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.
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.
How William Shatner Changed the World ( PG)