Tag Archives: Michael Bay

“Y – The Last Man” – new director, no Shia, all good

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What a difference a couple of years makes.

When the film adaptation was last discussed, the movie version was heading directly towards mediocre town, helmed as it was due to be by D.J. Caruso and starring his “Disturbia“/”Eagle Eye” star, Shia LaBeouf.

This entirely unsatisfactory state of affairs was barely improved by LaBeouf’s words on leaving the film, in which he cited too many parallels between his character in “Y: The Last Man“, Yorick, and his “Transformersaction figure lead role, Sam Witwicky.

Having not read the screenplay for “Y” which LeBeouf was referring to, I can’t speak to the veracity of his opinion, but the very idea that any kind of line could be drawn twixt the two properties defies belief, frankly.   Where “Y: The Last Man” is a provocative post-apocalyptic sci-fi tale with fascinating characters, science run amok and smart things to say about gender in society, Michael Bay‘s “Transformers” flicks are essentially giant robot fetishism with explosions punctuating the minutes in the film not devoted to leering close-ups on some poor starlet’s aerobicised caboose.

The two projects are, I would submit to you, not exactly related in tone.

So, it’s bloody good news that Dan Trachtenberg, helmer of the superb “Portal” fan flick “No Escape” and former co-host of the late and lamented “Totally Rad Show” podcast, has signed up to spearhead a new take on the film.  Whilst Trachtenberg’s involvement hardly guarantees that the film will be made, it’s a real step in the right direction and perhaps acknowledges that people who like the material and don’t think that they’re making a rock-em, sock-em summer action flick are a good fit to direct something as good as “Y: The Last Man” is.

Something approaching common sense in Hollywood?  Clearly, normal service will be resumed shortly…

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“World War Z” trailer – Zombies on Speed!

“Is that a lethal horde of newly risen, 100 metre sprinting brain munchers or just really pissed-off fans of the book?”

You’ve heard the rumours about an out-of-control production, on-set spats between star/producer Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster and disgruntled observations about how the synopsis bears no resemblance to Max Brooks‘ excellent novel – now witness the skin-crawling horror of “World War Z” for yourself with the new trailer!

And yes, it doesn’t really remind me too much of the Brooks book – I’m not seeing any epic ‘Battle of Yonkers‘ footage in that trailer – but it does look like it has the making of a splendidly action-packed horror blockbuster on a scale that we don’t see too often.  I guess $180 million buys a lot of urban destruction, free-running zombie hordes and military hardware, if not quite the confidence that “Quantum of Solace” director Forster has learned how to direct action (Does anybody else wish that Hollywood would take a leaf out of Hong Kong cinema‘s fine play-book and start having separate action/drama directors on a film?  Jean-Pierre Auteur gets to direct his challenging meditation on the illusion of contemporary monogamy and Michael Bay tag-teams in to blow shizz up and have Marion Cotillard run amok with an M16 – everybody wins!).

“You’re gonna’ need a bigger boat…”

Ahem.

“World War Z” opens in June 2013 and that high-pitched noise you can hear on the internet is a million Brooks fan boys crying out in revulsion at the prospect of the slow, relentless, all too numerous brain-chowing shambling undead of the novel being given a  cinematic make-over into speedy, mob-handed loons whose pace is so quick that even Usain Bolt would have his hands full trying to outpace them.

It could be..quite good?  

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Midnight Masked Maniac Movies: “Friday the 13th” (2009)

A classier poster than the film deserves…

Who ordered a glossy “Friday the 13th” movie?

The 2009 re-make of the classic 1980 slasher flick has production values roughly 224% higher than the just-above-grind house standards of Sean S. Cunningham‘s original movie, a development which we can presumably attribute to the presence behind the cameras of Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes production outfit.

If the producing presence of the “Transformers” director doesn’t fill you with foreboding, the actual bloke calling the shots should do just that – Marcus Nispel is the guy that you can hold responsible for making the least scary, most annoying and generally most pointless slasher flick rehash that I’ve seen since “Prom Night“.  You may remember him from such earlier, equally useless time-wasters as “Pathfinder” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and his IMDB listing indicates that he proposes to film Tim Seeley‘s superior comic “Hack/Slash” in the near future.  I can’t confess to being happy at the prospect, although it would be delightful if he could erase my cynicism by directing a film which doesn’t make me want to head to the nearest memory erasure parlour, a-la “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind“.

When it comes down to it, I hated this remake for the same reason that most people gravitate towards the slasher genre – the disposable teen killer fodder.  It would be an act of profound eccentricity to suppose that any movie of this ilk will do more than the bare minimum to distinguish whatever interchangeable  ex-CW/Disney Channel replicants are headlining the film from the other gaggles of identikit cuties doing hard time in mid-budget, jump-scare laden schlock, but one lives in hope.

Right from the get-go this remake rubbed me up the wrong way, chiefly by contriving to introduce a cast of machete-ready kids so obnoxious that its difficult to imagine any context in which their survival is acceptable – archetypes all, and barely possessed of a distinguishing characteristic worthy of the term.  What’s more galling is that their manner of dispatch is wholly at odds with the spirit of the series – the creative, lunatic gore and hilariously elaborate kills that you know and fear Jason Voorhees for are completely missing from this remake, which has decided to push the button marked ‘torture-porn pseudo-realism’ and make every character dispatch a fumbled, ‘blink and miss it’ farrago.

