American Made and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Doug Liman
Hollywood? We need to talk. I know that you love to make movies about people (usually white dudes) who catch a lucky break or have one useful skill that pays off which launches them into fame, fortune, and eventual ruin, but I think it’s time to stop. Look, Wolf of Wall Street was wonderful and so was that Nicolas Cage movie from 2005, but these are starting to get stale and repetitive; especially with this film that looks so paint by numbers and generic that even Tom Cruise can barely seem to bring anything to the material. Still, bad trailers and a tired premise don’t ALWAYS spell doom for a movie, and Tom Cruise can really be THAT good in a movie so as to keep it engaging even if everything else is working against it. Does this film manage to avoid the pitfalls that so many films before it have fallen into, or are we scraping the bottom of the barrel to find just ONE more interesting story about a dude who found an odd way to strike it rich? Let’s find out!!
The movie is supposedly based on the real life story of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) who was your run of the mill airline pilot who was making some extra cash by smuggling in Cuban Cigars. His actions don’t go unnoticed by the mysterious Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who is a CIA agent looking to make his mark and believes he has found it in this pilot that he easily convinces to quit his job and start working for the US Government. His patriotic duty turns out to be driving a plane with a camera on it so he can take pictures of Central American communist freedom fighters that the US has an interest in repressing and these pictures prove to be invaluable to that cause. Eventually he gets bigger missions such as delivering intel to Manuel Noriega, running guns to the Contra fighters in Nicaragua, and even running cocaine for the cartel which isn’t QUITE what the CIA had in mind but they certainly aren’t gonna stop him from doing it. Of course, with the CIA apparently doing all this on the down low, Barry not only starts catching the ire of other government organizations like the FBI and DEA, but also runs the risk of losing his sweetheart deals with the Cartel which is led up by Pablo Escobar (Maunicio Mejia). Throw in some family drama with his wife (Sarah Wright) who is kept in the dark for a lot of this and his brother in law (Caleb Landry Jones) who’s a total fuck up that knows too much and you’re looking at a powder keg ready to explode right in Barry’s handsome face! Will Barry find a way to keep the balancing act going indefinitely? How far will the US Government under Reagan go to get what it wants and what will that eventually mean for Barry? Wait, is this what the Top Gun sequel will be about!?
“Without Goose, things just kinda went downhill for me…”
So I guess we’re gonna have to talk about this one again, huh? It certainly seems that everyone else is getting in on the action with various think pieces about what the movie actually means and how audiences are reacting to it, which… I guess I can’t criticize because I’m currently doing the exact same thing, but I’m still feeling a bit irksome about how much publicity this movie is getting when what I saw really didn’t merit all the hoopla. Making matters worse is the fact that CinemaScore (a poll of general audience moviegoers) have given the film a rating of F; bringing back the tired argument about how art films are just too GOOD for mainstream audiences to understand. I mean… sure, I’ve certainly held firmly on one side of that debate in the past (I bring up Michael Bay as often as possible), but after seeing the film itself, I just don’t think this is the one for some of the more snobby among us to lord over the undiscerning masses, because… well if you read my review, you’d know that I am rather close to absolutely hating this film; stopping just short of that due to the technical acumen, the finely tuned tension curve that’s constantly raising the stakes, and Aronfosky’s undoubtedly strong command of cinematic storytelling. Make no mistake; this isn’t an amateur hour shit show like God’s Not Dead 2 or Incarnate. This is a phenomenal filmmaker who tried to do something great but I feel has failed in spectacular fashion, and while I do understand the reasoning behind for softening ones opinions about a movie that genuinely tries THAT hard (the story of Icarus is usually seen to be a tragic one), I just… couldn’t. Too much about this movie is misguided for me to want to give it much of a pass, at least as far as my own feelings on it as I think it’s STILL probably a movie worth seeing at some point even if you ultimately hate it the same way I did. So I guess that begs the question, what is it that everyone seems to be getting out of this movie, and why do I feel it was done so poorly?
