Oh wretched excess: 'Transformers: Last Knight'

By Tom Von Malder | Oct 01, 2017
Photo by: Paramount Home Entertainment Mark Wahlberg stars in "Transformers: The Last Knight."

Owls Head — Transformers: The Last Knight (Paramount, 2 Blu-ray or standard DVDs, PG-13, 154 min.). Executive producer/director Michael Bay's heavy hands are all over this sixth Transformers movie -- with another two announced, woe is us. The film is overly long (I don't think that it was because I was tired that I started wishing the film would end about the 90-minute mark) , overly bombastic and a story -- attributed to four writers (never a good sign) -- that mostly makes no sense and seems to drop points willy nilly as it slogs along .Bay is all about big action scenes and there are plenty of very large fight scenes here, chaotic in the extreme and very loud.

Pardon one for thinking it was a joke, but the film actually ties the Transformers to King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable, with Merlin having discovered an alien ship and having been given a staff of incredible power with which to defeat the invading Saxons. And if one were wondering why all these Transformers -- good and bad -- have been heading to Earth, it is because  the evil Transformers, including the Decepticons, are following the orders of Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan), who is the Prime of Life, aka the goddess who rules the Transformers home world of Cybertron. According to Quintessa, who has brainwashed Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) into thinking he is Nemesis Prime, Earth is Unicron, the mortal enemy of Cybertron. Quintessa sends Nemesis Prime to Earth to recover the power staff that was given to Merlin, so that she can use it to drain Earth's energy and repair dying Cybertron.

As the film opens, there is a new police force, TRF, to deal with Transformers and it attacks an alien hot spot near Chicago when 14-year-old Izabella (Izabela Moner) activates a Transformer. Ongoing character Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) pops up from nowhere to nearly save the day. It all seems just a device to add Izzy to his team, seeing as he can only have one-way audio contact with his own daughter, now away at university, although Cade is given a talisman that, we learn later, is needed to get hold of the staff. Meanwhile, Anthony Hopkins (one has to start wondering about some of his recent film choices) is running around England as Edmund Burton, the Earl of Folgan and the last member of the Witwiccans (is the name supposed to be a joke?), tasked with make sure the staff stays safe. Burton "kidnaps" Oxford University antiquities professor Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock) as she is the last living descendent of Merlin and, thus, the only one who can utilize the staff. Also, her father has hidden the key to the staff's location.

There is some awkward humor between Cade and Vivian when they first come together and it carries on a bit, reminding one of the relationship between Harrison Ford and Karen Allen's characters in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." That is not the only film that is "borrowed from" here. Most of the six alien horns (metallic structures that never are explained, but apparently hold the key to the next film) that grow out of the Earth's surface are rising in deserts, giving the film scenes similar to those in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (see below). Cade has an elevator fight that recalls the very recent "Captain America: Civil War," and Burton's companion is a robot that very much recalls C-3PO from the "Star Wars" films, just to point out some of the obvious ones.

Lord Megatron shows up, and there are a couple of bits with Stanley Tucci as Simmons in Cuba that I did not get at all. Oh, and the TRF, which were against Cade, now apparently are on his side. If one likes special effects movies, the film might hold one's interest.

On the other hand, the extras, located on their own Blu-ray disc, are decent.  "Merging Mythologies" (19:53) talk about integrating the Arthurian legend and World War II into Transformers, while "Climbing the Ranks" (8:48) looks at the military characters and how the actors prepared for the parts. "The Royal Treatment: Transformers in the UK" (27:03) is about filming in England. "Motors and Magic" (14:47) is a closer look at Bumblebee, Hot Rod, Hound, Optimus Prime, Crosshairs, Drift, Cogman, Sqweeks, Day Trader, Megatron, Barricade and Mohawk. "Alien Landscape" Cybertron" (7:15), a look at Quintessa and Cybertron (which I thought was going to collide with Earth, but then seemed to disappear at the film's end); and "One More Giant Effin' Movie" (6:45) that looks at Bay working on set. Grade: film 2 stars; extras 2.75 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

2:22 (Magnet/Magnolia, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 98 min.). Michiel Huisman (HBO's "Game of Thrones") stars as 29-year-old Dylan Branson in this film that will keep you guessing. Dylan is an air traffic controller who lives in New York City and works at JFK. One day, at 2:22 p.m., he is blinded by a light, or something, and almost causes a collision. Later that night, he meets Sarah (Teresa Palmer) at an aerial ballet performance. Sarah, who works at an art gallery but had waited to be a dancer, was on one of the two planes that almost crashed.

