*NEW* WAR MACHINE REVIEW *NEW*

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

A misfire on all fronts.

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 and the film in question.

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 retarded 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?

The film focuses on the 2009 Afghan withdrawal with Big Glenn (or the Glennible) tasked as the man to end the war and bring it home.

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.

“We got what we wanted in the first six months. There’s no street parade waiting for you with this one”.

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 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.

2.5/5

THE INTERVIEW REVIEW

The Interview Movie

The film that nearly caused a ”war”. With hype like that, it was never going to deliver up to it’s expectations. BUT it doesn’t help that it’s just not that great.

From the western capitalists that brought you Bad Neighbours and This is the End . . .

It really is what you think. Franco and Rogen apply their usual smutty spiel in a Pineapple Express meets Frost/Nixon mish-mesh.

All that controversy in the news and what do you know? It get’s released. Funny that its IMDb rating dropped from 9.2 to 6.9 after an official release date was agreed. Hmmm . . .

It’s not all bad. But my main quip with this film is that it’s the same old guff; F + R effing and jeffing, rants that go off on random tangents for far too long and, oh of course, let’s not forget the pill popping.

So what’s it about? (For those who may have missed the headlines) Dave Skylark (Franco) and producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) run the celebrity tabloid show “Skylark Tonight.” When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.

I knew from the get go what sort of film I was in for. The cartoon credit sequence with a Korean woman tearing up the American flag. Followed by a little girl singing “Death to America” while a nuclear missile was launched behind her said it all.

James Franco was fantastic. If not for him, this film would have bombed. Did anyone else notice how rough he was looking?

However, he played the deluded celebrity TV journalist Dave Skylark to perfection. A true egotist and simpleton. It seemed a little slow to get going. An interview with Eminem (who is looking old now!) soon livened things up.

A casual conversation inadvertently outing the rapper was a surprise. I did not expect The Real Slim Shady to suggest that his lyrics were a gay peekaboo. Brilliant.

Rogen plays Skylark’s best pal and frustrated producer. Desperate to be taken seriously and deliver real news; not that Rob Lowe is bald.

There are couple of cameos from Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s previous entries which deliver the odd chuckle. I’m not going to spoil everything now.

The bromance is still very much there. Rogen and Franco are still an entertaining couple. Normally their improvising did my nut in BUT this time around, I wanted more of it. The relentless Lord of the Rings references were starting to irritate me.

BUT it all seemed to be set up for a big punch line that I couldn’t help smiling over.

The other gags weren’t so hot. The inevitable “Me-so-sorry” lines rearing their ugly heads. Okay, the “Did you say Dong?” reference got a guilty titter. The pill popping and boozing was unnecessary and unfunny.

The alluring Lizzy Caplan did her best with her stocky CIA counterpart. If not for the “Honey Pot” debate gag, anyone could have played her. Or better yet, not needed her altogether. Shame.

The training session in which the pair must practice using Ricin was interesting but not very funny. It’s scary how poison can be transferred BUT come on, I watched 24.

So a Pineapple Express meets An Interview with a Vampire. Or reclusive maniacal leader.

How was the man in question presented? Well . . .

Randall Park was fantastic as Kim Jong-un. To be honest, he was the most entertaining character in it. BUT from a political standpoint, I could see how it could cause offense. However, I think Mr. Un needs to get a sense of humour.

I mean, come on. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, this ain’t. Hell, it doesn’t even cross Team America: World Police on the controversy scale.

He was merely a shy superfan with daddy issues. Hardly original.

Inevitably, Franco’s Skylark takes a shining to the misunderstood dictator as they bond over hookers and shooting missiles from tanks while drinking margaritas and singing to Katy Perry’s “Firework”. Yeah, you read that right.

Franco and Park were hilarious together with Rogen sitting on the sidelines. Some of Franco’s one liners were brilliant, “He’s peanut butter and jealous of us. He’s spreading KY jealous all over his balls.”

So is this really what all the fuss was about?

Well, not exactly. The final 20 minutes felt like two films meshed together and neither came off quite as well as you hoped.

