*NEW* WAR MACHINE REVIEW *NEW*

A misfire on all fronts.

Not funny enough to be a satire and not hard hitting enough to be taken seriously.

What drove Pitt to do this?

A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon (Brad Pitt) leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé.

My reaction while watching this drab affair.

To describe Glenn McMahon, I would have to say that “he was a throwback to another era”.

A bit like the actor that’s playing him.

I didn’t know anything about McMahon before approaching this and after watching War Machine, I certainly don’t want to.

I don’t know whether that was down to Pitt’s performance. BUT it was a joke for all the wrong reasons.

His gruff voice, the face pulling and that weird run? Jogging about the place like he had the sh*ts.

I’m sure it was supposed to be comical BUT it was hard to show empathy towards a complete simpleton. Was that the punch line?

Despite the overlong running length, it was surprisingly watchable as McMahon made his assessments. Scoot McNairy’s droning commentary delivered some insightful quips BUT it went on a bit.

Free reign over his command as long as it didn’t involve bringing in more troops. Therein lies the rub.

Desperate to make some sort of impact and constantly dictated to by office bureaucrats and civilian advisors; it wasn’t long before McMahon realised he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

The tone was dreadfully mismatched. The Men Who Stare At Goats meets Jarhead vibe didn’t really work.

For all the shocking statistics and political sniping, there wasn’t really much going on.

That’s not to say that there weren’t moments to be had. I did laugh when McMahon mistook two Muslims for praying when they were actually trying to install a BluRay player.

The hypocrisy was ridiculous when Glenn demanded to know why Afghan farmers were growing opiates instead of cotton and wheat.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at the reasoning: “US cultivation funds will not support the production of a material that can be distributed in the world market and go in direct competition with the US. So we’re growing heroin instead”.

“People will vote for whoever their local squad tells them to in fear of having their heads chopped off”.

At one point, the man was literally left twiddling his thumbs for a month while he waited for the Afghan elections to finish.

The irony even more bittersweet when the US bureaucrats were dissatisfied with the outcome and fixed another to find a more suitable candidate.

A bit like now, really?

I remember Topher Grace (That ‘70s Show) being a good actor. It’s a shame he keeps getting in films that don’t let him do that. Highly unmemorable.

The same could be said for the majority of the supporting cast. Such a waste.

Sir Ben Kingsley was disappointing as President Karzai. He did his best with the material BUT it wasn’t enough.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) stood out as the disillusioned Corporal Billy Cole. His frustration at the troop’s increasingly vague objectives was spot on.

Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) played the shady government advisor Pat McKinnon well. The true orchestrator of this messy affair.

“The longer you stay, the worse it will be for us all. Please leave now”.

You could feel for McMahon’s frustration as he genuinely believed the manure he was shovelling. Receiving no “face time” with the President other than a passing handshake during a “Meet ‘n’ Greet”.

The man leaked his own report just to get the ball rolling. And even then he was short changed reinforcements by 10,000 men!

McMahon’s estranged relationship with his wife made for uncomfortable viewing. Equating the time they spent together to less than 30 days over the last 8 years. There was zero chemistry and killed the pace like a lead balloon.

It didn’t help that McMahon came across as such a tool.

His cross-examination in Berlin by a belligerent journalist (Tilda Swinton) was like wathcing a deer in headlights.

There may have been valid points BUT it was just one big rant aimed at an emotionally detached military figure.

I’m not sure whether that feeling of detachment was supposed to be the main theme of the piece BUT it was difficult for me to connect or care about the characters involved.

The closing attack on Helmand was dull and drawn out with the end result predictable and uninteresting.

Like the protagonist, War Machine felt lost in translation. I was left questioning what the filmmakers were trying to do.

This would have been more hard hitting 10 years ago when we had that initial influx of Gulf war movies; Jarhead, In The Valley of Elah, The Hurt Locker.

Calling Obama’s administration weak and hypocritical when the man has already left office seemed a little pointless.

Watchable BUT I can’t say riveting or enlightening.

Despite some eye-opening encounters, this was still a disappointing misfire that failed to deliver enough hard-hitting drama or entertaining humour.

