After the diabolically terrible Revenge of the Fallen, I had tapped out of seeing Transformers movies on the big screen. Three soulless sequels later, and Michael Bay’s franchise had finally burst with The Last Knight barely breaking even at the box office. Then, an unexpected thing happened, Travis Knight was hired to helm the Bumblebee spin-off and my interest in the Transformers was renewed.
Following a breathtaking battle on Cybertron with a rapid-fire selection of cameos from dozens of Transformers, the action unfolds in 80s America, and the pace slows to offer something never seen in this franchise before, character development. Hailee Steinfeld stars as Charlie Watson, a young woman about to turn 18 who is still struggling with the death of her father. As a way of remaining connected to him, she has been trying to restore her dad’s old Corvette. Resentful of her mother for remarrying, Charlie feels alone and like a stranger in her own home.
After an encounter with two Decepticons leaves Bumblebee unable to speak and badly damaged, he transforms into a Volkswagen Beetle to hide. Gifted the car from her friend at the scrapyard, Charlie soon discovers that there is more than meets the eye to this old banger. Unlike Bay’s blurry action set pieces, when The Autobots and Decepticons fight in Bumblebee, you can actually see what is happening!
The plot might be slight, and the shift to PG-rated action may disappoint some fans, but this recalibrated approach to Transformers has won me over completely. Sure, John Cena is a cut-price Mark Wahlberg with limited acting range, but Hailee Steinfeld shines so brightly you won’t mind the predictable plot or ham acting. Ultimately, Bumblebee is cut from the same cloth as The Iron Giant, E.T, and all those movies where a kid and fantastical being forge an unlikely friendship. Both Charlie and Bumblebee found each other at a time they each needed a friend to help them through. If you think you won’t feel anything when soldiers attack Bumblebee, think again.
Made with more heart, fun, love, and sense of wonder than Michael Bay could muster with his five live-action offerings, Bumblebee now proudly sits next to the Animated Motion Picture as the best Transformers film of all time. While it hasn’t made blockbuster money, $400 million worldwide is a solid result (it cost under half the amount of the average Bay sequel), and I hope Paramount continue to make smaller more heartfelt Transformers movies as this is what we wanted from the start.
Keanu Reeves is back in action and on the run in the first trailer for John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum. Picking up directly after the events of Chapter 2, Wick finds himself a wanted man with a $14 million bounty on his head after killing a member of the High Table on Continental ground. Granted a head start by his old friend Winston (Ian McShane), Wick has no other choice but to fight his way out of New York City by any means necessary.
Once again directed by Chad Stahelski, the creative team have upped the ante from the first two movies, and this trilogy closer loos set to deliver the goods. The John Wick world is set to expand with a spin-off TV series revolving around the Continental Hotels in advanced development.
Also starring Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Boban Marjanović, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, and Laurence Fishburne, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum charges into cinemas on May 17.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run for two reasons… he’s being hunted for a global $14 million open contract on his life, and for breaking a central rule: taking a life on Continental Hotel grounds. The victim was a member of the High Table who ordered the open contract. John should have already been executed, except the Continental’s manager, Winston, has given him a one-hour grace period before he’s “Excommunicado” – membership revoked, banned from all services and cut off from other members. John uses the service industry to stay alive as he fights and kills his way out of New York City.
The second part of the final season of Netflix’s unyieldingly upbeat Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is just over a week away, and to get us in the mood a brand new trailer has landed.
In these final adventures for Kimmy (Ellie Kemper), our optimistic hero is finding that adulting isn’t all she thought it would be as her eclectic friends are in constant need of her help. The last six-episodes includes an extended “Sliding Doors” themed instalment that takes a look at how Titus (Tituss Burgess), Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) and Lillian’s (Carol Kane) lives would have been different if they never met Kimmy.
I’m a huge fan of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s work; if you haven’t seen their now cancelled Good News, I urge you to binge it on Netflix as soon as possible. Kimmy is a unique offering of a sitcom and one that I am really going to miss when it’s gone. The upside is that this might not be the end, as when it was announced that season four would be the final run, there was talk of a Netflix movie to wrap up any loose ends. There hasn’t been a lot of updates on that since, but we can only live in the hope that there is a bit more Kimmy still to come.
The final episodes feature guest spots from Jon Hamm, Zachary Quinto, Greg Kinnear, Busy Phillips, Amy SedarisFred Armisen, Jon Bernthal, Steve Buscemi, Kenan Thompson, and Lisa Kudrow.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns for her final episodes on January 25.
The following video and article contains spoilers for Halloween 2018, consider yourself warned.
To mark the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter’s seminal slasher movie Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis returned to the franchise for a sequel that disregarded all the previous entries aside from the first. Ignoring the fact that Michael Myer’s identity as Laurie Strode’s brother was revealed in the second movie, Halloween 2018 served as a brutal thriller that examined the effects of PTSD as much as it aimed to terrify.
