REVIEW: THE MULE

Starring

Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)
Bradley Cooper (The Hangover)
Laurence Fishburne (Ant-man and The Wasp)
Michael Peña (American Hustle)
Dianne Wiest (Sisters)
Ignacio Serricchio (Lost in Space)
Andy García (Ghostbusters)
Taissa Farmiga (The Nun)
Alison Eastwood (They Are Among Us)
Richard Herd (Get Out)
Manny Montana (Conviction)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Westworld)
Robert LaSardo (Nip/Tuck)
Noel Gugliemi (The Fast and The Furious)

Clint Eastwood in The Mule (2018)Earl Stone, in his 80s, is an award-winning horticulturist and Korean War veteran in Peoria, Illinois. He is facing financial ruin and is estranged from his ex-wife Mary and daughter Iris for always putting work before family. He is still on friendly terms with his granddaughter Ginny and attends her wedding rehearsal. Desperate for money, he takes up an offer from the friend of one of Ginny’s bridesmaids and becomes a “mule” transporting cocaine through Illinois for a Mexican drug cartel. Facing little suspicion due to his age, race, spotless criminal history, and strict adherence to driving laws, Earl is soon trusted with huge amounts of drugs and is paid large amounts of cash. With the money he buys a new truck, settles his financial problems, and pays for renovations of the local VFW Post, as well as his granddaughter’s wedding and education. He becomes friendly with the cartel members, who call him “Tata” (grandfather).Bradley Cooper in The Mule (2018)Meanwhile, with details from an informant, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force is narrowing in on the cartel’s deliveries to Chicago. Tensions within the cartel erupt when Gustavo, a power-hungry cartel lieutenant, assassinates cartel boss Laton, and subsequently demands Earl be kept under tighter control.In the middle of a $12 million cocaine shipment, Earl learns that Mary is gravely ill. After Ginny talks some sense into him, he postpones the drug delivery to make peace with Mary and stays by her side until she dies peacefully days later. After the funeral and after finally reconciling with his family, Earl resumes the delivery as both the DEA and the cartel close in on him.Clint Eastwood and Ignacio Serricchio in The Mule (2018)The cartel’s enforcers catch him and, upon discovering he was away to attend his wife’s death and funeral (which they respect), call the cartel leader to request leniency. The cartel underboss allows him to continue, with the caveat that if anything went wrong it would be on the enforcer’s head. Next we see Earl driving with a head injury and blood on his face. As he makes his way towards the drop point, almost resignedly as a helicopter is circling overhead, he slows to a halt to allow the DEA agents to arrest him. In court, disregarding his age as an excuse and guilt-ridden over his crimes and for failing his family, Earl pleads guilty to all charges and is sent to federal prison with his family showing him their support. In prison, he returns to horticulture.Clint Eastwood in The Mule (2018)Dont expect action packed. This is raw and real crime drama. There are some beautiful moments and always a strong moral. Definitely a must see!

REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER

CAST

Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher)
Luke Grimes (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane)
Jake McDorman (Limitless TV)
Cory Hardrict (Crazy/Beautiful)
Navid Negahban (Charlie Wilson’s War)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars)
Sam Jaeger (Hart’s War)
Sammy Sheik (Nikita)
Mido Hamada (Homeland)
Eric Close (Dark Skies)
Brian Hallisay (The Client List)
Leonard Roberts (Buffy)
Marnette Patterson (Starship Troopers 3)
Max Charles (The Neighbors)
Jonathan Groff (Frozen)
Owain Yeoman (The Belko Experiment)
Clint Eastwood (The Mule)

