Review: Fury

Fury Written and directed by David Ayer, Fury, tells the brutal story of a five American soldiers in the 2nd Armored Tank Division during the last month of the European Theater during World War II. Lead by their battle harden sergeant, Don "Wardaddy" Collier, the men fight against all odds while creating an unbreakable bond. Fury seems like just a standard World War II movie, but I assure you it's much more. Like Ayer’s previous work, End of Watch, its less about the action (which is there in a big way) but rather more about the effects of war. “Wait until you see it...what one man can do to another man.” A chilling quote indeed, but that is what Fury is, an intelligent look at brutality and brotherhood. Not since Saving Private Ryan have we seen a WW2 movie so unabashedly violent. Arguably the European Theater was the most brutal part of WW2, and Fury holds nothing back. The film opens with letting the audience know that at this point Adolf Hitler has called for total war, otherwise known as the demand that all able bodied Germans fight, including children. That is an important thing to remember in the final scenes of the film.

We begin our journey with Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) and his tank crew. Each member of the team has a distinctive personality and sense of self. No one character fades into the background or outshines any other. The man who managed the tank’s main cannon was Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf). The driver was Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña). The on board engineer was Grady "Coon-Ass" Travis (Jon Bernthal). Four men who come from seeming diametrically opposed viewpoints work as a cohesive team when the time comes. They have been fighting together since early battles in Africa against the Germans. They live and breathe warfare inside their home away from home, the tank called Fury.

When they have to make a stop at a U.S. base they are forced to take on an additional member to their little dysfunctional family. A young army private by the name of Norman "Cobb" Ellison (Logan Lerman) is dumped into the laps of 4 men who would rather step over him then let him into their “home.” Norman is an 18 year journalist who is forced into this tank division due to the army's heavy losses. Sergeant Collier is none too pleased by this revelation, but reluctantly concedes. The film does a great job in showing the juxtaposition of the 4 battle hardened men and the fresh face kid out of journalism school. Collier’s countenance is riddled with scars that show a hard life. Brad Pitt’s natural charm is brushed aside here for a by any means necessary mentality. “You see a German with a gun, you kill em...even if its a kid,” says Collier after Norman’s first incursion in the field.

The movie goes back and forth between building real connective tissue between the team members and stellar action sequences that will likely stand the test of time. Neither element drags the movie too far in one direction. When the action sequences do come, they are fast, loud, brutal, and jarring. Norman plays as the eyes and ears of the audience. We know about as much as he does when he sits in that tank for the first time. During Norman’s first battle things are happening so fast. Its confusing and unsettling at first, but its such a powerful way to do it. You don’t get the rhythm of warfare at that point. Rhythm seems like an odd phrase choice but its accurate. During the second big action beat you get a sense of how fighting in a tank with a team works. With each passing engagement Norman’s sees clearer and hears nuance and the audience right along with him; a tremendous stylistic choice from the director.

The five men gain an all around brotherly respect for one another and become a true team in the end. Pitt’s Collier is the perfect father figure. He sits atop the tank surveying the landscape and the powerful team he has modeled. Peña’s Gordo takes Norman under his wing initially and is a gentle introduction to the team. His gentle demeanor is consistent and makes him a lovable character from the onset. I will admit I am not a fan of Shia LaBeouf, but he does an amazing job here. Playing the role of the Bible quoting Boyd Swan I am often reminded of Barry Pepper’s character from Saving Private Ryan. Then there is Jon Bernthal’s Grady Travis. Seemingly an ignorant hick who just has no sense of dignity about him. Grady is a layered character, and director David Ayer and Jon Bernthal do a wonderful job of slowly unraveling him to both Norman and the audience. Last but certainly not least, Logan Lerman's performance as Norman was thread that made the film truly work. As the inexperienced kid Lerman was perfect. From not knowing what to do next and fearful of making mistakes to a full fledge member of Fury, Norman allowed us to grow with him making his journey our own; thus creating more audience engagement.

