Fury

Up next is David Ayer’s World War II action drama Fury. Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, and Logan Lerman, Fury is rated R for for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language.

Fury tells the story of hardened army sergeant Wardaddy (Pitt), leader of a Sherman tank and her crew as they embark on a deadly mission through Germany. After losing their assistant driver in battle, young, overwhelmed Norman Ellison (Lerman) is brought in to replace him. Outnumbered and outgunned, the crew and their tank, nicknamed Fury, attempt to cripple Nazi Germany despite the staggering obstacles that stand in their way.

7.5 out of 10

War movies are like burgers. There are the memorable, incredible burgers (think Five Guys)-Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now. Then there are the solid, quality burgers that you can buy at Stop & Shop and make on the grill- Thin Red Line, The Hurt Locker. Then there are the crap burgers you get at school- Inchon, Pearl Harbor. There are plenty of burgers, but the ones that are great, the Five Guys variety, are notable for how memorable they are. They are well-acted, full of intensity and make you sick to your stomach. Fury, as the name suggests, tries its hardest to get to that point but falls in category of a solid Stop & Shop burger , resulting in what will most likely be endless comparisons between it and Saving Private Ryan, none of which will favor David Ayer’s take on WWII.

No doubt that Fury is a very solid film, probably a little bit better than its 63 on Metacritic indicates. It is very well acted, supported by a stellar cast. Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal and Michael Pena all have really nice chemistry and mesh with each other really well, leading to some great moments. The scene where they’ve emerge victorious after an epic tank defeat, and they all say “best job I ever had” was a really nice moment, probably one of the more memorable from the movie.

fury pitt

Pitt is very good, displaying relentless intensity as a leader and an impressive intelligence that has obviously helped to keep him and his crew alive throughout the war. However, I feel like he was stoic to the point where I couldn’t empathize. He was a figurehead, rather than a human being. I would have liked to see more emotion, an implication that he was still human. Perhaps a flashback that showed us his life before the movie, one that showed us his family. Something that shows us that he lost something. Otherwise, all Wardaddy is is a legend, which was definitely not the intention of the film.

Shia LaBeouf was very impressive. Maybe it’s because my expectations are so low for him at this point, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. Logan Lerman is also pretty good, and the transformation his character made was pretty distinct (even if him yelling “F**k you Nazis!” was really uncharacteristic). Bernthal was also very good, though he has been typecast as the asshole of whatever group he’s in. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess. Michael Pena was a solid piece, but nothing spectacular.

The intensity of the film, when at its peak, is extraordinary. The tone is created by a combination of different things, including the acting, camera angles, and a bit of music. The camera angles focus on exemplifying the grittiness of the war, and the music only amplifies that feeling. For example, the low angle dolly shot that followed the muddy caterpillar tracks on the bottom of the tank, supported by a trudging, eerie high pitched beat defined the tone and established the conditions that this movie would have throughout. From beginning to end this tone was prevalent, peaking at the fight scenes, which were emotionally dense and gory. 

fury pitt

Yet there were moments where this intensity fell, and fell hard. During the middle of the movie, right after a huge battle scene and an intense cold blood execution, there was scene in which Logan Lerman’s character hooks up with a random German girl. While I do feel this scene was ultimately good for the development of all the characters, it was not well executed. It was way too long, filled with unnecessary dialogue and banter that extended it well beyond its welcome. Additionally, the scene was placed in between two scenes of incredible intensity, and it really broke it up. The tension abruptly dropped and I personally lost interest. Though the intensity was still very good the rest of the movie, it never quite maintained or built upon the initial vigor, partially due to this scene.

In the end, the biggest problem I had with Fury was its inability to create that poignancy and everlasting emotional impact that other war movies have. The movie tried to explore the deeper implications of war, but its tendency to sway towards irrational situations hindered it. The last scene of the movie, which features the five man crew taking on at least 300 German soldiers with more firepower, was a scene created entirely for its theatrical value. I didn’t believe it for a second. The characters, as I mentioned earlier, bordered on being entirely unrelatable (as I said, I wish we had seen more of Wardaddy prior to the war or something), which furthered the surrealism  of the last scene. This movie did not leave the same deep, symbolic message that Apocalypse Now, which still haunts me to this day. Saving Private Ryan still plasters images of the Normandy beach on D-Day in my head. Fury just doesn’t get to that point.

lerman fury

I guess it’s kind of harsh of me to criticize this film for not being able to live up to some of the greatest films of all time, but that is honestly what it was trying to do. It was trying to be a modern day Saving Private Ryan, but it just couldn’t (the CGI bullets that made the movie look like Star Wars on the battlefield didn’t help, either). The resulting movie is a solid war film, nothing more, nothing less.
~Vig

9 out of 10

Vig, do you seriously think that this movie is 1.5 points worse than Gone Girl? Fury is gripping, well acted, and unflinching, three things that Gone Girl simply wasn’t.

