Mad Max: Fury Road

Released: May 2015

Director: George Miller

Run Time: 121 Minutes

Rated R

Tom Hardy: Max
Charlize Theron: Furiosa
Nicholas Hoult: Nux
Hugh Keays-Byrne: Immortan Joe
Zoe Kravitz: Toast The Knowing
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley: The Splendind Angharad
Riley Keough: Capable
Abbey Lee: The Dag
Courtney Eaton: The Fragile

Oh, Mad Max, how we have missed you.  In 1979, a small post-apocalyptic science fiction film was released in Australia to critical acclaim.  The movie starred the up-and-coming Mel Gibson in his break-out role as Max Rockatansky.  The rest of the world didn’t get to know Max until Mad Max 2 was released.  People over here in the states were rather confused about a sequel to a movie that they had never seen, so the film was re-named The Road Warrior for the rest of the world.  It was The Road Warrior that really made the character as popular as he is.  While both movies were incredibly directed by George Miller, it was the second movie that took the world by storm.  So, why was Mad Max so popular?  It was a myriad of reasons.  The characters, the cars, the stunts and the action were above and beyond anything that we had ever seen.  For a movie like Mad Max to come out of Australia when it did wasn’t particularly usual, but George Miller captured lightening in a bottle, essentially.  Mad Max was very well-received, but the sequel garnered the most attention.  The Road Warrior took the best parts of the first movie and took it to another level.  The final car chase at the end of the movie has never been topped, until now.  Yes, there was a third movie.  The less said about Thunderdome, the better.  This year, we got ourselves a new Mad Max film: Fury Road.

Fury Road opens as we witness Max getting chased down and captured by a clan of cutthroat bandits.  Attempting to fight his way to freedom, Max is locked up in a cage.  Later, we see the clan’s leader, Immortan Joe ordering his Imperator Furiosa to take his war truck to the towns of Gas Town and Bullet Town to restock on supplies.  Little does he know that Furiosa took something of his with her, something that he values almost more than anything: His five “brides” that he kidnapped at some point and used them as breeders.  So, they convinced Furiosa to help them escape.  Witnessing his war rig take a sudden detour has Immortan Joe going on the warpath, gathering all his soldiers to chase down Furiosa and retrieve his brides.  The story isn’t bad, but it is kind of thin, but then, the Mad Max movies really weren’t about the story.  No, these movies were about Max’s world, the characters, the action, the stunts, and the cars.  Despite not having the strongest story, the world of Mad Max is actually a very compelling one.  It’s set in the year 2060 after multiple global catastrophes, including a nuclear war, have reduced the world to ruin.  Civilization has collapsed and anarchy rules the wastelands.  In the midst of all that insanity, the survivors are doing whatever they can to survive.  It’s very interesting in how it’s all presented.  You have tons of different clans and tribes that control different areas including canyons and towns.

In a previous post, I addressed a particular controversy about a certain group of men who claim to be “men’s rights activists.”  They claim that Mad Max: Fury Road is loaded with feminist propaganda.  They couldn’t be further from the truth if they had tried.  Yes, George Miller hired feminist Eva Ensler of The Vagina Monologues as a consultant for the film, but her input couldn’t have been more valuable.  See, there’s a couple of scenes in the film in which some women are chained to a wall as a resource for their breast milk.  While it is strange, it highlights the particular economy of the world that Mad Max inhabits.  This is a world in which civilization has collapsed, so anything goes.  If not handled properly, scenes like that would really come across as offensive.  Thankfully, George Miller is smarter than that.  Here’s another thing: the women in this movie are strong.  From Furiosa to the brides, Mad Max: Fury Road is as much a movie for women as it is for men.  Charlize Theron demonstrates why she is one of the finest actresses in Hollywood.  She nearly steals the show from Tom Hardy, who is no slouch either.  The character of Furiosa is definitely tough, but she is also vulnerable.  She comes across as a real human being.  The ladies who portray the brides are fantastic.  The characters had the nerve to ask Furiosa to help them escape.  The relationship between these characters is palpable and authentic.  The men are equally fantastic.  Tom Hardy steps into the shoes of Max and is absolutely fantastic.  Hardy is one of my favorite actors in the industry.  He is so versatile that he disappears into the characters that he plays.  Nicholas Hoult plays the lackey, Nux, who appears to some….problems.  He’s absolutely nuts, but as the movie goes on, we seem him change.  For all Mad Max fans, the man who played Toe Cutter in the original film returns as Immortan Joe: Hugh Keays-Byrne.  His presence in Fury Road is very menacing.  His clear armor and face mask really make the character stand out as one of the more interesting villains I’ve seen.  He’s clearly a tyrant, and it’s hard to see any kind of saving grace, considering how he treats women.  Seeing the women fight back in this movie is refreshing.

