The White Bus

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1967

Woodfall Film Productions

Directed by Lindsey Anderson

Produced by Oscar Lewenstein

Screenplay by Lindsay Anderson and Shelagh Delany

Based on a story by Shelagh Delaney

If you asked me to explain why I decided out of the clear blue to record THE WHITE BUS and watch it, I couldn’t tell you why. I’d never heard of this movie before and it has no names I recognize as far as the actors or director goes. Anthony Hopkins does have an extremely small role in this movie but I didn’t know he was in it until I read his name in the end credits. I was just scrolling through the guide looking for something to watch and the description of this movie sounded interesting so I set the DVR to record it later on. In fact, I forgot I had recorded the movie and didn’t get around to watching it until two weeks later.

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I watched it once. Got to the end, went to get myself something to eat and then sat down to watch it again. Three days later I watched it for a third time. That’s not as much of a chore as you would think since it’s a short film that’s only 46 minutes long. The reason why I watched it those three times is because the more I watched it the more it reminded me of the films of David Lynch and of “Carnival of Souls” directed by Herk Harvey. Not that it’s a horror film. But there’s a bizarre otherworldly feel to the film. It’s dreamlike and downright surrealistic at times. Strange events take place that are never explained and strange behavior that the characters in the movie just seem to accept calmly as if this kind of oddness happens every day. And in the universe of THE WHITE BUS maybe it does.

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The Girl (Patricia Healy) works in a dull office in a dull office building typing dull reports. It’s so dull she fantasizes about hanging herself right at her desk. Leaving work one day, she hops on a train that takes her to another city. She spends some time wandering around the city and seeing such things as a kidnapping that takes place in broad daylight and a man in an iron lung being transported by an entourage of priests and nuns. The Girl boards a white double decker tour bus. The tour group on the bus is a diverse one. Made up of retirees and foreign tourists. The bus makes stops at a steel mill, a science museum, an art gallery and a school. During the tour The Girl barely speaks a word and simply reacts and listens to her companions on this tour such as The Mayor (Arthur Lowe) who seems to be competing with the official tour guide.  Upon visiting a martial arts school to watch a Kendo match, one middle aged gentleman simply joins in the match, using his cane as a Kendo sword. And the final fate of the tour group and The Girl made me think of Herk Harvey and in fact, THE WHITE BUS would make a nice companion piece to “Carnival of Souls” as I saw certain similarities.

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THE WHITE BUS isn’t a movie that I suggest you put on your Must See list. But if you happen to run across it, by all means check it out. I think you’ll find it highly intriguing and visually interesting if nothing else.

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46 minutes

Dawn of The Planet of The Apes

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2014

20th Century Fox

Directed by Matt Reeves

Produced by Peter Chernin Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Based on characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

Premise suggested by “Planet of The Apes” by Pierre Boulle

“Rise of The Planet of The Apes” was one of those movies that surprised me in a good way as I didn’t expect a reboot of the classic “Planet of The Apes” series to be quite that good. I appreciated how “Rise” had so much determination to be a true science fiction movie and not simply an action movie wearing a science fiction dress and makeup. And I think it succeeded. And now we have the sequel with continues and amplifies the story and it’s also a very successful movie on a lot of levels. Like “Rise” it doesn’t depend on the major battle at the end for the resolution of the issues raised by the story and the conflicts of the characters. In “Rise” the climactic battle happened simply because Caesar (Andy Serkis) wanted to take his army of formerly captive simians (now enhanced with ALZ which has greatly boosted their intelligence) out of San Francisco to live in the redwood forests north of that city. In this one, the climactic battle is the result of tragic misunderstandings and a stubborn refusal by some humans and some apes to even consider the concept of the two species living in peace.

Caesar and his colony of apes have lived and thrived in the ten years since they escaped captivity. They wonder if there’s any humans left as they haven’t seen any in two years. The pandemic known as the Simian Flu has pretty much decimated humanity. But there’s a community of genetically immune survivors still living in San Francisco who are getting a little desperate because they need a new power source.

