a move that will surprise only the very stupid, Dreamworks and Paramount have called dibs on July 29, 2009 for Transformers 2, which will be directed by Michael Bay (unless his nearly closed deal suddenly falls apart) and star Shia LaBeouf (such are the wages of sin, m’lad). While making the release date is contingent on the summer 2008 strike getting settled in a timely fashion (and a number of other variables falling into place, including a screenplay that isn’t too embarrassingly awful), the studio(s) seem cool with starting principal photography pre-stoppage and finishing once the actors and writers tuck tail and accept a major curtailment in residuals. (My money is on the strike not happening, but I’m a veritable Hurstwood when it comes to gambling.)

The big question is whether Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman will be able to clear room on their crowded dance card for the second film. Between Star Trek and Eagle Eye, the A-list writing team is booked pretty solid through June; not that it matters, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them contribute the story, which will then get passed off to another pair of ex-television writers who don’t know how to write for movies.

In case you were wondering, Transformers has amassed a worldwide theatrical war chest of $700 million, most of which has already been donated to the United Negro College Fund per Bay’s request.