Battleship is more miss than hit. Hasbro became a joke the moment they turned a board game into a big budget movie. Unlike Clue, Battleship has no narrative of any kind. It’s just two separate grids with a set of ships and pegs. Of course I enjoyed playing Battleship when I was a kid, but never did I think it warranted a movie. Although you’d think Battleship would be some kind of war movie, Hasbro went the Transformers route by adding aliens. Never have I seen anything try so hard to mimic Michael Bay’s directing style without any of his involvement. You might assume that would make it a blockbuster, but this is Battleship.
Of course it sank at the box-office. As soon as I saw the alien gimmick in the trailer, I knew I needed to see it just to mock it. I know Battleship is supposed to be dumb fun, but I absolutely hated it. Like Transformers, the military is heavily involved, a supermodel is just there to look sexy, science is dumbed down, humor is cringy, and aliens use overly mechanized weapons. Taylor Kitsch stars in his second 2012 bomb after John Carter. He’s a slacker forced to join the Navy after somehow wooing the gorgeous daughter of an admiral.
She has her own side plot involving a real life double amputee veteran. Brooklyn Decker can’t act and neither can Rihanna making her strangely specific acting debut as a soldier. The amphibious aliens use metal suits and a force field to enclose the ships. The only thing remotely similar to the game are peg weapons, a brief grid monitor, and precisely one battleship used at the end. I was surprisingly bothered by the fact that they use destroyers for the majority of a movie called Battleship! The final insult was no one saying the phrase “You sunk my battleship.” Battleship is exactly what you’d expect from a board game movie.
Aliens attack a battleship
Clue is a board game movie done right. Granted, there aren’t many board game movies in existence. Given the narrative structure of the game, Hasbro made the wise decision to make a live-action version of Clue. A famous board game I never played when I was younger. Clue was a lot of kids introduction to a classic “Whodunit” full of murder and sex appeal. I didn’t see the over-the-top mystery film when I was younger either, but I can certainly understand why it has a cult following. Clue goes to great lengths in recreating the scene of the crime. A highly respectable cast is assembled to portray each key player in the game.
Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren are all fully dedicated to giving Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, Prof. Plum, Mr. Green, Col. Mustard, and Miss Scarlet personality. They make the clever decision to have each name be a pseudonym. Each character is blackmailed for business related scandals. They all enter the board game authentic mansion where they’re greeted by an original butler and maid. Tim Curry is a major highlight as the high energy Wadsworth. Though I often find myself staring at the busty French maid Yvette.
Mr. Boddy is the host who is just their to be the primary murder victim of the story. He gives them each a candlestick, knife, lead pipe, revolver, rope, and wrench. The first murder sets off a chain reaction of murders that occur after increasingly hilarious hijinks. The physical comedy really lightens up the constant death. While the 1954 aesthetic and shadowy atmosphere makes it seem more sophisticated. The most unique part is the use of multiple endings during the theatrical release. Ending A & B make one person the final killer, while Ending C makes everyone partially guilty. It’s a mystery why Clue hasn’t inspired even more well thought out board game movies.
Wadsworth and his guests answer the door
Jem and the Holograms is truly outrageous (and not in a good way). I knew almost nothing about the Hasbro cartoon Jem. Until I watched 3 episodes and was immediately drawn to the pastel music video adventures. Jem is the Hannah Montana of her time, but she does not fit a modern setting. Jem is unapologetically 80’s with her big pink hair and MTV style songs. G.I. Joe: Retaliation director Jon M. Chu may claim to be a lifelong fan, but he really misses the mark. It looked exactly like every cliché filled rising band movie ever made as soon as I saw the trailer.
Jem and the Holograms is barely recognizable apart from the colors and outfits. This is the first non-horror Blumhouse movie I’ve seen, but it’s no less horrific. For some reason they use YouTube videos in place of a soundtrack, shoot it with shaky cam, and put way too much emphasis on social media. They actually tricked Jem fans into shooting videos that made it look like they liked this botched version of the character. Jerrica Benton, her sister Kimber, and foster sisters Aja & Shana are all unrecognizable unknowns. Only 80’s icon Molly Ringwald and Juliette Lewis are name actresses.
