Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Michael Bay, 147 mins, (12A)
Gigantic, Matt Aselton, 97 mins, (15)
A mindless muddle of good bots, bad bots and dodgy politics
Sunday 21 June 2009
Not wishing to overstate the case, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the pretentious, nonsensical, sexist, jingoistic, militaristic, CGI-dependent, product-placement-packed, hectically edited, punishingly loud, wearyingly long, eye-wateringly expensive, and, I predict, phenomenally profitable exemplar of everything that is most repulsive about Hollywood today.
Perhaps its most unforgivable crime is that it lasts two and a half hours, despite being a sequel to a tie-in to a 1980s range of toys. What happens during that Dr Zhivago-rivalling running time? Nothing as consequential as characterisation or coherent plotting, that's for sure.
T:RotF opens with a prologue set in 17,000BC (told you it was pretentious), and there is endless gobbledegook about "The All-Spark" and "The Matrix of Leadership", but it boils down to some alien goodie robots called the Autobots fighting some alien baddie robots called the Decepticons.
As the mass destruction is all rendered on computer, it's about as thrilling as watching a firework display on TV through someone else's sitting room window, especially as the rock 'em sock 'em robots are all largely identical. The exceptions are Optimus Prime, the pompous leader of the good guys, and two sidekicks with Afro-American voices who are always blundering and jive-talking the way those wacky Afro-Americans do.
On the human side of the cast list, Shia LaBeouf is back playing a teenager who would rather be an ordinary university student than a planet-saving hero (yeah, right). His girlfriend is played by the pouting Megan Fox, who's subjected to camerawork so leering it makes her frequent GQ and FHM photo-shoots look like school graduation portraits. This dirty-old-man treatment makes you wonder what the age of the target audience is supposed to be.
Half of T:RotF seems to have been made for undemanding children, and yet there are more references to male genitalia than you'd get in a series of South Park, while the film's main comic setpiece has the hero's mother swallowing a bag of marijuana and then informing strangers that she overheard him losing his virginity. There may even be a scene in which John Turturro whips his trousers off and reveals the thong he's wearing underneath, but I might have imagined it. I hope I didn't.
The film's political stance is revolting, too, which won't come as a surprise if you've seen Bad Boys II, Pearl Harbor, or any other films by the same director, Michael Bay.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Autobots and the Decepticons are said to be alien beings who have thoughts and feelings just as we do. That being the case, what are we supposed to make of a scene in which Optimus Prime summarily executes an incapacitated Decepticon? And what about the delightful skit in which the heroine prises information from a Decepticon by ramming a soldering iron into its eye? Coming soon from Michael Bay: a torture porn film based on the Care Bears.
Gigantic is a whimsical romantic comedy that's high on whimsy, low on comedy and even lower on romance. Aiming for the deadpan indie kookiness of Punch Drunk Love and The Royal Tenenbaums, it doesn't have a script so much as a list of quirks.
A) There Will Be Blood's Paul Dano sells thousand-dollar mattresses from a dilapidated New York warehouse. B) He's always wanted to adopt a Chinese baby. C) He meets a woman called Harriet "Happy" Lolly (Zooey Deschanel) who asks him "do you have any interest in having sex with me?", he does, but he's also interested in D) sharing magic mushrooms with his 80-year-old dad, and E) tussling with a tramp who keeps attacking him for no apparent reason.
And so on, through the alphabet.
Also Showing: 21/06/2009
Katyn (118 mins, 15)
Directed by the 83-year-old Andrzej Wajda, this solemn drama examines the murder of 12,000 captive Polish officers by Russians troops in 1940, and the Soviet authorities' subsequent insistence that the Gestapo was responsible. There are some extraordinary scenes, but Wajda prefers to introduce new storylines than to develop the ones he's got, leaving Katyn, above, as a ponderous and sometimes bewildering set of vignettes.
The Disappeared (96 mins, 15)
This British ghost story has the council block setting – and the humourlessness – of the grimmest social-realist tract. Otherwise, it's a hackneyed horror flick.
Beyond the Fire (78 mins, 15)
Incompetent, low-budget drama concerning a romance between an Irish drifter and a woman he meets in London, both of whom have a sexual trauma to get over. It comes to the gobsmacking conclusion that a priest shouldn't be held to account for his history of child abuse, perjury and manslaughter.
North by Northwest (136 mins, PG)
In Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman's cherished cross-country caper, Cary Grant is on the run from the police, the FBI, and a cabal of enemy spies, but he still has time to get his suit cleaned. They don't make action heroes like that any more. NB
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