#184: Oblivion

In his long career, Tom Cruise really hasn’t explored many genres. He’s done one fantasy film (Legend), one musical (Rock of Ages), and one horror (Interview with the Vampire). So when he does branch out into another genre it can be kind of jarring for the audience. “Oblivion” is Cruise’s third sci-fi film and could arguably be his best.  This time Cruise teams with Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski where he plays a robot drone repairman working on what was once Earth after the invasion of the aliens known as the Scavengers. This film proves once more why Cruise is a movie star. His charisma, engaging performance and reactions help bring this world to life. Co-stars Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough also give outstanding performances. The movie is a little dull in some sections but the design and reveals make this a journey worth taking. (4 out of 5)

#185: The Last Stand

It has been a decade since Arnold Schwarzenegger headlined a film. His last was 2003’s Terminator 3. The action genre has changed alot since Arnie flexed his biceps, shot a bad guy and uttered a one-liner. They have become more intense, grimier, full of CG stunts and more videogame like. “The Last Stand” finds Arnie playing a border town sheriff who has to deal with a federal fugitive trying to escape to Mexico.  Yes the grime is there, the stunts and explosions are everywhere but what is so glorious and fun about the film is it feels like a homecoming for not only Arnie but action fans. This is brainless popcorn fun at its best. (4 out of 5)

#186: Trance

Director Danny Boyle went from winning an Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire” to squeezing James Franco inside a rock crevice for “127 hours”. Boyle has spent his whole career taking risks. This is never more obvious then with his mind-twister “Trance” which features James McAvoy as an art house employee, who is kidnapped by art thief Vincent Cassel. He is then hypnotized by therapist Rosario Dawson into revealing where a priceless work of art is hidden. This movie debates heavily on what is real and what isn’t. The script could have used some work and the performances feel stale in some sections. For the first 35 minutes, you might doubt yourself that this is even a movie worth finishing. But if you don’t you will miss some really astonishingly clever reveals. (3.5 out of 5)

#187: The Impossible

Based on the true story, “The Impossible” tells the story of a tourist family in Thailand caught in the destruction and chaotic aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor play the parents and give some of the most astonishing performances of the year. Watts is almost unrecognizable in some scenes and it no wonder she was nominated for an Oscar. She is a force of nature in this survival film. Also not to be forgotten is the debut performance from young actor Tom Holland. What a great actor in the making there. The pure chaos and destruction is done with such power by director Juan Antonio Bayona that it reminded me of just how raw 1993’s “Alive” felt back then. This is a truly remarkable film and worth seeking out! (4.5 out of 5)

#188: GI JOE: Retaliation

The first GIJOE film left us with a cliffhanger as Cobra infiltrator Zartan invaded the White House assuming the identity of the President (Jonathan Pryce). Now a short time later, Zartan turns the military on the Joes and sends them on the run. Led by Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), the Joes have to find a way to break into the White House and stop Zartan. I found the sequel to be marginally better than the original but cartoonish all the same. The action and pacing of this film was superior even if the plot was weak. But what can you expect from a pure popcorn flick. (3 out of 5)

#189: Beautiful Creatures

Based on the young adult novel, a small town’s long hidden secret is put in jeopardy when young lovers Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lena (Alice Englert) fall in love. Against all odds, they have to figure out Lena’s true destiny and convince Lena’s rather magical and unstable family to accept their union. Beautiful Creatures starts off as a visual feast for the eyes and you have really good performances from Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons and Emmy Rossum. But the movie weighs thin and quickly. Alden’s humor and Alice’s tenderness can’t save just how unstable the film is. At one minute it is magical and the next it feels like Roger Corman made it. This split-personality disorder within the film isn’t going to get any fans. (2.5 out of 5)

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