Mother! and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
I’ve never really been a fan of David Fincher, yet I’ve very much appreciated Aronofsky despite them sharing quite a few similarities; mostly in regards to just how dark and cynical they can be when it comes to their subject matter. I guess Aronofsky still manages to CARE about his characters even when they’re terrible people or getting mercilessly destroyed which is something that feels absent from a lot of Fincher’s work like Fight Club or Gone Girl; both are about terrible people but never seem to get past simply PRESENTING us with their unpleasantness. Aronofsky’s different, especially with movies like The Wrestler and Black Swan which are straight up tragedies about broken people trying desperately to get their lives together and failing miserably in the process. Now we have Mother! which, aside from the gratuitous punctuation, seems to be in the same vein though leaning much more on horror tropes and absurd excess than a more focused psychological horror narrative and seems to be in the same vein as Noah (another one of his movies that I like) at least as far as just how far he’s willing to take the strangeness of it all. Is this another classic to add to his already impressive catalogue, or has he made his biggest misstep since The Fountain? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a HUGE spoiler, but AFTER that we follow around a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives with her husband (Javier Bardem) in a REALLY nice house that is in desperate need of repair, but at least it gives Jennifer Lawrence something to do while FAMED POET JAVIER BARDEM putters around not writing anything. Still, she seems perfectly content with her day to day life of fixing the place up and making it look more hospitable… but everything changes once some guy and his wife (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up at their doorstep and Bardem is MORE than happy to offer their house, their food, and their personal space to the couple with no consultation from Jennifer Lawrence. Things escalate from there, but in ways I’d rather not spoil as the movie goes place you really couldn’t imagine from the trailers which sell this as a much different film. Does Jennifer Lawrence find a way to assert herself and regain control of what is hers? What is Javier Bardem’s deal with letting these people come in in the first place, and what ulterior motives do they have? No seriously, Aronfosky. What the fuck did you do here?
The Revenant and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Huh. When you think about it, Iñárritu is kind of doing the same thing here that he did with Birdman. Take an actor who’s known for something specific, and really dig into that a subtext of the movie. For Birdman, it was about Michael Keaton trying to stay relevant as a genuine artist yet really only being known for his (in a certain perspective) more shallow performances. Here, it’s almost like a metaphor for Leonardo DiCaprio’s continued struggle to win that fucking Oscar, taking on challenging role after challenging role yet never getting quite what he deserves. That really does fit into this story about braving the elements in a quest for revenge that we can all pretty much assume doesn’t give him the satisfaction and validation that his character is so desperately seeking. Still, does the movie itself manage to be entertaining in the same way Birdman was while still giving us some really interesting nuances to the story? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his struggles to get back to civilization after being left for dead by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who also killed his son Hawk Glass (Forrest Goodluck). During a hunting expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) the party was raided by a contingent of Native American Warriors and only a couple of them (including Hugh, John, Hawk, and Andrew) make it out alive. Because Hugh is the guy with the tragic backstory involving his Native American wife, he’s easily the best tracker in the group and so knows how to avoid the tribe while also finding the safest route through the mountains, though John doesn’t really trust him or his son due to almost getting scalped by Native Americans a while ago. Unfortunately for the party, Hugh gets the shit kicked out of him by a Grizzly Bear and is nearly dead after the encounter. The party tries to carry him along, but the strain becomes too great and he’s left with a couple men (Hawk, John, and one other dude Bridger played by Will Poulter) so that he can… die peacefully? I don’t know, but things don’t go as planned as the already suspicious John decides to kill off Hugh and ends up killing Hawk in the process… yet doesn’t feel the need to finish off Hugh I guess. Anyway, John convinces Bridger to leave and so Hugh is left for dead. That ain’t about to stop Leonardo DiCaprio though, as he crawls out of his shallow grave, and makes his way back to home base to kick Tom Hardy square in the teeth! Can he survive the stark and desolate countryside long enough to get his revenge!? More importantly, can Leo finally win his god damn Oscar!?
“Hey man, I heard Sean Penn left his Best Actor award down there.” “IT’S MIIIIIIIIIINE!!!!!!”