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Transformers: The Last Knight

Today’s tough male movie moguls used to be young boys too. Given how many superhero and toy-based movies there now are, they appear to be living out their childhoods. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the ‘Transformers’ movies. Based on the popular 1980’s toy-line where cars turn into indestructible robots, the franchise has spawned 5 live-action films. ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ continues the series’ cinematic excursions. Just as silly and thinly plotted, it conjures a colourful spectacle sure to have its male viewers reminiscing about their misbegotten youths.

Years after their appearance on earth, the war between the virtuous Autobots and evil Decepticons continues. Only a few humans are brave enough to join the battle with Cade (Mark Wahlberg) one of them. Forming an alliance with one of the Autobots, he also enlists the help of Sir Edmund (Anthony Hopkins) and university professor Viviane (Laura Haddock). Together they aim to unlock the secrets to why the Transformers continue inhabiting earth. The answer becomes crucial with Earth’s fate hanging in the balance as the robot’s destructive ways take their toll.

‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ delivers exactly what one expects. A more over the top and high-voltage spectacle would be hard to overtake than this one. The action is dazzling, the CGI is fantastic and the colourful cinematography superbly catches the overall comic-book tone it requires. It’s also a terrible movie with a poorly structured screenplay and wooden performances. Michael Bay directs with the subtlety of a sledgehammer although the ‘Transformers’ movies were never known for being high-art.

Wahlberg and the cast go through the motions without much passionate energy. That’s difficult to do when all they do is react to events than initiating them. As a continuation of the series’ mythology, ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ develops few new angles. The franchise feels a little tired at its fifth outing with the pedestrian plotting hard to hide amidst the incredible action sequences.

There’s not much more you can say about ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ as it’s the same as the others. Brains won’t be hurt watching it although it’s surprising how totally forgettable it is. The obligatory ‘setting things up for a sequel’ scenes are there although even the enthusiasm of those young at heart movie moguls may not be enough to see audiences demand a return visit.

Rating out of 10: 5

The Beguiled

‘The Beguiled’ is based on Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 novel of the same name. Following on from the 1971 Clint Eastwood starring version, this second film adaptation has an interesting premise standing the test of time. Exploring the myriad of emotions caused by a person’s presence, it wrings much drama from its slight tale. It’s a good fit for director Sofia Coppola who has made a career out of filming interesting subjects. She is well served by a cast highlighting dilemmas life often throws at us.

As the American civil war rages on, a girls’ school at Virginia grapples with its own crisis. Isolated from outside forces, their existence is shattered when a wounded Union soldier appears. Taken in by the ladies the soldier, John (Colin Farrell), swiftly causes drama. The school’s inhabitants including Martha (Nicole Kidman), Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and Alicia (Elle Fanning) are unsure of what to make of him. Events reach an impasse as jealousy, romance and desire tears apart a once peaceful place.

‘The Beguiled’ plays like a biblical morality tale. The girls’ school is presented as a Garden of Eden of peace in a troubled world. John almost becomes the serpent entering the oasis and leading them into temptation. The ladies reaction to his demeanour is effectively highlighted with Coppola’s understated direction. She allows events to play out without any melodramatic hysteria with the character’s natural reactions generating authenticity. You understand why each character behaves in different ways revealing the insecurities they have about their place in life.

‘The Beguiled’ works because of the strong performances. All put in solid renditions of emotionally fractured characters with the younger cast members giving as much vitality as their more experienced co-stars. Kidman and Farrell convey the mindsets of their roles well with their hidden agendas affecting those around them. ‘The Beguiled’ stands on the strength of the women’s solidarity against John’s sinister nature. The performers handle the tense script with genuine skill with the cinematography also aiding in crafting the enclosed surrounds in which the ladies live.

Moving at a brisk pace but packing much into its run-time, ‘The Beguiled’ is engaging. The director and cast do justice to the original book whose simple story continues to resonate in today’s increasingly complex world.

Rating out of 10: 7