Gloria Bell (2018)

Director: Sebastían Lelio

Cast: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Caren Pistorius, Brad Garrett, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Rita Wilson, Sean Astin, Holland Taylor, Chris Mulkey

Screenplay: Alice Johnson Boher, Sebastían Lelio

102 mins. Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use.

 

Gloria Bell isn’t exactly a movie for me, but I found the trailer quite intriguing. I adore Julianne Moore (The Hours, Bel Canto), but part of me will always assume a movie about aging will be terrible. After all, so many of them are, and it wouldn’t have shocked me if Gloria Bell had taken a similar track. Thank God that didn’t happen.

Gloria Bell (Moore) is an divorcee in LA who spends many a night out at the nightclubs for older ladies and gentlemen, clubs that play songs from a more youthful time in Gloria’s life. Gloria seems very unsure of herself when she meets another divorcee, Arnold (John Turturro, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski), and is quite taken with him. As the two form a budding and affectionate relationship, though, Gloria starts to learn some strange pieces of information about Arnold and she wonders if the two have as close a connection as she is hoping for.

The film is, at its core, an emotionally powerful character piece about a woman searching for love of herself again and love for life. As I watched her in the nightclub scenes early in the film, you can see she is feeling herself in the music but not really letting loose or freeing herself up to it. She knows she loves it, and she loves a great deal of life, but after becoming single again and losing her children to their own respective journeys, Gloria is merely asking an important question: is there a point in starting over now?

This emotionally arresting character arc is made by Julianne Moore’s award-worthy portrayal. For someone like me, who may not truly understand this part of her journey as I haven’t had to experience it, I was taken in by her subtle and nuanced performance. There are layers to the way Gloria uses her line of sight in the film. I kept following Moore’s eyes as she examined the world around her, and I was enthralled by it.

The film, directed by Sebastían Lelio (A Fantastic Woman, Disobedience), remade from an earlier film of his, is a little by-the-numbers, and without a strong central cast, it may not have worked as well, but Lelio is very collaborative with his performers, and that may stand as to why the movie works. He has a vision that is palatable across languages and cultures, and he understands character, and that’s what makes Gloria Bell such an interesting character.

Gloria Bell works because of a director who lets his performers perform and doesn’t offer a ton of flair and a central performance that should not be underestimated. While the story is less memorable that it should be, it’s the journey of its lead that carries the audience, supported by a truly incredible cast that help Moore shine. This is worth checking out if you missed it and need a little self-love.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Ken Jeong, John Malkovitch, Frances McDormand

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

154 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

C’mon, people. Robots are fighting. Things are blowing up. Of course it is a Michael Bay (Armageddon, Pain & Gain) movie!

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Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, Lawless, Fury) is now finished with college and trying to make a life for himself. His only claim to fame is saving the world twice, which he isn’t allowed to mention (even though I’m pretty sure that he is called out in the previous film by name over the television airwaves, so I imagine he wouldn’t have to hide it). He has a new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Mad Max: Fury Road) and a new home, but no job until he meets Bruce Brazos (John Malkovitch, TV’s Crossbones, Dangerous Liaisons) who grants him one. Meanwhile, the Autobots and NEST are coming under heavy fire from Charlotte Mearing (Frances McDormand, Fargo, Promised Land) who believes that NEST should be restructured or disassembled. The Autobots have been busy trying to uncover the mystery of an Autobot ship that crashed on the moon and caused the space race.

Screenwriter Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Blood & Chocolate) seems to have learned from the mistakes made in the previous installment. The basic plot structure of this film has reeled it back to where it becomes very simplistic. In fact, the finale of the film is the entire last half. Now, I will admit that there are definite pacing issues. So much of the minutia of the first hour feels unimportant until the major event about halfway through, involving an invasion of Chicago. Once that happens, there are a lot of Chicago set pieces. A lot. I mean it. The film could’ve chopped a few scenes off. Two and a half hours long is reaching for a Transformers movie until they learn about how plot and character development  work.

The actors and actresses seem better in this film when compared to the previous installment. Patrick Dempsey (TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Valentine’s Day) is one notable exception as Dylan, Carly’s boss who helps Sam get his job but has some secrets of his own. He is absolutely awful, and I like him normally. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley actually succeeds at performing worse than Megan Fox did. I don’t know how, but she did.

We get a lot of awesome battles, specifically a few involving Shockwave, a massive beast of a Decepticon who can take down skyscrapers with ease. The visual effects continue to impress in this series.

