Sarah Knight Adamson is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and a voting member for the Critics Choice Awards for Movies.

Sarah Knight Adamson and Jessica Aymond are both Members of the Chicago Film Critics Association

Film Rating Code:

★★★★ Outstanding Film- Run, don’t walk to the nearest movie theater.

★★★½ Excellent Film- Highly recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★★ Very Good Film- Recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★½ Good Film- Wait for the DVD, the film is still worth viewing.

★★ Wait for the DVD and proceed with caution.

★½ Wait for the DVD the film has major problems in most areas.

★ Can’t recommend the film.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (PG-13) ★★☆

Shia LeBeouf as

Shia LeBeouf as ‘hero’ Sam Witwicky in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

When The Third Time Isn’t The Charm

Director Michael Bay is at it again, (supposedly) completing his trilogy series with “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” This time, Bay takes a different approach in kicking off the action with a combination of 1960s archived footage and recreated scenes showing the U.S. space program’s mission to expose a massive, unusual object that just crashed on the dark side of the moon. Once radio contact is officially lost, the astronauts uncover an alien spaceship – and mission ‘save the world’ commences.

Audiences watch real footage of President Kennedy making demands from the oval office while Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (who actually makes a cameo) plant the first steps on the moon. This real footage is ruined by the terrible CGI renderings of Kennedy, Nixon and Obama, however. I found myself chuckling, along with several other critics, in disbelief at their lack of resemblance. This is one of many instances where I laughed during scenes that probably weren’t intended to be comical. I can certainly say I wasn’t alone on this either.

One small step for man and a few dreadfully recreated former presidents later, the movie actually starts – with a zoomed in shot of a girl’s backside, slowly walking up stairs in her underwear…

Wait, did I mistakenly walk into, “No Strings Attached?” If those thoughts cross your mind you’re probably not alone. Give it about a minute (too long) before you realize you’re still in “Transformers.” This is affirmed when we see the infamous Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf, “Wall Street Money Never Sleeps” 2010) wake up to his partially clad, completely-out-of-his-league-girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), standing over him with a large, plush bunny in her arms.

Huntington-Whitely, a Victoria’s Secret model, takes her first stab at the big screen in this action-thriller. Unfortunately, she makes the acting of the previous “Transformer” films’ eye candy, Megan Fox, look good. As far as ‘sitting pretty,’ Huntington-Whitely does just that, only standing. She doesn’t even need to open her mouth…and probably shouldn’t. You will notice she is wearing white in just about every scene. Perhaps, Bay was trying to allude to Carly being the only innocent, pure and angelic character? Or, it was just the best contrast to the backgrounds of destruction. If you look closely, it is interesting that in one shot you may see her in designer heels and in the next, black flats, depending on how far she has to run. I found it hilarious that she always had just the right camera angle and amount of wind blowing on her in every outdoor shot. In one slow motion scene, her face is emotionless while her hair swirls around in the wind just like the cars and debris swirling around behind her. I honestly felt as though I was watching a Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual sale commercial every time her face took over the screen.

Luckily, the lack of talent we see from the damsel in distress is balanced out by the rest of the big name cast, John Malkovich (“Secretariat” 2010), Josh Duhamel (“Life As We Know It” 2010), Ken Jeong (“The Hangover Part II” 2011), Tyrese Gibson (“Fast Five” 2011), John Turturro (voice in “Cars 2” 2011), Patrick Dempsey (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Frances McDormand (“Burn After Reading” 2008).

As far as the robots are concerned, when the Autobots (good guys) learn of the Cybertronian spacecraft on the moon, they must race against the Decepticons (bad guys) to unlock the powers of the spacecraft’s cargo. This mission consumes about 2 of the 2 hours and 40 minutes of non-stop action in this film. The transformers themselves were hard to distinguish at times and we rarely see much of the legendary Bumblebee the third time around. The final battle, which ends up flattening Chicago’s Wacker Dr. and Michigan Avenue, lasts for what seemed like eternity. The special effects were very remarkable, however. In one scene, a tall skyscraper is about to snap in half and completely collapse. Sam and his sidekicks sprint to the opposite end of the building in slow motion while all forces of gravity are working against them. I was even more impressed to learn that the guys jumping out of the buildings were not using special effects. This group of men wore ‘wingsuits’ which made them look like oversized bats. With these suits, you can maneuver around tall objects (much needed) at about 150 miles per hour…not bad.

Set in Washington D.C. and Chicago, this film certainly shows off the beautiful scenery and landmarks these cities offer (before they are blown up that is). I realized I was paying more attention to whereabouts than the vague and underdeveloped storyline. In fact, during the never-ending final battle scene, I found myself identifying the Wrigley Building, Trump Tower, Hard Rock Hotel and Hotel 71 among other well-known Chicago buildings.

Bottom Line? Bay doesn’t skimp on special effects like he does with the storyline so it is worth seeing in 3D. Expect an action-packed film full of loud explosions, screaming, people jumping off collapsing buildings, plenty of weaponry and incredibly cheesy one-liners, especially from Duhamel. I certainly wouldn’t race like the Autobots to see this in theaters, but if you have nothing to do for 3 hours this summer, you will be entertained.

Jessica Aymond © June 29, 2011

Posted in Movies 2011

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