Archive for July, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Romance with tags on July 29, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Crazy Stupid Love was Steve Carell’s first film after leaving the NBC TV show The Office. He had been on for 7 seasons. Already a movie star of considerable success, this ensemble piece also starred Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. The cast must’ve helped because this was the 2nd biggest romantic comedy for the year and deservedly so.. (The Adam Sandler comedy Just Go With It was #1) The complementary copy I received from Warner Bros. doesn’t have any extras out of the ordinary: the standard deleted scenes and a couple of info shorts. But that’s ok, the picture stands on its own.

PhotobucketCal Weaver unexpectedly finds himself single after 25 years of marriage. Miserable and depressed he starts drinking at the local pub. There he meets an assertive ladies man who attempts to give him advice on how to turn his life around. That’s the plot in a nutshell, but this ensemble piece is actually much more complex than that. Lively script juggles multiple storylines and characters to deliver a pretty satisfying take on dysfunctional love in 2011.

What causes a romantic comedy to truly triumph is sincerity. You can make all the flippant and racy jokes you want, but if there isn’t some basis in honest emotion, the drama will ring hollow. 2011 has seen several of these: No Strings Attached, Just Go With It, Something Borrowed, Friends With Benefits. Hollywood appears to be churning them out faster than two polar opposites can fall in love. Obviously romantic comedies have been around since movies were invented, but they seem to have quadrupled in output in the last two decades. I blame the modern trend on Pretty Woman. I admit that was a landmark film, a classic of the contemporary genre. But in trying to chase its success, the entertainment industry has spit out soulless product at a dizzying pace since. Many of those substandard pictures have still been blockbusters. The good new is, Crazy, Stupid, Love is above average and downright enchanting in spots.

Amusing drama features a dream cast which includes Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. The stars exhibit genuine chemistry together. Steve is amiably pathetic as the dejected husband. Ryan is equal parts suave and smarmy as “teacher” in the ways of love. Emma radiates sweetness in her relationship with Ryan as Jacob. They’re believable despite the clichéd trajectory their romance follows. (Jacob as a character bears more than a passing resemblance to Will Smith’s role in Hitch) I must also mention Marisa who I found to be her typical effervescent self. Her part is very small here, but she has such a damaged likeability to her, like a helpless little bird that suddenly unleashes her talons. She is an asset in every movie she graces. Like Michele Pfeiffer, she seems to grow more and more beautiful with every passing year.  Incidentally, that’s her leg in the Graduate evocative pose on the movie poster.

Crazy, Stupid, Love ultimately does a good job at balancing funny jokes with sensitive drama. There is a wonderful climax that takes place at Cal and Emily’s home. It’s one of those, “Wait, does that really make sense?!” moments. I’ve rethought the narrative in my head and I think it does, but it’s a bit of a surprise and I’m usually not easily surprised in these types of flicks. Unfortunately there is an 11th hour “second climax” at their son’s graduation ceremony that almost undoes all the wit of that earlier high point. If not for that lapse, Crazy, Stupid, Love would have gotten 4 stars.

Friends With Benefits

Posted in Comedy, Romance with tags on July 26, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Dylan and Jamie are acquaintances frustrated from their inability to find true love. They decide to enter into a casual arrangement whereby they can experience the physical benefits of a relationship without the grown-up annoyances of commitment and emotions. Anyone using barely 1/10 of their brain, will know instantly what’s going to ultimately happen to these two flirtatious, twenty-somethings upon making this deal. Did you actually think it was possible for friends of the opposite sex to sleep together and not fall in love? Silly you!

I suppose the conventional plot wouldn’t be so bad if we were treated to snappy dialogue and sparkling charm along the way. The problem is that these two never have a real conversation. They chatter like adults minus the supposed maturity that age usually affords, cracking sarcastic one-liners at each other, one after another without taking a breath. Relax!  At first it’s amusing, but eventually their voices become annoying. She’s shrill, he’s whiny. None of it resembles how people really talk. I’ve seen the actors on the TV show Small Wonder deliver their lines with more nuance. Imagine some rejected sitcom pilot expanded to feature length with lots of R rated remarks and you’ll get the idea.

The nicest compliment I can give Friends with Benefits is that it’s contemporary. The worst is that it’s sleazy. At least the faux romantic comedy they watch within this film, exhibits something resembling warmth. The (admittedly exaggerated) chemistry between Jason Segel and Rashida Jones, shows some sweetness. The most successful films of this sort rely on some pretense of propriety. There’s a reason why the “Walls of Jericho” scene in It Happened One Night is still remembered today. It’s regrettable they’ve essentially done away with the courtship right from the start, so we’re left with just sex, a racy script and gratuitous nudity (Justin not Mila).

