Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: June 6, 2014
Director: Doug Liman

Earth is under attack by a mysterious and aggressive alien race and the world’s armies need all the help they can get. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is forced into combat against his will, having never seen a fighting day in his life. During his first battle, Cage dies within mere minutes – but then awakens, alive again,  to find that he is stuck in a “time loop” where any death finds him awakening at the start of the day. With the help of the “Full Metal Bitch” aka Rita (Emily Blunt), Cage must figure out what his new found abilities mean and how he can use them to defeat the alien menace.

If you’ve ever read any of my reviews, you know I’m not a huge Tom Cruise fan. I like him well enough in a few movies (Legend, Vanilla Sky, Tropic Thunder, The Last Samurai, Magnolia) but he just sort of never stayed on my “I’m-excited-to-see-this-actor-perform” radar. One of my former co-workers really hated the guy (because he hates Scientologists) but another co-worker was/is obsessed with him and told me to see this film. I’m glad I did see it, because it was a decent romp of a science fiction action flick – sort of like Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers.

One of my favorite Tom Cruise films was Vanilla Sky and the reason for this is because he played against type. In Vanilla Sky, he played a self-obsessed, whiny, insecure rich guy. In Edge of Tomorrow, he plays a cowardly, frightened military officer. It’s better to see Cruise in these types of roles, at least in my opinion. It shows that he’s willing to put aside his leading man ego at least part of the time, and the man can act.

Emily Blunt really was the “Full Metal Bitch” in this film. I would say that she was much more of a badass than Tom Cruise, even. She just has that deadpan stare sometimes that is somehow both sexy and intimidating. The film is only so long, but I think that they should’ve slipped in more of her story somewhere because she was a pretty interesting character. I mean, look at her:

 

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Another unexpected surprise was Bill Paxton. You can never have enough Bill Paxton. He’s not in the film much, but does a decent job as an overbearing drill sergeant.

As far as other aspects of the film go – the aliens were pretty cool, although it can be hard to wrap your head around a race of beings who can control time. That’s pretty crazy. Still, they looked scary and awesome and most of the special effects were well done so there weren’t a lot of “unbelievable” scenes in which the CGI failed.

All in all, Edge Of Tomorrow (aka Live, Die, Repeat) will definitely fill an afternoon with decent science fiction action. There are films which are much better, but you could also do much, much worse.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Edge of Tomorrow

 

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Bronson (2008)

Bronson (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: March 13, 2009
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Michael Petersen (Tom Hardy) aka “Charles Bronson” is the U.K.’s most violent convict. Based on a true story, this biopic delves into the psyche of a truly twisted individual who was sent to prison for seven years after a robbery at a post office and then managed to up his sentence to over thirty years in solitary confinement due to his violent nature and poor life choices.

Nicolas Winding Refn creates a very snappy and stylized account of this man’s life, treating major points in his life as if it were performance art, while Tom Hardy bravely and brilliantly inhabits the role of Bronson completely and most convincingly with his bald head and handlebar mustache. The feel of this film, to me, was essentially Drive mixed with Warrior.

If you’re not into full frontal male nudity, however – beware…because apparently every time Bronson decided to fight someone in prison he had to get naked to do so. This resulted in a lot of fights where Tom Hardy just swings away, in more than one sense of the word. For me, it didn’t detract from the film because it seemed like a logical thing for Bronson to do and melded with the whole “performance art” theme going on.

For the most part, this film seemed like a vehicle to showcase Tom Hardy’s terrific acting, but the other actors involved played their parts well. Though the film wasn’t straight action, Hardy carried himself so kinetically that it’s hard not to keep watching and be invested and see what crazy thing he’ll do next to get himself into trouble.

This is really a beautiful film, let alone an interesting biopic. Go check it out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Bronson

 

Reign Of Fire (2002)

Reign Of Fire (2002)

Original Theatrical Release: July 12, 2002
Director: Rob Bowman

Humanity has been decimated by dragons; creatures thought to only have existed in myths and fairy tales. Quinn Abercromby (Christian Bale) and Creedy (Gerard Butler) lead a ragtag group of survivors living in an abandoned castle in the English countryside, trying to survive day by day. When a group of American warriors led by Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) shows up and claim to be able to slay the dragons once and for all, Quinn has to decide if they can do what they say they can do.

This is one of those movies I always seem to forget about, and I think a lot of other people do, too. I recently re-watched it because my girlfriend had never seen it so I figured what the heck.

The first half of the movie is really interesting and draws you in, but then it seems to lose focus in the later half. I appreciate the dark feel of the film and I think the idea behind the “Archangels” is really great, where specialized shock troops jump out of the helicopter to attack the dragons. (Life expectancy of an Archangel: 17 Seconds) And hooray for the Star Wars reference, as well!

Bale and McConaughey are actually really great in this, playing off one another and bringing their acting chops into this action film, which is always refreshing. Butler is good, too, as well as Izabella Scorupco as Alex Jensen – the pilot of the chopper – though they don’t really get as much screen time as Bale and McConaughey.

