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Arts and Entertainment

Transformers, Good Movie in Disguise

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Dreamworks and Paramount moved up the release of their summer blockbuster Transformers from 7/4/7 to 7/2/7 when someone realized that opening on Monday instead of Wednesday means you have what may be the very first seven-day opening weekend.

If you're like me, you saw the trailers a few weeks ago and thought, "Hey, that looks cool." If you did think that, you won't feel cheated when you celebrate your independence from British rule by dropping your $14.00 on a ticket.

Never having watched or owned Transformers as a kid, I cannot talk about this film from a fan's perspective, though I can see the appeal to a pre-teen in the 80s. I'm just a dude who likes things blowing up real good and giant robots from outer space.

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Though I was ready to enjoy the movie, things didn't start well when one of the first producer credits to cross the screen was for Hasbro. Chuckles and guffaws across the theatre confirmed a general sense of disdain. Sure, they own the property and all, but do they really have to take a producer credit?

Luckily the stink of it didn't continue on through the movie. Director Michael Bay did the right thing by taking the Raiders of the Lost Ark model and putting a great big set piece as the first sequence in the film. The attack by a U.S. military helicopter that turns into one of the Decepticons, the bad robots from outer space, on a U.S. military base in Qatar is a nice kick start to the film. It also serves the plot nicely as Helicoptertron (not his real name) is not there just to kick some ass, but rather to retrieve classified military information.

Soon after, we meet the human star of the film, Sam, played by Shia LeBoeuf. I heard from more than one person who winced at the idea of LeBoeuf in this film, but he is fine in the part. His performance is engaging and he strikes the right chord for the character of the high school outcast who is suddenly befriended by giant robots from outer space. He is, perhaps, a little too good looking and extroverted to make a believable underdog/nerd, but he manages to pull it off.

He's aided in his portayal by the way-too-hot-and-definitely-not-a-junior-in-high-school-but-I'll-suspend-my-disbelief-for-now-because-she's-easy-on-the-eyes Megan Fox as Mikaela. She's so wildly out of place as a high schooler that she makes leading man LeBoeuf look just that much dorkier.

I managed to stay tuned when it was revealed that Mikaela's really into cars and learned auto repair as a girl at her father's side. It got a lot harder when we meet Rachel Taylor's Maggie, a smokin' hot Australian audio expert. She's on a civilian team working for the Pentagon trying to decipher the only evidence from the Qatar attack, the signal from Helicoptertron, and she's looking good doing it.

C'mon Michel Bay, this is a little egregious even for you. Can you really defend the hyper- clichéd hot lady scientist? I'm not saying that beautiful women can't be scientists or vice versa, but didn't Denise Richards and her turn as nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones in the Bond flick kill this notion in the movies?

I feel like I may be complaining a little too much about a film that I claim I enjoyed. Let me heap a little praise on the schizophrenic robot movie.

The visual effects in this film are pretty much flawless. I bought every moment of every big action scene. They have their animation down to a science and an art. The real world physics of these things are impossible, but you'll get right on board from frame one. Normal size Camaro turns into a bulky thirty-foot robot? That could happen.

A performer who I was excited to see in this film is John Turturro. He's been flawless in every film that I've ever seen him in and I would never have pegged him for a part in this kind of film. I don't necessarily think that he's a snob, but I just don't see him pursing this part and I don't see Michael Bay's casting director thinking, "John Turturro! That's who this film needs."

I am glad to see him in a giant Hollywood film if only for the buckets of cash that I hope they paid him to be in it. It's not selling out, it's getting a raise after years of being underpaid in the indie world.

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Was his performance up to par with his work in films like Five Corners or Barton Fink? Not really. He's playing an over-the-top secret agent, who is basically a cartoon character in a movie based on cartoon characters and he hits it just right. That's all he needed to do. He's not going to get an Independent Spirit Award for the role, but I'm guessing he probably will for one of his next films.

Though the film is based on a Saturday morning cartoon and a line of kids' toys, I'm not sure it'd be right for kids of all ages. There is a lot of "cartoon violence" but you have to think that these toys really killed a lot of people during the course of this movie. Parents, your test should be: Can your kid put two and two together when he or she sees a bus torn in half by a giant rollerblading evil robot from outer space, that perhaps a few people didn't walk away from that accident and do you have a problem with that?

Now back to the complaint department or perhaps, at the very least, the advice department. I'm never the one to cry racist any time someone uses the wrong word or tells an insensitive joke, but Bay needs to do a little work on his portrayal of African-American characters. I don't want to delve into to too many details, you see the film and judge for yourself, but I'm guessing that there will not be any NAACP Image Awards handed out for the characters played by Bernie Mac and Anthony Anderson and their families.

(Spoiler notice for the next paragraph)

Plus the "black" Autobot, those are the good giant robots from outer space, is a bit of a stereotype too. Granted they learned about Earth from our broadcasts, but did they only get broadcasts of What's Happening!!? Finally, in a time honored Hollywood tradition, the "black" Autobot, named Jazz... yes, I said Jazz, is the first good robot to die. If you're about to beam down to a planet and you're not Kirk, McCoy or Spock, then you're in trouble and if you're a black man walking into a haunted house or a space ship, then you're doomed.

Again, I feel like I'm complaining about this film a lot more than I'm complimenting it. I really did enjoy the movie. I guess I'm just a sucker for hot ladies in crop tops and giant robots and things blowing up.

It's not bad. Seriously. Again, if you've seen the trailers and think, "Cool!" then you're going to come out of the film thinking the exact same way. It's a film that's been genetically engineered to be released on July 4th weekend and rake in a ton of money and I'm not saying that that's a bad thing.

Photo by Robert Takata via Flickr

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As an added bonus, please enjoy the following two clips. The first is a video of a song from the original, animated Transformers the Movie from 1986. It's for the song "The Touch" performed by Stan Bush.

The second is a re-post of today's 4:20 clip. It's from the movie Boogie Nights and features Mark Wahlberg as Dirk Diggler recording his version of "The Touch" circa 1986.

Please enjoy.