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michaEl bay or how I lEarnEd to stop Enjoying his films

So I haven’t written in a LONG time for several reasons… ok honestly I forgot I made this blog but regardless I am now going to attempt to post a movie review or rant at least ONCE a week from now on… yay.

So let’s get started with the topic at hand, why do I have a problem with Michael EXPLOSIONS Bay? (please note that to honor Mr. Bay’s stylistic choices I too will be putting in EXPLOSIONS where they make no sense)

It’s simple, I find it hard to consider him a filmmaker. In my eyes he’s a movie goer who has developed the ability to create the pinnacle of big budget EXPLOSIVE (yeah I know that one works) cash grab corporate summer block buster films designed for the purpose of building revenue.

His filmmaking rests EXPLOSIVELY within his ability to gain large budgets for films that have some sort of pre-established fandom before hand and cash in on that. Don’t believe me? The obvious example of this is the Transformers movies

For those who have no idea what Transformers is, it is a series in which two different alien clans of the same species of sentient transforming robots compete to become the wielders of weapons of vast power. The movies themselves are adapted from a TV show which was specifically designed to sell toys (and I am convinced are the root of all evil in film making because Orson Welles’s (second to) last job was voicing one of the Transformers in the TV series where his voice was so heavily edited that you cannot even tell it’s him).

But it’s more than just Transformers. Pearl Harbor, which could be argued to be an actually good film, relies on American patriotism as the film depicts the heroics of American servicemen during one of the worse attacks on US soil. Even Bad Boys, which was an original piece, had Will Smith in it, who had a huge fan base from Fresh Prince and partially because of his rap career. There was another guy but I forgot who it was… Martin something.

Even Bays lone attempts at making original pieces are caught up in his style of muscle bound adrenaline. Pain and Gain, a film about a three weight lifting body building guys, falls into the Bay normal tropes, with tough guys having to deal with over the top problems.

One of his most recent films, his adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles only reinforces this style (yeah yeah he produced it but seriously, the guy who directed it, Mister Bay Junior, pretty much made the movie with the Bay handbook). The film follows four genetically mutated turtles as they seek to bring justice in a world without none. Also they are ninjas. And teenagers. In the film, though he only acts as producer, Bays style of over maculating his characters shines through with the attempt to make the turtles look ‘tough’ is unneeded as it does nothing but simply brand the movie as a product of Bay’s rather than heart fully attempt to respectfully adapt the TMNT’s.

EXPLOSIONS (Well that was forced, should I stop? I’ll stop)

As I write this it dawns on me why I truly do not enjoy Bay films. They take themes from action movies from the 80’s and 90’s (films I love to watch for the sake that they are fun) and attempts to remake them without doing it in such a way that respects or replicates what makes them special.

He gives us characters we can’t relate to in situations way to unbelievable and develops action that we can’t follow or understand. Unlike characters like John McClain and Rambo, we are given characters who are suppose to be passed off as ‘Average Joes’ who own the power to survive all the explosions. They are uninteresting and feel like nothing more than plot devices rather than real people.

A great example of an action hero done right is Chad Stahelski and David Leitch’s John Wick, a film so creative they named it after the main character. The film follows an ex-hitman who leaves his life of peace after some crooks kill his dog left to him as a final gift from his dead love (bit of dick move on the part of the crooks am I right?).

The films story starts off with nothing but cliché followed by cliché followed by cliché followed by cliché followed by cliché and so on and so forth until you got bored and skipped to the next paragraph.

However, it is oddly enough the small amount of character development which makes this film one of my favorite action flicks in recent years. In the film, simply mentioning Wick’s involvement, let alone his name, puts fear into characters. Instantaneously characters demeanor will change as they realize that John ‘The Bogeyman’ Wick is back.

It is the depiction of how much fear Wick creates in others that helps set the audience up for the violence that he brings upon the villains and even then the film ultimately surprise’s you with the amount of damage this one man can deal out.

But it is more believable to see Wick bring down seventy six Russian Mobsters than it is for Wahlberg or LaBeouf to survive explosion after explosion because there is a pre-establishing of his abilities on a larger scale and more so his impact within the world of the film.

