REVIEW: OUTLANDER (2008)

CAST

Jim Caviezel (The Passion of The Christ)
Sophia Myles (Underworld)
Jack Huston (Shrooms)
John Hurt (Alien)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Aidan Devine (Don’t Say A Word)

A spacecraft crashes in a lake in Vendel-era Scandinavia. The only surviving occupant – a human – retrieves a distress beacon and a computer which explains that he is on Earth, a “seed” colony that his people have abandoned. The computer downloads the local Norse language and culture directly into his brain. The spaceman soon finds a freshly destroyed village, where he is captured by Wulfric, a warrior from another village.  ulfric takes him to the fortified village of King Rothgar, father of Freya, who he hopes will marry future king Wulfric. Rothgar is concerned that Gunnar, chieftain of the destroyed village, will assume it was Wulfric’s doing, as Wulfric’s father (the king before Rothgar) had been killed by Gunnar. Wulfric interrogates the “outlander”, who identifies himself as Kainan, claiming he is from the north, and states that he is hunting a dragon.The village is attacked that night by an unseen creature, which kills several men. Kainan tells them it is a “Moorwen”, a predatory creature which caused his (space)ship to crash and now will hunt men and animals alike. When Kainan is taken with a hunting party to find the Moorwen, he kills a gigantic bear that had killed some of the hunters. The warriors now treat Kainan as part of their tribe. Gunnar and his men attack the settlement, retreating after casualties on both sides. They soon return, pursued by the Moorwen, and enter the safety of the village. Kainan devises a plan to build a huge pit just inside the village entrance, fill it with whale oil and leave wooden shields floating on the surface.Freya becomes increasingly attracted to Kainan. He explains to her the Moorwen’s origin—Kainan’s people invaded its land (planet), slaughtered it in the billions and built a colony there. This Moorwen, now the last of its kind, massacred everyone in the colony, including Kainan’s wife and child. When his “ship” returned to the colony, the Moorwen snuck onboard and later caused the crash. After listening to Kainan’s tale, Freya gives him a family sword, saying she was told that she would know what man to give it to. Kainan and Wulfric lure the Moorwen to the village. They cross the oil pit by running on the shields, but the Moorwen falls into the pit, and the oil is set on fire. The Moorwen bursts out, kills several people, then escapes. Meanwhile, an offspring of the Moorwen sneaks into the hall where the women and children are hiding. Eric, the orphaned boy that Kainan has begun looking after, alerts Rothgar, who is killed as the women and children escape.Kainan realizes that they need stronger weapons to kill the Moorwen. Kainan, (new) King Wulfric and Freya return to the lake to retrieve fragments of metal from Kainan’s submerged ship. While Kainan is underwater, the young Moorwen attacks the boat, taking Freya. Kainan and Wulfric return to the village, where the fragments are soon forged into weapons before descending into the Moorwens’ lair. Freya awakens on a pile of bodies in the underground lair. As the young Moorwen moves toward Freya, it is distracted by the sound of Kainan’s hunting party. Many of the hunters are killed, but the young Moorwen is blinded by Boromir. When it returns to attack Freya, Kainan and Wulfric pass one of the new swords, with which she slays the young Moorwen. The cave exits to a high waterfall, where the adult Moorwen attacks. It seriously wounds Wulfric before Kainan engages it in battle. When Freya joins in, Kainan is able to knock the Moorwen over the cliff’s edge to its death. Freya and Kainan return to Wulfric’s side, where he passes the kingship to Kainan just before he dies.Kainan tells Freya to wait for the rest of the warriors, while he heads back to the lake. Night falls as Kainan retrieves some items from his ship, says goodbye to his wife’s submerged coffin, then destroys his distress beacon just as Freya sees a rescue spaceship approaching, leading her to believe that Kainan was sent by the gods. The rescue ship departs without Kainan, who stays as king, weds Freya and they adopt Eric.Despite a few flaws & somewhat predictable nature, it’s Sci-Fi/Medieval fusion works surprisingly well. The Independent film production budget managed to deliver solid action, good acting, great special effects/costumes & a story that leaves you entertained.

