Michael Bay

1995
Bad Boys 55
[ Right from the pre-titles opening minutes of his debut, Michael Bay established his style: golden skies, quick cuts, loud sound effects, fetishized violence… Tony Scott flirted with those before, but Bay’s taken it to the balls-to-the-wall extreme. For most critics, this makes him the Antichrist. Myself, I have a soft spot for this flashy noisy nonsense. Even the ever obnoxious Martin Lawrence can’t take away from the visceral impact of “Bad Boys”. Fast cars, hot women, shit blowing up, Will Smith running with his shirt open and his gun out… Sure, half an hour later you’ve already forgotten most of it but when it’s on, it’s ON!]

1996
The Rock 62
[ review ]


1998
Armageddon 65
[ review ]


2001
Pearl Harbor 68
[ review ]


2003
Bad Boys II 75 85
[ review ]


2005
The Island 66
[ review ]


2007
Transformers 58
[ review ]


2009
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 37
[ review ]


2011
Transformers: Dark of the Moon 81
[ Not unlike “X-Men: First Class”, this third “Transformers” flick delves in alternate history storytelling, throwing the space race and the Chernobyl disaster into the timeline of the endless war between Autobots and Decepticons. Meanwhile, Shia LaBeouf still finds himself caught in the middle, with a new babe by his side (model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and new supporting actors (Frances McDormand, John Malkovich) providing comic relief alongside the returning John Turturro. But all that is just to keep us mildly entertained until the main course, an hour-long sequence involving the near-annihilation of Chicago by evil extraterrestrial robots which delivers the most epic sci-fi action thrills since “Avatar”. Not-so-incidentally, Michael Bay got some pointers about modern 3D filmmaking from James Cameron himself. ]


2013
Pain & Gain 42
[ “The events you are about to see took place in Miami, Florida between October 1994 and June 95. Unfortunately, this is a true story.” Thus begins this oddball flick, which has Michael Bay scaling back from his “Transformers” movies but making up for it in directorial flashiness. Right from the opening minutes, we’re hit by pop-up visuals, with plenty of extreme close-ups, hyper slow-motion and whatnot. “Pain & Gain” is also drenched in voice-over narration from the main characters played by Mark Wahlberg, The Rock and Anthony Mackie, who pretty much talk only about achieving the American Dream, which for them means getting big muscles, hot bitches and lotsa money. This leads them to cooking up a kidnapping scheme that made me think of “9 to 5”, of all things. I know this is supposed to be a true story, but I found it hard to believe that our three bodybuilders could hold a rich guy (Tony Shalhoub) hostage for so long without anyone reporting it. And after that, things become even sillier. It would be one thing if all this nonsense was funny and/or exciting, but most of it fell flat for me. All that I really enjoyed is the flashy visuals and the Michael Bay-ness of it all. ]

2014
Transformers: Age of Extinction 39
[ Here’s where I stood before seeing this latest film in the “Transformers” franchise: I had mixed feelings about the first movie, I downright disliked the second one, then I somehow loved the metallic crap out of the third one. Still, I had little interest in seeing the fourth episode and skipped it when it was in theaters. I caught up to it on VOD, at a point where it was also the biggest worldwide hit of 2014 with more than 1 billion dollars in the bank. A lot of critics like to dismiss what’s popular, but to me, if a film attracts that many paying customers, good or bad, it must have something to offer and it deserves to be considered. It’s easy to hate Michael Bay, but like him or lot, he’s one of today’s most distinctive Hollywood auteurs. And it’s not all about the action and destruction: following a striking prologue in which spaceships annihilate the dinosaurs (“Star Wars” meets “Jurassic Park”!) and a bit in the Arctic where a Dinobot is discovered, it’s in a quiet, low-key sequence set in Texas that Bay’s style shines on through his love of golden light, low-angle shots, all-American guys, hot chicks and whatnot. Of course, soon enough, there are car chases, shoot-outs, explosions, etc. All that action and destruction is neither the best or the worst we’ve seen in this series – it’s more of the same, for what it’s worth. I gotta say, though, Bay has definitely traded up when he ditched Shia LaBeouf and drafted his “Pain & Gain” star, Mark Wahlberg, even though it’s a bit silly that he’s playing an inventor/engineer. And the whole thing about how he wants to keep his sexpot teenage daughter (Nicola Peltz) from dating grows tiresome rather quickly. All the government/corporate stuff with Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci is pretty boring, too. So yeah, the human drama/comedy is still not great in these movies. The Autobots, namely Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Bumblebee, who are joined by newcomers Hound (John Goodman), Drift (Ken Watanabe) and Crosshairs (John DiMaggio), are not fascinating characters either, but at least they kick some ass, blow shit up and, in what may be the coolest moment in this so-so sequel, they ride motherfucking Dinobots. This isn’t much, but apparently, a lot of folks were excited about seeing it, hence the film being such a massive hit. Why not, I guess. ]

2015
13 Hours 75
[ Reviewed for Extra Beurre ]