Armageddon

The Matrix Zion Rave

The difference between a 120-minute movie and a 115-minute movie can be surprisingly huge. Pacing and editing are the most underrated parts of the filmmaking process, so it’s baffling when a movie spends a bunch of time on a scene that, in the end, doesn’t even matter. Turns out there’s not really a good technical term for it, except “a bunch of bullshit they put in to pad the runtime or something.” But these are parts of movies that wasted a bunch of your time and you’ll never get it back. Enjoy!

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Outland Movie

This past week, I was revisiting classic Sean Connery science fiction from the 1980s, and I happened upon Peter Hyams’ High Noon-inspired thriller Outland. In this film, Connery plays a Marshal on Io, a moon of Jupiter. After butting heads with the boss on the moon base, Connery finds himself the target of assassins sent to Io. Their weapons of choice: shotguns. Shotguns… in the future… in space. The climax of the movie played well for plenty of action and thrills, but it did make me ask the same question that Chick (Will Patton) asks of Colonel Willie Sharp (William Fichtner) in Armageddon: “What are you doing with a gun in space?” After considering what is possibly the most level-headed and logical question ever posed in a Michael Bay movie, I got to thinking: Is it really a good idea to have guns in space?

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Armageddon

This week, Michael Bay did something that I thought was only possible if you were named Joel Schumacher: he apologized for a loud, bloated late-’90s summer stimulus-athon. In an interview with the Miami Herald promoting his Florida-set Pain & Gain, Bay said, “I will apologize for Armageddon, because we had to do the whole movie in 16 weeks. It was a massive undertaking. That was not fair to the movie. I would redo the entire third act if I could. But the studio literally took the movie away from us. It was terrible. My visual effects supervisor had a nervous breakdown, so I had to be in charge of that. I called James Cameron and asked ‘What do you do when you’re doing all the effects yourself?’ But the movie did fine.” It’s unclear exactly what Bay’s problem is with the third act of Armageddon that isn’t also characteristic of the film as a whole (cloying sentimentality, a rushed pace, the central premise), or whether or not, in typical Bay fashion, his real problem is solely with special effects or the film’s box-office performance (“the movie did fine” here seems to relinquish any issues he may have had). But one thing’s for sure: Armageddon, according to its maker, is not a pure, ideal Michael Bay vision. (Bay, of course, later refuted the story and says he’s proud of the film, as he should be.)

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Michael Bay

When a Transformers film or Bad Boys II washes over its audience with gigantic, thunderous popcorn-scented waves, they know the man behind those tsunamis. No, it isn’t Poseidon, but someone even more mythic and powerful: director Michael Bay. He is one of the most successful auteurs working today, and mass audiences love visiting the worlds he presents to them through the colorful, bombastic prism of Awesome. They connect to his movies, but maybe not for the obvious reasons. A Michael Bay picture is many, many things. The global showman has made his career off shiny money shots, a broad sense of humor, solid on-screen pairings, well-orchestrated chaos, and much more. We all know a Bay creation when we see it, and much of that comes from the mind’s more subconscious, inner workings. Bay doesn’t necessarily repeat himself, but there are reoccurring details which appear in most his movies, all of which further his status as an auteur. Since an auteur is generally labeled as a filmmaker with a “strong personal style,” even Bay’s harshest critics should admit he has personality and a well-established brand, whether they like his particular brand or not. The director’s newest movie, the abrasively entertaining Pain & Gain, carries on those trademark signatures in many ways. It’s not the explosions which make him an auteur, it’s the little things that make his human stories more meaningful than what we see from most blockbuster directors. Michael Bay a true visionary auteur, and here’s why:

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the rock shower massacre

Given all the positive buzz we’re hearing for Pain & Gain, Michael Bay could very well have his first critical hit since 1996 when the movie opens this Friday. And it might just be an even fresher tomato than the lonely red orb affixed to The Rock seen here. Interestingly enough, this new release stars someone named The Rock, further proving that Dwayne Johnson isn’t just franchise viagra but also a kind of Hollywood miracle in general these days. Not that Bay has been struggling as far as the industry is concerned. At all. It’s not important for us to defend the quality of Bay’s movies. They are what they are. Some are more entertaining than others. Most fulfill a certain demand by audiences for action, broad humor and flag-waving. And occasionally they do surprise us, especially in times when our expectations are at their lowest — or simply on that horizon to which we anticipate his work, neither high nor low, just there. We do enjoy some of it. Maybe not even whole films but individual bits. So, this week’s Scenes We Love highlights six favorite moments. And as usual we invite you to share your own picks.