And that shower of inanity merely covers the pre-titles sequence.  The movie proper doesn’t start until ANOTHER gaggle of eminently despicable, upper middle class college kids show up near Crystal Lake for a weekend of nit-wit fumbling and Jason-baiting at Daddy’s house.  It’s saying something when you would forego the stalk-and-slash staging which the hallmark of this horror sub-genre so that the teen protagonists could be wiped out in one fell swoop by simply handing Mr Voorhees a 50 cal machine gun and letting him go all “Rambo” on their butts.

Showing up in Crystal Lake at the same time as the soon-t0-be-deceased kids is “Supernatural” heart-throb Jared Padalecki, whose likeable presence allows you to hope at least one person survives the teenage apocalypse unscathed – he’s fetched up to track down his sister, who disappeared during the pre-credits sort-of-bloodbath (you remember – the one that was staged badly and edited in such a way as to obscure how/if/when the characters were bumped off) and his efforts to track her down are met with police shoulder shrugging and side-long glances from the hick locals.

Cute, non-threatening people in trouble – Jared Padalecki and Amanda Righetti in “Friday the 13” (2009).

There are no real positives to take away from this remake.  The changes to the series formula that “Friday the 13th” does manage to make nudges it closer to the “Saw”/”Hostel” school of CG-assisted injury porn and bone-headed torture than the (by comparison) almost nostalgic practical effects and gross effects make-up of the 80’s slasher genre.  And as I’d sooner see my breakfast again than watch a “Saw” movie, that’s not a recommendation to me.

It’s probably absurd to hope for an end product that’s any better than this movie ends up being given the talent behind the camera, but this totally scare-free, visually incoherent, narratively inert slab of latter-day horror still manages to bore more than slasher flick should ever do.   If this slice of neo-slasher filmic flatulence actually scares its target audience, I despair for today’s nascent horror audience – I’ve been more scared by what I would find when flipping the cushions on my sofa than I was during this piss-poor slice of hack-work.

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“Transformers 4” in 2014 – now with terrible lizards?

 

Concept art from High Moon Studios’ “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron”

If memory serves, I’ve spoken before on the blog about my love-hate issues with the Michael Bay-directed “Transformers” series of live action toy commercialssummer blockbusters.

The progression over time goes something like this – loved the first one, wanted the burn the second one with fire, kind of grudgingly enjoyed the third one despite an array of dubious shenanigans (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley‘s insultingly written role, reusing old The Island footage, Buzz Aldrin‘s embarrassing cameo).   It’s probably fair to say that the only people really jonesing for another Baysplosion Rock-Em-Shock-Em fest are the accountants at Hasbro and Paramount.

To which end, Empire Online today has a story about the plans for the fourth movie, which aims to reboot the series and introduce new characters.  Or, to lead the elephant directly into the room, introduce new Autobots and Decepticons so that Hasbro can flog a whole bunch of toys and spin-off merch to kids and their long-suffering parents.

As illustrated in the featured image on this post, many fans are already jumping to the conclusion that now would be a great time for Paramount and Bay to introduce Dinobots into the mix and you have to say that they may well have a point there.   If we were going to see the series recalibrated to appeal to the eternal 10-year-old geeks who are arguably the lifeblood of this enduring property, what better way to do that than to blend every youthful nerd’s favourite stuff – sci-fi, transforming robots, mind-boggling action and awesome dinosaurs running amok – into a heady, pop-cultural mix?

And whilst we’re at it, could we jettison the sad misogyny, racist stereotypes and rabid gun worship whilst we’re at it? I know, I know – but it doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?

As Empire’s story suggests, an as-yet-undetermined 2014 release date is planned – and who knows, perhaps we’ll  get the awesome, undeniably entertaining “TF” movie we deserve and that the first film promised to deliver.

 

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Appropriate Attired Adventurers Assemble!

Well, this is awesome.

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Fantasy and SF book blog A Dribble of Ink turned me onto this neat Tumblr – Women Fighters in Reasonable Armour and I’m rather taken with it.  It collates examples of fantasy and SF artwork depicting female characters garbed in attire which is actually practical and appropriate to the ass kickery which they are engaged in.

I’ve blogged about this before in relation to my beloved “Resident Evil” and “Underworld” movie series – and I guess that there’s an tie-in with the current blockbuster “Avengers” movie – in which your strong, competent heroines are togged out in PVC/Leather catsuits or some derivation thereof.  I’ve found it a bit curious, to be honest, with all kinds of mixed messages suggesting themselves:  I love the (mostly) empowered heroines, I’m just not crazy about the ass-hugging camera angles frequently employed to depict them.

It’s that cross-over point between agency and objectification – which I’m sure as hell not smart enough to figure out by myself (there may be that undeniable masculine perspective which is also standing in the way of better understanding).  That said, I feel that the issue goes something like this – the phenomenon of ‘male gaze‘ is the problem in most depictions of otherwise strong female characters in genre entertainment.

