Star Trek Junior: A Review

star_trek_posterThe inevitable has happened. After many years coasting into oblivion (for the non-Trekkies), the Star Trek franchise has released its eleventh film. Yes, there have been eleven films since Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Dopey, and Doc left the television series, learned that they couldn’t make money doing anything else except Star Trek conventions, and came back to film the first movie. But what does it mean?

It depends on who you ask.

For instance, many Trekkies (those loveable people who are so charmed by the franchise that they dress in costumes, play with imaginary phasers, and even have their own religion) may not like the movie. Why? Because unlike all of the other movies, it does not continue its story from any of the television series: William Shatner does not rise from the dead to command the USS Enterprise, again (although, there is an interesting twist to an old character in the new film); Captain Picard doesn’t leave his vineyard to wax philosophical and his bald head with Q; characters from Deep Space Nine and Voyager didn’t give the silver screen another shot with even a cameo; Scott Bakula didn’t get to explain the sensual nature of green women. The movie wasn’t even animated.

That was one thing that all of the other Star Trek movies had going for it: some sort of continuity for fans. You already know the characters and, for the most part, enemies. You knew the ins and outs of whatever version of the Enterprise the crew was flying around in. It was a comfortable place for die-hard fans, so much that you may not mind if Kirk and the crew decided to go back in time to pick up a couple of whales, bring them back to the future, and have them tell a giant, flying space turd not to destroy Earth. If nothing else, it kept pace with the original series.

Enter this new movie. With the depiction of Zachary Quinton (Sylar from television’s Heroes) as a pointy-eared Vulcan and Chris Pine (of…The Princess Diaries 2?) as an arrogant blonde with some wit, it’s no surprise that the movie is, indeed, a new portrayal of the old leg of the franchise. You would have had to live in a cave, or Nebraska, to have missed those hints. However, for better or for worse, the storytelling for this new film is nothing like the others. It does not have much to do with the original series’ timeline.

Sure, we find Vulcans, Romulans, particle transporters, phasers, Starfleet Academy, the Vulcan peace sign, and Winona Ryder in the movie. We even get many of the quirky taglines from the characters, but the feelings of these devices doesn’t seem like homages or parodies to the original. These screen devices are set up for the viewers that this movie seemed geared to: young, non-Trekkies.

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This movie was a move to dislodge the franchise from the cycle it was stuck in of catering to fans of the television series, and instead try to appeal to the masses. It worked. By starting the story again, but with a twist(which I will not ruin for you), the necessity to really “get” a Star Trek movie by knowing the television show was tossed out.

Maybe that was why I liked this movie so much. I am not your normal Star Trek fan. I’m not a fan at all. I liked Wrath of Khan like everyone else in the world, but apart from that I watched the original series with tongue firmly planted in cheek, and randomly saw episodes of The Next Generation when I watched television with my father. Did I see all of the Star Trek movies that came out? Yes (although I don’t remember the first movie all that well.) Does it matter to me? No.

enterprise As a movie on its own, it was quite amazing (I expected to hate it.) The opening part of the movie, as cheesy a plot device as it may be, was fantastic. I think I got a little misty-eyed. From there, all hell broke loose. Acting, special effects, phasers changing from “stun” to “kill,” Uhura half-naked, the spaceships exploding, everything popped.

It’s hard to explain the great things about this movie, as it is all spoiler. Not just storyline, but emotional impact as a movie itself.

There were some things about the movie that definitely made me cock my head. For one, the storyline was old: “It’s been done at least five times in the same movie series” old. The characters and events may be a little different, but it is still the same idea. You’d figure with this brand new push into popularity, Star Trek could have chosen a less overdone theme.

Also, the title of this review must be addressed: Star Trek Junior. What makes this movie appeal to the younger, less-Trekkie public is also what waters it down. Everything has a youthful, annoying freshness to it that the original never had. Even the new uniforms are “prettier” than the old uniforms. And, of course, let’s not forget the politically correct version of the well known monologue: “Where no one has gone before…” Incorrect. You’ve already gone there, before. As a man.

Gripes aside, I did enjoy the movie, as a non-Trekkie (unless I’m in the closet. You’re welcome to tell me so.) I give this movie 4 out of 5 half-naked green alien women.

