Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

I guess I should start this out by admitting that I have never seen the other two films in the series. I have no idea if this is a continuation, or a reboot either. I know very little about the franchise, and I will not be comparing it to the previous films.

Fury Road is named after the main character in the movie, Furiosa. This movie oddly enough is not so much bout Max, but her story. It follows her as she tries to free a group of women from a slave like society where they were being used as breeders. The entire movie is them driving down a road trying to escape their captors.

So how does a Mad Max movie work, where Max takes a back seat most of the film? Surprisingly well actually. Max has a few lines of dialogue, but for the most part his character is simply there to help move the story along. We don't even get to see what he is doing at certain parts of the movie, as it is constantly focusing on the female characters instead of him. At one point he goes off to acquire supplies and comes back very bloody. I want to see that scene, but we don't get to. It does remind me of that interview Tom Hardy had where he was asked if he felt that this being a mans movie, did the amount of females in it detract from the experience. It was a stupid question, but after seeing the movie I can sort of understand what the was trying to say. This is a movie about the female characters first, and Max second.

Charlize Theron plays Imperator Furiosa. Spell check does not like most of those words. She is part of the slave city and has a prominent role in the society. They seem to worship cars, and she drives the war rig which is basically a semi truck. The movie starts with her and her team doing a gas run in which she decides to go off road and tries to run. To her and the writers credit, her team goes along with it at first. They respect her enough to trust her. In a movie that is about "Breeders" it was nice to see a female role portrayed like that. It was actually a common theme throughout which I felt was one reason why the female protagonist worked so well. While they all had bad pasts and there was plenty implied, they never really brought those aspects of the characters to the front. They also did not make the women weak, so there was no reason to look down on them. Yes the main role of most of the females was procreation, but it was not a defining characteristic of who they were in the movie.

The villains name is Immortan Joe. I had to look that up on imdb, I had no clue what they were saying in the movie. I just assumed he was Immortal Joe and that his crazy religious zealots thought he couldn't die. It made sense given the context and what they all seemed to believe. A society built upon the idea of a good death, and that cars were some how holy. They would get excited at the prospect of death, but only when somebody was there to see or witness the death. It was a running gag for one character, and seeing how happy he was every time he was about to die was kind of endearing in a odd sort of way. They would also spray chrome spray paint into their mouths as some sort of boost. It would let them overcome some pain, and just make them more crazy for the most part. It oddly enough made me want to try it, but thankfully that passed rather quickly. I asked my wife what the hell they were doing, and she equated it to huffing which made some sense to me. One of the most interesting things about the movie was the society though, and how it reacted to everything.

The movie was essentially one long car chase. It did have small breaks in between the action sequences, but not for very long. As a action movie there are certain things you expect to see. Close quarters combat, which the movie had very little of. Gun fights, one again very little of. So what did it give us? Well vehicular combat, over and over again. Each time though was different, which helped it stay fresh and interesting. We got to see Joe's men fight porcupine like cars in the beginning. We saw how their weaponry worked and it was enjoyable. They then added in more factions each with their own style. Mad and Furiosa used mostly guns as Max was never really in a car for most of the film. We saw a lot of explosions and some really cool moments where they were using these stilt like contraptions to swing people from one car to the other to try and rip people out while driving. We had a guy with a flame thrower guitar playing the movies hard rock soundtrack as they raced across the desert. The sequences were all well done, very exciting, and most of all stylish. This was a very visually appealing movie, and all the effects were well done. They used a lot of practical effects from what I read, and that kept everything looking realistic for the most part. I would have liked to see Max get a little more hands on in the fighting, but maybe that is out of character for him. Once again I have not seen the other films, maybe fist fights were never this franchises thing.

Acting was all around good in this. Theron was the perfect pick for her role. She spent most of the movie cold and standoffish, but the few moments where she brought emotion into it were believable. Hardy did fine with Max, though he mostly just had to look cool and like he could hurt you. He is good at that, and the few lines he had were delivered well enough. His voice he went with was odd, almost like he was growling at times. It reminded me of the Batman voice that Bale did, though thankfully not as bad. Nicholas Hoult played Nux, one of the zealots from Joe's city. He was one of the better characters in the film. He had some sort of disease to where he needed blood. So he hooked a guy up to his car so he could have a constant source of blood. Then it turns out I must have misunderstood that part, because he clearly did not need the blood but just like it or something. I don't know, kid was crazy just like his entire city. But I loved it, and he was a stand out role. He was hyper and charismatic, and good on Hoult for being able to bring that all out.

