Thursday, June 30, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon review from Mike Curry

Below you'll find a hearty review of the newest Transformers flick from Mike Curry.  Mike is, in my opinion, the best basketball blogger I've had the privilege to read.  Understandably, his review of the movie would be a bit out of place on an NBA blog, so my spot gets the benefit of Mike's typical wit on an atypical (for him) topic.  If you get a chance, please pay his blog, CavsHQ, a visit at  

(Here is a long movie review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon by
someone who has no business reviewing movies.  I'm not quite sure why
I decided to write it, but it needed a home and Dan was kind enough to
host it on his site.  Thanks Dan.)

I was lucky enough to sneak into a Transformers: Dark of the Moon
preview on Monday night.  Damn the lack of proper English, this is
robot fighting, son, and I was excited to see it.  That excitement
didn't last, but it was enough to convince me to write a couple of
thousand words about the film to both prepare and warn people about
what to expect from this third movie in the Transformers series.

Full disclosure: I am a Transformers fan.  The first toy I vividly
remember receiving was an Optimus Prime figure that my grandparents
got me when I was four or five years old.  It was a Christmas present
that my brother and I discovered buried in a closet at their house.
After it's discovery, my brother and I were allowed to play with it
whenever we were visiting, even though Christmas was still months
away.  It was awesome.  I had surrogate Optimus Primes when I went
home - repurposed other toys to stand in for the Autobot leader - but
that metal truck that transformed into a robot at my grandma's house
was the coolest thing in the world.

And some people were surprised that kids were devastated when the 1986
animated movie killed Optimus Prime?  Stupid adults.

Flash forward 27 years, and now we have two live action movies, with a
third releasing on Wednesday.  Whatever you may think of their
quality, the two previous movies took in over $1.5 BILLION in revenue,
so somebody is interested.  I liked but didn't love the first film,
and unlike most I really enjoyed Revenge of the Fallen - that inner
four-year-old was able to overlook the sloppy storytelling and crude
humor to get to the 30-foot talking robots shooting at each other.  I
went in to yesterday's screening with the hope that lessons had been
learned, budgets had been spared no expense, and that I was finally
going to get the Transformers movie that I could wholeheartedly

Well, maybe in another 27 years.  While Transformers: Dark of the Moon
features some fantastic visuals throughout, it is a disaster as a
movie.  But that doesn't mean it's not worth talking about.  I hope.

The (Spoiler free, I think) notes:

The Good:

-  Robots fight in this movie.  They rip each other apart.  The action
is heavy, loud and visceral. The only shame is that the fights move so
fast and with so much action that it can be difficult to catch
everything that is going on in each scene.  The action is more
coherent than the previous two films, however, and watching robots
beat the bolts out of each other is why I go to Transformers movies.

-  The robot and vehicle designs in the films continue to work for me.
 If you are able to show me a flame-embossed Peterbilt semi cab or a
yellow Camero and make me think of them as living characters, you are
doing something right.  Megatron's new vehicle mode, being an actual
vehicle and not strictly CGI this time, looks particularly menacing.
For all the failings of the movie franchise, the visualization of the
Autobots and Decepticons has remained impressive thanks to the
magicians over at Industrial Light and Magic.  They steal the show.

-  A few of the set pieces - especially a mid-point highway battle
(that had to have killed dozens) and the building folding in on itself
seen in the trailers (likewise) - are truly impressive.  They are "Oh,
that's why this movie cost $200 Million" impressive.

-  For better or worse, this was the first 3D movie in a long time
that didn't make me think about wearing the glasses.  The picture at
the Cinemark XD screen in Valley View was sufficiently bright, and the
3D picture was not a distraction, though it is fair to wonder if that
means that the effects were minimal.

The Bad:

-  Michael Bay is not a good director.  Like so many other incredibly
lucrative filmmakers, Bay is a visual effects expert who knows how to
get an incredible shot, but has no idea how to put together an actual
movie.  He is certainly not the first of his kind - George Lucas and
James Cameron blazed this particular trail, and a similar though more
controversial attack could be leveled at Steven Spielberg - but Bay
has utterly failed to grow as a storyteller over his career.

Sure, it's not like Shakespeare was drafting this screenplay, but
after six years of working with the franchise as its sole director,
Bay can't pin the lack of coherent narrative on anyone else.  It's
clear that he doesn't care about the story that these Transformers
films are telling.  Which makes him bad at his job.

