Here are the box office totals—domestic, international and worldwide—for the five “Transformers” movies. Pay attention in particular to the last column: each movie's rank in terms of worldwide box office the year it was released. The series rose and rose and rose, and then...
|2009||Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen||$836.30||$402.10||$434.20||4|
|2011||Transformers: Dark of the Moon||$1,123.80||$352.40||$771.40||2|
|2014||Transformers: Age of Extinction||$1,104.10||$245.40||$858.60||1|
|2017||Transformers: The Last Knight||$605.40||$130.20||$475.30||13*|
* And counting (down)
Splat. The last was least.
No. 13 worldwide for the year (or #14 after “Last Jedi” gets rolling) would generally get you high-fives all around—unless the previous iteration was No. 1 worldwide and grossed half a billion more.
I read somewhere that Mark Wahlberg says he's leaving the franchise, but, given the above, would they want him back? I wouldn't be surprised if Dwayne Johnson gets the call, but how many more of these stupid franchises can he save? Or maybe they meld it with the “Fast and Furious” franchise? Fast, Furious and Transformed. Dom rides around in Optimus Prime. Why not? Both turned from face to heel in their most recent movies. It's all WWE now—in the movies and in the White House. It's movies and democracy transformed into idiocracies.
The bad news is the New York Yankees landed the biggest, strongest, loudest homerun hitter in all the fucking land, Giancarlo Stanton, 6' 6“, the guy who led the Majors with 59 last season, and who hit 'em out with insane exit velocities, and they got him for not much: a few mid-level prospects and a mid-level SS/2B, Starlin Castro (last season: .300/.338/.455; career OPS: .733; age next season: 28). Stanton is a near-duplicate of the Yanks' current wonderboy, Aaron Judge, 6' 7”, who led the American League last season with 52 homers, and who hit 'em out with insane exit velocities. Both play right field. Combine those two with catcher Gary Sanchez, who, for his career, has hit 53 homers in only 177 games, and, shit, it's bad news for Yankee haters out there. Teams always talk up a new Murderers Row but this is truly that. And they're all young: Sanchez just turned 25, Judge will turn 26 in April, Stanton just turned 28.
The good news? Miami Marlins' co-owner and chief executive Derek Jeter is getting REEEEEEEAMED over this:
- New York Times: Derek Jeter Was Once the Captain. But Now He's the Apprentice.
- Yahoo Sports: The questionable treatment of Giancarlo Stanton was Derek Jeter's latest blunder
- Business Insider: Derek Jeter is under fire for the baffling Giancarlo Stanton trade
It does a heart good.
I get the corner he's in. Kind of. The Marlins are in debt, they're trying to unload big, expensive talent, but they don't seem to be getting much for it. The Stanton trade was the worst. He had a no-trade clause in his 13-year, $285 million contract (of which 10 years remain), so he got to pick which teams he wanted to be sent to. And apparently he chose the four LCS teams: Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, Cubs. And the other teams offered less. And so Jeter had no choice but to...
Nah. He had a choice. “Sorry, G., we're not getting good offers from those teams. See you in spring training.”
Stanton didn't want to stay with the Marlins; he wanted to go to a winner in his prime. So force his hand. Instead, Jeter just waved his. He waved Stanton on through. Also Dee Gordon (to us) and Marcell Ozuna (to St. Louis). In the last month, the Marlins have traded (and for not much) their two top guys in terms of 2017 WAR, and 3 of their top 5. The WAR total is 16.5 (wins), meaning instead of going 77-85, the Marlins would've wound up more like 61-101. I expect them to have that kind of season in 2018. All because of Jeter.
Now there's a chance he's not incompetent. There's a chance that he's an undercover Yankees spy and using the Miami Marlins to be a kind of farm system for the Yankees, the way the '50s Yankees did with the Kansas City Athletics. But most people just think he's over his head.
So. The Yankees are now poised for another dynastic run; they're ready to add to their already obscene advantage in pennants and rings; they're about to make my life miserable again. On the other side, Jeter looks like an idjit. I'm truly torn.
Jeter's last game in the Bronx: Me, me, me.
The Seattle Film Critics Society's 10 Best of the Year
The nominees are out from the Seattle Film Critics Society, and they are ...
Wait, nominees? Even the New York and LA film critics don't do nominees...do they? They just award.
