Friday, August 19, 2022

Tag: Jon Bernthal

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Review – 2.5 out of 5 Stars

I feel like this is a film I should’ve loved and I have no doubt many will end up loving this movie in a way I couldn’t. The storyline of the film sounds like the potential for a sweet coming of age drama for cinephiles. As a teen and a cinephile, there was a possibility for something here that could’ve affected me on a deeper level like Boyhood or Moonrise Kingdom. There’s at least something clever and ambitious that could’ve been made here that goes beyond the other teen cancer dramas like The Fault in our Stars and so on. Ironically, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl ends up being an empty (albeit somewhat funny) experience that fails to go beyond the stereotypes and clichés it promises to break throughout.

Greg (Thomas Mann) is an awkward high school student who finds himself free from any social group at his school. Instead, he and his friend Earl (RJ Cyler) spend their time making these short parodies of classic movies. Sockwork Orange, Pooping Tom and 2:48 PM Cowboy are just of a few of the names they have made up for their projects. A girl named Rachel (Olivia Cooke) at Greg’s school has cancer so his mom forces him to go and hang out with her. Out of there first awkward meeting grows a surprising friendship between the two of them. When Rachel’s treatment takes a turn for the worse, Greg and Earl decide to make a movie about her.

From what I’ve said so far, it definitely seems like something you’ve seen before, whether it’s the teen cancer aspect of The Fault in our Stars or the remaking of classic movies aspect of Be Kind, Rewind. What makes the movie work so well for the first half is its sense of humor and its lack of effort in making anything seem too serious. The movie acknowledges the clichés of the movie and goes out of its way to mock them and promise that it isn’t going to be that type of movie.


Things like title cards that say Day 1 of doomed relationship and a narration from Greg that tells you how this is going to be a different film makes you certain that this is all leading to something that is new and unseen before, the film will be to cancer dramas what Cabin in the Woods was to horror films. And while the film is doing this riff, it’s actually pretty hilarious. These moments when the film is playing for laughs feel energetic and witty and they’re packed with a lot of clever characters like Greg’s dad (Nick Offerman) and his history teacher Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal), as well as some fun spoofs of classic films. They seem to make fun of and go beyond these clichés you would expect and these areas felt so sarcastic and critical in a way I’ve never seen a movie like this do before.

Sadly, this is one of those films that starts off with so much energy and originality and slowly loses it as the movie goes on. In the 3rd act, the movie takes this sharp turn for the worst as it begins to present to you all of these terrible clichés that you’ve seen before in movies. We get this forced third act break up where Greg stops seeing Rachel. He then gets into this unneeded, unnecessary fight with Earl that doesn’t pay off. We also get scenes where Greg is yelling at his mom and Mr. McCarthy. We get this lazy, uninspired scene four times in a row and by that point; there isn’t any sincerity to what they’re doing. The movie ends up doing the exact thing it’s promised to go beyond throughout it. And it’s done in a way that doesn’t even feel well written or genuine. The “powerful” moments here are underwritten and lack the charm and effort that even The Fault in our Stars put into these scenes.

That’s not the only thing the movie lies to the audience about. One of my biggest problems with the movie relates to a gigantic spoiler so I’ll try to keep it as vague as possible. The movie is consistently telling you that it’s not going to end the way you think it’s going to end, and then it ends the way you think it’s going to end and it turns out that Greg’s been lying to you the whole time. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon tried to explain it in the Q&A but it was too late at that point. Doing this is such a cop out, you’re being blatantly dishonest to your audience and you’re obviously doing it to get a reaction out of them when it does end up happening. This ends up ruining what should be this touching and beautiful scene at the end between Greg and Rachel. It’s astonishing, this movie does so much to make you feel that it’s funnier and more honest than those other teen cancer dramas and when you finally trust it, it ruins its promise and proceeds to perform these clichés in a way that’s repetitive and manipulative as possible.


