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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Kingsman: Spies, Villains, and Rock and Roll
Matthew Vaughn wants you to know that the spy movies today are too serious. They are too dark, too long, and too exhausting. He fancies a time back when spy films had a sense of humor, took chances, and were over the top because, in his eyes, that made them something he feels these films were born to be....fun. It's hard not to agree with him. Some of my fondest memories watching the old Bond films of Connery and Moore were how over the top they were. The cheesy villains, gadgets, and one liners. They made you roll your eyes but you didn't care because you were enjoying the hell out of the movie. Now in in my opinion, the darkness of recent spy films, especially in the Bond franchise, has greatly improved the genre. While the old spy films are fun, they became almost too ridiculous and repetitive to the point where they were just bad movies. Kingsman: The Secret Service is Vaughn's homage to the old spy film. Reminding Hollywood to try to have a little fun once in awhile.
The story really is pretty formulaic throughout the first half. You have a mission from the past where something goes wrong and an agent goes down and that agent just happens to be the father of who will be our hero Gary....excuse me, I mean "Eggsy" (Yeah...I don't get it either) played competently by up and comer Taron Edgerton. Years pass and Eggsy has become the young lost soul who can't see to find a place in the world while trying to protect his mother and baby sister from an abusive stepfather blah blah blah. But again, much like those old spy films, you aren't seeing this film for the story.
The film really gets rolling once we get more familiar with Harry Hart, Eggsy's mentor and certified bad ass in one of the very best performances of the early year by Colin Firth. When you think of the casting going into the film, Harry is the most crucial. He is used to embody that old school spy who is one part bad ass and one part distinguished English gentleman. Firth is an English gentleman by nature but the risk of casting him in the role is he is just about the least bad ass type actor you and even HE can think of. You'll read this same thought in any other review of the film but that point really can't be overstated. Any director worth anything can make someone look like they can kick ass with effects and such (cough...cough...Tobey Maguire), but if the actor isn't believable throughout the rest of the film as a force to be reckoned with, then the film suffers. Firth talks the talk of the gentleman and kicks ass as the spy. He is smooth, funny, and blows up the film with his swagger. A performance not to be forgotten any time soon.
The rest of the casting is fitting. Samuel L. Jackson was the ideal choice to play an over the top villain because....well....what hasn't he been in his career if not over the top? Probably my favorite thing about his Valentine character is that I was originally going to write about how it was a little difficult at times to understand what some of the British actors are saying due to their thick accents. Vaughn gives a wink to the audience (especially the American audience) by giving the American Valentine a lisp that makes him sounds ridiculous AND gives him a line calling out the issue Americans have with Brit actors "You Brits...Y'all talk so funny". Well played Vaughn. We also get some solid supporting performances from Mark Strong and Michael Caine (playing a real ass hole in films lately) to round out a solid cast.
If you're going into Kingsman: The Secret Service and expecting Skyfall the you're going to be disappointed. Kingsman isn't about being dark and serious with some powerful societal message to go along with it. Kingsman does what Matthew Vaughn intended it to do which was to give you a fun time. It's got violence, comedy, and some great music adding up to a great time at the movies. So turn your brain off for a bit, enjoy the chaos and don't bother trying to hide the smile you'll have when you walk out of the theater....we all saw it.
Whiplash: Teacher Abuse has never had such rhythm
J.K. Simmons has always been "that guy in that thing" and he really has been in a lot of things from Spider man, Farmers Insurance commercials, to a family sitcom about a blind guy. And while Simmons has been around awhile, he hasn't really been given anything to sink his teeth into. In comes young upstart writer/director Damien Chazzelle and his jazz ensemble epic "Whiplash".
Whiplash has the unique honor of being the least profitable film to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards (along with Chazzelles script and Simmons for supporting actor) but for a film that appears so small, it is one of the biggest and most epic viewing experiences of the year.
