Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ReviewSynopsis
While serving detention, Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Martha (Morgan Turner) come across a magical video game that transports them into the game itself. The four must embody their avatars and beat the game to return home.

Review
When I first heard a Jumanji sequel was in the works, I was skeptical. Over the last few years, movie studios have been reviving/rebooting/remaking 20+ year-old franchises to ride a nostalgia wave that is sweeping through Hollywood right now, to mostly with negative results. Jumanji is one of my favorite Robin Williams movies and one of my favorites from my childhood in general, so seeing that tarnished was not something I wanted to see. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has managed to break the trend of terrible revived/rebooted/remake of a 20+ year-old franchise and actually provide a memorable and hilarious experience.

Really, the fun from this film all comes from the cast, their chemistry, and their overall enjoyment in their roles. Jack Black as a teenage girl is something I never knew I needed to see until this movie. He had the attitude, the tone of voice, the strut, everything. The scene where (s)he learns about going to the bathroom as a guy literally had me laughing in tears. Dwayne Johnson is one of my favorite actors right now so of course I thought he was brilliant, too. I’ve frequently said that he needs someone to bounce off of to truly hit his stride as a comedic actor and with both Jack Black and Kevin Hart, he is at the top of his game. Kevin Hart always makes me laugh and he riffs on his short stature wonderfully. His and Johnson’s moments are the next best thing in this film, behind anything from Jack Black of course. Karen Gillen is more of a recent favorite of mine but like the others, she did not disappoint.

I thought Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was GREAT πŸ˜€ I was worried that this movie would become another reviled sequel to a beloved film. Thankfully, the cast put their heart and soul into it and turned out one of the funniest movies of the year.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jake Kasdan – Director
Chris McKenna – Screenplay / Story
Erik Sommers – Screenplay
Scott Rosenberg – Screenplay
Jeff Pinkner – Screenplay
Henry Jackman – Composer

Dwayne Johnson – Spencer
Kevin Hart – Fridge
Jack Black – Bethany
Karen Gillen – Martha
Rhys Darby – Nigel
Bobby Cannavale – Van Pelt
Nick Jonas – Alex
Alex Wolff – Young Spencer
Ser’Darius Blain – Young Fridge
Madison Iseman – Young Bethany
Morgan Turner – Young Martha

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Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi Review

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi movie posterSynopsis
Rey (Daisy Ridley) locates Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who reluctantly trains her in the ways of the Force. Meanwhile, the First Order, led by Snoke (Andy Serkis) are hot on the trail of Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) Resistance.

Review
By now, everyone and their brother has said what there is to say about Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Due to the holidays, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and put my thoughts into written word. I did, however, give my thoughts in a podcast, which you can listen to here. I’ve made no effort to hide the fact I didn’t enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens as much as everyone else seems to. With a film as divisive as The Last Jedi, where do I fall on the spectrum? Somewhere right in the middle.

One of the main reasons The Empire Strikes Back is so widely loved is because of where it left the Rebellion at the end. The bad guys won. The good guys lost and were left in a very difficult spot. The Last Jedi channels that same desperation. Throughout the film, you can feel the Resistance getting closer and closer to despair. This really allows for some great character growth, particularly from Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who is learning that there are better ways of protecting your forces than just running head-first into battle.

Despite my mixed feelings about The Force Awakens, one thing from that movie I absolutely loved was its use of practical effects. The Last Jedi follows in its immediate predecessor’s footsteps and uses practical effects, uh, effectively. I don’t know what else to say other than it makes a big difference compared to the CGI-heavy Prequel Trilogy.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is one of my favorite Star Wars characters so it was great to see him in a mentor role, teaching Rey (Daisy Ridley) about the Force. Even better, I like that he wasn’t perfect. He was broken and hesitant and it made for a good relationship between him and Rey. However, I do not like his moment of weakness that drove Kylo Ren to leave the academy, but that would be discussing spoilers, which I’m not going to do.

Speaking of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), he continues to be the most interesting new character to come from this new trilogy. Once you think you have him figured out, he goes and does the unexpected. Adam Driver was a great choice to play Kylo. Driver really brings out Kylo’s emotional struggle, sort of like the Anakin we never had. The relationship forming between him and Rey is something to look out for in Episode IX.

The Last Jedi newcomer Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, was a great new addition to the cast. She really embodied the hope that the Resistance stands for and Tran played her optimism well. Her side quest with Finn (John Boyega) was a fun romp and break from the main plot line. Tran and Boyega had some good chemistry so I can’t wait to see how they’re developed in the future.

