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'Extinction' a clear popcorn pic

| Thursday, June 26, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

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 comic 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. And this start of a new trilogy will keep Michael Bay out of trouble for years.

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 CIA megalomaniac (Kelsey Grammer) to try and wipe out or capture the last of the Autobots. All aliens must go.

Meanwhile, in rural Texas, inventor / scrap collector Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is trying to save the farm and his hotsie-totsie daughter's virtue by salvaging a crashed semi he found stuck in an abandoned cinema. When he and his partner Lucas (T.J. Miller of “She's Out of My League”) resurrect the old truck and it burbles to life as an outraged Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), their world gets complicated. And deadly.

Middle age has not dulled Bay's passion for photographing nubile starlets from the midriff down. Thus, does Nicola Peltz take on the Megan Fox role of hottie-du-jour. Her character, Tessa, spends the movie in heavy makeup and skimpy Daisy Duke cutoffs.

Jack Reynor plays the beau that high-school senior Tessa is not supposed to be dating.

The humans and their gathered robot teammates crash from Texas to Chicago, Beijing to Hong Kong, as they battle Lock Down's metallic minions and trash cities as they go.

“Transformers” is a movie with a staggering, mostly unseen, body count. The language is rougher, but it's the mayhem that boggles the mind.

They're running out of lectures for Optimus to give us about our treacherous, violent nature, running out of ways to transform, running out of Transformers to be turned into toys.

Yet, “Age of Extinction” runs on and on. Two hours and 45 minutes is a pretty steep price to pay for keeping Michael Bay at bay.

Roger Moore reviews movies for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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