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Tag Archive: American Made


Is it just me or do these look like the same movie?  On the one hand you have the dark and serious second chapter in the Sicario series, Sicario 2: Soldado, following a badass mercenary in the world of international drug smuggling played by Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Guardians of the Galaxy’s own Benicio Del Toro.  On the other you have the dark comedy Gringo, starring David Oyelowo as a businessman who gets caught up in a bad drug deal with a cartel in Mexico.

Sicario had some great things going for it, including Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Del Toro.  But Blunt was the lead, and the typically fantastic actress seemed stuck in a role where she was the only one making mistakes and the big bad guys were the only ones knowing what was going on.  Del Toro’s character was by far the best thing the film had going for it, the kind of character that got Kevin Spacey his Academy Award and in another year could have done the same for Del Toro.  But the 2015 film was most memorable for its long, slow, atmospheric scenes where nothing happened, making it feel like the film would never end.  But with Del Toro’s character driving the sequel and a new director (swapping Stefano Sollima for Denis Villeneuve), is there hope Sicario 2 could rise above the original?

Gringo has a different kind of cast of stars.  In addition to Oyelowo it stars Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, and Alan Ruck.  This one will be an Amazon Studios release–the studio is still looking for its breakout equivalent of a box office hit.  As with Sicario 2, again we have the theme of drug smuggling and drug deals gone bad.  both of these arrive on the heels of this year’s mildly successful and critically acclaimed drama comedy American Made with Tom Cruise, which took the whole drug smuggling concept in its own direction, poking fun at a real-life drug smuggler from the 1980s as his world crashed in on him.

So which one is for you?  Check out these trailers for Sicario 2 and Gringo:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Elmore Leonard’s 30th novel would become one of his most widely known stories.  Leonard, the “Dickens of Detroit” and one of America’s greatest crime authors, wrote 45 novels before his death in 2013, including Westerns like 3:10 to Yuma and later popular works Get Shorty and Be Cool, but his own favorite film adaptation, and the best screenplay he’d say he had ever read, was Quentin Tarentino’s Jackie Brown, the film adaptation of Leonard’s 1992 novel Rum Punch.  Although Jackie Brown will likely not go down as the most popular of Tarentino’s films–that will probably always fall to Pulp FictionJackie Brown is probably his best work, a straight crime thriller without all the over-the-top operatic bloodbaths of his other films.  It’s also one of the most faithful film adaptations you’ll ever see, keeping most of the dialogue and sequences from the novel.  Rum Punch is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and Jackie Brown celebrates its 20th anniversary next month.

Only a few chapters into Rum Punch and it’s easy to understand why Tarentino acquired the screen rights to adapt the novel for film.  The characters are edgy and typical of the pulp crime genre, yet they are also unique in their depth.  Leonard weaves Jackie, Max, Ordell, Louis, Melanie, and Ray into an intricate and fulfilling caper and con job.  Jackie is driven, determined, and a little rough on the edges.  Max is a straight shooter and ex-law enforcer who plays by the rules.  Ordell and Louis have years of crime between them and are moving beyond the petty crimes of their past.   And the book is filled with cool–cool people, cool ambiance, cool talk.  The biggest difference between book and film adaptation is in Leonard’s handling of the relationship between Jackie Brown and bail bondsman Max Cherry, played so well by Robert Forster in the film.  Jackie Brown sketches what may be one of the best modern romances on film–a subtle and almost teenage infatuation between the two film leads that culminates in a simple kiss at the end of the film.  Jackie and Max seem to care sincerely for each other, and the film leaves Max to return to his life of writing bonds while Jackie drives off into the unknown.  But the original novel left open whether the two characters would go off together, while making them a romantic couple early in the story.  In the novel Max has been estranged from his wife for a few years and he’s finally getting to filing the divorce papers.  But Max doesn’t have much to drive him until Jackie shows up and they end up in the sack, almost taking away from something Tarentino was able to tap into to make more touching for the film.  Leonard gives Max and Jackie individually second chances and an opportunity to start anew with each other–if only they’d just take it.  Leonard leaves the question open–is there a happily ever after in the cards for them?  But Tarentino has Max watch as Jackie drives off.  It’s a gut punch–there’s no happy ending here.  The viewer can’t help but imagine him getting into the car and going after her, after the credits roll.  Which is better?  That answer is in the eyes of the reader.