For as much as I enjoy Daisy Ridley’s Rey, I don’t feel like her character grew as much as several of the others. Coming into the film, she was strong in the Force, if untrained, determined to learn from Luke the ways of the Jedi, and optimistic about turning Kylo back to the Light Side. By the end of the film, she’s just as strong in the Force, though this time a little more refined in her training, and still has her optimism. One of my gripes with Rey, despite my love for the character, was how quickly and how strong she became in the Force in The Force Awakens. That quick growth in her first appearance doesn’t give her abilities much room to grow here.

What I can say about the story without going into spoilers is how bold it is. As I said, it takes inspiration from The Empire Strikes Back in where to take the story but how it does that is unlike any Star Wars movie to date. I appreciate it for being different and daring with its characters and story, even if I didn’t agree with all of it. That’s all I can say at this point. Most of my issues with the film go into some pretty heavy spoilers. If you would like to hear those, check out the podcast linked above.

I thought Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was GOOD πŸ™‚ After several viewings, the best way I could describe my feelings for the film is that I like the story beats but not all the character beats. Poe finally gets the development he deserves and Rose is such a great new addition to the cast. The Last Jedi answers several of the questions laid out in The Force Awakens, but not always in a very satisfying way. All I can say for sure is that Episode IX has a huge task ahead of itself drawing this new chapter of the Star Wars saga to a close.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rian Johnson – Director / Writer
John Williams – Composer

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher – Leia Organa
Daisy Ridley – Rey
Oscar Isaac – Poe Dameron
John Boyega – Finn
Kelly Marie Tran – Rose Tico
Joonas Suotamo – Chewbacca
Laura Dern – Vice Admeral Holdo
Billie Lourd – Lieutenant Connix
Adam Driver – Kylo Ren
Domhnall Gleeson – General Hux
Andy Serkis – Snoke
Gwendoline Christie – Captain Phasma
Benicio Del Toro – DJ
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Jimmy Vee – R2-D2

Justice League Review

Justice League movie posterSynopsis
Batman (Ben Affleck) discovers that an alien invasion of Earth is imminent after the death of Superman (Henry Cavill). In order to combat the coming threat, he tries to bring together several of the world’s superheroes, including Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

Review
I have made no effort to hide my favoritism of the Marvel superhero characters over the DC ones. However, I do enjoy both studios and both have some great stories to tell. Ever since The Avengers, DC has tried to play catch up to get their Justice League on screen. With the exception of Wonder Woman, the films of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) so far have been less than enjoyable. So how did Justice League, the long-awaited big team up fare? Better than the sum of its parts, apparently.

Zack Snyder had to step away from directing duties for a while due to a family tragedy, so Joss Whedon stepped in to take over. Many were worried, including myself, that while he has a good sense of what makes a good team-up, he might take too much away from Snyder’s Justice League (for better or worse). I think it is safe to say that Snyder and Whedon have two very different directing styles and it is very apparent throughout the film. Whedon added a nice layer of humor throughout the movie that wasn’t too overpowering, like some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films can be these days, but it wasn’t a one-off thing either. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (both directed by Snyder) were very dark and broody, way more than they should have been. While this film isn’t bright and cheerful, there is still a level of levity to keep the apocalyptic story from hitting Dawn of Justice level of gloominess. It looks to me that Whedon respected Snyder’s vision for the film but still put his signature stamp on it.

This movie is the first time we are seeing the Flash (besides a small cameo in Suicide Squad), Aquaman, and Cyborg. I really enjoyed all three new characters and who were cast in the roles. Ezra Miller as the Flash brought a great comedic relief to the film. He is a very different version of the Flash in the Arrow-verse. Aquaman, played by Jason Mamoa, didn’t want anything to do with anything and wanted to be left alone. Oh, and is apparently an alcoholic. He had my second favorite arc of the new characters of becoming less antipathetic as he works with the other members of the League, culminating in a great gag with Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg has the most growth out of all of them, boasting maybe the most unique power set of the group. He initially sees his powers as a curse but eventually accepts them and gives some great moments during the final, no holds barred action sequence.

