REVIEW: “AMERICAN MADE” (2017) Universal Pictures

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“American Made” feels like an honest-to-god Tom Cruise movie – like suddenly, his smile means something again. The man who has done truly his share of good and bad work in the past decade or so, (most recently the bad with ‘The Mummy’ ), shines in this film. Like it almost seems unthinkable after watching this film that it could have been done with anybody but Tom Cruise in the lead. These types of film remind us all, that Cruise is a really good actor and is clearly not done yet with bringing us the good stuff.

Cruise plays Barry Seal, a TWA pilot frustrated with the grind of hopping from city to city, flying planes on autopilot and coming home to crash asleep before his wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright), can even put on her welcome-home-honey lingerie. It’s the late Seventies, the era of oil fortunes being made overnight and social turmoil being the norm. Barry has also been doing some minor smuggling on the side, transporting illegal Cuban cigars into the US. Into his life pops Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), the overly-eager-to-please-his-bosses CIA operative, who’s wanting to recruit Seal’s aerial talents to fly covert missions into Latin American countries and take spy photos of resistance movements. Not exactly telling his wife he’s actually left his job at the airline, he moves forward into his ‘new’ job as the CIA provide him with a sweet twin engine superplane, his own front company, and lots of money. Barry in complete shock as any of us would be, and can’t stop laughing in disbelief. And neither can we once you see the absolute insanity his journey takes him on. But yet, Barry Seals, was a real person and even though this film might be done up some with some dramatics I’m sure, it still really did happen.

You see what went on with Manuel Noriega (Alberto Ospino) (yes, the U.S. supported this man’s power at the time, yet eventually arrested him also – remember Imelda and the shoes 🙂 ), which then leads him to the Contras (again we supported) who it turns out are more interested in porn & alcohol than in being trained for fighting a war. So where do the guns go? Well only to the biggest cartel in the world at the time. The infamous Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia), Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) & Carlos Ledher (Fredy Yate Escobar), better known as the Medellín Cartel. Sound hard to follow – yeah maybe so – but as it really happened and with cut-aways to video-taped confessions done by Barry himself, we do follow how it went down. And there are points that you just can’t help but laugh with disbelief.

Along the way, you can’t help but feel flashbacks to Top Gun, they way that once again, Cruise handles this whole situation that is unfolding and of course the plane stunts. But it’s a good feeling – one that you makes you want more, a.k.a that Top Gun sequel that they are promising us now gives me hope. One thing is imminently clear here, Director Doug Limon has succeeded in giving us clear-eyed, in-your-face cynicism about this country and all it symbolizes not only then, but now, in bold fashion, all the while pulling Cruise back into being what we really want him to be – a good actor doing good movies.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, September 25, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
‘AMERICAN MADE’ is now playing in theaters nationwide

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REVIEW: “THE MUMMY” (2017) Universal Pictures

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Remember the 1999 version of The Mummy? How fun it was and you loved it! Well this isn’t that. This one take us to the old school premise of The Dark Universe, a creation of creatures that put Universal on the studio map back in the 30’s. Though the franchise had been struggling ever since the original 1999 movie was released, as the sequels to the first fun film gradually got worse. The first “Mummy” was slick, well made and entertaining; the second was your typical sequel movie, not the worst but far from the best, and then with the third installment it was clear that Hollywood had given up on the franchise and wanted to squeeze out one more pay-check.

Well skip forward to 2017 and we have Tom Cruise leading this one. While it may appear to have something just as good as the original, sadly it falls short of that kind of fun. Sure, for some, the flashy visuals or the (occasional) uninspired dialogue, may work – but most will see right past all this. However, there is no doubt that a lot of money was invested in making this film look good, and it does an okay job of doing that.

(L to R) Nick Morton (TOM CRUISE) and Chris Vail (JAKE JOHNSON) in a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: “The Mummy.” From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, “The Mummy” brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters.

To summarize up the plotline quickly, Tom Cruise is Nick Morton who along with his fellow partner in crime, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), are supposed Army men, but really are just there to loot antiquities from local Iraqi war zones. Archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) is there trying to stop that from happening while having a little liason with Morton. What they find though is the mummified remains of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who was the sole heir to Egypt’s throne before her Pharaoh dad found a second wife and had a son. Furious that she wouldn’t be Queen, she vowed revenge, killing all three and making a pact with the bad-news Egyptian god Set. But before she could sacrifice a lover, who was to become the god’s human embodiment, she was captured and “mummified alive.” The ceremonial dagger with which she intended to make the sacrifice was split into two parts, putting its magic powers on hold until the about-to-wake-up Ahmanet can put the pieces together again. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) – yes, THAT Dr. Jekyll – is the holder of one of these parts and of course wants to use it for his own means.

I think that it’s important to remember that you’re not seeing anything ground- breaking with this film. It’s not the same type of storyline as the originals nor is it going to have the same impact as those and it certainly isn’t going to steal the show at the Oscars, with the acting by all the leads, Cruise, Wallis, Crowe & Johnson being very stilted. But it has its moments of adrenaline-pumping action, some well-crafted visuals and of course the lead in to what The Dark Universe is set to bring us.

Some of this 1hr 47min Egyptian-fetish flick feels a bit clunky, and the story is all too familiar sounding (disturbing an ancient evil which comes back to wreak havoc on everyone), but when you consider that there have been worse redux films, The Mummy does have its entertainment value. It has its action, but it also has some cracks in its sarcophagi which will, hopefully, be ironed out when they inevitably make another of these in two or so years time.

