Transformers: Age of Extinction

Director: Michael Bay (2014)

Hardcore fans may enjoy this fourth episode of the fighting robot franchise – but for everyone else it’s a long dull road to cinematic oblivion.

If you strip this film down to its component parts: alien robots, metal dinosaurs, spaceships and good performances by Marky Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci, it should be a lot of fun.

But it’s mangled construction means that no amount of flashy explosions – and there’s an awful lot of them – can jump start the story into life.

Since the Battle of Chicago the surviving autobots (the good transformers) and the decepticons (the baddies) have been hiding from the authorities, particularly sinister CIA boss Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer).

He’s teamed up with corrupt millionaire designer Joshua Joyce (Tucci) and they’ve hired mercenary transformer Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan) to hunt down the robot cars.

They plan to use the alien technology to build their own indestructible army.

Meanwhile struggling inventor Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) rescues a broken-down truck which turns out to be autobot leader Optimus Prime.

Along with Yeager’s useless daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her idiot boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) they’re soon on the run from Lockdown.

Beneath the special effects sheen there’s a clapped-out engine of mechanical dialogue, shoddy plotting and a repetitive structure of chases and fights.

Devoid of excitement, logic or wit, it lasts a brain melting and bum-numbing two hours and forty five minutes – but seems at least twice as long.

It screams along in second gear at a hundred miles an hour, culminating in another huge battle which includes three dinobots.

As far as autobots go, I’ve watched far more entertaining episodes of The Octonauts.


Director: Doug Ellin (2015)

As well as being lazy, stupid and devoid of laughs, this spin-off of the US TV show is appallingly smug and horrifically misjudged.

Loosely based on the experiences of Marky Mark Wahlberg and his early years in Hollywood, it ran for eight series of which I never watched a second. Sadly I’ve now seen too much.

It was produced by the HBO channel which also responsible for the similarly glossy Sex And The City, a ground-breaking show which suffered two uninspired movie sequels.

Wahlberg produces and appears briefly in this big screen version which continues the careers and love-lives of talentless ‘A’ list actor Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his witless and charmless team of hangers-on.

Supposedly the central character, Vincent is anonymous in his own movie and even in his own gang.

It consists of his manager and best friend Eric, his brother Johnny and friend Turtle. (Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrara).

We’re supposed to enjoy hanging out with the boys and find them amusingly out of their depth and adorably dim.

Jeremy Piven (UK TV’s Mr Selfridge) gives an energetic performance as Vincent’s stressed-out agent Ari Gold.

But when he’s not on screen the energy levels drop alarmingly along with quality and entertainment value.

Vince has left his wife after nine days of marriage and is undergoing a bout of soul-searching – while partying on an enormous babe-filled luxury yacht.

He decides to do something meaningful with his life and insists on directing his next movie

Maybe that’s a jokey reflection on Hollywood values but the self-satisfied tone makes it difficult to tell.

His movie is called Hyde, a trashy high concept sci-fi thriller which looks like a mash-up of The Matrix (1999) and Dredd (2012).

I’d much rather be watching that movie than this one.

Unfortunately Eric – the sensitive one with a pregnant ex-girlfriend – is as inadequate a producer as he is a manager.

When he allows the production to go over-budget, Ari has to go cap-in-hand to Texan billionaire Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton) for more money to finish the movie.

Larsen sends his son Travis (Haley Joel Osment) to Hollywood to oversee the film’s progress but he ends up causing more problems than he solves.

Among the relentless tedium of the boys rampant idiocy, there’s acting auditions, sex-tapes, dates, lunches, parties and meetings.

Employing a high nipple count, each scene seems to begin with a perfectly pert posterior parading past the camera.

Women exist only as targets to be ‘banged’ and a viagra-spiked pool party has a decidedly rapey feel.

The boys aren’t redeemed by going googoo over a newborn girl – especially in the light of a joke about an aged Lothario screwing his high-school daughter’s friends.

If that doesn’t make you laugh there’s plenty of homophobic abuse directed towards a gay Asian character called Lloyd Lee (Rex Lee).

As it’s all performed in inverted comma’s it’s presumably OK.

Liam Neeson and Kelsey Grammar appear in the stream of lacklustre acting cameos alongside a bunch of US sports stars I didn’t recognise.

When the former footballer Thierry Henry wanders through for absolutely no reason, it’s a snapshot of the Premier League levels of bantz and fawning indulgence towards anyone famous.

Entourage is for die-hard fans of the series only – even If such people exist – though judging by the weak box office ($26m at the time of writing) achieved on it’s home turf, perhaps it’s not even for them.

The Gambler

Director: Rupert Wyatt (2015)

Call the bluff on this glossy gambling movie that will leave you out of pocket and feeling cheated for watching.

Based on the superior 1974 film of the same name, the always watchable Mark Wahlberg plays to the manor born Jim Bennett, a masochistic, nihilistic and wildly unsympathetic university professor.

It’s a brave piece of casting which treats us to the novelty of former Funky Bunch frontman Wahlberg lecturing to University students on the merits of Shakespeare.

He’s a spoilt, whiny, attention-seeking brat with self-destructive tendencies who self-medicates his existential crisis by playing cards, and is not above developing a relationship Brie Larson’s genius young student.

Jim spends his nights gambling in illicit dens and his days teaching, leaving him too busy to put on a tie or brush his hair.

When not betting money he doesn’t have or antagonising gangsters for the empty thrill of it, Jim’s isolating himself from family and colleagues and generally feeling sorry for himself.

After a great deal of behaviour I wouldn’t allow from my four year old, Jim owes a quarter of a million dollars to various bad people and has seven days to pay it back. Or else.

Reduced to trying to hock his watch to stake another game, violence is repeatedly threatened for non-payment, and Jim wants to be hurt so badly its hard to feel sorry for him when he’s badly is.

Jessica Lange plays his tennis playing mother, and the elegant actress is particularly hard done by, but Jim probably thinks that’s her fault for enabling his addiction.

And in four brief appearances, the shaven-headed John Goodman raises the acting ante as a philosophising and kindly intentioned loan shark.