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Transformers: The Last Knight Review

Bad

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to define this franchise. The first film was solidly entertaining, but the sequels have been hit and miss. And this jarringly chaotic episode never finds its feet. Is it aimed at teen boys (robots hitting each other), young children (a random little girl in the cast) or action fans (Mark Wahlberg being heroic)? Meanwhile, the plot only barely connects a stream of wildly overblown set-pieces.

We find Wahlberg's mad inventor Cade now in hiding protecting the good Autobots, while government meathead Lennox (Josh Duhamel) chases the evil Decepticons. Somewhere in space, tentacled temptress Quintessa (Gemma Chan) has turned heroic Transformer Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to the dark side, and now they're heading to suck the life out of Earth, as you do. Humanity's only hope is in a mysterious talisman Cade possesses and the staff of Merlin the magician (Stanley Tucci in an Arthurian prologue), which only Oxford professor Vivian (Laura Haddock) can wield. She's accompanied by dotty Sir Edmund (Anthony Hopkins), who helpfully explains the mythology with the assistance of robot butler Cogman (Jim Carter). Then everyone converges on Stonehenge for an epic battle.

To be fair, Bay does have an eye for spectacle, and the film looks properly amazing in Imax 3D, especially as Bay throws everything he can think of at the screen, including some adorable baby dinosaur robots, a submarine chase, various elements from Star Wars and Alien, and a military invasion that desperately wants to outdo Saving Private Ryan's opening scene. All of this is piled into a blender and edited together with absolutely no sense of logic or geography.

Continue reading: Transformers: The Last Knight Review

Transformers: Age Of Extinction Review


Weak

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

Real Steel Review


Good
Undemanding audiences will love this rousing father-son tale of redemption set amid the cacophonous crashing of boxing robots. But the script is seriously contrived, and the movie is directed without even an inkling of subtlety.

In the near future, Charlie (Jackman) is an ex-boxer who now controls massive robots that have taken over the sport. A stubborn failure buried in debt, he has no interest in his 11-year-old son Max (Goyo), whose mother has just died, but agrees to care for him until his rich aunt and uncle (Davis and Rebhorn) return from holiday. But Max is far more savvy with robots than his dad. And with the help of Dad's lovelorn pal Bailey (Lilly), Max defies Charlie's expectations with his scrapheap robot Atom.

Continue reading: Real Steel Review

Bully Review


Excellent
Larry Clark -- who wrote and directed his first film, Kids, at the tender age of 52 and in the process, broke the mold about what we should expect from a movie about teenagers -- returns to familiar ground in Bully, a striking and harrowing follow-up.

A slam-dunk natural subject for Clark, Bully follows the based-on-reality story of Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro), who along with his girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner) decides to brutally slay his "best friend" Bobby (Nick Stahl) as payback for a lifetime of abuse. Set in the ultra-trashy nether regions of southern Florida -- and I mean seriously, beyond-WWF trashy -- there's little to do but drive your car, play video games, have sex, and beat the crap out of your friends.

Continue reading: Bully Review

From Hell Review


OK
Jack the Ripper remains one of the most enigmatic, heavily-studied serial killers in history. He was brutal, he was clever, he was also never apprehended... or was he? The directing brothers Allen and Albert Hughes take a substantial departure from earlier material like Menace II Society and Dead Presidents with From Hell, a kooky interpretation of the Jack the Ripper case and its associated conspiracy theories.

Based on a series of comic books, From Hell actually focuses on an investigator named Abberline (Johnny Depp), who works the lower-class Whitechapel district of London in 1888. Abberline, in keeping with the presumably sacred rule that any character Depp embodies must be a nutjob, is a Laudanum addict, drinks Absinthe, and has bizarre visions in his sleep that portend Jack's next victim. If only he'd been born a century later, he could have had his own 1-900 number.

Continue reading: From Hell Review

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Don Murphy Movies

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Transformers: Age of Extinction Movie Review

Transformers: Age of Extinction Movie Review

With each film in the Transformer saga, Michael Bay makes it clear that all he's...

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Real Steel Movie Review

Real Steel Movie Review

Undemanding audiences will love this rousing father-son tale of redemption set amid the cacophonous crashing...

Bully Movie Review

Bully Movie Review

Larry Clark -- who wrote and directed his first film, Kids, at the tender age...

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