Friday Q&A: Worst Michael Bay Movies; Post-Vince WWE

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The sports calendar is at something of a standstill. The NBA Finals concluded this week, leaving hoop-heads with only the draft, and a deluge of awful mock drafts before the sport goes completely dormant. Baseball is still in the early stretches of its marathon season.

You could start prepping for the Mayweather-McGregor fight. You could also get hammer bamboo chutes beneath your fingernails. I don’t recommend either.

Friday Q&A reflects the relative downtime in sports with a decidedly un-sports-y motif. Hey, that’s welcome! All questions within the realm of good taste (and sometimes toeing the line) are encouraged here at The Open Man Friday Q&A. To participate, send a tweet tagged Q&A @the_open_man on Twitter, via The Open Man Facebook page, or via email: kyle@theopenman.com.

To call Michael Bay divisive suggests their are vocal supporters of Michael Bay’s movies. He’s almost universally panned by critics, and the savvier cinephiles who talk movies on social media share the critical community’s laments.

And yet, his films generate hundreds of millions. Another installment in the abominable Transformers series hits theaters next week, and it’s all because multitudes of people will shell out their hard-earned money for the worst product placement known to man.

Michael Bay is Action Adam Sandler. In fact, I’d imagine the demographic audiences are the same: 13-to-21-year-old boys. And now that I’ve made that analogy, I count down the minutes until Rob Schneider dons brown-face in a Michael Bay film. Ugh.

I’ll cop to enjoying a handful of Bay movies. The Rock holds up as popcorn fun despite its atrocious dialogue.

My biggest beef with Michael Bay is Platinum Dunes. Any horror movie fan worth his or her salt shudders at the thought of Bay’s production studio. Platinum Dunes is responsible for Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes completely devoid of the dark humor that defined the original two installments.

It also replaces the intentionally amateurish film qualities of the first, which contributed to the unsettling and iconic atmosphere, for the over-stylized aesthetic of an early 2000s music video.

Were the following to include Bay’s production efforts, it would be heavy on Platinum Dunes movies.

5. Pain & Gain

I didn’t hate this movie when I rented it in 2013, though that’s owed more to a solid cast with Tony Shalhoub, The Rock, Ed Harris and Anthony Mackie than it is a testament to Bay. It’s rife with slapstick humor that occasional hits the mark.

The problem? After seeing the movie, I read the Miami New Times article that inspired the film. To say the movie’s tone didn’t match up would be a gross understatement.

4. The Island

Let me tell you a little bit about living in the Arizona desert at summertime.

The cineplex nearest to the University of Arizona campus offered student discounts, and blasted the air conditioning. $4 for a matinee showing to escape 110-degree temperatures? Best believe that every day in the summer of 2005 when I wasn’t working, I was at the movies. And buddy, did I watch some trash that year.

Bewitched, Fantastic Four, War of the Worlds, The Longest Yard: Michael Bay’s The Island wasn’t the worst movie I plopped down a fin to see. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t rethinking my position on crawling through the Sonoran Desert without sunscreen or water.

3. Bad Boys II

Bad Boys II is trash. There, you just read a review with all the subtlety of this lesser Lethal Weapon.

OK, I’ll elaborate: Bad Boys II attempts to blend action and comedy, a formula that’s produced excellent results in other vehicles. However, under Michael Bay’s direction, the comedy is too lame and the action is too ridiculous for the mixture to work.

Bad Boys II is ultra-violent, which is a device that can actually enhance a comedy. The problem is that the violence, while over-the-top, doesn’t go far enough to reach the point of cartoonish in the vein of a Dead Alive or Riki-Oh.

Coupled with the script’s sense of humor, the action sequences and violence come off like the writings of a Monster Energy Drink-fueled 14-year-old.

2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Necessary note: This is the only Transformers sequel I’ve seen. This movie’s the reason why. The first installment in the series was — dare I say it? — entertaining. Action sequences had that nauseating Michael Bay quick-cut technique, and the dialogue was predictably Bay-ian. Still, I enjoyed it for what it is. Shia LeBouf turned in a strong performance as the lead.

His complete disinterest, combined with a pointlessly convoluted plot and embarrassing stereotypes, rendered this sequel completely irredeemable. It’s the single worst Michael Bay movie I’ve seen — but not No. 1 on this list for a simple reason.

1. Pearl Harbor

Is Pearl Harbor Michael Bay’s worst movie? Objectively not. It is, however, a tremendously wasted opportunity. Historical events provide the backdrop for some of the greatest films ever made like Glory and Lawrence of Arabia. In the three years before Pearl Harbor came instant classics Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator.

In more capable hands, Pearl Harbor could have been on par with these. It has an excellent cast that’s misused. Count me in agreement with Team America: World Police: Cuba Gooding’s character should have been the lead.

Instead, we got a ham-fisted love story and a handful of lazy “Hero’s Journey” arcs that are much too one-dimensional. The chasm between what Pearl Harbor was and what it could have been is massive.

Speaking of Cuba Gooding…It’s been 10 years, and still no movement on a Nicky Barnes American Gangster spin-off? What the hell, Hollywood?

In a word: Yes. I think back sometimes to the worked-shoot promo Paul Heyman cut on Vince McMahon during the failed Invasion angle of 2001 — quite literally the most blown opportunity in wrestling history — and Heyman cuts deep.

“Have you watched the television show lately? Vince McMahon has lost his mind! The man doesn’t have it anymore! He’s a has-been! His ideas are antiquated!”

Bear in mind, that promo was 16 years ago. In the years since, WWE ratcheted up its sleaze levels: Katie Vick? HLA? The Billy & Chuck wedding angle and the botched opportunity for positive, mainstream attention? Diva Search?

Embarrassing story lines too often obfuscated great in-ring work from the likes of the SmackDown Six, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker and a returning Shawn Michaels. It was only after the Benoit murders and Linda McMahon’s burgeoning political aspirations that WWE shifted away from raunchy.

The product now is much less cringe-worthy, but is too often just boring.

McMahon presented an exciting, PG-rated product in the 1980s, but he was 30 years younger. Even in the early half of the 1990s, his idea of what audiences wanted didn’t align with the mainstream.

Further compounding the problem, WWE is committed to production techniques I find utterly baffling. Jake “The Snake” Roberts would not have become the terrifying heel we remember today if Z-list TV writers were scripting his promos. Randy “Macho Man” Savage’s memorable style relied heavily on the intense stares into the camera — a practice now forbidden.

Some of that is reportedly the whim of Kevin Dunn, who loves infuriating touches like wrestlers watching monitors at 45-degree angles.

A fresh perspective on the production of the show after Vince’s retirement will do wonders.

The WWE product as it currently exists already offers two looks into a possible future with the Triple H-headed NXT, and a SmackDown Live show for which McMahon is said to be hands-off.

Triple H has done a tremendous job evolving NXT from a developmental territory into its own, distinct show, and he’s accomplished that vision with same approach I lauded from New Japan. Story lines are clear, easy to follow and logical. Championships are treated with importance. It’s straightforward, entertaining and I never find myself asking, “What the hell am I doing?” while watching.