Generating a massive $253 million worldwide (more than $159 domestically), Halloween 2018 shattered several slasher movie records, and proved that there was still plenty of life in the franchise. Originally, the plan was to shoot two movies back to back, that didn’t happen, but a sequel is unsurprisingly in development.
For the most part, co-writer Danny McBride and director David Gordon Green’s reimagining of the first Halloween 2 is a roaring success. While it dosesn’t break the slasher movie mould, it is undoubtedly the best sequel in the 40-year-old franchise. I say that, but dear Joss, those podcasters at the beginning of the movie were annoying. I was 100% of Michael Myer’s side when he murdered them until they died from it in that grim service station bathroom. Perhaps this was what McBride and Green were going for, introduce characters that the audience are willing to be killed.
The folks at Screen Junkies has turned their attention to this very film in their latest Honest Trailer, the podcasters do not come off well in this video. I’m sure the actors are lovely people, but your podcasting skills are in question!
Spoiler alert, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is feeling much better than when we saw him last. The first trailer for Spider-Man Far From Home has arrived giving us more than two minutes of brand new look footage.
The sequel to Homecoming relocates the action (as the title suggests) far from his hometown to Europe as Nick Fury drafts in Parker’s help to bring down a dangerous new threat, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). I was pleasantly surprised with Homecoming, light, fun, a tad predictable, but when it is made with that much enthusiasm who cares. Far From Home looks like more of the same good-natured shenanigans with added Samuel L. Jackson, and Cobie Smulders. Maybe Doctor Strange could drop by to lend a hand!
The highly-anticipated follow-up has a roster of returning characters including on Favreau as Happy Hogan, Colbie Smulders as Maria Hill, Marisa Tomei as May Parker, Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, Zendaya as Michelle Jones, Laura Harrier as Liz and Jacob Batalon as Ned. Spider-Man Far From Home is released in July, but we’ll see Parker before that in some (less dusty) form on April 26 when Avengers Endgame arrives.
Peter Parker returns in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the next chapter of the Spider-Man: Homecoming series! Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter’s plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent.
For over 30 years, Transformers have been part of our cultural landscape. With cartoons and comic books designed to sell vast ranges of action figures, the franchise has also sparked a cinematic presence, that hasn’t always been as fun as the plastic toys we played with as kids.
With the release of Bumblebee, we decided to rank the seven Transformers movies in order of greatness – from that worthy of weight jettisoning to the awesome and inspiring life-giving powers of Vector Sigma. You may disagree, but one thing’s for certain when you settle down to watch a Transformers movie – all you need is a little energon and a lot of luck.
7. Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
So desperate was I to see another decent Transformers instalment, I sat through a Facebook Live stream from the world premiere of Michael Bay’s fifth Hasbro-Paramount paycheck. The abiding memory from the hyperbolic event was two of the three credited screenwriters speaking about their love and respect for Cybertronian mythology. They lied. Instead of nurturing the beloved lore, they took inspiration from a time-travel-based episode of the TV series and rewrote the history of Transformers’ relationship with humans. Cherished names such a Unicron, Hot Rod and Anthony Hopkins are used and abused, and our intelligence is insulted for 154 agonising minutes.
6. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
The franchise really should have lived up to the title. For so many strange choices to exist in the same film, makes for some achievement. What would be admirable in satire, is sadly just unnecessary when played straight. The action isn’t exciting, the jokes aren’t funny, and the actors are going through the motions. What could have been a forgivable 90-minute swan-song for Bay’s tenure, is bloated to 165 minutes merely to pander to product placement, justify Chinese investment and harvest the subsequently massive box office. The $320 million taken in China comfortably outstripped domestic receipts, which sadly meant Bay remained.
5. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
For sheer disappointment factor, this could easily have sat bottom of the pile. All the characters that helped make the first film an enjoyable romp returned, but like a reborn Optimus Prime in a space mausoleum, something wasn’t quite right. Perhaps it was the overcomplicated storyline that delved back into history, rather than building on the impending excitement of the future that ended the previous movie. Was it setting the template for ancient artefacts that have the power to do something awful but maybe good in the right hands? Was it needlessly introducing appalling characters like the racially-questionable Skids and Mudflap? Trick question. It was all of these things.
4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
In the interest of full disclosure, I remember seeing this movie, but I don’t recall anything that happened. Even reading the synopsis online, very little rings a bell, other than there being another Transformers relic, but this time on the moon, obviously. Oh, hilariously, Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky has a new girlfriend literally named Car(ly). Apparently, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong and Alan Tudyk all had sensibly one-off roles to play. Throw in some visually unappealing fight scenes and my vague impression of a movie is complete. By virtue of being almost entirely forgettable, Dark of the Moon is saved from being remembered as completely awful.
