Drum rolls please…The title has been revealed as Transformers: Age Of Extinctions. Adding Mark Wahlberg to the cast and rumours of Dinobots, this is probably going to be another massive smash hit and after the success of Pain & Gain, director Michael Bay has redeemed himself in certain critic’s eyes.
Here is the poster:
“TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION” stars Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, Sophia Myles, TJ Miller, Han Geng and Chinese actress Li Bingbing in the fourth installment in the hit series of movies based on the best-selling Hasbro toyline. Paramount Pictures will release the film on June 27th, 2014.
Shooting in multiple locations in the U.S. and China throughout the summer, the film is directed by Michael Bay and re-unites the filmmaking team from the hit franchise, including producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Don Murphy & Tom DeSanto and Ian Bryce; and executive producers Steven Spielberg, Bay, Brian Goldner and Mark Vahradian. “TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION” is written by Ehren Kruger, based on Hasbro’s Transformers™ Action Figures.
A good title for this movie I have to say. Adapted from a truly horrific real life story Michael Bay‘s newest on screen adventure is a crime-comedy starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie. The film is based on a story published in a 1999 series of Miami New Times articles written by Pete Collins and compiled in his book Pain & Gain: This is a True Story, which details the kidnapping, extortion, torture, and murder of several victims by criminals that included a number of bodybuilders affiliated with the Sun Gym.
After being inspired by motivational speaker Johnny Wu (a hilarious Ken Jeong character) and his women, money, boats etc, Lugo persuades John Mese, the gym’s owner (Rob Corddry) to be part of his scheme, as a notary. With the other beefcakes along for the ride, things start to get ugly.
Things I liked about P&G abound – there’s a lot to like. Dwayne Johnson (Paul Doyle) is excellent and Marky Wahlberg (Daniel Lugo) perfectly cast. Ever wanted to see Dwayne Johnson as an evangelical Christian, recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict? To be fair, that thought had probably never crossed your mind, but now’s your chance. Anthony Mackie (playing Adrian Doorbal) who I’d not really seen in anything other than Hurt Locker is excellent as the even less bright 1 of the 3, playing the part of an impotent steroid-using body builder.
Ed Harris (Ed Du Bois III) has his moments and is as convincing as can be as the private detective who takes up the case after the local police dismiss the complaints of Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) as the ravings of a madman. It is this that I found perhaps the most interesting. Whilst he is utterly abused and tortured, there is very little sympathy for him. Not in the sense that he deserves it perhaps, but that he is such an unpleasant man, that even his employees prefer Lugo as their boss. In turn, I ended up siding with the bad guys.
Quite clearly it pays to be inept at crime. For a short while at least.
Also livening-up proceedings is Rebel Wilson (Robin). This time she plays Doorbal’s love interest. And when she is scorned, boy does she not hold anything back – her line in the court scene near the end is brilliant.
So, that’s what’s hot, but what’s not? Not much to be fair. I understand some of the criticism levelled at the movie has come from its light-hearted take on what is of course a terrible story. However, whilst Pain and Gain takes the less horrendous aspects and presents them accordingly, it is by no means played exclusively for laughs. Michael Bay does still find time for some lovely shots of helicopters, which are frankly unnecessary and I think it’s quite natural that those more familiar with the true story will object to the portrayal of 3 hugely despicable human beings.
Other criticism has been that there is perhaps too much poetic licence…that for example we have a made-up character and a semi-made-up character in key roles. To this, I say nonsense. Using our podcast to come for example, about Empire State, this would have worked so much better if someone had tried to be inventive or creative with an existing story. Just because something is true, doesn’t necessarily make it interesting straight out of the can.
In light of this and my blog’s title, it’s interesting to note that this only cost $26 million. Partly because Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson are taking profit-share and of course partly because there are so few complicated action set-pieces, car chases, guns and special effects. All credit to Michael Bay for directing this and for apparently loving the project from day one. I am notoriously hard on “Michael-every shot’s a shot-Bay” but I genuinely believe this is his best film. I do love The Rock and Bad Boys, but they take themselves very…way too seriously. Perhaps this is the dawn of a era for Bay. Enough of the robots and the excessive CGI; get some budget, some great casting, a believable storyline & decent script and show us what you’ve got. The camerawork has never been my contention in his films and Pain and Gain shows how effective he can be without all of the nonsense a $100m+ budget can bring.
Thanks Mike, for this one.