Their only chance is to repair a power station at a dam smack dab in the middle of ape territory. After an initial misunderstanding, a human named Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is able to convince Caesar of the sincerity of their request and Caesar allows them to work at the power plant. This doesn’t fly at all with Caesar’s second-in-command Koba (Toby Kebbell) who points at the grisly scars crisscrossing his body and says that they are also human work. Koba still hasn’t forgotten the mistreatment he suffered at the hands of human scientists in the name of scientific experimentation. And on the human side there’s Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) the leader of the community who promptly arms his people and gives Malcolm three days to get the juice turned back on or Dreyfus will start turning up some juice of his own. Caesar and Malcolm walk a thorny road navigating their own diplomatic relationship and growing friendship as they try to keep the peace between their respective communities. What eventually happens is doomed to failure but I think that the ending tries to say that even in failure there can be nobility.

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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES caught me at just the right time because I hadn’t been to a movie theater in nearly a month due to my lack of interest in a lot of the summer offerings so far. So I was starved for a good story, solid performances and eye-popping special effects and that’s exactly what I got. Andy Serkis is truly a stand-out actor. As Caesar he gives us a magnificent protagonist who earns his victories and his right to rule because of the strength of his character and the choices he makes for his people and not because he’s “The Chosen One” or destined to do so. Caesar makes his own destiny and he does it without a lot of angst or manufactured drama.

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Jason Clarke, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Keri Russell (I can’t believe I sat through the whole movie thinking she was Jennifer Morrison) provide solid backup as three humans who more or less are mirror images of Caesar, his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) and his oldest son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) who has a really interesting character arc of his own where his loyalties are divided between the ideals of his father and those of Koba. Much like any teenager of any race or species, Blue Eyes longs for the approval of his father but also wants to be acknowledged as being his own ape. He discovers during the events of the movie that those two goals are a lot harder to achieve than he thought. You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned much about Gary Oldman. Well, that’s because he really doesn’t have much to do in this movie, believe it or not. That’s not to say he doesn’t make his presence known. I mean, he is Gary Oldman, after all. But this movie is all about the apes. His role amounts to little more than a cameo on steroids.

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Matt Reeves showed me that he was a director worth keeping an eye on with “Cloverfield” which is the only Found Footage Movie I’d ever recommend to anybody and “Let Me In” a remake just as good as the original. Here he demonstrates that he can do big action scenes really well and most other directors could take lessons from him. Matt Reeves films his action scenes in these really majestic wide shots where you can actually see what is going on. Most so called “action” directors absolutely refuse to point the camera in one direction and insist on whipping it wildly around to the point where I can’t tell what the hell is going on. Thankfully, Matt Reeves realizes that audiences are paying to see the action. There’s a magnificent shot of of a hoard of apes on horseback firing automatic weapons as they charge the human settlement that I’m positive is a homage to a similar scene in “Lawrence of Arabia”

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So should you see DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES? Absolutely. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen this year so far and is a sequel that doesn’t have to stand in the shadow of its predecessor. In much the same way Blue Eyes earns the respect of his father, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES earns it’s respect as its own movie. Enjoy.

131 minutes

Rated PG-13

1776

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1972

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Peter H. Hunt

Produced by Jack L. Warner

Written by Peter Stone

Based on the stage musical “1776” with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone

The members of the Continental Congress are thisclose to signing the Declaration of Independence but Edward Rutledge (John Cullum) the representative from South Carolina is adamant in wanting the slavery clause removed before he will sign it. John Adams (William Daniels) is just as adamant in that it stay in. Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva) begs his friend to give in just this once. Adams replies that posterity will never forgive them if they do. Franklin’s answer is one that I think says exactly why I love 1776 so much: “That’s probably true, but we won’t hear a thing, we’ll be long gone. Besides, what would posterity think we were? Demi-gods? We’re men, no more no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed.”

