For a re­view of “Trans­form­ers: The Last Night,”

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Michael Bay is the kind of film­maker who has al­ways un­der­stood ma­chines bet­ter than peo­ple. In his films, chrome hur­tles through space with a sen­sual weight­i­ness; the clangs and thuds of me­tal against me­tal send a fris­son down the spine.

“Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight” does not stray from this for­mula, ex­cept that it is more; it is the most. It’s shinier, louder, cra­zier; it’s a fid­get spin­ner jacked up on steroids.

Butwhile Bay­whips up an im­pres­sively fren­zied, machi­nated opera, the hu­mans are an­other story — they’re not even an af­ter­thought. That has never been more ap­par­ent than in this in­stall­ment of the film fran­chise about alien ro­bots in­spired by a car­toon from the ’ 80s.

The plot is a se­ries of in­creas­ingly baf­fling events, pro­ceed­ing from the Dark Ages of Eng­land, to outer space, to mod­ern day Cuba, to Chicago, to South Dakota, then back to Eng­land in the space of the first 25 min­utes. That re­lent­less pace never, ever lets up for the 2 hour, 26 minute run­ning time. Watch­ing it feels like hang­ing on to a buck­ing bronco for dear life.

“Trans­form­ers: Michael Bay Presents Game of Thrones in Space” does of­fer the some­times pleasant, of­ten nau­se­at­ing, sen­sa­tion of tum­bling your eyes and brain around in­side a wash­ing ma­chine. This swirling melee of crash­ing auto parts gets tire­some in the third hour, when it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine which way is up, whether or not we’re un­der­wa­ter or in space, and which ro­bots are fight­ing which other ro­bots.

It’s hard to imag­ine any­one read­ing, let alone writ­ing, the script and be­liev­ing that it made any sort of sense at all. Aside from the ab­so­lutely in­sane plot— it would be a fool’s er­rand to at­tempt to de­scribe it — there isn’t any char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment. Only Op­ti­mus Prime is given a proper arc, and he dis­ap­pears for the mid­dle hour of the movie. Stand­ing in for wit and hu­mor is a pas­tiche of mean­ing­less pop cul­ture ref­er­ences, tooted by Bum­ble­bee’s scan­ning ra­dio voice, or chirped in a proper Bri­tish ac­cent by new trans­former but­ler Cog­man.

Un­for­tu­nately, the many cred­ited writ­ers also de­cided to at­tempt a poorly ex­e­cuted ges­ture at girl power through the char­ac­ters of Vi­vian ( Laura Had­dock) and Iz­abella ( Is­abela Moner). Vi­vian is an ac­com­plished pro­fes­sor who is bad­gered by her mother and col­leagues about her love life, and cos­tumed as if she’s in the video for Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” Iz­abella is a scrappy or­phan me­chanic who ful­fills the daugh­ter role for Cade ( Mark Wahlberg). Though she’s only 14 and de­clared a “lit­tle girl,” Bay’s cam­era can’t help but leer at her too.

“Trans­form­ers: Ro­bot De­men­tia” could have been a camp mas­ter­piece if not for the mis­guided hu­mor, mis­placed self- se­ri­ous­ness and jokes that be­come in­creas­ingly, un­com­fort­ably sex­ist. Only Tony Hale and John Tur­turro seem to know what a sil­ly­movie they are in, and they com­mit fully, es­pe­cially Hale as an epi­cally stressed out NASA sci­en­tist. Star Mark Wahlberg seems to be in a “Satur­day Night Live” sketch about him­self — you half ex­pect him to tell a De­cep­ti­con to “say hello to ya motha forme.”

This is Bay’s world, and when faced with the end of the world, there’s only one mes­sage to be gleaned from this en­try in the “Trans­form­ers” fran­chise: The Mack trucks and the mus­cle cars will out­live us all.

“Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight,” a Para­mount Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG- 13 for vi­o­lence and in­tense se­quences of sci- fi ac­tion, lan­guage and some in­nu­endo. Run­ning time: 146 min­utes. ½


Di­rec­tor Don Siegel cre­ated in “The Beguiled,” back in 1971, an emo­tional ten­sion as thick and muggy as the air in sum­mer. The only thing more sti­fling and heated in this story set dur­ing the Civil War was the sex­ual ten­sion cre­ated by a wounded Union sol­dier ( Clint East­wood) be­ing given sanc­tu­ary at a girls’ board­ing school. The film, based on the novel by Thomas Cul­li­nan, mixed pas­sion and be­trayal in such dark quan­ti­ties that at times it played more like a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller or hor­ror movie.

