight yet entertaining script. A very enjoyable movie that sets the summer season off in the right direction.

[easyreview title= "Review of Pain & Gain" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]