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1776 treats the Founding Fathers as just that: men. Oh yes, they’re men of staggering accomplishments, intelligence and talents. But still just men. John Adams is obnoxious and disliked, even by his closest friends. Benjamin Franklin hides a devious manipulative nature and a tsunami-sized ego behind jocularity and razor sharp humor. Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) would much rather be home knocking boots with his hot wife (Blythe Danner) than creating a new nation. John Hancock (David Ford) just wants to be somewhere other than Philadelphia in the stifling hot summer. Richard Henry Lee (Ron Holgate) is a raging narcissist with an ego equally the size of Franklin’s but he’s only got half the brains. Stephen Hopkins (Roy Poole) is a cantankerous old bastard who apparently has joined Congress mainly because of the free rum he is constantly being served by the long suffering clerk McNair (William Duell).

I think that by presenting such towering historical figures in such a down-to-earth manner is exactly the way to go with 1776 which tells the story of how The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776. John Adams of Massachusetts heads up one faction that favors independence from England. John Dickenson (Donald Madden) of Pennsylvania leads the faction that wants to reconcile with England. Through debate and song we watch as these two factions discuss and argue the fate of their fledgling nation and it’s a lot of fun to watch them as they do so.

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It was a solid creative decision on the part of producer Jack L. Warner to cast the movie with actors who had been in the Broadway stage performance of 1776 as they know this material inside and out and play it accordingly. Howard Da Silva and William Daniels are tied with the acting honors in this one. Most people think of William Daniels as either the voice of K.I.T.T. from “Knight Rider” or Mr. Feeney from “Boy Meets World.” I always think of him as Dr. Mark Craig from “St. Elsewhere” or as John Adams here. Yes, his John Adams is abrasive and lacking in diplomacy but his motives are honorable and that softens his edges. And I think it’s an excellent idea to have two songs back to back: “Sit Down, John” and “Till Then” that show Adams from two different perspectives. “Sit Down, John” is sung by Congress and displays their disgust with him while “Till Then” is a tender duet Adams sings with his wife Abagail (Virginia Vestoff) where we see his softer side. Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson is also a standout, particularly in the later scenes where Congress ruthlessly tears apart the precious Declaration he has poured his soul into with their petty debates over the wording. Howard says more with his silence and the expressions on his face than he could have with pages of dialog.

But a musical has to stand and fall on the music and 1776 stands tall in this respect. “Sit Down, John” is a rousing way to start the movie, full of vigor and humor. “But, Mr. Adams” is both clever and witty as Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Roger Sherman (Rex Robbins) and Robert Livingston (John Myhers) argue in song about who should actually sit down and write the Declaration. My favorite is “The Lees of Old Virginia” which for me is one of the greatest show stopping songs in musical history. In fact, my only complaint with 1776 is that“The Lees of Old Virginia” comes twenty minutes into the movie and there’s really no other song after that one which comes close. Especially as sung by Ron Holgate who tears it up with such magnificent energy you can’t help but smile and sing along. And toward the end, the songs get darker and more somber such as “Is Anybody There” where John Adams really lets loose and expresses his frustrations. And “Molasses To Rum” sung by Rutledge in which he lays out explicitly the hypocrisy enjoyed by the Northern states when it comes to the issue of slavery. If you’ve never heard John Cullem sing, you’re in for a treat when you watch 1776.

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And should you watch 1776? If you’re a lover of musicals, you probably already have. If you’ve never seen it, I envy you watching it for the first time. It’s an absolute joy to watch from beginning to end. The cast is first rate and the songs are wonderful. Every year for the past ten years I’ve made it a point to watch 1776 every 4th of July as Turner Classic Movies faithfully shows it on that day. The only reason I don’t watch it more often is because I’m holding out for the Blu-Ray. But don’t you wait. If you’ve never seen 1776, get hold of a DVD copy and enjoy.

