Month: September 2017

Review: Energized ‘American Made’ glides on Cruise control

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Tom Cruise plays the drug smuggling pilot Barry Seal in “American Made.” (Universal Pictures)

It’s good to see Tom Cruise acting again!

Not to put down Cruise’s work as a supremely entertaining action hero, but Ethan Hunt’s character arc wrapped up with Mission: Impossible III. Cruise has been playing a variation on the super spy melody ever since (what ‘Mummy’ remake?).

Cruise gets a chance to fully embrace his more boisterous inner-thespian in this ludicrous, quick-paced crime comedy based off the real-life exploits of Louisiana-born TWA pilot Barry Seal. Seal, to earn a little extra cash on the side of his commercial career, made a habit out of sneaking cigars back into the states during flights to Cuba. This, of course, does not go unnoticed.

In the late 70s, the giddy pilot is approached by a mysterious, redheaded CIA clerk named Schaffer (Domhnall Gleeson) who offers him a job as a CIA operative. The name of the game? Flying over and nabbing pictures of secret Soviet military installations down in Central America. Giggling, Seal accepts. For a bored pilot who’d resorted to deliberate nosedives of commercial airliners for the sake of spicing up his monotonous routine, the offer (much like this movie) is too thrilling to pass up.

Eventually, Barry gets so good at his new job (as he puts it in the film) that the feds increased his shady workload. Seal began working as an intel courier for the Panamanian dictator (also a CIA-informant) as well as smuggling weapons to the U.S.-backed Contra in Nicaragua. Sometimes Seal even snuck young Nicaraguan troops into and out of the states who needed to be trained to combat Commies back home.

Seal’s dubious relationship with the CIA is carefully groomed by Schaffer. And though he doesn’t get much screen time here, Gleeson steals the scenes he’s in with an appropriately awkward performance.

In exchange for his services, the CIA agrees to look the other way once Seal gets involved with Pablo Escobar (Alberto Ospino) and starts running cocaine for the Medellin cartel. Before he knows it, Seal is literally drowning in riches (there’s a funny sequence wherein Barry, struggling to find a place to stash his dirty money, opens a closet door only to have a huge pile of cash spill out all over him).

It’s more money than he and his family can spend or bury in the yard. It’s more even than they can launder, though that’s not for a lack of trying. The Seals set up several fronted businesses that help transform Mena, Arkansas into a pseudo-boom town.

Director Doug Liman (whose previous works include the Matt Damon-led ‘Bourne’ films as well as the Cruise-helmed Edge of Tomorrow) takes a cavalier approach to the story at hand. American Made never pauses to acknowledge the destructive repercussions of Seal’s crimes or their ensuing insanity. Nor does it delve into the cruel inner workings of cartel business. Instead, Liman keeps flying from one crazy episode to the next.

That same momentum which keeps American Made airborne also keeps it from soaring to greater heights. We never learn much about anybody, including Barry Seal. In fact, he’s made out to be a greedy, Reagan-era caricature.

Ultimately, American Made floats on Cruise’s charm and charisma. It’s the actor’s most enthusiastic performance in a long time and it’s impossible to resist that superstar smile of his. We know Barry Seal is a one of the bad guys, but it feels right rooting for him to come out on top of all the insanity.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (Out of 4)


Director: Doug Liman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright

Rated: R (for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity)

Year: 2017
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Battle of the Sexes (2017)– Video Review

Battle of the Sexes starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. Is it worth all that hype? Check out my video review and find out!

Are you planning on checking out Battle of the Sexes? If so, let me know what you think by hitting my up in the comments section below!

Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017)– Movie Reflection

The highly anticipated third entry in the cult hit series Jeepers Creepers has hit theater for a one-night theatrical release and I got to check it out. Here are my thoughts, in video form. Enjoy!

Did you all get a chance to check out Jeepers Creepers 3? If so, did you like it? Or did you think it was a huge letdown? I want to hear your thoughts so hit me up in the comments below and let me know!

