The Fault in Our Stars (Fox)
Only the cynical would refer to this cancer-themed teen drama as a five-hankie romance. But even that wouldn't be a bad thing in itself. Good cries are cathartic. And true love in the face of untimely death never fails to inspire.
Though sexuality and language put this screen version of John Green's 2012 novel on the adult side of the ledger, it may be acceptable for the most mature adolescents. Its overall effect is more clouded and ambiguous, though in Shailene Woodley's performance of heroine Hazel Grace Lancaster, we're presented with one of the most appealingly literate and sensible teen girls to appear on the screen in some time.
Hazel and Gus (Ansel Elgort) meet at a cancer support group. She has thyroid cancer that's spread to her lungs, making her dependent on a portable oxygen tank. He's in remission from bone cancer, to which he's lost a leg.
As portrayed by Elgort, Gus comes off as an amiable narcissist. "I intend to live an extraordinary life. To be remembered," he tells Hazel. She replies, "Oblivion's inevitable. If that scares you, I suggest you ignore it. Because that's what everyone else does."
Those who love the novel will gush appreciatively. Others may be tempted to bellow, "Life-threatening illness or not, get over yourself!"
The film contains implied premarital sexual activity and fleeting crude and crass language. (A-III, PG-13)
Tammy (Warner Bros.)
Making a stab at adding pathos to the well-worn genre of road-trip-with-salty-granny, this film doesn't quite come off, since the childlike title character, played by Melissa McCarthy, starts out as blithely stupid, with earthbound self-esteem, and ends up just the same. Not only does she fail to become any more self-aware as the story proceeds, she also lurches through an escalating series of bad choices, including robbery and destruction of property.
Pearl, the grandmother played by Susan Sarandon, is no dispenser of elderly wisdom. She's an alcoholic, diabetic oxycontin addict interested only in her own carnal adventures. The journey through a dreary Midwest that Tammy undertakes in hopes of bringing clarity to her existence becomes only a burden, unrelieved by a nonsensical romance that appears to have been tossed in at the last minute.
Tammy's response to every crisis is to make non-sequitur wisecracks while generally letting Pearl have her way. McCarthy has ditched the gross-out routines she's utilized in other movies, but as a character sketch, "Tammy" is a botched portrait that bogs down in a moral morass.
The film contains an implied bedroom encounter, some profanities and sexual banter and pervasive rough and crude language. (A-III, R)
Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount)
There may be circumstances that would justify a film having a running time close to three hours. A set of outsize Hasbro toys come to life, not so much. Still, that's what audiences will find waiting for them in the interminable 3-D action sequel "Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
Such self-indulgence on the part of director Michael Bay is all the more regrettable because his fourth installment in this popular popcorn franchise is initially somewhat more engaging than its predecessors. The bond uniting small-time inventor, young widower and overprotective dad Cade Yeager with his teen daughter Tessa, for example, gives us slightly more substantial human interest than was previously evident.
Less welcome is the wayward relationship between Tessa and her clandestine boyfriend. As both Cade and the audience eventually discover, Pop has had better cause to worry than he knew.
Besides sometimes ridiculous dialogue, Ehren Kruger's script also includes a heavy dose of vulgarity. Together with the benignly treated behavior between Tessa and her boyfriend, such verbal lapses make this sci-fi slog an inappropriate one for those youthful viewers who might best be able to endure it.
The film contains relentless, though largely bloodless, violence, an implied premarital situation, at least one use each of profanity and rough language and numerous crude and crass terms. (A-III, PG-13)
CNS classifications: A-I — general patronage. A-II — adults and adolescents. A-III — adults. A-IV — adults, with reservations. L — limited adult audiences, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. O — morally offensive.