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Tag Archive: Anthony Michael Hall


Review by C.J. Bunce

When Brad Pitt has another winning performance you find you’re glued to the screen.  From Twelve Monkeys to Meet Joe Black, Ocean’s Eleven to Inglourious Basterds and Moneyball, Pitt has range, plus the charisma and presence that translates to star power.  As with Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp, if you can strip away the celebrity and focus on the performance, Pitt seems like he just can’t fail.  Pitt is just as mesmerizing as any character in his past body of work in the new film War Machine.

In another time War Machine would be a theatrical release–it carries the production values, cast, script, and studio support as much as any other movie, and is produced by Pitt’s own Plan B Entertainment, the same company that garnered a Best Picture Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave.  But we’re now in No Man’s Land.  With Netflix making not only its own competitive, award-winning shows for the small screen, it has moved on to the theatrical film that simply isn’t intended for a theatrical release.  War Machine is based on Rolling Stone writer Michael Hasting’s book The Operators, a biographical account of now retired General Stanley McChrystal that was expanded from the piece he wrote when he was embedded with the general and his men.  You’ve heard the story, the one that took down the general’s career as he was attempting to gain traction in his efforts in Afghanistan in 2010.  McChrystal’s was an American story, one that has plagued leadership in wartime notably since World War II– how do you win a seemingly unwinnable war?  You’ll be hard-pressed not to find story elements from Vietnam days in War Machine, but also echoes of the Persian Gulf War, and other actions where data, facts, politics, economics, miscommunication, and personalities muddled direction and purpose.  Only War Machine isn’t about McChrystal really–Brad Pitt’s character is only based on McChrystal.  For storytelling purposes it’s close enough, and fortunately allows the viewer to enjoy the fictional story being told without the effort of comparing the story to the real events the underlying book was chronicling.  So throw out your own politics for a few hours and get ready for an interesting character study.

Were War Machine released in theaters, there’d no doubt be discussion of the film as the next chapter in a line of films with Twelve O’Clock High, The Best Years of Our Lives, Apocalypse Now, Patton, Full Metal Jacket, and Born on the Fourth of July.  Pitt’s General Glen McMahon is Pitt aged a decade or so, sporting gray hair and a fixed sideways sneer, a raised eyebrow, and a stature (especially when running exercise laps before the other troops awaken) that makes him almost unrecognizable.  McMahon is smart, fierce, determined, and strong–the perfect selection for someone who has been appointed to complete an impossible task–in essence, do all that needs to be done to fix Afghanistan and get ready to leave without bringing in more troops–when he should have known he was doomed to failure from the beginning.  Don’t we want our generals to be confident, strident, and to a certain extent, bold risk takers?  McMahon is quirky, just a little bit off, while exhibiting a bravado and charisma–albeit awkwardly packaged–that entrenches the picture in believability.  Pitt believes in his character so we do as well.  This includes the loyalty of his men, which begins to form the movie’s all-star cast, including McMahon’s obnoxiously loyal, angry, and mouthy#2 man played by Anthony Michael Hall (the film’s take on then-Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served 24 days recently as national security adviser) and an image guy played by Topher Grace.  The cast is rounded out on all sides by Ben Kingsley as President Karzai, Alan Ruck and Griffin Dunne as Administration policy wonks, Tilda Swinton as a German politician, and Meg Tilly taking on the role (brilliantly) of McMahon’s wife (plus a nicely handled cameo by Russell Crowe).

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Everyone here at borg.com is a loyal fan of Warehouse 13, and we eagerly waited for Season 3 with excitement and just a *leetle* bit of anxiety (Will She or Won’t She? regarding a return for Joanne Kelly, after Myka quits in a…well, to tell you the truth, we can’t really remember why she quit, but we’re pretty sure it had something to do with H.G. Wells and a pitchfork). Thank goodness, all that uncertainty was put to rest by the season premiere (July 11, 2011, “The New Guy”) and a Comic-Con confession by Eddie McClintock (Agent Pete Lattimer) that the whole Myka quitting drama was just a ratings stunt (whew!).

