June 6, 2014, - 7:21 pm

Wknd Box Office: Edge of Tomorrow, Fault in Our Stars, Words and Pictures, Cold in July

By Debbie Schlussel

I liked a couple of the new movies in theaters, today.

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* “Edge of Tomorrow“: I enjoyed this movie. It was funny, cool and futuristic, and action-packed. And there’s a kind of salute or tribute to D-Day in the plot. Sort of.

It’s the future, and Tom Cruise is a military spokesman who does all the cable news shows touting the war against aliens known as “mimics,” who’ve invaded the earth and have taken out Germany and France. Although the U.S. Army is distinct from the British Army, they’ve joined forces and call themselves the UDF–the United Defense Forces.

Cruise has no military training and is merely the former owner of an ad agency, which he lost when the war started. So, he refuses orders from the UK UDF commander to embed himself with the troops and do PR videos of the battle of UDF soldiers against the aliens, which is about to begin the next morning on the beach in France, a la Omaha Beach in World War II. But when he refuses, the commander arrests him, demotes him, and sends him to a unit camped out at Heathrow Airport. Then, he is sent into battle the next morning, along with the rest of the troops, and he is killed by the mimics. But after he is killed–and this keeps repeating–he wakes up back where he was on the day before. Yes, it’s like “Groundhog Day” in that respect. But it’s a much different movie.












Cruise befriends a female warrior whom he has never met until he’s in the trenches, and each day, they keep getting killed, only to repeat. The warrior (Emily Blunt) is a woman he’s been touting on TV as the kind of warrior that can win because she prevailed in the Battle of Verdun (a nod to World War I). Bus ads feature her image with the words, “Full Metal Bitch.” But it turns out that she wasn’t really the tough female who beat out men in conquering the alien mimics. In fact, it turns out the alien mimics let her win for a reason. In any event, each day, as it starts over again, Cruise and Blunt must learn more and more about the aliens and how to beat them and save the world.

I’m not normally a fan of Blunt, but she and Cruise have a kind of warrior chemistry that works, and I enjoyed this, especially because I like both sci-fi and war movies, and this brings them both. Like I said, it’s funny, entertaining, fast-paced, and action packed. And I enjoyed it. As battle and war movies go, this is a fun one, even if it isn’t necessarily one of the greatest in that genre. And I loved the ending.

THREE REAGANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Fault in Our Stars“: This is one of the most pretentious, manipulative, maudlin movies I’ve seen in a long time. It is so obvious and yet has so many idiots slobbering over it and getting emotional over its huckster-constructed melodrama. The easily manipulated, clueless American public is so predictable these days, and this movie and its eponymous book are Exhibit A of that. I’m told the movie follows the best-selling young adult book of the same name very closely. And it’s just sad how popular the book is (and the movie, based on last night’s early showings of it). The ’70s called and they want their movie, “Love Story”–of which this is a cheap, far inferior rip-off–back.

I have every sympathy for kids or new adults stricken with fatal cancer but that doesn’t mean I have to like this incredibly annoying and entirely unbelievable movie. The two cancer-stricken lovers in the movie are like the Zeligs or Forest Gumps of cancertopia. They e-mail a famous author and get an all-expense paid trip to meet him, and he turns out to be a drunken jerk but travels to go to one of their funerals. Like that would ever happen. PUH-LEEZE. The characters in this movie speak and have conversations that are so pretentious and wannabe-high-brow, it’s impossible to believe anyone actually speaks that way–especially American teens who$ never graduated from high school. On top of that, the parents in the movie are these flighty, cloying New Age idiots played by cloying New Age actors. You know, the kind of parents who want to be their kids’ best friends.

Also, the movie mocks cancer victims who believe in Christianity and Jesus as morons. And speaking of mocking religions. . . um, making out in Anne Frank’s Amsterdam attic and getting applauded for that (as the main characters in this movie do)? Sorry, but as a Jew and the descendant of Holocaust survivors (and those who perished), I find that disgusting and offensive. John Green, the author of the book and a man who makes his living shilling a weird brand of touchy-feely faux-nerdism to teen suckers across America, apparently has no prob belittling the Holocaust. Or he merely watched too many episodes of “Seinfeld” and just plagiarized the episode in which characters are shamed for making out during “Schindler’s List.” Today, this stuff gets applause. Poor Justin Bieber. Instead of writing that Anne Frank would have been a “Belieber” in the guest book, he should have made out with one of his fans in the attic, and he’d likely get applause, too.

