Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonso, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Armie Hammer, and Larry the Cable Guy
Synopsis: This is the third installment in the "Cars" franchise, and our annual foray into Pixar animation. I wasn't a big fan of the first two "Cars" films, and I was weary of this third outing. But something happened along the way — I really found myself drawn to the story and enjoying the ride. The animation is solid, as you'd expect, and the story really appealed to me. My favorite Pixar stories have had to do with growing, changing life circumstances and legacy, and this one really hits that. I enjoyed this the most of all the "Cars" films, and the most of Pixar films the past few years since "Toy Story 3." Maybe the third act is the winner.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
47 Meters Down
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, and Matthew Modine
About: A great staple of summer cinema is the shark movie. Some are better than others, but all seem to draw an audience. "47 Meters Down" has been no different, making $11.3 million opening weekend and another $7.1 last weekend. But is it any good? The answer is a resounding no. Clearly co-writer/director Johannes Roberts was going for something artistic and meaningful. You get that from the first shot, a long, lingering look at red wine spilled in a pool. The menacing score letting you know that it's foreshadowing. But the rest of the story and the characters fail him. Last summer we saw an excellent version of the summer shark thriller in "The Shallows." This film is way on the other end of the spectrum. A friend jokingly said we should call it "A Swim to Remember," and it's about that saccharine, which is a huge problem.
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language.
Verdict: One star out of four.
Transformers: The Last Knight
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Stanley Tucci, Josh Duhamel, and John Turturro
Synopsis: There comes a time when everything has run its course. Unless you’re talking about “The Simpsons,” which feels like it will run until the world ends. But, for the most part, every story has an ending. The same is true for film franchises. Sometimes you decide the ending, and you go out on a creative and commercial high. Other times you hang on too long and the market tells you when it’s time to go. This summer’s Box Office has been a referendum on aging franchises. The latest films in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Cars” franchises posted low openings, while films like “Alien: Covenant” failed to meet expectations. Last Friday another creaking franchise bowed to less than spectacular returns as “Transformers: The Last Knight” opened amid modest Box Office expectations ($65 million) and failed to meet those expectations. By a lot. It took just $44.7 million opening weekend, which is by far the lowest domestic opening of the franchise. While director Michael Bay, who has helmed all five “Transformers” films, suggested the next 14 installments are already written — and a spin-off focusing on Bumblebee is already in production — it seems like the marketplace might be suggesting “Transformers” run at the Box Office is at an end. I’d say more about the plot but, first it doesn’t really seem to matter to the experience of the film and second it doesn’t seem like they put a lot of time into the plot. When “Transformers” debuted in 2007, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how good it was considering the source material. A decade and five films later, these movies have become predictable, lazy and a chore to watch. I thought the previous installment, 2014’s “Age of Extinction,” was awful. Somehow “The Last Knight” manages to be more ridiculous and worse. Earlier this summer we were treated to a high-profile dud in “King Arthur.” Amazingly, that is now not the worst film this summer to center its plot on King Arthur, Merlin and the knights of the Round Table. This fifth “Transformers” film also has a plot revolving around the King Arthur legend, including an extended flashback to that time period to begin the film. It doesn’t work as either a flashback, which feels ridiculous, or as plot moving forward, which never really connects in a coherent way. At their best, these “Transformers” films provided a little action, a little comedy and a nice two-hour diversion. This movie stretches to two and a half hours of bloated meandering that seems meant to show off its special effects and budget, but achieves little else. Talented actors like Anthony Hopkins, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Tony Hale and Wahlberg have little to do, only adding to the ways this film doesn’t work. I’ve often enjoyed Bay’s movies, but this effort feels tired. He’s said this will be his final go at the “Transformers” franchise, and maybe that’s a good thing. Perhaps new blood with fresh ideas could breathe life into these films once again. Or, perhaps, like all stories this one has simply reached its inevitable conclusion. Since at least one more movie is in production, I doubt it. But for those that suffered through this summer mess, one can always hope.
Rating: PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo.
Verdict: One star out of four.
Friday, June 30 — "Despicable Me 3," "The House"