-  Bay can say that he makes films to appeal to 15-year-old boys, and
that's certainly a way to go.  But that doesn't make tiny robots
dropping four-letter words and lingering shots on a Victoria's Secret
model not wearing pants a requirement.  Bay is obsessed with dropping
adolescent comedy in places where it does not belong, including one
excruciatingly long scene in TF3 featuring Ken Jeong as a conspiracy
theorist whose only motivation is to see how uncomfortable he can make
that same teenage boy audience feel with clumsy mistaken

The scene would be unwelcome in any film, but to put it in the same
movie where you shoot Chicago as a post-9/11 war torn wasteland and
get somber about the possible execution of beloved robot buddies, it
is particularly tone-deaf.  It's not okay just because "it's a Michael
Bay movie."  It is bad film-making, and fans and movie goers deserve

-  I don't think I've seen editing this bad on a feature-length film.
I don't know jack about the technical aspects of film-making, so the
editing would have to be pretty atrocious for me to notice.  It is.
Characters disappear for extended stretches, only to reappear for a
moment, only to disappear again.  Coherence is an afterthought.

The Observations:

-  At no point did I think that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was doing a
great job, and at no point did I think that she was killing the movie.
 It is clear that Michael Bay uses women in his movies strictly as
objects to be admired, and as a Victoria's Secret model
Huntington-Whiteley is familiar with that role.  I'm quite certain
that there will be more comments on her outfits than her acting in
reviews of the film, so in that she must be deemed as successful.

I thought it was interesting that Shia LaBoeuf said in a recent
interview that Megan Fox was uncomfortable with Bay's misogynistic
film-making, and that attitude led to the conflicts that resulted in
her disappearance from TF3.  Hey Megan, if you don't want to work for
a misogynist, more power to you.  Also, I loved "Jennifer's Body."
Call me.

All that said, if anyone says that they thought either
Huntington-Whiteley or Fox were vastly superior to the other, they're
kidding themselves.  Fox was the object in the first two movies,
Huntington-Whiteley is the object here.  No more, no less.  Not even
noticeably less clothing, if we don't count that early pant-less

-  I assume that Shia LeBeouf did every scene five different ways, and
then Bay and his crew just chose one out of a hat.  LeBeouf's Sam
Witwicky changes disposition like a drug addict.  But it's hard to
kill Shia from not remaining consistent to his role, because there is
no role.  I wonder if Bay is even on set for the scenes with dialogue.

-  As for the other actors, Frances McDormand does a commendable job
in making the most out of a tough-talking intelligence operative
unafraid to talk smack to 30-foot-tall death machines.  John Turturro
works as a competent foil to McDormand and is far less manic and
obnoxious than his character in the first two films.  Alan Tudyk is
also very watchable as Turturro's valet slash hacker accomplice.

-  These performances make the work done by "Army" guys Josh Duhamel
and Tyrese nearly unbearable, and anyone who can explain to me why
John Malkovich is in this movie gets a prize.  If you "steal" scenes
that should have been left on the cutting room floor, you're not a
help you're a hindrance.

-  Leonard Nimoy as the voice of the newly revitalized Sentinel Prime
worked.  The forced in Star Trek line did not.

-  In previous films, the Transformers just "transformed" their hands
into swords, guns and other weapons.  This time they hold the weapons
in their hands.  Not sure why that should change mid-series.


Why am I writing about a Transformers movie?  Because I wanted it to
be good.  I wanted to go back to 1984 for a couple of hours.  Instead,
I got a movie where even I - a guy who liked Revenge of the Fallen! -
was unable to really enjoy.  It's a disappointment.

I wouldn't blame you for going to see it just to check out the
spectacle.  Just don't be surprised when you walk out knowing that you
crafted better stories on your living room floor when you were four.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Michigan fan reacts to the Tressel story

It’s been a week.  A week since I started burning couches on front lawns in celebration of Jim Tressel’s resignation.  A week since I misunderstood the rules of vacated wins and prematurely celebrated the end of Ohio State’s win streak over Michigan.  A week since I talked to my dad, a loyal OSU fan, about how corrupt that program is.  No, wait, none of those things happened.  I’m a Michigan fan who is disappointed with what’s going on at Ohio State.  Depending on how long I keep your interest, I’m going to tell you why.

Let’s start with a couple of key points.  Despite claims to the contrary, this is a big deal.  I quickly dismiss the arguments of OSU fans who whine about the rules.  Rules are rules, and in every walk of life we come across rules we think are stupid.  Can’t wear jeans to work even though you’ll never see a client that day?  You put your suit on.  Can’t go 35 in a school zone even though it’s virtually impossible to idle at speeds much lower than that?  You go 20 or you get a ticket.  Point is, we follow the rules because society, businesses, and organizations, have order.  We keep that order by following the rules.  Ohio State didn’t.