As I just mentioned, this is the first time several of the League members are being introduced. Normally, these ensemble movies feel way too long, focusing on only a few of the characters and not developing the rest cough Suicide Squad cough. This time, it actually had the opposite problem: it should have been longer! For obvious reasons, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) had the two biggest roles in the movie. However, it still did a good job of balancing everybody, especially given three of the characters needed to be introduced. But there was still room for some more development of the new characters. I appreciate that the editors wanted to keep Justice League relatively short but I think in doing so, they only gave the bare minimum motivations we needed from these heroes. There is plenty of room for more.

While I don’t necessarily agree with DC’s approach to rush into a film about their superhero team-up group, I don’t necessarily think an origin movie was needed for every character beforehand. Yes, it definitely would have helped the audience connect with them but other ensemble movie’s have gone this route with moderate to great success. One that is coming to mind is the animated Justice League: War which boasts a similar story with the same characters. Another is Guardians of the Galaxy. Don’t get me wrong, Justice League is nowhere near as good as Guardians but my point is that it brought a team together without any prior knowledge of the characters the same way this movie does and the only reason that this is an issue is because these are well known characters and is comparable to The Avengers.

A common gripe in modern superhero films are the weak and flat villain. To bring Guardians back into the mix, I didn’t have a problem with Ronin being one-dimensional because his purpose was to bring the titular group together. Steppenwolf serves essentially the same purpose as Ronin only this time I was very disappointed. Other than β€œhe wants to shape the Earth in his image,” he is given very little development. This is doubly disappointing given what, or rather who, he is the precursor for. Darkseid (pronounced β€œdark side”) is one of the Justice Leagues greatest and signature villains, often fighting on par with even Superman. There was very little hint towards any of this except for one line that only those who are familiar with the characters would pick up on. Steppenwolf is an integral part of what’s to come but it’s hard to see that given how poorly he was treated in this film.

I thought Justice League was GOOD πŸ™‚ Not devoid of problems, it still offers a good time. A shallower-than-normal villain is really the biggest complaint from me, especially given the character’s importance. The new characters were fun and unique and meshed well with the previously established characters. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Zack Snyder Director’s Cut of the film to see how much Joss Whedon’s reshoots changed the final product or to get more character development. Overall, this is the best I could have expected from the mostly disappointing DCEU so far.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Zack Snyder – Director / Story
Chris Terrio – Screenplay / Story
Joss Whedon – Screenplay
Danny Elfman – Composer

Ben Affleck – Bruce Wayne / Batman
Gal Gadot – Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Ezra Miller – Barry Allen / The Flash
Jason Momoa – Arthur Curry / Aquaman
Ray Fisher – Victor Stone / Cyborg
Henry Cavill – Clark Kent / Superman
Jeremy Irons – Alfred
Amy Adams – Lois Lane
Diane Lane – Martha Kent
Connie Nielsen – Queen Hippolyta
JK Simmons – Commissioner Gordon
CiarΓ‘n Hinds – Steppenwolf (voice)
Amber Heard – Mera
Joe Morton – Silas Stone

Thor: Ragnarok Review

Thor: Ragnarok movie posterSynopsis
In his search for Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) discovers he has been hiding on Earth and takes Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to go retrieve him. When Thor and his brother locate their father, they learn of the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who will be responsible for the destruction of their home of Asgard. In their fight with Hela, Thor gets transported to the planet of Sakaar, where he runs into his Avengers teammate Hulk (Mark Ruffallo). Together, they try to escape from Sakaar and return to Asgard to save it from Ragnarok.

Review
I’ll admit that the Thor films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are not very high on my ranking of said MCU films. Nonetheless, I still have found them to be an enjoyable fare. Two things made me excited to see Thor: Ragnarok: Jeff Goldblum and the scene with Thor and Hulk saying how they each were like a fire. What came from director Taika Waititi might just be the best Thor film yet.

Off the bat, I have to say how much I enjoyed Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster. He absolutely nailed the role of the gladiator ring overseer and was the perfect choice to put into this movie. Goldblum is one of those actors that is essentric and goofy and over the top in nearly everything he does. He is one of those actors that has a unique personality that you can’t really find anywhere else. I enjoyed every minute of his scenes and left definitely wanting more. His personality was a great addition to the film. In this movie, Jeff Goldblum is the most Goldblum he has ever Goldblum’ed.

In the trailer for this film, it gave a pretty good idea about how the interaction between Thor and Hulk will be different than previous movies. It was very playful and much more friendly banter than before. Not necessarily in the comics but in other media, such as the television shows, Thor and Hulk tend to have a more friendly, competitive relationship. It was nice to see that bromance of sorts brought over to lighten the story.

