Tune in to “Canada AM” on Canada Day from 7 am to 9 am, to see hosts Beverly Thomson and Marci Ien welcome special guests Richard and travel expert Lorne Christie! Together they look back at some of the highlights of the show, including interviews with Hillary Clinton and music from Ziggy Marley!
The advertising tagline for “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is “This is not war, it’s extinction,” which is catchy enough, I suppose, but having seen it I couldn’t help but think that “Cum on Feel the Noize,” a song lyric by either Slade or Quiet Riot, depending on your age, would have been more appropriate.
Michael Bay’s latest is eardrum shatteringly loud, guaranteed to leave you with ringing ears and a rumbling theatre seat. Visually, expect scorched eyes. Bay has made a movie for three of your five senses—only smell and taste are exempt—but will it entertain your brain while launching an all out assault on your senses?
Picking up four years after the invasion of Chicago seen in the last Transformers film, “Dark of the Moon,” the action begins when unemployed robotic engineer Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) uncover deactivated Autobot, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) hidden under a pile of junk. Their discovery puts them in the crosshairs of CIA agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and tech tycoon Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci). The two are hatching a plan, fueled by equal parts paranoia and genius, to build man made second generation Transformers to seek out and destroy the Autobots. “A new era has begun,” says Attinger, “and the age of Transformers is over.”
Everybody loves spectacle. The Romans had the Coliseum and we have the “Transformers” movies. Like the gladiatorial shows of yore, in Michael Bay’s movies it doesn’t matter who lives or dies—the films don’t care about their human characters and neither do we—all that matters is the spectacle of the whole thing and at almost frenetic three hours “Age of Extinction” certainly delivers on that score. Like the old Roman emperors many moviegoers will give this movie a thumbs up simply because of the value per minute the film offers.
No one can accuse Bay of skimping on… well anything. “Age of Extinction” is a wide ranging action orgy that plays off of Bush era Homeland Security paranoia and also explains why dinosaurs became extinct. It comments on the ethics of unarmed warfare and blows up most of Hong Kong.
Bay doesn’t do anything by half measures but I found myself wishing the movie was about half as long as it is with half the bombast. It’s stylish—“Why run when you can run in slow motion,” Bay seems to be asking—not unlike a car commercial, but is excessive on almost every level. I don’t expect or want “My Dinner with Optimus Prime,” but in this case I think less would have been more.
Wahlberg brings loads of personality and humor with his over-protective father routine, Tucci is reliable as ever and Grammer is in full-on Dick Cheney mode but who cares? We’re not paying to see them, we’re paying to see Optimus Prime play bucking bronco with a giant dinobot.
Is “Transformers: Age of Extinction” a good movie? Not really. Does it deliver on its promise? Yes, but almost too much so. Either way I doubt Michael Bay much cares what the critics think. He’s built a joke into the movie suggesting that if you don’t like sequels you’re senile.
SYNOPSIS: Picking up four years after the invasion of Chicago seen in the last Transformers film, “Dark of the Moon,” the action begins when unemployed robotic engineer Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) uncover deactivated Autobot, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) hidden under a pile of junk. Their discovery puts them under the microscope of CIA agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and tech tycoon Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci). The two are hatching a plan, fueled by equal parts paranoia and genius, to build man made second generation Transformers to seek out and destroy the Autobots. Complicating matters is Lockdown, a ruthless Transformer bounty hunter with no allegiance to Autobots or Decepticons.
Richard: 3 Stars
Mark: 2 Stars
Richard: Mark, everybody loves spectacle. The Romans had the Coliseum and we have the Transformers movies. Like the gladiatorial shows of yore, in Michael Bay’s movies it doesn’t matter who lives or dies— the films don’t care about their human characters and neither do we—all that matters is the spectacle of the whole thing and at almost frenetic three hours Age of Extinction certainly delivers on that score. For many, getting value per minute for their movie dollar will be enough, but do you, like the old Roman emperors, give this a thumbs up or down?
Mark: Richard, I was glued to my seat throughout! You see, some idiot had spilled epoxy on the seat before I sat down and it took the full two and three quarter hours to wriggle out of my jeans. I have never been able to sit through a Transformers movie, but epoxy aside, at least this one had a coherent story, some decent acting thanks to Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer, and some exciting chase sequences. I just can’t wrap my head around watching a bunch of Swiss Army knives on steroids bashing each other. But then again, I’m not a twelve-year-old boy.