3. Transformers (2007)
There are three great Michael Bay movies – The Rock, Bad Boys and his first pass at Transformers. Sure, they tinkered with iconic characters and streamlined some mythology, but the modernisation process worked with more than satisfying results. Bay captured the awe and excitement of having gigantic robots finding refuge on Earth, and how they impact the life of a reluctant hero. The comic relief characters were funny, the action intelligible and it was genuinely moving to hear the voice of Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime rollout through a theatre. Not to mention the subtle use of the cartoon’s transformation sound effect. My appreciation of this movie is matched only by the disappointment of its sequels.
2. Bumblebee (2018)
Then along came a prequel. Given the previous seven years of bad Transformers films, I had low expectations, until seeing the cinematic trailer for Bumblebee. Featuring glimpses of Generation 1 Autobots and Decepticons engaged in a battle on Cybertron, it excited me for this 80s-set story. It was even more than I could have hoped for, and a dash more. Deftly helmed by Travis Knight, it immediately sets about erasing the memories of Bay’s direction, by giving us characters we can care about, both old and new. Is it a particularly original storyline? No, of course not, this is an action movie intended for a family audience. Yet, never before across its running time, has a movie made me feel like a child, an adolescent, a post-graduate and a 36-year-old boy in equal measure.
1. Transformers: The Movie (1986)
Nothing is more Transformers than the original feature-length animated adventure. Released three years after I was born, I never saw it at the movies, but played my VHS copy to near death. The soundtrack never fails to set my heart racing and my everyday dialogue is peppered with quotes, so perhaps I’m biased towards my all-time favourite film. But for an understanding of what Transformers is all about, nothing comes close to exemplifying the reasons there’s a depth of feeling about Cybertron’s children and connections to characters possessed by fans.
Overall, the most pleasing aspect of compiling this list is the comforting knowledge there are now three good Transformers films. Can it rival such legendary trilogies as The Lord of the Rings, The Godfather or Star Wars Episodes V-VI? Maybe not for everyone, but for fans of the original toys and the generations since, there’s a trio of films that do justice to the legacy, able to light our darkest hour.
The ever-busy Jordan Peele has a host of projects coming our way throughout 2019 on the big screen, small screen, and even smaller screen. The first teaser for his YouTube Premium anthology series Weird City has arrived, and it entirely lives up to its name. Co-created with Key & Peele writer Charlie Sanders, and this crazy first promo has got me immediately onboard.
Here’s the official Weird City synopsis for more details.
From the mind of Jordan Peele and Charlie Sanders comes WEIRD CITY, a satirical anthology set in the not-too-distant future metropolis of Weird. In this dystopian setting of our show, the middle class has completely vanished dividing Weird City into two sections: Above the Line (The Haves), and Below the Line (The Have Nots). Presiding over the denizens of the city is the strange and mysterious Dr. Negari, who weaves all of our stories together. Each episode is a topic that pertains to present day life in America and the world: social media addiction, online dating, fitness obsession, etc.. WEIRD CITY captures the unease of modern urban living, in a bizarre and peculiar lens.
Weird City features a roster of guest stars joining the only regular character played by LeVar Burton and featuring appearances from Michael Cera, Awkwafina, Rosario Dawson, Dylan O’Brien, Laverne Cox, Steven Yeun, Ed O’Neil, Hannah Simone, Mark Hamill, Yvette Nicole Brown, Trevor Jackson, and Auli’i Cravalho. Weird City launches on February 13, 2019 on YouTube Premium.
Meanwhile, Peele’s latest big-screen offering debuted its first terrifying trailer late last year; if you’ve not seen the teaser for Us yet, you can watch it by clicking this link. In addition to Us, Peele produced a four-part documentary on Lorena Bobbitt for Amazon, and a reboot of Twilight Zone for CBS All Access.
The following contains spoilers for Unbreakable and Split.
If you were to tell me two years ago that a film by M. Night Shyamalan was one of the most anticipated releases of 2019, I would openly laugh in your face. However, Shyamalan surprised us all with the shock twist that Split was secretly a continuation of Unbreakable, and a cameo from Bruce Willis set up a sequel. The first reviews for Glass have been somewhat split, regardless of some of the more negative reviews, Shyamalan had my money for this movie when Willis showed up for that jaw-dropping cameo.
While the Sixth Sense is an impressive debut, I have always believed that Unbreakable is a better film in every way possible. I have said in many times on these pages, and I’m going to repeat it right now. Unbreakable is still one of the best superhero movies of all time. Split serves as a fantastic flip side to the coin, an entire story from the ‘bad guy’s’ perspective. Unbreakable’s slower than slow burn approach wasn’t for everybody, but as an antidote to the bombastic superhero movies we take for granted, it still holds up as an intelligent deconstruction of the genre.
As an added extra, it might be two years old, but here’s Cinema Sins brilliant Everything Wrong with Unbreakable video. Glass is released in UK cinemas on January 18.