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3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Transformers: Age of Extinction
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Bad Robots"
1 stars

Early on in "Transformers: Age of Extinction," the latest installment of the toy-inspired film franchise that has been frying brain cells and inducing migraines since the first one premiered in 2007, we get a glimpse of a billboard admonishing people to "Remember Chicago," a reference to the cataclysmic conclusion of the previous film, "Transformers: I'm Too Lazy To Look Up The Interchangeable Subtitle," that saw large chunks of the greatest city on Earth reduced to rubble in an orgy of CGI destruction. Remember Chicago? Hell, most viewers will be lucky to remember where they parked their car--or even if they own a car--after enduring this endless assault on the senses by the senseless. If you have ever found yourself idly thinking "Gee, I wonder what it would be like to be brutally violated by a pinball machine for nearly three solid hours," then I cannot recommend this film highly enough as a way for you to vicariously experience your oddly specific and deeply disturbing fantasy. For everyone else--and I can only hope it is indeed everyone else--the film is the kind of all-out assault that gives noisy, expensive, brain-dead crap aimed at slack-jawed 12-year-old-boys of all ages a bad name and will leave all but the most desensitized of viewers cured of the desire to see any movie for a long time afterwards.

For those hoping to get some closure regarding the Rosie Huntington-Whiteley character arc from the previous film (or at least another shot of the rear end that proved to be her most memorable and expressive feature), you will be disappointed to learn that none of the semi-human characters from the earlier installments turn up this time around. Instead, they have been replaced by a whole new series dumbly conceived and largely forgettable individuals whose most notable aspect is that none of them are played by Shia LaBeouf. This time around, our central meat puppet is Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a simple-but-proud Texas mechanic and single father who is a semi-whiz with machines, having invented a bunch of contraptions that malfunction in the most allegedly humorous of ways, and a total whiz when it comes to raising his 17-year-old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), who chafes under his overprotective ways (and from nothing else, to judge by the fun-size outfits that constitutes her wardrobe throughout). In danger of losing his family farm lack of funds (which must be considerable since the acreage makes Tara look cozy by comparison), Yeager and stridently obnoxious partner Lucas (TJ Miller) arrive at a dilapidated movie theater to purchase some equipment they can refurbish (while allowing Bay to make a few ironic jokes about the dying days of celluloid) and find a semi truck inexplicably amidst all the wreckage that they buy and bring back in the hopes of fixing it up for a quick sale. (Despite knowing that doing so violates one of the basic tenets of Internet law, I would just like to point out that seeing a character in a Michael Bay film lamenting the death of cinema is kind of like hearing Hitler complaining that he just can't find a good bagel anywhere nowadays.)

This truck is, of course, none other than Optimus Prime (voice by Peter Cullen), the leader of the Autobots and if I have to explain to you what those are at this point, you are clearly a person with advanced taste and should get out of here now while you can. Anyway, since the battle in Chicago five years earlier, the working relationship between mankind and the Autobots has ended for good and while certain Autobots were granted amnesty, they have now been demonized and citizens are advised to report any sightings to the government. However, it turns out that a representative of the alien race that developed the Autobots in the first place has entered into an alliance with shadowy CIA spook Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer)--he and his men will help this new alien hunt down and destroy the remaining Autobots and the Creator will in exchange provide them with the Seed, a device that will provide them with an enormous supply of the rare metal (known as Transformium, I kid you not) that will allow America to develop its own Transformers for defense purposes. Of course, there is no possible chance that this unknown technology from an alien species whose previous creations have already wreak havoc on Earth on three prior occasions could possibly have anything sinister to it, could it? Nahh. . .

