American Made #review

Tom Cruise movies will continue to peak my interest until he has a string of bad films in a row. Now, you put Cruise in a movie that is based on a true story about a drug and gun runner who worked for the US Government AND Cartels and you definitely have my attention. So, was “American Made” a captivating look at real life events during the 1970’s and 80’s or did this film fail to deliver? Let’s dive in and take a look in this review.

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I wasn’t familiar with the real life story behind the film. In fact, I had no idea what I was getting into when I walked into the theater except that which I saw in the previews. So I went into the movie with a pretty open mind since I didn’t have any real expectation for this story. Even still, I found the overall movie bland. The moments that could have been stressful weren’t and the humor didn’t land as well as I believe the director wanted. The visual style was also confusing because the entire movie had a vintage filter on it to make it look like aged footage but then they used playback footage as well. So, we get the story, plus a look back at the back story, at the same time and both look aged but differently aged. I didn’t care for the visual style used to tell the story. It was obnoxious in my opinion.

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The characters were also bland. I’ll probably use that adjective a few more times in this review because that’s how this entire thing felt. Domhnall Gleeson plays a CIA operative and even his performance was mediocre, and again, bland. I can’t say that any particular performance was memorable. In fact, if this movie didn’t have Tom Cruise I’m not sure it would make the money it’s made so far. This is a very forgettable film and that’s unfortunate because of the talent involved.

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Overall, the message of the film felt like it was trying to tell the story of how Big Government is bad and uses the character Cruise plays to drive that point home. I didn’t care enough about his character to concern myself with the fact that the different government agencies involved in all the black ops dealings were still successful even though at the end of the film his character is shot in the head because of how the US Government betrays him. Gleeson’s character is promoted and we see how this whole movie was the beginning of what eventually became the “Iran Contra” scandal. So, we go through the whole film only to realize that the point (or message) of the story could be to not trust your government because you could end up dead? I’m not sure. I thought I was watching a movie based on a true story but then the very end felt like a passive aggressive public service announcement for how terrible and untrustworthy the government is. Plus, the end doesn’t make sense. Part of the film we’re watching playback video recordings of him talking about his dealings with the government agencies (CIA, DEA, FBI), so, why does it stop just because he gets shot in the head? He’s not watching his videos. Someone else is and the videos have already been recorded. The end scene of his made no sense to me. He’s already recorded his message about how America is great before he was shot. So the recording wouldn’t stop because he’s shot in the head, because he recorded it before he died. Odd.

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American Made” is in theaters now. You can skip this movie. It’s boring. It’s bland. It doesn’t really go anywhere that isn’t predictable and the characters are not memorable at all. I’m not even sure this is worth a Redbox viewing. If it pops up on your TV one Sunday afternoon and you’re too lazy to change the channel than ok, go ahead and watch it. Otherwise you can skip it because chances are you won’t remember much of it after it concludes. I will say this about the movie in closing, it’s better than Tom’s last film, “The Mummy.”

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Churchill – Review

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Independent films arrive in theaters with little advertising on occasion. This would be that occasion. I hadn’t watched a trailer, seen a movie poster or saw a review for this film leading up to my decision to see this in the theater. In fact, after I decided to see this film, I watched the trailer on my iPhone while walking to the car, to drive to the theater, to see this film. I enjoy history so a film about World War 2 intrigued me. So did this unknown indie film about World War 2 manage to win me over? Let’s dive in and take a look at “Churchill” in this review…

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I’m not sure this movie was entirely historically accurate. For an independent film it felt like there was Hollywood story telling mixed in. I mean, it felt like creative liberties were taken with the characters in a way not familiar to me in historical biopics. Curiously, for a story that takes place in the United Kingdom there were few english accents. This was vexing but it didn’t last long. Like a movie with subtitles, 5 minutes in I no longer really noticed and was enjoying the film.

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Overall, this movie explores the life of Winston Churchill leading up to D-Day. We see his thoughts, his feelings and his desire to ensure that minimal casualties are had. This is a story about conflict. It’s not a story about conflict simply because it’s World War 2. It’s a story about conflict for a man, a leader, a husband and friend to the King of the England. The story examines the mental, physical and emotional impact of being a leader and (more importantly) being a leader in a time of great war. Winston (played by Brian Cox) shows us that change is inevitable and it’s not always easy to accept. Cox performed his role well. This was crucial to this film, more so than normal. The majority of screen time he occupies and if he wasn’t believable the whole movie falls apart. I’m happy to report, the movie is fine.