By the way, in the book, in addition to the Anne Frank attic make-out scene, there is also the debate by a one-legged teen about whether or not he should keep his prosthetic on or take it off while having sex.

The story is narrated by and stars the highly overrated “it girl” actress Shailene Woodley, who brags in real life about eating clay and making her own toothpaste. Yeah, she’s one of those hippie-wannabe faux-earthy chicks who also wears $10,000 dresses made of high-tech materials, while she pretends to be the new Mother Earth. Woodley is Hazel, an 18-year-old who has had cancer since she was a kid. She has good prospects for living a long life, but her lungs are scarred, weak, and frequently fill with fluid, and she must walk around with an oxygen tank. At a cancer support group for teens, she meets Augustus/”Gus” (every time his name was mentioned, I thought of Augustus Gloop, the dull spoiled kid in the Willy Wonka book and movie), a teen (played by Ansel Elgort) who had cancer but is supposedly now cured and lost his leg to the disease. They soon fall in love and deal with each others’ flaring of their illnesses and constant health crises and scares. They also read a book and try to communicate with the author who invites them to Amsterdam, where he lives. And so on. The movie felt like it was finally going to end about a zillion times and then kept going. Yaaawwwnn.

The only good message in this movie–and it is highly muted–is that it’s a bad ambition to seek fame as your life’s goal (though that seems to be the mission of this movie’s author and stars).

The movie is designed to make stupid, weak people cry over New Age BS and carefully manipulated emotions. Not for me. And not for anyone with a decent emotional IQ. And that’s why it’s so predictable that this is gonna continue to be a hit. The easily massaged and baited bad taste of the American public is just that easy to exploit and maneuver.

TWO MARXES
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Words and Pictures“: This art house movie was enjoyable and smart. And it was mostly relaxing and entertaining. But I could have done without the melodrama and crying and alcoholic bad turns. I also could have done without a particular character, an obnoxious student, who really adds nothing to the movie, but just adds a slight annoyance.

Clive Owen is a poet and writer, who teaches at a private New England prep school. He was once a hot published writer and star of the literary world, but, now, he’s just a cocky, washed-up alcoholic. Until an Italian-born famous artist (Juliette Binoche) comes to the school to teach. Stricken with rheumatoid arthritis, she can no longer paint like she once did, so she decides to teach. “Those who can’t do . . . .” At first, she and Owen argue, and ultimately, it turns into a battle in which they involve their students. The battle is about which is more important: words or pictures. But Owen’s dark side and some of the things he does to others to keep his teaching job get in the way of everything. While, without these plot points, the movie might fall apart, it troubles me that it’s yet another movie in which the male protagonist is a creep at least for most of the movie (as is another male character). But it’s still a good movie.

Entertaining and funny, other than some of the manipulative melodrama, though it is central to the plot.

TWO REAGANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Cold in July“: I had mixed feelings about this movie, which began well and ended in a jumbled, violent, bloody mess. Set in the 1980s, I liked the period clothes, cars, and sets of this thriller, too. It stars Michael C. Hall (of “Dexter” fame) as a Southern homeowner and family man whose home is broken into. He shoots the intruder dead and learns that the intruder is a habitual criminal whose father is also a criminal.

The father (Sam Shepard), newly released from prison, learns about his son’s killing, and vows revenge against Hall. Shepard repeatedly breaks into Hall’s home and terrorizes his family, vowing to kill them all. But, soon, Hall has doubts as to the true identity of the man he killed. And the movie takes a completely different turn. Don Johnson also co-stars as a private detective.

I wondered, as I watched this, how many fathers would want to kill their own children if they learn that their kids are engaged in some of the most depraved and outrageous behavior and activities. This movie asks that question, at first in an interesting way. But it soon becomes a violent, mish-mash that was far too depraved for me.

