Edge of Tomorrow
Amidst the yearly barrage of unimaginative action movies, Edge of Tomorrow is a breath of fresh air. It’s smart, funny, and full of action-packed excitement. It is a definitive summer blockbuster and is one of the best action movies of Tom Cruise’s illustrious career. Based on the graphic novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise as Major William Cage, who has earned his rank without ever having served a day in combat. All of that quickly comes to a change when he’s put on the frontlines of a war that threatens humanity’s entire existence. Thrust into combat, Cage is cowardly, and also comically unprepared. He fearfully fights for his life, but is quickly killed in the conflict, only to reawaken at the start of the same day. Cage is given another chance at life, with the benefit of having lived the day before and fully remembering it. This is not a gift bestowed upon Tom Cruise by the power of Scientology, nor by Tom Cruise’s near-invincibility in his films, but instead his character Cage inadvertently has tapped into a divine alien power through which he is able to re-spawn from death over and over again. Trapped In this seemingly infinite loop, Cage is able to learn from his mistakes and thereby has the power to single-handedly change the outcome of this war and save the human race from complete annihilation.
The brilliance of Edge of Tomorrow is in its execution. This is a movie that could have easily been tiresome considering it replays the same day continuously on repeat, but it’s handled in a way that makes it entertaining and engaging. It is superbly edited to keep the story moving and the laughs coming. Even as a huge fan of Tom Cruise, I had a marvelous time watching him die off again and again while thoroughly laughing at his expense. What makes it so funny is that Tom is completely in on the joke and is able to generously poke fun at himself. He is perfectly cast in this role, as it allows him to act totally crazy and completely spineless, while gradually transitioning into his usual kick-ass, cool Cruise persona. Edge of Tomorrow feels both exhilarating and original, although it is clearly inspired in part by some other films, such as the comedy classic Groundhog Day, and arguably even The Matrix trilogy. However, having these influences doesn’t take away from the film’s enormous accomplishments. To call it an action sci-fi version of Groundhog Day is only to sell it short. In fact, Edge of Tomorrow might just be the most fun you’ll have at the movies all year.
The conflict in Edge of Tomorrow is an alien invasion that is obliterating humanity. The aliens, known as Mimics, have taken over most of Europe, and with the exception of one keystone battle, have easily routed human military forces. Rita Vrataski, played by Emily Blunt, led that decisive victory at Verdun, earning herself the moniker the “Angel of Verdun” after single-handedly killing hundreds of Mimics in humanity’s first and only victory against the alien species. How was one woman able to massacre these aliens that can lay waste to an armed infantry in minutes? Well, as Cage finds out, she previously had his ability to reset in death, although she no longer possesses that power. Nevertheless, with her knowledge and skill set acquired from her nearly infinite practice, she can transform Cage into Earth’s greatest weapon.
Edge of Tomorrow is a thoroughly impressive package, complete with superb special effects, a heart-pounding musical score, and outstanding performances from its lead characters. Tom Cruise carries the film with veteran expertise, making the film fun and deeply entertaining. Emily Blunt is a powerhouse as Rita, showcasing a heroic toughness with a survivor mentality. I don’t think there are many actresses in Hollywood that could play such a role as convincingly as Blunt does here. Meanwhile, Bill Paxton is as enjoyable to watch as ever. He plays Master Sergeant Farrell, who is Cage’s cocky commanding officer that takes great pleasure in giving him a hard time. As for the aliens in the movie, they look absolutely incredible, not to mention highly original. I think they’re some of the coolest aliens I’ve ever seen, and they’re also far more threatening than your typical movie alien. They’re deathly fast and unpredictable, which makes the film’s action all the more intense. Edge of Tomorrow actually feels very much like a video game, and not just because of the respawning feature. The characters are memorable, the stakes are high, and the action is so engrossing that you feel like you’re an active participant in it. The creativity and combat at work in this film are worthy of belonging in a blockbuster game series. It rarely lets up and is an adrenaline-fueled ride from beginning to end.
