Whiskey Tango Foxtrot ****
Loosely based on Kim Barker’s autobiographical book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the dramedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Tina Fey, as TV news journalist Kim Baker (a fictionalized version of Barker), leads an impressive cast who offer a glimpse of the militarized Afghanistan quagmire through the eyes of the press. Assuming a degree of accuracy in their portrayal, this is a rare look at the dangerous, dysfunctional, competitive, and ironically often hilarious day-to-day lives of the international press corps. Filmed in New Mexico, the locale was an apparent excellent facsimile of Afghanistan—dry, dusty, hot and miserable, but with fewer I.E.D.s. There is plenty of real war drama here and sad, human stories, and plenty of hilarity, too. Excellent performances by Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock, Fargo) who plays an irreverent Scottish photojournalist and Fey’s love interest, and Billy Bob Thornton as a Marine commander who isn’t too impressed, initially, with Fey’s enthusiasm, raise this film to “must see” status. But 62-year-old Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spider-Man 2, The Da Vinci Code, Law & Order: LA) nearly steals the show as a randy Afghan official who feels he should be allowed to bed the American news reporter. Insightful, entertaining and very human at its core, this film is a win, set in a place known for its horrific losses.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant ***
The mark of good Sci-fi is its ability to humanize a storyline, and help the reader, or in this case viewer, see themselves and the world around them. The hi-tech domain and future speak of Sci-fi are only the clever vehicles used to explore that which may happening in the present on a human level. Allegiant, the third film of four based on the bestselling Veronica Roth YA fiction Divergent series, follows the exploits of Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) in the ruins of a post-apocalyptic walled-in Chicago after an experiment in eugenics goes awry. Now outside the mysterious wall for the first time, it seems things are only getting worse under the rule of David, played by Jeff Daniel. Though the film was produced well before Donald Trump and the current political turmoil made its way to the headlines, it manages to tap into many of the same themes, especially the divisiveness gripping the nation. Divergents are humans who don’t fit into a genetically predisposed category, the details of which are best fleshed out in the first two films, or book one in Roth’s trilogy. In fact, without a good understanding of the world of the story, you may as well stay home. This is not a stand-alone film that will make any sense to someone not familiar with the characters or story arc. Allegiant is Part 1 of two parts based on the third book in the series. Part 2, Ascendant, is scheduled for release in June 2017.
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