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.
Sept. 21 to Sept. 27 If word got out that you were planning a wedding during the Martial Law era, the “Committee for the improvement of Folk Customs” (改善民俗實踐會) might knock on your door. Each borough in Taipei had at least one “agent” who kept a pulse on community happenings. They would visit the family planning the wedding with a letter from the mayor, touting the benefits of being frugal and not wasting money on lavish ceremonies, even encouraging the families to donate money for scholarships. The authorities also discouraged them from hiring musicians and dancers, who were often loud and
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a way urban households can obtain healthy produce, while helping to build a more sustainable farming sector in Taiwan. King Hsin-i’s (金欣儀) transformation from advertising copywriter to social entrepreneur began in 2008, when she visited a rice farmer who practiced pesticide-free agriculture. “He explained that we have to leave space for other species. At the same time, I realized that while big companies have budgets to spread their messages, farmers have few chances to tell the public about their beautiful concepts,” she recalls. Inspired, she quit her job and traveled throughout rural Taiwan for a year. King went
Every day before she starts her shift at a government hospital in Singapore, Farah removes her hijab — the Islamic veil she has worn since a teenager. Although minority Muslim women can freely wear the hijab in most settings in Singapore, some professions bar the headscarf — and a recent case has triggered fresh debate on diversity and discrimination in the workplace. Now Farah has joined a growing number of Muslims — who account for about 15 percent of Singapore’s 4 million resident population — calling for the ban to end, with an online petition gathering more than 50,000 signatures. “They told me
Let’s get one thing straight: I have never liked the name Ironman. Maybe it sounded good in 1970s Hawaii when endorphin-fueled athletes with military backgrounds argued who were fitter, swimmers or runners. Or perhaps cyclists, someone else had chimed in. There was only one way to settle it: They would combine the 2.4 mile (3.9km) Waikiki Roughwater Swim with 112 miles (180km) of the Around-Oahu Bike Race and the 26.2 mile (42.2km) Honolulu Marathon into a single one-day event. Whoever won would be known as the Iron Man. That I don’t like the name doesn’t stop me from participating, however. Nor from attempting