Pain and Gain previews this week and opens August 30th in UK cinemas. Enjoy the trailer below
The Artist is the latest film from director Michel Hazanavicius. Re-uniting Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo (also from Hazanavicius’ hilarious OSS117: Cairo, nest of spies) the Artist tells the story of the fall of a silent movie star, George Valentin (Dujardin) and the rise of Peppy Miller (Bejo) when the talkies were becoming the norm in Hollywood. So, nothing special there; but where the movie will surprise is that it is both black and white and silent. Very much a rarity in the age of Michael Bay & 3D, I for one cannot wait for the UK release. And this I guess, is a teeny problem…slated for release in France on October 12th and in the US on November 23rd, the UK still has no date confirmed. I am sure that this will change once the movie has its mainstream release in various other markets, so until then, we will have to content ourselves with the trailer. You can enjoy Jean Dujardin’s Cannes Film Festival Best Actor winning performance, all too briefly, below. Oh and Berenice Bejo looks as gorgeous as ever.
Bajirao Singham is an honest cop and darling of a small town, Shivgad, where his daddy is a rich merchant and crime seems to be very low as he keeps paying off every crime anyone does, maybe not the best of crime fighting techniques. Singham also helps out villagers with road side assistance when their carts get stuck in the mud and helps crippled kids win school races (what type of school would put a crippled kid in a race, is a question best not asked), while all the time wearing Aviators and having the cleanest police uniform in the history of Ariel. Before spending the first half of the movie romancing Kaavya (Kaajal Aggarwal known from the bonkers Magadheera making her Hindi Film Debut), he comes face to face with Jaikant Shikre(Prakash Raj), the usual thug/politician villain and part time comedian in a pretty awesomely shot pre-intermission scene in his local village. Not able to take the insult to his ego, Shikre pulls some strings to get Singham transferred to Goa, a city under his thumb. He “tortures” Singham by prank calls and having his henchmen play “doorbell ditch” which forces our eponymous hero to take his shirt off and unleash the lion within him. The Indian Police uniform has lions on it, so there are metaphors on kung fu wires in this movie as much as there are cars and goons flying around.
Although I have laid down the plot in quite a few details, it’s a story we know and can’t be spoilt. This movie in my mind is truly critic proof. You can point out problems with it but at the end of the day it does win you over. You rejoice when the hero thrashes the bad guy and clap when he roars his punchy dialogues against the villain. Taking box office out of the equation, a movie is effective when it succeeds in its intention and Singham truly does that. The best comparison I can make is actually the Transformers ( of which we reviewed part 3 on episode 30 of our podcast) series. Like Michael Bay, Rohit Shetty has an unbelievable eye for action and quite the visual flair but his comedic sensibilities and handling of the romantic track is low brow and juvenile. (And sometimes you do wonder if it’s written by this guy)
Director and longtime collaborator, Rohit Shetty (who also designed most of the action) uses a hell of a lot of wire work in his set pieces and most of it is truly heart pounding but he tends to go overboard quite a few times where cars and people are just flying around with no weight or consequence. There are moments where you just stop caring the third time Bajirao takes off his belt to whip villains. I admit, the first 2 times were awesome, the third even the villain seems bored and just talks through it.
I have never found wire work to be effectively done in Hindi Films ( I hold my heart for RA.One), it works when used as a punch line to action but not when the entirety of the action is built upon it. Unfortnately Rohit Shetty has a propensity for overusing it as demonstrated in pretty much every movie he has ever done as a director (Sunday, All The Best, Golmaal series) there are moments that it feels like a 5 year old bashing action figures against each other. Some scenes are bizarre choices that take you out of the movie especially the night sequences which are shot with green screen and a filter, and everything just seems brightly pastel colored which give the movie a fresh look but for tires my eyes after a while. I do see Rohit turning to 3D, I think he would be very effective. There are some underlying religious and nationalistic themes to the movie too which felt a bit heavy handed. (There’s that Michael Bay comparison again was…). I did really enjoy how hands on Rohit is in designing the action sequences as we see in the post credit sequence and he genuinely seems like a cool guy to hang out with unlike Bay who just seems like an twat.
Performance wise Ajay “Jazz hands” Devgan(I haven’t kept up with the latest version of the spelling of his name using numerology) in the titular role is amazing! One of the most consistent actors in the Hindi film industry (even more so than the Khans) he is back in an action packed role sans 90’s hair but mixed in with the comedic flair he has developed lately mostly by working with Rohit Shetty. The first half of the movie is full of comedy which is completely subjective if it works for you or not. Comedic sidekicks or villagers running away scared by a plastic mask are just not my thing but Ajay even performs well in those scenes. But he really comes into his own facing off with Prakash Raj or bashing goons and even in our screening the audience was close to clapping and whistling.
