Box-office update: Robots ride dinosaurs, some films do better than the buzz would suggest, and Noah leaves North American theatres (while enjoying its third week in Japan)

Life was too busy to post a box-office update last week, but that’s okay, I think, since not a lot was happening then.

The big story this week is that Transformers: Age of Extinction supposedly became the first film of the year to gross over $100 million in a single weekend (in North America, that is) — but that figure was quickly disputed by rival studios, who said the film actually came in just a tiny bit beneath that amount. Whatever. It was still pretty huge.

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Box-office update: Edge of Tomorrow “wins” or “loses” the week depending on how you look at it, and more

Depending on how you look at it, Edge of Tomorrow either “won” or “lost” at the box office this past weekend.

That’s right, you can actually argue that Edge of Tomorrow “won”. Most reports have focused on the fact that the $28.8 million that the film opened to in North America last weekend fell well behind the $48 million that the low-budget romance The Fault in Our Stars opened to, and it even fell a bit behind the $34.3 million that Maleficent earned in its second week. But Edge of Tomorrow actually won the weekend overseas and thus worldwide.

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Review: Edge of Tomorrow (dir. Doug Liman, 2014)

Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise as a soldier who gets caught in a time loop and finds himself living the same day over and over again. This gives much of the film a feeling of déjà vu, which is only fitting, since many elements in this film are reminiscent of other movies, from the battle scenes of Saving Private Ryan and Starship Troopers to the mechanical suits of Iron Man and Aliens and the endless time loops in Groundhog Day and Source Code. You might spend much of this new film thinking that you’ve seen it all before.

Indeed, Tom Cruise has been in the movie-star business for so long that his latest film feels at times like a callback to earlier Tom Cruise movies. Even the fact that it’s a bit of a pastiche seems like a replay of earlier pastiches, not least because Edge of Tomorrow is the second consecutive film of his — following last year’s Oblivion, which borrowed from many other films itself — in which the Earth is attacked by aliens and Cruise becomes the only man who can do anything about it.

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Some of the many sci-fi films that Oblivion borrows from.

It’s difficult to review a movie like Oblivion. The film is such a wide-ranging pastiche of existing science-fiction movies that you spend most of your time thinking not about what’s actually in the film, nor about what any of it might “mean”, but of all the other movies that this movie reminds you of.

So, here are the movies that came to my mind during or immediately after my first viewing of Oblivion. Maybe, if I see the film a second time, I will find all the inter-textual references less distracting and will be able to focus on the movie for its own sake. Oh, and be warned: there are lots and lots of spoilers below.

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Review: Valkyrie (dir. Bryan Singer, 2008)

These days, it is impossible to watch a Tom Cruise movie without thinking of what it might mean to the movie star himself. Two years ago, his Mission: Impossible character got married, around the time Cruise himself got hitched to Katie Holmes. Then, after his antics on Oprah’s show and elsewhere got him in trouble with the media and with the powers that be at Paramount, forcing him to look for work elsewhere, he played a hotshot politician who criticizes a reporter to her face in Lions for Lambs and a foul-mouthed studio mogul who has zero sympathy for the people that work for him in Tropic Thunder. Now comes Valkyrie, the second film to be made by United Artists since Cruise took the reins at that struggling studio, and over the past year, thanks to constantly shifting release dates and rumours of reshoots, the film has acquired the reputation of a “troubled” production. It is tempting, then, to read an element of autobiography into the film, as Cruise plays a wounded German officer who is already unpopular with the Nazi high command when he joins in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler — a plot that we know is doomed to fail.

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Review: Lions for Lambs (dir. Robert Redford, 2007)

Imagine that you are Tom Cruise, and that your career and reputation have begun to falter a wee bit, and so you decide to launch a new phase in your career by, say, taking charge of an entire studio. Imagine that the first film released under your leadership — a film that, not incidentally, features you as one of its stars — is about to come out. Now imagine that the only publicity you intend to do for this movie is a single, private, hour-long, one-on-one interview with a reporter who works for a TV network but brings no recording devices whatsoever with her, let alone anything resembling a camera crew. No photos, no televised interviews, no beaming face on television screens everywhere; instead, nothing but your words, as scribbled down in shorthand by a reporter who, incidentally, doesn’t like your movies very much.

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