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Portishead Returns with Third

portishead_thirdI’ve always had a thing for female indie/folk singers. I don’t really know how it came about. Many of them have such soothing voices that I go crazy. It probably plays into my fetish of having my girl sing me to sleep after sex, or even just sing me to sleep, period. I’m sure that stems from some sort of “mommy issue” since my parents divorced when I was 4 years old and I was taken care of by other family members as much as my mother did so I’m looking for some of that motherly affection…but that psych analysis should wait for another day.

So when I heard Portishead was putting out their third new release, aptly called “Third” I was ecstatic to be able to hear Beth Gibbons’ voice again. Some may think this album was destined to fail with so much riding on it, but “Third” definitely didn’t disappoint. Right from the beginning Portishead plays into their dichotomy of erratically stream-lined beats and loops with Gibbons smoothing the edges with her lyrics. Once the first song, Silence, started, I was immediately hooked.

However, Portishead doesn’t stop playing with you. Like waves a water, the music comes at you, then draws back, only to hit you again. You’d think such music creation would be easy, but it’s not. You can ask any electronica fan, and I don’t mean club-goers (although, I’m sure some remixes will come out of this album.)

 

 

If I had to choose a favorite song, it would have to be The Rip. It starts itself acoustically, and plays into a beat machine, with of course Gibbons being the standard throughout. It’s a bit melancholy, but easily a good make-out song even when it is so wrong (check the lyrics.) It’s wrong much like couples making Chris Isaak’s I Want to Fall In Love their song. Yeah, the word love is in it, but listen to the lyrics, guys. Not exactly a profession of love there. Of course, Machine Gun and We Carry On are just as good. Hell, I’ll say it again, I love this whole damn album.

All in all, I give this album 4 out of 5 hot indie chicks named Anya Teresse.

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Otis: Giving Nerd Dating a Bad Name… Again

otisdvdIt seems I have been reviewing a lot of horror movies these days. It’s not on purpose. I do like other types of movies, but I keep hearing good things about certain “never released to the screen” horror movies that I keep trying them out. Considering my reviews, like for Teeth, you’d think I review them just to blast them. Finally, I have something good to say, after watching the wonderful serial joker, Otis.

Otis is the story of a forty-something year-old pedophile named Otis(played by newcomer Boston Christopher) who is looking for a date for the prom. He does the right things, asking a girl’s parents for permission to date their daughter, rocking out the old school Trans-Am, throwing around the old pig skin, calling the girl on the telephone all the time, and working hard as a pizza delivery boy. The problem is, he does this all after kidnapping the girls and locking them in his basement, torturing them mentally and physically, and usually killing them, accidentally. This has happened five times, the authorities have no clues, and he is continuing his quest for the perfect date for the prom.

Otis kidnaps one lucky teenager, Riley Lawson (played by Ashley Johnson), but is thwarted by her attempt to actually allow him to work his magic as a supreme catch, all 400 pounds of him. Her family, upon learning of Otis’ place of residence, take it upon themselves to unleash vengeance in ways Otis himself could not dream, with disastrous, and funny, results.

What’s great about this movie is how it portrays Otis himself. He is a psychotic pedophile, but through the movie we gain some sympathy for him, even while he is hacking up his latest date that dumped him. It is this sympathy that makes us laugh at ourselves, and the movie itself. This would seem bad, but the movie calls for it hungrily.

Riley’s family is fantastic. Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas play the part of doting parents wonderfully. They are the stereotypical suburban family, with a loving daughter and a delinquent son. Their try at vengeance plays on this wholesomeness, and makes a movie like Last House on the Left seem pale in comparison, if only for its odd outcome. There is one scene where the family is unloading their truck that is absolutely ridiculous.

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Kevin Pollak plays Otis’ naive and abusive brother. Although only a supporting role, the role he plays in the family’s vengeance is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Think of a battery hooked up to a man’s sphincter. If you find that funny, you will love Pollak, again. The FBI agent, played by Jere Burns, fleshes out the hysterics. It is his bumbling police work that makes the rest of the movie work. If he actually had a brain in his head, maybe they would have caught Otis the second time around. I’m sure glad THAT didn’t happen.