Growing up in Texas, Chris Kyle is taught by his father how to shoot a rifle and hunt deer. Years later, Kyle has become a ranch hand and rodeo cowboy, and returns home early, to find his girlfriend in bed with another man. After telling her to leave, he is mulling it over with his brother when he sees news coverage of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and decides to enlist in the Navy. He qualifies for special training and becomes a U.S. Navy SEALs sniper.Kyle meets Taya Studebaker at a bar, and the two soon marry. He is sent to Iraq after the September 11 attacks. His first kills are a woman and boy who attacked U.S. Marines with a Russian made RKG-3 anti-tank grenade. Kyle is visibly upset by the experience but later earns the nickname “Legend” for his many kills. Assigned to hunt for the al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Kyle interrogates a family whose father offers to lead the SEALs to “The Butcher”, al-Zarqawi’s second-in-command. The plan goes awry when The Butcher captures the father and his son, killing them while Kyle is pinned down by a sniper using a Romanian PSL sniper rifle. This sniper goes by the name Mustafa and is an Olympic Games medalist from Syria. Meanwhile, the insurgents issue a bounty on Kyle.Kyle returns home to his wife and the birth of his son. He is distracted by memories of his war experiences and by Taya’s concern for them as a couple – she wishes he would focus on his home and family.Kyle leaves for a second tour and is promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Involved in a shootout with The Butcher, he helps in killing him. When he returns home to a newborn daughter, Kyle becomes increasingly distant from his family. On Kyle’s third tour, Mustafa seriously injures a unit member, Ryan “Biggles” Job, and the unit is evacuated back to base. When they decide to return to the field and continue the mission, another SEAL, Marc Lee, is killed by gunfire.Guilt compels Kyle to undertake a fourth tour, and Taya tells him that she may not be there when he returns. Back in Iraq, Kyle is assigned to kill Mustafa, who has been sniping U.S. Army combat engineers building a barricade. Kyle’s sniper team is placed on a rooftop inside enemy territory. Kyle spots Mustafa and takes him out with a risky long distance shot at 2,100 yards (1,920 m), but this exposes his team’s position to numerous armed insurgents. In the midst of the firefight, and low on ammunition, Kyle tearfully calls Taya and tells her he is ready to come home. A sandstorm provides cover for a chaotic escape in which Kyle is injured and almost left behind.After Kyle gets back, on edge and unable to adjust fully to civilian life, he is asked by a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist if he is haunted by all the things he did in war. When he replies that it is “all the guys he couldn’t save” that haunt him, the psychiatrist encourages him to help severely wounded veterans in the VA hospital. After that Kyle gradually begins to adjust to home life. Years later, on February 2, 2013, Kyle says goodbye to his wife and family as he leaves in good spirits to spend time with a veteran at a shooting range. An on-screen subtitle reveals: “Chris Kyle was killed that day by a veteran he was trying to help”, followed by archive footage of crowds standing along the highway for his funeral procession. More are shown attending his memorial service.This film, contrary to some reviews, does not glorify war nor killing. It doesn’t hide the horrors of war, and certainly doesn’t romanticize it, nor the toll it takes on the man and his life, his relationship with the civil world. It is brutal and ugly, because that’s what war is. Something one forgets about, the reality of it, the real men who fight for everyone’s safety and liberty. Bradley Cooper is remarkable in his portray of Chris Kyle, especially the way he holds his jaws, mouth and lips.

REVIEW: MILLION DOLLAR BABY

Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004)

