Short Takes: Edge of Tomorrow, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Only Lovers Left Alive & More

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Edge of Tomorrow- This Tom Cruise action vehicle, directed by Doug Liman, is an occasionally thrilling summer spectacle.  Cruise plays Cage, a military talking head who is thrust into a world of combat that he isn’t prepared for.  The movie utilizes Normandy invasion imagery to ground its sci-fi trappings.  Cage is a man doomed to repeat the same beach invasion every time he is killed in combat.  He and Rita (a terrific Emily Blunt) are tasked with stopping the aliens from massacring everyone on Earth, restarting their mission every time Cage dies.

Liman keeps Cage’s repeating day varied, but occasionally indulges in redundant beach combat sequences.  The movie doesn’t develop its romance subplot well enough to create a satisfying payoff at the end, but Cruise and Blunt are reliably strong screen presences so it still sort of works.  Grade: C

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REVIEW: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Paul Torday (novel)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is as interesting as a movie about fishing could possibly be, which is a back-handed compliment but also a true one.  It is the story of the wealthy Sheik Muhammad (Amr Waked) and his desire to bring salmon to his native part of Yemen.  This is absurd to the scientist Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), who is approached by the sheik’s consultant Harriet (Emily Blunt) as well as pressured by the British government, to make this vision come true.

There are many technical and ecological obstacles that stand in the way of the sheik’s plan, none of which are made very hazardous or interesting.  This is because the main point of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is not that there are two likeable people trying to overcome outrageous odds, but rather that they and the sheik must meet in the ideological and cultural middle to do so.  Alfred is obviously very logic based, though he’s stuck doing a task for a man who is relying heavily on faith and destiny.  Since that man has substantial funds, Harriet is happy to play the middlewoman between them.

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REVIEW: The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau
Directed by: George Nolfi
Written by: George Nolfi (screenplay), Philip K. Dick (short story)
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, Anthony Mackie

Let’s get it out of the way early: this is the first good studio release of 2011.  Right out of the movie purgatory that is January and February is The Adjustment Bureau, a science fiction movie grounded in the real world, playing by its own bogus rules.  It’s got the blood of The Matrix rushing through it as well as the eerie atmosphere of a Roman Polanski film.

Another thing this movie has are two excellent star turns from its lead actors, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as David and Elise.  As they flee God and his army of Mad Men-esque guardian angels (headed by none other than that show’s John Slattery), their blooming romance is totally palpable.  Their chemistry together is the movie’s biggest selling point and also one of it’s key strengths.

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