Movie of the Week: Detroit

The tandem of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have delivered compelling cinema over the past few years. The Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker was an intense examination of how war can be addictive to man. Zero Dark Thirty was a relentless depiction on the manhunt for the world’s most infamous terrorist and now the two are ready to take audiences back in time to one of the most recent darkest chapters in American history. In 1967, one of America’s most prominent cities was ready to explode due to racial tensions and hostilities toward the police and the incidents which occurred at the Algiers Motel, may as well lit the fuse on those tensions. It’s time to go to Detroit.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Screenwriter: Mark Boal

Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jason Mitchell, Jack Reynor, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Jacob Lattimore, John Krasinski, Kaitlyn Dever and Hannah Murray.

What am I expecting to see?: From what I’ve heard going in, this movie is very polarizing; either people will enjoy it or people will see it as a mess, which is strange considering Bigelow and Boal crafted it. The subject itself is tantalizing considering how societally relevant it seems but even the great ones can make mistakes. I’m looking forward to being enlighted, educated and entertained by Detroit considering how much I enjoyed Bigelow’s last two features but I’m bracing myself for the worst all the same.

Review: Free Fire

It has most certainly been a while since my last review but I had a good reason for not writing one: there was nothing of interest for me to see lately, so I passed the time by posting news articles. On Friday, I managed to see something interesting in theaters and I thought I think this might be worth a review, so let’s jump right into Free Fire shall we?

From director Ben Wheatley, who wrote this with Amy Jump, Free Fire is a rousing, absurd but moderately entertaining shoot-em-up set in 1978 Boston, where a transaction to procure firearms between two criminal organizations goes horribly, horribly wrong!

Basically, you take a collection of good actors in Arnie Hammer, Sharlto Copely, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Enzo Cilenti, Michael Smiley, Babou Cessay, Sam Riley, Jack Reynor, Noah Taylor, Patrick Bergen and Mark Monero, put them in a very volatile situation, put a gun in each of their hands, douse the situation with proverbial gasoline and have one gun go off to light the situation up. Then just sit back and revel in the carnage and let this one thought occupy your mind as you watch the bullets fly: “These people are the worst shots EVER!”

Free Fire won’t make a lot of critical noise, but it certainly isn’t a quiet picture because Wheatley allows the action and pacing of the simple plot to take center stage and the action is enough to keep its audience satisfied. These characters are all shooting at each other, getting shot, squirming around on the ground covered in glass, debris and one guy who is crawling around on the ground gets stuck with a used syringe at one point, but what’s happening and what develops is stimulating enough to keep you engaged with the picture.

I think Ben Wheatley made a very rugged and respectable film. The action is simple but welcome and the pacing of the film is also commendable. The writing is also very refreshing; this was my first time sampling something from Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley and I like what I experienced.

This isn’t exactly a movie to evaluate the actors since no one performance stands apart from the rest but the cast is definitely fun to watch.

Laurie Rose’s cinematography definitely lets you feel like you are in the middle of the action, the editing of Jump and Wheatley are precise; they don’t use any cut or jump to waste a moment, Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s music takes something of a backseat to the picture but the use of John Denver music is cool, Emma Fryer’s costumes are on point, Paki Smith’s production, Paul Frost and Nigel Pollock’s art decoration and Liz Griffiths’ set decoration all add to the rich mise-en-scene of the film.

Free Fire may be a low-budget movie, but the action is top-shelf and its overall value is worth the price of admission. I had fun watching Free Fire, and if you have an afternoon to kill and would like to see something silly and surprising, I’d recommend Free Fire to change your pace.

Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Optimus Prime returns to lead the charge in “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

Five years ago, the conflict between Optimus Prime, voiced by Peter Cullen (“Gremlins”), and his Autobots and Megatron, voiced by Hugo Weaving (“The Matrix,” “The Wolfman”) and his Decepticons escalated to an entirely new level at the expense of the city of Chicago, which was brought to its knees.

Since then, the rules have changed; the alliance between the Autobots and the U.S. government is long dead and now every Transformer, both Autobot and Decepticon, is in danger of being captured, experimented on, tortured and even killed.

A new era has begun. The age of the Transformers is over-Kelsey Grammer as Harold Attinger

Even though the government and the majority of humanity has washed their hands of the war, the war between Autobots and Decepticons rages on and a struggling mechanic named Cade Yeager, played by Academy Award nominee Mark Wahlberg (“The Departed,” “Lone Survivor”) and his daughter Tessa, played by Nicola Peltz (“The Last Airbender”), are going to stumble smack in the middle of it.

Mark Wahlberg joins the fight in “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

Cade is initially unaware at first, but he quickly discovers that an old truck he tows into his garage is Optimus Prime and after they officially meet, all hell breaks loose as a CIA unit led by James Savoy, played by Titus Welliver (“Argo,” “Handsome Harry”), descend on them to bring Optimus in.

Cade, Tessa and her boyfriend Shane, played by Jack Reynor, are now fugitives themselves after striking an “alliance” with Optimus.

Now the Autobot leader has a new mission: gather whoever is left of the Autobots, go after the man who is hunting them and stop them, but this new mission uncovers something more sinister than they can ever imagine.

Spearheading the termination of the Transformers is a CIA operative named Harold Attinger, played by Golden Globe winner Kelsey Grammer (“X-Men: the Last Stand,” “Toy Story 2”). Attinger has struck an agreement with a Transformer named Lockdown, voiced by Mark Ryan (“The Prestige”), a bounty hunter who has orders to bring in Optimus at the behest of his creators.

Attinger also has an agreement with Joshua Joyce, played by Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones,” “The Devil Wears Prada”), president of a robotics company researching the Transformers genome in the effort to produce man-made Transformers that are accountable to humanity rather than destructive.

This is not war…it’s human extinction-Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime

Optimus and the Autobots are now fugitives, a family has been brought into the war and there are explosive consequences at all angles. Director Michael Bay (“Pearl Harbor”) returns to direct the fourth installment of his blockbuster saga, “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

This is a movie with a lot of bells, whistles, bravado, action, mayhem and flash and all of that reaches well on a visual level. Thematically, on the other hand, this could possibly be counted among one of the weakest films of the year.

The visual effects, sound, editing and camerawork are the only redeeming qualities of this spectacle. When it comes to the narrative, this film actually feels like a proper sequel to the original “Transformers” because Michael Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger (“Dream House,” “The Brothers Grimm”) finally moved away from the Shia LeBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson etc, model and actually tried to do something different with different characters.

However, the fact that this movie has a snowball-effect feel to it makes the film lose all discernible credibility. The fact that this family from Texas is pulled into all of this madness is nothing short of madness itself.

Also the plot-holes are obvious to the trained eye and those plot-holes make the film seem so unfinished and the visual splendor is there to fill in the gaps in the story. This movie is essentially a visually splendid spoof.

The cast doesn’t do any favors to save this film at all. The actors simply take a backseat to the giant robots fighting, blasting things, breathing fire, transforming and the endless explosions and debris flying all over the setting.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is a decent way to kill a few hours if you want to watch a CGI fireworks show, nice cars that drive fast, but take all of the bells and whistles away, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about it.

It lives up to its reputation as a bigger, bolder and badder model of “Transformers” but like it falls into the trap of being a poorly constructed, shallow and listless action movie that is all flash and no substance. It kills time, and has a few “wow” moments, but it isn’t all that is cracked up to be.