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There’s nothing more American than cylindrical projectiles. After all – fireworks are loud, volatile, and smell like ash – much like us. While the whole exploding part is pretty gosh darn boss, really the true wonder comes from the pure act of launching something as goddamn far as we possibly can into the air. We like to know that we can conquer all three dimensions. So in the spirit of good ol’ American propulsion lust, here are some of the more excellent tubes that movies have shot into the sky.

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It’s difficult to read a statement like “Happy Earth Day” and not read it as “Happy Earth” Day. Which feels rather trite, as the Earth herself does not seem happy at all. In fact, recent years have proven her to be sort of a bitch, stomping around passive aggressively in response to hundreds of years of humanity using her resources, under-appreciating her majesty and killing off their fellow man so that they can do more of the resource using. She’s not happy, so why should we be happy? Nihilism aside, it is Earth Day after all and we’re not one to turn away from a good party. However, it’s important that while you’re out there celebrating by buying organic, recycling beer bottles and picking up trash and used condoms down by the boardwalk — the boardwalk — that we allow our weekly Scenes We Love feature to remind you of Earth’s fragile state. She may seem like a big hunk of rock from the ground view, but don’t forget that all it takes is a filmmaker like Michael Bay or Mimi Leder to come along and blow it all up with the best computer generated visual trickery that 1998 had to offer. To celebrate Earth Day, we’d like to present two of our favorite renditions of Earth’s demise: the opening of Armageddon and the comet landing scene in Deep Impact.

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Commentary: Armageddon

You knew it was inevitable. We here at Film School Rejects love Michael Bay’s Armageddon. Hell, we even gave the film a full day of coverage last April, sadly a day before Commentary Commentary was in existence. So here we are. The Criterion Collection of Armageddon and everything Michael Bay has to thrown down on the commentary track. Say what you will. Even outside the walls of FSR, this film has its fair share of fandom, and they aren’t backing down from their sturdy position. But be honest. It’s going to be fun to hear all the intricacies and insight Bay has to dish out even if you aren’t a fan of the film. He’s not alone, either. On this particular track, Bay is joined by Jerry Bruckheimer, Bruce Willis, and Ben Affleck. That sounds to me like all the knowledge you’d want about Armageddon wrapped into a tight, little group of Hollywood players. It’s the commentary track – and the Commentary Commentary – the size of Texas, and the less preamble we give it the better. So here’s everything we learned from listening to these fine gentlemen speak about their film, and don’t worry. I’ll acknowledge the moment when Affleck tells Willis he loves him. I’m getting misty eyed just thinking about it now.

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Culture Warrior

From the second half of the twentieth century onward, our view of NASA and its associated lore in movies have been inseparable. The astronaut, a uniquely American frontier hero whose myth and iconography made them the cowboy of the second half of the 20th century, has a position in our cultural memory that is inseparable from cinematic imagination. From pre-moon landing science fiction that dreamed of potential encounters with distant worlds through an organized space program (Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey) to reenactments of history celebrating the space program and the individuals involved (The Right Stuff, Apollo 13) to NASA/moon landing documentaries (For All Mankind, In the Shadow of the Moon) to later, more divergent science-fiction films that have emerged since the prominence of NASA has lessened (Armageddon and so on), NASA, space exploration, the moon landing, and its imagined associations have retained a prominent place in cinematic mythmaking prompted by continued fascination with the frontier of space and humanity’s place in it. Hell, we’ve wondered about the moon since the beginning of cinema. That our collective experience of space in both fiction (i.e., narrative cinema) and non-fiction has been via the moving image (i.e., watching the moon landing on TV) is perhaps what most thoroughly cements this porous association between NASA and its cinematic myth.

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Culture Warrior

The cinematic doppelganger effect seems to happen on a cyclical basis. Every few years, a pair of movies are released whose concepts, narratives, or central conceits are so similar that it’s impossible to envision how both came out of such a complex and expensive system with even the fairest amount of awareness of the other. Deep Impact and Armageddon. Antz and A Bug’s Life. Capote and Infamous. Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report. And now two R-rated studio-released romantic comedies about fuck buddies played by young, attractive superstars have graced the silver screen within only a few short months of each other. We typically experience doppelganger cinema with high-concept material, not genre fare. To see two back-to-back movies released about the secret life of anthropomorphic talking insects, a hyperbole-sized rock jettisoning towards Earth’s inevitable destruction, a Truman Capote biopic, or a movie about a mall cop seem rare or deliberately exceptional enough as a single concept to make the existence of two subsequent iterations rather extraordinary. Much has been made of the notion that Friends with Benefits is a doppelganger of No Strings Attached (the former has in more than one case been called the better version of the latter), but when talking about the romantic comedy genre – a category so well-tread and (sometimes for better, sometimes not) reliably formulaic that each film is arguably indebted to numerous predecessors – can we really say these films are doppelgangers in the same vein as the high-concept examples, or […]