The gladiatorial part of Thor: Ragnarok was inspired by the Planet Hulk storyline that ran in the mid 2000s. One of the major characters from that arc was Korg, who had a similar role than what he had in the film of organizing a revolution. While I’m not very familiar with his comic book form, this was a very different Korg than I was expecting, but in an extraordinary way! He is easily my favorite new character in the film, even more so than Goldblum’s Grandmaster (gasp!). Korg’s humor is straight-faced and slapstick delivery had me in stitches every time.

The trailer’s music had a lot of synthesizer and strong 70s feel to it. Often times, the score in the trailer is different from what is found in the film. Not this time. Composer Mark Mothersbaugh maintains that same beautiful and intriguing sound throughout the film. It reminded me of the sound of Led Zeppelin (granted Immigrant Song plays at least twice so that might taint my view a little), which really fit with the fantastical setting of the movie.

By a third movie, the stakes need to be bigger and bolder than the previous movies and Thor: Ragnarok does just that. Hela (Cate Blanchett) is one of the strongest villains in the MCU and opponents for Thor. At times she does feel too strong, easily dispatching nearly the entire Asgardian army by herself. I have mixed feelings on her strength but in the situation of a big threat for Thor, and all of Asgard really, she works. However, it’s a shame that a character who has a history with Asgard doesn’t feel like she got the emotional depth that she probably deserved.

Something that bothered me about this film was how rushed Thor and Loki’s search for Odin felt. It was one of the first things that happened in the story and was wrapped up pretty quick. Using Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) feels like the easy way but much like Hela, it also worked in the context of the story. It was an interesting and amusing way to move the story quickly to get the the more critical parts of the story, as well as cement Strange’s role in the greater MCU.

Minor spoilers warning for this paragraph. While I like the general tone the MCU films have taken sinceΒ The Avengers and the humor in this movie is great and hilarious, it feels like it undermines some of the more serious moments, something I have began to feel of last few movies. Scenes like Odin’s death, Hela’s attack on Asgard, and Hela’s killing of several major characters doesn’t necessarily have the strongest emotional impact.Β  Either these events happen so quickly they don’t get the attention they deserve or a joke is made to immediately lighten the mood. As I said, I laughed a lot during this movie and enjoyed its humor and understand that it needed to be lighthearted because otherwise it would have gone to some very dark places.Β  However, I would have also appreciated time to process or feel emotion towards certain events that happened.

I thought Thor: Ragnarok was GOOD πŸ™‚ Much like Steve Rogers and Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War, its characters have been significantly impacted. This movie did something that the previous Thor movies could not: make Thor exciting. I can’t wait to see him and Banner join back up with their Avengers team in Infinity War. Only thing to do in the mean time is sit tight and wait for Black Panther.

Favorite Quote
Thor: My hammer, Mjolnir I called it, was quite unique. It was made from this special metal from the heart of a dying star. Every time I threw it, it would always come back to me. It could harness lightning, make energy blasts, and when I spun it really, really fast, it gave me the ability to fly.
Korg: You rode a hammer?
Thor: No, I- I didn’t ride the hammer.
Korg: The hammer rode you on your back?
Thor: No, no, no. I usually spin it really. It would pull me off the –
Korg: Oh my god. The hammer pulled you off?
Thor: The ground. It would pull me off the ground up into the air and I would fly.
Korg: Sounds like you had a pretty special and intimate relationship with this hammer and that losing it was almost comparable to losing a loved one.
Thor: It’s a nice way of putting it.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Taika Waititi – Director
Eric Pearson – Writer
Craig Kyle – Writer
Christopher Yost – Writer
Mark Mothersbaugh – Music

Chris Hemsworth – Thor
Tom Hiddleston – Loki
Mark Ruffalo – Bruce Banner / Hulk
Tessa Thompson – Valkyrie
Cate Blanchett – Hela
Karl Urban – Skurge
Jeff Goldblum – Grandmaster
Rachel House – Topaz
Taika Waititi – Korg
Anthony Hopkins – Odin
Idris Elba – Heimdall
Clancy Brown – Surtur (voice)
Benedict Cumberbatch – Doctor Strange

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming movie posterSynopsis
Two months after helping Iron Man in Berlin, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) tries to balance his life as a high school student and fighting crime as the masked hero Spider-Man. When he learns that the Vulture (Michael Keaton) has been stealing alien technology and re-purposing them into weapons and selling them to criminals, he tries to stop the Vulture’s operation despite his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) telling him to let it go.

