Movie Review: “Edge of Tomorrow”

Starring
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor
Director
Doug Liman

There’s a pretty good chance that every review about “Edge of Tomorrow” will reference the 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day” at least once, and that’s because both films feature a very similar plot device, not unlike the one that was also employed in Duncan Jones’ underseen sci-fi thriller, “Source Code.” But while it may not be the first time that someone has thought of the loop-based time travel concept, “Edge of Tomorrow” is a truly original piece of science fiction that Hollywood should make more often. Clever, fun and surprisingly bold, the film also represents a return to form for director Doug Liman, who makes up for his last foray into the genre (the dull and disappointing “Jumper”) with the first great movie of the summer season.

Based on the Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” (a title that Liman should have fought tooth and nail to keep), the film takes place in a near future where Earth has been invaded by an alien race known as Mimics. With most of Europe already lost, the world’s leaders plan to launch a synchronized, all-or-nothing attack on the enemy in an attempt to gain the upper hand. But when Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) – a hotshot spin doctor for the U.S. Army – is ordered onto the front line in a bid to rally public support, he tries to blackmail the general (Brendan Gleeson) responsible and is arrested, stripped of his rank and deployed anyway. Cage has absolutely no combat training, and he dies within minutes of landing on the battlefield… only to wake up back at the base camp 24 hours earlier. Caught in an infinite loop where he must repeat the same day over and over again (with his death serving as the reset button), Cage discovers that he’s been infected with the Mimics’ ability to control time. Desperate for answers, he teams up with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) – a celebrated war hero who acquired the same powers before eventually losing them – to track down the alien hive and put an end to the war.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Rob Lowe Talks Up ‘Killing Kennedy’ (But Don’t Miss ‘JFK: The Final Hours,’ Either)

KillingKennedy

The National Geographic Channel has slowly but surely been making a presence for themselves in the field of TV movies, thanks – oddly enough – to having been provided with the opportunity to adapt a couple of Bill O’Reilly’s books. First came “Killing Lincoln,” starring Billy Campbell as ol’ Honest Abe, and, to keep things on a chronologically-accurate path, next up is “Killing Kennedy,” with Rob Lowe taking on the role of JFK.

NatGeo is going out of their way to make sure TV critics are well aware of this project, first of all by spotlighting it at the summer TCA tour and setting up interviews with various cast members, then by sending a few additional critics – including yours truly – to a press junket in Dallas, where we were fully immersed in the details of Kennedy’s final 48 hours. I mean, seriously, it was pretty amazing: we stayed in the same hotel where JFK and Jackie Kennedy spent their final night, met a few folks who were actually there that day, stood in the places where he gave some of his final speeches, and then went on a tour of various locations in the Dallas / Fort Worth area which were key to both JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald over the course of those last hours, including attending a screening of “Killing Kennedy” in the Texas Theater, where Oswald was apprehended, and then we had dinner on the seven floor of the former Texas School Book Depository, after which we went downstairs one floor to a museum dedicated to the assassination…as is only appropriate, since that’s where Oswald was stationed.

Having watched “Killing Kennedy,” I will say that, first and foremost, the reason to see the film is not necessarily Lowe and Ginnifer Goodwin as JFK and Jackie – although they both do quite well, with Goodwin in particular shining in the post-assassination scenes – but, rather, Will Rothhaar and Michelle Trachtenberg as Oswald and his wife, Marina. Rothhaar, who was with us throughout the tour of Dallas, is liable to get a serious career boost after the work he does in the film, and Trachtenberg will surprise many with her fluency in Russian…much as she surprised the producers of the film, who didn’t know she could speak the language until after they saw her audition. If you’ve got Kennedy fever, though, I recommend that you tune in early to watch “JFK: The Final Hours,” a documentary which, while perhaps a bit overlong, provides an amazing amount of detail about what Jack and Jackie did during their time in San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Dallas in the day or so before that fateful trip into Dealey Plaza. Plus, it’s narrated by Bill Paxton, who – you may or may not know – was actually in attendance for JFK’s speech outside the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth the morning he was assassinated.

Okay, enough of my yakking…not that it probably bothered those of you who were drawn here by the title of this piece, since I’m sure all you did was skip past all the opening paragraphs and go straight for the Rob Lowe interview, anyway. All things being equal, what I’d hoped to do was spend enough time with Rob Lowe to produce a Random Roles interview for the Onion AV Club, but we only had about 10 minutes together during the TCA tour, and we never managed to hop back on the phone in the intervening time, so that just never happened. As such, Bullz-Eye reaps the benefits of the “Killing Kennedy”material, while I continue to hoard the stuff he had to say about “Class,” “A New Kind of Family,” and “The Stand” until I am able to get on the phone with him. For now, though, I hope you enjoy his comments on playing the President of the United States.

