This week I read with cringing amusement some of the more withering critical reactions to former underwear model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s performance in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Total Film’s Neil Smith wrote that she sucks “the life out of every scene she appears in like some pneumatic Dyson sexbot,” while Chris Hewitt of Empire said, “You’ll believe a robot can fly, but you won’t believe a Huntington-Whiteley can talk.”
I even posted some of these on my facebook page without thinking about it too much; nothing like a funny jab from a bitchy critic to brighten up the day. I’ve cracked wise myself a few times. Years ago I wrote “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,” about Transformers filmmaker Michael Bay.
Now, that’s a pretty good line, if I do say so myself, but it’s also a cheap shot and I sometimes find myself pondering the merits of including puns and jokes in reviews.
Having said that one of my favorite reviews of all time is also the shortest. In 1986 former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and Yes and Asia guitarist Steve Howe released a vanity project simply titled GTR, a hip abbreviation of the word “guitar.” Reviewing the album in Musician magazine J.D. Considine wasted no ink, writing simply “GTR-SHT.”
Considine says it the most famous thing he ever wrote and the band claimed the popularity of the review actually helped sales of the record. GRT went gold and produced the hit single When the Heart Rules the Mind.
Others haven’t been so gracious in their acceptance of bad reviews. The Story Sisters novelist Alice Hoffman responded poorly to Roberta Silman’s review of book in the Boston Globe. Her reaction? 27 angry tweets, one of which included Silman’s phone number, e-mail address and urged follwers to, “Tell her what u think of snarky critics.”
Hoffman eventually apologized for the outburst and was the subject of a number of “How not to respond to a bad review” articles.
Darren Aronofsky was a bit more direct when he chastised New York Press critic Armond White at last year’s New York Film Critics Circle Awards. From the stage he said, “Keep it up, because you give us all another reason not to read New York Press,” while staring White down.
White, who panned Aronofsky’s Black Swan and once suggested that director Noah Baumbach’s mother should have had a “retroactive abortion,” responded with, “That’s all right. Darren reads me. That’s all I want. And because he reads me, he knows the truth.”
There’s a life lesson for Ms. Huntington-Whiteley in all of this. Too bad she won’t have time to learn it this weekend. She’ll be too busy counting the truckloads of money her movie’s going to make to pay too much attention to the reviews.
You can’t say Michael Bay doesn’t try to give you your money’s worth in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” With a running time of two and a half hours the third part of the Hasbro saga has a story epic enough to hold up to Bay’s overblown style. It’s loud and proud filmmaking and for the first time in the series, it really works.
Set three years after the last movie Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has an Ivy League education under his belt and a new girl on his arm. A new job for a multinational company places Sam, once again, smack dab in the middle of a showdown between the nasty Decepticons and the heroic Autobots. The former are the bad guys, the latter are the white hats, other than that, you’re on your own. There’s a lot going on here, including an ulterior motive for JFK’s space race, Chernobyl and an almost Shakespearean double cross.
While it is unsettling to see good actors like Frances McDormand grab a paycheque for acting opposite giant robots, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is the most satisfying blockbuster of the year. Its heavy metal filmmaking, all bluster and bee stung lips (more on that later).
Bay has never been known for his restraint and in the past his overblown ascetic has gotten in the way of his storytelling. This time out he reigns in the story and yet pulls it off. It’s jammed packed—the long prologue plays like a “Forest Gump” tribute, featuring everyone from JFK to Nixon to Walter Cronkite—and likely the subplots with Sam’s parents and John Malkovich as a horrible boss could have been cut to save on time, but the movie’s relentless pace ensures it never drags. By amping up the action and playing down the story Bay greases the wheels and has created a satisfying summer movie.
Bay has also finally figured out how to shoot the frenetic action scenes so the clashing robots are no longer just blurs of glinting metal but clearly defined warriors. The action scenes, particularly the extended battle that eats up the film’s last forty minutes, are exciting in a visceral way. There’s not a lot of substance here, but who cares, it’s the movie’s silly season and nobody blows things up like Bay.
