REVIEW: WAR MACHINE

CAST

Brad Pitt (World War Z)
Anthony Hayes (Suburban Mayhem)
Emory Cohen (Brooklyn)
RJ Cyler (Power Rangers)
Daniel Betts (Fury)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Anthony Michael Hall (The Dead Zone)
John Magaro (The Box)
Scoot McNairy (Batman V Sueprman)
Meg Tilly (Psycho II)
Sian Thomas (Vanity Fair)
Alan Ruck (Speed)
Nicholas Jones (Vera Drake)
Griffin Dunne (My Girl)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Reggie Brown (Barbershop: The Next Cut)
Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Will Poulter (We’re The Millers)
Keith Stanfield (Get Out)
Josh Stewart (The Dark Knight Rises)
Georgina Rylance (New Tricks)
Russell Crowe (Man of Steel)

In the summer of 2009, Four-star General Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt), having won renown for his effective leadership in Iraq, is sent to Afghanistan to prepare an assessment so that the government can end the ongoing war. He is given wide latitudes to write it, on the sole condition that he not request more troops. McMahon and his staff, particularly his right hand man Major General Greg Pulver (Anthony Michael Hall), are united in their belief that the war can be won, and decide to recommend that President Obama authorize a surge of 40,000 additional troops to secure Helmand province in order to stabilize the country. However, the Secretary of State (Sian Thomas) informs McMahon that his report will not be reviewed until after the upcoming presidential election.Captain Badi Basim (Aymen Hamdouchi), a member of the ANA, joins McMahon’s staff as a “representative” of the Afghan people. Meanwhile, McMahon is informed that, due to alleged irregularities in the counting of votes, a runoff election will have to be held, delaying the review of the assessment further. Fed up, McMahon secretly leaks the assessment to the Washington Post and organizes an interview with 60 Minutes, during which he reveals that, in the last seventy days, he has only been granted one meeting with the president. In response, the government announces that they will send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and that all US and coalition forces in the country will leave in 18 months. To gather the remaining 10,000 troops needed for his strategy to work, McMahon and his men head to Paris to negotiate with the other coalition nations.In Paris, McMahon learns that the president is passing through, and wishes to meet with him. The ambassador to Afghanistan (Alan Ruck) warns McMahon that he needs to understand his position: if he continues to anger the president, he will be fired for insubordination. The president ultimately decides to cancel the meeting due to time constraints, and McMahon and his staff attend a dinner in his honor, accompanied by Rolling Stone writer Sean Cullen (Scoot McNairy), who intends to write a feature story about his performance for an upcoming issue. The next day, during their anniversary dinner, McMahon’s wife Jeanie confronts him about how much time he’s spending fighting abroad instead of being with his family back home.While on route to Berlin with McMahon’s staff to continue negotiations, Cullen observes their behavior and concludes that they are arrogant and seem to care little about the growing public perception that the war is costly and wasteful. At a conference to discuss his strategy, McMahon is confronted by a German official (Tilda Swinton) who is skeptical of his approach and suggests that McMahon’s plans would only lead to more losses. Nevertheless, both the Germans and the French agree to furnish the troops needed for his planned offensive, codenamed “Operation Moshtarak”, to begin, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s (Ben Kingsley) approval.The operation launches, but soon runs into trouble when several civilians are accidentally killed against McMahon’s instructions. When he holds a public meeting to explain the incident, the crowd grows hostile and demands that he and his troops leave. Worse, McMahon learns that Cullen’s article has been published, and paints a negative picture of him and his staff as openly speaking against the president and mishandling the war effort. Knowing that he will be fired for his actions, McMahon returns to Washington and later takes a job as a civilian consultant. In the aftermath, Cullen ponders the consequences of his article, noting that he wished the fall of McMahon would finally convince the government to stop invading foreign countries and end the war in Afghanistan. Instead, however, the government simply assigns a new general to replace McMahon: General Bob White (Russell Crowe).When a political movie runs the risk of offending both Conservatives and Liberals it’s one we should all see. This movie is hilarious, heartfelt, thought-provoking… bad-ass. And, regardless of your politics, it’ll make you appreciate our troops even more.