PG

142 minutes

The General’s Daughter and Arlington Road

So I’m going through this big blue notebook that I have on my desk that’s stuffed with character profiles, fragments of stories, research on technology and locations for future stories, character names, scraps of ideas for stories I’ll most likely never live long enough to write.  Every so often I’ll make an attempt to try and clear away some of the dead wood.  It’s a continual exercise in futility because I rarely throw away anything I’ve written because sooner or later it gets recycled into other stories.  And that includes the first two movie reviews I ever wrote.

Back around 1997/1998 we didn’t have a computer.  Instead, Patricia and I shared a WebTV that was an Internet access device that worked through your TV.  You plugged it into your phone line and voila, you were able to surf the web, send and receive emails, all that good stuff.  It wasn’t a computer but it was a good way for novices like us to get our feet wet as far as The Internet was concerned.

And it was by means of WebTV that I created the first version of “Derrick Ferguson’s Notebook” which was a website that mostly consisted of comic book reviews, television shows reviews…and oh, yes…movie reviews as well.

So I thought it would be fun for me to present here the very first two movie reviews I wrote.  After all, they’re sitting around not doing anything and I’ve already told you how much I hate waste.  I was tempted to rewrite them but that wouldn’t be fair at all and not nearly as interesting.  The only thing I’ve cleaned up is the grammar and spelling so 95% of what you’re about to read is unchanged from the day I wrote them around sixteen or so years ago.  Enjoy.

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THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER

1999

Paramount Pictures

Directed by Simon West

Produced by Mace Neufeld

Screenplay by Christopher Bertolini and William Goldman

Based on the novel ‘The General’s Daughter’ by Nelson DeMille

THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER is a murder mystery set on an Army base.  Warrant Officer Paul Brenner (John Travolta) is an investigator in The Army’s Criminal Investigations Division.  He’s kinda like an Internal Affairs cop, only for the military.  When he’s on a case he can question Colonels, Generals, anybody he pleases and rank doesn’t matter.  And it’s a good thing for him since his latest case involves the horrifying brutal death of Captain Elizabeth Campbell (Leslie Stefanson) and Brenner’s quest to find her killer will bring him into contact with some very top brass.

Captain Campbell is the daughter of General Joseph Campbell (James Cromwell) and daughter dear was inconsiderate enough to get herself murdered just as The General is contemplating entering the political arena since he’s practically been promised the Vice-Presidency.

Brenner is assigned to the case by The General himself and told he has 36 hours to find her killer because after that it’s in the hands of The FBI.  The General’s loyal aide, Colonel George Fowler (Clarence Williams III) gives Brenner some advice on how to proceed with his case: “There’s three ways of doing things.  The right way, the wrong way and The Army way.  I trust you’ll know which way to go on this.”

Brenner acquires a partner, Warrant Officer Sara Sunhill and they begin the investigation into Elizabeth Campbell’s murder and the more they find out about her, they more they begin to suspect that the solution of the crime may be more frightening than the crime itself.

What exactly was Captain Elizabeth Campbell’s job in the Army’s Psychological Operations Division?  What kind of relationship did she have with her superior, Colonel Robert Moore (James Woods)?  What could have happened to Elizabeth in her last year at West Point that caused her psychiatric evaluation records to be sealed?

I liked THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER right from the start and it held my attention right up to the end.  There’s some good plot twists and I’m hoping that our military leaders aren’t as twisted in real life as the movie makes them out to be.

The cast has a good time with their roles, especially Travolta, Cromwell, Woods and Williams.  Travolta’s Brenner is a guy who’s shockingly good at his job and he obviously enjoys using his C.I.D clout to bring the big brass down a peg or two.  Travolta has a scene with Woods where they verbally joust, using their wits like rapiers in a psychological duel that’s just as suspenseful as a well-choreographed fistfight.  And James Cromwell does an excellent job as The General.  A good mystery well worth the time and rental fee.

