Edge of Tomorrow

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Release: Friday, June 6, 2014

[Theater]

Pinch me, I must be dreaming (over and over again).

This cannot possibly be the summer blockbuster whose early previews seemed to indicate (perhaps warn us cynics of) the coming of merely yet another summer bust. From the outset the odds seemed stacked against this film, a sci fi romp whose gritty-gray trailers made the thing look less original than a robotic compulsion to try and be grimmer than the last doomsday flick.

For all intents and purposes, everyone’s favorite scientologist was poised to star in the Oblivion of 2014 — not exactly a death sentence for such an iconic career, but the deflating sounds of a balloon losing air are really becoming audible now. Even if this recent romp went belly-up for Tom Cruise, at least there would still be something to ogle at (or that’s what one tends to think whenever a woman is paired alongside Cruise, but then you meet Emily Blunt, and, well. She’s not that gal.) Breathtaking backdrops always do their best to compensate for whatever else of the movie audiences have a hard time taking seriously or even engaging in, be it the dialogue coming out of actors’ mouths or the script conveyed through their characters’ actions.

It seems as if Doug Liman’s the last man to receive the memo about the list of cliches Cruise’s career has been constructed out of. After mumbling “to hell with this,” he tossed the list out the metaphorical window and defiantly directed Edge of Tomorrow, a film about a group of worldwide soldiers uniting to save the world from total destruction. It’s a summer blockbuster film that is as far from average as you might get. As such, it is probably not possible for the Academy to even consider something as gigantic as a movie like this for any category — and truthfully, this isn’t quite that good — but this entry is just that one step closer. Action packed and perhaps stuffed even thicker with moments of refreshing and hilarious self-awareness, this epic adventure film about fighting for humanity’s right to live on is one of the biggest surprises of 2014.

Major William Cage (Cruise) may be the catalyst for filmgoers’ collective “oh my god, no way!” This is a role so unlike Cruise, a man whose honor, he feels, should be proven enough because he’s earned the high-ranking title of officer and whose contributions to the war should also be considered enough because he has a desk job and shiny cuff links. His whiny officer is given a major gut-check time when he’s brought before General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) and ordered to the front lines in the first wave of what appears to be humanity’s last stand against an alien creature — known as ‘the mimics’ — on the French beaches.

A parody of Saving Private Ryan this is not, but there are obvious references, and not to mention, it’s release date is more than convenient, coming on the 70th anniversary of the infamous D-Day invasion of Normandy. The drama that unfolds, on a visual spectrum, reaches blindingly brilliant. This might even be a film that could properly support the 3-D technology, though that experience is less than necessary. A standard format will immerse most of the senses in the same compelling way. From the moment Cage’s mission officially gets underway as he plummets from a crashing aircraft, we are into the thick of it. He’s still trying to figure out who’s going to answer for this grave mistake of sending him into battle. We are trying to figure out how any of this can possibly work out for the better.

And so begins a beautiful relationship between Cruise and Edge of Tomorrow‘s global audience. What we don’t expect next is the very thing that is waiting around the corner for us. This is true of Cruise’s latest performance and of the script itself. A routine cycle of living for a few moments, quickly getting killed off and re-spawning once more doesn’t seem like a recipe for hilarity, and yet the writers have a field day with this. There’s even a joke or two about suicide somewhere along the way, and even these fail to register as offensive. Meanwhile, Cruise does his best to not break the fourth wall in any of his major fight scenes. Not once does he turn to the camera, hair blowing back epically in the wind of the destruction and loss of life around him, with the fortitude to whisper to us all (just once): “this is all a bit ridiculous, isn’t it?”

Unfortunately he never comes right out and says it but his performance, especially when measured up against a great dramatic turn from Emily Blunt, certainly is suggestive. Perhaps that’s more the work of brilliant writing from it’s four writers and direction from Liman. I don’t really care upon whom I should heap more praise, though; it’s the fact that the collective effort that went into this film — a film sitting smack-dab in the middle of the year, mind you — seems to have figured out a different policy for entertaining mass audiences. It neither panders to viewers nor does it have such a high-concept plot so as to come off condescending.

Fast-paced, funny and constantly engaging — not to mention, bolstered by some of the coolest aliens this side of Men in Black — Edge of Tomorrow is blockbuster filmmaking as it should be. The way the narrative develops is far from perfect, as the climactic final thirty minutes take to somewhat secure ground compared to the film’s refreshingly extemporaneous tone earlier on; however, I refer you to the previous line as to why slight slip-ups are not going to spell the end of the world.

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3-5

Recommendation: Critics and audiences agree: Edge of Tomorrow surprised the shit out of us. This is a real treat. Again, it could be argued there has been too much anti-Tom Cruise/scientology sentiment going around that perhaps cast a very unfavorable light upon his newest outing. Or it could be I, personally, am just becoming very cynical the more movies I watch, and it very well could be that this was always going to be a great movie from the start. I would like to read the book now. Yes please.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 113 mins.

