Film Review : Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

It’s opening night, so ratings aren’t really needed. The reviews are unbelievably good though

Directed By – George Miller
Starring – Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, JOsh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, and Richard Carter

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

For the first time since The Dark Night, I have dragged myself out to a theater to see a big name film on opening night. I just don’t do it. I like to get to the theater on dead nights and a week or two after the film has come out. It’s just quieter. For some reason I really wanted to see this film as soon as I could due to all the rave reviews I’ve been seeing so far. Rave reviews for an R rated reboot/sequel of a franchise that hasn’t had a film in over 20 years? Yeah, I had to see it. I’m glad I did. It ended up being a fucking blast.

I haven’t seen a Mad Max film since high school. I think a bunch of us sat down and just put them on one after the other and got drunk. That being said, I’m not a huge fan of the universe. The movies were great. Don’t get me wrong. I just wasn’t part of the culture of Mad Max. I was always a Water World type of person.

That’s a joke.

George Miller’s return to non-dancing/talking animals is pretty special. I don’t think I’ve seen a resurrection like this in a long ass time. The film was kick fucking ass. I can’t really call myself a huge action film person. I love story and character development and most of them are missing those two elements. A good handful of films have been able to not only include those two qualities, but also deliver some breathtaking set pieces to go along with it. I’m a fan of the last two Planet of the Apes films. The Batman trilogy was solid. The original Die Hard is one of my favorite films. Besides Batman, I like my action films without superheroes. It’s no surprise that I ended up liking this film so much. As completely batshit insane this movie was, I didn’t really get a sense that none of it could ever happen. The action was somewhat realistic, if we were to ever get as savage as these people that is.

To be honest, I didn’t really understand what the hell was going on for the first ten minutes or so of the film. It was a little jarring to just be shoved into this world of huge lady breast feeding, white zombie looking fellas, and roving marauders with no fear of death. Thankfully this wasn’t a huge deal. I quickly learned that I didn’t need to know anything about this world that they were in. The planet is shit and most people are shit. Here’s a truck with Charlize Theron in it. Go! I was on board.

Speaking of Charlize Theron, this is her movie. I know it is called Mad Max. I know that Tom Hardy was very good in the lead role, but I wasn’t way more drawn to Theron as Furiosa. She’s the one that started this whole movie into overdrive. Hell, without her, Max would still be a hood ornament. The fact that was kicked just as much ass as Max while only having one arm was also a major draw in. I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie that completely focused on her. Theron was that good.

The action was pretty phenomenal. There were some quiet scenes that pushed the story forward a little bit but for the most part the audience is treated to balls to the fucking floor action. Like a nine year old’s Legos box, the vehicles that came from left to right over the course of the movie ranged from terrifying to hilarious. You had spiked cruisers, sand bikes, teeter totter trucks, and my favorite of all, the sound trailer. I wonder how my man got the job on the guitar? Dude has it made. Actually, Miller was able to not only show us an insane character like the guitar marauder, but his inclusion actually helped make the score more intense. I was on the edge of my seat during these car chases.

If you want to have more films like this in theaters, then go see this movie. Huge budget rated R films don’t happen a thousand times a year. Go and see this film to show that there is an audience for these kind of movies. Go see the film because it’s looney-bin crazy too. That’s also a reason to go.

4.5/5





Film Review : I Origins (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 52%
Metacritic Score – 57/100

Directed By – Mike Cahill
Starring – Michael Pitt, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling, Steven Yeun, and Archie Panjabi

A molecular biologist and his laboratory partner uncover evidence that may fundamentally change society as we know it.

The fan made trailer above was include instead of the official trailer because it doesn’t give away the entire film like the official one did. I just wanted to point that out.

Wow. Emotions guys…lots of emotions right now.

You can just sign me up now to watch anything that involves Zal Batmanglij, Mike Cahill, or Brit Marling. Anything. I don’t care what it is. They make films with such an emotional punch to them that it doesn’t matter if there are some glaring scientific plot holes/inconsistencies. I’m not watching a Ted talk. I’m watching a movie. I can be a little hypocritical of this ideal sometimes however, especially when discussing zombie films. I guess what it comes down to is if there is a powerful story going on, I could give two shits if the science adds up. Cahill’s previous film Another Earth falls into this category. The likelihood of an identical Earth appearing in our solar system seems improbable but the story of Brit Marling’s character makes that film special.