Lewis for whatever reason plays a gender swapped version of seedy Starlight producer Eric Raymond. Jem’s love interest Rio isn’t already her boyfriend and don’t get me started on Synergy. Instead of a holographic synthesiser, 51N3RG.Y is a small robot connected to an unwanted father related mystery. The Jerrica/Jem alter ego is all wrong with no holograms to back it up. Apart from a few contagious songs, they seriously needed to lighten up with this moody unoriginal mess. Not even a last minute Misfits cameo could keep Jem and the Holograms from selling out.
Jem and the Holograms
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the underdone mostly action packed sequel to Hasbro’s struggling military franchise. I say struggling, but really both movies were financial successes. The Rise of Cobra was just in the shadow of Transformers. Causing them to practically reboot G.I. Joe without the CGI filled bombastic action. Vital characters like Duke, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Zartan, and of course Cobra Commander remain intact. They just made Retaliation more grounded with a distracting lack of large scale battles or even the Pit. I was still curious to see where the toy line went on the big screen. Even taking my mom to see it for some reason (I guess I was just filling the void left by Dark of the Moon). Retaliation is technically better than its predecessor, but I do miss that crazy dumb fun feel. Director Jon M. Chu is mostly known for musical dance flicks.
The Joes feel more like the regular military with a completely different cast. When all else fails, just add Dwayne Johnson. He plays prominent black G.I. Joe Roadblock the same as any of his other action roles. Now he’s the lead with Duke as his best friend. Channing Tatum begrudgingly returns just to die early on. When Cobra frames and kills most of G.I. Joe, only a small group is left to fight back. The nondescript Flint and Adrianne Palicki as the new sexy female Joe Lady Jaye. Bruce Willis himself drops by as the original Joe since Expendables 3 didn’t pan out. They have plenty of cool shootouts, but something doesn’t feel right about all the residential areas they’re forced to work out of.
Cobra’s primary goal is defusing the nation’s nuclear weapons with Zartan still posing as the President. Cobra has their logo, but their numbers are seriously limited. It’s mostly just the explosive Firefly. Destro is tossed aside in order for Cobra Commander to finally take center stage. Complete with perfectly accurate mask, blue costume, and a deeper voice. But the ninja action is still my biggest draw. Snake Eyes ditches his odd mouth mask in favor of a sleeker look. Before she was Elektra, Elodie Yung was a very accurate red suited Jinx. Along with RZA as their Blind Master. Storm Shadow rightfully receives more attention and a mild redemptive arc. The coolest sequence is easily a dialogue free ninja mountain fight that emulates an iconic silent G.I. Joe comic. G.I. Joe: Retaliation brings the entertainment, but not always the grandest “Yo Joe!” energy.
Preceded by: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is the overdone action packed live-action debut for Hasbro’s highly popular military toy line. I expect nothing less from a post-Transformers production. Which is why The Rise of Cobra is just as much a guilty pleasure as Revenge of the Fallen released the same year. Director Stephen Sommers is also known for dumb fun action flicks. Since I wasn’t a G.I. Joe expert at the time, my excitement for a movie wasn’t exactly like Transformers. Only my brother and I ended up going to the theater to see it, since it’s more catered to teenage boys. Retaining a lot of the constant explosions, on the nose dialogue, and hot women in skin tight outfits. Not that the men don’t get their fair share of shirtless scenes. But who cares when it feels so much like a toy box full of G.I. Joes come to life. Albeit one that botches a lot of iconic characters. The Rise of Cobra is inspired by the cartoon, comics, and toys. They sort of throw you into the action and never let up in its surprisingly short fast-paced runtime.
