AMERICAN MADE [R] C-
Doug Liman has a real affinity for working with classic high-powered stars (Matt Damon in “The Bourne Identity,” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow”), so having the chance to reconnect with Cruise must have been too great an incentive to let slip by. And “American Made” perfectly exploits the Cruise charm factor, allowing the star the chance to grin and bear the load on his tailor-made shoulders. Playing a real-life rogue – a pilot who starts off working for the CIA, but before long finds himself in deep running drugs and guns during the 1980s – we’re supposed to be mesmerized and easily entertained, but there the nagging problem that this guy isn’t merely a swashbuckling Han Solo-type; he’s caught up in providing weapons to the Contras and bringing drugs from Pedro Escobar into the US. This is an American crisis played for laughs and it’s not funny.
FLATLINERS [PG-13] D
I continue to bemoan the idea of studio remakes, arguing that such projects should only be undertaken if the original movies were subpar to begin with and the new creative team has a viable opportunity to make a better version. If not, I say, let’s just stick with the fun, possibly dated originals. I can’t honestly understand why a director like Niels Arden Oplev (producer-director of the original “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) would be interested in replaying Joel Schumacher’s Brat Pack exploration of the afterlife. His cast – Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nia Dobrev, James Norton, and Kiersey Clemons – lacks the immediate cache of Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon and Kiefer Sutherland (who makes a key appearance here) and there’s little by way of a technical upgrade in the rendering of the otherworldly elements. Which begs the question: why make such a flat and uninspired film?