Bro-Reviews: The Post

Donald Trump’s least favorite movie of 2017.

There’s no doubt the rising political tensions in America point towards one direction: Donald Trump. Whether you voted for him or not, one must admit his presidency has been a nothing short of a circus. He somehow finds himself in the headlines seemingly every week for all the wrong reasons, and constantly lambasts the media while being so paranoid to the point he labels it “Fake News.” The only President who comes to mind in regards to Trump’s insecure behavior is Mr. Watergate himself, Richard Nixon. After countless films of eviscerating him, Steven Spielberg decided it was time for him to once again put his history teacher’s hat on and give us a lecture on the Washington Post’s rise to prominence by exposing Nixon’s hubris of continuing the Vietnam War in The Post.

The Post sees newspaper heiress Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) attempting to balance her politically connected social life with the responsibility of being the publisher of Washington D.C.’s local newspaper, “The Washington Post”. Meanwhile, the paper’s editor in chief, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and his staff chase after a source who advised President Lyndon Johnson and former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) that the U.S.’s efforts in the Vietnam War were fruitless. When the source delivers them over 20 years worth of secret government documents highlighting the U.S.’s knowledge of their hopeless war but continued to send soldiers there to die anyway, the newspaper is at a crossroads: either publish the documents to expose the government’s conniving deception of the public, or risk federal prosecution at the hands of the government and go to prison.

The Post is undoubtedly a timely subject matter due to the spotlight currently on the Trump administration’s weekly battle with the news media. It makes sense that in times like these Hollywood rallies together in some way to teach us a lesson on past transgressions and highlighting how the American public continues to make the same mistake over and over again while also giving them a glimmer of hope that we can improve in the future. Spielberg has become a master of taking audiences to school and re-enacting important moments in U.S. history, including in films such as Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies. The Post is another one of these films, and Spielberg continues his legendary career by showing his mastery of history and transporting audiences to the past with his taut and skilled direction in the film.

The performances in the film are great, as is expected when casting lead actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. As a person who typically cannot stand Streep and believes she is the most overrated actress of all-time, Streep is a fantastic as Ms. Graham. Her ability to show Katharine’s vulnerability and insecurities is breathtaking, and her transformation into a woman of influence by the film’s climax is one of the more compelling character arcs in some time. Tom Hanks is in classic Tom Hanks form as Mr. Bradlee, and he and Spielberg have worked together so well for so long one has to wonder if they’re a package deal at this point. The rest of the ensemble cast also meshes well together, particularly Bruce Greenwood’s turn as former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, as he gives a performance that warrants consideration for “Best Supporting Actor.”

Unfortunately for the film, Spielberg wastes the first hour of it with uncompelling drama that includes board meetings, phone calls via a pay phone, and parties you wouldn’t bother RSVP’ing to. It takes too long to get to the most thrilling aspect of the film, the piecing together of the government documents and the decision of whether or not to publish. While the latter half rescues the film and makes up for a lackluster first act, there had to have been a way to keep audiences invested for the entirety of the film, but Spielberg didn’t piece it together well enough. Also, it’s important to note a scene towards the end of the film where Meryl Streep is walking in a crowd of women who are in awe of her. Somewhere, Rose McGowan is pissed. On top of that, we know how this story ends, and for the film to seemingly tease The Post 2: WATERGATE at the very end comes across as a Marvel after-credits stinger, not exactly what one would expect from an awards season contender.

With all of the controversy surrounding the Trump Presidency (*good god uttering those words still doesn’t feel right*) and its similarities to the Nixon administration, The Post couldn’t have been released at a more compelling time in America. While it takes awhile for the film to get going, The Post can be chalked up as another victory for the historian Spielberg due to its gripping final hour and terrific performances. While The Post doesn’t quite reach awards worthy territory, one thing is for certain: it’s Donald Trump’s least favorite movie of 2017.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars. Pay Matinee Price.

The Post stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys, Alsion Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, and David Cross.

