The only major theatrical release making its way to home video this week is a big-budget action film from director Michael Bay.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
2½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray
It’s no secret that Michael Bay is Hollywood’s go-to guy for loud, violent, special effects-laden blockbusters, so it should come as little surprise that his third entry in the “Transformers” franchise is exactly that.
Like Bay’s prior “Transformers” flicks, “Dark of the Moon” chronicles the ongoing battle between powerful, sentient, mechanical beings known as Autobots and Decepticons. The Autobots, led by the brave and scrupulous Optimus Prime, are good guys who work with U.S. leaders to make Earth a safer place. The Decepticons see humans as an inferior slave-race to be divided and conquered.
Although much of the movie is built around brutal robot-on-robot combat, Bay gives the film a human touch by including Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), a protagonist from the first two pictures. This time, Sam is partnered with a new girlfriend named Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whitely), a direct result of former co-star Megan Fox getting fired. In the interest of continuity, “Dark of the Moon” includes passing references to Fox’s character, Mikaela Banes, but she isn’t missed. That’s mostly because Fox was never asked to offer anything other than eye candy, and Huntington-Whitely fills that role nicely.
Truth told, people don’t matter much in Transformers movies because they’re boring when viewed next to machines that transform into sports cars one moment and massive steel warriors the next. Still, the stakes are high for the human race because the Decepticons have discovered a way to transport the remnants of their war-torn homeworld to Earth, effectively making our planet their own. That means it’s up to Sam, the U.S. military and the Autobots to prevent disaster.
None of the “Transformers” movies are brilliant, and “Dark of the Moon” doesn’t break that barrier. It does, however, stay true to the formula that allowed the first two films to make millions. That means the action starts early and never lets up, despite the fact that the movie runs more than two and a half hours.
That’s too long for a film like this, but one has to admit that Bay is an expert at staging big, bold special effects sequences, and he delivers one after another here. That doesn’t make “Dark of the Moon” inspired, but it does make it an archetypal summer action movie and, therefore, a decent viewing choice for anyone who isn’t ready for fall to kick in.
The Blu-ray and DVD coming out this week contains no special features, but a deluxe set with extras is expected in the coming months.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Carlos”: Epic movie about international terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, commonly known as Carlos the Jackal. The film, originally shown as a TV miniseries in France, was helmed by French director Olivier Assayas. Edgar Ramirez stars as Sanchez. Presented in multiple languages (including English) with English subtitles.
“Jeff Dunham – Controlled Chaos”: Dunham, a ventriloquist and stand-up comedian, debuted this standup show on Comedy Central Sept. 25. Just days later, it’s on video. The 97-minute program features many characters that made Dunham famous, plus two new ones.
Ma & Pa Kettle – The Complete Comedy Collection: All 10 of the 1940s and ’50s films featuring the downhome farm couple known as Ma and Pa Kettle (Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride). The film lineup is: “The Egg and I” (1947), “Ma and Pa Kettle” (1949), “Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town” (1950), “Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm” (1951), “Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair” (1952), “Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation” (1953), “Ma and Pa Kettle at Home” (1954), “Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki” (1955), “The Kettles in the Ozarks” (1956) and “The Kettles on Old MacDonald’s Farm” (1957).
“Mimic” – The Director’s Cut: Lionsgate has released a brand new cut of director Guillermo del Toro’s 1997 horror film about a genetic experiment with terrible consequences. Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Charles S. Dutton and Josh Brolin star.
“Adventure Time – My Two Favorite People”: The Cartoon Network animated series “Adventure Time” is making its way to video for the first time. This release, collecting 12 episodes from the first two seasons, retails for $14.97 and should satisfy casual fans. True believers may want to rent instead of buying this release, as full-season collector’s sets are promised soon.
“How to Make it in America” – The Complete First Season: This HBO dramedy tells the story of two young guys, Ben (Bryan Greenberg) and Cam (Victor Rasuk), trying to make it in New York’s fashion scene. Luis Guzman, Lake Bell, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Shannyn Sossamon also star.
Fox World Cinema releases: This week, 20th Century Fox is launching a new line of foreign films under the Fox World Cinema label. To kick things off, Fox is delivering the Chinese martial arts drama “The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman,” the Indian drama “Dum Maaro Dum” and Italian action film “Angel of Evil.” All movies are available on DVD, digital download and on demand.
“The Phantom Carriage”: Criterion Collection release of Swedish actor-director Victor Sjostrom’s 1921 silent film about an alcoholic who finds himself at the heart of a frightening ghost story. Sjostrom stars alongside Hilda Borgstrom. The movie is noteworthy not only as one of the most famous in Sweden’s history, but as a major influence on director Ingmar Bergman.
“Hung” – The Complete Second Season: The third season of this HBO drama, about a struggling baseball coach who becomes a male prostitute, will begin airing Oct. 2. That gives fans a few days to re-watch the 10 episodes in this collection. Thomas Jane, Jane Adams, Rebecca Creskoff and Anne Heche star.
“The Middle” – Season Two: Twenty-four comic adventures from the middle-class Heck family. The ABC series stars Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn as parents balancing the pressures of working life with those of raising three kids.
“The Hour”: BBC miniseries about the social and political intrigue surrounding the launch of a 1950s investigative news show. Dominic West, Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw star.
“The Ledge”: Indie thriller about an atheist man (Charlie Hunnam) who has an affair with the wife (Liv Tyler) of his fundamentalist Christian neighbor (Patrick Wilson) and finds himself forced to make a horrifying, life-and-death decision. Terrence Howard also stars. Written and directed by Matthew Chapman.
“Ben Hur”: Warner Brothers’ religious epic is rolling onto Blu-ray for the first time, and the studio is pulling out all the stops with an Ultimate Collector’s Edition gift set. It includes a newly restored and remastered version of the film, a full-length documentary about star Charlton Heston, a 64-page book containing rare photos and a 128-page replica of Heston’s personal diary.
“Kojak” – Season Two: Twenty-five episodes of the 1970s police drama about a tough New York City Police detective (Telly Savalas) who is willing to bend the rules to bring criminals to justice.
Roger Corman’s Cult Classics – All-Night Marathon: This latest release from the Cult Classics collection packs four horror movies onto a single two-disc set. They are: “Lady Frankenstein” (1971), a continuation of the Frankenstein saga; “The Velvet Vampire” (1971), the story of a female bloodsucker who preys on a young couple; “Time Walker” (1982), about an ancient being who comes back to life; and “Grotesque,” about a group of killers being pursued by something more frightening than themselves.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.