The Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Bah Weep Gragnah Weep Nini Bong!

The Transformers: The Movie (1986)A friend of mine named LaCharizard was once really excited about requesting movies for me to review, but I never really got around to any of them.  I think what kept me from fulfilling her request for today’s movie is that I was worried about it ruining my nostalgia.  I had been a big fan of this franchise when I was a child and didn’t want watching it in my adulthood to make me realize that it was actually a piece of shit as my ill-fated purchase of Bobby’s World on DVD had.  Should I rather not just allow myself to believe I liked it and never find out if I still would?  No!  Mainly because LaCharizard was alphabetically next on my list and this movie appealed to me more than her other requests … and because she’s named after my favorite Pokémon.  And that’s why I decided to watch The Transformers: The Movie, written by Ron Friedman, directed by Nelson Shin, and including the voices of Peter Cullen, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Orson Welles, Robert Stack, Frank Welker, Lionel Stander, Chris Latta, Susan Blu, John Moschitta Jr., Scatman Crothers, Casey Kasem, and Corey Burton.

In the far distant futuristic year … 2005 … the giant robot Galactus rip-off named Unicron (Orson Welles) is roaming around the universe eating planets.  The evil transforming robots known as the Decepticons (lead by Megatron [Leonard Nimoy]) leads an ambush on the Autobot city called … Autobot City.  In the fight, Ultra Magnus (Robert Stack) gets off a signal to Autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), who arrives to join the fight but is mortally wounded in the fight with Megatron.  After the Decepticon retreat, Optimus passes the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus, telling him that it will show them the light in their darkest hour.  After passing on the Matrix, Optimus passes on himself.  In deep space, Megatron is marooned by his second-in-command Starscream (Chris Latta), but is rescued by Unicron, who fixes him and turns him into Galvatron in exchange for the destruction of the Matrix.  Can the Autobots stop them?  CUE SHITTY 80’S MUSIC!

There!  My childhood is ruined!  Good work, LaCharizard!  I am totally gonna sick LaBlastoise on you!!  In truth, this was not a good movie but I don’t really feel as if my childhood is destroyed.  I think I knew this movie would be cheesy, and I was right.  Keeping my expectations low helped me to just watch this movie for the humor of it.  Not the intentional humor, mind you.  The best joke they could come up with was calling the Decepticons “Decepticreeps.”  Good one, bro.  I would’ve gone with Decepticunts, but then parents might have frowned on my choices.  The story of this movie is pretty dumb, but pretty ballsy as well.  They kill off so many Autobots in this movie, including Optimus Prime!  That takes balls.  I don’t really like it because Hot-Rod seemed like a tool and Rodimus Prime was Hasbro stealing my patented porn name, but it does take balls to kill your main hero early into your movie.  And it took even more balls for them to resist the temptation to slap that “You Got the Touch” over the scene when Optimus died.  Speaking of which…

This movie is the 80’s.  I thought the soundtrack was supplied by Ratt, and every other scene of music was a person using his Casio keyboard as a punching bag.  And what’s worse is that they really seemed to have no regard for the music that they chose to make sense or to sound appropriate for the situation where they were using it.  Look at Stan Bush’s classic song “The Touch,” as later famously covered by Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights.  That song was in this movie!  It was like a joke!  What does that song have to do with Optimus Prime transforming?!  I know the second line is “You got the power!” but what is he touching?  And then they use “Dare to Be Stupid” during a big battle with a robotic Mongol horde in a junkyard.  And they definitely did dare to be stupid, but it has nothing to do with the scene, and doesn’t even sound like appropriate music for a fight scene.  That being said, I do love some Weird Al.  I also feel like the animation of this movie doesn’t really hold up that well.  It’s okay, but even Saturday morning cartoons nowadays look way better than this movie.  And the sound mix of this movie never really seemed right.  First of all, it seems weird for the giant, planet-devouring robot to make chomping sounds when it absorbs a planet.  It should be Om Nom Nom or nothing!  And at other points in this movie, it seemed like they just plum forgot to put sound effects in, like the whole scene when Optimus was giving the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus.  Apparently, opening his chest and pulling a glowing orb out is completely silent.  Who knew?

