Film Review : Fury (2014)

IMDB Score(Presently) – 8.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 79%

Directed By – David Ayer
Starring – Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michale Pena, Jon Bernthal, Anamaria Marinca, Anamaria Marinca, and Jason Isaacs

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

Writer/Director David Ayer has had an interesting career so far. We have seen his brilliant times with the writing of Training Day and shit, even U-571. We’ve also seen his horrible times with Sabotage, Harsh Times, and the absolutely atrocious SWAT. I’ll never forget a character in SWAT, before blowing his brains out, looking toward Samuel L. Jackson and delivering this gem of a one liner…”Goddammit Sarge!” If you’ve seen the film you know what I mean. I can’t look at Josh Charles the same anymore. Ayer is obviously talented but I feel like he slips into a bad crime novelist whose books frequent airports from time to time. Training Day was obviously amazing, but besides End of Watch, his work has been mediocre at best recently. Fury, was ultimately a frustrating film with some moments of brilliance. The likes of a full length film with no glaring problems might be behind Ayer for now.

There hasn’t been a film dedicated to tank crews that I can remember. You see the air force, ground troops, hell, even fighter pilots highlighted in films, yet until now nobody has highlighted the work that tank crews did during WW2. For the most part, it was almost a death sentence. Like flamethrowers in Japan, a tank is like a huge target for enemy fire. You’re not going to last long unless you take the tank out FIRST. US tanks were also poorly made compared to superior German Tiger tanks. US tanks were slower and would routinely be taken out by enemy artillery. In short, tankers didn’t live long. This crew has though. Brad Pitt and company have been together for years and when a newcomer (Lerman) comes along, he needs to be broken in fast or else he’ll risk the lives of the entire crew. We’ve seen this before with Ayer. A newbie comes into the world of hardened veterans and has to see the horrors of the job before he can become one of them. Honestly, my interest in this film wasn’t the story. I’m a big WW2 fan and the concept of a film dedicated to tank crews scratched my history itch.

I had problems with the film. For one, the music in the film was just overbearing. The film was intense enough. I didn’t need a blaring orchestra to remind me that I should be in suspense. Somehow, the death and firebombs going off on the screen did it for me. It was distracting. I also had a problem with a few scenes that not only took the pace of the film and brought it to a grounding halt, but it also didn’t make a lick of sense. The biggest offender of this was the breakfast scene with the German girls. The only thing I liked about this was the performance of Shia LaBeouf but we’ll get to more of that soon. Jon Bernthal tries WAY too hard to be a crazy person and the film decided that rape didn’t exist in War and that every German girl who was being FORCED to cook and serve these troops would also sleep with them. It was insulting. The film had some of the most violent scenes in a war movie since Saving Private Ryan but they had to sprinkle glitter over these men when they interacted with women. It was just odd. The whole scene with the younger girl and Lerman was just a set up to what happened after they exited the house. It was cheap and amateur. The final scene was also completely nonsensical and dragged out. A particular scene, after the battle, after literally hundreds of people died, was laugh out loud bad. Those of you who have seen it will know what I’m talking about.

So, what was good? Well, the sound design was top notch. I expect nominations for that team because each round and explosion sounded like the real thing. There were two tank battle scenes that REALLY stood out thanks to amazing sound design and very intense interior shots of the tank crew in action from inside the tank. I was on the edge of my seat for these. The camerawork was also overall pretty great. The opening scene looked like a leftover scene from War Horse. Yes David Ayer, I just compared you to Spielberg. You can relish in that. The acting was also top notch from Pitt and LaBeouf, specifically Shit (I’m leaving this typo in because Shia would find it funny). These are the roles that the kid needs to be doing. He needs to take this crazy persona of his and stick it into his acting. He was a marvel in this film, showing an unbelievable amount of range. His character, Bible, was a God loving Christian outside of the tank, and a ruthless gunner inside. LaBeouf handled it wonderfully. I was very impressed. Pitt was also very solid as the leader although he really shined when interacting with LaBouf and Lerman. The rest held their own with Lerman giving a good performance and Pena and Bernthal just kid of slogging through.

The film was worth a ticket. It was a bleak look into war that didn’t stop when things got too hectic, unless German lasses were involved. There were some intense scenes and a whole storyline that was devoted to tank crews but there were some serious flaws in the logic behind some of the scenes in the film. It also serves as proof that Shia LaBeouf is still a talented actor when given the right role.

3/5



Film Review : The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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IMDB Score – 8.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%
Currently #159 on IMDB’s Top 250

Directed By – Wes Anderson
Starring – Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilso, and Tony Revolori

The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

There is only one word I can think of to describe Wes Anderson’s latest film. That word is “delightful”.

There has not, to this day, been a Wes Anderson film I did not love. Every single one of them is special in my eyes. Had I known absolutely nothing about this film, I still would have had no doubt in my mind that it was directed by Wes Anderson. He has a style all his own and that has been copied by almost nobody. There’s something about that kind of niche that I just find enchanting. Enchanting could also describe this film, which stars more of my favorite people then I think any other film I’ve seen. I mean, look at that list of people who contribute to this film. It’s an indie film fan’s dream come true. I’m going to spoil something a little bit. Some of those names have such little screen time that I’d be surprised if they spent a full day on set, but the whole picture is empty without them. Everything about the film enchanted me. There are rarely times where I have a smile on my face throughout an entire film, and Wes Anderson has done this to me multiple times, this just being the latest.

