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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

Transformers: Age of ExtinctionDirector: Michael Bay
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer

I read somewhere that director Michael Bay got his start filing storyboards for Steven Spielberg via Raiders of the Lost Ark. Cut to 2014 and he's (financially) one of the most successful filmmakers around. He isn't however critic proof because he seems totally infatuated with blowing stuff up. Between making movies, I've always been curious to know what he does in his spare time. And for the record, I would probably stay away from going to any Fourth of July parties he might be hosting.

Anyway, summer is here and that means another exhausting Transformers movie. Now I know that everyone in the free world is going to see it. But if you the moviegoer haven't bought a ticket yet, well let me give you some insight on what you're getting into. As expected, Transformers: Age of Extinction (the film I'm reviewing) is one bloated, convoluted mess of a movie. It looks like it cost about 9 billion dollars to make and it feels like a trillion special effects shots were used. One thing is missing though and that would be a sense of continuity when it comes to the workings of I guess, the plot.

Bay is up to his old tricks again for this newest Hasbro helping. As usual he deals another round of fast edits, laughably bad slow motion framing, low, non-stop camera movements (and angles), and recycled background music (with plenty of horns playing the same notes over and over). His movies may look good in HD but he's ADHD as a director.

Now the special effects as mentioned earlier, are sick (this is meant to be a compliment). "Extinction" is total and complete eye candy. But sadly, it feels like no one who worked on it bothered to step inside an editing room. Watching this newest entry from executive producer Spielberg was a chore because it was as if no scene was ever cut out. I mean, instead of viewing a full length feature film, all we get as an audience, is endless hours of randomly shot footage that is literally hurled at the screen. Transformers: Age of Extinction is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. It's 21 minutes longer than the original, 15 minutes longer than Revenge of the Fallen, and 9 minutes longer than Dark of the Moon. It ends hinting at the chance of yet another chapter in this franchise's long running cash juggernaut. So OK, if the next Transformers movie is three hours long, I'm going to lose my freaking head.

In addition to overlength and misbegotten excess, "Extinction" just like the other Transformers movies, resorts to using a ton of locations. This thing uses cities in Michigan, Texas, Utah, Illinois, and Hong Kong, China as its go-to settings. The storytelling, well don't even try to keep up with it. Broke inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (played by newcomer Nicole Peltz) find an Autobot in their barn. That's all I'm gonna say because all heck breaks loose from then on. The government gets involved and another helping of mass destruction is served up on a silver platter. And yes, Chicago, IL once again gets somewhat destroyed and decimated here. Is it the taxes, the traffic, the Cubs, or the cold winters that get aliens so ticked off at "The Windy City?" I happen to live there so I'm gonna go with all the above.

Compared to the other two sequels (and the favorable original), I liked the cast a whole lot better this time around. Kelsey Grammer as CIA agent Harold Attinger plays the heavy with gusto. Stanley Tucci is on board as well and he gives a standard Stanley Tucci performance (which is a good thing). As for Mark Wahlberg in the lead, well he surprised me. He's a riot playing a sort of quirky, fast talking widower who's overly protective of his daughter. In fact, Wahlberg is so darn appealing that in only one of these films, he's able to out act Shia LaBeouf who appeared in the previous three. Check that Shia La "Bad" (Oh and I almost forgot, Mark Wahlberg's character is from Texas but he has no southern drawl or accent. It's merely an observation and not a big deal).

Overall, I'm gonna give this vehicle a mixed review which is being pretty nice to Sir Michael Bay. Go see it for the sumptuous visuals and load up on the popcorn. Oh and I think I got the title for the next installment. Let's go with Transformers: The Musical (just kidding).

