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‘Edge of Tomorrow’ plot reminiscent of ‘Groundhog Day’

June 18, 2014 | By G. Michael Dobbs

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in “Edge of Tomorrow.”
Reminder Publications submitted photo

A new big budgeted star vehicle and a down and dirty drive-in style horror film are featured in this week’s movie review column.

In theaters: Edge of Tomorrow
The irony of this new Tom Cruise science fiction film is that most people have heard about it in the context of the news that it was not the top-grossing film the weekend of its release. Rather a smaller drama, “The Fault in Our Stars” was the box office winner.

I’m not a Tom Cruise fan. He seems to make very safe and predictable choices for his films in recent years and all of them are fairly large-scale mainstream movies.

“The Edge of Tomorrow” is no exception. It is an engaging film thanks to a solid performance by Emily Blunt, Cruise’s co-star, and a plot device that many in the audience will recognize from the Bill Murray comedy “Groundhog Day.” The film is based on a 2004 novel by Japanese writer Hiroshi Sakurazaka – perhaps that writer is a “Groundhog Day” fan. 

Like Bill Murray’s character in the comedy, Cruise’s Maj. William Cage must relive one day hundreds of times in order to figure out a way to defeat alien invaders. Cage is a cowardly public relations man who gets thrust into a major invasion hoping to defeat the aliens. During the course of the battle he is killed, but not before he is able to dispatch one of the larger alien warriors who bleeds all over him.

What he discovers is when one of these larger aliens is killed, the alien intelligence guiding the invading force can reset time by one day so that death could possibly be avoided. Cage, now with alien blood in his system, is now part of this structure. When he is killed the day starts over. 

He is not only one to be in this position and a genuine war hero Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Blunt) recognizes what is going on. She begins training Cage to be a soldier and then methodically goes about trying to learn where the alien intelligence is in order to kill it and end the invasion.

Director Doug Liman knows how to handle complex stories as he directed a neat multi-story movie called “Go.” As the director of “The Bourne Identity,” he also knows how to stage action. He does a fine job here making sure the time travel element of the story works well.

Cruise does well as the coward forced to become a hero, as does Blunt who shows her wide range here. Remember she played a young Queen Victoria not so long ago and now she killing aliens with a huge sword!

One of my favorite performers, Bill Paxton, also has a fairly meaty role as the master sergeant intent on having Cage killed on the battlefield.

If you’re in the mood for a big budget science fiction action film, “Edge of Tomorrow” will fit the bill.

On DVD: Almost Human
Here’s a film destined for the Red Box. “Almost Human” is a throwback to drive-in horror movies of the 1970s and 1980s.

There are several filmmakers who have recaptured the feel of exploitation films of that era with varying degrees of success.

Writer and director Joe Begos has hit the nail on the heads with this fast-moving, gritty and ultimately fairly nasty piece of work.

To be clear, the film is not related to the recent science fiction television series, despite sharing the same title. 

This film doesn’t carry a rating, but consider it a hard R for violence. It’s not for everyone.

Set in the late 1980s in rural Maine, the film opens with an alien abduction of a young man named Mark (Josh Ethier) witnessed by his best friend Seth (Graham Skipper) and fiancée Jen (Vanessa Leigh). Two years later Seth is haunted by nightmares and Jen has moved on. Their lives are overturned when Mark reappears and is very different.

Begos builds tension and scares very well, leaving the most graphic sequences for the conclusion of the film. Some of the acting is a bit wooden and the dialogue is clichéd.

For a first time effort, though, the film has more positives than negatives in my opinion.

Hardcore horror fans will probably not be disappointed.

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