Brad Pitt

Film Review: Allied

by Chad Liffmann on November 23, 2016

Polished, pulpy WWII tale how they used to make’em, for better or worse.

Brad and Marion play the WWII spy game.

Brad and Marion play the WWII spy game.

Like reading a dime novel from off the shelf of your local supermarket, Allied supplies a quick dose of melodrama, suspense, humor, and twists. It’s similarly digested easy, immediately emotional, and just as quickly forgotten. Director Robert Zemeckis has delivered his fair share of sensationalism, from Romancing the Stone to Forrest Gump to The Walk, and many memorable films in between (trust me, you’ve seen a lot of them). My semi-belabored point is, Zemeckis is no stranger to managing exaggerated storylines and overly dramatic plots. In Allied, he sets each scene like a stage play, without any noticeable complexity or vagueness. The complexity is left up to the characters. Yes it may be subtle, but while creating a blatant sense of the time period, the old school art direction also compliments the twists at the heart of the story — after all, this is an elaborate spy game. Pitt and Cotillard bring their serviceable ‘B’ game (not their best work but far from their worst), inflicting just enough charm and charisma into the plot to carry the somewhat nonsensical and ultimately forgettable story forward. 

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Film Review: The Big Short

by Chad Liffmann on December 11, 2015

One the most brilliantly infuriating films in years.

The men who knew too much.

The men who knew too much.

Let’s get this out there—Adam McKay, the director of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy, should be nominated for an Oscar come February. Sorry, did I say an Oscar? I meant two Oscars, one for writing and one for directing The Big Short, adapted from the book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis. The film follows the true story of a few key players in the housing credit bubble collapse of 2007, specifically, a few that saw the crash coming and invested in the collapse. Yes indeed, there are no heroes here. Just anti-heroes and a whole lot of a**hole douchebag jerk faces that f*cked all of us over! Whew, ok, now that I got that off my chest, I should mention that this is one of the best films of the year. The incredibly witty script keeps the otherwise confusing subject matter entertaining and comprehensive. The Big Short treats its story with flair and casual grace, rather than overloading it with unnecessary drama or uppity intellectuality. Basically, the true events speak for themselves. The filmmakers just supplied the superb cast, tight script, and brilliant tongue-in-cheek storytelling devices to frame it.

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Film Review: Fury

by Chad Liffmann on October 17, 2014

Aptly titled with a gutsy delivery.

The Furious Five

The Furious Five

It’s hard to imagine much originality stemming from any new or forthcoming World War II movies.  This was my thought back in 2009 before Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds was released, offering audiences a completely new vision of the second world war and delivering never-before-seen perspectives with style.  This isn’t to say that that film revitalized the genre, but it kinda did.  The newest World War II tale, Fury, starring Basterds alum Brad Pitt, offers a focus we haven’t seen much of (tank vs. tank battles), but otherwise a lot of the same gruesomeness and gritty warfare and dehumanized soldiers we’ve seen before.  If it weren’t for a lack of strong character development, Fury could have been a war classic.  Fury is a strong entry into the World War II genre, focusing on a much-passed over yet crucial deadly type of war machine (again, tanks), yet still overtly showcasing the horrors and disturbing nature of war.

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Hard to endure, hard to fathom, but essential.

"12 Years A Slave" captures a personal, intimate, fear.

“12 Years A Slave” captures a personal, intimate fear.

12 Years a Slave feels like it could very well be the most accurate cinematic depiction of the atrocities of slavery.  We don’t just see the physical brutality, we also feel the isolation, the helplessness, and each slave’s necessary abandonment of individuality in order to survive.  The geographical solitude in which two different worlds are formed, the one inhabited by the slaves and the one inhabited by the landowners and overseers, is one of the story’s focal points and how it affects the mentality of each character.  For all of these reasons, 12 Years a Slave, based on the book of the true story by Solomon Northup, succeeds where no other film about slavery has.  In other films of this nature, the “hero” rises up against the odds.  The protagonist rises up by gradually becoming an outspoken leader, or by finding the only sympathetic ear that winds up being a ticket to freedom.  Those stories may be inspiring, and well told, but they are often sugar-coated, to put it bluntly.  When viewing 12 Years a Slave, we, the audience, don’t get special treatment.  We are forced into a very dark place in our nation’s history, and we are asked to face the harrowing truth head on.

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Film Review: The Counselor

by Chad Liffmann on October 26, 2013

‘The Counselor’ is in need of some script counseling.

The Counselor

Michael Fassbender takes counsel in The Counselor

It was exciting to imagine what the product of a Ridley Scott-Cormac McCarthy collaboration would be like.  Add in an all-star cast and the anticipation grew stronger.  Unfortunately, the finished product leaves so much to be desired. The Counselor features an original screenplay by McCarthy, who’s normally credited only with writing the novels on which a few film adaptations have been based (No Country For Old Men, The Road), and the inexperience shows here.  The dialogue in The Counselor lacks flow, and in a story as convoluted as this, the flaws in the script are all the more blatant.

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Brad Pitt (and his fictional family) in World War Z

Brad Pitt keeps his cool (with his fictional family) in World War Z

Fans of the book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks can either rejoice or fume at the fact that the new film adaptation is almost entirely its own unique entity.  An opening credit claims it is “based” on the book.  Sure, it does share the same title, and I can confirm that there are some borrowed story elements.  However, the action-packed narrative of the World War Z movie is extremely different from the book, in which a collection of post-pandemic interviews conducted by an agent of the U.N. Postwar Commission (Max Brooks, as a fictionalized version of himself) reads like a non-fiction history book.  In my opinion, a faithful adaptation of the book would work best in the form of a ten part HBO mini-series.  But, since the Brad Pitt action spectacle is what we must see to satisfy our WWZ cravings, then we will just have to make do.  Luckily, it really is not that bad.  In fact, it is quite entertaining.  WWZ lacks the heart and layered character portrayals we hoped for due to its connection to the phenomenal source material, but it remains a worthwhile blockbuster that contains a lot of thrills, impressive visuals, and a fun frenetic pace courtesy of numerous rewrites, reshoots, and a healthy dose of unpredictable plot turns.

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Film Review: “Moneyball”

September 23, 2011

starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Kerris Dorsey written by: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin directed by: Bennett Miller MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some strong language

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Film Review: “The Tree of Life”

June 3, 2011

starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Tye Sheridan, Fiona Shaw written and directed by: Terrence Malick MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some thematic material.

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