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Bro-Reviews: In Defense of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

The hype was too big to live up to.

The early buzz for the latest entry in the world famous space opera saga Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been very positive, with many saying it is one of the best the series has to offer. With Star Wars: The Last Jedi opening in theaters this week, many television networks are of course opting to show the previous entries in marathon fashion throughout the week. This of course always re-opens the conversation Star Wars junkies and casual fans almost universally agree upon: the prequels are awful.

After the 1983 release of Return of the Jedi, fans had to wait nearly 16 years for another Star Wars film. It came in the form of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menance, the first film in a planned trilogy that would act as a precursor to the original three films from the man who helmed the 1976 film that started a worldwide phenomenon, George Lucas. With the promise of state of the art special effects, a talented ensemble cast including the likes of Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson, and an ominous new threat, the film had sky-high expectations, especially considering the positive reception the first three films earned.

While the film earned over $431 million and was a smash hit at the box office, many left the theater disappointed. Most of the complaints centered around the terrible acting, over-complicated plot, lack of action, and Jar-Jar Binks. One might say the film is one of the biggest disappointments in the history of cinema, and the release of two more not well received prequel films only solidifies this status, as it was the one that started the disappointing cycle. I, however, invite you to reconsider, as while The Phantom Menace is far from a perfect film, it is a fine entry in the Star Wars saga.

Many criticize the acting in the film, placing much of the blame squarely on the shoulders of unrefined child actors Natalie Portman and Jake Lloyd as Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker respectively. Here’s a newsflash: most child actors are terrible. I would never advise one to praise their acting prowess in the film, as they deliver mostly wooden performances, but they get the job done. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are great as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Won Kenobi respectively, and are able to anchor the film. And lets be honest, the acting in the original three films is awful as well. There’s a reason why Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer (*R.I.P.*) didn’t get much work once the original saga concluded, it was because they weren’t very good. Star Wars isn’t a movie franchise you go to see for the acting, you go for the visuals and the story.

However, many complain the story in Phantom Menace is poor as well. What they really mean is that the story is complicated. It isn’t as clear as the Cold-War like storyline represented in the original three films, which is the Rebels (*the good guys*) fighting the Empire (*the bad guys*) for space supremacy. In Phantom Menace, there’s many more parties involved, including the Republic, the Trade Federation, the Gugans, the Galactic Senate, the Jedi Council, and the Sith. Each of these parties have their own agendas, with some even acting as double agents, thus alluding to the political climate we have grown accustomed to. The film may not have the sharp dialogue required to pull off the story due to George Lucas’s shortcomings as a writer, but the film should be praised for containing such a complex story-line and using it as the set-up to the stories in the 70s and 80s films.

If there’s anything I can agree with most people about, it is Jar-Jar Binks. Actor Ahmed Best will have to live with this burden the rest of his life, as the borderline racist character will forever live in infamy as one of if not the worst character in the Star Wars universe. However, fans and critics are missing the point as to why the character exists: it’s a movie for children. Yes, Star Wars appeals to fans of many ages, but the films target children. Jar-Jar was the major selling point for kids to see the movie, as the fun loving, goofy character represented the lighthearted side of the film, and whose main function was to provide comic relief for the children. After seeing him in the film, children who more than likely loved the character would then bug their parents enough for them to buy them a Jar-Jar toy, thus allowing the Star Wars franchise to obtain even more funds from everyone. The same was and remains true for Chewbacca, the Ewoks, and also continues for new additions like BB-8 and Porg.

The podracing scene stands out to most as the best sequence in the entire movie. It’s undoubtedly inventive and suspenseful, and clearly took advantage of the advancements in special effects technology to deliver one of the most thrilling scenes in Star Wars canon. But let’s not forget the feeling of dread and awesomeness when one of the baddest Sith lords to ever grace a Star Wars film, Darth Maul, reveals his double sided lightsaber in the best lightsaber battle in all the Star Wars films. Sure, it’s interrupted by a somewhat annoying Anakin Skywalker in an auto piloted starfighter joining the federation in fighting the droid control ship and the Gugans battling the droids with a clumsy Jar-Jar somehow saving the day, but even those scenes are fun as well. The choreography for the lightsaber fight is unprecedented, filmed in such a way you can tell what’s occurring on screen and feel every clash of a lightsaber, and adds one of the biggest gut-punches that would forever shape the Star Wars universe.