But the biggest offense of all is that this romantic comedy succumbs to every single one of the same clichés it mocks. This is presented with unblinking sincerity. The running joke is that the parody of a romcom they’re watching on TV, humorously wallows in timeworn conventions: musical cues to tell you how to feel, predictable behavior, a sappy ending. Friends with Benefits then proceeds to play adult contemporary songs to underscore each scene, have them predictably fall in love and then kiss at Grand Central Station. It’s worse in this case, because it’s dishonest. But the hypocrisy gets even more odious. It goes so far as to take a dig at frequent star of the genre, Katherine Heigl, by name. The ironic thing is, a movie like Knocked Up is light years better than this pablum. Heck 27 Dresses was superior to this dross.

Aside from starring attractive leads, there’re little to recommend in this utterly rote tale of people falling in love. I almost forgot to mention a few other tidbits. There’s a dreary subplot regarding a father suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s played for laughs. Dylan is constantly riddled by fears of being presumed gay, in part because he enjoys Harry Potter. And most importantly, it has the identical premise as No Strings Attached, a picture which literally came out in the same year. Friends With Benefits aspires to the blueprint of an Ashton Kutcher movie. ‘Nuff said?

Captain America: The First Avenger

Posted in Action, Adventure, Science Fiction with tags on July 22, 2011 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketIn 1942, a sickly young man is repeatedly deemed unfit for military service. Meanwhile a biochemist/physicist has developed a serum which can transform any meek person into a “super soldier”. Sensing his big heart and aptitude for righteousness, Dr. Abraham Erskine injects Steve Rogers in order to aid the United States in World War II. Steve becomes Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending truth, justice and the American way. He wears a red, white and blue uniform with stars, and is armed with an indestructible shield that can be thrown as a weapon.

The development of character is what elevates Captain America from the ordinary. He’s an individual we can really get behind. He adheres to old fashioned ideals like serving his country and has a genuinely good natured personality. Additionally, he starts out as a definite underdog. His success is a celebration of the little guy. He’s so humble and decent, it’s captivating. Not since Superman has a superhero been this likable. Actor Chris Evans, does a nice job embodying the title protagonist. He’s likewise surrounded by a talented supporting cast. Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper and Stanley Tucci all posses the charisma their roles require. A combination of a witty script matched with the right actor for the part goes a long way in making the story so enjoyable.

The production’s retro feel is an absolute throwback to classic Americana. The environment gives the plot real dramatic weight. It suggests a comic book movie that might have come out years ago. The production design is unique. Director Joe Johnston was also responsible for The Rocketeer and the 1940s period recreation here certainly recalls that picture in a positive way. That USO song and dance number for example is a wow! Modern special effects never threaten to overpower the action. They’re used sparingly and not overdone. An overreliance on shoddy CGI has marred more than a few adaptations as of late. I’m looking at you Green Lantern.

All of this inventiveness makes the second half a bit underwhelming. Captain America recruits a team of soldiers to go after the Adolf Hitler’s head of advanced weaponry, Johann Schmidt, known as Red Skull. It’s at this point in the narrative that the adventure wanes a bit. These battle scene are so unexceptional, I can barely remember them. If anything, the strength of the first half highlights the weaknesses of the second. The rote combat action pales as it ultimately progresses to a bland conclusion. Nevertheless, a solid beginning and compelling characters push this comic book adaptation beyond the routine. A worthy effort blending laughs and drama with much to recommend.

Somewhere

Posted in Drama with tags on July 19, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Sophia Coppola directed this fly on the wall account of a frivolous Hollywood actor and the apparent lack of interest he has in his own life as an up and coming star. Sophia’s fascination with loneliness amid isolation is again explored in her 4th film, this time from the perspective of a bad boy star. Johnny Marco is recuperating from a minor injury at the Château Marmont, legendary hotel in West Hollywood, when his 11-year-old daughter shows up there one day for an unscheduled visit.

Honest performances are what make Somewhere so captivating. 11 year old actress Elle fanning conveys a maturity beyond her years in the role of his child. Given her sister’s achievements, is it too early to start labeling her family’s success, an acting dynasty? Stephen Dorff gives possibly his most artistically demanding portrayal since playing Stuart Sutcliffe in Iain Softley’s Backbeat. He has a slightly bemused, world weary response to the business around him. It’s a deceptively passive depiction of few words, but he brings a sincerity to it that I found most compelling.

