New on 4K disc: Beastly Transformers makes for nonsensical fun – while Rosemary's Baby never looked scarier
By Jim Bray
Paramount Pictures' latest kick at the Transformers cat, er can, is more fun than I expected, and it's an interesting counterpoint to the studio's other major release for this week: Rosemary's Baby.
As with Bumblebee before it, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is a throwback in time, this time to the 1990's, before the Michael Bay-driven original set of movies were supposed to have happened. This time, the Autobots are tasked with saving the earth from some new threat that could wipe out the entire planet, taking the hero Transformers out as well as the human race these Autobots have yet to discover can be allies.
It's also a nifty globetrotter, with some particularly beautiful and spectacular scenes shot in Peru, including the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu – and if you thought these places looked lovely before, wait until you see them in glorious 4K with HDR! There's also some very neat scenes set in New York City (a lot of which was apparently shot in Montreal).
The story includes Autobots, Maximals, Predacons, and Terrorcons and a new nemesis, Scourge. The humans who end up along for the ride are Noah, an intelligent but rebellious kid from Brooklyn, and scientist Elena, played respectively by Anthony Ramos and Dominque Fishback. As one of the new Transformers says later in the film, about the humans: "They're more than meets they eye."
The Transformers (I wonder if they'll get their own "trans" flag…) get thrust into a working relationship/friendship with the humans after Elena discovers an ancient device that's kind of a cosmic key that can open a portal that allows through a nasty Terrorcon whose sole purpose is to eat planets, kind of like the planet eater in the old Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine."
In a way, it's kind of an origin story, in that Optimus Prime and his big little friends aren't yet the team kids of all ages have come to know and love, but they do begin to form those relationships over the course of the movie.
I'm generally a fan of origin stories, especially in the comic book movies' universes. The original Superman, Batman Begins, Wonder Woman, the first Spider-Man, etc. etc. are all good origin stories as well, and I'm not going to dissect the story here for you lest I spoil what is actually quite a bit of fun.
I've never been a fan of the franchise, in which I find it hard to suspend my disbelief – probably because I have trouble swallowing the fact that giant alien robots just happen to transform into Earth-based machines. Perhaps I missed something along the way, but never cared enough to go back and suss out.
But if you can get beyond that, you're in for quite a ride. And even some laughs: I particularly enjoyed Optimus Prime telling Bumblebee (whose vocals consist of things it heard on its car radio), after a particular utterance, that he doesn't want him visiting a drive-in theatre again.
There's also great technology, as usual. I particularly enjoyed the Autobot Mirage, who's a beautiful Porsche (I think it's a classic 930, a 911 derivative) but can also be other things. What I found ironic about Mirage was that an 'Auto'Bot came with a 'manual' transmission! I was also thrilled to see an old Fairchild "Flying Boxcar", an old air freighter I used to see flying over my childhood home many decades ago (there's also one with a prominent role in Spielberg's "Always"). My biggest issue with them was that they kept transforming from really nifty vehicles to giant robots. But I guess that was the point.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts looks beautiful on 4K disc with Dolby Vision HDR. All the Transformer movies have looked great but, as mentioned above, the 4K treatment really comes into its own when we head south to the jungles and mountains of South America. It's truly spectacular!
Audio, as expected, is also fully up to snuff. It's a Dolby Atmos track that's backward compatible to TrueHD, and it's going to rock your audio system. It's loud and lively, and makes good use of all your speakers.
Here's a list of what you get:
* Human Affairs. Short interviews with cast and crew along with some behind the scenes stuff.
I still have trouble suspending my disbelief for this stuff (which is funny, because I'll suspend it for some pretty ludicrous stuff like giant Gila monsters!), but I did enjoy this latest Transformers outing quite a bit. If you're a fan of the franchise, this one's right up your alley and you'll want to experience it in 4K if you have the equipment.
Rosemary's Baby, meanwhile, also looks and sounds terrific, within the limitations of some 50 years of technological advance. It's also extremely timely at this point in human history, where one could find it easy to think there's a huge rise in Satanic worship and activity (or maybe it's just being exposed).
What makes Rosemary's Baby so scary is that it's so ordinary, so everyday. Director Roman Polanski, before becoming famous as the husband of Manson Family-murdered Sharon Tate and, later, a pedophile on the lam from American Justice, builds the suspense here by showing us real life people, if you can call an actor "real life," in an ordinary situation. Or so it seems...
Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) move into an old New York apartment building with the plan to start building their family. Guy, a struggling actor, is looking for a break, while Rosemary appears to be your old fashioned, stay at home housewife who hopes to soon be a mother, too.
They're quickly befriended by their pushy but affable next-door neighbors, an odd elderly couple who are far nosier than either Guy or Rosemary initially wants, though Guy soon (almost, it seems, against his better judgement – at least initially) warms up to Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon, in a well-derserved Oscar-winning performance). They also wriggle their way into Rosemary's life, whether she wants it or not. The duo is the ultimate in overfriendly, nosey neighbors. Perhaps that should have set off alarms, but I guess neither Guy nor Rosemary bothered to read the screenplay.
Working on having their first child, the couple charts out her fertile days (bet they wished there were spreadsheets back then!) but, when the first opportunity arises for them to make their baby, Rosemary passes out, weirdly and, as we learn later, conveniently.
While she's out, she dreams that she's taking part in some strange kind of ceremony culminating in her being mounted by, well, we don't really know for sure, though we can make some pretty scary guesses – especially since we know this is a horror movie-type thing.
Naturally, she gets pregnant, but her pregnancy isn't the blissful period she's been led to believe it would be. And, as it turns out, her troubled pregnancy is only the beginning of her troubles...
Rosemary, who did her best to protect herself and her unborn baby, was screwed by everyone, including those who should be been doing right by her.
The story unfolds slowly, mostly in broad daylight, and that's a lot of the reason why it works so well. Heck, it almost feels like a documentary, and the marvelous twist ending comes at you out of left field.
But thanks to that ending, in the grand scheme of things, did Rosemary's efforts to save her baby really matter?
Really creepy and scary stuff, especially to today's Awakened (as opposed to Woke) citizens!
The 4K disc is quite grainy but, overall, it looks terrific, very filmic and easy on the eyes. Colours are great, shadows are nicely shadowy, and the overall look is wonderfully creepy. Audio is lossless, but "only" Dolby TrueHD monaural. That said, it's fine.
Extras include a retrospective about the movie, a couple of trailers, and a documentary about Polanski and Farrow.
A very timely release, Rosemary's Baby looks great in 4K and, watching it now decades after the last time I saw it, it holds up extremely well. Highly recommended.
Copyright 2023 Jim Bray