If Transformers: Dark of the Moon is indeed Michael Bay’s final entry in the Hasbro toy-inspired franchise as he has repeatedly intimated then it is a fitting swan song for a director whose lust - and gift - for spectacle remains unmatched. Exhilarating and exasperating awe-inspiring and stupefying the third installment in the blockbuster alien-robot saga is less a movie than a prolonged manic episode. In other words it’s a Michael Bay film.
Any suspicion that Bay might have matured at all since his last film 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen vanishes immediately after Dark of the Moon’s opening credits when model-actress (in that order) Rosie Huntington-Whiteley replacing tempestuous Megan Fox as the franchise’s resident eye candy is introduced ass-first. The camera lingers on her backside mesmerized as she makes her way up the stairs to summon our hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) from the bed she inexplicably shares with him. For a director so notoriously ADD-afflicted as Bay he can show remarkable focus when circumstances require it.
Times are tough for our boy Sam who despite having saved the world on two separate occasions can’t find a job. With the Decepticon scourge abated (for now) Optimus Prime Bumblebee and the rest of Sam’s Autobot pals have gotten side gigs as mechanized Hans Blixes roaming the planet in search of illegal WMDs and eliminating the regimes that harbor them. Feeling left out and finding little comfort in the arms his undeservedly hot girlfriend Sam yearns for a shot at more world-saving action.
He finds it soon enough when he is drafted into a plot so sprawling and convoluted that to describe it in full would extinguish what little neurochemical reserves I’ve managed to replenish since last night’s screening. It’s built on an enticing bit of revisionist history which casts the war between the Autobots and Decepticons as the real inspiration for the Cold War space race. It seems that many years ago an Autobot spacecraft carrying a technology that could turn the tide in their centuries-long war crash-landed on the moon. Alerted to the crash JFK immediately initiated the Apollo program with the specific purpose of harvesting technology from the craft before the Soviets could.
But that’s only part of the story as Sam learns when confronted with evidence by a raving co-worker (Ken Jeong) at his new job. (The two have a tussle in the loo – setting the stage for a hi-larious gay-insinuation joke. Vintage Bay!) Turns out there there’s much more to that fallen craft than anyone realizes and if its undiscovered cargo falls into the wrong hands – say Megatron and the Decepticons who are quietly regrouping in Africa – the implications could be devastating.
Dark of the Moon can be roughly divided into two parts. The first is a conspiracy thriller with a surreal comic bent with Bay aiming for – and dare I say nearly achieving – a quirky Coen Brothers vibe as Sam delves headlong into the moon mystery. (The presence of Coen veterans Frances McDormand John Turturro and John Malkovich among the cast reinforces the connection.) Credit screenwriter Ehren Kruger for recognizing that material this preposterous requires a suitably ludicrous sense of humor. But there’s also a sharpness and irreverence to Dark of the Moon’s wit that previous Transformers films have lacked. (It’s still however steadfastly juvenile: When Sam locks eyes with his future girlfriend for the first time his mom exclaims “What a gorgeous box!” while gazing at an unrelated object in the background.) Dark of the Moon's screenplay is a vast improvement over Revenge of the Fallen's in that it is an actual screenplay and not a stack of index cards.
The second half of the film centering on the Decepticons’ extended siege of Chicago unfolds essentially in one long action sequence. It’s as if Bay having sufficiently answered the biggest complaint about the previous film – the lack of a discernible plot – is suddenly unburdened free to commence the all-out sensory onslaught he’s been planning all along. In doing so he all but disavows the film’s first half rendering much of its storyline superfluous.
The battle scenes are truly epic – unprecedented in grandeur and scale and utterly resplendent in 3D – but the endless spectacle induces a kind of delirium. Each frame is positively crammed with images far more than our feeble non-Michael Bay brains could ever hope to process at the breakneck speed he presents them. And no two shots ever look the same: Even a simple shot-reverse-shot dialogue exchange shifts perspective on seemingly every other word. The net effect of Bay’s frenzied handiwork is a state of joyful discombobulation: mouth agape bewildered basking in the dopamine blush.
When Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a shark while surfing, she probably thought her career was over. But with hard work and dedication she overcame all odds to become a champion once again. Her courageous story was expertly chronicled in Soul Surfer, an inspiring biopic from director Sean McNamara, based on Hamilton's own novel of the same name. Released in April to box office grosses totaling $41 million, Sony Pictures Entertainment has announced that you'll be able to take the film home in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo package or a regular DVD on August 2nd.
Read on below for the press release, which includes a rundown of the discs' special features and more!
