*NEW* AMERICAN MADE REVIEW *NEW*

Poorly made? Or silly fun?

A pilot (Tom Cruise) lands work for the CIA and the cartel as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.

Imagine if Pablo Escobar hired Top Gun’s Maverick to export his drugs and you’re pretty much there.

Cruise does just enough to make this mad biopic entertaining.

I know his latest efforts have been mixed (to say the least) BUT it was true what the movie said, “He’s the gringo that always delivers”.

The opening quickly set up the monotonous daily routine of the unfulfilled Barry Seal (Cruise). Frustration reaching breaking point as the airline pilot playfully switched off the auto pilot just to take control of something in his life.

Thankfully it wasn’t long before the mysterious ‘Monty’ (Domnhall Gleeson) made his introduction.

Domnhall Gleeson has got to be one of the best supporting actors going at the moment. He almost stole the limelight from Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. BUT I digress . . .

He played ‘Monty’ brilliantly. Slick and cocky. Playing up to Seal’s desires and offering him the job of a lifetime. A new plane. A new life. BUT, of course, at a price. Always at a price.

The only problem was that once Cruise was set on his way, Gleeson was pushed into the background. A missed opportunity as ‘Monty’ was a lot shadier than we were led to believe.

Cruise’s Dukes of Hazzard story telling was a little too silly for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, it was very watchable and had an easygoing comical feel to the piece. Very much like Charlie Wilson’s War. BUT I like my crime biopics a little more gritty and hard hitting.

If these events (Accepting “Hollywood”‘s retelling) actually happened, I’d be smirking like the protagonist!

The pace was patchy and dipped in and out of places BUT I wasn’t bored. If anything, I was engrossed into seeing how far this madness went as Seal crossed enemy lines to initially to do some air reconnaissance.

Accepting all the risks with no assistance or recognition if captured or killed. Ridiculous.

The thrill-seeking pilot inevitably becoming the CIA’s golden goose for information. The gringo that always delivers. However, despite providing Grade A intel, it wasn’t long before Seal’s financial woes piled up. The CIA scrimping on providing an adequate salary. Shocking.

BUT ‘Monty’ has a solution as Seal’s aerial skills are required for a bigger and more dangerous mission. Smuggling drugs for the Colombian cartel!

This is the second Escobar influenced biopic I’ve seen in the last year (The Infiltrator). Now, I know he was only a passing figure in Seal’s mishaps BUT why did they make the big guy so weak and lifeless?

Clearly the film is riding on the Narcos hype; so why didn’t they watch the show and take some pointers?

There were still tense moments as Seal attempted to take off a mock jungle runway with a top heavy plane full to the brim with cocaine. The PoV shots had me wincing as the plane wrestled with the tree tops.

BUT the characters could have been fleshed out a lot more.

The stunning Sarah Wright (21 & Over) didn’t do too bad a job as Barry’s long suffering wife. BUT her character was still tragically weak. Even if she wasn’t just accepting Barry’s answers and decisions as their family were reallocated across the country.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the airhead brother in law JB well. A walking disaster if ever there was one. Alarm bells ringing early on that the dimwit will be a problem for Barry’s operation.

I was expecting Fargo’s Jesse Plemons to do more as Sheriff Downing. He was completely irrelevant as the events unfolded. I’m sure that was supposed to be a lazy statement on Seal’s ever-growing power BUT that could have been done without the Chief Wiggum-esque antics.

Lucy: “Honey, there’s money flying around in the back yard”

Barry: “I’ll rake it up in the morning”

More money than sense as Seal’s operation continued to expand. His smuggling became so lucrative that the hay in the stables was embedded with cash!

The silly humour and quips didn’t really work as well as they should have. It breezed over a lot of facts and picked the “sexier” bits of the story.

I actually got a little bored as Seal lapped up the high life. That was until his dealings took a murkier turn. Cutting through all sorts of crazy political red tape as he used the Iran-Contra affair to his gain.

Instead of supplying guns to the Contras, Seal sold them onto the Colombians while they smuggled Escobar’s drugs shipments back to Miami! I know, crazy!

