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‘Infinite’ Review

For a blockbuster film that was shot with the intent of being released into theaters, this is one of the most straight-to-streaming-looking films I’ve ever seen.

“Infinite” stars Mark Wahlberg as a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, only to realize he is actually seeing memories of his past lives and must join a secret organization in order to stop a madman from destroying the world. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Cookson, Jason Mantzoukas, Rupert Friend, Toby Jones, and Dylan O’Brien also star while Antoine Fuqua directs.

Like many 2020 films, “Infinite” was set to be released in theaters but was delayed, only to be moved streaming. While Paramount sold off several of its films, including “Trial of the Chicago 7” to Netflix, they held onto “Infinite,” opting to make it the first exclusive Paramount+ feature film (the service released “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” in February, but that received theater and Netflix releases elsewhere). I’m not sure why the studio felt like “Infinite” was the film that needed to be held onto and be the official hat tossed into the streaming ring, but it is a nonsensical, boring mess of a film that will be seen by few and remembered by even less.

Mark Wahlberg has always been a hit-and-miss actor in both performances and his choice of vehicles, with great work in the likes of “Boogie Nights” and “The Departed” to unwatchable bombs like “Mile 22” and the “Transformers” sequels. This falls into the latter category, with Wahlberg sleepwalking through his role. He offers narration here and there throughout, and by the end it sounds like he is reading his lines as part of a hostage video.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is another talented actor who seems to almost exclusively choose projects far below what he deserves (“2012,” “Locked Down,” “The Secret in Their Eyes”) and here he is equally as bad as Wahlberg, but at least he has the dignity to have fun with his role. Ejiofor is so over-the-top as the film’s bad guy, chewing up every scene he is in, that at least he made an effort to deserve his paycheck. The rest of the cast ranges from bland to cringe, with Jason Mantzoukas doing his normal crazy annoying guy schtick from a dozen other things. Outside Wahlberg, I couldn’t tell you a single character’s name if you put a gun to my head.

Antoine Fuqua is a talented filmmaker, he has made genuine good films (“Training Day”) and fun action flicks (“Shooter” and “Olympus Has Fallen”), so to see a PG-13 film like this so devoid of style or entertainment is actually baffling. The action set pieces are cut together so haphazardly that it is impossible to tell what is going on, and there was only one moment that I chuckled because of a clever grenade kill.

By far the worst aspect of the film, however, is the screenplay. It is the type of script that has bad guys are evil for the sake of being evil, with no attempts to justify or rationalize their actions like Thanos or Killmonger. New gadgets and rules get introduced every other scene, and for a film not based on a book series with huge established lore there are surface-level attempts of world-building that are quickly abandoned.

“Infinite” has all the visual appeal of a straight-to-DVD movie, with the razor-sharp writing of a Hallmark film. It truly is unbelievable that a film with this many talented people involved (including two Academy Award-nominated actors and a proven director) is not only just bad, but extraordinarily boring. If we really are going to move our blockbuster films out of theaters and onto streaming services (God forbid), we deserve a helluva lot better than whatever this film was trying to be.

Critics Rating: 3/10

‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Is Awful, but What Did You Expect?


I am thoroughly convinced that since he knows they will make money regardless of quality, Michael Bay has made these films louder, longer and more incoherent just as punishment to film critics who are forced to watch them.


“Transformers: The Last Knight” is the fifth film of director Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series and follows Mark Wahlberg who must go on the run to help the Autobots find the ancient staff of Merlin in order to stop the Transformers’ home planet from destroying the earth [eyeroll]. Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock also star as Bay again directs (in what he insists is his final film of the franchise).


The first “Transformers” film is pretty universally accepted as a fun summer blockbuster and I myself really enjoyed it when it came out over 10 years ago, and the sequels are mostly just noise (although I am an apologist for the second film, there’s something entertaining about just how bad it is). However like most people I *hated* “Age of Extinction” and assumed that any fifth film would just be more of the same; for the most part, I was right.


I know the easy thing to say to anyone like me who will review a film like this is “well you went in wanting to hate it” and that’s really not true. Like I said, I like the first film and will even defend the second and third as fun popcorn flicks with enjoyable performances from Shia LaBeouf. I even think that when he actually tries, Michael Bay is a talented director; he knows how to stage action sequences and when given a good script he can even have a sense of humor (“The Rock” remains one of the best action films ever made). But “The Last Knight,” while ever so slightly better than “Age of Extinction,” is everything people have grown to hate about Bay’s films and represent everything wrong with modern Hollywood.


First things first, this film is two hours, 26 minutes long. While 20 minutes shorter than the last film, it has no right being this long; it doesn’t earn it, nor does it even need to be. The people who actually like these films come to see colorful robots fight each other and probably don’t have the largest attention spans; give them a 90 minute romp, not a Scorsese epic. The pacing of the second half of this film is so abysmal that when the big fight between Optimus Prime and the other Transformers finished it felt like we had just witnessed the climax; turns out there was still over 30 minutes left. When the next scene began I heard a solid four or five people in my theater groan.


