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Tom Cruise upstaged by visual effects in Oblivion. Plus: My Awkward Sexual Adventure, Japanese B-movies and Projecting Change

Tom Cruise makes a rare excursion into science fiction with Oblivion

Only one big movie arrives this week. That leaves time for a series of old B-movies from Japan, a look ahead to a festival about change and a rarity from Canada: a funny sex comedy.

Here’s the menu:

Oblivion:  3 stars

My Awkward Sexual Adventure: 3 ½

Japanese B-movies:  3, 2 and 2

Projecting Change:   --

 

OBLIVION:  Dazzling visuals make this film work seeing, not the people in it or the story, which sadly powers down and turns ponderous in the middle. That’s a problem because it leaves us challenged to remain alert for the big explanations at the end. There are many.

 

The director intends this as an homage to science fiction films of the 1970s. I see far more recent antecedents. Wall-E, for instance, in which a little robot did work much similar to Tom Cruise’s character, but with more personality. And Moon, the 2009 film in which Sam Rockwell was in much the same situation as Tom Cruise’s character. And what is that? Well, Tom plays a flyboy-soldier in the year 2077. Our Earth has been made unlivable in a war to fight off an alien invasion and his job is to clean up by searching out the few invaders still around. He works with (and dispassionately romances) his communications officer (Andrea Riseborough) while their orders come via video link from Sally at mission control (played tough by Melissa Leo).  That’s all very well, but we’re drawn more by the cool flying machines and technical gear and grand vistas of what look like volcanic desert all shot by Claudio Miranda who earlier this year won the cinematography Oscar for Life of Pi.

 

Tom encounters a band of rebels, humans who’ve managed to survive, under a wise leader (Morgan Freeman) and a hot-head second (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones). He also finds and brings home a woman (Olga Kurylenko) who he seems to recognize. Those two events trigger a complex series of revelations about who he is and what is really going on. Like, Rockwell in Moon, he comes to understand he’s been lied to and this concept of authorities lying is the one deeper theme the story has for me, while most of the rest is standard pop sci-fi. Director Joseph Kosinski  originally wrote it as a graphic novel.  His future includes a lot of looking backwards, to the last ever Super Bowl, a book of Victorian poetry and classic rock with Procul Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale. Nice moments but saying what? (Scotiabank, Dunbar, Dolphin and many suburban theatres) 3 out of 5     

MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE:  How’s this as a response to a wedding proposal? Instead of saying yes, she dumps him because he’s boring in bed. “I can’t spend the rest of my life having sex with just you,” she says.  He (Jonas Chernick, who also wrote and coproduced) is an accountant in Winnipeg and rebounds with a make-over on a visit to swinging Toronto. He meets, or to be more accurate, attaches himself one drunken evening to a stripper (Emily Hampshire) who agrees to be his teacher, or as she says it, “his sex Yoda.” In return, he helps her with her messy finances.

 

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