October 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Brad Pitt, Shia Labeouf, Logan Lerman
Directed by: David Ayer (“End of Watch”)
Written by: David Ayer (“End of Watch”)

In “Fury,” we are introduced to the crew of a World War II tank called Fury led by Staff Sergeant Don Collier (Brad Pitt). When they are sent on a mission that leaves them against all odds, they are forced with a decision to continue forth and make a stand or to get away. Like Ayer’s previous film “End of Watch,” it is gritty in its portrayal of violence and danger. Unlike “End of Watch,” however, it doesn’t quite build the relationships and deeper meaning that it sets out to.

In recent years, Pitt has shown himself to be a strong lead actor and that is evident in “Fury.” It certainly isn’t as meaty of a role as Billy Beane in “Moneyball” but Pitt is able to run away with his screen time as the man in charge of the tank. Most of the actors, in fact, elevate the material with their fine performances with Shia Labeouf and Jon Bernthal in particular standing out as well defined characters and performances. Logan Lerman’s character makes sense in context, but he remains the weakest performer in the cast adding little to the somewhat played out character type of the reluctant and innocent young soldier thrust into battle.

“Fury” does indeed shows the horrors of war, especially in scenes where they must indoctrinate Lerman’s character to his surroundings, but the general camaraderie of those within the tank feels undercooked and sold short. There is also the case of a severely underwritten screenplay from director and writer David Ayer. While his actors deliver the script deftly, nothing ever really scratches the surface beyond general war movie clichés. Most troubling is a section in the middle of the film where Pitt and Lerman commandeer a room in a building and attempt to create some level of a normal life. It is clear what Ayer is trying to attempt with this scene, but it goes on for what feels like about half an hour (and it may very well be) and never really pays off. It’s certainly an odd decision and use of time.

Where “Fury” is able to succeed is in its character designs on a very general level and in its action sequences. There are a few battle scenes (two in particular, one involving two tanks facing off against each other and one standoff) that are able to build tension and show the intensity of war. Unfortunately for the film, any time it attempts to dig below the surface, it comes up empty. Even when characters deviate from their archetypes, they seem sudden and unearned. It isn’t the kiss of death, as the characterizations, performances and action sequences are enough to make the film entertaining enough, but the film as a whole feels completely underdeveloped.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

October 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky (debut)
Written by: Stephen Chbosky (“Rent”)

As the music swelled and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” cut to black, I felt a twinge of regret that the teenage version of myself didn’t have this film (or the book it was adapted from, for that matter) to both obsess over and hold up as a parallel to my high school life, accurate or not. What self-diagnosed misunderstood teenage male can’t identify with being an outsider or suffering through the ultimate tragedy that is unrequited love?

While I venture on into my 30s, though, these things become embarrassing relics from a life gone by. What is it about high school that activates the mopey, me-against-the-world response in some people? Life wasn’t that bad, you know? As such, if you’re a pre-Millennial, “Wallflower” may make you wonder why you were such an insufferable teenage ass.

Written and directed by the book’s author Stephen Chbosky, “Wallflower” begins with Charlie’s (Logan Lerman) first day of high school. An undercurrent of tragedy and awkwardness follow Charlie as he ventures into the maw of early-’90s teenage culture, where no one has a cell phone and the preferred method of expressing your deepest feelings for someone was via mix tape. Friendless and skittish, Charlie takes a chance and latches on to gay class clown Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his beautiful, music-savvy step-sister Sam (Emma Watson). Charlie finds happiness in both friends and in school, thanks to the attention of English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) fostering Charlie’s love of reading with a steady diet of angst-filled teenage literature like “Catcher in the Rye” and “A Separate Peace.” And all the while Charlie finds himself falling in love with the unavailable Sam.

While the modern teenage experience may remains timeless, the details add a timeliness that might trip up the casual viewer. The gentle suggestion of the time period, the early-’90s, both helps and hurts the world of the film. The production design mostly avoids obvious fashion choices, sparing the audience from reliving the wardrobe styles of “Saved by the Bell,” but the pre-smartphone lifestyle may be difficult for today’s teens to grasp. After all, one of the plot points involve the main characters not being able to figure out what the name of the song was they heard on the radio once. Nevermind that’s it’s obviously David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Even this grizzled 33-year-old can can just barely remember when that was a real world problem–which is a recurring theme, as it were.

In the end, though, “Wallflower” has the vibe of a sad rock song: maybe all the details don’t line up exactly with your life, but when one or two do, damn…it feels like it’s speaking only to you.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

February 12, 2010 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Sean Bean
Directed by: Chris Columbus (“I Love You, Beth Cooper”)
Written by: Craig Titley (“Cheaper by the Dozen”)

Greek mythology might be all the rage right now, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be dumbed down into video-game type scenarios and storytelling. That’s exactly what “Percy Jackson” is guilty of. The film doesn’t do any of its fantasy elements justice and all the characters feel like they’ve only been written for a Disney Channel demographic.