The first half of this was clever and effectively creepy every step of the way, the second half was just creepy and too violent and trashy, ruining it for me. On the other hand, there is stark good versus evil, and unlike in real life, even parents want to make sure their evil kids get theirs in this movie. But that wasn’t enough to redeem it for me.

HALF A MARX

Watch the trailer . . .

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32 Responses

Viz the whole business of Shailene Woodley “eating clay”: I wonder if clay has any cancer-causing agents (given the role she’s playing in this highly manipulative and barf-inducing The Fault In Our Stars). Just inquirin’.

I also saw in some places on the Web, pics of Ms. Woodley in her younger days, and in certain of her facial expressions (and I mean absolutely no offense, speaking solely from an observational / reference-point perspective), she almost resembled Debbie from the point where the latter met Ronald Reagan, in those photos that appeared in the recent article about whether or not he would have been elected President today.

ConcernedPatriot on June 6, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    This article discusses why not to. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/26/shailene-woodley-eat-clay_n_5030570.html

    Meira on June 7, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Fun fact about Ansel Elgort, the star of The Fault in Our Stars: his maternal grandmother, a Norwegian non-Jew, saved Jewish children in Norway during WWII, and was imprisoned by the Nazis in a concentration camp for this (Ansel’s father is of Russian Jewish heritage).

    Bee on June 9, 2014 at 6:56 pm

I read an article on Blightbart, I think, about Tom Cruise being unjustly vilified and his antics exaggerated and I had to agree. It also pointed out that we’ve never heard Cruise pontificating to us about how to vote or live and I realize that I’d been sucked into that anti-Cruise spin. I am going to pay to see this movie just because of that, if nothing else.

DS_ROCKS! on June 6, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    He’s a Scientologist. I’m a Psychiatrist. But if Debbie thinks it is good, I may go. Still despise him as an human being. Every time people are shot by deranged lunatics who could not be medicated, thank Tom Cruise, because he opposes psychiatric medication publicly and financially.

    If you want to see a great love story between two people dying of cancer, check out Griffin and Phoenix, with Peter Falk. Now, that’s a GREAT FILM, even if made for TV—actually, the best Made for TV film I ever saw (Jill Clayburgh was the girl).

    Occam's Tool on June 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I watched the first 10 minutes of Edge of Tomorrow and thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect so I ditched it.
Then I read Debbie’s review and watched the rest of it.
Usually agree with these reviews but the film is awful.
If it’s a tribute to D-Day then D-Day deserves better.
Cruises character is a full on sleaze who does recruitment ads for the military but refuses to have anything to do with “Operation Downfall/ D-Day”.
Cruise seditiously tries to bribe the top military commander so that he won’t have to be embedded with the grunts.
The General is having none of it sends Cruise’s character packing.
Big surprise Cruise ends up being the hero of the movie.

“Operation Downfall/ D-Day” is aptly named in the movie because it turns out to be as futile as Hitler’s last stand in the bunker. No coincidence I’m sure.
Military men in this movie do not have the “mental capacity” to deal with the alien menace, another big surprise. They’re a bunch of macho bozos.

If you’ve seen Starship troopers, Aliens, Groundhog Day, Aliens and The Matrix then you’ve seen everything in this movie done better in another film.
Verhoeven wouldn’t be too upset with this one.
As a roller coaster ride its alright but not much more.

It’s no Top Gun. As far as Cruises movie choices these days they’re about what you would expect from a Scientology coke head.
Cruise is no Jerry McGuire in real life but that’s why they call it acting.
This film is full on Bergdahl material if you read between the lines but really you can tell that within the first 10 minutes so why bother?

Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 8:55 am

Groundhog Day is a classic, but I’m always up for a sci-fi improvement. Stargate SG-1 had a groundhog-day episode that was better in some ways (for a fan) than Groundhog Day. I expect this should easily beat Starship Troopers.

Dmiller on June 7, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Yeah, well this isn’t it.
    Groundhog day was a great movie – this is sludge.