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Movies We Love

“It’s the size of Texas, Mr. President.” Does it get any better than that? Of course it doesn’t. Armageddon is without doubt one of the finest motion pictures ever created by humans. If that snippet of dialogue made audible by Mr. Billy Bob Thornton himself didn’t convince you, maybe this will. “You think we’ll get hazard pay for this?” I’m going to pretend you’ve been living under a rock since 1998 and summarize one of the greatest summer blockbuster films ever made for you. So Billy Bob Thorton is sort of the head honcho of NASA and one day he’s supervising a standard in-space satellite repair when all of a sudden a meteor shower rips his crew to pieces. We then cut to New York City, which seems to always be the city that gets destroyed in big budget disaster movies, and sure enough the meteors tear through the city demolishing Grand Central Station, decapitating the Chrysler Building [insert Unstoppable joke here] and finally, in a moment fraught with unintended significance, the camera slowly zooms out to show the twin towers of the World Trade Center on fire. Then we’re treated to quickly cut scenes of people yelling and running through hallways and trying to figure out why Keith David keeps calling. Essentially, a giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and no matter where it hits, it will wipe out all life as we know it. Jason Isaacs convinces the President that the best plan is to […]

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Criterion Files

Why?

In a sea of some of the most important pictures the world has known to date – why? In a collection spanning nearly one-hundred years of film history and inclusive of a large portion of the greatest filmmakers we’ve ever known…why? With a library containing movies which focus heavily on visual artistry and emotional complexities and probably have a combined budget *possibly* equal to that of this film…why? With another picture released the same year about pretty much the same thing made by a studio from the same country garnering stronger critical reception and sporting an [in]arguably more plausible solution and execution to the prevention of the end of the world via meteors the size of really, really big things…WHY? Why is this mammoth-sized summer blockbuster which is a masterpiece of the color orange alongside some of the most revered pictures of the last (nearly) 100 years?

The answer is simple, concrete, and indisputable:

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; we pity all the fools, not just those named April. Normally, this is the weekly internet column wherein I lambaste a terrible movie for which, despite its innumerable flaws, I harbor an unnatural love. In other words, plenty of snark peppered with honest admiration that only further calls into question my already dubious taste. Right about the time your brain is massaged into a warm, gelatinous goo, I supply a nasty/delicious snack food item tied into the film to similarly soften your six pack. But this week is different. I have been asked, and have subsequently agreed but only under protest, to cover a film far too excellent to warrant purchase on this awful little column. A film so cerebral, so beautiful, so auteur that it is an insult to film as an art form to allow it to suffer my irreverent, unworthy treatment. I hate that this movie will now be counted among the rank and file of cinematic garbage to which my proclivities typically run. That being said, I never back down from a challenge and, though it may suck some of the life from me, I now present…Armageddon.

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With just how astounding Armageddon is, it’s no wonder that the world is clamoring for a sequel. Wishful thinking propels us to think that Jerry Bruckheimer and Touchstone (a company which still exists) are champing at the bit to make a deal with Michael Bay as soon as he’s off of his giant damned robots kick. Sadly, the reality is much bleaker than that, and even if the stars align the right way for a sequel to get made, an asteroid will undoubtedly crash right through them and create a global extinction event that swallows Armageddon 2 whole. For one, even though Bay is moving on from Transformers once Dark of the Moon hits theaters later this year, he’s also contractually tied to about a dozen other projects. They range from Bad Boys 3 – which might arouse hope of another 90s sequel –  to novel adaptation Gideon’s Sword. But what’s really keeping his attention? His Platinum Dunes duties and other producing work. Plainly put, if the sequel to Armageddon that every single human being wants to happen happens, Bay won’t be the helmer (and what kind of sequel would that be? You think Peter Berg can pull that off?). “But Damon Lindelof wrote that stellar script!” you say. It’s true. Sadly, it sits languishing unmade, just like 99% of all written scripts and 98% of all optioned scripts. Even with the overwhelming, Texas-sized financial incentive (matched with the studio model of throwing $200 million at anything with even mild […]