Of note: the battles between the Decepticons and Autobots (a given in Transformers pictures) are so messy and chaotic, you can't tell who is fighting who. At one point, I thought the Autobots were fighting their own kind and you know, that's not a good thing. And watch for famed actor John Goodman doing a voice of one of the Transformers named Hound. His overweight, bearded character is a downright hoot. At one point, he calls himself a "badass ballerina." Uh-huh.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jersey Boys 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

Jersey BoysDirector: Clint Eastwood
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken

Considered a flop back in 1969, Clint Eastwood's role in Paint Your Wagon was probably the last time he had anything to do with musically in the world of cinema (except for directing Bird and the fact that Dirty Harry had a hand in composing the score for Mystic River). Now I wouldn't call his new film Jersey Boys (the flick I'm reviewing) unwatchable. But I know there are some critics and audience members out there that might think otherwise. They would almost be inclined to label this thing "Paint Your Jersey." Anyway, what we have featured here (at two plus hours), is a standardized biopic based on an award winning play, a play about a pop group (The Four Seasons) I grew up listening to despite being born in the mid-70's (what can I say, I'm an old soul).

Resembling an early timeline akin to Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas and shades of Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club (the 1960's version of course), Jersey Boys chronicles New Jersey's favorite sons, the inaugural boy band The Four Seasons. "Boys" takes you through the early years of the group's inception, their connection to the mob, and everything else leading up to Frankie Valli's solo performance with 1967's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." The lead actor John Lloyd Young, does a great job of portraying lead singer Valli. He may not look like him (he looks more like a young Anthony LaPaglia than Valli) but plays the role with a straight faced discipline. Plus, his voice is not too shabby.

The biggest misstep with Jersey Boys however, can be found in the tiresome narration by each member of the band. Instead of having their voices be in the background, they all look into the camera and explain various events that happened during their tenure (Ray Liotta did this in the previously mentioned Goodfellas but he didn't commit overkill like these guys do). It becomes laughable at some point and eye rolling. I've never met Clint Eastwood but if I did, I seriously would have told him to tone it down. Oh and there's another laughable element throughout in which almost every outdoor scene literally looks fake as if it was blatantly filmed on a sound stage (rather than harboring the look of an actual location). Production values suffer and that's never been the case in films directed by the so-called "man with no name" (ha ha).

Now Eastwood in my opinion, should stick with making Westerns or heavy dramas anyway. I do give him credit though for directing Jersey Boys at such a fast clip (which is not like him). Until the film's second half turns sluggish and draggy (the same holds true for his directional stint Changeling in 2008), "Boys" starts out with a lot of energy as true story events bounce relentlessly from one scene to the next. The unbridled Hollywood legend does a good job of showcasing the various performance scenarios. He does the conventional thing by having the camera slowly glide by them as they belt out their hits. He doesn't do a lot with close-ups. Nevertheless, it works to a degree. But as always, he loves to shoot sequences with soft, white lighting to go along with a lot of black and white background hues. Even if his movies have mounds of energy, the look is somewhat drab, dark, and dreary. And about the weak second half, it's plagued with your typical musical biopic cliches. You know, the drugs, the conflict between band members, the unhappy wives of rock stars, the rise and fall of musical icons, yada yada yada. Jersey Boys contains a lot of this but inhabits no potent, emotional connection between the viewer and itself. It's a vehicle better served as a documentary on VH1 or the Biography Channel (if you know what I mean).

If anything, the biggest reason to watch this thing is to embrace its smooth blend of storytelling in the first hour and of course, the music. It's timeless and the band is well deserving of their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status (The Four Seasons get inducted towards the end of the running time and the makeup on each of the actor's faces looks like bad, white powder plastered all over). In conclusion, as an exercise in true story escapism, these "boys" get a muted, mixed review from me.

Of note: look for Christopher Walken playing a tolerant, sympathetic mob boss (he's really in his element here) and a cameo by Eastwood himself that's not what you think (he's in a movie playing on an old television set during the first 30 minutes of "Boys" and I couldn't figure out which one it was).

