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Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on the memoirs of Kim Baker from her biographical novel, Taliban Shuffle, about a cable news producer who decided to take on a daring new job as a war correspondent in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2002. We journey with the forty-something American woman through the hedonistic haze and turbulent years as she becomes accustomed to a new way of life in an out-of-control war zone.

As a war comedy drama, it's not surprising to find Tina Fey at the helm as the fish-out-of-water journalist. While the 30 Rock screenwriter and star has been typically associated with comedy, this adaptation demonstrates her dramatic range. Instead of being a laugh-a-minute comedy, Fey finds herself trawling through a film that tries to do everything: in search of poignant war moments, satirical comedy and stirring drama.

While the tone is aiming for something like Good Morning Vietnam with Robin Williams, it comes off like a blend of Zero Dark Thirty and Rock the Kasbah. The dead serious character study and memoir snippets with occasional military operations make it seem modelled on Zero Dark Thirty. While the attempts at a satirical edge with colourful characters and mild hedonism against the backdrop of a strict social order and catchy music recall Bill Murray in Rock the Kasbah.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Movie Review

"We'll always have Kabul."

Sadly, it doesn't quite match Good Morning Vietnam in terms of its lead performance or tonal balancing act. While Tina Fey has talent and manages to deliver a reasonable performance, the role really required an actress with more dramatic heft. Her strong comedy background just makes the film seem somewhat underwhelming as she trades in laughter over nuance. Then, the highlights reel of stories and encounters is rather choppy as several years of memoirs are condensed with Baker as the central thread.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has excellent production values and feels like it was shot on location with a steady stream of authentic Afghanistan and Kabul scenes anchoring the film in reality. The storytelling does get a bit confusing as we try to make sense of the real-life news at play, however the strength of the supporting cast is enough to distract us with some solid turns by Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman as Scottish journalist Iain MacKelpie.

While you would imagine Tina Fey and Martin Freeman would make a terrific comedy duo, their relationship seems toned down and lacks the necessary chemistry to make it seem anything more than a dalliance. With a title like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot you would expect an edgier movie in the same head space as Four Lions, however, beside some light commentary on being a female war correspondent in a patriarchal society and some foul language, it's rather tame.

Overall, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot seems slightly miscast, a little too safe and a bit too familiar for its own good. While it never reaches the same heights of its influences, it makes for a fairly entertaining coming-of-age war comedy drama with quality ingredients and a few memorable moments.

The bottom line: Amusing

Talking Movies with Spling - Verskietende Ster, The Jungle Book and The 33

Spling reviews Verskietende Ster, The Jungle Book and The 33 as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

When people think of The Jungle Book, they conjure up images of dancing bears, kooky comedy and jovial songs centring around, essentially a young "Tarzan". While the beloved 1967 Disney fairytale probably has a special place in most people's hearts, few would have guessed that it would be reimagined as a much darker "live–action" adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's books.

In what seems like a blend of the brothers Grimm and Kipling, Iron Man director Jon Favreau has reinvented the story. Using amazing CGI technology to rival and surpass Life of Pi, he's been able to populate the jungle with digital characters that have real weight and expression without losing the balance of reality.

Apart from Neel Sethi, who plays Mowglie "the man cub", every other character is portrayed by a voice artist. The ensemble includes some big Hollywood names such as: Sir Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken and Lupita Nyong'o, some of whom you will recognise along the way.

This isn't the epic yet delightful yarn that many families would be expecting. Just like Life of Pi, it serves as more of an allegory, allowing the animals to possess certain human characteristics but ultimately embody the very nature of the creatures themselves. As such, it's more violent and thrilling with Sheer Khan looming over the jungle community much like Scar did in The Lion King.

The Jungle Book Movie Review

"For the last time... this ISN'T a Bravestarr origins story."

The whole experience is spellbinding, as you enter another world, where lifelike creatures talk and scheme on what's best for Mowglie. Seethi is naive as both a young actor and character, allowing his innocence to carry the impressionable youngster. He certainly looks similar enough to the Disney version and there's never much doubt when he's interacting the animals, allowing him and us to sink deep into the magical jungle world.

It's a fantasy adventure that also recalls Avatar as amazing 3D visuals create a very real environment and sense of wonder. While it takes a while to get used to non-cartoon animals talking, the CGI is so seamless that you never really question what you're seeing. Having a real Mowglie gives the suspended reality an honesty, making you cringe when Sheer Khan attacks and enough of an urgency that your concern for the well-being of the child is real. It's quite revolutionary when you consider no animals were used in the making of this film.

Apart from being an extraordinary achievement in film-making, Favreau has necessitated this "remake" by virtue of its more impactful adaptation. The original Disney classic gets tribute as various scenes echo in this version, however it's much more immediate and dangerous. It holds the same enjoyment and entertainment factor, despite playing down the musical and comedy aspects, yet managing to get much more from its audience in terms of suspense and sheer wonder. It may not have the emotional resonance you'd expect from such a coming-of-age fable, but as a spectacle it's a marvel and will stay with you for days.

The bottom line: Spectacular

Top Ten Movies with... Edwin van der Walt

Edwin van der Walt is a dedicated, energetic and versatile young actor, who has already drawn acclaim with a series of instantly likable and heartfelt performances in South African feature films such as: Ballade vir 'n Enkeling, Hollywood in my Huis, Modder en Bloed and Die Pro, with a lead role in My Father's War, which is scheduled for release in August.