The actual climax of the film is the worst thing to happen to cinema in the last three years (you know, since the last “Transformers” film). It is so bloated, so loud, so needlessly confusing and so devoid of anything resembling emotion or cause that it is almost deplorable; I was getting physically tired watching what was onscreen and began rooting for the film to just end.


Anthony Hopkins is in this movie and following his performance in this year’s “Collide” it’s clear that he has given up caring about his career. And I mean God bless him, he has his Oscar and has earned the right to do paycheck films; most of his scenes in this take place in sports cars and a castle, both of which I’m convinced are actually his that he bought with the checks from this film. Stanley Tucci plays Merlin (instead of reprising his role from the last film) and in his one scene chews scenery like only he can and Mark Wahlberg plays himself with something occasionally resembling a Texan accent and he is fine, but as with the last film this film isn’t about dialogue it’s about action. After all, how will the studio pander and appeal to all those Chinese audiences if half the film is clever dialogue that will get lost in translation?


Michael Bay keeps making up rules and powers for the Transformers, with them this time being about to shoot bullets that slow down time and being able to reassemble themselves upon being destructed. It’s cool but gets old fast before being used as a deus ex machina. And the continuity of the plot continues to be lazily altered. In the first film the Transformers say it’s the first time they were on Earth, except then in the second film they built the pyramids and in the 4th they killed the dinosaurs and now they apparently helped King Arthur and aided in defeating the Nazis. I know I shouldn’t care about the plot, it’s a “Transformers” movie, but if Bay is going to be that sloppy then it has to be condemned.


And one final thing, speaking of sloppy: the aspect ratio of the film changes way too often. In an IMAX film, oftentimes action scenes are shot in full screen and then dialogue sequences return to having the black bars on the top and bottom. Only here (and I saw it in normal 2D), the black bars appear and reappear from one shot to the other, even in straight-up talking scenes, and it is distracting and very annoying.


OK, I’m at near 900 words on “Transformers: The Last Knight” and while I’m sure I could vent for a thousand more I’m going to let both of us move on with our day. Look, you knew this movie was going to be bad and no review was going to change whether or not you were going to see it. But it needs to be said that this film is needlessly long, awkwardly unfunny and visually unappealing, and the fact that “The Last Knight” won’t be the last “Transformers” film makes me die a little inside.


Critics Rating: 3/10

‘Deepwater Horizon’ Big on Booms, Low on Story

Deepwater_Horizon_(film)It’s official: Peter Berg is a more toned down version of Michael Bay.

“Deepwater Horizon” is based on the true story of the 2010 explosion and oil spill by the titular drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Mark Wahlberg stars alongside Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien and Kate Hudson as Peter Berg directs.

I don’t think many people thought we needed a film based off of this tragedy; I mean, 210 million gallons of oil being spilled into Gulf of Mexico and 11 people losing their lives doesn’t exactly scream “Friday night fun.” And after seeing the movie I can tell you Wahlberg and Berg (teaming up again after “Lone Survivor” and before this year’s “Patriots Day”) certainly handle the subject with respect towards those involved and resentment towards BP Oil; however that doesn’t mean their finished product is as good as their intentions.

Mark Wahlberg is a movie star for sure, but I do believe he is underappreciated as an actor. I think he plays “everyday man” better than anyone, and if a muscular, handsome millionaire can make himself feel relatable to an average 20-something like me then clearly he is doing something right. Here, Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, but truly isn’t given too much to do. Williams is pretty much “Mark Wahlberg playing a drilling engineer” and by the time the disaster starts we know very little about him besides he has a wife and daughter and quips like Mark Wahlberg. By the climax he is able to show a range of emotion, but it’s a long journey there.

No characters, in fact, are given much development. Gina Rodriguez is shown having her car’s engine give out on her in the opening scene and that is the only character trait referred to her throughout the duration of the film. There are even characters (I won’t say who to avoid spoilers) who we don’t find out have wives and kids until they’re reunited with them at the climax! Would that have made for some (albeit forced) emotional heft? Yup, but Berg is more concerned with having things go boom.

Which brings me to my main point and circles back to my opening line: Peter Berg has way too much in common with Michael Bay. Berg is a more competent filmmaker, don’t get me wrong, but there are so many gratuitous shots of the American flag in this film it would make Colin Kaepernick’d knee get sore. The first hour of this film is pretty much nothing but explaining how oil drilling works, even though the film (brilliantly and without pandering) conveys in the first five minutes; I guess Berg really wants you to understand how we get stuff from the ground to tubes. The first hour is also filled with shoving it in our faces how negligent and ignorant British Petroleum was. Honestly the first half of this film is really monotonous and (dare I say) boring; I guess this should’ve been called “Deepwater HoriZZZon,” right?!

