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.
Continue reading: Transformers: Age of Extinction Review
On his way back to his home planet on a funereal mission, extraterrestrial Kainan (James Caviezel) discovers a deadly alien beast known as a Moorwen onboard his ship. It causes the vessel to crash land in Norway circa the 7th century. After getting his bearings and sending a distress signal, Kainan begins to explore the area. He is soon trapped by warrior Wulfric (Jack Huston) and taken to the fortified stronghold of King Rothgar (John Hurt) and his wild, unwieldy daughter Freya (Sophia Myles).
Continue reading: Outlander Review
Once in town, Hallam lines up a dishwashing job at a big hotel and instantly falls in love with Kate (Sophia Myles), the woman who hired him. Using the spying skills he developed in his treehouse, Hallam is able to peep as Kate has hot assignations with her married boss, and his knowledge of the affair will get him into much hot water, even as he busies himself with trying to solve the mystery of his mother's death once and for all. Did someone put sleeping pills in her coffee and toss her in the loch? He must find out.
Continue reading: Mister Foe Review
I suspect that most of this disregard is due to the fact that more often than not Reynolds' films are burdened with clunky and sentimental scripts. Films like Rapa Nui and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves were gorgeously shot and produced but weighed down by melodrama and hobbled by sentimentality. And then there was the whole Waterworld debacle from which it seems Reynolds has never really recovered. The Count of Monte Cristo was a start, but this is the film that should bring Reynolds back to the table. (I happen to think Waterworld is fantastically accomplished and enormously entertaining but don't tell anyone I said that.)
Continue reading: Tristan & Isolde Review
The reason why I can't recommend Thunderbirds is common in mediocre kids' fare: It offers nothing for the adults playing chaperone, who will be flat-out bored. Frakes and his screenwriters make no attempt to entertain anyone over the age of 13, unless you find stuttering and bad teeth uproarious. If ever there was a movie meant for DVD, this is it. Mom can pay the bills or read a book in the living room, as the kids argue over how cool it would be to ride one of the Thunderbirds.
Continue reading: Thunderbirds Review
A vivid yet distinctly fictitious recreation of the crime-plagued gutters of 19th Century London, the Jack the Ripper thriller "From Hell" is quite a homage to the dense graphic novel from which it was spawned.
It's nothing if not atmospheric, what with its opulently dingy, blood-red set dressings, its pinched-cheek and cheap-corset prostitutes, and its opium- and absinthe-addicted hero -- an unorthodox Scotland Yard Inspector named Abberline (Johnny Depp in lambchop sideburns) who discovers dangerous secrets in the Ripper's ritualized killings.
The film's talented directors -- brothers Allen and Albert Hughes ("Menace II Society," "Dead Presidents"), definitively demonstrating there's more to them than ghetto fare -- blend quite a transporting concoction with their viscous visuals, menacing moodiness, puzzling plot and heady performances.
Continue reading: From Hell Review
"Underworld" might have been one bad-ass B-movie, if only its plot about a war between vampires and werewolves had been seen by co-writer/director Len Wiseman as anything more than a token gimmick on which to hang "Matrix"-mimicking action and antiquated genre clichés.
Thick with mold-breaking potential that goes completely unexplored, the picture is populated by cardboard cutouts of aristocratic, clownishly Goth-fashioned bloodsuckers and sunken-eyed, greasy-haired, heavy-metal headbanger-styled lycans (a fancy word for werewolves). The two races exhaust every trite and tired facet of their respective horror folklore in a story that has obviously, and rather clumsily, had elements edited out -- including a romance between warrior vampiress Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman), a human with werewolf ancestry.
When Kraven (ravenous scenery glutton Shane Brolly) -- the conniving, devious, temporary leader of the vampires while their sovereign is entombed in hibernation -- orders the human killed because his DNA could change the course of the centuries-old war, Selene risks her life to save the guy for reasons that aren't entirely clear in this final version of the film.
Continue reading: Underworld Review