Seal wasn’t just portrayed as as a money grabbing adrenaline junkie. Especially as the noose inevitably grew tighter around his neck as pressure continued to mount from Escobar and the CIA.

The final act was surprisingly dark and tense as Seal was inadvertently “made”. The error in itself was a joke.

The dark ending felt completely disjointed from the rest of the film as Seal went into hiding, fearing the wrath of the Colombians.

I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. BUT just like Gold and The Infiltrator, the producers have had to rely on a big leading performance to drudge through a patchy and mediocre affair.

Although it lacked depth, American Made still highlighted the hypocrisy of the CIA’s antics during the 80s and Cruise still delivered a watchable popcorn movie. Seriously, the Missouri plane chase was hilarious and action packed.

BUT the tone, mismatched humour and weak characters spoiled something that could have been so much more.

Narcos, it ain’t. A fun time filler worth a gander.

3/5

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*NEW* DEATH NOTE (2017) REVIEW *NEW*

Bit of a bum note, more like.

Hardly worthy of death threats BUT yikes . . . It’s a bit of a mess.

High school student, Light Turner (Nat Wolff) discovers a mysterious notebook that has the power to kill anyone whose name is written within its pages and launches a secret crusade to rid the world of criminals.

Now, I’m not a hardcore fan. It has been a long time since I watched the anime series and I loved the 2006 live action Shusuke Kaneko movie. After laughing at the “Netflix Original” title, I went in fearing the worst.

The poor ratings and scathing reviews had put me off BIG TIME.

And for the first 30 minutes or so, I was . . . pleasantly surprised.

The hypnotic opening track (Australian Crawl’s Reckless), Margaret Qualley from The Leftovers (What?), Nat Wolff’s creepy pallor and bleach blond hair.

It didn’t mess about. There wasn’t a slow ominous build up. It got straight to business. If anything, it might have been a little rushed.

The iconic death God Ryuk had already made his introduction within 15 minutes! Willem Dafoe was perfectly cast.

As soon as his gravelly vocals pierced the speakers, there were goosebumps. I’ll admit it. The animation wasn’t too shabby. A creepier improvement if I don’t say so. BUT what do you think?

As much as I could feel for the teen’s angst about his mother’s death and his anger at the judicial system, I didn’t really like Turner. And that was the problem.

Wolff’s performance was a mixed bag. His crazy facial expressions and OTT reactions were too much.

I know they’re teenagers BUT really? This should have been so much darker. The death sequences were deliciously violent and gory BUT it felt like something out of Final Destination.

The premise was still intriguing. A book that can kill any name you put down.

Ridding the world of terrorists and dictators. Making the world a better place under the alias of “Kira”. The Japanese nods well and truly in flow.

BUT of course, there were rules. Rules that Ryuk conveniently decides to share at the worst possible moment.

I don’t know why there was a heavy 80s soundtrack BUT it worked.

It was good to see Eli from Boardwalk (Shea Whigham) in a bigger role. He nailed it as Light’s father. The vigilant cop desperate to put an end to Kira’s reign.

BUT it wasn’t long before I could see what everyone was complaining about.

“Okay, follow the rules. Your fingers are really huge”.

The humour was heavy handed and came off far too comical than it was supposed to. Unintentional or otherwise. Especially when Light shared his secret with his dream girl Mia (Qualley), “I have a death God”.

Wolff and Qualley had just enough chemistry to drudge through some of the hammier scenes BUT the dialogue was terrible.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) did his best as the crime solving candy chomping cyber sleuth ‘L’. A super intelligent wacko also hell bent on catching Kira. BUT it just didn’t work.

It’s funny if this was animated, I wouldn’t have batted an eye BUT seeing ‘L’ being sung to sleep by his Japanese aide, Watari (Paul Nakauchi) was too much.

The cat and mouse game was interesting enough BUT too much time was spent on ‘L’ and Stanfield’s acting wasn’t the best. It didn’t help that he was reduced to spewing fast-talking nonsense.

