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American Made – Making ‘American’ Great Again
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American Made – Making ‘American’ Great Again

America loves to bastardize its own name. What, really, is “American”? What makes America great? If you add cranberry to apple pie, is it any less American? Or less delicious? I would argue it needs that bitter flavor to bring out its maximum flavor potential – its maximum Americanness! The word also just makes for a good move title, like American Sniper/Assassin/Gangster – each of the superlatives transform the definition slightly. To be an “American [INSERT WORD]” movie, you’re essentially making a statement from the get-go that what you’re about to see is something that should only be possible in this country, and thus it’s going to be a great story.

So that brings us to Tom Cruise’s latest film, American Made. What is director Doug Liman telling us from the get-go? Continue reading

Battle of the Sexes – Billie Jean is not my lover
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Battle of the Sexes – Billie Jean is not my lover

   

Tennis is a great sport. On the one hand, it’s a hell of a physical challenge. And on the other, it’s a hell of a chess match. You need brains and brawn to be successful. And there’s only two of you out there (unless we’re talking doubles) while the world watches. Your flaws are on display. No helmet shields your face, no teammates for you to blame. It’s you and your opponent, and usually the better man or woman wins. For this reason, tennis has star athletes. And whether the athlete asks for it or not, the personal nature of the game makes you a character – a hero, a villain, or if you’re not enough of either, a boring character.

In Battle of the Sexes – a starring role for player/character Billie Jean King – she’s the latter. She carries all the emotional heft of a cruise ship ping pong match. And that’s only partially a knock on Emma Stone, who plays King. Try as she does to give life to a closeted lesbian uber-competitive national superstar, she can’t quite get it over the net. Continue reading

X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse

   

Lots of mythic-based action movies start off with that “ancient scene,” like The Mummy. There are usually armies, pyramids, chanting, magic of some variety, and something happens that leaves a relic behind, only to be discovered after the 20th century. I liked The Mummy. That scene fit in with the rest of the movie. It setup the love story between Imhotep and Anck-Su-Namun and the curse and resurrection that would become the basis for the rest of the movie. Continue reading

Get Out

Get Out

    

Critics love genre-blending films, given the film blends the right ones. Dramedies and rom-coms are a dime a dozen, but the com-hor, or horredies, are still few and far between. They tend to bend in one direction too far, like Shawn of the Dead or the Evil Dead series, to still be considered horror to me. Continue reading

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

   

THINK

Star Wars films aren’t supposed to make you think. That’s the beauty of them – the greatest question in each film is who will win the battle of good v evil? You could argue that good won in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi and Continue reading

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge

  

THINK

Sometimes the way you view a movie depends on factors other than the quality of the film itself. Like a reboot that didn’t live up to its predecessor (see Ghostbusters) or a director who was accused of a crime years before his film is released and it tanks because of that (see Birth of a Nation). It’s hard to watch Tom Cruise now and not think he’s crazy, or see an old film with suble racist undertones and not look at it different in today’s social climate. I try my best to look at a film for what’s on screen, but I do have predilections for certain directors, and – surprisingly – one that I always give the benefit of the doubt is Mel Gibson. Surprisingly because I’m Jewish and he’s said some nasty things about my culture, but like any movie fan, I believe in comeback stories. Continue reading