2/5

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*NEW* BAYWATCH REVIEW *NEW*

Big, dumb and full of . . . sun.

Devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) butts heads with a brash new recruit (Zac ‘High School Musical’ Efron), as they uncover a criminal plot that threatens the future of the bay.

From the director of Horrible Bosses. That should sum up your expectations in a nutshell. A loud, crude BUT (hopefully) entertaining flick.

And for a good portion of the running time, Baywatch was. Undeserving of the incredibly low ratings on Metascore. I’ve seen a lot, lot worse. BUT at that same stroke, I’ve seen a lot better.

The first 30-40 minutes was everything I hoped for. I don’t think this would have worked without The Rock. He carried the film with his charisma and ridiculous physique. Lapping up the silliness of it all. And almost making it work.

A man respected by the community. Doing everything to keep his bay safe while protecting his ‘family’ (the Baywatch team). Corny BUT watchable.

Efron played Brody brilliantly. He worked well with the Rock and they made a great duo.

The selfish Olympiad bumping heads with the head honcho spiel was predictable but engaging as the pair spewed childish insult after insult at each other.

As much as they poked fun at the silly plot line with drug deals and political corruption, it was really dull.

When the jokes and banter died down, there wasn’t much else and you really felt the pace; which was a little long at the tooth.

Of course, Baywatch was never going to win plaudits for groundbreaking cinema and mind-bending plots. It’s CSI on the beach with lots of beautiful people frolicking around in tight bikinis and shorts.

Putting my inadequate body to shame (He says piling in more crisps while writing this review).

I was a little disappointed with Alexandra Daddario’s (San Andreas) role. Her naff romance (If you can call it a subplot) with Brody didn’t really work. It was far too cheesy and the banter didn’t come off as well as it could have. Shame.

Jon Bass (Big Time in Hollywood) stole the show as Ronnie. The fumbling tech geek aspiring to be a lifeguard. Well, to work with one lifeguard, in particular. And no, it ain’t Mitch.

Wowewow, Pamela who?

Ronnie’s desperate attempts to woo CJ (Kelly Rohrbach) were hilarious and delivered some of the better laughs.

I haven’t really rated Hannibal Buress in the past BUT he was surprisingly funny as Ronnie’s pal. His commentary during Ronnie’s awkward encounters with CJ had me in stitches.

The meta-textual references were spot on. You can’t do a Baywatch reboot without the slo-mo.

The slo-mo gaffs worked but that joke soon overstayed its welcome. Especially when they started doing SUPER slow-mo. And by the time, a Baywatch icon made her introduction in the closing minutes, I was done.

Priyanka Chopra (Quantico) wasn’t in this enough.

No. Not just because she looked stunning. A proper femme fatale. Even Big Mitch was on edge.

“A Bond villainess? Not yet”. She played the part really well and chewed up the scenes BUT her screen time was reduced to nothing. Only to be brought back in the frantic and rushed finale!

It was watchable guff that killed the time.

Brody’s deluded theorizing with Mitch’s put downs was fun. The action sequences were well done.

The silent punch up in a nursery was fantastic as Mitch took on a henchman. Quietly spewing hushed threats, “You’re going night night b*tch” while slapping each other about with kids’ toys.

The morgue investigation was more of what I expected. Crude gags with a dead man’s appendage. Funny one liners and utter mayhem.

If anything I wanted more of that silliness and crude humour, the writers played the piece a little too much like a Baywatch episode.

I know I’m normally a cynical movie-goer BUT I would have been happy to watch The Rock jump off more burning yachts with insane rings of fire. Even watching Efron dive off a pier while racing a motorbike did the job.

The ending seemed rushed and too chaotic. It was as if the writers didn’t know what to do with it. The tone was all over the gaff and The Rock dropped the tough guy bravado for sheer buffoonery.

A mess.

BUT a fun one. Just.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE REVIEW *NEW*

He should have stayed dead.

Left for dead, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson).

Let’s be honest. You should know what to expect with Vin Diesel. I actually enjoyed the first xXx. It had the right balance of action, fun and stupidity perfectly crammed into 90 adrenaline-fuelled minutes.