It’s elements such as these that makes Phantom Menace much better than its reputation would have you believe. Yes, it’s far from perfect and maybe has its sights set too high in regards to its story for a Star Wars film, but Phantom Menace delivers blockbuster thrills and tremendous state of the art visuals on a grand scale. The hype machine set the expectations for the film so high there was no way it could live up to it. People had been craving another Star Wars movie for over a decade, and wanted it to be the way it was when they were a child. There’s no doubt “this wasn’t my childhood” sentiment also hindered the film, but it’s been long enough now that hopefully everyone has grown up and realized these movies, while they can be enjoyed by all ages, are targeted towards children, which they obviously no longer were by the time Phantom Menace landed in theaters nearly 20 years ago. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace should be given another viewing, and one should leave with a greater appreciation for the film than they did a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Rating: 2.5/ 4 Stars. Pay Matinée price.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace stars Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiamird, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Ahmed Best, Frank Oz, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Bro-Reviews: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

An unfocused narrative paired with a tour de force in acting.

Denzel Washington is as accomplished an actor there is in Hollywood. Whether you are a film buff or not, you can identify Mr. Washington easily, particularly by only saying his iconic first name, Denzel. One would think at this point in his illustrious career he may be slowing down, but past awards worthy roles in 2007’s American Gangster, 2012’s Flight, and 2016’s Fences prove he is only getting better with age. Pair him with screenwriter and director Dan Gilroy, who’s coming off the success of his directorial debut Nightcrawler, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. should be chalked-up as another victory for Denzel, right?

Denzel Washington stars as Roman J. Israel, Esq., a legal genius but socially inept lawyer who has spent years fighting the good fight for a small law firm in Los Angeles, California. When his partner in the firm unexpectedly experiences a health emergency, Roman finds himself working for the law firm of a former student of his partners’, George Pierce (Colin Farrell). After years of staying true to his values, he finds his morality being challenged due to a deadly case he’s working on with Pierce, while also starting a relationship with a civil rights worker (Carmen Ejogo).

Roman J. Israel, Esq. rests on the shoulders on its iconic star, and Denzel delivers more awardsworthy work as the titular character. Although the character is not entirely likeable, there’s something stunning about Denzel’s transformation into this very intelligent but people skills lacking lawyer. Washington has displayed unbelievable range and has carried films throughout his career, and once again displays his talents in this film.

One has to think it’s bizarre to see him share scenes with Denzel, but Colin Farrell is on his A-game. He may not be able to match Denzel blow for blow, but his supporting part should be highlighted and deserves awards consideration. Carmen Ejogo also delivers a fine performance as well, as she admires Roman’s quirkiness and sees him as an inspiring figure.

The issue that looms large over Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the film’s jumbled narrative. At its core, the film is about a man who abandons his selflessness for a short period of time only to realize it is this quality that makes him who he is. The film takes way too long to set this up, as its main story could be told in under two hours easily, but instead runs for an overlong two hours. Its heavy handedness is also glaring, as there are more subtle ways to depict a redemption story than having your leading man call himself a hypocrite at the beginning of the film and seeing him stray away from his magnum opus civil case to experience the luxuries in life once he is able to obtain them. Director Dan Gilroy made Nightcrawler such a taut, slick thriller back in 2014, so it’s curious to see just how this film managed to escape from him and be so distorted.