I’ll admit that Edge of Tomorrow far-exceeded my expectations. It’s cool in every way imaginable, from the story and the action to the aliens and characters. It will immerse you in its desolate, doomed world that unknowingly rests on the brink of total destruction. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are both in top form and make this a movie you won’t want to miss. Edge of Tomorrow is certain to become an instant action classic. One that I wholly look forward to watching again and again and again.
Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore once again reunite for the romantic comedy Blended. Previously the pair starred together in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, and while the two of them have sincerely compelling chemistry, Blended is unfortunately their worst pairing to-date. The premise of the film revolves around the idea of two single parents falling in love and blending each of their families together as one, à la The Brady Bunch. It’s interesting then that the film itself seems to parallel a predictable process of blending as a family. At first, it’s an unwelcome and uncomfortable experience, but as time goes by it becomes more agreeable, and eventually it becomes acceptable and even enjoyable. The same can be said of Blended, which suffers from a dreadful beginning, but gradually gets better, and by the end becomes a pretty good family-friendly film overall.
Blended face-plants in spectacular fashion right out of the gate as we first meet Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) on a disastrous blind date at Hooters that’s incredibly uncomfortable to watch. Sandler’s character Jim initially comes off appearing remarkably repulsive and immature, while Barrymore’s Lauren is uptight and unlikeable. Things become even more unbearable when the two of them run into each other soon later at a grocery store, in a lifeless scene that is outrageously awkward. There’s also a glaring absence of music throughout the beginning of the movie, which only seems to emphasize the bad dialogue and unpleasant situations. The first half hour of the film is dull, dry, and devoid of any laughs. However, if you can endure Blended’s horrendous beginning, you’ll find that it makes up for its missteps by being a fun movie with a lot of heart.
The film finally finds its footing when Jim and Lauren unintentionally find themselves sharing a vacation in Africa. Since both of them struggle to understand and connect with their children, they each jump on an opportunity to reward their families with a trip to Africa, while being entirely unaware that the other is doing the same thing. As a result, Jim and Lauren and their respective children are all forced together, as their trip entails sharing a hotel room at the extravagant Sun City Resort in South Africa, which is hosting a special weekend event for blended families. While this involuntary blending is initially met with great opposition, the two families gradually learn to put aside their differences and begin to care for each other. Furthermore, it turns out that while Lauren and Jim are each somewhat oblivious with raising their own kids, they’re perfectly suited to teach each other’s kids. As a dainty, goody-two-shoes mom, Lauren has difficulty controlling her two wild young boys, but she knows how to care for Jim’s daughters with a much-needed womanly touch. Equally convenient is how sports-obsessed Jim is able to instill discipline and respect in Lauren’s reckless children. Sure, it’s a bit cheesy and predictable, but it works, and does so without feeling completely contrived.
The African setting in Blended is exciting and beautifully represented, although its depiction does seem mildly racist. It just feels a little wrong to have an African resort where rich white people can go on vacation and be catered to by Africans that are portrayed as being relatively primitive. Even Sun City Resort feels less like a resort and more like an amusement park, albeit one that I’d love to visit. It serves as an appealing setting and looks like a whole lot of fun. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that Adam Sandler recently confessed that he chooses his movies based on where he wants to go on vacation. It may be something of a devious strategy, but he’s managed to make himself a very successful career in doing it. He’s a guy who knows how to have fun, and I think that’s where Blended really shines. Even though it gets started off on the wrong foot, it’s a film that ends up offering a fair amount of laughs, while being a fun movie-going experience.