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REVIEW: UNDERWORLD 2: EVOLUTION

CAST

Kate Beckinsale (Total Recall)
Scott Speedman (The Vow)
Bill Nighy (Wrath of The Titans)
Tony Curran (Gladiator)
Derek Jacobi (The King’s Speech)
Sophia Myles (Transformers 4)
Steven Mackintosh (Kick-Ass 2)
Shane Brolly (Spread)
Briane Steele (Hellboy)
Zita Gorog (8mm 2)
Michael Sheen (Kingdom of Heaven)

In 1202, an army led by the three vampire elders (Markus, Viktor, and Amelia) arrives at a Lycan-ravaged village. Viktor and Amelia capture their target, Markus’ brother, William Corvinus, the first and most powerful werewolf. Despite Markus’ defiance, Viktor orders that William be imprisoned in a secret location forever.

In the present day, vampire Selene takes Michael to a safe house so that she can confront the vampire regent Kraven; she knows that Kraven intends to kill Markus and plans to stop him. However, Markus has awakened before Kraven arrives. Markus kills Kraven and his men. Lorenz Macaro, an elderly man, sends in a team of “cleaners” to investigate the aftermath from the battle in the Lycans’ lair. When Lorenz Macaro examines Viktor’s corpse he finds a metal disc inside it which is the match to a pendant originally worn by Sonja. The other half of the pendant is now possessed by Selene and Michael after the deaths of Viktor and Lucian.

Markus tracks Selene and Michael down and attacks them, but they evade him and hide in a warehouse. There, Selene and Michael share their feelings and have passionate sex together. Now knowing that the pendant is important to Markus, Michael and Selene set out to discover why Markus wants it. Selene recalls that she saw it as a child, but does not know its significance. They travel to the hideout of the exiled vampire historian Andreas Tanis who reveals that Markus was the first vampire; one of the three sons of Alexander Corvinus, the first immortal. Markus was bitten by a bat and became a vampire, while his twin brother William was bitten by a wolf and became a werewolf. The third son remained human and gave rise to a line of mortal descendants including Michael who became the first Lycan–Vampire hybrid. The first werewolves created by William were entirely animal and unable to assume human form. Due to William’s destructiveness, Markus approached Viktor, who was a dying mortal warlord at the time, and offered to turn him and his army into immortal vampires in exchange for tracking down and stopping William, and in destroying those he had infected.

Viktor did not kill the brothers because he was deceived by Markus into believing that doing so would result in the immediate extinction of all other vampires and his Lycan slaves. Tanis reveals that Selene’s father was the architect who built William’s prison and that the pendant is the key. Viktor killed Selene’s family as they knew the prison’s location, but turned Selene into a vampire so the memory of the prison’s location would be kept in her blood. Tanis then refers Selene and Michael to Macaro for help. After Selene and Michael leave Tanis’ residence, Markus arrives and drinks Tanis’ blood to learn Selene and Michael’s location, killing Tanis.

Selene and Michael visit Macaro and discover that he actually is Alexander Corvinus. Alexander reveals that he has devoted his entire immortal life to keeping the Vampire-Lycan war a secret. However, he refuses to assist Selene in killing his sons. Then Markus arrives, impaling Michael and learns the location of William’s prison by drinking Selene’s blood. He mortally wounds his father and obtains the other half of the pendant, after deriding his father’s refusal to help William and revealing that he intends with William to rule the world as the god-like master of a race of vampire-Lycan hybrids. On Alexander’s bidding, Selene drinks his blood, enhancing her physical strength and healing abilities to a level equivalent to that of a hybrid. Afterwards, Alexander blows up his ship, killing himself.

Selene, aboard Corvinus’ helicopter, leads his cleaners to the prison to confront and destroy Markus, but he has already freed William. A battle ensues in which William bites the cleaners who, as a result, are turned into werewolves. Michael, who is presumed to be dead and is carried aboard the helicopter, regenerates and joins the fight in his hybrid form, killing William by ripping his head off. Selene engages Markus in hand-to-hand combat, killing him by kicking him into the rotor blades of the cleaners’ crashed helicopter. After the battle, Selene realizes that Alexander’s blood has made her immune to the lethal effects of sunlight on vampires.

