Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

“American Made”



It may be exasperating to repeatedly see 55 year old Tom Cruise trying to pass himself off as a thirty something man, but there’s something that’s undeniable about “American Made”: Cruise is the very definition of a movie star. His charisma elevates the material and is what makes this one worth watching.

The film is an exaggerated retelling of the incredible true story of Barry Seal (Cruise), a TWA pilot recruited by the CIA in the late 1970s to provide reconnaissance in Central America. Things go from crazy to even crazier as Seal finds himself in charge of one of the largest covert government operations in history, eventually becoming a drug runner for Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel, a DEA informant, and an illegal arms dealer for the United States. Over the years, he and his handler Schafer (a fantastic Domhnall Gleeson), become deeply imbedded in the Iran-Contra scandal.

There’s an intoxicating energy to this unbelievable story, as director Doug Liman plays fast and loose with the actual facts and events. There’s nothing groundbreaking in terms of story or craft, but Liman takes a complex story and makes it easy to understand as well as totally entertaining. This is a rapid paced, brisk retelling that’s not quite as skillfully directed as other American pop history films like “Argo,” but it’s still an engaging thrill ride.

Cruise has the right personality match for a cocky, carefree character, and his cavalier performance makes everything about it fun. You won’t get a complex history lesson about one of the wildest, most certifiably insane true stores in America’s history, but the facts are glossed over in a breezy, charming fashion that gives this one a fun edge thanks to Cruise’s movie star charisma.

“The Mummy”



Universal’s attempt to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (they even are calling their new brand The Dark Universe) has produced “The Mummy,” the first in the series of classic monster movie reboots by the studio. If this film is any indication, they may have a difficult road ahead of them. This movie isn’t nearly as awful as you’ve heard, and it’s actually a rousing ride of pure escapism that is entertaining enough to please old fans as well as new recruits.

Too-old-for-the-part Tom Cruise plays hero Nick, a soldier with a sweet tooth for antiquities, who uncovers a hidden tomb and unleashes the fury of the mummy Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). The plot isn’t much more sophisticated than that, but it really doesn’t need to be because the admirable special effects and stunts carry the project from start to finish.

The stupid story and ridiculously silly ending don’t lend any favors, but despite the film’s uneven stumbles, it never struggles in its quest to keep audiences entertained. It’s thrilling and spooky enough when it needs to be, and it isn’t even close to being a bad movie.

Everyone gives better than they should performances, including a great turn from Boutella as the evil yet sympathetic Ahmanet and Russell Crowe as the dual personas of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I loved the female mummy angle quite a bit; her compelling back story provides plenty of motivation to explain her pure evilness. Cruise is good here too, proving himself to still be a bankable, charismatic movie star. There’s zero chemistry between Cruise and his co-star Annabelle Wallis, however. She, too, is horribly miscast as an archaeologist, and there’s simply not one ounce of believability that Nick would put his life on the line to save her. Their “relationship” consists of a one night stand, making their emotional connection register at nil. (There are several awkward jokes about their evening spent together, with some suggestive content that might make very conservative folks blush. In fact, prudish parents should be aware that this film pushes its PG-13 rating and is filled with many genuinely scary moments, mild horror gore, and brief nudity).

The movie blurs the lines to create an oddly satisfying horror-adventure genre (at times it feels more like a modern zombie movie or an episode of “The Walking Dead” rather than a classic monster reboot), which means there are far too many hackish scenes of cartoon zombies grabbing for the humans.

There’s no denying that the film is deeply flawed on so many levels, but it gets enough things right (including its big, dumb, over-the-top fun) to make for an entertaining evening at the movies.

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”



In the latest movie where the title serves as a warning to potential audiences, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is a bland, dull excuse for an action thriller. It’s doubly tragic that this sequel is so unsatisfying because the original “Jack Reacher” was such a great movie. Every ounce of fun has been completely sucked out of this stale, empty retread.

Tom Cruise returns as ex-military tough guy Jack Reacher, and he’s a good fit for the role. The usually annoying and coldly aloof Cobie Smulders is an agreeable enough match for Cruise, playing an Army honcho who has been falsely accused of treason (this is one of the rare roles where Smulders isn’t too bothersome, but she and Cruise lack any sort of real chemistry).

The decent plot (based on Lee Child‘s bestselling novel “Never Go Back”) hinges on a straightforward mystery with lots of suspicious murders, shady henchmen, and an illegal arms selling / drug smuggling scheme that pops up out of nowhere. It’s not that the story is a particularly bad one: it’s that the dialogue is, let’s not mince words here, absolutely awful. Horrible. Dreadful. The characters often state the obvious with unintentionally hilarious aplomb (“Look, a food truck!,” and “I want to know what he ate for breakfast, and I want it on my desk ASAP!“).

There’s a conventional, second-rate subplot about Reacher’s supposed long-lost daughter Samantha (an irritating performance from Danika Yarosh) that the filmmakers use as an attempt to set the story up for a sequel (while audiences everywhere surely must be hoping that’s not the case).

The sanitized action scenes are lame and most are dead on arrival. The ‘best’ action sequence, which isn’t saying much, takes place in a restaurant kitchen where the weapon of choice is a giant meat tenderizer (yep, you can look forward to ‘exciting’ bits like that).

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” and this year’s equally awful “Jason Bourne” will blend together in my mind at the end of the year. Everything about this film is mediocre, and there’s nothing memorable or distinct about it. There’s not one shred of suspense, adventure or excitement. This is Hollywood watered-down junk, and Tom Cruise is far better than this.


As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for; you just might receive it.

After watching the first “Jack Reacher”, I wished for more movies with this character (played by Tom Cruise). That film was a contender for my best of 2012 list because it was a compelling story about a man with an interesting past working to solve a case involving a trained military sniper. That movie was scripted and directed by the talented Christopher McQuarrie and had an excellent supporting cast with talented actors. “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is a significant downgrade from the first film in virtually every way possible.

In the new movie, Jack teams up with Army Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) to uncover the truth behind why two of the people under Major Turner’s command were killed in Afghanistan. Reacher and Turner quickly find themselves the targets of a conspiracy that involves a number of high-ranking military personnel, and are forced to go on the run while they work to uncover the truth behind the plot. Yawn.

While I am a fan of Cruise, he and Smulders have no chemistry. Smulders turns in typically one-note and humdrum performance (who in the hell decided she should be a movie star, anyway?). The script (by Richard Wenk and Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz — yes, 3 different writers) is laughably bad. The direction (by Zwick) is pedestrian and unimaginative. The scenes featured in the trailer (which made it look really good!) are virtually the only things to like about this movie, and the best one of them opens the film, which means that everything goes downhill from there.

I now regret wishing for another “Jack Reacher” movie. Don’t bother seeing this one.