The second half is better, but it’s overly chaotic and things are constantly spilling and exploding and it is hard to figure out who is who and what is truly going on. Symbolic and a fair representation of the real-life event? Sure. But this is a film, not a documentary, you can take some liberties to streamline your narrative and clear up your sequences.

This one pains me, it really does; I really wanted “Deepwater Horizon” to be good. And I am sick and tired of 2016 films almost all exclusively being, “mehh like it’s fine, I guess?” because we deserve better than “meh, alright,” especially when ticket prices continue to rise. But that’s an argument and complaint for another day. As far as *this* “meh” film goes, it features solid enough performances from actors playing one-dimensional characters and you feel some attachment to the story. But that is purely because this is a real-life tragedy in which 11 people died and corrupt BP officials got off way too easy, not because Berg or Wahlberg earn anything with their big budget booms.

Critics Rating: 4/10

Summit Entertainment

Summit Entertainment

‘Ted 2’ a Bearable but Bumpy Sequel

Ted_2_posterAs far as 2015 sequels go, “Ted 2” lies somewhere in the middle.

The follow-up to “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s 2012 hit, “Ted 2” follows John (Mark Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear (voiced and motion captured by MacFarlane), who must prove Ted is human in a court of law in order for him to have a child with his wife. Amanda Seyfried also stars as MacFarlane directs and co-writes.

The first “Ted” was an entertaining bromance flick that made $550 million; so in other words, a sequel was inevitable. While I found MacFarlane’s last film “A Million Ways to Die in the West” amusing enough, I have been reminded on numerous occasions by various people that I am wrong and it is awful. So I walked into “Ted 2” just hoping this wouldn’t be another step back for MacFarlane.

The opening sequence of “Ted 2” had me worried. Very worried. Because there’s no joke to ruin, I’ll just tell you what happens: after the film opens with Ted getting married, it breaks out into a dance number. But it’s not for laughs, it’s played completely straight. I kept waiting for the joke to come or for someone to trip, but no one does. Then when it wrapped up I expected some one-liner acknowledging how dumb what we just sat through was, but it never comes. The movie just begins.

MacFarlane is a very talented guy, and as his hosting of the Oscars showed he can make song-and-dance amusing, but I really have no clue what the dance routine was doing in here, unless he lost a bet with the head of some tap dance studio.

But luckily, the film gets (sorta) better. Wahlberg and MacFarlane maintain the same quick chemistry from the first film, and some of the jokes are inspired and clever. There is one scene that may offend some viewers–but then again if you’re easily offended, don’t go to a Seth MacFarlane film–where John and Ted yell off-color suggestions to an improve group. It’s awful and in bad taste and I loved every second of it.

The biggest flaw “Ted 2” has is its pacing. There are times when the film just seems to drag, and it honestly becomes un…bear-able, to sit through (I’ll be here all week). It’s not so much the fault of the editing as much as the narrative. The plot of Ted wanting a kid and needing to prove he’s human only lasts about half the film; the second half is like the lovechild of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and the first “Ted.” That’s to say it becomes a buddy roadtrip film with the sideplot of the creepy stalker from the original film (Giovanni Ribisi) trying to kidnap Ted (*sigh* again). The final 25 minutes of the film had me getting anxious for it to just be over with.

Look, “Ted 2” is one of those films that you already knew whether or not you were going to see it before the trailers even came out; no review is going to alter your decision. That being said, I can still prepare you for what you’re walking into (or what you’re skipping). Like MacFarlane’s last film, “Million Ways to Die,” “Ted 2” suffers from pacing and a stretched-thin plot, however it is relatively funny. If you only care about watching a teddy bear say the f-bomb while throwing apples at joggers, then go enjoy yourself. If you need any real depth, development or surprises in your comedies, then you need not apply. I personally found enough enjoyment in “Ted 2” to avoid disappointment, but still not quite enough to feel satisfied.

Critics Rating: 5/10



‘Transformers’ is Less Than Meets The Eye


               I have a new expression I hope catches on: fool me once, shame on me. Fool me four times, you’re Michael Bay.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is the fourth film in Michael Bay’s Transformers series. It  features an all-new human cast, including Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, the only Texan with a Boston accent. This time around the Autobots are being hunted by the US government to avenge the events from the last film.

I don’t really know where to begin to review “Extinction”, so I’ll start with the script. It’s awful. Like on every conceivable level. From the dialogue to the plot, everything is atrocious. There’s a part in the film when Wahlberg’s daughter turns to her boyfriend and says “still glad that we met?”. She says that 100% out of the blue; he didn’t say anything to make that a coherent sentence. The screenwriter just thought he should have the girl say something cute to show that the couple cares about each other.

