Tag Archives: Shailene Woodley

War Dogs

war dogsNote: This is the first part of a review double-header!  Jesse sent two recommendations in a single shot so I’m reviewing them at the same time.  Click here for the other review.

What Jesse said:

Two movies for you to watch: War Dogs, and Manchester by the Sea. Very different but excellent flicks. War Dogs is so absurd it will make you laugh and then wonder if the grownups really are in charge… also, it was funny ’cause it’s true (based on a real case). Manchester by the Sea was a pretty intense slow burn. Casey Affleck plays the main character. Watch out for the BAHS-ton accents. Family drama.

Mike’s verdict:

When does telling the truth ever help anyone?

This is not my kind of movie and I knew it right from the beginning. A ‘true story’ about arms dealers, Afghanistan, and the US government – it’s going to be fairly predictable and I have no doubt about Jesse’s ‘absurd’ label.  Indeed, guns, drugs, war, and banking movies are always the same kind of absurd: someone essentially good makes a series of obviously terrible decisions for the good of family or to get a friend out of a jam, or to just be comfortable for once in their life.  This movie fits the pattern perfectly and it means that there are no surprises as the plot develops.

Granted, that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining.  The kid from all the Shailene Woodley movies is okay as the naive ‘good guy’ just trying to get ahead. But I initially had trouble accepting him in the role because the life he starts with doesn’t seem that bad.  Jonah Hill is definitely effective as the unsavory partner. He seemed very similar to the character he played in The Wolf of Wall Street, but without the excess.  I can’t say that I liked either character very much; certainly not enough to be on their side.  I knew things would go poorly for them and I didn’t care.

On the other hand, Bradley Cooper‘s role is intriguing.  It’s a fairly small role in terms of screen-time, but he manages to steal the show.  I’d like to see a prequel about him that sets up the Albanian connection and perhaps presents a clearer justification for his involvement in the subsequent scheme.

In most other ways, this movie was entertaining enough to continue watching, but not so interesting that I would be upset if I was interrupted mid-viewing and had to stop watching.  This last thought explains how it is that I managed to watch three quarters of the film before it finally dawned on me that I had actually already watched it once before.  It must have been on the second or third leg of a really long flight because I obviously slept through most of it the first time.

In any case, I did not fall asleep during the second viewing and I was reasonable entertained all the way through.  I even enjoyed the sparse but well chosen music.  There’s always a danger with this type of movie to use overly aggressive music to reinforce themes, but that wasn’t the case here.

Overall,  War Dogs isn’t a great movie, but it isn’t a bad one either.  I was entertained and I think that’s all I would ask of it.

6/10


The Fault in Our Stars

What Jesse said:

So I get dragged out to watch a chickflick with the wife and as it turns out… not a bad movie. It’s called The Fault in Our Stars and it stars Shailene Woodley who I thought was fantastic in 2013’s The Spectacular Now. The movie has a decent balance of funny and sad moments and the performances are pretty tight. Go watch it.

Mike’s verdict:

Subsequent discussions have left me with the distinct impression that Jesse was not so much “dragged” to this movie, and he thinks more of it than the ‘not a bad movie’ comment suggests. I mostly agree with him – it’s not a bad movie. It’s not a great movie either.

Woodley does an ‘okay’ (you’ll get the pun later) job here, and she definitely fits better in this movie than in the universally mis-casted Divergent. (There’s no review of Divergent because Jesse still refuses to admit that he was first in line to see it.) But there’s nothing remarkable about this film. It’s the kind of movie that my mother recommends to me because she caught most of it on TV on a Sunday afternoon in between trips to the laundry room.  Some things happen to two kids who only know each other because they both picked the short straw when life was handing out healthy bodies. And those things teach the kids about life.

In one sentence: this movie is The Spectacular Now for kids with cancer. But where The Spectacular Now felt real, this one just feels like a movie. Yes, the kids are plain but everything else is Hollywood – every character is good or bad, every problem is simple or impossible. There’s not enough grayzone.

I really liked Willem Dafoe in this though – his character was by far the most interesting and he was completely believable as the cranky old man trying to escape humanity. I haven’t read the book, but I’m willing to bet that Peter Van Houten is better developed in it, and I’m disappointed the writers of the film didn’t take him further.

One thing that really bothered me was the poorly chosen ending. By about half way through the story you realize that there is exactly one way the story has to come to a close, and unfortunately director Josh Boone failed to notice it. Maybe he thought it would be too obvious. I think he just didn’t fully understand the message.

Either way, The Fault in Our Stars is adequately entertaining, non-controversial and benign, but you’re going to forget about it as soon you turn it off.

5/10

p.s. If you’re curious, Woodley didn’t let Miles Teller ride her coat-tails into this movie – they must have been having an off week.