CAST
Hilary Swank (The Reaping)
Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)
Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight)
Jay Baruchel (Robocop 2014)
Mike Colter (Jessica Jones)
Brian F. O’Byrne (Flashforward)
Anthony Mackie (Ant-Man)
Margo Martindale (Mike & Molly)
Riki Lindhome (The Muppets)
Michael Pena (American Hustle)
Benito Martinez (Sons of Anarchy)
Tom McCleister (Twins)
Spice Williams-Crosby (Star Trek V)
Kim Strauss (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
million-dollar-baby-clint-eastwood-hilary-swank
Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald, a waitress from a Missouri town in the Ozarks, shows up in the Hit Pit, a run-down Los Angeles gym owned and operated by Frankie Dunn, an old, cantankerous boxing trainer. Maggie asks Frankie to train her, but he initially refuses. Maggie works out tirelessly each day in his gym, even after Frankie tells her she’s “too old” to begin a boxing career at her age. Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris, Frankie’s friend and employee (as well as the film’s narrator), encourages and helps her.
Frankie’s prize prospect, “Big” Willie Little, signs with successful manager Mickey Mack after becoming impatient with Dunn’s rejecting offers for a championship bout. With prodding from Scrap and impressed with her persistence, Frankie reluctantly agrees to train Maggie. He warns her that he will teach her only the basics and then find her a manager. Other than Maggie and his employees, the only person Frankie has contact with is a local pastor, with whom he spars verbally at daily Mass.
Before her first fight, Frankie leaves Maggie with a random manager in his gym, much to her dismay; upon being told by Scrap that said manager deliberately put her up against his best girl (coaching the novice to lose) to give her an easy win, Frankie rejoins Maggie in the middle of the bout and coaches her instead to an unforeseen victory. A natural, she fights her way up in the women’s amateur boxing division with Frankie’s coaching, winning many of her lightweight bouts with first-round knockouts. Earning a reputation for her KOs, Frankie must resort to bribery to get other managers to put their trainee fighters up against her.
Eventually, Frankie risks putting her in the junior welterweight class, where her nose is broken in her first match. Frankie comes to establish a paternal bond with Maggie, who substitutes for his estranged daughter. Scrap, concerned when Frankie rejects several offers for big fights, arranges a meeting for her with Mickey Mack at a diner on her 33rd birthday. Out of loyalty, she declines. Frankie begrudgingly accepts a fight for her against a top-ranked opponent in the UK, where he bestows a Gaelic nickname on her. The two travel Europe as she continues to win; Maggie eventually saves up enough of her winnings to buy her mother a house, but she berates Maggie for endangering her government aid, claiming that everyone back home is laughing at her.
Frankie is finally willing to arrange a title fight. He secures Maggie a $1 million match in Las Vegas, Nevada against the WBA women’s welterweight champion, Billie “The Blue Bear”, a German ex-prostitute who has a reputation as a dirty fighter. Overcoming a shaky start, Maggie begins to dominate the fight, but after a round has ended, Billie knocks her out with an illegal sucker punch from behind after the bell has sounded to indicate the end of the round. Before Frankie can pull the corner stool out of the way which was inappropriately placed on its side by Frankie’s assistant, Maggie lands hard on it, breaking her neck and leaving her a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic.
Frankie is shown experiencing the first three of the five stages of grief: first seeking multiple doctors’ opinions in denial, then blaming Scrap in anger and later trying to bargain with God through prayer. In a medical rehabilitation facility, Maggie looks forward to a visit from her family, but they arrive accompanied by an attorney and only after having first visited Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood; their only concern is to transfer Maggie’s assets to them. She orders them to leave, threatening to sell the house and inform the IRS of her mother’s welfare fraud if they ever show their faces again.
As the days pass, however, Maggie develops bedsores and undergoes an amputation for an infected leg. She asks a favor of Frankie: to help her die, declaring that she got everything she wanted out of life. A horrified Frankie refuses, and Maggie later bites her tongue repeatedly in an attempt to bleed to death, but the medical staff saves her and takes measures to prevent further suicide attempts. The pastor Frankie has harassed for 23 years, Father Horvak, warns him that he would never find himself again if he were to go through with Maggie’s wishes.
Frankie sneaks in one night, unaware that Scrap is watching from the shadows. Just before administering a fatal injection of adrenaline, he finally tells Maggie the meaning of a nickname he gave her, Mo Chuisle (spelled incorrectly in the film as “mo cuishle”): Irish for “my darling, and my blood” (literally, “my pulse”). He never returns to the gym. Scrap’s narration is revealed to be a letter to Frankie’s daughter, informing her of her father’s true character. The last shot of the film shows Frankie sitting at the counter of a diner where Maggie once took him.
The ending was haunting but incredibly poignant. This film was impressive, excellently crafted and definately worthwhile seeing, not least for the excellent performances of the cast