Tag Archives: Michael Bay

The Island (2005) Review

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The Island

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Tom Lincoln/Lincoln Six-Echo
Scarlett Johansson as Sarah Jordan/Jordan Two-Delta
Djimon Hounsou as Albert Laurent
Sean Bean as Dr. Merrick
Michael Clarke Duncan as Jamal Starkweather/Starkweather Two-Delta
Steve Buscemi as James “Mac” McCord
Director: Michael Bay

Futuristic thriller about a contained, seemingly utopian facility in the mid-21st century. The residents hope to be chosen to go to the Island – the last uncontaminated place on Earth, but when one inhabitant discovers that there are sinister forces at work, he and a female friend make a daring escape.

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I had some recollection of The Island, having first watched it many years ago. I remember it starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, and being one of the better Michael Bay movies. I decided to revisit it and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

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The Island has an interesting setup and premise, and I found the story to be interesting. I won’t say what the plot is about as I think it’s best going into it not knowing the reveals beforehand. It does have some interesting ideas, and occasionally it attempts to raise some interesting ethical scientific questions about its subject matter. Some of the topics can even be thought provoking. The premise has an interesting sci-fi concept that could’ve been explored and made into something special. Unfortunately by the end, the film is an overblown action movie. The film would’ve been better if it had a stronger focus on the heavier ideas it had. The plot itself seems to be divided into two very different halves. The first half is an intriguing look into a particular facility of people, where the lead characters played by McGregor and Johannsson try to figure out the truth about where they are. There were cool concepts introduced and solid worldbuilding here, in fact the movie takes a surprising amount of time to establish its world and characters. The second half of the movie takes place after most of the major reveals have been given, and turns into a fugitive action flick, with not much story or character development. This is where the film really stumbles, it’s just the two main characters on the run with intense chase scenes and doesn’t do much with the dystopian aspect. The two halves don’t really fit together that well. Second half aside, there are still some other issues with the film. Despite the interesting ideas, The Island doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of the genre, and still has a formulaic plot. There are some plot conveniences and some of the dialogue is a little rough. It also lacks in character development, even with the lead characters. It does feel a little too long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes, not helped by the inconsistent pacing. However it does keep you entertained throughout the runtime.

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On the whole, the cast play their roles really well. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are pretty good as the lead characters despite the lack of character depth and development given to them. McGregor particularly gets to do more in the second half of the movie (without getting into spoilers here). The supporting cast are solid too, Steve Buscemi is entertaining in a supporting role, Sean Bean delivers in the main villain role, and Djimon Hounsou makes for a threatening supporting antagonist as a mercenary sent after the main characters.

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Michael Bay directs this movie, and you can recognise this almost immediately. It contains many of his tropes and trademarks, from the style of cinematography, product placement, and more. However I still think this is probably one of his most restrained movies. The cinematography is slick and it has a near future look and feel to it, where the tech is sci-fi, but doesn’t feel entirely out of the realm of possibility. The action sequences are generally fun and creative, with the chase scenes particularly shining. There is definitely an overload of action by the end, but I don’t have a huge amount of complaints about the action itself. There is definitely quite a lot of shaky cam used and it was a bit much at points, but it does add some urgency to these scenes. Unsurprisingly, the movie also features a large and rousing score from Steve Jacoblonsky and works quite well for this film.

The Island

Despite its ideas and promising premise, The Island is nothing special as far as sci-fi movies go. However, I was still reasonably invested with the plot, the acting is good, the action is fun to watch, and I was entertained throughout. I’m aware that some people really don’t like Michael Bay’s movies, but for what it’s worth, I think it’s one of his best, and definitely worth checking out.

Ambulance (2022) Review

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Ambulance

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Danny Sharp
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Will Sharp
Eiza González as EMT Cam Thompson
Director: Michael Bay

Needing money to cover his wife’s medical bills, a decorated veteran teams up with his adoptive brother to steal $32 million from a Los Angeles bank. However, when their getaway goes spectacularly wrong, the desperate thieves hijack an ambulance that’s carrying a severely wounded cop and an EMT worker. Caught in a high-speed chase, the two siblings must figure out a way to outrun the law while keeping their hostages alive.

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I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest Michael Bay fan, but I liked the movies that I saw from him. Ambulance is his latest movie, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal. From the trailers, it looked like it could be a lot of fun, so I went into it open minded. While I do have my issues with the movie, I really enjoyed it, even more than I expected to.

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This is definitely Michael Bay’s take on a heist movie, you feel it through and through and that’s what made it stand out for me. The story and script are fairly simple and nothing original, it isn’t one of the best of the genre. The plot can be predictable, and the writing can be cheesy, especially with the dialogue. As you can expect with this being a Bay movie, it’s over the top and implausible, even outside of the action and destruction. There are particularly some moments involving surgery which are laughably farfetched. However, it’s approached in a certain way that these silly moments make it fun to watch, it clearly isn’t aiming for realism. In some ways its comparable to some of the action movies from the 80s and 90s. There is also a sense of self-awareness to it, even having a scene where it references two of Michael Bay’s own movies. There is a good amount of humour and quirky characters (some of them are hit or miss), but it’s also Michael Bay’s most emotional movie, especially with the stories of the main three characters. It is a bit overlong at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it would’ve be better if it was cut down a little. While everything involving the main trio of characters are captivating, the unnecessary flashbacks and the amount of time focused on the random supporting characters definitely pads out the runtime. From the moment that the characters get on the ambulance, the movie doesn’t stop. I will say though that before the actual heist, the pacing is a bit too slow.