Channing Tatum was once a G.I. Joe fan, but he absolutely hated playing central Joe Duke. Due to contractual obligations, his performance seems very lazy. Unlike the cartoon, Duke is a new recruit alongside Ripcord. Someone I can’t really take seriously with Marlon Wayans in the role. Rachel Nichols is already on the team as sexy intelligence expert Scarlett. Alongside Heavy Duty, Breaker, Cover Girl, and Dennis Quaid as their superior Hawk. The Pit is full of levels for land, air, sea, and plenty of sci-fi technology. Including a camouflage suit and Iron Man inspired Excelerator suits. Cobra is mostly the M.A.R.S. company headed by Destro. Although he’s mostly a very lame Christopher Eccleston with a ridiculous Scottish accent. Not receiving his trademark metal face until the end. But the most botched characters are between Baroness and Cobra Commander.
Sienna Miller is seductive as the ruthless Baroness, but she’s given too much personal connection to Duke and no foreign accent. Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to be Doctor Mindbender, until he’s later revealed to actually be the Commander. Complete with awful mask and no screechy voice. Sommers Mummy connection meant casting Brendan Fraser in a brief Stone cameo and Arnold Vosloo as an inaccurate whistling Zartan. Sure these characters are alright, but I’m really here for the awesome Snake Eyes and badass Storm Shadow. They were my childhood G.I. Joe toys afterall. Ray Park was perfect for the silent ninja and Byung-hun Lee brings a lot of charm to his archrival. Cobra’s evil plan is to launch deadly nanotech on the world. Several flashbacks fill in gaps between action set on all-terrain. Including a base attack, the destruction of Paris, a snowy base infiltration, and a poorly rendered CGI underwater battle. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is just the kind of over-the-top action that makes me scream “Yo Joe!”
Followed by: G.I. Joe: Retaliation
G.I. Joe: The Movie is a real American blast. If you love the Transformers, then you have to love Hasbro’s other action packed toy line as well. G.I. Joe coined the name action figure in the 60’s and earned a new generation of fans in the 80’s with the cartoon adventures of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. I didn’t watch much of it, but I did have Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow toys when I was younger. Like The Transformers: The Movie, my brother really wanted me to check out the 1987 movie. The difference was the latter’s financial losses resulted in G.I. Joe going straight to video.
It’s a shame since this animation was clearly made for the theater. It starts with a bang by having warring factions G.I. Joe and Cobra Command fight at the Statue of Liberty. That macho military excitement can be found throughout the entire movie. With the perfect amount of awesome all-terrain action and cheesy characters. When the shrieking Cobra Commander’s position is threatened by the ridiculous Serpentor, a new threat arises in the form of Pythona, Nemesis Enforcer, and her superior Golobulus of a snake civilization called Cobra-La. It’s silly, but I expect nothing less.
This looks like a job for the Joes. At least it would be if they didn’t go the Transformers route. Focusing on a new team of potential toys to train. Including the carefree Falcon and female ninja Jinx. Srgt. Slaughter himself steps in to train the more violent recruits. Of course they use celebrity voices on some characters, but this is still a direct-to-video movie. One where core G.I. Joe Duke was supposed to die before Optimus Prime made them call it a coma. So the world is saved without him. G.I. Joe: The Movie is nevertheless a thrill ride that’ll make you scream “Yo Joe!”
The new Joes
My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) is the iteration I actually care about. It might surprise some people to know I’m a Bronie, but I’ve loved My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic ever since I gave it a chance while it was gaining popularity. The generation 4 reboot added so much depth, character development, and world building to the traditionally girl centric Hasbro toy line. It’s honestly one of my absolute favorite animated shows of the 2010’s. Can’t say I was expecting a theatrical movie to come out of it, but Friendship is Magic was just that successful. Even in an age that’s nearly abandoned traditional animation or big screen continuations of a TV series, My Little Pony: The Movie shines. While normally Flash animated, the film required a more three dimensional look. It helps to make Equestria more immersive than it’s ever been before.
Although the Mane 6 have certainly had better adventures after 7 seasons, The Movie does feel high stakes. The reviews aren’t glowing, but you really have to be a fan to appreciate it. Everything begins with a friendship festival held by magical Princess of Friendship Twilight Sparkle. Her position and braininess are put to the test as she faces certain doom. Fortunately her friends Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy are always by her side. Along with Spike of course. Everypony’s personality, sense of humor, and character choices are intact. They’re friendship is just put to the test thanks to the sudden arrival of warships. Since the Mane 6 retain their talented voice actresses, a large celebrity voice cast fills in the rest.
