This week’s new releases: Are You Here, Edge of Tomorrow, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Million-Dollar Arm, and Tracks.
ARE YOU HERE
Running Time: 112 mins.
OFRB Rating: 14A (coarse language, substance abuse)
Starring: Owen Wilson, Laura Ramsey, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler, and Joel Gretsch
Verdict: While Are You Here isn’t the goofy comedy you’d expect from the trio of Wilson, Galifianakis, and Poehler, that’s mostly a good thing. Ben (Galifianakis) is a stunted man-child who inherits his deceased father’s company instead of his business-minded sister (Poehler). (Ben’s best friend, played by Wilson, is along for the ride.) When it dares to head in unexpected directions, it’s remarkably good, but it frequently resorts to unoriginal, contrived scenarios in between the mature moments. (3 stars / 5)
EDGE OF TOMORROW
Running Time: 113 mins.
OFRB Rating: PG (violence, language)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, and Noah Taylor
Verdict: Watching someone play a level in a video game that they know backwards and forwards can be quite the impressive sight, and Edge of Tomorrow operates on the same basis. William Cage (Cruise) is sent into battle in an escalating war against a race of aliens referred to as “Mimics.” He’s dead within minutes, but gains their ability to reset time, allowing him to repeat the same day over and over until he’s able to defeat the Mimics – with the help of the super-soldier and war icon Vrataski (Blunt). The final stretch of Edge of Tomorrow loses a little of its spark, compared to the excellent rest of the movie, but to be fair, you can only play a level so many times before a bit of the thrill fades. (4 stars / 5)
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
Running Time: 116 mins.
OFRB Rating: 14A (coarse language, sexual content, crude content)
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, and Wes Studi
Verdict: Western comedies have a spotty track record. A Million Ways to Die in the West unleashes a barrage of shots at its tricky target; the ones that hit the mark are brilliant in their comedy, but the ones that miss fall painfully flat. Albert (MacFarlane) finds himself falling for the mysterious new woman in town (Charlize Theron), unaware she’s the wife of the notorious killer Clinch (Liam Neeson), who on his way to Albert’s town. MacFarlane has excellent comedic timing and knows it, giving himself dialogue that feels like an observational middle ground between Woody Allen and Jerry Seinfeld. The movie had the potential to be great, but is ultimately held back by how far it takes its jokes, how many jokes fail, and how poorly it judges when to just call things quits. (3 stars / 5)
Running Time: 124 mins.
OFRB Rating: PG (mature themes)
Starring: Jon Hamm, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal, Bill Paxton, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin, and Aasif Mandvi
Verdict: You haven’t seen Invincible, have you? Or Secretariat? Maybe Glory Road? The Greatest Game Ever Played? Miracle? The Rookie? Remember the Titans? Cool Runnings? If you haven’t seen a single one of Disney’s prior inspirational sports movies, then Million-Dollar Arm may actually seem new to you. Otherwise, this just comes off as one of Disneyfied repackaging of a true story that was far more interesting before it went through the studio’s cookie-cutter homogenisation process. Hamm is likable enough as a desperate sports agent looking for a winning idea, but he can’t shake the shadows of the much more interesting Jerry Maguire. (3 stars / 5)
Running Time: 112 mins.
OFRB Rating: PG (language, tobacco use)
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, and Roly Mintuma
Verdict: The true story of Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska), who walked the 2700 kilometres from one end of Australia to the other, in 1977. The whole movie rests on Wasikowska’s shoulders, who carries the movie with probably her strongest performance to date. For many scenes of the movie, she’s the only human on screen and holds your attention powerfully and often wordlessly. Adam Driver is also excellent, as a National Geographic photographer sent to photograph Davidson on her trek. The only real faults with Tracks come from an overlong screenplay and dry narratives patches that slow the whole film down. (3½ stars / 5)