You remember the fantastic car chase/battle at the end of The Road Warrior?  Take that and set a movie around it, and you have Mad Max: Fury Road.  While the film DOES slow down a little bit at certain points, this is mostly a balls-to-the-wall action flick.  It is absolutely insane.  The opening sequence with Max trying to escape is nuts.  Then there’s the chase across the desert which ends up going through a massive storm.  That is a sight to behold with tornadoes, lightening and cars just ramming each other.  It’s one of the craziest sequences I’ve ever seen.  Aside from the storm sequence, CGI is used at a minimum in Fury Road.  George Miller prefers the use of actual cars and stunts as opposed to excessive CG animation.  That makes for a more interesting and exciting experience, because you know what you are seeing is the real deal.  Yeah, you’ve got big explosions and gun fights, but the real big spectacles are the car chases.  Holy. Shit.  The cars themselves are absolutely nuts.  There’s one car that doubles as a giant battle-drum of sorts with a guitarist that uses a guitar that shoots fire.  Yes, a guitar flamethrower.  Most of this stuff is done without a green screen.  This is a high-octane, adrenaline-pumping thrill-ride.  This was the action movie I was waiting for.  The music by Junkie XL is incredible.  There’s a lot of orchestral stuff mixed in with guitar-work and some techno, which feeds the experience.  As soon as I got home from the movie, I got the soundtrack, and it’s worth owning.

It took George Miller ten years to get this beast of a movie out into theaters, but he did it.  Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action movie this side of The Raidand is right up there with The Road Warrior.  I know people didn’t like the idea of seeing a Mad Max without Mel Gibson, and while I certainly would have like to see him in a small role, Fury Road is absolutely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.  If you have to choose between seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road, see Mad Max.  It’s a better movie in every aspect.  It’s not perfect, as some of the CG that is used is obvious, but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the film.  This is an experience that can be shared by both men AND women.  The women will get strong female characters that can hold their own with the men, and the men will have the bad-ass cars, explosions and fights to go along with it.  Hollywood, take note:  THIS is how you make a compelling action movie.  Tom Hardy has signed on for three more films starting with Mad Max: The Wastelands.  It’s great to see the character make a strong comeback after 30 years.  I will be in line to see more Mad Max movies, especially of Mr. Miller insists on directing them.  Honestly, I can’t recommend this movie enough.  For action junkies, Mad Max: Fury Road will satisfy you, guaranteed.  For Mad Max fans: The same.  Movies like Mad Max: Fury Road really aren’t made anymore, and in an industry that’s basically been overrun by over-hyped superhero movies, it is refreshing to see a movie that is essentially back to basics.  Go see this movie, I can’t stress that enough.  It is pure cinematic magic at its finest.  Mad Max: Fury Road easily gets a 9.5/10.  What a lovely day, indeed.