Anyway, with Attinger's goons now hot on their trail, Optimus, Yeager, Tessa and Shane (Jack Reynor), Tessa's secret 20-year-old Irish boyfriend and a professional auto racer, go on the lam in the hope of saving themselves and, eventually, the world. After reuniting with the four other surviving Autobots (for further information on them, consult the nearest young boy), the gang sets off for Chicago, which has seen a near-complete rebuild of the destruction from five years earlier and which now houses the headquarters of an international technology firm whose Steve Jobs-like head, Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), is working with Attinger in the development of home-grown Transformers using parts cribbed from the ones taken down by the latter's forces. Unfortunately, some of the technology they are using is derived from the evil Decepticon leader Megatron and the resulting creature, Grimlock, goes a bit hinky and leads to another extended orgy of destruction through the streets of the Windy City. (That's right--Chicago has more giant robot attacks in five years time than the Cubs have World Series wins in a century.) From there, everyone heads to China because. . .well, because the Asian market for blockbuster movies has grown exponentially in the last few years and most films of this type try to shoehorn in at least one sequence set there in order to bring in local stars (such as popular actress Bingbing Li) and ensure a huge box-office return in those parts. Oh yeah, I almost forgot--there are also some transforming Dinobots that turn up occasionally in the hopes of inspiring a new line of toys.

Now if you think that the above plot description sound sloppy, confused and disjointed, I promise you that I am doing everything I can to make coherent a narrative that seems to be going out of its way to be as incoherent as possible. In fact, Ehren Kruger's screenplay is such an ungodly and disjointed mess that it should be studied and analyzed in film schools throughout the world on the basis that it is a perfect specimen of state-of-the-art cinematic stupidity. If "Godzilla" and "Edge of Tomorrow" showed that a jumbo-sized mass market entertainment could still have a brain in its head, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" could set the cause back indefinitely. It isn't just that the story is silly and preposterous--after all, if you are going to watch a movie in which giant alien robots arrive on Earth to pound the crap out of each other, you have to be willing to cut it some degree of slack in this regard. No, the real problem is that Bay and Kruger are so obsessed with giving viewers the momentary distraction over presenting anything resembling a narrative that they have let everything but the most obvious moments of eye candy fall by the wayside. The basic story is so convoluted as it zips back and forth without rhyme or reason and contains so many plot holes and lapses in continuity that I wanted to prescribe it some Ritalin in the hopes that it might help it get some focus.

The dialogue consists of strings of words that have only the barest connection to each other or the English language and which, in any case, are too often lost on viewers as they are constantly being drowned out by the incessant explosions throughout. The characters are so lacking in anything remotely suggesting human interest that the possible end of humanity itself feels like it would be no big loss. Then there are the scenes that are so perplexing that all you can do is sit there and scratch your head in disbelief that they made the final cut. The standout in this regard here comes when Yeager, not unreasonably, suggests that perhaps a 20-year-old man (and Irish to boot) is perhaps not the best person to date a girl still in high school and the kids launch into an extended recitation of Texas law to prove that their love is pure and not at all creepy, which only serves to make it creepier. Oh yeah, there is also the prologue set 65 million years ago that posits certain theories about the extinction of dinosaurs that I have a sneaky suspicion will one day be taught in schools where the whole "science" thing has not yet fully caught on.

However, if was to set all of that arty stuff about plot, dialogue and character development to the side and simply judged it as a big, broad popcorn extravaganza to be mindlessly enjoyed over a long holiday weekend, i would still have to deem it a catastrophic failure of heretofore unimagined proportions. As usual, Bay, with the help of cinematographer Amir Mokri, has given the movie the slick sheen of one of his Victoria's Secret ad in which everything has been so slicked down and buffed up that there is not a single shot that I can recall in which anything on the screen looked or felt real. As for the action scenes, they are ugly and unmitigated disasters that throw untold amounts of CGI explosions, car crashes and other agents of destruction at the screen in such an unrelenting manner that they quickly lose whatever impact they might have held in the hands of a slightly less unrestrained filmmaker, especially when he also utilizes his rapid-fire approach to editing that ensures that no shot lasts more than a few seconds to ensure that the audiences don't grow restless. You have heard of some films being described as eye candy? With its assaultive style, this is more like eye diabetes.