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REVIEW: POWER RANGERS (2017)

CAST

Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things)
Naomi Scott (Terra Nova)
RJ Tyler (War Machine)
Ludi Lin (Monster Hunt)
Becky G. (Empire)
Elizabeth Banks (The HUnger Games)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
David Denman (Outcast)
Sarah Gray (Legends of Tomorrow)
Wesley MacInnes (Smallville)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Erica Cerra (The 100)
Jason David Frank (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Amy Jo Johnson (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)

Twenty years after the last Power Rangers theatrical release, the sci-fi series returns with an updated visual style and reconfigured storyline, as the Saban Entertainment property moves from 20th Century Fox to Lionsgate. Unlike the TV program (still running after 24 seasons), the feature films faded away after 1997’s Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, the follow-up to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, released two years earlier.
This version creatively reimagines the Power Rangers’ origins by establishing them as a team of intergalactic protectors, which certainly provides a high degree of flexibility for potential future iterations. Its worldwide appeal should assure satisfactory initial results.

An opening flashback reveals that the original Power Rangers were actually humanoid-like extraterrestrials, arriving on earth millions of years ago as Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his team of Rangers attempted to defend the planet from power-hungry alien invader Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). When an errant meteor strikes, Zordon’s Rangers are all killed and he almost perishes before his loyal robot assistant Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) saves him by uploading his consciousness into their spacecraft’s computer system, while Rita’s body is consigned to the depths of the ocean. Digitally imprisoned within the ship indefinitely, Zordon will have to wait until the power coins that enable the development of Ranger superpowers are discovered sometime in the distant future before he can be freed.More than 60 million years later, a decrepit gold mine outside the rural California town of Angel Grove attracts the attention of outcast teen tech-whiz Billy (RJ Cyler), who’s focused on a project started by his late father to unearth a mysterious energy source within the mountainside. Billy gets some unexpected assistance from disgraced football star Jason (Dacre Montgomery), who needs his help hacking the tracking anklet the local police department forces him to wear after he’s apprehended for staging a disastrous high school prank. It turns out that some other marginalized teens are also drawn to the mountain, including bad boy Zack (Ludi Lin), ostracized cheerleader Kimberly (Naomi Scott) and (in one of the first representations of an LGBTQ superhero character) gay-questioning Trini (Becky G).
After Billy’s homemade explosive device blows away the wall of the mine, they discover the buried power coins and quickly begin developing unexpected super-abilities, including incredible strength and agility. It’s not until they discover Zordon’s buried spaceship and encounter Alpha 5, however, that they begin to understand their anointed role as Zordon’s next team of Power Rangers. As the kids struggle to control their newfound talents, the revival of Rita from deep beneath the ocean snaps their situation into sharp focus when she arrives in Angel Grove seeking Zordon and begins destroying the town. If the Rangers can’t find a way to come together and form a cohesive team, they’ll never be able to defeat Rita and save the world from her destructive ambitions.
For longtime fans, the newest installment preserves some of the most beloved characteristics of the original franchise, updated to reflect technological advances. The Rangers’ color-coded power suits now benefit from nanoparticle properties and the robotic mecha assault vehicles known as Zords that they pilot take on enhanced battle capabilities, while Rita’s menacing sidekicks the Putties and the gigantic warrior Goldar get more polished, fluid CGI representations. (And yes, the “Go Go Power Rangers” theme song makes a triumphant return.)

Screenwriter John Gatins succeeds in effectively distilling the Power Rangers’ sprawling mythology into a manageable scope and dialing back the campy humor and martial arts fixations that characterized the TV series and liberally informed the feature films. The current version instead emphasizes more realistic dramatic situations by imbuing each Ranger with some type of personal issue. Whether they’re dealing with bullying, alienation or sexual orientation, these teens are more three-dimensional than their Ranger predecessors.Standing out in a field of largely emerging young talent, Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) strikes a heartfelt balance between Billy’s obsessive and creative tendencies, playing them against one another for both humor and emotional impact. Cranston as the pompous alien with unrealistic expectations and Hader as the ever-optimistic robot form a resourceful if unexpected comedic team, but can’t quite match Banks for Rita’s sheer delightfulness , she is having fun and it shows oin the big screen.Israelite, building on his experience with teen sci-fi feature Project Almanac, orchestrates a vastly more complex array of characters, action set pieces and technical resources for a combined effect that maintains dramatic tension. CGI characters and special effects sequences by Weta Workshop are seamlessly integrated and consistently thrilling. This is a brilliant retelling the classic story for a new age.