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I thought that the performances are quite good. Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II play 2 bank robbers and brothers and are very good in their parts. Gyllenhaal is wonderfully unhinged and insane in his part, giving it a lot of energy. Yahya is great as a guy who gets stuck in the situation and conveys his desperation greatly. Eiza Gonzalez completes this trio of main characters as an EMT caught up in the heist as a hostage while trying to keep someone alive in the ambulance. She really is the heart and soul of the movie, she gets a lot to do here. She goes through her own arc, and she pulls it off convincingly; it’s the best acting work and role I’ve seen for her. There’s also a fair amount of decent supporting performances in their memorable roles. While there is a bit too much screentime given to them, they are fun.

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You can definitely tell that this is a Michael Bay movie with his direction. I have to say, it is nice to see a blockbuster released these days where you can actually feel the filmmaker’s style throughout.  While Bay’s trademarks and habits do make expected appearances, Ambulance is comparatively restrained, and it works. The budget is fairly modest compared to most modern blockbusters at $40 million, yet it is better directed and unique than most modern blockbusters. The cinematography might not work for some people, there is an overuse of handheld cameras, but I liked it. Something that’s definitely present throughout is the use of drones for filming action. It’s not just a substitute for helicopter shots of the city. Along with floating and dropping the camera around the city, the camera zooms in and around the action as the carnage unfolds. The drone work is spectacular, you even see the drone fly under a car as its going over a ramp at one point. It’s a Michael Bay movie, so as you would expect the action is over the top and no one does destruction like him. The action is intense, and there’s a lot of violence end destruction. There’s plenty of high speed chases (90% of the movie is a chase) with car rolls, shootouts and explosions. At times the chaos can be a bit too much but I’m glad for it. Another thing that helps is Lorne Balfe’s composed score which elevates the tension. All these technical elements came together to make for a satisfying cinema experience for me.

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Ambulance certainly won’t work for everyone, especially for those who strongly dislike Michael Bay’s style. But I for one thoroughly enjoyed it. It does have its issues, mostly with the writing. It could’ve been shorter, some of it is a bit messy and at times it is too implausible for its own good (even if I enjoy it for that). However, the performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul Mateen II and Eiza Gonzalez as well as Michael Bay’s unique direction, style and action made this for an enjoyable movie. For what it’s worth, it’s one of Bay’s best movies.

Transformers (2007) Review

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Transformers

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky
Tyrese Gibson as Sgt. Robert Epps
Josh Duhamel as Capt. William Lennox
Anthony Anderson as Glen Whitmann
Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes
Rachael Taylor as Maggie Madsen
John Turturro as Agt. Seymour Simmons
Jon Voight as John Keller
Director: Michael Bay

The fate of humanity is at stake when two races of robots, the good Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, bring their war to Earth. The robots have the ability to change into different mechanical objects as they seek the key to ultimate power. Only a human youth, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) can save the world from total destruction.

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It’s been ages since I’ve seen the Transformers movies, I’ve only watched up to the third movie in addition to watching Bumblebee back in 2018. I remember enjoying Bay’s Transformers movies when I was younger, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about them now. They have a reputation of being mindless large scale action flicks, however the first movie is still somewhat well received, and so I decided to check it out again. It was pretty much what I expected it to be, overlong and full of flaws, but nonetheless pretty entertaining.

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The writing of the first Transformers movies is a very mixed bag. The plot itself is passable, but the actual script has its issues. It takes a while for the movie to really pick up with the Transformers, it starts with Shia LaBeouf and him eventually realising that he has a car that’s not just a car. It doesn’t really do much to keep you genuinely interested. Even when Shia meets up with Optimus Prime it doesn’t really grab your interest. It certainly doesn’t help that Transformers is a very long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes long. It’s really the third act where it excels, as Bay does what Bay does best with all the action. However the movie shouldn’t need to be just an action filled one to be good. For such a straight forward plot, there is just too much going on in the movie. The comedy is also very hit or miss but it at least works better than in the later movies (from what I remember). At least the racial stereotypes are kept to a minimum of 1 in this movie. I’ll say this much, if some of the plot elements in this movie bothers you, definitely don’t check out the other Bay Transformers movies.

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The human characters are widely regarded as the worst aspect of these movies. While there are bits about the actual Transformers that don’t work well, the movies would’ve benefited with them being the focus instead. I know that Shia LaBeouf gets a bad rap in these 3 movies but he’s actually alright in this movie at least. Despite how you many feel about his performances in his 3 film appearances, he’s definitely putting everything he can into his role. Megan Fox is also given a bad rap in her Transformers appearances but she isn’t that bad, she’s really not given much to work with, so it’s not really on her either. The romance that LaBeouf and Fox feels really forced and no matter how hard the two of them try, you just don’t buy it. Some of the random comedic side characters don’t really have much point, most of them are meant for comedy. The parents of Shia’s character for one are among the more annoying. John Turturro is also in this movie and is alright. He’s perfectly fine in the movie but I really have no idea why Jon Voight is in this movie, they probably could’ve cast anyone in the role.

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You can really feel that Michael Bay directed this movie, for better or for worse. The cinematography has a saturated look to it, there are many dramatic scenes of military giving some really important dialogue, slow motion shots of the American flag and helicopters flying, it’s all here. The action of this movie is generally good, the CGI effects do look a little iffy now, but given the movie is over a decade old, you can cut it some slack. Back in 2007, we hadn’t really seen anything like this before, with a bunch of action involving giant robots. Yes, a lot of the action is over the top, but it’s not necessarily overwhelming.

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Yes, Transformers is a silly action movie, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. Even though I’m not a fan of the Transformers, I feel like they could be better than just an explosion filled action movie. Still, I had some enjoyment with it. Even if many of Bay’s more annoying clichés and style aspects make their appearance here, it is not as bad as it is in his other movies. If you haven’t seen any of the Transformers movies, it’s at least worth checking out the first one.