Ahem.  But while that got our hackles up just a little, that maneuvering did make room for potentially interesting additions to the cast, notably “New Guy” Agent Steve Jinks, as well as priming audiences for larger-scale storylines.  As we mentioned in our review earlier this year of the Leverage premiere, raising stakes for your characters and creating bigger, more meaningful plotlines is usually a good thing. And bless their hearts, Warehouse 13 gave it their all this season.  From turning our beloved Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall, The Dead Zone) into a maniacal supervillain bent on exacting revenge from… Captain Janeway? (Kate Mulgrew, Star Trek Voyager) (Wait a minute–what?) to throwing Claudia at poor Agent Jinx in an over-the-top BFFE crush that only the writers really understood, to a literally explosive finale involving yet another reincarnation of series favorite H.G. Wells (this one presumably the last, as Jaime Murray is now a regular on Ringer… although with H.G. Wells and Warehouse 13, you never can tell).

By now you may be thinking that’s a lot of balls to juggle–even for the W13 gang–and you’re right.  It got a little hard to follow, and there were some missteps that took the series away from everything it had always done so, so right: the punchy camaraderie of the core cast, and the zany artifact hijinks that delight demented history buffs everywhere.  Something seems to have fizzled in the brilliant, squabbling-siblings chemistry between Myka and Pete, and even the artifacts got a little strained, having me occasionally roll my eyes instead of giggle maniacally.  I also found myself a little frustrated with some of the world building, as the addition of Kate Mulgrew as Regent-slash-Mom Jane Lattimer expanded the role and history of the Regents.  Case in point: There is already a thriving network of Warehouses, so what’s with this super-secret Regent Vault?  You need a better Warehouse for even worse artifacts?

Yeah, yeah, yeah… but because I do love this show and all its wackiness (that’s, by the way, meant to be praise here) I’m going to go on the record as saying I think all of that is just growing pains.  It’s Season 3–time to spread wings and see what happens when you leave the nest, and there are bound to be some bruised feathers.  And, to be sure, there were some standout moments this year. As Warehouse hacker-turned-techie-turned-trainee-turned-full-fledged-agent Claudia Donovan, Allison Scagliotti proved her mettle again and again this season, as her role was expanded in almost every episode (note to producers: Scagliotti is brilliant, but let’s remember this isn’t The Claudia Show), and although I personally didn’t feel we saw enough of Agent Jinks to share in the pathos of his death (or, um, potential undeath?  But we’ll have to wait for Season 4 for that!), Scagliotti managed to single-handedly carry the emotional weight of that entire plot thread, and she did so completely convincingly.  I almost thought I knew Jinksy enough to miss him, too.

The finale itself (the Sept. 26, 2011 two-parter “Emily Lake/Stand”), particularly the last act, was splendidly zany in the best W13 tradition–from a deadly chess game-slash-guillotine you have to cheat to beat, to a perversely-timed acting-up of random artifacts, to a startling and unexpected fate for mysterious Warehouse guardian Mrs. Frederick (which opens up marvelous possibilities for Claudia for next season), to the gutsy, glorious decision to destroy the whole warehouse, Search for Spock-style… I’m finding myself all geared up and ready for Season 4!  Only now I know all my gang is still right where they should be (well, minus Mrs. F and her iconic beehive–not, of course, to be confused with the other iconic beehive, the one from “Queen for a Day” that nearly destroyed Pete’s ex-wife Amanda Lattimer’s wedding  [Jeri Ryan/Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager, if you’re still keeping track of the crossovers!] wedding).  Wait.  Gotta catch my breath there.

Anyway, as mildly disappointed as I was with some of this season, it’s still Warehouse 13, which is still more fun than almost anything on TV, and my disappointment is merely a sign of how wonderful the show truly is–anything that can inspire fans to feel invested in the fates of the characters is doing pretty much everything right.  And I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how Season 4 can annoy me, too!

P.S.  We loved chatting with Saul Rubinek at Comic-Con this year…

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