Much of the credit can also go to Sofia Coppola who obviously directs with first hand knowledge of the material. As the daughter of one of filmdom’s most famous directors, Sophia has a unique window into the world of the privileged. Her story feels intimate and has a gentle take on the life of a spoiled actor. Her condemning the emptiness of the Hollywood lifestyle may seem like biting the hand that feeds her. But even though you think you know where she’s going with the story, it tells its tale with subtlety.

Perhaps subtle is an understatement. Sofia’s narrative definitely takes some patience, At one point our protagonist is fitted for a special effects mold of his face. There is a long uninterrupted shot of him simply breathing through 2 nostril holes within a gooey, plaster mold, covering his head. The scene lingers for over a minute and a half. At first it’s boring but then the purpose slowly works its way into the viewer’s subconscious. This is not just an existence of vacations, parties and sex (although those play a big part too) but of day to day monotony that highlights his apparent dissatisfaction. This is yet another reevaluation of a life, but it seems to creatively tell the tale with a style that is fresh and unparalleled. If you can bask in the drama’s indulgent pace, you’ll walk away from this fable appreciating it. I did.

Project Nim

Posted in Documentary, History with tags on July 19, 2011 by Mark Hobin

James Marsh who directed Man on Wire, the 2008 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, turns his attention to a study in which a baby chimpanzee was raised and nurtured like a human child. Conducted in the early 1970s by Herbert S. Terrace, professor of psychology at Columbia University, the thesis was predicated on the belief that a monkey brought up in this way, could be taught to use American Sign Language as a means to communicate. This then would shed light on the way a vocabulary is acquired and used by individuals. The simian was named Nim Chimpsky, a pun on Noam Chomsky, the celebrated linguist who did not hold these beliefs. Chomsky believed only humans develop language in this fashion.

One might expect a sweet tale regarding a lovable chimpanzee and how similar they are to us. But that is not the story documented here. Right from the start, it’s apparent that this is not going to be a feel good documentary.  It’s the exposé of flawed human behavior that drives the narrative. The goal was to evaluate whether a monkey could comprehend language in a manner comparable to that of a human baby. However, these scientists failed to utilize professional methods. First he was removed from his mother at two weeks, not at birth. Then he was shuttled from “family” to “family” never really establishing a proper connection with any of them.

The arrogance these scientists exhibit is troubling, but from this random sample, a quality that many in the field seem to share. What’s fascinating is this picture suggests not just the selfish motives of these researchers, but of all researchers. The professor in charge, Herbert Terrace, comes across as a rather callous individual. While I believe he and his team had honorable intentions at the outset, the experiment clearly did not end properly, as presented here. However at no time did I ever sense director James Marsh was judging these scientists. He allows them to speak for themselves and their frank honesty is compelling. Many come off as sincere and genuinely caring about Nim’s welfare. You may find yourself agreeing with statements they make, but likewise hating them for what they did. So disturbing was this report, it made me question the validity of animal testing in general and a facility as seemingly innocuous as a zoo.

Based on Elizabeth Hess’s book, Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human, Project Nim is a well presented, but unsettling and thoroughly depressing story. The way the events unfold can be infuriating to behold. It’s much deeper than I expected. This is not some sentimental reminiscence concerning a cute chimp. It’s a document of how poorly this scientific test was regulated. It takes a surprisingly atypical point of view. The documentary goes to great lengths not to misrepresent Nim as human and moreover doesn’t push the humans as barbarians either. I admire that level of impartiality. Yet I wanted to be more emotionally invested in the research. Make no mistake, it made me profoundly sad. It was an affecting chronicle of an experiment gone wrong. But it’s hard to care when the monkey shows more humanity than the people.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Posted in Action, Adventure, Fantasy on July 15, 2011 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketThe Harry Potter saga culminates in this final chapter to the entire series that began a decade ago. Our young wizard continues in his attempt to annihilate Lord Voldemort once and for all. He must achieve this by finding and destroying the remainder of his Horcruxes, magical objects that contain a fragment of an individual’s soul which allow said individual to gain immortality. But honestly, if you don’t even know what a Horcrux is, subtract 1/2 star from my rating. The script assumes, like all the others, a working knowledge of Harry Potter’s universe and a lack of awareness will be most frustrating for the viewer.