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, June 20, 2014

Think Like a Man Too 2014 * * Stars

Think Like a Man TooDirector: Tim Story
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart

Earlier this year, I was able to catch a trailer for Think Like a Man's heavily awaited sequel, Think Like a Man Too (the film I'm about to review). One thing I noticed was that at the end of the first flick, Jeremy's man child pot smoker (played by Entourage's Jerry Ferrara) and Kristen's controlling realtor (Gabrielle Union) were set to be engaged. Cut to 2014 and it's mama's boy Michael (Terrence J) and single mom Candace (Regina Hall) who decide to actually tie the knot. This is I guess, a small twist. Other than that, there aren't too many surprises in "Too," a sloppy sequel that although amusing at times, feels like it was literally put together on a short, bombastic weekend. You see, the original Think Like a Man made me a fan. Yeah it was a clear infomercial for a Steve Harvey book and it ended on sort of a predictable note. However, it had good chemistry between the cast members, a nice flow to it, and some solid comic relief courtesy of one Kevin Hart. With "Too," what seemed funny the first time around, now just comes off as goofy. And Hart for what it's worth, dives into his legendary part of Cedric here as if he's a spotted hyena on angel dust. Again, we're talking goofy and out of control, not necessarily funny.

Anyway, Think Like a Man Too's fault is that it doesn't really register as a sequel. Why? Because it doesn't provide any insight into what made the original work. It doesn't cater to anything Steve Harvey related (that was the main plot point) and tries to recreate the whole Hangover meets Bridesmaids vibe (and badly I might add). Yes, it's fun to catch up on all the characters and their relationships. However, every one's personalities come off as different this time around. Added to that, most of their roles are underdeveloped anyway so what does it even matter. Bottom line: all the players involved probably had a ton of fun making this surefire money grabber. As an audience member, I honestly didn't quite share the same sentiment.

Containing a host of cameos ranging from Floyd Mayweather, Jr. to Kelsey Grammer (rocking some serious hair plugs) to Drake to the smooth Dennis Haysbert, Think Like a Man Too I guess, picks up where the original left off. As mentioned earlier, one of the couples who reconciled from the first film (Michael and Candace), are getting married in Las Vegas. Everyone is geared up for their respective bachelor and bachelorette parties. What follows is a lot of boozing, trips to strip clubs, and even a stint in the county jail (every female character has messy hair and raccoon eye shadow for some reason). There's also a side plot involving Hart's character's mission to win forty thousand dollars playing blackjack Rain Man style (whatever). Like I mentioned in this first paragraph, Tim Story's direction is a cake walk. This exercise isn't so much a movie as it is a lazy blueprint for the characters to "spaz out" and act like they're off of Ritalin. Yes "Too" might rake in some serious dollars on opening weekend. But it's easy money as we the moviegoer, get duped into buying a $5-$10 dollar ticket.

What drove me nuts about "Too" was how all the couples featured, resolve their whimsical domestic situations without any real back story. None of them have much interaction during the proceedings anyway (too much late night debauchery with everyone's own gender). Therefore, when the big resolves come, "make-up break-up" stuff doesn't seem earned. In fact, along with Hart's relentless narration comes concluding scenes that reek of tired, soap opera stylings. And about the whole movie's setting being in Las Vegas. Well all I gotta say is, can't we give that blatant, familiar adage a long rest.

In conclusion, I loved Think Like a Man so much that I probably saw it a couple dozen times (no joke). With this sequel (that sadly leaves certain things open for yet another sequel), I don't plan on taking in one more viewing. Think Like a Man Too has a few laughs but ultimately stinks up the joint a bit "too" much. It's the equivalent of say Ghostbusters II or Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (that can't be good). You know that old saying "whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?" Well, this flick needs to "stay" far far away from the mind of a summer moviegoer.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chef 2014 * * * Stars

ChefDirector: Jon Favreau
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara

Jon Favreau stars and directs in his newest vehicle, Chef. Instead of shooting this thing in the vein of Iron Man or Cowboys & Aliens, Favreau reverts back to the stylings of his 2001 mob comedy Made, to get the job done. He films at a brisk pace with solid, diversified music dictating the rhythms of the scenes/actors. Predicated on the world of culinary craftsmanship, food critics, and restaurant management, Chef only falters in its characters who are either underdeveloped, unlikable, or whose motivations don't quite make sense. This is a good film but it's far from perfect. It's a shame considering the cast which is about as strong as anything I've seen so far this year.

