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REVIEW: American Made

By Eric Hillis,

originally published: 09/25/2017

REVIEW: American Made

Breaking Bad. Narcos. Bloodline. Ozark. In recent years the small screen has hosted numerous series set in the world of the drugs trade. Aside from last year’s little seen Bryan Cranston vehicle The Infiltrator, the trend has eluded the big screen. But now we have American Made, a true life tale of the extraordinary exploits of a drug-runner at the height of Reagan’s war on drugs, and starring the planet’s most recognizable movie star.

Tom Cruise is Barry Seal, a TWA pilot whom we first meet in the late ‘70s earning money on the side importing Cuban cigars to the US. When the CIA, in the form of weaselly agent Monty Schafer (a uniquely creepy Domhnall Gleeson), scupper his exploits, Seal is offered a way to avoid jail time - join the CIA as a pilot. Soon, Seal is making a more lucrative living flying over Latin American war zones and taking not so covert photos for his employers.

On one of his trips South of the border, Seal is approached by Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda), the head of Colombia’s most notorious drug cartel. It doesn’t take much to coerce Seal into agreeing to carry large quantities of cocaine aboard his plane, and soon the pilot is making more money than he ever imagined.

REVIEW: American Made

Seal never gets high on his own supply (unlike his young brother in-law, played by a never more typecast Caleb Landry-Jones), but instead becomes addicted to the rush. To quote Stephen Stills’ ode to drug-smuggling pilots, Treetop Flyer, Seal “don’t do business that don’t make him smile.” It gets to the point where Seal amasses literally more money than he can handle, with a local bank devoting an entire vault to his endless stream of cash, and banknotes floating like confetti in his back garden. It all seems too much like work if you ask me.

Liman avoids the sub-Scorsese stylings we’ve become accustomed to from true-life crime dramas, and instead delivers his own unshowy yet energetic take on this story. He’s one of the best filmmakers working in mainstream Hollywood today, but he rarely gets his due because he makes it all look so easy. His filmmaking is never visible, but always effective; he’s the very definition of a steady hand. 1980s period detail is kept to a minimum here, which helps add an air of immediacy to the story, and the needle drops are refreshingly restrained.

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Reteaming with Cruise after their acclaimed sci-fi flop Edge of Tomorrow, Liman seems to have found his ideal collaborator. After seeing American Made, it’s difficult to imagine another actor in the role of Barry Seal. Cruise’s shit-eating grin and boundless enthusiasm are vital in helping us believe this man could get away with so much wrongdoing, thanks to his not-so-innocent charm. It’s a chance to exercise both his dramatic and comic chops, and Cruise seizes it with the amount of enthusiasm you would expect from this workaholic. With the star lately stuck in duds like The Mummy and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, American Made comes at an opportune moment for Cruise, reaffirming him as one of Hollywood’s greatest assets. It’s good to see him in a cockpit again too!


3 1/2 stars out of 5

Directed by: Doug Liman; Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Alejandro Edda, Sarah Wright, Caleb Landry Jones, Jesse Plemons, Lola Kirke

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert At NJPAC
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert. Don’t miss the fourth installment of Harry Potter in Concert when NJPAC hosts the full-length film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, projected in high-definition on a giant screen, with Oscar-nominated composer Patrick Doyle’s masterful score performed live by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 2:00pm & 7:30pm. 
Hopewell Theater To Celebrate Halloween With Fright Fest Week of Horror Films
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- For an entire week, Hopewell Theater will celebrate Halloween with, Fright Fest, a mini fest of classic Halloween horror films from October 25 - 31, 2018. The slate of films are icons of horror cinema, and will be displayed in all their gory glory on the big screen. 
"Mother Of All Secrets" To Screen At Golden Door International Film Festival
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- The Golden Door Film Festival is hosting a red carpet screening of the female-led thriller, Mother of All Secrets, on Friday, September 21 at Landmark Loew’s Theatre with several stars in attendance. The movie, which was entirely shot in Bermuda, stars Emmy award-winner Kate Mansi, Top Gun star Kelly McGillis, Real Housewives of New York LuAnn de Lesseps, Brooke Burfitt and local Jersey actor Sean Stolzen. 
Golden Door International Film Festival To Present A Screening of "The Pretender"
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- One of the most popular sports films in history is Rocky - a film that mirrors the real life experience of professional boxer Chuck Wepner from Bayonne. A new independent film called The Pretender takes viewers inside the life of Mike Kunda, a “Rocky” fanatic since the movie’s release nearly 40 years ago. The film explores Mike’s fascination with the Rocky Balboa character and how it continues to impact his life, and the lives of others, in interesting and unimaginable ways. The film screens as part of the Golden Door International Film Festival on Sunday, September 23rd at 12:00pm at the Landmark Lowe’s Jersey Theatre (54 Journal Square Plaza) in Jersey City, NJ.
Hopewell Theater Offers Crybaby and Family Matinees
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- Hopewell Theater is presenting a special monthly movie matinee, “Crybaby Matinee” just for parents and little ones. Toddlers as well as babes-in-arms, infants in strollers and carriers are all welcome to attend. These special Thursday morning screenings offer a sensory-friendly environment – lights are turned up, sound is turned down, and talking and noise is allowed. Latecomers are admitted and guests can move around. The matinees are a fun and affordable option for families, tickets are $6.00 and babes-in-arms, infants in strollers and carriers are admitted free. Hopewell Theater is also offering Saturday “Family Matinees” one Saturday a month, featuring screenings of new and classic films that families with older children can enjoy. Tickets are $6.00 per person.

Michael Gallagher’s terrific comedy Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!
Michael Gallagher’s terrific feature Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!
The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont
“As a kid, I was always drawn to the darkness,” said filmmaker Christopher Wells.  “I’d think, ‘Why can’t monsters protect me? If I’m friends with the monsters then I don’t have anything to fear.’”
REVIEW: "Searching"
A few weeks ago the body of a 14-year-old schoolgirl was discovered around the corner from where I’m sitting writing this review. Within hours of the tragic discovery, two 13-year-old boys had been arrested. The police had their work simplified by a series of damning posts across social media which pointed to the guilt of the boys in question. Increasingly, when young people go missing or have their lives taken from them, police investigations are now focused more on trawling through the victim’s internet history in search of clues rather than the pavement pounding of old.
REVIEW: "The Children Act"
Earlier this year saw the release of On Chesil Beach, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centered around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Now we get The Children Act, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centred around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Both are scripted by the novelist himself, and both suggest McEwan should stick to the literary world.
New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 Preview
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  The Festival runs on select Thursday, Friday and Sunday evenings. For the complete schedule visit Here is a look at the screenings for September.

Event calendar
Thursday, Sep 20, 2018


ELI YOUNG BAND WITH CODY BRYAN @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

CELTIC THUNDER X @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm

Lost 80's Live @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Citizen Cope @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm

ICON 2018: ELIMINATION ROUND 2 @ Hamilton Stage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

Linda Eder @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Souvenir @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

East Lynne Theater Company presents SILENT SKY @ First Presbyterian Church (Cape May), Cape May - 8:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

Auditions for Seussical at CDC Theatre @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 7:00pm

Playhouse 22's Third-Thursday Play Reading Series @ Playhouse 22, East Brunswick - 7:30pm

West End Festival of the Arts- Opening Reception @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 6:00pm

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Brick City @ Premiere Stages at Kean University, Union - 8:00pm


New Jersey Film Festival @ Ruth Adams Building #001, New Brunswick - 6:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: The Triplets of Belleville @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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