It doesn’t help seeing Washington’s character struggle in social situations continuously, which becomes more irritating than endearing after awhile. This is due to the fact Roman is the very definition of someone you wouldn’t trust to park your car. He would not only fail to follow instructions, he would attempt to explain why he didn’t do what you told him to do. This hypothetical situation is similar to many of the actions Roman takes throughout the film, making him rather obnoxious. This handicaps the film, as we typically want to sympathize with the protagonist of a film or at least have a reason to care about them. This is especially troubling when a film with a muddled narrative such as this one needs to be carried by the main character in order to make it a better film. That feeling doesn’t arise until the conclusion, and you’re more likely to react by saying “I told you so” rather than be sympathetic.

Roman J. Israel Esq. isn’t a total misfire, but rather a missed opportunity. The film boasts a capable cast around its star, and features Denzel Washington in yet another tremendous performance. Had the film been more focused, less heavy-handed, and featured a more likeable lead, Roman J. Israel Esq. could’ve been a nice little redemption story. Instead, what we get from Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a tour de force lead performance that can’t quite makeup for its jumbled narrative.

Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. stars Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Nazneen Contractor, Joseph David-Jones, Andrew T. Lee, and Shelley Hennig. It is in theaters November 17th.

 

 

 

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 10 Predictions

This is where the men separate themselves from the boys.

Week 10 of the NFL is coming at us fast, and at this point in the season, most teams know what direction they are heading in. That means there are opportunities for teams to separate themselves from others as true contenders, but there’s also just enough time left for teams who got off to slow starts to recover and make a push for the playoffs.

Last Week: 9-4

Overall: 77-55

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (Thursday Night Football)

The Seahawks defense embarrassed themselves last week allowing the Redskins to drive all the way down the field for the game winning touchdown with under two minutes remaining in the game. They’ll have a bounce back performance against the Drew Stanton led Cardinals.

Winner: Seahawks

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans

The Titans were a popular pick to win the AFC South this year, but they haven’t lived up to expectations as a team taking the next step towards contention. Meanwhile, the Bengals are too busy having MMA matches involving star WR A.J. Green to focus on winning.

Winner: Titans

 

Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions

Even with the 6-2 Vikings in their division, this is the perfect season for QB Matt Stafford to lead the Lions to an NFC North title considering Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is sidelined with a collar bone injury. They have to take care of business against the Browns, who recently reinstated former All-Pro WR Josh Gordon, who apparently was intoxicated in one form or another every game of his NFL career. That’s what playing for the Browns will do to someone.

Winner: Lions

 

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars won without stud rookie RB Leonard Fournette last week, who was suspended by the team for missing the Jaguar’s team photo. That didn’t matter much, as the Jaguars defense held the Bengals to 7 points. While the Chargers have somewhat rebounded from their 0-4 start, it’s a tall order for them to travel across the country and beat a team that boasts one of the best defenses in the league.

Winner: Jaguars

 

New York Jets at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston won’t be tasting any “W’s” any time soon, as he’s out for a couple of weeks with a sprained shoulder. The Buccaneers will start Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB, who will want to enact revenge against his former team. This is the type of game the Jets need to win if they want to continue to avoid tanking,

Winner: Jets

 

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is going to be desposed in former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick’s case in which he is accusing the league of collusion. Kaepernick may not have documentation of this, but anyone looking at how terrible the Packers are starting QB Brett Hundley in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers has to start to wonder if Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem last year is the reason as to why he remains unsigned.

Winner: Bears

 

New Orleans Saints at Buffalo Bills

The Bills had a chance last week to show they’re for real, and then they laid an egg on Thursday Night Football against the Jets. The Bills have had a record of .500 or better after playing eight games eight times since 1999. They failed to reach the playoffs each of those times. That trend seems like it could continue with a rough second half schedule, starting with a revived Saints team this week.

Winner: Saints

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts

In immortal words of Nelly and Tim McGraw, “cause it’s all in my head.” That lyric best describes Colts QB Andrew Luck if you’re listening to Colts owner Jim Irsay and former Colts coach Tony Dungy. Do you think Luck wants to play for Irsay?

