Mad Max: Fury Road

May 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Directed by: George Miller (“Mad Max,” “Happy Feet”)
Written by: George Miller (“Babe: Pig in the City,”) and Brendan McCarthy (debut) and Nico Lathouris (debut)

I’m not going to lie and say that I can’t let spectacle wash over me from time to time in a movie theater, ignoring the flaws or lack of substance in a story, but when it comes to assessing the film after the fact, after the awe and excitement have worn off, the shortcomings are typically the first thing that come rushing to mind. Wait, why were those guys doing that thing? Who is this guy again? What’s the deal with the [insert elaborate mythological back story that’s not explained whatsoever]? Such is the case with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” an insane 2-hour post-apocalyptic car chase across the desert that doesn’t really amount to anything more than, well, an insane 2-hour post-apocalyptic car chase across the desert.

The paper-thin plotting kicks off with stoic, lizard-eating Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy, stepping into the role that put Mel Gibson on the map 30-plus years ago) being captured by “war boys” to be used as a “blood bag” for weaker warrior Nux (Nicholas Hoult). The war boys are loyal to Immorten Joe (Hugh Keyas-Byrne, who played villain Toecutter in previous Mad Max films), a warlord who controls his subjects through brutality and strictly rationing water. When Joe sends his most trusted Imperator, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) on a mission across the desert in a war rig to acquire gasoline and bullets, Furiosa instead leads the convoy on a mission to deliver Joe’s sex-slave wives to a the colony Furiosa grew up in, freeing the women from their captivity. Joe and the war boys give chase, with Max strapped to the front of Nux’s dune buggy like a living masthead. When a dust storm interrupts the pursuit, Max is able to escape Nux and form a reluctant alliance with Furiosa. The chase resumes, and doesn’t ever really stop for anything else, not even to explain what the hell is going on.

As other reviews for “Fury Road” reach critical mass, heralding the film as an amazing piece of filmmaking and one of the best films of the year, I’m left wondering why I’m missing out on the breathtaking excitement. Have I been spoiled by years of Marvel blockbusters, where the mythology is explained like it’s going to be on a final exam in theaters in 3 years’ time? Is my general lack of knowledge of a 36-year-old Australian action franchise somehow a hindrance to properly enjoying mega-budget action film in 2015? Maybe to both, but it really boils down to basics: the story just isn’t there for me to take the enjoyment to next level. I want to know more about this world, and director George Miller just seems intent to focus on the admittedly amazing mix of physical and CGI effects with little regard for anything else.

Jack the Giant Slayer

March 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Elanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci
Directed by: Bryan Singer (“X-Men”)
Written by: Darren Lemke (“Shrek Forever After”), Christopher McQuarrie (“Jack Reacher”) and Dan Studney (debut)

Based on the fairy tales “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Jack the Giant Killer” comes a fantasy movie from former (and future…future past?) “X-Men” director Bryan Singer. In “Jack the Giant Killer,” farmhand Jack (Nicholas Hoult) decides he must climb up a giant beanstalk in order to save Isabelle, (Elanor Tomlinson) a princess who has been kidnapped and is trapped at the top. When Jack and the team of the King’s men reach the top of the beanstalk, a group of newly awakened giants await.

Though the acting in the film isn’t bad, it is certainly nothing to write home about either. For better or worse, everyone in the film plays everything relatively straight, so you get actual effortful performances from acting veterans like Ewan McGregor and Ian McShane. The same goes for the performances from Hoult and Tomlinson as Jack and Isabelle. While neither of them are particularly good, they are adequate enough to where they aren’t trite or cheesy.

One of the things that “Jack the Giant Slayer” struggles with is finding a consistent tone. At times it seems as if the PG-13- rated film is going for a serious, adventurous tone while other times Singer takes full advantage of gross out and flatulence humor that would appeal to younger kids. Regardless of tone, the script is also a problem with lame jokes and a tendency of extended lulls in action.

“Jack the Giant Slayer” trudges through most of the first half of the film as the entertainment levels wax and wane. The final act of the film is a CGI-heavy battle sequence that finally ramps up the action and adventure levels. The effects behind the actual CGI  giants are pretty good, but the noisy finish can’t quite make up for the film’s overall mediocrity.

It’s a little surprising that Warner Bros sunk $200 million into a CGI-heavy fairytale adaption with no stars in its leading roles. What makes the situation even more perplexing is spending that much on a film without a distinct tone, a strong story, a worthy script or built in audience. Too serious and dull in parts for small kids, and too juvenile and monotonous in others for older kids, tweener tone in “Giant Slayer” misses the mark on all intended audiences and will likely prove to be massive waste of cash for a studio that is struggling to find a hit in 2013.

Warm Bodies

February 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Directed by: Jonathan Levine (“50/50”)
Written by: Jonathan Levine (“50/50”)

Zombie movie purists beware. “Warm Bodies” will make your head explode.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Unique twists to the sometime tired genre are always welcomed. There are only so many underlying political issues George A. Romero can cover before things start to feel repetitious. So, when original zombie ideas like “Warm Bodies” rear their ugly heads, you can’t help but take a bite.

In the last decade, we’ve seen a masterpiece like “Shaun of the Dead” and solid comedies like “Zombieland” and “Fido.” These kinds of movies can be done and done very well. Unfortunately, “Warm Bodies” doesn’t rise past its quirky synopsis. It’s a zombie romantic comedy (zom rom com) at a loss for believable plot devices and consistent laughs.

The film follows a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), a somewhat self-aware young zombie male who isn’t really feeling his new lifestyle now that the world has ended by way of zombie apocalypse. His emo-esque internal monologue conveys his desire to connect with people again and express himself. A zombie, however, isn’t much of a conversationalist.

Things begin to change for R when he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer), a survivor who is ambushed by the undead during a mission to find medicine for the other humans living in a safe concrete compound. During the attack, R saves Julie and somehow persuades her through his moaning and grunting that she would be better off escaping with him instead of doing what any sane person would do and run away.

These are the kind of lazy plot holes that plague “Warm Bodies.” Although they allow the narrative to move forward, some of the script choices simply don’t make any sense. Why doesn’t Julie drive away in the car available to her at any point of the movie? Why can some zombies smell human flesh and others can’t? Why do some zombies run like the dickens and others move in slow-mo? “Warm Bodies” is bold in making up its own rules, but it should be labeled a cheater when it changes those same rules so the story can proceed.

The most shameful disregard for the screenplay comes with the fact that during R and Julie’s time together, R begins to change back into a human. Sure, that’s probably plausible in zombie world, but why do the other zombies who are unaffected by Julie in any way also begin to transform? Unless director/writer Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) is trying to make a point by saying that love, too, is infectious, it doesn’t add up.

While there are a few chuckle-worthy scenes between R and his best zombie friend M (Rob Corddry), “Warm Bodies” is more smart-alecky than it is smart. The combination of horror, romance and comedy might be less of an acquired taste than it was a few years ago, but this kind of fleshy meal just isn’t very appetizing without more substance. Brains, perhaps?