This is why I loved I Origins.

Michael Pitt plays a scientist trying to create a human eye from scratch to prove that intelligent design is false. Brit Marling plays his lab partner. Honestly, this really doesn’t matter until the second half of the film, and I’m not going to spoil anything by describing why. The first half of this film is where the money is at. It’s what sets up the emotional gut punch that is delivered at the end. Pitt falls in love with Sofia, heartbreakingly played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey. Their relationship and where it takes them was masterfully written by Cahill. I cared for these characters. I cared for them a lot. Sofia is this free spirit who may not fall into one religion, but believes in the spirit and soul of human beings. She is the perfect contrast to the scientific ideals of Pitt’s character Ian. Cahill tells their story with passion and great attention to little details in relationships. It also helps that both Pitt and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey had wonderful chemistry and impressed me with their acting.

The second half of the film is more of a mystery that needs to be solved. The premise of the film, that our eyes can be scanned and used almost as fingerprints, doesn’t really get explained too much which is where it probably threw a lot of people off. I didn’t need explanation. It was just enough to get me on board emotionally.

This is why I love films like this. They take a science fiction idea, which more often than not creates a unique environment, and then on comes the feels. Upstream Colour hit me the same way. There will always be room on my film collection for films like this. Like most films I love, I can’t really explain much more than I already have. I Origins is a science fiction film that goes light on the science fiction and really heavy on the ol’ heartstrings. The exploration of humanity and the mysteries that go along with that are what really made me love the film. I highly recommend it.

4.5/5



Film Review : Ex Machina (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 90%
Metacritic Score – 78/100

Directed By – Alex Garland
Starring – Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno, and Alicia Vikander

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

Let me start off by saying that I’m extremely happy for Alex Garland. I’ve been a fan of his since 28 Days Later. His stories, while flawed at times, always strike me as interesting and unique. His novels and short stories such as The Coma have inspired some of my short story writing that I do independent of this website. I’m a fan. I was excited to hear he had directed a film and even more excited that his film is doing so well. It only means we’ll be seeing more of his mind on screen soon enough.

That being said, I loved the film.

There’s something about tiny films that appeal to me. Alien is a much better horror film than it’s sequel Aliens to me. Why? There’s less space to move around. It all takes place on the ship and deals with one alien. It’s more personal…intimate. Aliens is a fine film, but it’s more of a Terminator 2 type of film where they took what was great about the first film and then turned it up to eleven. Ex Machina is an intimate film. It takes place mainly in one location, the multi million dollar estate of Nathan, the CEO of Bluebook. Bluebook is basically the combination of Facebook and Google so right off the bat you know how rich and smart the man is. Caleb is a programmer working for Bluebook and wins a contest sending him to his boss’s home. There we find out that Nathan has built an AI and that Caleb was brought there to test it.

The first scene of the film is brilliant. It doesn’t meander around who Caleb is or what exactly this company does. We learn that later as the film progresses. We’re given a 30 second dialogue free set up and away we go into the world of this house and it’s inhabitants. I just love how that was done. Garland and his DP really took their time with the aesthetics of this house. It’s obviously a very modernized home with the latest and sometimes one of a kind technology. Garland makes sure to hold the camera at precise points to vaguely foreshadow certain plot twists later in the film. I love films that I can watch a second time and catch new things. I haven’t seen it a 2nd time yet, but I’m going to. There are so many points in the beginning of the film that can be recalled later in the film as being significant. I think that may be the best highlight of the entire film for me. It’s just so tight and clean, just like every inch of Nathan’s house. The dialogue between all three inhabitants is sharp, often funny, and always engrossing. Once Caleb finds out why he is there, the real show begins.

Alicia Vikander.

Yeah, I wasn’t aware she was a thing either. That’s changed. She was fantastic in this. It should be taken with a grain of salt however because her performance isn’t something flashy or grandiose. This is a small and quite performance. Most of the time we see her as Ava, we see her bare robotic body with just the front half of her face. Vikander was tasked with portraying the emotion and thought processes of a robot using only her facial expressions. This is why I find her performance so good. She was able to draw me in so well and actually believe that she was an AI with her own conscious and intelligence. Her sessions with Gleason were engrossing to watch.

