June 14, 2014 by Hope W.
Here’s another massively overdue review bonanza. Unfortunately, I’m always watching things much faster than I write about them, so sometimes it’s stale news by the time I post them.
*Minor spoilers ahead!*
First up: Edge of Tomorrow. It’s actually pretty good, so don’t let your judgment of Tom Cruise’s personal life affect your enjoyment of it. He gets a lot of flack for being “Tom Cruise”, and his movies have been steadily declining at the box office since the whole Katie Holmes debacle and Oprah couch-jumping stunt in 2005, but he actually seems like a really hardworking and great guy to work with, whatever he believes, so it’s unfair that people’s perceptions of his personal life colour the way they view his movies. I mean, he always makes the most fun action movies tailored for maximum enjoyment, and it’s not like we’re being asked to marry him. As long as he isn’t an axe murderer, racist or psychopath, I will watch his movies.
Plus Edge of Tomorrow delivered everything I wanted from a Tom Cruise movie, and more. Basically, you get to watch him die over and over and over again as he and Emily Blunt search for ways to defeat an alien invasion. The time-looping device may not be an original trope, but it is used to hilarious effect, especially in the beginning when he is still a terrible soldier. Nothing beats watching the usually cool and collected actor lumbering around in a clunky suit, getting knocked out of frame suddenly by an incoming jeep, and then immediately restarting the sequence with him learning from his mistakes and crossing the jeep’s path safely, only to die in another way. And repeat.
Emily Blunt is a really kick-ass heroine too, despite this being her first such action role; I’m surprised she hasn’t taken on more action movie roles before. Supporting characters like Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farell and the members of J-squad also hold up their end well whenever they appear.
The Mimics remind me of the tentacled sentinels (or whatever they are called) in The Matrix, and the Omega looks like the kaiju thing at the bottom of the ocean in Pacific Rim, but I suppose visual effects artists do run out of imagination after a while.
Edge of Tomorrow is one of Tom Cruise’s better reviewed movies recently, and I would rank it my third favourite movie so far this summer — Captain America: The Winter Soldier being first and X-Men: Days of Future Past being second. It also has the added perk of my favourite type of movie ending — the one where nobody dies after everything is reset, and everybody is happy. Which makes it doubly upsetting that the movie is performing dismally in the US. While international box office returns are increasingly helping to offset domestic box office losses, it will still end up earning much less than a truly entertaining movie with US$175 million invested in it *should* earn. If The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can earn nearly US$700 million worldwide to date, with $197 million domestic, Edge of Tomorrow definitely deserves more.
Frankly, I feel that Tom Cruise’s acting is underrated. People laugh at him, and may be under the misconception that he can’t act, but truth is: he is one of the very few actors who have a particular way of acting that is unique only to themselves, which therefore make their brand of movies instantly recognisable. This is the defining quality of an international box office star whose name can still open movies around the world — a category that belongs to a still select few like Will Smith and Robert Downey Jr. I would have added Johnny Depp to the list too because he is well known for playing quirky weird characters, but his recent movies have tanked, so perhaps people don’t like watching him anymore in a non-established franchise.
It’s not necessarily the same as “typecasting”, but it is rather similar to it. Robert Downey Jr is the best example I can think of to illustrate what it means to be “themselves” in a movie. In all of his roles, he always injects his public persona into it, moulding the character to fit *him* rather than himself to fit the character — kind of like the opposite of method acting. Which is why you don’t know where Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes or Peter Highman (his character in Due Date) or Harry Lockhart (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) ends, and Robert Downey Jr the public figure begins, because they are all so alike in their flashy, fast-talking ways. (Except that all his characters also have the additional element of being slightly-to-completely neurotic, whilst RDJ doesn’t.) And then there’s also Robert Downey Jr, the person whom he is in private, which I believe we hardly ever see, except when he’s bored/tired during press conferences and interviews and not really on the ball to muster up his “public” face.
Even in his cameo in Chef, where he appears in only a single scene as Jon Favreau’s character’s ex-wife (Sofia Vergara)’s ex-husband, he plays that character with a trademark OCD-ness and ADHD-ness that makes him completely recognisable as someone only RDJ *could* play. So much so that it sounds like either Jon Favreau wrote the role specifically for him — a high possibility, since Jon Favreau called in favours from several other famous friends too for this movie, including Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman — or RDJ ad-libbed the hell out of it to make it *his*.
Speaking of Chef, it is a feel-good father-son bonding movie, heaped with gratuitous amounts of food porn. Self-proclaimed foodies will absolutely love it. It’s what you can call a passion project for Jon Favreau, who after directing blockbusters like Iron Man and Iron Man 2, has returned to his indie roots with a small film about doing what you love and being happy with it. He also acts in it as the every-man type of father, trying to fit in time to spend with his son (Emjay Anthony), plenty of which he gets after he is fired from his restaurant chef job for offending a famous food critic. He then sets up a food truck business selling Cubanos — some type of delicious-looking crunchy ham, pork and cheese sandwich — and on his road trip back home to LA with his son, they attract a massive following everywhere due to his son’s awesome use of social networking.
You won’t take away deep life lessons from it, but you will go away with a general sense of happiness, and perhaps the urge to eat some crunchy sandwiches or steaks with mint sauce and go sizzle things in a pan. And marketing lessons too, because the way they incorporate Twitter and Vine into the film is ingenious.
Also watched Maleficent, which was pretty good (and more comical than I expected), all thanks to Angelina Jolie and no thanks to all the other characters, except Sam Riley as Diaval the crow. Dressed in that iconic costume and horns, she gave off an intimidating aura that made her the perfect fit for the role, but did not detract from her ability to be funny when she had to be (though she should stay away from shouting scenes where her voice isn’t aurally enhanced with resonance). Much has been said about her daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt playing young Aurora, but when you watch that scene between her and Maleficent in the movie, knowing that it was her own daughter playing Aurora makes it so much sweeter and more adorable.
Mad King Stefan (Sharlto Copley), slightly airheaded Aurora (Elle Fanning) and useless Prince Philip (Brenton Thwaites) were less impressive. I also don’t get why Disney renamed the three fairies Flittle, Knotgrass and Thistletwit in this movie — I was referring to them in my head as Flora, Fauna and Merriweather anyway throughout the movie. Then again, unlike the cartoon versions, the fairies in this version were extremely annoying, so it’s probably a good thing they renamed them.
All in all, Maleficent is a pretty good inversion of Sleeping Beauty, though they have already used the parental/familial true love “twist” in Once Upon a Time and Frozen, so that part wasn’t much of a surprise. It won’t replace Sleeping Beauty, but it’s a satisfactory fallback if I ever wanted to think of Maleficent in a positive light.