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Posts Tagged ‘Shia LaBeouf’

Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney...patrolling an a post-apocalyptic wasteland

Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney…patrolling a post-apocalyptic wasteland

“MAN DOWN”  My rating: C

92 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There’s enough to admire in Dito Montiel’s “Man Down” that the film’s final reveal — a big fat slice of narrative cheese — feels like even more of a con job than it already is.

Montiel’s screenplay (with Adam G. Simon, who came up with the story) offers no fewer than six different “realities” for its Marine protagonist, Cpl. Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf).

The first of these realities unfolds in a post-apocalyptic near future. Here Gabriel and his Marine buddy and best friend Devin (Jai Courtney) pick their way through the ruins of an American city.  Bearded and dirty, they are looking for Gabriel’s young son John, who may be the captive of a group of feral survivors.

There are flashbacks to Gabriel’s peaceful home life with his wife Natalie (Kate Mara) and little John (Charlie Shotwell).  Gabriel will soon be shipping out, and he spends as much time as possible with his son.  They even come up with their own military-style code words for “I love you”:  Man Down.

Other passages are devoted to Gabriel and Devin’s basic training under the demanding Sergeant Miller (Tory Kittles), a sado-maso experience that will turn them into efficient fighting men.

One of the movie’s realities takes place in a dusty Marine outpost in Afghanistan where Gabriel is being counseled by Peyton (Gary Oldman), a military shrink.  It appears that Gabriel has undergone a  traumatic experience — and yet another “reality” depicts the day that Gabriel and Devin’s unit was ambushed by enemy fighters.

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Shia

Shia LaBeouf, Sasha Lane

“AMERICAN HONEY”  My rating: B

163 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” is about being young, horny, and blessedly free of  what adults view as “normal life.”

This near-plotless road trip across the Heartland (including a long sequence shot in Kansas City) is all about  the journey, not the destination. Arnold flirts with self-indulgence (some will say she positively wallows in it), but offers a haunting portrait of disaffected youth while surveying the vast emptiness (physical, moral, intellectual) that makes up so much of modern America.

We first encounter 18-year-old Star (newcomer Sasha Lane) somewhere just off the interstate in shit-kicker Oklahoma. She and two young children (her siblings? Perhaps the offspring of her redneck boyfriend?) are dumpster diving for lunch. They appear to be old hands at scrounging provisions.

But Star’s world is about to change.  At  the local K-Mart she encounters a crew of young people  behaving like a bunch of good-natured rowdies.  She’s particularly intrigued by their leader, Jake (Shia LaBeouf), a charismatic guy whose conservative shirt and slacks are in stark contrast to  his dangling rattail and bristly chin.

Oozing sly seduction, Jake explains that his party-hearty entourage sell magazine subscriptions door to door. Angel is welcome to join them.

The possibility of romance with Jake and the chance to leave her crummy life behind provide an irresistible temptation.

Not that her new world is all spliffs and cognac.

Jake answers to Crystal (Riley Keogh, Elvis Presley’s granddaughter), the owner of the operation. A decade older than her teen crew members, Crystal sports  the come-hither fashion sense and hardass authority of a whorehouse madam (“Show me you can do it or I’ll leave you on the side of the road”).

She’s a steel fist in a velvet glove kind of manager — she provides meals,  cheap motel lodging, weed and booze for her tribe of misfits, most of whom are running away from bad homes. She picks the neighborhoods they’re going to hit, sets sales quotas and pockets the money (whether the operation actually sells magazine subscriptions or just scams customers out of their cash is never explained).

While the youngsters are packed like sardines into a minivan, Crystal scouts ahead in her shiny white convertible — usually with Jake in the passenger seat.  It soon dawns on Angel that Jake is Crystal’s kept man…which only makes him sexier in her eyes.

Much of “American Honey” is devoted to simply observing how Angel’s new friends behave.  They’re a rambunctious bunch, always a bit stoned and ever ready to roughhouse or party down around a camp fire. Arnold has cast the film with non-actors, and they radiate uncontrollable energy. So unforced and spontaneous are these kids that they rub off even on the cast’s few professional actors, who eschew anything like conventional performance mannerisms.

There’s a marvelous sequence shot in Mission Hills (“Rich motherfuckers,” observes  Jake. “We’re hopin’ to do very well today.”) in which Jake and Angel, posing as brother and sister, charm their way into the home of an uptight suburban mom (Laura Kirk).

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Brad Pitt (foreground) and tank crew (left to right): Shia LeBouf, ** , Michael Pena, I*.

Brad Pitt (foreground) and tank crew (left to right): Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal.

“FURY”  My rating: B (Opens wide on Oct. 17)

134 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Fury” is on one level one of the great war/action films, a face-first plunge into the blood, guts and terror of combat.
But writer/director David Ayer (“Training Day,” “End of Watch”) is aiming for more than just a stomach-churning visit to war’s visceral horrors. He wants to show how combat dehumanizes the individuals who must do the dirty work.
It’s impossible to watch the trailers for “Fury” — with a grimy Brad Pitt in charge of a World War II tank crew — and not be reminded of the Nazi-killing good ol’ boy Pitt portrayed in “Inglourious Basterds.”
That 2009 Quentin Tarantino film was an exaggerated, almost hallucinogenic comic fantasy of warfare. Ayer, though, plays it straight, eschewing overtly comic elements and pushing for an unflinching earnestness.
Only trouble is, he may have pushed too hard.
We are introduced to the five-man crew of Fury, a Sherman tank, on a German battlefield in the spring of 1945, during the last gasps of the war. The tank commander, Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt), makes short, silent work of a passing German officer (a knife in the eyeball does the trick nicely). He then climbs back into the tank occupied by three living crewmen and the headless corpse of a fourth.
We’re all accustomed to war movies stocked with various American “types”: a Jew, a Hispanic, a black, a college boy, a redneck. We’re meant to identify with them.
Just try identifying with the creeps who live in Fury. The mechanic Grady  Travis (“Walking Dead’s” Jon  Bernthal) seems more mumbling Neanderthal than modern man. The gunner, Boyd “Bible” Swan (a nearly unrecognizable mustachioed Shia LaBeouf), is intensely religious — he abstains from drink and women but seems to find sexual release in blowing Germans all to hell. The driver, Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), is a bit closer to normal — until you realize that he and Travis are most likely brothers-in-rape.
After years of fighting, whatever civilized veneer these guys had has been stripped away. No longer all-American boys, they are more of a renegade biker gang, killing prisoners and then retreating to their Sherman tank like wolves to their lair.

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“TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON” My rating: C (Opens wide June 29)

153 minutes | Audience rating: PG-13

I’m not going to tell you that Michael Bay has no soul. Only that I’ve never seen evidence of one in any of his films.

The irony, of course, is that by commercial standards Bay is the filmmaker of his generation, able to hits the mass audience’s sweet spot with a fusion of flash, noise, endless f/x and eye-blurring action.

Characterization? Content? Subtext?

Who needs ‘em?

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