One of the reasons I loved Whiplash is that it surrounds a subject matter that I have little knowledge on, the world of surprisingly competitive jazz ensemble. Jazz music is all about precision, technique, and patience and all of those are on display in explosive fashion. The story follows a young aspiring jazz drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) who dreams of greatness while at the Schaefer Music Conservatory in New York. All of the students hope to join the exclusive Jazz ensemble led by the tyrannical Terence Fletcher (Simmons) who puts the title of abusive teacher to a whole new level.
Everyone has had that one teacher or coach in their lives that was unbearable. They would scream, criticize, and cause you so so much emotional abuse that caused you to fail more than the class or sport ever could. Few films have ever been able to capture this idea better than Whiplash as we watch Fletcher verbally emasculate his band members to tears and physical torment that is almost too much to watch. It's hard to say why Simmons was so effective here. He has the deep menacing voice, threatening eyes, and is looking surprisingly jacked in his black t-shirts (seriously, is Simmons gonna be the next Marvel super villain or something?) that help make him the bane of existence for all of his students.
You also can't talk about Whiplash without mentioning the lead role of Miles Teller. Teller is one of Hollywoods talented up and comers (especially if you've seen him in "The Spectacular Now") and he almost seemed to be the heir apparent to Vince Vaughn as the funny, fast-talking, likable schlub who could go on to lead comedies for the foreseeable future. This is actually the most different Teller then we've seen in his young career. His character of Andrew is of a socially awkward and talented musician who hasn't had a lot of success in life and will do anything to establish himself and make it so he is remembered for being "great" long after he's gone (shown perfectly during the dinner scene with his family, maybe the best scene in the film). To do this, he is willing to take Fletcher's abuse and use it as the motivation to prove he is great.
Anyone in the teaching/coaching profession can tell you that arguably the most difficult aspect of the profession is motivating your students. Fletcher's choice to use fear as his motivational tool proves to have varying success rates as he very easily breaks his students but their fear of him pushes them to be perfect because that is what he expects. You grow to hate Fletcher so much throughout the film that when it gets to a point in the film where he explains he cruelty it messes with you emotionally because you begin to somehow empathize with him. The fact that you can show any sympathy towards the character after what you've seen him to is a feat in itself and the credit goes to Chazzelle for shaping the story that way.
I hate to use the term "emotional roller-coaster" few films of recent memory fit that cliché better than Whiplash. The Jazz genre really fits the flow of the story because it can be easy going and calculated one minute to explosive and heart-pounding the next. Being able to fit so much size into a small budget film like this is amazing and a screenplay Oscar for Chazzelle should be in order if there was any justice in the world. I don't know if Chazzelle had a film teacher who was as harsh as Fletcher who pushed him as hard, but one thing is for sure is that, much like Andrew, Chazzelle seems like he wants to be great and I can't wait for him to continue to prove that.
American Sniper (2014)
Will American Sniper be the first War in the Middle East film to be widely embraced by America?
War is often one of the most successful movie genres because of the glory that comes with war and the seemingly endless number of stories you can tell from it. From "Apocalypse Now" to "Saving Private Ryan", there have been so many war stories told, celebrated, and cherished by their fans around the world. However, for some reason the wars that have struggled to be embraced (by Americans in particular) are the ones we read/see headlines of daily in the Middle East. It's hard to say why this is. Maybe it's the difference of opinion of what the wars are being fought for, maybe it's simply hard to see the glory in a war while it's still going on. It's interesting because there have been a few films made on the subject that have been praised like "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hurt Locker" (Oscar Winner for Best Picture) but I feel those films lacked a certain humanity to them that could draw people in emotionally. "American Sniper" may be the one film of this genre to be widely embraced by viewers.
"American Sniper" follows the story of former Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle and his accomplishments during his four tours in Iraq. Bradley Cooper added 40 lbs of mass and muscle to play the hulking Kyle, who was a man consumed by warfare and justifying his over 160 confirmed kills down to the simplest reasoning of good vs evil. To be the type of man like Kyle or any other advanced military figure, I've always felt that you have to be wired a little differently. Obviously you have to be brave and willing to make sacrifices and hard decisions. But I've also felt like you need to see the world in a different way and be able to disconnect yourself emotionally from your environment, knowing what you are expected to do. Kyle was certainly one of these men and Cooper shines in being able to show how it was the most dangerous environment that made him feel the most alive.
It doesn't make sense to someone who has never experienced anything like fighting in a war. Why would anyone "choose" to keep returning to such a hostile environment once, let alone three more times after making it back alive once? It's a question that tortures Kyles wife Taya (Sienna Miller) who can't understand why Chris constantly chooses to put himself in harms way when she and their children are their for him? It's almost as if they can't quench the thirst for Chris like war can, which is seen when he cites the order of his life's priorities as "God, Country, and Family". We all know of stories of how war has changed men when they return home and Chris was definitely a prime example of how difficult it can be to re- acclimate to peaceful surroundings after spending so much time in hell.
It's frustrating to see so many articles published about the film where they criticize Kyle for his "lack of remorse for the people he killed" during his combat days. Kyle was very vocal on his feelings towards his kills as he only saw these men as enemies to kill or else they would kill him. For someone to criticize the actions of a man just based on watching a movie and to have never been a position to make decisions like he did is lazy and irresponsible. To criticize a man who was trained to make decisions involving life and death in order to protect members of his platoon and the rights we stand for as Americans is foolish.
"American Sniper" is the best film Eastwood has done since "Million Dollar Baby" and Bradley Cooper continues his recent run of Hollywood success. Both lent a hand in producing the film and giving a fair interpretation of Chris Kyles life and experiences. Maybe more than his wartime experiences were the scenes of him attempting to re-enter the "normal" world. These men are trained to take any potential distractions and repress it so that nothing clouds the objective at hand. An American Sniper...A "Legend".
Boyhood: A Remarkable Capturing of Life and Growth.
Every now and then, you come across a film that you see with a group of people, whether it be friends or family, and you all exit the theater and you're all discussing how, in one way or another, something in that film was relatable to your life. Few films can accomplish the task of not only capturing history accurately but capturing the way people felt during that era that they lived through. Richard Linklaters' Boyhood may prove to be the one film that has been able to capture a particular era in time in which every person who views it can find some familiarity and nostalgia from more than any other.
Filmed over the course of 12 years, we follow the growth of Mason from ages 7 to 18. We watch not only him change before our eyes but also his family and society around him. Mason begins as a rather stoic character as he always seems to be locked into his own head as we watch him go through life wondering what he's thinking. As he grows older and experiences more of what his life has offered him, which is a series of drastic ups and downs, is when we see him begin to open up and express himself and use those past experiences to help shape who he wants to be.
You not only see the growth of Mason but of his family members as well. We watch the progression of his mother (Patricia Arquette) and father (Ethan Hawke) from young, immature, and unprepared parents to being grounded, responsible, and emotionally present for their kids. Children of divorce can relate to the pain of not being able to share your life with both parents and the confusion of how you're supposed to act towards one or the other based on how one Any parent can watch their growth and see similar mistakes that they made as well as similarities in how they put themselves back together.
There are so many slight details in this film that can jar your memory and bring you back to a different time of your life, whether good or bad, almost as if it flashes before your eyes. It allows you to see how far you've grown as a person and how the things in your life have influenced you and made you who you are today. One thing that I always take into account when I decide how good a movie is is the re-watch ability factor. There are so many "good" films that you only need to see once but know you'll never watch them again (The Kings Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave to name a few) and then there are films that have that ability to either bring something new or regenerate that original enjoyment you had the first time you saw it (Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, Saving Private Ryan). Boyhood has tremendous re-watchability (my own word) potential because feelings of nostalgia never get old and being able to reminisce, even if it's by yourself, is what makes the film truly special.
The Imitation Game (2014)
The Imitation Game: An "A Beautiful Mind" British Re-make?
The Imitation Game is a very good film...I promise. Benedict Cumberbatch, the highest rising actor in Hollywood, gives a stand out performance as Alan Turing an eccentric mathematician who helps crack the Nazi messaging code called "enigma" which allowed the British to intercept Nazi communications without their knowledge and use it to their advantage to win the war. Turing was certainly a genius an possessed many of the common traits that come along with being a genius. Arrogance, the inability to read social cues, defensive, awkwardness, and an overall display of anti-social tendencies. He was also a deeply secretive man and it was his secrets that led him to paranoia that controlled his life to the end. This is all well and good but while I was watching the film I couldn't help but think that I had seen this movie already....13 years ago with Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.
Again, I really enjoyed the film as a whole and expect it to be a front runner at the Oscars (I mean hey, it's a WWII film that contains a main character struggling with his homosexuality...two of the Academy's favorite themes!) but the whole time I just couldn't get A Beautiful Mind...well...out of MY mind. Think about it, John Forbes Nash (Crowes' character in "Mind") nearly fits the exact description I make of Cumberbatch's Turing above. He had those same personality qualities, the same genius, and the suffered through similar forms of paranoia of the government for years which had negative effects on his health. It's hard not to see these similarities and not be distracted by them (at least for me anyway).
Now I am not going to sit here and try to say that Nash went through everything that Turing went through because I'm not that stupid or irresponsible. Turing's battle with his homosexuality and maintaining that secret seemed to torture him throughout his life which was an issue that Nash never had to deal with. It is with all of this inner turmoil where we see Cumberbatch succeed with the performance. He is one of those people who you look at and think that there is more to him than meets the eye. His unique look and his voice give him almost unlimited range as he can go from sounding and looking like a peaceful harmless wimp, to a dark and insidious villain in the blink of an eye. You got the feeling that Turing was a man who wasn't as interested in breaking the code to defeat the Nazis and save lives, but just to beat "the game" and put his genius on display for all to see and this is where Cumberbatch excels in the role the most.
We get some solid supporting work from Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Charles Dance, but it is Cumberbatchs' show. He should be one of the favorites to get nominated and to even take home the Oscar...for playing a role that Russell Crowe some say should have gotten many years ago over Denzel Washington in Training Day. Cumberbatch's performance is not to be diminished by my undeniably distracted mind when it comes to this film. He does masterful work and is certainly worthy of any accolade he gets.
However, the fact that "A Beautiful Mind" exists and the similarities are too daunting to me it decreases my overall feeling for the film because I felt like I had seen this movie before.
Foxcatcher: A Slow Burn to an Explosive Climax.
Foxcatcher is a movie for those who value patience as a virtue. There is not a lot of dialogue and not even a lot of wrestling (which is bold for a movie centered around Olympic wrestlers) but rarely have I seen a film that had a constant buildup of tension throughout. One phrase that you will see a lot when reading about this film is that it is a "slow burn" which is accurate. It makes you uncomfortable and anxious to the point of frustration because you are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The story centers around Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) an anti-social, brooding athlete who seems to be constantly living in his older brother David's (Mark Ruffalo) shadow. David and Mark have both won gold medals at the 1984 Olympics but more people are drawn to David because he is warm, charismatic, and open...everything that Mark is not. We watch Mark as he seems to go through life with a chip on his soldier, trying to forge his own path without the help of his brother. Mark receives a call from a representative of a John Du Pont (Steve Carell) who wishes Mark to visit him on his Foxcatcher farm and propose the idea of him and the entire USA wrestling team to make Foxcatcher their official training facility with Du Pont bankrolling the entire operation. From there, we watch an initial positive relationship sour as the we learn more about Du Pont and his intentions.
The cast is lights out here. Tatum gives the performance of his career in a dark turn as Mark and Ruffalo might score an Oscar nomination for being the one ray of light as his older brother David, who only has the best intentions for Mark and his future. It is Carell though, who steals the show. You always read about how comedians, whom Carell is more popularly known as, all have a "dark side" in them which is where they get there comedy from that allows them to make shockingly effective transition into drama (think Jim Carrey in "Truman Show" and Robin Williams in "Insomnia") and he will go down as another prime example of that here. Du Pont is a man of privilege who, like Mark, is trying to find a way to make his mark on the world and seek the approval of others. He is socially awkward, maybe even a coward and uses his money and family "dynasty" as its referred to in the film, to give him a sense of entitlement to gain respect from others.
From the point they meet we wonder why Mark would fall into a relationship with Du Pont but we see they do share similarities in terms of their personalities and both feeling the need to prove themselves. So it's no surprise to see the relationship eventually sour because in the fight to become the more relevant one, Du Pont will win due to his already established social status and wealth. Du Pont is always trying to seek the approval of his mother (Vanessa Redgrave), who sees wrestling as a "low sport", and Du Pont tries to create this deluded fantasy of what he is trying to do with this wrestling team to please his mother. Du Pont calls himself a "coach" of the wrestling team, when it seems he knows nothing about the sport, he claims his athletes see him as a mentor and a father figure when in reality, he is just the guy signing their checks. The tension comes to a head once David gets involved and begins to see Du Pont for what he really is and the climax catches you buy surprise and leaves you devastated. .
Director Bennett Miller has only made three films (Capote and Moneyball the other two) but it's safe to say he is three for three with this being his most ambitious work yet. Foxcatcher is the type of film that has failed in the past due to its' modest pace but the performances keep you engaged just enough to be blown away in the end.
Interstellar: How Film Can Make you Feel Adventure Again
Every generation of movie goers sees one film, maybe two, that changes the game for them. It becomes a signature moment that they remember years to come. They remember where they saw it, who they saw it with, even where they were sitting. Christopher Nolan has proved to be a film maker who works best with a big canvas, and he has never been given a canvas bigger than the one he used for his latest film, "Interstellar". I feel I can't even call going to see a Nolan piece a movie but more like an "event". For the average movie goer, they most likely aren't familiar with the directors of the films they're seeing but most know Nolan. Most know of Nolan because he has made some of the biggest, thrilling, and thought provoking films of the past decade from the Dark Knight trilogy to Inception.
It's almost not worth trying to do a plot synopsis of "Interstellar" because it is difficult to try to condense the happenings in a film this huge because I know that I will leave out something big. Anyway, the film takes place in a potentially not-too-distant future where the earth has become unable to produce all but a few crops and it will get to a point where none will be able to grow and man will die out. In comes an engineer/pilot/father Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who is entrusted to be part of a space expedition to venture beyond a newly discovered wormhole to try and find a new planet capable of inhabiting the human race. Astronauts from previous missions have supposedly landed and have been sending signals for them to come.
McConaughey has always had that "movie star" potential and I think this is the film that puts him in that title. This was a truly star making role due to the size of the film and I honestly believe he is the only man who could have done it. "Interstellar" was originally supposed to be done by Steven Spielberg before he dropped out and Nolan stepped in. Nolan, clearly influenced by past Spielberg films like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Jaws", puts McConaughey in a role in the same vein as Richard Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters" or Roy Schneider in "Jaws". They needed an actor who could be looked at as an everyday guy who is experiencing incredible circumstances and McConaughey is able to display the emotion required for a man who has to drop everything, including his family whom he knows he may not see again, and try to save the human race. You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice and your heart breaks and lifts with his simultaneously. This isn't necessarily a role that wins Oscars but it should be.
The effects are obviously amazing. This, much like "Gravity" last year, is a film that needs to be seen on the big screen, especially in IMAX. This, along with the haunting score of frequent Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer, almost transports you to that necessary place that makes the events happening on screen seem possible. Kind of piggy backing off of that point, there will be those who will trash the film for "the science isn't accurate". Those comments are nonsense because no matter what "science" tells us, there is just no way for us to actually comprehend what is beyond a wormhole or what would happen if we attempted to go through one. Could we really transcend time and space? Would we discover new worlds and new civilizations? Impossible for us to say at this point, but what makes this film so great is that we are able to see the ideas of "what can be". It's the mystery of the unknown that both frightens and enthralls man and few films have been able to capture those feelings like "Interstellar" In a time where there are no more explorers, we're fortunate to be put in a position where we can feel what is like to discover and explore new worlds.
People will remember "Interstellar" for either being a truly great film experience or "not as good as 2001: A Space Odyssey". This is one of most popular slights against the film so far as it is the closest thing to "2001" and defenders of the Kubrick classic will argue to the death that it doesn't live up to it. This is an argument that no one will win because it is a generational issue. People see these landmark films during their youth and they leave such an impression on them, that it almost becomes blasphemy to hear of another film made years later, rivaling the one they saw. People want to believe that the film from their time was the best and that no film will be able to capture those emotions they first felt and the memories that it created for them. I respect and detest this because I will most likely feel the same way when future space adventures in the same vein as "Interstellar" come out and I fear it is something that is out of my control. Much of the film circles around the idea that love is the one true thing that travels purely through time and space because it is that connection we feel with one another that makes us human and that can be applied with our love for certain films. The connection we feel with our favorite films is almost unshakable and those who think they can make us waver from those feelings are exercising in futility.
In the end, "Interstellar" is one of those landmark films. It's a chance for us to escape reality and feel sense of adventure, hope, and amazement that rarely comes around. Don't miss it.
Nightcrawler: Hating People but Wanting their Love
What made "Nightcrawler" intriguing after just seeing the trailer is the fact that the subject matter contains things we know exist but never seem to think about. We always see those "on the scene" videos used for news reports but we never give it a second thought. "Nightcrawler" gives us a deep, if perhaps exaggerated, look at this process and how these people are the guns for hire that we never know about.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a socially awkward loner who is self-motivated and determined to find his place in this world and be a success. We learn very early on that Lou will go to great lengths to find success and will almost do or become anyone to do that. He spots a car accident on the highway and stops as he sees a van park alongside and two men with video cameras get out and start filming the police officers vigorously try to rescue the woman in the burning vehicle. Lou inquires about a job from the head filmer Joe Loder, classic work by Bill Paxton, but is turned down. Another thing on Paxton, so great to see him getting work again and he delivers the line of the year "Welcome to the future .BRAH". OK, it might not seem that funny now, but when you see it and listen to his delivery of it priceless.
Lou decides to take things into his own hands by getting his own camera, a police scanner, and meticulously learning all of the meanings of the codes on the scanners so he can arrive on the scene and get the best material to sell to the highest bidding news station. That bidder turns out to be Rene Russos' Nina, an over the hill former news anchor who is now a material editor and desperate to boost her ratings. Her and Lou strike a deal that has him exclusively getting first hand material and selling it to her station a relationship that quickly becomes one sided as we really start to see the kind of person that Lou is.
As far as the performance goes, Gyllenhaal is dynamite here, a dark and brooding loner isn't necessarily new material for him but there are few other leading men out there who could pull off a low-key character that can scare the life out of you. Very Ed Norton in "Primal Fear"- esque. However, I would have liked to discover more about Lou and his past. He mentions that it might not be that he doesn't understand people but that he doesn't like them. I get that, but why then is always trying to get their approval? He is after money, sure, but he seems more concerned at being noticed and wanting to be loved and respected by others around him.
In the end, this is one of those movies that you will miss if you don't see it quickly and is destined for a future as a diamond in the rough in your Netflix selection. It is dark, Gyllenhaal is creepy, and his eyes are really bulgy (that might not seem significant but wait till you see them
they look like they're falling out of his face!) and I mean, what else are you gonna see this Halloween?...Ouija? Please
Fury: "Ideals are Peaceful...History is Violent
"Ideals are peaceful...History is Violent"
This is the justification that Brad Pitts' Don "Wardaddy" Collier gives to the young newcomer, Logan Lermans' Norman, as to why the violence and brutality exists in the war they fight. It also serves as the overlying message that director David Ayer is giving for his new WWII tank epic, "Fury". What is so hard with modern day WWII films is that it is so difficult to break new ground and try to tell a story that we haven't already seen before. Sure there are the aspects that we are always going to see (gratuitous violence, the male camaraderie, moral quandaries), but there is always a struggle to show the war in a different light that offers perspective and can challenge us emotionally in a way that we haven't seen.
"Fury" does well in telling us a story from the unique perspective of a group of soldiers who reside within the thick, loud, and brutal walls of an American Sherman battle tank. Watching these men fight this massive war within the confines of a small metal box lets us see witness these men exist in an almost prison like state of violence ad bloodshed along with seeing their bond strengthen. The latter is even more evident with the addition of the new tank member who quickly learns what he is in for even though the only thing he knows how to do is "type 60 words a minute".
Some will criticize "Fury" for being almost over the top with the gore and violence, but that is how it was. Who are you servicing if the product that you put on screen doesn't accurately capture the brutality of the events? Will it make it more civilized? Will it make have more substance? Bullshit. These are the people who are turned off by the violence because they can't comprehend that part of history being the brutal reality that it was. Neither can I for that matter, but I recognize and acknowledge our violent history because without it the war isn't won and the ones who lost their lives ensuring that victory aren't given the justice they deserve. Not every WWII film can have some fictional romance or "journey home" that detracts attention from the violence just because you don't have the stomach to show it.
Again, Ideals are peaceful...History is Violent.
It's a treat watching Brad Pitt at this stage of his career. He is no longer the young and hot leading man whose main purpose is to be eye candy for the ladies. Here he is the grizzled veteran whose job is to lead men through hell and back and keeping them alive while doing so. Even when he isn't speaking, we feel that command that his Wardaddy has over the men under his command. They prove to be loose cannons and capable of losing control but at the end of the day, they acknowledge their C.O.'s control because they have an almost unbreakable trust in him. This is portrayed the best in a scene involving a captured German town and Wardaddy and Norman break their way into the apartment of a woman and her young daughter where they get a chance to have a meal and for Norman to get a little action with the daughter. In come the rest of the tank crew, drunk and disorderly, wondering why they weren't invited to this peaceful meal. The supporting cast does an admirable job as well. Lerman doesn't have much to work with in his role unfortunately as we see nothing new from his other past roles from films like "Noah" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal are solid here and Shia LaBeouf reminds us that he is very good at being able to cry on screen...he cries a lot....but it's OK...he is actually pretty good.
Now will "Fury" reach the level of "Saving Private Ryan" as some have said? No, but there is nothing wrong with not reaching the level of the best war film ever made. It's also a problem I have with how movies are received these days, especially when it comes to WWII films, in that there is so much pressure for them to be GREAT. It is the "Great War" (part II) and the most glorified event in entertainment history (especially in the American film industry) and the pressure to try to live up to that is unfair. It's interesting because the more recent war films that do tend to be more in the same violent vein as "Fury" (Lone Survivor comes to mind) have tended to resonate with audiences more. Seeing the brutality, as horrible as it may be, accentuates the story to a degree and makes the characters' triumphs/failures that much more profound. I think that should be the main goal for "Fury". If audiences walk out of this film feeling like they watched something powerful, something intense, that made them "feel" then that is all the recognition it needs.
Gone Girl (2014)
Gone Girl and Why You Will Reconsider Marriage
Director David Fincher has made a fantastic career out of making us uncomfortable with ourselves. He's exposed our love of materialism (Fight Club), our inherent "need" to be successful in the eyes of others (The Social Network), he even made us visualize what we would look like as old.....man babies (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Now he brings us his latest entry into his collection of the the shamefulness of man, Gone Girl.
Gone Girl surrounds Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) who returns home one day to find his home broken into and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. The police are called and we are set off on a journey to find the "Amazing Amy"and complications arise as evidence begins to build up and we are to think that perhaps Nick isn't as innocent as he appears. We learn about who he and Amy were and how the developments of their relationship have led to her disappearance and the ensuing case.
For anyone that has read the novel version by Gillian Flynn (who also penned the screenplay) you will be deeply satisfied as the film is a truly loyal adaptation and worries over the news of a changed ending should be dismissed immediately. Affleck does an admirable job portraying Nick, but to be fair, this wasn't a particularly challenging role to play. That isn't taking anything away from Affleck because he did exactly what he had to do to be a convincing Nick. He had to be good looking, likable, a "good old boy" from Missouri who enjoyed a simple life with measured aspirations. There isn't anyone who could have played Nick better and when you see the film, you can't picture anyone else playing but Affleck. Similar to Mark Wahlbergs role in "The Fighter", Affleck serves as a vehicle for the meatier supporting performances of the characters around him.
That brings us to Rosamund Pike and her star making turn as Amy Dunne. Now, Amy is not a supporting role by any stretch, although you could argue she is in the first half, because if there is a true leading performance in this film it is her as Amy, one of the most interesting and complex female characters in recent memory. Pike has been around the business, but she falls under that category of "that girl from that thing" as she doesn't necessarily have any distinguishing features that set her apart from the other stunningly beautiful actresses of Hollywood. That is why she was the perfect person to play Amy. Amy Dunne is an enigma, the image of perfection and someone who has always managed to blend in anywhere and with anyone. She has been brought up to believe she was perfect (her parents profited off of her with a series of children's books known as the "Amazing Amy" series), and it has become part of her D.N.A. to manipulate herself around different people and different environments so she can never shake that image. Pike gives the right amount of sexy and sadistic...beautiful and bat sh** crazy.
We also get good work from Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry (surprisingly) but it all comes back to the man behind the camera, Mr. Fincher. Fincher just seems to do things differently from other directors and that's what has set him apart from others and why many of his films have come to have cult followings over the years. It is also why he has become one of the most wanted directors, not just by film companies, but by actors. People have recognized Finchers' unique ability to read an audience and know what to do to give them not only what they want, but what they need to see/hear/ and feel with his films. This is why he does things a little differently then others. This is why we see the likes of Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who both won an Oscar for working on a previous Fincher film, The Social Network) because he knows they provide the "right" feel and sound for the film. This is why we find ourselves laughing throughout the film, not because what is happening is funny, but because it's uncomfortable and awkward and it's the only way we can find ourselves reacting to what happens on screen. This is why we do find the curious casting choices like Harris, Perry, and others. Not because he knows they will bring people into theaters, that is what Affleck is for, but because they are right.
What Fincher has done to us in this film is question the whole idea of marriage. This is the most dangerous date movie ever made because you will walk out of it forever questioning the intentions for your significant other. Anyone who is married knows that they have roles to play here and there and as the marriage goes on and you become used to your mate and their tendencies, where do you go from there? It may seem obvious because you would think that it is your mate and their tendencies that made you want to marry them in the first place, but does it all become an act after awhile? Is marriage merely a competition between two people to see who can not disappoint the other. Do we create these standards for marriage that see us always trying to perfect ourselves so that our loved ones don't begin to resent us and feel superior. "Gone Girl" makes marriage seem like a constant dick measuring contest and that it's really two people always trying to one up the other to prove they are the better spouse. It's exhausting to witness and think about....which makes it so....damn...good.
Hope the rest of your date goes well!.....