This movie was a breath of fresh air for the horror comedy genre. The laughs are as black as night, and it works to make you feel a bit uncomfortable, but still giddy at the same time. The gore factor was a bit lacking, but the elements of imagination, such as drinking your own toes, are ripe. If the gore was there, it would probably lose a lot of its comedic elements.

All in all, I give this movie 4 out of 5 dateless nights. Now let’s go to prom in our baby-blue tuxes!

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P.S.-The alternate ending is NOT to be missed.

The Informers: Strike One for Ellis Film Adaptations

informers_poster“Adjust my dreams for me.” It’s a short phrase, but can be interpreted in so many ways. Some people may find it a lazy request; some may see it as the catch-phrase of drug culture; others may see it as the words of a talented writer telling his future self to change the names, places, and most of the activities of a novel in order to make it even more confusing as a movie.

Introducing, The Informers.

For better or for worse, “adjust my dreams for me” is the main character’s cry for salvation from what his life has become in the Bret Easton Ellis book-turned-movie, The Informers. Unfortunately, the rest of the story is so messy that you feel that some of the plot-lines should have been made into short films.

In Bret Easton Ellis’ book of the same name, you are given a multitude of short story-type chapters, where characters are cross referenced in those chapters and even in other Ellis books. What is created is literary confusion, as most of the characters are part of an elite troupe of the LA scene and, with one exception, everyone is about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. The movie is much like the book, except the names are traded around to make someone like me who has read the book even more confused. Half the time I was watching The Informers, I was pausing and referencing the book to figure out who the hell is who.

To summarize, the movie is about a dead playboy, a kid and his estranged drunken father, a separated couple in the midst of faking a reunion, a guy fed up with sleeping around and having his girlfriend sleep around(specifically with the guy’s best friend. There’s a nifty post-threesome scene), an out of work actor and his convict uncle, and a confused rockstar. The stories intertwine with each other throughout the movie as the characters try to find some peace. Or, something. Whatever it is, no one finds it. Not exactly the feel good movie of the year.

The acting isn’t half-bad. Mickey Rourke steals the show with the minimal screen time he has as Uncle Pete, the loving soul that sells kids into sex slavery, along with since deceased Brad Renfro as an out of work actor trying to do the right thing no matter what the cost. In a better world, this could have been the next Another Day In Paradise, but instead it is just part of The Informers. Billy Bob Thornton and Kim Bassinger play very well as a separated couple trying to patch their life back up. Unfortunately, their story doesn’t measure up to what is going on in the rest of the movie.

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Amber Heard, playing Christie, is naked for half the movie, which is awesome, but her interaction with her boyfriend, Graham, and his best friend are perfect in allowing Graham to get to that point where he’s had enough, but just can’t seem to break away from the cycle that his life has become. In the final scene of the movie, Graham goes to Christie as she’s sick with AIDS, lying on the beach. The interaction is intense when Graham meets Nina, the woman who called him to get Christie:

Graham: “Why me?”

Nina: “Well aren’t you the one that loves her?”

Graham: “What’s that gonna fix. Is that gonna help her?”

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   It’s not really going to help anyone in this movie, but as a hammer to the head as a realization that these characters will never get out of their own ways, it helps us as the audience, and somewhat saves this movie.

The story-line of the rockstar Bryan Metro is so stereotypical it barely makes a dent. Think Trent Reznor rumors right before “The Downward Spiral” was released.

In fact, the only really bad actor in the movie was Chris Isaak as a drunken father. Sure, he seemed drunk, forcefully, annoyingly drunk. Maybe he really was drunk because his acting was even worse sober. Who knows?

So does one actor ruin a movie? No. What killed this movie was  too much content, and not enough depth. Ellis got away with having multiple story-lines co-existing. He had a lot of space to play with in the book. But in a movie, we have 2 hours. While it can be done(like in Crash), it needs a distinct story to keep it moving, and a balance of cuts as we are moved from story, and unfortunately, this movie was lacking both of these.

I’d go as far as to say that the story of Graham and Christie and the story of Uncle Pete and Jack could easily have been great as short films, or even as feature films. I’d go as far as to say that these two stories could have co-existed together in this film if only the rest of the film was cut.

I give this movie 1-1/2 face-palming authors.

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The Puppet Monster Massacre: Not Your Normal Puppet Movie

pmm_posterInsanity. Betrayal. Blood. Sex. Puppets.

