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Review: Transformers- Dark of the Moon, The Illusionist, Beyond, Summer Coda and Kawasaki’s Rose

By July 26, 2011December 31st, 2013No Comments

Transformers: Dark of the Moon posterTransformers: Dark of the Moon had the best teas­er trail­er of the year: a bril­liantly sus­pense­ful recre­ation of the first Moon land­ing and the Apollo 11 crew’s dis­cov­ery of a crashed ali­en space­craft on the hid­den side. It was two and a half minutes of superb cinema and I allowed myself a glim­mer of hope that maybe, just maybe, this third Transformers movie might not be the total dis­aster that the oth­er two have been.

Well, I have been to the Dark Side now and can report that all that hope was tra­gic­ally mis­placed. Transformers 3 is as stu­pid and out of con­trol as all the oth­ers. Even con­sid­er­ing the franchise’s neg­li­gible com­mit­ment to its own tor­tured intern­al logic the film is an utter shambles.

Since Revenge of the Fallen (and the big battle at the pyr­am­ids) the Autobots have been taken under the wing of Uncle Sam. Their enemies, the Decepticons, have been defeated and now they help keep the peace here on Earth. It turns out that mys­ter­i­ous moon dis­cov­ery was also from the Autobot home world of Cybertron and we have inex­plic­ably kept it a secret from our new giant met­al bud­dies even though they are our mates. Autobot lead­er Optimus Prime gets all huffy about it but they bring the pack­age back any­way only to dis­cov­er that the space­ship con­tains Prime’s old mate Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy) who escaped Cybertron with a time travel tech­no­logy that could (inex­plic­ably) save their plan­et and their species.

Meanwhile, inex­plic­ably, Megatron and his Decepticon bud­dies are nurs­ing their wounds in the Kalahari Desert wait­ing for the oppor­tun­ity to strike back and the human hero of the first two films, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBoeuf) is unem­ployed but (inex­plic­ably) in a rela­tion­ship with a hot English dip­lo­mat played by the tal­ent­less Rosie Huntington-Whitely.

The last Transformers movie suffered greatly from the effects of the writers’ strike and this one at least gives the impres­sion that someone sat a type­writer for more than 40 minutes but dir­ect­or Michael Bay simply has no con­trol, no restraint, so it’s just too full of stuff. Apple’s Steve Jobs once said that we are defined by what we say “no” to. Bay can’t say “no” to any­thing. A typ­ic­al example: there’s a delight­ful nod to Mr. Nimoy and his better-known fran­chise early in the film but near the end the Star Trek link is hammered home in a ter­ribly unsubtle way – just in case you DIDN’T GET IT THE FIRST TIME.

In case you think I’m just a hater there a few of reas­ons why watch­ing T:DOTM wasn’t a com­plete waste of time – there are some lovely shots of NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre; the 3D is a great advert for the tech­no­logy and … no, that’s it, I’m out.

The Illusionist posterWhile film lov­ers have been por­ing over the Festival bro­chure (all over town by now) and won­der­ing how to play the “will it come back” lot­tery, one of last year’s treas­ures has finally done just that – come back. Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist is an utterly charm­ing anim­ated film about a French stage magi­cian who travels fur­ther and fur­ther north in search of gigs, even­tu­ally find­ing him­self in Scotland with a young com­pan­ion who believes his magic is real.

Almost com­pletely word­less yet full of wit, The Illusionist is a magic­al 80 minutes in the cinema. From an unpro­duced ori­gin­al script by the legend Jacques Tati, Chomet has hon­oured not just the mas­ter but also his adop­ted home city of Edinburgh.

Beyond posterFans of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo might be inter­ested to see The Girl her­self, Noomi Rapace, in a more down to earth Swedish drama called Beyond which is play­ing at a few loc­a­tions around town. Rapace plays a moth­er of two who is sur­prised to receive a phone call from her own dying moth­er – sur­prised because she hasn’t talked to her for years. Successfully ignor­ing the unwel­come approach she is there­fore rope­able when she comes home to find her hus­band pack­ing for a road trip to vis­it “Grandma”.

Directed by acclaimed act­or and Bergman alumni Pernilla August, Beyond should be well-acted and is. It’s a pretty tough watch though, as we back-and-forth between Rapace’s present and her exceed­ingly dif­fi­cult child­hood with drunk­en Finn fath­er and doormat mother.

Summer Coda posterAlso a tough watch but for drear­ily dif­fer­ent reas­ons is Summer Coda, an Aussie indie that fails to register a single sin­cere moment (at least for the hour that I gave it before giv­ing up in favour of real life). Rachael Taylor (coin­cid­ent­ally from the first Transformers movie) plays Heidi, return­ing to her Mildura birth­place after the death of her estranged fath­er. She meets a hand­some stranger (Alex Dimitriades) on the road and then stops off at his orange grove on her way back. That’s pretty much it for the hour I watched.

Kawasaki's Rose posterFinally, an extremely inter­est­ing Czech film called Kawasaki’s Rose, about truth and recon­cili­ation after the fall of com­mun­ism. Acclaimed psy­chi­at­rist Pavel (Martin Huba) is about to get an award for his dis­sid­ent efforts at bring­ing down the gov­ern­ment but a doc­u­ment­ary crew pro­fil­ing him dis­cov­ers that he might have a few secrets bur­ied in the Secret Police files. A wee bit con­trived but still thought-provoking.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 6 July, 2011.