With co-stars from Favreau's other movies (mainly Iron Man alums Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlett Johansson) and tight editing by Robert Leighton (he cut last year's Now You See Me), Chef becomes a detailed character study of one Carl Casper (Jon Favreau in the lead role). Casper has been working at a high-end L.A. restaurant for 10 years. He's successful, loves his job, but seems bored at the same menu he's been doing day in and day out. With a food critic coming into town (played by Oliver Platt as Ramsey Michel, an obvious nod to the famous chef Gordon Ramsey), Casper wants to prove himself and grow business even more. He then decides to spice up said menu a little bit by adding new stuff. This results in a clash between him and his boss, a stern, stubborn restaurant owner named Riva (played by the legendary Dustin Hoffman who's obviously into doing bit parts now). This conflict causes Casper to quit his job, go to Miami, Florida with his son (along with Inez, his ex-wife played by Sophia Vergara), and open his own food truck (one that makes Cuban sandwiches, yum!). Carl can cook what he wants, find his place in the culinary world, and mainly get back on his feet.

In a nutshell, Chef is storytelling at a much smaller scale than we're used to seeing from this Queens born director. Thankfully, it works because as an audience member, you stay involved no matter what. Favreau's Carl is initially unlikable but his heart is in his craft and ultimately he wins you over. You find out that he's a distant father, an unhappy sulk, and a heart-sleeve wearing dude (not always in a good way). But you pull for him to succeed and that's all the more reason to believe that Favreau can effectively do double duty as lead actor and director.

Of note: there were a couple of things that seemed to baffle me after I finished viewing Chef. For instance, I didn't get why Sofia Vergara's character and Jon Favreau's character were divorced in the first place. I'm not saying they were meant for each other, but they seemed overly friendly and way too civil. Besides the whole "growing apart" aspect, I needed a deeper, darker reason to justify the fact that they had been apart for so long. Then there's the whole aspect of Favreau's ex-wife's ex-husband out of nowhere floating the bill for his food truck. Robert Downey, Jr.'s creepy cameo in this role is good but what's the real motivation for helping Favreau's Casper out? I guess he feels guilty for sleeping with Inez recently or something. I couldn't tell. Finally, there is Chef's neat ending. It's a happy one but it feels rushed, too calculated, too ironic, and unrealistic. If anything, the closing outtakes involving a real chef (on-set consultant) showing Favreau how to make a grill cheese sandwich, are much more interesting (the film's strength lies heavily in its authentic take on how food is made).

When it's all said and done, Chef is a good film that probably could have been a heck of a lot better. I took in a midday screening knowing that one of my favorite things to do is to eat great food. I'm gonna go ahead and recommend this thing because it seems rationalized and faithful in the way it portrays how things are cooked, the knowledge chefs have, the way they act, and the close up images (of things to eat) that will truly make your mouth water. But I can't get over the slight unlikability factor in Favreau's character's persona. He's a bit closed off, kinda defensive, always seeking approval from everybody, and a little snippy to his overly patient son. Favreau's a good actor, gives a decent, researched performance, but his Carl Casper sort of left me with a bad taste in my mouth (get it). He's a little too unhappy. He's a tad selfish and he doesn't always treat people around him very well (Casper seems to have his cronies kissing up to him while following him around a lot). Also, I know that I have to get in touch with today's modern world of technology, but Chef seems way too involved in the aspect of social networking (you know Twitter, Facebook, 1 second videos, etc...etc..). I mean this flick could probably be the spokesperson for every iPhone, iPad, smartphone, or Twitter handle out there. Utter nonsense! Fruitvale Station and Non-Stop were films that showed texts messages being read on screen. Chef does this too (in the form of Twitter) but it comes off as goofy and to a lesser effect, unnecessary.

