Movie Review ~ Transformers: Age of Extinction

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The Facts:

Synopsis: An automobile mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that brings down the Autobots – and a paranoid government official – on them.

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles, Li Bingbing, T.J. Miller, Han Geng, Titus Welliver, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, John DiMaggio, Mark Ryan, Robert Foxworth, Reno Wilson

Director: Michael Bay

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 165 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Check out my interview with stars Jack Reynor & Nicola Peltz here

Review: In the days that have passed since taking in Transformers: Age of Extinction I’ve been slightly amused by all the critics flapping their gums about how big, dumb, loud, and long director Michael Bay’s fourth film in the Transformers franchise is. My response to that is: What else were you expecting? I mean, if the series had shifted to the hands of a new director as was originally rumored, I could see some validity in the outcry that the series truly was just fodder for deafening explosions and nonsensical action sequences.

This is Michael Bay we’re talking about here and he’s delivered exactly what he was hired to do. Now, I’m not saying that Transformers: Age of Extinction is the kind of movie you should get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars for because it only barely passes the litmus test of summer blockbuster. I’m just asking that you consider the franchise in question as well as considering the director behind the camera.

If I tell you that Transformers: Age of Extinction is the best of the series so far I’d imagine you’d take that with a grain of salt because the first three were so tremendously dumb that they’d make instructional videos on sealing an envelope look like NASA training material. Featuring the increasingly unlikable Shia LeBeouf and a parade of actors culled from the covers of GQ and Maxim magazines, the original trilogy were all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

This fourth film seeks to reboot the franchise…or at least take it in a new direction. Major points are given off the bat for jettisoning LeBeouf and the walking mannequins in favor of, well, similar looking actors that always appear to be fresh from the gym and tanning beds. That they are all a notable improvement over any of the previous cast members should say something significant about the casting department over at Paramount.

Though you may scoff at Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor) playing a goofy Texas inventor that obviously spends an equal amount of time lifting weights as submitting patents, the actor acquits himself nicely by rising above Ehren Kruger’s willy-nilly script and applying the appropriate amount of muscle in tandem with a surprising pep in his step. This may be Wahlberg’s most big budget, high-profile film to date and even if he winds up being another chess piece in Michael Bay’s endgame, he comes out mostly unscathed.

Though they aren’t technically replacing anyone, Nicola Peltz (TV’s Bates Motel) and Jack Reynor (Delivery Man) are obviously filling in for the archetypes vacated by LeBeouf and Megan Fox. It’s nice to report that both are engaging presences and that spunky Peltz is given way more to do than Reynor’s rally car driver whose character seems to only be good at shifting gears at the right moment. Stanley Tucci (Jack the Giant Slayer) pops up with another character in his canon that’s more about the outer appearance than anything going on under the skin. Too much time is spent with Tucci, just another way the film manages to waste quite a lot of the early momentum it builds.

Pacing has never really been of much concern to Bay (nor is his ongoing rampant misogyny) but here he really needed to let go of at least 45 minutes of material. The film has so many endings culminating in one of the longest finales I’ve ever witnessed outside of when I still watched American Idol. Compounded with the deafening sound design and above average use of 3D effects audiences will most likely be seen exiting the theater nearly comatose from overstimulation.

While most critics are giving Bay crap about the film, I’d like to publicly state that I found his previous film (Pain & Gain) to be even more of a punishing experience…and that film didn’t even have Dinobots! Look, Transformers has always been and will always be a series made up of a lot of hollow parts. Transformers: Age of Extinction doesn’t add any meat to the bones of the franchise but it’s a helluva lot better than its predecessors and delivers true bang for your buck.

Just please…don’t ask it to be something it’s not.

Q & A: Nicola Peltz & Jack Reynor from Transformers: Age of Extinction

Anytime a new face pops up in a long running franchise there’s bound to be some raised eyebrows and a slightly standoffish nature between the audience and the newbie to see how well they’re going to fit in.  Though the Transformers series has historically not been all that concerned with the human actors onscreen, previous stars Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox undoubtedly earned Hollywood clout for their work in the series…though both had highly publicized fallouts with either their director (Fox) or studio heads (LeBeouf, who didn’t make nice with Dreamworks honcho Steven Spielberg) that put a damper on their future with the series. Fox was replaced after the second film and LeBeouf didn’t continue on after the last installment.

