Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: I go back and forth on Michael Bay. I mean, we all know he’s wealthy and douchebaggy even by the inflated Hollywood standards of both conditions. But the dude has never actively ruined anything I had any kind of high hopes for; Brett Ratner, to name just one of Bay’s hack-squad peers, torpedoed the X-Men franchise and made the blandest movie possible out of the Red Dragon cast. Most of Bay’s movies, on the other hand, are, if anything, far more entertaining than they ought to be given his many, many shortcomings (mindless jingoism and military fetishism; overcranked cutting; terrible sense of humor; more on that in a moment). I know there’s a sub-section of internet nerds for whom Bay has “ruined” this property, but seriously, guys, let Michael Bay play with Transformers. It’s a cartoon based on toys, or vice versa, I forget, but it’s pretty much unruinable. The longer Bay makes movies like Transformers: Revenge of the Other Transformers, the more relieved we can all feel that he’s not touching your favorite comic book or, less likely but still chilling, your favorite actual book. That said, I came out of the original Transformers not pumped from robots smashing the simulated-living bejesus out of each other, but irritated by Bay’s dumb-ass and sometimes vaguely racist brand of comedy. Bay has never met a joke he couldn’t underline and circle and over-emphasize just in case the audience doesn’t get it (like the throwaway moments in Armageddon that practically say out loud, “this is a joke about Star Wars” and “this is a joke about Pulp Fiction“), and he hasn’t met many black people that he wouldn’t feel comfortable reducing to a cowardly shyster hollerin’ at his or her moms or grandmoms or whatever. At least Transformers doesn’t suffer as greatly from his insane tone problem, which is the major reason I don’t like The Rock as much as most people — it hops from frolicsome action comedy to operatic drama to dark crudeness to inventive characters to terrible cliches, and not in a fun genre-exploding way. So while my hopes aren’t exactly high for Transformers 2: Transform Harder, I am hoping that it will have even more robots smashing even more of each other and also buildings, less brazenly stupid comic relief and more sublimely stupid John Turturro comic relief, and that maybe Bay will pull off some of that crazy show-offy camera stuff like that amazing double-360 take in the otherwise mostly grotesque Bad Boys II. I guess that’s kind of a long list of hopes for a movie based on toys (or a cartoon, whichever). Here’s a shorter one: I hope Shia LaBeouf shuts his trap for a second because he is way less good at improvising than he or Bay have been led to believe. OK, one more alternate title before I move on: Transformers: Look Look Shiny Look Over There Look Megan Fox’s Ass Look Look Kaboom.
The Hurt Locker: This movie has been building awesomeness buzz for what seems like a year now, and it seems, from Michael Rowin’s review, a bit like a grittier, less amped version of The Kingdom, with an Army bomb squad racing around a city in Iraq and waiting for their service time to run out. Assuming it doesn’t descend into a near-meaningless barrage of battlefield chaos a la Black Hawk Down, it sounds scary and riveting. Also, I was initially under the impression this movie starred mostly unknowns, and while that may be true, IMDB tells me that Anthony Mackie, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, and Kate from Lost are all in it in some capacity. It sounds like this is probably the smart, maybe only, bet for quality this weekend.
My Sister’s Keeper: I wasn’t altogether convinced this movie was making its release date a month or two ago, when it loomed on the schedule without any trailers or ads or posters turning up. But here it comes now, the spiritual successor to The Notebook, though I should point out that lil’ Cassavetes actually followed up The Notebook with Alpha Dog, which is kind of awesome (as a follow-up to The Notebook, not so much as a movie). My Sister’s Keeper is an adaptation of some bestseller I’d never heard of until I started reading about the movie, and how it apparently might eliminate some particularly ludicrous twist from the original text. From what I understand, there will still be plenty of ludicrous twists left. The pity is, I actually dig Cameron Diaz as a serious actress: Being John Malkovich, Vanilla Sky, Gangs of New York, good stuff. Weepy family dramas with Abigail Breslin, though, signal the worst kind of faux-maturity.
Cheri: Similarly, I like Michelle Pfeiffer, I really do, but the trailer for this movie has done its best to send me running in the other direction. It’s one of those costume-y comedies where you’re supposed to be delighted by the multiple shots of old people in wigs, cackling (cue Kathy Bates!). Wow is this not the way to market a movie that, if directed by Stephen Frears, probably has some semblance of intelligence to it. (Maybe it’s not just a marketing problem; Ben Strong’s review confirms several of my fears, not least the cackling Bates factor.)