Being a critics’ favorite is not high on Michael Bay’s to-do list, so it’s safe to say the dismal reviews for "Transformers: Age of Extinction" aren’t keeping him up at night. (Its weak domestic box office is a different story.) But Jimmy Kimmel rode to Bay’s rescue anyway, corralling several critics who’ve panned Bay’s previous movies and asking them to "say something nice."
Despite Kimmel’s setup, there are actually plenty of critics who’ve said nice things about Bay’s movies, especially last year’s "Pain & Gain." But these aren’t among them — except for Debruge, who’s grudgingly respectful if not actually a fan. So what do these critics really think, and how far back does their enmity go? (You may also, as I invariably do, take advantage of these stills to ponder each critic’s work area and/or presentation of self: Did you know Peter Debruge lives in Paris? Did Richard Roeper just come back from a jog? And what’s with the fish on Amy Nicholson’s bookshelf?)
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"Pain & Gain": Everything is supersaturated in flaming pastels or hot, rich neon. The images are packed with glistening muscle and bright, shiny, superslow-motion struts toward the camera, with something in flames as a backdrop. It’s Bay World. And after an hour of "Pain & Gain," it felt more like "Pain & Pain."
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon": Monday’s Chicago press screening of the third "Transformers" picture was delayed by 20 minutes because, as the AMC River East spokesman explained to the crowd, the auditorium’s digital projector needed time to complete its "ingesting" of the feature. Well! What goes in must come out. One way or the other.
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen": Director Michael Bay’s film — which has two settings, "puree" and "liquefy" — is like that scene in "Raging Bull" when Joe Pesci slams a car door against the guy’s head, over and over. Bay’s sequel is the car door; the audience is the guy.
Christopher Orr, the Atlantic
"Transformers: Age of Extinction": If it truly takes this long to save the world from the depredations of robots that turn into muscle cars, it may be that the world is no longer worth saving.
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon": There is something so sour and unpleasant about the new film that it left me almost nostalgic for the innocent idiocies of its predecessor. "Dark of the Moon" is a journey into the angry, adolescent id of director Michael Bay. I, for one, could not wait to get out.
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen": What could have gone through the mind of the studio executive who greenlit this epic inquiry into a set of Hasbro toys? And is there some way we could ensure that said exec was forced to watch the film in its entirety, oh perhaps three times, with all the hindsight regrets and missed birthdays that might entail?
Amy Nicholson, L.A. Weekly
"Transformers: Age of Extinction": The movie’s crammed with useless nuts and bolts, the storytelling equivalent of a mechanic who lifts the hood of your car and says, "That’s everything, fix it yourself."
"Pain & Gain": Michael Bay’s comedy about three bodybuilders who kidnap a wealthy weakling was this year’s wildest takedown of the American Dream. Their victim is a creep, our heroes are killers, and the moral gray area between them grows and darkens until the whole world feels bleak, despite the guys’ bitchin’ neon spandex shorts.
Richard Roeper, RichardRoeper.com
"Transformers: Age of Extinction": "The fourth movie in the franchise is like an obnoxious kid who insists on showing you every toy he owns. It just refuses to end."
"Pain & Gain": Bay is never one for subtlety, but I have to give him credit here: He’s making fun of his own style.
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon": Rarely has a movie had less of a soul and less interesting characters.
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen": The sequel is bigger, louder, stupider and it commits the crime of being long beyond belief.
"Bad Boys II": The worst movie of 2003.
Peter Debruge, Variety
Quoted in "Michael Bay, Seriously": "He is there to over-deliver. If there’s a Michael Bay signature it’s that you know you’re going to get your money’s worth and then some. He delivers an insane amount of value to a spectacle-driven audience member.”