Emily Blunt is Tempest Shadow, a ruthless unicorn commander with a broken horn. Michael Peña is her less than funny cohort, but Liev Schreiber is the menacing new villain the Storm King. He steals Princess Celestia, Luna, and Cadence’s magic in order to rule the land. It’s enough to make the ponies leave Equestria in order to find help. These places are unusual, but it is a fine change of pace. They meet Taye Diggs as a smooth cat con-artist, Zoe Saldana as an awesome bird pirate, and Uzo Aduba & Kristin Chenoweth as royal Hippogriffs turned Seaponies. Earth Ponies, Pegasui, and Unicorns were kept from the original series, but Seaponies were never done before. The final battle brings everypony together in order to defeat the Storm King and restore peace. An epic finale that concludes with a Sia pony singing an original song. The music is very much on par with the series. My Little Pony: The Movie is pure magic.
The Mane 6 prepare for battle
My Little Pony: The Movie (1986) is the feature film debut for Hasbro’s best selling girls toy line. At least I thought it was the debut. I kinda watched episodes of the 1986 animated series thinking they were first. Then I realized The Movie was meant to come first. Now I realize even that was preceded by 2 specials called Rescue at Midnight Castle and Escape from Catrina. I think I’ll just stick to the teatrical movie for now since I don’t think I can take anymore of these ponies. As a 4th generation Bronie, I knew I’d eventually backtrack to the generation that started it all.
My Little Pony: The Movie was pretty painful to get through. It feels more like an extended episode complete with commercial-like fade outs. The 80’s ponies are just too sugary for my taste. All they do is frolic, play games, and befriend woodland animals. Ponies are distinctive colors with Earth Ponies, Pegasui, and Unicorns populating Ponyland. I couldn’t really tell the difference between anypony. Apart from baby dragon Spike. Other creatures appear like Bushwoolies, Grundles, and even humans.
Megan, Molly, and Danny seemed to come out of nowhere without my knowledge of their original debut. But the real focus is on the witches. A trio of bumbling witches that only hate the ponies because they’re so sweet. There are celebrity voices, but that didn’t help much. The near constant songs are grating, different characters pop up constantly, and nothing feels theatrical. The only threat is a blob called the Smooze that’s easily defeated by Flutter Ponies. Unless you’ve grown up watching it, My Little Pony: The Movie will kill you with cuteness.
The little ponies and friends
Bumblebee reignited my love of Transformers. By easily becoming the best film in the franchise. Thanks to Michael Bay finally letting someone else play with his toys. Transformers fatigue made me skeptical, but Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight proved a small scale spin-off was exactly what audiences needed. Since Bumblebee proved to be an instant fan favorite, a prequel detailing his arrival on Earth made perfect sense. My mom loves Bumblebee, so my brother and I made it our early Christmas present. Although I’ll always have a soft spot for the first Transformers, I do wish Bumblebee wasn’t hindered by its continuity. I was in nerd heaven the second I saw the opening war on Cybertron. Since Autobots and Decepticons finally have their accurate Generation 1 designs on the big screen.
Optimus Prime, Wheeljack, Arcee, Starscream, Shockwave, and Soundwave all look so beautiful, but sadly Megatron couldn’t appear thanks to being frozen in ice. The unnamed B-127 voiced by Dylan O’Brien is sent to Earth to establish a base. Appropriately set in the 1980’s with just the right amount of nostalgia. Bumblebee is attacked by John Cena representing the military and the familiar organization Sector 7. B-127’s vocal processors are damaged in battle by the Decepticon Blitzwing. The battle damaged Autobot loses his memory, but transforms into the cartoon accurate Volkswagen Beetle just in time. The transformers action is finally comprehensible, the humor is natural, and the story actually feels genuine. Thankfully the human characters are just as strong. Hailee Steinfeld is the most fleshed out female in any Transformers movie. She’s attractive, but nothing is forced.