Winner: Steelers

 

Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins

The Redskins pulled off an impressive victory over the Seahawks in Seattle last week, and they could still make some noise in the NFC East. The Vikings will have a decision to make between QBs Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, and Sam Bradford in regards to who their starter will be, but with a defense that allows 282 yards per game, it might not matter much.

Winner: Vikings

 

Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams

Say it loud: THE RAMS ARE FOR REAL. They’ve scored 30 or more points 5 times this year, and they’re 5-0 in those games. It’s a shame Texans rookie sensation QB Deshaun Watson is out for the season with a torn ACL, as this could’ve been a match-up featuring two young and now promising QBs in him and Jared Goff.

Winner: Rams

 

Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal, meaning he will be suspended for at least this game against the Falcons. The Cowboys have a ferocious defensive line that will cause problems for the sputtering Falcons offense, and Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is more than capable without his troubled star RB.

Winner: Cowboys

 

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers

The Giants are awful, and coach Ben McAdoo has supposedly lost the locker room with his constant player fines, throwing players under the bus, and tough practices. This is one of the few games remaining on the 49ers schedule they could win, but the 49ers are 0-9 for a reason, and 0-16 remains a real possibility.

Winner: Giants

 

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (Sunday Night Football)

Including the postseason, Patriots QB Tom Brady is 7-9 in his career against the Broncos. Fortunately for him, the Broncos offense can’t function to save their lives this season. They will trot out QB Brock Osweiler for the second straight week, and if you take Broncos head coach Vance Joseph’s word for it, Osweiler gives the Broncos confidence. Did he watch the beating his team took in Philadelphia last week?

Winner: Patriots

 

Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers (Monday Night Football)

People keep doubting the Panthers this season for some odd reason. It could be because Panthers QB Cam Newton compared his team to the Titanic when asked about the team trading away WR Kelvin Benjamin. If he wanted to use the Titanic metaphor correctly, he would’ve used it to describe the Dolphins’ playoff chances, as it’s a miracle this team is 4-4 despite being one of the worst ranked offenses in the league. QB Jay Cutler probably should’ve stayed retired.

Winner: Panthers

 

Bro-Reviews: Marshall

Based on a (*not as well known*) true story.

It’s been said before here, but bio-pics can be a tough sell every now and then. We’ve already seen the disastrous results bio-pics have yielded thus far in 2017, namely the egregiously mishandled Tupac Shakur bio-pic All Eyez on Me. Therefore it wasn’t out of the question to believe a bio-pic on Civil Rights activist Thurgood Marshall, entitled  Marshall, might have also been bungled as well. Would it be able to avoid all of the same issues that plagued All Eyez on Me? Or would it rise above the ashes of that atrocity and present audiences with a gripping film chronicling one of the most influential Civil Rights figures?

Marshall sees a young Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) as the go-to lawyer for the NAACP, who attempt to ensure all African Americans accused of crimes are given a fair trial. Marshall is sent to Greenwich, Connecticut to serve as council for Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), a man accused of raping and attempting to murder Elanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), a white socialite in the town. In order to overcome an unfair judge (James Cromwell) and a well connected, biased prosecution lawyer (Dan Stevens), Marshall must team up with the reluctant Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a small time lawyer who appears to be unprepared for the case.

If you don’t know, Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice along with an advocate for the Civil Rights movement. It would have been a tall task for director Reginald Hudlin to cover Thurgood Marshall’s story in its entirety, and it works to the film’s benefit to cover this lesser known case to highlight Marshall’s beginnings. By only focusing on this case, Hudlin is able to grasp the audience’s attention for the entirety of the film by presenting us with a good-old fashioned courtroom drama in the same elk as 1996’s A Time to Kill. You as an audience member are also treated as a member of the jury through the proceedings, and are left squirming in your seat at every moment in the courtroom as you try to decipher the case being presented on-screen.

