Reviews

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (US Premiere): 28 June 2011 – New York

Instead of splurging for 3-D screenings, it is wiser to use the extra cash to upgrade your concessions. Transformers is 2011’s blockbuster summer popcorn film.


Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Julie White, Kevin Dunn, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Alan Tudyk
US Release Date: 2011-06-29

No matter what the critics say about it, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third installment in Michael Bay’s franchise, will attract a large audience mostly made up of kids and, also, of kids at heart. It’s the 2011 summer blockbuster after all.

I was fortunate to attend the US premiere of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, about large alien robots that can morph into automotives and battle for the fate of the planet, at Lincoln Center. Director Michael Bay was in attendance and introduced much of the cast including, Shia LeBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk and Ken Jeong. Bay also thanked Steven Spielberg for encouraging him to pick up the project originally. Through the night (Nokia sponsored the afterparty in Midtown) it was clear the Hollywood stars would get a lot of the attention and applause.

But cheers were also bestowed upon the heroic robotic faction, the Autobots. When Optimus Prime, in eighteen-wheeler form, showed up on screen for the first time, I felt the twinge of recognition and a bit of joy. Having grown up in the ‘80s, I, like many others, can recognize icons and characters from a color scheme. There is the drab green of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the intense yellow of Hulk Hogan’s muscle shirts, Smurf blue and the deep red of Optimus Prime. So when Prime or fellow Autobot Bumblebee (whose life-size figure appeared down in Times Square for the red carpet event and alter-ego Chevy Camaro made it to Lincoln Center) are on screen you just know that good will result. They are the heroes.

In the same vein as Independence Day (Will’s children Willow and Jaden Smith were in attendance), Transformers 3 finds planet Earth in peril once more from the Decepticons. The Decepticons are led by a distinct figure, Megatron, who was wounded in an earlier film missing part of his head and appears like a homeless person in his rags. However when it comes to the individual robots, Decepticons have very few attributes to differentiate one from another. Watching many of the chaotic fight scenes, I often was unable to discern which robot was clashing with another. But the Decepticons did have some giant Tremors-esque multi-toothed worm-machine grinding up earth and buildings with ease. It was pretty wicked.

Transformers 3 succeeds as the blockbuster summer popcorn flick of 2011 with its giant robots and over the top destruction and decimation. But it was the human actors who got a chance to be even more over the top, playing highly exaggerated characters. McDormand, as government official Mearing, snubbed anyone who would not follow her orders. John Malkovich played uptight and OCD business exec Bruce Brazos. Jeong, as Jerry Wang, was even more egregious, not for any particularly comedic outbursts, but because he caused such undue discomfort to the characters he meets. It goes without saying that Turturro’s recurring role as Simmons or his sidekick Dutch (Tudyk) also fit the bill.

Yet Transformers 3 falls for the 21st century gimmick that is turning people off (or at least not producing as much revenue as before), 3-D imagery. To some it is not a gimmick, its part of fandom. Before the film had begun, fans applauded one of their own for bringing a “cinemask”, a yellow Bumblebee mask with 3-D glasses built in. But, while I was surprised to find 3-D viewing is possible from an awkward vantage, I never felt it built up a sense of immersion into the world. Things fall from the sky, things fly into the sky, things get blown up (or shot into the sky) and a digitized President Obama gives Witwicky (LeBeouf) a medal. Perhaps some loss of sharpness from the effect caused me to lose focus on what was occurring on screen.

But that’s ok. The blockbuster movie was a blast. With the speedy release of each sequel, most fans will await the next opportunity to see Optimus Prime in action. Until then, there is time to debate which of the three is the best or whether or not previous starlet, Megan Fox is outdone by Huntington-Whiteley.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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