When the time came for the inevitable fourth entry (Transformers: Age of Extinction, out June 27) and not having an established series regular to move on with, director Michael Bay (Pain & Gain) and screenwriter Ehren Kruger (the US remake of The Ring) chose a different direction.  They haven’t necessarily hit the reboot button or scrapped the established mythology of the previous three films but instead have shifted the focus forward in time, allowing a whole new cast of characters to be introduced.

The star of the film is Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor) but I recently had a chance to sit down with fresh faces Nicola Peltz (star of TV’s Bates Motel) and Jack Reynor (Delivery Man) for a Q & A to get their thoughts on coming into an established series, some favorite moments, and what they bring to the table.  With a friendly poise and down to earth air surrounding them, it appears that Peltz and Reynor won’t merely be LeBeouf and Fox 2.0.

Q: Transformers is a beloved series.  Did you feel any pressure to live up to what it has become as a franchise?
Nicola Peltz: Well we’re playing different characters and not replacing anyone.  So there’s no pressure to live up anyone that’s come before us.  Living in a house with brothers obsessed with Transformers, being a huge fan of the series myself, and also growing up a fan of Michael Bay just being able to audition was a big thing. Then getting on set and working with such talented people was so exciting for me.

Q: What’s at stake for your characters in this film?  What do your characters stand to lose if they fail?
NP:  Our lives!  (laughs)  These are normal, relatable people put into a crazy situation.  In the film I get separated from my dad and being a 17 year old girl that’s pretty scary.  To not be with her dad and in this situation is intimidating and she’s scared she could lose her life.  Also, she has to worry about the lives of her family and boyfriend.
Jack Reynor: My character is a young Irish guy who’s landed in Texas and has an incredible ability to race rally cars.  It gives him confidence in himself and gives him the ability to assume his position in that world.  Throughout the course of the film he’s just trying to find his place, prove who he is, and what he’s worth.  At the same time, his relationship with Nicola’s character helps her become more independent and grow in a very healthy way.

Q: Nicola, with a lot of strong female leads in entertainment and film today, does your character Tessa continue that trend? The Transformers series has been known to be more of a guy film so what do you think will bring the female audiences in to see this?
NP: Well, I grew up with six brothers so I was always into the guy movies and action films.  But Tessa is really relatable to a lot of girls: her dad is overprotective and is in a no-dating household so I get all of that.  She’s a tough girl and I think that a lot of girls will be really into it…I know I am.  Did I sell you? (laughs)
You’ll see at the beginning of the film that she lives a normal life before she’s thrust into an extraordinary situation.  She’s definitely a tough girl having been raised on a farm.  She does get her but kicked a lot…A LOT.  But she has her moments.
JR: I think she’s a bit more of a badass than any of the other franchises around at the moment. She’s less the sensitive wilting flower and more of a badass.  She’s going out with an Irish race car driver (Reynor’s character) so she better be…

Q: What scene did you enjoy shooting the most?
NP: Well, Jack and I have the same favorite scene.  If you’ve seen the trailer there’s a shot of Mark, Jack, and myself running through this huge explosion.  That was real and we found out about four minutes we got on set.  We had no idea.  We get on set and see all these explosives and twelve cameras and were like, ‘What is going on?”  Michael (Bay) does like to add random scenes so we were very confused.  He tells us ‘You’re going to have to run from here to here in 4.6 seconds, okay?  And don’t mess it up because we can only do it once.” We had a practice run and then we just did it…it was so exciting because your adrenaline is going crazy.

Q: Jack, coming off of independent films like What Richard Did and Macbeth, can you talk about the differences between doing small budget films and such a monumental blockbuster film like Transformers: Age of Extinction?
JR: Well, for me at least independent films and a film like Transformers are not all that different in terms of my approach to a character and a performance.  You still have to try your best to suspend your disbelief and draw on your imagination and emotions.  You invoke certain thoughts for yourself to invest in your character.  The real difference is with a movie of this budget and scale there’s so many more people around all the time. The effects are so heavy and the wait time between shots is substantially longer.  People ask the question all the time “What’s it like to star opposite a giant imaginary robot” and I think that it’s not so different from any other film you try to do…and it’s just an extension of that.  With Mark (Wahlberg), Michael (Bay), Stanley (Tucci) and others on set they’ve taught us how to relate to the industry and how the industry relates to us.  Which is an important thing to learn at this stage in our careers.

