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The Clunky Bunch 

Marky Mark can't save us from Extinction

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TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION. I don't seek out Michael Bay movies, but I don't really avoid them either. Once you've seen a dozen or so helicopters explode over a freeway, you've sort of seen them all. Inevitably, though, I end up seeing the films as a tag-a-long, at a friend's house, when I'm drinking and generally making bad decisions. Bay lured me in this time, though, with promises of dinosaurs and Marky Mark, Stanley Tucci and not-Shia LaBeouf. When you dangle dinos and robots, I'm going to come at you like a kitten to yarn. Transformers: Age of Extinction was nearly three hours of horrible dialogue, overly complex and amateur plot lines and hardly any dinosaurs.

Age of Extinction is the fourth in the never-ending movie mill of the Transformers series, all directed by Michael Bay. After the massive damage to the city of Chicago in the third film, the United States government has shifted its position on the alien robots known as transformers. The CIA has launched a clandestine campaign called "The Cemetery Wind." Really. Under the direction of Agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), the agency teamed up with its own transformer, Lockdown, to hunt down and destroy any of the remaining autobots. When Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) buys a broken down semi truck to scrap for parts, he's unaware that he has put himself in the middle of a war zone. Cue the car chases through cornfields, robots on rooftops fighting (surprise!) helicopters and hours of city-leveling destruction. Meanwhile, Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) and his billion-dollar company, KSI, have discovered the secret to the transformers' technology. They've harnessed the power of an element they have dubbed "Transformium." And that is where they lost me and I could no longer contain my laughter. Sorry people in the next row. From there the plot thickens like the layer of film on top of an ignored bowl of tomato soup.

The carousel of familiar faces makes the whole film a little easier to swallow. Picturing Grammer (Frasier) and Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) arguing with pretend robots in front of a green screen takes the edge off during the more frustrating moments of clichéd plot points about fathers and daughters. T.J. Miller (How to Train Your Dragon) is an annoying distraction as the socially diffused surfer sidekick, but it's easy to see his appeal to a younger, teenaged crowd. Nicole Peltz (Bates Motel) does a fine job as the doting but sassy daughter to Wahlberg's sexy and over-protective father role. There are also brief cameos that draw you back in when the redundancy of the action sequences grows stale.

It's hard to imagine this film appealing to even the easiest action film demographic: 8 to 10-year-old boys. It has a run-time of two hours and 45 minutes, which was too long for my "adult" attention span. Michael Bay held up his end of the deal, action-wise, but writer Ehren Kruger (The Brothers Grimm) brought a tome to a comic book fight. PG13. 165m.

— Dev Richards


EARTH TO ECHO. A group of youngsters finds a friendly alien and helps him phone, ahem, sorry, get home. PG. 89m.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL. Troubled cop? Check. Mysterious priest? Check. Possessed people clawing and twitching all over New York City? Natch. With Eric Bana. R. 119m.

OBVIOUS CHILD. Jenny Slate is overwhelmed and oversharing as a struggling comic who gets canned, dumped and pregnant. R. 84m.


22 JUMP STREET. It ain't broke, and they ain't fixing it. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return as undercover cops busting a college drug ring in this funny and self-aware comedy. R. 112m.

CHEF. Jon Favreau stars in this well done food-truck road movie that cuts through professional kitchen bravado to real humanity and warmth. With Robert Downey Jr. and John Leguizamo. Bring napkins. R. 115m.

EDGE OF TOMORROW. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as soldiers battling aliens in a post-apocalyptic Groundhog Day loop. Clever, slick and utterly forgettable. PG13. 113m.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Beat the rush and start crying now. Adapted from John Green's novel with excellent performances from Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as the young, star-crossed lovers. PG13. 126m.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2. Transportive animation and talented voice acting create a world worth revisiting and a story with humor and real drama. PG. 102m.

JERSEY BOYS. Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the Broadway musical about the Four Seasons has the music and the look, but the story is the same old predictable song. R. 134m.

MALEFICENT. An atmospheric, good-looking fantasy with a sharpened Angelina Jolie as the fairytale party crasher from Sleeping Beauty. Heavy on CGI, light on character and not quite scary enough. PG. 98m.

TAMMY. Melissa McCarthy plays a woman on a wild and wooly rock-bottom road trip with her hard-drinking grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon. R. 102m.

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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About The Author

Henry Ellis

Henry Ellis

Henry Ellis has been a freelancer with NCJ since 2011; he has never made a deadline.

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