For the better part of 12 years, Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles was the answer when asked what film incorporated all of these elements in a way that toed the line between respectable and ridiculous, and worked to entertain an audience.

While Jackson did not continue with the awkward puppet film genre, he did pave the way for puppets to be more than just innocent entertainment for children. He inspired some filmmakers to continue this underground legacy of puppet sex and violence. One of those filmmakers was Dustin Mills, with his feature film The Puppet Monster Massacre.

Dr. Wolfgang Wagner runs the local mad scientist lab in this all-too generic town. To feed his monstrous creation, Dr. Wagner invites a group of teenagers to survive the night in his creepy mansion in order to win $1 million(Yes, very House on Haunted Hill, as one of the characters mentions in the film).

There’s Iggy, the token Englishman; Mona, the nude puppet-girl Iggy is “copulating” with when he receives his letter; Raimi, horror movie fan-boy with moveable zits; Gwen, the girl next door; and Charlie, the oblivious wimp that has the most back-story and therefore will probably save the day.

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One by one they are picked off in Dr. Wagner’s mansion until Charlie’s war-vet grandfather, Gramps, who punched Adolf Hitler in his ding-ding, comes to save the day.

The plot of the movie is very straightforward. From the beginning, you know Dr. Wagner has bad intentions as he sicks his killer penguin on unsuspecting forest-dwellers. Even the grand revelation at the end is not a twist so much as a plot device to see more animated carnage, as puppets go back in time to become construction paper cut-outs. Probably the biggest twists are that Mona doesn’t sleep with Raimi, and the secret of Iggy the Englishman.

pmm3This lack of plot twists works for this film because, let’s face it, we are not watching debased puppets cursing, grinding, and dying for some grand plot. This movie was made for a particular audience, and to complicate a plot too much would take away from the puppet visuals we are all enthralled by. The voice acting, storyline, frame sequences are all fine for what this movie’s feature is; a horror movie with puppets.

The one disappointing thing about the movie was the use of animated backdrops. While The Muppets and The Feebles both used live-action film sites, this movie was almost, if not all, green screen. This was most likely a budgeting issue so it is unfair to judge too harshly on how the backgrounds were set up, but there was a loss of that satirical spirit that Meet The Feebles invoked. At the same time, the CGI blood and gore worked surprisingly well in this movie, so you take the good with the bad.

All the same, Puppet Monster Massacre was an entertaining, must-see movie that toed the line between respectable and ridiculous for the entertainment of all.

I give this movie 3-1/2 out of 5 Feebles.

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The Amazing Spider-Man Amazes Amazing Jerk of a Movie Critic

amazing_spiderman_posterFine. I give. I’ve held gripes against everything Marvel Studios did after Iron Man. X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Ridiculous. Iron Man 2? Horrible. Thor? Didn’t even care about him in the comics. X-Men: First Class? You’re all nuts. Captain America? Barely got through the preview. The Incredible Hulk? Well, you got me there. The fact is, Marvel’s track record got so bad(and I’m not even mentioning Ghost Rider) that I even gave up on The Avengers. Didn’t even go see it, on principle.

So when I heard about The Amazing Spider-Man, I used every stereotypical fan-boy reference to how a remake would be a bad idea. I must have blocked out Spider-Man 3 from my memory.

“Who the hell is Andrew Garfield?”

“More CGI? Why not just animate it, you wankers.”

“Great, another 3-D movie to mute a horrible storyline. A+ on the slight of hand, Mr. Producer.”

“Why don’t you get a director and screenwriter that’s picked up an issue before Ultimate Spider-Man?”

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courtesy of MARVEL Studios

Yeah, I was out for blood. Then things seemed to start falling into place. The Lizard was going to be the villain. Nice. Martin Sheen would play Uncle Ben? I can deal with that. Emma Stone would be playing Peter Parker’s real first love, Gwen Stacy? Now we’re on a roll! You DID read the comic books!

So I went to the midnight showing. I waited on line for an hour to sit down, passing up on the raffle ticket for the Spider-Man action figure, a pee break, and my rights as an angry movie critic to fully enjoy the 136 minutes of this film, including waiting for a credits easter egg for the first time in 3 years.