Charlie is an unpopular former diver tomboy mechanic who lost her father and has trouble communicating with her family. Her character arc isn’t entirely original, but they tell it so well. She fixes up the Autobot that she affectionately names Bumblebee. Forming a deep bond with her new car. They help each other work through their problems, have fun, and Charlie inspires Bumblebee to speak through the radio. A neighbor boy named Memo joins them, but it’s not all fun and games. Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux play surprisingly strong Decepticon triple-changers named Shatter & Dropkick. They use the military to track Bumblebee and plan on signaling the rest of the Decepticons. After more hijinks, Bumblebee regains his memory Iron Giant style. Ending with an awesome small scale final battle. Bumblebee tearfully leaves Charlie, but transforms into a Camaro in time to reconvene with Optimus Prime. Bumblebee is a soft reboot that hopefully sets the “Robots in disguise” on a brighter path.
Bumblebee on the beach with Charlie
Spin-Off of: Transformers
Transformers: The Last Knight is when I officially stopped caring. So did audiences, since this is the only box-office bomb in the franchise. Despite Michael Bay insisting that he was done several times, The Last Knight is finally his last time with the “Robots in Disguise.” Hasbro intended to turn their toy line into a cinematic universe, so many ideas were tossed around for future installments. Instead they crammed all their ideas in a blender and called it The Last Knight. I was 22 in 2017 and only saw it in theaters with my brother out of obligation. Age of Extinction characters like Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager are still present, but Bay attempted to bring things full circle with Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, and Glenn Morshower returning. None of whom make this 5th installment less unbearable. Shia LaBeouf only gets a picture cameo. I know I criticized Bay clichés before, but this feels like Michael Bay taking himself too seriously. While still feeling immature with his most cringy dialogue to date. Now he’s just ripping off everything from Star Wars to Arthurian legend.
The Last Knight begins like a Thor movie with narration from Anthony Hopkins instead of Optimus Prime. He details one of many plot points that inflate the runtime and never make sense or feel cohesive. After all the talk about knights, they finally gave up by bringing King Arthur into the mix. Played by the exact same actor who played him in Once Upon a Time. Stanley Tucci now plays Merlin and Transformer history is suddenly entwined with the Knights of the Round Table, World War II, and literally every other facet of human history. Every Transformers movie adds another piece of Earth related Cybertronian history, but this is ridiculous. Optimus Prime is adrift searching for his creator. He finds the female Quintessa on Cybertron and she turns him into the villain seen in every major movie in 2017. Some kids enter the ruins of Chicago where they find Bay’s attempt at a tough female character. A kid with a hand made Autobot that contributes almost nothing to the story. Cade tries to save Autobots who are being monitored by a reluctant Lennox and his new military group. He’s living in a junkyard with familiar Autobots like Bumblebee, Hound, Drift, Crosshairs, and even Wheelie who’s once again still alive. The Dinobots are there too, along with another pointless side human.
The military makes a deal with Megatron. With zero explanation for why he’s no longer Galvatron. The CGI still looks polished, but the increased number of Autobots & Decepticons are reminiscent of the problem with Revenge of the Fallen. Megatron teams up with Decepticons that require their own name cards in order to hunt the remaining Autobots. Cade is taken in by a British Autobot karate butler in order to explain the Talisman that attaches itself to his arm. The primary sexy woman is downplayed to the point of being the most forgettable. Since she’s a British professor who’s also taken in by a French Hot Rod making his live-action debut. Now it’s Hopkins who gets the undignified role as a historian who explains the extremely convoluted Transformer history. Long story short, Cade is the chosen one and the professor lady is Merlin’s descendant who can wield a staff McGuffin. I started to care a little when corrupted Optimus returned to fight Bumblebee, but the pointless plot point ends as soon as Bumblebee talks. The climax brings everyone together, Optimus delivers another generic speech, and no longer impressive action ensues. They even throw Unicron into the mix, but who even cares at this point. With explosions galore and painfully annoying aspect ratio changes, Transformers: The Last Knight killed my spark of enjoyment for transforming robots.
Optimus Prime vs. Bumblebee
Preceded by: Transformers: Age of Extinction