People go see “Transformers” for the robots—and their transformation scenes remain the coolest thing about the series—but it should be noted that Megan Fox’s is not missed. Her replacement, former Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, has a mouth that redefines the term “bee stung lips” and is confident enough to allow Bay’s camera to assess every inch of her body as she makes her debut as Sam’s latest fling.
In “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Bay shifts into third gear and delivers the best robot porn yet.
Tonight, when Transformers: Dark of the Moon opens on screens everywhere, it will be the first in the series without starlet Megan Fox, but what it may lack in sex appeal it makes up for in steel appeal with the introduction of new car characters.
The continuing story of the war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons — two armies of alien robots who disguise themselves on earth by transforming into vehicles — will be enhanced by Autobot Mirage, a cherry red Ferrari 458 Italia and Brains, a blue Mercedes-Benz W212 Autobot inventor, whose design was modeled on Albert Einstein.
The new characters, along with some returning but souped up cars — Autobot Sideswipe, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, is now a convertible, while Autobot leader Optimus Prime is still a Peterbilt 379 truck, but now has a trailer which allows a third mode of transformation — join the long list of movie cars that have stolen the spotlight from their human co-stars.
One of the most well-loved cinematic scene stealers is The Love Bug’s Herbie, a 1963 deluxe ragtop sedan Volkswagen Beetle.
Disney originally looked at Toyotas and Volvos but when casting agents noticed how the crew responded to the Volkswagen, they realized it was the car for the job.
Crew members brusquely kicked the tires and grabbed the steering wheels of the other cars, but when they approached the Beetle, they gently caressed its pearl white paint job.
Back to the Future featured a wide range of cars, like a 1984 Jeep Cherokee Chief but it’s the 1981 DeLorean everyone remembers.
The Robert Zemeckis production scooped up six of the existing 8,543 gull-winged cars, modifying three of them into operational autos for filming, while using the other three for spare parts.
Chases are an exciting way to showcase cars in movies.
Probably the most famous chase sequence sees Steve McQueen’s 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 CID Fastback pursuing two hit-men in a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum through San Francisco in Bullitt.
The 10 minute and 53 second scene took three weeks to shoot and both cars hit speeds of 177 km/h on surface streets.
A little more exotic, but almost as memorable is The Pink Panther’s 1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Cabriolet, Ferrari 250 GT chase. The beautiful pink convertible is eye catching enough on its own, but even more so when driven by an actor in a gorilla suit!
Tyrese Gibson, the handsome singer and actor, thinks big.
Making his new film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, was intense, he says, because “we were working on something the world is anticipating.” Later he mentions Michelle Obama is a fan of his book How to Get Out of Your Own Way. “I’m going to meet her one day,” he muses, “and she’s going to say, ‘Hey I got your book. Thank you so much.’ She was probably reading my book in her bed and her husband came to bed. ‘What are you reading, baby?’ ‘Oh, Tyrese’s new book.’”
Gibson doesn’t regard these overblown statements as hubris but as simple statements of fact. It’s hard to argue with him. The third Transformers movie is one of the most anticipated of the year and his book is on the New York Times Bestseller list.
The key to his success is something called “maximizing the stage.”
“It really is about maximizing the stage,” he says. “As these opportunities come up you dream with your eyes open. You want to become or be a part of the things that you see. There is only so much in your life that you can plan out. It’s arrogant to believe that the next second belongs to you. Tomorrow is a promise so now that we’re here it’s about maximizing.”
That kind of motivational motor-mouthing makes up much of his book and his very active twitter account. 1,723,206 people follow his every post, soaking up axioms like, “If it IS to BE it’s up to ME.”
“Twitter has definitely revolutionized the entertainer and fan experience,” he says. “I have a certain responsibility to the fans to make them aware of the things that I know and the things I am exposed to and things that motivate me. There are a lot of people out there who are talented, enthusiastic and fired up about life but they have no sense of direction. Through twitter I have been able to put some information out there that people are responding to.”
Thinking big has paid off for Gibson.
“I shot both Fast Five and Transformers simultaneously over seven months,” he says. “Hanging out with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker from 6 am to 11 am and then getting on a private plane to get to Michael Bay. The same day; two different movie sets. That’s a good life right there baby.”