|Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton|
"American Made" is talented director Doug Liman's adrenaline rush of a movie about the airplane pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), recruited (by a mysterious government agent played with apt false bravado by Domhnall Gleeson) away from TWA to deliver drugs and eventually arms to Central America, departing from way-too-short dirt runways and landing in the crosshairs of the Medellin cartel and the Iran-Contra scandal. It's an appealing star vehicle for Cruise, who looks much younger than his fifty-five years here, triggering memories of that other pilot movie of his. For the first time in a while, when he flashes that cocky megawatt smile, we want to buy in, want to forget Oprah and Matt Lauer and Brooke Shields and David Miscavige. "American Made" runs a bit long and can't sustain the comic tone of giddy absurdity the whole while, but makes for a fine evening's entertainment and ends on a great last shot.
"Lucky" is the swan song for the late character actor Harry Dean Stanton, playing a version of himself as an ornery 90-year-old playing out the string in a desert town, drinking milk, smoking cigarettes and solving the daily crossword. I'm afraid that the cult of Harry Dean Stanton, to which so many in this town belonged, never excited me. He gave me nothing as an actor. The scenes that comprise "Lucky" feel very staged, very written, as though each denizen of this Podunk town was waiting for Stanton to arrive to deliver his or her lines. (A television game show that we hear but do not see reeks of falsity.) The most compelling monologue belongs to David Lynch, who delivers a stirring tribute to the nobility of the pet tortoise whose escape he mourns. Even with that, though, you know from the first shot exactly what the last shot will be. And in the 88 minutes in between, I dozed often and fell asleep once.
Finally, a recommendation for Rory Kennedy's biodoc "Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton." Kennedy is the genius documentarian nominated (but robbed of the Oscar) for the four-star "Last Days in Vietnam." This was never going to be at that level, but in 118 minutes she covers her subject fully, showing us the alpha-male, balls-to-the-wall Hamilton who transformed surfing not once but twice, albeit at the cost of many ruffled feathers and a few close friendships lost. We learn about the disciplines of big wave surfing, tow-in surfing, windsurfing, and foil surfing, and the intersections among them. As in "Last Days," Kennedy has secured access to a vast treasure trove of video footage, some of which again boggles the mind. This picture runs a little long and doesn't linger in the memory, but Kennedy leaves no part of Hamilton's life unexplored and in the end, history belongs to those like him.