Rock the Kasbah (2015): Eclectic Wonder (Review)

Bill Murray as Richie Lanz in Rock the Kasbah

Directed by the masterful, and Oscar winning,  Barry Levinson  (Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam) from a script by Mitch Glazer (Scrooged, The Recruit) and starring Oscar Nominee Bill Murray, “Rock the Kasbah” is an eclectic mix of Murray, Afghanistan, dodgy American businessmen and the wonder of televised talent shows.

Murray is Richie Lanz, a small-time talent manager and hustler (he cons a prospective client out of a bit of money at the  start of the film) who has one singer on his roster; Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel) who he books in an Afghanistan tour with the USO.  Lanz claims to have discovered Madonna and interacted with luminaries like Stevie Nicks. 

Once in the country, Lanz and Ronnie discover their luggage never arrived and a nervous Ronnie gets drunk while hanging out with Bombay Bill (Bruce Willis). On the first day Ronnie splits with Richie’s money, plane tickets and passport. The manager is befriended by two arms dealers, Danny McBride and Scott Caan who set him up to be the patsy in a dodgy ammunition sale.

In the desert Richie finds a hidden talent, a local girl who can really sing; in English. He hatches a plot to have her perform on the talent show Afghan Star; a singing competition that women are banned from taking part in.  His new business partner, Kate Hudson channelling her inner (modern) Mae West helps Lanz to get his new discovery; Salima  (Leem Lubany on the show while turning the country on its head.

“Rock the Kasbah” was hammered by the critics when it came out last year and died a dismal death at the box office. The movie going public stayed away in droves and the film is largely seen as a flop.

But…

There is a sly message hidden in the mastery of Murray and co’s performances. Buried in the story is the reality of Americans abroad and at home: They are, xenophobic snobs of the finest order who have little knowledge of other cultures or countries and have the elitist attitude that if it is not their view of life, or taking place within their borders,  it does not count or matter.

It is this inability to place themselves in the other chap’s shoes that brought about the rise of the “ugly American” that all G.I.s are briefed about when they enter a foreign country.  While the film is a comedy it is no surprise that it expired a quick death.  Xenophobes often do not like to be reminded of their shortcomings.

As one writer pointed out in their review of the film,  the movie utilizes certain stereotypes to make its point. This works precisely because of the apathetic ignorance the average citizen has about other cultures. Having to rely upon media to present the Afghanistan people from a clearly biased viewpoint leads to the necessity of stereotypes to make the film work.

Granted the tale is far fetched and the “true incident”  that inspired the film reveals that  the premise of women not being allowed to participate in the talent show to be a falsehood. However, there is some validity in their poetic license. (Stick around till the credits roll and wait for the dedication, then head to Google. All will become clear.)

Murray does his usual job of being an  irascible hustler who is equal parts bulls*t and optimism.  Not on par with his “St. Vincent” performance in 2014, it is, nonetheless worthy of watching;  all the more so if one is a fan of the actor’s work.  (Neither does the part reflect the eclectic genius so evident in “Lost in Translation” the film that netted Murray the Oscar nomination.)

Kate Hudson is brilliant in her part as the hooker set to retire from her proceeds from the area and Bruce Willis turns in his usual high level cameo performance.

“Rock the Kasbah” is not a laugh riot, it is more a black comedy than a straight up chuckle fest  that features a solid turn by Murray and a capable supporting cast. (It has more than a little in common with the 2008 John Cusack film “War Inc.” which was also deemed a flop and hammered by critics.)

A 3.5 out of 5 stars for a film that entertains and proves to be oddly watchable.  It is streaming on Netflix at the moment and at one hour and 46 minutes this R rated feature is worth a look.  It is, after all,  helmed by  the Oscar winning Levinson who has a splendid track record.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis Say I Do in Fourth of July Wedding

Jackie Burke and Michael Kelso MIla and Ashton That '70s Show
At long last, the romance that started on That ’70s Show between their two characters has ended in a romantic Fourth of July weekend wedding for Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis as they both said “I do,” in a secret ceremony. The two performers played on-again-off-again couple Michael Kelso and Jackie Burkhart in the series, which starred Topher Grace and Laura Prepon as the show’s other romantically attached couple.

According to Kunis, now Mrs. Kutcher, her first “real” kiss was with the Michael Kelso actor on the popular show about a group of friends in Wisconsin. While several sites are reporting that the two have married over the weekend, their reps have neither confirmed or denied the marriage reports.

Both actors were attached to other people for a number of years. 31 year-old Mila dated Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin for years and 37 year-old Kutcher was married to Bruce Willis’ ex Demi Moore whom he divorced in December 2013. Ashton and Kunis became an item in 2012 and began dating seriously in 2013.

The newlyweds got engaged in February 2014 and already have a child, 9 month-old Wyatt Isabelle and the two were rumored to be married earlier this year. Mila has been quoted as saying that many people have movie star crushes that she was lucky enough to have married hers.

This “tying of the knot” is Mila’s first and Ashton’s second.

While the rumor has not been officially confirmed, the news that they married over the holiday weekend is pretty exciting stuff for their fans. Their love story has been a sort of Hollywood fairy tale with a magical ending for both. So at long last Michael Kelso and Jackie Burkhart are married, under the guise of Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.

Congratulations you two crazy kids.

Castle: Last Action Hero Worship

Castle: Last Action Hero Worship

After last week’s fairly intense episode where Javi’s life was in danger, this week on Castle, was a bit more laid back and Last Action Hero felt that bit more light hearted with Rick suffering from hero worship when he gets to meet his favorite stars from 1980s action films. One of these actors is found murdered at the start of the show and Castle and Kate have to question a whole group of older performers who are working on a film set in New York. The dead man is Lance DeLorca “the star of all the Hard Kill movies.”

Kim Kardashian Bare Bottom in Oil Tacky and Turbulent

Kim Kardashian Bare Bottom in Oil Tacky and Turbulent

Kim Kardashian has put her bare bottom, covered in oil, out there for the world to see and this tacky photo has created a turbulent whirlwind of controversy as the image was meant to “break” the internet when it appeared. While there is no real evidence that the magazine photo for Paper (whose theme for this issue was “Break the Internet) broke anything, it has certainly put Kardashian right out where she likes to be, semi-naked and on the net. In keeping with the usual fanfare surrounding a Kim Kardashian picture where she shows off inappropriate bits of her body, there has been a lot of fun poked at the reality TV star.

Twelve Monkeys Versus 12 Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys Versus 12 Monkeys

It seems like the successful small screen adaptation of the Coen Brothers film Fargo has left the door wide open for other big screen classics to be remade on a smaller scale, the latest is Terry Gilliam’s time travel tale Twelve Monkeys and it will be Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt versus 12 Monkeys, SyFy and Noah Bean. This move could be just as well received as FX’s Fargo although to be honest, the cast list was pretty impressive in version of the Coen Brothers downsized film.