This is the first of many coincidences in the movie that eventually sort of get explained. Dylan, who begins a romance with Sarah, enjoys seeing patterns, and soon is noticing that his daily life is following a pattern in both sounds and incidents that culminate at 2:22 at Grand Central Station. There, the pattern involves a couple hugging, a pregnant woman standing under the large clock, a group of school children and a malfunction involving the station's lighting. Another example is an accident that keeps happening outside his apartment at the same time each day, even though the particulars of the accidents are different. Another number, 30, also plays a large part in the film, as Dylan and Sarah have the same birthday and will be turning 30 in a few days. Also, a supernova's light is visible in the sky, 30 years after the destruction of the sun. And Dylan keeps seeing images of a shooting in Grand Central Station that he eventually learns occurred 30 years ago from his birthday. In perhaps one coincidence too many -- fate be damned -- Dylan also finds letters hidden in the ceiling of his apartment that were written by a man involved in the Grand Central Station shooting.

Sarah has an ex-boyfriend (Sam Reid as Jonas Edman), who is said to be jealous but never exhibits jealousy. Jonas is readying the opening of his exhibit at the gallery where Sarah works, an exhibit which, it turns out, involves a holographic description of the Grand Central Station scene Dylan keeps seeing. There eventually is an explanation that fits the film, even though some details along the way are heavy-handed.

Director Paul Currie ("One Perfect Day") made the film in Australia, with only minimal location shooting in New York City. His team recreated Grand Central Station on a soundstage, which is detailed in the best of the three extras (6:20). There also is a look at the story and characters (12:29),in which Currie says the film is about the fear of falling in love and fear of the past. The final extra is about the cast working with the director (8:40). Grade: film 2.75 stars; extras 2 stars

3 Idiotas (3 Idiots) (Mexico, Lionsgate DVD, PG-13, 105 min.). Although it is presented as if it were a romantic comedy, this actually is a genial buddy film that traces, in flashbacks, the growing friendship among three young men of different backgrounds during their college years. One of the four (Alfonso Dosal as Pancho) disappeared right before graduation and has not been seen for five years -- until now.

Beto (German Valdez) gets a call as his airplane is about to take off, so he fakes a heart attack to get off of the plane and then steals a taxi cab. It seems Pancho has been found by Isidoro (Vadhir Derbez), the friends' nemesis back at college. Beto meets up with Felipe (Christian Vazquez) and they go see Isidoro, who is looking to collect on his bet that he would be more successful than Pancho five years after school. Isidoro is apparently about to do a big deal or be bought out by a very big company. Martha Higareda plays Mariana, the girl Pancho loved back in college but was too shy to ever tell her. While Pancho was the smart one of the three friends, Mariana was the daughter of the strict professor/dean.

The film is not all that funny, but it is amiable. At the film's end, the cast inexplicitly breaks out into a Bollywood-inspired dance number (much like Charlie Chan's recent "Kung Fu Yoga"). It does makes sense as a homage, however, once you find out the film is a remake of a 2009 Indian comedy, called "3 Idiots." There are no bonus features. Grade: film 2.25 stars

Mune: Guardian of the Moon (France, Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG, 86 min.). This animated film is a visual delight -- in the extras, it is stated an inspiration was the artwork of Russian Arkhip Kuindzhi -- and its characters gradually grew on this viewer. While aimed at children, the film takes a more adult approach, stressing the need for working together, but without many of the overt attempts at humor that pervade most American-made animated films. Here, the quest is kicked off because of an innocent mistake.

In the world of the film, the planet is divided into a day side and a night side. Each side has a guardian, who controls the giant machine that pulls the sun on one side of the planet and the moon on the other side. As the film starts, narrator Glim (voiced by Izia Higelin), who is of a race made out of living wax, explains it is time for a rare event, the naming of a new Guardian of the Sun and a new Guardian of the Moon. Master Xolal (voiced by Jean-Claude Donda) has been Guardian of the Sun for 350 years, but now his disciple, Sohone (voiced by Rob Lowe), who is made of rock, is to take over. Yule, Guardian of the Moon, also has a disciple, Leeyoon (voiced by Christian Slater), who was expected to take over, but unexpectedly, small blue fawn Mune (voiced by Michael Gregorio) is chosen. Lurking underground is the evil Necross (Eric Herson-Macarel), a former Guardian of the Sun who has two devils steal the sun in the chaos after Mune accidentally knocks the moon off course and breaks all its cables. That leads Mune, Glim and Sohone to travel through the underworld to rescue the sun. They are briefly helped by Phospho (voiced by Jeff Dunham), a former Guardian of the Moon.

