Wednesday, July 4, 2007


My July 4 extravaganza was a calzone at Caito's and a viewing of the Transformers movie.

The Calzone was fine, though I have had better (Da Boyz in Yuma comes to mind). The meat was lasagna flavored, which seems to be a specialty at Caito's; the marinara sauce, served on the side, veered in a distinctly curry-like direction. Very unusual, but not unpalatable. The crust and cheese mixture were above reproach.

My only real gripe is that the staff kept me waiting so long before even bringing me a menu and asking for my drink order that I was seriously considering getting up to leave. "Did I come in at a bad time?" I asked the waitress when she finally did come to wait on me. Then, when she asked if I was ready to order while handing me the menu, I added: "My bad! I haven't even looked at the menu!" That was Bitchy Me, a personality that I try not to let take control too much. But it wasn't as if they were overtaxed. I was the only customer in the place at dinnertime, and the store was crammed with employees standing or sitting around with nothing to do.

I looked on the bright side the rest of the day, though I couldn't help but squirm through major portions of the movie. I knew, going into it, that it was an "entitlement blockbuster," made to a money-making formula of fast, noisy, special-effects-laden sci-fi action films. It was directed by Michael Bay, exec-produced by Spielberg, and based on a line of Hasbro toys that originally inspired a cartoon program in the 1980s. I remember watching that series with my brother when we were kids, and not thinking it was very imaginative then. Leaving no cliche unturned, this movie was in the final analysis a 2 hour, 20 minute toy commercial, only with a good cast and a couple of good scenes. (When you fast-forward through the DVD in a couple of months, be sure to slow down for any scene that doesn't have a digitally-animated character in it.)

One problem with the film is that there were too many characters in it. The few attempts to build sympathy for them fizzled, because they seemed half-hearted to begin with. For example, there is not one hero guy, but two - a high school kid whose first car turns out to be an alien robot (played with his usual tongue-tied, girl-crazy charm by Shia LeBoeuf), and a soldier whose trip home to see his newborn daughter is interrupted by a shape-changing, mechanized alien threat to all life on earth (played by good-looking-even-when-dusty-and-sweaty Josh Duhamel). There are also two hero girls: Megan Fox as the out-of-Shia's-league girl of his dreams (who turns out to have a knack for hotwiring cars), and Rachel Taylor as a ridiculously gorgeous nerd. Then there are the more-or-less serious adult characters (played by Jon Voight and John Turturro), the total comic-relief characters (Bernie Mac, Anthony Anderson, Kevin Dunn, and Julie White), and the actors providing voices of the animated characters (including Hugo Weaving as the chief villain).

That's all I really have to say about the cast, because they are wasted on an embarrassingly bad movie, based on a script that could have come straight out of that 1980s cartoon series. The low-point was probably when a child, after barely surviving when a pair of tussling giant robots roll over his minivan, turns to his mother and says, "Cool, Mom!" But I saw it coming from the opening titles in which "in association with Hasbro" followed the names of the production companies. The film is programmed to make you think it is cool, so that you will buy their line of toys such as trucks that transform into guns. Stupid movies I can forgive, because they can't be any smarter than the people who make them; but films that cynically insult the audience's intelligence, or exploit its stupidity, are unforgivable.

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