11 Movies That Should Have a Sequel by Now (But Don’t)

It’s thirty-five years later and we are just now getting a sequel to Blade Runner, arguably one of the most influential science fiction films ever made. Denis Villeneuve’s (Prisoners, Arrival) follow-up to Ridley Scott’s seminal 1982 film, Blade Runner 2049 (aptly titled as it takes place 30 years after the events of the original), lands in theaters on October 6th. To celebrate this next entry in the series, I’ve gathered a list of other films that I believe should have had at least one sequel by now (but don’t):

11.) District 9

D9

District 9 is a fantastic film, sci-fi or otherwise. It’s buzzing with stunning visuals, compelling performances, and meaningful symbolism. And while it (mostly) serves as a rich standalone story, it does leave open some major loose ends that could easily lead into a second chapter. Unfortunately, writer-director Neil Blomkamp’s subsequent films were not been up to par with District 9, which begs the question: “Should he just leave well enough alone?”

10.) Evil Dead (2013)

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Evil Dead is a cult classic and the idea of a remake with Sam Raimi only attached to produce seemed like a cheap money grab. Little did we know this would be Director Fede Alvarez’s (Don’t Breathe) coming out party. The fresh-faced filmmaker took the beloved franchise in a more serious direction, choosing to emphasize horror over comedy and cranking the gore factor to ten. The result is a fun splatter fest that left the door open for more crazy-disgusting battles featuring our traumatized, badass heroine.

9.) Big Hero 6

big-hero-6

Baymax is cuddly and charming and playfully innocent. Those qualities have made him a cinematic icon, though strong characterization is simply one of many things that Big Hero 6 does right. The film is fun, funny, action-packed and quite often endearing. It’s also beautifully animated with a distinct style all its own. Plus it made quite a bit of money. You’d think Disney would have already green lit a sequel to such a crowd pleasing production.

8.) Zombieland

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By the end of its theatrical run, the apocalyptic comedy Zombieland had quadrupled its budget, which is an impressive feat for a film offering one, recycled gag and a cast of mostly nobody’s (at least back then). It’s a fun road trip romp featuring a small band of eccentric weirdo’s that audiences enjoyed spending time with (plus zombie Bill Murray is classic). With such star power as its three leads have built up over the subsequent years, a sequel could do some serious box office damage.

7.) How to Train Your Dragon 2

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There were four years between How to Train Your Dragon movies. Surely, DreamWorks couldn’t have known how successful the first film would become and it takes considerable time to animate a feature film, especially one as stunning as ‘HTTYD.’ Still, that’s a long time and by the looks of it, we have to wait at least that long until the third film. I guess if it means getting another entry that’s as beautiful and riveting as the first two, then I guess I’m game.

6.) Wreck-It Ralph

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Like Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph is a feel-good Disney adventure. The titular Ralph may not be as squishy-cute as Baymax, but he is a compelling, misunderstood character who’s easy to relate to and root for. Set in a world made up of classic and original video games alike, this franchise has seemingly unlimited lives. It’s true that Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 is in the works, but it’s been five years since the original. Seeing is how that film made nearly half a billion dollars worldwide, why has it taken this long to even announce a sequel?

5.) Unbreakable

breakable

Before you get on me about M. Night Shyamalan being in the midst of producing an Unbreakable follow-up, let me remind you that this post is about films that should have had a sequel by now, but don’t. As it stands, we still have yet to know what happened to David Dunn following the events of the 2000 superhero drama or how it ties in with James McAvoy’s Beast. After Split, Blumhouse quickly set their sights on the next entry in the series and with the current comic book craze, now is the perfect time to put it out. 2019 can’t come quick enough.

4.) Man of Steel

MOS

A second Man of Steel film was actually in development before DC and WB opted to introduce Henry Cavil’s Big Blue Boy Scout to the Dark Knight and the whole project morphed into Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both films were critically divisive and neither met the lofty expectations of Marvel’s big hitters. Still, Superman is one of the most iconic figures in fiction and the powers that be clearly have their hearts set on this interpretation, so why did we get a Suicide Squad movie before a “Man of Tomorrow?”