Like the first film in the series, Evolution is a dark, Gothic film with elaborate sets, props, and costuming. The acting (one again) is top notch and the script highly intriguing! The story/plot of Evolution is just a wonderful as the first film in the series. So much action to watch, a superb story and fine performances by all.

REVIEW: UNDERWORLD


CAST

Kate Beckinsale (Total Recall)
Scott Speedman (The Vow)
Shane Brolly (Spread)
Sophia Myles (Transformers 4)
Bill Nighy (Wrath of The Titans)
Michael Sheen (Kingdom of Heaven)
Wentworth Miller (Legends of Tomorrow)
Kevin Grevioux (I, Frankenstein)
Zita Gorog (8mm 2)

For generations, a secret war has been waged between vampires and Lycans, an ancient species of werewolf. Selene, a Death Dealer, a vampire specialized in assassinating Lycans, tracks two Lycans. Selene’s motivation goes beyond duty; she also wants revenge because, 600 years ago when she was a child, Lycans slaughtered her family. The vampires believe they defeated the werewolves many centuries ago and killed their leader, Lucian, and that they must kill the surviving Lycans. Selene locates the Lycans’ den and learns they have developed a new kind of UV bullet capable of killing vampires.

Later, Selene arrives at the mansion of her vampire coven and, recounting these events, urges an attack on the Lycans; but the vampire regent, Kraven, dismisses her proposal. Selene determines that the pair of Lycans may have been following a human, Michael Corvin, and continues her investigation. In a Lycan lair, a scientist named Singe tests blood from kidnapped descendants of the ancient Corvinus family, trying to find a pure source of the ancient and powerful Corvinus bloodline. Soon after Selene finds Michael, the pair are attacked by Lycans, including their leader, who is revealed to be Lucian. Lucian bites Michael, but Selene helps Michael escape and the two become attracted to each other.

Selene discovers that Kraven was the only witness to Lucian’s supposed death. Sensing a conspiracy, she awakens a dormant powerful vampire elder, Viktor, who has been hibernating. Viktor is angered by his early awakening, as it was Marcus’ turn to rule the coven. Viktor believes Kraven and orders Selene to acquiesce to the vampire hierarchy. Kraven meanwhile has secretly planned to kill the third vampire elder, Amelia, and her companions, with Lucian’s help.

Selene informs Michael about the feud and her past. She then binds him, fearing that he will kill innocent people after he changes into his Lycan form at the coming night’s full moon. Selene captures Singe while Michael is captured by Lycans. Selene returns to the mansion with Singe, who admits to Viktor that the Lycans are trying to combine the bloodlines of the two species with the Corvinus Strain, the shared source of both the Vampire and Lycan bloodlines, to create a powerful hybrid. After Kraven flees the mansion because Singe has revealed his cooperation with Lucian, news arrives that Amelia, who was coming to awaken Marcus, has been killed by Lycans. Viktor kills Singe and tasks Selene to kill Michael.

While Michael is being held captive, he learns from Lucian that Viktor’s daughter, Sonja, and Lucian were lovers. Lucian tells Michael that the Lycans were slaves to the vampires. When Viktor learned that his daughter had been impregnated by a Lycan, he killed her to prevent any crossing of the two species, which led to the war. According to Lucian, such a crossing would create a hybrid creature that would be more powerful than both the vampires and Lycans.