Anyway, despite living in Seattle (First Hill, represent!), and being a film critic (of a kind), I've never been anywhere near this group. Maybe with good reason. These are their nominees for best picture:
- Blade Runner 2049
- The Disaster Artist
- The Florida Project
- Get Out
- Lady Bird
- Phantom Thread
- The Post
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Missing? “The Big Sick,” of course, which I watched again with friends last night and liked more than the first time I saw it—as the opening movie of the Seattle International Film Festival last May. And I loved it then. Right now, it's top 3 for me. With many more to see...
...such as “Call Me By Your Name,” which is winning awards up the wazoo but not here. For a second I thought it wasn't listed because it hadn't screened this far west, but the film is mentioned as part of “Best Ensemble Cast.” And that's it. No others. Neither best pic for “The Shape of Water.” Haven't seen yet so shouldn't say. Just ... surprising.
What's included and probably shouldn't be? “Blade Runner 2049” for starters. Then on to “Dunkirk” and wrap up with “Logan.” I'd put “Spidey” before “Logan.”
I guess I like the head bob toward the popular, but then why ignore “Big Sick”? And why all the sci-fi? Fucking nerds.
At least “Baby Driver” didn't make the cut.
Movie Review: Black Legion (1937)
In an early scene, a bunch of machine-shop guys are hanging outside eating their lunches, wearing dirty overalls and 1930s-era working caps—called whoopee caps, which I think of as Jughead caps—and giving each other shit. Mostly they’re giving shit to Ed Jackson (Dick Foran), a big, beefy sort, who’s nursing a hangover because the night before he drank too much with the wrong dame, Pearl Danvers (Helen Flint). It’s all good-natured fun until Cliff Moore (Joe Sawyer) opens his yap. His target isn’t Ed but Joe Dombrowski (Henry Brandon), a handsome kid who’s reading a book with a sliderule.
“What do you got there,” he asks. “A honyock backscratcher?”
Honyock—I had to look it up—is an ethnic slur for Eastern Europeans. Most likely a compound of “Hungarian” and “Polack.”
Our hero, Frank Taylor (Humphrey Bogart), eventually tells Cliff to lay off, and we get this exchange:
Cliff: He’s always got his nose in a book.
Frank: It’s his nose, ain’t it?
Cliff: And a plenty big one at that.
Apparently Dombrowski was originally a Jewish character but got toned down in rewrites. The nose reference is all that’s left of that identity. Like Clementis’ fur hat.
Black Legion, White House
“Black Legion” is one of those Warner Bros. movies that were, as they used to say, “ripped from today’s headlines.” There really was a Black Legion, an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan, with estimated membership as large as 125,000 in the 1930s. It was the usual mix of all-American nastiness: anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-socialist and anti-black. Malcolm X believed the Black Legion was responsible for the death of his father, while this movie is loosely based on the kidnapping and murder of WPA worker Charles Poole in Detroit in May 1936.
It’s also ripped from our headlines, isn’t it? At one point, Frank hears the following on the radio from a Father Coughlin-type sermonizer. The sentiments would not be out of place in a speech by Pres. Donald Trump today:
... hordes of grasping, pushing foreigners, who are stealing jobs from American workmen and bread from American homes. It is to combat this peril, to preserve and protect standards of living which made American workmen the envy of the world, that we, the challengers, have raised our rallying cry, “America for Americans!”
Think of that. Despite all the progress we've made, an 80-year-old stock Hollywood villain doesn't sound much different than the current president of the United States.
As a movie, “Black Legion” is a cautionary tale. From that lunch scene above, you’d suspect Ed might get involved in the Legion, maybe via Pearl Danvers, but no. Ed sobers up and proposes to Betty (Ann Sheridan). It’s Frank, our hero, who goes down the wrong path. And stays down it.
A foreman position opens up, everyone thinks he’ll get it, but it goes to Joe Dombrowski. Incensed, Frank hears the above radio broadcast and joins the Black Legion. Together, they burn down Dombrowski’s home, and ride him and his dad out of town on a rail, then celebrate with beers all around. Frank gets the foreman gig but almost immediately loses it again because he’s too busy recruiting for the Legion. This time it goes to Mike Grogan (Clifford Soubier), so they attack him, too. Cause he's Irish? Or because Frank is feeling, as our current media terms it, “economic anxiety”? Your call.
Yes, it’s a bit sanitized. The real Legion attacked Jews and blacks, rather than the Irish and Polish. Even so, what's fascinating about the film is that our hero isn't redeemed. Far from it. His wife and child leave him, he gets drunk with Pearl, then confesses all to Jim. When Jim demands Frank go to the police or he will, Frank panics, calls in the Legion, and they take Jim to the woods for a flogging. Instead, he’s shot trying to escape (by Frank), and the rest of the hooded Legion scatters.
