American Made (2017): Tom Cruise and Doug Liman Are Back!

mv5bmtuxnzuwmjk1nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwndkwodi1mji-_v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_

“American Made” is directed by Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity), and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, Mission: Impossible), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens), and Sarah Wright (21 & Over, Marry Me) and it is being marketed saying that it’s “based on a true lie.” The film’s about a pilot played by Tom Cruise who lands work transporting contraband for the CIA and as a drug runner for the Medellin Cartel in the south in the 1980s.

Going into “American Made” I was expecting a number of things. First off, a good movie, which by the way I did get. Second, a fine Tom Cruise performance, that was there too. Some moments of comedy despite having a serious situation at hand, that was also there. And I also expected an interesting story, for the record, I never really heard about this because I wasn’t born until 1999 and I just never researched it. I got all of that and a little more.

My favorite aspect of the entire film is how it looks. I went to see this film in IMAX, which I will say enhanced the experience a bit. By the way, if you do want to see this film in IMAX, make sure you can fit it in because this won’t be there long before “Blade Runner: 2049” comes out on October 6 and there could be a good chance that this won’t be playing at your local IMAX. As far as the camera goes, this film was shot on an Arri Alexa, which is a camera capable of shooting in 2K, which is higher than HD but lower than what is typically considered Ultra HD, or 4K as some people may call it. Even so, the film looked amazing. The aerial shots looked beautiful, the locations were gorgeous, and I truly felt like I was in the movie at times. But then again, I’ll mention, I saw the movie in IMAX. Also, one more thing. As much as I appreciated the cinematography in the movie, I wouldn’t say it was perfect. At times, it would zoom on certain things, and I have seen that before and it worked in other pictures, but here it’s kinda sketchy.

Let’s talk about Tom Cruise’s character of Barry Seal. If you ask me what I think of Tom Cruise himself, personally, I think he’s a fine actor. As a person, he may not be the best when it comes to relationships, or in terms of controlling his own ego, but as an actor, he’s got chops. He even starred in one of my favorite films of all time, and quite possibly my favorite coming of age movie, “Risky Business.” He’s also proven to be a stellar action star, just watch the “Mission: Impossible” movies! When it comes to Tom Cruise in “American Made,” I’d say that this is what happens if his performances from “Top Gun” and “The Last Samurai” got together and had a baby. The elements are there! In “Top Gun,” Tom plays a pilot, and as far as Tom Cruise in “The Last Samurai” goes, I didn’t really see much of Tom Cruise in that movie, and I mean that in a good way because Tom Cruise felt like a different person. Not to mention, both “American Made” and “The Last Samurai” take place way back before the time they came out. I will say, Cruise’s performance isn’t necessarily as good here as “The Last Samurai” because I can still see Tom as I watch “American Made,” but it is definitely a fine performance.

Sarah Wright plays Barry’s wife, Lucy. Wright did a fine job as her and while I can’t really say many redeeming things about her that makes her character stand out from many others, she definitely was a fine character and moved the movie along very well. Quite possibly Wright’s best scene, performance wise, is when she’s watching TV and she sees something that if I said it, would spoil some of the movie for you.

One of the biggest shockers for me in this movie is that Jayma Mays is in it. You may know her from “Glee,” a show which I actually never saw and it’s also a show I personally don’t want to see in the near future. However I have seen Mays in other movies which critically, were spat in their faces. I’ve seen Mays in 2009’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and 2011’s “The Smurfs.” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I’ll mention to you I live near the shopping centers where this movie was shot. As far as “The Smurfs” goes, that might have been the worst movie I’ve seen to have released in 2011, now keep in mind, I haven’t seen “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1” or “Jack and Jill” so before you comment below, think wisely. Speaking of surprises, Jayma Mays probably gave the best performance in the entire flick. I honestly want to see her nominated for Best Supporting Actress when the Oscar season comes up. She plays Dana Sibota, the Assistant Attorney General of Arkansas, so when you go see this movie and it’s about halfway done, look forward to this character.

One thing that didn’t surprise me but I imagine could surprise some people who haven’t heard much about this movie is that at times, it’s funny. Now it’s not hilarious, it’s not like “The Hangover” or “Anchorman” or anything like that, nothing slapstick, it’s just rather comedic at times. I was watching one of the TV ads for this movie, it shows a plane crash, and Tom Cruise is talking to this guy on a lawn, and that actually turned out to be the part of the movie where I laughed the most.