The adventure plays out as a sequence of episodes in which actors discuss at length what they’re going to do, followed by a visually stunning display that shows them doing it. For example, early on, we are treated to a lengthy discussion with regards to finding more Horcruxes. Harry speaks with Griphook the Goblin about breaking into Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault at Gringotts Wizarding Bank, as he believes one of them is hidden there. Once inside the bank, the journey toward her vault is presented like a roller coaster ride at Disneyland. It serves no purpose, but it’s one of the many special effects extravaganzas throughout. These verbose monologues that proceed the action really aren’t anything new. They have always been, for better or worse, a remarkably consistent feature in these pictures. Comprehension of jargon and familiarity with many characters is required. The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 does not stand on its own, but if you have seen the rest and especially if you have read the books, this conclusion is most satisfying.

Despite the faithful adaptation, the narrative is a little inept at times. You could blame this on limitations of the original novel, but an interpretation has the capacity to improve upon the source. I will be purposefully ambiguous so as not to reveal spoilers. At one point, Harry enters the Headmaster’s office at Hogwarts. There he uses the Pensieve, a shallow stone basin to review memories that Professor Snape has left him. In the ensuing spectacle, a ton of secrets emerge in sort of an awkward, we need to tell you all this information really quickly so we can wrap up the movie, kind of way. As the story proceeds to its inevitable finish, some major events likewise occur in a surprisingly hasty, anticlimactic fashion.  But the most misleading plot point sets up a particularly shocking revelation concerning the destruction of a Horcrux, only to dishonestly go back on that development with a cheat. Despite these issues, this installment is quite possibly the BEST of the complete series. At the very least, it’s the finest since The Prisoner of Azkaban.

The ending has a genuine feeling of poignancy. The camaraderie between Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger is particularly engaging this time around. We’ve watched our fearless trio through 7 films before this entry, so their friendship gives the drama a lot of heart. Actor Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape is rather superb as well. His murderous motive toward Professor Dumbledore is fully explained and gives further depth to his character. A powerful finale promises to effectively tie up loose ends to close the saga. It should be a culmination of everything prior. In that sense, this delivers. Part 2 of The Deathly Hallows is a fitting end to the Harry Potter epic and a touching epilogue to one of the most successful movie franchises of all time.

A Better Life

Posted in Drama with tags on July 12, 2011 by Mark Hobin

An illegal immigrant in East Los Angeles struggles as a gardener while raising his son in an increasingly hostile environment. From that simple setup comes this well intentioned drama that is genuinely touching. I wouldn’t have thought director Chris Weitz would be able to adjust so far back after directing New Moon from The Twilight series. This is about as low key a production as that overly hyped episode was conspicuous. I have to acknowledge him for making the principled choice to direct something so intimate.

Regrettably, the plot is not the picture‘s strong suit. It tackles illegal immigration with a story arc that isn’t particularly original. El Norte, Maria Full of Grace, Under the Same Moon, The Visitor, and Sin Nombre are just a few of the modern movies that have all addressed the subject with a bit more creativity. It’s a well worn topic of late, but it’s also material ripe for tragedy. Every one of those features is exceptional. Despite the formula, A Better Life is respectable enough to be mentioned in the same breath. True, the narrative has a tendency to lag in parts, especially in the beginning. But following a life changing hardship, the story takes off. The interaction with his young son produces several poignant moments.

The saga develops into a rather emotionally engaging account. Much of the recognition has to go to actor Demián Bichir who stars as Carlos Galindo, the father attempting to provide for his son. Already a star in his native Mexico, he is probably best known to American audiences for his recurring role as Esteban Reyes, the corrupt mayor of Tijuana, in the Showtime comedy series Weeds. His quietly affecting performance is heartfelt and sincere. It could have easily deteriorated into mawkish sentimentality. On the contrary, his portrayal seems to come form a very real place. It’s a flawless depiction invested with honest emotion. I’d have to give him most of the credit for the film’s power.  He’s outstanding.

Page One: Inside the New York Times

Posted in Documentary with tags on July 8, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Documentary on the changing face of journalism provides a behind the scenes look at the New York Times. That daily periodical has always been ONE of the most hallowed in journalism. Let’s not forget The Wall Street Journal after all.  That is clearly the opinion of director Andrew Rossi. He was granted rare access to the New York Times newsroom for a year. This investigative report analyzes how the Internet and modern media has changed the print business and the way in which people get their news. There is a very real battle to stay relevant at the moment. Newspapers all across the U.S. are going bankrupt.