I’m disappointed by the resignation of Tressel for a number of reasons.  Primarily, and this is NOT Ohio State’s fault, Tressel was sold to the public as a beacon of all that is good and right with the world.  This is a man that (clearly irrational) people named their children after.  He was Woody Hayes the pacifist, Earle Bruce the consistent winner, and John Cooper with appreciation of the rivalry.  I can vividly remember listening to talk shows discussing Tressel as potentially running for office, and I can remember thinking that he would’ve won by a landslide.  In the eyes of many, he was the perfect coach.

Year after year Tressel won recruiting battles, produced a top five team, and waltzed into a BCS game.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  He was brilliant.  I was jealous.  I couldn’t poke holes in the guy.  I could take cheap shots at his wardrobe, but for most of my adult life, I’ve been wielding a gun with rubber bullets because of Tressel.  I used to scoff at the occasional OSU fan who called him too conservative, wondering what the hell else he could do for the school than win more than eight out of every ten games, dominate recruiting, and create a gap between Michigan and Ohio State that has never been seen before.  Literally, never.

With that out of the way, I’ve said for a decade that Tressel was a “blind eye” coach.  My counterpart, Jeff, can vouch for that.  First it was Ray Isaac at Youngstown State, then it was Maurice Clarett, then it was Troy Smith, and now it’s the group of idiots who traded honor and tradition for ink.  Eventually, even the most adamant defender of Tressel and OSU has to recognize a pattern.  Previously, the man with sleeveless sweaters was able to plead ignorance, over and over again.  This time he responded to an email.  No more denials.  No more pleas.  The perfect coach is now perfectly imperfect.  The beacon of light flickered and faded, casting a shadow of doubt and inconsistency.  For me, a dyed in the wool Michigan fan, it was disappointing.

As Michigan fans, we endured Bill Martin’s attempt to cram a square peg into a round hole with Rich Rodriguez.  We watched him behave like a man having a seizure on a trampoline on our sidelines.  We wondered how a guy could come to Michigan and promise the revered “1” jersey to a freshman defensive back.  We watched Bill Martin slink into the shadows like he just got done stabbing Monica Seles, and we watched our football program sink to levels that we couldn’t imagine.  Throughout all of that, we watched Ohio State dominate the Big Ten, compete for national titles, and be portrayed as an example of a perfect program.  Ohio State fans will never understand how distant the image in the rear view is of the 2006 game.  Divergent paths, indeed.

Things changed this off-season.  New AD Dave Brandon removed Rodriguez from Ann Arbor, and despite what many have said, Michigan got it’s man in Brady Hoke.  Personally, I haven’t been that excited about Michigan football since the day before they lost to Appalachian State.  Hoke was the guy to go toe to toe with “The Vest.”  A juxtaposition of style and behavior that was befitting of the rivalry.  Fred Flintstone meets Ned Flanders.  I was excited for 2012, knowing the gap in recruiting created by Lloyd Carr’s sinking ship and Rodriguez’s inability to understand the Big Ten would leave too big a gap for a 2011 win.  I fully expected Brady Hoke to make hay in the rivalry and we’d see everything both fan bases love about it.  Then this happened.  Make no mistake, I wanted Hoke to beat Tressel, and I am confident he would have.  Unfortunately, I’ll never get the chance to see that happen, nor will the OSU excuse makers.

My disappointment starts with the Hoke/Tressel reason, but it certainly doesn’t end there.  Despite my belief that Tressel knowingly turned a blind eye on previous occasions, I loved the guy.  I still think he’s a good person, I still think he loves OSU, and I still think that he ultimately cares about the kids he coaches.  I don’t feel that way about Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, Pete Carroll, or Nick Saban.  There was a gap between who Tressel was and who the other coaches are.  That character trait is the reason that I loved Bo Schembechler and am leading the Brady Hoke bandwagon.  To have that image irrevocably damaged bothers me.

One more thing that I feel needs to be mentioned.  Gordon Gee and Gene Smith should be ashamed of themselves.  Jim Tressel harbored more goodwill for that program than anyone since the Clemson-puncher (see Woody Hayes).  It’s foolish to think that those guys, and the compliance office, and the entire remaining coaching staff, had no idea what was going on.  Tressel has gone from a hero to a speed bump as the bus he’s been thrown under rolls over him.  If I were an Ohio State fan, I’d be outwardly and vocally upset about the fact that the best coach they’ve ever cut a check to (sorry, Woody) has been a sacrificial lamb strictly for the purpose of avoiding extreme sanctions.  The Vest was forced to resign, despite procuring legal help, because OSU intends to blame Tressel for a sweeping organizational problem in an effort to prevent further sanctions.  I am extremely disappointed to learn that this program, despite the rivalry, is capable of being that short-sighted and ignorant.  Of course, at the end of the day, I will remember OSU fans and their criticism of Michigan’s ONLY NCAA football sanction for practicing too much.  What is it they say about karma?

