On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 2, 2018


American Made is one of those "so crazy it must be true" stories that comes to shed light on what was seemingly a mess the U.S. government frantically tried to clean up, but couldn't help only making bigger messes out of. American Made looks to sheds light on an individual who was essentially taken advantage of despite the fact he himself took advantage of every opportunity he was given. Never stopping to question the repercussions of his actions, his own moral compass- never mind the ones of those he was in league with, or considering his ultimate role in the scheme of things Barry Seal was a reckless man who lived fast and loose and thus this movie about his life appropriately does the same thing. From director Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Edge of Tomorrow) American Made is one part Tom Cruise-vehicle, one part biopic, and just a wholly unbelievable adventure tale that asks the audience to go along with it even as the places it goes that it claims to be true are absolutely preposterous. That said, while the film capably chronicles the fast-paced life of one, Barry Seal, it doesn't stop long enough to really meditate on any of the decisions, plans, or ideas that its protagonist might have had or considered when going through with his actions. We get little in the way of motivation other than the fact Seal seems to crave a more wild lifestyle than that of what his life as a commercial airline pilot for TSA was providing. While American Made might not carry as much depth as one would expect when discussing past political decisions, drug cartels, money laundering, and the like Liman directs the film, written by man of few credits Gary Spinelli, as if Seal himself was telling it; the filmmaker even including snippets of Seal talking into a VHS camcorder as he recounts his story periodically throughout the feature. This is Barry Seal's story in the style of Barry Steal-fast and loose. And by imbuing this type of style through to the overall tone of the film it allows for American Made, while not necessarily deep, to feel authentic and naturally revealing. More than anything, American Made is a hell of an entertaining ride and one can't ask for much more than that out of a Tom Cruise blockbuster that isn't an action blockbuster in 2017. Full review here. Video review here. B

Going into directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' (Little Miss Sunshine) take on the legendary tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973 I had no real idea of the historical context of the movie or even of the individuals involved and so, needless to say, I was about to get a history lesson from what is arguably the worst place to receive a history lesson: the movies. Still, if one can appreciate cinema as an art form to encapsulate a moment or a culmination of events-a cinematic summary if you will-rather than an accurate depiction of every detail surrounding certain subjects that tend to be true, then we should be okay. While I still don't know much more about the showdown between King and Riggs outside of what I learned in screening Battle of the Sexes what I can say and likely what is the best thing the film has to offer is the insight into just how average casual chauvinism was in that day and age. Without blinking, in one of the opening scenes, Bill Pullman as Jack Kramer-a former professional tennis player and head of the prestigious tennis association King and many of her female counterparts were members of-tosses out how much of a fact it is that men are not only faster and stronger than women, but more competitive by nature. That it's biology. The most revealing part being that Kramer doesn't actually mean this to be offensive because he doesn't think of it as being offensive, but rather that it is simply the truth. While this level of arrogance still exists and is likely even worse in some circles today (don't believe me, look at the YouTube comments on the trailers for this movie) it has been amplified to a defensive level because time has also allowed for women to gain more and more of the equality they seek and so rightly deserve. As a white male I always find it difficult to complain about anything as I've certainly never faced anything insurmountable in my life and while I don't want to make this movie review a discussion about where my opinion falls as far as women's rights and such it kind of shocks me a movie such as this is even considered something of a statement nearly forty-five years after the fact when one would imagine human intelligence might have moved on to understanding that women are better at some things than men and men are better at some things than women, but regardless we all deserve the same type and, more importantly, the same amount of respect. It's not a difficult concept to grasp, but if Battle of the Sexes is a rather by the numbers sports biopic it at least serves to show audiences how little we've actually progressed and how much farther we have to go. Full review here. C+

Writer/director Mike White (Chuck & Buck, School of Rock) has made a movie meant for the purposes of entertaining about a man who seethes with jealousy from the first frame and who reminds us and, more specifically, men of a certain age that time has or is running out. This isn't exactly the best way to get an audience who likely paid to see your movie on your side, but with the endearing presence of Ben Stiller serving as the conduit for White's exploration of middle age the well-regarded writer, who is only directing his second feature film with Brad's Status, is able to perform such explorations with such balance and well-defined introspection that the film mostly transcends its rather grim implications and is able to become one easily appreciated for its reassurance. Leave it to White, who has always excelled at crafting these kinds of human, but uncomfortably so, stories to make this reassurance not in the form of our titular protagonist finding and/or achieving what he so greatly craves for the majority of the runtime, but for discovering and realizing things he may not have considered prior. It's all about perspective and White chronicles these ideas and themes through Stiller's main character by giving him an abundance of internal monologue, but does it more convincingly by having Brad take part in actions that provoke the progression of these thoughts. Never does Stiller's Brad feel like little more than a man complaining for the sake of complaining, but rather Brad is a guy who is having a real crisis of identity. It would be easy to dismiss Brad's Status as another of those middle-aged white guys having an existential crisis movies and that's because it is, but there is something to Brad's Status that helps it rise above those kinds of dismissive criticisms by being the movie that acknowledges it's about white people problems and owns up to it. Everyone has problems, some obviously vary in degree of severity and repercussion size, but everyone has problems and issues they have to deal with and to each and every person each of their individual problems are as real as anything else. Brad takes real issue with the fact he feels he's cut himself short in this single shot at life he's been given and while White is keen to writhe just about every perspective out of this base of an idea he can what Brad's Status ultimately does is provide a way to navigate feelings of inadequacy and jealousy while coming to the realization that because everyone has their own problems that those who make Brad feel inadequate or jealous likely aren't aware of as much because they have their own things they're dealing with that their social media doesn't show. Full review here. B-

I’m sorry, I tried, but I couldn’t take any of Breathe seriously-and, to be sure, it should be. Between Andrew Garfield’s trying performance, the cringe-inducing twins as performed by the typically stellar Tom Hollander, and never mind the lack of any real drive in the narrative the movie just never pans out. Director Andy Serkis photographs his debut flawlessly and there is credit due for attempting to make a legitimate old school, grand epic romance, but the romance is never there, the movie tends to assume we know what’s coming, and proceeds to execute itself as such: with little to no excitement or drama. Worst of all, it’s completely forgettable. I couldn’t recall a thing that happened in the film a mere day or two after watching it. D-