Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Every two or so years, when the sun is at its hottest and summer blockbuster season is reaching its peak, a long shadow is cast over the movie theaters of the world, bringing with it dread, despair, and a week-long migraine. It is time for another Transformers movie. The latest one, which arrives in theaters on Friday whether we like it or not, does away with the established story of Shia LaBeouf, his trusty car and the gorgeous girlfriend who isn’t given much to do, and instead places the fate of the world in the toned arms of Mark Wahlberg.
There aren’t many people who are expecting Transformers: Age of Extinction to be a great film. In fact, most fans and critics are expecting the film to be torn to shreds by the press, many of whom had the pleasure of doing the exact same thing to its predecessors. Though most of the world now regards Michael Bay as the architect of the downfall of modern cinema, it’s worth remembering that there was a time when he wasn’t the most reviled filmmaker in America. But if you follow the reviews for the first three Transformers films, you can almost pinpoint the exact point of no return.
Transformers It might be difficult to remember – three very long, very loud movies later – but the first installment in the Transformers series was actually relatively well-received. By that, of course, we mean that it received mixed reviews rather than outright scathing ones. Still, there were plenty of critics who were never a fan of the franchise, and made their disdain for Bay’s most famous works clear from the beginning.
Some were upset over what had become of such a beloved part of their childhood:
“Transformers is a terrible film. It’s not even bad in a campy, funny way that is enjoyable in the right mindset. It’s bad in a horrible way that makes you wish you’d spent your evening doing something other than ruining your childhood memories.” - Sean Gandert, Paste Magazine
Many found it difficult to follow the film, which was somehow simultaneously overly-complicated and full of holes:
“The story has something to do with Autobots and Decepticons battling to be the first to get to what amounts to a giant battery pack (a "cube of infinite power," someone calls it, I think) that's been held for decades by the U.S. military in — oh, never mind.” – Bob Mondello, NPR
Or, they just had trouble looking past one glaring fault:
“Even by Michael Bay standards, this movie is vapid.” – James Berardinelli, Reelview
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Because audiences failed to heed these early warnings, the first film made enough money to warrant a sequel, two years later. A sequel which took all of the worst parts of the first Transformers film, made them louder, more obnoxious and four times as long, pumped them full of steroids and then strung them out to create a full movie. A sequel which will one day be remembered if not for its quality, than for the exuberance that critics showed in tearing it to shreds.
First, they ripped apart the script:
“Describing the plot of Revenge of the Fallen pretty much equates to making “boom, crash, kablooey” noises, but I’ll attempt to distill all the boring, non-explodey elements into this bite-sized paragraph.” – Simon Miraudo, Quick Flix
“Much of this film was put together during the Writer's Strike, and I'm guessing Michael Bay never once worried about it.” – Drew McWeeney, HitFix
Then, they tackled the exhausting experience that was sitting through Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:
“It’s like standing in the middle of a dust storm and opening your eyes to let the grit pour in.” – Josh Tyler, CinemaBlend
“Trying to take in this movie is akin to shaking up a snowglobe and paying attention to glitter shard No. 432,581: When two similarly-colored CG robots are simultaneously morphing and punching each other in the head, it’s impossible to figure out where one ends and the other begins, resulting in a visual cacophony that goes hand-in-hand with the bowels-rattling bassline and the shrieking, incoherent dialogue.” – Alsonso Duralde, MSNBC
Some put the blame squarely on Bay’s shoulders:
“Sweet Jesus! Does Michael Bay not know how to make a movie?” – Michael Edwards, What Culture
But nobody summed up the contempt that critics held for this movie quite like the legendary Roger Ebert, who was primarily concerned with helping moviegoers save their money:
“If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.”
Transformers: Dark of the Moon Just when we thought that we were free, that there was no way for Bay to come back from the torrent of abuse that was levelled at him as a result of Transformers 2, along came Dark of the Moon, because this is Hollywood, and it doesn’t matter how terrible a film is as long as it makes boatloads of money. On the whole, though, critics seemed to like the third movie a lot better, and focused on the positives:
“With his third, and by all accounts final, try director Michael Bay has made what is probably his best Transformers film yet. Which means that it is merely mind-numbingly bad rather than eye-gougingly bad.” – Joshua Starnes, ComingSoon
“There is more of a plot this time. It is a plot that cannot be described in terms of structure, more in terms of duration. When it stops, it's over.” – Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com
“It's better than 2009's horrendous Transformers 2, but almost anything is.” – Claudia Puig, USA Today
“At least McDreamy gets sucker punched. Simple pleasures.” – Kieth Uhlich, Time Out NY
But there were still some who couldn’t look past the marginal improvements that Bay and his team made in the third installment, and instead remained focused on all of its loud, headache-inducing faults:
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a work of ineffable soullessness and persistent moral idiocy, concludes with Chicago taking it in the shorts for 50-odd minutes, at the hands of the Decepticons in an alien takeover scored, partially, to an emo-ballad mourning the "cataclysm" of it all.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“Transformers 3 is one of the stupidest movies I've seen since Transformers 2.” – Scott Weinberg, Twitch
And then there was one critic who managed to sum up the way that critics and moviegoers everywhere feel about Bay, his movies, and the Transformers franchise as a whole, in one pithy sentence. Never has something so scathing, so true, and so unbearably funny been said so succinctly.