In one of his more complex stories he has brought to the screen, the film takes place, during many time periods, in and around The Grand Budapest Hotel, located in a fictitious Polish town during times of war. During these time periods we are introduced to two characters whose friendship is the reason this story is being told. M. Gustave, played as perfect as anybody could play any character by Ralph Fiennes, and his protege lobby boy Zero, played at an old age by F. Murray Abraham and at a young one by a breakout actor named Tony Revolori, are the centerpieces of an intricate yet vastly profound story. M. Gustave has just inherited a small fortune from one of his hotel guests whom he has developed a relationship with and the immediate family of said guest is trying to get rid of him for their own greedy ways. Like always, I don’t want to give away much of the plot but that is pretty much the gist of the film and you’re going to have to find out the rest for yourself.

When “Moonrise Kingdom” came out last year, I thought to myself that one one Wes Anderson was going to cease being able to bring us fantastic cinema. I guess this is just some innate idea that at some point people start to decline but Anderson is proving that wrong by giving us some of his best work as his career continues to move forward. There is n doubt in my mind that he’s going to be making incredible movies until he dies of old age. This latest one is something special, but certainly has some of his traditional trademark qualities. One of the things I love about his work is how symmetrical every one of his shots are. There is a fluid way he moves the camera into the perfect position where we have an actor centered in front of the screen with nearly identical lines surrounding him. Perhaps it’s my OCD leaking through my eyes. I just can’t gt enough of it. He also utilizes the shots from a distance that he has been using since Fantastic Mr. Fox. We see some characters off scurrying along the base of the shot while behind them is a huge scene of mountains or buildings, obviously made of cardboard and paper, but nevertheless whimsical and charming. The wit in this film is also rampant. There were countless times I literally burst out laughing, mostly from either Ralph Fiennes or Adrian Brody saying something insane. The film, which is rated R, uses the perfect time and place to insert either bad language, or in some cases hilarious and crude nudity. It was a riot, and while I didn’t see the movie with a lot of people, the humor was felt all around. Everybody was laughing. It’s a hilarious film.

With such a talented cast, you can’t let everybody have a huge amount of screen time. There just isn’t enough time in the world. Everybody was pretty perfect though. Tilda Swinton was literally unrecognizable as an 84 year old woman. Willem Dafoe was a cold, evil man that almost seemed to turn into a vampire at one point in the film. Jeff Goldblum handled most of the legal dialogue with a diction that only the voice of Jeff Goldblum could make funny. Edward Norton gave the best laughs with the least amount said. His first appearance in the film had my dying and he hadn’t even said a word yet. Harvey Keitel as a bald, muscle flexing prisoner with prison tattoos and Adrien Brody with his short bursts of hilarious anger could not have been better used. I just loved every single aspect of this film. Every single character has their own quirks and humor no matter how long they were on screen.

Overall, I can’t say enough good things. Ralph Fiennes stoles every single scene he was in and he was in a damn lot of them. That’s how good he was. When “Moonrise Kingdom” came out, I knew that it was going to be in my top five of the year regardless of what else got released because of how unique and funny it was and I honestly enjoyed this a lot more. I’ll try to get out to see another viewing, maybe with some friends, but this is most certainly going to be one of my favorites of the year and is already inching it’s way up the ladder of favorite Wes Anderson films the more I think about it. I seriously can not wait to see it again and look forward to everything Wes Anderson will give me in the future.

5/5





Classic Review : Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%
Nominated for four Oscars including Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Writing, and Best Actor (John Wayne)

Directed By – Allan Dwan
Starring – John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, Wally Cassell, James Brown, Richard Webb, and Adele Mara

A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

My Netflix dvd queue is a funny machine. I had about 13 films in front of this but every single one of them wasn’t available when it was time to ship out so I was surprised when this came in the mail. I honestly forgot all about it but was eager to sit down and watch an old film as it’s been way too long due to all the films from last year that I’ve been cramming in my face. There are so many older films that I’m finally going to be able to sit down and watch now that my Netflix queue is starting to get older and this pleases me. I’d rather watch bad film from the 40s than a bad film from last year any day. “Sand of Iwo Jima” ended up being a completely patriotic cookie cutter of a film but when you’re watching John Wayne and his infinite manliness, it doesn’t really matter.

The film follows a group of soldiers through boot camp to the…well…sands of Iwo Jima. John Stryker is the leader of this group, played by the manliest man of all men, John Wayne. Stryker is kind of a mix between drill instructor Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” and Tom Berenger from “Platoon”. The men don’t like him. He is tough as nails and don’t take no shit from NOBODY! You had plans to get laid over the weekend? I don’t think so! Looks to me like your bed is a little uneven. That will be a revocation of your weekend pass soldier. Seriously, this exact scenario played out in the film. Wayne, who would later go on to earn his first Oscar nomination for the role, was made to play this character. He takes nobodies shit and dishes out punishment. He ended up giving one of the performances of his career as we follow Stryker through his bouts of alcoholism, regrets, anger, and acceptance. The films co-star, John Agar, plays one of the privates who claims to be an intellectual and finds his Sargent deplorable. What plays out for the next two hours is a cookie cutter production of every single war cliche that has ever happened. Yet, with this being a mere four years after WWII ended, it’s obvious that this film was made as a symbolic power fist in the air for America, and for that I can put up with it.

One cool aspect of the film is that they spliced a lot of great real footage from Iwo Jima and other pacific battles into the film. If you know what you’re looking for, you can spot the actual footage which is always an interesting watch. I’ve always been interested in the years we went to war and the film shed more light on what it was actually like to run up those beaches into a hail of gunfire. Due to the time of its release, you’re not really getting anything gritty or brutal. The men who get killed on screen just kid of fall down or do that clutching to the chest as they slowly let gravity bring them to the sand. Like I said, cliche and cheesy. It was however a great display of acting from Wayne and a much needed break from the glitter and glamour of films released this year.

2.5/5

Suggested Viewing – The Longest Day, Bridge on the River Kwai, Band of Brothers: The Pacific