Every film is a cultural artifact. As singular works of art, movies are their own self-contained contributions to popular culture, but their often essential inclusion of things like music, fashion, and slang within their own narratives puts them into a unique space – art wrapped around art, culture enveloped in culture. It’s why even bad period-set films are so fun to watch, as seeing canny cultural representations is almost always amusing, if not a bit intriguing. Blame it on nostalgia, shared memory, or even a good old-fashioned affection for otherwise forgotten pop culture snippets, but movies that work hard to accurately depict a time period or an era always have an extra it of built-in entertainment.
A movie like ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ exists only to make money. And it did make money -- a lot of money. And there are a lot of movies that fit into this supposed “blockbuster” (or, if at Blockbuster, the “box office buster”) category. These movie don’t have to be good. People just see them. That’s why it is really notable when one of these movies is as good as ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' is.
Melissa McCarthy (‘White Oleander’) stars in this holiday weekend’s new release, ‘Tammy,’ opening on Wednesday. Who is this Tammy we speak of? Is ‘Tammy’ more of a drama than it is a comedy? As a service to all of humankind, we answer every question that you could possibly have about Tammy (the character) and ‘Tammy’ (the movie).
In 'They Came Together,' stars Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler have delivered a charming and funny love letter to the golden age of rom-coms, when unlikely pairings formed and love bloomed against the backdrop of big cities like New York.
So, a fourth ‘Transformers’ movie is coming out this week. It will make a ton of money. This ‘Transformers’ movie, titled ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction,’ stars Mark Wahlberg (‘The Big Hit’) as an inventor… You know what, it doesn’t matter! But we still answered every question that you could possibly have about ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction.’
Clint Eastwood (‘Any Which Way You Can’; ‘Firefox’) is back in the director’s chair for this week’s new release, ‘Jersey Boys,’ a biopic for the legendary Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Will ‘Jersey Boys’ have you dancing up and down the aisles? Will ‘Jersey Boys’ inspire you to finally start that doo-wop group you’ve been planning for years? As a service to you, we answer every question that you could possibly have about ‘Jersey Boys.’
Jonah Hill (‘Evan Almighty’) and Channing Tatum (‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’) are back as Schmidt and Jenko in the sequel to '21 Jump Street,' titled '22 Jump Street.' Is '22 Jump Street' as funny as the first movie? As a service to you – yes, you – we answer every question that you could possibly have about '22 Jump Street.'
‘Maleficent,’ starring Angelina Jolie (‘The Bone Collector’), brings us the story of Sleeping Beauty, only from the villain’s point of view. At it turns out, maybe she’s just misunderstood? Have we misjudged Maleficent for putting that curse on poor Sleeping Beauty? Will it feel like there’s been a curse put on us after watching ‘Maleficent’? As a service to you, we answer every question that you could possibly have about ‘Maleficent.’
One might exit the theater after seeing 'The Signal' and feel compelled to run down a list of its seeming influences. 'Chronicle,' 'Dark City,' 'The Island' and John Byrne's acclaimed 'Next Men' comic of the early 1990s all spring to mind, not to mention scores of movies where a bunch of teens foolishly go somewhere dangerous and isolated when logic says they should turn around and run. But in the thick of it, William Eubank's low-budget sci-fi/horror/thriller is so focused on keeping you in the dark (despite its bright white walls) that these influences don't seem so obvious. The simplicity and elliptical nature of the script and the empathy from the actors (namely relative newcomer Brenton Thwaites) sustains this crafty and modestly budgeted film's hook. You kinda sorta know what's going on from the start, but the movie is sharp enough to toy with you, making it a good deal of fun.
It’s interesting that Universal is promoting ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West,’ a film that is not funny, as a comedy. I suspect it has a lot to do with the human carnage we witness on screen being unbearable to watch, so the only way to desensitize an audience’s eyes to what they're about to witness is to somehow convince the viewer that what their about to see is a comedy – even though there is not one laugh to be had.