Thursday, July 31, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Knights of Badassdom (2014) **

R, 86 min.
Director: Joe Lynch
Writers: Kevin Dreyfuss, Matt Wall
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn, Summer Glau, Peter Dinklage, Margarita Levieva, Jimmi Simpson, Danny Pudi, Brett Gipson, Joshua Malina, W. Earl Brown, Brian Posehn

“Knights of Badassdom” is the type of geek core movie that you really want to work. It’s got a great premise, a great cast, and great potential for humor and referential jokes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, and I’m not sure I will be able to pin point why.

It tells the story of a group of LARPers who are terrorized by a demonic version of a member’s ex-girlfriend after their “wizard” inadvertently casts a real spell. I mean, really? Doesn’t that sound like a great idea for a movie? Damn! I want to see that movie! However, I just did and I read that synopsis again and I feel like I didn’t just see that movie because it really should’ve been much more memorable.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) *

UR, 102 min.
Directors: The Brothers Strause
Writers: Shane Salerno, Dan O’Bannon (“Alien” characters), Ronald Shusett (“Alien” characters), Jim Thomas (“Predator” characters), John Thomas (“Predator” characters)
Starring: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Ariel Gade, Kristen Hager, Sam Trammell, Robert Joy, David Paetkau, Tom Woodruff Jr., Ian Whyte

I really don’t know why I torture myself with these terrible entries to franchises I love, but for some reason I seem to return to them even more often than I do the good ones. “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” is probably the worst entry of both the “Alien” and “Predator” franchises. It doesn’t speak well that even the studio didn’t feel it was worth referring to this movie with its full title and generally referred to it as “AvPR” even in its advertising. It’s like they were saying, “Why bother?” before they even released it. Fair warning, I guess.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Leviathan (2013) ***½

NR, 87 min.
Directors: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel
Featuring: Captain Brian Jannelle

I have no idea how they filmed “Leviathan”. It is a documentary about a fishing vessel. There is no dialogue, no commentary, no explanations. That’s not to say there is no narrative. There are long passages of film when it is impossible to tell just what you’re looking at, including the opening sequence.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lucy / **½ (R)

Lucy: Scarlett Johansson
Professor Norman: Morgan Freeman
Mr. Jang: Choi Min-Sik
Pierre Del Rio: Amr Waked

Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by Luc Besson. Running time: 90 min. Rated R (for strong violence, disturbing images and sexuality).

Luc Besson’s new sci-fi thriller “Lucy” is one of the more interesting action movies to come along recently. It’s one of the more interesting screenplays by Besson since his early films, like “La Femme Nikita”, “The Professional”, and “The Fifth Element”. But then again, the word “interesting” isn’t necessarily the highest compliment you can pay to a film. It’s a tough one to figure, because in some ways it is a great movie. However, in the end it leaves you feeling cheated out one of the two movies to which it couldn’t fully commit.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Unknown Known (2014) ***½

PG-13, 103 min.
Director/Writer: Errol Morris
Featuring: Donald Rumsfeld
Voice: Errol Morris

In his first feature, “Gates of Heaven”, documentarian Errol Morris interviews an old woman who just lets loose on his camera with a five minute monologue that goes from one end of the spectrum to the other in a way that sees her contradicting her own point by the time she reaches the end. “The Unknown Known” is a feature-length version of that same monologue, this time with former two-time U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as the interviewee.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Planet of the Apes (2001) **½

PG-13, 119 min.
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Pierre Boulle (novel “La Planéte des Singes”)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristofferson, Erick Avari, Luke Eberl, Evan Dexter Parke, Glenn Shadix, Freda Foh Shen, Chris Ellis, Anne Ramsay, Lisa Marie

Tim Burton’s 2001 remake “Planet of the Apes” stands as the bastard child of the franchise. Even in comparison to such wretched entries to the series as 1973’s “Battle for the Planet of the Apes”, Burton’s film is held with contempt in fans’ minds. I was never in this camp of thinking. In fact, when I first reviewed the film upon its theatrical release, I gave it 3½ stars. In light of the recent reboot series, my initial thoughts on Burton’s take seem ill conceived.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Silent (2014) **

NR, 3 min.
Directors: Limbert Fabian, Brandon Oldenburg
Writers: Limbert Fabian, William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg

Just because it’s a short animated film, that doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because it pays homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, that doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because it tells a clever story without words, that doesn’t mean it’s good.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Odd Thomas (2014) ***

NR, 97 min.
Director: Stephen Sommers
Writers: Stephen Sommers, Dean Koontz (novel)
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Willem Dafoe, Shuler Hensley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nico Tortorella, Kyle McKeever, Laurel Harris, Patton Oswalt