“I am no expert in theology, but I'm pretty sure evil looks a lot like Transformers 3 – Will Leitch, Yahoo Movies
Well, on the bright side for Transformers: Age of Exctinction, it truly can only go up from here.
While American Idol may have arrived at its Top 10 finalists a week early thanks to a little controversy, the moment has arrived and it's kind of a big deal. Not only do the top 10 singers get to participate in Idol's summer tour, but their placement here signals one very important factor: the heat is on. Naturally, the way to process all the pressure is to add more by ranking them.
Here they are, from the folks who need a record deal already to the kids whose dreams just aren't working out.
1. Joshua Ledet
This guy is hands down, the most inspiring singer on that stage. While every contestant has bumps here and there, Joshua has not once delivered a performance that made us question his talent. He's it - I'd call it his "x factor" but I think Simon Cowell would be a little miffed. Joshua may be a preacher's son who nailed singing gospel music, but it's clear that training hasn't pigeonholed him, but instead, it's given him an incredible boost: his performances are practically a religious experience. Regardless of whether or not you love his tone, he turns his audience into believers. When he sings, no matter who you are, you feel it.
2. Jessica Sanchez
The San Diego native could top this list if she put herself in check a bit - and I'm not referring to her voice. While her talent alone could send her straight to the top, it's clear that her overwhelming confidence - which is perfect for the stage - can cloud her judgement. On March 14, she chose to perform "Turn the Beat Around" a song that did absolutely nothing for her voice, in fact, it worked against it. The result was an undoubtedly powerful set of pipes duking it out with the bump of the 90s hit. And when Ryan Seacrest asked her about it, she absolved herself of guilt, blaming the year of her birth instead of accepting that she has some need for improvement. Sweetie, your bravado is what got you here, but it could also be what keeps you from taking your performance from "great" to "amazing."
3. Phillip Phillips
Talk about a trooper. He may the only person to have ever performed so well after having kidney surgery; it happened mere days before his March 14 performance. No matter what he's singing - or in what condition he's singing - Phillip always comes out swinging. He could be dying inside, but he still manages to make it look easy. While his almost 90s vocal tone runs the risk of losing him the competition, there are ways to make it work for contemporary music; it's a challenge, but if Phillip has proved anything, it's that challenges are his speciality.
4. Skylar Laine
If it wasn't for the overwhelming, soul-crushing voices on some of the other top contestants, I might pick this little firecracker to win it all. Like Joshua, she's not faltered a single time. Skylar always bursts onto the stage, taking on songs no one says she tackle and she kills it almost every time. Plus, she's got the cute, lovable personality to boot. Watching her stick up to Jimmy Iovine and Wil.I.Am about doing the song she had her heart set on instead of the ones they had lined up was refreshing: she really knows who she is and who she wants to be as an artist. She's practically pre-packaged for the Country music scene.
5. Deandre Brackensick
Like Jessica, Deandre showed a bit of his immaturity this week. (But they're 16 and 17, respectively, so it's not so unlikely.) And like Jessica, he's got raw, natural talent. In truth, that's the only real complaint with this kid - he's fantastic and his voice is this Maxwellian, light and buttery treat. If it wasn't for Season 11's formidable crop of talent, he'd be higher up on this list. They're just all so, so good.
6. Colton Dixon
Like his Warped Tour sound and aesthetic or not, Colton has got it going on - for his genre that is. He has some pitch issues, but for the most part he's got his market cornered. His potential for winning can go one of two ways: he's either significantly popular with a very vocal set of viewers and he'll last for a while until America craves a more generic winner. Or, he'll win because America loves emo rockers.
7. Hollie Cavanaugh
Hollie is immensely talented. The enormous voice she's carrying around on that tiny, pixie frame of hers in mind boggling. But she needs a little work to learn how to balance that voice with her tiny stature. As great as her performances are, it almost seems like she's about to topple under the weight of her own talent. She needs to get her bearings on stage and tighten up that pitch issue, but all in all, she's a great singer.
8. Elise Testone
The problem with Elise is that she hasn't shown us who she really is yet, and that might be because she's not sure which side she wants to show. She's got a really great, raspy tone and when she hits her sweet spots - which are generally the grooviest moments in whatever song she's tackling - she's on it. The problem is that she seems a little unsure onstage and the result is that she sometimes zigs when she should zag. In a lineup of great, diverse voices, she's going to need to figure that out or face the chopping block.
9. Erika Van Pelt
As great as she is, she still suffers from an issue none of the judges bother to point out: she's an over-singer. She comes right out of the gate with guns a-blazing and by the time the song reaches it's big finish, the song itself is doing all the work. It's a matter of dynamics. She hasn't yet mastered the ability to soften certain parts of her performance in order to make the big moments matter more. No matter what part of the song she hits, it's always big and blasting. There's a way to be a rocker chick and still work in some dynamics, just ask Janis Joplin. And if Erika doesn't figure that out, the audience may never figure her out.
10. Heejun Han
Heejun's voice is beautiful and there's not one second this whole season that I haven't thought, "I love this kid." And that's why it pains me to say this: it's Heejun's time to go. He's a notch above castoff Jeremy Rosado in that he simply lends more heart to his sweet, endearing voice, but in the end, he's just not up to par with these other singers. Still, he's a fan favorite, so he's not in nearly as much trouble as Erika and Elise.
Do you think Heejun could go home? Can Joshua win the competition or his popularity too low? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler.