28 July 2014

Summer Jam Week 12: Cough Cough

We're getting pretty close to the end of July, which is always a bit of a disappointing prospect. There's just not that much Summer left, folks. All the real big movie hits have come and gone (maybe not if some Space Weirdos have anything to say about it this week...), the best beach days are over, all our fireworks have exploded and it's time to gear up for that final stretch of basking in Sunny Glory. So, Summer Jams:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Back to the Shack" by Weezer

It's been a while since Weezer has unleashed a really fresh jam and this is an instantaneously classic addition to their oeuvre. I'm still torn whether or not it's really great to praise a song that sounds so genuinely like their old stuff or to criticise them for not really moving forward in a musically daring way. Well, it doesn't really matter as long as "Back to the Shack" is fun and catchy, which it is. Can we see a late run at Jam-status? I'd like to say so.

Get Washed: "Shower" by Becky G

This is really turning into my guilty pleasure Summer Jam love. Even if she's basically a completely non-threatening version of Miley Cyrus targeting the girls that Miley used to target, but devoid of any of her lyrical or vocal talent, I dig the epic sweeping nature to this bizarre yet conventional song topic. More far-too-thoughtful analysis of tracks like this to follow.

Butt Jam: "Wiggle" by Jason Derulo ft. Snoop Dogg

I'll mention this every week until I get sick of it, or at least go a week without someone coming up to me saying "WIGGO WIGGO WIGGO!" See, what's important is to articulate the hashtag not as #wiggle but as #WIGGLEWIGGLEWIGGLE!. The instragram shout-out is key in what is probably the doofiest jam of summer. I think it gets a lot of its cache through the simple fact that whenever anyone needs to wiggle for any reason this summer, the only response is "WIGGO WIGGO WIGGO!" There, I said it three times now.

Horny Sadface: "Problem" by Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea

I'm sort of curious at this point whether or not this track will be remembered as an immortal Summer Jam or just a big joke. I guess I had a turn in my appreciation of this nonsense this week. Perhaps it's just getting to that point of being overplayed where it's not fresh or interesting anymore. Or maybe Ariana's complete disinterest in actually dancing to her own song and being excited to sing an exciting track is finally getting pretty old. "Problem" and "Fancy" have traded blows all summer, I'm curious now to see where they each end up.

Guy Love: "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith

Smith recently came out in an interview saying that this track is about his relationship with another dude. The world let go a collective "OBVI." and moved on. Smith can croon like a boss and by now he's definitively cornered the market on the grandiose uplifting love song of the Summer. Out of everyone here I can sort of see him landing the firmest career come Autumn. It helps that he's really not a novelty act.

How Rude: "Rude" by MAGIC!

This jam is still topping some charts, but I just don't think that anyone is really caring about it any more. I mean, do you? I was actually over their white guy pop reggae shit quite a while ago, but I don't think this has staying power. See that novelty thing I mentioned earlier? This is the epitome of the forgettable pop song.

The Sound of a Butt Farting: "Boom Clap" by Charli XCX

I mentioned "Boom Clap" here a while ago, but this jam exploded this week. Suddenly I heard it on airplay and mentioned in conversation everywhere and it's just the definition of the kind of hot streak this list is built for. I feel like mentioning this jam is also related (somehow) to The Fault in Our Stars (2014), which was really an underrated box office success this summer. What can "Boom Clap" do with the remaining five weeks of Summer? Charli XCX is finally getting some recognition after "Fancy" assured its place in our 2014 music lexicon and anything with Shailene Woodley is suddenly getting aten up. So, power to "Boom Clap," let's see how far those toilet sounds go.

Drippin Swagu: "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX

I couldn't resist! It's still hot! I heard this penetrating like, modern hip-hop stations and really mainstream parties. It's reached that maximum excess point where everyone knows that beat when it comes on. Everyone is starting to get "Fancy" and reacts about the same way - a slight cringe but then a smooth heady jam. It's proven itself to not really be going anywhere nor is it wearing out its welcome. It really is a spectacular Summer Jam that I have doubted about every week this year.

Next week...

We definitely have started to grow these fringe jams like Calvin Harris' "Summer," Nicki Minaj's "Pills N Potions," and Sia's "Chandelier" that just rotate getting kicked off the list each week. I am actually more curious if any of Weird Al's groundbreaking (is it? It's at least his first #1 album...) Mandatory Fun spawns more single-oriented jams instead of existing as one great opus. But who cares, really, Al changed the game last week and producing as much goofiness as possible is a whole lot better for his niche than dominating radio with one single. He's even changing my mind about this list - can "Tacky" be considered a great Summer Jam without a lot of airplay or even downloads? I dunno - what do you think?!

25 July 2014

The Road to a Blockbuster: Lucy vs. Hercules...or "Herculucy"

Weekends like this is why I cover this ridiculous pop culture landscape each and every week. I love this match up we're faced with this week. Will audiences come out to see an interesting original property by a french director starring Scarlett Johansson in a formative action role or will they see the eighteenth Hercules movie of the year, but perhaps also the most significant? It's this feminine vs. masculine dichotomy of box office interests colliding! Whoopee!!

So let's first talk about Lucy (2014). Luc Besson is the kind of director who I guess I consider myself a fan of, but when I think about it, that's really just because I dug The Fifth Element (1997). Nikita (1990) and Leon the Professional (1994) are probably his other most notable pictures, at least by fans in the states, but he's also been a significant screenwriting influence, making entries with everything from the Transporter series to Liam Neeson's Taken movies. That's all pretty rough, but he also wrote Lockout (2012), a fantastically campy and thrilling escape from space movie starring Guy Pearce. I liked it.

Okay, so based off of The Fifth Element and Lockout I'm pulling for Lucy. That's not a lot to go on. But Besson seems to at least handle sci-fi with that deft hand of camp, absurdity, honesty, and real stake-filled storytelling that I consider really effective and genuine. Lucy looks really interesting to me, but we all (including myself) need to get over the really corny "10% brain use" premise that offers the film its high concept.

See, supposedly Scarlett Johansson ingests this blue shit that allows her to unlock up to 100% of her brain capacity, which apparently leads to her becoming a crazy genetic and psychic-manipulating god that then rampages throughout all the bad dudes in this flick. It's like Limitless (2012) but with less Bradley Cooper and more sci-fi ridiculousness. But the 10% brain thing is such a widely known myth at this point that attempting to ground the film in that kind of science, and then throwing out all natural extending logic to the expansion of said percentage increases, seems to drag down the narrative logic of the film itself. Listen, this is a hurdle I'm facing as well, and as I try to tell myself to just get over that stupidity and enjoy the film for how crazy and fun it looks to be, you should do the same.

But I can't see this doing anything but flopping. We're just in that age! It doesn't really have a throttle on the zeitgeist or any significant wow factor, director, or cast to make it a guaranteed hit. This is all sad to say, but people need a reason to see this, and I just don't think there are a lot of compelling reasons there. I even kind of intend to just slam it on Netflix in a few months. The only way it gains some ground is if word of mouth gets out of that it's actually a good movie, which is perking interest lately with big movies like The Winter Soldier (2014) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014). I can see Lucy finding success similar to The Fifth Element - becoming a basic cable staple / guilty pleasure to be enjoyed for the next twenty years. This caused The Fifth Element to contain a good deal of cultural influence, but that was also partly because it was so damned fun. I'm not sure if Besson has fun in him still, outside of Lockout. I'm very curious how audiences both in the short and long term respond to Lucy; its female protagonist, its French-ness, and its insanely stupid high concept.

And in this corner we have Hercules (2014), which is just about as opposite a blockbuster as Lucy as you're going to get. Hercules bristles with testosterone and oozes masculinity in the face of Lucy's distinctly feminine confidence. This has been a ridiculous year for Sword and Sandal epics, which I guess is still chasing what, Gladiator (2000) and 300 (2007)? These were huge game-changers to be sure, but only really in the sense that a ton more films sprouted as pale imitators chasing their initial success. That's how we got drek like Troy (2004) and Alexander (2004) for every Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

And holy shit, after 300, the floodgates really opened for the crappiest crop of movies of all time. This year alone ought to be enough with The Legend of Hercules (2014, I honestly had to look up the title of that one), Pompeii (2014), and 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) all coming out in short order. I also had to look up if Pompeii had actually come out this year, because I honestly forgot whether or not that was this March or last March. This is to say nothing of both lesser fare like Immortals (2011), or more significant but still ultimately derided fare like Clash of the Titans (2010). It's just so unending. The Eagle (2007). Ugh, it's such crap.

Hercules seeks to curb all of this nonsense through one big legitimizing factor: Dwayne The Fucking Rock Johnson. This guy has become an inexplicable yet regular franchise saver. The Rock's career is actually really interesting, because for a while there he seemed like a Ryan Reynolds-type action star - one who was ostensibly pretty popular and recognized but also one who couldn't anchor a big blockbuster to save his life. Yes, The Rundown (2003) remains a spectacular action flick, but it hardly cracked the Box Office, and following that up with Walking Tall (2004), Be Cool (2005), Doom (2005), and Southland Tales (2007) didn't do him any favours. Suddenly, though, the miracle known as Fast Five (2011) happened and just about everyone for some reason attributed its success to the natural pairing of The Rock and Vin Diesel. I mean, c'mon - XXX meets the Scorpion King - it's the dream 2002 match-up of beefcakes.

Now the Rock was the go-to big guy to carry a movie. His 2013 was lovely - Snitch, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Pain & Gain, and Faster Six combined to form an eccentric mix of studio tentpoles (for good and worse), small action flicks, and Michael Bay's best film. The casting of the Rock as Hercules is the second absolute no-brainer of the Summer, after Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. It feels like a role he was born to play and it'll be the major reason to see this movie.

Is there any other reason to see this movie? I haven't heard of James Wood coming in and doing Hades, so probably not. It does promise to be pretty badass, but it also just reeks of Clash of the Titans (2010), although its presumable focus on the Twelve Labours could be pretty awesome. Especially cleaning the Augean Stables. I mean, the Rock, covered in dung, screaming and bellowing with that lion on his head? Cinema can't get better. The film lacks the B-movie feel of many of the horrible Sword and Sandal epics I mentioned earlier, which may also set it apart in a good way. Just the buzz off of The Rock's "12 Labors Diet" alone makes his preparation to get into demi-god shape seem like the most jacked anyone besides Hugh Jackman has ever done for a film. Muscleheads and gymrats ought to flock to theaters.

For some reason I think I just convinced myself I want to see Hercules. I really had no desire to before writing and thinking about it for a second for this piece. What kind of legacy might it have? I suspect it will become the definitive Rock movie, for better or worse. It's by far the biggest budget and highest profile release he's been expected to carry by himself, and like I said before, it's the role he was born to play. There are other problematic aspects, though, such as the controversy with Steve Moore, the creator of the comic it's based on (which is an interesting avenue anyway, because Herc is definitively in the public domain, even if the creators used his work as a jumping off point. Still, not paying the dude while exploiting his name is really really shitty). There is also the troubling issue with critics or prognosticators who are eager to trounce a film's prospects before it's even released or its merits judged. There's always one ultimate Summer whipping boy like The Lone Ranger (2013) or Battleship (2012) and the inherent stupidness, brashness, and unnecessaryness of Hercules seems to make it a prime candidate for that "Box Office Bomb" storyline for the summer.

I'm not about that - I like the potential of both Lucy and Hercules and I'm very curious to watch them duke it out. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will probably win. What are you going to see this weekend? Or six months from now? Or on basic cable three years from now? I want the answer to all three of these questions below!

21 July 2014

Summer Jam Week 11: Weird Al Dominates Somehow

We probably could have just called it the Weird Al Week and leave it at that. It's the Summer Jam countdown, folks, and the biggest buzzing artist by far right now is ol' Yankovic. It's kind of insane. I suppose he's somehow built for himself a sense of nostalgia, because he's been around for thirty years, but also a keen sense of modernism with his up-to-date parodies. For whatever reason, Weird Al is your boss this week.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Tacky" by Weird Al Yankovic

I could have picked any song off of Mandatory Fun, which dropped this week, which Al did a sort of Beyonce-style All-video routine for, but "Tacky" kicked it off and it's probably the best video. It's at least the most professional and thought-out. Not like that matters, actually with these novelty songs that are more built for viral transmission. And "Foil" was real solid. I think it's the way that Al throws himself in 100% to some jokes that really aren't that great or witty that constantly sells his insane humor. It's wonderful. Anyway, back to the real world:

Rub-A-Dub Dub: "Shower" by Becky G

Absolutely. I don't know, this is real fun, though. It's so bubbly and poppy that I dig it. It's not only a great shower-singing song (finally), but there's this slight epicness and solemn tone to the chorus that weighs it down with great importance. Becky G. I love the names of these artists that I will never be mentioning again as popular ever.

No More fun.: "I Wanna Get Better" by Bleachers

I was debating this track's inclusion once again, but it sort of earwormed its way back into my life this week, and I really enjoy this track and want you to listen to it as well. It's a bit better than anything that fun. ever did so I'm pretty pumped that frontman Jack Antonoff is exploring what he can do with this jam. This summer doesn't have enough groovy alt jams like this, so naturally I'm game.

Sing Higher: "Problem" by Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea

I like Key of Awesome sometimes but they're generally far too mean-spirited, making fun of the artists on a surface level more than any offering any kind of intelligent satire, but the video sums up a lot of what I feel about this track, including Ariana's creepy horny face and how awkward her dancing is. But yeah I think this track has finally turned and won't get back to #1 this Summer.

The Realist: "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea ft. Charlie XCX

It's downright bizarre how much this song's fate has been tied up with "Problem". And by that I also kind of mean not at all, because they're really different jams that just share one artist and a similar streak of popularity. But I'd call it on the decline by now, just because it's no longer that fresh or novel. And we only care about the freshest jams here, folks. Yeah, that's not true at all.

Smoke if You Got 'Em: "Habits (Stay High)" by Tove Lo

I always want to think Tone Loc when I search this track, so obvi I ended up listening to a good deal of "Funky Cold Medina" this week. Anyway, Tove Lo is a solid up and coming artist with this super-listenable Jam that I've mentioned here a few times and I'd love to see surge all the way this summer. It's this cautious mix of thoughtful chill jam lyrics and this sweeping drug-addled chorus. It's fantastic.

Swing Low: "Chandelier" by Sia

Everyone knows this song. it's crazy. I had no idea this has had as much influence as it has actually had so far this summer, but it came on at a party and suddenly every man, woman, and child of all races and genders was tubthumping to this jam. Sounds good to me. They hadn't seen the video, though, which is crazy to me, because it's so fantastic and insane and wonderful.

Uncouth: "Rude" by MAGIC!

I'd like to think I called these guys upending Iggy on the Hot 100 last week by placing them in the #1 spot here first. It's all me, clearly. Anyway, for more lack of anything else that compelling, "Rude" dominates again this week and is starting to become this silent little mid-summer anthem, which is solid in its own right. I don't know, I'm not actually all that impressed with the jam and the lyrics are pretty stupid, but it is an earworm, which is all a track really needs to be super-jam worthy.

Next week...

I'm curious if any of those Weird Al songs stick to the zeitgeist, but we'll probably see a couple of them start to get airplay, although Al is actually canny enough to understand that digital distribution is far more effective these days, and he's right. I had a tough time leaving off Tiesto's "Wasted" but wanted to highlight some other jams. With any luck the EDM douche continues some mainstream popularity and it fights its way back next week.

18 July 2014

The Road to a Blockbuster: Planes, Sex, and Anarchy

I love weekends like this. It's a Summer Friday and there are three new movies landing in theaters and each one is going after a completely different audience. So, like we do every Friday some insane new mass media pop culture item lands, it's time to test the waters and attempt to predict the cultural, commercial, and critical prospects of each brand new thing. Today they come in three's.
Also who would have guessed nine years ago
 that this would be the sum of Dane Cook's career in 2014

Let's start with what I'd predict to be the weakest of the three: Disney's Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014). This is impossibly the sequel to the spin-off of what many generally consider the weakest of the Pixar films, Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011). I'm not sure why these films have earned that stigma, but for some reason they're treated as Pixar's one shallow cash grab, and many critics especially consider the sequel to be the undebatable singular misstep in their canon, even if there is some argument over the merit of other flicks like Brave (2012) or Monsters University (2013), although I loved the former and had no interest in the latter.

Anywho, for better or worse, Cars is this awkward red-headed stepchild among all Pixar films. It's somewhat odd that they're considered this shallow cash-grab considering that they're among their worst-grossing entries. The key is their merchandisability, though, which is crazy high. And hold on, because Planes (2013) isn't even Pixar - it's just a Disney animated flick that looks exactly like Cars and has some involvement from John Lasseter on the production end. It's hard to believe that Planes only came out last year and did pretty alright at the box office, considering it was originally intended to be a direct-to-DVD release. Fire & Rescue is truly nothing special, and I'd seriously doubt its ability to make any impact critically, commercially, or culturally. It'll probably make some dough just because there's literally nothing else for kids at the movies right now, but other than that, no one cares.

Up next we have Sex Tape (2014), which stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel making a sexy video and then accidentally selling it to all their friends. It's a total grab at the kind of soft R-Rated comedies that have been really successful lately, like Horrible Bosses (2011) and Bad Teacher (2011) that mostly feature A-list comedians letting loose a little bit. There's got to be some interest in a sexy Cameron Diaz (is there ever not?) and for Jason Segel...well, he is actually looking a big gaunt, but he's not defining sex like Diaz has since...forever.
Presenting the most dangerous movie title to Google
 since The Angry Beavers. My guess is you won't see
 more than this.

And by soft R I mean these kinds of films are kind of dirty, which is liberating, but they don't really offer anything really challenging or boundary-pushing like a Hangover movie or something. Okay, just the first Hangover (2009). They're naughty but resoundingly safe, which allows a wide swath of audiences to buy in and enjoy them. And that's not to say that any of these are poor films, but it's just not something that I believe ends up with a lot of significant critical or cultural weight. Sure it's getting a sequel for some reason, but who are there is a really serious Horrible Bosses fan? These sort of films don't really inspire a cult following, and for some reason I guess I'm expressing a disappointment in that. Maybe films don't require cultural success to be considered successful, and they can just make a ton of money and be barely good enough to only be considered "not sucky."

No, I can't accept that.

Anyway, Sex Tape also just doesn't look all that funny, despite it's pretty good cast and pretty contemporary idea. There's all this fuss over the cloud in the trailer, though, that kind of misses its mark, because even though older people may not understand the cloud, yes, every young person understands the cloud and how to manage it. I'm thinking its central conceit is therefore a whiff, and this may suffer. Still, sexy Cameron Diaz. that works.

Lastly and perhaps somehow most significantly, we have The Purge: Anarchy (2014). This is another sequel to a movie that only came out a year ago, but it's the most notable and interesting to me out of the threesome of flicks coming out today. It's able to take a world established by its predecessor, The Purge (2013) and build another story out of the same premise. I wish that films would do this more often - set themselves in the same world as their franchise brothers but without the same characters, plot, or situation. It's not like a Friday the 13th movie where things change up but Jason keeps coming back. The best part of The Purge was the morality play it presented by asking you what you would do if for one night a year all crime was legal. It's an intriguing high concept that's pretty adaptable. Anarchy, for once, is a natural sequel to expand that conceit out of Ethan Hawke's home and into the world at large.
Soooo not the image you want after that Sex Tape pic

This requires a lot of really accurate yet adaptable world-building, which isn't present in that many franchises. Godzilla movies still need Godzilla. James Bond movies still need James Bond. Marvel is getting there with building similar organizations and world events into different films, but it'd still be a tall order to take the kind of alternate approach that The Purge is doing. The only major example of a world that could pull this off would be Star Wars, which has such an articulated and defined world that many different characters can exist doing different things at different times and still appear connected through the characteristics of a well-developed universe. The Lord of the Rings could do this to some extent, but it still feels like every event is leading to one concise metanarrative.

So this is all to say that while Anarchy may not be a good movie at all, it's at least a culturally more interesting one than anything else coming out this weekend. Actually, Planet of the Apes has some nice variants of world-building if you wanted to see that this weekend again instead of these three disasters. The Purge created a lot of goodwill, which is really rare with horror films, and with a $9 million budget, it'd be insane for Anarchy not to find some similar success.

The big question now is what are you seeing? Will you go the child-appeasing cash grab Planes: Fire & Rescue route? Or how about the culturally vapid R-comedy Sex Tape? Or are you digging the world of The Purge and want more through Anarchy? Let you voice be heard in the comments!

15 July 2014

First Impressions: Transfourmers: The Age of Extinction

I spent far too long debating how to exactly tackle these impressions. Is it masochism that I voluntarily immerse myself in the Michael Bay Transformers world of insane stupid blockbuster filmmaking while being pretty fully aware of its ill effects on my artistic integrity and pop culture psyche? It's a tricky line to draw. I'm hesitant to write it off as a "popcorn movie" or "summer fun" where our brains should be turned off, because our brains should never really be turned off while trying to understand the merits of any film. I'm also well aware, however, that in any review you can't treat this like a studio prestige picture. I figure that the best way to judge Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) is whether or not it's successful in being the film it's trying to be. Really that should be how we judge all films - is it able to accomplish what it intended? There are plenty of mindless summer action films that fail in this regard (Roland Emmerich always seems to me like he's trying and coming up short of being Michael Bay). There are also dumb popcorn movies that have no idea what they're tying to be (something like Hancock [2008] comes to mind), and those too, are generally disappointing experiences.
Ha! You got hit in yo chest!

But for all the criticism that Bay takes, and perhaps this is why he doesn't really care about it at all, his films are always exactly what they want to be. Maybe not Pearl Harbor (2001). That one could never decide if it wanted to be an historical epic, an explosive action movie, or a cheesy love story. Every Transformers film, though, has a very definitive brand, intention, and execution. Now, if you've escaped the Transformers brand so far, somehow, you may be in for a rude awakening. Age of Extinction is really what you'd expect from this loud, crazy franchise. Even though it's supposedly a "soft reboot" (whatever the hell that is), it's still totally a Transformers film, which means you can't really be on the fence about it. You either dig it or hate it at this point, and you know how you feel. Or you hate it but watch it anyway, then complain that Hollywood keeps making these movies while you're giving them money. Either way, your mind should already be made up - you know what to expect going in to this.

All of this is a preference to say that I liked this movie and it does a nice job of elevating itself even a little bit above the first trilogy (words I never really thought I'd type, for sure), and it absolutely knows what it's trying to be. There is plenty of criticise, of course, but honestly, criticising these movies is like criticising a dog. You can bitch all you want but it's just going to stare blankly for a while and then continue licking its balls. It's just futile. So let's get our bitching out of the way.

One big lesson that Bay learned from Spielberg (yes, that Spielberg) is how to keep the story flowing to feed an emotional response at the expense of logic. This is sometimes slight, depending on the skill of the director. For instance, you don't really notice that suddenly Alan Grant and the kids are climbing down a sheer cliff in the Tyrannosaur pen until the fourth for fifth viewing of Jurassic Park (1993). It's a gap in logic that serves the story beat needs of the story. This is all that Bay does as well, except it's continually insane enough to bring viewers out of the film instead of being alluring enough to keep their attention so distracted that no one really complains. This is probably where most of my criticism comes from. From here on out folks, even though if you wanted to see this movie, you probably have by now, SPOILERS will lurk in the mist.

There are just too many elements of this film that serve nothing but plot. It really fucks with character. Like, apparently KSI's Director of Chinese Operations just a crazy kung fu artist and former cop when the time needs her to defend Stanley Tucci. Same deal with the random Chinese guy in the elevator in Hong Kong. Now I would be curious to see the Chinese cut of the film, which apparently featured more extensive scenes with the Chinese actors (which in itself, is a brilliant move on every level), but these people appear out of no where for no real reason.

There's so much of this. This kind of movie, it's just too stupid to try to list every inconsistency. Optimus Prime sprouts jets in his feet for the ending scene and blasts off into space which...he could apparently have done this entire time. He scans another Peterbilt and instantly heals himself after so much of the early parts of the film deal with him being a rustbucket. KSI's matter shifting technology, I mean, whatever, that's weird but shouldn't their robots need a power source to function? And why are there like three versions of the evil KSI Transformer Stinger? It's still a great twist on "Bumblebee" - not the cute friendly bee, but the dangerous part! - but it's just inconsistent and unexplained. But it's also too cumbersome too explain, which is just all around horrendous.

I love why Darcy exists. She gets this badass introduction in the frozen wasteland, but then fades into the background as a woman for every other character to dump exposition on. And she actually seemed like an interesting female Bay character, briefly. I also dug Kelsey Grammer's character, because as is often the case in movies like this, he's completely reasonable and doing his job really well. The Transformers are causing so much destruction on earth and really should be dealt with with prejudice, but he's just painted as this terrible villain. Stanley Tucci starts off this way but is then actually granted one of the more interesting arcs in the film. And of course, Mark Wahlberg - this was the part he was born to play! Equal parts sincerity and insanity, he's a spectacularly deadpan genius robotics inventor with huge biceps. Michael Bay has been waiting twenty years for this. But all his characters' efforts to save the world isn't going to pay his bills or get his house back. He's still kind of screwed.

He does have more to do than any other
human in this stupid franchise.

I like sequels that sometimes deal with that, actually - that heroes always get screwed. Ghostbusters II (1989) reduced its eponymous heroes to birthday party entertainers, and even Sam Witwicky, especially in Dark of the Moon (2011) is really frustrated by his lack of stature he ought to have received from starring in two world-saving adventures. I'm curious where Mark Wahlberg's adventure takes him, because the film does such a good job of demonstrating how every part of his life sucks, but then the narrative doesn't really solve any of his problems.

And they pulled the voice of John Goodman somehow! Hell, his Hound character really livened things up even if the rest of the Autobots are inexplicably racist or just angry at life for no reason. But at least we get to know these characters, which no Transformers film has really pulled off since introducing everyone with proper articulation in the first film. In every otehr film there's just like, random Ferraris and Chevy Volts. But why does Hound kill those things in Lockdown's ship? And what ARE those things? These questions will never be answered.

Finally, let's talk Lockdown. He's actually a pretty cool villain, and I love when he fights Wahlberg (who somehow deflects against a direct blow by the twenty-foot robot with only an alien gun to brace himself with). But why did any of the protagonists care that Lockdown was going to get the seed with his magnet-o-ship? Didn't he have like 14 of them? It's as if they all forgot the motivations of each villain for a second.

Speaking of that - Galvatron! Finally! It's good that they worked Megatron in, and this is how you do it - there's so much precedence for this transformation, although in spirit he seems more like Nemesis Prime, this evil version of Optimus. But he has no soul! Oh no! I love this movie. There's actually this interesting undercurrent of commentary here on like, the nature of the homunculus or the nature of souls. It's even got this Prometheus (2012)-like vibe of understanding both the responsibilities of creating life and the origins of one's own creation. This is especially true of the ending which features Optimus flying off to find his creators, presumably the Quintessons or even Unicron in a future installment (obviously to be played by the GHOST OF ORSON WELLES). I wouldn't be surprised if he passes Naomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender's head in space, though.

In addition to this possibly interesting discussion of the nature of souls and creation, some out there in Internetland have posited that the film is actually this meta-commentary on filmmaking and criticism or at least a reaction to the outrageousness inherent to modern blockbuster filmmaking. I'm not so sure to go that far, but there's certainly some self-awareness of the stupidness of this whole thing, and how the Transformers themselves are the doom of all the earth. There are scenes that feature Mark Wahlberg chastising the younger dude in the action hero mold for fooling around with his 17-year old daughter, which is not entirely all that different from our fascination with a young Megan Fox in Transformers (2007).

Speaking of that that action dude role - Shane Dyson (played with apathy by Jack Reynor. Yes, I had to look that up) is nearly identical to Cade Yeager (every film needs names like this now), but for his cowardice and actual inability to save his daughter Tessa Yeager (Nicola Peltz). Tessa actually more than anyone else is self-reliant, independent, and capable of saving her father and boyfriend. She's also one of the only reasonable characters in the film, and only really breaks down when they have to climb those insane cables over the city of Chicago, but who wouldn't be?

I'm curious if there is something here with the film's treatment of the Rally Car Driver, Shane. He's totally generic in that Charlie Hunnam / Taylor Kitsch / Garret Hedlund / Luke Evans (jeez there's a lot of them, eh?) variety of random scruffy white guy thrown in big blockbusters. Yet he's totally emasculated, irrelevant, and forgotten about. This film also kills off its comic relief, TJ Miller real REAL quick, which provides some startling stakes early on.

The humans in general are what elevates this film above some of the earlier Transformers pictures. There's no doofy scenes of Shia LaBeouf and his parents running around being silly on pot brownies or cringe-worthy moments like "This is so much better than Armageddon!" or positions under the enemy scrotum. It's all a bit more interesting, serious, and less cartoony, although to be fair, they're still all doing ridiculous things that keep it firmly grounded in the ridiculous.

Yeah, what the fuck was all that Knight stuff?

The action is also crisper and clearer than ever. Trust me, this is true in comparison to the first trilogy. Like I said earlier, little things like limiting the Autobots and Decepticons, introducing them, and giving them all personalities, even if they are stereotypes or racists, goes so far. And the Dinobots. Holy shit, those Dinobots. Their existence makes no sense, even within the context of the film, but none of that matters, because they are spectacularly awesome and get more screentime than Godzilla did earlier this summer. My only gripe is that they have really cool robot modes too that we barely see, but would be so cool in action.

Another thing that's really noticeable here is the product placement. Films can get away with this if it's subtle, but this is getting to Mac and Me (1988) levels. It's great to see Stanley Tucci instantly create Beats audio boxes out of random matter or to see Mark Wahlberg aggressive chug Budweiser aluminum bottles that spill all over the city. It's all insane, but really par for the course in this film.

The "soft" reboot concept is delightful, by the way. It's almost Skyfall (2012)-like in how by the film's end things are basically where they need to be to line up with the main Transformers Universe and to get things rolling on the fifth film. There's a lot of interesting things going on within and around the noise and stupidity of Age of Extinction, but similar to Bay's Pain & Gain (2013) I'm really not sure if it was intentional satire or Bay just being a douchebag. It really doesn't matter. You're going to get out of this thing whatever you want, and whether that's the epitome of big dumb blockbusters or a keen commentary on big dumb blockbusters will probably depend on how inquisitive your mind is and how well you can argue.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is beginning to get slaughtered by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) so see it in theaters soon. What do you think? Does any of this have merit or should we refrain from intelligent criticism at all? Leave a comment below!

14 July 2014

Summer Jam Week 10: So Many Exotic Shaking Girls

Ah, mid-July. It's that magic time after the craziness of the Fourth but before we really need to start turning our attention to school and work. It's a time of vacation, lounging, maximum chillaxing, and reaping the greatest benefits of the Months of Sun. For the Summer Jam, it's also getting darn near the nadir of pop excellence.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Wasted" by Tiesto ft. Matthew Koma

I'm never really into these shitty EDM artists, and Tiesto is pretty bad, but this track is surprisingly pop-friendly. It's got a pretty seductive video as well, with all these 50s housewives cutting loose. Tiesto himself makes awkward appearances through the television set now and then, but when the action stays fun, it's a good time.

Ancient Hotness: "Turn Down for What" by Lil Jon

Now, I think the Neanderthals listened to "Turn Down for What," the track is sooo old, but I thought I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it on one of these Summer Weeks. It's still getting quite a bit of airplay, actually, and making waves in the national discussion of contemporary music. Of all these songs we go through every week it's also one of the few notable, memorable songs of 2014 that ought to make a lasting impact, even if it's just another chance for Lil Jon to scream "WHAAT?!" a decade after he first made it cool.

Every Girl: "Foreign" by Trey Songz

Yes, this is really territory already explored by Lil Wayne's "Every Girl" and even earlier this summer with Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty." Yes, foreign girls are fun to fool around with and this kind of subject matter for a song has gotten sort of ill-conceived and outdated. I actually dig the extended opening, though, and damn the girls in this video are beautiful. That's all you need. But Trey Songz is still a bit of a piece of shit.

Bootyness Continues: "Wiggle" by Jason Derulo ft. Snoop Dogg

See, we are showcasing a lot of these kinds of insane booty-shaking misogynistic club-bangers this week. "Wiggle" is fun because any time you need to squirm a little bit or shake something loose you can just shout out "WIGGO WIGGO WIGGOOOO!!!" with complete acceptance. I don't think this will ever climb to #1 but it's getting pretty consistent on this list.

Mr. Anderson: "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith

Sam Smith may have also plateaued, but his debut single is still pretty significant. He's having trouble truly breaking out and dominating, but I sort of have the feeling that this track will really just offer him some great name recognition, then his sophomore effort will explode. He's got the name, pipes, and zeitgeist behind him - why not?

Mo Money: "Problem" by Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea

We're getting to the point where we start to numb over when hearing this thing, but it's worthwhile that I haven't really gotten sick of it yet. It's still a really fun jam that has indelibly left its mark on the Summer Jam scene. It's just so fast-paced, positive, and catchy without really being able to be nailed down. Everything works. But it's uprooted this week.

CSNY: "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea ft. Charlie XCX

Obviously this song gets some sincere props this week after being covered by Jimmy Fallon doing his Neil Young impression. Not only that, but the additions of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash makes it really an epic event. It's only a shame that the actual Neil Young couldn't also make an appearance. This is also an indication of how big and penetrating this jam is getting in pop culture, a sure sign that Iggy has arrived and isn't going anywhere any time soon.

Abra Kadabra! "Rude" by MAGIC!

We're mixing it up this week! I heard a lot of people humming and singing this joint, and well, "Problem" and "Fancy" are already getting stale anyway. It's time for "Rude" to reign, even if it really just kind of sounds like Michael Buble singing to a Reggae beat. It's kind of weird and terrible, actually. But - catchy as hell. I also don't understand the lyrics at all - is it rude to refuse some chode your daughter's hand in marriage? I think there are greater issues at work here, folks.

Next week...

It's been off for a while now but I strongly considered adding Bleachers' "I Wanna Get Better" back on here because I heard it a bit again and realized how cool of a song that is. So that's a thing. But other than that, I'm actually more eyeing whatever the next big parody is coming off of Weird Al's new album, Mandatory Fun. It targets everything that's been on this list - "Fancy," "Blurred Lines," CSN - it's going to be spectacular.

11 July 2014

The Road to a Blockbuster: Dawn of the Rise of the Beginning of the Sequel to the Remake Sort-of of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

It's another Summer Friday which typically means there's a new loud crazy dumb blockbuster clamouring for our attention. Each week we take a look at the critical, commercial, and cultural potential of that next big thing, and today I think we have a rare winner in just about every category. For today is the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).
Apes! Apes with guns!

I love the Planet of the Apes franchise. No other franchise teeters so often from camp to tepid to genuinely interesting on significant levels from politics to pop culture. It all spawned from a book in 1963 by Pierre Boulle, who also wrote The Bridge on the River Kwai. Apparently Charlton Heston loved it, pushed desperately for a film to be made, and what we got was one of the more significant touchstones of 20th-Century Science Fiction, The Planet of the Apes (1968).

The thing about The Planet of the Apes, though, is that it really is totally campy B-movie stuff, except for its A-list actors, cutting-edge make-up effects (which won an honorary Oscar), and then damn that ending! The idea of an astronaut landing on a planet filled with Apes that have replaced humans is ridiculous, but the film is filled with so many iconic moments that it forever latched itself on to the public consciousness. It's the sort of film you really don't need to actually see. I mean this is the just of it. Even if it takes Homer a while to realize the ending, that's really the crux of what made this film great - suddenly this B-movie premise had this really thoughtful and dire commentary on the inherently destructive nature of humanity.

That was followed up with no less than four sequels in the 70s. Ready for the pop quiz? Name them! First there's Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), then Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and finally, Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). Modern audiences have famously seen none of these, but of the lot, I generally dig Conquest the best, although the general consensus is that Escape is the best and Beneath and Battle suck.

It was incredible how much this franchise was able to mine out of what was really one unique premise that pretty solidly had a finite ending with a big twist that re-justified much of the story. But Beneath is actually full of all these awesome insane moments like a horrible Charlton Heston replacement, even though Heston still appears in the film at the beginning and end (he falls down a lava shaft for some time), Forbidden Zone mutants, and a giant atomic bomb they all worship, that eventually explodes and kills everyone. Yes, this is exactly what tentpoles need to do more often - blow up the planet and ensure that no more horrible sequels can be made!

But screw that - we have time travel, and so in Escape, a bunch of super-intelligent chimps are sent back to the 1970s. This franchise is spectacular - atomic bomb-worshipping mutants AND time-travelling chimpanzees?! What more could you ask for? Eventually these chimps are shot because they're basically harbingers of doom - which ends up completely fucking true in Conquest, where their Chimp son, Caesar eventually leads an Ape revolt against their human oppressors. Battle didn't really need to exist, it's sort of this in-between movie that shows Apes and Humans kind of getting along, but the Apes getting the upper hand via really really cheap effects and very sparse actors and scenery.

So flash forward thirty years and there was talk of a re-make, so in stepped Tim Burton to deliver what is actually by far considered the worst of the entire franchise, Planet of the Apes (2001). While its predecessor is famous for its incredible, ground-breaking ending, Burton's version is famous for its insane, incomprehensible ending. This vid does a nice job of actually explaining how it makes sense, but it still ultimately just serves whatever the hell the writers wanted to force it to be without any real thematic weight to it. Not to mention that within the text of the film itself, none of this is really that logical or apparent upon first viewing. The 2001 Planet of the Apes dared to re-make this grand, classic mainstay of science fiction and just absolutely butchered it. It's a pale, disappointing comparison that created one of the foundations for the contemporary collective groan that lets out each time a new remake is introduced. It just gets everything wrong while trying to get everything right.

When I first heard about Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) I thought it was moronic. Really, considering that no one in my generation cares about anything in this franchise beyond Beneath, and most of our knowledge of the original comes from Troy McClure musicals, it was tough to get behind. It's also not exactly a prequel or a remake of anything, although it may align the closest with Conquest. I didn't even see it in theaters, I think I Netflix'd it about a year after it came out.

And damn if it wasn't an awesome flick. It was incredible. Here you have a thoughtful, philosophical study of humanity, corporate responsibility, animal cruelty, the difficult nature of genius, scientific responsibility, and extremely competent character work, all wrapped up in a ball of CGI fur that culminates in a mayhem-filled romp through San Francisco. It is appropriately restrained but still full of tension and iconic, interesting moments punctuated by long stretches without dialogue. It's what makes Caesar's "NO!" to Draco Malfoy so monumentous. By all regards it's really the kind of film that shouldn't be great, which makes it seem really really good by way of our expectation. Unfortunately, when a prequel like this lands as well as it did, expectations for the sequel are appropriately high.

See, Planet of the Apes now has this reputation for smart filmmaking. This has never been the case for the past forty years. It's like if some nobody at Universal suddenly came out with a remake of JAWS 2 (1978) that was actually incredibly good and then planned on remaking JAWS 3-D (1983). It's this really odd mix of expectations. There's the loftiest of highs in the original material, the dredges of that material's direct sequels, but then an incredible remake. So many of these sorts of films have faltered. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) really could live up to the goodwill made by Star Trek (2009). Quantom of Solace (2008) really screwed up where Casino Royale (2006) did so well, even if Skyfall (2012) repaired a lot of that damage. Making smart movies is difficult by any standard. So what does Dawn of the Planet of the Apes have to offer us?
Apes! Better-looking apes with spears!

Apparently, fucking everything. On aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, it's so far apparently outranking every previous film in the series, including the Charlton Heston original. This is curious because it's ostensibly a remake of Battle, which is typically considered the shittiest entry in the canon. Anticipation is very high, probably because to be honest, there's nothing else around this film for miles this Summer. There's a distinct lack of blockbuster material - overall Summer 2014 is down 19% from Summer 2013 and hell, the Fourth of July weekend Box Office was down 46%. It's bonkers, people. Totes bonkers.

Studios may say that audiences are breaking apart due to home theater systems and Netflix. AMC is trying to convert its theaters into red plush recliner paradises to stem the bleeding. Critics bemoan the death of the traditional movie star in favor the flash in the pan Twitter celebrity. All this is bullshit, namely because it only points to domestic concerns, which frankly, are not and should not be the concern of any major studio anymore. American Hollywood is failing because they keep throwing ridiculous amount of money at terrible properties. Look at The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), or the rest of the real mild Summer 2014 flicks. They are barely making back their budgets in North America for sure, but cranking out $700 million worldwide. That's what bright colours and name recognition will do for you.

But most importantly, let's look at something like this: The Top Movies of 2014. Holy shit! The top two flicks, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and The LEGO Movie (2014), are two of the most intelligent wide-release films of the year. If we go back to the past 365 days, which Box Office Mojo will also kindly show us, this list expands to include huge cultural forces like Frozen (2013) and Gravity (2013) which were also extremely well-made films. What am I saying? We need to disregard the big dumb action film as a thing of the past and actually start rewarding big smart action films. People will go to the Box Office if you give them something worth seeing and something that's rewarding that they will want to talk about positively and engage with. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has that along with a ton of cultural momentum to become one of the biggest hits of the year. And with TransFourmers (2014) pretty well at its back, and nothing till Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) stomps all over August, it's got plenty of room to flex its muscle.

I'm never one for really bold predictions here, because the whims of the masses really escape me, but I truly believe that Dawn is going to absolutely kill it in the trifecta. It's already a significant critical hit (Andy Serkis Oscar - c'mon! No, that will never happen. Maybe an honorary for visual effects again), it's absolutely primed for commercial success thanks to its schedule and the perceived rewarding intelligence of its brand, and culturally if it's really about to stack that well with Heston's original, fuck - you've got gold, mate.

So what do you think? Am I way off on this one? Are you pumped up for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? What will they do with Night of the Living Planet of the Apes (2016) now that they've run out of 70s sequels to kinda-sorta remake? Leave a comment below and see the flick in theaters today.

07 July 2014

Summer Jam Week 9: Taking Independence Day to the Riptide

As the Fourth of July Weekend wanes we've officially descended into the latter half of Summer. Kind of crazy, eh? It's fantastic how much Iggy Azalea has ruled this summer, and there's still no one really out there to challenge her. Everyone else is pretty locked in, though. But importantly folks, this is only the midpoint by our official May to September reckoning. There's a lot to go, yet.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Riptide" by Vance Joy

This video landed a year ago, but I just discovered it this week, then later it was playing at a few bars I was frequenting, so I'm going to go ahead and consider it breaking into the mainstream this week. I actually really dig this video, it's got this great sense of literal humour that's hipster-y, sort of creepy, and subtly hilarious. It's also a fantastically charming Summer Jam with plenty of pep amidst its restrained nature.

Swing on This: "Chandelier" by Sia

Half-epic, half-goofy, "Chandelier" strikes back in its insane little dancing glory. It's a pretty fun jam even if it doesn't exactly rise to become a pop classic that will place Sia on the map. It's sort of that ubiquitous Top 40 radio jam that ultimately becomes white noise by this point in Summer. It's not like that's a bad thing - we need white noise in our Summer Jam Soundtrack.

The Purge: Slay with Me: "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith

I have weird feelings now about this one - I think it may be in a little valley after soaring a few weeks ago, but I'm actually starting to really dig it as soon as it's cooling a little bit. Late to the party, I guess. I'm sure we'll hear more from Sam Smith, though.

Poof! "Rude" by MAGIC!

I finally caved an placed this track on the Summer Jam list - it's been around forever by now, but it finally really penetrated my subconscious this week and I started asking everyone why they gotta be so rude this week. It just earwormed itself into my brain and I had to place it here. It's a trite and innocuous song that doesn't really add anything to the human condition - the kind of alt pop rock bullshit that acts like a wannabe watered-down Maroon 5. Ugh, I hate this music. But I can't stop singing it. I have problems.

Sparkle Sparkle! "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea ft. Charlie XCX

Yes! "Fancy" is not the #1 or #2 Jam this week. It's still way way cherry, but I think it's starting to outrun its own novelty. There's no doubt that it's still left more of a mark on the Pop Culture of Summer 2014 than anything else up to this point - including its sister jam, "Problem," possibly because it's got quite the headier edge to it. Still, it's not grabbing our attention anymore.

When My Pants Turn Brown: "Summer" by Calvin Harris

This little bastard just won't go away, either. By all means it's a competent jam, even if I sort of get the sense that no one really cares about it. See, 2014 is weird - we don't have a "Blurred Lines" to dominate national pop conversation, for good or ill, or even a "Super Bass" that gets totally underrated all Summer before becoming a Top 40 mainstay for years after. We just have like, crap like this to fill the void in our lives. Well, whatever.

Make My World Go Round: "Wiggle" by Jason Derulo ft. Snoop Dogg

Yeah this is weirdly taking off as of late. "Wiggle" is where it's at, fools. It's really a callback to when Rap Songs were more misogynistic, and if only we could go back to those "Tip Drill" days, Jason. Why does this song take off while something like last year's "Can't Believe It" by Flo Rida falls on its face? It's the same damn song. My guess would be simply that Snoop adds a crazy amount of credibility to any Jam and that "wiggo wiggo wiggoooo" is just that much catchier of a hook. Plus this video sucks.

No Worries: "Problem" by Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea

Who knows what the hell is going on with this Jam, but no one's coming close to toppling these ladies so far. The video is courtesy of some dude doing a ton of different voices and musical styles, which in itself is a good indication of how popular and wide known it's getting. Still, you remember last year? "Get Lucky," "Blurred Lines," "It Won't Stop" - these tracks changed the game, son. 2014 is kind of skipping a beat so far.

Next week...

I'm curious about the potential of that smooth ass Capital Cities song "One Minute More" along with yes, that Maroon 5 Jam. I also just have an unending belief, though, that some great, incredible, life-changing jam will launch itself in the next couple weeks and completely change our pop culture landscape. Or not, who cares. "Fancy" has done a nice job of that on its own I suppose.

02 July 2014

The Road to a Blockbuster: A Girl Named Tammy

Well folks, we have a special Wednesday edition of the Road to a Blockbuster today, in honor of Tammy (2014) premiering in advance of the American Fourth of July Weekend. As usual, this column is targeting an anticipation of the cultural, commercial, and critical response to this Melissa McCarthy romp across America.
I also love the inscrutable marketing campaign that
only offers McCarthy being her as a reason to see this movie.
It's not like that's bad thing.

First of all, this has a really rare feel to it that not many other films can pull off - it really really feels like a movie we're in a mood to see. It reeks of America, specifically a hick-America that so captures the national attention these days. It just seems like such an Independence Day movie to see. The last time I really sensed this national atmosphere that aligned so well with a film's marketing effort was Frozen (2013), to be honest.

Be sure, Tammy isn't going to be the next Frozen, nothing like that - but the Disney animated spectacular was just such an answer to our horrible winter as Tammy already feels like a quintessential jingoistic "Hoorah for America!" movie without really being overtly so - it's going to be a commercial slam dunk. Melissa McCarthy's brand is crazy strong, and she really hasn't had a stumble since blasting on the scene with her supporting role in Bridesmaids (2011).

Personally, I feel like her schtick has gotten a bit repetitive, though. On the fringes of Bridesmaids and in that SNL Ranch Dressing Sketch she's incredible. Although to be honest, all of what is simultaneously labeled praise, success, and overexposure only comes from that supporting turn, Identity Thief (2013) and The Heat (2013), in addition to really brief stints in drek like The Hangover: Part III (2013). It's important, though, that Identity Thief and The Heat were both buddy pics, although I'm not sure Jason Bateman is packing the seats, even if Sandra Bullock is.

Since all of these were R-Rated Comedies of differing scales of hardness, Tammy is solely in the McCarthy wheelhouse, although even with the presence of Susan Sarandon, it's primarily been advertised as a McCarthy solo joint, which really makes it the big test of whether or not she can anchor a film by her presence alone. I'm of the belief that she can - in addition to her goodwill and the tremendous feelings of America exuded by this film it's also really a heady Heartland sort of film that will play to ridiculous effect in Middle America. Never doubt Middle America and especially their love for their own, which Tammy is clearly embodying here. Too often do we get New York and L.A. backwards versions of these people that are more mean than parodic, but Tammy looks to give a more honest yet still genuinely funny portrayal of the hillbillies running our country. It's going to be a knockout.

What about the critics? It's already getting a resounding "okay" from everyone, and with a summer already filled with some pretty critically great comedies, I think it's safe this will be left in the dust. Without many more to come, though, there's no reason why this can't play forever.

Culturally this looks to be more just a part of the McCarthy canon than something that really stands out. I think back on how Blades of Glory (2007) is really just another Will Ferrell movie that adds to his body of work than something that pushes or innovates that body of work. You know, like I said, if this really becomes McCarthy's signature starring role my presumption could really be off - but at this point I need to be proven wrong. I do like the idea of this becoming a definitive summer movie, though, and that might keep it riding along for a while.

So, what do you think? Will you celebrate America by watching Tammy during this long holiday weekend? Or are you still catching up on TransFourmers (2014)? Let us know below!
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