In the end, “American Made” is worth checking out. I’m aware that awards season is around the corner, and I do hope this does get nominated in a couple categories: Best Supporting Actress for Jayma Mays’s performance, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound Editing, although in that aspect I don’t really think it stands a chance against “Dunkirk,” which basically turned the entire auditorium into a war zone. The replay value for this movie personally is a little low, and there are some characters that don’t really stand out as much as others, but all in all I had a good time watching this movie. I’m gonna give “American Made” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review, next weekend I’m hoping to go see “Blade Runner: 2049,” the sequel to what is considered one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made, I can already tell it’s gonna be great just based on reviews, so I can’t wait. I’m also hoping to see “Stronger” which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a man partially affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. Also, if you’ve got Tom Cruise fever right now, I’ll leave some reviews for movies that have Tom Cruise in them, feel free to take a gander, they are worth reading. Stay tuned for more reviews! Also, what is your favorite movie with planes in them? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

“THE LAST SAMURAI” REVIEW: https://scenebefore.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/the-last-samurai-2003-not-a-perfect-blossom-but-not-a-bad-one-either/

“RISKY BUSINESS” REVIEW: https://scenebefore.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/risky-business-there-is-no-substitute/

“THE FIRM” REVIEW: https://scenebefore.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/the-firm-1993-lifes-a-mitch/

The Last Samurai (2003): Not a Perfect Blossom, But Not a Bad One Either

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here and welcome to an all new series of reviews! Today we are going to be starting my Tom Cruise series. Why? On September 29th, “American Made” comes out in the United States, so before that film releases, I’m going to talk about three of Cruise’s prior films. Now before we dive into the first review of the series, let’s talk a little about Tom Cruise. If you ask me, I think Tom Cruise is a fine actor. You may know him nowadays from big action flicks like “Mission Impossible,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” and “Jack Reacher.” You may know him from a bunch of other films like “Collateral,” “The Outsiders,” and “Cocktail.” The man’s been nominated for three Oscars, he’s also been nominated for seven Golden Globes and ended up winning three of those seven. Today we’re gonna talk about a movie starring Cruise which gave him one of his Golden Globe nominations, he hasn’t won that one, but he was nominated. What film am I talking about? I’m talking about “The Last Samurai.” This movie came out in 2003 and it has been nominated for four Oscars, three Golden Globes, and it was AFI’s Movie of the Year. So what did I think of this? Read to find out!

mv5bmzkynzq1mzc0nv5bml5banbnxkftztcwodg3mzuzmw-_v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_

“The Last Samurai” is directed by Edward Zwick, director of “Glory” and “Legends of the Fall” and stars Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe (Inception, Batman Begins), Billy Connolly (The Boondock Saints, Timeline), Timothy Spall (Chicken Run, Secrets & Lies), Tony Goldwyn (Ghost, Tarzan), and Hiroyuki Sanada Koyuki (The Wolverine, 47 Ronin). This film is about the birth of modern Japan, an American military advisor is in Japan, while he’s there, he embraces the Samurai culture.

Now I’ve watched other movies involving Samurai before, well sort of, have you guys ever heard of “Samurai Cop?” That so-called movie from 1991 that went straight to VHS? If you haven’t, it’s a movie about two cops who think they’re in “Lethal Weapon,” by that I mean they resemble Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and they have to stop a bunch of drug dealers. What’s my problem with “Samurai Cop?” Well, pretty much everything to be honest, but one big problem is despite being called “Samurai Cop,” there’s almost nothing Samurai-esque in the movie, it’s more your traditional chases you’d see in modern-day movies, only these chases are the movie equivalent to vomit. Luckily for the “The Last Samurai,” this movie is nothing like that at all. This movie takes place in the late 19th century, and the Samurai culture itself was vanishing. I’m gonna give you some of my positives concerning this movie.

The first positive I’ll give to you is that the action in this movie was awesome. During the moments which we see massive battles it never feels bloated, it is pretty engaging, and I’ll even say the action that technically isn’t action was pretty cool to watch as well. What do I mean? Two people are swordfighting and it’s more like practice than an actual battle. I will say though, watching the big battle which you see at the end of the movie, kind of reminded me of “Braveheart,” not to say that was something that degrades the movie, it’s actually a compliment. This movie did feel like “Braveheart” at times as a whole. By that I mean it’s a good movie, but I felt I needed to pause at times. Then again, the weekend I watched this was the first weekend I had since going back to school, so whaddya know?

