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Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

Twenty-five years have passed since detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) first suited up for Michael Bay in Bad Boys, and 17 years have passed since they joined him again for Bad Boys II.

Since the first time Bay assaulted our eyes and ears with his patented brand of cinematic garbage, I’ve grown to almost enjoy said garbage. I hated Bad Boys, but I sort of liked the outrageous Bad Boys II. Bay tends to amuse me now—unless he’s doing a Transformers movie, in which case I check out. I attribute my suddenly liking some Bay movies to brain decay due to aging, a lack of iron and a general loss of spirituality. So, I guess the bad news is that Bay passed on directing Bad Boys for Life, the third installment in the franchise. I would’ve liked to see Bay try to top the almost-self-parodying craziness that was Bad Boys II, but, alas, he was making Netflix movies with Ryan Reynolds.

The good news is that the directing team of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah step up and do a sufficient job of continuing the mayhem—easily topping Bay’s lame original and providing a chapter that is as good, and sometimes better, than chapter two.

Burnett is eyeing retirement, while Lowrey is dealing with the psychological and physical ramifications of aging. (But he’s dyeing his goatee, so it’s all good.) A crazy witch-lady gangster named Isabel (Kate del Castillo) has escaped from prison and has put out a hit list for her son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), to work his way through. Isabel has vengeance in mind—and the targets have connections to Lowrey.

Lowrey himself is also on that list, and he takes a couple of bullets early in the film. We aren’t giving too much away by telling you that Lowrey doesn’t die … because there’s no movie if Lowrey dies. So, after some healing time, Lowrey and a very reluctant Burnett are back in action, wise-cracking and shooting people up in slow motion.

Some familiar faces return, including Theresa Randle as Burnett’s long-suffering wife. She’s good in a subplot that has Burnett becoming a granddad while getting more time at home during his attempted retirement … which doesn’t go well. For starters, bad things happen with a ceiling-fan repair. Joe Pantoliano makes a welcome return as Pepto Bismol-swigging Capt. Howard—still a great riff on those screaming captains from the Beverly Hills Cop movies.

All the mayhem comes to an appropriately visceral and bloody conclusion, replete with big plot twists and the Smith-Lawrence duo kicking ass. When the two are allowed to riff and fly, it’s fun. There’s a big production going on around them, but it never overwhelms their star power. They are bloodier, nastier versions of Abbott and Costello.

As Bay learned with Bad Boys II, Smith and Lawrence are better in this sort of thing when everything is ridiculously over the top. The new directors know their way around an action scene, and their comic timing is strong, so there are equal levels of laughs and explosions in this installment. The movie isn’t the big joke that Bad Boys II was—Burnett’s electronics-store sex-problem confession remains the series highlight—but it is unabashedly nuts. It qualifies as a competent and promising reboot.

Please don’t take these words as high praise. I’m saying that this is relatively tasty cinematic junk food. I’m saying that it’s good enough that I’m OK with the idea of another chapter. (Bad Boys 4 is already in play.) I’m saying that there seems to be a few more Bad Boys stories to tell, and the beat goes on without Bay.

Smith and Lawrence have escaped the Men in Black and Big Momma’s House franchises, and can concentrate their combined energies on this now. This is not a bad thing.

Bad Boys for Life is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Michael Bay is back!

That phrase used to leave me truly stricken with terror—afraid to approach a movie theater. However, things have changed a bit.

First off, 6 Underground has gone straight to Netflix, so I can do stuff like pet my dog to calm down when the editing gets too frantic. Second, Bay seems to understand that he’s totally ridiculous by now. As with Bad Boys II, with which he seemed to be parodying himself, this one is so over the top that it actually winds up being a little on the fun side.

Ryan Reynolds stars as a tycoon who becomes a “ghost”—in that he has faked his own death in order to seek vengeance on bad people. He puts together a team of death-fakers, including characters played by Mélanie Laurent, Adria Arjona and Dave Franco. They go after bad people in a series of car-chasing, building-scaling sequences that often culminate in some of 2019’s most-glorious onscreen carnage.

Reynolds is, well, Reynolds here. That’s not a bad thing, and either Bay has calmed down his editing style, or I’ve just gotten used to it. Either way, I’ve found a space where I can sort of enjoy the madness that is Michael Bay—or at least I can in the case of this film.

6 Underground is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Transformers: The Last Knight gets the dubious distinction of being the worst in the series.