The editing style would be irritating enough on its own but it becomes an absolute disaster when combined with the film's presentation in both 3-D and IMAX. For those technological advances to have any real impact, a slower editing style is required so as to allow viewers to properly acclimate themselves to what they are seeing. By cutting every few seconds, Bay doesn't allow them a chance to focus and as a result, the visual overload turns all the visuals into soup. By the time its gets to the big finale, some viewers may feel as if they are going blind and this film is one of the few occasions where that possibility might come as a blessed relief.

Amazingly, there are some very good actors here who apparently decided that it would be a good idea to have "Transformers: Age of Extinction" on their IMDb listings. You can't really blame them--as gigs go, standing around in fake rubble and reciting the most minimalist dialogue imaginable while pretending to see giant robots in exchange for huge paychecks sounds like a good deal--but you have to wonder what was going through their minds at certain points. As the lead, Mark Wahlberg is infinitely more likable than Shia LaBeouf but his character is contrived beyond belief and the scene in which he has a heart-to-heart talk with Optimus Prime about fatherhood will remind some of the infamous scene in "The Happening" in which he delivered a heartfelt monologue to what proved to be a plastic plant. As the varying forms of villainy on display, Grammer and Tucci simply chew the surrounding scenery with the serene confidence of people who know that audiences will have forgotten they were even in it less than six months from now.

As the human eye candy in the "Transformers" universe, Nicola Peltz comes somewhere between Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whitley and for all I know, that is how Michael Bay pictured it when he thought of casting her. While I eager await her inevitable Maxim layout, she otherwise demonstrates precious little personality at any point in the proceedings. Say what you will about Megan Fox, when she strutted onto the screen in the first film, audiences took immediate note of the then-unknown starlet and thought "Wow, who is that?" With Peltz, when she appears in all her wet-lipped, short-shorted glory, most audiences will be thinking "Hey, I wonder what Megan Fox is doing these days?"

If, by some cruel twist of fate, you find yourself obliged to sit through a screening of "Transformers: Age of Extinction"--and believe me, I feel your pain--and are looking for a way to distract yourself from the fact that you are enduring a film that clocks in at nearly three hours despite no real story and a conclusion that ends with a cliffhanger threat of a "Transformers 5," may I suggest focusing on the rampant product placement that runs throughout it. Sure, contemporary films are filled with enough product placements so that they almost now look like race cars at certain point but this one does it to such an extreme that even the James Bond films, the gold standard in this regard, might deem its approach a tad overblown. In what becomes an inadvertent running joke as the film progresses, countless buildings and edifices are destroyed without hesitation but if they happen to be displaying a familiar logo on them for whatever reason, they get away without so much as a broken window. (Perhaps this explains why Donald Trump decided to mark his sky-scraping bit of phallic wish fulfillment with an equally ostentatious logo.) Perhaps you and your friends can make a game of it by ignoring the story and tallying up the ads--whoever compiles the longest list of on-screen products and logos wins. Who knows, maybe you could even sell the winning list as the screenplay for "Transformers 5."

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23474&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/26/14 14:47:28
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User Comments

10/30/14 mr.mike Overlong with some cartoonish CGI. 3 stars
8/19/14 christine sarkauskas Would not see this again.. 3 stars
7/20/14 KingNeutron Way too long, needs re-edit, movie fails w/o JOHN TURTURRO, Tucci was good 2 stars
7/01/14 Jack Peter's review is more entertaining than the movie. Well done! 1 stars
6/28/14 Bob Dog Marky Mark to the rescue - - best of the Transformers movies! 4 stars
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  27-Jun-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Sep-2014


  DVD: 30-Sep-2014

Directed by
  Michael Bay

Written by
  Ehren Kruger

  Mark Wahlberg
  Nicola Peltz
  Stanley Tucci
  Abigail Klein
  Kelsey Grammer
  Sophia Myles

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