June 7th, 2014



D-Day. The sixth of June.

Today was the 70th anniversary of the massive invasion of Europe on the beaches of Normandy by the Allied forces. As a movie guy, I note that there have been a few attempts to capture the carnage of those first few hours, while not always showing the relentless surge from the sea that finally overwhelmed the Germans. Saving Private Ryan comes close. As an armchair student of history, I note that most Americans focus on Ohmaha Beach, without knowing much about places called Juno and Gold. Of course, for too many Americans, I suspect other Allied countries rarely enter into their thoughts.

It seems to me sometimes that at least officially, the Europeans observe these things differently, with more reverence. Which seems reasonable since half of WW II happened over there. Or maybe it's us. It's 70 years past 1944. It's 150 years since 1864. I thought that we'd be seeing a lot more coverage of the Civil War over this five year period.

But we're talking WW II here.

-- The vets are getting old. There is expected to be a large drop off in participation in five years for the 75th anniversary. Some of the vets who have gone to many of these commemorations are saying their goodbyes.

-- I've seen at least one or maybe two stories of 93-year-old paratroopers making a jump in full kit, one more time. The one photo was pretty iconic, even with the lit cigarette hanging from the lips. I've seen such a cutback in smoking that 1944 seems a long way away. And the gear still seems more familiar than some of the current American ground forces. 70 years is a long way technologically speaking. And I am an observer, not a veteran.

-- Also this week, the last of the original Navajo codetalkers from the Pacific Theatre has died. When the last of the WW II veterans goes, will our memory continue to fade? Will we see a surge in WW II reenactments? I don't know.

Anyway. Some people noticed the anniversary. There were official recognitions over in France. It's June, summer is coming. And life goes on.

Dr. Phil

Action Groundhog Day (Now With More Explosions)

A beautiful drive to Holland at midday. About 81°F. On the way home, the clouds were rolling in and by the time we got home and later watched California Chrome lose the Belmont and the Triple Crown, it got quite overcast. It was 86°F in Holland and driving north on US-31 there was an ugly yellow brown stain -- a ribbon of smog from across Lake Michigan. Interesting -- usually I see those heading south and typically in the heats of July and August. Early June, when we haven't been in a heatwave, and on a weekend to boot, that's odd.

But it IS early June and that means Copper River salmon -- was $30/lb and now down to something like $22/lb. We indulge ourselves every year, though I missed it last year. They don't serve Copper River salmon in hospitals.

Edge of Tomorrow 2D [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre #5 1:40pm 2x$7.25

This is the fourth version of this story this summer for me. Original English translation of All You Need Is Kill. The new English graphic novel. The movie the trailer made you think you'd see. And now the movie. It's hard to make a film adaptation of a novel. You try to be faithful, like Divergent. You can not even read the book and do whatever the hell you want, Starship Troopers. Or you come up with your own take inspired by the original, as in The Wizard of Oz or Bladerunner.

Edge of Tomorrow is not All You Need Is Kill. But that's not to say that the story they created does massive damage to the novel. It's very different, but they didn't blow it.

We've seen about 20 Tom Cruise movies, most of which were big action movies. I wondered how he would do, being older and not being very Japanese. But they created a new beginning and it works within the context of the movie. In real life? A total waste of a fighting suit and really poor behavior on the part of command. But we can ignore it and go with the flow.

There's no secret that this is time loop movie, like Groundhog Day, but with aliens and augmented human fighting suits. They don't spend a lot of time explaining some things, but it isn't laziness, rather it gives the audience credit for paying attention.

The one really big nagging thing I felt in the movie was they didn't keep count of the number of loops. But they do give you a peek into the process of trying to pick a path through all the possibilities. The one huge thing I missed from the book was the second axe, the lady armourer and the action figures.

Really odd to see an invasion of France from England the day after the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Rather than setting this in Japan and with cultural references foreign to most Americans, they pick locations that seem familiar.

Emily Blunt, who was also in Looper, does an outstanding job as the Full Metal Bitch. You can see the gears turn each time Cruise introduces himself to her. She understands and knows what the hell she's doing, so picks up fast. Remember, she's not looping with memories like he is, so everyday she starts at zero. Except of course she isn't.

The aliens are suitably alien, though you can be forgiven for flashing on sentinels from The Matrix. And the plot actually has some complexity. Even when you make an allowance for the time looping, it's not a linear story you can guess completely what will happen more than a few minutes ahead.

And then things go terribly wrong. It could all be for naught. Except it isn't. This is a Tom Cruise movie, after all.

We saw this in 2D, first of the day. Modest crowd of 30. The first 3D show wasn't til 4:20pm and we had errands in Holland, so no IMAX 3D. Still, I'm not convinced that fast CGI action like this works well in 3D. The best scenes in Avatar were slow and scenic.

Overall, a fine start to the Big movies of summer. If the box office isn't awe inspiring, it's because it is up against two biggies: the new X-Men Days of Future Past and the wildly bestselling The Fault In Our Stars. Don't know yet if 2014 will be a strong or weak year, but I expect to see some steady business for Edge of Tomorrow, especially as word of mouth spreads.

HIGHLY Recommended

TRAILERS: A big summer movie should have big summer movie trailers. Guardians of the Galaxy continues to look good, furthering the total dominance of Marvel over DC comic book adaptations. If How to Train Your Dragon 2 is half as good as the first, it should do well, with both kids and adults. Hercules big splashy. He wears a lion skin. Head included. Also looks like filmed in Darkovision like 300. Had they not invented light in ancient Greece? In the Dark? Cop drama. New York City. We've seen this all before. It's based on a real story. Yup. About paranormal activity. Um... years ago I wrote a piece on Dr. Phil's Rule of Sequels. I've been thinking about a piece on Dr. Phil's Rule of Trailers. In it, I will point out that ANY trailer that features the actors talking about the movie and not acting? Stinker alert -- stay the hell away. Dawn of Planet of the Apes is like the third movie in this reboot? As near as I can tell, the sequels are getting better in this series, kind of unlike the original -- though I know people who would object and I've not seen the whole œuvre.

Dr. Phil