Initially, at trial, they create a cockamamie story about how Jim was supposedly in love with Pearl, and that's what led to the tragedy. Odder still, they make Frank claim that he was in love with Pearl, too. It almost feels like this is the reason Frank finally breaks down on the stand and tells the truth. It's not the guilt at killing a pal, or the 11th-hour realization that xenophobia is bad; he just couldn’t stand anyone thinking he preferred the uglier woman.
As in the real Charles Poole case, all of them are sentences to life in prison. That's the end. Just that. So don’t join secret hooded hate groups, kids, or you’ll lose everything.
It was a tidy-enough lesson in 1937, but one we have to keep relearning, apparently. Once more from the top.
'Man Shot, 1 West 72'
I should've posted this yesterday, on the ... which was it ... 37th anniversary. Almost as many years as he spent on Earth.
What an inspired way to write the column, telling of the lives of the cops who picked up the body and brought it Roosevelt Hospital in New York. Part of it is brutal reading: another body, but not another body, in the violent country he desperately wanted to live in, on the cusp of our most violent year. He didn't even get an ambulance? Just cops picking him up and carrying him into the backseat of their patrol car? And still alive. And still aware. “Are you John Lennon?” A nod and a groan. The intersection of these cops' lives with the man they brought in. And that brilliant last line that feels more relevant than ever:
And Jim Moran and Tony Palma, older now, cops in a world with no fun, stood in the emergency room as John Lennon, whose music they knew, whose music was known everywhere on earth, became another person who died after being shot with a gun on the streets of New York.
Rest in peace, John. Rest in peace, Jimmy Breslin, 52 when he wrote this, 88 when he died earlier this year.
Movie Review: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
Why is the fifth “Transformers” movie subtitled “The Last Knight“? Besides the obvious attempt to cash in on the Batman franchise?
Glad you asked! You see, back in 484 A.D., King Arthur and his knights were about to lose an epic “Game of Thrones”-inspired battle against the Saxons when the man whom Arthur trusted implicitly, the wizard Merlin (Stanley Tucci), a comic-relief drunk, stumbles upon a crashed spaceship with a transformer inside. Wait, 12 transformers? That’s what Wiki tells me but god help me if I remember more than one in this scene. Anyway, Merlin’s innate ... comedy? ... somehow convinces the transformers to back his side in the war (no Prime Directive for these fuckers), so they transform themselves into a giant three-head “Game of Thrones”-inspired dragon, give Merlin an alien staff, and warn him that “a great evil” will come for it one day; then off they go to battle and win the thing for Arthur and England.
CUT TO: Present-day, post-Transformers-III-or-IV Chicago, where, in the ruins, four “Stranger Things”-inspired nerd boys are saved by a fierce, Eleven-inspired girl, Izabella (Isabella Moner), and her transformer pals, who are, in turn, saved by our hero from the previous film: failed Texas inventor and all-around good-guy dad Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). Cutting loose the nerds, they go off to some safe-ish haven/junkyard to wait out the next step in the inane journey.
Did you spot it? Yes, Yeager is our “last knight.” He’s the guy who will save the day. How? Well, this odd little transformer will attached itself to him, mostly to his arm but also move around his body sometimes, which gives him the opportunity to reveal his tight abs to the Oxbridge-educated but standoffish hottie Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), a direct descendant of Merlin. (Wahlberg here is like, say, Margot Robbie in the airport dressing/undressing in “Suicide Squad”: naively unaware of the effect his sexy body has on others.) Then, at a crucial moment, after Yeager and Wembley take a transformer-sub to the bottom of the ocean, and run from/fight the 12 guardian transformers there, not to mention Optimus Prime, who, like a WWE wrestler, has turned from face (hero) to heel (villain), because...
Fuck it. Enough to know that they resurface, there’s a battle, Megatron steals the staff, Optimus realizes the error of his ways because Bumblebee speaks, but he’s about to be executed anyway by the 12 guardian transformers when Cade shouts “NO!” and the odd little transform becomes ... EXCALIBUR! Yes! Arthur’s sword! And Cade stops the mighty blade of the guaridan transformer! And he saves Optimus! And now he’s ready for battle.
And so Cade takes Excalibur and ...
Actually, that’s pretty much it. That’s all he does with it. It doesn’t come into play ever again.