One of the most impressive things about the cast of this movie is that it was one of the great Orson Welles’ final performances.  So Kudos to him.  The voice cast of the movie did a good job.  The only problem I had was with Frank Welker.  I like Frank Welker a lot, but that Wheelie character was annoying as hell.  Every time he had to speak, he had to rhyme.  And I had to sigh.  But there are plenty of problems with the characters.  First of all, Megatron.  He’s the biggest villain in the Transformers universe, surrounded by robots that turn into jets and diesels and dinosaurs and this guy … turns into a tiny pistol that is 1/10th his size.  …And must be fired by one of his allies.  What could ever be lamer than that?  Oh wait … there’s an Autobot that turns into a microscope.  Okay, you win.  And of course, there are two Transformers that turn into cassette player boom boxes, just in case you forgot this was the 80’s.  Truth be told, I’ve always had a soft spot for Soundwave for some reason, but his transformation is inarguably lame.  Oh, if you did forget that this movie is in the 80’s, the kid in this movie rides a hoverboard.  He probably used to use a pink one like a bojo until he got stuck over a lake, ‘cause those things don’t work on water unless you’ve got power.  Also, the Decepticon Astrotrain turns into a train that looks awfully similar to Doc Brown’s train from Back to the Future 3.  And Astrotrain is stupid.  Not only because his name is stupid, but because the Decepticons were riding inside him fighting about who would take over with Megatron gone and he never thought to suggest the choice between them making him the leader or being jettisoned out of his ass into deep space.

The Transformers: The Movie might still be able to entertain children, but I even doubt that.  The story is pretty simple, but if they have any love for the Transformers going into it, they’ll probably be bummed out by how many of their favorite characters are killed off, only to be replaced by someone that would call himself Rodimus Prime with a straight face.  This movie is also horribly dated by the 80est of 80’s music that has ever 80’sed.  But, thankfully, I did not find that this movie was able to destroy my nostalgic love for the Transformers.  I just regarded it as a goofy movie that was fun to make fun of.  But there’s still not much reason to watch it.  The Transformers: The Movie gets “I’ve got better things to do tonight than die” out of “Did we have to let them detonate three-quarters of the ship?”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE!  YouTube  OTHER JOKES HERE!  Twitter  BE A FAN HERE!  Facebook  If you like these reviews so much, spread the word.  Keep me motivated!  Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

Citizen Kane (1941)


Today’s movie has got to be the winner of the oldest movie I’ll ever review. This 1941 film is one I have heard about seemingly forever, and it’s often times referred to as “the greatest film of all time”. And since all the professional film reviewers have called it thus, I feel like, in the very least, I should watch the thing if I want to call myself a film reviewer. But this movie is 9 years older than my mother, so how well can it possibly hold up to me? We’ll see, in my review of Citizen Kane, co-written, directed by, produced by, and starring Orson Welles, co-written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, and also starring William Alland, George Coulouris, Everett Sloane, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Paul Stewart, Agnes Moorehead, Harry Shannon, Ruth Warrick, and Ray Collins.

In Xanadu did wealthy news mogul Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) die, creating a massive news outbreak, especially regarding his mysterious last word: “Rosebud”. This fascination sets reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) out to interview everyone who was close to Kane in order to find – and report on – the significance of this word. His first interview – and Kane’s second wife – Susan Alexander Kane (Dorothy Comingore) refuses to talk, so he instead goes to the libraries of Kane’s guardian, Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris), to learn about Kane’s youth, where his mother (Agnes Moorehead) and father (Harry Shannon) seemingly rented him out to Thatcher, to be educated (but not in the ways of love, I gathered). When he got older, Kane takes control of the newspaper, the New York Inquirer, that Thatcher had aquired. Thompson then interviews long-time friend of Kane’s, Jedidiah Leland (Joseph Cotten), who tells of Kane’s start with the newspaper, rise to wealth, brief marriage to Emily Monroe Norton Kane (Ruth Warrick), first mistress, attempt to get into politics, and then retreat from politics when his affair with future wife Susan Alexander became public thanks to political opponent, Jim W. Gettys (Ray Collins). Still no closer to finding out what Rosebud is, Thompson goes back to his second wife and to Kane’s butler, Raymond (Paul Stewart), in hopes of figuring it out.