Another positive at times was the score. If you weren’t already aware, this movie was scored by Hans Zimmer. Before this movie, he scored “The Lion King,” “Mission: Impossible II,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” After this movie, he did “The Dark Knight” trilogy, “Sherlock Holmes,” and my favorite movie score of all time, “Interstellar.” Here in this movie, his score suits the atmosphere of Japan and the movie itself. It displays the right moods at the right times, and I’d definitely listen to it sometime if I have nothing better to listen to. Also, I’ll remind you this guy went on to compose the “Kung Fu Panda” trilogy, so this isn’t the only Asian type movie he’s composed for. By the way, the music in those movies is pretty great too.

Now let’s talk about Tom Cruise. He plays a character named Nathan Algren. When comparing this to other Tom Cruise performances I’ve seen, this one is rather unique. This is because when I watch other Tom Cruise movies like “Mission: Impossible” or “Edge of Tomorrow,” I think what I see from Tom Cruise delivered in those movies happens to be pretty good, but I might also think to myself, that’s Tom Cruise. Here, he was a completely different character. Sure, he wasn’t Japanese, but he played someone who doesn’t always make you think, “Oh, that’s Tom Cruise.” Granted at times, I did actually think that, but I already knew beforehand that Tom Cruise was in this movie.

One of my biggest problems with the movie is that the supporting characters are rather unmemorable, I don’t recall who they are, I don’t remember any of their names, anything like that. I remember some of them being in engaging scenes, but chances are I won’t remember a majority of them soon. I will say though, this is my first time watching “The Last Samurai,” maybe if I watch it again, I’ll become more invested in the supporting characters and get to know them a little more.

One of my personal favorite parts of the entire film was the scene when Tom Cruise gets in front of a target and forces a Japanese soldier to fire at him. This isn’t a battle, it’s more like an exercise. He’s telling the Japanese soldier to shoot him, and he’s also telling him to quickly load his weapon, he’s yelling strictly, and it’s really compelling to watch. If you want to watch it, the clip is displayed above. Overall, in terms of acting and writing, this is one of my favorite scenes in a Tom Cruise movie.

As I was researching this movie on IMDb, I came across some information worth sharing. This movie was directed by Edward Zwick and I gotta give some credit where its due. Why? The movie takes place in Japan, and it was generally well received over there. One viewer, Tomomi Katsuta, of “The Mainichi Shimbun,” a major Japanese newspaper, said that Zwick did his research, cast well-known Japanese actors, and consulted dialogue coaches in order to avoid confusion between casual and formal Japanese speech. The only problem he had with the movie is the storybook feel it had. Japanese viewers such as the one suggested here, thought of the Samurai as more corrupt. Despite flaws being picked up overtime, it’s nice to see this sort of reception for a movie like this. In a world where we got a movie called “Gods of Egypt” years later, a movie that has pretty much not one Egyptian actor in the entire runtime, it’s nice to see a movie like this.

In the end, “The Last Samurai” wasn’t as good as I was kind of expecting it to be, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. A lot of people praise this movie, in fact there’s a significance with this movie when it comes to the day May 26. If you didn’t know, the movie’s final battle takes place on May 26, which is a reason why people watch the movie on May 26. Think of it as “Star Wars Day,” only you have less content to choose from, and instead of being on the fourth of May, it’s on the twenty-sixth of May. Overall there were many aspects I was able to appreciate and while I don’t think I’ll be popping the disc in again anytime soon, I’m glad I watched it. I’m gonna give “The Last Samurai” a 7/10. Oh yeah, just a fun fact. I actually bought this movie used on Blu-Ray and its original cost was $3.99 (before taxes), but the store had everything 25% off since it was moving, so ultimately I got this for just a little over $3. That’s a good deal considering how revered this movie is by many people. Thanks for reading this review, I should let you know in at least a couple of weeks from now I’m planning on reviewing “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” and just to let you know I’m not gonna review “Kingsman: The Secret Service” beforehand, so get that out of your mind now if you’re thinking that.

Next up in my Tom Cruise review series I’m gonna be talking about the movie “Risky Business,” I actually already started my review on that, I’m not finished, I still have to rewatch it in order to get everything I need out of it. That review will be up on Monday, September 18th so keep your eyes peeled. Stay tuned for that review, along with more reviews! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!