116 minutes

Rated R

 

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ARLINGTON ROAD

Directed by Mark Pellington

Produced by Tom Gorai, Marc Samuelson and Peter Samuelson

Written by Ehren Kruger

First off I have to warn you about two things concerning ARLINGTON ROAD.  One: it’s a slow starting movie and you may spend the first forty minutes or so wondering when something’s gonna happen.  Do yourself a favor and keep watching.  Two: pay attention to what does happen because when you get to the shocking, jaw-dropping ending, everything that has come before clicks into place like a Rubik’s Cube and all the colors are there right where they’re supposed to be.

Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) lives and works in Washington, D.C. where he teaches a class on Domestic Terrorism at the local university.  He’s raising his nine-year-old son and dating Brooke Wolfe (Hope Davis) one of his graduate students.  Faraday’s still trying to get over the death of his wife, an FBI agent killed in action.  The FBI got hold of some bad information concerning an extremist group stockpiling weapons and Faraday’s wife paid for it with her life.

Through an action involving the son of his neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack) Faraday becomes friends with Oliver and soon they’re sitting in Oliver’s backyard, drinkin’ beer, and kickin’ the willy bobo about terrorism, bombs and how screwed up the government is.  Y’know, regular backyard talk.

Faraday’s FBI friend Whit Carver (Robert Gossett) is glad Faraday is coming out of his shell through his relationship with Brooke and The Langs and Faraday himself is liking the way his life is going a lot.  Until he notices those blueprints of downtown D.C. office buildings that Oliver has lying around.  It’s probably nothing but Faraday’s paranoid has been reawakened and he does some checking on Oliver’s background.  And he discovers that Oliver changed his name years ago because he tried to blow up a government building in Kansas when he was just 17.  Faraday starts thinking and while he doesn’t like what he’s thinking he can’t ignore the very real possibility that Oliver Lang may be planning a new act of domestic terrorism.

Is Lang really planning a terrorist bombing or is Faraday just being a really, really nosy neighbor?  It’s a lot like Warren Beatty 1974 conspiracy classic “The Parallax View” in which you’re never sure what’s true and what’s not.  At least not until the ending and ARLINGTON ROAD has some ending.

I really can’t go into any more detail because ARLINGTON ROAD depends so much on the mood of paranoia it generates and I don’t want to spoil it for anybody who decides they might want to rent it.  Jeff Bridges doesn’t play a superhero that grabs a machine gun in each hand and sets out to stop the terrorists single-handedly.  He makes mistakes.  He jumps to conclusions with nothing to go on.  He can’t get anyone to listen to him or believe him.  He’s confused and scared and panicked that he might have placed the lives of his son and the woman he loves in danger.  More than anything else, he’s afraid that more innocent people are going to die and he can’t do anything to stop it.  He’s a man whose terrible loss is a weakness that allows him to be twisted and manipulated in such a way that really took me by surprise.

I can’t let the great performances of Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack go without a comment.  Robbins is the perfect next-door neighbor.  Always helpful.  Always smiling.  Just think twice when he offers to take your kid camping.  And Joan Cusack manages to be both creepy and funny at the same time.  She’s like the ultimate Stepford Wife, smiling and baking cookies while sweetly planning murder and mayhem.  I was shocked out of my seat twice and both times it was because of Joan Cusack.

ARLINGTON ROAD.  Watch it.  Then watch your neighbors.

117 minutes

Rated R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Programme

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1973

Anglo-EMI Film Distributors Ltd./MGM-EMI Distributors Ltd./New World Pictures

Directed and Written by Robert Fuest

Produced by Sandy Liberson

Based on the novel by Michael Moorcock

I discovered Michael Moorcock during the late 1970’s. I was in High School and it was right about then that I got turned onto Sword and Sorcery thanks to John Aiken, a guy who I hung out with a lot back then as we went to the same high school and shared a love of comic books and fantastic fiction. Thanks to Marvel Comics “Conan The Barbarian” I discovered Robert E. Howard and it was John who handed me a copy of “Elric of Melnibone” and said that if I liked Howard then I would love this guy.