Selene arrives with a group of Death Dealers to kill the Lycans and Kraven for his treachery. Kraven shoots Lucian with a newly designed bullet that kills by poisoning a Lycan’s bloodstream with silver nitrate. Selene rescues Michael, who is shot by Kraven. Kraven tells Selene it was Viktor who killed her family. Lucian stabs Kraven in the leg and convinces Selene to bite Michael, transmitting the vampire virus into his bloodstream. Selene complies, and Kraven flees after killing Lucian. Viktor arrives and admits that he killed Selene’s family, though he believes she should be grateful as he spared her and made her immortal. He reveals the truth of his love for Sonja – that his choice to have her killed was to protect the vampires and that he must now kill Michael to protect the vampires. Selene eventually kills Viktor with the assistance of Michael, who is now a hybrid. Selene and Michael leave the Lycan lair, now enemies of both species. At the mansion, blood from Singe’s corpse seeps into the sarcophagus of the sole remaining Elder, Marcus, a carrier of the original Corvinus Strain.

Even though this film got panned at the box office by the critics, the public loved it and I feel it is one of the best Vampire movies around. The most refreshing aspect of this movie is the story, which surprisingly has many layers and puts a totally fresh new spin on the vampire/werewolf stories. This aspect, along with the excellent visual effects makes Underworld an enjoyable experience.

REVIEW: TRISTAN & ISOLDE

CAST

James Franco (This Is The End)
Sophia Myles (Underworld)
Rufus Sewell (A Knight’s Tale)
David O’ Hara (Wanted)
Mark Strong (John Carter)
Henry Cavill (Man of Steel)
Ronan Vibert (Dracula Untold)
Lucy Russelll (World War Z)
JB Blanc (War Dogs)
Dexter Fletcher (Kick-Ass)
Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones)

The film is set in Great Britain and Ireland, in the Dark Ages, after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. Lord Marke of Cornwall plans to unify the peoples of Britain – Celts, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes – under himself as high king to resist Irish domination.
Most lords agree to this, as Marke is highly regarded and respected as a fair and courageous leader. The Irish king Donnchadh discovers this and sends troops to attack a Jutish castle where a treaty between the British tribes is being discussed. The raid claims the lives of the castle’s lord and his wife, but Marke manages to save their son, Tristan, at the cost of losing a hand. Feeling compassion for the young boy, whose father loyally supported him, Marke welcomes Tristan into his home and regards him as a son.

Nine years later, Tristan has grown into a fierce, courageous warrior whose loyalty to Marke is not that of a knight to his lord, but rather a son to his father. Tristan and other Cornish warriors launch an attack on an Irish slave caravan. Tristan fights Morholt, the champion and leader of the army of Donnchadh, whose lord’s daughter, Princess Isolde, has been promised to Morholt in marriage. Though Tristan kills Morholt and Donnchadh’s forces are overrun, he is severely wounded in the fight and believed dead, though he is in fact only suffering the effects of Morholt’s poisoned sword.

Tristan’s body is put out to sea on a funeral boat which eventually washes up along the shores of Ireland. He is discovered by Isolde and her maid, Bragnae, who administer an antidote that revives him. Bragnae insists that Isolde conceal her identity so Isolde tells Tristan her name is Bragnae. Tristan and Isolde fall in love as she nurses him back to health. The two lovers must separate after Tristan’s boat is discovered. Tristan returns to Cornwall and receives a hero’s welcome. A confused but overjoyed Marke welcomes him back with open arms.

Plotting to defeat Britain, Donnchadh proposes a peace treaty, promising his daughter Isolde in marriage to the winner of a tournament. Tristan wins the tournament on behalf of Marke, unaware that “the prize” is the woman he fell in love with in Ireland. When he discovers the truth about Isolde, he is heartbroken to see her betrothed to Marke, but accepts it since the marriage will end “a hundred years of bloodshed.” Marke is kind to Isolde and genuinely falls in love with her. Isolde grows fond of him, but her heart still belongs to Tristan. Isolde tells Tristan that she is his anytime he wants. Tristan is torn between his love for Isolde and his loyalty to Marke, a man whom he loves as a father. Marke is confused over what is tormenting Tristan and disappointed by the distance he is putting between them.