But this latest offering was just ridiculous. And not in a good way.

The opening sequence didn’t give me high hopes. Had the writers even seen xXx? NOT even Samuel L Jackson could save the day. He delivered his usual shtick BUT he seemed to forget the character he was supposed to be playing.

I always remembered Augustus Gibbons as a real hardass. His “Have you ever watched lions in the zoo?” speech left goosebumps.

His fractious relationship with the deluded Cage was the movie’s unique selling point. BUT why did they turn him into this?

 

His scar mysteriously gone. Some stupid Harry Potter glasses and a cringe-inducing cameo with the Barcelona attacking midfielder Neymar Jr.

Really?

Neymar Jr looked genuinely confused as if he had stumbled on the set by mistake.

That was only the tip of the iceberg.

Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine) did her best as Cage’s new handler Jane Marke BUT her pale complexion and stern demeanour did nothing to spark any life into this incredibly droll plot line.

Donnie Yen wasn’t in this enough. The force was not with him on this one. Thank God he delivered a scene stealing supporting turn in another sequel. He smiled and shrugged away as he threw one horribly CGI’d kick after another.

NOT even the enchanting Deepika Padukone could save the day. By 20 minutes, I was ready to switch off.

However, once the main man appeared. My grumbling subdued. Diesel did his thing. Leaping off 50 foot TV antennas and skateboarding off cars. Enjoying sun, sea and sex in a beautiful exotic location.

I have to admit this was the liveliest acting I’ve seen from the guy. Less gristle and mumble. It was just a shame that the banter and one liners just didn’t work.

Lapping up a rapper’s paradise with a ridiculous fluffy coat and dozens of ladies. James Bond on Red bull and adrenaline.

And they still managed to make that boring?

Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) was incredibly annoying as the uber keen computer nerd Becky Clearidge. Ogling over Cage and chatting utter nonsense. Dreadful.

I couldn’t believe how surprisingly slow and drawn out this film felt. It didn’t help that the rag tag team of kn*bheads that Cage recruited were irritating.

The silly credits popping up with each member’s special party trick and unofficial Guinness world record attempts for achieving something completely stupid did NOT help.

The Wolf from Game of Thrones?! Oh how the mighty have fallen? A retarded conspiracy nut obsessed with Lockerbie? Really? Ruby Rose played on her bisexual vibe again. Seriously? Is that all she has?

Kris Wu’s character was woeful. His only ability appeared to be hijacking DJ booths and delivering “bangers” as a distraction. Yikes.

Vin Diesel was having fun and not giving a damn. BUT it felt like he gave his best in the wrong movie with the wrong character. Unintentionally comical and cringe-inducing.

By the hour marker, I conceded and accepted the stupidity. Some of the action sequences were actually quite watchable.

Rolling grenades while taking vodka shots? No. Motorcycle chases through a jungle rave? Surprisingly entertaining. Even if Cage was smacking opponents around with wheelie kicks.

That was until the bikes were miraculously equipped with water sleds to continue the pursuit across the river.

If you’re smiling at those quips then this might be for you.

The plot line was weak. Some mumbo jumbo about a Pandora’s box that can pull satellites out of the sky. Didn’t make sense. Didn’t care by the end. Got even worse when numerous xXX operatives crashed the party.

And yes, XXX 2 fans (Are there any?), there is a gratuitous cameo from one ice cold operative (Okay, confession time, I actually didn’t mind xXx: State of the Union. Say whaaattt).

The closing act was bearable as Cage and co. raced across gridlocked traffic to save the world. The mad highway punch up was a riot. Dancing around CGI’d cars and jumping across trucks. My God.

The laughable banter got better. If anything, it would have worked better if it was just Yen and Diesel. Rose and Padukone had their fiery bad ass moment in the finale BUT it wasn’t enough.

I can’t say I enjoyed it BUT it got more watchable as you accepted what it was. A mindless actioner that offered little BUT stupid moments.

I think it’s safe to say that franchise will be like its protagonist. Lost in the wilderness. Hopefully.

2/5