Blu Tuesday: Edge of Tomorrow, A Million Ways to Die in the West and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Edge of Tomorrow”

WHAT: When he’s ordered onto the front lines as part of a synchronized attack against alien invaders, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is killed in action… only to discover that he’s been infected with the aliens’ ability to control time. Stuck in an infinite loop where he must repeat the same day over and over again (with his death serving as the reset button), Cage teams up with a celebrated war hero (Emily Blunt) to track down the alien hive and end the war.

WHY: Though it shares a similar plot device as “Groundhog Day” and “Source Code,” Doug Liman’s “Edge of Tomorrow” is a truly original piece of science fiction that Hollywood should make more often. Clever, fun and surprisingly bold, it also happens to be ultimate Tom Cruise movie. Those who like the actor will enjoy watching him thrive in one of his best roles in years, while those who hate Cruise get to watch him die about 50 times over the course of the film. Emily Blunt is also in top form as the face of the war effort – a total badass who wields a helicopter blade as a sword and is nicknamed Full Metal Bitch – and Bill Paxton delivers a hilarious supporting turn as a scene-chewing Master Sergeant in charge of Cage’s military unit. In fact, the movie as a whole is much funnier than you might expect, using comedy to break up the monotonous nature of the story, and it works remarkably well thanks to a combination of smart writing, great actors and pitch-perfect editing by James Herbert. “Edge of Tomorrow” isn’t without its faults – the script has some logistical problems and the final act is pretty generic – but those are minor annoyances for a film that proves to be such a satisfying breath of fresh air.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a making-of documentary, dedicated featurettes on the exo-suits, alien creatures and filming the Operation Downfall sequence, as well as some deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“A Million Ways to Die in the West”

WHAT: When cowardly sheep farmer Albert (Seth MacFarlane) challenges his ex-girlfriend’s new beau (Neil Patrick Harris) to a duel in the hopes of winning her back, a beautiful stranger (Charlize Theron) agrees to help him become a better gunfighter, falling for the lovable loser in the process. But what Albert doesn’t realize is that the woman is married to a dangerous outlaw named Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), who rides into town upon hearing of his wife’s infidelity to kill the man that stole his woman.

WHY: There’s a reason why there aren’t many comedy Westerns, and even fewer that are any good, and that’s because the subgenre as a whole is very difficult to pull off. So you have to credit Seth MacFarlane for not only having the cojones to follow up “Ted” with such an offbeat film, but actually succeeding where so many others have failed. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is probably his most ambitious project to date, and although that may sound strange for a man who made a movie about a talking teddy bear, it’s nice to see a filmmaker with that kind of confidence. By setting the film in the 1800s, MacFarlane has effectively forced himself to eschew from his usual pop culture references in favor of more observational humor about the general horribleness and idiosyncrasies of the American frontier. Not every joke works, and the toilet humor is totally unnecessary, but there’s a lot of great material. The movie starts to drag in the latter half as it meanders towards its conclusion (there’s no reason this needed to be almost two hours long), and it would have benefited from some stronger supporting characters, but “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is a really solid comedy with more than enough laughs to offset its minor shortcomings.

EXTRAS: In addition to an audio commentary by director/co-writer/star Seth MacFarlane, co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild and actress Charlize Theron, there’s a short making-of featurette, an alternate opening and ending, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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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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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to June

june

The summer season is typically reserved for the year’s biggest films, and although May certainly delivered in that department, this month’s slate is in remarkably short supply of tentpole movies. There are a few surefire blockbusters on tap – like “22 Jump Street,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and the latest Transformers flick – but the rest of June is mostly comprised of smaller dramas that don’t fit the traditional summer mold. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a little strange for a time of year where studios tend to live by the mantra that bigger is better.

“EDGE OF TOMORROW”

Who: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson
What: A military officer is dropped into battle against an alien race, only to find that he’s caught in a time loop that allows him to replay the day over and over again.
When: June 6th
Why: It’s a shame that the studio felt the need to replace the film’s playfully offbeat original title (“All You Need Is Kill”) with something so safe and generic, because “Edge of Tomorrow” looks a lot more interesting than it sounds. The whole “Groundhog Day” concept isn’t exactly new, and it’s not even the first time that it’s been used in a sci-fi movie, but it does provide a unique angle to the clichéd alien invasion premise that should please genre fans. Plus, it features cool exoskeleton suits, a solid cast led by Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, and a director in Doug Liman who’s not only willing to take risks, but hungry to atone for the disappointment of his last sci-fi venture, “Jumper.”

“THE FAULT IN OUR STARS”

Who: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff and Willem Dafoe
What: Teenagers Hazel and Gus meet and fall in love at a cancer support group.
When: June 6th
Why: “The Fault in Our Stars” isn’t the kind of movie you’d normally expect to see released during the summer, so you really have to applaud 20th Century Fox for placing so much confidence in the teen drama. It’s also not the kind of movie that would normally interest me, but between the casting of Shailene Woodley and the almost unanimous admiration for the John Green novel on which it’s based, there’s a certain air to the project that suggests it’ll be much better than the typical young adult book adaptation. If it’s anything like 2012’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” – and judging by the trailer, that’s a pretty fair comparison – then moviegoers are in for a real treat.

“22 JUMP STREET”

Who: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Peter Stormare and Dave Franco
What: After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.
When: June 13th
Why: “21 Jump Street” proved that it’s possible to make a good movie based on a hit TV show, but the sequel has a much more difficult task: doing it all over again, only this time, even bigger and better. Of course, if anyone is capable of handling that sort of pressure, then surely it’s the directing duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who seem to turn everything they touch into gold. Not only was “The LEGO Movie” a critical and commercial success, but “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is one of the funniest new comedies on TV, and it’s hard to imagine that “22 Jump Street” won’t continue that streak, especially with a pair of stars that have such great chemistry as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Chatting with Lara Pulver about ‘Fleming,’ ‘Da Vinci’s Demons,’ and more

Lara Pulver made her first TV appearance in 2009, but she’s quickly racked up a list of credits that’d impress just about any TV viewer, including roles on Robin Hood, True Blood, MI-5, Sherlock, Skins, and Da Vinci’s Demons. In addition to popping up briefly in the current run of Sherlock and returning to Da Vinci’s Demons for its upcoming sophomore season, Pulver can also be found in BBC America’s new limited-series event, Fleming, playing Ann Charteris, the woman who – 62-year-old spoiler alert! – eventually went on to be Mrs. Ian Fleming. Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to chat with Pulver at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, and we asked her about all of the aforementioned small-screen roles while also touching on her film work with Idris Elba, Michael Sheen, and Tom Cruise.

Fleming_1

Bullz-Eye: So how much did you know about Ian Fleming’s life before you signed on to this project?

Lara Pulver: As a Brit, I knew his novels, I knew he was behind the Bond franchise, but I knew nothing about the man.

BE: How surprised were you to learn about him?

LP: I found him fascinating. Like, from a psychoanalytic point of view. His relationship with his mom, the depressive arrogance, his ego when it came to women, his failure as a man when it came to finding an occupation, finding his niche in life… And yet he never really lived long enough to find out the true success of what we now celebrate as 50 years of Bond as a franchise. So I found it fascinating.

BE: Were you a Bond fan going in?

LP: It’s definitely in British arts and culture history. It’s on TV at Christmas. There’s always a Bond movie. And it’s quite fascinating how they’ve been able to reinvent to make it so current 50 years on.

BE: Were you familiar enough with the franchise to recognize the bits and pieces of it that turned up in his real life?

LP: Yeah, and it’s also so interesting, having done Fleming, to see a Bond movie now. That’s even more interesting.

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