The smiley superfan’s grin soon starts to crack, unearthing a demented maniac. It got a little more interesting with some actual satire. An incident involving a fake grocery store certainly got things moving in the direction I had originally expected.

There were a few moments that were just bizarre and f*cked up. They didn’t really fit in the film. Something I expected to see more in This is The End.

The strange Frost/Nixon set up at the end did throw in a few stats and suggested a little more to this chughead comedy. BUT that bubble soon burst with Jong-Un sharting on live air.

I think that controversy must have been an incredible PR stunt because beneath its fiery surface, there isn’t much else going on.

A sequence involving a drone pickup and a tiger was really funny and suspenseful. Once Diana Bang got over her “HOT” hard ass demeanour as Un’s head of communications, Sook, she was quite entertaining.

It’s big, dumb, at times quite funny but OTT and a bit of a let down.

If you were expecting something more, then you will be left disappointed. BUT if you love F + R and feel they can do no wrong then invest.

Mixed bag for me.

2.5/5

NIGHTCRAWLER REVIEW

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Donnie’s really gone Dark-o

Jake Gyllenhaal manages to do his best Patrick Bateman impression and out-Bale Bale in one of his best performances to date.

Dark, demented and very good. If a little predictable.

So what’s it about? When Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

Within the opening sequence, we get the essence of Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) as he is caught stealing copper fencing from the train tracks. Flashing that Cheshire cat smile and pleading innocence, you can see the cogs turning. And in the bat of an eye, that smile fades instantly and a monster is unleashed. Cool, calm and collected. Striking when the moment arises.

A true American psycho. A smooth talking charmer with ambitions that he will stop at nothing to achieve.

An impressive and well written debut from Dan Gilroy. Fantastically shot. The cityscape at night was captured brilliantly by the cinematography of Robert Elswit.

Nightcrawler is somewhat of a slow burner as we watch Bloom climb the social ladder for fame and glory.

It starts with our sociopath desperately seeking a job and smooth talking his way into anything. That is until he witnesses a crash. Those flashing lights and ruthless nightcrawlers (Freelance cameramen preying the streets for horrific accidents, murders and crime scenes) creeping out from the urban underworld, craving for a pay check soon sets our protagonist on his path.

Bill Paxton plays the relentless Joe Loder brilliantly and it’s good to see him back in movies. His character dispensing the mantra: “If it bleeds, it leads” unwittingly sets up a competition for carnage.

Gilroy does make some fantastic commentary and satire on the censorship and attitude of the news media. The public’s obsession for blood and trauma constantly pushing them to distort moral and ethical boundaries for fifteen minutes of fame.

The film builds up and up as the madness ascends to crazy and scarily realistic levels. Where Bloom first intervenes small car accidents with a little handheld camera; it soon escalates to breaking into live crime scenes and moving pieces of evidence (and even bodies) to make the perfect shot.

It was great to see Riz Ahmed (Four Lions). He plays the clueless sidekick with aplomb. Oblivious to Bloom’s ambitions and unaware of what lay in store. Some of his encounters with Gylenhaal make for dark but comical viewing.

Rene Russo also stood out as Nina Romina (Awful name. Didn’t realise that until I saw the credits). Questioning the morals behind Bloom’s actions but desperately enabling him for the sake of keeping her job and bringing in the ratings.

SMALL BIT OF TRIVIA: Dan Gilroy is the husband of Rene Russo and brother of Tony Gilroy who is responsible for Michael Clayton and The Bourne franchise.

The chase sequences are intense. Especially in the closing moments as Bloom’s descent into darkness reaches breaking point.

There are suspenseful moments to be had. The sequence in which Bloom and his sidekick are filming the police attempting to apprehend a murder suspect. A scenario the pair set up. I was hooked. Nail biting stuff. Executed perfectly. The tension mounting as you wait for the fireworks to go off.

At times, it did feel like the trailers did show too much of the film. You knew when to expect several of the bigger moments in the film. That’s not to say there aren’t more surprises along the way.

Bloom is intelligent and some of his speeches rival Bateman. But crafty and calculated he may be, they go on far too long. Especially in his dinner date with Nina. We get it. You’re mad. Get on with it.

