Cruise in for a bruising
Edge of Tomorrow (M) National release Maleficent (M) National release The Fault in Our Stars (M) National release HE latest large-scale Tom Cruise vehicle, is yet another movie about an alien invasion of the Earth. Sociologists may ponder as to why so many movies have been made on this subject recently, but while they’re doing so Doug Liman’s extravagant adventure affords the 51-year-old superstar the opportunity to have fun with a preposterous scenario that borrows heavily from the premise of Groundhog Day.
The film opens with newsreels explaining that the Mimics, fast-moving, jet-black creatures that look like a cross between octopus and giant crab, have conquered most of Europe. The forces of Earth have gathered in London and are preparing to cross the Channel and land on the French beaches — it’s no coincidence that the film is opening around the world on June 5 and 6, to coincide with the anniversary of the D-Day landings. Humanity has recently scored a victory over the aliens at Verdun (another knowing reference) and the heroine of that battle, Rita (Emily Blunt), can be seen prominently on posters displayed around the place.
Cruise plays Major William Cage, a smug US communications officer who, when he reports to Major Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) in London, is amazed and indignant to be ordered to cover the next day’s battle from the frontline. When he refuses, he’s demoted to private, handcuffed, and sent into battle anyway, though he has had no training in the elaborately clumsy armour he has to wear or the weapons he has to use (”How do I get the safety off?” he keeps pleading, though no one answers.) On the beach, casualties are high and it seems that a massacre is in progress until, after a confrontation with one of the aliens, Cage awakens back in England and finds himself repeating exactly what happened the day before. Gradually, as he keeps returning to the start of his adventure, he realises that he can alter the course of events, and joins forces with Rita to destroy the source of the aliens’ power.
Alien invasions have become so commonplace on the big screen these days that it’s at least a welcome change that a different, and mildly humorous, approach has been taken this time around. The screenplay, by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s 2004 book, All You Need Is Kill, is, by its nature, repetitive, but Liman manages to keep the ridiculous story bubbling along thanks to a better than average performance from Cruise and the alluring presence of Blunt as a tough-as-nails, battle-hardened soldier. For good measure a couple of Australians augment the cast: Noah Taylor, as a scientist who attempts to explain to Cage and the audience what on earth is going on (I’m not certain I ever worked it out), and Kick Gurry, impressive as one of the soldiers. Another Australian, Dion Beebe, was responsible for the cinematography, and unfortunately he has gone along with Liman’s favoured wobbly-cam style, which detracts considerably from the drama in one or two key scenes.
Overall, though, Edge of Tomorrow is acceptable escapist entertainment whose unexpected plot developments give it much-needed originality. The action scenes are handled with expected skill, the heroes are intrepid and the creatures are suitable nasty and vicious.
TIN the wake of other Hollywood attempts at postmodern versions of famous fairytales (Snow White and the Huntsman, Oz the Great
Edge of Tomorrow and Powerful) comes a lavishly produced reworking of Sleeping Beauty, both the original French story by Charles Perrault and the much-loved 1958 Disney animated version. This time, though, the emphasis is on the wicked witch character rather than on the young beauty who becomes the victim of a terrible curse, and Angelina Jolie plays this character as a victim herself, betrayed and mutilated by her lover.
The film unfolds in two mythical kingdoms, one inhabited by humans, the other by fairies, trolls, pixies and giant walking trees, among other digitally created monsters. Maleficent, played as a child by Isobelle Molloy, is a winged fairy whose dalliance with a human farm-boy, Stefan (Michael Higgins), seems for a while like a cross-species example of true love. But the years pass and the older Stefan (Sharlto Copley) is ambitious to inherit the human throne
Maleficent; from the ailing king; he drugs the trusting fairy and cuts off her magnificent wings, seriously, but not completely, affecting her powers. When he becomes king, his baby daughter, Aurora, is, as a result of his crime, cursed by the vengeful Maleficent, and so becomes the Sleeping Beauty who will only awake after True Love’s Kiss.
The film, the first directed by production designer and visual effects whiz Robert Stromberg, earns high marks for the way it looks; this fairytale world is stunningly photographed by another Australian veteran Dean Semler, and the sets, costumes and design in general are of the first rank.
Dramatically, though, the film is less successful. Huge gaps in the plot appear to have been papered over with the help of an otherwise dispensable narration, spoken by Janet McTeer, and the minor characters, including Elle Fanning’s too-perfect Aurora, are mostly uninteresting — even the trio of “cute” fairies, played by Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple, who watch over Aurora, wear out their welcome pretty quickly. Jolie’s face has been altered, making her cheeks so cavernous she appears positively deformed, which presumably wasn’t the intention. Children probably won’t mind any of this and will be thrilled by the timeless story, but the underwhelming nature of the film is only emphasised by the dreary end-credits rendition of Once Upon a Dream, the song from the 1958 film, performed here by Lana Del Rey as though it were a funeral dirge.
The Fault in Our Stars JOHN Green’s bestselling book,
has been brought to the screen by director Josh Boone and benefits enormously from the central performance of talented Shailene Woodley, who plays Hazel, a 16-yearold suffering from recurring lung cancer and forced to lug an oxygen tank with her at all times. At a self-help group run by a church she meets Gus (Ansel Elgort), an 18-year-old virgin who lost a leg to cancer. These two wounded and sickly characters bond over books and picnics and eventually wind up in Amsterdam (chaperoned by Hazel’s mom, Laura Dern) where Hazel is excited to meet her favourite author, a self-loathing alcoholic played by Willem Dafoe.
The film’s manipulative illness-of-the-week scenario is entirely resistible, despite the best efforts of Woodley (who almost saves the day with a sensitive portrayal).
From top, Sam Riley and Angelina Jolie in Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in
and Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in