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Transformers: Age Of Extinction Review


With each film in the Transformer saga, Michael Bay makes it clear that all he's interested in are massive metallic special effects bashing into each other and usually exploding. Because otherwise this is a vacuous thriller without any characters to speak of, no sense of plot coherence and an appallingly simplistic sense of geography. There's plenty in this franchise to enjoy (just watch the original 2007 film again), but Bay takes everything so seriously that only die-hard fans will have any fun this time.

The story picks up five years after the cataclysmic Transformers' battle in Chicago, as Texas inventor and overprotective single dad Cade (Mark Wahlberg) builds gadgets in his rural barn, oblivious to the fact that his 17-year-old daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) is secretly seeing 20-year-old Shane (Jack Reynor). Luckily, Shane is a race driver, so he's handy to have around when black ops agents commanded by shadowy CIA director Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) raid Cade's farm looking for an old truck that turns out to actually be Optimus Prime in hiding. This sparks a return to Chicago for more mayhem, followed by a hop to Beijing and Hong Kong, where Optimus Prime and a handful of remaining good-guy Autobots take on the villainous Lockdown. Helped of course by Cade, Tessa and Shane, plus billionaire inventor Joshua (Stanley Tucci).

The new gimmick this time is dinosaurs, building on a prologue showing the real reason they went extinct. This comes back in the climactic battle in the form of Dinobots, ancient Transformers that will have fanboys squirming in their seats with joy while everyone else yawns and looks at their watches, astounded that Bay has somehow managed to stretch this paper-thin story out over nearly three hours of metal-on-metal chaos. As in the earlier films, the action is quite literally cartoonish, purely animated mayhem that's not easy to decipher. At least the humans help keep it vaguely approachable, as they provide running commentary in their dialogue and bounce through the air like plastic action figures who never get hurt.

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Dream House Review

There's an intriguing idea here, but this thriller feels like it has been compromised in the test-screening phase, resulting in a badly muddled plot. And even a lot of talent in front of and behind the camera can't rescue it.

Will (Craig) has just quit his job as a Manhattan editor to spend more time with his wife (Weisz) and young daughters (Geare and Geare) in their suburban home. But something isn't right. A suspicious man (Koteas) is lurking in the night, while the ex-husband (Csokas) of the neighbour (Watts) across the street oozes pure rage. Then Will starts to realise that nothing is what it seems to be. And he'll need to face reality if he hopes to sort things out.

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Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Review


With his usual disregard for story logic, Bay plunges us into another deafening metal-against-metal smackdown. Fortunately, this film is a lot more entertaining than Part 2, because it has a more linear plot. And it looks absolutely amazing.

With everything back to normal, Sam (LaBeouf) needs a job to impress his impossibly hot new girlfriend Carly (Huntington-Whiteley). Then strange things start happening around him. Again. And soon he realises that the Decepticons are back to wage war against the Autobot-human alliance. But he has to convince an arrogant government official (McDormand) to let him get involved with his old team (Duhamel, Gibson, Turturro and their Autobot buddies). All of this has something to do with a secret weapon that crashed onto the dark side of the moon in 1961, sparking the space race.

McDormand is easily the best thing about this film, even if her character has a dramatic personality shift halfway through the film. Malkovich is also terrific (as Sam's offbeat new boss), and Dempsey has his moments as well (as Carly's boss and cause of Sam's inferiority complex). Fortunately, the narrative is straightforward enough to give all of the actors the chance to make their mark, distinguishing themselves above the chaos.

Sadly, the same can't be said about the battling robots. While the first-rate animation has a staggering attention to detail, the deafening battles are still impossible to follow. They amount to an eye-catching display of whizzy effects as clanking robots bash each other senseless and destroy everything around them (Chicago gets the full destructive force for a change). Although at least they fit vaguely into the plot this time.

Meanwhile, lapses in even the most twisted logic are plentiful, including the fact that Sam seems to have metallic Transformer bones to resist injury as he's flung into walls and dropped from high places (not to mention Carly's magical white suit and heels). In other words, it's deeply preposterous and almost painfully boyish, but it's nowhere near as muddled as the last chapter. And besides keeping our eyes entertained, there are some great moments throughout the mayhem.

Tranformers: Revenge Of The Fallen Review

Michael Bay makes his loudest, most bombastic movie yet (which is saying a lot) with a bloated action sequel so packed with special effects that it's virtually a cartoon. The humans barely register on screen, but it does look pretty cool.

Two years after teenaged Sam (LaBeouf) helped the alien Autobots fight off the evil Decepticons, he's ready to leave for university and start a long-distance relationship with his hot girlfriend Mikaela (Fox). But the Fallen, the deposed Decepticon leader, has other plans. And since Sam is the key to reviving their destructive plan, he's sucked back into the chaos along with Mikaela, his parents (Dunn and White), his new roommate (Rodriguez) and ex-agent Simmons (Turturro). They suddenly find themselves in Egypt, where a massive battle's about to begin.

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Blood And Chocolate Review

During the first chunk of the werewolf thriller Blood and Chocolate, I was intrigued with the notion that I was watching a more realistic, grounded version of Underworld. By the time the characters whipped out guns during the final stretch, I realized I was actually watching the low-budget version of Underworld, and, frankly, I'd rather be watching Underworld:Underworld: Evolution or Blade: Trinity or Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning. This is the type of movie that looks like it was set and filmed in Romania to save money, and then filmed on cheap sets anyway, to save even more money.

