*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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SELF/LESS REVIEW

Selfless-new-poster-Ryan-Reynolds-2015-2

Pace less BUT for all the negative press, I still found this quite watchable.

A dying real estate mogul (Sir Ben Kingsley) transfers his consciousness into a healthy young body (Ryan Reynolds), but soon finds that neither the procedure nor the company that performed it are quite what they seem.

It may have been cliched, plot hole ridden and a little patchy in places BUT the action sequences were fast, fierce, racy and Reynolds was on fine form. AND for a good portion of the film, I was entertained.

The opening act was slow burning but intriguing. A slick and ruthless Kingsley delivering DeNiroesque gravitas to the role of the ailing billionaire. To be honest, I would have been happy to watch his normal life as the dying mogul. His lesson with a young rival was compelling stuff.

BUT the sloppily put together relationship with his estranged daughter? Not so much. It’s great to see Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery popping up in more movies. But not in such weak supporting roles. Dull, cliched and boring. A waste. And a pointless character by the closing credits.

We follow Kingsley wallowing in his highly extravagant and isolated apartment as he must come to terms with his own mortality. The one thing in all his years he hasn’t been able to conquer. Until now.

Cue the slick but incredibly smarmy scientist Dr Albright. Matthew Goode was brilliant as the mysterious mastermind. The concept of body swapping/mind swapping was quite interesting. Can you put on a price on life? Would you do it?

BUT we know he does. Or else there wouldn’t be a movie. Tragically that means there is one massive Kingsley-sized void when the deed is done. BUT have no fear. Reynolds is here. He played the role quite well. Good to see him doing it seriously. The guy can be hilarious but I’m fed up of the fast talking douche.

The premise was handled with the right balance. A slight hint of believability. Or enough to make you buy into it. It was a nice touch seeing Reynolds in the early stages of his ‘infancy’ as he must learn to walk again.

It did require a little patience. You get the sense of his struggle within two minutes not twenty. BUT it did make a change to see him having to adjust and look like he’s actually gone through an experiment. Unlike Face/Off. Quick laser zap here and voice alter there. Done. (I love Face/Off. Man, I want to watch that right now. Anyway . . . )

I loved the one liners, “It still has that new body smell”. Cheesy but it did the job. Of course, once Reynolds has adjusted; he does what any elderly billionaire would do with a shed load of cash and Ryan Reynolds’ body! Get smashed, drive fast cars, get jiggy with the ladies and play basketball.

It chugged along. BUT it did lull. Luckily, not everything is as it seems. Strange fits and random memories of someone else’s life start plaguing the mind of our playboy. And thankfully, the film finds it’s stride . . . in places.

Damian soon realises that the “vessel” may not be all it cracked up to be. It’s all rather predictable as he asks too many questions and threatens to reveal the organisation to the public after discovering he has taken someone away from their family.

Cue an action packed race (Hmm) as Damian must fight to save his life and whoever the hell he has in his mind and his family.

Natalie Martinez (Under The Dome) did what she could with the role as the confused wife. BUT she was too whiney and mopey. The scenes with her and Reynolds were way too cliched for you to really care. It didn’t help that she kept asking the same monotonous questions. After Damian clearly says repeatedly, “I have no idea”.

Empire’s Derek Luke didn’t do a bad job as Anton. I just wish his henchman wasn’t so bland and unintentionally comical. Once the body/mind swapping ploy is introduced, he keeps popping up as a new face in every scene. It should have been sinister but it just showed how easy he is to dispose of. Wiped out every time he clashes with Reynolds. Oh dear.

Oh yeah. I forgot to say. Lucky for Damian that he’s managed to take the body of a highly trained marine whose skills conveniently kick in every time danger is afoot. The action scenes were quick, furious and quite violent. Apart from the bad body double punch up in the kitchen, I was impressed.

It was the much needed catalyst to get this film going. And it picked the film up every time the corny story line or pace seemed to linger. The final 20 minutes were actually quite good.

It was certainly watchable as Damian has to make a choice. To save this family and the mind of the body he took or . . . NOT. There was a good portion in which I thought things would take a darker turn as he tries his utmost not to help. BUT the end result was tragically predictable.

Matthew Goode was a dastardly villain. BUT he took the back seat for too much of the film. Only reappearing for the finale. A waste of a good character. And for all his secrecy, he was picked apart quite easily.

Things did get unbelievably corny in parts and killed the little tension that the film could muster. There was one scene. Hardly spoilerific. BUT while in hiding, the adorable Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen asks the man possessing her daddy’s body to teach her to swim. Wow. What do you know? There’s a pool round the back. And they must have remembered to pack her little bathing suit while being shot at. Delightful.

facepalm

Victor Garber was fantastic as Kingsley’s closest friend and business partner. His likeable supporting character actually gets a little subplot. Well, minuscule. BUT it only manages to pierce more holes in the flimsy plot as a “revelatory twist” ended up asking more questions than answering them.