Character flaws and gimmickry aside, I'd say that if you're one of those Food Network watchers or are in the restaurant industry, Chef might fill a small void. Even though it's billed as a comedy, I wouldn't call what's on screen funny (the humor is too mild to provoke any hearty laughs). Chef is more like a drama about having a passion in something (in this case, cooking) coaxed with a father/son dynamic, coaxed with a sort of a happy-go-lucky road trip feel as well. In essence, Favreau makes a smooth transition from directing action flicks and in doing so, he "cooks" up a small film that's well, fairly decent.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, June 8, 2014

(Cole's Take) Edge of Tomorrow 2014 * * * 1/2 Stars

Edge of TomorrowDirector: Doug Liman
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars (Click on the rating link to see Cole's on-site review)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton

Written by Cole Pollyea

Sci-Fi movies that I find myself wholeheartedly caring about, and investing in, the characters and what's on screen are far and few between, but there's something notable about Edge of Tomorrow that forced me to do so, and subsequently, enjoying. It could be the fact that it plays something like 1993's Groundhog Day and reminded me of something like 2005's War of the Worlds. It could also be the fact that it blends a multitude of unique, entertaining facets of film making and compiles it into one explosive, exciting film that you shouldn't miss.

This is Mr. Tom Cruise's fourth Sci-Fi entry in the past four years (next to Mission: Impossible - Ghost ProtocolJack Reacher, and Oblivion) and I'm prepared to say that it's heads and tails above all three other above referenced films. It combines elements of each, but ultimately, it's a brand new, refreshing film that I, gratefully, caught a sneak peek of on a late Thursday night opening week. 

But without further ado, Edge of Tomorrow is a film that takes place over the course of a day, though it feels like a million. Why? Because Cage (Cruise) is trapped inside of a repetitive day-reset wherein every single time he dies, the day begins again. His mission, as he's, before actually facing combat in the military, forced into it by a higher power, is destroying the "omega" of the alien force that has threatened the front line (and beyond), which he is fighting in. Along the way, an abundance of crucial information to the story is revealed which makes the proceedings all the more fun.

As far as the acting is concerned, it isn't first rate (Cruise doesn't give us a Charlie Babbitt, but something of a Jack—from Oblivion) but the special effects are! What fun it is to see Edge of Tomorrow; if—impossibly, you aren't engrossed in the screenplay, the visual stunners provide enough of a show to justify a trip to see this movie, the likes of which is, actually, worth seeing in 3D.

Something I consider after every viewing of a Cruiser is how many times (if at all) I'm going to be revisiting the movie at hand. Based upon how unexpectedly I wound up enjoying Edge of Tomorrow, it's safe to say that it might find its way in front of my eyes again, and I await that day with anticipation of a great summer film.

Written by Cole Pollyea

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Neighbors 2014 * * * Stars

Director: Nicholas Stoller
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron

As of this moment, I have now seen three films by British born director, Nicholas Stoller. His Forgetting Sarah Marshall strained for laughs while his 2010 effort Get Him to the Greek, was hampered by the annoyance of one Russell Brand. Now with his current release entitled Neighbors (no relation to the 1981 John Belushi flick), he finally breaks through by unleashing an uproariously funny, overly crude, yet very well plotted frat comedy. Now granted, it does have a weak, feel good ending and a slow, almost guffaw-free beginning. All things considered though, I'd say that the laugh ratio throughout this vehicle's 90 plus minutes is pretty darn high. And if you're wondering whether or not I left the theater with a big fat smile on my face, well the answer is a profoundly stark yes!

