Stephen reviews: Transformers: The Movie (1986)

transformersStarring Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Orson Welles, Eric Idle, Lionel Stander, John Moschitta, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker

Directed by Nelson Shin


It is the year 2005. The treacherous Decepticons have conquered the Autobot’s home planet of Cybertron. But, from secret staging grounds on two of Cybertron’s moons, the valiant Autobots prepare to retake their home land.

How much more of an introduction do you want? We have a short and simple explanation of everything we need to know right at the opening. Actually, I lie. That introduction comes after the opening credits. Prior to that, we’re treated to an awesome display of carnage as the planet Unicron swoops down and quite literally devours another planet full of peaceful, happy robots, and their peaceful, happy robot children. Don’t bother wondering why or how these robots have children, because they’re all dead within the first five minutes of the movie. Now how many films, let alone kid’s films, begin with the eradication of an entire planet?

Right at the outset, this film establishes an epic scope, and the rest of the film lives up to it admirably. Even beyond having a carnivorous planet, the war between the Autobots and Decepticons rages to new heights as a simple supply run to Earth quickly turns into a massacre, killing off several primary characters from the TV series. It may not have as much impact on strangers to the franchise, but fans knew for certain this movie meant business when such a staple character as Ironhide got wasted.

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New Jack City (1991)

Starring Wesley Snipes, Ice T, Allen Payne, Chris Rock, Mario Van Peebles, Michael Michele, Bill Nunn, Russell Wong, Bill Cobbs, Christopher Williams, Judd Nelson

Directed by Mario Van Peebles

Expectations: Moderate. I’ve always wanted to see this.


I think if I had seen New Jack City back in 1991, I would have loved it. It’s an interesting tale filled with sex, drugs and hip hop, but coming at it now it seems a little dated. Not that the tale itself is no longer relevant, it’s just so steeped in ’90s hip hop and fashion that it’s impossible not to notice it. For me, this is a good thing as I grew up in and remember the ’90s vividly, but for others it might be a different story entirely. But fuck all that, it’s Ice Fest baby, and we’re ringin’ in the event with a very enjoyable, modern Blaxploitation film.

New Jack City was Ice T’s first major role, and here he plays a reckless cop who’s out to bust the city’s crime lord played by Wesley Snipes. Snipes has taken over the Carter Apartments, creating a fortress to house his crack empire, and it’s up to Ice and his cop buddies to infiltrate it any way they can. New Jack City tells a layered story, more disjointed than the traditional narrative elements might suggest. Much of the story here is told through editing, and the audience is never treated as if they’re stupid. When we inexplicably cut to a wedding attended by Snipes and his troop, the next cut informs us who’s getting married and eventually why the scene is important. It’s hard to tell a compelling story this way, but New Jack City does a relatively good job at it.

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