The storyline is essentially known. Boy gets bit by spider, develops spider-like powers, finds a girl, and ends up beating the crap out of some super-villain. It’s one of those “don’t fix it if it’s not broken, or else it’ll be mocked in an article of Spider-Man’s Embarrassing Moments” sort of situations. There are certain nods to the original concept of Spider-Man that just leap over the Tobey Maguire: using The Lizard; going back to Spider-Man’s good old web-shooters, which Andrew Garfield uses a hell of a lot more than Tobey Maguire did in all three of his movies; slowing down the timeline so that Peter has a moment or two to act like a teenager.

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courtesy of MARVEL Studios

Then there is the pearl of the movie, Gwen Stacy. The only bad thing about bringing Gwen Stacy into the fold is that looming disaster seems to follow her around, considering her history in the comic book.

Casting was stellar. I don’t know who Andrew Garfield is, but he brought brooding teenager to a whole new level, while using that image to do a total 180 in the attitude of the slightly obnoxious Spider-Man. Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben? Misty-eyed. Emma Stone? Great as the witty blonde next door. Denis Leary. Yes, Denis Leary.

All of my ideas about this being a sugar-coated Spider-Man for the kids was wiped clean away. This Spider-Man got real dark, real quick. In fact, I only had one problem with the movie at all. Yes, there was an issue. The Lizard was changed from a man-lizard like he was in the comic books into a lizard-man that looked more like Killer Croc from the Batman comics.

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courtesy of MARVEL Studios

 

It was a CGI thing that, once again, could have been done better. Maybe prosthetics? For a snout, I mean.

I give the movie 4 out of 5 Spideys giving 2 thumbs up. I don’t know what that means. I’m bad at math and science.

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Gamer Review: Fallout New Vegas

fallout_newvegasIn 2008, the Fallout franchise finally broke through the gaming underworld after the release of their first console version, Fallout 3.

And it was good. Stellar graphics, an enthralling storyline the likes of a movie or Final Fantasy game, a huge free-roaming world, and weapons ranging from a butter knife to a Gatling Plasma Gun helped mold this into a Game of the Year.

There was only one complaint by the public about Fallout 3: no multi-player. However, this complaint was actually praise in itself, since the need for a multi-player function meant that we enjoyed the game so much, we wanted more. To appease us, Bethesda released add-ons such as Mothership Zeta and The Pitt, and it was good. Until we finished them, and had nothing.

Luckily, Fallout: New Vegas was not far behind. Would it be as good as the first one? Would the storyline stand up to the previous Fallout 3? Would there be a multi-player? Would the bobbleheads be as hard to find?

The graphics, as before, are amazing. What really makes the detail stand out is when using the VATS to attack specific body parts of your enemies. In slow motion, every pixel is in place for a beautifully enacted waltz of blood. It’s a beautiful thing for many of us.

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What’s more, the humor of having an old 50s-style culture mixed with laser guns is still intact, and even funnier, as we now have a gang of Elvis Presley impersonators, a couple of Frank Sinatras, and the oddest soundtrack to overshadow a nuclear-torn world.

The world of Fallout: New Vegas may seem a bit smaller by the looks of the map. Don’t worry, it’s not. It’s just as big, and with a mode that forces you to eat, drink, and sleep or else you die, the world becomes even bigger because you can’t fast-track to any point on the map. There are also multiple ways you can interact with the different “tribes” in the lands of New Vegas. Unlike Fallout 3, where you eventually become an enemy of the Enclave and friend of the Brotherhood of Steel, in New Vegas, you can start off eradicating(or trying to) the good guys. It makes for better re-play value.

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For the degenerate gamblers out there, casino games are open in New Vegas. It makes sense, but they are little more than activities to break up hunting and shooting. and you get a few achievements with them, too.

The bad? There is still no multi-player mode. It’s not such a bad thing since the game holds its own, but considering how many people were asking for it, you’d figure they would have tried it out. Maybe they did, but didn’t send me the beta version. Bastards.

While language has gone up, you still are unable to get any of the women(or men, if that’s you’re thing) completely naked. You get close, as there are prostitutes at the different casinos of New Vegas, and you can hear some hanky-panky going on while you are exploring hotel rooms, but no nipple or bush. Sorry. (Perverts.)