Review
Spider-Man is one of my all-time favorite characters. So of course, I am always excited to see a movie with him so I don’t exactly feel the over-saturation of the character that others might be feeling. But with that said, how does Spider-Man: Homecoming compare to the other iterations of Peter Parker we have seen since 2002? Well I’d say pretty damn good!

Each actor who has donned the red and blue tights have brought a different flavor to the character. Toby Maguire set the tone of what to expect from an on-screen Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield brought a little more humor to the character, and now it’s Tom Holland’s turn to bring his own take on the character. Holland’s Peter / Spider-Man feels like the best of both Maguire’s and Garfield’s versions, mixed with his own unique elements. His Peter is very innocent and excitable. He gets awestruck when he sees the other super humans, despite being one himself. He’s awkward around girls and gets frustrated for being treated like a kid. This might be the most accurate portrayal of Peter that has graced the silver screen yet.

As great as Holland was as Spider-Man, Michael Keaton was equally as great as The Vulture. Keaton is sinister without feeling melodramatic, yet he still has a family-man side to him. When he first confronts Peter face-to-face, his demeanor switches like that (imagine me snapping my fingers) and it’s amazing to see Keaton make that switch so seemingly effortless. His Vulture is a much more grounded villain in terms of his ambitions than other villains from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). He just wants to make money, plain and simple. Other than maybe Darren Cross in Ant-Man, most villains in the MCU have world-dominating plans. But not, here. The Vulture is much more street-level, which fits very well into the roots of the character, both the Vulture as well as Spider-Man.

I was really excited to see how many elements from the comics were brought into the film. For example, the shot where he holding the boat together with his webs has been done many times in many forms of media throughout Spider-Man’s history. Another iconic moment is when Peter is buried under rubble and has to use all of his strength to lift it up, which is taken straight from The Amazing Spider-Man issue 33. It’s the small things, too. Like running out of web fluid and changing his web cartridges mid-fight, leaving his clothes webbed against a wall when he suits up, or going to great lengths to hide his secret identity, even from his friends and family. There are many more but my point is it feels like there was more attention spent bringing more of the little things from the comics into the movie.

For me, and I’m sure many other Spider-Man fans, one of Spider-Man’s greatest draws in the comics is that, for the most part, it is very lighthearted. Every now and there may be a darker story or narrative, depending on the writer, but it usually doesn’t last long before the book is back to its bright, cheerful self. Spider-Man: Homecoming took inspiration from this and kept its story bright and cheerful, too. There were scenes were the movie became became more serious but never a point that I would call β€œdark.” Soon after these moments, the film would shift back to the fun, bouncy story.

There wasn’t much that I can complain about it this film but I did find it a little disappointing that his suit is decked out with all of the bells and whistles of Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit. It feels too good right now. I understand that it was Tony who created Peter’s suit but Peter is smart and ingenuitive and it would be cool to see him create much of that on his own at his own pace. The portion of the film when Peter was in his original homemade costume was cool because it showed he can operate on just his powers alone. Maybe this is small but I think he should have gradually gotten there amongst his movies rather than get it right off the bat.

Speaking of his powers, I was bummed that Spider-Man’s spider-sense wasn’t more prominent. His spider-sense is one of his most unique skills and it is hardly on display, at least not in an obvious way. If they make it more apparent in future films, I can see viewers who are not that familiar with the character thinking this is a feature of his suit and not part of his inherent power set.

As a long-time fan of the character, it was strange to see much of Spider-Man’s supporting cast changed in some way. MJ has a very different personality than her comic counterpart, Gwen was nowhere to be found, and Liz Allen isn’t one of Peter’s love interests. The best friend role is fulfilled by Ned Leeds instead of Harry Osborn, who is traditionally Liz’s love interest and also happens to be missing. Adrian Toomes is more like Norman Osborn, Harry’s father, than Adrian Toomes and Flash Thompson is more of a rich prick instead of a stereotypical sports jock. I have another more to say about why I don’t like this version of Flash very much but I should wrap this review up soon. In any case, there is a lot of character changes to process for die hard Spidey fans such as myself.

