Transformers: Age of Extinction is out today on Blu-ray combo pack DVD, 3D Blu-ray combo pack and Digital. Paramount pictures hosted a press day in Las Vegas at Exotics Racing. Peter Cullen (legendary voice of Optimus Prime) and Sli Lewis (stunt driver and military veteran) were there for interviews and guests got a chance to drive some of the cars featured in the film.
Movie first: Michael Bay pictures look amazing and this is the most visually arresting Transformers movie yet. It's supposed to be Bay's last round with the series and the 2 hour 45 minute movie packs in enough plot elements for two movies. The Blu-ray comes with a separate disk full of documentary extras, including an in-depth interview with the director about his approach to action movies.
Face it: an upcoming generation of filmmakers are going to talk about what a huge influence Bay was on their artistic development and the guy is going to get retrospectives at museums and film schools. His visual storytelling trumps his script every time but his movies attract an audience in every single market in the world, no matter how little English they might speak.
Mark Wahlberg plays a regular-guy inventor who finds a broken truck, a truck that turns out to be Optimus Prime. There's a government-backed conspiracy to build cyber-warriors and render the Autobots obsolete, but it turns out that Megatron isn't actually dead and he's waiting to take over the government robots and destroy the Earth. You can enjoy this movie even if none of that plot explanation makes any sense to you.
On to the show: Transformers movies have always featured exotic cars and the new one's no exception.
Exotics Racing has operations in both Las Vegas and Los Angeles. We visited the Vegas branch out by the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I had a great conversation with Exotics staffer and Air Force vet Chris Malloy, who told me that Exotics is staffed by a lot of military veterans. Vets have the attention to detail and ability to remain calm under pressure that allows them to keep a bunch of amateur drivers safe as they get behind the wheel of a high-performance automobile for the first time.
I drove a Ferrari Italia 458 and A Corvette Stingray Z51 and had a ride-along drifting experience in a Corvette Z06. Aside from some ill-advised teenage attempts at street racing, it was my first experience in a real high-speed driving environment. The video doesn't lie: I'm not slated for a new career as a race car driver, but the experience was a blast and I've convinced myself that I could be really good at it if I just visited Exotics a couple of more times.
It's exactly the kind of unique experience you're looking for on a trip to Vegas. You can add on an in-car video option and get a USB drive that chronicles your driving experience. Visiting Exotics with friends and having a group viewing session later would be a blast. The whole thing comes at price: the cars themselves, auto maintenance, fuel and hiring a staff that knows how to handle clueless drivers are all expensive propositions. My experience runs around $750, but you can build a cheaper package at their website. Exotics is run by pros and it's a great time.
Peter Cullen performed the voice of Optimus Prime in the original Transformers TV series and Michael Bay's decision to bring him back for his movie series was one of the most astute casting decisions ever. Anyone who grew up on Transformers loves Peter Cullen's characterization of the Autobot leader and it turns out that Cullen's performance was inspired by his brother Larry, a Marine vet who served in Vietnam. Check out his story below:
We also got a chance to talk with Sli Lewis, the Air Force veteran who works with production company 5150 Action and drove the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse in the movie. Sli talked about working on the film, his military career and dodged a question about his one-timer rap music ambitions. Obviously, the interviewer (me) should have acquired his own microphone, but pay attention and you can understand the questions.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is out now and it's easily the best Michael Bay Transformers movie since the first one. And anyone with car racing fantasies hanging the back of their mind should add Exotics Racing to their list: they run a professional shop and want you to push yourself and the cars as much as you can. It's a great experience.