I give Fallout: New Vegas 4.5 out of 5 Pip-Boys.

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Transformers: Dark of Film Relevancy

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3-D. Michael Bay. For producers, this would be a match made in heaven; for critics, a little further south.

To be fair, Transformers: Dark of the Moon had a lot to live up to. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen all but decimated any relevancy the Transformers franchise had achieved with the first movie, which says a lot considering the whole thing is Hasbro’s shameless toy promotion.

The keys to the first movie were simple storyline, intense action. Giant robots land on Earth and fight for supremacy. Popcorn for everyone. Then it was decided that simple stories wouldn’t cut it, so they throw in a back story about how Transformers have been around forever(thanks to the knowledge of ultra-conspiracy theorist Agent Simmons), and a giant, bad-ass Decepticon has been hanging around Saturn, waiting until after the initial battles between Autobots and Decepticons to destroy the world. Add two Jar-Jar Binks Autobots and a trip to Egypt, and you have the pile of donkey poo that is Revenge of the Fallen.

You’d think they would have learned their lesson: the more complicated the storyline, the more you have to block out the action in order to make sense of the movie, but if there’s a ton of action, you really don’t have time to think. What does Michael Bay do? He makes the storyline ultra-complicated, and floods the whole thing in 3-D, complete with unnecessary shots which are only there for their in-your-face 3-D interactions.

*SPOILER ALERT*

So, how do you complicate a storyline? Simple. Take the past of the last movie and erase it so that Agent Simmons, and everyone else, is later surprised that a Transformers ship was found on the moon. Make the survivor of the ship Optimus Prime’s former leader, Sentinel Prime, that has the technology to create a giant time/space transporter that only he can use. This is good news, because Primes are good. I mean, they all sacrificed themselves in order to protect Earth from the Sun Harvester in the last movie from the only bad Prime, The Fallen, right?

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Nope. This Prime wasn’t part of that posse, apparently. Even worse, he’s as bad as The Fallen, and the entire first movie was merely a way to get Optimus Prime to Earth in order to have him rip apart Megatron so that he could be rejuvenated in the second movie and help The Fallen help Optimus Prime gain the Matrix of Leadership so that Optimus Prime could revive Sentinel Prime in the third movie so that he could enslave the human race and we could see a Transformer with facial hair.

Or something like that. The movie spent a whole 15 minutes explaining the story, and the other two hours throwing in 3-D scenes. Such gems include sending 5 helicopters with base jumping commandos to get into the city of Chicago for the purpose of having some 3-D base-jumping action and having about 4 survive, whereas Sam Witwicky(Shia LeBeouf) and an army of has-been commandos merely drove on in. “But that was earlier,” you say? What about the SEAL team that just floated over to Chicago to help out? Oh yeah, there isn’t much 3-D value in frogmen. My bad.

Then we have the Decepticons defending the core of the space bridge, the Master Pillar. Sam and his gang are in the upper part of a building across from the Master Pillar. The Decepticons know this. Do they shoot the building to shit to make sure there are no survivors? No. Instead, they try to split the building in half so that the heroes can slide through billions of pieces of broken glass and not be bleeding to death as they slide out a window. Makes sense to me. My life is not complete until I’ve dodged glass shards coming out of  a movie screen.

*SPOILER ALERT OVER*

Film scenes that like these that are just action infusions made for 3-D effects is why 3-D seems to be failing. Too often, movies are forced to derail a smooth storyline in order to plop a nonsensical 3-D shot in front of the audience. This is supposed to make 3-D relevant, but really only dilutes the movie as a whole. Unfortunately, when they use 3-D correctly, like in Alice In Wonderland, it doesn’t seem to justify the immense cost.

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Besides seeing a giant robot play dress-up with a dirty cloak, there were two decent things about this movie: Shockwave, and Carly Spencer(played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Shockwave has always been one of the more bad-ass Decepticons, even though his transformation in the cartoons was a laser gun. Here he just has said laser gun connected to his body as he controls a giant Decepticon worm thing.

Carly Spencer, on the other hand, is just hot. Hotter than Megan Fox, who she replaces because Megan Fox had better sense than to do the third movie? Yes.

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Hot enough to save this movie? No.

I give this movie 2 out of 5 GoBots. Maybe that’s the next toy primed for the big screen.

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