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Movie reviews: 'Transformers: Rise of the Beasts' delivers what matters to fans


"Transformers: Rise of the Beasts," the globe-trotting seventh installment in the "Transformers" live-action film series, is both a sequel and a prequel. Set in 1994, it wedges the story between the events of "Bumblebee," set in 1987, and "Transformers," which takes place in 2007.

Primarily based on Hasbro's "Beast Wars" storyline, it reboots the franchise with a new cast and a new tribe of Transformers.

The story begins as Noah (Anthony Ramos), an unemployed Brooklyn-based electronics expert, desperate for cash to help his ailing little brother, steals a silver-blue Porsche 964 Carrera RS 3.8. What he doesn't realize is that the car is actually a rebellious Autobot named Mirage (voice of Pete Davidson) with the ability turn invisible and create illusions.

Meanwhile, while working at a museum on Ellis Island, artifact researcher Elena (Dominique Fishback) discovers a bird sculpture with unusual markings and the symbol of the Maximals, the mostly peaceful descendants of the Autobots. More fuel-efficient than their ancestors, with a cry of "Maximals, MAXIMIZE," they transform into animals like a western lowland gorilla (Ron Perlman), a peregrine falcon (Michelle Yeoh), a white rhinoceros (David Sobolov) or a cheetah (Tongayi Chirisa).

Inadvertently engaging a key for interdimensional space travel, Elena attracts the attention of the heroic Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), the Maximals, the dark, planet-destroying god Unicron (Colman Domingo) and an evil subgroup of the Decepticons called the Terrorcons.

"Once I have this key," snarls Unicron, "I alone will reign supreme."

If the planet is to be saved, the Autobots, Maximals, Noah and Elena must join forces, travel to a remote village in Peru and secure the all-powerful key.

"This is about the fate of all living things," says Optimus Primal (Perlman).

"Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" delivers what fans expect from the franchise. The transformations from car-to-character are cool, the action scenes deliver the expected heavy metal punch, Optimus Prime is as stentorian as ever and the Maximals are underused, but pretty cool.

Director Steve Caple Jr. also adds in an appealing human element with the addition of Ramos and Fishback, and even the alien robots are imbued with a bit more soul—and in Mirage's case, more personality—than usual.

It's a shame then, that the simple story isn't more interesting. The individual elements work well, in some cases better than in Michael Bay's franchise instalments, but we've seen too many end-of-the-world scenarios in recent years. It may be Armageddon time, but familiarity breeds, well, maybe not contempt, but complacency. The stakes just don't seem all that high because they're hung on a predictable story with a generic superhero premise.

Having said all that, "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" is a good time at the movies. Sure, it could use a little more air in the tires in the mid-section and there is way too much exposition as we reach the end game, but it delivers what matters to fans: rock 'em, sock 'em robot action writ large.


"I don't think they've invented a word for what Dali is," says a friend of the famous Spanish surrealist painter in the new film "Daliland," in select theatres and streaming on VOD. Indeed, he leaves behind a complicated legacy.

By the 1970s, Dali was probably the most famous living artist in the world. Treating life like one never ending carnival, he was as famous for the surrealism and symbolism in his work as he was for his celebrated up-turned moustache and public hijinks, like walking an anteater on a leash for the paparazzi.

This story begins in 1974 as the jejune James (Christopher Briney) becomes Dali's (Ben Kingsley) assistant. The innocent, former art school student idolizes the painter, but, as he is thrust into the eccentric artist's decadent lifestyle, he learns there is trouble in Daliland.

"Sometimes it can be so hard being Dali," says the artist.

Dali's complex relationship with his wife, Gala (Barbara Sukowa), complicates both the artist's professional and personal life. More about money than marriage, she is her husband's mother figure and muse, but also siphons his bank accounts to fund the musical aspirations of her latest boyfriend, Jeff (Zachary Nachbar-Seckel), a singer best known for his starring role in "Jesus Christ Superstar."

As James becomes embedded in the sideshow that has become Dali's life, he becomes aware of the fraud and backroom deals that keep the artist's coffers stuffed with cash.