Still want proof the dialogue is awful? Ok, I have plenty of ammo. When the CIA storms into Wahlberg’s front yard and begins to search the grounds, he tells the guy that he needs a warrant. The agent turns to Marky Mark and says “my face is my warrant”. [sigh]

On my way out the theater I heard a 5-year-old boy tell his mom that the movie was poorly written and didn’t make sense. A child recognized that.

But you don’t pay to see a Michael Bay film for an elaborate script, you pay for the action. And how is it in “Extinction”? Its fine…for the first ten minutes. But after near THREE HOURS of boom, boom, boom, boom boom boom, boom. Boom. Boom. Boom, you get bored. Think the climax of “Man of Steel”, just metal on metal and with less character development (if that’s possible).

Its like this: imagine a nine year old boy is smashing pots and pans in front of his action figures. No give that boy a few million dollars. That’s Bay’s “Age of Extinction”.

And the run time, oh my God the run time. The film has a runtime to match its budget (160 for both), and you feel every minute of it. There was a point in the film I was sitting in the chair thinking “well, the climax of this film is boring”. Oh no, that wasn’t the climax, it was somewhere in the middle of the movie. The best part of this movie is at the beginning, before the Transformers even show up.

I really don’t know what more to say about this movie. It has impressive visuals but eye candy can only get you so far. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is an assault on the eyes, ears, common sense, common decency and the desire to be entertained. It is also has awful dialogue, disgraceful depictions of women, over-the-top explosions and unfunny racial jokes. In other words, it’s a Michael Bay film.

Look, if you are one of those people who can turn your brain off 100% and the idea of robots throwing each other in nonsensical action scenes intersts you, then you may be able to tolerate this movie. But all others I implore you: don’t give Michael Bay three hours of your life, nonetheless 10 of your dollars.

Critics Rating: 4/10

‘Lone Survivor’ Is Brutal and Heartbreaking


America and movies. Those are two of the things that I love most in this world. And “Lone Survivor”, the film based on the true events of a failed Navy SEALs operation, combines my two loves into one package.

Written and directed by Peter Berg, “Lone Survivor” stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster as four Navy SEALs who go on a mission to kill a high ranking Taliban official. When their operation is compromised, the group must fight their way out of the Afghani Mountains.

When dealing with a film that is based on a true story, especially one that is as tragic and heartbreaking as this one, there is very little wiggle room a director can take if he wants to remain credible. Unfortunately all too often when a film slaps the “based on a true story” label in the front of its trailer it is just a marketing ploy.

However with “Lone Survivor”, Berg slept and ate with real Navy SEAL members while writing the script and designing the action scenes. The man on whom the film is based, Marcus Luttrell, was along for every step of production. The four main actors all went through military training in order to function like an actual unit. And it is all these things and more that make “Lone Survivor” one of the most realistic war movies of all-time.

The film is essentially one prolonged action scene, and for the most part that is alright. While the continuous action inhibits the film from having a real flow, it never feels like overkill. The movie, shot entirely in New Mexico, is at times entertaining to watch, but more often than not it is gritty, gruesome and heartbreaking to see these four young men go through hell.

All of the action is shot wonderfully, give or take some shaky cam every now and again, and the stunt work was outstanding. On more than one occasion the soldiers have to jump off a cliff and roll down a hill in all their gear, and you feel the impact of every snapping branch and crushing of each bone. It is just incredibly intense and major props go out to Berg and his team.

Every performance in this movie is fantastic as well. Each actor went to the friends and family of the man they were portraying in order to fully become that person and it shows. Every character has a different personality, which gives the film an extra layer.

As great as the acting is, however, the film suffers from the same problem as “Gravity” in that there is little characterization. We are essentially handed the characters and then when they are thrown into battle we are only rooting for their survival because they are in this horrible situation that we could never conceive being in.

The biggest thing that stuck with me upon leaving the theater, however, was trying to figure out the stance of the film; whether it was pro or anti-war. Because for as many “America, heck yeah!” moments and depictions of heroism and brotherhood the film had, there is the overarching thought that all these men died for nothing, and that these kinds of tragedies happen all too often. I feel like the movie was trying hard to convey some sort of ideal, but it just got lost behind its action.

There really isn’t anything incredibly wrong with “Lone Survivor”; in fact most every department involved did an outstanding job, including cinematography, special effects or make-up. The film’s biggest flaw may be that its scope was too big and it isn’t really about anything.

The men who died as part of the failed SEALs operation, and all men and women who have served up until this day, deserve nothing but the highest respect for their sacrifices and this movie does a noble job at honoring them. “Lone Survivor” may not be the best war movie ever made, but it is entertaining while at the same time brutally honest and heartbreaking. While not for the faint of heart, it is a film all should watch to see first-hand what the best and bravest do.

Critics Rating: 7/10