Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third Transformers movie, set a new low for pointless, mindless, over-long, self-indulgent, merchandizing-driven action movies, even by the standards of director Michael Bay. It is hard to imagine 10-year-old boys, the target audience of the movie, not seeing through the creative bankruptcy of the production. It is a forlorn hope that this fourth iteration might be the last — it is subtitled Age of Extinction after all — but a fifth is already in pre-production. One can be thankful for the absence of Shia LaBeouf from this film, and Mark Wahlberg, the protagonist, is always a welcome screen presence. Wahlberg is Cade Yeager, an auto mechanic who makes a discovery that brings the Autobots, Decepticons and a paranoid government official down on him and his family. Kids in love with the Hasbro toys might get a buzz from seeing the hyper-realistic action of these popular figurines, and Nicola Peltz as Tessa, Cade’s daughter, will provide vicarious delights for slightly older children, otherwise known as fathers. At 157 minutes, Transformers 4 shows no sign of self-restraint, so be prepared to have your brain hammered into mush by this summer blockbuster.
Road trip buddy movie from Malaysia stemming from cross-cultural romance is nothing to shout about, particularly with rather lame performances from Ben Pfeiffer (Benji) and Joanne Yew (Bee), who feature as a young couple (he from the UK, she from Malaysia) who need to get the blessing of the curmudgeonly Uncle Chuan (Sai Peng Lee) for their upcoming nuptials. Inevitably, Uncle Chuan has little time for the white bread Benji, a man with a remarkable lack of cultural understanding. The conflict between the two men is inevitable, and its development largely predictable. Chuan insists that the future son-in-law must accompany him on a country-wide trip to deliver wedding invitations, and the two men set off by motorbike across Malaysia. Despite language barriers and initial animosity, the two come to realize that their priorities are essentially one and the same. In a mixture of English, Mandarin and Hoklo, the film has an innocence that is charming, making up for much of the technical shortcomings and providing some insight into the culture of Malaysian Chinese.
Intellectual sci-fi from director of the indie hit Primer, Shane Carruth does not have battling robots, star fleets or interstellar reptiles anywhere in sight. This is science fiction in its original meaning of art that seeks to explore the outer realms of human possibilities. It is serious, technically accomplished, well-acted and deeply annoying for its seemingly deliberate obscurity. Go with the flow of the director’s oblique storytelling technique, which is full of hints and possibilities, but never allows itself to be pinned down to a clearly defined narrative line. The film’s story might be about a young couple who become connected by a singular, mysterious experience, a form of hypnosis caused by body-snatching maggots that alienates them from everyone around them. If you like the idea, Upstream Color may work for you, but if you actually expect a story with a beginning, middle and end, you are likely to be banging your head against the seat in front of you 20 minutes into the film. And the director is not about to give you any help. An outstanding performance by Amy Seimetz establishes this young actress as someone to watch, but all the acting talent in the world is not going to make Upstream Color appealing to people who just want to relax in the cinema.
We Are the Best
A small film with a big heart, We Are the Best may not hit a lot of screens, but is undoubtedly the best bet for actual entertainment this week. Directed by Lukas Moodysson, based on a comic by his wife Coco Moodysson, this Swedish film is a coming-of-age drama about three girls in 1980s Stockholm who decide to form a punk band — despite having little musical talent, no instruments and flying in the face of the fact that punk, by this time, was well and truly dead. And you don’t even have to like punk, or even, for that matter, any style of contemporary popular music, to feel the vigorous pulse of this movie, which hits the spot in any discourse about the aimlessness of adolescence and the power of friendship. Moodysson, who was once deemed a “young master” by Ingmar Bergman, has had some ups and downs in his filmmaking career, and with We Are the Best, we have someone of enormous technical accomplishments taking on stale genre materials and making from it an unforgettable gem.
With listicles of local attractions including Costco and numerous children’s playgrounds, I was not expecting much. Opened on Jan. 31, the Taipei MRT’s Circular Line, or Yellow Line, made life in the nation’s capital even more convenient. But judging from Internet search results, it hasn’t opened up many new tourism opportunities, unsurprising as the route mostly crosses densely populated areas and industrial parks. Places like a sports stadium with rainbow colored bleachers perfect for Instagram selfies wouldn’t do it for me either, and it’s pointless to list attractions at the connecting stops that have existed for years. As a history nerd, there
June 1 to June 7 In February 1988, Robert Wu (吳清友) set aside NT$17.5 million to purchase two Henry Moore sculptures from London’s Marlborough Gallery. He never bought the pieces. Feeling slighted that the gallery manager initially looked down on him as a Taiwanese, he decided that night to use the money to open his own art space back home. “Without selling any art, that money could support the gallery for four years. If I feature one artist per month, that provides a stage for at least 100 artists,” Wu said in the book Eslite Time (誠品時光) by Lin Ching-yi (林靜宜).
The Lunar New Year vacation had just ended when Alice Wu began to worry about COVID-19. Not long after, on Feb. 10, Wu — who didn’t give her Chinese name to speak freely for this story — received the first of several coronavirus-related sales messages through her smartphone. The pitch came from an acquaintance who represents Amway, an American multi-level marketing (MLM) company that’s been active in Taiwan since 1982. “I’ve only met her once, and I’ve never bought from her. If her sister wasn’t one of my daughter’s teachers, I’d probably block her,” says Wu, who lives in Taichung. MLM, sometimes
It’s difficult to watch Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, a four-hour Netflix series on the now-deceased convicted sex offender without a choking sense of outrage. How many girls had to suffer to get attention? How perversely twisted is the American justice system that a Gatsby-esque billionaire, friends with such powerful figures as Bill Clinton , Prince Andrew and Donald Trump, a longstanding donor to Harvard and MIT, could buy his way out of an almost certain life sentence for child sex abuse and trafficking? Filthy Rich arrives, of course, less than a year after Epstein, 66, died, officially by suicide, in a New