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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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2007’s Superbad marked a very welcome return to form for the raunchy teen sex comedy, a genre fallen on seemingly incurable black days after its 1980s heyday.  Superbad‘s call to arms, unfortunately, seems to have gone unnoticed by any filmmakers of notable talent, with Fun Size, Nickelodeon’s foray into lightweight (PG-13) teen sex comedy territory, landing instead like something of a soggy firecracker.

Gorgeous high school students April (tv tart Jane Levy) and Wren (tv tart Victoria Justice) – a nod to Stimpy’s Nickelodeon guyfriend? – are, we are expected to believe, socially insecure and not cool enough to feel that they have a chance with the likes of studly musician classmate Aaron (tv tart Thomas McDonell, “the next Johnny Depp”, as one IMDb user salivates), whose Halloween party promises to be the social event of the season.  Unfortunately, after being invited, Wren gets saddled by her slutty single mother (Chelsea Handler) with babysitting her tubby little brother (Jackson Nicoll), who delights in torturing her with his toilet humor and pranks.  Meanwhile, nice nerdy guy Roosevelt (Thomas Mann – the actor, not the author) pines for Wren’s affection and intellectual companionship, while his token minority buddy Peng (Osric Chau) lusts after kitty-costumed April.  Will Wren’s social life survive the night?  And, more to the point, will anyone in the audience care?

What could have been a happy, human, nocturnal teen comedy after the model of Sixteen Candles or Adventures in Babysitting ends up as a plastic, calculated exercise in nasty teensploitation.  Thomas Middleditch provides some amiable amusement as wimpy convenience store clerk Fuzzy, who befriends Wren’s mischievous little brother, and there are a few moments of mild hilarity, such as a knob broken off a car radio during a particularly annoying song, and the randy giant chicken sight gag featured in the trailer.  Overall, however, Fun Size is too miserly in heart to redeem itself as it depicts a sadistic, casually tawdry, filthy suburban America full of liberal intellectuals and growling barbarians, directionless women hungry for sex, overweight slobs, Obama voters and future serfs – and finds very little amiss.  This is a rotting world where women openly chat about their mammograms without shame and as if anyone could possibly care; a self-loathing civilization in which a little black boy in a Spider-Man outfit gives audiences a chuckle by calling a white girl “bitch”.

Ultimately, though, what’s worst about Fun Size is that it simply isn’t terribly funny.  It gets a grudging 2.5 of 5 possible stars, I suppose.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Fun Size is:

11. Antiwar.  Sarcastic reference is made to “Afghan citizenship” – a reminder of neoconservative failure in the Middle East.

10. Multiculturalist.  Races mingle freely and in friendship.  Hip-hop is an educational tool.  Spider-Man “looks like a Mexican wrestler”.  And, last but not least, bow down before Ruth Bader Ginsburg, bitches!

9. Drug-ambivalent.  Fuzzy warns about the danger of smoking around children after earlier jokingly offering chewing tobacco to Wren’s little brother.  Sexy young people do shots at a club before getting hot and heavy on the dancefloor.  A thug abuses Pepto Bismol.

8. Obesity-ambivalent.  Junk food is the key to the little brother’s heart.  He’s insulted for being fat, but nobody even tries to change his sugary, greasy eating habits.  Fuzzy indulgently gives him packets of sugar.  Overweight Polynesians also provide visual comic relief.

7. Anti-gun.  As part of his Aaron Burr costume, Peng sports an antique pistol – the representative gun is thus an anachronism clashing with enlightened modernity.  He fires the weapon at one point and, though it intimidates a bully, Peng himself clearly finds the experience more frightening than fun.

6. Pro-gay.  Roosevelt was raised by caring and cultured lesbian mothers.  When Aaron, at his party, asks who would like to kiss him, one boy raises his hand along with all the girls.

5. Anti-white male/pro-castration.  Manly men are antagonistic and primitive savages and constantly raising hell whether by stealing, theatening violence, or abducting and holding a child for ransom.  Kicked testicles are an occasion for humor.  Positive portrayals of men in Fun Size are limited to sissy, skinny, sensitive types like Roosevelt and Fuzzy and nerds like Peng.

4. Statist/pro-serfdom.  Roosevelt’s new age lesbian mothers, who presumably named him after crippled American dictator and welfare state Santa Claus FDR, “evolve” spiritually and as artists as they weave a tapestry of a smiling Barack Hussein Obama.  Roosevelt, like Wren, is a “fan of the Supreme Court”.  Wren does her part to inflate the college debt bubble by applying to NYU.

3. Pro-slut/anti-family/dysfunction-tolerant.  The mother whines about how hard it is being a single mother but also seems to find unaccountable bragging rights in this.  Kids are a hassle and Trojan condoms get the appropriate product placement.

2. Pro-miscegenation.  April inadvertently catches a steamy case of yellow fever after letting Peng feel her breast at a party and goes to bed (couch, actually) with him the same night.

1. Feminist.  For Halloween, Wren considers dressing as “feminist icon” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who gets name-dropped an obscene number of times for a dumb teen comedy.  Katie Couric, meanwhile, is praised for being “so brave”.  April experiences painful burning after applying Nair to her ass – and thus is punished for wrongheadedly catering to men’s sexually domineering expectations of female hairlessness.  Wren’s mom bares her teeth and intimidates Roosevelt by boasting that she’s a single mother (and therefore a force to be reckoned with) before handily wrestling him to the ground like a pro.

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