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Notes from the back row

Robots versus The Plot

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Driving into Whistler today from the farm, I went from sunny fields of lush, chest high hay rippling in the wind to a dark, brooding mass of valley cloud and a 13 degree air temperature. Then I saw an angry mob of people carrying pitchforks and torches, marching down Lorimer road. One woman near the back had a noose and a sour look on her face. I couldn't make out the mob's intent - they were either heading to town hall to "talk" about pay parking or off hunting down the writers of Transformers 2: The Rise of the Fallen . Both valiant causes.

Working from one of the weakest scripts of the year, trouble-with-storylines director Michael Bay has pushed action as far as it can go with his Transformers sequel, a jam-packed 150 minutes of guns, explosions, twisting metal, and blaring soundtrack - all action, all the time. Figuring out what's actually happening at any point in the film is tricky. Caring about the characters? Even more difficult.

Where the first movie at least hung on the idea of a boy and his first car, this one is just an endless chase scene dripping with masturbatory overindulgence. Great special effects, crap story, and way too long. For non-teenage audiences Transformers 2 is more of an endurance test, something on par with firing up your lawn mower, flipping it over, leaning in and seeing how long you can stare at the spinning blades while somebody yells in your ear.

On the other hand, it's two-plus hours of exploding robots and Megan Fox in daisy dukes leaning over a motorcycle, so I'll see ya there.

On the opposite end of the movie spectrum is the emotional family drama My Sister's Keeper, which opens Friday at the Village 8.

Director Nick Cassavetes is best known for The Notebook and this film is in the same sentimental vein. Based on the book by Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper is about a family with a daughter who has a rare disease so they decide to have another kid and mine her for parts to keep the first daughter alive. Cameron Diaz plays the mom, Abigail Breslin is the organ-donor sister and Sofia Vassilieva nails it as the sick kid.

In true Cassavetes form, this flick is drenched in sentimentality but the medical and social/ethical questions raised at least make it interesting. I'm betting my mom would get teary-eyed watching this and probably my supermodel girlfriend too. It's like that.

But then, amidst all the family bonding, the little sister decides she's sick of being a life-support system and hires her own lawyer to help her stop donating. The movie dips into courtroom melodrama and builds into a controversial ending that strays from the book. Basically Cassavetes pussed out and made a sappy feel-good ending where there wasn't supposed to be one. That's the Hollywood way.

But Hollywood Summer Blockbuster season continues next week on July 1 when Public Enemies opens. Directed by Michael Mann ( Heat) and starring Johnny Depp as legendary American gangster John Dillinger (alongside Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard) this one looks awesome. Depp is arguably the best actor going these days and it should be awesome to see his take on an underworld icon.

Speaking of the underworld... If that pay-parking lynch mob is looking for ways to show a little civil disobedience, I suggest renting Cool Hand Luke starring the late, great Paul Newman. He does some pretty awesome stuff with a bunch of parking meters and a pipe cutter right at the start of the film. That's civil disobedience at it's best.

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