    In the end Cruise charms the gung ho bunch of military recruit suckers he’s saddled with to ditch D-Day and go AWOL with him on a solo mission to save the world.
    That is the culmination of Groundhog/Operation Downfall Day.

    Hollywood looks at the punters in pretty much in the same way as the they do the military.
    Crowd source their sewage if you want. I didn’t.

    Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Hitler smirked when they made this one.

    Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 11:50 am

I like Tom Cruise. His relentless upbeat optimism, good manners, zero bad behavior and respect for fans. I’m sure his ‘religion’ is his business. That said, I am looking forward to Edge of Tomorrow.

Jac on June 7, 2014 at 10:47 am

    No, it isn’t his business because like any good Scientologist he’s used his influence to hawk the Ron Hubbard pyramid scheme on shows like Oprah if I remember correctly.
    Yes Cruise is charming. That’s his job and he’s very professional at whether he’s selling pick up lines or anything else.

    Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 12:04 pm

The Trap Door Spiders had his number and that was some considerable time ago.

http://youtu.be/Oj-w09kpQcY

Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Rule Number 1: Understand who pulls the strings in the culture you live in.

Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 12:12 pm

The Fault In Our Stars is a 4 star movie. It teaches kids that kids with cancer have real thoughts and feeling and are real people. Even if the movie has to manipulate kids in a movie plot to do that so be it!

Lee on June 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Yeah, because I always thought people with cancer were aliens. You’re a moron.

    Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

People like you need this kind of movie to feel like you have a lesson to teach.

Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm

If that involves being manipulative then it’s for a good cause.

Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Good causes

Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm

some of the time get to be very convenient don’t they?

Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm

For a terrific and action-packed update on the “Groundhog Day” theme, check out “Source Code” (2011), starring Jake Gyllenhall.

Rocker on June 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

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Remona on June 7, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Frankz–I never doubted you were a moron!

You would be surprised how much young kids tease cancer survivors. They are portrayed as heroes in the media. But those who are your everyday under-the-radar cancer victims DO suffer and are misunderstood by peers.

Lee on June 7, 2014 at 7:01 pm

And you think this inspiring 4-star movie is going end teasing amongst little kids?
Lee, this is about you. Not kids who are too young to know better.

Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 8:13 pm

*going to end teasing*

Nothing can stop people being what they are Lee.
You can’t teach people to care about each other by imposing a new social dynamic.
People pick this up from the people that surround them or they don’t.
Painting over the cracks doesn’t really fix anything.

Frankz on June 7, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Anyway, just another Operation Downfall parody.

http://youtu.be/O12nyaVbk9U

Frankz on June 8, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Nothing will ever end teasing, but every bit of education helps.

Lee on June 8, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Lee, it hasn’t done much for you.

    skzion on June 8, 2014 at 11:01 pm

>>John Green, the author of the book and a man who makes his living shilling a weird brand of touchy-feely faux-nerdism to teen suckers across America, <<

John Green often does video shorts for the trivia site Mental Floss. For example, he'll mention 80 slang terms in 8 minutes. He'll take from a book–such as a slang dictionary that I've contributed to–give no credit for the work, and HE'S the genius.

Green is moderately amusing covering trivia in a light way, but I wouldn't waste my time with his novels or his movies.

Barry Popik on June 9, 2014 at 12:17 pm

The Michael C. Hall movies looks good – the rest looks like typical hollywood garbage. Plus I never go to the movies anymore anyway – wouldn’t want to give them any of my cash!

MRobs on June 9, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    The Michael C. Hall movie looks good only because Debbie Schlussel has wildly overrated it by giving it only a half a Marx — Unlike her, I had to pay to watch it. Rather than give it bad marks, I hereby expel it from school and sentence it directly to prison.

    nenamldu on June 9, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Cruise really threw me at the beginning. My first thought was, “this guy smiles too much.” That is, Cruise does that in general. Pretty damn annoying. That turns around pretty quickly though. I loved the ending too. I wonder if the critics hated the ending? I can see them calling it “formulaic” or “cliched.” Made me smile. Not that I do that a lot.

DM: Great minds think alike, as I loved the ending! DS

Daniel Middleman on June 25, 2014 at 6:39 pm

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