FILM REVIEW: Mad Max Fury Road

Mad Max hangs, chained, upside down in some bleak, cavernous dungeon, following his persual and subsequent capture by a gang of crazed lunatics.

Charleze Theron (playing Imperator Furiosa), drives a customised big rig as part of the lunatics’ convoy, but she’s just taken an unscheduled turn off course and is making a break for it, destined for her childhood ‘Green Place,’ both for her benefit and for that of the group of scantily clad girls she’s secreted away from the clutches of their one, tyrannous husband and self-acclaimed people’s redeemer, Immortan Joe.

Both Furiosa and Max soon become reluctant partners and fugitives in crime, fleeing for their lives in Mad Max Fury Road (MMFR), the re-booted fourth instalment of the bizarre, post apocalyptic Mad Max franchise.

The film is well cast throughout, with Max, a loner of few words played here by Tom Hardy and he makes a good fist of things.

Along with Theron and then latterly, Nux (played by Nicholas Hoult), a somewhat misguided kid intent upon a glorious entrance into Valhalla, there are a number of ‘heroes’ to familiarise ourselves with and they’re all vying for our attention and that really is my main criticism of MMFR; there are just simply too many wannabe heroes. The lines are subsequently blurred between each and as a result, the film lacks a true focal point.

Director George Miller’s intentions here it seems was to come up with a raw, gritty, break-neck speed road movie with a poignant sub-text, but above all an invitation to buckle up and enjoy the white knuckle ride.

To a large degree, MMFR achieves much of this, it’s true, but ultimately what Miller has delivered is one hyper-extended chase scene and a rather flimsy plot. Admittedly the chase scenes are full throttle and nerve jangling, to such an extent infact that when the engines are briefly switched off in the film’s middle section and there’s a serious attempt at reflection and soul searching, it just feels clumsy and contrived and completely out of kilter with the rest of the film, as though someone’s accidentally pulled the plug out at a rave.

The engines weren’t the only things that switched off at that point.

It’s not all negativity though, there are indeed some great touches. The heavy metal, shredding guitar gimp, for example, (think Yngwie Malmsteem’s post-apocalyptic, mutant love child), strapped to the front of the mother of all Marshall stacks, strapped to the mother of all big rigs is inspired and it’s this kind of far-out bizarreness that MMFR aspires to achieve yet somehow, on reflection,  falls short of.

Don’t get me wrong, the whole concept is in many ways off its head, but for those of us of a certain age that remember the original trilogy and the truly bizarre blueprint that it laid out decades ago, it’s arguable that MMFR adds nothing new to the pot other than admittedly top-drawer and even more elaborate special effects.

MMFR is a sort of high-octane, mutant whacky races with thrills and spills aplenty and if you’re an adrenalin junky and that in itself is enough for you, then I imagine that MMFR is going to press all the right buttons.

 

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FILM REVIEW: The Tribe

There’s a moment in the BBC Comedy series ‘I’m Alan Partridge’ when Alan, whilst being given a tour of his prospective new house, is informed that it’s close to a school for the deaf. “Does that mean there will be or won’t be noise?” he enquires. “I mean, it’s not a school for deaf offenders, is it?”

Comedy that may well be, but it does open up an interesting thought to ponder upon and more importantly challenges our pre-conceptions of those with disadvantages and of our need to stereotype, in general; for example, how many of us would perceive ‘the deaf’ as anything other than good people, struggling on through life and adversity?

A comedy, ‘the Tribe’ is not; far from it. It’s a raw and rather bleak look at a run-down, Ukrainian boarding school for the hard of hearing; a school that feels both forgotten and unloved, as though everyone that attends or works there has been abandoned in some way by their families, the system and by life in general.

Consequently, a feral existence ensues; not just tolerated but positively encouraged by those in charge; a means of money making from theft, deceit and prostitution,  promoting a feckless next generation. There are certainly shades of ‘The Lord of the Flies’ about this existence.

The new boy, played by Grigoriy Fesenko, is ‘welcomed’ into his new surrounds through a sequence of rites of passage and is soon actively engaged in the school’s plethora of wrong doings, that is until love plays a part in things. It’s the sort of twisted love that could only be born out of a place like this. Pure love has no chance to flourish here but importantly it’s a  love that breaks all of the rules and codes of The Tribe and is always going to end in repercussions, as the film presses ominously onwards towards its savage finale.

