Louder, darker and slightly cooler than its predecessor, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” explodes into theaters, giving fans of the series exactly what they want - more robots and more destruction. There’s nothing too complex about the film (other than the parade of special effects and explosions), but it’s mindless fun that works on its own level.
“Dark of the Moon” continues the war between the peacekeeping Autobots and the destructively evil Decepticons with a neat hook - a bit of revisionist history that suggests the initial moon landing in 1969 was in fact a top secret mission in which the United States discovered a spacecraft that crashed on the surface carrying Autobot Sentinal Prime.
Flash forward to present day and the Autobots learn that the government collected samples from the ship, samples that could perhaps be the key weapon for the Decepticons to destroy their counterparts.
This information, and information about the government cover-up, gets passed to Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) - who immediately becomes a target of the Decepticons.
This is a step up from the last installment in the series, which was seriously flawed but entertaining nonetheless.
There are still problems here (Optimus Prime still sounds like Yoda, and anyone looking for subtlety or depth has obviously chosen the wrong movie), but there are a lot more positives as well.
“Dark of the Moon” makes good use of the human cast, with the additions of Frances McDormand and John Malkovich a plus. Newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley also steps in quite well for the departed Megan Fox, providing the appropriate eye candy for the target audience.
There are a couple of nice twists as well, with the material taking a darker tone than the previous two films.
But the main reason that “Transformers” has become such a lucrative franchise is because fans want to see robots and they want to see things blow up “real good.” Director Michael Bay provides plenty of both here, perhaps making the best use of his trademark overindulgent action style since the original film four years earlier.
The robots are pretty cool and there are a number of action sequences that really sizzle - culminating in an epic battle in downtown Chicago that provides the film with its most crowd-pleasing moments.
This clearly isn’t a movie for everyone, and I’m certain that it’s not going to win over the franchise’s detractors. But as a mind-numbing, big-budget summer blockbuster, it’s much more satisfying than other recent attempts like “The Green Lantern” and “Pirates of the Caribbean 4.”
DVD dandy of the week
For this week’s dandy I’m going deep inside the vault, choosing the criminally underappreciated “Under the Cherry Moon” (A-) - the second movie from Prince released 25 years ago this week. The follow-up to “Purple Rain,” “Cherry Moon” is a goofy, but often hilarious little oddity that deserves a wider audience.
Prince, who also directed the film, plays Christopher Tracy - a womanizing musician from Miami who scams rich women in the Mediterranean with his assistant, Tricky (Jerome Benton).
Christopher and Tricky are reading the paper one day looking for their latest conquest, when they stumble across a story about a young heiress named Mary Sharon (Kristin Scott Thomas in her first film) who is about to inherit $50 million from her father.
At first it’s all business, but when Christopher starts to fall in love with Mary, things start to get complicated - and the plans start to come unwired.
I think fans of “Purple Rain” went into this film expecting a movie just like that. This is a completely different experience, however (the closest thing to a performance comes in a club scene midway through the film), with Prince showing a broad comedic style that pays homage to Abbott and Costello, and the black and white cinematography is reminiscent of a Federico Fellini film (Prince has said in interviews that he drew inspiration from both sources).
I’ll admit the film is over the top, but that is also part of the charm. Prince isn’t afraid to show his lighter side here and the result is one of the funniest, and one of my favorite films of the ’80s.
“Under the Cherry Moon” is rated PG-13 for language and some sexuality, and is now available on DVD.