Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

mad_max_fury_road_Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, Richard Carter, Iota, Angus Sampson, Jennifer Hagan, Megan Gale, Melissa Jaffer

Directed by George Miller

Expectations: Initially nothing, then moderate after I saw the 1st trailer, then the hype dropped and my expectations ballooned to astronomical proportions.

fourstar


HHHHHHOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLYYYYYY FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKK! The idea of trying to write something relatively coherent after experiencing Mad Max: Fury Road is straight-up ludicrous. While watching it I kept thinking to myself, “This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.” I know that sounds ridiculously hyperbolic, but it’s true. So what more do I have to say? GO SEE IT IN THE THEATERS! Of course, there’s lots more to say, but that’s the only thing you need to hear if you haven’t seen it yet. Just see it, then we’ll talk.

[Deep breath.]

OK, I can do this.

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Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

madmax3_1Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
AKA Mad Max 3

Starring Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Angelo Rossitto, Angry Anderson, Helen Buday, Tom Jennings, Robert Grubb, Paul Larsson, Bruce Spence, Adam Cockburn, Frank Thring, Edwin Hodgeman, Rod Zuanic

Directed by George Miller & George Ogilvie

Expectations: Vroom?

threehalfstar


Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the much-maligned entry of the Mad Max trilogy, and I had only seen it once in my teenage years prior to this re-watch. Back then, I expected it to be Road Warrior 2, and when it wasn’t I called it a shitty movie. I guess it’s fair to assume that a sequel would somewhat resemble the films that came before it, but in this particular case it’s the wrong way to come at Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome because there’s virtually no way to enjoy it if you do so. But when considered on its own, and as a continuation of the wasteland and the societal issues built up in the previous films, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a fantastic sequel.

This one is far more story-driven than the other films, making it a more traditional film in a very non-traditional franchise (and thus probably causing more people to be perturbed). Anyway, we open with Max making his way across the great desert via camel-drawn wagon. He gets robbed by a huckster pilot (who is totally not the Gyrocopter pilot from Road Warrior even though they’re both played by Bruce Spence), so Max continues on his way to Barter Town on foot. Once there Max attracts the attention of the town’s leader, Aunty Entity (Tina Turner), who decides to use his talents for her own purposes.

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The Road Warrior (1981)

madmax2_1The Road Warrior (1981)
AKA Mad Max 2

Starring Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps, Vernon Wells, Kjell Nilsson, Emil Minty, Virginia Hey, William Zappa, Arkie Whiteley, Steve J. Spears

Directed by George Miller

Expectations: Vroom! Vroom!

threehalfstar


The Road Warrior is not a direct sequel to Mad Max, instead it jumps forward a number of years to present a much more advanced version of the wasteland. This is never expressly stated, but it’s really the only way to explain why the two films are so aesthetically different. Anyway, The Road Warrior is an incredible film, and much different than its predecessor. Director George Miller proved on Mad Max that he had a punk spirit that was willing to tell his story without adhering to traditional filmmaking rules, and here on The Road Warrior the same spirit is in evidence (both in visual design and storytelling).

At this stage, society as we know it is completely gone. Gasoline is far more precious than it was in Mad Max and the bandits have also become much more insane, embracing their law of chaos. The bandits dress like scavenger punks, wearing leather chaps, football pads and whatever the hell else they found that looked suitably badass. Their leader is a huge guy in a hockey mask named Humungus, a name both fitting for his stature and for the bandits’ outlook on life. They don’t have time to waste on bullshit; this guy’s humongous so his name will be Humungus!

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Mad Max (1979)

mad_max_ver2Starring Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Roger Ward, Lisa Aldenhoven, David Bracks, Bertrand Cadart, David Cameron, Robina Chaffey

Directed by George Miller

Expectations: Vroom!

threehalfstar


Ever since I first watched Mad Max as a teenager, I’ve harbored a serious love for it. The opening chase is probably one of my all-time favorite opening sequences. While going about my day, I will often randomly recall the moment when the car crashes through the trailer and smile to myself; it’s one of those small pieces of film on my mental highlight reel (along with other gems like the head explosion at the beginning of Dawn of the Dead). But even though I watched Mad Max many times during those years, enough to sear this moment into my brain, I went into this re-watch not recalling much of anything specific except that.

Max is a cop for MFP (which does not stand for Mother Fuckers Protectin’ like you might expect), and MFP is one of the last shreds of ordered society left in the world. Max and his few compatriots do their best to enforce the law, but it’s like fighting an ocean wave; it’s coming through you no matter how hard you struggle against it. Chaos is taking hold over Australia, with no remedy in sight. The MFP is a dying breed in a land that has moved on.

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The Running Man (1987)

runningman_2Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Richard Dawson, Yaphet Kotto, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura, Erland van Lidth, Marvin J. McIntyre, Gus Rethwisch, Professor Toru Tanaka, Mick Fleetwood, Dweezil Zappa, Kurt Fuller

Directed by Paul Michael Glaser

Expectations: Super high, this is one of my favorite movies.

fourstar


As with Commando, I’m unable to give The Running Man anything less than a full and total endorsement of four stars. I’ve seen this film more times than I could ever remember; at this point it almost seems like I was the one who escaped from prison and got roped into a sadistic, future game show when the girl I kidnapped ratted me out. But my love of The Running Man isn’t blind, and now that I’m tasked with sharing my thoughts, I’ll do my best to relate why I think it’s such a great movie.

The film began its life under director Andrew Davis, who was just coming off of the Chuck Norris movie Code of Silence and would later go on to make such films as Under Siege, The Fugitive and Collateral Damage. Davis was fired after one week of filming, and Arnold is on record saying that this hurt the film because the replacement director, Paul Michael Glaser, shot it like a TV show. I love Arnold, but I have to disagree. The Running Man is gorgeous, and the look is one of the main reasons it succeeds. The film bursts with colors, from bright neons to dark blacks and blues. Thick fog and dirty mists swirl around our characters, filling many of the shots with a level of intoxicating cinematography usually unseen in genre fare like this.

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