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Culture Warrior

A little more than 100 years ago, cinema was a deceivingly simple spectacle. Late 19th-century vaudeville audiences would attend variety shows and be introduced to this new technological apparatus that could reproduce moving images of anything, from people arriving at a train station to a prolonged kiss. Cinema could even realize the potential of imagination through practical special effects. So much potential. So much promise. Audiences and filmmakers wondered and debated throughout the next few decades not only what this device was, but what cinema should be or could become. Essays were written, manifestos were signed, and camps all around the world situated themselves within particular “isms” and would fight for the notion that the ideal potential achievement of cinema would be this or that. They imagined futures in which pure expression through the 7th art – that medium that could contain all collective art forms, reproduce and manipulate reality, manifest fantasy, and move masses of captivated audiences simultaneously in a way no communicative form before or since has been able to do – could actually take place, thus allowing us to finally understand what cinema really is. Then came Armageddon. And all these questions were finally answered.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. “I’m marrying you.” “You bet you are!” Is there a more gut-punching emotional moment in a trailer in the history of ever? There is not. Ben Affleck stars alongside Bruce Willis in this explosive action flick directed by Michael Bay. You just don’t see much of this movie anymore, but it definitely deserves the attention. You won’t want to close your eyes or miss a thing while watching this trailer. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Boiling Point

Hollywood has on several occasions done things in pairs. Skyline and Battle: LA. Volcano and Dante’s Peak. Debbie Does Dallas and Donnie Does Denver. Every time this happens we ask ourselves two questions: first, why? Second, which one was better? In the grand history of competing, similarly plotted movies, no two films have ever inspired more conversation and debate than Deep Impact and Armageddon. This is ridiculous. Not because it’s a waste of time to debate movies like this, but because there is no debate. Armageddon makes Deep Impact look a pair of monkeys painted the world’s most boring book in baby shit and then populated it with a bunch of actors you remembered from other movies. Armageddon is the vastly superior film and anyone who doesn’t recognize that sends me past my boiling point.

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Griffith. Ford. Welles. Kubrick. Scorsese. Allen. Spielberg. No one would argue that these men are a few of the great visionaries who worked their magic on the U.S. cinematic landscape. But after 1998, all of their previous work just seemed…petty. That’s because 1998 was the year Armageddon showed up on our radar screens, giving us little time to prepare our viewing strategies before unleashing a force of hyperkentic visuals that splattered our brains on the back of theater seats. This wasn’t just a movie about a meteor coming to destroy Earth, it was the meteor, and in the wake of its war path, movies were never the same again. What exactly did Michael Bay do that changed cinema forever? The list is endless, but here are nine bold moves the renegade auteur took to ensure his place in Hollywood history:

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Late last night DC Metro Area resident Jonathan Turk purchased a copy of the double disc Criterion Collection DVD release of Armageddon. The purchase was made at an Alexandria, VA Wal-mart, and came from what Turk described as the store’s “five dollar bin,” but what must have been where they keep movies that are selling too fast to keep on the shelves. I imagine an entire bin of movies allows staff members a break when it comes to restocking red-hot titles. When asked what spurned his late night purchase, Turk said, “I was driving back into town and I remembered that I didn’t have cable hooked up at my new place yet, so I stopped off to find a movie to watch.” When asked what drew him to Armageddon, Turk replied, “It was the cheapest. And I remember it being pretty good, right? That’s not the one with Morgan Freeman, is it?” Clearly, Armageddonmania is still running wild on the East Coast. With yet another purchase of Armageddon on DVD, one has to wonder where this puts the film when it comes to total worldwide gross. According to Box Office Mojo, Armageddon’s worldwide gross in ticket sales comes to $553,709,788. That comes from totaling its domestic gross of $201,578,182 and it’s overseas take of $352,131,606. That puts it at #66 in the all-time list, just behind Tangled, which has brought in roughly 569.7 million dollars. When you add in home video sales, it becomes more difficult to see where it […]

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Drinking Games

Ever wake up in the morning with your head pounding? Chances are, that happened after trying one of our many drinking games. It also might have happened after spending a night watching films by Michael Bay. If your head is really, really pounding, you might have played a drinking game while watching the balls-to-the-wall explosive Michael Bay extravaganza known as Armageddon. Or, it could be the real Armageddon happening. Either way, it’s best enjoyed with a drink in hand. Awesome!

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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