One major qualm is that with a film like this; there are only ever two outcomes. It seemed to go down the Bad Lieutenant (Cage Lieutenant) route which makes for a surprisingly flat (if typical) and slightly abrupt ending.

Don’t get me wrong. Gyllenhaal is a tour de force and should be commended. The weight loss added to his creepy demeanour and shark toothed grin. Gilroy has written and directed a visceral descent into the dark side of the American dream. Something we haven’t seen for a while. A resurgence? Maybe.

As Lou Bloom says, “If you want the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket”. Well, if you have the money, buy a ticket and go see it.

Certainly worth a watch. And we are live in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

3.5/5 (But this may change)

THE RIOT CLUB REVIEW

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Such a riot! Tragically not. Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening, leading to . . .

A mediocre class satire that had so much potential to be so much more.

To be honest, the concept should have stayed as a play. The adaptation fails to carry itself on the big screen. If not for the prolific British cast attached to this, I don’t think it would have been done at all.

The only actor that will survive this poor affair will be Sam Claflin (Love, Rosie) who was deliciously revolting. His character Alistair Ryle was a perfect panto villain. Camp and vile. It is a shame however that he was very much a stereotype. A snobby toff that “hates poor people”. As if we needed to cement the stereotype further with that. I can’t believe that was actually written in the script.

Max Irons (The Host) played the lead as well as he could but he was terribly bland up until the final 20 minutes in which he finally had a little bit of meat from the script to chew on and do a bit of acting. He was able to share some chemistry with Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) but it’s all so predictable.

BUT Irons was always going to finish second to the rest of the cast comprising of young future British prospects; Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Ben Schnetzer (Pride) and Sam Reid (Belle).

It does not help that the tone is all over the place. Riding off the Made in Chelsea vibe, the opening act was farcical and terribly OTT as we are given a brief history about the founder of the infamous club, Lord Riot. A genius and a . . . TOTAL LEGEND.

I could feel my hopes for this film fading in an instant. However, the club members did provide enough tomfoolery for a silly but watchable half hour. The initiation sequence had a demented Dead Poets Society feel and I really hoped it was going to keep heading in that direction dealing with the class and society issues within the confines of the school.

The club’s initial introduction and candidate hunt was quite funny. Sam Reid’s overtly flamboyant Hugo chasing after Irons’ Miles for his own intentions. The boozing and sleeping around felt like a mash of Skins meets Made in Chelsea.

However, the tone gets a little bit serious when the club unite to dine. The dinner sequence was a perfect platform to stage a cross-examination of the upper class but it took so long to get going. As tempers rise and more booze and drugs are ingested at the dinner table, things finally begin to bubble up.

There are some tense moments but it’s tough to do a commentary when all the characters are merely stereotypes. It made a change that it wasn’t a piece on hoodies peddling drugs and committing crimes on a council estate but rich spoilt brats poking fun at the working class is just fuel for fire.

I can respect what the writer was trying to say but the characters and the aftermath are exaggerated so theatrically that I can’t take them seriously. I mean at one point the lads are picking at the 10 fowl main course because one bird is missing. Terrible.

They were nothing more than the seven posh dwarves; Dopey, Sleazy, Shouty and Crackhead. The tension soon subsides and leads to complete and utter chaos with relentless destruction (an elongated five minute Extreme Makeover sequence that was beyond overkill) and a predictable twist.

Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey) played the waitress as well as she could but it was a wasted role. Anyone could have played her. She merely scowled and had the odd jibe back at the posh plebs.

The alluring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) had the easiest cameo going. Her character was nothing more than a catalyst to fuel the tempers of horny, drug induced toffs in the form of a misled escort.

My quip besides playing on the mainstream red band papers and hyping up stereotypes was that there wasn’t enough story for me. The idea of them discussing their views during a dinner had potential. BUT it’s goes from nothing to everything.

It was too slow, the characters were un-relatable and it ended oh so predictably and lazily with the usual commentary that the rich get away with anything, apparently. Hardly a spoiler. After the dinner incident, I thought there was potential for a suspenseful stand off as the gang begin to give each other up. BUT it’s wrapped up within minutes so flatly and easily. Disappointing.

I predict a riot for people heading towards the door.

2/5