The extras include an extensive making-of feature (42:15), in French, with directors Alexandre Heboyan and Benoit Philippon (also the story and screenplay author), producer Aton Soumache and art director Remi Salmon; and a look at the film's art (2:47 image gallery).Among the named inspirations are Bambi, Spider-Man and Buzz Lightyear. Some early animation tests are included. Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.5 stars

L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties (China, Lionsgate DVD, NR, 117 min.). This reportedly is the first fully computer animated film made in China, using motion-capture acting. The characters are so life-like looking, one soon forgets they are animated, which is what one might expect from the visual effects team behind James Cameron's "Avatar" and "Warcraft." Based on novels by director Jingming Guo, the film loses clarity more than just through translation. The plot is overly complicated and skips around a bit, making it sometimes hard to follow.

Qi Ling (Cheney Chen of "The Great Wall") works as a busboy in a remote inn. Some guests arrive, with one claiming to be a member of the Noble Lords who is hunting a spirit beast. When the spirit beast, Ice Fang, arrives with its power to turn anything to ice, it causes chaos and death. Ice Fang resembles a white lion with wings. Qi Ling manages to escape, but is followed and attacked by the beast. However, he is saved and resurrected by Noble Lord Duke Silver (Kris Wu of "xXx: Return of Xander Cage"). Duke Silver informs Qi Ling that he has been chosen to become his disciple and successor as a Noble Lord, because Qi Ling has an inherent ability to control soul power and in fact now controls Ice Fang. Qi Ling begins training under the duke, including his first visit to the big city, Glanort, the capitol, where he struts the streets in new duds along with Ice Fang (the beast can change its size at will). One interesting  aspect of the relationship between a duke and his disciple is that they have an emotional bond, with the disciple falling in love with the duke.

During the course of the film, Qi Ling has to search for his spirit weapon and he gets drawn into a conflict between the seven Noble Lords. At this point, it is a bit hard to tell who is on which side. There is a dark duke, with Aeron as his disciple. Also, Princess Kira, 16, is seeking a husband and is miffed that Qi Ling turned her down. Some very busy fight scenes follow, but then the film ends in a to-be-continued manner. Most likely the next installment will cover the search for Gilgamesh. There are no bonus features. Grade: film 2.5 stars

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 40th Anniversary Edition (1977, Sony, 2 Blu-ray or 3 4K Ultra discs, PG, 135/132/137 min.). Writer/director Steven Spielberg's hopeful and masterful film of first contact with aliens gets an all-new 4K restoration for this release, which includes all three versions of the film: the 1977 theatrical version (135 min.), the 1980 special edition (132 min.) and the 1997 director's cut (137 min.). A limited edition version, Light and Sound gift set, features illuminated packaging that plays the iconic 5-tone motif, as well as an expanded booklet with rare archival photos.

The film stars Richard Dreyfuss as line worker Roy Neary, an everyman whose marriage (Teri Garr plays his at-times hysterical wife) is threatened when he becomes obsessed with a mysterious shape after seeing UFOs. The scene in which a UFO causes his truck to stall out at a railroad crossing is brilliant. Melinda Dillon plays the wife of a young boy, who is apparently abducted by aliens. Another classic scene takes place in their house, just prior to the boy disappearing. Noted French film director Francois Truffaut plays a scientist who is working with the U.S. government to prepare for an encounter with the aliens. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Dillon). The film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond) and Frank E. Warner received a Special Achievement Award for sound effects editing.

This edition comes with two new bonus features: "Steven's Home Movies & Outtakes" (5:25), previously unreleased home movies and gags from the set; and "Three Kinds of Close Encounters" (22:02), new interviews with Spielberg on the film's legacy and with directors J.J. Abrams ("Star Wars: The Force Awakens") and Denis Villeneuve ("Arrival") on the film's impact. Spielberg, who praises Villeneuve's "Arrival" as the closest thing to a sequel to "Close Encounters," says the film was partially inspired by the Watergate scandal and admits he has never seen a flying saucer. Spielberg also praises John Williams' brilliant score. Villeneuve talks about the film's specter of divorce.

