Mark Wahlberg plays Cade Yeager, Nicola Peltz plays Tessa Yeager, and T.J. Miller plays Lucas Flannery in Transformers: Age of Extinction. *Photo supplied
Mark Wahlberg plays Cade Yeager, Nicola Peltz plays Tessa Yeager, and T.J. Miller plays Lucas Flannery in Transformers: Age of Extinction. *Photo supplied

Speciality Theatre

Transformers: Age of Extinction

**

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor.

Director: Michael Bay

Rated: PG-13

Showing: All shows in 3D. 

Fri 2:30pm, 6pm, 9:30pm, 12am (midnight); Sat 2:30pm, 6pm, 9:30pm; Sun 2pm, 5:30pm, 9pm; Mon-Thurs 2:30pm, 6pm,  9:30pm.

Runtime: 165 minutes

Action/comedy/sci-fi

The special effects are sharper, less blurred, and the robots far more defined in Transformers: Age of Extinction. Four films into this series and the giant-thinking, wise-cracking, lecturing alien robots have a look that finally suggests weight and metallic wear and tear.

Stanley Tucci and T.J. Miller come in as human comical relief, and John Goodman and Ken Watanabe provide new voices, sometimes used for comedy, as new Autobots.

And if Age of Extinction makes you feel dumber just for having watched it, well, that’s the price of popcorn these days. If it keeps Michael Bay out of trouble for years at a time (this is the start of a new trilogy), we’ll just grit our teeth and bear it.

Five years since The Battle of Chicago, the Decepticons have been wiped out, their metal salvaged by a rich industrialist (Tucci). 

But an alien robot bounty hunter named Lock Down has come in and teamed with a rogue C.I.A. megalomaniac (Kelsey Grammer) to try and wipe out or capture the last of the Autobots. All aliens must go.

But they’re running out of lectures for Optimus to give us about our treacherous, violent nature, running out of ways to transform (digital disintegration in some scenes, here), running out of Transformers to be turned into toys (metal dinosaurs? Space ships?). 

Think Like a Man Too

**

Stars: Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, Meagan Good, Michael Ealy, Jenifer Lewis, Romany Malco, Dennis Haysbert.

Director: Tim Story.

Rated: PG-13

Showing: Fri-Sat 2:45pm,  6:15pm, 9:15pm; Sun 2:20pm, 5:45pm, 9:15pm; Mon-Thurs 2:45pm, 6:15pm, 9:15pm.

Runtime: 106 minutes

Comedy.

Sequels, as 22 Jump Street joked, are always “the same, only worse”.

So any pretense of insight into the battle of the sexes and any real connection to stand-up comic turned self-appointed relationships expert Steve Harvey’s book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, is long forgotten in Think Like a Man Too, the sequel to the surprise hit of two springs back.

Kevin Hart has become the break-out star of this ensemble, so Too is basically a star vehicle for the Manic Little Man — with Las Vegas as the playground for this Bridesmaids meets The Hangover movie. 

Neptune Theatre

Belle

****

Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson.

Director: Amma Asante Boone

Rated: PG

Showing: Fri-Sat 7:30pm; Sun 5:30pm; Mon 7pm.

Runtime: 104 minutes

Drama.

In a strange sense, Belle, dressed up in the corsets and social conventions of Georgian England, proves a good canvas for its mannered conversation about race.

In an even stranger sense, the way the film examines and exposes the attitudes of London’s not-so-polite society echoes the current conversation about race swirling around the charged comments of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Which makes Belle’s shortfalls all the more disappointing.

The historical drama, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the mixed-race beauty at its core, is inspired by a 1779 painting thought to be the work of a well-known British portraitist. It shows two young women as compatriots; you might think them sisters but for the fact that one is black, the other white. Their equality on the canvas is more striking than their beauty.

With that and other details drawn from what little is known of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Mbatha-Raw), director Amma Asante and screenwriter Misan Sagay spin a provocative fiction out of her life. 

Belle has a great deal of conviction and is cut from the same emotional cloth as the groundbreaking 12 Years a Slave. What it lacks is the coherence and intensity of last year’s Oscar winner. It does, however, showcase Mbatha-Raw’s considerable talent and should secure the rising British actress a spot on Hollywood’s radar as 12 Years did for Lupita Nyong’o. 

LA TIMES REVIEW

Liberty Theatre

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (3D)

****

Stars: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler.

Director: Dean DeBlois

Rated: PG

Showing: Fri 1pm, 3:45pm, 6:30pm; Sat 1pm, 4:45pm; Sun 2:30pm, 5:30pm; Mon-Thurs 4pm, 6:30pm.

Runtime: 102 minutes

Animation, action, adventure.

The sequel to Dreamworks Animation’s successful 2010 run of How To Train Your Dragon expands on the emotions of the coming-of-age tale of a boy and his dragon. In a whirlwind intro scene, we return to the Isle of Berk five years after Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) showed the Vikings that dragons were not evil creatures. 

ALL REVIEWS BY MCT UNLESS STATED