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon doesn’t get nearly as much right as the original film, but is more of an achievement than Revenge of the Fallen was. It gets a lot more on track, but it still comes down to likable trash. Worth a see, but still mostly for major fans.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, John Turturro

Screenplay: Ehren Krueger, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman

150 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

 

I was extremely surprised that I enjoyed Michael Bay’s Transformers. I had convinced myself all the way up to the premiere night that I was in for a long slow burn of disappointment. I was wrong. I had fun. That was a similar case with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the 2009 sequel featuring Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, Lawless, Fury) heading to college and trying to balance his life and relationships with Mikaela (Megan Fox, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, This is 40) with that of Bumblebee and the Transformers. I found the film to be an occasionally enjoyable romp with much lower quality of technical achievement. I didn’t think the movie was boring, but I felt like they had stretched the premise of the first film without offering anything new of merit. It felt like a big budget movie with absolutely no forward momentum for its characters. It looked nice, but really nothing special.

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Sam Witwicky is college bound. Unfortunately, his Autobot friends are challenged by threats old and new including the reanimation of Megatron and the reemergence of an exiled Transformer known only as The Fallen. The remaining Autobots have joined with new allies as well as a human tactical team called NEST, featuring old friends Major Lennox (Josh Duhamel, TV’s Las Vegas, Scenic Route) and USAF Master Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Black Nativity). Before leaving for college, Sam uncovers a piece of the Allspark which gives him visions of Autobot language and clues leading him around the world in search of a mystical tool that can save his friends and defeat The Fallen.

After multiple viewings, I began to notice how none of the plot actually made a whole lot of sense. The convoluted quest Sam finds himself on is strange as it is leading him to something he doesn’t even need yet. It isn’t until partway through the quest that he actually has a use for what he is looking for.

Shia LaBeouf’s performance is downright underwhelming. If there was an award for yelling “Bumblebee!” as many times as you can, he might win, but performances don’t really matter when the script is so shotty. We have to blame the writer’s strike, which caused the death of several terrific television series and a screenplay that wasn’t ready entering production. Disappointing, too, because if waited on, I’m sure the film would have been more successful, but this team just didn’t have the time to actually create an organic story. This is more jerry-rigged.

Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Blood and Chocolate) added some underwhelming touches to the original material drafted by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and I feel like he was too attached to the material as he was quoted as being a major Transformers fan. Of course he can’t do justice to the film. Too much pressure.

I didn’t really hate all the annoying characters (I tend to believe that Jar Jar Binks is needed in Episode I to prove that some aliens are going to be annoying as shit), but there was a lot of them, ranging from Autobots to humans.

The big win of the film is Devastator, a Decepticon comprised of several moving parts and automobiles. That was some great creature design.

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If given the option, find a copy of this film in its IMAX edition because the only major element of this film that works is the Visual Effects (even if Bay does continue to show us the robots transforming just because). This movie will delight fans of the Transformers brand, but likely no one else.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Michael Bay’s Transformers, click here.

For my review of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, click here.

For my review of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, click here.

Transformers (2007)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Anderson, Megan Fox, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro, Jon Voight

Screenplay: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

I had a conversation once with a friend who told me something very profound and possibly the best description of director Michael Bay (Armageddon, Pain & Gain). He said, “Michael Bay makes likable trash.” It’s true. None of his films are very well put together, so going into them with the thought process that you are reviewing a Best Picture nominee would be a mistake. You have to take it at face value.

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That being said, I think Transformers is one of his best works. It stars Shia LaBeouf (Lawless, Fury) as Sam Witwicky, a teenager who just wants a car. He wants something that is his, something that he thinks will make him unique. He quickly finds out how true that is when he comes across the realization that his newly acquired vehicle is actually a robot in disguise named Bumblebee. Bumblebee is an Autobot, a good guy, and he isn’t the only Transformer on Earth. In fact, Sam soon finds himself entangled in a battle between the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, and the Decepticons, led by an unknown force. Sam only has romantic interest Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, This is 40) to assist him as he is hunted by the mysterious government agency Sector 7 and its leader Agent Simmons (John Turturro, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Exodus: Gods and Kings). Meanwhile, a military base in Qatar is attacked by Decepticon forces, leading Captain William Lennox (Josh Duhamel, TV’s Las Vegas, Scenic Route) and USAF Tech Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Black Nativity) across the desert in search of rescue and answers.

I walked into Transformers expecting crap, but what I got was a fun romp that didn’t take itself very seriously and worked for that very reason. It had a lighthearted screenplay from Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and strong actors in the roles, with the exception of Megan Fox who essentially fills the role of Boobs and Ass very nicely, but is little more than a thing to look at when the robots aren’t fighting. Bay doesn’t take his source material very seriously either, and I think that is why it works so well. He was reported as almost turning down the film based on the fact that he didn’t know or like the Transformers line. The same can be said of J.J. Abrams when he took the role of director on the Star Trek films. He wasn’t a fan of them and therefore came at the material from an unclaimed perspective.

I think that is one of the reasons that the sequels to Transformers suffer from so many more flaws, but the original film is a good time. Most of the production’s technical aspects are nothing too exciting, but the post-production work with the visual effects is astounding and if you asked me, and of course you are, I think that it got robbed the Oscar in visual effects that year.

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Have fun with this movie. I did. I was very pleasantly surprised to see how much fun I had. It had some pretty likable trash indeed.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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