The highlight of the film is the captivating, swaggering performance of one Chadwick Boseman. Marshall is his latest triumph and another tremendous addition to his resume, as his portrayal as Thurgood Marshall is not only relatable, but also endearing. We feel for Marshall at every obstacle that is put in front of him, and we root for him to succeed in this against all odds case. We’ve seen Boseman do this before as historical black figures in 2013’s 42 as Jackie Robinson and as James Brown in 2014’s Get On Up, and eventually we’ll more than likely see him play every single historical black figure there is.

The supporting cast also shines in the film. While Josh Gad is essentially a more dramatic incarnation of Jack Black and Dan Fogler, Gad delivers a stellar performance as a resistant at first lawyer, and his transformation into a capable defense attorney is one of the better character arcs this year. Kate Hudson also delivers a fine performance as Mrs. Strubing, and it’s a good to see her branch out into more dramatic territory after making a career of off sub-par romantic comedies. James Cromwell and Dan Stevens also give solid performances as an unjust judge and prejudiced prosecution lawyer respectively, adding tension to an already heightened situation.

In regards to the usually superb Sterling K. Brown, he doesn’t quite find his footing until the end of the film as the accused Joseph Spell. Most of the film, Brown appears to be a bumbling, unintelligent black man most racists believe black men to be, and something about his confused demeanor didn’t sit entirely well with me. As stated earlier, James Cromwell and Dan Stevens are well-cast in their villainous roles, but they might as well be waking around with signs that read “BAD GUY.” And as with many courtroom dramas, there are no shortages of cliches and telegraphed moments. One in particular that stands out is an aforementioned character’s sudden change from the behavior he had displayed throughout 99% of the film, and the camera’s lingering on this moment is a dead giveaway as to what is about to occur.

Sure, Marshall contains many elements we’ve seen numerous times before in other courtroom drama films. However, Marshall‘s tense moments, stellar supporting cast, and knockout performance from its lead makes it one of the best the genre has to offer. It may not get the awards attention it probably deserves because of its familiar themes, but Marshall has enough to it to not only stand on its own, but also stand out from the rest, much like Thurgood Marshall himself.

Rating: 3.5/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

Marshall stars Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Kate Hudson, James Cromwell, Dan Stevens, Keesha Sharp, and Sophia Bush. It is in theaters October 13th.

 

 

Bro-Reviews: American Made

Cruise-Control.

Despite his short stature, Tom Cruise is a controversial figure. His devotion to the religion of Scientology, horse toothed smile, and constant running in motion pictures to the point that it must be an obligation specified in his contract for every movie he does, garners him polarizing opinions. There are some who despise Tom Cruise. There are those who love Tom Cruise. But one thing that cannot be taken away from him is his longevity, as Cruise has had arguably the longest spanning career as an A-list actor who has ever graced the silver screen. Despite some recent hiccups, including this past summer’s so bad it turns around to being good The Mummy, Cruise’s status as a leading man doesn’t appear to in jeopardy, especially if his latest film, American Made, has anything to say about that.

American Made sees Tom Cruise as Barry Seal, a talented pilot for commercial airline TWA who appears bored with life in the late 1970s in America. One day, he is contacted by CIA agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), who convinces Seal to work for the agency at first by flying covert reconnaissance missions in order to spy on Communist bases in South America. This then escalates to Seal becoming involved in the drug smuggling industry with the Medellin Cartel, running guns to the Nicaraguan Contras, and even transporting the Contras to Mena, Arkansas for training. While Seal reaps the benefits of these missions by obtaining a lofty sum of cash, these situations continue to spiral out of control, and with the DEA hot on his trail, Seal must navigate through all the chaos.

American Made does a splendid job of transporting audiences into the late 1970s all the way through the 1980s during its 117 minute run time. From the classic Cadillac vehicles all the way to the the character’s outfits, there’s little confusion as to what setting the film takes place in. Also included is archive footage of speeches from former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan to highlight how our world leaders appear to be against everything Barry Seal is doing, but are in fact the ones who are allowing Seal to profit from all they publicly denounce.