Not the worst, not the best, and hopefully they will step it up some for the rest of the Dark Universe series for us.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening in IMAX 3D: Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (2015) Paramount Pictures

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Yes.. yes.. yes.. The Missions are back on!! To say the continuing saga of Ethan Hunt carries on with a bang – would be putting it lightly.

A few things to note right off in this latest boot-up of the Mission Impossible franchise – 1. We are going rogue.. 2. Tom Cruise at 53 is the new 33 – I’m telling you – watching him doing these stunts is truly eye popping and 3. Rebecca Ferguson is a fantastic femme fatale bad ass – Hands down – no questions asked – she knocks it out of the park here.

I’m not going to go into full detail here as with all action films, as not only do you need to see it for yourself, but they don’t go for a big emotional point to the storyline..they go for the action and action you shall receive. In abundance.
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Rogue Nation opens on “Ethan Hunt” (Tom Cruise) hanging off the side of a plane, which has been notably played up as the holy-shite-Tom-Cruise-actually-did-that-himself stunt moment. And play up they should as once you hear the familiar theme music – whooosh…you fall right in step with the action.
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This time round the IMF team is on the track of ‘The Syndicate’ an evil group of agents whom are all listed as supposedly dead or MIA along with the fact that no one seems to believe they exist, leads us to understand quickly enough who the bad guys are and who the good guys are..or in the case of one character..it might beg the question..do we?

Simon Pegg back again as “Benji Dunn” adds the expected comic relief at the right intervals and is a fun watch here. Alec Baldwin as CIA naysayer “Alan Hunley” who believes The Syndicate might just be a figment of Ethan’s imagination, and who begs the question if the IMF is really relevant any longer as he feels they’ve more or less just been ‘lucky’ so far. Jeremy Renner “William Brandt” & Ving Rhames “Luther Sitckell” are both back and here to stay. Rebecca Ferguson as “Ilsa Faust” is truly the one who takes it all here. She is a breath of fresh air for the franchise, the right blend of strong and sexy – not knowing if she is friend or foe makes her all the more mysterious and carries in the movie well. My motto of ‘you’re only as good as your villain’ also comes across well with a notably beardless Sean Harris as baddie “Solomon Lane”.
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While Rogue Nation is most definitely an adrenaline ride fueled by high octane action sequences, it’s also wittier than past M.I. films with Cruise facial reactions to some of what’s going on let’s you in on the secret that yes..he knows how impractical it all seems.. but yet makes you feel as it’s not. There are great moments of comic relief mixed with suspense and a wonderful cast that has great chemistry with one another.

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Cruise might have been underappreciated in Edge of Tomorrow but it’s clearer than ever that Ethan Hunt is one of Cruise’s better signature roles and to that extent, just might be back. And to answer Baldwin’s character’s meta-question: Can Mission Impossible stay relevant in this new era of bigger and better-let’s outdo the next guy film? The answer is decidedly maybe. Ok..Definitely maybe. 😉

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, July 27, 2015 courtesy of Paramount Pictures
In wide release: Friday, July 31, 2015

#PEGGYATTHEMOVIES REVIEW OF ~ “EDGE OF TOMORROW”

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Like most people who saw this trailer I did an *eyeroll* and thought, “Oh looky ~ a Sci-Fi ‘Groundhog Day” but as I started reading some reviews that made it sound not half-bad, I decided to go see it for myself, and I was pleasantly surprised.  “Edge of Tomorrow” is quite a fast-paced, engaging Sci-Fi movie.which I always like, as if they would have slowed the pace any, it definitely wouldn’t work. A few times it actually kept me on the ‘Edge of’ my seat. 😀   

Premise of this movie being that “Major William Cage” (Tom Cruise) is an Army PR man who is sent out to essentially make war look good and has not one iota of actual combat experience. “Cage” is ‘drafted’ into combat in a rather humourous way showing up some of his supporting cast in “Master Sargent Farrell” (Bill Paxton), “Skinner” (Jonas Armstrong”, “Nance” (Charlotte Riley), to name but just some of this platoon of mis-fits.  In this war, Earth is being quickly taken over by “Mimics”, which are odd, very crafty & quick metallic-like creatures who are amazingly quick and seem to know what we are doing before we do it, attack & battle wise.  And that’s because they do. Which is the story behind the story here.  As “Cage” begins to realize that every time he is killed he wakes up and starts the day over again..and again..and again, at the same spot in time, he slowly begins to realize what is happening to him as does “Rita Vrataski” (Emily Blunt), a veteran Special Forces fighter, who ends up training “Cage”. This whole ‘time warp’ deal is something she knows well because she too, has dealt with it being that it has previously happened to her. Every time they get into a spot of trouble, she knows she is just able to kill him and start all over again from step one and change the scenario to make the outcome work. Sometimes this can be funny, and others not so much, but done in a serious tone that doesn’t overtake the whole show and stop it from moving forward..

“Edge of Tomorrow” totally ‘borrows’ from such movies as “Groundhog Day”, “Independence Day” and even “Starship Troopers”, all the while keeping itself completely entertaining all on it’s own.  Yeah. Tom Cruise loves to play the hero..and the action star..we all know this..and at 50 years of age, he still pulls it off here with perfect charm. Emily Blunt, who for me has not always been a favourite of mine, really comes off here as a great strong, female character that I liked a lot. The action sequences are great, the visual effects even better, this movie completely succeeds at what I like to call ‘Peggy’s requirements for a good movie” and definitely again, the bang is worth your buck!!

Grade: B-

#peggyatthemovies

Grading scale: 

 A = OSCARWORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE~MUST SEE; C= AVERAGE~ AND WATCHABLE; D = DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY; F = YEAH..NO DON’T SEE THE MOVIE.. ( + OR – ) GIVES IT A BIT UP OR DOWN