American Made

Do you know how to boil a frog? First you put it in some water that is mildly warm. And then you gradually heat it up.

Keep that in mind, as you settle in to watch this fascinating, entertaining, and (sorta) TRUE story of an American TWA pilot who likes water that is mildly warm.

Working from Gary Spinelli's book, director Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity" and "Edge of Tomorrow") demonstrates for all to see, that Tom Cruise is not only a movie star, he is an ACTOR. I have never seen him so real, so relaxed, or so convincing.

Part of Liman's wonderful cast:
  • Tom Cruise ("Mission Impossible") Barry Seal is an expert pilot, a devoted husband and an opportunist, eager to earn extra money for his growing family but blithely dismissive of any possibility of failure.
  • Domhnall Gleeson ("About Time") CIA operative Monty 'Schafer' is persuasive as he slowly heats the water. This Irish actor speaks American as well as our home-grown guys.
  • Sarah Wright ("Marry Me") Lucy Seal surprised me with her willingness to step into the water with her ebullient husband.
  • Caleb Landry Jones ("Twin Peaks") is Lucy's brother JB. Ah yes, JB....
In this reality-based government-directed comedy of errors, I don't want to mention names or places because part of the fun is your own discovery of what sort of water our hero has jumped into.

As this is rated "R" you can expect F-bombs happily scattered throughout, but no sweaty bodies, some gunfire, and just enough blowie uppie stuff to remind you what happened.  Our screening audience laughed out loud repeatedly and exited the theater in an upbeat mood. I will own this one.
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Check out this trailer:
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The Mountain Between Us

Two survivors must get acquainted and find a way to cope with brutal temperatures, injuries and a hostile terrain. A plane crash has left them with nothing but their own abilities to pull them through. This drama runs for just 1 hour, 43 minutes and, with award-winning actors, gives us two people to root for.

Writer J. Mills Goodloe ("The Age of Adeline"), working from the novel by Charles Martin, has created an adventure-filled drama for director Hany Abu-Assad ("The Idol") to bring to the big screen.

Part of his cast:
  • Idris Elba ("Luther") Ben is frustrated that he can't perform a vital surgery at his destination because of a storm.
  • Kate Winslet ("Collateral Beauty") Alex charters a plane so she can get to her own wedding on time.
  • Beau Bridges ("Sordid Lives") Walter can't resist the temptation to help people get to their destination, even when the weather is marginal.
  • Dermot Mulroney ("Shameless") Mark will always love Alex, even if she has been damaged.
As hope fades, our desperate survivors realize they can only count on themselves...and maybe Walter's dog.

This is PG-13, so you can expect a harrowing plane crash, mild sexuality and fairly bloodless injuries. This one won't be a box office smash, after all, there are no super heroes, but it is capably done.
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Here is a sample:
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Kingsman: The Golden Circle

First things first. Colin Firth's character is NOT dead, although he is much altered.

Okay. Now that that's clear, let's talk about this diverting second installment of a popular series. Headquarters has been destroyed and the world is in jeopardy. Our favorite Kingsman discovers a secret spy agency in the United States that is allied with his own...the Statesmen. So he and Merlin are off to Kentucky.

Matthew Vaughn ("X-Men: First Class") is back at the helm for a second chapter. This nearly 2.5 hour R-rated actioner is bold, brassy and every minute is fun. The plot is easy to follow, the fight choreography is outstanding and the production design is top notch (except for some Computer Generated Imaging that is fuzzy around the edges).

Part of Vaughn's cast:
  • Taron Egerton ("Eddie The Eagle") Eggsy must locate an antidote for a drug-borne illness and thus save the world.
  • Colin Firth ("Bridget Jones") Harry Hart brings his experience, his expertise and his extra-special sauce to...butterflies???
  • Mark Strong ("Miss Sloane") Merlin is someone we know will do the right thing... AND he can sing!
  • Halle Berry ("Kidnap") Ginger is a great techie, but she has higher aspirations.
  • Channing Tatum ("Logan Lucky") Tequila may come to regret a decision or two.
  • Julianne Moore ("Suburbicon") Poppy can hold her own when it comes to the net worth of her drug cartel, but she gets no respect.
  • Bruce Greenwood ("American Crime Story") The President of The United States has just solved the drug problem!
  • Emily Watson ("The Theory of Everything") His Chief of Staff Fox might see it another way.
  • Bj√∂rn Granath ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") The King of Sweden has a problem: his daughter Princess Tilde is engaged to an English street tough.
  • Pedro Pascal ("Narcos") almost steals the show as a young Burt Reynolds look-alike; Whiskey has unique talents.
This non-stop actioner is rated "R" for language, violence, vehicular mayhem and implied drug use. Oh, and some blowie uppie stuff, which is absolutely required in an action movie. Be prepared for familiar faces, wit, pathos, and a happy ending.