Quoted: “On your feet, maggot!”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: Talladega Nights – The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

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For installment numero trés in our ‘Movies that Really Move’ segment on TBT, let’s switch up the genres and go to comedy, having spent some time with some solid entries into drama last week with Speed, and the week before with Days of ThunderThis movie speaks for itself and needs very little introduction, but I will say this: today’s entry is probably my second or third favorite Will Ferrell film. Although he doesn’t do anything substantially different from his other goofy roles, what he chooses as his subject matter here is perfect. Making light of the NASCAR circuit is always a good time. (Leave it to Ferrell to find nothing at all sacred, I know.) Even still, I thought this to be a relatively intelligent film compared to some other ridiculous full-length-feature SNL skits that he’s put out for public consumption. It’s by no means an award-contender, but hey, if you ain’t first, you can be second, third; hell. . . .you can even be fifth, right? 

Today’s food for thought: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

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Release: August 4, 2006

[DVD]

DF-15134 Ð Will Ferrell stars in Columbia PicturesÕ comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Photo Credit: Suzanne Hanover S.M.P.S.P. Copyright: (c) 2006 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and GH One LLC. All rights reserved.

The above photo shows a visibly distressed Ricky Bobby, as he attempts to free himself of the medical limitations placed upon him and his job as a top NASCAR racer, after a scuffle in a bar resulted in him getting his arm broken. (This was upon his request, mind you.) He attempts to cut through the cast to prove he’s ready, both physically and mentally, to take on the challenge posed by the presence of a new driver on the track — a Formula One driver who has just made the transition to the sport of left-turns.

Ricky could have surrendered to this new threat peaceably and told the guy what he wanted to hear in that bar that fateful night (something about crêpes), but no; his ego was simply too huge, and instead he gets his arm broken over a pool table. This moment is one of a select few that epitomizes the selfishness of Ferrell’s rowdy southern driver personality.

Ricky Bobby is the best there is, and he knows it. A considerable portion of the first half of the film shows him touting the fact he’s untouchable. Bobby, along with long-time race partner and Wonderbread teammate Cal Naughton, Jr. (John C. Reilly), have it made in NASCAR. An unstoppable duo of talented racers, Ricky is that guy whose dad never allowed him to accept anything less than the No. 1 position. It is from his father (Gary Cole) he’s had this impression that in life “If you ain’t first, you’re last!” and hence, his seemingly perfect track record. As his partner, Cal sits by and quietly accepts taking second place to Ricky’s fame and fortunes, never wanting to cause disruption in the relationship.

It is when this newcomer, Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), puts his foot to the pedal that a rift begins to slowly form in Ricky and Cal’s friendship; a clash of the egos that escalates once Ricky gets involved in a bad crash during a race and loses his confidence. (One of my favorite moments is his psychotic breakdown in which he yells out for help from Tom Cruise — now, I’m wondering, is that a shout-out to Days of Thunder or just a random, funny throw-away line?) Ricky soon discovers his name is slowly being forgotten now that his teammate has suddenly got a chance at the limelight. Aaaaaaand cue the unsportsmanlike conduct.

Talladega Nights comfortably leans on the same Adam McKay-Will Ferrell formula that has propelled both careers since their days on Anchorman (McKay’s debut film, and arguably one of Ferrell’s most successful full-length feature adaptations of his SNL slapstick to date). However, Talladega Nights proves that the formula is working reasonably well. In order to enjoy said films or if you’re trying to figure out whether you’re going to enjoy a particular Ferrell film, the process is really quite simple.

Plug in the ridiculous cast of characters; a plot that first shows the lead roles to be some sort of supremely confident, talented individual, but as time goes on their unwillingness to change or adapt to new situations proves problematic; then sit back and watch as Ferrell’s character (and any other central character close to him) tries to figure out how to best adapt, while getting the girl at the same time. Time and again, these have all proven to be the nuts and bolts of the McKay-Ferrell comedy vehicle. Nothing out of the ordinary with Talladega Nights in this regard.

However, being bolstered by memorable supporting performances from an always-hilarious Gary Cole as Ricky’s awful father, and similarly the zany mother-figure in Jane Lynch’s Lucy Bobby, Talladega Nights is stronger competition than one might expect, especially given how ruthlessly self-centered Ricky Bobby first appears. The fierce spirit of competition readily invites Ferrell’s sense of humor, as well, and this helps fuel the film’s staying power just a tad.

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3-0Recommendation: For Ferrell fans, it’s a must. Though this film is more or less relegated to the crowd-pleasing versions of his shtick, there are many good laughs here and there and its all in the name of good, simple fun. And it’s probably the second most-quoted film of his, behind Anchorman, of course.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 110 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.dogomovies.com; http://www.imdb.com; http://www.quotesgram.com