I CALLED IT. I FUCKING CALLED IT. Months ago when trailers for Fury… MoreI CALLED IT. I FUCKING CALLED IT. Months ago when trailers for Fury first hit the internet, I said that it was going to be monumental and memorable. But I heard so many spineless asswipes say that it was going to be "just another blah WWII movie." Or one in which five Americans win the war single-handedly while doing some "Secret Mission." Another jingoistic shlockfest delivered for ignorant Americans, but would probably get nailed by critics and fail commercially. To those people I say this - how does it feel to be wrong motherfucker? Fury is a bona fide hit, but more importantly is it the greatest war film since Saving Private Ryan. Yes, I just invoked that most overused cliché of modern war film criticism. It easily ranks as one of the best WWII movies ever made and is certainly among the most accurate or authentic in its genre. Perhaps I make this claim because I have a morbid fetish for the topic, or perhaps there is clever manipulation by the filmmakers to make me believe as such. I honestly don't care which. Thematically it has most in common with the television series Band of Brothers and that's not a bad thing.
Fury is set during those furious days of '45 in the waning weeks of the war in Europe, as American and British armies punched their way into Western Germany, while the Soviet juggernaut laid waste to German cities in the east. The unique features to this film are this setting (most American films set in 1945 focus on the Pacific) and that the main cast is a Sherman Tank crew. Armor tends to play the cavalry in most war movies, or is merely part of the scenery. But here we are asked to get comfortable with a small group of PTSD, borderline psychotic veterans as they take a naïve recruit into their fold and attempt to survive the final push into the heart of the Third Reich.
The characters we meet are painfully realistic and somehow come off as likeable. You get attached to these crewmen despite their numerous atrocities past and present. Brad Pitt owns the movie with his total commitment and effortless gravitas, but every other actor deserves plenty of credit, even Shia LaBeouf who shows he may have a future as a serious dramatic actor. Fury relies upon brutal, gritty realism to tell its story and purposely avoid the careless jingoism that has plagued the genre in the past. In fact, the authenticity struck me cold. There are numerous details that convey the realities of life and death in the European Theater of Operations which I will list here. This list is rife with spoilers and military jargon, be forewarned.
The raw look of the farmlands and small towns matches photographs and descriptions of late war Western Germany. The tank "Fury" itself is a marvel to look at, with the interior cramped and full of details. We see many elements of a vehicle that give it a "lived in" look, with several personal possessions and objects that these men value or find useful. The uniforms and clothing of both Allies and Germans are beaten and weathered. My favorite scene is an engagement in an open field in which German Wehrmacht infantry supported by Pak 38 50 mm Anti-Tank guns are dug-in along a tree line. Here we see an accurate demonstration of how American armored divisions advanced under fire in 1944 and 1945. Sherman tanks cut through the hedgerow, making gaps for supporting infantry to pass through unobstructed. The Shermans advance steadily, firing High Explosive rounds and Browning .50 and .30 Cal machine guns. American riflemen funnel into columns behind the tanks, taking cover from small arms fire. The result is horrific - body parts fly everywhere, German soldiers are murdered at close range. Few prisoners are taken. It epitomizes the theme of the movie itself - this isn't war - it is organized murder.
Later, we see dead German civilians hanging from lampposts, along the roadsides, executed by the SS for "desertion." Entire cities are on fire, in the distance. Children are drafted to fight and die in militias and the SS Hitlerjugend. And the cost to American tank crewmen is staggering. We see and hear some burn alive, suffer death by decapitation, and other horrific ends which reveal the vulnerability American armor endured in Europe. The show stopping moment is an ambush from a camouflaged Tiger I. Its 88 mm gun thunders, smashing hapless M4 Shermans apart. Likewise, the crew of "Fury" use raw determination and skill combined with their 76 mm HVAP gun to even the odds - demonstrating how American servicemen took matters into their own hands in order to survive.
The movie is not without its flaws - the final battle leans a bit heavily on Saving Private Ryan's third act, and comes off as slightly absurd. Five crewmen in a disabled Sherman versus an entire SS Waffen infantry company somehow seems even more ridiculous than that ending. But at least it's fairly entertaining and has consequence. How many action movies these days can claim that? This is probably my favorite film of the year and I would say that this deserves all kinds of awards and golden statues, but the Academy typically runs screaming toward much safer, bland fare, so I doubt it. I wouldn't be surprised it if receives recognition for sound editing and mixing - the audio in this movie is fantastic and provides much of the experience. This is a war film for the ages, and one to be viewed by people with a strong stomach and serious constitution.
P.S. All you armchair military historians trolling internet forums and comment sections, please meet me at camera two. Hi. If you are claiming that the M4 Sherman tank was "OMG THE WROST TANK EVAR" and that it would have been impossible for one to take out a Tiger without artillery or air support - shut your fucking whore mouth and bite down on your cyanide tablet already. "Fury" is a modified Sherman (EZ-8 model, possibly) which was common this late in the war. It was equipped with a modified 76 mm HVAP main gun which was designed to take on German armored vehicles. This made it an overmatch for mechanized vehicles such as armored cars, half-tracks, and the Stug. She could reliably penetrate the plating of the Panzer IV (the mainstay of most Panzer divisions). However, when facing heavy armor such as the Tiger I, the Panther, or (god forbid) the Tiger II, the Sherman would use its superior speed and maneuverability to get a shot at its rear or side armor, where it was thinner. That way an armor piercing round might hit something critical, such as fuel tanks or stored munitions - knocking out the behemoth. This was demonstrated accurately in the movie, both in the amount of Shermans that could be lost in such an encounter and how they were taken down by skilled American crewmen. The deepest respect toward those men.
Liam Neeson's career has risked devolving into self-parody as of late.… MoreLiam Neeson's career has risked devolving into self-parody as of late. For every The Grey, it seems there are two Non-Stop's or Taken 2's that almost make you forget that at one time Liam Neeson was a low-key dramatic actor. Almost. (He's that damn good, ultimately.) Fortunately, A Walk Among the Tombstones is one of the worthwhile ones. Tombstones is mostly a moody, noir-ish film with great, despicable villains and an interesting mystery and satisfying payoff. It's the kind of unpretentious, straightforward thriller that once filled theaters, but has long since disappeared from multiplexes. An easy recommendation for a rental or digital streaming if you have some attention span and are not squeamish of quick bursts of gory violence.
The Equalizer is a DENZEL WASHINGTON movie, starring DENZEL… MoreThe Equalizer is a DENZEL WASHINGTON movie, starring DENZEL WASHINGTON, playing DENZEL WASHINGTON as he murders the ever living shit out of evil Russian mobsters. All levity aside, this is fairly mediocre, crowd pleasing fare much more along the lines of Man on Fire than say a truly great film a la Training Day. Worth a rental if it wins a coin toss.
Quite bluntly, Gone Girl is a perfect example of why adults should… MoreQuite bluntly, Gone Girl is a perfect example of why adults should still bother to go to the movie theater. Directed by David Fincher and featuring much of the same crew that gave us The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011), it is required viewing. But beyond theatrical obligations, Gone Girl delivers harsh satirical criticism while maintaining high entertainment value on through to the end. Rosamund Pike officially becomes an A-lister with her work here, the reason for which is so spoilerriffic I cannot disclose here. Ben Affleck performs ably as an earnest but deeply flawed man who, despite his best efforts, becomes the most hated man in America. (Damn, that's a bit close to home, huh? Especially after that whole Batfleck fiasco. You would have thought he killed his wife or something.) And yeah Tyler Perry proves he has serious dramatic chops as a defense attorney who knows all too well how this sick media game is played. He easily delivers the best line of the film. It is glorious.
Thematically, Gone Girl takes aim not at contemporary feminism (as some have alleged) but at two specific things. First and most entertainingly, this movie takes a massive dump on the soulless, intellectually vapid, sensationalist 24-hour news network cycle and its hard-on for human interest stories and "missing white woman syndrome." This isn't a takedown - it's an execution. Secondly, the sad state of upper-middle-class marriage comes under fire. In Gone Girl's view, it is nothing more than theater - full of performance, shallow displays of affection, and rampant materialism, while underneath the surface it's about controlling each other's lives to the point of ruin. This is an easy recommendation, though it will be interesting to see how general audiences react to the bizarre and somewhat anticlimactic ending. That tends not to go down too well with people. Oh and there are GIGANTIC holes and leaps in logic. And this movie can lean on the trashy side, but then again glossy, well-crafted movies with a hint of trash are Fincher's shtick. Easily one of the best thrillers in years and an excellent topic of conversation at a bar or at the water cooler.
Being the independent movie phenomenon of the summer, Boyhood has… MoreBeing the independent movie phenomenon of the summer, Boyhood has acquired a somewhat legendary reputation for both the scope of its production (11 years?! WTF?!) and its avant-garde direction. And it mostly works, though I have to confess that it is a tad bit overrated, but not by much. If you hadn't noticed, the general shtick of Richard Linklater's filmography is nothing more than white people sitting around and talking. Or standing and talking. Preferably while drinking or smoking ganja. And somehow he manages to get away with it. This has been the case in an unbroken line all the way back from Slacker and Dazed and Confused, through his "Before Sunrise" trilogy, and into the present.
I really enjoyed Ethan Hawke quite a bit, though some of the other characters...not so much. It is odd how the boy in question grows up from being a fun, introspective kid into a Richard Linklater clone/stoner, but it doesn't break the movie's tone. The first half was bit more interesting to me, while the second became as lethargic as its protagonist. To its credit, melodrama is kept to a minimum, which is quite commendable considering the subject matter. Most critics and cinemaphiles have already seen this and loved it, but as it leans a bit on the long and pretentious side I must give a moderate advisory warning to normal people. Make sure to break it up into two or three separate viewings. Preferably while drinking and smoking ganja.
Well that didn't quite pan out. Let's cut the shit right now and… MoreWell that didn't quite pan out. Let's cut the shit right now and admit that the only thing that worked in this franchise was the second movie. It had just enough fun, dumb humor interspersed with some truly dark and depraved moments that made it worthwhile. And the action set pieces managed to be fun. Which is great because the first one was bollocks and somehow this is even worse. What's most notable about Expendables 3 is just how frickin boring it is. I am quite surprised how an action movie had so little ACTION going on in it and as everyone knows by now (and the reason why it thudded so hard at the box office) said violence is safe, bland, and forgettable PG-13 schlock. Did they think people were coming in here for the plot? Or the no name newcomers who have absolutely nothing to do? Despite this, the final battle scene was somewhat diverting with all those exploding tanks and Mel Gibson is an able villain (surprise, surprise) even if Jean-Claude Van Damme's monster from the previous installment has him dead to rights. And I guess I will miss some of that playful banter between old Sly and Jason Statham. Aside from those things, there is nothing else to recommend it. Give it a pass.
It's easy to forget that before Frank Miller became an eccentric… MoreIt's easy to forget that before Frank Miller became an eccentric pseudo-fascist nutjob he was probably one of the best comic book authors around. Not on par with the likes of Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman, but he was easily one of the best when it came to creating dense, strange, and immensely quotable stories. Perhaps this is why previous adaptations of his earlier pieces worked so well. The original Sin City was a well-crafted and beautifully rendered noir-ish experience with enough R-rated action to make general audiences forget that what they were watching was essentially an experimental art film. (Something they didn't forget for the misunderstood A Scanner Darkly.) It also showcased Robert Rodriguez's skills at directing something restrained and at least somewhat memorable.
Aside from being an ill-advised and completely unnecessary follow up (nine years later?!), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For abandons the slow-paced noir roots its predecessor worshipped and more resembles forgettable trashy pulp. So many subplots go absolutely nowhere. Violent, gory action is ramped up in over-the-top fashion and seems to have little to no consequence on many of the main characters or the plot. Even the visuals themselves seem somewhat watered down and have increased use of jarring CGI. The two MVP awards go to Eva Green (my femme fatale of choice since Casino Royale) and Mickey Rourke who genuinely seems to enjoy himself while crushing men with his bare hands or cutting them down with shotguns. Consolation prizes are in order for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Powers Boothe for trying. Most of the minor and even major characters are miserable and pointless. Most notably Josh Brolin who was miscast as Clive Owen's character from the previous movie. While Brolin is usually excellent he is bland and unnotable here and my god did Jessica Alba completely forget how to act? She never was what I could call a Tier 1 actress, but watching her scream, cry, and throw furniture around was some of the worst acting I have seen this year.
So in summation there is nothing going on here that you wouldn't expect otherwise and we got another mediocre sequel that no one asked for, so what's new? Netflix it, check out it out from your local library, or just read the original graphic novel series. But hey, at least Eva Green is nude for roughly a fourth of it and it's a hell of a lot better than The Spirit.