The pace surprisingly dragged when the story focused on ‘L’s origins. It took everything away from Light and reduced Ryuk to nothing. Dismal.

The longer the film went on, the sillier it got. The action set pieces and chase sequences were okay BUT it built everything up for a ridiculous and chaotic finale that didn’t make much sense.

With pressure mounting and the power of the Note taking over, it was only a matter of time before there was a rift between Light and Mia BUT their incessant squabbling got on my nerves. Even Qualley irritated the hell out of me.

And the twist, if you can call it that, was woeful and by the end, I didn’t care.

It was watchable enough and killed the time. BUT memorable? Meh. The original live action version was haunting and engrossing. It toyed with the moral and ethical implications of taking someone’s life.

This remake felt like a dumbed down version for the “ADHD generation”. Afraid to stick with a set tone and desperately throwing in any old guff to keep those pesky kids off their mobile phones.

No one goes out to make a bad movie and if director Adam Wingard has been receiving death threats for this than that needs to STOP.

I have seen so much worse. This wasn’t great BUT I think it warranted a little bit more than a 4/10 on the IMDb.

Started off so well BUT ended on a bum note.

2/5

P.S. Did any Heroes fans spot Masi Oka’s cameo? What was the deal with that Nakamura reference? Hmmm . . . .

*NEW* MOANA REVIEW *NEW*

Easygoing fun.

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui (The Rock) reaches Moana’s (Auli’i Cravalho) island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.

Typical Disney. But it still hit the spot.

The animation was stunning. Beautiful to look at. I just wanted to dive into those clear blue waves. Yes, I know they weren’t real! BUT that’s how good the visual effects were.

The opening song numbers weren’t too bad. They set up the story and established Moana’s background perfectly.

Torn between exploring the world and fulfilling her duties as the new Chief of her people.

The running theme of identity and personal being was an intriguing one as the deviant Moana opposed her father’s numerous attempts to keep her on the island.

The Hawaiian folk lore and supernatural guff was entertaining enough. The cheesy singing and mad journey was fun.

BUT I was a little disappointed with the songs. They weren’t really that memorable.

It only takes somebody at work to say, “Let’s get down to business” and I have to fight the urge NOT to burst into the Mulan jam (Go on, confess. How many of you are right now?)

No?

Don’t get me wrong, they were easy listening gems and Cravalho has a lovely voice BUT I could only remember two tracks off the top of my head while writing this.

There was certainly plenty of humour and heart. A gag involving tweeting drew a guilty grin from me.

A predictable journey lifted with some fantastic supporting characters from Hei Hei, the special chicken to . . .

The Rock. My God. He stole the show as Maui. The guy is a demi-God. Let alone voicing one.

They must have had him in mind from the get go as the tattoo woven, bicep flexing, eyebrow raising (They even included the Brahma Bull’s brows) machismo.

His conflicted character had me in stitches. I loved his little tattoo. A Jiminy Cricket running around all over his body to let the big guy know when he’s making a big mistake. Brilliant.

And who knew the big guy could carry a tune?

Any WWE fan will know the Rock can sing.

I didn’t think I’d throw that into a review any time soon. You’re welcome. See what I did there?

Just when I thought the pace was beginning to lull and Moana was thrown into the water by Maui for the umpteenth time, thankfully there was a new challenge or foe to keep things going.

I didn’t expect Flight of the Conchord’s Jermaine Clement to appear in this. Applying his David Bowie-esque gravitas to the troubling Tamatoa.

Shiny, shiny! He was hilarious as the conniving crab.

As much as I was entertained, for all the hype, Moana just didn’t stand out.

The journey was all too predictable and normally I’m one for the ride NOT the destination BUT it just didn’t quite hit those highs for me like her Disney predecessors.

Moana was a resilient and resourceful heroine BUT her character seemed to get a little lost in the ever-growing Disney universe.

BUT this is coming from a cynical man reaching his thirties so make of that what you will.

It killed the time, the animation was amazing and the True Grit dynamic between Moana and Maui was a nice touch.

So despite my grumblings, this was still a charming little film that Disney fans will lap up a treat.

3/5