*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

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*NEW* THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. REVIEW *NEW*

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Slick, cool, funny. Guy Ritchie is back with a bang!

In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill – Man of Steel) and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer – The Lone Ranger) participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

I know that this was based on the original TV show BUT I’ve never seen it so I can’t make comparisons on Ritchie and writer Lionel Wigram’s (Sherlock Holmes) adaptation.

The first hour was action packed and reminded me of the spy movies of old. An elongated opening car chase ticked all the boxes (Even if it was hindered by shoddy CGI). It certainly injected the fun back into the spy genre. Now that the Bond films have gone in a darker direction, I felt the corny one liners and light humour was a much needed tonic. Giving the piece a nostalgia feel.

Cavill was fantastic as Solo. The more I watched him steal the show, the more I thought to myself, “Bond”. Despite playing an undercover CIA asset, he would have been a perfect replacement. The looks, the charm and the charisma. But alas, the Justice League has claimed him as the Man of Steel for the foreseeable future.

I loved the dynamic between the trio. They were perfectly cast. The fiery Alicia Vikander playing the reluctant mother to two sparring boys. Cavill and Hammer worked well together and made Solo and Kuryakin’s fractious relationship entertaining as hell. “This is not the Russian way!” It was good to see Hammer excel as ‘The Red Peril’ after the lacklustre Lone Ranger.

The quick witted exchanges and uneasy tension kept me going (Through some of the sillier moments) with the pair constantly trying to get one up on each other at every turn. From their overcompensating gadgets and hotel room bug stand-off to dressing Gaby (Vikander) for her cover -“The shoes won’t match. They don’t need to match”.

Vikander and Hammer had great chemistry as Gaby is reluctantly assigned to Kuryakin as his undercover fiancee. I just wish Vikander’s back story was more interesting. The story line involving her missing scientist father was a little weak. I loved how we only got tidbits of Solo and Hammer’s past.

Jared Harris was wasted in his small supporting role as Solo’s handler Adrian Sanders. He delivered yet another another mangled accent BUT at least this one was better than his Irish rendition in that horrific Poltergeist remake.

However, the second half of the film was where things went wrong. It was very clunky and disjointed. The tone was mismatched and took a much more serious turn that didn’t quite work. A highly macabre scene involving the pair bickering while their suspect was being roasted on an electric chair in the background was too much. Especially after the easygoing pace and playful banter.

And tragically, the pace did get hampered by the plot. And for all its “complexities”; the story was far too predictable. Typical guff involving Nazis and the Cold War. Go, figure! It killed a lot of the fun and momentum that had kept me entertained for 60-odd minutes. The inevitable double bluffing and backstabbing between the team got a little long at the tooth for me.

Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager) was wasted as the femme fatale Victoria Vinciguerra. She did her best with the role but was left in the background far too much. Only coming back for the frantic finale.

The same can be said for Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral). God, he’s looking old. He wasn’t in it enough. His renowned bumbling and quick witted exchanges a welcome return; “For a special agent, you’re not having a particularly special day, are you?”.

The finale brought everything back into play and made up for a stumbling middle act with a mad dash explosive climax and (Hardly a spoiler!) it left things open for another. One sequel I would look forward to watching.

If Ritchie and co can just trim the length, get a better baddie then we’ll be good to go. BUT this is still worth a watch if you’re in for the mood for a cool spy caper with a great cast.

3/5

THE HARRY HILL MOVIE

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Was it any good? There’s only one way to find out? FIGHT . . . I mean, review.

What the hell did I just watch?!

Now for those familiar with the award winning TV Burp, I’m sure you can imagine what to expect. BUT even that wouldn’t live up to your expectations. It is ridiculously stupid, bizarre, random and unfortunately, for most of it, unfunny.

Another one to add to the pile of poor TV to film adaptations. There seems to be somewhat of a curse with this transition. The Inbetweeners and Kevin and Perry Go Large being the exceptions.

A little harsh and to its defense, its NOT a complete dud, contrary to reviews I’ve read. When it’s funny, it nails it. And I had the odd chuckle. The opening act didn’t give me much hope with a drawn out and highly unfunny mobile scooter race.  BUT luckily there was the odd moment to reprieve itself.

So what’s it about? Harry’s pet hamster Abu (voiced by none other than Johnny Vegas. Brilliant!) only has a week to live. So Harry and his nan, played by the legendary actress that is Julie Walters plan to give him the best week of his life by taking him to . . . Blackpool on one of the most trippy and mental road trips I’ve imagined.

However, all is not what it seems, as Hill’s evil twin, Otto (played by Matt Lucas) has an evil plan at foot.

Silly and just plain daft. BUT there were moments where you just couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer energy and randomness of Hill’s surreal sequences. From the simple task of Harry getting an egg from the chicken coop, it soon becomes a military assault with armed chickens blowing up the back garden?! And Mr. Hill screaming, “I’m henned in”.

What surprised me about this film was the sheer number of cameos from a great supporting British cast. Simon Bird (Will from the Inbetweeners) played the dimwitted henchman with aplomb. His creepy Justin Bieber disguise still haunting my thoughts.

I can’t believe Julie Walters did this. It was great to see her having fun but I can’t help but feel that this was a step down. And Jim Broadbent?! Playing a cross dressing cleaner in a nuclear power station? Great to see him but I just wish he featured in a better scene. Or a funnier one for that matter.

Matt Lucas was wasted as Otto. Apart from his hilarious back story about being raised by a pack of wild Alsatians on the M6, he failed to make a real impression.

The Magic Numbers Bed and Breakfast hotel was fantastic. I couldn’t believe that the Magic Numbers, one of my favourite bands, was in this! And a surprise car wash sing song with Shingai Shoniwa, lead singer of the Noisettes, was a treat.

For every miss, there is a hit BUT it appears that Hill and the crew soon milk that winning cow until the udders are dry. The angry white van man voice on a Sat Nav was a good joke – “Oi turn left, you toilet!” BUT switching it to Sheila mode, the angry van man’s wife. Yeah, not so much.

A drawn out skit with the ancient race of Shell people and Barney Cull (Nope, can’t fight it, BELLY LAUGH!) who are rioting against the merchandise stores for stealing their children featuring the likes of The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt and the lovely Sheridan Smith was so-so at best.

BUT the song and dance numbers don’t do anything to hide how dreadful this mad escapade was. Walters burping, rapping and spitting out fire? No, no, no. The Dachshund 5 tribute act with their wearing little afros? Irritatingly adorable!

The film didn’t really have a plot or story. It was trippy as hell and nothing really made sense. In a way it reminded me of the old 60s Swinging London British movies that Richard Lester produced. Just watch out for the Brain people and you’ll know what I mean.

If you’re a fan of HH, it’s surreal randomness can be hit and miss compared to the brilliant TV Burp. It’s mental and strangely watchable BUT for all the wrong reasons. I felt like I had been on a bad trip. Bring back the Burp Harry 😦

2/5