Q: Transformers: Age of Extinction is a much different animal than the work you’ve done in the past.  Have you found that your life has changed with the added exposure that comes from being in the fourth Transformers movie?
NP: No, my life not at all.  I still walk around and no one really cares.
JR: For both of us on a personal level, things haven’t changed an awful lot as of yet.  I’m from Ireland so everyone back home is excited that an Irish guy is part of a massive franchise like this.  We don’t have Irish characters in movies like this ever, it’s the first time we’ve seen an Irish guy as part of a large supporting role in a film like this.  That’s a really great thing.
In our professional lives, both of us have noticed that we’re in a position now that we can potentially finance projects we want to make ourselves and we have a lot more freedom/leeway in what we want to do.  It’s afforded us a lot of opportunities in the industry and we’re both trying to take full advantage of that.

Q: In an interview with IndieLondon magazine, Mark Wahlberg was quoted as saying that with the release of the film “Jack and Nicola’s lives are going to change quite a bit when it comes out. And that’s something that you’re either going to be able to deal with or it’s going to become a problem.”  We’ve heard you mention in interviews what a hard-working professional Wahlberg is but can you speak specifically as to his influences on you as a mentor/father figure as you enter huge celebrity?
JR: Mark really led from the front.  To be able to observe him in that environment was something very beneficial to us both.  It helped us develop a healthy work ethic in this industry.  At the end of the day, it’s about your own individual experience in the industry and the kind of person you are and what you want for yourself.  There are a lot of people our age in the industry that I perceive are in it for the wrong reasons…there in it for a profile, for fame, for the self-glorification of it all.  That’s certainly not why Nicola or I are in this business.  We’re both here to create characters and relate things that are important for society and to make fun movies.  Movies that help people transcend the issues in their lives…even for two hours.  When it comes to how we’ll relate to our rising profiles, we’re both very grounded people and we have great support groups in our friends and families.  I live in Dublin and I’m not going to leave.  I’ll carry on my life as normally as I can.  This is one part of my life but there’s a lot more in my life than this that I have to give just as much time to, if not more.
NP: The people you surround yourself with are really really important.  My mom is always telling if I ever get out of line, or I start getting upset when things don’t go my way, or if I lose the joy in it she’ll pull the plug on acting.  When you have a passion for acting like I do, you tend you ignore the external aspects.  Celebrities lose their privacy but there are worse things going on in the world than that.  We’re so lucky that we get to do what we love to do.
JR: I’m uncomfortable with the word and label celebrity…
NP: I’m saying that you see celebrities that lose their privacy and get upset.  I can understand that, for sure, but there are definitely other worse things going on in the world.
JR: At the end of the day, celebrity is not something Nicola or I are interested in chasing down.  It’s about being actors first and foremost.  That’s where our love is and our passion for the industry lies.  As long as that remains important to us we’ll be fine and I think we’ll be quite successful.   Once you lose sight of that and why you got into the industry in the first place that’s when the trouble starts.  Hopefully Nicola and I will be supported enough and grounded enough in ourselves that it won’t be an issue we have to face.

The Silver Bullet ~ Transformers: Age of Extinction

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Synopsis: An automobile mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that brings down the Autobots and Decepticons – and a paranoid government official – on them.

Release Date:  June 27, 2014

Thoughts: Since the filmmakers behind the Transformers series seem to have hit the soft reset button, I figure I can do the same on wiping out the memory of the previous three films that have been box office hits but were  hollow as the cheap chocolate bunny I always get at Easter.  With a new star on board (Mark Wahlberg, Lone Survivor,  Contraband) and no sign of stinkers Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox, I’m hoping that the fourth entry about those shape shifting alien robots will be more than just a big budget excuse for director Michael Bay (Pain & Gain) to level cities and showboat with his camera.  

MN FANS!

Nicola Peltz & Jack Reynor, stars of TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION, will be at Mall of America on Sunday, June 8th at 2pm!  Nicola & Jack will show clips from the film, sign autographs, & answer questions from fans!  Visit mallofamerica.com for more information.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION begins after an epic battle left a great city torn, but with the world saved.  As humanity picks up the pieces, a shadowy group reveals itself in an attempt to control the direction of history…while an ancient, powerful new menace sets Earth in its crosshairs.  With help from a new cast of humans (led by Mark Wahlberg), Optimus Prime and the Autobots rise to meet their most fearsome challenge yet.  In an incredible adventure, they are swept up in a war of good and evil, ultimately leading to a climactic battle across the world.  TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION in theaters June 27.

Website:  www.TransformersMovie.com