The performances in Blended are a bit typical, but they’re certainly not bad. Adam Sandler plays his usual good-intentioned-but-misunderstood man-child self. Meanwhile, Drew Barrymore adds a lot of fun to her role as the sweet, geeky mom who’s trying hard to be cool. Terry Crews represents the head of the singing entertainment at the resort who repeatedly appears to interrupt in song. He brings in a good dose of humor and had me really cracking up in one scene. Kevin Nealon seems to be channeling his character from Happy Gilmore in this movie, and is part of another blended couple vacationing in Africa. His blonde trophy girlfriend played by Jessica Lowe is a real stand-out. She does a remarkable job creating laughs as a stereotypical bimbo. Her hot and heavy relationship with Nealon is truly comical, even if slightly sickening. As for the children, their performances are mostly adequate, with Jim’s daughters being the best of the bunch. Disney star Bella Thorne is wonderful as Hilary, who like all of Jim’s children, has unconsciously been raised like a boy, even to the extent of being nicknamed Larry. Additionally, the young Emma Fuhrmann, who plays Jim’s middle daughter, can be surprisingly effective at evoking genuine heart-felt emotion into her scenes. Of course, this wouldn’t be an Adam Sandler without some cameos from his buddies, although the ones in Blended fail to be very funny at all.
All in all, Blended requires some patience to get through its torturous start, and it gets pretty heavy on the cheesiness later in the film, but it makes a respectable comeback overall. It even manages to touch on aspects of the awful beginning and effectively incorporate them into the grand scheme of things later on. In the end, everything ends up blending together nicely to create a pretty decent comedy, while Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore prove that they’re still a delightful comedic duo.
Following the success of his directorial debut, Ted, Seth MacFarlane steps in front of the movie camera for the first time in his new film, A Million Ways to Die in the West. MacFarlane is best known as the creator of the popular animated television series, Family Guy, and he was also the host of the Oscars just two years ago. Now he’s taking the starring role in a film he wrote and directed himself. Here MacFarlane plays a cowardly sheep farmer named Albert who is miserably living in the dangerous Old West. Or rather, the not-so-dangerous Old West. Despite what the title suggests, there’s not a whole lot of dying going on in A Million Ways to Die in the West. You won’t find a whole lot of substance either, but there are a fair amount of laughs if you’re able to tolerate the crude toilet humor and dirty jokes. All in all, MacFarlane does a decent job in this comedy, but his jokes stick too close to his own conventions, and much like life on the frontier, the film can be kind of a drag.
If you’ve ever seen Family Guy, you should feel right at home with the humor in this film. It’s crass, edgy, violent, and full of pop culture references. Although, given that this is an R-rated movie, MacFarlane’s able to push the limits further than usual, and he makes sure to do that by including a lot of raunchy humor and toilet-gags. Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, male genitals are still the hottest thing in comedy right now. As you’ve no doubt deduced, this is certainly not a film you’d want to take your kids to see. Nor is it for the easily-offended. Though in the film’s defense, it’s not entirely tasteless, and its use of vulgarity isn’t overly frequent. There’s plenty of great slapstick physical comedy and some pretty hilarious dialogue. I laughed more than I thought I would, and was never so disgusted that I wanted to walk out. It’s an entertaining film, it just happens to run a little long and lose momentum down the stretch. Plus the main premise of the film is never all that compelling to begin with.
In A Million Ways to Die in the West, MacFarlane’s character Albert is a man entirely self-aware of the time and place he’s living in, as well as the many dangers that come with it. He sheepishly lives his life, terrified by the threat of death that lurks around every corner. When his beloved girlfriend leaves him for a man with a mighty mustache, Albert has to cowboy up to prove his machismo and try to win her back. Luckily for him, he meets a gun-toting woman named Anna who’s happy to help him face his fears and show him the ropes of being a cowboy. Unfortunately however, this new friendship ends up putting Albert right into the crosshairs of Clinch Leatherwood, the deadliest outlaw around.
