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Review: ‘War Dogs’ is a Bizarre Bromance over Bullets

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War Dogs Review MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen adapting a true story of gun runners from a Rolling Stone article entitled “Arms and the Dudes,” director Todd Phillips appears to be a solid choice. His direction on the Hangover trilogy seems to fit like a glove for a tale of two shmucky 20-somethings landing a Pentagon arms deal in War Dogs. Phillips may not be able to provide the most compelling portrait of the Middle Eastern war profiteering, but he knows how to weave some comedy out of such a scenario.

And based on recent Middle Eastern war pictures Rock the Kasbah and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, comedy is the order of the day, no matter how odd or ill-fitting the genre may appear on such a subject. Still, I had my hopes for Phillips and his abilities that he would bring out something humorous and smart with such material. And he would have if he only had the guts to push it further and commit to the disgustingly warped nature of it all.

War Dogs Review MovieSpoon.com

Just a couple of schmucks running guns.

Miles Teller plays David Packouz, a young upstart down on his luck while going into business for himself. Reduced to a massage therapist, he finds himself desperate for cash when his girlfriend turns out to be pregnant. Into his life walks Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), an old friend with an offer to work for his lucrative weapons dealing business. Taking advantage of government loopholes that leave the door wide open for merchants, Efraim is able to make thousands of dollars in a few days for buying and shipping weapons he never has to touch. David lies to his now-wife, who is very much against the current Middle Eastern conflict of 2005, and begins to rank in the big money with Efraim. Refusing to lay low on a few hundred thousand, Efraim and David begin staking out the bigger contracts ranging in the millions.

What’s remarkable about War Dogs is how far these two actually go before their greed catches up with them and their actions become illegal. When a shipment of berettas are seized from them in Jordan, Efraim and David decide to take matters into their own hands and drive a truckload of guns from Jordan to Baghdad. When a Pentagon contract becomes a viable option, they undertake a method of new packaging to sell Chinese ammo which was embargoed. They screw up, fix a mistake and keep making money until the feds eventually knock at their door.

War Dogs Review MovieSpoon.com

Who, us? Cause trouble?

Phillips makes some odd choices in the direction as he uses chapter stops of forthcoming dialogue that appear on screen. This seems as though it was meant to convey some anticipation, but most of these lines come off as pointless spoilers for what will happen next. Not to mention these are all rather forgettable quotes of typical drama dialogue used for a trailer. Phillips also goes for the easy method of these pictures by relying on montages with just-the-facts narration over the most predictable of music choices. How many more times must we hear CCR’s “It Ain’t Me” over scenes of war before it becomes a dead cliche?

The tone and pacing of the first act of War Dogs do become engaging enough to look past these shortcomings. There’s a crassness and intoxicating nature to the shady world of weapon dealings, mixed in with the dude-bro mannerisms of two best buddies playing the game. There’s a reason to care about David and his plight, as well as a mystery with Efraim’s true intentions behind his thick girth and tan. Even the sequence where they have to drive guns through the “circle of death” was pretty interesting in how there was some real tension and a threat of being gunned down on the road.

War Dogs Review MovieSpoon.com

Jonah Hill shows off his weapons skills to the detriment of Miles Teller’s hearing in ‘War Dogs.’

But after the literal running of guns, an act that would seem to be enough to make any normal human quit and enjoy the rest of their life with a family, the story passively portrays their hunger for more money from guns. They start up their company with new digs, spend money on spacious apartments, hide money in their toilets; all the classic signs of a money operation growing too big for its own britches. The movie just plateaus at this point and goes through the motions of making their lives more complicated with legal issues without much character and lacking in any true ugliness of the whole situation.

Read more to hear how the second half changes speeds:

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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