Kaajal Agarwal has a very perky appearance but unfortunately her character of Kaavya is the most vanilla of Hindi film love interests. She’s the annoying prankster in the first half and the motivator in the second. Even though Kaajal does well, I was groaning every time she would appear in the second half as I just did not want to get back to the corniness of the first. Someone does need to fire the wardrobe department as she’s wearing the same suit in a multitude of colors throughout the movie.
Prakash Raj has been playing the same bad guy in Wanted and Bbhuddah Hoga Tera Baap ( check out our special podcast) but he’s just so good at it, that I just love seeing him on screen. This time he gets a lot more screen time and amazing lines. And the balance he strikes between comedy and straight up menace even overshadows Ajay in some scenes. The Shikre vs Singham dialogue showdowns are truly the best part of the picture and are so well paced from the pre-intermission on wards that you are fully on board with the pace of the movie. Both actors get the chance to get the upper hand in sequences and especially Ajay Devgan is really great in underplaying when he needs to let Prakash’s charisma as a villain shine on screen.
The songs in Singham on the other hand are unforgiveably bad and even are shot uninspiringly.
Although I find the drums in the title song very rhythmic, the song works better as a background score then a fully-fledged play back song . However cool the Jazz hands are, the belt buckle shake from Dabanng trumps it. The other songs are completely forgettable and honestly I have forgotten them already… I just know they had Kaajal Agarwal and Ajay Devgan in them and they were dancing or riding a bike or something else romantic…
All in all Singham is straight up masala flick, nothing meta about it, no subversion of the genre like Dabanng was to certain extent. You need to watch this movie with your heart and whenever your brain starts thinking again, just wrestle it back to the ground or look at the pretty colors and carflipping or munch on some popcorn. Singham succeeds in what it sets out to do and if you want to have a good family friendly time (the action is completely bloodless) and some old school hero-giri, then it’s a total recommend.
Some Further thoughts:
I know Ganesh Acharya is not the most svelte of choreographers, but does he ever invent any dance steps that move more than 1 body part simultaneously?
The whole officer Kadam suicide track which serves as a catalyst just pops up and out when needed and his kid that’s supposed to play “the conscience” of the police force has the most morose face ever. Who in the production team is he related to?
Sonali Kulkarni is a joy to watch on screen and I’m glad to see her again, I can’t believe she is already relegated to aunty roles.
I had some real issues with the climax of the movie. I just don’t agree with police brutality and I feel it felt out of character for a straight laced, honest cop to out and out assassinate the villains. And you could totally flip around the roles and make the cop the villain and the hero the goon taking on a corrupt police force.
This movie is the bizarro version of Ajay Devgan’s “Gangaajal” directed by Prakash Jha, there is even a villain whipping scene which I felt was much more effective than the ones in Singham.
In the words of Janice from Friends(a very popular series in the 90’s-Ed)…”oh, My, GAWD!”, do we have a show and a half for you this week. The Upod tri…erm…pod, was hyperactive like never before; it’s almost easier to tell you about what we didn’t talk about than what we did!
We kick-off with the great and not so good of current TV and movies. Has Ahmed been transformed by the final installment of Michael Bay‘s robotganza, or just bored without la Fox? Green Lantern gets the treatment next and is swiftly followed by Bridesmaids and by Bad Teacher. Cameron (Diaz NOT James) is free to spank me anytime – I’m the naughty pupil that needs teaching. (easy tiger! Ed)
Next up, two of our favourites. Newly Emmy nominated Louis CK and his “let me take you to a dark place and leave you there” humour and comedy GOAT Larry David‘s Curb Your Enthusiasm, season 8 curtain raiser. After 7 seasons, we surely know where the jokes are going to go, but we are still powerless to stop the inevitable hilarious and of course slightly uncomfortable outcome.
We somehow take a pause for breath whilst we look forward to December and review the trailer for MI:4 Ghost Protocol. And that’s not something we thought was possible from a Tom Cruise action film featuring an Eminem theme song.
Finally, we get in the mood for the next big summer blockbuster – and possible saviour of comic book films this year – Captain America. Much as we’d like to have had a world exclusive secret screening, we haven’t and had to content ourselves with Albert Pyun‘s 1990 marvel instead. It’s got Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox in support roles so it has all the potential for an underrated classic. We let you know where to start with the Captain America franchise!