Directed by: Travis Knight
Run time: 114 minutes
Format: 4K Ultra-HD
The Lowdown: How hard is it to make a good giant robot movie?
Or, better yet, how damn difficult is it to make a good Transformers movie?
Bumblebee, the first spin-off from the rusty, should-be retired Transformers franchise, has the right approach setting its story in the late 1980’s, but that’s pretty much where the praise should end.
Once again, a Transformers movie has to rely on a human character to drive the narrative. This time, it’s an 18-year-old girl named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), who discovers the fan-favorite Autobot gathering dust as a beat-up Volkswagen in a salvage yard. Of course she’s got issues, and of course, it will take a refugee from Cybertron to help her realize her true potential.
Continuing another tired theme from the focal franchise, Bumblebee introduces a quasi-villain in the form of John Cena, a former military black ops soldier, who’s acting here pales in comparison to some of his other roles.
Bumblebee as a stand-alone character feature is disappointing. The fact that it was fairly well-received by critics and fans is even more so because that means there will be more spin-offs of other Autobots.
Until someone can figure out how to make an entertaining, competent film to rival the very first Transformers, there’s just no point in complaining. Stay home, watch the classic cartoons, play with your old, beloved Hasbro toys, and save your money.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Not really.
Nudity – No.
Gore – No.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Decepticons, and John Cena’s acting.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Terra Formars (Arrow Video, 108 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): First, and most importantly, holy crap, Takashi Miike made an epic space fantasy with giant Martian cockroach humanoid creatures and some insane Ultraman meets Saban’s Power Rangers-style hand-to-hand combat?
Yes, you read that right.
The ever-prolific Miike is responsible for Terra Formars, which is just as ridiculous and just as awesome as you might hope and expect. This one is definitely worth a watch.
Ray Donovan: The Sixth Season
Archer: Danger Island
A Silent Voice – The Movie
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Pet Graveyard (Uncork’d Entertainment, 100 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): If you wanted to capitalize on the upcoming remake of a classic Stephen King novel, but you really just wanted to make a lame rip-off/redo of Flatliners, it makes complete sense to name your film Pet Graveyard when it has absolutely nothing to do with Pet Sematary. Right? Avoid at all costs.
Flay (Phame Factory, 94 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): If you really wanted to make a movie about the Slender Man, but a big studio already beat you to by releasing a surprisingly good horror flick called Slender Man, why not repurpose your idea into a nonsensical, not-scary snoozer starring a character that’s clearly the Slender Man. Also avoid at all costs.
The Head Hunter (Vertical Entertainment, 72 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Jordan Downey’s impressive new monster fantasy, The Head Hunter, oozes atmosphere and gets extra points for being so laser focused on its own, undeniable coolness that you willingly overlook key details that get lost or ignored in this intensely minimalistic horror tale.
My problem is that Downey and his co-writer Kevin Stewart are a cheap date tease for way too much of The Head Hunter’s ridiculously brief runtime. They barely show any of the (I think) super cool creatures that populate this strange, snowy world. I say ‘I think’ because, honestly, other than their heads, you don’t get to see many of the bad-ass beasties in action.
Still, The Head Hunter is a welcome blast of originality, despite its flaws, and for that alone, it deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible.
Terror 5 (Artsploitation Films, 78 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Terror 5, a new anthology from Argentina, has a lot of big ideas. The problem is that co-directors Sebastian Rotstein and Federico Rotstein can’t find a proper vibe to propel the overall narrative. Some of the short segments pulse with promise – a school where the students run roughshod over their teachers with brutal discipline, a lusty couple who unwittingly become the central players in a snuff film – while others, such as a fanatical cult of zombies, never reach their full potential. It’s fun, but not memorable.
Drowning Echo (High Octane Pictures, 103 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Georges Padey’s debut, Drowning Echo, is an oddly engrossing, not to mention just plain odd creature feature.
Don’t try to find it on IMDb either. It doesn’t exist, at least by the name Drowning Echo. It’s registered by a different title, Nereus. Don’t ask what that means, either.
What’s even more strange about Drowning Echo is that it’s being marketed as a straight-up creature feature, yet it barely focuses on the creature for more than an hour. Instead, the majority of the early part of the film tracks a young woman traveling to Florida to visit an old friend who happens to manage a seasonal apartment building with a big, central pool.
Almost immediately, the woman finds herself having visions of being in the pool and being attacked. Except, the visions are real, and the woman keeps waking up in the pool when minutes before she was in an apartment.
The longtime friend also has a girlfriend who is seen leaving for Greece just hours before his female bestie arrives. The girlfriend is traveling overseas because she too saw a girl drown in the apartment pool, and the incident still haunts her. Apparently, the girlfriend has located an ancient legend in Greece that directly ties back to the so-called creature in the Florida pool. Are you still with me?
That’s about the time that Drowning Echo completely flips its own wacky narrative and becomes a found-footage film for about 15-to-20 minutes as the girlfriend arrives at a monastery where an 800-year-old well is closely guarded, only to get attacked by a creature that's never shown.
To be honest, I gave up on Drowning Echo at this point. I have no idea if a creature ever gets discovered, or why it chose to surface in a rundown Florida no tell-motel pool.
If you make it far enough to find out, let me know.