MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ offers noise, action, effects but little more

Transformers: The Last Knight

Paramount Pictures

I’m about five years too old for the Transformers brand to mean anything to me. By the time the toys and cartoons became popular in the 1980s, my concerns were elsewhere.

I have neither true affection nor any expectation from the films other than a good time at the theater.

New In Local Theaters

  • Transformers: The Last Knight (PG-13) 2 hr. 28 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • Tubelight (NR) 2 hr. 40 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer

While I have no nostalgia for the property, I do like well-made sci-fi, fantasy, and action movies as much as anyone. Though it’s certainly not a classic, I enjoyed the first “Transformers” for what it was. Yes, it was overlong, and overwrought, but it was fun to watch giant robot vehicles smash into each other to certain degree. However, at some point the law of diminishing returns kicks. For me, it kicked in well before the recently released fifth movie.

I liken watching director Michael Bay’s latest robot opus “Transformers: The Last Knight” to those final seconds on the Tilt-a-Whirl ride that every traveling carnival boasts. For a while, the ride is a thrill, but by the end, all you want is to get off before the whirl makes you hurl.

The movie does feature some fantastic-looking CGI effects and as much action as can be packed into a two-hour and 20-minute movie.

The old slogan for the Transformers toys was “more than meets the eyes.” However, with this movie, what you see is what you get. There is little to no character development to provide an emotional foundation for the movie, despite the fact that several characters return from the previous films.

One of the characters is Cade Yeager, played by Mark Wahlberg, who has said this is his last “Transformers” flick. That’s good because Wahlberg has worked himself into being a more-than-serviceable star, who should spend his time working on better material like last fall’s “Deepwater Horizon” and “Patriots Day.”

The same, of course, is true of Bay.

All that said if you liked the two or three “Transformers” movies that preceded this one, you might like this one, too.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 28 min.
Grade: D

47 Meters Down

Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

June should be prime real estate for movie studios. Theaters should be filled with the most entertaining fare of the year with kids out of school and the family vacation-season underway.

That’s not necessarily the case this week. It’s a sad state of affairs when the best of three recently released films is the one that was slated to be a video-on-demand release when originally conceived.

Director-co-writer Johannes Robert’s “47 Meters Down” was planned to be just another summertime shark-exploitation VOD release until two factors prompted Entertainment Studios to gamble on opening it in theaters on the 42nd anniversary of the week that “Jaws” opened wide in 1975.

First, “The Shallows,” which featured a gigantic shark plaguing injured surfer Blake Lively, scored relatively big at the box office last summer.

Second, Mandy Moore’ star began to shine once more, thanks to her role on NBC’s fine ensemble family drama “This Is Us.”

Opening the movie in theaters has already proved profitable, with the film earning $13 million in less than a week with only a $5 million production budget.

The plot centers on Lisa (Moore) who invites her sister Kate (Claire Holt) on a trip to Mexico after her boyfriend dumped her and bailed on the trip. On the trip, they meet a couple of men who ask them to join them on shark cage outing. Lisa is apprehensive, but Kate talks her into the iffy proposition.

Of course the outing goes awry. The cable holding the shark cage frays and breaks, stranding the Lisa and Kate “47 Meters Down” in shark-infested waters.

The movie isn’t a cinematic masterpiece, but it is surprisingly effective for such a cheap movie. The dialogue is pedestrian, the performances are only serviceable, and the bulk of movie is predictable.

However, Roberts does show some directorial flair with several jump scares that work even though you know they are coming. He also does a nice job building tension throughout the movie, and the CGI sharks are convincingly savage.

The movie has a sadistic twist, and your feelings about that turn of events will likely color your opinion of the entire movie.

I wouldn’t recommend a trip to the theater to see the movie unless you just have an undying love for killer shark films. That said, when “47 Meters Down” makes it to cable, it has enough B-movie scares to be worthwhile.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 29 min.
Grade: C

Rough Night

Sony Pictures

“Rough Night” is an aptly titled film. It was a rough night watching this unfunny stinker.

Barrowing the plot from the 1998 black comedy “Very Bad Things,” the movie features five college friends on a bachelorette trip where things go awry when a male stripper is hired and accidently killed.

Not a bad plot for a raunchy comedy, unfortunately the movie just isn’t very funny despite deploying the skills of several talented performers.

Scarlett Johansson stars as Jess, the uptight senatorial candidate who is attempting to negotiate the run-up to her wedding while also running for office.

Johansson has proven her dramatic chops in films like “Lost in Translation,” and she also shines among the super-hero set as Black Widow in Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise. However, she seems very uncomfortable as the straight women in this film. I’m not sure I’ve seen a less effective performance by the actress.

Likewise, Kate McKinnon, who has proven her comic durability and likability for years on “Saturday Night Live,” is strung out to dry by unfunny bits of business that land with a thud in her role as the outlandish Aussie friend, Pippa. McKinnon, who was one of the bright spots in last summer’s “Ghostbusters” reboot, flails about with the movie’s lackluster material and seems less and less funny the harder she tries.

Zoe Kravitz, a spurned trophy wife, and Ilana Glazer, a hard-core social activist, fare a bit better in their roles, but Jillian Bell suffers horribly from the script’s poor choices and unfunny antics as the needy friend Alice.

It’s difficult to watch such talented performers work so hard, but fail so miserably in the film directed by Lucia Aniello. “Rough Night” is one of my least-entertaining movie-going experiences of the year.

Off hand, the only movie I’ve liked less this year is “Fifty Shades Darker.”

(R) 1 hr. 41 min.
Grade: D

While the recent batches of movies haven’t been great, the summer is still young. Films like “Baby Driver” (June 28), “Despicable Me” and “The House” (June 30), “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (July 7), “War for the Planet of the Apes” (July 14), and “Dunkirk” (July 21) are just over the horizon.

Classic Corner


Maybe it is a little odd to suggest a movie about a teacher in the middle of summer, but “Conrack” is an excellent movie no matter what time of year.

The movie is about the difference empathetic teachers can make not only on the lives of their students but also on the communities where they work. However, it’s also about the consequences of rocking the boat too hard, even when it needs to be done.

The 1974 film, directed by Martin Ritt from a screenplay by Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch, stars Jon Voight as the young teacher Pat Conroy. The story is biographical, taken from Conroy’s 1972 novel “The Water is Wide.” Conroy’s later novels “The Prince of Tides” and “The Great Santini” were adapted into Oscar-nominated films.

Conroy’s teaching assignment is on rural” Yamacraw Island” off the coast of South Carolina, where the population is predominantly poor and black. Set in the 1960s, the people on the island are isolated and backward and too afraid of change to make an effort to better them.

Working out of a two-room schoolhouse, Conroy, whom the children call “Conrack,” comes into conflict with his principal Mrs. Scott (Madge Sinclair) who takes a spare-the-rod, spoil-the-child approach with her students.

The children’s parents are also resistant to Conroy’s unorthodox approach, and he later finds himself at odds with the superintendent Mr. Skeffington (Hume Cronyn) as he attempts to broaden his student’s horizons.

The situation comes to a head when Conroy takes his students for a trick-or-treating excursion to the predominantly white town of Beaufort on the mainland.

The film is touching as Voight’s character strains to connect with his students in meaningful and productive ways. The movie is also heartbreaking when his teaching efforts threaten and are shunned by educational system in place on the island.