Edge of Tomorrow: Intermittently effective 

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It's a high-energy action film with just enough humor, but the title sounds like a soap opera. Though his performance is good, lead actor Tom Cruise isn't as super a superstar as he used to be. The story involves repeating the same scenes over and over with different results. It will be interesting to see how audiences respond to Edge of Tomorrow.

I had a better time than I expected. The movie is uneven and loses some of its snappiness midway through, but the sci-fi battle story eventually manages to create the feeling that the success of the mission is more important than the fate of the individual soldiers.

The premise: Earth is at war with aliens - giant imperialist Koosh Balls that move fast and are very well-organized. Some of them hide in the ground and wait to spring out and attack humans, then their fellow warriors swarm from all directions, snapping their jaws and flailing their filaments.

The reason the Koosh Balls, called Mimics by the humans, are so efficient is because some of them them can loop back in time, reenacting each battle until they figure out how to obliterate their opponents.

Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, a military PR man who gets sent to the front line when he pisses off a General (Brendan Gleeson, in a snarly mood). Knocked down in rank, Private Cage is mocked by his new commanding officer (Bill Paxton) and thrown into a Robocop-style body suit he doesn't know how to operate.

When the battle happens, he gets killed. But wait! Turns out he was hit by the blood of one of the special Mimics, which sends him into his own time loop. Every time he dies, he wakes up back on the base, affording him another chance to correct his mistakes. Yes, it's a Groundhog Day scenario mixed with a war movie.

Cage eventually hooks up with ace Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). It seems she was also splashed with magic Mimic blood and used her time loop ability to try to kill the Omega Mimic, which would wreck the invaders' hive mind. Alas, she lost her power when she got a blood transfusion, so teaming with Cage becomes the last hope of humanity.

Are you still with me? While the set-up is complicated, the movie is fairly easy to follow, as long as you don't try to sort out the time travel business. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) gets the ideas across, and does a pretty good job moving the action forward without letting the necessary repetition become tiresome or annoying.

Thank goodness, he mixes in liberal amounts of humor, often at the expense of Cruise's character. Cage is a weaselly coward and Liman works that for all it's worth. Watching his battle skills and character improve through countless time loop repetitions is fun to watch, though I squirmed a bit when Vrataski periodically opts to restart the time loop by shooting Cage in the head.

In the middle of the film, director Liman tries to speed up the process and I had trouble following the action, but the story falls back in place after a few minutes. For a war movie to work, you must make the viewer feel that something very big is at stake, which is a mean trick when your lead character keeps getting another chance whenever he gets killed. Liman finds a way towards the end, however, and for a few minutes, Edge of Tomorrow matters. That's as good as the movie gets, but for a Summer Blockbuster of the Week, it was enough for me.


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Maleficent ★★★ Angelina Jolie stars in Disney's up-close-and-personal look at the villain from Sleeping Beauty. Turns out there was more to the story. We learn that Maleficent lived happily in paradise until outsiders invaded her home turf. She becomes a fierce protector of the land, but a betrayal turns her heart to stone. Her wings get destroyed, but Maleficent still sports a stylish set of horns. Elle Fanning plays Princess Aurora and Sharlto Copley from "District 9" plays Aurora's royal pappy. The story isn't much, but Jolie's look and immense charisma easily carry the film.

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A Million Ways to Die in the West ★ 1/2 Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy and Ted, stars in a snarky R-rated comedy that desperately wants to be Blazing Saddles. Gross-out humor and fish-out-of-water gags abound. Some of them are funny, but not nearly enough. The film is sluggish, with far too many lingering shots of scenery or failed jokes. Charize Theron is good and Neil Patrick Harris does his best, but MacFarlane is mostly awful in the lead role. Bottom line: It's just a disappointing vanity project.


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What others are saying (8)

Portland Mercury A Fine Formula Tom Cruise's Edge of Tomorrow: It's Cruise-tacular! by Ned Lannamann 06/04/2014
Creative Loafing Charlotte A cutting Edge of Tomorrow Rating: ***1/2 by Matt Brunson 06/06/2014
Colorado Springs Independent Edge of Tomorrow excels with humor, suspense and poignancy Unlike movies actually based on video games, though, this one never feels like we're watching someone play a game we can never join. by MaryAnn Johanson 06/04/2014
5 more reviews...
Chicago Reader In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise does the time warp again (and again and again) Tom Cruise relives the same day over and over in the sci-fi blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow. by J.R. Jones 06/04/2014
Seven Days Edge of Tomorrow by Rick Kisonak 06/11/2014
Charleston City Paper Tom Cruise time travels to save the world in Edge of Tomorrow Watching Edge of Tomorrow is like playing a video game: You die, you start over. by Dan Hudak 06/04/2014
Inlander Groundhog War Tom Cruise lives the same day again and again in the stunning Edge of Tomorrow by Ed Symkus 06/04/2014

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