Having shown tremendous potential on the field as a sportsman, the multi-talented van der Walt chose an acting career over joining the Sharks Academy in Durban after playing for Paarl Boys High's first team for two years. He recently completed his B. Drama degree at the University of Stellenbosch and with such a promising future ahead of him at home and abroad, it's clear he made the right decision.

Having made a name for himself in the theatre arena under the direction of Marthinus Basson in Bos and Macbeth Slapeloos, he's now conquering the silver screen with roles that have been received with great enthusiasm working opposite the likes of Dawid Minnaar, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Jana Cilliers, Antoinette Kellerman and Stian Bam.

As an ambitious rising South African film talent, it was only a pleasure to find out more about Edwin van der Walt and which films have made his Top Ten list!

"My brother and I almost know every
single line in the film..." [on Wedding Crashers]

I can't watch movies without...

- Having enough time, I have to watch a film straight through without pausing or having to wait until the next day.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- Albert Einstein (14 March)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- I saw Serengeti on IMAX and it blew my mind!

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- Carrie (2013), I found it to be a bit of a rip-off, but was actually meant to be serious. The continuity was shocking and the boundaries were pushed too far for it to be a good horror/thriller film.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- Room, Amour, Up and Biuitiful.

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Oliver Schmidt (director), but not yet a real movie star.

What's your favourite movie line?

- "Yeah, that's me, taking the bull by the horns. It's how I handle business. It's a metaphor. But that actually happened, though." ~ Ben Stiller as White Goodman in Dodgeball

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Eddie Redmayne, he's capable of making all of his characters vulnerable and honest. I find him truthful in every scene and I think his body type fits best to be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly built like Dwayne Johnson.

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- A real-life story about an underdog achieving greatness and success. To quote Edward Norton, "The best films of any kind, narrative or documentary, provoke questions."

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

- Crash ...I came across this film after doing research on multi-narrative films. I love the way directors like Alejandro G. Iñárritu use this form of storytelling. After watching Crash I knew this would be something to take inspiration from, and maybe in the near future make a film like this. Excellent!

- The Piano Teacher ...while I was busy working on a film, My Father's War, which releases on 5 August this year, Stian Bam who played my father in the film gave me The Piano Teacher to watch. Michael Haneke became one of my favorite directors after watching this. He captures real-life and raw performances in such a way it's almost difficult to watch... in a good way. Isabelle Huppert gives one of the best performances I have ever seen.

- Biutiful ...I was looking for the film Crash in a DVD store and saw the cover of this film by the master, Mr. Iñárritu. I heard it had been nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, so I wanted to see what it was all about. Iñárritu made something that again was almost difficult to watch as he technically, as well as through the performances, makes you feel a lot more than we are used to, or would like to, in our everyday lives. Vulnerable, subtle and raw, Bardem also gives an inspiring performance.

- Wedding Crashers ...when you start to smile as you write the name of the film down, then you know it's the good stuff. I really like dramas and thrillers but one timeless comedy for me is Wedding Crashers. My brother and I almost know every single line in the film and have watched it an embarrassing amount of times. We find ourselves having inside joke moments in random conversations, just starting line-battling dialogue between Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Timeless comedy!

- Brokeback Mountain ...I was busy reading Heath Ledger's book, Heath. A Family's Tale, while busy shooting on the film Die Pro. Ledger is one of my favourite actors, who I look up to... a legend. In his book he mentioned that during the filming of Brokeback Mountain he was extremely lonely and had a difficult time dealing with that. He also met the love of his life, Michelle Williams, on set. I really wanted to watch all his films, especially after reading his book. I watched Brokeback Mountain and discovered one of his best performances, other than playing The Joker in The Dark Knight. He inspired me with a pure, raw and honest performance that day.

- Gone Girl ...David Fincher is the master of thrillers and definitely on my list of top directors. I saw Gone Girl on the big screen and still think it is Fincher's best thriller. But there was one scene has not left me to this day... the scene where Neil Patrick Harris' throat is slashed by Rosamund Pike. One of the most powerful scenes and mastered in all areas... the sound effect they used I can't describe, but it was spot on. I kind of laughed afterwards as I realized a few people made very weird and awkward sounds as that scene took place.

- Fight Club ...another reason I remember Fight Club, besides David Fincher being the director, is for Edward Norton's performance, which has stuck with me for a very very long time. Again technically as well a visually, Fight Club became a film that will always be on my top 10. Jared Leto took an extremely small cameo role just to be able to work with Fincher. I saw this when I was very young and every time I watch this film, which is a lot of times, it gets better and better.

- Before Sunset ...I saw the trailer for Before Sunset and immediately wanted to see it. I started watching interviews with the director and became a big fan as he spoke about how he works with actors and writes his scripts. I bought the first two films from Linklater's trilogy and could not get enough of them. I kept on talking about it for days, the film started to make its way into conversations. I could not stop talking about it for weeks. It plays off in real-time following a conversation between Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply as the co-leads. It's amazing how an 80 minute conversation could keep me intrigued.

- Vertical Limit ...this is my guilty pleasure film. This is one of the first films I remember watching and having such a big emotional impact - for some reason this film stuck with me. Not a lot of people remember or even watched this film but it will be on my top 10 as I will never forget this experience.

- Whiplash ...this film made me realize a film does not need to be complex to be exceptional. Such a simple story line, subtle and raw performances, and technically beautiful. The performances from Miles Teller and J.K Simmons are also worth watching over and over.

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

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