Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

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When you are playing most video games, you don’t have a huge fear of dying. That’s because you know that you’ll simply re-spawn at the beginning of the level to try it all over again. This is fundamentally the power that Tom Cruise’s character inherits in Edge of Tomorrow, a sci-fi thriller where Earth is being invaded by a menacing alien species. The thing is that while Cruise’s character is part of the military, he’s never really seen any combat until now.

Edge of Tomorrow borrows inspiration from all sorts of sources, from the “waking up in the same day” experience of Groundhog Day, the “fight the alien scum” rally of Independence Day and the human-enhancing mech warrior suits of countless video games. I feared that reliving the same day over and over again would get repetitive, but it is executed here with just the right amount of humor to go along with the explosive action.

Yes, you will need to suspend your disbelief and there are moments that’ll get you to scratch your head. At the end of the day (no pun intended), you will have had an enjoyable two-hour romp in the near future.

X-Men Days of Future Past (2014)

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Let me preface this by saying that I have always been a huge X-Men fan, particularly of the 90s animated series on Fox. When they decided to reboot the franchise with X-Men: First Class in 2011, I once again had high hopes. And now, we find ourselves in one of the most famed story arcs in the history of the X-Men universe.

The cast here is gigantic, as they’ve combined actors from both the original trilogy and the reboot. We get Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as Magneto and Professor X, but we also get Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. That being said, some of the “old” actors do little more than make cameos and some of the “new” characters barely get a speaking role at all. I would have liked to see the stories of Blink, Bishop and Warpath fleshed out a little more, but given the density of the plot, I can see how this had to be overlooked.

And the plot is decidedly dense. While there are moments of action, what will really pull you in here is the storytelling. It’s much more about the relationship between Magneto, Professor X and Mystique. It’s much more about society’s reaction to the mutant threat. It’s so much more about the human element, for better or for worse, than it is about the giant Sentinels. And through all this drama, we get moments of levity, particularly when it came to the escape sequence with Quicksilver.

If you are fan of the X-Men universe, you have no choice but to watch Days of Future Past… and pre-order your tickets for Age of Apocalypse too.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

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While I wouldn’t say that I was particularly ostracized during school, I was never really a part of the “cool kids” group either. For most of us high school was tough and it is with this sense of teenage awkwardness that we approach The Perks of Being a Wallflower. We have a bright freshman who doesn’t really fit in anywhere and then he somehow manages to befriend a group of weird seniors at his school who somehow get into the cool kid parties.

All the cliches come into play here. You can talk about the “coming of age” story or how one of the cool kids can’t come out of the closet. You can talk about the girl with that reputation who really just wants to experience real love for the first time. And then it all comes together in a strangely dark twist. Wallflower may not ever be held in the same regard as similar flicks like Reality Bites, but there is an underlying honesty and charm here that is worth exploring.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

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Earlier this week, I wrote about the (fictional?) motto of Life magazine, as expressed in this movie. Watching the trailers, I had assumed that Ben Stiller’s character would go on many big and bold adventures in his head. In truth, the daydreaming wasn’t nearly as expect as I had expected and the transition to his real trip to Scandinavia didn’t feel as profound as it could have been. Yes, he gets to longboard through some beautiful vistas and he gets to jump out of a helicopter, but this unexpected journey almost seemed too artificial.

What we should take home from Walter Mitty is the clear life lesson: be bold, be not afraid, and seize every opportunity you get to see the world with your own eyes.