Review of “Transformers: The Last Knight”

Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) is floating frozen in space looking for his and all the Transformers creator. He crashes on the remains of Cybertron to find a dead and broken apart planet heading toward Earth. Prime is brought before Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan) who claims to be maker of his race. She tells Prime about a staff that wields great power and will drain the Earth of its life force and revive Cybertron. She puts him under a spell to do her bidding and renames him Nemesis Prime, sending him on a mission to recover the staff. Meanwhile, all Transformers are considered enemies of the Earth and are hunted by a paramilitary unit called the Transformers Reaction Force (TRF) with orders to capture and if necessary kill any and all alien robots. Transformers keep arriving on Earth and helping them as best he can is Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). He lets them hide out at his junkyard in the middle of the desert. There he has Bumblebee, Hound (voiced by John Goodman), Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) and several more. He has had to separate himself from his daughter now in college since the TRF is looking to arrest him. While rummaging in a restricted zone where alien craft have recently crashed (and collecting a metal disk from a dying Transformer), Cade sees a group of young teenagers being chased by a TRF drone. He and Bumblebee save the kids and get them out of the restricted zone. One of them is 14-year old Izabella (Isabela Moner), an orphan whose parents were killed in a Decepticon attack. Izabella is a mechanical genius and has cobbled together from salvaged Transformer parts a mechanical companion she calls Sqweeks. Izabella sneaks her way into Cade’s truck and rides back to his junkyard hideout. There she shows Cade just how handy she is and earns his respect. Cade is contacted by a Transformer named Cogman (Jim Carter) who is the assistant to Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins). Burton wants to see Cade immediately on a matter of urgency to the entire planet. While he’s there he’ll meet Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), a beautiful and headstrong professor of English literature at Oxford University. She and Cade must work together to find the staff in its hiding place on Earth before Nemesis Prime or the Decepticons led by Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker), otherwise the Earth is doomed.

That synopsis doesn’t make much sense. It didn’t help that I left out about 75% of the story but I wanted to keep it as small as possible; however, even if I told you everything that happened in the first hour of “Transformers: The Last Knight,” it still wouldn’t make much sense as this film is the most incoherent, muddled and over-stuffed of all the movies in the franchise. It makes the rambling make-believe of a five-year old seems focused and logical by comparison.

Also similar to a youngster’s make-believe is the way the film jumps from scene to scene and location to location. It gives the viewer cognitive whiplash as the story jumps around like kangaroos in mating season. You might be in a military situation room one moment then cut to an unrelated scene in Cuba the next with no transition. One moment you’re on Earth, the next on Cybertron. Modern times to the Dark Ages and in the desert then under the sea. The movie goes anywhere and everywhere at the drop of a hat never allowing a scene to breathe and actually develop. There are six credited editors on the film’s Wikipedia and IMDB pages. Each must have been exhausted by the constant cutting of the nearly two and a half hour film.

The script is actually worse than the editing. Ranging from incoherent to sexist, the script manages to make every actor in the movie look petty, dumb and childish. Much of it sounds like it was made up on set or in the recording studio. Mark Wahlberg comes off worst of all as his lines sound like they were written for a Saturday Night Live sketch. Always sounding frustrated and exasperated, Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager comes off like a spoiled child unable to get his way. Things get much worse when Laura Haddock’s Vivian Wembley arrives. Sexist dialog abounds coming not only from Cade but also her mother and other female relatives as they implore her to find a husband and settle down.

Let’s also talk about how Vivian is shown on screen in the movie: Tight, form-fitting dresses and button-up shirts that look to be about a half size too small exposing her cleavage in a not terribly subtle way. Attractive women in the “Transformers” franchise have been, let’s face it, nothing but eye candy for the largely male audience these films attract. Megan Fox, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Nicola Peltz and Laura Haddock are all objectified to some extent in these films. While it might have been a little less in the case of Nicola Peltz since she played Cade’s daughter it still was expressed by other male actors in scenes where they weren’t being shot at by military or robots. While each was given some talent or trait that had nothing to do with them being very attractive women, none of them escaped the camera’s leering eye or skimpy wardrobe that amplified their sexiness. There is even a story where Megan Fox was filmed washing Michael Bay’s Ferrari as part of the “audition” for the first film. Both have confirmed it happened and Bay has been quoted saying he isn’t sure where the tape is of the car washing. Fox has also said Bay asked her if she had a nice stomach. All of this has a level of “ick” that no male actor in a major role has ever likely faced except for possibly the “Magic Mike” movies. While I know this isn’t a new problem for actresses in films it is no more blatant than in the “Transformers” franchise.