CULVER CITY, CALIF. (June 6, 2011) – Soul Surfer, based on the remarkable true story of pro surfer Bethany Hamilton’s journey from tragedy to triumph, debuts on Blu-ray™/DVD Combo Pack and DVD August 2nd from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The inspiring story of a girl’s comeback after a shark attack stars AnnaSophia Robb (Race to Witch Mountain), Academy Award® winner Helen Hunt (Best Actress, As Good As It Gets, 1997), Dennis Quaid (The Rookie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra), Grammy Award® winner Carrie Underwood, Kevin Sorbo (TV's “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”) and Lorraine Nicholson (Click). Bonus features include deleted scenes, the documentary “Heart of a Soul Surfer” and three behind-the-scenes featurettes, “The Making of Soul Surfer,” which explores the making of the film from the filmmaker’s perspective; “Becoming Bethany,” which shows how AnnaSophia Robb brought her character to life with the help of Bethany Hamilton; and “Surfing for the Screen: Inside the Action.” Soul Surfer will be available in the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack for $38.99 SRP and on DVD for $30.99 SRP.
Soul Surfer is the incredible true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack and courageously overcame all odds to become a champion again, through her sheer determination and unwavering faith. In the wake of this life-changing event that took her arm and nearly her life, Bethany’s feisty determination and steadfast beliefs spur her toward an adventurous comeback that gives her the grit to turn her loss into a gift for others.
Directed by Sean McNamara, the screenplay was by McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz and Michael Berk. Soul Surfer is based on the book by Bethany Hamilton, Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh. The screen story is by Sean McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz, Michael Berk, Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson and Brad Gann.
DVD and Blu-ray Bonus Features Include:
§ Deleted Scenes
§ “The Making of Soul Surfer” Featurette
§ “Surfing for the Screen: Inside the Action” Featurette
§ “Becoming Bethany” Featurette
§ “Heart of a Soul Surfer” Documentary
Soul Surfer has a runtime of approximately 106 minutes and is rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material.
Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment
February 04, 2010 4:00am EST
Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, AnnaSophia Robb and Carrie Underwood will star in the indie drama Soul Surfer, Variety reports.
The film, about teen surfing champ and shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton, is directed by Sean McNamara. The project marks country music star Underwood's big-screen debut.
Based on Hamilton's autobiography, the biopic centers on the surf icon (Robb) who defied all odds to compete and win professional championships after losing her arm in a shark attack at age 13. Quaid and Hunt play Hamilton's parents. Underwood is a church youth leader.
McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz and Michael Berk wrote the screenplay.
The film began shooting this week in Hawaii.
Mandalay Vision is producing alongside Brookwell McNamara Entertainment and Life's a Beach Entertainment. Affirm Films, a Sony Pictures Entertainment company, will distribute.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars in which the Christians tried to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims who had conquered the Middle East in the 7th century. With the battle cry of "God wills it! " thousands of Europeans answered the call and were able to retake the fabled Holy City in the 11th century. Kingdom of Heaven begins in 1186 between the Second and Third Crusades. A fragile peace prevails mostly through the efforts of Jerusalem's enlightened Christian king Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). But it's difficult to maintain the peace. There are extremists within the Christian brigades--known as the Knights Templar--who want to wipe every Muslim off the face of the Earth. On top of that King Baldwin's health is failing. Once he's gone war is sure to follow. If ever there was a need for a hero this is the time. Enter the young French blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) who is in deep despair over the loss of his family. He joins the Crusades after the father he never knew Godfrey (Liam Neeson) comes back from Jerusalem and convinces him it's a quest worth fighting for. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son he also passes on that sacred knightly oath: to protect the helpless safeguard the peace and work toward harmony between religions and cultures so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth. No pressure or anything though.
Orlando Bloom carries his first major motion picture very well easily handling the chores of being such a gallant conscientious and morally upstanding knight. As Balian the Troy costar plays the gamut. He broods over his lost wife and child has father-son epiphanies upholds his knightly duties on a regular basis falls in love with a beautiful but troubled princess and finally bravely defends the Holy City from the encroaching Muslim army thus becoming a legend. Not bad for a day's work eh? There are even times especially toward the end when Balian is standing before the denizens of Jerusalem urging them to fight when you swear you can see a little of Bloom's The Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas creep in. The supporting cast also does an adequate job painting a picture of some trying times. Chief among them: Jeremy Irons as King Baldwin's right-hand man Tiberias; Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) as the evil leader of the Knights Templar; Massoud as the great warrior Saladin; and lovely Eva Green (The Dreamers) as Princess Sibylla King Baldwin's sister who captures our hero's heart but makes some bad choices with dire consequences.
Even if these sword-and-armor epics are all blending together you've got to give props to the directors who make them. These films are massive undertakings and Kingdom of
Heaven with the expert Ridley Scott at the helm is no exception. The Oscar-winning director of course has had his fair share of recreating history first with the classic Gladiator and then with the contemporary Black Hawk Down. But in recreating the Crusades Scott faces his toughest challenge to date and takes on the responsibility very seriously. He is painstakingly meticulous with details even as he is building a 12th-century Jerusalem or corralling 2 000 heavily costumed extras for the colossal climactic battle sequences. And it is always a good thing when a historical film can teach you something you may not have known like what the heck the Crusades were really all about. No Kingdom's biggest obstacle is timing. While it certainly has more substance than Alexander it is not nearly as intense and stirring as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the granddaddy of them all Braveheart. Too many of its ilk has come before and the concept has unfortunately worn thin.