Film Friday #207

Fury (2014)

In the dying moments of WWII in Germany,  US Sargent Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) commands is assigned a new gunner to join his tank crew in the form of grass-green administrator, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). Collier, his crew and their tank, nicknamed Fury, have managed to survive the war by sticking together and being willing to do whatever it takes to face down the enemy so they’re not particularly thrilled to have Norman on board. Not only is he nervous and scared but he has a set of scruples that the others have long-since abandoned in the reality of war. Fury trundles through German village after German village forcing surrender until Collier is sent to defend a set of crossroads from the advancing German army, which is by this stage mostly made up of kids and old men. Except this time its an SS battalion, the tank has broken down and the only thing in the way is five men and their refusal to quit. As exciting as Fury’s final battle is, this film is not about that. It’s more about the brutality of war as well as its brutalising effects. Throughout the film I could not help wondering how Collier, Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal) and Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Peña) would ever readjust to civilian life after what they’ve seen and done which is what I feel the real story is. This is reflected in their constant refrain that life in the tank is “the best job I ever had” as well as their initial harsh treatment of Norman because he reminds them of what they have become. They are more connected now to each other than they could ever be to their families who have not been through the experiences they have. This is what spurs on their willingness to face an unwinnable final stand. Pitt gives a powerful and brooding performance and is ably supported by the vulnerable Lerman, brutal Bernthal, fatherly Peña and surprsingly strong LaBeouf (I really do think he’s turning a corner). I am a bit of a sucker for a war film and this one really does not disappoint. While it might be pretty straightforward in terms of plot development it’s got heart, tension and real power without shying away from the devastation and senselessness of war. 4/5

But they said Justice Beaver wasn't a real beaver!

But they said Justice Beaver wasn’t a real beaver!

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Continuing on the war movie theme, Mr O convinced me that I should move on from WWII to Vietnam and check out this classic, which I have somehow never seen despite it being directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola and being in the IMDB top 250. Apocalypse Now follows  Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) as he is deployed on a classified mission to track down and eliminate Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has gone rogue in Cambodia. Willard meets up and is transported by a boat crew captained by Chief Phillips (Albert Hall) and staffed by a collection of young and very green recruits. As the boat heads into the jungle Willard studies Kurtz, becoming more and more fascinated with this seemingly model officer but nothing can prepare him for what is waiting in Cambodia. In a similar fashion to Fury this film is about the inhumanity of war and the effect that behaving inhumanely has on individuals. There is one particular scene where Willard meets Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) who is supposed to assist him with his mission. Instead of being concerned with the action at hand his focus is on getting to surf the beach the fighting is happening on and this really stood out for me. Everyone is distracted, unfocused, disorganised and left to their own devices, which makes the whole war operation come across as disturbingly shambolic. Sheen gives an arresting performance as a man wrestling with his own demons while mindlessly following a mission he’s not sure he agrees with, which is backed up by a dark turn from Brando, who steals the show playing Kurtz as both caught up in philosophy and ferociously brutal. Of course the incredible cinematography and visionary exposition in terms of the direction has to be mentioned but it’s hard not to wonder if Coppola has toppled ever so slightly onto the side of self-indulgence. Well-deserving of its cult war movie status but not quite the best I’ve ever seen. 4/5

Willard had taken swamp stalking to a new level

Willard had taken swamp stalking to a new level

The Giant Mechanical Man (2012)

Tim (Chris Messina) is a street performer who dresses up as a giant mechanical man in an attempt to highlight the robotic way that people go through their lives, disconnected from everyone else. Janice (Jenna Fischer) is a disaffected temp sleepwalking her way through her uneventful, almost solitary life. In the same week that Tim’s girlfriend (Lucy Punch) leaves him, Janice loses her job and is forced to move in with her married sister, Jill (Malin Akerman). Both end up working at the zoo and soon a friendship with the potential for romance starts to blossom. But Jill won’t stop attempting to set Janice up with her self-help guru friend, Doug (Topher Grace) and both are afraid to share their feelings. As much as The Giant Mechanical Man is trying to pass itself off as some kind of deep, quirky, indie thing it’s really just a slightly less annoying romcom – meet cute follows some sort of misunderstanding follows ultimate togetherness. It’s sweet watching Tim and Janice discover each other and Jill and Doug are both satisfyingly awful but there’s nothing new or particularly exciting here that would warrant making a special effort to watch this. 2.5/5

Tim might have gone a little too far with the guyliner

Tim might have gone a little too far with the guyliner

Hercules (1997)

After a prophecy reveals that Hercules (Tate Donovan) the son of Greek gods, Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar) will foil the future plans of  nethergod Hades (James Woods) to take over Olympus, Hades decides to make him mortal and get rid of him. But when Hades’ minions, Pain (Bobcat Goldthwaite) and Panic (Matt Frewer) get it wrong Hercules ends up banished to earth but with super strength. This doesn’t make his life with his adoptive parents easy since he’s forever destroying everything in his pathwake. So when Hercules finds out his true parentage he decides to train with Philoctetes (Danny De Vito) in the hope of becoming a true hero and returning home. But performing great feats doesn’t necessarily make you a hero and when Hades realises Hercules is still alive he’s not going to let his plans go quietly. Regular readers of this blog will no that I’m not a great one for Disney and Hercules didn’t do much to change my mind. It has one good song and Pain and Panic are pretty funny but for the rest it’s a bit flat and lacking in real magic and I quickly got bored. It also massively bugged me that Hercules just ditched his adoptive parents without a look back despite the fact that they raised and cared for him for most of his life. The screenplay must have been written by one of those kids who grows up secretly believing they’re adopted and their parents are secretly mega rich. Meh. 2/5

Hercules immediately regretted watching "The Red Wedding"

Hercules immediately regretted watching “The Red Wedding”

10 Comments

  1. This Hercules movie gets such bad reviews from everybody. It kind of disappoints me. I remember watching the flick over and over again as a kid. I loved it from what I can remember (and I actually still remember a few scenes).

    I wonder if I would see it as crappy if I watched it now

    1. Abbi

      I loved it when it first came out but it’s just so “by the numbers”. It feels like no love or care was put into it./

  2. Apocalypse Now has been on my Shame List, so I’m wondering if I need to watch that one next or soon, since it seems to be so beloved and enjoyed by so many people!

    I’ve also heard rather mixed reviews on Fury, but most of them seem to be positive.

    I loved Hercules as a kid, but I bet I probably wouldn’t dig it as much now! Ha! Nice reviews, Abbi!

    1. Abbi

      I think you’d really enjoy Apocalypse Now. It’s really intense.

      I can see why some people might not like Fury but for me it was a classic war film that managed the line between brutality and bravery really well.

  3. Awesome picks here. I was such a fan of Fury, it was just… amazing.

    1. Abbi

      I didn’t have amazingly high hopes for Fury funnily enougn but it was outstanding. An instant addition to my favourite war movies list.

  4. Hercules sucks. I always say I hate war movies then end up liking them so I suppose I should watch Fury at some point. Am I seriously all the way back to November?? I need to quit my job & just read blogs. 😉

    1. Abbi

      I find if I don’t dedicate half an hour to reading blogs per day I actually can’t keep up. It took me the Christmas break to get through my backlog! War movies are tough because when they’re bad they’re terrible but when they’re good they’re unbeatable.

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