We were an excited, noisy screening crowd who exited the theater last night. We agreed that this one has absolutely no socially redeeming values, it exists simply to entertain. Yeah!
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Here is a trailer: 
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American Assassin

Vince Flynn wrote a novel about counterterrorism; now it has been adapted into a screenplay. Director Michael Cuesta ("Homeland" and "Blue Bloods") brings us a fast-paced R-rated thriller that will make action fans very happy. (A second Mitch Rapp story has been optioned.)

Part of Cuesta's enormous cast:
  • Dylan O'Brien ("The Maze Runner") Mitch Rapp has had plenty of personal losses to drive him into counterterrorism. He has become a highly motivated assassin. He is smart, capable, and supremely full of himself. But he needs an Anger Management course.
  • Sanaa Latham ("Shots Fired") Irene Kennedy sees his potential and recruits him for her black ops team.
  • David Suchet ("Hercule Poirot") Director Stansfield is not happy with Irene's choice.
  • Michael Keaton ("The Founder") Black Ops trainer Stan Hurley has one goal, take our guy down a peg so he can refine those skills. "Don't make it personal!" Well..two goals, he also would like to quit smoking.
  • Scott Adkins ("Doctor Strange") Victor is the first teammate Mitch tangles with. Neither will ever forget it.
  • Shiva Negar (LOTS of TV) CIA operative Annika has been embedded for years. She says "We're gonna get those suckers!" (She doesn't say "suckers.")
  • Taylor Kitsch ("The Grand Seduction") Ronnie is Stan's failure. Maybe it IS personal after all.
One of the things I like about Action films is the music. The bad guys are always accompanied by ominous music. Also, foreign cities seem like an open book to our characters. They are never lost and know where all the hidey holes can be found. Of course we, in turn, always suspend disbelief!

By the way, this is REALLY R-rated! Brace yourself for lots of profanity, fisticuffs, gunplay, a HUGE blowie uppie event, a bit of nudity and gruesome torture. You know, all the things that keep action fans happy. At risk of a spoiler, I will say that our screening audience left with big smiles on our faces.
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Watch the trailer:
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Home Again

Here we have a script written by the daughter of the Queen of Chick Flicks! Nancy Meyers ("It's Complicated" and "Something's Gotta Give") is the mother of our current writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer. This is Hallie's first project, but her genes haven't let us down. Like any good chick flick, we are treated to pretty people (Candice Bergen!), beautiful homes, family dynamics, witty dialogue and a happy ending.

In this PG-13 treat, a single mother of two finds herself back in the spacious family home with her two daughters and, very soon, three young males, all of whom bond with her and her family. One seems to have a lot of appeal for our flummoxed heroine.

Things go swimmingly...until her soon-to-be-ex shows up.

Part of Meyers-Shyer's cast:
  • Reese Witherspoon (Oscar for "Walk the Line") Alice Kinney is adjusting to the single life again and her girlfriends help her celebrate her birthday.
  • Nat Wolff ("The Fault in Our Stars") Teddy finds Alice soooo appealing. He has an audition to prep for but will defend her at any time.
  • Pico Alexander ("Fan Girl") Harry is smoooooth.... His friends can only watch in bewildered awe.
  • Candice Bergen ("Rules Don't Apply") Lillian, a former actress, is Alice's easily flattered mother, who helps create this confusing mess. She was married briefly to the late movie producer so admired by the three young men.
  • Michael Sheen (the barkeeper in "Passengers") Austen wants Alice back. He wants to make their marriage work.
  • Lake Bell ("I Do...Until I Don't") Zoey is a fabulously wealthy heiress who may... or may not... have hired Alice.
  • Eden Grace Redfield ("The Glass Castle") Little Rosie is a chip off the old block... obviously. She just wants some peace and quiet.
  • Lola Flanery ("Sadie's Last Days on Earth") Isabel tries to shield her younger sister from some of life's more shocking facts, but she has her one-act play to worry about.
  • Jon Rudnitsky ("Saturday Night Live") George wrote the script our three heroes are trying to sell. Breaking into Hollywood's inner circle is no easy task.
The humor is sweet and heartfelt, the situation is sadly familiar and we have a whole armload of people to root for. No gunfire, no blowie uppie stuff, no sweaty bodies (some implied PG-13 stuff, though), and the only fisticuffs are very funny.