If anything, “Odd Thomas” is odd. It follows a man who sees dead people. They appear to him and he helps to bring their murderers to justice. He also sees these things that are kind of like demons who hang around people that are going to cause chaos and death. This makes him an invaluable resource to a local police detective.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes / **** (PG-13)

Caesar: Andy Serkis
Malcolm: Jason Clarke
Dreyfuss: Gary Oldman
Ellie: Kari Russell
Koba: Toby Kebbell
Alexander: Kodi Smit-McPhee
Carver: Kirk Acevedo
Blue Eyes: Nick Thurston

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Matt Reeves. Written by Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. Based on characters created by Jaffa & Silver and inspired by the novel “Le Planéte des Singes” by Pierre Boulle. Running time: 130 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief strong language).

For the past two weeks we’ve watched as the Gaza Strip has once again blown up in conflict with innocents dying on both sides and both sides claiming the righteousness of their causes. I would not claim to know enough about either side of this never-ending conflict to judge whether anyone is right or not. I do believe that after a certain point the righteousness of such conflicts fades in comparison to the cost in human life. War is just war after a while. Is it just an inevitable aspect of the human existence? The new film “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, in the same tradition of the original series of films inspired by Pierre Buolle’s novel “Le Planéte des Singes”, argues that it may be the nature of any dominant species, be it man or ape.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The World’s End (2013) ****

R, 109 min.
Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan, David Bradley, Michael Smiley, Steve Oram
Voice: Bill Nighy

“The World’s End” was one of my favorite movies from 2013. I think some people might look at it and wonder why. It’s a strange British movie. It’s part of the Cornetto Trilogy by filmmakers Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The two previous films were “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”. The only three things that really tie them together are these three artists, the fact that the ice cream treat called a cornetto appears at some point in each film and each is a spoof of a decade specific genre.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Sound City (2013) ****

NR, 108 min.
Director: Dave Grohl
Writers: Mark Monroe, Dave Grohl
Featuring: Vinny Appice, Joe Barresi, Brian Bell, Frank Black, James Brown, Lindsey Buckingham, Mike Campbell, Tim Commerford, Kevin Cronin, Rivers Cuomo, Warren Demartini, Mick Fleetwood, John Fogerty, Neil Giraldo, Christopher Allen Goss, Jessy Greene, David Grohl, Omar Hakim, Taylor Hawkins, Peter Hayes, Joshua Homme, Rami Jaffee, Alain Johannes, Jim Keltner, Barry Manilow, Paul McCartney, Nate Mendel, Rupert Neve, Stevie Nicks, Rick Nielson, Krist Novoselic, Shivaun O’Brien, Keith Olsen, Stephen Pearcy, Tom Petty, Nick Raskulinecz, Trent Reznor, Ross Robinson, Rick Rubin, Paula Salvatore, Jim Scott, Chris Shiflett, Sandy Skeeter, Tom Skeeter, Pat Smear, Rick Springfield, Corey Taylor, Benmont Tench, Robert Levon Been, Lars Ulrich, Butch Vig, Lee Ving, Brad Wilk, Pat Wilson, Neil Young

There is so much good music in “Sound City”, Dave Grohl’s documentary about the famed Sound City music recording studio, I can barely stand it. Much is made about the Neve soundboard that drew so many acts to recording in the rather glamourless studio, and I’m sold. Every classic album mentioned in the film has a very distinctive sound to them that is recaptured in the album Grohl made with many of the artists behind those albums after purchasing the soundboard from the studio when it closed its doors.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) ****

PG-13, 105 min.
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Pierre Boulle (novel “The Planet of the Apes”)
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Richard Ridings, Chris Gordon, Jay Caputo, Tyler Labine, Jamie Harris, Ty Olsson, David Hewlett

Sometimes I hold back on star ratings because I just feel like I can’t be handing out four stars left and right. Also, I often just love a movie and hold back because I don’t think others will see it the same way. As a critic that’s really going against my job, which is to point out what others may not see in a movie whether it be good or bad.

As I recall, I took a star away from this movie only because it embraces an action element in its final act. The thing is the plot of the film wholly supports the action sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge. Everything about it comes from elements that have come before in the film. It establishes the apes as the “good guys” were this a more traditional movie. But then, it really isn’t.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A-Dub II iPod (2010-2014) R.I.P.

A-Dub II iPod died Thursday, July 17, 2014. He was the primary music source device for film critic, author and pest technician Andrew D. Wells.  He was an iPod classic 160G, almost big enough to hold all the music Mr. Wells wished to be available to him at all times. A-Dub died suddenly when the charging device he was attached to malfunctioned and overheated the unwitting media player.