Seriously, though, this movie was fantastic. It was thoroughly entertaining, a characteristic that every movie should strive for but many have lost in their attempt to be artsy, and I was enthralled for the entire 2 hours despite the loud smacking noise coming from my left as someone (Vig) enjoyed his Sour Patch Kids just a little bit too much. ‘

And Vig, don’t you even try to slander this movie by saying that it wasn’t intense enough. I heard you gasping and saying “No!” when the characters’ circumstances looked grim, so whether or not you think that the “cinematography” (I’m not even really sure what that is) wasn’t at the highest level, or that it was “trying too hard to be an awards show movie”, I know that, walking out of the movie, you had enjoyed it just as much as I had.

Enough censuring of Vignesh. Now to Fury.

Anchoring this film was exceptional acting, especially from Shia Labeouf. He played a religious man who often quoted the bible, a la Saving Private Ryan, and he offered a nice contrast between the ideals of religion and the reality of war. He played a gritty, real character and did an incredibly convincing job. I enjoyed seeing his resurrection as an actor, though rumor has it he refused to shower on the set, much to the chagrin of his fellow castmembers.

shia labeouf

Logan Lerman, as the young serviceman thrust into the tank crew, was unfortunately a little bit awkward, although to some degree I think that worked for his character, given that he was the odd-man out in a war hardened squad. Bernthal and Pitt also had nice performances, Pitt especially as a man (Wardaddy) who projects strength and detachment from the death around him but who, in reality, is as scared as Lerman’s character. Bernthal wasn’t my favorite. I admit he was fantastic as a man corrupted by his experiences in the war, but I can stop hating him ever since he almost killed Carl in The Walking Dead.

Possibly the best aspect of this movie was the interplay between the Fury tank crew. Their banter was often hilarious and just as often heart breaking. One of the final scenes when they sit in the tank, just talking, awaiting a horde of Nazi soldiers is absolutely magical. It was one of those rare moments in movies when I got a tingling feeling in my stomach.

I’m going to depart from the acting here and move to talking about the plot a little bit more. There will be some spoilers, but be assured that I will announce to you when they are coming.

One of the most essential jobs of any war movie, in my opinion, is not to glorify what’s going on, not to make war out to be an idealistic, patriotic experience. Tim O’Brien, in his collection of stories “The Things They Carried” (If you haven’t read it, it is seriously incredible) asserts that it is unbelievably disrespectful and that, when you’re fighting for your life on a battlefield, it doesn’t matter what country you’re fighting for or what ideals. You’re just fighting for your life.

Fury stays true to the realities of war. It doesn’t flinch in showing the imperfections of the characters and the unscrupulous things they are forced to do. In that way, the movie serves as a testament to how war can pervert the characters of its soldiers.

fury five guys

**Spoiler alert. Ye who read on beware**. One of the most impacting scenes of the movie was when, after Norman’s first encounter with Nazi troops, Wardaddy forces Norman to shoot an unarmed Nazi prisoner. Norman refuses, but Wardaddy ultimately puts the gun in Norman’s hand and uses Norman’s finger to pull the trigger. Later in the movie, though, Norman is an unarmed soldier hiding from a horde of Nazis under his tank, and a young-looking German solider finds him. The Nazi sees him, nods, and moves on. The lack of sympathy on behalf of the Americans and the sympathy shown by the German contrast sharply with eachother and with the anti-Nazi rhetoric used by soldiers throughout the film. Fury shows that, in war, there is no “good” and “bad”, no Jedi and Sith like we believe and wish there is only war. In the words of Wardaddy, “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent”. End spoiler alert**

The only place this movie lost points is in its plot development. It followed a tank crew as it moved across Germany, through various towns and camps, which was very interesting, but the culmination of the plot was not even introduced until there were only thirty minutes remaining. Also, there was a point in the movie where it was daytime one second, and then in the very next shot it was nighttime. What happened there?

Unfortunately for Fury, it will, as will every World War II movie, be compared to Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg’s epic is one of my favorite movies of all time, and if I were to review it on Screen Wars it would undoubtedly be a 10. Fury can’t quite live up to Spielberg’s precedent, though it is more gory and realistic given that it was created over 15 years later, and for that it left a little bit, and I do an mean incredibly little bit, to be desired. Still, though, this movie is an Oscar contender. It is real cheese.
~Will

Like Fury? Hate it? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Gone Girl

Hey guys! We’re back this week with David Fincher’s highly anticipated adaption of Gillian Flynn’s best selling mystery novel Gone Girl, featuring new guest writer Will. Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, and Neil Patrick Harris is rated R for bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.

Gone Girl follows the disappearance of Amy Dunne (Pike), loving wife of Nick Dunne (Affleck), on their fifth anniversary. What starts out as a seemingly routine missing persons case slowly evolves into a magnified media frenzy capitalizing on Nick’s every move. Crumbling under heavy media scrutiny and intense police pressure, Nick is pushed to his limit. With his lies exposed and his apathetic behavior criticized, everyone becomes to ask the wonder the same thing: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

9.5 out of 10

First off, shout out to my good friend Will for joining us on the blog. You don’t know what you signed up for, but I’m still glad to have you on board.

Second of all, disclaimer: Gone Girl is extremely hard to review without completely spoiling, so I’m gonna do my best, but when I have to spoil, I will warn you.

And now for the movie. If I got anything out of Gone Girl, it would be 1) Don’t marry a psychopath and 2) If you are going to marry a psychopath, make sure she’s hot (that way it’s worth it). 

gone girl head down

All jokes aside, I thought that Gone Girl was a fantastically constructed film. David Fincher has already established himself as a fantastic, consistent director, putting up masterpieces in Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network, and even a few episodes of House of Cards. He is a dark, brooding mastermind who puts together nothing less than thrilling films that will blow your mind (Sometimes, in the case of Edward Norton in Fight Club, almost literally). He is a smart, technical genius and shows us nothing less with Gone Girl.

The way  Fincher manipulates perspective is the work of an absolute genius. Whether it’s through angles, lights or music, everything was used to give each audience member his or her own, individual understanding of the plot. The best example of this is the development of Nick through the use of flashbacks. Half of us believe he’s a liar and a killer, solely because of the flashbacks narrated by Rosamund Pike’s supposedly honest character, Amy Dunne. The eeriness, and later on, the caustic nature of the flashbacks try to turn us on Nick. Yet, the other half of us somehow refuse to believe that he’s completely guilty. Nick is our anti-hero here; we think we know everything there is to know about him. Through the present day timeline, we see that he is struggling under all the pressure and that many of the statements he makes are actually genuine. As inhumane as he’s perceived in the fictionalized media, we see him as human. Thanks to Affleck’s A-List performance, in addition to Fincher’s stellar direction, our view of the film allows us to make conjectures, keeping us invested, while keeping us ignorant enough to be shocked at every twist and turn that comes after. Simply put, the storytelling is absolutely fantastic.

This leads me to the actual story. The plot is admittedly complicated, but its intensity more than makes up for its relatively convoluted nature. There are so many twists and turns and each one of these is supported by fantastic build up that makes the moment all the better. ***Major spoiler alert*** For example, Rosamund Pike’s character sets up a treasure hunt for her and Nick’s anniversary, and the final clue leads Nick to a woodshed in which Amy has stored a bunch of video games and toys in her attempt to frame Nick for her murder. The build up to the reveal of the woodshed—creepy music overlooking Nick’s desperate attempts to solve her riddle with a bit of solemn Rosamund Pike narration throw in there—built up a lot of suspense. We could feel the tension rising and sensed something was coming but we were never prepared for what would happen next: Amy being alive and well. ***Spoiler alert over***

ben affleck gone girl

I can tell you now that the ending will be very divisive among viewers. Some will love it, some will not. On my right, Will will point to a surplus of unanswered questions, but I will tell you that this isn’t necessarily a problem. Not every movie should give you all the answers: that would be no fun! ***Spoiler*** The fact that Amy is still alive does make it even more difficult for us, as the flashbacks are revealed to be fabricated, but I think this is intentional. What happened and what didn’t is something that’s left to the viewer to interpret. ***End spoiler***  On the other hand, I do agree that Fincher leaves us on a bit of a cliffhanger, without a proper understanding of what happens next with the Dunne’s. However, I find this to be the right decision. We don’t really need to know more beyond this point. The story is about the disappearance of Amy Dunne, and once that part is over, Fincher makes the bold, but correct decision to cut us off. The implications are startling, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. The disturbing nature of the film, which is what makes it so enthralling, is furthered by the abrupt ending, one that leaves us scared of the horrifying potential for the situation to unravel. This film does not have a happy ending and that is just fine with me. There is nothing wrong with a movie with an exciting plot and a fantastic story-line, featuring a fantastic (Oscar deserving???) Rosamund Pike portrayal of a calculated, psychopathic killer, capped by an ambiguous ending that left me engaged in fan theories. That my friends, is a great movie.
~Vig

6.5 out of 10

What a day this is! The movie gods have smiled down upon me and finally allowed me to write for Screenwars (no, I don’t take offense to the fact that I am one of the last of Vig and Zach’s friends to be granted a guest write, and no, I didn’t have to bug Vig extensively to get this to happen). I am truly tickled.

But, enough of me: let’s get to Gone Girl

The hype on this movie was deafening: Ben Affleck, two time Best Picture winner and newly designated Batman, stars, alongside a fantastic cast, in an adaptation of a New York Times bestselling thriller, all helmed by the ineffable David Fincher. My friends (read: Vig) touted this movie as a potential Oscar winner in multiple categories. Rotten tomatoes rated it at 87% fresh (by comparison, Forrest Gump sits at a meager 71%) and review conglomerate Metacritic gave the film a healthy 79 (Oscar winner Black Swan sits at the same mark).

Despite these high praises, Gone Girl was as disappointing as not having enough milk left in your glass to dip the last Milano. That is to say it simply doesn’t deserve the hype.

I must first admit that I’m not an experienced movie reviewer as is my friend writing on the left here. Still, I’ve been to quite a few films over the years and can separate the good from the bad, the Dark Knights from the Spiderman 3s.

gone girl

I can therefore write with certainty that Gone Girl was neither good nor bad, but decidedly mediocre.

It dragged noticeably at points throughout its inexcusable 2 hour and 25 minute running time, and it never really reached the peaks of intensity that it was going for. It featured Dark Knight –esque ringing sounds (first few seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3-ClsRE9Yk) that rise to a climaxing at a pitch at its tensest times, but I never felt my heartbeat quicken and a pit form in my stomach like I should at those moments. Instead it seemed like the movie thought it was more thrilling than it actually was.

amy dunne missing

Vig over on my left will also try to convince you how constantly surprising the story was. And, to a certain extent, his point has merit. However is a certain moment in some thrillers where the story becomes so complicated, so convoluted that you need a graphic organizer just to keep everything straight. Gone Girl reached that point and blew right through it. There are so many loose ends, so many questions left unanswered (many of them crucial plot elements) and so many story lines that were half developed and then seemingly abandoned, that feel like the tape I watched must have been missing about 30 minutes. Fincher tried to pull the rug out from under us so often that eventually we just expected to be surprised.

tyler perry gone girl

***Major spoilers follow. Reader beware.***Perhaps the most disappointing element of the film was the development of the plotline. After Nick finds the woodshed with all of the goods Amy had purchased to create an economic motive for Nick to kill her, we learn that Amy had faked her abduction and is actually still alive and carrying out her plot to destroy Nick. This was one of the twists where I was enthralled: she faked a crime scene with just enough mistakes to suggest a hastily done cleanup by Nick, and has created a diary that chronicles an increasingly violent and abusive marriage. Had the film continued on this path I would likely have given it an 8.5, but instead it called upon a wholly uninteresting filler character to provide plot structure and a completely implausible way to work Amy back into Nick’s life. The result was fantastic and really showed just how psychopathic Amy was, but the process of getting there seemed contrived and ruined the moment.

At this point the movie may seem more warranting of a 5 or so. The 6.5 is wholly due to Rosamund Pike’s absorbing portrayal of Amy Elliot Dunne. Her turn as a jovial Harvard graduate turned psychopathic and delusional killer is, if not Oscar deserving, Oscar nominee deserving. Her voice-over diary entries are chill inducing, (watch out, Morgan Freeman) and her cold stare is prickling. Props to her.

But alas, Pike cannot save this movie. It is too long, too contrived, too over-hyped, and too unpredictable. Vig, don’t take offense, but in my opinion as a casual movie goer, you’re mistaking Oscar wannabe for Oscar deserving, Velveeta for real cheese.
~Will

Did you like Gone Girl? Hate it? Let us know in the comment section below!

9/30 Quick Post

Hey readers!

Sorry we’ve been inconsistent with our posts over the past month. The combination of junior year and a lack of good movies has made it difficult for us to post consistently. However, with the next few weeks looking good, we will do our best to get back into it, starting with Gone Girl next week.

Thanks for understanding!

Vig & Zach