Featuring a two part cameo by Friends alum Lisa Kudrow (where the heck has she been) and a scene in which a bunch of males make clay molds out of their genitalia (to raise money of course, how insightful), Neighbors follows the conflict between a married couple named the Radners (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as Mac and Kelly Radner) and chiseled up, professional college student Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron). You see, the married couple are full fledged adults. They have a kid, jobs, and a need for sleep. As for Sanders, well he's the president of a fraternity. He likes to throw loud, revolutionary frat parties and you guessed it, he's their next door neighbor. After a friendly meeting and a reasonable exchange of words, it all goes downhill when these two parties become constantly at odds with one another. Things get personal as they begin to pull pranks on each other (rather violent ones too), destroy each other's moral and eventually try to get one or the another kicked out of their respective domains. Something of note: mysteriously, it seems that only one house (the Radner house) is affected by the relentless noise and the late night rock n' roll lifestyle exhibited by these frat dudes. That notion is put to rest when a scene occurs in which the frat regulars and pledges reluctantly pay off other neighbors so that no one will complain in the future. The movie never really tells you what the other neighbors are being paid off with. I mean, the fraternity in question doesn't have much money anyway so it doesn't make much sense. Right?

Anyway, the casting consisting of actors/actresses who seem older than the parts they are playing, is pretty good but it's also sort of hit or miss. Seth Rogen is the ideal guy to be in a movie directed by Nicholas Stoller. He pretty much plays himself by once again doing the whole befuddled stoner bit (except now he plays a father with I guess, a five month old). Also, Rogen likes to improvise a lot and as evident by Stoller's previous work, improvisation is an absolute given. Then there is Rose Byrne and she is for the most part, appealing as Rogen's character's stay-at-home wife. We also get James Franco's little brother (Dave Franco) playing Pete Regazolli (the vice president of the fraternity, Delta Psi). His friendship with Efron's Sanders and their dialogue exchanges are a downright hoot (there's a scene where they elaborate on the adage of brotherhood coming before female companionship and it had me rolling in the aisle). They represent the best quote unquote, "bromance" that has ever been captured on film. Oh and did I mention Efron? Well he's just perfect playing the antagonist who has a zero GPA (it's mentioned halfway into Neighbors that he never goes to class) and doesn't want to venture into the real world after college is over. Zac appeared earlier this year in the cliched flick entitled That Awkward Moment. He bounces back here with a role that shows that he really can indeed act.

Now Neighbors, with its sometimes shocking bits of mild violence and amusing, well developed supporting characters (especially Franco as Efron's fraternity ally and Rogen's divorced friend played by Ike Barinholtz), could very well be the comedy of the year. Its only missteps involve the behavior of the parents by which the story is built around. First off, I didn't believe for a second, that Rose Byrne's Kelly Radner would ever marry or have a life (let alone a kid) with a dope like Seth Rogen's Mac. In the movie, we all find out that she is obviously from Australia so I'm thinking that when she came to the U.S., she settled for the first guy who hit on her (that's the only rational explanation I can think of). Also, I couldn't get over the fact that during a bunch of scenes where they go over to the Delta Psi house, this negligent couple ends up staying there for long periods of time (to get revenge of course). My question is what about their infant child who's all alone next door (you can't hear a baby monitor too well at a place where there's a lot of debauchery and loud noises)? Oh and what's up with Rogen's Mac going to an initial frat get together (to meet his new neighbors) only to end up in a situation where he eats shrooms and smokes large amounts of weed? Really? If the filmmakers are trying to depict him as a lousy parent, they're doing a heck of a good job.

Regardless, Neighbors succeeds by making the viewer laugh without being too outlandish, too gross, and ultimately too offensive. It's the perfect blend of R rated comedy (despite what you might have heard from other moviegoers) and fleshed out humiliation. And dare I say that I plan on seeing it again. I mean, who wouldn't want to borrow sugar from these "neighbors" just one more time.

