If Transformers: Dark of the Moon is indeed Michael Bay’s final entry in the Hasbro toy-inspired franchise as he has repeatedly intimated then it is a fitting swan song for a director whose lust - and gift - for spectacle remains unmatched. Exhilarating and exasperating awe-inspiring and stupefying the third installment in the blockbuster alien-robot saga is less a movie than a prolonged manic episode. In other words it’s a Michael Bay film.
Any suspicion that Bay might have matured at all since his last film 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen vanishes immediately after Dark of the Moon’s opening credits when model-actress (in that order) Rosie Huntington-Whiteley replacing tempestuous Megan Fox as the franchise’s resident eye candy is introduced ass-first. The camera lingers on her backside mesmerized as she makes her way up the stairs to summon our hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) from the bed she inexplicably shares with him. For a director so notoriously ADD-afflicted as Bay he can show remarkable focus when circumstances require it.
Times are tough for our boy Sam who despite having saved the world on two separate occasions can’t find a job. With the Decepticon scourge abated (for now) Optimus Prime Bumblebee and the rest of Sam’s Autobot pals have gotten side gigs as mechanized Hans Blixes roaming the planet in search of illegal WMDs and eliminating the regimes that harbor them. Feeling left out and finding little comfort in the arms his undeservedly hot girlfriend Sam yearns for a shot at more world-saving action.
He finds it soon enough when he is drafted into a plot so sprawling and convoluted that to describe it in full would extinguish what little neurochemical reserves I’ve managed to replenish since last night’s screening. It’s built on an enticing bit of revisionist history which casts the war between the Autobots and Decepticons as the real inspiration for the Cold War space race. It seems that many years ago an Autobot spacecraft carrying a technology that could turn the tide in their centuries-long war crash-landed on the moon. Alerted to the crash JFK immediately initiated the Apollo program with the specific purpose of harvesting technology from the craft before the Soviets could.
But that’s only part of the story as Sam learns when confronted with evidence by a raving co-worker (Ken Jeong) at his new job. (The two have a tussle in the loo – setting the stage for a hi-larious gay-insinuation joke. Vintage Bay!) Turns out there there’s much more to that fallen craft than anyone realizes and if its undiscovered cargo falls into the wrong hands – say Megatron and the Decepticons who are quietly regrouping in Africa – the implications could be devastating.
Dark of the Moon can be roughly divided into two parts. The first is a conspiracy thriller with a surreal comic bent with Bay aiming for – and dare I say nearly achieving – a quirky Coen Brothers vibe as Sam delves headlong into the moon mystery. (The presence of Coen veterans Frances McDormand John Turturro and John Malkovich among the cast reinforces the connection.) Credit screenwriter Ehren Kruger for recognizing that material this preposterous requires a suitably ludicrous sense of humor. But there’s also a sharpness and irreverence to Dark of the Moon’s wit that previous Transformers films have lacked. (It’s still however steadfastly juvenile: When Sam locks eyes with his future girlfriend for the first time his mom exclaims “What a gorgeous box!” while gazing at an unrelated object in the background.) Dark of the Moon's screenplay is a vast improvement over Revenge of the Fallen's in that it is an actual screenplay and not a stack of index cards.
The second half of the film centering on the Decepticons’ extended siege of Chicago unfolds essentially in one long action sequence. It’s as if Bay having sufficiently answered the biggest complaint about the previous film – the lack of a discernible plot – is suddenly unburdened free to commence the all-out sensory onslaught he’s been planning all along. In doing so he all but disavows the film’s first half rendering much of its storyline superfluous.
The battle scenes are truly epic – unprecedented in grandeur and scale and utterly resplendent in 3D – but the endless spectacle induces a kind of delirium. Each frame is positively crammed with images far more than our feeble non-Michael Bay brains could ever hope to process at the breakneck speed he presents them. And no two shots ever look the same: Even a simple shot-reverse-shot dialogue exchange shifts perspective on seemingly every other word. The net effect of Bay’s frenzied handiwork is a state of joyful discombobulation: mouth agape bewildered basking in the dopamine blush.
