Monday, July 4, 2011

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" - spoiler movie review

I had really enjoyed the first "Transformers" movie, but I wasn't all that fond of the sequel, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen". However, since the trailer for the third film, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" looked pretty good, I was willing to give them another try.

I did like this movie much more than the second movie, but I think it fell far short of the first film. The story and the film itself was very uneven, and there were a couple story points that I really didn't enjoy. I really liked Megan Fox in the first film, but not in the second film, but I did not much care for the new girl. Yeah, she's a hot model, ok, but she just didn't do anything for me. The only time I liked her was when she made Megatron jealous that Sentinel was going to take over the Decepticons. But I wasn't interested in her story or the story of her and Sam. Let's save the romance story for a different film.

Oh, but I thought it was pretty cool when it turned out that the fancy car her boss had given her was actually a Decepticon.

I also really didn't like the scenes with Sam's parents. OK, they weren't quite as bad as in the second film, but really, could they have gotten worse? It seemed like they were meant as comic relief, but instead, they were still just really annoying and useless. If I could have fastforwarded through their scenes, I would have.

Oh, and ok, the Decepticons want to transport their home world RIGHT NEXT TO Earth. Ummm, ok, is no one else thinking about the detrimental effect that would have on Earth's gravity and orbital path around the sun? I had this same question when the aliens in "The Event" wanted to do the exact same thing. I mean, I know that the rest of the story itself is completely fantastical, but if you're going to take as granted that talking transforming robots from another planet can exist, that's fine, but you can't ignore normal regular things on Earth like gravity and planetary pull and orbits and such.

They had several awesome action sequences, as you'd expect. That corkscrew Decepticon 'bot was just evil - it's got no purpose other than to just destroy on a huge scale. That whole sequence when it took down the skyscraper was pretty cool, but I found myself thinking about what the crew had to go through to shoot those sequences, especially with all the furniture and office supplies and such going everywhere as the building was getting destroyed and falling.

I was actually quite proud of myself for figuring out two plot points before they explained it, which is fairly unusual for me. When they were loading up all the Autobots onto the shuttle to leave Earth, it occurred to me that it was the perfect time for the Decepticons to destroy them - they were all in the same place at the same time! So I wasn't surprised when the Decepticons blew up the shuttle. I will say, though, that I found that scene kind of disturbing because it reminded me a lot of the explosion of the Challenger. I don't think the vapor trails were the same, but just the images of the shuttle exploding, how far above the Earth it exploded, and then the look on Sam's face when he saw it explode so suddenly and unexpectedly - it just all brought back memories of when the Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff. And to me, it's never going to be ok for a fiction movie to remind me of that real-life tragic event.

However, I did know that even though the shuttle blew up, that the Autobots were not dead. They did something to trick the Decepticons and they were fine. I had thought they'd somehow managed to fake getting on the shuttle, so it was fun to find out that they'd hid themselves all in the rocket booster that broke off and therefore was not destroyed.

The fight between the titans - Optimus Prime and Sentinel - was pretty cool to watch. But while the fight between Optimus Prime and Megatron was good too, it didn't have the same effect. OK, so Megatron was killed, again. He'd already been killed in the first film. Granted, it was a much more graphic ending this time, given that Optimus yanked his spine out instead of just killing his battery/spark/whatever and dropping him in the ocean intact. But hey, who knows, maybe he can still be revived or put back together. Which would make his death (sorry, his SECOND death) even that more unimportant. But if Megatron really is dead, that doesn't work for the story either. Whether or not they plan to make another film is irrelevant - even if they don't make another film, the STORY of the Autobots and the Decepticons isn't supposed to be over, but if the Decepticons have actually lost their leader, then it's not much of a fight, is it? Before the fight, Megatron asks Optimus what he would be without Megatron there, and Megatron is right. The victor is only as good as the opponent he defeats. If the opponent is weak, if there's no great villain to fight, then the "hero" is much diminished. All the great superheroes and "good guy" characters are such because they have a worthy and formidable nemesis.

Shia LaBeouf was fine in this film. He did what needed to be done for an action film. Josh Duhamel was quite good, and I'm glad he had more to do in this film.

I've always loved the voice casting for Optimus Prime - Peter Cullen. He has an amazing voice quality, and I'm amused that he's also voiced the character of Eeyore in several Winnie the Pooh projects.

In the trailers that I'd seen of the film, there was no mention of the character of Sentinel, and it only took a few seconds of hearing him speak for me to realize that he was voiced by Leonard Nimoy, who I had not known was in the film. I actually found it a little distracting to try to separate him personally and his well-known character of Spock from the "Star Trek" universe from the part he was playing in this film. But that then made it all the more shocking when it was revealed that Sentinel, the Autobot elder, revered for having supposedly died in trying to help the Autobots win the war, had actually been defecting and had made a deal to work with the Decepticons. The turn was especially devastating for Optimus, who had been used by the Decepticons to resurrect Sentinel, since Optimus was the only one who could.

However, there is one line in the film, which, as a "Star Trek" fan, really pissed me off. At one point towards the end of the film, Sentinel is sort of justifying his actions and the deal that he made with the Decepticons. And Sentinel says that sometimes, the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. The line "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" is a pivotal line in the "Star Trek" universe as it explained Spock's sacrifice of his own life to save his shipmates in "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan", and that point is played in future sequels in the series as well. It really pissed me off that they took that line and used it in this situation, made worse by the fact that it was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. Frankly, I'm shocked and really disappointed that he agreed to actually say that line, knowing the place the original line holds in "Star Trek" history and lore.

Overall, I wouldn't necessarily dissuade people from seeing this film, which I would have done regarding the second film, but it's not really one I can recommend too highly either.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Mamma Mia" - 14

As a followup to this blog post, we saw our fourteenth show last Saturday night (June 25) at OCPAC. OK, it's now called Segerstrom Center for the Arts, whatever. We've seen the show there before, so our "different venue" count is still at eleven. I don't think that number is going to change anytime soon since we've pretty much exhausted all the venues in the Southern California area, so adding a new venue would involve some kind of significant overnight travel.

I enjoyed this production of the show, though the mixing of the sound levels was a bit off. There were times I had a really hard time hearing Donna because her mic didn't seem to be turned up enough.

Overall, I thought the company was pretty good. The actress playing Donna seemed a bit more reserved in the first act (the song "Mamma Mia" didn't quite pop as much as I'm used to), but she really got into it in the second act. She killed both "Slipping Through My Fingers" (yep, made me cry again) and "The Winner Takes It All". I wasn't completely happy with the actress who played Sophie. She made choices in both her acting and singing that didn't work for me. She was more shrill than I would have liked. The stand-out performance though, was from Alison Ewing, who played Tanya. She was awesome.

In overhearing bits and pieces of conversations from other people, there were some who were seeing the show for the first time, after having seen the movie, so I'm glad the movie is bringing out more people to see the show.

There was a woman sitting on the other side of the husband from me, and I was amused when I heard her gasp when Sophie told Sky she didn't want to get married. She was one of those who'd seen the movie and was seeing the show for the first time, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to her that Sophie and Sky didn't actually get married, but even if it was a newbie to the whole thing, I didn't think that particular development would actually elicit a gasp from anyone.

I can't believe that it was our first time seeing the show in two years - no wonder I was going through withdrawal! Our fifteenth show is expected to be in late March/early April of next year, when the touring company is coming back to the Pantages.