Sunday, 24 May 2015

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller
Screenplay: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoƫ Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

Synopsis is here

I refrained from writing anything about Mad Max: Fury Road for a few days after watching as I wanted to get a decent grasp of what I saw. My reaction afterwards was one of confounding awe. An odd term, yet the best I feel I can come up with. I was dumbfounded. How did George Miller manage to slip a $150 Million Ozpolitation chase movie past corporate studio heads? I guess the Oscar and massive box office for Happy Feet (2006) helped. Though that only seemed posed more queries. That said. It helps display the type of maverick Miller is. Fury Road feels like an exclamation mark on a varied and dynamic sentence.

At age 70, Miller hasn’t appeared to have lost any of his ability to draw kinetic energy. Nor has it taken away any of his attentiveness. In an interview with Vanity Fair; Miller is quoted about his wife Margaret Sixel editing the movie, “You have to edit this movie, because it won’t look like every other action movie.” It’s wonderful to see the value and foresight within that action. There’s been much talk of the Mad Max’s feminist leanings. Including Men’s Rights websites losing their collective shit over the positioning of females within the movie. The beauty of Miller’s directional choices, both in the narrative and crew is that it’s once again highlighted the issues that restrains creativity and showed up an audience who still responds strongly to patriarchal hegemony. People who’d rather see creative stagnancy by an upright, uptight status quo.

George Miller has never been one to go through the paces and follow the regular state of affairs. It’s hard not to laugh at activists considering Fury Road as “feminist propaganda” when they should know that Miller directed The Witches of Eastwick (1987), not only a favourite film of mine, but the type of movie which displays that the balls have always been in that court. One of interesting women and curious narratives. Then again, when such angry men mistook an Australian series as a piece of Americana, you can gage the debate level.

In addition to this. Fury Road is a sequelboot that isn’t even on the same thread as the films that came before it. Each visit to the wasteland has always had a differing slant. The original Mad Max was a grubby revenge thriller. The second film an oil fuelled Rio Bravo. The third? A frustrating near Amblin-style adventure. Fury Road comes across like a 70’s B-movie chase movie remixed for modern audiences. Unlike the previous movies, Fury Road cares very little about breathing space. The film drives and spurs on relentlessly, with each new sequence delivering an inventive obstacle for its anti-heroes to navigate.

This does cause issues with some of the development of the character and narrative. Despite being quite long for an action movie, the film doesn’t explore its characters with the depth that it perhaps could. Max Max 2 (1981) still shows itself to be the most complete entry, while Fury Road is far more interested in its vaulting goons and suicidal foot soldiers to provide any real clarity to the film’s background events. Yet what I love about Fury Road is how it sweats, crunches and bleeds. It might not feel like it’s telling the whole story, but the film still shows that its scripted and constructed to display character through action and visuals over bland dialogue. Hardy once again is less a man of words and more a creature of physical input. Max is one of his more tactile performances. Charlize Theron not only gains the ire of so called male activists, but reminds us of just how varied she’s willing to be as an actress. Her role of the wildly named Imperator Furiosa brings out a fiercely terse performance. The type of display we can often forget Theron holds in her locker.

Both lead performances as well as the kinetic cinematography and editing illustrate that the world of Mad Max is one of physical expression over anything else. It’s grand outlandish set pieces detail the fall of man little by little. What makes Miller’s film so astonishing at times is not only just how beautifully balletic the film’s action is, but just how textured Fury Road can be. The sparks of twisted metal is glorious to watch. However, Fury Road shows us a crumbling decent into madness in which idols are false, slavery is rife and your body is a commodity. Post-apocalyptic it may be, but a quick yank of the thread of the fantastic and we’re suddenly a little closer to home.

I consider the men’s activist sites again. What they supposedly stand for. The belief that no one can bark orders at Mad Max. If they were to watch the film, I wonder what their answer would be to the question sprawled on the walls of The Wasteland: Who killed the world? It’s interesting to see people wishing to boycott a hellish future that in the world of fiction they would not only help to create so quickly but already seem to be a part of. That, to me, is the method in Millers madness.