I will own the DVD because much of the witty dialogue needed closed captions. Despite that, the female-centric screening audience laughed right on cue and applauded when it ended.
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You've probably seen this trailer:
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Crown Heights

Now THIS is a good friend. When a boy is wrongfully convicted of murder in 1980 by cops who simply wanted to clear the crime from their books, his friend sets out on an epic journey to free him and absolve his name.

Writer/director Matt Ruskin ("Booster") has taken a true event and written a scripted version of what could have been a documentary. The shocking things that happen to our poor fellow could not be made up. Both the real killer AND the witness who perjured himself (and admitted it) are out of jail long before he is!

Some of Ruskin's cast:
  • Lakeith Stansfield ("Straight Outta Compton") is Colin Warner, who absolutely refuses to admit to a crime in order to have his sentence reduced. His attorney, his wife, his mother, all think he should plea bargain with a confession.
  • Luke Forbes ("Atlanta") is his determined friend Anthony Gibson. He believes his friend and agrees with his refusal to sign a confession. He says what happened to Colin "could happen to me!" He stays the course at great personal cost.
  • Adriane Lenox ("Lee Daniels' The Butler") Grace is in a spot where no mother ever wants to be.  She weeps bitter tears for her son's situation.
  • Zach Grenier ("The Good Wife") Detective Cassel isn't above a little pressure to get the testimony he needs.
  • Sandra Washington ("The Deuce") Antoinette's pretty face shows up at exactly the right time for our lonely prisoner.
  • Bill Camp ("Loving") William Robedee also shows up with the right skills and the right attitude, he's just 20 years late!
This film will do nothing to endear attorneys to us. In fact, it is quite the opposite. But this is one of those movies that gets the audience so involved that there are cheers for those rare times when things DO go right for our hero.

Stay for the final credits because the real people appear and talk to us. I love it when they do that!
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Check out this trailer
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Tulip Fever

Did you read about when tulip bulbs were prized above all else? It was like this century's real estate bubble only in the Netherlands....in the 1600s!

Director Justin Chadwick ("The Other Boleyn Girl") working from a script by Deborah Moggach ("The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel") and Tom Stoppard ("Shakespeare in Love") have created an unpredictable R-rated romantic drama based on Moggach's novel, that takes us back to those times in old Amsterdam. The production design is amazing. Street scenes feel absolutely authentic with crowds and costumes which are flawless. You can practically smell them!

Part of Chadwick's talented cast:
  • Alicia Vikander ("The Man From Uncle") Sophia is taken from the orphanage and married to a wealthy widower. She accepted his proposal after she negotiated transport for her siblings to go to America.
  • Christoph Waltz ("Big Eyes") Cornelius Zandvoort has to replace his first wife and two children, lost to the plague. He has no heir but sometimes his "little soldier" needs encouragement; a lovely young bride can't hurt!
  • Dane DeHaan ("Valerian") Jan is an up and coming artist who is excited to get the patronage of such a prominent citizen. A formal portrait of a man and his lovely young wife will pay him well.
  • Holliday Grainger ("The Finest Hours") Maria is the maid, cook, housekeeper and good friend to her young mistress.
  • Jack O'Connell ("Unbroken") Willem is Maria's special man. He is a fishmonger and she makes sure the Zandvoorts eat a LOT of fish.
  • Judi Dench ("Philomena") The Abbess watched Sophia grow up in her orphanage and wants to see her become a happy and fruitful wife. The abbey has a garden where they raise tulips.
  • Tom Hollander ("Mission Impossible") Dr. Sorgh is less than honorable, which is exactly what our desperate young women need.
As speculation increases to absurd lengths, tulip bulbs become more valuable than gold. The frantic bidding looks like a modern Stock Market scene on Wall Street and we cringe as we see people who can ill afford any loss, catch the fever.
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See the preview:
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