That is a major accomplishment. It’s not the easiest thing to look at this collective pile of movie manure and decipher which of the five is the worst. It’s like going to a frat house during the first week of a semester at Dickhead University, and trying to pick out the dumbest, drunkest douche in the place. All of the qualifiers are terribly, criminally lame.

I’m giving Transformers: The Last Knight the award of Franchise Worst, because it’s clear that every participant in this enterprise, from director Michael Bay right on down to the production assistant who smeared glycerin on Mark Wahlberg’s pecs, is jaded, tired and played out. Nobody really wants to be in this thing. The stink of, “Who gives a shit … just pay me!” hits your nostrils with Wahlberg’s first line delivery.

Yes, Wahlberg, who has the honor of being Shia LaBeouf’s stand-in, returns for his second go-round, and he looks embarrassed. He should be embarrassed. He’s publicly declared that this is his last Transformers movie, and his performance and demeanor indicate that he checked out the day cameras rolled on this mess.

Also along for the ride is the formerly acclaimed Anthony Hopkins, acting all nutty, like he did in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula—with the big difference being that this is a Michael Bay film, as opposed to a Coppola film. Acting all nutty in a Michael Bay film offers the impression that you have given up and thrown any kind of reason to the wind.

I can’t really explain what happens in this flick. I know Optimus Prime was floating toward his home planet all frozen and shit, and he gets sucked into some sort of scheme to betray his race and all humans. His part is kind of like Vin Diesel’s in the last Fast and Furious movie—that of the pawn in somebody else’s evil scheme who probably won’t go rogue for the entire film. The big difference here is that Optimus Prime doesn’t get to mush his mouth all over Charlize Theron. However, it goes without saying that Optimus Prime has a greater acting range than Vin Diesel.

The best part of this movie happens when Hopkins inexplicably goes to Stonehenge to witness a robot battle, and then gets blown up, leading to the silliest death scene ever. Yep … I just issued a spoiler: Anthony Hopkins dies hilariously in this movie. I hope this spoiler pisses you off so much that you don’t go see the movie. Be mad at me for the next 10 years, but I know I did you a favor.

Other around is John Turturro, whose, “I’m in a Transformers movie, but it’s OK, because I’ve sold out in an unorthodox, hip sort of way!” shtick got tired four films ago. Meanwhile, the film features the voices of John Goodman and Steve Buscemi. That’s actually three-quarters of a The Big Lebowski reunion. I’m surprised they didn’t throw some money at Jeff Bridges to deliver a few lines. That would’ve been the most novel thing in the movie. Eh, they probably needed the cash for Mark Wahlberg’s tanning and body-hair-removal bills.

Transformers: The Last Knight plays like a Worst of Michael Bay sizzle reel: It’s 2 1/2 hours of things smashing into each other in fast-cut fashion, accompanied by bombastic music and lots of crane and slo-mo shots. In other words, it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect.

Picking a time to go see a Transformers movie is like picking a time to have dysentery. Protect yourself, and your innards, by choosing to do something better, like punching yourself in the face until your eyes pop out.

Transformers: The Last Knight is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

I have liked exactly three Michael Bay films in the past: Bad Boys 2, The Island and the goofy Pain and Gain. That’s it. No Transformers. No The Rock. Keep that spastic shit far away from me.

Today, I like exactly four Michael Bay films: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is Bay’s best film yet. Is it the great film this true story deserves? No, it isn’t. It is, however, a strong, competent effort from a guy whose action films are usually incomprehensible and schmaltzy.

Why is it his best film? Because the cast totally rocks from start to finish, and, to put it bluntly, Bay keeps himself … uh, at bay with this one. He actually tells a story—a harrowing one—and keeps over-baked action-film trickery to something resembling a minimum. There’s real, palpable tension in this movie, something I’ve never felt during a Bay film before (unless frustrated, confused nausea counts as tension).

Bay’s tricks are still there: We have rapid-paced editing, gratuitous shots of a buff John Krasinski glistening in the moonlight (Lucky girl, Emily Blunt!) and unnecessary slow-motion shots that make everything look like a car commercial. However, these tricks aren’t as distracting as they were in previous Bay action films; this one seems properly modulated. It also has an appropriately gritty feel, as opposed to the shimmering sheen of most of his previous efforts.

The film is based on the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, written by Mitchell Zuckoff with the cooperation of the CIA contractors who fought during the attacks. Some of the characters in the film retain the actual names of those contractors, while others have aliases.

