“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”
Tina Fey continues to drop movies streaked with comedy and drama alongside her nutty offerings that’s she’s more known for, her SNL team-ups like “Baby Mama” and “Sisters” or her sitcom creations like “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “30 Rock.” Here, Fey just lets go and acts as a wartime journalist in Afghanistan. The story is based on Kim Barker’s nonfiction book, and the dialogue is dappled with one-liners, catchy phrases and such a distinct use of profanity that you would think Fey wrote it. The directing team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have shown from 2011’s “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” to 2015’s “Focus” to this film that they are consistent. They’re never going to wow you with dynamics, but they don’t get in the way of good performances either – there’s no shortage of those. Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton all earn their money. No need for a distress call. This one is worth a watch.
“Knight of Cups”
Many in the filmmaking community call director Terrence Malick (“The Thin Red Line” and “The Tree of Life”) a visionary genius. Others in the same community have called him a pretentious blowhard. Every film is a new beginning, and here, he’s decided to document the mindset of a disillusioned writer as the writer dives into meditation and debauchery across Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It’s shot like a jeans’ commercial or an advertisement for perfume or family dysfunction or celebrity excess. Whatever they’re selling, Christian Bale does a lethargic voiceover for it. Malick didn’t use a script. All of the scenes were improvised with the director intentional torpedoing his actors just to get reactions. Top-notch actors like Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas and Wes Bentley clamor to be in a Malick film just for the experience. These results are a mixed bag. The performances are okay, but Malick doesn’t flash any images profound enough to connect to anything esoteric. It’s pretty to look at, but the cup isn’t deep enough – pass.
Director John Hillcoat has made a career putting desperate characters in terrible situations – the desolate outback in 2005’s “The Proposition,” an apocalyptic wasteland in 2009’s “The Road” and the cutthroat world of southern prohibition in 2012’s “Lawless.” Here, he dives into the criminal underbelly of Atlanta, Georgia. Cops and gangsters are played by a decorated crew of actors – Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Woody Harrelson, Norman Reedus and Clifton Collins Jr. It’s a cast of the morally corrupt except one or two characters in this game of double crosses. Hillcoat tends to over-stacked his deck. There are times when the acting goes beyond the plot. But there are other times when this finds just the right pace. Those moments usually involve Affleck and Mackie. It’s not Hillcoat’s best, but it is worth a watch.