Ported over from previous editions are a making-of documentary; a 30 years featurette; deleted scenes; "Watch the Skies," a 1977 featurette; storyboard-to-screen comparisons; an extensive photo gallery; and "A View from Above." Grade: film 5 stars; extras 3.75 stars

Arrow: The Complete Fifth Season (Warner Bros., 4 Blu-ray or 5 standard DVDs, NR, 1,012 min.). The showrunners shook up things a bit this season, giving Green Arrow/Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) a mostly new team to work with. They include street-wise Wild Dog/Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez), Artemis/Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin), Mister Terrific/Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) and Ragman/Rory Regan (Joe Dinicol). Oliver concentrates more on being Star City's mayor and a new villain emerges, Prometheus, who is out for revenge by proving to Oliver that he is not a good man, that Oliver enjoys the violence of being Green Arrow. In the flashbacks, Oliver continues his initiation into Bratva, the Russian crime organization.

The reasons for the new team include that John Diggle (David Ramsey) has returned to the military and Oliver's sister Thea (Willa Holland) has hung up her vigilante hood as Speedy. That left only Oliver and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) as Team Green Arrow. A highlight of the season is the show's 100th episode, which also is the middle episode of a three-part crossover with "The Flash" and "DC's Legends of Tomorrow," and includes Supergirl (Melissa Benoist). In it, Oliver lives an alternate life, never having gotten on the ill-fated boat with his father. (Think, "It's a Wonderful Life.")

Bonus features include the 2016 Comic Con panel (27:19), with executive producers Wendy Mericle and Marc Guggenheim and seven cast members; a gag reel (5:23); a look at the new Team Arrow members (9:48); a look at Prometheus and returning to the show's roots (15:18); a closer look at the crossover episode, part of the battle against the alien invaders (12:44); and six episodes have one deleted scene and one episode has more than one. Grade: season 3.5 stars; extras 3 stars

Other TV releases:

Just Shoot Me!: The Complete Series (1997-2003, Shout! Factory, 19 DVDs, NR, 54.5 hours). This workplace comedy, from Steven Levitan, the co-creator of "Modern Family," is set in the offices of a high-fashion magazine. The staff is quirky and the viewer follows them through their daily grind and misadventures. The show stars Laura San Giacomo, George Segal, Wendie Malick, Enrico Colantoni and David Spade. The set includes all 148 episodes from the show's seven seasons. Special features include a conversation with Levitan and the cast; audio commentaries on four episodes; and a covers photo gallery.

Chicago Justice: Season One (Universal, 3 DVDs, NR, 556 min.). With the debut of this show, executive producer Dick Wolf's ("Law & order" branded series) Chicago-based dramas grow to four. In this series, the State's Attorney's prosecutors and investigators pursue law and order. The team is headed by Peter Stone (Phillip Winchester), who often is in conflict with his politically savvy boss (Carl Weathers as Mark Jeffries). Their crew, including Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) from "Chicago P.D.," also has to deal with Cook County's many power plays. The set includes 13 episodes, plus bonus crossover episodes from "Chicago Fire" season five and "Chicago P.D." season four.

Chicago Med: Season Two (Universal, 6 DVDs, NR, 982 min.). Set in Chicago's busiest trauma center, big changes put the ER on an emotional collision course. Professional and personal issues, including legal setbacks, romantic entanglements, illnesses and the elusive work-life balance, threaten to affect the staff. The cast includes Nick Gehlfuss, Yaya DaCosta, Torrey DeVitto, Rachel DePillo and Colin Donnell. The set includes all 23 episodes.

Chicago P.D.: Season Four (Universal, 6 DVDs, NR, 1,108 min.). This series follows the Chicago Police Department's Intelligence Unit, led by Sgt. Hank Voigt (Jason Beghe). Cases involve possible terrorist activity, the murder of a sex offender and a ruthless cop killer. Also in the cast are Jesse Lee Soffer, Patrick John Flueger, Marina Squerciati and Elias Koteas. The set includes all 23 episodes, plus the "Chicago Fire" season five and "Chicago Justice" season one crossover episodes.

