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Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Well, there’s another three hours shot to hell. Somewhere in this interminable mess there is an entertaining action movie, but it’s smothered by Michael Bay’s addiction to overlength (165 minutes, to be exact), lumbering exposition, and stupid dialogue, courtesy of screenwriter Ehren Kruger. I doubt this will bother 11-year-old boys and undemanding summer audiences, but I can’t pretend to fit into either of those categories. I remained engaged as long as I could but, at the two-hour mark, I got bored and couldn’t wait for it to be over. (I feel the same way about all the films in this series, which began on a more promising note in 2007.) When the most interesting thing in a scene is the blatant product placement (Bud Light, Victoria’s Secret, et al) you know something is out of whack.

Mark Wahlberg brings his star presence to the role of a mad-scientist-type inventor in the near-future, following the alien destruction of Chicago depicted in the previous film. He’s a devoted single dad to a nubile 17-year-old daughter (Nicola Peltz) and has a comic sidekick (T.J. Miller); together they help him develop his mechanical devices in a barn in rural Texas. One day he purchases a rundown truck, little dreaming that it is one of the Autobots on the U.S. government’s most wanted list: in fact, it is Optimus Prime, badly injured and in need of repair. The government is represented by a rogue CIA director (Kelsey Grammer), a power-hungry monster who spouts patriotic rhetoric but simply wants to line his pockets. He’s in cahoots with a super-smart business mogul (Stanley Tucci) who is draining other surviving Transformers in order to reproduce their “essence” for his own purposes.

There are adrenaline-pumping car chases and explosions galore, which are certainly more coherent than many of the story points, not to mention the dialogue. In some of the frenetic car scenes Miller, and later Tucci, emit outbursts from the back seat that are supposed to add comedic punctuation—but aren’t funny. And just when you think the movie is wrapping up, there is a lengthy sequence of lumpy exposition with the leading characters (both human and robotic) that kicks off another “act.” With that, the story shifts to mainland China and Hong Kong for more destruction.

It’s no spoiler to say that the film leaves the door wide open for yet another sequel. If I had my druthers, this series would go extinct. But what’s my opinion against millions of ticket buyers around the world?

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight.

He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies.

His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia.

He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation.

He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?)

He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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