An OSU fan reacts to the Tressel story

Tresselgate, the downfall of Ohio State, the Bucks stop here…how ever you say it it’s an embarrassment to Ohio State football and the University.  As a lifelong Ohio State fan, I am very saddened by what has come up within the past few months regarding Jim Tressel and the players.  At this point I’m just hoping the hits stop coming and that we can fade out of the headlines.
When the first accusations came out in December 2010 about players receiving benefits from selling items I was shocked, but at the same time not overly surprised.  Even before all the NCAA investigations, it was obvious that football players at major programs receive extra benefits in some way, OSU included.  At the same time, I thought some of the players that got caught would’ve known better.  After that was said and done, I thought us fans could move on and look forward to the next season and argue about who should be the starting QB and RB.  This was just the beginning, however, of what looks like a very long road ahead.
The day Yahoo! published the story about Tressel lying to the NCAA, I first thought it had to be a lie or that there was more to the story; as did most of the fan base I’ve spoken to.  Tressel has been looked upon as almost a Messiah like figure by both fans and players.  After the 90’s with Cooper we just wanted a coach that could win the big game and beat Michigan.  At Tressel’s first speech/press conference for the fans he promised that we would be proud of the players come Michigan week…and we were.  Tressel then followed up his first season with a second straight win against Michigan and our first National Championship in 34 years.  After the 2002 season, Tressel was solidified as a god among coaches in Ohio State’s eyes.  His success continued by going to three National Championships, winning seven Big Ten Championships, and a 9-1 record against Michigan.
After so long, the fans, myself included, thought Tressel was unstoppable.  Sure we had issues with Clarrett and Troy Smith, but no one ever thought Tressel would’ve been involved at all.  No one wanted to think about life without Tressel, we wanted him for life.  Three months ago, that all changed.
Ever since the Yahoo! article, it just been hit after hit for the program.  We are now just along for the ride hoping there is something left once the dust clears.  Even with Gordon Gee and Gene Smith backing Tressel I thought it wasn’t going to be that bad, the program would get some sanctions and we would move on.  Sure it is horrible to violate the NCAA, but us fans thought everything would still be good with Tressel at the helm.
Then came Memorial Day.  I woke up that morning with about 4-5 text messages on my phone asking what happened with Tressel.  I was completely shocked at first to see that Tressel resigned as head coach, especially with all the higher ups at OSU saying he was still the coach no matter what.  It then came to light the depth of violations OSU had committed.  Never did I think Tressel could, and would, cover up so many violations and then on top of that lie to the NCAA about it all.
After reading many articles and talking to multiple people about the whole situation I thought Tressel resigning was the best option.  As horrible as it was to see him leave, it was what was best for the program.  I was actually not too surprised that he actually resigned considering nearly every major coach that has lied to the NCAA has been fired, dismissed, or resigned.  I don’t think Tressel or OSU wanted to go against that mold.
Right now us fans are just sitting back waiting for the hits to stop coming.  With ex-players now talking and the NCAA investigating every little thing about the athletic department it could get really ugly.  Fans are just hoping the NCAA does not make an example out of Ohio State to warn other major schools to clean up their act.  Personally, I’m guessing we get a USC-like treatment with a couple year post season ban, scholarships reduced, and the 2010 season vacated (besides the Sugar Bowl since the NCAA made the “Tat 5” eligible).  If more and more information surfaces the NCAA could go back further and vacate more seasons, which we hope does not happen.
As the 2011 season comes closer the program and fans are at a crossroads.  What will happen this year?  Who will be the next coach?  Who will start in place of the “Tat 5”?  When we will beat Michigan again?  These questions will hopefully be answered within the next few months.  This 2011 team just went from a possible National Championship contending team to fighting for 8-10 wins and keeping their head above water in the Big Ten.
Come 15-20 years down the road I’m guessing Tressel with get the Woody treatment.  Both coaches went out in the wrong way, but what they did on the field is undeniable.  They won Big Ten championships, beat Michigan, and won at least one National Championship.  Woody’s memorable hat and thick black framed glasses can be seen all over the place on game days.  In 20 years, I think we will be seeing sweatervests just as much.
As the dust settles, this thing I know…I will still be a Buckeye and wear my team colors proudly.  Sure there will be fans that leave and hate OSU, Tressel, and the players involved but that just comes with the nature of the beast.  True fans will stay around and stand up for their school.  I’m not saying what Tressel or the players did was the right thing or even remotely okay, but whatever happens I will still be an OSU fan and still be at every home game cheering them on just as hard.  Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye…Go Bucks!