Who’s to blame for Hollywood’s lack of originality? Are the suits too eager to greenlight reboots and sequels? Are screenwriters so uninspired they can’t think past remaking their favourite 1980s TV shows? Do actors only consider characters based on video games?
Of course not.
The people responsible for the movie doldrums these days live in your mirrors and selfies. That’s right, if you go to the cinema and didn’t check out Birdman, Whiplash or Obvious Child but did go see Guardians of the Galaxy twenty-five times, you forced Hollywood’s hand, guaranteeing another ten years of the big screen exploits of comic book characters Rocket Racoon and company.
Guardians is a fun movie that people liked and Hollywood is in the business of giving moviegoers what they want, but the fear is that a constant stream of familiar feeling films could create a less discerning audience. If you are fed a steady diet of dog food eventually you’ll get used to the taste.
Birdman is an accessible and entertaining movie but with a total gross less than one weekend’s business for Guardians it’s unlikely to inspire a Birdman 2: No Plucking Way but bigger box office could inspire more adventurous films as an antidote to the slew of movies with numbers in their titles.
Big budget Hollywood doesn’t often take the path less trodden. People went to see Inception but I would argue that the reference point for that movie was the director Christopher Nolan, hot off the Batman streak and not the unique story. Less successful were originals like Edge of Tomorrow, despite the usually winning mix of great reviews and Tom Cruise and Transcendence, the computer hard drive horror that brought Johnny Depp’s box office average way down.
Despite those high profile failures this weekend Warner Brothers has gone off the map to show support for an original story from The Matrix directors, the Wachowskis. Jupiter Ascending is a space opera about genetically engineered warrior Caine (Channing Tatum) who helps human janitor Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) take her place as heir to the galaxy.
Big stars, name directors and a new story should appeal but already the knives are out. “Jupiter Ascending looks like a great movie,” wrote @RickIngraham on twitter, “to never see.”
Jupiter Ascending will rise or fall based on audience interest, but if it tanks it’ll be harder for other unusual stories to get made. There are already at least thirty sequels, reboots and spin-offs scheduled for 2015—everything from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Paul Blart: Mall Cop II—so unless you want another Daddy Day Care reboot in 2016 get out of your comfort zone and see something new and original today.
SYNOPSIS: If you’re like the Reel Guys you don’t see the long weekend as the last chance to head up to the cottage for a final blast of summer, but more of a three day sprint to catch up on all the movies you missed over the last three months while you were too busy jumping off docks, BBQing or basking in the wondrousness of warm weather. With this list the Reel Guys say sayōnara to the silly season and serve up one last refreshing sip of the summer’s best air-conditioner movies we took in while the rest of you were slathering on SPF 110.
Richard: Mark, the summer’s biggest hit, Guardians of the Galaxy, is a lot of fun and deserves all the attention it’s getting, but for me the two best sci fi films of the season were Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Snowpiercer. Apes is a smart movie about race, gun usage and xenophobia that doesn’t shy away from big ideas while Snowpiercer is an environmental thriller about a revolution on a train that is unapologetically weird. For me it’s the nerviest actioner to come along in a season crowded with movies that go crash, boom, bang. What grabbed you this summer?
Mark: Richard, I usually cringe at the beginning of the summer expecting nothing but comic book adaptations and sequels. But this summer those kinds of films turned out to be among the best. The three you mentioned were excellent, but I’d also like to add X-Men: Days of Future Past and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both of which were smart, exciting, and had time travel motifs. Heck, even the latest installment of Transformers was a major step forward: I didn’t run screaming for the exit. But here are two smaller films that I thoroughly enjoyed: Begin Again, about a burnt out music producer trying to reinvent himself in hipster New York, and Chef, the story of a burnt out gourmet cook who is fired and is forced to start over with his own broken down food truck. Hey, notice a theme here?
RC: Then there was the story of the burned out comic. Obvious Child came to theatres with a reputation. In its film festival run it got labeled “the abortion rom com.” While that shorthand description is technically accurate, it’s also reductive, ignoring the film’s well-crafted and hilarious coming-of-age story about accepting responsibility, to concentrate on the more sensational aspect of the story. I know you weren’t a fan, but I liked it and thought Jenny Slate was terrific in the lead role.
MB: Didn’t work for me, but I did like the James Brown biopic Get On Up. The movie lurches around trying to find its groove but Chadwick Bozeman deserves an Oscar nomination for his total immersion in the role. 22 Jump Street was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t care for 21, but this one had a sharper, funnier script and more evolved performances from Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. And I mostly liked Zach Braff’s unofficial sequel to Garden State, Wish I Was Here. The kickstarter funded indie had too much going on to succeed but there were some great sequences that a lot of critics seemed to miss.
RC: I started off talking about Guardians, which, deservedly so, has become the biggest hit of the summer. But another movie gave it a run for its money in the entertainment department, but not in the money department. Edge of Tomorrow may sound like the title of a soap opera, but it’s actually the name of a Tom Cruise alien invasion flick. In it Cruise battles nasty space bugs called Mimics but the story is more Groundhog Day than it is War of the Worlds. The first two reels are packed with energy and invention it’s only when the conventions that made the story enticing are put aside in the last reel that the movie becomes a standard Cruise action flick. But it’s still a good Cruise action flick and deserved a bigger audience.