Tristan eventually gives in to Isolde; they renew their love and begin an affair behind Marke’s back. The affair is discovered by Lord Wictred, a longstanding dissenter to Marke’s leadership. He informs Donnchadh of the affair and they conspire to use their love to overthrow Marke, with Wictred getting Marke’s throne in exchange. Marke confides in Tristan that he believes Isolde is having an affair. Tristan is tormented by the guilt and burns down the bridge where he would meet Isolde. After Marke and Isolde’s coronation, Tristan attempts to end their relationship, but Isolde begs him not to leave her. They are caught in an embrace by Marke, Donnchadh, and the other British kings. Donnchadh pretends to be furious that his daughter is being treated as a “whore” and ends the alliance. Seeing this as weakness on Marke’s part, the other kings also decide to part ways with him.

Marke is hurt and furious over his wife and son-figure’s betrayal. He tells Tristan he has ruined everything and that he wishes that he had never saved his life. However, after Isolde explains their history, Marke relents. Tristan is taken to the river and Isolde tells him that Marke is letting them run away together. Tristan puts Isolde in the boat meant for their escape and tells her that if they leave they will be remembered for all time as those “whose love brought down a kingdom.” Tristan pushes the boat away from the shore and runs off to the ensuing battle. At the same time, Marke’s nephew and Tristan’s old friend, Melot (Henry Cavill), resentful of his uncle’s long favouring of Tristan, shows Wictred an old passage into the Roman foundations of Marke’s castle. Wictred had made Melot believe that he will become king when Marke is defeated. Once they are in the passage, Wictred stabs Melot and sneaks his army into the castle. Marke and his forces swiftly become pinned down by Donnchadh’s army outside the castle and Wictred’s men within.

Tristan sneaks back into the castle via the secret tunnel, which he used to carry out his affair with Isolde. On the way, he finds the dying Melot; the old friends forgive one another before he dies. Tristan emerges from the tunnel and attacks Wictred’s men, allowing Marke’s soldiers to secure the castle, but he is mortally wounded in combat by Wictred, whom he still manages to kill. Now outnumbered, Tristan, Marke and the soldiers loyal to him emerge from the castle and present Wictred’s severed head to Donnchadh. Marke urges the British kings standing with the Irish to aid them in making Britain a single, free nation. Inspired by his words, the British kings and their men attack Donnchadh and his army.

As a fierce battle between the British and Irish erupts, Marke carries a dying Tristan to the river, where they are met by Isolde. Marke leaves to lead the British to victory, while Tristan eventually dies in Isolde’s arms after uttering his last words: “You were right. I don’t know if life is greater than death. But love was more than either.” Isolde sees to his burial beneath the ashes of the Roman villa where they had met to be with each other. She plants two willows by the grave, which grow intertwined. She then disappears from history and is never seen again. Marke, it is said, defeated the Irish, united Britain, then ruled in peace until the end of his days.

This movie has all the things you expect from a historic epic. Battles, betrayal and larger than life kind of love that ends in tragedy.

REVIEW: FROM HELL

CAST

Johnny Depp (Blow)
Heather Graham (The Hangover)
Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings)
Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter)
Ian Richardson (Highlander: The Series)
Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class)
Sophia Myles (Underworld)
Ian McNeice (Dune – The Mini Series)