I don’t know whether it’s the winter months, the decaying, cold, blue institutional decor of this establishment or just the feeling of hopelessness in so much as you either accept things as they are here or you’re a part of a problem, to  be treated as such by the pack mentality of the students, but The Tribe is an incredibly desparate, yet remarkable piece on so many levels.

There is literally no spoken dialogue throughout, no soundtrack of any description, not even occasional incidental music to break the intensity.

It has been shot in long, drawn-out takes which offer no escape from the at times harrowing scenes that unfold (and believe me they’re uncomfortable viewing).

Everybody is seemingly in an insanely mad rush to get everywhere and do everything; a warped, yet well oiled corruption machine. All portrayed emotions are dark, angry and somewhat explosive.

The end credit sequence is short, blunt and to the point… much like The Tribe.

Bleak, yet utterly brilliant.

 

 

FILM REVIEW: JURASSIC WORLD

Jurassic World has no right to be good.

The original Jurassic Park, whilst quite standard fare in its plot and construction, had the wow factor of CGi dinosaurs, not to mention the direction of a certain Steven Spielberg and all that that brings to the party.

It’s fair to say that CGi dinosaurs aside, the Jurassic Park dynasty had long since faded away as is the way of many dynasty following  a run of inferior sequels.

Here we are in 2015: Enter Jurassic World, a further, seemingly unnecessary chapter in a franchise long since past it’s best. Or is it?

I’m not sure what provoked this fourth Dinosaur-fest, but it’s here and it’s actually rather good.

Spielberg is on board, albeit in an executive producers role, whatever that may entail. It’s hard to know how much input he actually had in proceedings but Jurassic World has all the tell-tale signs of Spielberg’s tinkering, so either director Colin Trevorrow is a big fan of Spielberg, or the man himself has had a hands on role here, to some extent at least.

Jurassic World is a huge Dinosaur Kingdom and theme park situated on a remote Costa Rican island. It’s a Mecca for boat load after boat load of entertainment hungry tourists to indulge themselves within.

John Hammond’s original, ill-fated Jurassic Park may be consigned as a footnote in history, but the hunger for its content has ensured that this new shrine to the dinosaur has now been built in its place. There’s just one problem though; as the park’s director of operations (and the film’s leading lady) Claire (played with real savvy and attitude by Bryce Dallas Howard) says: and to loosely quote… “Kids these days consider seeing a Stegosaurus to be no different to seeing an elephant.”

There is of course a sad irony to this comment considering the rate at which elephants are being plundered for their ivory, something that will soon see their numbers far closer to the actual numbers of living Stegosauruses.

Essentially though, there’s an ongoing need for bigger, better and more exciting and with this in mind, the geneticists and the Kingdom’s enthusiastic, yet slightly misguided owner have created a savage, mutant DNA-fest of a creature to satisfy the public’s appetite.

Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are brothers sent by their parents on holiday to Jurassic World. The idea is that Claire (who also happens to be their aunt), will spend some quality time with them, showing them around the place in a rare opportunity to bond with the nephews that she rarely sees; but Claire is far too busy in her business-centric world of pie charts, stats and spreadsheets and her assistant is therefore assigned the task of taking care of the boys. The boys give her the slip and with a marauding, hybrid dinosaur on the loose, that’s the cue for all manner of shenanigans to unravel.

Of course, all good blockbusters need a hero and Chris Pratt steps up to the challenge with aplomb, playing Owen, the park’s resident velociraptor whisperer. In his waist coat and exuding all manner of charm, one could be forgiven for drawing comparisons with another notable Spielberg hero of yesteryear; he just needs a whip and a hat.

Much as before, Jurassic World boils down to a familiar message of ‘don’t mess with nature or it’ll come back and bite you’, literally in this case, for telling the possible ramifications for mankind should he not take heed and resist his desire to control and be the master of all he creates or surveys.

Naturally, all of this is never going to end well and lessons will always be learned (and then of course forgotten once again it would seem, to keep those sequel gravy trains a’rollin).

Jurassic World is a story of Good guys, bad guys, misguided fools and a whole truck load of dinosaurs thrown, en masse at today’s attention span-light, hard to please generation.

I should be running like a squealing pig, pursued by a T-Rex from such formulaic output as this, particularly when you throw in the gratuitous product placement and the predictability and somewhat cliched nature of the plot, but in spite of everything, Jurassic World holds it’s own. It’s damned good fun, it’s damned entertaining and probably the best, big budget family blockbuster I’ve seen in many a long year.

Ok Hollywood, this time you’ve got me!

Well and truly sucked in!