On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 7, 2014


There will come a day when Tom Cruise not only doesn't make action blockbusters like this, but when he won't be able to and when that day comes we will miss it. We won't miss these films strictly out of a sense of nostalgia, but because Cruise is the last of a dying breed; one of the only true movie stars left who, despite his image being tainted over the years, can demand the kind of budget and talent it takes to put together an original effort worth standing behind. He has displayed such influence throughout his career, spearheading projects like The Last Samurai that would have never been made on the scope they were without the involvement of Cruise. So, even though the artistic edges of his earlier work may have faded in the wake of his public life being more important than his acting ability he is still able to make movies he seems interested in, but that are more or less of a certain genre that has better odds of making a solid return than maybe a historical drama. With Edge of Tomorrow, Live Die RepeatAll You Need is Kill or whatever you want to call it (interestingly enough, I don't remember seeing a title card) Cruise has again stepped into the world of science fiction as he seems to enjoy these kinds of worlds and the different rules in each of them he can explore. What makes Cruise the still magnetic force and pure movie star that he always will be though is how he digs into the motivations of the character and makes what could easily be looked down on as silly or nonsensical into a valid threat, a valid journey, a valid plan. To a certain degree audiences expect films of the sci-fi genre to feel gimmicky or sound corny yet here that is made all the more real, all the more immediate by not only the surprisingly rational dialogue, but by the fervor in which Cruise delivers it. Yes, Cruise is chief among his co-workers as a man who can still open a film and get people interested simply by having his name over the title. Still, what struck me more as I watched a nearly 52 year-old Cruise ride a motorcycle on the outskirts of some ravished city that highly referenced any number of Cruise films was that one day we will long to simply go to the movies and have the ability to watch a Tom Cruise blockbuster. Unfortunately, those kinds of opportunities will not always be here and so we should appreciate these occurrences especially when they are as entertaining and and thrilling as Edge of Tomorrow. Full review here. B+

There is always a sense of trepidation when approaching a Seth MacFarlane comedy as I've never been a fan of Family Guy or any of his other animated outings. This is not necessarily because I don't like them, but because I've never really become interested enough to actually sit down and watch them. I realize this isn't MacFarlane's fault and that I might actually appreciate his brand of humor if given the chance. That is almost what happened after seeing Ted two years ago and being surprised by how much I actually enjoyed and laughed at the outrageously broad comedy. I say almost because I still never watched a single episode of any of his television series' or Star Wars parodies, but instead I looked forward to what he might do next in an effort to sustain the good will he received from Ted and bring to the big screen another one of his ridiculous premises only to have it hit with a certain, under-appreciated crowd. MacFarlane makes it clear throughout his latest feature in which he stars, directs and co-wrote titled A Million Ways to Die in the West that he is the underdog and always has been. He seems intent on making very clear not only that he is accustomed to playing this role in life, but that he truly embodies in Albert, his character here, the kind of person it takes to become the guy who'd rather talk things out intelligently than put up their dukes. In fact, he's learned from his no frills father that life isn't easy and so he resorts to ridiculing everything and everyone around him while ultimately feeling like he's never good enough. There is nothing wrong with this and as a general consensus I imagine audiences will agree with his tactics, but it is also made clear that Albert is better than you and he knows it, but he can't bring himself to say it to your face. It's a tough position to be in and an even tougher attitude to pull off when preaching to the crowds that will flock to see this in hopes of another original comedy. The thing about MacFarlane's comedy (and again I'm only speaking from the experience of having seen this and Ted) is that while he condescends and outsmarts his opponents the majority of the time he never makes us, the audience, feel as if we're in on the joke with him, but instead that we are as stupid as those he is talking down to. Full review here. C-

Walking into something like Million Dollar Arm you know exactly what you're going to get and so you are likely fine with that because you're choosing to walk into it in the first place. One may see the trailer for it and think it is worth giving a shot because the story seems interesting and heartfelt (plus it's based on a true one, take that as you will) and it was made by Disney, a prominent feature in all the advertising as well as the fact it comes from the producers of Miracle and Invincible. So, it is a safe bet there is nothing truly offensive but rather material that is inspiring and wouldn't hurt to take the children to if you feel like going to the movies, but not sitting through an animated flick or one of the several comic book movies out at the moment. It makes sense, but when it comes down to it that is all Million Dollar Arm ever really feels like, alternative programming. That being said there isn't anything necessarily wrong with the film given the way it has been chosen to be told or how it is executed except for the fact that it is about twenty minutes shorter than those other comic book movies crowding theaters right now yet still feels twice as long, especially in the second hour when we better know the formula of where the movie is going and instead of delving into the highlights and lowlights of those spaces in time, director Craig Gillespie (Fright Night, Lars and the Real Girl) seems forced to make things fit squarely into the archetypes of all the inspirational Disney sports drama that have come before it. Screenwriter Tom McCarthy (a truly talented writer and director) knows how to make a film interesting and fresh while keeping things quirky while at the same time dealing with as universal a topic as sports (please take a look at his 2011 film Win Win) but here it seems he is more a writer for hire that was brought in to get this real-life story down on paper that would appease the board at the Mouse House and create a nice, safe starring vehicle for an almost done with TV Jon Hamm. Again, no offense to be taken anywhere (they even find the time to acknowledge what could be considered slight racism) and there are actually several moments of nice realizations, intimate portraits and interesting facets about the world of baseball, but as a whole the final result leaves us not with a Remember the Titans-like feeling, but something closer to that of The Greatest Game Ever Played; remember that one? That's what I thought. Full review here. C

You can tell a lot about a persons intelligence level by what they laugh at. There is a lot of laughing to be had in Obvious Child that springs from the inherent comedic mentality of star Jenny Slate, but as the conclusion draws near and the agenda becomes more clear the laughing becomes less and less. I find this interesting because while the film wants to deal with the issue of abortion in a way that doesn't place judgement on its protagonist it also very much alludes to the fact she is still in an adolescent frame of mind. How are we to accept her decisions as well thought-out or mature if she herself doesn't want to be an adult yet? This could of course resort to questions about why she is casually throwing her vagina around as well, but we won't get into that here. That Slate and her writer/director Gillian Robespierre can't really approach the topics of motherhood or how far along the baby is when it is aborted show they are just as afraid to get into the thick of the fight as those right-wing faith-based films are to admit that all atheists aren't bad people. As a kind of epilogue to this review I *guess* I should comment on where I stand when it comes to the issue of abortion because that will undoubtedly influence the reaction you have to this film. I'd consider myself a fairly liberal guy. I don't have anything against same-sex marriage, as a Catholic I'm not even going to force the age old argument of why contraception is wrong down your throat, but when it comes to abortion I can't get behind the idea that it is okay and that is what Obvious Child wants you to believe, that it is okay. I understand that in some scenarios it might be the only option or even necessary which is to say in cases of rape, where the mothers health is at risk, or incest. Under the set of circumstances this film presents though they are striving so hard to come at things from the opposite perspective and to deliver a pro-choice message that not only do things get away from the appealing character interactions of the first half of the film, but diminish this huge decision in a person's life to a simplicity I wish weren't based in so much fact. Full review here. D-