A-Dub was a sturdy music media device born at an Apple, Inc. manufacturing facility in 2010, who performed dutifully for a music lover who holds music in the highest regard, second only to movies. Out of respect for the art form, Mr. Wells never demeaned the music on his iPod by over-crowding it with movies. Despite the insistence of the film studios to rule every media platform in a home, A-Dub was solely dedicated to providing music of every style and genre.

A-Dub was responsible for enriching Mr. Wells’ life with such classic albums as Wu-Tang Clan’s “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”, John Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow”, Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska”, Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”, Dire Strait’s “Brothers In Arms”, and AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. A-Dub also carried more recent classics to Mr. Wells’ ears, like Kings of Leon’s “Only By the Night”, Kurt Vile’s “Wakin On a Pretty Daze”, Sharon Jones and the Dap Tones’ “Give the People What They Want”, Frank Ocean’s “Planet Orange”, Stardeath & White Dwarves’ “The Birth”, and No Joy’s “Wait to Pleasure”.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (2013) ***½

TV-PG, 180 min.
Director: Michael Kantor

Writers: Michael Kantor, Laurence Maslon

Featuring: Grant Morrison, Joe Quesada, Mark Waid, Len Wein, Geoff Johns, Jack Kirby, Trina Robbins, Carmine Infantino, Todd McFarlane, Adam West, Zack Snyder, Denny O’Neill, Neal Adams, Stan Lee, Jim Steranko, Jerry Robinson, Joe Simon, Lynda Carter, Michael Chabon, Jeanette Kahn, Paul Dini, Alan Moore, Jim Lee

Voices: Edward Hermann, Marc Damon Johnson, Adriane Lennox, Adam West, Tim Daly

Host: Liev Schreiber

I began reading comic books at the heart of their modern popularity. By “modern” I mean the age when following comic books meant an investment in them. They were probably more popular in the wartime era, when they cost 10 cents. In the late 80s and early 90s it required an income to follow comics. That’s when I got in, just when I was gaining an income.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Lego Movie (2014) ***½

PG, 100 min.
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writers: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman
Voices: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Keith Ferguson, Orville Forte, Dave Franco, Jake Johnson, Keegan-Michael Kee, Shaquille O’Neal, Melissa Strum, Jorma Taccone

“The Lego Movie” is easily one of my favorite films of the year so far. I’m not saying anything new with that, however, as it seems to be a phrase that finds its way off the lips of just about anyone who sees it. It’s good enough, I’d place it in the top three so far.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Dark Knight (2008) ****

PG-13, 152 min.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, Bob Kane (characters)
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Monique Gabriella Curnen, Ron Dean, Cillian Murphy, Chin Han, Nestor Carbronell, Eric Roberts, Ritchie Coster, Anthony Michael Hall, Keith Szarabajka, Colin McFarlane, Joshua Harto, Melinda McGraw, Nathan Gamble, Michael Vieau, Michael Stoyanov, William Smillie, Danny Goldring, Michael Jai White, Matthew O’Neill, William Fitchner

I recently called “Iron Man 3” “…possibly the best superhero movie yet.” I wrote that with full awareness of the “Dark Knight” issue. And I stand behind that. “Iron Man 3” is not better than “The Dark Knight”, however. Oh, “The Dark Knight” is far better than “Iron Man 3”. It isn’t really a superhero movie, though. Yes. It has superhero elements. It has action. It has spectacular special effects. It has a broadly conceived villain, however delicately portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. It has a message. It comments on our society. These are all elements of a good superhero movie. And yet, “The Dark Knight” transcends all of these elements to become something more.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Well Defined—The Blind-Bye

A Penny in the Well movie definition

As the pressures of becoming a father of four and a tougher work schedule than I’ve ever had before, I find it increasingly difficult to post a new film review every day. Not so much because I don’t want to write a new review each day, but because I just can find the time to watch enough movies to do that. I just can’t write about a movie simply by memory. I’d really prefer to watch the movies I’m writing about so I can present fresh views on them. So, I find myself in a dilemma if I want a new post each day.

