"TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON" — ★★ — Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley; PG-13 (intense sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, language, sexuality and innuendo) in general release

It boasted one of the best trailers of the year, and if "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" had actually delivered on the tease, we'd have a compelling, even riveting film.

Instead, it's a continuation of what one critic called "two hours of dumping car parts in a blender," but this time it's crunching, tearing and grinding for more than two and a half hours.

Oh, Michael Bay tries to deliver on his assurances that this time around we'd get more from the story and more from the characters, but he just can't seem to let the plot get in the way of another — and a longer — action scene.

When it comes to plot, it seems that the very early efforts of the Soviet and American space programs reveal an alien presence on the dark side of the moon, fueling the space race and leading to the discovery of The Ark, the final ship to leave Cybertron piloted by the revered Cybertronian leader, Sentinel Prime. In modern day, Optimus Prime and the Autobots discover that humans have been hiding this information from them and Optimus is determined to revive Sentinel. By doing so, Optimus unwittingly falls into a trap laid by the Decepticons and complicit humans. But, hey … enough with this pesky, overblown and underdeveloped plot. Let's get to the real stuff — action eye-candy and big-name stars with little to do.

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Replacing Megan Fox is Victoria Secret refugee Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, starring as Carly Spencer, the new love interest of poor old Sam Witwicky, again played by Shia LeBeouf. The lovely Carly seems to have just two purposes — be gorgeous and sexy and comfort poor old Sam, who is the Rodney Dangerfield of these movies. Despite saving the world over and over and being best buddies with the Autobots, he gets no respect. He can't even get a job.

Then there's the abuse of the talents of John Malkovich and John Tuturro. How do you mess up with these guys? Well, Michael Bay pulls it off. Malkovich, as Sam's bizarre but strangely interesting boss, is reduced ridiculousness and Tuturro's talents are woefully under- and misused.

OK, I've got to stop because with every line of this review, the star rating is dropping.