I thought Spider-Man: Homecoming was GREAT πŸ˜€ My pal Curt said this feels like Spider-Man: Year One rather than Spider-Man: The Beginning, which is a great way to describe this film. We don’t get another version of Peter learning with great power comes great responsibility. Instead, we get a movie where he is already embraced his role, where is is learning his place in a world already filled with superheroes rather than how his powers work or how he should use them. There have been aspects from the previous iterations of Spider-Man I have enjoyed but Spider-Man: Homecoming finally gives the most accurate and consistent version of the character yet. And personally, I cannot be happier.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jon Watts – Director / Story
Jonathan Goldstein – Screenplay / Story
John Francis Daley – Screenplay / Story
Christopher Ford – Screenplay
Chris McKenna – Screenplay
Erik Sommers – Screenplay
Michael Giacchino – Composer

Tom Holland – Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Jacob Batalon – Ned Leeds
Laura Harrier – Liz Allen
Zendaya – Michelle
Tony Revolori – Flash Thompson
Marisa Tomei – May Parker
Robert Downey, Jr. – Tony Stark / Iron Man
Jon Favreau – Happy Hogan
Michael Keaton – Adrian Toomes / Vulture
Bokeem Woodbine – Herman Schultz / Shocker #2
Michael Chernus – Phineas Mason / The Tinkerer
Michael Mando – Mac Gargon
Donald Glover – Aaron Davis

American Made Review

American Made movie posterSynopsis
Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), an American airline pilot, is approached by a CIA agent named Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who offers him a job taking covert pictures of insurgent operations in Central America for the US government. Seal is soon approached by Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia) and his crew and is recruited into smuggling drugs into the US.

Review
I’ll admit, the only reason I really went to see American Made was because of Tom Cruise. Biopics aren’t normally my type of film and there haven’t been very many that I have greatly enjoyed. However, I was hoping that with Cruise at the forefront, this might actually be a biopic that I’d like. While it does contain several of the aspects of the genre I don’t care for, there was plenty more to enjoy than other biopics.

As I thought would be the case, Cruise’s charisma is one of the driving forces of the film. He plays Barry Seal in such a way that you like him, even though you know he is a terrible person and that you should detest him. It creates a very interesting experience. With Cruise’s infectious grin, you’ll be rooting for Seal all along the way.

Another actor who I thought did a great job was Domhnall Gleeson as the CIA operative Schafer. He was just as charismatic as Cruise except we don’t get much information about him. I supposed this works out alright because since he is CIA, this helps to build that air of mystery about him. I just wish I was able to see more of him and Cruise together because they both had an energy about them that was fun to watch.

The subject matter of American Made is actually pretty dark but you might have a hard time seeing that with the way it is presented. I’m sure part of it comes from Cruise’s charisma I brought up earlier but there is a lightheartedness to the film that was unexpected in a movie about a drug dealer. I think its unique tone made it more enjoyable for me because there are plenty of movies about criminals and drug dealers that are very grim and to see one that wasn’t was a breath of fresh air.

In the film Inside Man, the movie sporadically jumps into the future with interviews with the hostages to set up the upcoming scene. This film makes use of a similar technique. Throughout American Made, commentaries about what Seal was thinking and doing are interjected between scenes to prepare the audience for the scene ahead. I thought Inside Man should have made more use of this approach to telling its story, whereas here I think it is used the right amount. It never takes away from the experience too much and gives the audience a better insight into Seal’s character. Since this is a movie about Seal, it only helps better our understanding of him.

I thought American Made was GOOD πŸ™‚ Most biopics have a hard time keeping my attention it seems but I didn’t have that feeling during this movie. The lighthearted nature of such a dark movie and the energy from Tom Cruise and Domhnall Gleeson makes it enjoyable. While I don’t think I will go out of my way to see it, I won’t shy away either if I happen to come across it.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Doug Liman – Director
Gary Spinelli – Writer
Christophe Beck – Composer

Tom Cruise – Barry Seal
Domhnall Gleeson – Monty ‘Schafer’
Sarah Wright – Lucy Seal
Caleb Landry Jones – JB
Mauricio Mejia – Pablo Escobar
Alejandro Edda – Jorge Ochoa
Fredy Yate Escobar – Carlos Ledher
Jesse Plemons – Sheriff Downing
Jayma Mays – Dana Sibota
Benito Martinez – James Rangel
E. Roger Mitchell – Agent Craig McCall
Jed Rees – Louis Finkle
Robert Farrior – Oliver North
Alberto Ospino – Manuel Noriega
Daniel Lugo – Adolfo Calero
Jayson Warner Smith – Bill Cooper (Snowbird #1)
Mark McCullogh – Pete (Snowbird #2)