The movie gets right to it: A CIA security force in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, must try to protect an American ambassador during a terrorist attack on U.S. compounds. The security force finds itself dealing with a bunch of red tape that prohibits it from flying into action—and possibly preventing it from receiving assistance from the U.S. military.

Krasinski plays Jack Silva (an alias for one of the contractors), a former Navy SEAL stationed in Benghazi who deeply misses his family back in the U.S. Amid reports of possible terrorist attacks on U.S. compounds, Silva remains on security detail, walking through the streets of Libya posing as an American agent’s husband.

Other CIA contractors depicted in the film include Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale), Kris “Tanto” Paronto (Pablo Schreiber, half-brother of Liev), Dave “Boon” Benton (David Denman), John “Tig” Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa) and Mark “Oz” Geist (Max Martini).

When a Libyan gang busts through a security gate and attacks the compound where ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) is staying, the contractors, after unfortunate delays, try in vain to rescue him. The action then goes to another outpost, where the contractors battle hordes of attackers all night—a night that culminates in fatal mortar attacks.

There’s going to be a lot of back and forth on what’s fact, embellished fact and pure fiction in this film. Bob (David Costabile), the CIA chief portrayed in the movie, is already crying foul about the depiction of his actions, so it would be a stretch to call 13 Hours a definitive portrayal of the Benghazi events.

It isn’t a stretch, however, to say the actors are all quite good, especially Krasinski and Schreiber. The attacks are terrifying, with the soldiers often not knowing whether the people approaching them are friends or enemies. Bay does a nice job of keeping things off-balance and scary.

In the end, Bay delivers a fine action film. While there’s a certain lack of depth to this movie—it lacks the heft of Zero Dark Thirty, for example—there’s no denying it’s a fairly strong piece of action entertainment.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Legions of Michael Bay’s detractors were jumping all over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot before it even hit screens.

Well, it’s not actually a Michael Bay film; he only served as a producer on this one. Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans, Battle Los Angeles) is the director here, and he’s put something together that is far more coherent than the latest Bay-helmed Transformers movie. This is not to say that the movie is any good—but it is markedly better than most of Bay’s output.

Megan Fox plays April, a wannabe reporter who stumbles upon a vigilante force protecting Manhattan from an evil terrorist group. The vigilantes turn out to be the infamous turtles (also, coincidentally, the pet turtles that April had as a child). The turtles, the result of scientific experiments, were raised in the sewers by a rat, and now they are ready to rise above the surface and kick some ass.

The film has some good moments; the turtles eat some pizza and get some laughs. However, Fox is a bit of a bore in the central human role; Will Arnett is virtually wasted as her cameraman; and I’m sick and tired of William Fichtner playing bad guys. The special effects are OK, but the story offers nothing special.

A sequel is already being prepared. A director with a better sense of wonder, and a better sense of humor, would serve this franchise well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Transformers: Age of Extinction is an embarrassment of overindulgence. Director Michael Bay seems to be taunting his haters by taking all of the things that sicken his detractors to despicably disgusting levels.

It’s as if, with this movie, the director is saying, “I’m Michael Bay, and I’m going to get away with cinematic murder! You will buy the toys! You will swill Bud Light out of those wacky blue aluminum things! You will leer along with me at this girl’s ass in slow motion! I AM MICHAEL BAY!”

For starters, this damn movie is two hours and 45 minutes long. I’m OK with long movies when they’re at least decent. This thing has no right for a single tick past the 90-minute mark. Had Bay knocked it off with his slo-mo shots, he probably could’ve shaved a half-hour. Had he gotten rid of every inane line in this donkey shit, he could’ve brought the whole thing in at 30 minutes.

Replacing Shia LaBeouf, who was too busy losing his mind to participate, would be Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg plays Cade Yeager, a crazy robot-inventor living on a farm with his smoking-hot daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz).

In between stints trying to make clunky robots (there’s actually a sequence during which Wahlberg lovingly tries to show a newborn robot how to paint), Cade is busy trying to stop his daughter from having sex. He also threatens real-estate agents, showing his soon-to-be-foreclosed-upon property by chasing them with a baseball bat. He, simply put, is the worst movie father in years.

The action picks up four years after the annihilation of Chicago, which has apparently been restored, because Bay includes shots of some cranes picking up beams and stuff. The Autobots are on the run, because Frasier Harold (Kelsey Grammer) has decided that since they are aliens, they are the enemy. Michael Bay is getting political!