I suppose one’s enjoyment of Page One will rest on whether you even care if the New York Times survives or not. My feeling is, the paper deserves to exist if the public wants it to exist. Does it contribute a service that the people are willing to support? The paper must adapt to the modern world. But the documentary does the publication a disservice by treating it as a historical monument that must be supported because it’s necessary for the good of society. I don’t know if things have changed, but the New York Times was a business the last moment I checked, not a charity. That’s not always obvious from Rossi’s effort to convince us of its relevance. He does provide a window into the contemporary newspaper game and for that, it is entertaining. Still, there isn’t enough to convince us of his point, even at 88 minutes. Regardless, this feels more like a segment on 60 minutes than a feature film anyway.

The focus jumps around too much, touching on many topics, but never really delving too deeply on any one thing. “Freedom of information” website WikiLeaks, which publishes secret documents from anonymous sources, is touched upon for example. Its editor-in-chief, Internet activist Julian Assange could be a documentary subject unto himself. Other scenes involve interviews with various staff members at The New York Times. These talking heads, with one exception, weren’t particularly engaging. Of these staffers, the majority of time is wisely given to media and culture columnist, David Carr. His inclusion is something of a double edged sword. It’s understandable that the filmmakers would devote such an enormous amount of time to his point of view. He’s a caustic character to be sure, and a hilariously fascinating one at that. However his outlook is merely one person’s opinion and I would’ve liked to have heard more from opposing view points. We get a few snatches here and there, but they’re fleeting. Carr’s dominance is exhibited throughout the entire film.

Web based news blogger Arianna Huffington tosses a memorably glib line at one point when she addresses her detractors by saying “I was not around when the printing press was invented; but if I were around I would imagine that the people dealing with stone tablets would be making a similar argument.” If that statement provokes an emotional reaction in you, then you should find Rossi’s report interesting at least. Unfortunately I didn’t think he did a satisfactory job of convincing the audience to cherish those “stone tablets”. The way it’s presented here, it felt like mourning the eclipse of the horse and buggy in the shadow of the automobile.

Horrible Bosses

Posted in Comedy with tags on July 8, 2011 by Mark Hobin

When cinema historians look back on the great comedy teams they’ll inevitably have to include Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis. The two first appeared theatrically in 2010’s Going the Distance. They were good in that Drew Barrymore vehicle but the chemistry hinted at was only an appetizer to the feast we experience in Horrible Bosses. Add to the mix Jason Bateman who has never acted with these two and you get a threesome of comic brilliance possibly unmatched in idiocy since The Three Stooges. I mean that as a compliment.

Our chronicle concerns three men who have dreadful bosses. Out of this premise we learn that life has become so unbearable they entertain the notion of actually doing away with them. Yup, we’re talking murder. That reprehensible foundation produces a myriad of situations that are thoroughly mined for humor. This is a series of sketches united in a funny story that serves a purpose to a logical conclusion. Granted, it’s smartly written, but the adventure works so well because of the utter likeability of our three protagonists.

Jason Bateman is the straight man, the relatable one that is the voice of reason. He’s forever exasperated at the ridiculousness of the other two. He gets laughs simply from his double takes and facial expressions. You can almost see what he’s thinking. In Three Stooges vernacular, he would be Moe essentially. Charlie Day is the complete moron, Curly if you will. In an apparent move to grant his lack of aptitude believability, he accidentally inhales a dust cloud of cocaine at one point. Don’t ask, just watch. From that moment, the writers are able to have him do anything, because, he’s hopped up on cocaine after all. His behavior is ridiculous, but it makes sense so it’s preposterous in an “intelligent” way. Jason Sudeikis is Larry I suppose, but with a more lecherous personality. He’s focused, unless it involves a beautiful woman. His weakness for the fairer sex often impedes his judgment. He’s kind of a blockhead as well, but not as bad as Charlie Day‘s character.

None of this would even work if we didn’t have some pretty wicked bosses to focus our anger on. They’re brought to life by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell. Kevin Spacey is particularly hateful. In scenes with Jason Bateman he plays a game of cat and mouse of words designed to trip him up with the simple intent of making him squirm. It’s a delightfully nasty performance and I don’t think I’ve seen Spacey embody an individual this memorable since American Beauty. Jennifer Anniston also takes delight in her part as a sexually harassing dentist. She plays contrary to her typical girl-next-door image. The role seems to conceal her admittedly limited acting range. She clearly relishes being cast against type and the portrayal is sidesplitting. Colin Farrell has probably the most underwritten of the three. A lot of his chuckles come from the visual joke of a handsome leading man playing such an unpleasant tool with an atrocious comb over. He’s surprisingly unrecognizable.