None of the actors turns in great performances but the winner for having the most fun with his goofy role is Anthony Hopkins. His portrayal of the slightly mad Sir Edmund Burton is the most entertaining thing in the film. He brings a manic yet controlled energy to this performance that seems to say “F—k it! I know this is garbage but I’m going to enjoy myself while I’m drowning in this sea of refuse!” Hopkins is certainly a far better special effect than any of the CGI robots in the film. He isn’t in it nearly enough to save this burning trash heap but when he is on screen your eye and attention will be drawn to him to see what he does next.

While I have not been a big fan of how the Transformers have looked in battle, this film and its Industrial Light and Magic special effects team seems to have cracked whatever problem made the robots indistinguishable from one another when they were in combat. Perhaps it is the use of color that prevents the two robots from seeming to meld into one another when they were fighting. I’m not sure but whatever it is works to make the robot-on-robot action more clear.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is rated PG-13 for language, intense sci-fi action, some innuendo and violence. There are numerous battle scenes between humans and Transformers with lots of slow motion explosions that throw bodies up into the air. We see some man-to-man fighting as well. There is no gore but you do see people stabbed by swords and rolled over by burning catapult-thrown ammo. Robots are killed by humans and their own kind. There is a scene from the trailer where several Transformers are beheaded by Optimus Prime. There is some awkward effort at sexual innuendo but it is more for comedic effect. Foul language is fairly frequent but doesn’t get much worse than “s—t” or “bulls—t.”

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is likely not the last we’ll see from the robots in disguise. Bumblebee is scheduled to get his own solo movie in 2018 and Michael Bay has said up to 14 more stories have been written and could be produced into films. I’d just like to reiterate, FOURTEEN more “Transformers” movies! And I’m not sure that includes the proposed crossovers with G.I Joe and other Hasbro Toy properties. I wish I could look forward to “Transformers” films the way I do “Star Wars” movies but I just can’t. If history has taught us anything it’s that Michael Bay makes spectacle movies that are crap and it appears, at least domestically, this franchise is beginning to run out of steam. “Transformers: The Last Knight” has the lowest domestic opening weekend of all the franchise with a five day total of $69-million. That’s $50-million below the last film. While it is doing well overseas it appears America’s appetite for fighting alien robots and the humans that love and hate them is beginning to wane. Perhaps audiences are just tired of seeing basically the same movie done over and over again and each one being worse than the last. Whatever the reason, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is certainly the worst of the lot and that’s saying something considering how bad the second film, “Revenge of the Fallen,” is. But let’s face it: None of these films have been great. There is a certain amount of nostalgia that compels some audience members to see one or two of them but that wears off over film after film. If Michael Bay, Hasbro and Paramount Pictures want to keep filling theatres for the next 50 years with another 20 “Transformers” movies, they MUST get better.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” gets one star out of five.

Three new movies look to fill your eyes and minds with their amazing brilliance! I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Baby Driver—

Despicable Me 3—

The House—

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Review of “Ted 2”

As a child I played with G.I. Joe and other dolls for boys that are now called action figures. I’d sit in the floor for hours and create my own stories in my head. To me Joe and the others were alive and were my sons. We’d fight crime together, solve mysteries, explore alien worlds and protect the Earth from invading robots. They were the playmates that weren’t available as there weren’t many children my age nearby. My dad didn’t really like the idea of his youngest son playing with dolls. While he never said anything directly to me, my mother told me of his displeasure. I tried to keep my adventures with my sons as low key and quiet as possible but one time I said “Dad” out loud acting as the voice of one of my imaginary boys and my father responded, asking what I wanted. I felt the flash of heat in my face as I had to explain I wasn’t talking to him and saw the combined look of realization and mild disgust as he understood what happened. Despite this, I continued to play with my dolls and treat them like people for some time after. It took imagination to believe pieces of plastic were alive. In “Ted 2,” it takes expert CGI and the voice acting talents of Seth MacFarlane to create a living teddy bear…again. Does this return visit to Boston rely on the same jokes and premise as last time? To a point, yes.

Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) are recently married. John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is now divorced from his wife and hasn’t reentered the dating scene for fear of wasting more of his life on another doomed relationship. Ted and Tami-Lynn soon begin fighting over her buying clothes and his buying drugs. Their marriage may be over after just six months. A coworker at the grocery store suggests they have a baby to help strengthen their marriage. Ted suggests it and Tami-Lynn agrees. Since Ted lacks sex organs he decides for artificial insemination. After efforts to procure both Sam Jones and Tom Brady (playing themselves) as donors, John offers and Ted accepts. Sadly, Tami-Lynn is unable to conceive due to damage caused by years of drug abuse so they head to an adoption agency. After making some phone calls, the adoption agent informs them they won’t be able to get a child because, in the eyes of the state, Ted is property. The inquiries from the adoption agency set in motion the wheels of government and soon Ted is stripped of his job, his bank accounts and all his rights. John and Ted approach a law firm and are sent to a junior associate who will take the case for free. Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) is untested and new but has an enthusiasm for the case plus she loves to smoke weed. Taking the case to court generates publicity that attracts the attention of Donny (Giovanni Rabisi), Ted’s obsessed fan that now works as a janitor at Hasbro, the original maker of that model of teddy bear. Donny urges the Hasbro CEO Tom Jessup (John Carroll Lynch) to do everything in his power to make sure Ted is declared property, making the legal ramifications of abducting him minimal. Donny believes if they cut Ted open they can figure out what makes him alive then duplicate it to make millions of Ted copies. All Donny wants is a Ted of his very own to love and he doesn’t care of the original has to die to get it.

