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Monday, June 9, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow



Edge of Tomorrow, though burdened with an awkward title*, is the best summer movie surprise of 2014. (Maybe they should have called it The Fault in Our Tom?) The fault in our hero, Tom Cruise, on the outset of Edge of Tomorrow is that he's a craven coward. Cannily inverting what we expect from him as a tight-jawed action hero, Cruise opens Edge of Tomorrow with a bona fide yellow streak down his back. Unfortunately for Cruise, a PR officer for the united Earth military currently losing a war against mechanical alien invaders called Mimics, his cowardice irritates general Brendan Gleeson so much that Gleeson kicks him into the front lines to fight the aliens and very likely die. Die Cruise does, hilariously. And, to his chagrin, over and over and over again.

For you see, and it takes Cruise a while for this to dawn on him, he's caught in a Groundhog Day scenario, forced to relive the same day repeatedly, by virtue of somehow absorbing the power of an alien he managed to kill. This alien power is Edge of Tomorrow's version of unlimited lives in a video game (up up, down down, left right left right, B A). Cruise, who is gifted with an excellent memory and a capacity to learn (very slowly at first - he's a lousy gamer on the outset), gradually realizes what's happening to him with the help of Emily Blunt, the only other human who previously held the same power. Cruise is in very top form; quite frankly, no one is more adept at coolly delivering complex exposition. Edge of Tomorrow plays Cruise's unlimited lives and multiple gory deaths for great laughs, until he finally improves his game enough to be a capable warrior. Edge of Tomorrow seamlessly shifts from unlikely comedy to a taut, sci-fi actioner as Cruise, Blunt and their team of roughnecks in cybernetic battle suits, get good enough to take on the aliens to save the world. Though he may have started as a sucky noob, Tom Cruise is welcome on my Halo team any time.

*The Japanese title, All You Need Is Kill, kicks ass.

Thursday, June 5, 2014




Jon Snow Vs. The Volcano

Pompeii is a cross between Romeo and Juliet, Gladiator, and The Day After Tomorrow, in which the love story of a rich Pompeiian girl and a studly gladiator slave is rudely interrupted by, in this order, Jack Bauer and an apolcalyptic volcanic eruption that annihilates life in the picturesque Italian coastal town of Pompeii. Kit Harrington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones) is the gladiator, the lone survivor of a Celtic tribe of horse whisperers decimated by Roman legions lead by Kiefer Sutherland in Britannia. Harrington grew up to become a formidable gladiator prized by his fat Roman slave master and sent to Pompeii to main event their annual festival's gladiator games against the reigning champion Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko from Lost now mega buff and playing the Djimon Hounsou role from Gladiator). Along the way, handsome Harrington caught the eye of wealthy, willfull Emily Browning, who unfortunately is the apple of Sutherland's eye. Sutherland is now a powerful senator perpetually amused by doing whatever evil thing crosses his mind every second.

Somehow, Pompeii manages to be a movie about the famed volcanic destruction of that town while never actually identifying said volcano. In Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius is only referred to as "the mountain." The mountain also plays by the tried and true movie rules laid down by the shark from Jaws and more recently, Godzilla, by only making fleeting and ominous appearances for most of the movie before finally getting some action in the third act. The mountain does thoughtfully pause its eruptions and raining of fireballs from the sky to accommodate romantic plot points and sword fights by the leads. By the time the mountain all out blows its stack, the romantic triangle between Harrington, Browning, and Sutherland has sparked copious amounts of swordplay, violence, and murders. Then the volcano destroys everyone else Sutherland and Harrington didn't kill. Harrington, called "the Celt" or "slave" by everyone in the movie, also closely guards his real name; Browning never even finds out what her buff intended's name is (Milo). Pompeii, if nothing else, should have riffed from Casablanca and included the line that the problems of two kids don't amount to a hill of beans in this world, especially when that hill of beans is a volcano wiping out everyone and everything in Pompeii.