On a side note, one thing about this movie that’s great is that regardless of quality, this is one of those movies that feels like the start of potential with its director and its cast. The director is clearly inspired here by the filmmaking techniques of numerous directors. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon still manages to breathe some originality and energy into the film in terms of some great editing and some beautiful cinematography. He even got Brian Eno for the fantastic soundtrack to the movie. Thomas Mann does a great job playing Greg and it’s a realistic performance of a teenager going through this uncomfortable and strange part of his life. My favorite performance in the film would probably end up go to RJ Cyler as Earl. He is the most comedic of any of the characters and when the movie tries to go really serious, he’s one of the only ones who seemed to pull it off successfully. Olivia Cooke is also worth mentioning as Rachel, she has some nice chemistry with Greg and she makes of this character that could’ve really quickly become this walking stereotype. I think the young director and his young cast will all most likely be moving on to something superior to this in the years to come.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl features strong performances, good direction and sense of humor in the first two acts that makes it fun to watch at first. Sadly, the film tries to be this bold, knowing departure from dramas about teens with cancer and it doesn’t pay off into something that feels stronger or any better than those films. It’s like if a snarky teenager decided to join a football game after spending an hour making fun of it from the bleachers. Ironically, I’d probably prefer The Fault in Our Stars over this movie because at least that film knew what type of movie it was but still managed to be consistent and surprisingly touching by the end. This film spends so much time mocking the clichés of a film like that that when it asks you to go along with it as it performs these clichés, it feels really unauthentic and lazy.


Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 6/12/2015

Rating: PG-13

Cast: Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Jon Bernthal, Thomas Mann, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Molly Shannon, Matt Bennett and RJ Cyler

Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Screenplay by: Jesse Andrews

Based on the novel by: Jesse Andrews

Fury Review – 3.5 out of 5 Stars

David Ayer is somewhat of an undecipherable filmmaker for me. With his last movie End of Watch, it was the performances and the writing that allowed me to look over bad direction. In his latest movie Fury, it was the performances and the direction that allowed me to look over the bad writing. As bland and unsurprising as the story and characters are, Ayer’s clear passion for an accurate look at World War II shines through and manages to shine some great performances from specifically Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf along the way.

An enlisted typist named Norman (Logan Lerman) is brought in as assistant gunner in a World War II US tank called Fury after the crew’s gunner is killed. He isn’t the most brave or strong person but thanks to the cruel, enraged, sadistic crew of the Fury tank run by a sergeant who calls himself Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), his eyes are opened to the barbaric, ugly nature of war.

The Beetfield Battle with the Fury Tank in Columbia Pictures' FURY.

I wouldn’t call myself that knowledgeable about World War II but the movie seemed extremely realistic about the subject. The movie looks as though David Ayer wanted to make the most raw, dirty war movie possible. The Fury tank used here was actually a real life US tank from World War II and all of the costumes, settings, visual effects and choices in shots put you into the period. He does a good job making the war zone look like hell with the somber music by Steven Price and the bloody, grim, stylized cinematography. Most of the time the movie is taking place somewhere that is grimy and twisted and filled with nonstop gore. The movie is accurate in what it’s trying to get across but it also takes you quite a bit into the sheer adrenaline boosting fights.

The war scenes in my opinion are close to flawless. The sheer work that went into it shows and it helps you to become absorbed by everything that is going on. I respect how David Ayer decided to do something different and not do the shaky cam action revolutionized by Saving Private Ryan. There is so much efficient editing, great shots, outstanding cinematography and constant action going on and I really feel like this might be one of the violent looks at war that you’ve ever seen. The sound design is flawless, some of the best I’ve heard for a movie this year. You get to hear every step, cut, shot, blast and yell with the utmost, crisp clarity possible. The gore used in the movie is very genuine looking and there’s so much of it that’s going on that by the end you feel you’ll probably feel you’ve experienced one of the most disgusting, bleak places on earth.

