This week’s films reviewed

The cast of Fury
The cast of Fury
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Brad Pitt plays a Second World War tank sergeant in Fury.

FURY (15)

At a critical juncture in David Ayer’s wartime thriller, Brad Pitt’s grizzled tank commander turns to an inexperienced new recruit and sounds the death knell on morality and diplomacy in a time of conflict.

“Ideals are peaceful, history’s violent,” he growls with an icy glare.

Those words resonate throughout Fury, a brutal, mud-spattered tour of duty during the final weeks of the Second World War, as seen through the gun sights of an M4 Sherman tank crew on a collision course with Hitler’s troops.

The film opens with Pitt’s inspirational leader stabbing an unsuspecting German officer in the eye and Ayer repeatedly sates a thirst for close-up gore with expertly choreographed battle sequences and hand-to-hand combat between ground troops.

The bloodbath temporarily abates for brotherly banter inside the claustrophobic tank, but the air is always chokingly thick with impending doom.

Eight weeks after he enrolls in the US Army as a clerk typist, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) is assigned the position of assistant driver in a tank christened Fury under the command of Sergeant Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt).

This battle-weary veteran began the war in Africa and moved to Europe, killing numerous Germans along the way in the name of freedom.

Aided by the rest of his crew, Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Trini Garcia (Michael Pena) and Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal), Collier gives Norman an initiation he will never forget on a series of missions led by Captain Waggoner (Jason Isaacs) and Lieutenant Parker (Xavier Samuel).

Three other tanks commanded by Sergeant Binkowski (Jim Parrack), Sergeant Davis (Brad William Henke) and Sergeant Peterson (Kevin Vance) flank Fury as US soldiers push on towards Berlin.

“It will end soon,” Collier assures Norman, “but before it does, a lot more people gotta die.”

Fury paints a familiar picture of the hell of war, directed with testosterone-fuelled swagger by Ayer, who previously helmed the bombastic police thrillers End Of Day and Sabotage.

His script is studded with polished dialogue that doesn’t quite ring true, like when Collier berates thuggish Grady, “You’re an animal. All you understand is fist and boot”.

Or when Collier encourages Norman to sow his seeds with a pretty young German (Alicia von Rittberg) by purring, “She’s a good clean girl. If you don’t take her into that bedroom, I will”.

Pitt leads the cast with a strong performance as a battle-weary commander, who holds back a tide of anguish and uncertainty until he is alone and can allow the sobs to shake his scarred body.

Lerman is equally compelling as a naive whelp, who develops a taste for killing Nazis.

Ayer obliges him with an astronomical body count and foreign fields slathered as far as the eye can see in mud, freshly spilt blood and the bodies of the fallen.

RATING: 7/10

ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (PG)

Based on Judith Viorst’s 1972 children’s picture book, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is an effervescent comedy about the trials and tribulations that unite a modern family.

Sweet and inoffensive to its candy-coloured core, Miguel Arteta’s film bursts with good intentions and wholesome ideals, teaching the titular tyke a valuable lesson about weathering an emotional storm in the company of people you love.

Even if they are the same people who unwittingly set in motion the chain reaction of mishaps and misadventures.

Rob Lieber’s simplistic and episodic script ricochets between the different family members as their carefully ordered worlds implode: a mother races against time to prevent Dick Van Dyke (playing himself) from reading her children’s book replete with an embarrassing typo; a father inadvertently sets himself on fire while trying to impress potential employers at a job interview; a daughter guzzles cough syrup to overcome a stinking cold that jeopardises her starring role in a school production of Peter Pan.

Anything that can go wrong does and Arteta captures each cartoonish calamity with a light touch, playing for laughs rather than revelling in the pain behind the pratfalls.

Eleven-year-old Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) feels like the universe is conspiring against him.

He’s the laughing stock of the entire school, his efforts to impress classmate Becky (Sidney Fullmer) have ended in ignominy and Philip Parker (Lincoln Melcher), the most popular boy in the year, has just announced he is having his birthday party on the same day as Alexander.

Misunderstood by his picture postcard family – father Ben (Steve Carell), mother Kelly (Jennifer Garner), older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette), sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) and baby brother Trevor (Elise and Zoey Vargas) – Alexander makes a birthday wish for the rest of the Cooper clan to walk in his shoes for 24 hours.

“I wish they knew what it felt like to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” he laments, blowing out the birthday candle on his cake.

As if by magic, the entire Cooper family endures a day that threatens to leave them heartbroken and penniless.

As the calamities stack up, Alexander wonders if he should come clean to his loved ones about his involvement in their spectacular downfall.

Alexander And The Terrible... is an entertaining half-term treat for all ages that doesn’t drizzle on the sentimentality too thick.

Oxenbould is an appealingly awkward hero and Carell and Garner offer robust support, embracing the broad physical comedy that their roles demand including a frenzied bicycle ride and a bruising encounter with an ostrich.

“I think you’ve got to have the bad days so you can love the good days even more,” philosophises Alexander towards the end of this madcap journey of self-discovery.

All together now: awwwww.

RATING: 6/10

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (15)

Emotional entanglements of a dysfunctional family provide the humour and pathos in Shawn Levy’s touching comedy of shared history and heartache.

Screenwriter Jonathan Tropper adapts his own bestselling novel, stitching together an entire year’s worth of TV soap opera plot threads into a freewheeling narrative that spreads joy and misery evenly among the underwritten characters.

Revelations come ridiculously thick and fast, requiring ever greater suspensions of disbelief, to the point that we wouldn’t be surprised if one of the central clan was unmasked as an extra-terrestrial doppelganger.

Thankfully, Tropper peppers his script with sparkling one-liners and the ensemble cast flings these verbal grenades with devastating precision, cajoling us to laughter even when Shawn Levy’s film plumbs the murky depths of toilet humour.

New York radio producer Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) arrives home with a cake for his wife (Abigail Spencer) and discovers the birthday girl in bed with his obnoxious boss (Dax Shepard).

Shortly afterwards, a shell-shocked Judd receives a telephone call to inform him that his father has died.

He returns home to the surgically enhanced bosom of his mother Hilary (Jane Fonda) and siblings Wendy (Tina Fey), Phillip (Adam Driver) and Paul (Corey Stoll).

It transpires that before the old man shuffled off his mortal coil, he stipulated that the Altmans should spend a week together in grief and reminiscence.

“For the next seven days you are all my children again,” Hilary informs her brood, “and you are all grounded.”

While Judd conceals his marital woes from mommie dearest, Wendy wonders if she made a mistake marrying her husband (Aaron Lazar) when she still loves a hunky neighbour (Timothy Olyphant), Paul clashes with his wife (Kathryn Hahn) about their inability to conceive and Phillip struggles to behave like an adult in front of his new partner (Connie Britton).

Skeletons rattle out of the closet and Judd seeks solace with hometown gal Penny (Rose Byrne), who has always carried a torch for him.

This Is Where I Leave You fizzes pleasantly on the tongue despite screenwriter Tropper’s detours from plausibility, his occasional mawkishness and the broad strokes of his character development.

Bateman mopes around like a rain-sodden puppy to curry our sympathy, while Fey injects some of her usual spark and wit.

Fonda has a ball as the potty-mouthed, imperious matriarch.

Her comic whirlwind threatens to blow everyone else off screen and she relishes the film’s only plot twist you don’t see coming. It’s a humdinger.

Home, bittersweet home.

RATING: 6/10