But there are other differences worth noting between the novel and the film.  Leonard’s heroine is a blonde woman named Jackie Burke.  Initially Tarentino was nervous about discussing with Leonard the re-casting of the lead to Pam Grier for his film, but Leonard was in favor of it.  And the name shift was simply because Tarentino thought Jackie Brown was a cooler name than Jackie Burke.  Rum Punch, the title of the 1992 novel, was the term used to identify the scheme that Ordell (played in the film by Samuel L. Jackson) was using to bring money into the U.S. from Jamaica (this is the same type of arms purchase scheme and players that were the focus of this month’s new Tom Cruise movie American Made, reviewed here).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Once again Tom Cruise proves he can’t make a bad action movie.  This Friday his latest, American Made, opens in theaters nationwide.  It is absolutely a Tom Cruise movie for anyone that loves Tom Cruise movies, and everyone else will find a 1980s flashback blast waiting for them.  Cruise has had starring or recognizable roles in 42 movies.  As with star actors like John Wayne and Arnold Schwarzenegger, many expect to see Cruise play Cruise in every new film, but that’s not quite what happens.  Like many actors you can bundle their performances into categories, although it’s easy to find some overlap.  There are Cruise’s cocky maverick hotshots in Jack Reacher, Collateral, Mission: Impossible, Days of Thunder, Rain Man, Cocktail, The Color of Money, and The Outsiders.  That’s a bit different Cruise than the renegades of Top Gun, Oblivion, Valkyrie, Minority Report, Born on the Fourth of July, and The Last Samurai But that’s not the Cruise you’ll find in American Made.  This is Cruise as flawed, cavalier everyman–and a bit of a dope–the kind of roles you could see Gary Cooper or Kevin Costner cast in.  Early buzz suggests this new role is Cruise as cocky maverick hotshot, but that’s only on the surface because he’s playing a pilot.  In American Made you’ll find the more casual but layered Cruise of War of the Worlds, Far and Away, Edge of Tomorrow, A Few Good Men, The Firm, and Jerry Maguire.  This is also the more likeable, more relatable Cruise persona.

Cruise’s character Barry Seal was a real person who fell into some crazy, impossibly outlandish situations as a pilot in the 1970s and 1980s.  This isn’t a true biography–the real events in Seal’s life are far different than as portrayed in the first half of the film, but the second half tracks much closer.  The Barry Seal of the film begins as a well-trained pilot that gets bored with the mundane.  He starts small, smuggling cigars from Cuba into the states while a TWA pilot.  Then a CIA agent named Schafer catches him and offers him a deal: Seal’s evasive techniques are perfect to take spy photos in Central America.  For Seal it beats boredom, and it’s a breeze for him, despite the frequent heavy gunfire.  Seal gets in deep but never really seems to understand how deep, because underneath what would appear to be your typical hotshot pilot is that bit of a dope.  He is so clueless he can’t fathom that his wife, played by Sarah Wright Olsen (Parks and Recreation, Enchanted, 7th Heaven), won’t respond affirmatively that she trusts him when he gives her a smile and asks “do you trust me?”  Twice.  He’s actually taken aback, despite the impossible situation he drags his wife into (like Jerry Maguire trying to convince his new girlfriend that all isn’t as bad as it seems).  And his new pal list includes Manuel Noriega.

CIA agent Schafer (an amalgam of agents the real-life Seal had worked with) is played by Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).  Gleeson is a ringer for Timothy Busfield in Field of Dreams or Sneakers and has great chemistry with Cruise–and he’s surprisingly strong directing the much older Cruise’s actions in scene after scene despite his youth.  Together Schafer and Seal build-up some CIA successes, but Seal has a growing family and needs some extra money on the side–and Schafer isn’t providing more money–so the CIA success is coupled with Seal’s casual assistance in the rise of the Medellin Cartel as he begins smuggling cocaine.  The DEA learns about it and Seal bounces back and forth, playing for both sides, ultimately smuggling weapons for the White House and Ollie North in what became the Iran-Contra scandal.  And then the FBI gets involved.  And all the while Seal literally can’t figure out what to do with all his proceeds from his smuggling, burying some piles of cash in the yard, his wife stuffing shoe boxes full of money in closets, after buying up much of the small town they arrive at in Arkansas.

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rocket

Our annual “All the Movies You’ll Want to See…” series has been one of the most viewed of all of our entries at borg.com each year.  So this year we again scoured Hollywood and its publicity machine for as many genre films coming out in 2017 that have been disclosed.  The result is a whopping 58 movies, many you’ll probably want to see in the theater or catch on video (and some you may want to skip).  We bet you’ll find a bunch below you’ve never heard of.  Bookmark this now for your 2017 calendar!

Most coming out in the second half of 2017 don’t even have posters released yet.  We’ve included descriptions and key cast so you can start planning accordingly.

What do we think will be the biggest hits of the year?  How about Star Wars: Episode VIII or Wonder Woman?   Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of 1,000 Planets?  Ghost in the Shell?  Or Beauty and the Beast? 

justice

You’ve heard endlessly about Logan and Justice League, but 2017 will also see numerous other sequels, like Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, and sequels for Underworld, Resident Evil, Planet of the Apes, Pirates of the Caribbean, XXX, John Wick, King Kong, The Fast and the Furious, Cars, The Kingsman, Transformers, Despicable Me.   And The Six Billion Dollar Man is finally on its way.  Look for plenty of Dwayne Johnson, Tom Cruise, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Zoe Saldana, Hugh Jackman, John Goodman, Michael Peña, Ryan Reynolds, Sofia Boutella, and Elle Fanning in theaters this year.

So wait no further, here are your genre films for 2017:

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