Yet for all the sadness going around, you’re still cheering when Norman blows up a Nazi. This isn’t a bad thing at all but rather an honest perspective of how humans react in this kind of ordeal. Ayer realizes the grave, darkness of World War II but he also understands the purely visceral, heart pumping things that would drive a man to do it in the first place. You understand what is going on is grotesque and you get plenty of moments to see that its horrific but when you’re right there standing on the edge of life or death in that moment, you take some sort of warped, heart pumping excitement from what is happening because you have no time to think about whether its right or wrong, this is an aspect of war we rarely get to see. Yes they are in hell and David Ayer definitely makes sure that we see that it was not at all glorious but we also experience the visceral, deeply human thrills that would come with standing on the brink of survival. To the movies credit, there are a lot of slow moments and many of the characters are very terrible people so it helps prove that this is about people and the things they do when they’re in it.

The performances are all quite good. Brad Pitt is giving one of his most energetic performances in years as the sergeant of Fury and much like his character in Inglorious Bastards, he plays a sort of symbol for the message the director is getting across. Wardaddy is the perfect, John Wayne, American soldier gone mad, destroyed by years of mayhem and bloodshed. Shia (I’m not famous anymore) LaBeouf is excellent as the stereotypical bible carrying, southerner who uses religion to hold on to his sanity. Michael Peña as always is very likable in this movie and adds sympathy to someone who is probably the least interesting character of the entire group. I actually think Jon Bernthal was amazing in the movie as Grady but I also feel he was given the most poorly written character in the film. Grady isn’t so much a character as a plot device used when the director needs someone there to be angry or yelling, that’s the extent of that person’s identity. It may not be shocking as his character had the biggest transformation in the script but Logan Lerman as Norman gives the best performance in the entire movie. The way he starts as this weak, terrified kid and ends as this brutal, angry killing machine equally to Wardaddy shows the ways war can morph someone. His best scene in the movie is the one where you can actually spot the second where he succumbs to what is going on around him, it’s angry, it’s bold but it’s quite possibly something that any of us would do if put to that task.


The movie is at its best when the characters are there in the battlefield, in the moment. The screenplay very much falls short when it tries to accomplish anything other than the theme at hand. When the characters are walking around conversing about religion and life you get to see a few of the cracks in Ayers ability to write compelling dialogue. There’s an extremely long dinner scene that happens halfway through that no doubt many critics will praise, I personally thought it was unnecessarily long. It starts off as ok but it goes on for so long that by the end I didn’t really see a point to it and I don’t feel it had a good enough pay off to such a huge amount of buildup. Unlike Brad Pitt’s previous war movie Inglorious Bastards, David lacks Tarantino’s ability to use long periods of dialogue to build up intensity and character, here long, conversations fizzle out and just sort of end. Ayer’s writing is okay when they’re in the tank or on the battlefield because he does a good job handling what people would do in that situation but when he tries to do these big scenes that talk about deep topics that have been discussed to a better extent in war movies before, it comes off as something that David Ayer thought was more profound and original than it really is.

Also for as raw and realistic as the movie is technically, the bare story is disappointingly predictable. Despite the help good performances, many of the characters are generic and you could probably predict just by watching the trailer who’s going to live and who’s going to die. As I previously discussed, Ayer tries to add moments of witty banter that come off more as tropes from previous war movies. Throughout, the story hits predictable beats that don’t come as more than just that like when the unlikable guy shows a moment of kindness before his death or when the one tank against a large group of soldiers. Technically, the movie is stunning but once you take the people away from the action you are left with what is a very simple, underwritten screenplay that frustratingly lacks the edge of what is happening around it.

A good cast and David Ayers accurate, intense portrayal of war helps him get away with the weak, mediocre script. Fury is the adrenaline of a life or death situation from the perspective of a newly recruited, World War II soldier who is much like us.


Review by: Ryan M.

Release Date: 10/17/2014

Rating: R

Cast: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal

Directed by: David Ayer

Written by: David Ayer

Fury (2014)*


Title: Fury
Rating: R
Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal
Release Date: 10/17/2014
Running Time: 134 Minutes


April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

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Snitch (2013)


TITLE: Snitch

RELEASE DATE: 2/22/2013


A father goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal.

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