Top Story: Moore May Sets Sights on Disney
As Michael Moore's controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11--a rant against President Bush's handling of Iraq as well as a searing look at the war on terror--got a warm reception at the Cannes Film Festival over the weekend, the Oscar-winning filmmaker hinted he would "tell all" about his dealings with Walt Disney Co., especially over the hoopla regarding Fahrenheit's distribution. The Associated Press reports film critic Roger Ebert, who moderated a panel with Moore Saturday in Cannes, asked if he thought about making a movie called Michael and Me, about Disney chief executive Michael Eisner, referencing Moore's 1989 hit Roger & Me. "I have a lot to say about Disney, and a lot that hasn't been reported," said Moore. Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who run Miramax, have said they plan to buy Fahrenheit and find a different distributor.
Spector Brawls With Chauffeur
Music producer Phil Spector and his chauffeur made citizens' arrests against each other Saturday after brawling at Spector's hilltop mansion, police told City News. According to broadcast reports, Spector, 63, and chauffeur Tobie Wheeler, 46, were arguing over money and employment when they got into a fistfight. When police arrived, both men invoked a citizen arrest against the other. Spector, according to police, suffered an injured right hand during the alleged dust-up, and Wheeler claimed pain to his jaw. Both were booked for misdemeanor assault and then released, Alhambra police Lt. Elliot Kase told City News.
"Raymond" Will Bid Adieu After Final Season
CBS has struck a deal with the producers of the hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond for a ninth and final season in the fall, Reuters reports. Following in the footsteps of Friends, Raymond will conclude its network run with fewer than the usual 22 episodes that make up a complete sitcom season, airing just 16 fresh shows for its final year, CBS said. "The decision about coming back was always about maintaining the quality, and not feeling like we've overstayed our welcome," star Ray Romano said in a statement. "I look forward to being a hapless, sexless husband once again in year nine."
NBC Looks To Fill Empty Slots
With two of its higher-profiled shows leaving the air this season, NBC has given the go-ahead to no fewer than a dozen new series for the 2004-05 season, Variety reports. As expected, comedies snagging greenlights include the Friends spin-off, Joey, which follows that character to L.A. as he tries to break into the biz; The Office, an American take on the hit BBC series; Men's Room, which revolves around a multi-generational group of guys and their lives; and Crazy for You, about two eccentric New Yorkers who fall for one another. On the drama side, NBC has nabbed Hawaii, a cop drama set in the tropical state; LAX (formerly Hub), a drama set around the Los Angeles International Airport; and Medical Investigations (formerly The Cure), about a man who solves medical mysteries.
Stallone Sues MGM Over Real Rocky
Sylvester Stallone has sued MGM and other producers over the planned boxing reality TV show The Real Rocky, which he claims improperly associates the project with Stallone's Rocky character, Reuters reports. Stallone, who created and starred in five films about the fictional Philadelphia boxer, has sued MGM, its United Artists unit and Chartoff-Winkler Prods. for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unfair competition and other claims.
Tarantino Wants To Do James Bond
Tarantino…Quentin Tarantino. In an interview with Reuters in Cannes, the eccentric Kill Bill director admitted he would love to direct a film for the James Bond series. "I've always wanted to do it. I bumped into Pierce Brosnan and we talked about it. He liked the idea," Tarantino said. "I would like to do the original book Casino Royale and do it more or less the way the Ian Fleming book is." Tarantino plans to approach the producers of the big-budget Bond series. "I don't know if they're going to go for it or not, but I'm letting them know I'm interested," he said.
Veteran Film, TV Actress Dies
Anna Lee, whose nearly 70-year acting career in movies and television spanned from her breakthrough role in How Green Was My Valley to an extended run as Lila Quartermaine on the ABC soap opera General Hospital, died Friday in Los Angeles of pneumonia. She was 91.
Singer Dion Cancels Vegas Shows
Celine Dion had to cancel the weekend performances of her hit Caesars Palace show due to a sprained neck, AP reports. The singer had aggravated her neck while doing her show and on Friday Dion's doctor advised her that her recovery was not complete. Dion, 36, is expected to resume performances on Wednesday.
Role Call: Hunter, Hurt Go Downloading
Holly Hunter, William Hurt and Stellan Skarsgard are joining forces on the indie thriller Downloading Nancy. Hunter plays an unhappy wife who, instead of committing suicide, hires a man over the Internet (Hurt) to kill her. Problems arise when they form a relationship. Skarsgard will play the husband of Hunter's character.