Misogynists and Mad Max

Okay, fellow space cadets, I’ve got something for you that’s both really funny and really sad.  This one’s about misogynists and Mad Max.  According to the Huffington Post, a group of “Men’s Rights Activists”, or misogynists as most people of intelligence would call them, are calling for a boycott of Mad Max: Fury Road.  Aaron Clarey of the Return of Kings blog says that men should not only refuse to see the movie, but spread the word to other men as quickly as possible.  I’m not going quote verbatim, but Aaron Clarey goes on to say that real men would never be able to go see a real action movie that doesn’t contain some “damn political lecture or moray about feminism.”  These bozos are upset because Charlize Theron, who stars in Fury Road, plays a female warrior character that is apparently a partner to Mad Max, played by Tom Hardy.  I have to wonder where these guys were when the original Star Wars trilogy came out.  Leia was a very strong female character that more than held her own against her male counterparts.  Also, Sigourney Weaver became a sensation overnight for her portray of Ellen Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien.  Over the past decade, we’ve seen many, MANY action movies where women were kicking ass and taking names.  These guys are so deluded that they see anything where a woman will assert herself as a direct threat to their manhood.  It’s kind of like religious dingbats that see Jesus Christ in piece of toast and think its a sign.  You know, I understand that women are different.  They’re built differently and are generally not as physically capable in certain things the way that men are, that’s just a fact of life.  Here’s the thing though: Women give birth to children, men don’t.  Women have real power, and it needs to be respected.

It’s really, really sad that this kind of mentality exists in this day and age.  We’ve seen women’s rights explode and increase over the past century, and yet we have politicians in Congress that are trying to legislate women’s rights….again.  The ladies have fought for decades upon decades for equal footing with men, and they’re still not there.  They’re closer than they were a hundred years ago, but the religious and backwater mentality that women should concede certain fields to men is taking hold again.  Personally, I love it when a woman can actually hold an action film on her shoulders.  It shows that a woman can be just as capable as a man of blowing things up.  Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Fisher, and Charlize Theron have all helped push this genre to new heights.  I don’t know how deluded you have to be to see female action heroes infringing upon your rights as a “man,” but what that kind of things says is, “Pay attention to me!”  Men, you don’t have to be so macho anymore.  It’s okay for a woman to step up every once in a while.  Give them a chance, they will surprise you.  If you’re worried about how women are cast as leads in action movies, you might want to analyze your insecurities.  Telling men to not go see Mad Max because a woman is on equal footing with Max is going to have the exact opposite effect of what you are going for.  The film is already getting rave reviews, so it’s doing something right.  I just find it hilarious that these ding dongs choose this particular film to speak out on.  I’m all for free speech, but you “men’s rights activists” are total idiots.  REAL men don’t disrespect women.  To Aaron Clarey, a “man” with a very unmanly name, please pull your head out of your posterior and actually use the brain that the gods gave you.  For anybody who is brave enough or just wants a laugh, I’m going to leave a link to the original blog post below, so be warned.  Return of Kings is a troll website to the extreme.  You don’t have to be a feminist to find that website offensive.  It’s a magnet for morons.  It’s hilarious that something like that exists, but it’s also sad because these people honestly believe the crap that they are spewing.  To sum up: Women are awesome, misogynists are not.  Oh, Mad Max Fury Road hits theaters on May 15.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m urging all men to go see it anyway.

The Original Blog Post

Superhero Film Fatigue?