Has Oscar Isaac just become my favorite actor? That’s hard to say, but he’s certainly in the discussion now. I think I can safely say that both he and Michael Fassbender are the future of male actors. They have not been in a bad film, not delivered a bad performance, and have pretty much been getting better with each role. He’s able to portray Nathan as somebody who you seem to like judging by the way he talks to Caleb, but somebody who you just don’t seem to trust. He reminds me of Jack Torrance before he went crazy in The Shining. Even in the beginning of the film you can tell something is off. Something just isn’t right about him. His drunk scenes were the best and may have been in the greatest dance scene I’ve seen in a long time. His co-star Domhnall Gleeson is solid but really takes a back seat to Vikander and Isaac here. I feel her started to skip towards the end of the film. It may have to do with the circumstances his character got into, but I just wasn’t with him towards the end.

That’s the gist of the film. What I haven’t talked about, and will dance lightly around, is the way the story progresses. There are scenes in with I was on the edge of my seat, not from excitement, but from pure envelopment of the story. It lured me in. It had my full focus. I didn’t check my phone to see what time it was. I didn’t wonder what I was going to do after the show. I was just fully enveloped in this tightly written sci-fi. There is a lot to discuss at the end of the film. Who was the villain here? Did so an so deserve what happened to them? I’m still not entirely sure who’s side I’m on. That’s what a great screenplay does for me. Makes me question myself.

It’s my film of the year so far. It provoked a lot of interesting theories as far as creation goes. It made me more afraid of the future than I already am. It provides two incredible performances from Vikander and Isaac and needs to be seen for the dance scene alone. I’m glad it came out when it did because it’s going to be buried by Avengers, but if you’re trying to see a film and want to duck around the Marvel crowds, this is your film. It’s one of the better sci-fi films to come out in some time and is a wonderful sign that Alex Garland will be making thought provoking films for a long time.

4.5/5




Quick Review : Love is Strange (2014)

IMDB Score –
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Ira Sachs
Starring – John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marissa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, Darren E. Burrows, Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez, and Chrstina Kirk

After Ben and George get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing — a situation that weighs heavily on all involved.

Today is Easter, and while I’m waiting for a succulent ham to enter my mouth, I’ve got a few words to say about this cute little movie. That’s right, it’s cute. I don’t care.

Love Is Strange is a little indie film from last year from writer/director Ira Sachs. The film features Lithgow and Molina as longtime partners who get married and immediately have their lives uprooted after the marriage. Molina works at a church as a music instructor and gets fired after the church finds out about the marriage, even though they knew of the relationship. This cause them to lose their apartment and have to spend time apart as they stay at their respected family members houses. The distance apart, and the drama at their temporary places of residence tests their love for each other in different ways.

I really liked this. Like I said before, it’s cute. That isn’t to say it’s a bunch of roses and happy endings. The film deals heavily on family, personal art and dreams, and age. Lithgow and Molina at first don’t have much chemistry, but as the film continues, their bond is very apparent. Both actors portray their characters with class and realism instead of stereotypical mannerisms that an older gay man may posses. Think the opposite of Christopher Plummer’s character in “Beginners”. I liked this better. It’s a subtle film that doesn’t put too much on the fact that they are gay, even though it’s basically the whole reason the film exists. The background story dealing with the family of Marissa Tomei’s character was a bit frustrating. The mother, played by Tomei, is a self centered bitch that farts out nice toasts about her uncle, played by Lithgow, and then seems to be annoyed by his existence when he has to stay at their place. The father is always absent or a ghost when present, and the son is a little shit, but young enough to get away with it. Their story is almost as important as the relationship between the two leads. It just pissed me off how much I hated them, especially the mother.

The film is well shot. I’ve been trying to find a still of one of the last scenes of the film were Ben and George are leaving a bar late at night. The streets are empty in what I presume to be the east village in NYC. They live on opposite ends of the city so at an intersection, one goes one way and the other another. The shot is stagnant and pretty as hell. I’ll try to find it and stick in in here. That being said, it’s a wonderfully made film.