Chicago Fire: Season Five (Universal, 6 DVDs, NR, 922 min.). The show follows the firefighters, rescue squad members and paramedics of Chicago Firehouse 51. This season, Firehouse Lt. Matt Casey (Jesse Spencer) and Gabriela Dawson (Monica Raymund) work to build a safe home for their growing family, while Rescue Squad Lt. Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney) faces the consequences of risking everything as the crew confronts big changes. The show also stars Yuri Sardarov, Christian Stolte, Eamonn Walker and Randy Flagler. The set includes all 22 episodes, plus the crossover episodes from "Chicago P.D." season four and "Chicago Justice" season one.

NCIS: The Fourteenth Season (CBS/Paramount, 6 DVDs, NR, 16 hours 56 min.). The veteran series, headlined by Mark Harmon as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Gibbs, covers murder, espionage, terrorism and stolen submarines. The show focuses on the sometimes complex and amusing dynamics of the team involved in high-stress situations involving Navy or Marine Corps ties. The team includes Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) and Agent Eleanor "Ellie" Bishop (Emily Wickersham). New team members are Special Agent Nicholas Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), Special Agent Alexandra Quinn (Jennifer Esposito) and MI6 officer Clayton Reeves (Duane Henry), the latter on loan. Also in the cast are Pauley Perrette, David McCallum, Brian Dietzen and Rocky Carroll. Bonus features include a table read of episode "Nonstop": a discussion of the crossover episode with "NCIS: New Orleans" by the cast and crew; a cast and crew discussion of the overall season; the stars and producers talk about the three new cast members; a tribute to executive producer and showrunner Gary Glasberg; a tour of the "NCIS" lot with Dietzen; and audio commentaries on four episodes, including both parts of the crossover.

Criminal Minds: Season 12 (CBS/Paramount, 6 DVDs, NR, 15 hours 29 min.). Another long-running series, the show, which centers on the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit,  has the team undergo sudden changes after unforeseen threats arise. New is Luke Alvez (Adam Rodriguez), known for his fugitive tracking skills. Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) returns from London and Interpol to take over as the new unit chief, joined by Stephen Walker (Damon Gupton), a seasoned profiler. The show also stars Joe Mantegna, Matthew Gray Gubler, A.J. Cook, Kirsten Vangsness and Aisha Tyler.

The set includes all 22 episodes, plus a behind-the-scenes look at how each BAU unit members deals with the highs and lows of their career. Another feature includes interviews with episode directors Tawnia McKiernan, Larry Teng, Rob Bailey, Mantegna and Gubler. In another featurette, the production team discusses how it comes up with the show's unique death scenes, including being entombed in concrete, strapped to a Rube-Goldberg mechanical death chair and being buried alive in an industrial silo. There is a behind-the-scenes look at Gia Mantegna and her return to the show, plus a closer look at Gubler's character as he is arrested and thrown into prison. There also are audio commentaries for two episodes, a gag reel and deleted and extended scenes.

Veep: The Complete Sixth Season (HBO, 2 Blu-ray or 2 standard DVDs, TV -MA, 285 min.). Julie Louis-Dreyfus, who plays President Selina Meyer, recently won her sixth consecutive Emmy Award for the role. Season six captured a total of five Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series and Cinematography, and was nominated for 13 others, including four for acting and two for writing. In this season, Meyer's brief presidency has ended thanks to an Electoral College tie and a lost Senate vote to resolve the tie. She and her former staff now pursue endeavors on their own. Bonus features include seven audio commentaries with cast and crew members. The season consists of 10 episodes.

Silicon Valley: The Complete Fourth Season (HBO, Blu-ray or standard DVD, TV-MA, 300 min.). This season has change in the air for Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) and the Pied Piper guys as they pursue their video-game app, PiperChat. Richard would like to put his algorithm to better use. As Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) flirts with notoriety and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) looks on in amusement, Erlich (T.J. Miller) searches for his next big break, Jared (Zach Woods) attempts to pivot with the company, and Big Head (Josh Brener) enters the world of academia. Over at Hooli, Gavin (Matt Ross) finds himself threatened by Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky), while Monica (Amanda Crew) struggles to bounce back at Raviga, after her fallout with Laurie (Suzanne Cryer). The irreverent show continues to lambast the self-important world of tech. The disc contains all 10 episodes, plus three deleted scenes.

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