In 1888, Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and her small group of London prostitutes trudge through unrelenting daily misery. When their friend Ann Crook (Joanna Page) is kidnapped, they are drawn into a conspiracy with links higher up than they could possibly imagine. The kidnapping is soon followed by the gruesome murder of another woman, Martha Tabram (Samantha Spiro); and it becomes apparent that they are being hunted down, one by one as various prostitutes are murdered and mutilated post-mortem.
The murder of Martha and her companions grabs the attention of Whitechapel Police Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp), a brilliant, yet troubled, man whose police work is often aided by his psychic “visions.” His colleague, Sergeant Peter Godley, tries to grasp his friend’s wild theories. Abberline’s investigations reveal that the murders, while gruesome, imply that an educated person is responsible due to the precise and almost surgical method used. Ann is found a few days later in a workhouse having been lobotomized after officials and doctors supposedly found her to be insane.
It is implied this was done to silence her. Abberline consults Sir William Gull (Ian Holm), a physician to the Royal Family, drawing on his experience and knowledge of medicine. During this meeting it is revealed Abberline is struggling with opium addiction. Gulls findings, coupled with his superiors impeding his investigations, point Abberline to a darker and more organized conspiracy than he originally thought. Abberline becomes deeply involved with the case, which takes on personal meaning to him when he and Mary begin to fall in love.
Abberline deduces that Freemason influence is definitely present in these crimes. His superior, a high ranking Freemason himself, then makes direct intervention and suspends Abberline. It is then revealed that Gull is the killer. He has been killing the witnesses to painter Albert Sickert (Mark Dexter)’s forbidden Catholic marriage to Crook, who bore his legitimate daughter Alice. Sickert is actually Prince Albert, grandson of reigning Queen Victoria (Liz Moscrop), and therefore Alice is heiress to the British throne. Gull tells Abberline that “mankind will remember him for giving birth to the 20th century.” Abberline draws his gun, but before he is able to shoot Gull, he is knocked out by one of Gull’s henchmen.
Gull tries to have Abberline eliminated without leaving any witnesses, but Abberline fights back and kills two of the assassins by overturning a carriage. Gull himself is a Freemason and his increasingly sinister behavior lends an insight into his murderous, but calculated, mind. Rather than publicly charge Gull, the Freemasons decide to lobotomize him to protect themselves and the Royal Family from the scandal. Gull defiantly states he has no equal among men, remaining unrepentant up to his lobotomy, resulting in him becoming invalid just as Ann had been.
Abberline tries to save Mary, but arrives too late, and blames his superior for not helping him or Godley on the cases. Abberline does nothing but watch Mary’s mutilated body being taken away. Abberline receives a mysterious letter, which he soon realizes is from Mary, but he decides not to look for her as a way to offer her protection, as the Freemasons may be watching his every move. Abberline decides to burn the letter, knowing that he can never have a normal life. Mary Kelly does not die; Gull earlier mistook Ada, whom Liz said was from France (but is from Brussels in Belgium), for Mary and he kills her instead. Mary lives with Alice in a cottage on a cliff by the sea. Abberline is found dead of an opium overdose, knowing he can never see Mary again without endangering her. Sergeant Godley comes to pay his respects for the Inspector.The film is well made and the atmosphere is excellently built up throughout the film. It is one of those films where you notice something different almost every time you watch it and it takes a couple of watches to appreciate the story fully

REVIEW: THUNDERBIRDS (2004)

CAST

Bill Paxton (Agents of SHIELD)
Brady Corbet (Thirteen)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Vanessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch)
Soren Fulon (South of Pico)
Sophia Myles (Underworld)
Ron Cook (Hot Fuzz)
Anthony Edwards (Top Gun)
Philip Winchester (Camelot)

I was excited when news broke of a live action Thunderbirds film. I also count myself as a kean Star Trek fan and was pleased to see Jonathan Frakes as the producer (Riker from ST Next Generation) and thought that despite being American (where the original series wasn’t a success) he maybe the right man to modernise and introuduce Thunderbirds to a new generation.What we got was a poorly explained, childish and silly mockery of the original series. Major characters from the series take some what more of a back seat in the film..and there is so much chopping and changing that goes on. It takes a knowledgeable Thunderbirds fan a good while to figure out who is who.

Leaving the newcomers no hope of knowing what is going on..or the initial story behind Thunderbirds. This leads me to believe that the film is defiantly intended for fans of the original series as you are thrown head first into a plot that dosen’t explain itself or any of the main characters.

The film also provides no real explanation of who International Rescue are and major series characters such as Scott, Virgil, Gordon and John Tracy play such a small and insignificant role each character has no more than 2 to 8 lines in the entire film.The original series creator Gerry Anderson said in an interview after he saw it “that was the biggest load of crap I have ever seen” . A pure insult to the Thunderbirds legacy. It really takes the original series and rips it apart limb by limb, stamps up and down on it and leaves it in bits. If you loved the original series as a youngster. All this film will do is anger and confuse you. The original series although viewed as a children’s program was very much picked up on by adults. However this is a very childish and silly approach to the Thunderbirds world. A very plastic, Americanized and prissy version.It literally pays no respect to the original magic of Thunderbirds. something that made the series so special and unique to millions of people.

REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS 1-4

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Megan Fox (New Girl)
Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas)
Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Rachael Taylor (The Darkest Hour)
Anthony Anderson (The Departed)
Jon Voight (Mission Impossible)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Michael O’Neill (Secondhand Lions)
Kevin Dunn (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Julie White (Monsters Vs Aliens)
Zack Ward (Bloodrayne 2)
Travis Van winkle (Meet The Spartans)
Bernie Mac (Bad Santa)
Tom Lenk (Angel)
J.P. Manoux (Birds of Prey)
Odette Annable (The Unborn)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Darius McCrary (15 Minutes)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
Jess Harnell (Wall-e)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Colton Haynes (Arrow)

Searching the galaxy for a troublesome energy cube, the Autobots, lead by Optimus Prime (voiced robustly by legend Peter Cullen), have arrived on Earth. Teaming up with a teenager named Sam (Shia LeBeouf) and innocent bystander Mikeala (Megan Fox), the Autobots set out to complete their mission; but when government agents interfere (led by John Turturro and Jon Voight, with soldiers played by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson), it awakens the wrath of the Decepticons, who free their leader Megatron (Hugo Weaving) from his ice prison and put Earth in their crosshairs as they challenge Prime for control of the all-powerful cube.

Granted, these aren’t your granddaddy’s Transformers. Souped up to resemble high-tech living robots while fighting and the latest in automobile trends in car form, Bay and the producers have mucked around considerably with the look of the Autobots and Decepticons, putting the infamous flames on Optimus Prime and turning Megatron into an alien jet. Supporters of the all-holy “G1” have every right to scoff, but “Transformers” has a wonderful way of making these ludicrous alterations fit into the bigger, slicker picture, pressing down hard on the extraterrestrial angle of our visitors. It’s only a matter of moments before you buy these reinvented incarnations of popular characters and another few seconds before you start to root for their victory and defeat.

Running at 140 minutes, Transformers never runs out of juice.

 

 

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Megan Fox (New Girl)
Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas)
Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Ramon Rodriguez (Need For Speed)
Kevin Dunn (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Julie White (Monsters Vs Aliens)
Isabel Lucas (Red Dawn)
America Olivo (Bitch Slap)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
Jess Harnell (Wall-e)
Tony Todd (Wishmaster)
Frank Walker (The Simpsons)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Michael York (Logans Run)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)

A sequel to the 2007 movie that brings us back to the main characters from that. Two years have passed for then. Sam is off to college and is getting along nicely with girlfriend Mikaela. He’s also trying to distance himself from the whole alien robots whom he got involved with in the first film. The good guy Autobots are helping the military destroy the evil deceptions. But the latter have a whole new plan that involves a figure from their history. As that kicks into action, nobody is safe, and it’s time for Sam and Mikaela to help save the world again.

This builds things up to a much greater scale than the first film, and it brings in a lot more of the robots, both good and bad ones. This is the right decision but there’s so many new characters, few of whom get anything other than cursory introductions, that those who don’t know the transformers characters from other media might be a bit confused. There were times when I thought a scorecard would have helped. Some have rather silly voices and some are used for comic relief, but these ones do at the same time have a fair amount of character as a result, so they work.

The plot also being move involved means you do have to work at it, a little more than you might expect from a piece of escapist entertainment. And yet, whilst it’s not as focused as the first film, it does come up with a big action battle climax.  As humans and alien robots alike battle evil forces and strive to do the right thing and are quite prepared to put their lives on the line, it’s not hard to find yourself rooting for them all the way.

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas)
Tyrese Gibson (Fast 2 Furious)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy)
Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading)
John Malkovich (Red)
Kevin Dunn (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Julie White (Monsters Vs Aliens)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Ken Jeong (The Hangover)
Scott Krinsky (Chuck)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Jess Harnell (Wall-e)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
James Remar (Flashforward)
George Coe (The Entity)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)

The story,  involves a Transformer named Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), who crashed on the moon in the 1960s and is re-awakened by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) in the present day. This sets in motion a chain of events that build to a Transformer war, with Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving) on one side, and Optimus on the other, with the fate of the human race dangling in the middle.