This is going to be a bit of an opinion piece/observation so bear with me.  After watching Avengers: Age of Ultron, I began to wonder why I wasn’t so enamored with the movie.  Aside from the issues I mentioned in my review of the film, I guess the whole big superhero mash-up stuff is beginning to wear on me.  I may be beginning to get burned out on the superhero genre.  This is coming from an avowed fan of the genre.  I don’t necessarily blame Marvel for this, but they have a pretty big stake in how I’m feeling about big blockbuster action movies.  Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen a huge number of blockbuster-type movies like Transformers, X-Men, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek.  Don’t get wrong, I’m a huge fan of those franchises, but I’ve been noticed how much bigger this kinds of movies have been getting in the past decade.  They’re enormous, literally costing hundreds of millions of dollars to make.  Sometimes, that amount of money doesn’t pay off and the film flops.  I think with the size of these budgets, the film-makers are putting a lot of it into visual effects, explosions and action, but not enough into the actual writing and story-lines.  Take Transformers: Age of Extinction for example: That movie is enormous in scale, but all the money the Michael Bay was allowed to handle was put into the visual effects and action sequences.  It wasn’t boring, but it was exhausting.  I’m starting to see a trend with these big movies, where there is so much action and so much activity on the screen, I’m starting to wonder if people will get literally get tired of seeing all that.  I’m certainly at that point, and I blame Joss Whedon and Marvel for hammering home that point with Age of Ultron.  The movie is so packed with action, that it leaves little room for almost anything else.  That does not make a good movie.  I think seeing a new Marvel film every year is getting really old.  Look at the amount of superhero movies that have been released since 2000: 45.  Let me repeat that: 45.  That includes both Marvel and DC Comics.  Marvel has DC beat, claiming 35 of those movies.  Marvel has seen the release of THREE movies per year with the exception of a year or two.  THREE per YEAR.  I’ve seen them all.  DC Comics and Warner Bros. have a LOT of catching up to do.

Age of Ultron has seen a lot of mixed reviews since its release, and it’s not surprising.  The issues that movie had when it was in production are nuts.  Joss Whedon and Marvel were butting heads over what was going to in and what wasn’t.  Ultimately, Marvel won out, but I think both sides are to blame for how the movie turned out in the end.  I loved the first movie, it was amazing.  Nobody had done anything like that before, with some of the biggest superheroes together on the big screen at the same time.  Now while the title of the post says Superhero Fatigue, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other blockbusters.  This new century has already seen some of the biggest movies in history.  See, the comic book movie genre is just one many genres that have seen big movies.  The ones that make the most money and are the most popular happen to be action movies.  Directors like Michael Bay, James Cameron, Joss Whedon, Sam Raimi and several others have seen various amounts of success from their movies.  The problem is that their movies are generally close to two and a half to three hours long.  That’s a long time to be sitting in a theater.  To be honest, I don’t mind doing that as long as the movie has more to offer than a flash in a pan.  Look, I love a mindless action film as much as the next guy, but it has to about an hour and a half.  Two or three hours of mindless action?  It gets tedious if it doesn’t leave room for you to breathe between set-pieces.  I understand that Marvel and DC want to put people in theaters to watch their movies and have a successful showing.  However, some of the best movies I’ve seen this decade are much, much smaller in terms of budget and scale.  Movies like 12 Years a SlaveDjango Unchained, The Raid, Lincoln and even the likes of Ong-Bak are light-years beyond anything that Marvel can throw at me, and some of those aren’t even action movies.  I guess I’ve reached a point where I prefer things NOT blowing up every two minutes.  I’m not going to abandon those kinds of movies, but I am going to seriously cut back on them.  I don’t see a lot of movies in theaters these days, and I would prefer to see something that’s actually worth the money and time I’m throwing at it.  If it seems like I’m whining, I might be.  But it’s just something I needed to get off my chest.  Who knows, by this time next week I might feel differently.  It’s just something I’ve noticed in myself and several other people that I’ve talked to.  I think I just need to step away from superhero movies for a while so I can catch my breath.  So, is it superhero film fatigue that I’m suffering from?  I guess it’s a possibility.  I define superhero film fatigue as getting excessively tired of superhero movies.  I think that should be an official medical diagnosis.  The cure?  Watch. Something. Else.  Now, I’m going to try and take my own advice.  I may fail miserably, so wish me luck.  My fingers are crossed.