"Daliland" isn't so much a biography of the artist, even though there are many biographical details on display, including flashbacks to his younger life where he is played by Ezra Miller. Instead, it is a portrait of a time, of the moment when fine art became commodified and artists became marketers as well as painters. As a personality, Dali was, arguably, more famous than his work, but it was his celebrity that enabled him to charge more per painting, and, ultimately dupe people into buying fakes because of the demand for his name.

Director Mary Harron paints a vivid picture of the cult of celebrity, and the price Dali paid for the quest for fame. A once revered artist, he died famous, but with a tarnished legacy. His commitment to life as the greatest form of art—the parties, the publicity stunts, the hedonism, self-mythologizing, etc—overshadowed his true gift, his ability to create truly unique artistic works. Add to that, shady business deals and money generating scams, and you have a colourful story tinged with tragedy.

Kingsley embraces Dali's larger-than-life, "you're in the presence of genius," side, but never simply plays the caricature. His performance centres the outlandish story with humanity, and as the character ages, empathy for the man behind the moustache.

"Daliland" features interesting work from Sukowa as the fiery Gala and Kingsley, but does a better job at essaying the decadence of this pivotal moment in art history than providing a complete portrait of its subject.


Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey "Po" Powell created some of the most famous images of the 1960s and '70s. Under their design company name Hipgnosis, they created album covers that often garnered as much attention as the music on the LPs.

"Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis)," a new documentary, directed by legendary photographer Anton Corbijn, and now playing in theatres, reveals the secret sauce that went into making classic covers like Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here," Paul McCartney and Wings' "Band on the Run" and Led Zeppelin's "Houses of the Holy."

Told first-hand by Powell, who describes the relationship with his late, prickly partner Thorgerson with great detail and love, the story begins in the late Sixties in the Cambridge, England art scene, and a friendship with the band Pink Floyd.

Falling into a career as a photographer, Powell took the cover photos for Floyd's second album "Saucerful of Secrets," while Thorgerson created the wild psychedelic images that framed the band's pictures. The success of that collaboration led to the creation of Hipgnosis, a company name created as a portmanteau of "hip" for their new and cool approach, and "gnostic," meaning "wise."

Using new interviews with Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Noel Gallagher, David Gilmour and Roger Waters, combined with archival footage and interviews, Corbijn goes behind the scenes to reveal the fiery personalities and off-kilter creative process that made Hipgnosis so unique.

The creative inspiration seems to have sparked by the chalk and cheese relationship between Thorgerson and Powell. Powell admits upfront that he was almost as interested in the money as he was the art—"I just wanted to make money and be successful and do the things I wanted to do," he says.—whereas Thorgerson was a spendthrift, who never let a budget get in the way of a good idea. That push and pull ultimately blew their relationship and company apart, but until punk rock came along, and their extravagantly designed covers went out of style, the pair, despite their differences, created magic.

Along the way are great stories about how the giant, inflatable pig featured on the cover of Pink Floyd's "Animals" album, drifted away from the shoot and landed in a farmer's field, and how Thorgerson once offered Led Zeppelin a cover idea originally designed for Judas Priest. Then there is the story of "Wish You Were Here's" burning man cover and Wings Greatest Hits compilation cover, a photo of a small statue shot on location on a snow-covered mountaintop in the Swiss Alps.

"There was a lot of that in those days," says McCartney, referring to the cover's ridiculous cost. "We loved it. It looked great, but then someone said, 'You could have just gone in a studio in London, and just got a big pile of salt and stuck the statue on top of it.' But, you know, that's just too easy."

In the end, it was changing tastes and shrinking record company budgets that brought the Hipgnosis era to a close, but, as one expert says, until that moment, they were a "lens of fascinating excess."

Corbijn's doc is straightforward, austere almost, with little of the wild excess or off-the-hook imagination that typified the work of its subject, but "Squaring the Circle" does a great job of placing the album artwork in context of its time and timelessness.

"There's a great quote from someone," says Gallagher, "'Vinyl is like the poor man's art collection. The posh people have the art on the wall. Working class people have art on the floor, stacked against the wall.'" Top Stories

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