The story for the movie was simple, but it worked to set everything up. The ending was decent but left it open to further explore that franchise if the choose to do so. The music was enjoyable, and I loved seeing the sountrack being played by the flame throwing guitar guy tied up to the front of one of the vehicles. It was the small things like that which made this film for me. Everything about it was just cool and stylish, but it never detracted from the experience. It reminded me so much of Fist of the North star, to the point I wondered which was the inspiration for the other. It took a over used setting and made it work again. Granted Max could have easily started that post apocalyptic trend given the time the first movie came out. Either way this movie was a refreshing experience. It was just fun, and sometimes that is all you need.

I enjoyed its stylistic approach to everything, and would be excited to see another one if it was handled the same way.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jurassic World (2015)

Jurassic World is the 4th installment in the Jurassic Park trilogy. If you somehow have not seen any of the other films, well you should at least check out the first one. But for this movie to work, you really don't need any prior knowledge. It works quite well as a stand alone film, though there are quite a few moments that call back to the others with various set pieces and characters. Various little facts that stand out more if you know them, from the visitors center to some of the dialogue. If you ask any fan of the franchise what their favorite movie is, they will always say the first one. There is a reason for this, it was truly something special. It was a movie that stood out for its time, great effects and good story telling mixed with a theme that captivated all ages. It had suspense, action, and Dinosaurs. They followed it up with a 2nd and 3rd film which lost a lot of the appeal of the original. They seemed to forget what made the first one work, and started to drift further away from that. The 2nd film was good if you cut out the last 40 minutes, and the third was just boring all over. They injected more action, and left out the wonder that captured us all. So when I heard there was a 4th film, my honest expectations were very low. I had no interest in even seeing the film after the first few trailers. Sequences that showed the Raptors working with the Humans seemed to out of place. I was afraid taking them away as hunters would lesson the movies ability to create Tension. And to be fair, I was right. But what I never expected was the movies awareness of what it was doing, and how it never tried to actually be the first film. It had no suspenseful sections, and was pretty much pure action. It was more like a Monster film, but by not trying to compare itself to the original they were able to create their own experience. I think when you ask people now which is their favorite, you may get a more varied response. If they are older and Grew up or saw the original back when it was new, they will still say that one. There really is something just magical about it. But if they are younger they will go with this one. Either way this will be 1 or 2 for most people.

The story for this movie takes place something like 10 years after the first park failed. They have been running for a good while without incident, and have huge crowds coming to see the various exhibits. Every few years they try to introduce something new to get numbers back up, and this time they decided to create their own dino hybrid to up the wow factor. A Super T-rex called the Indominus Rex. It is created using a T-Rex as the base, then mixing in other dino and non dino species. Well as you would imagine, it escapes and incompetence from pretty much everybody creates a situation that puts the park goes at risk. Now for the type of movie it is, the story works well. However there is no real excuse for the stupidity of some of the characters. The movie and the story could have worked fine with out it. Examples would be them sending in a team to capture the super Rex with cattle prods and a net gun. It goes as well as you would imagine. What's even worse is there is a character telling them they are idiots and are going to get people killed, but they just ignore it. This is a theme throughout the film. Somebody comes up with a idea that makes you shake your head, and Chris Pratt goes, that is stupid, you are stupid...then they do said idea anyways. They bring him in as a expert then ignore everything he says. There is also a issue with the main character Claire played by Bryce Dallas Howard. She is the only character to really have any growth in the movie, and it appears as if they are trying to teach her the meaning of family. But it comes across as them trying to tell you she needs to have children to validate her life. The two kids in this film are her sisters, and they are sent to visit her since she runs the park and can get them in. She spends the entire film with Pratt trying to locate and then protect the kids. There is a line where her sister tells her she will understand when she has her own kids, to which she responds by saying if not when. The sister then gets on to her and tells her it is "when." The movie even ends with a scene pretty much shouting, see kids are great. I don't mind people injecting their opinions into their work, but this felt forced and out of place. There was also a scene dealing with divorce that seemed out of place since it was never brought up again. It seemed like it was only there to make one character look bad, which was odd since they were pretty solid the rest of the film. It alluded to another story we never got to see, and it just seemed odd on its own.

