Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

f140aad0-e041-11e3-bbab-c14b02f09f69_transformers-age-of-extinctionRoze-Rating: 2.5 / 5

Following the attack on Chicago, there is a sense of bitterness towards the transformers. Unknown to the public, Decepticons and Autobots are being hunted down and killed for their scraps, sanctioned by corrupt CIA operatives. Of all places, Cade Yeager finds a torn up truck in an abandoned cinema hoping to sell the parts for enough cash to put his daughter through college. When he discovers that it isn’t your average truck, his life takes a turn for the worst.

Now I’ve never been a hater of the Transformer franchise or ever boarded the “down with Michael Bay” bandwagon, because I actually find his films fun and thoroughly entertaining, but this time around I’m finding it hard to defend the CGI addicted director. I’ll give him Transformers one as it was actually a pretty good action flick, and what made it so good was that element of mystery, for people who weren’t familiar with transformers or ever had a history with them, the first installment was perfect. We’re learning about who the transformers are and how significant their rivalry with the Decepticons is, and the bond they form with the humans adds an extra layer to the transformers that makes them admirable characters. But as the sequels increase the more shallow the franchise has become, and when we take a step back and think about the films together as a series, it’s evident that there’s no progression and it never intends to, instead there’s more of a desire to include as much CGI as possible, dress the girls down as eye candy and make a simple story over complicated. And that’s a shame as the characters are pretty badass. That being said I’m one of those people that totally fell for the plethora of explosions and destruction that was Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Yes a lot of it was ridiculous, and there are moments that annoy me, but you can’t fault the entertainment value it offers and some of those action sequences are jaw dropping. Looking back you can tell that Bay took on the criticism from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and improved the franchise immensely, because that film achieved the complete opposite of what it intended to do. The story was bloated and the pacing was completely off, making for an overlong film that was ultimately boring despite the non stop action. Unfortunately Transformers: Age of Extinction does not move forward as Dark of the Moon did, but instead takes a huge step backwards.

Unsurprisingly this film is visually brilliant, there’s one thing Bay can do and that is make a great looking action film. The CGI is incredible and has come a long way since the first film of the series, you would honestly think that these robots were real if you were a kid watching for the first time. Of course if you’re looking for explosions, explosions and more explosions then this film will hit the spot perfectly; it would be hard to find a film that can top the amount of destruction that you’ll get in this. But If you’re looking for an action film with a coherent story and uncliched characters then this may be 2 hours and 37 minutes you’d rather save for another trip to the cinema.

There’s a reason I could tolerate Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and that was because I cared about the characters having spent two films getting to know them with the exception of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Just like Dark of the Moon missed Mikaela (Megan Fox), Age of Extinction missed Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf), just because followers of the franchise have already developed a relationship with the character and in addition that relationship between Witwicky and the Autobots. Mark Wahlberg is great in this film but in all honesty I didn’t care much for his character or the others, and that’s down to how cliched and cheesy they are. For the first time in a film, I actually disapproved of seeing a beautiful girl in short shorts, just because we’ve seen it so many times before in a Transformers film, why must it be a perquisite to have a gorgeous girl cast in these films. The good thing about Megan Fox and her character was that there was more too her than met the eye, she was a badass and had a legitimate reason to be involved with the transformers. Ultimately the characters are just bad, I mean the only reason I remember Shane (Jack Reynor) is because of his Irish accent.

Now the storytelling is pretty terrible, there are countless moments which could have easily been condensed and reduced the run time significantly, making for a less exhausting watch. The story alone is generic, haven’t we already had a government conspiracy plot line before. The most interesting thing about the film is the Transformers and their conflict between helping the humans or accepting they don’t want them there, and that’s where the tireless critique returns, make the transformers purely the heart of the films!

Despite the action being pretty well choreographed and executed, there’s so much of it that it really does suffocate you. The amount of shaky cam and low angle shots used within the long action sequences makes it so hard to concentrate on the screen. I had to look away and blink a few times just to make sure my eyes weren’t trying to wriggle their way out of their sockets. Admittedly I did enjoy the final action segment, just because it’s pretty hilarious and the urban warfare approach is totally my thing. I just wish they kept that same lighthearted tone from start to finish, because the worst parts of the film are when it tries too hard to be serious, and therefore sucking all the fun out of it.

Ultimately there’s no surprise towards how the film has turned out, we all know what to expect with Michael Bay films and especially when coming from the Transformers franchise. It may be time for a fresh face to take over and inject the imagination and inspired ideas that this film really missed. That being said if you’re in the mood for hardcore action to fry your brain then this will do the trick.