Horrible Bosses is a hilarious film. This is definitely an adult comedy, vulgar, to be sure, but unquestionably clever. The labyrinthine plot takes you places that explore a narrative that is fun and enjoyable. If I had a criticism, it’s that the movie was so hysterical, it ended too soon. Everything is tidied up rather quickly and I would have liked to see a more creative resolution. Still, that critique hides a compliment. Go see Horrible Bosses if you want to laugh your head off. Just leave the kiddies at home.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Posted in Action, Adventure, Science Fiction with tags on July 5, 2011 by Mark Hobin

Welcome to the world of Michael Bay, where intellect, coherence and subtlety are irrelevant. The glorification of the spectacle is king. Where explosions of shrapnel resonate as sparkling fireworks in a glittering display across the firmament. Humanity and emotion have no place here. Be gone! The visuals are what’s important. Yet again Michael Bay has delivered a product that suffers from the identical issues that plague all of his Transformers films. But who can blame him? They’ve been wildly successful. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is obviously his axiom. Admittedly there have been some minor improvements over the 2nd installment. The computer graphics are slowed down a bit so you can actually tell who’s fighting who in the combat scenes, for example. However, he delivers more of the same noisy, convoluted clutter. This movie is beset  with a lot of problems.

Let’s start with the story. We’re informed in flashback that in 1962, an alien shuttle commandeered by Sentinel Prime hit Earth’s moon, crashing there, and its impact was detected by NASA. This was the secret underlying reason for President John F. Kennedy’s desire to land a man on the moon. We later discover the shuttle contains Sentinel Prime’s comatose body and 5 Pillars which have the power to establish a mobile space bridge, a threat which could allow foreign invaders, namely the Decepticons, to attack Earth. That doesn’t even begin to explain all the unabridged exposition that comprises the plot, but it involves some nonsense about Decepticons wanting to rebuild their alien planet Cybertron by strip-mining the Earth for resources and using people as slave labor.

What should have been a simple episode of robots attacking Earth, is given a needlessly confusing treatment. It’s almost headache inducing in its complexity. An epic 155 min length hinders this science fiction that could have easily been told in 90 min. The first 2 hours lays the groundwork for the climatic assault that makes up the final third and obvious zenith. It‘s essentially a justification. The highlight comes when a worm-like robot used for drilling purposes is sent into the fray to topple a Chicago high-rise and kill Sam Witwicky and his friends. The closing showdown led by the malevolent Deception, Shockwave, and the honorable Autobot Optimus Prime, is indeed an eye-catching marvel of technology. Director Michael Bay even highlights genuine Wingsuit men that he had fly between buildings in downtown Chicago. It’s truly amazing footage. It’s one of the few things that seems real because it IS real.

The actors are irrelevant. No one gives anything even remotely reassembling a performance. Shia LaBeouf is back as star Sam Witwicky. He’s not likable this go around, mostly whining about not being able to find a job. Just what I wanted in a summer blockbuster, to be reminded of the recession. The main human baddie is Patrick Dempsey who is a playboy-type accountant that is about as threatening as er..um…an actual accountant, to be quite honest. His villain would be more at home in an episode of The Young and the Restless than at the center of a big budget theatrical action film like this. John Malkovich and Frances McDormand trade in on their Oscar status and collect paychecks for work that is clearly rooted firmly in camp. Certainly more bizarre is actor Ken Jeong as a paranoid software programmer. I think he was trying to be helpful by warning Sam at work, but he does it in such a cartoonish spastic way, it was off-putting. Much has been made of Megan Fox’s replacement Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as, Sam’s girlfriend. The truth is, I didn’t mind her. She mostly stares blankly whenever something explodes, but she looks great doing it. She’s a Victoria’s Secret model and when you know that, her portrayal is surprisingly impressive. I don’t recall her saying anything moronic, which is more than I can say for the rest of the cast.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is no different from the other two. It’s obnoxiously loud and incoherent. A cacophony of mayhem that is ridiculously complex when it should simply be fun. A trifecta of bad script, uninteresting characters and tedious length, unite to destroy what could have been an exciting tale of good versus evil. If Michael Bay had eliminated the human actors, cut the running time in half, tightened the narrative, and focused on the ultimate battle, this would’ve gotten a positive review. But as it stands now, it’s a cinematic monument to raucously prolonged incoherence.

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