BUMBLEBEE: When a movie franchise creatively hits the skids but is deemed to still be potentially profitable, the strategy is often to reboot or return to its’ origin story. It’s what’s on-screen here in this somewhat scaled down version from the TRANSFORMERS universe that tells how the title “Autobot” first landed on Earth in 1987 in the form of a dilapidated, yellow Volkswagen Beetle. There he comes under the ownership of a teenager (Hailee Steinfeld) from a single parent home who decides to hide him. Wait a minute, didn’t I see a film with a similar plot when it was called E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) and directed by Steven Spielberg who just happens to be the executive producer of this work? More than coincidence? Along with the usual rock ‘em, sock ‘em mayhem, the only unique facet of this movie is a fairly strong female character like Steinfeld (TRUE GRIT) who isn’t a former underwear model as in the previous cinematic crapfests spawned by this franchise. Christina Hodson’s screenplay also attempts to recycle the nostalgia of the ‘80s with a heavy dose of music from that decade on the soundtrack which is highlighted by a scene where “Bee” spits out a cassette tape of Rick Astley. But his primary purpose in coming to Earth is to establish a base for “Autobot” leader Optimus Prime after their home planet, Cybertron, is destroyed by those nasty Decepticons. Naturally, Earth gets chosen since it’s the perfect setting for Godzilla style urban destruction as well as a haven for bloated, crappy movie sequels. The relationship between Steinfeld’s gearhead and “Bee” has a contrived feel about it and comes off as a “girl and her Transformer” sort of movie. You know the type. However, I’ll give it some credit for attempting to incorporate humor and heart into the narrative which conveniently ignores the consequences of the title “bots” memory erasure. However, I can’t honestly bring myself to praise any work merely because it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. To steal a quote from Willie Nelson’s outlaw in BARBAROSA (1982), “That’s no high recommendation”. CRITIC’S GRADE: C

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are the 10 best movies I saw in the CALENDAR year of 2018 in ascending order – 10. HEREDITARY 9. EIGHTH GRADE 8. THE HATE U GIVE 7. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT 6. FIRST MAN 5. BLACKKLANSMAN 4. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU 3. THE SHAPE OF WATER* 2. A QUIET PLACE 1. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

HONORABLE MENTION: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, A STAR IS BORN, VICE, WIDOWS

MOST OVERPRAISED, OVERRATED MOVIES OF 2018: BLACK PANTHER, CRAZY RICH ASIANS

*Academy Award Winner for Best Picture