3.) Dredd

Judge Dredd Still Image

This is more a selfish pick and less a convincing studio pitch. Dredd lost DNA Films millions of dollars. Still, I love everything about this movie. From Karl Urban’s performance as the Law to the visual production and overkill violence. It even made effective use of the otherwise lame 3D technology. Clearly I wasn’t the only fan either. Dredd did pretty well in home video sales and has since garnered somewhat of a cult following, thus making idea of a sequel more relevant. Other notable franchises have justified sequels through years of DVD sales (Anchorman & Zoolander, anyone?).

2.) The Incredibles

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If ever there was a Pixar film that set itself up for a sequel, it’s The Incredibles. I mean the film ends off with the super family getting ready to square off with a potential supervillain. Now I’m aware that the long-awaited next installment is finally in production, but by the time it hits theaters next year, it’ll have been fourteen years since that first film and the generation that grew up with the Incredibles as kids will have their own kids to share them with. It’s a sweet sentiment and Incredibles 2 will make gangbusters money, but that’s nearly a two decade wait. There have been three Cars films in that time!

1.) Avatar

avatar

Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all-time (not adjusted for inflation, of course). Throughout the film, Director James Cameron (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Aliens) spends a lot of time and effort building the universe of the Na’vi. All things considered, we should have had at least two more follow-ups in the last eight years. Now Cameron is currently working on four more Avatar movies, but we won’t see the first sequel until 2020. That’s eleven years. Will people still care then?


What do you all think about my eleven films that should have had a sequel by now? Do you agree? What other films do you think should have seen another new installment by now? Let me know in the comments below!

Weekly Box Office Work-Up (Sep. 22-24)

No one wants to be defeated, but it looks like someone just beat IT (see what I did there?). That’s right, the highly-anticipated sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle (you can check out my video review here) saddled the number one spot at the box office this weekend, dethroning New Line’s IT after two-weeks.

Domestically, the comic book-adapted spy pastiche opened to an estimated $39 million, an improvement over ‘The Secret Service,’ which debuted to $32.8 million. Of course it has yet to be seen whether or not ‘The Golden Circle’ will have the legs of its predecessor, but with a higher budget behind the production and significantly weaker reviews, FOX has got to be at least somewhat optimistic about a stronger opening.
As for IT (read my review here), a third week drop-off to second place is not bad, especially with a $30 million haul. That’s only a 50% fall from last weekend’s total. Heck, $30 would have been a solid second week gross (IT was originally projected to open to $60 million after all). In all, IT has scared up $266.3 domestically. Not adjusted for inflation, that means it’s the highest-grossing R-rated horror movie ever. In just three weeks, IT was able to snatch that record away from The Exorcist, which grossed $232.9 million in total.

In third place WB’s The LEGO Ninjago opened to a franchise-low of $21.2 million. Original expectations had the third LEGO film seeing somewhere between $27-$32 million. Earlier this year, The LEGO Batman Movie also underperformed. Seeing is how each entry in the series seems to segment its audience more and more, it isn’t surprising that these totals reflect that.

Rounding out the top five in unspectacular fashion is the Michael Keaton-led spy thriller American Assassin, which saw an extra $6.25 million in its second week and Reese Witherspoon’s Home again, which added $3.3 million to its domestic cume.

In other box office news, the horror flick Friend Request opened this week. The social media thriller could not break the top five. Rather, it landed at the number seven slot with a debut of $2.5 million. The film runs off the rails after the first act (you can see my video review here) and devolves into the type of supernatural bore fest that give the horror genre a bad name.


Those are your top five performing movies at the box office this past weekend. What did you all see and what do you think of these results? Are you glad ‘Kingsman’ did so well? Perhaps you’re shocked at the continued success of IT? I want to hear your thoughts so leave them in the comments below!

‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ (2017)— Trailer #2 Reaction

Nobody asked for a sequel to Jumanji. Alas, we’ve got one on the horizon. In the meantime, I’ve got a trailer reaction for you all! Enjoy!

Are you excited for the Jumanji sequel? Did you even like the original? Let me know your take in the comments below!

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ (2017)– Video Review

The highly-anticipated sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle is finally here! How does it compare to the original? Our video review!

What did you all think of ‘The Golden Circle?’ Did it live up to your expectations? Or do you not even care about this franchise? I wanna hear from you so hit me up in the comments below!