Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

What The F is this movie supposed to be? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has a little bit of everything: action, comedy, romance and political intrigue. It is the story of a woman’s three-year adventure as a TV reporter based in Kabul, Afghanistan from ’03 to ’06.

Kim Baker (Tina Fey) is not unlike 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon. She’s a 40-something network employee whose professional and personal lives are not quite satisfying. Lemon was a show producer; Baker is a lowly news writer. When the opportunity to cover the allied peacekeeping effort in Afghanistan—with a chance to do on-camera reports—is offered, she jumps.

One of the first members of the media she encounters in Kabul is competing TV reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) who introduces herself by asking, “Can I [have sex with] your bodyguard?” Vanderpoel explains (and a Marine general played by Billy Bob Thornton later reiterates) that Baker may be a “6” or a “7” back home, but is a “10” to men in this foreign land. Baker replies to Vanderpoel, “What are you then, like a ‘15?’”

Despite the creature discomforts, Baker comes to enjoy the rush of being in a hot spot. She skypes with boyfriend Chris (Josh Charles) back home until she sees another woman in his bedroom. She hooks up with Scottish journalist Iain (Martin Freeman). She looks to get information from an Afghanistan cabinet member (Alfred Molina) who hits on her every time she calls on him.

A handful of chuckles and a few solid laughs make WTF a bit of a comedy. It’s also a bit of a buddy movie as Baker and Vanderpoel become chums. It’s a war movie, though the peril level varies throughout the film. The romance between Baker and Iain forms the crux of the third act. WTF covers a lot of category bases.

Co-directors are Glenn Ficarra and John Requa who scored big a few years ago with Crazy, Stupid Love. Robert Carlock who wrote and produced for 30 Rock wrote WTF. On the heavy to light spectrum, the script is on the light side, but not by much.

Last fall, another movie set in Afghanistan, Rock The Casbah starring Bill Murray, bombed badly. Can Tina Fey and Margot Robbie pull people into the theater to see a movie that sells itself as a comedy, but isn’t exactly a comedy? I think yes.

Most importantly (not really): Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has caused me to forgive Tina Fey for last year’s misfire, Sisters. You’re back in my good graces, TF!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock The Kasbah

Goofy Bill Murray. It’s an act America has laughed at since his SNL days and Rock The Kasbah delivers a heaping helping. This amusing movie has a feel-good redemption factor, but the reason to see Rock The Kasbah is Murray being Murray.

Richie Lanz (Murray) is a small time L.A. talent agent who may or may not have been somebody at one time. His office is in a motel in Van Nuys. In the opening scene he signs to rep a singer of questionable talent after she agrees to pay him $1,200 upfront.

When his act Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel) is booked as an opening act on a U.S.O. tour of bases in Afghanistan, Richie flies with her to Kabul. After Ronnie bails and takes his money, Richie pals around with two Americans (Danny McBride and Scott Caan) who are selling weapons on the down low.

At a club in a sketchy part of town, Lanz meets a gorgeous hooker (Kate Hudson) who develops affection for Richie.

When Lanz escorts a weapons delivery to a remote village he hears a young woman (Leem Lubany) singing in a cave and finagles a way to bring her to Kabul to sing on Afghan Star, an American Idol copy. This does not sit well with her father (Fahim Fazli), a man with a menacing glare, but Lanz attempts to smooth over the angst.

Yes, Rock the Kasbah has a convoluted plot that goes in multiple directions. The pace of RTK bogs down a bit around its midway point before powering up to a big finish.

Rock the Kasbah has a cool soundtrack, but does not include Rock The Casbah by The Clash! There are a couple of versions of Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home, plus Dylan’s Knocking On Heaven’s Door and Zooey’s version of Meredith Brooks’ Bitch. Murray entertains native Afghans with a goofy rendition of Smoke on the Water.

Bruce Willis appears as a mercenary who’s looking for something big to happen that will fuel sales of the book he intends to write.

Rock The Kasbah is not as strong a movie as last year’s Murray starrer St. Vincent. That movie had heart. And a cute kid.

But if you enjoy Bill Murray as his charming goofiest, Rock The Kasbah satisfies.

Lone Survivor

Spoiler Alert! The title of this movie is Lone Survivor.

Despite that big giveaway, Lone Survivor is a pretty good war movie. Set in 2005 in Afghanistan, the film is based on true events.

Four Navy SEALs are sent to check out a village where a Taliban leader is believed to be hiding out. The frogmen (who do this mission on dry land) are Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Axe (Ben Foster).

After being ‘coptered in and dropped off, they scoot across a mountaintop and begin to monitor the village below. Their communications gear fails and they cannot make contact with their base commander (Eric Bana).

So they wait. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, up walks a group of locals with a herd of goats. They are unarmed. Do the SEALs kill them, tie them up or let them go on their way? Alas, they choose the last option, which soon leads to a confrontation with Taliban fighters.

The SEALs engage in a firefight that is fierce and brutal. The battle is on a hillside and the four Americans take some tough falls down the inclines. Being outnumbered by a large margin, all except Luttrell are eventually taken down. With help from a group of locals who are anti-Taliban he makes it out alive.

Lone Survivor is not a political film. It does not judge American involvement in the region. The men who fight are fighting for their county, yes, but also for one another.

I read Jon Krakauer’s excellent book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman last year. It described a mission in Afghanistan with bad planning, communication snafus and clumsy execution not unlike this one. The two tales do not inspire great faith in our military.

They do, however, generate appreciation for the men who fight. Stick around for the sequence at the end of the film which offers a salute to the real life fighting men.