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Nothing epitomizes the summer movie season like a big, blustering, CGI-saturated blockbuster about giant, battling, alien robots. This installment stars Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, a down-on-his-luck robotics engineer and single father living in “Texas, U.S.A.” (as a caption conveniently informs those viewers uncertain which country Texas occupies). Cade and his daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), get swept up in military-industrial machinations and even intergalactic warfare when he discovers the wreck of a truck that turns out to be Optimus Prime.

Inconveniently, CIA eminence grise Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) is secretly rounding up all the Transformers he can find and delivering these to military contractor KSI, headed by arrogant weenie Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), the idea being to corner the technology and create a totally automated U.S. military. Meanwhile, Attinger’s robot co-conspirator Lockdown, along with new creation Galvatron, may not be the controllable assets Joyce and Attinger confidently believe these to be.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is exactly the explosion-packed, lightning-paced action extravaganza fans are expecting, with quite a few close shaves, noisy weapons exotica, nasty, slime-spewing creatures, and one particularly suspenseful moment with characters inching their way along cables suspended high in the air while harried by Lockdown’s robotic hell-hounds. Younger audiences are sure to be in awe. The film’s themes are, however, more adult than juvenile, and parents may be concerned to know that Age of Extinction contains several frightening incidents and one especially noteworthy death scene, that of comic relief slacker Lucas (T.J. Miller), that is too graphically disturbing to be appropriate for children. The film runs a little overlong, and the ending, reminiscent of Prometheus (2012), has Optimus Prime setting out on a new adventure and so setting up the inevitable next installment of the popular toy adaptation franchise.

4 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Transformers: Age of Extinction is:

8. Anti-torture. “This is worse than waterboarding,” robot Brains complains at being shocked by an electric jolt.

7. Pro-serfdom. Tessa aspires to do her part to inflate the American college bubble by applying for financial aid to go to university. The film attempts to milk sympathy from a rejection letter.

6. New age, lending credence to the idea that Earth was once visited by ancient aliens.

5. Corporate, featuring prominent product placement for Victoria’s Secret, Oreo, Giorgio Armani, and Red Bull.

4. Anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn). Negroid-voiced Transformer Brains exults at being “free at last!” Lucas, objecting to partner Cade’s cutthroat business practices, also alludes to slavery.

3. Capitalist, offering a sympathetic portrait of the struggling small business owner in Cade. Early scenes of the hero’s domestic existence convey a definite impression of an America in economic decline.

2. Pro-miscegenation. Joyce falls for the head executive of his company’s China branch (Bingbing Li).

1. Antiwar, anti-state, and anti-cronyism. Attinger, head of CIA black ops and military contractor KSI’s best customer, expects to take a seven-figure salary with the company after leaving government “service”. Since the Battle of Chicago, a cataclysmic 9/11-like event in which America was attacked by Decepticons and defended by the Autobots, a paranoid police state has taken hold, with Decepticons and Autobots alike being hunted down and neutralized by the fearmongering CIA. Transformers: Age of Extinction also gives a timely illustration of federal authoritarian overreach when CIA agents, with no warrant and no regard for human dignity or life, raid Cade’s property and threaten to murder his daughter. The movie expresses Americans’ discomfort over the advent of drones, as well.

 

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Wedding Crashers costars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite in The Internship, adequate underdog comedy fare that plays it safe and superficial, never deviating from genre conventions, and gives audiences exactly what the trailer has led them to expect. Vaughn and Wilson play Billy and Nick, wristwatch salesmen who, finding themselves the latest casualties of modernization, apply for a competitive Google internship in the long-shot hope of employment.

The protagonists’ plight will be an uncomfortably poignant one to endangered data entry workers, Blockbuster Video clerks, and all of the other expendable relics of the late twentieth century, along with that general portion of the audience comprising the rear guard of the technologically squeamish. There is an irony to the early scene in which Nick and Billy cavalierly order a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, as they themselves, like Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, are suddenly made conscious of the fact that the world they knew until now is gone. After being dismissed as dinosaurs by their younger and more brilliant rivals, however, the pair finds that their age and experiences lend them a skill set and a valuable difference of perspective, a reconciliation that finds expression in the image of a tyrannosaurus skeleton wearing Groucho glasses.

