Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is a loud, violent, angry film that assaults the senses with adrenaline-fueled vehicle chases, fiery crashes and painful death. It is a masterful piece of filmmaking.

In a future wasteland, the scenario is ripe for revolt. A tyrannical leader King Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules a population that receives water only sparingly. Within the mountainside lair called the Citadel, where women produce breast milk to sustain the ruler and his minions, Max (Tom Hardy) is imprisoned.

Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is selected to pilot a tanker to Gastown along the straight and narrow Fury Road. When she heads off course into unpaved desert, King Joe and his convoy pursue, with Max secured to a lead truck like a human hood ornament. On one vehicle, a guitar player provides a rockin’ accompaniment to the mission (with a guitar that is a flame throwing weapon).

After Max escapes and joins forces with Furiosa, he finds that she is ferrying five gorgeous babes, the mountainside leader’s sex slaves, to her intended destination, a land of vegetation where she was born. The chase continues until… they all head back to the Citadel.

Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action/adventure films I’ve ever seen. Because of its fantastic settings, its distinctive characters, its primal story, its savage spirit, its forceful soundtrack and its high energy level. The film starts at a sprint and doesn’t slow down until 30 minutes in.

Hardy is a brilliant choice to play a hero who saves his own skin first, then becomes part of a bigger effort to help others. Theron, in her non-glam buzz cut, is all business as her character asserts her own will and proves to be just as tough as any man.

Director Miller may be guilty of overkill, but the unrelenting intensity of Mad Max: Fury Road will satisfy audiences who are ready to have their minds blown. For action movie fans, Mad Max: Fury Road is a must-see!

A Million Ways To Die In The West

A Million Ways To Die In The West is filled with moments of pure delight! Those moments are hilariously funny. Some moments are clever and inventive. Other moments are crude and cheap.

Unfortunately, AMWTDITW lacks cohesiveness as a movie. The plot is passable and provides a useful framework for Seth McFarlane to hang his moments on. But the script fails to get the rhythm necessary to keep the comedy moving at a good pace.

The problem is McFarlane. The man is mega-talented. He stars as sheep farmer Albert. He directs. And he is a co-writer of the film. But although he possesses arguably the best smirk in the business, he lacks the presence to prosper as a lead character on the big screen. (He may find ways to embellish that presence.)

As a director, he knows how to bring visual and verbal humor to a film while also telling a story. His 2012 film Ted works. A Million Ways delivers laughs and a story, but could have benefited from more judicious editing.

My favorite character in A Million Ways is Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), a dandy who runs a store that sells moustache-grooming supplies. He leads a wonderful musical number—written by Stephen Foster—about the importance of a man’s having a moustache. Foy later has a digestive system crisis that features low humor that leads to big laughs.

Anna (Charlize Theron) is the wife of gunslinger Clinch (Liam Neeson). Before Clinch shows up in the town of Old Stump, Anna has a platonic thing going with Albert who is heartbroken after being dumped by Louise (Amanda Seyfried). Louise has moved on the moustache man, Foy, amping up Albert’s dislike for the dandy.

The townsfolk also include Albert’s best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) whose girlfriend Ruth (Sarah Silverman) refuses to engage in premarital sex, even though she is, by profession, a hooker.

The film has a few cool surprises, including cameo appearances. (There’s one bit that should NEVER have been included in a TV spot, but is. It’s huge spoiler.)

The soundtrack is classic. Joel McNeely brings an Aaron Copeland influence to many of his compositions. And Alan Jackson sings the closing theme song that has a classic feel.

A Million Ways To Die In The West, like Blazing Saddles, is a film that is likely to be enjoyed for decades. See it in the theater now and on TBS and TNT (with a cleaned-up dialogue version) in years to come.

 

 

 

 

Prometheus

“Prometheus” is a big movie with some awesome images. Michael Fassbender’s performance is excellent.

“Prometheus” has things we’ve seen in sci-fi before: a planet (actually a moon) in a distant solar system with a hospitable atmosphere, a computer/robot who may have his own agenda and (of course) ugly creatures coming out of people’s bellies.

But it tells an entertaining story. And it introduces a few new things that may exist in our world 92 or so years from now, like an automated surgery machine—nice to have when you’re far away from Earth and your crew of 17 includes no surgeons.

The movie’s opening title sequence is a series of flyovers of stark, unpopulated landscapes. When viewed in 3-D on a large movie screen, the signal becomes clear: this is a movie with heft.

Noomi Rapace, Sweden’s Dragon Tattoo Girl, stars as a scientist who, with her colleague and lover played by Logan Marshall-Green, constructs the theory that leads to the mission to this faraway place. As they approach their destination, they and others aboard are awakened from suspended animation and informed that the mission has another additional purpose.

Charlize Theron is the boss of the trip. She’s an employee of Weyland Corporation, which is sponsoring the trip. During her “welcoming” speech to the crew, she introduces a hologram of old man Weyland, played by Guy Pearce. His really bad old man makeup job is the film’s worst flaw. (Were there no real old guys available? Kirk Douglas, maybe?)

Upon landing, the crew goes out to explore and look for signs that humans may have first come to Earth from this distant sphere. The monstrous dust storm that chases them back to their craft generates huge amounts of swirling debris that look great in 3-D.

Here’s where the plot really kicks in. Further exploration reveals answers to some of the movie’s/mission’s questions. This is where robot savant David, played by Michael Fassbender, begins to reveal all he knows. (His is the movie’s most impressive acting performance.) Be ready for terror, violence and creepy creatures.

“Prometheus” is positioned as a prequel to the “Alien” movies. It contains some of the elements of those films, but stands nicely on its own merit. It’s not the best sci-fi film ever, but it’s now on the list of very good, entertaining sci-fi movies.

 

 

 

Snow White and The Huntsman

There’s a decent movie in here somewhere. “Snow White and the Huntsman” has a classic story, memorable characters, great special effects, spectacular settings and thrilling scenes. Yep, it has all the stuff we go to movies for.

But it gets off to a very slow start. I honestly found myself writing “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” type lines in my head during the first half of the movie. Some were funny. Trust me.

Also, while watching SWATH, there were numerous scenes and elements that made me think of other movies, from “Da Vinci Code” to “Shawshank Redemption” to “Star Wars” to “Narnia” to “Lord of the Rings” to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” That’s not a good thing.

Let me add that it’s hard to watch Kristen Stewart (as Snow White) without thinking of her portrayal of Bella in the “Twilight” movies. She has talent and shows stronger acting chops in “Snow White and…” than in those vampire flicks.

One more complaint: the mirror in this movie looks more like a big gong.

Chris Hemsworth plays the Huntsman. While we know him as Thor, he (unlike Bella, um, Kristen Stewart) was more convincing in his performance. He’s a bit of a ruffian redneck, but brings the romantic charm at the key moment. Charlize Theron as the Queen is simmering with wickedness and allows it to boil over in the film’s climax. If you’re a Charlize fan, don’t miss SWATH.

As with “Mirror, Mirror,” the light-hearted Snow White movie that came out two months ago, I LOVED the dwarfs! Very smart to cast top British character actors, all normal sized men, and cinematically shrink them.

SWATH’s director is a rookie, Rupert Sanders, a veteran commercial director. His feature film debut, while far from perfect, is an impressive effort. “Snow White and the Huntsman” has much to offer that will be more greatly appreciated on the big screen than on TV (even if you do have an 80-inch HDTV). If you can tolerate a few shortcomings, there is (as I mentioned at the top) a decent movie in here somewhere.