Fantastic 4 /F4: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic 4 Trailer – 2005

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer – 2007

Director: Tim Story

Run Time: Fantastic 4: 106 Minutes, Rise of the Silver Surfer: 92 Minutes

Rated PG-13

Ioan Gruffudd: Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards
Chris Evans: Johnny Storm/The Human Torch
Jessica Alba: Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman
Michael Chiklis: Ben Grimm/The Thing
Julian McMahon: Victor Von Doom/Dr. Doom
Kerry Washington: Alicia Masters
Andre Brauer: General Hager
Doug Jones: The Silver Surfer
Laurence Fishburne: The Silver Surfer(voice)

During the first decade of the new century, we saw a lot of movies based on comic books by Marvel and DC Comics.  One of the first movies that really kick-started a new craze for comic book movies was X-Men.  It proved again, that when you have film-makers that actually care about a film franchise, they can create something amazing.  Spider-Man would show up two years later and take the world by storm.  So, we’ve got a few successful films that showed that comic book movies can be a viable genre in film.  Unfortunately, we’ve also seen some not-so-good films like Daredevil and Ghost Rider.  One of the franchises that Marvel wanted on the big screen was another of its flagship superhero stories:  The Fantastic 4.  Featuring a unique cast of characters like the super-intelligent Reed Richards, the beautiful Sue Storm, the hot-headed Johnny Storm, and tough guy Ben Grimm, it was essentially a family of superheroes.  The Fantastic 4 comics also gave us one of the most unique and iconic villains ever: Dr. Doom.  Doom has inspired many villains including Darth Vader.  I figured since Fox is releasing a brand new film based on the Fantastic 4, I would re-visit Fox’s previous attempts.  I’m going to be reviewing both of them together, so this may be a little long-winded.

The first film opens as Reed Richards and Ben Grimm visit Victor Von Doom to get financed for their mission to space.  Why?  They’ve discovered that a cloud of something-something may have evolved life on earth, and another cloud of the same something-something is on its way.  So, they make their way on to one of Doom’s space stations with Sue and Johnny Storm in tow.  Instead of having 7 hours before the cloud arrives, Reed discovers that they only have minutes, so he tries to warn Doom to close the shutters so they can be protected.  Doesn’t work and the cloud slams into the station hitting each member with a massive dose of interstellar radiation.  They wake up on Earth to find that they have developed unique powers.  Reed Richards can stretch like rubber, Sue can be invisible and generate force fields.  Johnny can generate and control fire.  Ben Grimm gets the worst of it physically as he’s transformed into a gigantic….Thing with superhuman strength.  Doom himself ends up getting his body reinforced with super strong metal and can absorb electrical power.  Reed Richards tries to find a way to make them all normal again when Doom goes insane.  Story-wise, this is an origin story, and it’s not actually half-bad.   We get introduced to interesting characters with unique personalities.  One of the things that drives this movie are the relationships between the characters.  The situations can be pretty amusing.  But that’s also the problem:  Somebody somewhere decided that it would be a good idea to make the Fantastic 4 into a sit-com of sorts.  Yeah, the family dynamics generate some laughs, but the whole movie seems centered around that instead of dealing with the real threat: Doom.  The fact is is that we really don’t get a whole lot of background into these characters and where come from, especially Dr. Doom.

The acting is okay for the most part, and everybody seems to well-cast.  Ioan Gruffudd is well-cast as the awkward yet, intelligent Reed Richards.  Michael Chiklis is fantastic(ha,ha!)as Ben.  Chris Evans almost steals the show.  Given that Evans would later become Captain America, it’s awesome to see him play The Human Torch.  The only exception here is Julian McMahon as Doom.  I just don’t buy Julian as the villain.  He comes across as a mustache-twirling dingbat.  The character doesn’t even get the iconic suit until towards the end of the movie, and even then it’s just the mask and the hood, not the armor.  Some of the action in the movie, while spectacular, seems strangely accidental.  There’s a scene on a bridge where we see Ben Grimm trying to keep a guy from committing suicide, and ends up causing a MASSIVE traffic accident.  It’s fun to watch, but it really seems put in there just to showcase what these guys can do.  After the whole ordeal, everybody’s cheering the four “superheroes.”  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Then we start seeing Doom start to lose it when he discovers that his board of directors have turned their backs on him and he feels betrayed by Richards.  It isn’t until the last 20 minutes of the film that it starts to feel like a superhero movie.  You finally have the four go up against Doom in a fairly awesome spectacle.  Tim Story isn’t an action director and it shows, even though he does his best.

