A Ride Down Fury Road

Reviving an old franchise is difficult especially one where last movie featured Tina Turner (she is amazing don’t get me wrong, but that was a whole other era.). So how do you revive a dead franchise? Do you Indiana Jones it and bring back the aging but iconic star? Do you reboot the series and rewrite its history ala Terminator? Or do you stick with the atmosphere and bring in a brilliant director? (If you’re counting: one of these have succeeded, one failed miserably, while one is yet to be determined). This one sticks with the atmosphere and George Miller, injects all the Mad Max chaos and brutality into Fury Road.

In a post-apocalyptic world, Max is used as a blood bag for one of Immortan Joe’s goons who is on the trail of Imperator Furiosa. What had started as a gas run turns into a quest for freedom as Furiosa tries to escape with the handful of women that are being used as Joe’s breeding chattel. As the chase ensues, Max frees himself and becomes a reluctant partner in Furiosa’s scheme. The two are chased through the vast desert landscape looking for Furiosa’s homeland where freedom will be theirs.

Miller was the perfect director and co-writer for this film as his mind is as chaotic as the movie itself. There have been reports from the actors that script pages changed daily (when there was a script) and Charlize Theron admits to rolling in the dirt for her look. The actors embraced this quality, and the casting was expertly done. Theron shows the earthy side of a Hollywood starlet (Theron, who despite her beauty, never has any problem getting dirty) and Tom Hardy grunts through his lines as the titular Max. Hardy is a chameleon easily sliding into any character role including this one.pacnv9d5s2ov5i0qt2px

The movie biggest it strength is also it weakness. The movie is INTENSE. While it’s easy to follow the plot, it is hard to take everything in. The movie is visually stunning perfectly portraying the wasteland man has created of the earth. Each goon’s vehicle has different flair make them individualized since they themselves all look some much alike. By the last third of the movie, I was mentally exhausted and the movie slows some to give the characters time to grow. But then viewers are whisked away again to a satisfying conclusion. There is no cliff hanger that begs for franchise, but there is a promise of more stories that can be told.

The final third of the film gives the emotional impact that matches the brutal intent in the rest of the movie. This is where you finally learn something about Max and see the characters as more than just one dimensional archetypes. Though it’s called Mad Max, it’s really not about Max at all. The film follows Imperator Furiosa and her personal mission for freedom and the green land. Hardy pretty much spends most of the movie looking pretty (even covered in dirt). In the movie’s final throws, he actually shows some characteristics other than a man bent on survival.

Mad Max Fury Road calls for multiple viewings as well as a look back into the original films. Hardy claims that Mel Gibson gave his blessing, and he should have: this film is a great addition to the franchise. If The Wasteland (Miller’s planned sequel) can be this good, then by all means keep Max coming.

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Revenge of the Sequel

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

I was excited when I found out that Hammer Films was making a sequel to the Woman in Black. The first movie was charged with energy and scares, and Daniel Radcliffe gave an amazing performance. When I found out the same production team was behind the sequel, I had high expectations. But I shouldn’t have.

woman_in_black_angel_of_death_01The plot takes place during World War 2 when school children have been evacuated to Eel Marsh House to get out of the fighting zones. A young teacher named Eve tries to help the children adapt especially one young man who seems to be haunted by his past. Add a love interest for Eve, and the story starts to go off the rails.

The movie was not at all scary. The best moment was just a repeat of the rocking chair sequence from the first movie. The movie lapses into cheap thrills that every other B horror movie falls back on. Be prepared for creepy hands and eyes that stare at you through holes, but do be worried about being afraid.

The convoluted plot adds nothing to the Woman in Black’s mythos except that if you can’t see her, she can’t hurt you (so I was right as a child?). The plot does not expand on anything related to her or the house’s former owners. Viewers learn things that were in the first film and nothing more. While this makes the sequel self-contained, it’s not really interesting enough to be its own story. This sequel falls flat and the only horror is the price you paid to rent it.

 

Taken 3

Taken 3 follows suit of another popular trilogy (though one funnier and less bloody). The Liam Neeson action franchise ends like the raucous Hangover trilogy. The third movie is so different than its predecessor that truly truly makes the film less like it doesn’t fit into the franchise and therefore is a bad movie.

But Taken 3, like Hangover 3, isn’t a bad movie in its own right. The movie is standard Neeson fare and he continues to kick ass. (Yes, there is a section where he performs the Grandpa Run, but he’s still a bad ass.) But the plot stays state side and becomes a domestic affair. No one is taken, instead his ex-wife is killed and he has been framed. He use his unique set of skills to escape from the police as well as chase down the culprit.

The first Taken was about brutal violence while the second one speaks of mercy. The third is about just enough. Kill downloadthose who need to be killed and only hurt those as much as needed. This installment and its predecessor have been criticized for lack of insane violence paraded in the first film but honestly the violence mimics the journey of this man.

Gone are the sprawling landscapes of faraway places and this also adds to the different tone of the film. I claim that it is not bad, just different. The movie is about home and what is truly in Bryan’s heart. I can understand how these changes negatively affect those looking for over the top violence or exotic destinations. Personally, I am just glad it’s a break from bad spy movies like 3 Days to Kill and Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit.

Life in the Fast Lane

furious-7 (1)The latest in the Fast and Furious franchise is fun and entertaining. It keeps all the elements of the past movies, and expands into new territories. It is not only a fun movie; it is a great send off to an actor who lost his life too soon.

Furious Seven is colored by the death of Paul Walker. The movies has to deal with the loss of his character Brian O’Conner while the cast and crew had to create a finished movie without one of the stars. This isn’t to mention the love and sadness the fans carry with them into the theater early trying to decide what Walker had and had not finished and prepped with tissues for the movie’s conclusion.

After killing Owen Shaw in the previous installment, his brother is out for blood. Anyone related to the team is a target starting with Han.  While Brian adapts to family life, he longs for the thrill of the chase.  Mia worries over him and wants him to stay home with the family. But any plans they had are destroyed, when a bomb is sent to Dom’s house. The team gets back together to take out Shaw so he can’t pick them off one by one.

The movie suffers from too much melodrama. Usually each movie has something a little deeper going on but viewers are wound through too many characters’ emotional stories. To be fair to the writers, this isn’t there fault. I am sure the original story was to deal with Letty’s amnesia and how she fits into the group, but when Walker died a new level of story had to be added. In order to say goodbye to his character, the writers had to find him a way out that didn’t mean death.

The movie wraps up the memorial to Walker beautifully in the final scene. I did, in fact, cry like a body shaking, paulwalkerwailing baby (well maybe not wailing). The tribute is touching and is a power ending to the film (and would have been a great ending to the franchise). Unfortunately, many viewers will try and spot what scenes Walker doesn’t actually appear in. It’s easy enough to tell, but let’s suspend disbelief and enjoys the movie as a complete whole.

Overall, it a fun, fats thrill ride. That is what is so appealing about these movies: they take us out of real life and just let you have some fun. Critics talk about how nonsensical the plot is but apparently they missed all the other installments of the franchise. Fans love the insane; no way is this possible atmosphere of this world. Plus, adding Kurt Russell is never a bad idea.

The next movie has been greenlit but I don’t know how many more I will see. This franchise was supposed to have the breakout role for Walker though Diesel got the biggest boost from them. With that in mind, it’s hard to keep it going without him. As a fan, I really don’t want it to.