Tom Cruise is the last man on Earth - or not - in this weekend’s big movie.
“Oblivion” is cleverly assembled from parts of other science-fiction movies -- references to “The Matrix,” “2001,” “Wall-E” and “Star Wars” abound -- as it tells of a post-apocalyptic Earth where two people, an officer in the field (Tom Cruise) and his partner in the control tower (Andrea Riseborough), maintain drones for a floating space station. Then the officer, Jack, discovers the truth about Earth’s destruction and the alien invaders responsible for it. Director Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy”) creates stunning visuals and serves up some exciting plot twists.
It’s a solid weekend at the art houses.
The pick of the week is “Upstream Color,” writer-director Shane Carruth’s trippy drama that mixes elements of science-fiction, romance and experimental filmmaking. It tells of two people (played by Carruth and Amy Seimetz) rebuilding their lives and finding each other after encounters with a strange wormlike organism. The movie plays with our perceptions about fate and free will, in a dreamy scenario that must be seen to be believed.
Sally Potter’s drama “Ginger & Rosa” is a wrenching drama of teen girls (Elle Fanning and Alice Englert) at a life-changing moment in London 1962. The girls discover truths about life and romance, just as they fear the world’s end as the Cuban missile crisis breaks. Potter gets to the heart of teen angst, draws a heartbreaking performance from Fanning, and draws an intriguing supporting cast that includes Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt and Annette Bening.
“Starbuck” is a gently funny farce from Quebec, starring Patrick Huard as a lovable loser who must mature in a hurry when he learns that his long-ago sperm donations have resulted in more than 500 now-adult children. Huard is charming, and director/co-writer Ken Scott (who’s busy making an American remake with Vince Vaughn) plays the scenario for good humor.
Not so good is “The Sapphires,” a scattershot comedy-drama with a heavy-handed message. It tells the “inspired by true events” story of Aboriginal girls, facing racism in 1968 Australia as they form a singing group that goes on tour performing at U.S. military bases in Vietnam. The anti-racism message is delivered with no subtlety, and Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”) overplays his charm as the group’s drunken manager.
Two movies are opening in a few theaters, and weren’t screened for critics: “The Lords of Salem,” a horror movie directed by Rob Zombie; and “Camp,” an inspirational drama about an abused kid and a summer-camp counselor.