With the release of “Life Itself”, the documentary about the life of film critic Roger Ebert, I also find that I miss some of the details he contributed to cinema. One of those details were definitions of cinematic phenomenon, such as the Meet Cute, that often cutesy moment when two characters are first introduced to each other. Ebert had a tradition of continuing to contribute to his ever growing film glossary of definitions and terms, which the people who run his website probably still do, but I’ve decided to steal this idea from him.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Veronica Mars (2014) ***

PG-13, 107 min.
Director: Rob Thomas
Writers: Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggerio
Starring: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Chris Lowell, Krysten Ritter, Ryan Hansen, Jerry O’Connell, Percy Daggs III, Tina Majorino, Martin Starr, Gaby Hoffman, Francis Capra, Brandon Hillock, Maury Sterling, Andrea Estella, Sam Huntington, Max Greenfield, Daran Norris, Amanda Noret, Ken Marino, James Franco, Jamie Lee Curtis

There’s nothing like putting on your favorite sweatshirt. For the people who discovered it, “Veronica Mars” was a surprisingly original television show that gave us a plucky heroine, witty dialogue and twists and turns to our hearts delight. It ran three seasons and was gone too soon. Then it came back in the most surprising manner possible. A Kickstarter campaign allowed the fans to fund the movie that the studio wouldn’t make and it made Kickstarter and movie history as the quickest three million dollars ever raised by crowd funding to make a movie. But does it live up to the television show?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—24, season 2 (2002-2003) ****

TV-14, 24 45-min. episodes
Creators: Joel Surnow, Robert Cochran

Directors: Jon Cassar, James Whitmore Jr., Rodney Charters, Frederick K. Keller, Ian Toynton

Writers: Joel Surnow, Robert Cochran, Michael Loceff, Howard Gordon, Remi Aubuchon, Gil Grant, Elizabeth M. Cosin, Virgil Williams, David Ehrman, Evan Katz, Maurice Hurley, Neil Cohen, Duppy Demetrius

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Sarah Wynter, Elisha Cuthbert, Xander Berkley, Carlos Bernard, Dennis Haysbert, Reiko Aylesworth, Michelle Forbes, Penny Johnson Jerald, Jude Ciccollela, Laura Harris, John Terry

Guest starring: Billy Burke, Timothy Carhart, Sara Gilbert, Skye Nicole Bartusiak, Tracy Middendorf, Phillip Rhys, Douglas O’Keefe, Jimmi Simpson, Gregory Sporleder, Michael Holden, Tamlyn Tomita, Jim Abele, Jon Gries, Innis Casey, Sarah Clarke, Nicholas Guilak, Bryan Rasmussen, John Eddins, Eric Christian Olsen, Michael Cudlitz, Michael McGrady, Anthony Azizi, Tony Wayne, Al Sapienza, Harris Yulin, Fred Toma, Marc Casabani, Francesco Quinn, Terry Bozeman, Daniel Dae Kim, Bernard White, Steven Culp, Kevin Dillon, Val Lauren, Randle Mell, Maximilian Martini, Lourdes Benedicto, Donnie Keshawarz, Dean Norris, Brent Sexton, Lombardo Boyar, Greg Henry, Alan Dale, Justin Louis, Sterling Macer Jr., Nick Offerman, Paul Schulze, Tobin Bell, Peter Outerbridge, Raymond Cruz, Maurice Compte, Glenn Morshower, Brian Goodman, Jeffery Wincott, Mark Ivanir, Peter Gregory, Alex Daniels, Thomas Kretschmann, Rick D. Wasserman, Scott Paulin, Chuti Tiu, Eugene Robert Glazer

“24” season 2 finds the stakes raised once more, in that seemingly impossible standard of the series where the stakes begin higher than any other thriller situation imagined and then continued to rise from that point throughout the season. With David Palmer now POTUS, what can the writers of this series throw at these characters to totally uproot every expectation they or the audience can imagine? They do it. It’s hard to believe, but they blow our minds again the second time around.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—A Field in England (2014) ***

NR, 90 min.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writer: Amy Jump
Starring: Julian Barrett, Peter Ferdinando, Richard Glover, Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley, Ryan Pope
Voice: Sara Dee

“A Field in England” is one of those movies that is probably enhanced by watching under the influence of a serious hallucinogen. It’s shot in black & white so your mind can fill in the colors. That being said, it also takes place in a setting that seems very non-psychedelic. It takes place amid the Civil War in 17th Century England. Before this film I knew nothing of any Civil War in England in the 17th Century, and now I still don’t. I think the setting probably has some significance that would be lost on most Americans, myself included, but it is of little importance when all is said and done.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Life Itself / **** (R)

A documentary featuring: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Marlene Iglitzen, A.O. Scott, Richard Corliss, Gene Siskel, Ramin Bahrani, Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese, Avy DuVernay
The voice of Roger Ebert: Stephen Stanton

Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films present a film by Steve James. Based on the memoir “Life Itself” by Roger Ebert. Running time: 115 min. Rated R (for brief sexual images/nudity and language).

