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Tom Cruise’s fiery comeback, Marion Cotillard’s travails as The Immigrant and a grueling desert trek in Tracks

Note also the tragic teen love affair of The Fault in our Stars

 

There’s a noisy but little-known battle going on in the movies this week. The giant Tom Cruise film, Edge of Tomorrow, which cost $175 million to produce and market, is getting a real challenge by a tiny rival. The Fault in Our Stars cost only $12 million to produce and did most of its promotion through social media, where it’s been a sensation. What a shocker if it managed to upstage Mr. Cruise. Some think it will.

Here’s the whole list for this week:

Edge of Tomorrow: 3 ½ stars

The Fault in Our Stars: 4

Chef:  4

The Immigrant:  3 ½ 

Tracks:  3

Palo Alto:  3

WolfCop:  2

EDGE OF TOMORROW: The title sounds like a TV soap opera but this is Tom Cruise’s latest attempt at a comeback and his chosen vehicle is again science fiction. (Like his last one, Oblivion, which flopped here; did alright internationally.) He’s a military officer who doesn’t want to fight. Public relations is his thing. He’s sent into battle anyway, a D-Day-like assault on Europe to oust an alien invasion, and promptly dies. Then he wakes and relives at all again … and again. Something about alien blood that spilled on him and has given him that power. He meets Emily Blunt as a fighter who used to have the same power and the two carry on the combat together. She helpfully kills him whenever it’s time to do another reset.

 

While it sounds like Groundhog Day (or imitators like Source Code, Repeaters, Cruel & Unusual) it’s got its own style. The replays are never the same. They start in different places, have small or significant differences and sometimes are just fragments. That allowed director Doug Liman to put in a big succession of them without making them repetitive. They’re vibrant and often funny. Each time one happens, the Cruise character learns a little more about how to fight the creatures. They look like giant insects and he has to get to the controlling centre called “omega” if he wants to defeat them. The film is smart and, with exciting action and lots of humor, fun to watch. Blunt is able to play tough, the first time I’ve seen that from her, and Cruise grows believably from coward to battler. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS: This is a wonderful film, a Love Story for this era, but far better. It’s a weepie, not a tearjerker. It never feels contrived; its sentiments come out of real situations and well-observed reactions. And real fears. Quite a trick to carry that off this well when you’re portraying two teenagers falling in love while they battle cancer. The film is absolutely true to the massively popular book. I haven’t read it but that’s what the author John Green said in a satellite Q&A after a screening Thursday night.

Michael Weber and Scott Neustadter, the current go-to guys for adapting young adult novels, turned it into a vibrant screenplay without sentimentality or melodrama and just the right emotional tone. I.e. relaxed rather than pounding. And Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort brought it to life with their expert performance as the young lovers who meet at a cancer support group. She’s the realist, always aware that although we all die, she’s going earlier. He’s terrified of “oblivion,” that no one will remember him. We get a warm feeling just watching them trade witty remarks, speak their thoughts on life and revive each other’s spirits.

As a counterpoint slash into that sweetness there’s a trip to Amsterdam. They have a disastrous meeting with an author whose work she loves (Willem Defoe) and then a reminder of other life horrors with a visit to the Anne Frank House. I was a bit uncomfortable that it was immediately after that their love really developed but then decided I couldn’t really pinpoint any real fault. That’s largely because the rest of the film around it is tender, affectionate and sympathetic. Hardnosed, though. As he says at one point “Apparently the world is not a wish-granting factory.” (International Village and many suburban theatres) 4 out of 5

CHEF:  Feel-good movies have a bad reputation. This one is different because it’s terrific. It tells a satisfying story and at the same time motivates. “I’m good at this and I love it,” says John Favreau as the lead character who has bumped himself down from a job as a chef in a chic Los Angeles restaurant to building Cubano sandwiches in a food truck. Doing things right is more important than status, he tells his son.

 

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