*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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PITCH PERFECT 2 REVIEW

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Aca-trocios

The Bellas are back. Prepare to get Pitch Slapped. (Delightful :/) Whether you’ll enjoy it this time around is another story.

After a humiliating performance at the Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.

Surprisingly, I actually didn’t mind the first film. I was “forced” to watch it (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). I’m not normally into things like this. Glee? No. PP was cheesy, OTT BUT funny and entertaining. Shame, lightning couldn’t strike twice.

It was watchable but it just didn’t quite hit the same notes that the first one did (Yeah, I made a musical based pun joke. Crushed it).

The heavily advertised opening didn’t get things going for me. If anything, there was too much going on. The acapella dance routine was manic. The choreography along with the bombardment of camera shots and angles made it all a little disorienting. There was a point to it by the end. But we had to endure several more sequences of it.

However, John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks) were back on fine form as the bitchy commentators. Higgins came out with some corkers straight off the bat.

A wardrobe malfunction with Fat Amy (Perfectly timed to a cover of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball) in front of the President of the United States (And no! Barack Obama was not in the film. They allowed shots of him) leads to the lovely ladies getting banned from performing. Aca-no way?

The film does pick up and was harmless enough. Anna Kendrick was still pretty good. Great voice. A lovely little singer. We join Beca as she finds her obligations torn between the Bellas and her internship at a record label.

Rebel Wilson was actually not as irritating or in the film as much as I thought. She won me over in Pitch Perfect and seemed to fare better when she improvised. An anagram of Becca and Chloe got an anecdote I didn’t expect. But some of the bigger gags and stunts involving her were too OTT, unnecessary and unfunny.

An unexpected romance between her and another character didn’t really make any sense and didn’t add any depth to her character. Shame. I won’t spoil anything but it was sloppy.

Skylar Astin was a missed presence. He had the charm and charisma but was reduced to only a few scenes. Obviously, his relationship with Beca was set up in the PP but there could have been potential for more drama as Beca tried to balance singing and producing.

In all honesty, they didn’t make much of the record producing angle either.

Beca’s Christmas jingle with Snoop Dogg. You read that, right? Christmas in June? Say what? Snoop was off the hook. For shiz- He was okay. I thought he was Snoop Lion now?

Keegan-Michael Key was highly unfunny as Beca’s record producer boss. An ongoing joke with his cousin as a runner was dead in the water after 30 seconds. He even went for the same nauseating joke my uncle used to pull at parties with the “I’ll keep forgetting your name and say something else” spiel. Hilarious. NOT!

There was a lazy boot camp sequence that seemed like nothing more than a ploy to get Anna Kamp back into the mix. The camping gags were so-so but there were so many missed opportunities. Instead we had Rebel Wilson doing an incredibly OTT love song across a lake that went on far too long. Okay, I had a guilty chuckle as a passing car decided to disturb Amy’s groove.

When it came to the actual singing, the film thankfully hits its stride. A mish-mesh of 80s pop hits, 90s jams and current singles were incorporated brilliantly into the stand-offs. The Bellas’ cover of the soundtrack’s main song ‘Flashlight’ by Jessie J was brill. I preferred it to the actual song.

Das Sound Machine were the much needed catalyst that got the best of the characters that seemed to be pushed into the background. The lazy German/US rivalry was old hat but it was still entertaining enough. Their performances were superb.

I couldn’t believe that Birgitte Hjort Sorensen from Borgen was in this as the head honcho. She couldn’t dance though, bless her. The playful exchanges between Beca and Kommissar were quite funny as the towering blonde goddess (What?) used her prowess to unsettle the “feisty fairy”. The random babble that Kendrick came out with was very hit and miss.

Funny after all the advertising, the World War reference wasn’t even included in the theatrical cut. Hmmm . . .

It just didn’t work as well. Some of the better supporting characters were barely in it or quickly thrown in out of desperation to get a quick titter (Come on, don’t laugh at that word). Some bits worked and I wasn’t bored. BUT others didn’t and it was actually what I expected the first time around. Unfunny, dreadfully cheesy and OTT.

Adam DeVine’s Bumper returned? Why? Were they desperate to make everything full circle? He was too tame after his arrogant turn in the first. Boring.

Benji (Ben Platt) came off really weird and annoying. I felt sorry for the chap in PP1. BUT this time, he did my nut in. Hailee Steinfeld wasn’t too bad as the Bella’s new recruit but she definitely tried to channel her inner Benji and to be honest, one of them was enough. She really did grate on my nerves.

There was a nice cameo from Katey Sagal as Steinfeld’s mum. But her role was nothing. We know she can sing. All she gets is a backing vocal in a small choir. A waste.

Hana Mae Lee was great! Her inaudible comments delivering the (much needed) laughs. Chrissie Fit’s sassy Latina Flo felt like a mish-mesh of Lilly and Fat Amy. We already have one weird girl coming out with weird stuff. Well, two if you count Amy. The border patrol gags were a little stereotypical and just not funny.

They tried too hard and it just didn’t quite come off. The songs saved the day and it wasn’t a bad debut from Banks. But I’m sorry.

Aca-scuse me but it’s a . . .

2.5/5