RC: No one can accuse Bay of skimping on… well anything. “Age of Extinction” is a wide ranging action orgy that plays off of Bush era Homeland Security paranoia and also explains why dinosaurs became extinct. It comments on the ethics of unarmed warfare and blows up most of Hong Kong. Bay doesn’t do anything by half measures but I found myself wishing the movie was about half as long as it is with half the bombast. It’s stylish—“Why run when you can run in slow motion,” Bay seems to be asking—not unlike a car commercial, but is excessive on almost every level. I don’t expect or want “My Dinner with Optimus Prime,” but in this case I think less would have been more.
MB: My feelings here are complicated. I used to take it for granted that this kind of direction was evidence of a hack sensibility, which assumes that quantity makes viewers forget quality—a real cynic’s position. But watching this installment, I’m no longer so sure. I think Bay really believes that these grand excesses are heroic, even Shakespearean—its running time is equal to Hamlet. The movie is cheesy and schlocky, for sure, but the one possible grace note is Bay’s commitment to the drive of the film. Too long, for sure, but at least this movie moves.
RC: Shakespeare never wrote a play about a giant alien robot playing bucking bronco with a humungous dinobot. That’s all Bay.
MB: Or had a billion dollar grossing movie. That’s all Bay St.
“They Came Together,” a new satire starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, is the last romantic comedy you’ll ever need to see. A pastiche of every rom com cliché, it’s a movie about sex and the city. Or maybe about what women want. Or perhaps it’s about friends with benefits. Actually, it’s about love, actually. Imagine one part “Airplane” and one part of every Kate Hudson romance and you get the idea.
Heading up a who’s who of a comedy cast, Rudd and Poehler play Joel and Molly, an unlikely couple who fall in love at first sight. He’s an executive at a candy company, she runs an independent confectionary shop called the Upper Sweet Side.
His company is trying to drive her store out of business so they can control NYC’s candy lucrative market, but despite their differences they find some common ground. “You like fiction books, too? No way!”
They also do all the things that people in rom coms do, but with a twist. In the standard “What am I going to wear montage” Molly ends up trying on a dozen outfits before deciding on a suit of armor. Joel sprints to declare his love for Molly only to wind up in a sword fight with her jealous ex-husband (an unexpected, but hilarious Michael Shannon). Meeting her parents takes a turn when they are revealed to be white supremacists there’s even the mandatory Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s montage. The only thing missing is Julia Roberts’s trademark guffaw.
Bookending the whole thing is a dinner conversation where Joel and Molly describe how they met to friends Karen (Ellie Kemper) and Kyle (Bill Hader).
Poking fun at romantic comedies is easy but for the most part “They Came Together” does it well. It hits a bull’s eye time after time with the tropes plucked from rom coms but presented with a spin. For instance, Joel plays basketball with his pals, each of whom gives him romantic advice, but none have names, they are simply introduced by the rom com trope they represent.
When “They Came Together” riffs on the absurdities of the genre it works, but too often it winks at the camera and becomes a little too self aware. With their looks and chemistry, Rudd and Poehler are rom com ready, but occasionally their eagerness to sell the joke gets in the way of letting the laughs and the parody happen naturally.
Ultimately, for all its insight and style—pitch perfect rom com soft lighting and pop soundtrack—“They Came Together” is stretched a little thin at feature length. As a skit or a short film it might have been a cutting parody of an over-worked genre. At eighty-three minutes it is harder to love.
CFC is pleased to announce that filmmaker Nicholas Stoller(Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek) is this year’s ‘In Conversation’ subject at Just For Laughs Festival, hosted by Richard Crouse. His latest film, Neighbors, starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, has grossed over $220 million worldwide thus far. In Conversation with Nicholas Stoller takes place at ComedyPRO on Thursday, July 24, 3 pm, at the Hyatt Regency Montreal. It is presented by theTelefilm Canada Feature Comedy Exchange, a CFC initiative in collaboration with Just For Laughs.
“We were happy to do whatever was asked of us whenever it was asked of us,” says Transformers: Age of Extinction star Jack Reynor.
The Colorado-born, Irish-raised actor proved he was game for anything when he was given just twenty minutes to prepare for a wild scene that brought him face-to-face with real explosions.