It’s totally worth your attention. It’s a small, subtle, and ultimately heartbreaking film about love and what it all entails. Molina and Lithgow are fantastic in it and it’s pretty to look at.

4/5



Film Review : It Follows (2015)

IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 95%

Directed By – David Robert Mitchell
Starring – Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, and Daniel Zovatto

A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual confrontation.

*Insert STD joke that everybody seems to be making here*

There. Now that THAT’S over with…

I feel the need in every horror review I write to point out that modern horror movies are hard to do correctly. First off, studios have trouble greenlighting a lot of horror films because the great ones almost HAVE to be rated R and rated R films hurt box office sales. If your film does get on its feet, then it’s got to be pretty unique or else it’s going to come off redundant and stale. As of late, there has been an almost “rebirth” of 80’s style horror/thriller films that take simple premises and make them unique with style, atmosphere, and callbacks to horror classics of the 70s and 80s. Films like Drive, House of the Devil, The Guest, Cabin in the Woods, and The Innkeepers have done unique things with either tired tropes or dated plot devices. Cabin in the Woods did this perfectly and then spun us onto our head with the 3rd act. House of the Devil fully embodied an 80’s slasher flick. The Innkeepers took a typical ghost story and through atmosphere and brilliant camera work, made it unique and special. That being said, I’ll always respect and applaud films that try to do something different, or try to spice up something familiar. It Follows is a film that I respect, am intrigued by, but am left wishing it gave me a little bit more.

The film has a relatively easy premise. Whoever has “it” is followed by people, seemingly random people, and if they are caught, they die. They have to sleep with somebody and then “it” gets passed along to that person and the chain continues. If that person dies, “it” goes back down the chain of teenager sex until nobody is left. The followers only walk, and can’t be seen by anybody else. Off the bat, that’s a creepy premise. We all have been walking home late at night and notice that somebody is walking behind us. Even if that person is harmless, the sense of unease is there. So an entire film based on random people coming for you dead eyed at all hours of the night scares the shit out of me. I was disappointed though, not so much with the film, but rather by own self. You see, I wasn’t scared, not once, throughout the whole film. Save for one scene, I was watching this film no differently than I would watch a Pixar film. I guess the suspense just didn’t grab me or some outside forces from the day just numbed me to being scared but I just honestly wasn’t tense at all. I did however appreciate how one could find this suspenseful. They certainly did a good job keeping the camera flowing at the right places and still at others. There were many 360 pan shots that revealed some horrible thing or a stagnant show with something coming closer in the distance. I liked that. The film is well made. I just didn’t really get it.

Like I alluded to earlier, the film definitely paid tribute to classic films and directors. The score, which was amazing by the way, is straight from Carpenter himself. The night shots and horror scenes look like they were shot by Wes Craven. Hell, I was even reminded of The Shining a couple times when a scene would concludeand I was left scratching my head as to what the hell I just saw.

I think that’s what is eating at me with this film. It’s not as if I didn’t like it. I liked it plenty. I just didn’t get it enough to really love it. It’s a film that could definitely change my opinion of it over time, but I’m just not there yet. It’s flawed. The 3rd act was kind of a let down. There wasn’t a satisfactory end. Ambiguous is fine, but I needed a little bit more from it before it ended, which it abruptly did. There seems to be a lot of underlying themes that have NOTHING TO DO WITH FUCKING STDS that I just can’t seem to grasp. Is the film about relationships? We have Jay, a girl, played by Maika Monroe, running away from “it” while her friend Paul, played by Keir Gilchrist, is only trying to get closer to her. I enjoyed this dynamic. Is the film about the youth of adolescents? Are these kids literally running away from death which is slowly inching its way towards them? Like I said, “it” walks very slow. Whatever the main theme is, it’s not obvious, which both excites me and frustrates me. I like challenging films. I also like to figure things out. I haven’t figured this one out yet.

You should see the film. Why? Maybe you’ll understand it more than I did. If you’re a horror fan and have been waiting for a unique film that hasn’t been done before, then go see it. It’s a stylish film that does something completely different. Michael Meyers may have started the slow walk killer thing, but this film takes it to another level. I’ll always pay to see films like this. I love ambition. I just may not always get it. I need to watch this again.

3.5/5