And John was right. I devoured Moorcock the same way I devoured Howard. And after I read all the Elric stuff I went on to read Corum and the Hawkmoon books, which I still think would beat the snot out of the “Lord of The Rings” movies if they were done right. In fact I loved everything Moorcock wrote until I hit the Jerry Cornelius books.

Jerry Cornelius is a character who appeared in a long series of novels and anthologies written by Moorcock from the 1960’s up until as recently as 2008. The first novel “The Final Programme” which is based on the movie we’re talking about now is for me the most accessible one. It’s also the most fun to read as for the first half it’s a modern retelling of a significant part of “Elric of Melnibone” with Jerry Cornelius as Elric, his brother Frank as Yrykoon and their sister Catherine as Cymoril. In the later novels I simply couldn’t get into what Moorcock was talking about as Jerry Cornelius became not a character but an avatar for Moorcock to explore his own opinions and thoughts on social issues. The Jerry Cornelius books became more about social satire and philosophy than anything else. Forget about the action adventure we were promised in the first book.

M8DFIPR EC002THE FINAL PROGRAMME follows the first half of the book pretty closely. Jerry Cornelius (Jon Finch) superspy, adventurer and Nobel Prize winning physicist is summoned to attend the funeral of his father. At the funeral Jerry is approached by a consortium of scientists led by the enigmatic Miss Brunner (Jenny Runacre) who need a microfilm Jerry’s father had. The microfilm has the secret of “The Final Programme” a genetic code that will create a new being, a messiah that will lead mankind out of the end of the world that is soon to come.

Jerry really isn’t interested in all that. He just wants to get his sister Catherine (Sarah Douglas) away from the sinister clutches of his insane brother Frank (Derrick O’Connor) Frank has Catherine captive in the Cornelius ancestral castle which is protected by all sorts of lethal booby traps that can only be navigated by a member of the Cornelius family. Turns out that Frank has the microfilm and that sets off a worldwide chase after Frank. Eventually Jerry gets hold of the microfilm and turns it over to Miss Brunner and her scientists. But then he finds he’s in even greater danger as Miss Brunner considers him prime genetic material for the creation of her new messiah.

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The main reason to watch THE FINAL PROGRAMME is the direction of Robert Fuest who not only worked on “The Avengers” but directed “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” as well as “And Soon The Darkness.” He throws in a lot of eye candy and wacky set pieces such as a vertical chessboard on a door. The only way to open the door is to move the pieces in the same manner as a famous chess game. If you don’t… There’s a scene in a club that is a giant pinball game where scantily clad girls and patrons are inside clear plastic balls.

final-programme-5Jon Finch is actually quite good as Jerry Cornelius and I wish he’d been given a better script to work with. He plays Jerry as a cynical superhero and it’s a lot of fun to see him run around with his needle gun in his black suit, gloves and frilly shirt nemesising evildoers when the script lets him do so. Jenny Runacre’s Miss Brunner is a character that shows a lot of promise in that she appears to be some sort of vampire that feeds upon the lifeforce of her lovers, male or female. But this is just another promising plot element that is left unexplained. Still, Miss Runacre commits herself to her character and that’s all I can ask from any actor.

Should you see THE FINAL PROGRAMME? Since it’s available to see on YouTube for free (and I’ve provided the link below) I would say Yes. Especially if you’re a fan of the work of Robert Fuest. The movie has some wonderful set designs and the energy of the actors can carry you past the dull parts as everybody in this one gives it their all. Mind you, it’s not a good movie and that ending is nothing less than than a slap in the face to the viewers who have committed their time to this movie. Still, it’s eccentric enough that I can recommend it to those of you who are Michael Moorcock fans like me who may be curious enough to check out what is the best known adaptation of his work to date. Enjoy.