Eventually, we are returned to Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the protagonist from the last two films, and his girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Sam is irritated that after his participation in the battle between Autobots and Decepticons, he’s been out of college for a few months and still doesn’t have a job with the military, or with anyone at all, for that matter. LaBeouf makes these scenes work. Carly’s boss, Dylan (Patrick Dempsey), ribs Sam by referring to a car as “trying to evoke the curves of a woman,” while both Dylan and the camera stare lecherously at Carly.

Ultimately, Bay’s primary success here is casting. In addition to Dempsey (pleasingly cynical), Dark of the Moon boasts an elaborate roster of recognizable, exceptional professionals, like John Malkovich (ridiculous), Frances McDormand (deadly serious), Ken Jeong (psychotic), and Alan Tudyk (over-the-top), who give the film color around its big silly edges. McDormand in particular adds a level of gravitas to the first half of the movie that really greases the wheels, and even though she’s relegated to the far back in the last third, she shares her time with returning player John Turturro, with whom she has amusing chemistry. Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, and Julie White also return.

Everything else is action, action, action. This time, Bay is better with his action geography and choreography, illustrating fights from a distance and turning down the dust clouds a little bit. The 3D often helps, adding a dizzying sense of height to moments such as several characters leaping out onto the side of a tilting glass building, or troops in gliding suits diving out of falling helicopters and soaring an improbable distance across the city.

 

 

CAST

Mark Wahlberg (The Lovely Bones)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Kelsey Grammer (X-Men 3)
Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel)
Jack Reynor (Macbeth)
Titus Welliver (Lost)
Sophia Myles (Underworld)
Bingbing Li (The Message)
T.J. Miller (Deadpool)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Erika Fong (Power Rangers Samurai)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
John Goodman (Red State)

After the monstrous success of his first Transformers trilogy, Hollywood outlaw Michael Bay parted ways with star Shia Labeouf and began a new chapter in his franchise. Mark Wahlberg joins the cast and gives an agreeable performance.

The United States Government no longer supports the Autobot/military alliance, and a shady CIA unit dubbed Cemetery Wind is responsible for hunting down the Decepticons hiding on Earth. Blue-blood inventor Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) struggles to support his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) without a steady paycheck, but discovers a rundown semi-truck cab in an abandoned theater that turns out to be a heavily damaged Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen). Optimus reveals that the CIA is using Deception bounty hunter Lockdown to kill the Autobots, and helps Cade and Tessa escape a Cemetery Wind ambush. They rejoin Autobots Bumblebee, Hound, Drift and Crosshairs, and discover that multinational corporation KSI has recreated Transformium, the unstable metal found in Transformers. This leads KSI head Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) to create his own warriors from Deception leftovers, including deadly Galvatron.


As expected, Bay creates a film on a bigger scale than his last outing, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The practical sets and action sequences are absolutely immense, and Bay again shoots heavily in Detroit, which doubles for Hong Kong.

These films have always been pretty funny, and, while Kruger’s writing will not be winning any awards, it has improved from the Mudflap/Skids jive-talking nonsense of Revenge of the Fallen. Tucci is always funny in tense situations, and comedian T.J. Miller gets some laughs as Cade’s borderline annoying best friend. Wahlberg is a different he gives a committed performance here, and makes the dialogue believable. I like that Bay and company made Cade a single dad, and Peltz’s Tessa is surprisingly not annoying.

The first hour, set at the Yeager homestead in Texas, is my favorite. I enjoyed watching Cade and Tessa meet Optimus and flee from Cemetery Wind. Scenes on Lockdown’s imposing prison ship are also good.  This was intended to be the first film in a new trilogy,with transformers 5 already in the pipeline. The last scene opens the transformers cinematic universe, leaving it open for the fifth to explore further the transformer mythology.