Oblivion Review (Kirk Haviland)

 

oblivion-movie-directed by Joseph KosinskiOblivion

Starring: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Zoe Bell, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman

Written by Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

New in theaters this week is the new Science Fiction action/thriller from the director of Tron: Legacy starring Tom Cruise, Oblivion. The first of many apocalyptic earth films to be unleashed in theaters this year, this summer’s After Earth and fall’s Snowpiercer still to come; Oblivion is a beautiful looking epic that despite a small cast is very grand in scale. The question is will the film be original enough to outshine its competition?

oblivion-movie-72077: Jack Harper (Cruise) serves as a security repairmen stationed on an evacuated Earth with his partner Victoria (Riseborough) who monitors his action from their own command center. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying alien threat who still scavenges what’s left of our planet, Jack’s mission is almost complete. In a matter of two weeks, he and Victoria will join the remaining survivors on a lunar colony far from the war-torn world he has long called home. Jack’s soaring existence is brought crashing down though after he rescues a beautiful stranger named Julia (Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft. Drawn to Jack through a connection that transcends logic, Julia’s arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he thought he knew.

oblivion-movie-clip-julia-wakes-up-in-the-skytowerOblivion is the blended offspring of “Prometheus” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”, with copious amounts of “Independence Day” and “Moon” also in the mix. The film features all the gorgeous imagery of Ridley Scott’s epic from last year mixed with a literal interpretation of HAL from 2001 and a ‘mothership’ straight out of Independence Day. The first hour of the film, while establishing our breathtaking setting, does not feature a lot of action or plot as it is used for world and character building almost exclusively. The second hour marks the arrival of Julia and the film shifts dramatically to a more intense action piece. The film features more than one area where the story could have finished but continues past these on its way to the eventual ending,

oblivion moragnCruise is decent here in typical Cruise ‘good guy’ fashion, closely resembling his “Minority Report” John Anderton mixed with a bit of his “War of the Worlds” Ray Ferrier. Point is we’ve seen this performance from Cruise before and its good enough without pushing any boundaries. The real star of the film may be Riseborough and her performance as Victoria. Riseborough maintains a meticulous, calm and by the book outside veneer, but the audience cannot help but feel an underlying menace in her tone and actions. Kurylenko is decent, and other than the occasional appearance of Melissa Leo via a video com and Morgan Freeman appearing as a survivor, the rest of the cast is merely window dressing as most have next to no dialogue.

tom-cruise-oblivion-wallpapers-9The film has a lot of green screen CGI vistas mixed with some real locations to create some stunning visuals. The setting is captivating, with devastated cities and barren wastelands surrounding the planet to Jack`s own ‘garden of Eden’ type getaway, the camera gives the audience plenty of lush imagery to watch as the film proceeds. The effects and stunt work is also very well done as the ships and drones Jack work with and the home that Jack and Victoria live in feel very tangible. The setting and surroundings are by far the biggest reasons for audiences to experience the film in the grand scale that a movie theater provides.

oblivion-movie-stills-8-of-201Oblivion is a pure joy visually to watch, but the story is a smorgasbord of other films that have come before. Borrowing liberally from other material, Oblivion plays all of it straight up without any nods to the audience that they may have seen this material before, which may have helped play off the `déjà vu` nature of the viewing experience. Still the stunning visuals on display here make the film worthy of a recommend.

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New to Blu: The Color of Money Review (Dave Voigt)

The Color of Money (1986)

Starring Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Trailer

Just because it is new on Blu-Ray doesn’t necessarily mean it is a new movie.  Celebrating its 25th anniversary and now out on Blu-Ray courtesy of our friends at Touchstone Home Entertainment for the very first time is the classic Martin Scorsese film about the art of the hustle, where a film legend reprises one his iconic roles.  It’s time to learn The Color of Money.

Paul Newman revisiting his role from “The Hustler” as Fast Eddie Felson. In The Color of Money Eddie forms a profitable alliance with the flashy and talented young pool shark Vince (Cruise).  As Eddie takes Vince under his wing and shows him the ropes, Vince’s brash attitude and arrogance begin to cost Eddie more than a just a few matches and all that leads to an ultimate showdown where both men leave it all on the felt.

As a part of an underrated and often forgotten period in the 1980’s, Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money often gets overlooked in the grand scheme of things in his overall canon of films but it is a damn fine character drama that works from minute one.  Scorsese knows how to light and frame a grungy pool hall, possibly better than anyone and the screenplay by Richard Price adapted from the novel from Walter Tevis crackles with tension, wit, and intelligence.  As we track the journey of Fast Eddie back to the top and his ultimate journey of redemption, we connect to the character and we connect to the man, as every individual person on screen is made real and tangible, thanks to the crisp writing, stellar direction with phenomenal use of music that is common in most Scorsese films, along with strong performances from every major player involved.

In his only Academy Award winning performance, Paul Newman revisited Fast Eddie Felson and made him real, as a man content in his retirement from competition only to get lured out of it by a young prodigy that reminds him of his younger days, the character finally gets to complete his journey by learning how to truly win.  Newman takes us on all the highs and lows that the character goes on towards his redemption in a masterful performance.  Coming off the success of Top Gun, a young Tom Cruise was firmly installed as a leading man, and his performance as hot shot pool hustler Vincent Lauria was one of the first memorable performances in his career and Cruise in working with Scorsese showed the talent and the charm that has propelled him all of these years.  In one of her first leading roles, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was also nominated for an Oscar as the street savvy Carmen who was hitching herself to Vincent not only to use him but to save herself from a life she knew she didn’t want.  All three performances made this an emotional powerhouse of a film as we were connected and invested in each of their fates as the story ultimately unfolded.

There are sadly no extras on this Blu-Ray release, but it was an excellent digital restoration that gives the film a new level of vibrancy as the sound is immaculate and every dingy dark colour in every pool hall has been restored to its true meaning and this is undoubtedly the closest we will get to seeing it like theatre audiences did.

Ultimately, The Color of Money isn’t a movie that will get mentioned in the same breath as some of the more attractive or more recent Scorsese classics, but it really should be because as you look over the course of his career as a storyteller, the decade of the 80’s is where Scorsese really hit his stride.

The Color of Money is now available on Blu-Ray at video stores all across Toronto as well as at all major retailers for purchase.

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Rock of Ages Review (Nadia Sandhu)

Rock of Ages (2012)

Starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Bryan Cranston, and Tom Cruise

Directed by Adam Shankman

Rock on Tommy!

I really wanted to like Rock of Ages – and that might be the problem.   Tom Cruise, 80s Rock, REO Speedwagon?  I was so there.  But that Julianne Hough person ruined the whole damn movie along with her accomplice – the playback chick who does Britney Spears’ auto-tuned singing.

Tom Cruise is the best thing about this film, with his Axel Rose homage and Michael Jackson style pet monkey.  Mary J. Blige gets props too.  But why oh why did Hough have to be inserted  into every single song?  And who thought this girl could carry a movie? Particularly when the far superior Malin Akerman was also cast?  I can’t help but wonder if Taylor Swift might not have been better suited to Hough’s lead role (no, really).

I know this is a musical, but what happened to the dialogue?  Where was it?!  We exist in a post-Glee world, but how can a musical go so terribly, soullessly wrong?  Music is universal people!  Where was the emotion?  Carry the audience away dammit.  Aside from that over-played, over-inflated Journey song, all the tracks were hacked off just when they got going.

And Russell Brand – I will never forgive you for raping my happy song.  NEVER.  My eyes are still bleeding mate.

So many questions.  So many negative emotions.  THE disappointment of the summer. Hands down.

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