Di­rec­tor Sophia Cop­pola has adapted Cul­li­nan’s novel for her own vi­sion of “The Beguiled.” Her take on this story of a Union sol­dier ( Colin Far­rell) be­friended by the fe­males at a board­ing school fol­lows the same plot. The dif­fer­ence be­tween this up­dated look and the work done by Siegel is that Cop­pola fails to cre­ate any of the ten­sion that made the orig­i­nal so haunt­ing. Com­pared to the orig­i­nal, Cop­pola’s ver­sion looks more like a ju­nior col­lege pro­duc­tion of “The Beguiled.”

Both start the same way. John McBur­ney ( Far­rell) is dis­cov­ered in the woods by a young stu­dent who sneaks out to find mush­rooms. The child’s pas­sion for bring­ing home wounded an­i­mals goes into over­drive when she de­cides to help the in­jured sol­dier.

Once back at the school, McBur­ney be­gins to cast a spell on the teach­ers and stu­dents, sparked by a mix of cu­rios­ity and sex­ual en­ergy. His re­la­tion­ship with the fe­males be­gins to cre­ate jeal­ous feel­ings es­pe­cially tied to McBur­ney’s in­ter­est in Ed­wina Dab­ney ( Kirsten Dunst), a school teacher who dreams of leav­ing the wartorn world.

In the orig­i­nal, these re­la­tion­ships were pre­sented in a very raw way, at times al­most to the point of be­ing campy. Cop­pola’s ap­proach is more lum­ber­ing and emo­tion­ally flat, a ma­jor prob­lem for a pro­duc­tion that de­pends so heav­ily on the in­ter­ac­tion of all par­ties.

Many of the el­e­ments to make the new ver­sion as good as the old are here, start­ing with a strong per­for­mance by Far­rell who with each film shows the ex­tent of his act­ing skills. As McBur­ney, he goes from smooth talk­ing gen­tle­man to crazed cap­tor and makes each twist and turn in­ter­est­ing.

Dunst does a pass­able job as the ob­ject of McBur­ney’s at­ten­tion. It would have helped cre­ate more en­ergy if there had been more sex­ual or emo­tional ten­sion in her per­for­mance. At least she shows more life than Ni­cole Kid­man as the school’s leader. Kid­man never set­tles on a way to play Martha Farnsworth but drifts be­tween sav­ior and sin­ner as if sleep­walk­ing through the tale.

Those are not ma­jor gaffes, but the work by Elle Fan­ning as Alicia, the teen who has a sex­ual awak­en­ing at su­per­sonic speed, is a fail­ing more dev­as­tat­ing than Sher­man’s march to the sea. Fan­ning stum­bles through scenes where she’s tries to be the cen­tral trou­ble­maker of the group and has even more prob­lems at­tempt­ing to get across the new sex­ual fire she’s sup­pos­edly feel­ing. The scene where Alicia slips into McBur­ney’s room to steal a kiss has all the pas­sion of a young girl kiss­ing her pil­low good night.

There was a feel­ing of doom that en­veloped the orig­i­nal with the ever present threat of Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers dis­cov­er­ing the hid­den sol­dier; that made ev­ery move made by the women a po­ten­tial prob­lem. Cop­pola fails to find that same en­ergy and any con­nec­tion to the war be­ing waged out­side the walls is vague at best. A loom­ing pres­ence of the war would have helped el­e­vate Kid­man’s per­for­mance.

The best thing Cop­pola has go­ing for her is that the orig­i­nal film was re­leased 46 years ago and those in the main de­mo­graphic of movie­go­ers weren’t even born un­til years af­ter the re­lease. They would be far more en­ter­tained if they picked up a copy of the orig­i­nal in­stead of wast­ing time with this half- hearted at­tempt that doesn’t show any of the tal­ent Cop­pola has re­vealed in her other di­rect­ing ef­forts.

This ver­sion of “The Beguiled” will leave you baf­fled, be­wil­dered and be­fud­dled.

“The Beguiled,” a Fo­cus Fea­tures re­lease, is rated R for sex­u­al­ity and war vi­o­lence. Run­ning time: 96 min­utes. ½


Ni­cole Kid­man, left, and Colin Far­rell star in the Fo­cus Fea­tures new re­lease “The Beguiled.”

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