The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

WHILE Trans­form­ers reaches new heights in com­puter- gen­er­ated spe­cial ef­fects, with some­thing truly star­tling hap­pen­ing ev­ery other sec­ond, it re­ally is a half dozen movies rolled into one, none of them es­pe­cially bril­liant. There’s the back­bone about the two races of ro­botic aliens, the Au­to­bots and the De­cep­ti­cons, who are locked in a weirdly eter­nal war and, nat­u­rally, the fate of the uni­verse is at stake. Then there is the hope­lessly hack­neyed tale of young Sam Witwicky, played with ad­mirable grace un­der pres­sure by Shia LaBeouf. Sam is reedy and nerdy, and falls head over heels in love with class spun­kette Mikaela Banes ( Me­gan Fox), who seems about 45 in her el­e­gance and ob­vi­ous sex­ual ma­tu­rity. Sam’s $ 4000 Camiro turns out to be a trans­form­ing alien, and he is called on to save the world via his role in the bot wars, trans­form­ing him­self from hope­less neu­rotic to sexy ac­tion hero in about eight sec­onds flat. Then there’s the arc about the pres­i­dent ( seen only as a pair of red socks and a voice with a south­ern ac­cent) and defence sec­re­tary John Keller, played with be­mused de­tach­ment by Jon Voight. There are Sam’s wacky par­ents, who have bat­tles and great lines of their own, two high­oc­tane hack­ers, a phony top- se­cret agency and more. The sto­ries col­lide and weave with the in­tri­cacy but none of the grace of the gi­ant bots. A self- satiris­ing stance and the sick­en­ing pace can’t save this feast of empty calo­ries.

Trans­form­ers ( M) Paramount ( fea­ture runs 138 min­utes) $ 39.95

Ian Cuth­bert­son EX­TRAS: An en­tire disc of fea­turettes EX­TRAS: Ad­di­tional fea­ture: The Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre: The Be­gin­ning

The Com­plete Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre ( R18+) Road­show ( Fea­ture runs for 186 min­utes) $ 29.95

IT will re­main a cult film for­ever but it is no longer scary. Per­haps it’s the lan­guid na­ture of the first half, or the ab­sur­dity of white bell- bot­tom pants at night, or the an­noy­ing sound of a chain­saw that no one will turn off. Or per­haps the film has been copied too many times and we have all grown ac­cus­tomed to on- screen de­prav­ity. More than 30 years af­ter this film was lauded as one of the scari­est of all time and was a huge com­mer­cial suc­cess, it has crossed over into the comic hor­ror cat­e­gory. That said, there is much that is en­ter­tain­ing. With the ten­sion leached out, what saves the long, slow set- up that in­tro­duces the five young trav­ellers and the hitch­hiker is some weird but be­liev­able be­hav­iour and the ex­tremely stylish cin­e­matog­ra­phy. This re­stored and re­mas­tered ver­sion has spiked the film with such highly sat­u­rated colours that many early frames dou­ble as mag­nif­i­cent land­scape por­traits. ( It is spooky that the di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy’s name is Daniel Pearl, the same as the jour­nal­ist be­headed in Pak­istan and at the core of the story in A Mighty Heart .) There is also a lot of plea­sure to be had from the film’s doc­u­men­tary style and wacky char­ac­ters. Once night has fallen and the an­noy­ing wheel­chair- bound Franklin is killed off, the film re­ally comes into its own. That’s when just one of the five — the blonde not wear­ing a bra, of course — is left to bat­tle evil alone. The fi­nal scenes and Leather­face’s sun­rise dance with the chain­saw are well worth the ride and by then ev­ery­one is scream­ing with laugh­ter.

Sandy Ge­orge

Shock ( fea­ture runs 86 min­utes) $ 24.95

NEVER one to boast ( cough), William Shat­ner is as mod­est as ever about his im­por­tance. Well, at least he has the grace to add par­en­thet­i­cally, while boast­ing that he changed the world, that it was ac­tu­ally Star Trek that did it. The great man ( and I mean that, for I am a dyed- in- the- wool Shat- man fan) hosts this in­quiry into mod­ern tech­nol­ogy and how it all be­gan, you guessed it, with Star Trek . John Adler, pro­fes­sor at the Stan­ford Univer­sity School of Medicine, tells us: ‘‘ The sick bay that Dr Bones McCoy was run­ning at the time was a revo­lu­tion in the way we think about man­ag­ing pa­tients.’’ Martin Cooper, cred­ited with in­vent­ing the cell phone for Mo­torola, says: ‘‘ The Star Trek com­mu­ni­ca­tor to us was not at all a fan­tasy. It was an ob­jec­tive.’’ But, as he al­ways did, Shat­ner con­stantly steals the show. ‘‘ On Septem­ber 8, 1966, the USS En­ter­prise cruised ef­fort­lessly across the television screens of Amer­ica for the first time,’’ he tells us, be­fore adding earnestly: ‘‘ Au­di­ences were as­ton­ished and in­spired, and not just by my act­ing.’’ To this day NASA re­mains un­der the Star Trek spell. This is ver­i­fied by Marc Ray­man, NASA’s chief propul­sion en­gi­neer. Racial tol­er­ance, the search for ex­tra- ter­res­trial intelligence, the com­puter revo­lu­tion and more can be traced back. Old footage is mag­i­cally in­ter­spersed with Shat­ner’s nar­ra­tion. It even pops up dur­ing the egg- head in­ter­views, which are never al­lowed to grow stale or over- long. Post- pro­duc­tion ef­fects, such as putting talk­ing nerds ‘‘ on screen’’ aboard the En­ter­prise, are pure gold.

Ian Cuth­bert­son


How William Shat­ner Changed the World ( PG)

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