Rated R

81 Minutes

Edge Of Tomorrow

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2014

Warner Brothers Pictures

Directed by Doug Limon

Produced by Erwin Stoff

Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth

Based on “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

After all these years Hollywood has finally managed to do it. They’ve made a video game movie that actually is entertaining to watch and is clever enough that most people who watch it won’t even realize they’re watching a video game movie. But make no mistake; that’s exactly what EDGE OF TOMORROW is. Whenever the hero dies, his life is reset back to a starting point and he has to start all over again. But each time he gets a little further as he gains more knowledge and experience. And there are different levels where he has to accomplish certain tasks before he can move onto the next level.

The story begins in the fifth year of a vicious war humanity is waging against an alien race called Mimics. All of Earth’s armies have combined into the United Defense Force and it’s the job of a slick public relations officer, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) to keep the propaganda machine well oiled. He’s assigned by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) to provide on the spot coverage from the front line during Operation Downfall, an all-out invasion of Europe, which is entirely under Mimic control. Cage is no combat soldier and foolishly tries to blackmail the General to get out of the assignment. Brigham promptly has Cage arrested, stripped of his rank and thrown to the tender mercy of Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton) and his squad of misfits.

Cage and the squad land on the beaches of Normandy and are quickly wiped out by the hordes of Mimics who have apparently been waiting for them. Cage doesn’t last five minutes but is covered in the blood of an Alpha Mimic and it’s this that “resets” him every time he dies. Every time Cage gets killed he immediately wakes up on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport on the morning of the day before Operation Downfall.

Now it doesn’t take Cage long to figure out what has happened and of course he can get no one to believe him. No one except Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) known as “The Angel of Verdun” due to her spectacular victory there where she slaughtered hundreds of Mimics by herself while wearing a Jacket.  Jackets are armored exoskeletons that effectively turn a soldier into a walking tank. It would do that for Cage if he could only figure out how to turn the damn thing on.

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Turns out that Rita once had the ability to “reset” as well and it was this ability that allowed her to kill so many Mimics at Verdun. Before she lost her ability she learned of The Omega Mimic which is the consciousness that controls all the other Mimics and can also reset time. Rita agrees to train Cage so that he can survive long enough to get them to The Omega Mimic and destroy it.

Once you get the gimmick behind the time loop, you can sit back and relax and just enjoy the mayhem. Cage gets progressively better at using his Jacket and since he remembers when and how he and Rita get killed in the previous life he’s able to use that knowledge to avoid getting killed the same way twice and get closer and closer to his goal. You’d think that a movie about a time loop would be repetitive but there’s some really funny moments thrown in to break up the grimness of the story. And I wonder if Rita isn’t a statement on video game players who have no patience with the game they’re playing when they can’t advance as when she gets frustrated she simply kills Cage to “reset” everything and start all over.

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The Mimics aren’t terribly clever enemies. Looking like great big whirling balls of tentacles they’re simply here to fulfill what every video game needs: something to shoot at. Don’t go in expecting a lot of characterization here either. We’re told exactly what we need to know about the characters, no more and no less. I did like how Tom Cruise wasn’t playing his usual gung ho Man Of Action who jumps into the fray with fearless abandon. Will Cage is a coward, straight up and he’s not in the least bit ashamed to admit it. He has to grow and develop into being a hero and Cruise sells it well.

It’s always fun to see Bill Paxton, no matter what and Emily Blunt does a more than capable job backing up Tom Cruise. So how does EDGE OF TOMORROW measure up against the other science fiction/action movies Tom Cruise has done? It’s light years ahead of “War of The Worlds” and “Oblivion” but doesn’t come close to touching “Minority Report” It’s an undemanding movie that does exactly what it’s designed to do: provide you with 113 minutes of spectacular action. It’s also a lot smarter than I expected and a lot more fun as well. It’s the best video game you’re going to see at the movies this summer. Enjoy.

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113 minutes

PG-13