The acting was solid, Chris Pratt is always enjoyable. Bryce Dallas Howard suprised me as Claire. I had seen her in other things, but I didn't really know anything about here. She played her role well and I can see her doing well in future projects. Vincent D'Onofrio who I have never liked continued that trend. Although after just finishing Daredevil on netflix, hearing him talk like a normal person was a welcomed change. Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson played the kids in this movie. Simpkins you may know as the cool little guy from Insidious. Him and Robinson were surprisingly likable in this. In the first film you had Tim and Lex. I liked Tim because he was similar to younger me. I didn't like Lex because she was annoying to younger me. They try to play the same type of roles with these two. Simpkins is a dino nut like Tim and reads all these books and can point out the different species while rambling out facts. Robinson doesn't seem interested in that and is more into the opposite sex, he keeps checking out the girls in line over the exhibits themselves. Both the actors did a good job though of bringing those characters to life, and by the end I really liked both of them. They won't win any awards with this, but I would have no issues if I saw them pop up as a major role in another big franchise now.

Music was good, but never really had the impact it did in the first film. It did have a similar score though and used the Jurassic Park theme quite often. While that does make a lot of things sound similar, I love that theme so I didn't really care. Sound effects were great, and if we ever do magically make real dinosaurs, if they don't sound like this movie I will be disappointed with them.

So you don't care about all that, you just want to know if the Dinosaurs are worth the ticket price. Short answer yes. I posted on facebook while still in the lobby waiting for somebody else, The last 10 minutes of the movie was worth the ticket price alone. I stand by that, but it is not to say the rest was not good to. The dinosaurs look great, and while initially turned off at the idea of them using a fake dino instead of one of the many real ones, it won me over in the end. As did the human allied Raptors. They gave them names, I can't dislike a named animal. Echo, Charlie, Delta, and Blue somehow had character and personalities....well Blue did. Seeing Chris Pratt train and then try and stand with them was a cool moment. And I enjoyed seeing their intelligence play out when they got their screen time. To me they looked slightly smaller then the past raptors, but more stocky and better built. They were cooler, and fiercer. They also addressed why their dinosaurs don't quite match up to the historic representations we have for certain species which was nice. The I-Rex was pretty damn neat to. She was white, had these weird almost feather like things going down her spine, and hands. Not dino little fingers, but claws that acted like fingers almost. It was creepy and very unsettling, but in the best possible way. We saw a few other species, and they all looked great. They had a ride where you could ride baby dinosaurs, baby dinosaurs are adorable. There was a scene where they had almost a safari like experience set up, and we got to see some cool species just walking around. Some of the best moments of the film were just seeing these cool creatures. Also while most of the action was more Human vs Dino, we did get some Dino fighting which was enjoyable. There was also a scene you have probally seen in the trailers, where a huge amount of flying Dinos get loose and attack the park population. It was a very cool moment that kind of reminded me Hitchcock's The Birds, except for the obvious fact that these things looked deadly which makes it very different.

How much violence and gore is in this film, is it good for children? Well that is a tough one actually. There is some violence yes, but nothing overly brutal. There is a lot of killing, but most of it is off screen or you don't see the final act. Somebody gets their hand bitten off, but you only see the dino latch onto the arm for example. There is a decent amount of blood for a PG movie, but it never seems gross or over the top. You also don't see any ripped off limbs or anything like that. I would say it is fine for kids as long as you don't mind them seeing some blood, the movie never really takes that aspect of it to far.

This is a good action flick with some humor and solid acting and sound work. The dinosaurs are the true star of the movie as they should be, and the finale will leave you smiling like a small child. The effects are great, and the movie managed to avoid the pitfalls that the 2nd and 3rd film either stumbled or dove head first into. While we do still have some amazingly stupid humans, it doesn't really detract from the finished product. Though some of the heavy handed opinions did kind of rub me the wrong way. Also as a man I found it curious that Claire trekked through the jungle, and out ran dinos in a heels the entire time. I always thought those shoes were for show and not functional. Wonder how possible that actually was. There was also a scene where Pratt tells her to go back to the park, she was not ready for this because of her heels. She responds by turning her top into a more revealing version of itself that is tied around her waste in a fashion similar to what Ellie was wearing in the first film, except it showcased her cleavage. When Pratt asks where what that was, she simply says it means I am ready now. Not sure what Cleavage and bare arms has to do with heels not being great outdoor shoes, but he seemed fine with it. Apparently it worked to, so ladies if you are ever in heels and being chase, remember that Cleavage is the answer. It makes those heels magically work like running shoes.

So a good movie that will easily stand the test of time. It made me excited again about a franchise I had long stopped caring for. While it had some questionable moments, in the end the overall film was more then able to make up for them.

This Trailer does a pretty good job of not ruining to much, so stick with it if you are interested in seeing the film. I have no clue why most recent trailers tend to be a summary of the entire movie now.