“Ted 2” doesn’t break any new ground and relies on the familiar mix of sex/drug humor and pop culture references that the first film and most of Seth MacFarlane’s comedy is rooted in. This could be looked at in two way: Either it’s lazy film making or, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I tend to lean toward the latter.

The combo of MacFarlane’s voice acting, Ted’s adorable design and Mark Wahlberg’s lovable lunkhead John make for a winning mix of personality and charm. Even when they are behaving like drunken teenagers (which is most of the time) the Thunder Buddies never come off as grating or tedious. While this certainly isn’t the most complicated character Wahlberg has ever played, he manages to give the character a sweetness and innocence that probably comes from spending most of his free time with a living teddy bear. Who wouldn’t be something of a softie if your favorite childhood toy came to life and lived with you well into adulthood? Wahlberg also manages to give the role some mild emotional depth as he deals with the end of his marriage. While obviously a plot device to add the character of Samantha Jackson and give John a love interest, Wahlberg manages to convey a fair amount of pain and loneliness due to this turn of events. Amanda Seyfried displays her comedy chops in the role of the young attorney. Seyfried doesn’t mind getting down and dirty with the boys and holds her own. She also gets to display her singing voice with an original tune written by MacFarlane. It isn’t the big showy kind of song she sang in “Les Miserables” but it manages to move her and Wahlberg’s characters towards the inevitable romantic moment her presence calls for. The rest of the cast, including cameos by Liam Neeson and Jay Leno, delivers well-timed comic bombs that more often than not hit their targets.

The true test of “Ted 2” is if it’s funny and it is. MacFarlane’s TV cartoon shows are well known for the cutaway jokes that have nothing to do with the story and they also make up a part of the movie. Pop culture references also fill a big chunk of “Ted 2’s” nearly two hour running time. Sports, music and the ever growing geek culture of comic conventions are all fodder for MacFarlane’s signature humor. The script is densely packed with jokes and the majority of them work. There are a few clunkers along the way but given how many times the script tries to make the audience laugh it’s forgivable if a few of them fall short.

One issue I have with the film is similar to my complaint about the first film and that is the subplot involving Giovanni Rabisi’s obsessed fan. His character and everything surrounding it sticks out like a sore thumb. It simply doesn’t fit with the rest of the world created by MacFarlane and company. Rabisi’s Donny is a combination of damaged child and psychopath. His darkness and naiveté is about as appealing as a sprig of broccoli in the middle of a banana split. The story already has an antagonist in the form of the state trying to make Ted a thing. The addition of a mentally disturbed stalker feels like padding to lengthen out the story and it isn’t necessary. I didn’t like it before and time hasn’t softened that opinion.

“Ted 2” is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use. A couple of sex acts are talked about and briefly described. We also get a look at a cosplaying woman who, when her shirt is ripped off, exposes her three breasts like in “Total Recall.” Ted, John and Samantha are shown several times using a bong to smoke weed. On a couple of occasions the bong is in the shape of a penis. Foul language is common.

Seeing for the second time a walking, talking teddy bear that loves to drink, smoke weed and have some kind of non-traditional sex with women still creates in my mind a sense of wonder but not as much as the first time. “Ted 2” once again leans heavily on the shock value of a teddy bear doing all the things teddy bears aren’t known for and using the kind of language that would get the mouths of most teddy bear owners washed out with soap. The notion of an inanimate object coming to life is almost as old as storytelling itself: From the golem of Jewish folklore to Pinocchio to Chucky the murderous doll, objects coming to life due to magical circumstances is certainly not a new concept and there isn’t much new in “Ted 2.” While that might be a strike against most movies, here it provides more a feeling of comfort and welcome familiarity. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the jokes work. My one suggestion for “Ted 3” (should it happen) is to leave out the Donny character as it simply doesn’t fit with the rest of the world. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a villain, just not Donny. Otherwise, “Ted 2” provides more than enough laughs to overcome the feeling of sameness.

“Ted 2” gets five fully stuffed stars.

This week America celebrates its independence with movies about male strippers, the beginning of the end of humanity and three outcast teens, one of whom is dying. Light up a sparkler (outside of the theatre) while I go see and review at least one of these flicks.

Magic Mike XXL—

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl—

Terminator: Genisys—

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