The movie is stealthy the way it begins by camouflaging those budgetary weaknesses. Like Underworld, it's about a supernatural society living beneath the surface of our own, governed by its own ancient rules (unlike the Underworld series, they can only afford werewolves, not vampires). Rather than wasting time with endless special-effects transformation scenes, the werepeople here just sort of leap and blur, hitting the ground as actual wolves -- not the steroidal, rubbery-looking CGI creatures of recent years. This is appropriate for a more human, character-driven horror fantasy, and Blood and Chocolate aspires to explore the line between animal and beast.

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Arlington Road Review

Thrillers can be really bad. When was the last time you saw a good thriller? It takes sound acting, a creative premise and most of all, suspense. Arlington Road, the new film starring Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins, has a paranoia factor set in. There are many moments in this movie where I felt paranoid and creepy (and this was after I saw Eyes Wide Shut).

Jeff Bridges stars as Michael Faraday, and teacher at George Washington University who teaches a course on American Terrorism. Some people think that this was convenient given the plot of the film, but I think that it's a way of already instilling a sense of fear and uncertainty. In the first scene, Faraday rescues a young boy who had lit some fireworks and forgot to throw them. The boy is coincidentally the son of their neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, both extremely creepy and frightening). After some hunches about Oliver, Michael starts to do some investigating and what he turns up is not pretty.

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The Ring Review

There's something inherently creepy about children and the supernatural. Poltergeist knew it. The Sixth Sense knew it, too. Both movies make their presence known in The Ring, though I wouldn't necessarily use them - or anything else - to describe this remarkably original and terrifying ghost tale.

Following a number of false starts that establish the film's unbalanced mood, The Ring rehashes an urban legend about a videotape. Very few people know its contents, though it's believed that the images found on the tape recap one person's nightmare. Initially I thought that tape was Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach, but I was wrong. Once you watch the video, the phone rings and a child's voice on the other end of the line whispers, "Seven days." You now have one week to live.

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The Skeleton Key Review

Set in and around Louisiana's swampy back waters, The Skeleton Key dabbles profusely in Hoodoo, American folk magic that's different - and supposedly less harmful - than the religion-based Voodoo. Tell that to Ben Devereaux (John Hurt), a bed-ridden and muted stroke victim who believes his immobility and speech impediments are attributed to a curse placed on his dwindling spirit.

Ben's doting wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands), begrudgingly hires hospice worker Caroline (Kate Hudson) to assist her with her husband's medical needs. The registered nurse, burned out by the poor quality of care in New Orleans' choice hospitals, is eager to assist a patient on her own terms. The longer Caroline stays in the Devereaux's dilapidated mansion, though, the more convinced she becomes that the Hoodoo that we do is no good.

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Reindeer Games Review

Reindeer Games is one of those movies that thinks so much of itself it sports a special cover sheet over the press notes, reading, "Reindeer Games is filled with twists and turns that we hope will keep the audience guessing," followed by a plea that critics will not spoil the fun by divulging these twists and turns to the gentle readers.

All of which assumes there is some fun to spoil.

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The Ring Two Review

It's a rule: Horror films always come with sequels. Why the official screenwriter's handbook deems it a necessity is beyond me. Usually, it doesn't really matter -- I mean, who cares if there are 10 sequentially horrible films in the Leprechaun series? We only find it offensive when greedy filmmakers take horror movie royalty like Psycho or The Exorcist and decide to mess with their original formula. The Ring Two, I feared, would become another such victim.

And it almost was before the filmmaking even began. Naomi Watts was reportedly not pleased with the original draft of the sequel script, and the director vacated the project just weeks before principal photography was set to begin. R-Two seemed destined to drown. But with a healthy revision from screenwriter Ehren Kruger, the script was fixed to Watts' satisfaction, and a ringer was brought in to direct. Now with the director of the original Japanese masterpiece Ringu and its disastrous sequel Ringu 2 at the helm, could R-Two be a worthy sequel to one of the best American horror movies ever made?

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Scream 3 Review

Normally, as a critic, we are exempt from the cost of seeing a movie. Normally, we get in for absolute zero when we attend a press screener of a film. However, since Dimension, for what appear to be highly mysterious (and controversial) reasons, cancelled the screener of Scream 3 I had to pay.

This is one movie that I did not waste my money on.

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The Brothers Grimm Review

If you stop to think about it, weren't the Brothers Grimm stories demented enough that they really didn't need to be made into a horror movie? Not that it's stopped several other people from touching the subject matter before, but no one has quite given the Grimm fairy tales the molestation that they get in the latest rendition of this story.

In the latest Grimm, the brother-tellers are snakeskin oil salesmen, with younger brother Jacob always focused on the fairy tale world. When a string of abductions, (including Red Riding Hood and Gretel) in the village of Marbaden catch the attention of a French General (Jonathan Pryce, playing Ian Holm's Napoleon from Time Bandits) who only seems interested in a good meal, he sends Italian torturer Cavaldi (Peter Stormare) to grab the German con men out of bed to send them to investigate the problem.

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Impostor Review

Not long ago, some genius a lot smarter than me decided it might be nice if instead of just one sheep, we could have two. Thus began man's obsession with cloning: an obsession that, for better or worse, has somehow managed to spill over into your local cineplex. Some days I wish they'd never cloned that damn sheep at all.

Impostor is Hollywood's latest cloning experiment. Based on a short story by futurist Philip K. Dick, Impostor takes place in a future far away, when man is at war with an alien race. Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) is on the front lines of weapons development to combat man's alien threat. But one day, things go horribly wrong and Spencer finds himself accused by the military of being an alien replicant, with an assassin's bomb implanted in his chest. Unable to believe he is anyone other than himself, Spencer escapes to search for the truth.

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