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Off The Radar: Grand Piano (2014)

grand_piano_still_a_lRoze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tom Selznick branded as the most talented pianist of his generation returns on stage for a comeback performance after five years of retirement, as a result of nightmare performance that halted his career in an instant. To add to his ongoing nerves, during the opening of his concert he discovers a message on his score sheet stating that he will be killed if he makes a mistake. While playing in front of a large audience, Tom must figure out who has him at gun point and for what reasons.

This isn’t your average thriller as the premise may suggest, and that may be why the film isn’t a complete flop. That being said behind the preconceived premise, the twists and turns that take place may not be as inventive as one hopes. What saves it from becoming a generic thriller is the direction of Eugenio Mira and performance of Elijah Wood, who has relished his freedom lately and taken up a number of low budget projects. Grand Piano is set in one location and is filmed in real time, yet it remains engaging and is rarely dull.

As classical music is, the camera work is elegant in its movement and is reluctant to use the same angles excessively keeping the location fresh but also working hand in hand with the music as a way of expressing the chaos taking place in front of a clueless audience. The cinematography as a whole is a good enough reason to watch this film. The editing is also masterfully utilized on occasions to symbolize violent acts, such as suddenly cutting to the stroke of a bow along a cello’s strings to show what crime had just occurred. Without the sophisticated camera work, Grand Piano would lack the thrills and tension which make the film at times exciting.

Upon doing some research I was surprised to find out that Elijah Wood has limited piano playing abilities and that most of what was filmed was the craft of his hands, and that alone merits praise for his performance. Having to concentrate on his precise hand movements, acting and listening to John Cusack via an earpiece takes some major multitasking skills and it totally succeeded. Despite not seeing much of John Cusack, his voice succeeds in being convincingly menacing.

It is an unusual film but that’s what gives it character, providing quite a pleasantly unique viewing experience. It’s tense when it intends to be and quirky in others, despite underwhelming twists and perhaps a payoff too, it’s a film definitely worth watching as a guide on how to make a low budget film that looks classy and is as intriguing as any other blockbuster thriller; and hey it make even convert you into a classical music enthusiast too.

The Lego Movie (2014)

the_lego_movie_2014-wideRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Emmet is your average construction worker living life by the rules, always sticking to the instructions enforced by president Business. What Emmet isn’t aware of is that his mind is capable of so much more than conforming with everyone around him, and that he has the potential to be just as special as the people he looks up to. Unaware of the coming onslaught of President Business and his Kragal, Emmet finds the “piece of resistance”, the key to saving the universe they live in.

Coming from the directors of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and the “21 Jump Street” franchise, The Lego Movie clearly have Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s footprints embedded into it, from the quirky humor to the larger than life action sequences. Finally a film utilizing it’s ensemble cast to its full potential. Up and comer Chris Pratt is the highlight of the film, voice acting as Emmet, and for anyone who’s a fan of “Parks and Recreation”, will be pleasantly treated to a character with hints of Andy written all over it. We are also treated to the likes of Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Morgan Freeman and Will Ferrell, and other big name cameo’s on top of that. The cast may be large but they all have their moments providing laughs for both adults and kids.

The major highlight of this film has to be the animation which has reached new grounds making each piece of Lego look real enough to grab from the screen. As Lego should be, the aesthetics are colourfully glossy with no limits to imagination. The way the pieces move and assemble is masterfully animated, taking the old timers back to their childhoods and entertaining the kids, possibly giving them ideas for their next big creation. That is where this film succeeds, the Lego really are the stars of the film. Exuding a sense of nostalgia for the older audiences while creating an atmosphere of fun for everyone else.

Both Lord and Miller acknowledged that their first effort in film lacked heart and a true connection between audience and character, although Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a success for its humor, this time around they’ve successfully found the best of both worlds. What I like about this film is that they never forget what Lego is all about and what it represents and in a way it’s a homage to the toy itself. President Business (Will Ferrell) is the bad guy, enforcing rules and instructions on the public with the ultimate goal of making things permanent. The film illustrates the endless possibility of Lego and encourages imagination and individualism going beyond the instructions you’re given, despite it being based on Lego, it goes for all things in life and that’s as big a connection you can make with an audience.

On top of the messages, what makes this film one of the best of the year, are the little details representing the nuances of playing with Lego, making it so relatable and real. for example the odd manual sound effects as a detachable building floor flies away, or the use of everyday household objects as toys, clueless to what they’re actually for. It’s a definite must watch film of 2014, and has Academy Award nomination written all over it.