Nick and Billy’s obligatory (and unlikely) comeback notwithstanding, the film offers little hope to those still haunted by the words of former employer Sammy (John Goodman) when he tells them, “Everything’s computerized now. [. . .] They don’t need us anymore.” Then, too, there is one cynical young intern’s assertion that, “The whole American Dream thing that you guys grew up on – that’s all it is nowadays – a dream.”

Vaughn and Wilson make a great comedy team, and the supporting cast, from John Goodman to Josh Brener, Will Ferrell, and the delightfully arch Aasif Mandvi, greatly enlivens an uneven script by Vaughn and Jared Stern. The Internship is funny, if not, perhaps, as consistently hilarious as one might hope; but the pacing is impeccable, so that the movie is never in danger of grating on the viewer’s patience – even if that same viewer’s sense of the decent is in for a thrashing.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Internship is:

13. Statist. The eccentric Yo-Yo’s (Tobit Raphael) traumatic homeschooling serves implicitly to endorse the public education system (cf. The Bling Ring).

12. Feminism-ambivalent. Dana (Rose Byrne) admits that her single-minded careerism has prevented her from having a happy and normal domestic existence. Her solution, however, is not to quit her job and raise a family, but to begin an affair with a new coworker. (cf. The Heat)

11. Pro-gay. “Seriously, same-sex partners make excellent parents,” Neha (Tiya Sircar) gushes. “I so wish my parents were gay.” Strippers engage in lesbian play. Anal sex is a “life changer”.

10. Pro-miscegenation. The sight of curvaceous black booty gets an obnoxious mattress salesman (Will Ferrell) hot to trot. Asian guy Yo-Yo, meanwhile, receives serial lap dances from one or more white strippers. There is also flirtation between Indian Neha and white guy Stuart (Dylan O’Brien).

9. Pro-wigger. Lyle (Josh Brener) appropriates ‘hood lingo throughout. “Hells yeah,” fist-bumping, etc.

8. Anti-Luddite. Things are getting better all the time. One suspects that Nick (Wilson), after finally landing a job with Google, would retract his earlier words of despair: “People have a deep mistrust of machines. Have you seen Terminator? Or 2? Or 3? Or 4?” (cf. no. 7)

7. Technology-skeptical. Despite its basic endorsement of innovation, The Internship does imply critiques of what gadgetry and the internet have done to human interaction. “People hate people,” Sammy observes, and post-adolescent representatives of Generation Y exhibit social dysfunction ranging from crippling shyness to barely human rudeness and lack of any shame whatsoever in the discussion of matters best left private. Neha, like many of her generation, fetishizes Japanese pop-cultural garbage and says she enjoys cosplay (dressing up like anime characters). (cf. no. 8)

6. Pro-slut. Dana sleeps with Nick on the night of their first date.

5. Pro-drug. Billy (Vaughn) unwisely suggests he would be happy to have a “cold one” or “get high” with the severe Mr. Chetty (Mandvi). He also expresses a willingness to procure alcohol for underage co-interns. Students have the best night of their lives getting drunk and raising a ruckus at a strip club. The film does, however, at least discourage drunk driving and warns against overzealous imbibing (“I think my liver hurts”).

4. Anti-family/anti-marriage. Old client Bob (Gary Anthony Williams) has an ugly daughter who Nick and Billy have to pretend is pretty. Yo-Yo’s father (Fel Tengoncion) is a henpecked husband. His mother (Chuti Tiu) was overly protective, breastfeeding him until he was seven. She also mentally and physically abuses him, which has made Yo-Yo overly harsh on himself, so that he feels he must punish himself for “inferior performance”. “My mom calls me a maniac every night when I tell her I love her,” he says. (cf. no. 11)

3. Multiculturalist/pro-immigration. “Diversity is in our DNA,” Lyle says of his company. Intellectually bright non-whites appear in depressing abundance as juxtaposed with dopey white guys Nick and Billy. Anti-American zillionaire and ethnosaboteur Mark Zuckerburg will probably get misty-eyed when he watches The Internship‘s depictions of all the technologically adept diversity awaiting the country as soon as “immigration reform” is passed.

2. Progressive. Google is “an engine for change”.

1. Corporate. The Internship is essentially a feature-length Google commercial.

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