“It is an incredibly intimidating experience in many ways,” he said, “but at the end of the day you have to trust the people around you, that they know what they’re doing that they’re prepared and that you’re safe. We had a great stunt team who worked on this film with us. Those guys really put us at ease.”
Sharing the explosive scene with Reynor were his co-stars Nicola Peltz and Mark Wahlberg.
“They worked so hard to make this huge explosion,” says Peltz, best known for her role as Bradley Martin on Bates Motel. “I think it took a week but we didn’t know about it. We were kind of confused when we got on set and saw ten cameras. (Director) Michael (Bay) told us a few minutes before, ‘You’re going to do this huge stunt. It’s not going to be stunt doubles, it’s going to be you guys and you have to run from here to here in 4.6 seconds.’
“There’s not much acting when there are real explosions behind you,” she says. “You just have to run.”
The experience of sprinting away from live blasts wasn’t exactly what Peltz expected when she signed on for the role in the fourth Transformers film.
“I thought there was going to be more green screen than there actually was but Michael wants everything to be as real as possible so the car chases and the explosions are all real.”
“You can really tell the difference,” says Reynor. “You can tell when a movie is really heavy on CG. It doesn’t really look real. As far as we’ve come with effects and all the advancements we’ve made—some of them are really great—at the end of the day to do it practically and do it for real always looks best on screen. That’s why Michael tries to make it that way. On top of that it makes everything more tangible for us; a lot easier to relate to and react off. That’s why I think these movies have been as incredibly successful as they have because the audience really does feel it.”
Director Michael Bay once said he doesn’t make movies for critics. The auteur behind such hits as The Rock, Armageddon, Bad Boys 1 and 2 and the Transformers movies is best known for making big, loud films that rake it in at the box office but leave critics reaching for the Advil.
Bay acknowledged the adversarial relationship in a 2005 article by Rene Rodriguez.
“They castrate me,” he told Rodriguez. “They call me the devil and all that crap.”
It’s not hard to see why reviewers have a hard time with his films. He never met a building or car or city he didn’t want to blow up in spectacular fashion and critics often feel like they have to slather on SPF 70 to avoid getting get a tan from the glare off the giant fireballs that light up screen in Bay’s films.
Audiences, however, have flocked to his flicks. According to boxofficemojo.com his ten features have grossed $1,898,048,525, or an average of $189,804,853. That’s a lot of beans.
The release this weekend of Transformers: Age of Extinction promises to add to those totals. The fourth installment of the franchise stars Mark Wahlberg as a single father and struggling inventor who discovers the deactivated Autobots leader Optimus Prime.
The movie promises a whole new raft of Transformers, including bounty hunter Lockdown and the rough and tumble Dinobot Grimlock. Bay promises we’ll also see an “angry Optimus Prime.”
Will the critics like Age of Extinction? Who knows? It probably won’t matter, the Transformers movies are as close to guaranteed hits as Hollywood has these days, so reviews most likely won’t matter to the box office.
Not all of Bay’s films have been critically reviled. “The critics were very nice to me when I first began with Bad Boys,” he says and his last movie, the crime drama Pain and Gain was called “the best movie Michael Bay’s ever made,” by the Newark Star-Ledger.
It has a few things going for it. First, there isn’t a robot in sight. Secondly, a great cast—including Wahlberg, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Anthony Mackie—who bring serious star power and third, it doesn’t really feel like a Michael Bay film. And by that I mean there’s only one shot of the three leads walking away from a slow motion explosion.
Years ago I wrote this about his trademarked aural and optical onslaught: “The former commercial director has a knack for making everything look shiny but having great taste doesn’t make a great film director any more than great taste makes a Snicker’s bar a gourmet meal.” I even coined a word for his style: Hullabayloo, but nothing that any critic or I write matters to the director.
“I’ve actually stopped reading (reviews),” he told Rodriguez.
The mid-seventies were a confusing time to be a music-obsessed kid looking to latch onto pop culture in Nova Scotia.
Old hippies weren’t my people—they were everywhere, sporting peace and love hangovers, tie dyed t-shirts and dazed looks. With them came bad hygiene and battered copies of Aoxomoxoa. The free love stuff sounded pretty good to me, but I never liked Birkenstocks and stoner rock wasn’t my thing, (although Silver Machine by Hawkwind was usually worth a fist pump.)
