Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Signal – Movie Reviews

Transformers: Age of ExtinctionTransformers: Age of Extinction – PG-13
Release Date: Fri 27 Jun 2014

Michael Bay returns for a fourth installment in his series of Transformers movies and delivers the strongest (and longest) chapter to date. Almost every aspect compares favorably to the previous movies and it’s very easy to get into this one without having seen any of the previous films.

The human cast seem better than the prior films with Mark Wahlberg bringing his charisma to the role of inventor and father Cade Yeager. His daughter Tessa (Nikola Peltz) and her boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) are given just enough characters without going into the obnoxious “embarrassment-based humor” of Shia LeBouf and his parent characters from the first three films. Stanley Tucci is a flawed but redeemable corporate tycoon, and Kelsey Grammer is a government agent working to develop a man-made army of robots to defend America.

A lot has been made of the movie’s aim at securing box office success in China, putting Bingbing Li in a fun supporting role and setting parts of the climax in Beijing and Hong Kong. Honestly if I hadn’t known to look for it going in, I probably wouldn’t have noticed this emphasis including how Grimlock is stylized like a Chinese dragon and how one of the Autobots (Drift) looks like a robot samurai.

The sound design was more subtle with a lot less loud metal banging which led to less ear fatigue during that last hour or so. It still felt about 45 minutes too long, but there wasn’t any one element that stuck out as offensive or insulting to the audience’s intelligence. Parents with younger children might want to skip this one for a specifically long lingering shot of a human character burned to death and an almost ridiculous amount of usage of the word “bitch.”

Cal, Jeremiah, R.C. and I saw it in the theater had a discussion in the car:

The SignalThe Signal – PG-13
Release Date: Fri 13 Jun 2014

The Signal has a great amount of suspense and mystery in its science fiction, in a similar but less ambiguous vein as Under The Skin. We get a very interesting first act where we get to know Nic (Brenton Thwaites) and his two traveling companions – his girlfriend Haley and his friend and fellow hacker Jonah. Things take a turn for the bizarre when Nic wakes up in quarantine to be interrogated by a hazmat-suited agent played by Laurence Fishburne.

The second and third acts suffer a little from being so close to other stories and sci-fi tropes we’ve seen countless times, but the ending is satisfying in that is does answer the biggest questions about what is happening. With characters this interesting to watch though, the rehashed bits seem less important. These are not standard issue horror characters that have only one dimension.

It’s also no surprise that director William Eubank is a cinematographer as the movie looks absolutely gorgeous – particularly early on prior to the necessarily sterile looking environments of the interrogation room and hospital. Fishburne plays a character similar enough to the ones from The Matrix and Hannibal that it’s hard to see any of the subtle clues in his performance as to unlocking what’s happening in the film. This does work to subvert your expectations a little bit – without giving everything away either. (I won’t give the ending here, but we do get into that in the video review below.)

Cal and I saw it in the theater had a discussion in the car:

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