Yeager buys a beat-up truck, and soon discovers it is Optimus Prime. He nurses the robot back to health with the help of buddy Lucas (T.J. Miller), much to the chagrin of Tessa, who trolls about pouting while wearing impossibly tight denim shorts and high heels. She’s upset, and she’s going to look damn good being upset.

A black-ops government team commanded by Frasier eventually winds up on Yeager’s lawn, and one of the only reasons to watch this movie is killed off. The focus, if you can call it that, then goes to Stanley Tucci as Joshua, a Steve Jobs-like tech mogul, and his army of Autobot clones.

The real Autobots will eventually face off against the fake Autobots, and we’ll see ads for Chevy cars, beer, China, denim ass porn and Texas along the incredibly long way. (During the film’s running time, I celebrated five birthdays, took an online computer course in psychology that I failed because the professor was such a bitch, and managed to construct a scale replica of the Brooklyn Bridge using toothpicks and Dots candy. That was just during the first third!)

The Transformers themselves are looking cool, especially when they transform (although Bay, even with his mega-budget, cuts corners by showing an Autobot in one shot, and then the vehicle in the next—skipping the transformation). There’s also a sequence in which some characters have to walk on a high wire between an alien ship and a skyscraper that is pretty good.

That’s about all of the nice stuff I can say.

Bay is saying this is the first film in a new trilogy. If you should choose to see part one, make sure all of your bills are paid; the dogs are fed; and you’ve winter-proofed your house before you sit down, because you aren’t getting out of that theater for a very long time.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

Pain and Gain has all of that Michael Bay crap that makes him one of my least-favorite directors.

Actually, that’s an understatement. I think Michael Bay is a satanic cinematic force, with most of his films sustaining an artistic level similar to that of a sickened elephant farting in a circus tent that’s been set aflame by dangerous clowns.

However, he has made a few movies that I don’t hate. My favorite Bay film would be Bad Boys II, in which he seemed to be poking fun at himself. (That slo-mo tracking shot of a bullet passing through Martin Lawrence’s ass is the apex of Bay’s career.) I also liked his innocuous sci-fi offering, The Island, which actually featured edits more than a second long.

I reluctantly admit to also sort of liking Pain and Gain, mainly because Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson are a total crackup as two bodybuilders who take part in a kidnapping/extortion plot. This messed-up movie is actually based on a true story, and it’s remarkable how much of this insanity is accurate.

Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a fitness instructor who is one of recent American history’s greatest stupid assholes. Lugo feels like his life is in a rut, so he hatches a plan to kidnap a wealthy gym member (Tony Shalhoub) and extort money from him. With two gym members (Anthony Mackie and Johnson) in tow, he goes through with the plan, and things quickly spiral out of control.

Bay uses the film to satirize the vapid 1990s, with his lecherous camera lingering on many bikini-clad asses and boobs. We get plenty of Bay slo-mo and, of course, the below-the-chin, looking-up, 360-degree tracking thing he loves so damned much. The edits are at breakneck speed, and get a little tedious. At 129 minutes, the movie is a bit too long, and yet somehow too fast at the same time.

Its saving grace is that much of it is quite funny in an over-the-top, outrageous kind of way. Just the sight of Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie, all swollen with extra muscle pounds put on for the shoot, is funny. At one point, Bay gets Wahlberg to strip down to his Calvin Klein white boxer briefs, a nice homage to the infamous advertising campaign.

As he did with Bad Boys II, Bay celebrates disgusting excess entertainingly. No, we don’t get a vehicle chase with corpses spilling out of a truck and getting run over (Darn!), but we do get Shalhoub sloppily eating a taco while blindfolded. (This somehow manages to be funny.) We also get dogs with severed toes in their mouths, Rebel Wilson using nunchucks during a sex scene, and a dude getting his head crushed by weights.

Wahlberg is fun when he does comedy, always playing it straight during the most outrageous of situations. Johnson is amazing as a big religious hulk who just wants to be a lover, although he can’t help but beat the crap out of every other person he meets. This may be my favorite Johnson performance yet.

Is Pain and Gain sloppy? Yes. Is it way too hyper at times? Yes. Does Michael Bay commit many of the usual cinematic affronts that have made him hated by those of us who sometimes like to watch a movie without having our eyes and ears violated? Oh, hell yes.

Pain and Gain is OK, which actually makes it some sort of movie miracle when considering the dumbass who made it.

Up next for Bay would be Transformers 4, of course. I’m thinking that film will once again remind us that Bay is a scourge on the land who only gets it right on the rarest of occasions. 

Pain and Gain is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews