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"TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION"
(2014) (Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Adventure: A down-on-his-luck Texas inventor and his 17-year-old daughter find themselves in the middle of a battle between giant sentient robots and various forces that are trying to wipe them out.
PLOT:
It's been a few years since the Battle of Chicago where giant sentient Transformer robots known as Autobots battled similarly sized and constructed Decepticons. Government agent Harold Attinger (KELSEY GRAMMER) wants to make sure that never happens again, so he's tasked tech guru CEO Joshua Joyce (STANLEY TUCCI) to reverse engineer captured or dead Transformers and thus create new such robotic beings that could be controlled and used by U.S. officials as ultimate weapons of war.

While Joshua has his employees such as Darcy Tirrel (SOPHIA MYLES) and Su Yueming (BINGBING LI) searching for and working on the new element known as transformium, Attinger has his black op forces, lead by James Savoy (TITUS WELLIVER), hunting down any Transformers in hiding, all while using Lockdown (voice of MARK RYAN) -- a Transformer who finds and kills other Transformers -- to finish such jobs.

Unaware of any of this is down-on-his-luck inventor Cade Yeager (MARK WAHLBERG) who lives on his remote Texas farm with his 17-year-old daughter, Tessa (NICOLA PELTZ). Following her mom's death, he's fully devoted to keeping Tessa safe, including from teenage boys. Little does he know that she's secretly dating 20-year-old racecar driver Shane Dyson (JACK REYNOR). Nor does he or his business assistant, Lucas Flannery (T.J. MILLER), realize that an old truck he's bought for salvage money is actually the Autobot leader, Optimus Prime (voice of PETER CULLEN), in disguise.

Following some repairs Cade does on him, Optimus Prime emerges and it's not long before both the feds as well as Lockdown are after him, Cade, Tessa, Shane and Lucas. What follows is the discovery of what Attinger and Joshua are really conspiring to do, all while Optimus Prime calls in the remaining Autobots -- including Hound (voice of JOHN GOODMAN), Drift (voice of KEN WATANABE) and Bumblebee among a few others -- to do battle with Lockdown and Joshua's new creations, including Galvatron (voice of FRANK WELKER).

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
Money is any sort of currency that is accepted as an agreed upon payment for the real or perceived value of goods or services rendered. While some payees -- be they consumers or those doling out salaries -- don't care if they get what they paid for in terms of its worth, most people, businesses and such usually want and demand as much "bang for your buck" as possible.

When a moviegoer plunks down his or her cash for a movie ticket, they expect to get at least that much entertainment value from the film they're about to see. On the flip side, movie studios, executive producers and others who've ponied up the cash to make such pics are, at minimum, understandably desirous of making back their investment with hopes of a much more handsome return.

With that and "Transformers: Age of Extinction" in mind, fans who pay whatever the going rate is at their local movie theater (and know full-well what they're about to see based on past related entries in the genre), as well as those who financed the flick to the tune of a reported $165 million will likely be happy with the return on dollar results.

For the former who've had the "pleasure" of sitting through the original "Transformers" (2007) or its various follow-ups -- 2009's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and 2011's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" -- this sequel to the last film delivers more of the same sort of over-the-top, visually frenetic and occasionally quite sexist material designed to simultaneously assault and titillate the senses.

For those involved on the money side of things, it's nearly guaranteed to be the year's biggest box office earner. After all, the previous entries scored huge at the domestic and international coffers ($709 million, $836 million and $1.2 billion in chronological order), and with this offering getting some production money from China (now a HUGE movie market) and having a large part of the third act set in Hong Kong, it could possibly surpass its predecessors with its box office might.

All of which is great for the financier and diehard aficionados, but what about the rest of us? Well, it is more of the same that we've come to expect from returning director Michael Bay, and while there's no denying the copious dinero is certainly up there on the screen, the film isn't remotely good.

Loud, frenetic and way, way, way too long at somewhere around 165 minutes, the pic is an example of dumb spectacle over substance. While that's occasionally palatable in other films if they're handled correctly -- from a turn off the mind and just go with it perspective -- this one's too thick with stupidity, too many characters and far too many butt-shifting minutes to swallow.

Working from a script by returning screenwriter Ehren Kruger, Bay has jettisoned the entire cast from the previous entries (I know, you're heartbroken that you don't get to watch Shia "I'll Bite the Industry Hand That Feeds Me" LaBeouf in action) in favor of a new set of performers (although a few of the good Transformers have returned).

Aside from Stanley Tucci doing something of a riff on a Steve Jobs type of an angry/demanding/perfectionist tech CEO, however, the replacements (that include Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor and Kelsey Grammer) fare no better than their predecessors. How could they, though, with Bay's insistence on making-things-go-boom spectacle rather than focusing on an engaging story, credible characters or creating real, edge of your seat action sequences.

But who am I kidding? We're talking about Bay (who even made "Pearl Harbor" groan-inducing when not blowing stuff up) directing the fourth installment (rarely a good thing) of a film series based on a popular toy line. The newest addition to those will likely be the apparently much-anticipated Dinobots (think mechanical T-Rexes) that finally show up in what seems like the film's 15th hour or so. I have to admit they're impressive from a visual standpoint (like the rest of the flick), but I have to agree with my spell checker when it suggested a proper replacement for their name would be "dingbat" (Archie Bunker would be proud).

If you love furious spectacle overwhelming two-dimensional characters, plot holes and inconsistencies, bloat and overall stupidity, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" might be right up your alley. If you loathe the idea of nearly three hours of being pummeled with just that, I'd stay away and spend your hard-earned dollars elsewhere. The film rates as a 3.5 out of 10.




Reviewed June 25, 2014 / Posted June 27, 2014


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