All and all, Fury is a shock to the system that only a WW2 movie can be in this age of film and television brutality. Director David Ayer works to create not only big Hollywood action, but also a film with true heart. You get to know these guys in the 134 minutes you spend in their world. They are flushed out and real. While not to the sheer scope and scale of a Saving Private Ryan, the film packs 5 personalities into a tiny space and never lets up. While stacking up bodies and tap dancing on the edge of their own mortality, the crew is heard saying more than once, “best job I ever had,” and you will believe them.

[easyreview title= "Review of Fury" cat1title="Nerdpocalypse Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]

Review: The Counselor

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A story of a lawyer who decides to enter into the world of drug trafficking but things begin to spiral out of control rather quickly for him. Directed by Ridley Scott with an original screenplay by famed writer Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), the movie features an ensemble cast that include Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Cameron Diaz to name a few. Frankly, this is one of the most disjointed films I have seen in some time. With such a powerful cast, great director, and excellent writer this movie should have been an easy victory. However, the movie just gets crushed under its own bloated weight. With a narrative that is so tangentially put together there is no wonder why I just lost interest after a while. The movie begins with the Counselor (Michael Fassbender) in bed with his soon to be fiancee Laura (Penelope Cruz) as they share what is suppose to be a sensual moment between them. However, the scene made my skin crawl, as it seemed like an adult man with an inexperienced little girl. The dialogue in that scene lacked any sort of realism between two fully functional adult sexual beings. This was my first clue that things might be going off the rails. For an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy the dialogue felt clunky and all over the place; which is sadly an overarching issue with this movie.

Throughout the movie we get to meet an array of really good looking people who are incredibly wealthy and are living life to the fullest, by any means necessary. One such couple is Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Malkina (Cameron Diaz) who play as the go betweens for the Counselor and his newly found lifestyle as a member of the drug trade. Reiner is an over the top drug kingpin who host lavish parties and is beginning to realize that his ruthless girlfriend, Malkina, is going to be his downfall. Malkina is a cold and calculating sociopath. She uses her hypersexuality as a means to seduce men and bend them to her will. She has an overarching grasp of the totalitarity of the movie’s plot, but due to poor writing its hard to understand why she does. Another key figure in this madness of a plot is Westray (Brad Pitt), a true middle man who knows the drug trafficking game and brings the Counselor into the fold. He is frequently sought out by the Counselor for advice on what happens next. Westray plays as your guide through this world of cartels, shady dealings, and vengeful women.

Cameron Diaz The Counselor

When I sat down to watch The Counselor I was so sure this movie would be a slam dunk. However, 30 minutes into the film I could not truly point to any one story thread that was going anywhere. We are treated to constant expositions by Fassbender, Bardem, Pitt, and Diaz that try incredibly hard to be relevant but just work to lead us further away from the plot. The movie seems to be setup in the style of 5-8 minute vignettes that barely tie together. Characters are introduced and then never heard from again; most of the time not even referenced. There are moments of brutal violence that play to enhance the story’s realness, but they are few and far between. There is little to no dialogue in the movie that works to push the movie forward. Fassbender’s Counselor seems to just ask questions and everyone else seems to be determined to speak in riddles and conjecture to horribly answer said questions.

There are high speed decapitations, public cartel executions, women having sex WITH cars, and those are the highlights. The Counselor, felt more like a 2 hour advertisement for good looking tailored suits, impeccably dressed women, good looking people, and international travel than anything resembling a story of greed and misfortune. The plot was so all over the place that you didn’t care about anyone’s tragedy. The deaths and misfortunes have zero impact because you never get to know anyone. An hour into the movie I thought to myself, “wow when this movie gets going this is going to be something to see.” There was nothing to see, ever.

Javier Bardem The Counselor

The truly odd thing is the acting in the movie wasn’t terrible. Fassbender was fantastic as usual. Sans two scenes in the film I thought he was relatively flawless. He was great as the new guy in this illegal business who just couldn’t turn away. He played both sides of his “normal” life and his “new” life’s work and you generally liked him onscreen. Bardem and Diaz pulled off decent performances, Bardem far surpassing Diaz here. Bardem was able to play a manic yet considerably cool customer when it came to his drug business. Brad Pitt worked well as the envoy into trafficking with his cool Southwestern motif. However, due to his small amount of screen time he was not explored fully. Outside of the principal actors the movie just threw in tons of heavy hitters and wasted them. Ruben Blades, John Leguizamo, Dean Norris, Rosie Perez, and others are absolutely wasted. As a slow truck carrying barrels of hidden drugs goes from Mexico all the way to Chicago effecting the lives of all these people forever, I just simply didn’t care. The Counselor is this year’s The Tourist. A beautifully shot movie with a great cast that should have never happened.

[easyreview title= "Review of The Counselor" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="1.0" overall= false]

Review: World War Z

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World War Z is as an apocalyptic horror film showing how the world suffers through an invasion of zombies. Jumping from Philadelphia to South Korea to Israel to Wales, the movie tries its best to give you a true global feel during this worldwide threat. Starring Brad Pitt, World War Z looks to keep you on the edge of your seat for as long as you can stay on the ride.

The story begins with Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family in Philadelphia. It is made clear that Gerry once worked in very dangerous places before deciding to quit his job to be home with the family; your first indication that he is a stand up guy. Smash cut to the family sitting in stopped traffic as an explosion happens. A wave of zombies begin attacking the crowds. At this point you don’t know what they are but everything is moving so fast and chaotic that you as the viewer just assume the worst. Then for a brief moment amidst the screams and carnage Gerry gets a good look at one of the people as they become a zombie. 12 seconds and you can see a full transformation. Before we know it our family has made it out of the city and on their way. While driving Gerry gets a call from his former co-worker at the UN named Thierry (Fana Mokoena). Yes I do find it odd that cell phones worked at this point and you should too. Thierry says that he can help Gerry and his family by getting a helicopter to pick them up. Through a series of events they get to the rendezvous point and fly off to a carrier ship in the middle of the Atlantic, safe and sound. Gerry is then recruited to come back to his old position in the UN and help find a cure for what is going on around the world. We are treated to soldiers relaying messages of major cities “going dark” worldwide. So he has to leave his family on the ship while he gallivants around the globe looking for any clues that might save humanity.

At this point is where the movie went off the rails for me. The globe hopping is a major part of the story in the book and in the movie, but in the movie we are treated to what seems like small set pieces that could be anywhere, with the exception of Israel. However, the largest problem with World War Z was its rating. At PG-13, this movie is as bland as it gets. There is little to no blood, guts, or real danger. Every zombie kill is off screen...EVERY ZOMBIE KILL!!! In a world were The Walking Dead TV show exists why does a big budget movie like World War Z reduces itself down to a movie that kids could watch? I never felt like I was watching a zombie apocalyptic movie, but rather a movie with some growling people just playing tag. At one point there is a zombie who the crowd was just outwardly laughing at. The movie became nothing more than a joke. Taking a beloved book and just treating it with little to no respect. I am not even upset that it wasn’t the “go around the world and get stories of the zombie apocalypse” style like the book. If World War Z wanted to go its own way then I am fine with that, but it couldn’t even please when doing that. The zombie genre has become over played in the last few years. In my honest opinion, I think World War Z might be the movie to kill the genre for the mainstream for a while. Its nothing more than a loud, vanilla, and frankly boring film. Had they decided give Pitt’s character a team of soldiers to follow him around and let them get picked off one by one in different locales then the movie would have had some stakes to it. However, you know Pitt isn’t going to die so there is no tension. Lastly, the largest mistake was casting Pitt at all. Not because he isn’t good here, he is, but rather because he is too famous. Due to his status the director feels the need to give him tons of screen time, and as a movie goer you expect to see him since its Brad Pitt. Cast a less famous person and have them go around and hear the stories of individuals during the zombie apocalypse. Little vignettes of zombie action would have been really fun to see. It would have been faithful to the book and the stakes would be higher for all those involved in the stories. Besides Brad Pitt there are no characters who are on the screen really more than 10 minutes anyway. All the acting is serviceable, but largely wasted due to the materials they are given. The CGI, which looked terrible in the trailers, was much cleaner and reasonable here. World War Z is the death knell of the zombie horror genre, or at least it should be. A big bloated summer blockbuster with absolutely nothing to say.

[easyreview title= "Review of World War Z" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.0" overall= false]