Thursday, December 11, 2014
Son Of The Hopper
When your film covers a subject like war, it tends to be a double-edge sword. On the one hand, you get to tell some of the most emotionally gripping and captivating stories about human struggle and how that struggle can change a man. On the other hand, it can become easily cliché and overdone when it is a subject that has been covered multiple times.
Or you could try to do so many things that your film ends up having no identity at all.
This the problem with "Fury," as it depicts the end of World War II from the perspective of one small tank and its men marching through Germany and killing as many Nazis along the way. Over that time, they acquire Norman, a new assistant driver and gunner who is fresh to the war and can't bring himself to kill anyone. As the film progesses, we see this kid develop into a machine of sorts and get to know his fellow soldiers.
Where "Fury" falls apart is the pacing and where the film chooses to focus the majority of its time on. Rather than developing the personalities of the soldiers in this tiny and worn-out tank, we get them interacting with German civilians to show they're not all bad. At one point, the film spends more than twenty minutes just to watch Brad Pitt and his crew have a nice meal and belittle a German teenage girl.
I couldn't even tell you the names of the main characters, because they are either never used or mumbled thus making it impossible to understand without subtitles.
War movies tend to take a specific angle on war, like "The Best Years Of Our Lives" focusing on how these soldiers come back to society, or "The Hurt Locker" driving the point that war is much more subtle and manipulative game than it once was. Rarely a film like "Apocalypse Now" can pull off the basic angle of "War is hell" but that is normally to broad of a subject to discuss in one film.
"Fury" attempts to pull this off, and does not succeed.
It shows our heroes being merciless killers, but then soft-hearted gentlemen. Norman does not want to kill Nazis because it isn't right, but a scene later he says he loves killing them. The movie tries to humanize Nazis, only for them to be little more than trophies and bodies to Americans.
"Fury" cannot make its mind on what it wants to say about war. As a result, it ends up saying everything that has already been said about war, so what we got is nothing new.
Overall, "Fury" has problems with its pacing, characterization and message, but it serves as a nice distraction for two and a half hours. It does not do anything offensive but offers little to no substance. Rent this one on DVD if you're interested in World War II films, but watch it with subtitles.
Final Grade: C
"Horrible Bosses 2" (2014)
I've been a huge fan of Christoph Waltz since he was hunting down Jews in "Inglorious Basterds." The role solidified him as an intense actor who does not have to above a whisper to be intimidating. "Django Unchained" proved that he could be a multifaceted actor by being both nuturing and still threatening.
Waltz is essentially the male equivalent of Jennifer Lawrence, except that Waltz can be the bad guy as much as the good guy.
My problem with Waltz though is that he has only proven himself when being directed by the same man - Quentin Tarantino. Sometimes the bond between actor and director can be so strong that it can lead a decent actor to give a stunning performance. Perhaps those two were due more to Tarantino's directing and not Waltz's acting.
"Horrible Bosses 2" proves that it is not on Tarantino. Christoph Waltz is just that captivating as an actor.
The original "Horrible Bosses" was a surprise for me. I did not expect much out of it, only a few laughs here and there. I came out of it being entertained more by how the main characters learned everything about murder and crime from movies and being blown away when it does not work in life. Solid performances by the main cast of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, as well as Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston, helped propel the movie forward and make it stick out in my memory.
Unfortunately, the atmosphere of the first film is lacking from "Horrible Bosses 2" and the film does not offer the laughs that the first film did (surprising, I know), but it more than makes up for it with the new characters that are introduced and their actors.
Nick, Kurt and Dale (Bateman, Sudeikis and Day) have all decided to quit their jobs and create their own company, allowing them to invent a new tool called "The Shower Buddy." This leads them to a partnership with a company that will market their product to the public, led by a father-son business (Waltz and Chris Pine). After the trio invests $500,000 into the project, the company turns on them and intends to buy them out, leaving them with nothing. With nowhere else to turn, they decide the next best option is to kidnap the son and hold him for ransom.
Both Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine steal the show. Waltz is only in a few scenes and is not given much to work with other than being the big business man, but there is a certain charisma that makes him fun to watch. It is easy to see how he got to his place when after Kurt threatens him, Waltz gets in his face and calmly tells him about the world of business.
Pine, however, soaks up every scene he is in. Always a grin on his face, always scheming new ways to get what he wants, never too sure where his alliances stand. He even sides with the trio for the kidnap plan just to mess with his father.
This makes the relationship between Waltz and Pine one of the best parts, as Pine feels that his father neglects him and cares more about money than his son. But at an early point in the film, Waltz says that he makes new enemies every day and that is merely how business operates. It just seems that Waltz never guessed one of those enemies would be his own son.
I guess that's just business for you.
However, outside of Waltz and Pine, there is not much to "Horrible Bosses 2." While the plot is not a rehash of the first film, it does rely much more on the relationship between the three leads and the same types of jokes, in particular Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis talking over each other. It becomes grating and annoying as this becomes Day's character, never contributing anything other than yapping while others talk.
This only happened a few times in "Horrible Bosses" and it was forgivable in that film due to the scarcity. But in this film, following a single conversation becomes impossible when everyone is trying to talk at once. At that point, it's just noise.
Overall though, there were parts that I enjoyed in "Horrible Bosses 2" but it certainly was not the comedy. Many of the same jokes are used in both films and the characters become annoying after a while. But Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine more than make up for it with their charisma and excitement. If anything else, watch this movie for their performances.
Final Grade: C+