The theme for this week is bleakness. You can choose from the violent WW2 tank movie or the gloomy commentary on modern society’s lack of communication skills. Sounds like fun. Let’s get started!
In Fury, Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank through the countryside of Germany leading into the final phases of World War II. He and his four man crew are tossed into impossible missions where they advance into the heart of Berlin. As we meet the crew, consisting of Michael Pena, Shia Lebouf and Jon Bernthal, they pick up a brand new recruit in Norman (Logan Lerman).
We join the ride through the perspective of Norman as he experiences a coming-of-age war story. He transforms from someone who’d rather not see the battlefield to someone who is forced to kill and become war-hardened.
It’s rare to see a war movie from the inside of a tank. Director David Ayer (End of Watch) puts us right in the cramped spaces of the heavily-armored machine. However, even the soldiers in tanks are vulnerable to casualty. As you will see often, any tank in the armada is in danger of rocket launchers and German tanks. Often, the right/wrong hit could take out everyone in the tank at once. Ayer wrote the screenplay of U-571 and has experience with claustrophobic battle environments. Fury, as the tank is known, is almost a character.
Fury is a brutal and violent movie. It delves into the hellish experience where you don’t get attached to your brothers in arms, nor do you give a second thought to killing the enemy. At times, Fury feels violent in extremely cartoony ways. I couldn’t count how many heads were blown off as if it were the latest Rambo or the second Expendables flick. If the tone wasn’t so incredibly serious, it could have been the sequel to Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
Pitt’s Wardaddy is somehow a more grizzled version of Aldo Raines. He is solid in the role, but you can never truly read him. He is the type that is at his best when he is in the heat of battle but out of place in regular situations. One extended scene places Pitt and Lerman in the dining room of two young German women. Wardaddy seems like he could erupt at any point, but gives compassion to his hosts. The scene grows tense as the rest of the tank crew joins them for breakfast. The dialogue between Bernthal and Pitt escalates into something that could easily end their uneasy brotherhood. In person, none of these men would get along. Inversely, they are efficient cogs while in the tank.
Fury is intense. Yet, at over two hours, it gets a little bulky. The climax of the movie gets a little unbelievable. No one is safe in this war, but at times, it feels like the crew are the bullet-proof Expendables. It becomes a mix of 300 and Band of Brothers.
That said, it’s a surprisingly good war movie from a fresh perspective. Lerman is a great anchor point. The cast is solid. Levity is nearly nonexistent. It beats you over the head with the ugliness of war. It’s not necessarily a big screen experience, but makes for a solid rental. B.
Men, Women & Children
I first saw the trailer for Jason Reitman’s newest effort a few months ago. It became one of my favorite trailers of the year by showing the disonnect of modern society. The wordless trailer showed how our phones have taken away our ability to talk to each other. I immediately put the movie on my must watch list for the fall season.
It’s a shame that it’s just not very good.
Men, Women & Children follows a group of high school kids and their respective parents. We get a picture of their lives and how the internet has affected their ability to cope in the world. There are about six stories, so I’ll attempt to summarize the summary itself.
Ansel Egort (Fault in our Stars) and his father (Dean Norris) are dealing with the aftermath of his mother leaving their family. Egort quits the football team and spends the majority of his time playing Guild Wars. He is trying to win over a shy girl in his class. Sadly, this girl is under the constant internet supervision of her ultra-conservative mother (Jennifer Garner). The hot cheerleader-type of the school is attempting to start her acting career, but her soft-core website may get in the way. Her mom (Judy Greer) is actually the dodgy photographer and owner of the near-illegal site. This cheerleader is getting closer to a kid who just can’t stop looking at porn. His parents (Adam Sandler and Rosemarie Dewitt) are in an intimacy-free marriage. They each use the internet to look for ways to have affairs.
Doesn’t this all sound like such an enjoyable experience? I’ll say this, the bloody tank WW2 movie was a light comedy compared to Men, Women & Children.
The problem here is that the whole movie is heavy-handed. This cautionary internet tale is 18 years too late. For the first act, it’s basically screaming at you saying, “Did you guys know there’s porn on the internet?!?”
Can we just call this movie, MWC, so I don’t have to spell it out? Great. Moving on. Jason Reitman (Juno, Young Adult) attempts to show a realistic portrayal of life for millenials and their disillusioned parents. Yet, each story shows only extreme cases. Only the heaviest of situations are shown. They don’t show the average Instagram user who takes pics of food only to have 12 people like it. Nor do they depict the Facebook user who is disappointed when his posts don’t get at least 30 likes (That might be me).
MWC is a slog. The stories make every character so unlikable, that I just wanted to see more of the teen romance angle. There were only two believable actors that make it out of MWC unscathed. The first being Dean Norris (Hank from Breaking Bad) and surprisingly, Adam Sandler. Seeing him in this element makes me sad that he’s undoubtedly working on Grown Ups 3. He has talent. I only wish he pursued it more.
Jason Reitman is 0 for 2 this year alone (his first failure being Labor Day). I wanted MWC to be the movie to turn his career around. Sadly, he hasn’t made anything like Up in the Air or Thank Your for Smoking in a while. I couldn’t recommend this dreary movie to anyone. Skip it. D+