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I didn’t find the overall story to be that compelling on screen. The actual real life story is far more compelling. The story is split between characters who felt three dimensional and two dimensional. It almost felt like the actors were instructed to act as simply as possible. Churchill, his wife, the King of England, his secretary Helen and Smuts were rich characters that gave us subtle nuance and emotions. The rest felt like they should be performing in a made for tv movie instead of an independent film.

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Overall, the movie isn’t great but the story we go on with Churchill is. I personally enjoyed the examination of a man who has been a fighter and leader his whole life and now in the autumn of his years, he is faced with the reality that he must adapt and change his leadership style. We take this journey the entire film. It’s not until the finale of the movie that we see his transformation and because of that I enjoyed his story. It’s complex. Here is a man who is hellbent on avoiding storming the beaches because of the number of soldiers who will die. This is enough to warrant his behavior but Cox delivers a performance that suggests much more. There’s layers to his stubbornness. He isn’t stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. It turns out he’s not so much stubborn but reluctant because of the guilt he carries with him from a similar strike he ordered that resulted in mass casualty. He doesn’t want to relive that loss and be responsible for the deaths of young soldiers and because of that, he is conflicted. He is layered and complex. It was brilliant. By the end of the film I didn’t see his character as a stubborn old man who refused to work with the allies in defeating the Nazis. I saw him as a man at war with himself for never forgiving himself and carrying the weight of loss for so long on his shoulders.

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Churchill” is in theaters now. You can skip this movie in theaters. If you enjoy character study films this is worth the time on Redbox or VOD. If not, you probably won’t enjoy it much. It’s not a long film but it’s slow and methodical. I did enjoy the journey we go on with Churchill but the overall movie did little for me. Also, if you enjoy historical movies this does little to tickle your fancy. You don’t need to know much about World War 2 to appreciate this and you won’t learn much about the war either, in case you already don’t.

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Sully – Box Office Review

Clint Eastwood has made some great films in his career, both as an actor and director. In this particular case, we are taken on a journey through the life of a man who saved the lives of those on his plane while also endangering them? That’s right. This film looks at the story of flight 1549 and how a plane can be forced to land on the Hudson River, putting everyone at risk if a single miscalculation occurs. So let’s dive in and take a look at “Sully” in this box office review…

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This film doesn’t simply look at flight 1549 taking off and landing almost immediately after in the Hudson. This story is about a tenured pilots instinct, his abilities and his insight into safely, but curiously, landing in water instead of the nearest airport. The investigation, the personal stress, the friendships, the press coverage, the interviews, the late nights all play into this incredible look at a man who did what he knew best and overcame all the odds. By the end of the movie we realize that Sully was more prepared for the incident with the plane than he was the investigation that followed and all the media coverage. He’s taken out of his comfort zone but still maintains his cool in public and is determined to prove his actions were correct and the best option for the survival of his passengers.

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The dialogue in this film examines the human side of the event. We see real life consequences that would last beyond the survival of that landing. We see how one miscalculation could end Sully’s career and cost him everything he’s worked for, including his home. The stress it puts on his marriage, his friendship with his co-pilot and his reputation which could jeopardize his ability to start his own company are all part of this movie. Tom Hanks does a fantastic job, as we’d expect, playing the man who is a hero but made to feel like a failure, briefly.sully_clip_onthehudson

Sully” is in theaters now. If you enjoy biopics this is the film for you. It’s heavy in dialogue and personal consequence. If you like court dramas this might also be a film for you because it plays out similar to a court drama as the investigation and hearings are held to see if Sully did in fact do the right thing. If you are a Tom Hanks fan you’ll also like this movie. If you enjoy these types of films I’d recommend a Redbox viewing or VOD. It’s a good movie and worth watching, however, I’m not sure a full ticket price of $12+ is worth it. Maybe matinee it for $5 but definitely check it out at some point.

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