“Transformers: Age of Extinction”: If Only

Transformers

I begrudgingly admire Michael Bay. I don’t like the Transformers movies, which he directed from scripts by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci and Ehren Kruger, and I’m not convinced anyone else does either, but they look shiny, make loud noises and generate obscene amounts of revenue. With no incentive other than to reap billions of dollars from the box office, he’s hit upon the most impressive of magic formulas, directing enormously profitable blockbusters that no one can muster enough enthusiasm to admit they don’t really enjoy.

I’ve only seen the first two Transformers movies, and you couldn’t pay me enough to see any more. The first one has its moments, but by the second, all traces of fun and coherence have been tossed out in favor of some of the most technically complex, structurally massive, emotionally bankrupt action sequences ever realized on film. These films are immense achievements in technological fortitude – the battles are pitched at a scale worthy of the size of the title characters. Bay shoots these movies as spectacles of war, forgetting that genuinely satisfying war movies deal with people or ideas first and spectacle second, even if the two are fundamentally linked. Done right, substance-free spectacle can be as stirring as cinema gets. But as impressive as it is that Bay managed to construct “realistic” robots that convincingly appear to emerge from everyday machinery, this achievement means nothing without a sense of proportion, or narrative consequence, or emotional weight, or comedic skill, or even visual beauty.

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The M&M Report, Episode 13: Feelings and Good Tidings

Love Actually

Listen to Episode 13 here.

Welcome back to The M&M Report, Cross-Country Edition. Devin and I have temporarily migrated to opposite sides of the country, but the miracles of technology allowed us to have a fun conversation nonetheless.

We started with some discussion of Beyonce, who stunned the music industry on Friday when she dropped a new album entirely without promotion.

After that, we revealed our holiday plans for pop culture consumption. Devin hopes to marathon every episode of a highly acclaimed AMC drama about a man who makes meth (guess which one) and Mark is going to honor Devin’s demands and dive into the first season of a political drama that rhymes with “The Best Ring.”

From there, we reviewed Amazon’s first scripted series, the political satire Alpha House. We were underwhelmed, despite the presence of John Goodman.

Because the holiday season is in full swing, Devin and I simply had to discuss our feelings about holiday music, including our theories about Christmas albums and some of our favorite tunes.

And finally, we had a heated debate about Love Actually, which is either the best or worst Christmas movie of all time, depending on who you ask. Keep your eyes open for a special appearance from Devin Doesn’t Like Things.

Next week, we’re starting our look back at the year in pop culture. Until then, thanks for listening!

Click through for the time breakdown (and a bonus blast of holiday cheer from Mariah Carey and Jimmy Fallon):

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The M&M Report, Episode 12: Here a Cat, There a Cat

Inside Llewyn Davis

Listen to Episode 12 here.

Welcome to the M&M Report once again! This week, Devin Mitchell and I are experimenting with a new recording format in preparation for our monthlong break from the rigors of academia. I went to one room, Devin went to the next, and we recorded a nice Skype conversation. Next week, we’ll do the same – from opposite sides of the country. (No pressure.)

We started out this week summing up our thoughts on roughly the first half of the 2013-2014 TV season. Between the two of us, we’re watching Trophy Wife, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Sleepy Hollow. Most of the other new shows failed to strike our fancy.

After that, we talked about how the broadcast networks can survive in the rapidly evolving television landscape. This season’s new shows have been largely unsuccessful in the ratings, but we don’t think networks are dead just yet.

Finally, we’re unveiling a conversation we recorded a few weeks ago: an in-depth review of the Coen Brothers’ new musical drama Inside Llewyn Davis. It’s a terrific movie and we had thoughts about Oscar Isaac, folk music and cats.

Keep an eye out for discussions of the best pop culture of 2013 in future podcasts. Until then…thanks for listening!

Keep reading for the time breakdown.

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“Inside Llewyn Davis”: Folk Magic

Inside

Art is all about timing. It’s not enough to be talented or creative or passionate or hungry. As much as art is an expression of an individual, it’s produced to be appreciated by others, and others have fickle tastes. The most successful artists apply their talents to some sort of hunger for the work they’re creating. When the timing isn’t just right, though, artists struggle.

Llewyn Davis struggles. The title character in the Coen Brothers’ beautifully crafted, quietly hopeless Inside Llewyn Davis chases after cats, slums for hitmakers, treks across the country, incurs the wrath of his female companions, and sings, softly and loudly, forcefully and listlessly, energetically and exhaustedly, in the hopes that someone, anyone, will see what he sees in himself: a man with a voice that freezes time. But again and again, he runs up against one of life’s most frustrating truisms: sometimes, you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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