Friday, 15 May 2015

EPISODE 27 - The Age of Adaline, Top Five, Big Game, Spooks: The Greater Good - 15.5.15

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Emma Platt hosts and is joined by guests Chris Haigh & Owen Hughes to give their thoughts on the weeks new movies including: THE AGE OF ADALINE, a romantic mystery starring Blake Lively... Chris Rock's directorial debut TOP FIVE... Big Sam as the President in BIG GAME... And finally SPOOKS: THE GREATER GOOD, adapting the hit BBC tv series for the big screen...

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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Review: Top Five

Year: 2014 (U.K release 2015)
Director: Chris Rock
Screenplay: Chris Rock
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union

Synopsis is here:

A smart online colleague of mine (and actual real critic) recently informed me on how much he disliked Top Five. I’ll be interested to pick his brains on his distaste for the film, as I value his cultured perspective. Despite this I can’t say I’ll agree with him on this. Chris Rock’s filmography may be an uneven one, but here, with Top Five, Rock delivers a spirited and fun feature with a performance to match.

Top Five opens, with plain white fonts on black background while Kayne West and Jay-Z’s Niggas in Paris (both musicians are also executive producers) glosses over the speakers. An odd combination, yet one that quickly displays Rock’s intentions. The titles may not display the iconic Windsor font which appears on nearly every Woody Allen film since Annie Hall (1977), but Top Five credits give the suggestion that Rock is looking to try and follow one of his influences. Once the film opens fully, the allusions to Allen become more apparent.

The city wandering and cultural pondering that inhabits Top Five as its characters travel around New York, typically suggest Woody Allen. Yet it’s hard not to consider the likes of Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) either. It’s Rock’s focus on hip hop music, black comedians and racial politics however, as well as alcoholism, which pushes the typical, white middle class 1st world problem dynamic to a new paradigm. We don’t often see this type of populist cinema deal with people of colour and when they do, they don’t have the backing.

What’s bothersome is that Chris Rock’s film happily shows how hard this has been missed. Rock is no Allen. He’s certainly no Linklater. But Top Five’s warm charm and great conversational chemistry between the unconventionally appealing Rock and the sorely underrated Rosario Dawson is immensely refreshing. Meanwhile the film as a whole, is set around Afro-American/Hispanic culture and never feels like it “loses” the so-called universal appeal that producers fear goes missing in “urban” features. Despite the character's professions and statues, both Rock and Dawson manage to retain the reliability of both Andre and Chelsea respectively.

The film’s weaknesses are apparent. Some of the crasser jokes hold some decent comedic timing, but feels like they’ve been shoehorned into the wrong film. Meanwhile the plot’s various threads start some efficient conflict, yet are too often left unexplored. Gabrielle Union’s celebrity wannabe is flat, but it's clear she could do more with it. More could easily be said about the film commentary about criticism and how it affects artists. Particularly at a time where the internet has pulled the discussion into sharp focus.

Despite these blemishes, Top Five continued to be delightfully entertaining throughout. Rock, whose attention is clearly more on the screenplay and performances, hires Chilean cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro (Melancholia) to capture New York at its most vibrant. Claro bathes the scenery in glossy soft lighting which compliments the energetic qualities of the cast. The film’s knock around screenplay (possibly with large quantities of improvisation) is consistently enjoyable. So much so it cheerfully distracts the fact the clear fact that Rock is once again directing himself flirting with two of the most attractive black actresses’ currently working. Such elements should be smugger than they appear. However, Top Five is far more interested in keeping you smiling. By the way: Pharaoh Monche, Vast Air, Biggie, Jay-Z… and Q-Tip. Subject to change.



Wednesday, 6 May 2015

EPISODE 26 - Far From the Madding Crowd, Unfriended, Everly, Monsters: Dark Continent - 6.5.15

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Dan Taylor hosts and is joined by guests Chris Byrne & Andrew Corvero to talk the UK Box Office Top Ten, chat fresh movie news (including Robert Downey. Jr's latest media controversies) and give their thoughts on the weeks new movies including: The new adaptation of Thomas Hardy's FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD... UNFRIENDED, a brand new techno-horror... Salma Hayek kicking ass in EVERLY... And finally creature sequel MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT...

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Sunday, 3 May 2015

BLACK HOLE CLASSICS #1 - The Night of the Hunter - 3.5.15

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TONY hosts the first Black Hole Classics series, featuring looks at nominated classic movies. Today he's joined by LESLIE BYRON PITT, who discusses his love of the 1955 Charles Laughton directed THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, starring Robert Mitchum...

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