Written by Jesse Burleson

(Jesse's Take) Edge of Tomorrow 2014 * * * 1/2 Stars

Edge of Tomorrow
Director: Doug Liman
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton

Tom Cruise's character dies a lot in his newest science fiction endeavor, Edge of Tomorrow. In fact, about halfway through this 2014 release, I started to lose count (let's just say that it's anywhere between 50-60 times). Regardless, "Tomorrow" is intelligent, sophisticated film making and it stakes its claim as the best thing to hit theaters this year. It makes you think (but not too incredibly hard), it heightens your senses (just like a summer blockbuster should), and it reminds you the audience, why Cruise became a movie star in the first place.

Now as I've just mentioned, there is a Groundhog Day element in which someone relives the same 24 hour period over and over again. This radical tactic brought to life in a non-comedic fashion by director Doug Liman, works diligently until it somehow becomes a little repetitive and overwrought in the 3rd act. Regardless, in the director's chair Liman does a bravado job and that is evident by "Tomorrow's" ingenious plotting and capable editing (there might be a scene or two left out as a puzzle piece but I'll let it slide). In terms of staging action, Liman takes a page out of Alfonso Cauron's playbook (the guy who shot Gravity and Children of Men). He films some of the most stupendous combat scenes you'll ever see. He works with a large canvas consisting of thousands of extras (futuristic soldiers) and the chaotic bullet-ridden sequences featured, seem incredibly complex with a host of neat panoramic views.

Reminiscent of James Cameron's Aliens, featuring slinky, terrifying creatures that seem to be lifted from the Matrix movies, and containing the omission of opening title credits (I'm a huge fan of this), Edge of Tomorrow follows the back story free tribulations of one William Cage. He's a Major but his expertise is strictly in advertising. He's never fired a gun, never killed any type of extraterrestrial, but here he is ordered by an unreasonable General (General Brigham played by Brendan Gleeson in a standard Brendan Gleeson role) to go to Europe and fight a war against evil caricatures called Mimics (think mechanical zombies who hightail it fast and furious). Here's the kicker: every time Cruise's Cage gets killed in battle, he wakes up and finds himself in the same spot he was in when he first came to the army camp (for basic training). He's getting a do-over or a chance to fight again and again until the alien invasion has been conquered by humans. Over the course of the first initial deaths, Cage encounters a fellow soldier who had a similar experience. Emily Blunt is said soldier and she plays Special Forces killer Rita Vrataski. Tom Cruise and Blunt work well together as actors. Their relationship is strictly business as their characters both die again intentionally to try to reset the game plan and strategize their war tactics efficiently.

The performances in "Tomorrow" are mostly disciplined. There is a dose of mild humor but it doesn't register as much as other critics have noted. The Cruise character is initially seen as cowardly but unintentionally becomes a soldier transformed. The film seems like a personal journey for him and you feel the most sympathy for his plight. As for the other members of the cast, they aren't as likable. They actually seem aloof and off-putting (especially the combat fighters in Cage's battalion). Same goes for Emily Blunt. She has good intentions, excels as a sword wielding warrior, but comes off as very reserved. Her Rita Vrataski is distant and borderline unfriendly. Cruise's Cage starts to feel something for her, a sort of mulled over connection if you will. You as the viewer however, will be pain staked at trying to figure out why.

Anyway, the tag line for this film's poster reads, "LIVE DIE REPEAT." Based on my review and recommendation, I believe that this might be the current career path under which Tom Cruise is headed for in modern day Hollywood. Clearly on a science fiction kick, he bounces back this time after appearing in 2013's unoriginal Oblivion.

Overall, a bogged down final half hour doesn't keep Edge of Tomorrow from possessing the power to entertain. It has a fresh premise and it's its own movie even though residue from other science fiction fare sometimes seeps in. Will you be enticed to see it multiple times? Probably not. The effect if you're not patient, would be the equivalent of what Major Cage goes through time and time again (count me out, I've got other movies to see). But know this: compared to a lot of other summer flicks that have filtered in and out of multiplexes, Edge of Tomorrow teeters much further along the "edge" of greatness.

Written by Jesse Burleson