Now did anyone else this but after seeing all the posters that maybe Kingsley would reappear in some other capacity? I thought that every time Reynolds would look in the mirror, he would see Kingsley. Or better yet have Kingsley talk to him. BUT NO! Missed a trick there. Gutted.

Watchable enough. Helped by a charismatic lead in Reynolds. Good action set pieces. BUT too many cliches and a questionable two hour running length spoil something that could have been so much more.

2.5/5

THE BOXTROLLS REVIEW

the boxtrolls movie

I laika it but I didn’t love it. From the makers of Coraline and Paranorman comes a delightfully animated, if predictable affair that certainly impresses in detail but lacks in story. Enough for the little ‘uns but I can’t help but feel that some of the darker and more satirical moments may whizz over their head and leave them fidgeting in their seats.

As I’ve said before; kids films, or should I say, family films are always a challenge. They have a lot to aspire to and must have enough pace, character and story to entertain children and adults. But normally, a good portion of the time you can bank on them to deliver the goods. Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks have proven this time and time again. They are normally the films I can rely on in the ever growing list of mediocre and plain right terrible movies I’ve had to endure this year.

Now the American stop-motion studio Laika certainly delivered with the creepy but brilliant Coraline. ParaNorman was a mixed bag. A watchable one. At its best, dark, very funny and endearing. But let’s not forget the ending wasn’t perfect. It felt like it had run out of ideas and rushed towards a corny and flat finale.

So what’s this one all about? The Boxtrolls are a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who lovingly raise an orphaned human boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright – Game of Thrones) in their cavernous home built beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. However, when evil exterminator, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls. Eggs decides to venture above ground and “into the light”.

Eggs? That’s right. Eggs because that was on the box that our protagonist chose to wear. A nice touch.

The opening was a little slow and a little dark with a Boxtroll appearing to steal a child and Snatcher brokering a deal with the high class elite who appear to be wasting the town’s budget on fancy hats and rich cheese. A fun poke at the inevitable class and society issues that still plague the present day.

The little ones may find themselves fidgeting a little bit. Even I could feel my eyes looking at my watch. That is until our little cardboard creatures finally make their appearance.

The animation is fantastic. Once the little sewer gremlins emerge from their cavernous domain and begin scavenging the streets, I was in awe. Their little expressions and the detail in which they use their boxes as props to climb over gates and as cover from any passing humans. Their bickering and amusement with the rubbish dumped on the streets made them instantly loveable and entertaining.

The 3D was a complete waste of time. Thoroughly disappointing as this film would have been the perfect platform. Also pretty poor with the inflating ticket prices and decreasing cinema numbers. Do not invest.

The cast were perfectly chosen for the roles. And what a cast! Hempstead Wright has already made an impression with Game of Thrones but certainly delivers a solid voicing performance. But he was always going to fall second fiddle to the legend that is Sir Ben Kingsley. His prowess and talent just adds so much to the delightfully disgusting Archibald Snatcher. His name must surely be a nod to the infamous child villain, the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Only a more demented version, with top hat in tow, of course.

Richard Ayoade (Moss from The IT Crowd), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) and Tracy Morgan (That’s right! 30 Rock) were brilliant as Snatcher’s numbskull henchmen who constantly try and justify with one another that they are really the good guys. Not enough of them in my opinion.

Elle Fanning (Maleficent) was fantastic as the stroppy but feisty Winnie who befriends Eggs. Jared Harris (Mad Men) and Maurice LaMarche (Futurama) were also voices that stood out in the gang of mindless elitist cheese fanatics.

The Boxtrolls is watchable and at times quite fun. The chase sequences and the encounters with the Boxtrolls were a sight to see. But for me, the story just didn’t seem to flow that well. It seemed a bit mechanical and all a bit predictable. Desperate twists and turns were pulled out of nowhere as the film meandered along.

Twists that were hardly revelatory or necessary for that matter. The whole spiel early on that the Boxtrolls were cannibalistic murderers was always going to be a bluff. Eggs and Fish (the Boxtroll who “adopted” him)’s relationship was nicely done and you could feel for the pair, even if half of the time you couldn’t understand what they were saying to one another. A running joke that happens every time Winnie demands a translation.

Eggs’ adjustment into the human world after ten years of “captivity” was an endearing and funny opportunity. His introduction to a high class social party brought the odd chuckle. But the tone seemed to be too uneven. Coraline was endearing but deliciously dark. Boxtrolls starts off dark. Goes full slapstick and cheesy. Then a little darker with a rushed and incredibly corny finale.

It felt like it wasn’t sure how far to push or how dark to be. An achilles heel for Snatcher was an unexpected twist that led to a deliciously macabre finale.

There’s enough for everyone. Silly boxtrolls for the kids (and adults) and macabre Dickensian visuals with a drop of class satire. Not bad by any means but will it stand against the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Caroline or even ParaNorman? Sadly, not for me.

3/5