MB: I know I’m going to like Boyhood. Haven’t seen it yet because I’ ve been too busy raising an actual boy.
“Edge of Tomorrow” may sound like the title of a soap opera, but it’s actually the name of a new and unusual Tom Cruise alien invasion flick. In it Cruise battles nasty space bugs called Mimics but the story is more “Groundhog Day” than it is “War of the Worlds.”
Set at the height of a worldwide battle between the human race and seemingly indestructible aliens called Mimics, Cruise plays William Cage, a marketing genius who lost his advertising firm when the world was thrown into chaos following the invasion. He now works for the army, selling war to the masses. He’s inspired millions of people to enlist by telling them the story of hero Rita (Emily Blunt), a legendary warrior with more Mimics notches on her belt than the rest of the army combined.
When he is pressed into active service on the eve of a massive offensive, he proves that while he may be an officer, he’s no gentleman. “I can’t stand the sight of blood,” he says trying to weasel out of the dangerous duty, “not so much as a paper cut.” His cowardly antics get him arrested and shipped to the front lines where, following a wild deployment scene that sees Cruise and Co plunged into Mimic territory, he is promptly killed.
That’s right. A Tom Cruise character in a Tom Cruise movie is killed in the first twenty minutes. But this is where things get interesting, and strange.
Instead of shuffling off this mortal coil, he actually wakes up and starts his journey all over again. Over and over he wakes to the unmelodious sound of a drill sergeant calling him “Maggot” but each time he has learned something more that helps him cope with the situation.
The only person who believes his strange story is Rita. Together they “reset the day” repeatedly and start anew with the info he’s learned. Eventually he’ll know enough to beat this unbeatable foe. Trouble is, he has to die every day…
Two thirds of “Edge of Tomorrow” is as Un-Cruiselike a movie as Tom has ever made. The “Groundhog Day” been-there, done-that section of the film is inventive, often played for laughs and presents Cruise in a way we’ve rarely ever seen him—as a coward. It’s a refreshing twist for him and gives him a chance to exercise his rarely used comedic chops. You know he’s going to turn heroic sooner or later, but it’s a blast to see him do something just outside his usual wheelhouse.
Just as important to the film is Blunt’s take on Rita. This is something different for her—she’s arguably best known for the comedy “The Devil Wears Prada”—and for action movies in general. Big budget blockbusters don’t usually make room for female characters unless they are sidekicks or girlfriends. Here Blunt avoids being objectified and is as strong, if not stronger than Cruise.
Director Doug Liman has figured out clever and entertaining ways to show the same thing over and over, keeping it exciting with interesting editing and changing perspectives. The first two reels are packed with energy and invention it’s only when the conventions that made the story enticing are put aside in the last reel that the movie becomes a standard Cruise action flick. A good Cruise action flick but still more standard than the promising first hour.
The tagline for Tom Cruise’s latest film is “Live. Die. Repeat.”
“How many times have we been here,” asks Rita (Emily Blunt). “For me, it’s been an eternity,” replies William (Cruise) as he relives the same day of an alien invasion over and over.
Edge of Tomorrow is a time-loop movie that can best be described as War of the Worlds meets Groundhog Day.
In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray says, “Every morning I wake up without a scratch on me, not a dent in the fender. I am an immortal.” His take on a drunk, suicide-prone weatherman who discovers the beauty of life by living the same day endlessly may be the granddaddy of all
Hollywood déjà vu stories, but many other movie characters have been caught in cinematic time circles.
The DVD cover for 2006’s Salvage asks the question, “What if every day you relived your own murder?” Originally called Gruesome for the festival circuit, the movie is as grim as Bill Murray’s film is life-affirming. Called a “digital video hell — spawn of Psycho, Eyes Without a Face and Groundhog Day,” by Variety, Salvage is the story of Claire (Lauren Currie Lewis), a convenience store worker who undergoes her murder over and over. Despite its extremely low budget — star Lewis doubled as the film’s make-up artist — Salvage was an official selection of the 2006 Sundance Festival.
The horror genre lends itself to time-bending tales. Camp Slaughter is a 2005 throwback to the slasher films of the 1980s. In this one, a group of modern teens stumble across Camp Hiawatha, a dangerous place where not-so-happy-campers are trapped in 1981 and forced to re-experience the night a maniacal murderer went on a killing spree. Labelled “Groundhog Day meets Friday the 13th (part 2,3,4,5,6,7,8… every one of them!),” by one critic, it’s gory good fun.
Not into gory? The Yuletide provides a less bloody backdrop for time-looping. The title Christmas Every Day is self-explanatory but 12 Dates of Christmas is better than the name suggests. Us Weekly called this Amy Smart romantic comedy about a woman stuck in an endless Christmas Eve, a sweet “nicely woven journey.”
Finally, the aptly named Repeaters is a Canadian film written by Arne Olsen, scribe of Power Rangers: The Movie. Repeaters is about a trio of recovering addicts who find themselves in “an impossible time labyrinth” after being electrocuted in a storm. Like most time-bending films, Repeaters is about learning from your mistakes. What sets it apart from some of the others are three unlikeable leads who use their situation to raise hell and break the law. It’s only when Kyle (Dustin Milligan) realizes they could be in big trouble if time suddenly unfreezes for them that familiar time-loop themes of redemption and self-reflection arise.