Remember when you were like 9 or 10 and you’d play at “war,” or some kind of imaginary adventure game, and it was basically, “And then this happens, and then this happens,” and “No! Those guys are over there! No! That guy’s dead!” Remember that kind of thing? No logic, no sense of connecting the past with the now, just the hell-bent movement forward? That’s this. That's Michael Bay.
This movie is so bad I kept flashing to that “Curb Your Enthusiasm” season in which Larry David is cast in “The Producers” because Mel Brooks wants it to fail. He’s sick of his creation and wants to destroy it and move on. Is Bay doing the same? Is he sick of his creation and wants to end it? Or is he simply boundary-testing how stupid we are? “Can they take something this dumb? Cuz I’ve about reached my limit. I can't make it any dumber. I canna dumb it down any further, Captain.”
The plot is basically: Optimus and army men chase our heroes, who are on a hellbent journey to find a MacGuffin (alien staff) that could lead to the end of the world, and which only they can gather. Once they find the MacGuffin, and once the bad guys immediately steal it and try to use it to destroy the Earth, Optimus and the military guys join our heroes for the final battle, which takes place, with a nod toward the movie's King Arthur opening, over England’s moun-tains green. And the good guys win.
Plus Anthony Hopkins as Sir Edmund Burton, the one who knows the backstory.
Plus Tony Hale (“Arrested Development,” “VEEP”) as the government scientist apparently in charge of everything who orders generals to use nukes against the Decepticons because ”magic isn’t real."
I kept wondering: In these movies, isn’t there always something that’s been left behind by centuries-ago transformers that today's transformers need to get a hold of to rule the world? Or save it? Shouldn’t someone do a study on this?
[Smaller voice] Oh no, I don’t have to do it, do I?
No, thank god. Or thank Rob Bricken at io9, a better man than I, who has already done it. Read his synopsis. He tears apart the movie, the series, and Michael Bay, with the necessary humor.
Final reminder: This is all about a toy robot that can turn into a car. Have we gone mad?
Quote of the Day
“If there are alternative solutions, like finding another baker, why force the point? Why take up arms to coerce someone when you can easily let him be — and still celebrate your wedding? That is particularly the case when much of the argument for marriage equality was that it would not force anyone outside that marriage to approve or disapprove of it. One reason we won that debate is because many straight people simply said to themselves, ”How does someone else's marriage affect me?“ and decided on those grounds to support or acquiesce to such a deep social change. It seems grotesquely disingenuous now for the marriage-equality movement to bait and switch on that core ”live and let live“ argument. ...
”Nonetheless, here we are. And it is a hard case constitutionally. It pits religious and artistic freedom against civil equality and nondiscrimination. Anyone on either side who claims this is an easy call are fanatics of one kind or other. ...
“In other words, if the liberals were more liberal, and the Christians more Christian, this case would never have existed.”
-- Andrew Sullivan, on the Masterpiece Cake v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this week, “Let Him Have His Cake,” on the New York magazine website. He also has sharp takes on other big events this week: Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; Al Franken announcing his resignation from the U.S. Senate.
Ms Get 2B Dee Gordon for CF
2B or not 2B? Apparently not, as yesterday Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto acquired second baseman (and perennial NL stolen-base leader) Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins, with plans to move him to center field. Sure, why not? He'll cover ground anyway, and he's got a glove. What did we give up? I'll let ESPN's David Schoenfield talk:
Jerry Dipoto has said he wanted to acquire a center fielder for the Mariners ... so he acquired Dee Gordon from the Marlins. ... He's signed for three more seasons plus an option so he could be a long-term solution there. They did give up Nick Neidert, their top pitching prospect. He's not a flamethrower, but immediately becomes one of the Marlins' top prospects as well and Derek Jeter has dealt away his first major chunk of salary.
Man, I hate helping effin' Jeter.
Gordon will turn 30 in April, which generally isn't a good age for a speedster ... until we remember (because surely we remember) that Lou Brock set the single-season stolen base record in 1974 at age 34/35.
Gordon can also hit: He's got a .293 career average. What he doesn't do is walk (.329 career OBP) or hit for power (.367 career slugging). He's got 11 HRs in his career, 40 triples and only 90 doubles. That last is shocking. His best doubles season is 24: twice. I imagine we'll place him at the top of the lineup. But if he slumps at Safeco, as players have been known to do, we're in trouble.
That said, his WAR last season was 3.1, which is equal to Jean Segura's. And it'll be nice to have some speed on the basepaths. Here's a highlight reel from a few years ago: