Fury

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DIR: David Ayer • WRI: Juliette Towhidi, Cecelia Ahern PRO: Simon Brooks, Robert Kulzer  ED: Tony Cranstoun DES: Matthew Davies CAST: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal

War is bad. This mantra has been hammered into the minds of cinemagoers since the dawn of the medium. Not that we’ve ever actually learned from it. With violence so prominent in not just popular entertainment but in the very world around us it’s easy to become desensitised to a man’s screams as he writhers in agony on screen. Every now and again, however, a film is made that offers such a raw, unflinching insight into the actual horrific reality of warfare that it promises to linger in the minds of its audience long after the credits roll. David Ayer’s Fury is one such film.

It’s April 1945 and the Allies are pushing ever closer into the epicentre of the Nazi regime in the German heartland. Sergeant Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) commands a five-man Sherman tank called ‘Fury’ through a ravished countryside; his team find themselves surrounded by death and brutality – but it’s just another day’s work for the battle-weary crew.

Fresh faced Norman Ellison (Lerman) has spent the war in a cosy clerical position but the death of the Fury’s co-driver propels him into a position with a lot more action, excitement and, of course, danger whether he wants it or not. As Ellison faces combat for the first time he discovers the animalistic savagery that conflict induces in people, soldiers and civilians alike.

One could say there is a lack of subtly in Ayer’s approach to violence; there’s never any allusion to it, we get it served straight up cold on a plate. For the most part I would say this is a fair argument. That tank looks like it’s about to roll over a soldiers head… You’re going to see that soldiers head explode in a bloody mess no question. People being burned alive… Ayer’s got you covered and then some. But let’s be honest, the men on the battlefield were not spared a quick camera cut away from their friend’s bullet ridden bodies so why should we? Stuff like that happened in WWII. It happens today. For all the gore in this film (and yes it is exceptionally gory, you know, like war) it never felt like it was being exploitative. Ayer captures the audience in a vice, proclaiming ‘See! See! This is what happens in war!’ The film’s imagery is shocking yet it is by far its strongest element. Because the film has problems. Boy, does it have problems.

Many fascinating true stories of bravery against impossible odds emerged from the hell that was the Second World War. Fury is not one of them. The events of the film are not historical fact they are the product of Ayer’s imagination. Now, of course, not all films have to be based on a true story just because they’re set in a historical time period. However, it does make the film seem all the more ego-stroking.

One of the biggest themes the film was trying to convey was that war consists of individuals with personalities, likes, dislikes, friends, lovers and what not rather than just faceless masses of marching brigades. And yet the humanity of the American characters is only confirmed through the dehumanisation of the German soldiers. We’re supposed to feel deeply saddened when an Allied troop dies, yet feel a sense of smug satisfaction when a soldier on the Nazi side perishes – it’s an uncomfortable contrast and somewhat undermines the overarching concerns of the film.

Ayer had the perfect opportunity to explore the grey area of conflict but instead decides to stick with the comfortable (but inaccurate) ‘we’re the good guys; they’re the bad guys’ shtick. Disturbingly enough it also means that the atrocities committed by American forces-such as gunning down children are somehow justified in this context. At one point the by now not so dewy-eyed Ellison actually screams out “Fuck you Nazis! Fuck you!” A lack of nuance in the depiction of violence is forgivable but this is just bad dialogue.

The film is also riddled with clichés. Wardaddy is the gruff, all-American, Nazi-killing badass, who is also intelligent, thoughtful and even sensitive. Pitt delivers a pretty solid performance but it’s difficult sometimes not to hark back to his other Nazi-killing performance in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds. You must agree: if you make more than one Nazi film where you’re the slaughtering hero it’s a fetish. Lerman is also quite watchable but his character does stink of the old younger-boy-joins-an-established-group-to-prove-himself-and-is-then-taken-under-the-wing-of-the-leader-cos’-he’s-like-the-son-he-never-had trope. All the other characters also play to a certain ’type’- the ignorant swamp hillbilly, the pious preacher (though I must say LaBeouf gives it his all here) and the ethnic token. That said, the tension that would arise between five men stuck for so long in such an enclosed space is captured surprisingly skilfully. They’ve all been driven a little mad by the horrors they’ve seen yet remain steadfast to their goals and, ultimately, to one another.

We get glimpses of real brilliance and ingenuity in certain parts of this film. It’s just frustrating that Ayer could not sustain this throughout all aspects of Fury, depending on tired clichés to carry the rest. If nothing else, this film will stamp one distinct message into your mind: war is bad.

Ellen Murray

15A (See IFCO for details)

134 minutes

Fury is released 24th October 2014

Fury – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Stuck in Love

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DIR/WRI: Josh Boone • PRO: Judy Cairo • DOP: Tim Orr • ED: Robb Sullivan • DES: John Sanders • Cast: Kristen Bell, Logan Lerman, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins

Stuck in Love spends a year with a broken family finding their voices in a changing world. As with many indie films, they all speak as though they have all the answers, but this is no simple love story. All our characters are struggling with the very idea of love.

 

We meet Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear), a divorced father of two, struggling to match his early writing success following his divorce from Erica (Jennifer Connolly) who, after marrying a younger man apparently still can’t decide where she wants to be.

 

Bill’s children both want to follow in his writing footsteps. His daughter, Sam (Lily Collins) is a devastatingly beautiful yet cynical-in-love young woman who finds herself publishing her first novel whilst attempting to recoil from the advances of die-hard romantic Lou (Logan Lerman).

 

Meanwhile, son Rusty (Nat Wolff) exists in his sister’s shadow. He is struggling to find his voice in writing and life and falls for a girl who needs more help than he realizes. Bill and his children make up a trifecta of romantic misfits. Perhaps it is intentional given his existence in the shadow of his sister’s success, but Wolff unfortunately fades into the background here alongside Connolly.

 

Kristen Bell takes a departure from goofier characters here as Tricia, Bill’s neighbor-with benefits-who takes it upon herself to force Bill back into the dating world. Logan Lerman is a gorgeously executed character here as Lou, who far from being the usual pathetic love-interest, sets upon wooing Sam with wit and intelligence.

 

Stuck in Love is the debut offering from writer/director Josh Boone. This is nothing if not a passion project. We understand implicitly that Boone understands his characters better than most screenwriters, having given each of his actors a ‘care package’ of items (including of course, books) that his characters would love in order for them to get a better sense of the character as they exist in his mind.

 

The film somewhat lacks the intensity of a real purpose driving the story. It is character-driven rather than being driven by narrative. In general, this shouldn’t work on screen but, with Boone’s caring hand, it somehow works. We care enough about each character to want to spend time with them, whether or not they will lead us to any gritty on-screen action.

 

It becomes clear that, despite being unable to write a word of his own prose, Bill is the author of our story here. Bill exists as an observer, rather than a participant, which is ironic given his writing advice to his son:

 

‘A writer is the sum of their experiences. Go get some.’

 

Kinnear shares a beautiful chemistry with Collins who manages the same on-screen mastery.

 

This movie is a must-see for all book-lovers. We learn that that the kind of books our characters read reveals more about each character than any amount of dialogue.

 

Stuck in Love is a charming snapshot of a family in crisis, which teaches us what it means to be part of a family and the way in which people become part of a story. It begins and ends with Thanksgiving in a demonstration of the over-arching theme of the film, that endings can also be beginnings.

 

Ciara O’Brien

15A (see IFCO website for details)

96 mins
 Stuck in Love is released on 14th June 2013

Stuck in Love – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

DIR/WRI: Stephen Chbosky • PRO: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich • DOP: Andrew Dunn • ED: Mary Jo Markey • DES: Inbal Weinberg • Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the highly anticipated coming-of-age drama based on the novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky. The novel has gained almost cult status since its release in 1999. This film adaptation offers us a refreshing new vision as the novel’s author himself takes to the director’s seat. Fans of the hauntingly comedic novel will not be disappointed by Chbosky’s insight with memorable scenes from the book at times outshining their written counterparts.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie, an introverted teen about to make the transition to high school student whilst combatting personal issues. As a fan of Chbosky’s novel, I was somewhat wary of the film, as it was difficult to believe that anyone could perfectly embody the complex personality of Charlie. Thankfully, within the first half hour, it becomes impossible not to fall in love with Logan Lerman. Gangly, awkward and shy but also somehow entirely magnetic, Lerman is a revelation here. So believable is his portrayal that it will doubtlessly be his face that springs to mind the next time I pick up the novel.

Charlie tells his story in a series of letters. As he takes his first tentative steps into high school, he is taken under the wing of two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). From the moment they rescue Charlie by inviting him to sit with them for lunch, we witness the growth of one of the most heart-warming friendships to grace our screens.

Watson officially takes a definitive step away from Harry Potter here as the enthusiastic and effortlessly cool Sam. As we witness Charlie’s growing infatuation, we warm to her. We are even willing to overlook the patchiness of her accent in places. Watson and Lerman certainly steal the show for me, whilst Ezra Miller perfectly embodies the geek-chic ideology that fans have come to love. Here is a high school thriving on outsiders, and Miller is the ultimate outsider as Patrick.

Other stand-out cast members include Paul Rudd as Mr. Anderson, who somehow manages to make the archetype of the inspirational English teacher seem cool, and Nina Dobrev who stars as Charlie’s older sister Candace. In a departure from being chased by mythical television creatures, Dobrev battles her own demons here whilst silently aiding her brother, as their relationship grows stronger.

What sets this apart from other coming-of-age dramas is that it never descends into the total slapstick chaos we have come to associate with the theme.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a rarity in that it is a teen-centric drama that respects the intelligence of its audience. In the same vein as Sixteen Candles, it portrays a new vision of the teen condition. As our protagonist battles with issues like suicide, mental illness and abuse, there is a certain endearing depth here, which takes this story from teen drama to human drama.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a heartfelt love letter to an important snapshot in our lives, and is guaranteed to tug on the heartstrings of even the harshest audience. This is an absolute must-see for anyone who has ever felt the isolation of being a teenage outsider. Anyone who has ever wanted to feel ‘infinite’.

 

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
102mins

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is released on 5th October 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower  –  Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aog8680PVmU

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Cinema Review: The Three Musketeers

All for one... you first

DIR: Paul W.S. Anderson • WRI: Alex Litvak, Andrew Davies • PRO: Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Robert Kulzer • ED: Alexander Berner • DOP: Glen MacPherson • DES: Paul D. Austerberry • CAST: Orlando Bloom, Mads Mikkelsen, Milla Jovovich, Logan Lerman

Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers is daft. This shouldn’t come as any great revelation however. If you’d encountered any promotional material or even noticed the name Paul W.S. Anderson in the previous sentence, you already knew that. And rest assured there will be a plethora of reviews criticizing it for being too daft, too incoherent and too irreverent toward the classic tale.

But heed not their critiques. If anything, The Three Musketeers, by all accounts, should have been a damn sight dafter! I’m not suggesting Muskehounds, though they couldn’t hurt… Don’t mistake me. This is perhaps the best 110 minutes Anderson has directed in the past 15 years, a powder keg of inventive sets, off-kilter humour, and plentiful B-grade action. That’s no criticism, the swashbuckling is generously shot, clear long takes prevailing and sprinkled with ample invention and stuntwork.

It’s ‘trés bonne’, as the Musketeers would say. If they spoke French. Which they assuredly do not. And that’s without even addressing the utterly preposterous 17th century Zeppelins brawling in the skies above Paris. Which, and this point is worth labouring, is utterly preposterous!

In seeming contradiction with the former paragraphs, you’re still left with the impression Mr Anderson was needlessly restrained. Longer, more plentiful swordfights would benefit everyone, while the set pieces lacked just that dash more bombast. Meanwhile the film’s mirth could have been easily corrected by taking James Cordon and kicking him into the Seine!

Unfortunately the cast seems confused as to the film’s tone. Ray Stevenson (Porthos) and Luke Evans (Aramis) are given precious little to do, besides chop and punch extras while Matthew ‘I can’t believe it’s not Clive Owen’ MacFadyen provides a convincing performances as the jilted Athos in an otherwise intentionally unconvincing role.

The pitch is not helped as Milla Jovovich (Milady… yes, Milady) hams it up in what can only be an intentionally derisive effort, Christoph Waltz plays a cardinal, and is less entertaining than that sounds, and Orlando Bloom, instantaneously forgettable as the Duke of Buckingham, proves why he’s not a bigger star.

But an unsteady tone is easily forgiven when it fluctuates between the comical and the absurd. The Three Musketeers would have improved if left to this chaotic dynamic. However, the presence of Logan Lerman’s D’Artagnan tends to sully the proceedings with mush, spouting tired clichés about ‘being yourself’, ‘making mistakes’ and ‘being in love.’

No one really cares Dogtanian! People parted with hard won cash to watch the clashing of steel against the backdrop of exploding…, well, everything. Why else would you see a Paul W.S. Anderson film?!

Unwanted mush and moderation aside, The Three Musketeers is a more amusing, more exhilarating romp than half the overly-solemn crap released this past summer. And despite what anyone might say regarding narrative, characterisation and pacing, this film features a blimp getting stabbed by a church steeple!

It’s fun. It’s humorous. It’s daft. So why not?

Jack McGlynn

Rated 12A(see IFCO website for details)
The Three Musketeers is released on 12th October 2011

The Three Musketeers – Official Website

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