For a film that’s around ten years old, the special effects hold up surprisingly well. There are only a few instances where you can tell they were using a green screen, which, in the scheme of things isn’t too shabby. It could’ve been a lot worse! My only other gripe is that one of the characters, toward the end, dies in a really anti-climactic way. My jaw dropped open and I just sat there in disbelief in how lame it was.

This film is a fun option if you’ve been jonesing for a dragon movie, but it has its own particular take on the dragon species and there may be other films out there like How To Train Your Dragon that provides a better dragon experience, especially for the kiddos – because this is definitely not a kid’s flick. (But it is a completely different flavor of movie so I guess it’s like comparing apples to oranges.)

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Reign Of Fire

The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige (2006) Original Theatrical Release: October 20, 2006
Director: Christopher Nolan

Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and his wife Julia McCullough (Piper Perabo) along with Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are all assistants to a master magician, all trying to learn his secrets. When something goes awry during a performance and Julia dies, Robert blames Alfred for her death and the two become bitter enemies and eventually master magicians themselves. They are in a magical arms-race, where one tries to outdo the other for supremacy on the stage. When Alfred comes up with a trick the likes of which nobody has seen, Robert becomes obsessed with trying to discover his secret – leading him to dark experiments that no man was ever meant to tamper with.

This is one of those films that sort of flew under the radar. Christopher Nolan hit it big with Batman Begins, but not many people even remember this film or talk about it despite its star power and cool premise. It also came out at the same time as another magician-centric movie called The Illusionist, which some folks consider to be the better film between the two magic movies.

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla was a huge bonus in this movie for me, as well as the always-lovely Scarlett Johansson’s role as Olivia Wenscombe (ironically also a secret agent in this movie, just like she was as Black Widow in Iron Man and The Avengers respectively)….but those are just on a personal level. Bale and Jackman are great at going head-to-head with each other and this is one of Jackman’s best serious dramatic roles to date. It has a heavy sci-fi theme that once you get into is actually really great, and it ends up unfolding like a sort of parable.

Go see it for the actors. Go see it for the great direction by Nolan. Go see it for David Bowie and Michael Caine. It’s good stuff. The only downside, for me, was that it was maybe a little too long in letting the story unfold but on the other hand,  it constantly keeps you guessing and keeps you on your toes.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Prestige

The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers (1983)

The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers (1983)

Original Release Date: 1983
Publisher: Ace Books
Author: Tim Powers

The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers, is a very complicated novel that deals with the concept of time travel and is also considered one of the foremost classics of contemporary steampunk fiction (though I’m not one-hundred percent why that is, seeing as there really isn’t any steam or punk) .

The story is set in 1983, after a brief introduction that takes place in the 1800’s. The protagonist of the story, Brendan Doyle, is asked to a meeting by a millionaire named J. Cochran Darrow because Doyle is a poetry expert and is noted for being very intimate in his knowledge of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and a poet (created by the Tim Powers for the novel) named William Ashbless…and the romantic poets in general.

Darrow has apparently figured out the secret of time travel, in which there are multiple windows through time (able to be calculated mathematically) in which someone can just pop in for the duration, which varies from entryway to entryway. Darrow is charging people one million dollars each to go back in time and see a lecture put on by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. During the trip, Doyle is kidnapped and misses his jump back  to present-day and finds himself living on the streets of London in the 1800’s, reduced to panhandling and other money-making schemes in order to survive long enough to find a way back or at the very least live out his days in comfort with his knowledge of the future. Along the way, he meets many incredible characters such as Lord Byron, William Ashbless, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a magical and sadistic clown named Horrabin, Muhammad Ali (not the boxer…the Ottoman commander in Egypt in the 1800’s) and an evil shape-shifting werewolf serial killer named Dog Face Joe.

Yup.

Tim Powers is great at setting the scene. He uses authentic phrases and language that I actually had to look up to know what it meant. If I hadn’t looked it up, I still would have been able to glean what it meant due to his use of context, so it was sort of fun to have that choice. An example of how he did this is during a conversation between gypsies at the beginning, where two men are conversing and it goes like “Will you eat some dinner? They’ve got a hotchewitchi on the fire, smells very kushto.” Hotchewitchi is hedgehog/groundhog and Kushto means “good”. I had to look those both up but then later on it was alluded to in context and I figured out I most likely wouldn’t have had to look them up in the first place.

The characters are all very memorable and I really enjoyed getting to meet Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The setting was very detailed. We saw London through the eyes of a modern man seeing what had changed from 1983 to the 1800’s. It was really neat.

There were a few drawbacks, such as some pacing issues (I felt, anyway) toward the end and some confusing shifts in time where we miss entire swaths of Doyle’s shenanigans.

Overall, if you like Steampunk or Sci-Fi, time travel or fantasy (especially all of the above) then check it out. It’s a good read.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check out a preview of the book for free, HERE