Edge Of Tomorrow. Groundhog D-Day.

edge of tomrLet’s address the elephant in the room. Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise.  Whatever your personal view, Tom’s not been public flavour of the month for some time. Rather ingeniously, Edge of Tomorrow capitalises on this.

The world is at war with Mimics – alien spider-like creatures fond of killing people. No idea why they are called Mimics, we didn’t spot them doing Tommy Cooper impressions (with all those legs they could have done a great cup & ball trick).  Tom plays US Army Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cage. Except Cage doesn’t do combat. He’s just a slick, oily, dirty-dealing media frontman who exists to spin TV sound bites. Read – we’re not meant to like him.

But Cage soon gets his comeuppance when he is ordered to the battle frontline. Scorned by his fellow soldiers, battle virgin Cage enters the brutal warzone terrified and unprepared, lasting all of 20 minutes before meeting his maker at the hands of a Mimic. But then he wakes up. And finds himself back at the beginning of the same day, before he entered the warzone.

Yes kids, it’s Groundhog Day.  Destined to live the same day out repeatedly until he is eventually killed, Cage must learn from his mistakes to survive longer each time. Eventually, he lasts long enough to meet star soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt – scary) a Lara Croft-a-like who believes Cage’s time-warping talent is the key to winning the war.

There are lots of good things here- aliens!  Cruise being obnoxious! He’s great at vile, we wish he’d do it more often. Annoyingly, he got nicer as it progressed. Boo. We were also blown away by some of the effects; the war scenes were so terrifyingly realistic we wanted a flak jacket.  Our main gripe is it’s a touch too long. Take a short nap through some repeats of repeated scenes and wake up in time for the ending – just like that!

UK release 30 May. More Sci-Fi monsters? Try Godzilla.

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The Last Days On Mars

marsThe Sloth is a glutton for sci-fi. Give us shots of gloomy, steel spaceship corridors with doors that swoosh back & forth and we’re happy. Add some human crew, stir crazy from being cooped up with no Game Of Thrones or Pinot Grigio for several light years and hey presto – a volatile mix. So we had high hopes for The Last Days On Mars.

Ellis (Patrick Joseph Burns) is head of a space mission that has spent the last 6 months stationed on the surface of Mars. They’re on the cusp of returning home, something they are looking forward to with mixed feelings. Vincent (Liev Schrieber) is dreading the 6 month return journey – presumably the in-flight catering isn’t up to much. Kim (Olivia Harris) is angry about everything, but mostly about not finding any decent scientific data to take back. Until, after a spot of snooping, Kim discovers that sneaky colleague Charles (Elias Koteas) has secretly found evidence of life and has snuck outside on a surface walk to take some last minute samples.

But what goes around comes around. Charles’ little expedition runs into difficulties as he disappears into a steaming void. The alarm is raised, but Charles isn’t to be found. Until Lauren (Yusra Warsama), searching for him, succumbs to the same steamy fate. But then returns.  As a zombie.

Oh yes. Sci-fi and zombies in one fell swoop. How bed-wettingly good can that be? Actually, not quite as bed-wettingly good as its potential.  It is more than a touch derivative and doesn’t quite commit to either being raucous, outrageous fun or scare-the-pants-off-you 28 Days Later style horror. But the cast enter into the spirit with aplomb – the mutant zombies are impressively vicious and we particularly enjoyed Olivia Harris’s snarly Ripley-alike Kim. And frankly, anything featuring an airlock and tersely barked orders to “get him into the hydroponic dome” is OK with us.

UK release 11 April

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Gravity. In Space No One Can Hear You Scream.

gravityGravity is quite simply the most exhilarating and tense 90 minutes The Sloth has spent in a cinema since, oh, probably ever. One hour in saw us a strange shade of purple, having forgotten to take a breath for the last 10 minutes. It pains us to say any more than SEE IT but, being a blog and everything, I guess we have to.

Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) are on a space shuttle mission. Both spacewalking outside the ship, rookie first timer Ryan is a scientist mending broken equipment. Amiable space veteran Matt is captaining the mission and having fun buzzing around testing his new jet pack, reciting endless shaggy dog stories to Mission Control while Ryan works. All is calm and serene.

Naturally, the calm can’t last. Mission Control sends an urgent report of a Russian missile strike to destroy an old satellite. The destruction has not gone to plan and has sent deadly debris hurtling in orbit towards our crew, who have mere seconds to try to get inside and out of range.

This is the first film The Sloth has seen where 3D makes sense. Not just sense, but plays an integral part in its success. Technically brilliant, it places the viewer up there in space with them, experiencing the calm and serenity but also the intense fear, panic and helplessness when things go wrong. Normally, 3D is used to add tension and excitement where it wouldn’t otherwise exist. Here it simply captures a situation that is intrinsically tense.

But it isn’t just theatrics. What makes Gravity so good is a smart script that plays on your worst nightmarish fears, coupled with real, very human performances. Go see it on the biggest, flashest, most high tech 3D screen you have access to. Just remember to breathe occasionally.

UK theatrical release 8 November / UK DVD release 3 March

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