I feel like a lot of this movie’s appeal is probably lost on my generation. I’m not willing to say it was a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but when you go into a movie knowing only what Rosebud is, and that everyone has said this movie is the greatest thing ever put on film, you have high expectations that no movie can possibly live up to. It’s a fine film, but not for any reasons that will really be explained in this paragraph, because it’s not really the story that sets it apart. It’s a pretty basic story of one man’s life that’s told in a way that was probably super innovative at the time, but has been used since. It basically ends at the beginning, with the story of the movie being told in flashback, and then the big secret ending that probably isn’t a secret now as it wasn’t for me. The first good chunk of the movie is told in an old newsreel style that most young people (who weren’t huge fans of Mystery Science Theater, like myself) will have no idea what they’re looking at. Then about 90 percent of the rest of the movie happens in flashback, but it’s all fairly intriguing and keeps you watching fairly well. But man, did people back in the day ever talk fast! So fast do they talk that they often times talk over each other. It seemed weird to me, but it is how people talked in movies at the time and does show how good these people were at delivering their lines. The entire movie moves pretty fast and actually manages to keep your attention without any real action, per se. It’s mostly just people talking, but it keeps your attention. Then you tie the film up with a scene of all of Kane’s accumulated statues and things that makes you think it either should’ve been the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark or evidence for why Kane should’ve been on Hoarders.

The look of this movie is what sets it apart, but I feel it’s very hard for me to figure out just how much it set itself apart, growing up with movies with the special effects that they have now. And, for most of these special effects and visual styles, I had to watch the commentary that was on the disc with fellow film reviewer, Roger Ebert. Oh yeah, I’m going there. I totally just referred to Roger Ebert as a “fellow reviewer”. This film did a lot of things for the first time that it should probably be applauded for. It did a lot of interesting things with focus and lighting and sets and transitions with a relatively low budget. Apparently it’s harder than I realize to keep things in the foreground and the background in focus at the same time, but they did a lot of that in this movie. It’s apparently also very difficult to keep things further away from the camera lit in a black and white movie, but they pulled that off here by having sheets act as ceilings and lighting and microphones above those to keep everything well lit, so kudos for that bit of innovation. The sets were more simple than the epic stature they appeared to be, mainly accomplished by putting the scenes on top of drawings, but they didn’t look like drawings when I watched it. I thought this was just a really expensive movie. So kudos for that as well. They did a lot of interesting camera compositions, from the framing of the characters to the movement of the camera that Ebert talked a lot about. He talked a few times about scenes where they designed the set pieces to split apart so the camera (back then mostly on tracks) could pass through. That’s pretty cool. They did things in the composition of the scenes like having the character whose flashback we were in sitting with his back to the camera, like we were watching it with them. My point about these things is that, while definitely being cool and artistic, don’t make a movie great all on it’s own. I’m not in film school or anything, I just want a movie with a good story. Problematically, I don’t know how many of these things in this movie are not as exciting now because I’ve seen them ripped off for so many movies since.

The performances were pretty top notch here. Orson Welles not only puts on a great performance in the movie, but he ages in a way that was so convincing I thought the movie might have taken a really long time to film. As he gets older, the make up effects are pretty convincing and, when he got older, he wore a back brace to aid his performance as an aging man. It was pretty convincing. William Alland didn’t do anything spectacular in his performance, but I did find it interesting that he was always in shadow. I don’t remember what Ebert said the meaning was for this, but there it is. Dorothy Comingore, Joseph Cotten, and Everett Sloane all put on great performances of their younger and older selves.

This is a fine movie, but I think it probably wouldn’t qualify for “Greatest Film Ever” amongst people of my generation onward. It does a lot of cool things in the cinematography, the lighting, the transitions, and even the performances, but I felt that, even though it kept your attention, the story wasn’t that interesting to me. Of course, most people of this generation probably don’t know William Randoph Hearst (the person who was the inspiration for Charles Foster Kane), or even Orson Welles, so that can make it a little less significant because we miss the comparisons. I still think it’s worth a watch, and you can get it from Netflix – as I did – so do so. Just don’t go in thinking it’s the Greatest Film Ever. It’s too hard to live up to that. Citizen Kane gets “I think I did pretty well under the circumstances” out of “I guess Rosebud is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle”.

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!