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The Amazing Race for The Amazing Race

Wow. This has got to be one of my all time best stories.

On Wednesday night I was talking to my good friend Jonah and was telling him about the show "The Amazing Race", and how I wanted to apply this year. Jonah and I have gone on a lot of trips together and somehow don't grate on each other's nerves at all. I have a lot of respect for him and his abilities, so I thought he'd be a perfect partner for The Amazing Race. For those of you who don't know about this tv-tastic gem, it's basically a race / scavenger hunt around the world.

I meandered to the application site, downloaded the application, and began to check out the requirements. Guess when the due date for the tape was? Friday at 5pm, which meant that we had one day to create a 3 minute video, fill out the two 11 page applications and get some passport sized photos taken. Not one to back down from a challenge due to complete lack of time, I convinced Jonah to get on board.

All Hail Optimus Prime!!

On Where Pianos Roam

Last night, I went to see a late night showing of the new movie "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen". Now, after much thought on the way home, as I lay in bed this morning, while I took a shower, and as I ate breakfast, I offer up my review of this long-awaited Transformers sequel. First off, I have some disclaimers .  .  . 1.  I went into the movie theater wanting to love this movie, and so, admittedly, this review is coming from a Transformer fan/enthusiast (and not some casual moviegoer fulfilling a simple curiosity over cars that turn into robots). 2.  When I do a review, I try to base it solely on the film's actual merits and to take the film for what it is (as opposed to what I might want it to be).   I make the strongest consideration for what I feel the film-makers were going for, as opposed to making comparisons to other films and/or prequels. 3.  I might suggest that you see this movie for yourself before reading my review.  (There are no plot spoilers here.)  Otherwise, if you do read this, take my review with a grain of salt and decide for yourself how you feel about it.  All are welcome to agree and/or disagree with my assessment. So, here goes .  .  . Yes, I sat in the movie theater with the best of hopes that I would love "Revenge of the Fallen".  As it turns out, I do love it, but unfortunately, not as much as I had hoped. First, the good news .  .  . In terms of special effects and masterful visual art, director Michael Bay and friends have clearly outdone themselves.  Colossal meteors falling from the sky, panoramic fighting scenes on rugged Egyptian landscapes, slick and modern machines traveling at ungodly speeds, fighting scenes jam-packed with action and swift movement .  .  .  I could go on and on.  The cinematography is first rate--every shot framing each dazzling focal point with skill and a visual artist's discerning eye. Color is used to great effect as well.  Bright and shiny primary colors for the Autobots, and darker, dirtier, metallic hues for the largely camouflaged  Decepticons. The entire film has such a vivid look to it.  It's all quite beautiful. Then, there is the sound.  On a technical level, this film should receive recognition for the sounds it employs.  The fighting sequences are made more jarring and  more spectacular with these piercing and otherworldly sounds--making the scenes so much more potent and effective. Just about all of the main characters from the first film have returned for this second instalment.   I'm quite happy about this since I think they made for a pretty solid ensemble cast. Shia Lebouf puts in a more beffuddled and dorky performance this time around and does so to great effect.  One scene in particular had me  rolling. There was a good bit of humor in this film that helped balance out all of the gloom and doom.  I can appreciate it when a  film doesn't try to take itself too seriously.  This movie has some very funny moments. This sequel has also not diminished my love for Optimus Prime.  He's one of my favorite leaders and heros in films.  He does not disappoint in this sequel.  (I hold a high fondness for trucks.   Always have.) Finally, I actually really liked that the Decepticons took most of center stage this time around.  We get to see the sheer scope and volume of what they are capable of--the wrath with which they hone their particular brand of selfish evil.  They are quite a resourceful and scary little batch of villains. So now, the not so good news. I think I can some up most of what I did not like about this film in one sentence .  .  . This film lacks depth.  (Cringing while I typed this.) With the presence of huge fighting scenes and all out war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, there was the absence of substantive character and plot development.  I found myself trying to latch onto some sort of emotional handle on this thrill ride but could not find one.  The chemistry between Shia and Megan Fox left much to be desired.  No friendships and bonds were neither strengthened nor dissolved.    It all felt a little empty.   (For example, I really loved the bond between Shia's character "Sam" and Bumblebee.  A man's car has always rivaled dogs as his best friend.  There was very little interaction between them.) Now, most people would dismiss a movie like Transformers and say that it's not exactly the kind of film that Oscar-voters would salivate over (although it should clearly be in the running for all of the technical awards).   This latest instalment which favors more of a formulaic, action-driven model would justify such a dismissal; however, it doesn't have to be this way. With themes of compassion, friendship, transformation,  humanity, good triumphant over evil, and love, I feel that these Transformer films are capable of so much more depth.  These are the kinds of elements that can transform a film from being a regular summer blockbuster into a timeless classic.  These are the kinds of qualities that help a viewer personally relate to a film.   These Transformer movies  could be on the level of brilliant epic sagas like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and even the latest Batman films.  Sadly, this  sequel does not  elevate the Transformer franchise  to such a lofty status. (Incidentally, there is a new addition of Autobots in the film who are "twins" as it were.   While they had a couple of funny moments, they just seemed odd and out of place.  A comparison to Jar Jar Binks comes to mind, but that would be too harsh.  They were not so much annoying as they were unnecessary.  I wouldn't be sad if they disappeared in the next film.) In closing, I have to say that all is not lost.  I still strongly recommend seeing this movie in theaters.  The visual work alone is worth seeing on the big screen.  It's all fantastically, mind-bogglingly amazing!  (I plan on seeing it again in an IMAX theater.) It's still 2 and a half hours of non-stop thrills, fun, and action-packed Autobot magic.   Bumblebee is still adorable.  Megan Fox is still ridiculously GORGEOUS, and thank the almighty powers that be .  .  .  . .  .  .  .  rest assured .  .  .  . .  .  .  .  Optimus Prime is still a motherfucking badass!! (Pardon the French.) -gordon

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