I didn’t know I was a writer. I went to school to be an actor. I’d watched “Siskel & Ebert & the Movies” on Saturday mornings as a kid. To me Roger Ebert was just a guy on TV who talked about movies, which I thought was pretty cool, but that was the end of it. Then when I was in college, an acting friend of mine turned me on to Roger’s written word. Suddenly I realized that not only was there more to movies than I’d ever imagined, but there was more to criticism.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Cheap Thrills (2014) ***

NR, 88 min.
Director: E.L. Katz
Writers: David Chirchirillo, Trent Haaga
Starring: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner

E.L. Katz’s “Cheap Thrills” is a very dark movie indeed. It involves a man played by Pat Healy, whom horror enthusiasts might remember from Ti West’s “The Innkeepers”. He finds himself in a desperate financial situation. He has a new child and has just received an eviction notice on his apartment door. He loses his job and finds himself in a bar where he runs into an old friend. They share a few drinks and are asked to share a few more by an eccentric couple who seem to have money to spare.

Friday, July 04, 2014

22 Jump Street / *** (R)

Schmidt: Jonah Hill
Janko: Channing Tatum
The Ghost: Peter Stromare
Zook: Wyatt Russell
Maya: Amber Stevens
Mercedes: Jillian Bell
Captain Dickson: Ice Cube

Columbia Pictures and MGM present a film directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. Written by Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman from a story by Bacall & Jonah Hill. Based on the television series “21 Jump Street” created by Patrick Hasburgh & Stephen J. Canell. Running time: 112 min. Rated R (for language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence).

I didn’t see the Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill starring television film remake “21 Jump Street” in theaters. The whole thing sounded absurd to me, and I wasn’t even a fan of the television series. I did, however, catch it on home video and found it to be hysterically funny and a genuine surprise. Much of its success hinged on the notion that the filmmakers realized how ridiculous it seemed to mount a big screen adaptation of a nearly forgotten television series, which was a great offender of the Hollywood cliché of having adults portray high school kids, with a couple of stars that were not known to be taken seriously and certainly weren’t teenagers.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (2013) **

PG-13, 141 min.
Director: Justin Chadwick
Writers: William Nicholson, Nelson Mandela (autobiography)
Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Zolani Mkiva, Simo Mogwaza, Fana Mokoena, Thapelo Mokoena, Jamie Bartlett, Deon Lotz, Terry Pheto

“Critic proof” is a term frequently used to categorize types of movies that are aimed at certain types of genre fans. These movies are critic proof because it doesn’t matter how bad they are, the fans will still eat them up. I believe the “Transformers” franchise has proven itself critic proof, given its universal critical disdain and its relentless success at the box office.

It often seems to me that dramatic fare can also be critic proof to some degree, if it involves a subject that is worthy enough of a cinematic treatment. If any subject would seem worthy enough, it would be the life of Nelson Mandela. Mandela is best known for bringing the South African nation together in racial unity after more than 50 years of racial unrest under the prejudiced rule of Apartheid. Before that he spent 28 years in prison, 18 under a life sentence in one of the country’s harshest prisons. And before that he was a leader in the civil rights movement against Apartheid who did not denounce the use of violence as an acceptable form of civil unrest.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction / * (PG-13)

Cade Yeager: Mark Wahlberg
Tessa Yeager: Nicola Peltz
Joshua Joyce: Stanley Tucci
Harold Attinger: Kelsey Grammer
Shane Dyson: Jack Reynor
James Savoy: Titus Welliver
Darcy Tirrel: Sophia Myles
Su Yueming: Bingbing Li

Optimus Prime: Peter Cullen
Galvatron: Frank Welker
Hound: John Goodman
Drift: Ken Watanabe
Lockdown: Mark Ryan

Paramount Pictures and Hasbro present a film directed by Michael Bay. Written by Ehren Kruger. Running time: 165 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief innuendo).

After seeing “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” in 2011, I promised myself I would never darken the door of a Transformers movie again as long as Michael Bay directed it.  So, when I learned that Michael Bay would be directing the fourth “Transformers” film, I thought I was done with the franchise. Then last fall I went to see the stand up of T.J. Miller, who has a role in the newest Transformers. Miller hung out with the patrons before and after the show. He was one of the nicest and most down to Earth celebrities I’ve ever met. For that reason alone, I decided to lift my “Transformers” ban. Let me just warn anyone who might be going to see the film for T.J. Miller—don’t. Miller will be in other projects more worthy of his and your time that will have a more profound effect on his career under the circumstances.