While MacFarlane does a respectable job in his first foray into acting, his character feels rather uninspired. I couldn’t help but see him as a hodgepodge of various Family Guy characters, having the clumsiness of Peter Griffin, the self-consciousness of Chris Griffin, and the intelligence and charm of Brian. Given that he created that show, perhaps that should be expected, but it just felt like Albert was lacking a unique and consistent identity. He’s a character who can be charming and funny, but he also comes off seeming like a jerk. All in all, the film has a good cast of actors, with Neil Patrick Harris being the stand-out of the bunch. He plays the pompous, mustached snob, Foy, who steals the heart of Albert’s girlfriend, Louise. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman are likable as the flawed, clueless couple who serve as Albert’s close friends, Edward and Ruth. Although their characters stay pretty comfortably within the realm of what you would expect from their respective actors, with Edward being the naïve nice guy, while Silverman’s Ruth is the seemingly-sweet-and-innocent, foul-mouthed hussy. Charlize Theron does a fine job as Albert’s mentor, Anna. She has a strong presence in the film and is fun to watch, but despite her best efforts, the emotional element she brings to the story ends up feeling forced and unconvincing. Though that’s no fault of her own. It’s just hard to imagine her, or anyone, falling head over heels so easily and suddenly for a guy like Albert. Then, of course, there’s Liam Neeson, who is effective in his performance as the intimidating villain, Clinch, but would have benefitted from more screen-time.
A Million Ways to Die in the West proficiently parodies the western film genre, capturing the right atmosphere for the setting and time period. Visually it’s a pleasant film to look at, with good camera-work, well-created sets, and lots of beautiful scenery. This makes it all the more disappointing then that the filmmakers decided to place a visual filter over the entirety of the film to give it a more old-fashioned look. As a result, there is a constant flickering throughout the whole movie, and while not quite seizure-inducing, it certainly is distracting. At times you kind of get used to it and forget about it, but it really stands out in scenes with heavy lighting and most of the movie takes place in broad daylight. On the audio side of things, the music is appropriately fitting, but little of it is particularly noteworthy. There is however a great song about mustaches, accompanied with a well-orchestrated dance number led by Neil Patrick Harris in what is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the film. Additionally the film’s theme song is appropriately fun. The visual effects in the movie, although limited, are done quite well and nicely add to the film’s comedic effect. Although I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say the movie could have done just fine without all of the animated urinating sheep.
I think the film’s greatest flaw is the fact that it’s doing too much as it tries to incorporate all of the main stereotypes of the western genre. It has duels, bar brawls, jailbreaks, horse chases, and even capture by Indians thrown in for good measure. In trying to cover all of the bases, the movie ends up running too long and becomes a little boring and tired. Rather than building up to a climax, the film diverges with some unnecessary scenes, and then concludes with a lackluster ending. It would have been cool to see Clinch and his group of bandits lay siege to the main town, which could have given the filmmakers an opportunity to create a wide variety of deaths, and allow Albert to exercise his newly developed skills before setting up to an ultimate final showdown. Maybe that would be adding to the long list of clichés, but at least it would have given this slow-paced film some much needed adrenaline and would have made it more true to its misleading title. There are also several cameo appearances in the film, and while a couple of them are great conceptually, I don’t think any of them are quite as satisfying as they should be. They end up feeling out of place, like last-second additions that have no purpose other than to acknowledge other films. I can appreciate the attempt but the cameos aren’t particularly funny and they just seem to emphasize how much better those other films are.
Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West is good for a few laughs, but just like his character Albert’s long-winded ramblings, it feels like it goes on unreasonably long. It’s still an entertaining film regardless, and if you’re a fan of MacFarlane’s other work, you’ll most likely enjoy his parody of the Old West. The movie has a talented cast, some truly great scenes such as a bar brawl and a memorable dance, as well as plenty of good old-fashioned slapstick, and witty dialogue. If you can handle the occasional gross-out gag, you’ll probably have a good time. Just don’t expect to actually see the many ways people can die In the Old West. The movie doesn’t show many deaths at all, and all the best ones you likely already saw in the trailer.
5 Minute Movie Guy
I'm just a movie crazed dude, with a love for Tom Cruise.