The supporting cast in the film also functions well within the well-done script by Gary Spinelli. Sarah Wright is smoldering as Seal’s wife Lucy, but also acts as the audience reacts to all of the seemingly unrealistic events that are unfolding. Alejandro Edda and Mauicio Mejia do a great job as Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar respectively, doing these larger than life business men turned paranoid drug lords justice. Caleb Landry Jones is a riot and a nuisance as Lucy’s slow, red-neck brother JB, and continues his ascension to the top of the character actor ranks. It’s Domhnall Gleeson who fares best among the supporting cast as CIA agent Schafer, and being the catalyst for Seal to embark on these dangerous but bankable undertakings makes him one of the more charismatic characters in the film.

But let’s not make any bones about it, this is Tom Cruise’s movie. Cruise expertly portrays Seal as a hustling, aw-shucks attitude having Southerner who can’t believe his luck due to excess earnings he’s making and his ability to avoid the law while doing it. Cruise puts us in Seal’s shoes, and you too can’t believe the events unfolding on this roller coaster ride in a slice of life of a real life figure. Cruise owns the screen as Barry Seal, and many would consider this role the first time he has actually acted since 2008’s Valkyrie. This is somewhat puzzling, as there is a reason as to why Cruise has been a leading man for over 30 years in Hollywood. This is the type of role that Cruise can do in his sleep, but even Tom Cruise at his laziest is a compelling watch.

If there’s anything to criticize, it’s the fact there isn’t much commentary on the previously mentioned politics involved in the film. Sure, the archive footage serves as a great reminder as to what was going on during this time period, but the film barely provides a surface level commentary on just how twisted and corrupt the agencies sworn to protect the United States of America. Sure, American Made is supposed to be a classic Tom Cruise vehicle rather than a thoughtful account regarding the United States’ involvement in drug and gun smuggling, but providing that analysis could have made American Made an even better film than it already is.

Despite the missed opportunity director Doug Liman had to provide more insight on the corruption of the United States government in the late 1970s through the 1980s, Liman nails the setting and gets the most out of the supporting cast. He has also seems to be a director who can get a lot out of the ageless wonder that is Tom Cruise, who bolsters the film with his tremendous lead performance. Even though there are signs of Cruise being on Cruise control, American Made is a triumph and a cautionary tale that all good things must come to an end, but to enjoy the ride while it lasts and become the epitome of the American Dream.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Matinée price.

American Made stars Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Alejandro Edda, Mauicio Mejia, Jamaya Mays, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones, and Benito Martinez. It is in theaters September 29th.

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 4 Predictions

Playmakers. Protests. Picks.

Week 3 in the NFL was high-jacked by players protesting President Donald Trump’s remarks regarding players kneeling during the National Anthem, calling them “sons of b******” and saying they should be fired. NFL players reacted to these immature, incendiary remarks by either staying in the locker room, locking arms, kneeling, or some combination of the three during the playing of the National Anthem. These protests and signals of unity led to what might have been the most upset riddled week of the NFL thus far, leading to many having awful weeks predicting the week 3 match-ups.

Just for a recap: The Jaguars embarrassed the Ravens, the Bears conquered the Steelers, the Saints blew out the Panthers, the Titans vanquished the Seahawks, the Redskins beat down the Raiders, the Vikings pulverized the Buccaneers (*with Case Keenum as their QB*), the Bills subdued the Broncos, the Packers needed overtime to beat the Bengals, and the Jets trounced the Dolphins. Let all of that sink in.

Last Week: 5-11

Overall: 26-21

Lock of the Week: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (Thursday Night Football)

The Bears are better than we expected. While Bears fans should be happy that it won’t be Jay Cutler suiting up against the Packers, Mike Glennon is not much of an upgrade.

