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 Michael Bergeron
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Fury, Rudderless and MW&C

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The phrase hell hath no fury comes to mind when watching Fury, an action drama about five guys in an Allied tank on a mission in Germany during the last months of WWII.

Specifically these troops tool around in a M4 Sherman Tank with a 76mm gun that has the name “Fury” painted on its turret. Brad Pitt, Michael Peña, Joe Bernthal, Logan Lerman, and Shia LaBeaouf star in an ensemble that allows each one to contribute to their efforts while establishing their gruff personalities. Much of the narrative is seen through the eyes of the youngest solider, a neophyte played with wide-eyed horror by Lerman.

Helmed by David Ayers, from his own script, Fury moves from grossly violent battle sequences to long periods of silence accentuated by dialogue. It’s like the action scenes are so intense that Ayers wants to step away for a lyrical interlude (that includes dinner) between two of the characters and a couple of German women they have just liberated. Other hyperkinetic set pieces include a one-on-one face off between the heroes in their tank taking on a German Tiger Tank, as well as a ballsy confrontation with a superior number of enemy troops at an important crossroads.

13905-3Fury is at its best when moving back and forth from its visceral meditative moments to its macho war histrionics, always keeping the audience slightly off balance.

Rudderless, a small indie opening this weekend at the Sundance Cinemas Houston, offers an impressive performance from Billy Crudup as a grieving father whose son was killed during a university shooting. As directed by actor William H. Macy in his feature film helming debut we are left with a sense of ambiguity regarding Crudup’s motives. At first he reacts as any concerned parent, going to the school, and to his son’s dorm room looking for answers. It’s a bit into Rudderless until we realize (as does Crudup) that his son was the shooter.

Time passes and down the road Crudup has left the rat race, his exec job and lives on a boat taking odd construction jobs to make ends meet. Crudup has taken the music and lyrics that his son had written and reimagined them at a local club during open mic night. Anton Yelchin plays a musician that convinces Crudup to start a band. Selena Gomez, Laurence Fishburne, Felicity Huffman, and Macy co-star.

Naturally the crux of Rudderless is when Crudup will admit that the songs he’s singing aren’t his. Rudderless actually has an upbeat tone despite its grim undercoat.download

Men, Women & Children has to be admired more than liked. People use the term glacial pacing to suggest something is slow and lumbering. However in MW&C writer/director Jason Reitman (adapting from the novel by Chad Kultgen) uses the pace of a snail to examine people who are on the chasm of high-speed technology.

An ensemble drama with a lot of top talent, MW&C unfolds with interlocking set pieces where we view students and their parents and how they use social media. There’s a porn addiction theme that’s handled in a serious manner more befitting Shame than Sex Tape. What Reitman has created is clearly intended to be food for thought, not unlike a several-course meal with small portions. Men, Women & Children more times than not reminded me of a foreign film that isn’t concerned with hitting action beats every ten minutes. There’s a scintilla of truth that runs throughout the film. You get what Reitman is saying about modern texting and emails and privacy, yet you find yourself drawn to the internet like a moth to the flame regardless of the risk of dehumanization.

- Michael Bergeron

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