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5 Questions with Sara Paxton of “The Innkeepers”

Sara Paxton is best known for roles in horror flicks like the 2009 remake of “Last House on the Left” and “Shark Night 3D,” as well as comedies such as the teen romance “Sydney White” with Amanda Bynes and “Aquamarine,” in which she starred as a mermaid. The critics have largely been kind, and the admitted fan of Goldie Hawn and distant cousin of star Bill Paxton, whom she has never met, has earned comparisons to Reese Witherspoon. Even so, it was her down to earth, low-key goofiness which drew the attention of writer-director Ti West for “The Innkeepers,” a surprisingly scary blend of classic ghost story horror and contemporary indie comedy. (It opens in select theaters nationwide this Friday after a month-plus run on VOD.)

It turns out that the 23-year-old Ms. Paxton was born to play the world’s cutest nerd/slacker-cum-asthmatic ghost hunter, and she does it extremely well. What attracted West was the very unglam, slightly geeky and goofy nature she exhibits in real life, which somehow seems to fit with the reality that she is, at 23, a highly experienced professional actress whose earliest gigs included contributing child voices to “SpongeBob SquarePants.” (She is also one of the child “singers” of the long-running Nickelodeon cartoon’s theme.)

And so we bring you five questions with every nerd’s dream girl: Sara Paxton.

1. There was apparently a bit of weirdness [probably not actually ghost related] happening around the set of “The Innkeepers” and the movie was somewhat inspired by creepy things that happened on Ti West’s prior film, “The House of the Devil.” What really scares you?

Sara Paxton: I’m a big baby. Ghosts scare me. If I go see a movie with killers who break into your house, that doesn’t scare me. In the moment, I am scared [because] of the suspense in the movie, but when I go home I don’t think about it. I’m not thinking, “That killer’s going to come in.” But after a ghost movie, I’m like [in a scary voice], “The ghosts are everywhere.” People think I’m ridiculous. I kinda am.

2. So you were perfectly cast for this movie! Now, you’ve done a few horror films. You’ve done some, like this and “Shark Night 3D,” that were more in the fun or even silly category. You’ve also done the kind of horror film where, if the audience isn’t actually traumatized when they walk out the door, they don’t feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth. Would something like “The Innkeepers” actually scare you more than “Last House on the Left”?

SP: Yeah, “The Innkeepers” scared me. I watched it at South by Southwest [SXSW] in the huge theater with everyone else. That was the first time I saw it because Ti wouldn’t let me see anything, which I’m fine with. Yeah, it scared me. It scared me because it’s unlike any scary movie that I’ve ever seen. Normally, when I see a scary movie, even though it does scare me because I’m a big pansy, I know when it’s coming. I’m ready. I wasn’t ready for this, so it really scared me. I wasn’t prepared [even though I was there when it was shot]. The way he puts it together afterwards makes it scary.

3. Both of your parents work in dentistry. [Paxton's mother is a dentist and her father manages the practice.] Can you talk about the importance of teeth in the performing arts?

SP: When I was a little kid, and I would do commercials and stuff, when I started losing my baby teeth, my mother would make me a little fake tooth. I wouldn’t get parts because of it, because casting directors would be mad. “We want real kids with [real teeth].” I never understood that. “I don’t wany to show my gap tooth.” Teeth are important, I guess you need good teeth, although sometimes they want the real deal — gritty characters with gnarly teeth.

4. You’ve said that Claire from “The Innkeepers” is probably the closest character you’ve ever played to yourself. Ti West describes you as “a charming goofball.” Is that easier or harder than playing somebody who’s very different from yourself?

SP: It’s easier. It is, because I don’t have to control it. You know what I think is the hardest thing? Playing sexy. Doing sexy roles and sex scenes — that terrifies me. Because I’m so nervous about it and so self-conscious about it that makes me not-sexy. Because I’m like [does an adorably bad quasi-Mae West impression], “This is me being sexy,” you know what I mean? I’m like “Oh, let’s do it!”…I have problems playing the [bad sexy English accent] “Come hither into my boudoir” kind of scenes. When I get those auditions, I panic.

5. You’ve been working fairly successfully as an actress since you were six. Do you ever fantasize about having a low-pressure, dead-end job like Claire in “The Innkeepers”?

SP: I wouldn’t say I fantasize about it, but some people think my job is a lot more glamorous than it is. I’m not like this big, famous movie star. Not that that’s what my goal is. At times you feel like, “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Should I do something else?” Obviously, I don’t because I love what I do, but it’s a hard industry to work in. It’s easy to get discouraged. You feel trampled on sometimes. When you’ve had three auditions, and you waited for them for an hour just to be treated like garbage or something, it gets too sad sometimes. But I think that it’s worth it if you love it, and I do. Just gotta keep pushing forward.

  

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