Let’s say that two directors on a film both shoot variations on the same scene with a female warrior in an action scene.  The details of the scene are identical, but for the way that the female character is shot – one director frames the female character neutrally, allowing her to proceed through the sequence without the camera lingering on her body or focussing on anatomy in any particular way.  The other guy is Michael Bay.

Rosie Huntington-Whitely - also pictured, Michael Bay's explosive super-ID...

You can begin to see the problem if you took in a screening of the thirdTransformers film – in which Bay’s camera leered so constantly after star Rosie Huntington-Whitely‘s rear end that it was possible to conclude that the director missed his calling in life and might have sought more appropriate employment as a proctologist.

It’s possible to argue that Hollywood’s M.O. is to market around visuals and aesthetics, so can’t do anything but focus on eye candy and create narratives in which the visual shorthand is paramount (no pun intended), but there’s got to be a point in superhero narratives, fantasy fiction and sci-fi stories where common sense prevails and the heroines aren’t attired in costumes which make no fricking sense.

Jim C Hines - making my point about the 'male gaze' in hilarious fashion.

If Hollywood starts insisting that Jason Statham wear armour-plated Speedos as he kicks in henchmen’s teeth and that action heroes have to be dressed in as vulnerable a fashion as possible, I suppose that we might be said to have reached some kind of parity in the depiction of  the genders when every hot dude is being as exploited as much as every beautiful gal.  Over in the realm of fiction, writers have been engaging with the silly archetypes and imagery being used to market their novels – witness io9’s posts on fantasy writer Jim C. Hines, who has been writing a series of blog posts deconstructing some of the tactics used to market books to readers in a charming and self-effacing way.

Sensible armour, worn by a sensible young woman. Almost makes up for Bella in "Twilight" being such a drip, doesn't it?

There is hope, of course – forthcoming summer fantasy blockbuster “Snow White & The Huntsman” goes some way towards depicting a capable heroine who doesn’t have to wear a chain mail bikini to wield a sword and punch undead beasties in the ‘nards, the “Alien” prequel which isn’t, Ridley Scott‘s “Prometheus”, seems to wait a decent amount of time before finding a narrative reason for female lead Noomi Rapace to show up in her pants and even the catsuited heroine of “The Avengers”, Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow, might be wearing a catsuit but isn’t striking cheesecake poses, breaking a heel and waiting for her male compadre to save her.

Do these archetypes exist because we’ve established a taste for them as an audience or because we’ve been told that this depiction of heroes and heroines is what we want?

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“G.I. Joe – Retaliation” gets new trailer, destroys the Big Smoke…

What is it with Hollywood and destroying London?

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No sooner had I put my feet up and begun to enjoy the latest trailer for G.I. Joe: Retaliation than I was confronted with merry old London town biting the big one again, via the intercession of some sketchy space missile thingy.  Not that I’m the biggest fan of our capital city – I only visit if I absolutely have to – but it would be nice for an American film to grasp the complex reality that there are other cities in the UK.

Yep, that's going to give Boris a few sleepless nights...

Is it too much to hope for a major Hollywood blockbuster to pick on Birmingham or Manchester for a change?  Surely Leeds needs to be rendered into ashes by a stray super missile?  Mindless destruction equality now!  Blow up some different places for a change!

But, I digress…

There’s a new trailer for this deliciously silly looking comic book action fest, which seems to be marking out its place on the calendar as an unpretentious and marked improvement on the unwatchable original entry in the series – I don’t have any history with the action figures, but this could be the daft action extravaganza which manages to erase the bad taste that the increasingly horrible Transformers films left in my mouth as that series veered ever deeper into the darker recesses of Michael Bay‘s ID.

It’s nearly the summer, I’m really going to want to escape the ad nauseam Olympics hype in the UK – what better way to do it than watch professional actors portray action figures and run away from cgi explosions?

 

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Occupy Sean Bean. Or something.

It’s funny because it’s true.  If proud son of Sheffield and international film and TV thesp Sean Bean appears in your work, there’s a good-to-great chance that he’s going to be bumped off in a fashion most unbecoming.

The three of you reading this who saw the passable Michael Bay flick “The Island” might well wince in recognition of Bean’s final fight with Ewan McGregor, which took a left path passed acceptable self-defense and right on into homicidal, malicious harm.  As I recall, it was less about beating up on the bad guy and more about getting hooks through skin and chucking Bean’s villain off the side of a gantry way.

Clive Barker-esque’ is the description that I would give to his manner of despatch.

In any case, let’s all get behind a cause which is noble and close to the heart of folks like me – Sean Bean may play Sean Bean in every role that he’s cast in, his accent may never stray further than North Derbyshire (even when he’s in Middle-Earth) and he may support Sheffield United (we all have our problems to deal with), but he doesn’t deserve to be flung about like a crash-test dummy and killed indiscriminately after not many minutes of screen time.

Save Sean!  Bean Rights now!  Occupy Sean Bean! (or sentiments to that effect).

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