Lock of the Week Winner: Green Bay

New Orleans Saints at Miami Dolphins

The Saints may have started 0-2 for the fourth straight season, but they always start slow because Drew Brees is old. Like any other old person, they take a while to get warmed up, then hit their stride, and then collapse. We’re somewhere in between the first two steps of that process with Brees and the Saints, and the Dolphins lost to the Jets. Let me repeat that. THE DOLPHINS LOST TO THE JETS.

Winner: Saints

Buffalo Bills at Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta could very easily be 1-2 right now, as they’ve been outplayed two out of the first three weeks, including weaseling their way to a win last week against Detroit. Nevertheless, the Falcons are 3-0, and while they’ll struggle against a tough Bills defense, it may be time to re-think the whole notion of the “Super Bowl hangover”.

Winner: Falcons

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

Both teams suffered uncharacteristic losses against lesser competition last week. If you thought this rivalry couldn’t get any more heated than it already is, first place is on the line this week.

Winner: Steelers

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns

The Battle of Ohio? More like the battle of Oh why no.

Winner: Bengals

Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys

Don’t drink the Rams Kool aide just because they’re first in the league in points per game. Their two wins have come against the Andrew Luck-less Colts and the 49ers. Hardly the Super Bowl contending, knee-bending, anthem standing Dallas Cowboys.

Winner: Cowboys

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

The Titans look like the real deal after dominating Seattle, but the Texans looked explosive with DeShaun Watson at the helm against the Patriots. This is a true AFC South Smackdown.

Winner: Texans

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings

Let’s recap Detroit’s game last week. WR Golden Tate appeared to have caught a pass and crossed the goal line to put the Lions ahead of the Falcons with 8 seconds left in the 4th quarter. The referees decided to review the play, and reversed the call by saying he was down before scoring. Then, by NFL rule, a 10 second run off had to occur because it was a scoring play review under 2 minutes, costing them the game. You think Detroit is mad about that?

Winner: Lions

Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots

The Patriots defense is really bad, but QB Tom Brady is quite possibly the G.O.A.T., which is more than enough to make up for their lack of defense. The Panthers will want to rebound from being beat-down against the Saints, but Panthers QB Cam Newton threw for a measly 167 yards and 3 interceptions against a woeful Saints defense.

Winner: Patriots

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets

This is a game where you could flip a coin and decide the winner. Even then you can’t be sure which version of these teams, good or bad, will show up come Sunday.

Winner: Jets

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer can’t move anymore, and WR Larry Fitzgerald, who has plenty left in the tank, is handicapped by his immobile QB. But the 49ers allowed Jared Goff to hang 41 points on them, so there’s a beacon of hope this week for the birds of the desert.

Winner: Cardinals

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Chargers

The Eagles had a huge week 1 win against an NFC East rival. They followed that up with a loss on the road against an AFC West opponent. The Eagles won in dramatic fashion last week thanks to a 61-yard field goal against an NFC East rival. This week, they go on the road to face an AFC West opponent. Notice a pattern?

Winner: Chargers

New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Giants offense showed signs of life last week against the Eagles, but walked off the field without a win. The Buccaneers came out flat against the Vikings last week, and Buccaneers WR Mike Evans threw a temper tantrum because of that. The Giants are more desperate than the Buccaneers, but if they don’t win this week, it might be time for a change in New York.

Winner: Giants

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

The Raiders got punched in the mouth against the Redskins on Sunday Night Football in front of a national audience. The Broncos, who are coming off a poor showing in Buffalo against the Bills, must’ve been salivating at what they saw. If he plays, Raiders WR Michael Crabtree may want to hide his gold chain from Broncos CB Aqib Talib.

Winner: Broncos

Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday Night Football)

Is it too early to start flexing games for Sunday Night Football?

Winner: Seahawks

Upset of the Week: Washington Redskins at Kansas City Chiefs (Monday Night Football)

The Chiefs look like the team to beat in the NFL right now, but the Redskins looked dominant against a good Raiders team. It’s another nationally televised game for the Redskins, and they’re going to want to show they can hang with the best the NFL has to offer for the second week in a row.

Upset of the Week Winner: Redskins