You only have one choice in the way of wide releases this week by way of Michael Bay's robot extravaganza, but limited releases offer a breath of originality.
Did you want options this week? Too bad, this is blockbuster season. You take what your anthropomorphic robot gods bestow upon you.
Yes, the only movie with a wide release this week is Transformers: Age of Extinction. It comes to us from Michael Bay, but of course Megan Fox is gone, as is our dear Shia LaBeouf despite what would be great promotional timing. Instead the stars of the show are Mark Wahlberg playing a scientist, Nicola Peltz as his daughter, and Stanley Tucci playing the kind of character who has an assistant. Oh, and the robots, of course. If you need catching up, Vulture has you covered with this handy recap video of the franchise so far, and a guide to identifying if you're a woman in a Michael Bay film. Though the third Transformers has its proponents, this one appears to be too much even for them. Still, this is summer and there's a robot dinosaur (which feels like a spoiler, but also the only reason to see the movie at all), so have at it, I guess.
In Limited Release
Thankfully, this week's limited releases more than make up for the multiplex desolation. There are more than a few worthy of your time, but we'll focus on three.
First there's Snowpiercer, Bong Joon Ho's dystopian epic which has plenty sci-fi goodness, a giant train that never stops, and class warfare. Chris Evans plays the guy leading the impoverished back-o'-the-train folk to revolt, and Tilda Swinton plays the aristocratic leader trying to keep everyone in their place. As The Wire's David Sims writes, "Snowpiercer is nothing close to a perfect experience, but it’s a thousand times more memorable than most experiences you’ll have this summer at the cinema."
If you're in the indie rom-com mood, check out Begin Again. Starring Mark Ruffalo as a down-and-out record producer and Keira Knightley as his muse, it seems lovely. There's a Casablanca connection, a refreshing ending, and Adam Levine's film debut. At least two of those things probably sound good to you, but it depends which.
Finally, if you're in New York City, you can see The Internet's Own Boy at the IFC Center. It's the documentary about Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, and seems to cover his hacking into JSTOR, his arrest, and suicide. It's all about Internet freedom and privacy, really, and whether you're pro-hacking or not, it might be interesting enough to warrant a viewing either way.
Video on Demand
Again, you really should appreciate your limited release options, because on Demand is bleak. You can choose between the "Why did they make a sequel?" 300: Rise of an Empire or the sappy, convoluted, time-traveling Winter's Tale. Which do we recommend? Well, there's a flying horse in Tale, but 300 is both shorter and features some computer-enhanced action sequences, so we'd say go with the Greek abs fest.
Streaming on Netflix
Don't look to new-to-Netlix releases for a savior, either. Grand Piano is the best of the bunch here, with it's respectable 82 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It stars Elijah Wood as an expert pianist with stage fright. There's also an assassin or something, apparently, so there's maybe more going on here than it looks. After that there's Spike Lee's unnecessary Oldboy remake with Josh Brolin, or the first season of Mixology. We shudder at the mere thought of watching one episode, let alone binging a whole season.
Movies on TV
The Counselor premieres on HBO at 8 p.m. Saturday. It has a script written by Cormac McCarthy and solid enough cast, but something about it just doesn't end up working in the end. But it's a better option than watching Scary Movie V in the middle of the afternoon (3:30 p.m.) on Showtime.