Rise of the Silver Surfer doesn’t fare much better.  After Doom has been defeated, Reed and Sue are gearing up to get married when they get a visit from General Hager, who’s team discovered an unusual object that may have been the catalyst for some of the strange weather patterns that have circled the globe.  They discover that this being is an alien who is silver and rides a surfboard earning him the name, Silver Surfer.  It turns out that when this guy shows, eight days later, the planet dies.  Why?  Because of who the Surfer serves: Galactus.  The Sufer was introduced in a Fantastic 4comic series, so it makes sense that he would show in a F4 movie.  Here’s the problem:  Everything here is strung together by a weak string of coincidences.  Even Doom himself comes back because of the energy that the Surfer emits.  Silver Surfer is a little better than the previous movie in that it doesn’t waste time introducing the main characters.  We know who they are, so we can expect some shenanigans.  The whole sit-com aspect of the film seems to have been scaled back, and it works.  While the first movie felt more like a sit-com, Silver Surfer feels more like a proper superhero movie.  Oh, make no mistake, it’s still got some pretty silly stuff, such as when Johnny encounters the Surfer and his molecules are screwed up in such a way that he can switch powers with the others.  This does make for some amusing situations.

The casting still works, but they still brought Julian McMahon in as Dr. Doom.  I don’t get it, he’s not threatening enough, and last I checked Doom wasn’t able to manipulate electricity like Electro.  He’s still the mustache-twirling dingbat that he was the first time around, and they still have him unmasked.  WHY?!  Part of why Doom was such an iconic character was because of his outfit.  It was very intimidating and very practical.  There’s a lot more action this time around, and it seems to have improved.  Bigger explosions, decent visual effects, and the Surfer himself is spectacular.  They got him right.  Laurence Fishburne lends his voice to the character giving him a more powerful presence.  He actually gets a pretty decent amount of screen time.  There’s a problem, though: When you introduce the Silver Surfer, you’ve got to bring in the other guy:  Galactus.  When I first heard that they were making Rise of the Silver Surfer, I was excited to see if they did Galactus properly.  They didn’t.  They done f**ked it up.  Instead of the enormous humanoid creature from the beginning of time, we get a giant…  Yep, a giant cloud of mass destruction.  That has to be one of the most embarrassing decisions by a film studio.  It pissed everyone off, myself included.  I don’t consider myself a reader of those particular comics, but I do know that Galactus was NOT a cloud.  Also, there’s the subplot of Dr. Doom trying to take control of the Surfer’s board, granting him ultimate power.  You would think that with the end of the world merely hours away that he would use that power to help end the threat.  Nope.  Dr. Doom is selfish and completely single-minded.

So, yeah, these movies definitely have issues, but you know what, they’re not horrible movies.  What Silver Surfer did with Galactus is pretty unforgivable, but I still had fun with it.  I think Tim Story’s heart was in the right place, but he just wasn’t the right guy to do these movies.  You need a director that has experience doing action, and Tim Story doesn’t have that experience.  The writing is pretty awful too, despite some pretty funny scenes.  While I definitely think these movies are disappointing, I had a much better time with the Fantastic 4 movies than I did with Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Yes, you read that right.  They didn’t really overstay their welcome.  Age of Ultron did.  That was a movie that ran out of steam half-way through.  I’m not prepared to call these movie good, but they aren’t that bad either.  The first film gets a 7/10, and Silver Surfer gets a 7.5/10.  Unfortunately, the movies didn’t do well enough to justify a stand-alone Silver Surfer film.  That project is currently in development hell, and with the reboot of Fantastic 4 on the way, Silver Surfer’s future remains in doubt.