In syncopated lockstep with the 60s leftovers were the disco Dan’s and Dani’s, polyester-outfitted goodtime seekers looking to boogaloo to the top of Disco Mountain. I did the Bump at school dances, I suppose, and played the hell out of my Jive Talkin’ 45, but I was six three at age twelve so wearing platforms were out of the question. Even if I could have worn them the hedonistic woop-woop of disco felt alien to me, like it was emanating from a different planet where everyone had glittery skin and mirror balls for eyes.
Singer songwriters wrote about things that didn’t touch me. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover? I didn’t have a lover to leave once, let alone another 49 ways. Also, lover? Who did Paul Simon think I was? Marcello Mastroianni?
Country rock was OK, although at nine plus minutes Freebird overstayed its welcome by about six minutes. Country music was for hillbillies (it wasn’t until much later I discovered the joys of Waylon and Willie and the boys), soft rock was for girls and I’m pretty sure only dogs could fully appreciate Leo Sayers’ high-pitched wailing. I liked KISS although their “rock and roll all night, party everyday” ethos seemed unrealistic, even to a teenager.
My parents listened to the smooth sounds of Frank Sinatra which frequently clashed with the hard rock racket emanating from my brother’s room.
I was left somewhere in the middle.
Of course I had records. A stack of them.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was usually near the top. It was a touchstone then as it is now because of its exceptional songwriting, cool cover and otherworldly sounds. I also had the obligatory copy of Frampton Comes Alive! but I also had pop records, heavy metal albums and some disco. But I hadn’t yet heard the definitive sound. For my brother it was Jimi Hendrix’s string stretching. For my dad it was Bing Crosby‘s croon.
I was fifteen and hadn’t yet passed that most important—to me anyway—rite of passage: finding the combination of notes and attitude my parents wouldn’t understand.
In those days the top ten charts were really diverse and fans were regularly exposed to a baffling array of music. The Billboard charts hadn’t yet fragmented off into genre specific listings and radio wasn’t yet run by robots with limited imaginations. Playlists were all over the place, and if you weren’t quick on the dial you’d awkwardly segue from the slick jazz of George Benson into You’re the One That I Want’s pop confectionary.
There weren’t many stations were I grew up but there was a smörgåsbord of sounds to be heard, but around the time Barry Gibb became the first songwriter in history to write four consecutive #1 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart the music on the radio started to have less appeal for me.
On the quest to figure out your identity there are few things more soul destroying for a fifteen-year-old than finding yourself inadvertently humming along to a song on the radio as your dad drives and hums in harmony.
I didn’t want the shared family something-for-everyone experience radio offered. I wanted my own experience so I began to regard the radio I grew up listening to as Musicology 101. With its indiscriminate playlists, it’s ability to embrace all genres I had a solid base to build on, but like many good relationships we outgrew one another.
Songs by Kenny Rogers and the like were everywhere but tunes such as The Gambler sounded hopelessly old fashioned; like a Zane Grey dime store novel put to music. So when the radio, which had been my constant companion, fell away as a source of discovering new music I turned to Hit Parader, Circus, Cream and any other magazine I could to find out what was what.
There I saw pictures of the Comiskey Park Disco Demolition Night that lead to the jettisoning of my Bee Gees singles. I read about Elvis Presley dying on the toilet, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane bursting into flames, killing six while, ironically, promoting the Street Survivors LP.
It felt like the old guard was fading away. Sure Queen (liked them) and Barry Manilow (not so much) and Village People (see Manilow note) were still having hits, and Bruce Springsteen was still being loudly touted as the future of rock and roll (by rock critic turned Bruce’s co-producer Jon Landau who wrote, “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”) but I wasn’t ready “to trade in these wings on some wheels.”
At the same time my one-time hero Alice Cooper got sober and made the worst record of his career to date but that stuff was quickly fading as I began to hear about—but not actually hear—some exciting music from London and New York.
The only thing I knew about New York came from TV and a family from Manhattan who rented a cottage every year at one of the three beaches that framed my hometown. They told me that if you left your bike unchained at the corner of Ninth Street and Second Avenue it would disappear almost immediately, as if by magic.
London I knew only from history books, James Bond and Monty Python.
But in the pages of my mags I learned about a new youth movement, a musical incubator spearheaded by bands like The Ramones, The Clash, Wire and Television.