- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2014

One of the noisiest films of the decade arrives for home entertainment audiences to appreciate Hasbro’s robots in disguise in Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $39.99 for Blu-ray combo pack, $52.99 for 3D combo pack).

Yes, the live-action franchise based on those beloved shape-shifting toys returned for a fourth outing this year and picked up five years after a war between Autobots and Decepticons practically destroyed Chicago in the 2011 “Dark of the Moon” film.

Despite critics ravaging director Michael Bay’s effort, movie audiences flocked to the theaters with it grossing over $1 billion in worldwide box office sales.

Well damn the snooty critics, for a fan of the famed robots, I was pretty excited to see their large scale, metallic fisticuffs again and, for the first time, a selection of the legendary Dinobots.

Still, between the battles, a plot has to exist, and for what its worth, it involves way too much of those puny humans.

Specifically, an elite CIA black ops team is on a mission to help take down Optimus Prime and his remaining Autobots. Their success will allow a megalomaniacal CEO access to the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

The cast includes Mark Wahlberg as the down-to-earth (too smart and muscle bound for his own good) inventor Cade Yeagar and actress Nicola Peltz, (delivering the cheesecake quota) as his gorgeous daughter.

Additionally, actor Stanley Tucci plays Joshua Joyce, the arrogant CEO of a research firm that has harnessed the properties of Transformers alloy, and Kelsey Grammar takes the role of the evil CIA guy Harold Attinger who will stop at nothing to exterminate the Transformers and take possession of “the seed,” a weapon to supposedly protect humanity.

Of course, the fleshy ensemble just hogs screen time away from the massive computer-generated stars that include Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Hound (voiced by a grumpy John Goodman), Drift (a Samurai Transformer), the nasty intergalactic bounty hunter Lockdown and Galvatron, a resurrected version of the evil Decepticon Megatron.

Most importantly for this fan, we get to see Grimlock, a mechanical masterpiece that converts from a mace-swinging barbarian into a fire-breathing Tyrannosaurus Rex.

He and the other Dinobots, Strafe (a two-headed Pteranadon), Slug (a Triceratops) and Scorn (a Spinosaurus) help Optimus Prime save the day.

Unfortunately, it took about 120 minutes into the slightly bloated 165-minute movie to get my Dinobots wish, but man was it worth it.

The computer-effects craftsmen at Industrial Light & Magic delivered stellar representations of all of the Transformers, and their conversions will bring a tear to a fan’s eye.

Better yet, all of the fight scenes are during daylight or in well-lit areas and, bundled with the pixel-popping wonders of the Blu-ray format, viewers can truly appreciate the meticulous and time-consuming work involved in bringing these bots to life.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is a fun, edge-of-your-seat, action-packed thrill ride that will not disappoint. Those expecting a heart-wrenching or angst-ridden human drama need not apply.

Note: The latest audio enhancement encoded on the Blu-ray, called Dolby Atmos, used in movie theaters these days, will require an “all around sound” upgrade to the receiver and speakers in current home entertainment systems.

Also, true devotees to the franchise also won’t miss the chance to find a three-dimensional, compatible, super-sized monitor and watch with the IMAX version of the film blanketing the screen. It’s a really impressive.

Best extra: Viewers get over three hours worth of production featurettes. They often cover Michael Bay’s positive obsession with using practical effects and stunt work on his film sets (rather than all computer-generated effects). Most interesting of the group looks at the custom detail involved on nearly all of the very expensive vehicles (Bumblebee’s Camaro took an additional 3,000 of work) and the designing of the Dinobots.

Still, the extras are fairly disappointing and verge a bit too much on marketing gush rather than informative. It would have been nice to see some interactive features, maybe a Transformers timeline, 360-degree views of the robotic stars or even access to a few levels of a video game.

Read all about it: For a cartoony look a Grimlock and his team, purchase IDW Publishing’s “Transformers Prime: Rage of the Dinobots” ($17.99). The trade paperback collects the four-issue comic book mini-series from 2012 and offers character universe and storyline tied to the Hub Network’ computer animated cartoon series as well as the Fall of Cybertron video game.

Play the movie (literally): Activision has released some great and not-so-great Transformers movie video games over the last seven years including a recent third-person adventure based on “Age of Extinction.” ($39.99 to $59.99 depending on home entertainment console system, Rated Teen)

However, I’ll lighten things up a bit by recommending the upcoming “Angry Birds Transformers” (an anticipated 99 cents price point, fingers crossed) game built for tablet and smart phone devices.

Expect 1980s carton environments and side-scrolling shooting and racing mechanics to replace the previous sling-shot type battles between the pigs and fowls, except now its Autobirds versus Deceptihogs.

Specifically, look for Red Bird to become Optimus Prime Bird, for example, while characters can also transform. Hasbro is even incorporating a mini figure line to work with the game. The action should be just as addictive as any previous version of the Angry Birds franchise as well as a pleasing price point.

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