Bay’s characters don’t even have this basic set up, as they are simply ‘normal’ guys who get thrown into abnormal situations. It is this reliance upon us seeing these superstar actors as ‘Average Joes’ which ultimately causes the films to fail in having us the audience connect. There is no reason why we should be concern with the characters as they simply act as guides to bring us from one set piece to the next, and from this we lose out on seeing real people and thus Bay fails at creating something real for us the viewer.

This sense of not being able to create something real is a problem that plagues all of Michael Bay’s recent work, he doesn’t bring us somewhere new, he keeps us plastered to cheap theatre seats as we see a gag reel of overpriced stunt work and pyrotechnics which are not worth the cost of pirating them online a few months later.


rEviEw: dawn of the planEt of thE apEs

Whats it about? – Ten years after apes have gained intelligence as a result of a super virus which has killed off a majority of humans, the remaining human survivors and the new ape society find themselves on a very thin line between peaceful harmony or total war.

Review in one line – It’s a good movie but prepare to deal with at least a few cases of ape shit

Review (Warning, some light spoilers, nothing story breaking) – Let me get this out of the way, for anyone who saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I can say this with confidence, this one is much better. For starters there is barely any James Franco which is good (this a personal opinion) second, there is barely any James Franco which is good (a general public opinion).

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, lets dive into the movie itself. First off the story was pleasantly well done, which surprised me after seeing Rise of the Plan… ok from now on I’m referring to these movies as RISE or DAWN, because I lack patience. Anyway, the story in DAWN was well done, it built characters that I found myself interested in and even cared for, even going as far as to give us justifiably evil characters, something where there is a lack of. Andy Serkis who plays Caesar does an astounding job in creating a strong leader to whom I found myself interested and concerned with.

Then human characters are introduced. That’s whats interesting to me, the story about the apes was far more interesting and well done than the humans story, complimented with a lack of dialogue and relying on facial features to convey emotion for a good part of the film. But as fascinating and in-depth as the apes were, the humans seemed bland and typical as post-apocalyptic survivors with the all to typical goal of rebuilding society that is seen in nearly every post-apocalyptic movie or TV show (see Walking Dead as reference). More so, the dialogue that is shared between the humans seemed vanilla.

The movie is a very good looking film, having spanning views of destroyed San Francisco or almost claustrophobic shots of the forest. One of my favorite parts of the movie is a fixed camera that shows the immense scale of the films big battle scene, which was amazingly well done and would be enough of a reason for me to watch the whole film again. The action scenes were also well done, creating brutal, even savage fight scenes. The best instance of action in the whole movie is the assault on the human colony, where hundreds of apes with guns and horses charge a walled human settlement which has grenades and rocket launchers. If any action fans did not get giddy at the sound of that then boo, boo on you sirs (or madame’s).

Now for the bad parts, first off what really bugged me was that while watching the film I could imagine the writer getting through two thirds of a well written script before throwing their hands up and saying ‘fuck it!’ Because that’s what it felt like. The two characters who you can call antagonists, Gary Oldman’s character Dreyfus and the Toby Kebbell’s character Koba, were both justifiable in their goals and actions, where they had good reasons for what they did. But then in a feat of bad writing, these two characters become almost cartoonish and completely irrational, throwing away their well thought out logic to be crazy.

Then there are other parts that annoyed me. The amount of times that apes talked in the film, especially among one another (fuck me it’s surprising the first time all the way back in RISE but it works once… only once because after that you are not surprised and it’s almost comical to see the actors retract in horror when everyone who watched RISE are thinking ‘yeah, we knew that, how did it take you ten years to figure this out! FUCK!’) But I digress.

It was moments like these, along with other parts such as how apes can hit the broadside of a barn while holding an assault rifle with one hand with zero training, that broke the immersion that I felt throughout the first half of the movie.

As annoying as these things were, I have to make it clear that this was a good movie. For all it’s flaws it created characters (mainly apes) who I cared for and were interested in. It developed a power struggle that was believable and it gave good reason to fear the apes, while sticking to themes that were persistent throughout all Planet of the Apes movies such as the switching of roles between apes and humans, and the concerns of conflict between cultures based on racism.

Final Say – If you skipped to here, I don’t blame you. In the end DAWN is a good movie, not a great movie since it is plagued with instances of breaking away from good writing or repeatedly halting immersion but it’s still enjoyable. It has good character development with a strong multi layered conflict, some great action and stays true to the Planet of the Apes central themes.

7/10 – It’s ok and I got no plans friday.