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Movie Review Monday: Transformers: Dark of the Moon



Mike Finkelstein was in the city of Chicago when he was attacked by a load of morphing trucks and cars.  Luckily, some more morphing trucks and cars came to fight the first bunch.  Then he realized his own car was missing, and it was somewhere in the battle, too!  What the hell is going on?!?  Either way, he escaped alive, and wrote this review for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”

PLOT: When the Autobots find out that a long lost Cybertronian spacecraft crash landed on the moon back in the 1960s, they need to recover the remains before it falls into the hands of the Decepticons, who could use it to destroy the world and enslave mankind.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  For anybody who loved the series as a kid, TRANSFORMERS was amazing.  Even people who just loved action and had no clue about the show enjoyed metal machines kicking ass and shots of Megan Fox’s derriere filling the screen.  Then there was REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, and everyone who loved the first walked out of the sequel with no clue of what just happened.

Thankfully, DARK OF THE MOON brings TRANSFORMERS back to form, ending the trilogy on a higher note that was almost on par with the first film.  Like the other two movies, the action is non-stop, the machines look beautiful, and the CGI is excellently done.  This is a Michael Bay movie through and through, and the man knows how to shoot.  Lots of stuff blows up and gets destroyed, there are many slow motion money shots, and we get beautiful eye candy with the brand new Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.  Megan Fox may be gone, but gentlemen, the replacement candy is just as sweet.

Speaking of Ms. Whiteley, I have to say her and Sam’s relationship threw me off.  It’s funny how you could tell the role was meant for Megan Fox from the beginning.  Cut out a few lines about Mikela being a bitch and how they met, and you could toss Fox back in there like nothing happened.  Carly may also be into cars and be the love of Sam’s life, but because we barely know her and are thrown into the action, it’s a little hard to really see anything more than just a hook up (especially when she calls him her “American Boy Toy”).  But again, this ain’t THE NOTEBOOK, and romance isn’t our prime focus.

Back to the story.  Where REVENGE went wrong was with the gross length and everything being scattered.  It was like different scripts pieced together…jumps here, comic relief there, and huge plot points gone to never be heard of again (Alien cyborg?  Anybody?)  Here, the length is definitely still an issue—the exposition is too long and even the action sequences got a little ridiculous—but we are much more focused.  We have one straight, easy to follow storyline that actually raises the stakes as far as they could go with both destruction and human/autobot deaths.

Now, I did say that the trilogy ended on a higher note, but it wasn’t perfect by any means, and with each compliment, there’s a downside.  Yes, the effects were mostly brilliant, but there were many moments where I still couldn’t understand what was going on, and who was bad/good (everything is silver!).  I just kept telling myself I’d be able to play catch up in about five minutes, but I still would have liked to decipher what the hell was happening in front of me.  Yes, being transported back into the 1960s space race was an awesome nostalgic opening, but JFK’s eyes and mouth made the President look almost possessed (bad CGI).  Yes, Michael Bay knows how to shoot action, but just like actors playing the same role, there were moments where I could have sworn I was watching either ARMAGEDDON (slow motion kiss), BAD BOYS (360 shot on heroes), or TRANSFORMERS 1 (everything else).

And like any Michael Bay movie, there were points of ridiculousness.  After the first two movies, how does nobody know who Sam is, and why can’t they talk about it?  How does he get tossed like a ragdoll and not get hurt?  How is Carly allowed to speak to the Pentagon and apparently give Megatron, the most evil Decepticon in all the land, one hell of a pep talk?  And how does anybody get into Chicago at all without being destroyed on the spot?

As for the cast, Shia LaBeouf is back in form basically playing himself.  He brings the sarcasm and wit to Sam, as well as some great physical comedy moments (screaming like a girl), and this time around, we even got a hint of an action star as he goes after Patrick Dempsey for the final third of the film.  Rose Huntington-Whiteley, overall for her first movie, did a decent job.  She definitely didn’t look scared most of the time (which, when you supposedly have a huge evil robot alien about to kill you, you probably should be…), but her lipstick never faltered, and she was pure eye candy, which is what she was good at.

Supporting the two, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese and Sam’s parents return doing what they do best in their roles (Turturro was channeling Jesus from THE BIG LEBOWSKI a lot more this time).  They were joined wonderfully by John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and the absolutely hysterical, scene stealing Alan Tudyk, as an assistant with one hell of a past.  Also, all the Autobots and Decepticons are back, with the bonus of Leonard Nimoy playing Sentinel Prime (Star Trek!).  The only person that I felt was unnecessary was Mr. Ken Jeong.  It seems like he needs to be in every movie lately, but that role could have gone to anyone else who could have calmed it down a bit, and still be funny.

Overall, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON was a decent time at the movies.  If you want a crazy summer blockbuster filled with action, this is the film for you, no doubt.  It definitely has its flaws, and for the end of a trilogy, ends way too quickly (which is weird to say after such a long runtime), but when it delivers what you want with action in spades, you may be able to overlook those little bad tastes in your mouth leaving the theater.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) TRANSFORMERS: I’m a guy.  They’re big metal machines with machine guns.  ‘Nuff said.

2) CGI: Forgetting the story for a second, the graphics were nearly perfect.  Whether it be the transformers, buildings crumbling, or people, you couldn’t tell the difference…except for one teeny part…

3) SHIA LABEOUF: The guy is my favorite actor of his generation.  His sarcasm is hysterical, he can cry, and in this chapter, they gave him a bit of a meatier action role.

4) ALAN TUDYK: As a Dutch ‘assistant’’ with one hell of a past, Tudyk is absolutely hysterical.  The guy can play anything. I couldn’t believe this was Pete the Pirate!

5) BUZZ ALDRIN: Okay, that was a cool little moment…


1) DRAGGING EXPOSITION/OVERALL TIME: 160 Minutes.  I’ll admit that the film never dragged, but you could always find places to trim the fat, For one thing, there was about twenty minutes in the beginning of explanation that could have been a lot tighter.

2) POINTS OF “WHAT’S GOING ON?”: When you have big metal robots all over the screen, there’s bound to be times where you can’t tell the difference between the good and the bad.  It wasn’t as horrible as REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, but I really wish I knew what I was watching the whole time instead of just most of it.

3) JFK: Special Effects can do amazing things, but this visual was just disturbing.  I just couldn’t get over the damned eyes…

4) KEN JEONG: Jeong is always funny, but here, he almost seemed forced in there because to have him in one’s movie is the cool thing to do.  This could have been anyone, and it didn’t have to be so ridiculously over the top.

5) QUICK ENDING: You have all this buildup, and supposedly the end of your trilogy, and you end everything so quickly?  Give some closure or an epilogue!  Something!


1) Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who worked on the screenplay for the previous two films, declined to work on this film due to schedules and because they “risked getting stale.”  Yeah…because you could get staler than REVENGE OF THE FALLEN…

2) During filming in Washington, DC, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro that plays Bumblebee was struck by a metro police SUV responding to a bomb alert. The officer driving sustained minor injuries, while the Camero sustained considerable damage. Luckily, there were copies of every automobile for shooting purposes, and filming continued.



REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod



“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.






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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?



What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.


For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.



world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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