Review: Mad Max Fury Road

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The trailer had me. I was stunned by the visual, lured by the return to Max’s world. I should have left it there!

To be honest Mad Max: Fury Road is not a terrible film. It is however not worthy of the outpouring of praise & critical fervour that it has stirred up. This mantra of the ‘return of the great action film’  is something which is over used and over hyped.

An apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order. There’s Max (Tom Hardy), a man of action and a man of few words, who seeks peace of mind following the loss of his wife and child in the aftermath of the chaos and Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a woman of action and a woman who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.

This is a two hour car chase punctuated with occasional dialogue. The problem for me is the unexplainable nature of certain elements. Why is Max captured at the start of the film other than to start the chase? Max’s flashbacks to a young girl which  I presume he could not save from some unexplained horror. It is never explained who she is or what happened to her.

This may seem petty criticism but these elements were distractions for me and took me out of the film.

As for the much lauded strong female character lines I fail to see them. Yes the women involved are removed form their old world roles of breeders and feeders but they never reach the dizzy heights that many seem to think they do. In effect they are pretty anonymous. Theron is might as Furiosa but to claim this is a victory for women in film is strong given that she is nothing more than ‘Ripley light’ driving fast and shooting a gun.

As I said Mad Max is not terrible but it may be the biggest cinematic disappointment I experience this year!

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Review: The Drop

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Directed by Michael P Roskam and based on a short story (Animal Rescue) by Denis Lehane ‘The Drop’ centres on  Bob (Tom Hardy) and Cousin Marv (James Galdofini in his final on-screen appearance).Marv is the ex hard man of the area and has seen his turf taken over by Chechen gangsters. His bar is now used as a drop bar where dirty money is left for collection. The bar is held up and the gangsters want their money back.

Meanwhile Bob, on his walk home from work, finds a mistreated pit bull puppy in a trash can outside the home off local resident Nadia (Noomi Rapace). A relationship then begins to blossom as the pair care for this puppy and in the background is the menacing presence of Nadia’s ex played by Michael Schoenaerts.

Firstly the positives. The performances in this film are great Galdofini is in great gruff form, Rapace is good  and Tom Hardy in particular is a great screen presence. The more I see of Tom Hardy the bigger fan I am becoming.

The film however does have some problems. For something based on a short story it does seem to have too many narrative threads fighting for your attention. Chechen gangsters, Hardy and Rapace’s relationship, the psychotic ex, Galdofini attempting to recover old glories, an under used detective character chasing a cold case connected to all involved. In some ways I wish the film had focused on one or two aspects rather than all threads be given the same level of consideration.

This is a decent crime drama, worth seeing for some great performances. A final cinematic outing for Galdofini is also a highlight. However due to the aforementioned flaws, unlike Galdofini, ‘The Drop’ will not live long in the memory.

Lawless & Film Club

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So film club went to see Lawless and lived to tell the tale!

I had concerns about the violence in the film as expressed in a previous post. Truth is I shouldn’t have worried there were no complaints (that I know of) although I know I winced on a few occasions.

Tom Hardy is the show stealer in this film giving a powerful performance through presence. A man of few words but can say a lot through some well placed grunting. Hardy is developing into of one of the finest actors of his generation and this film could be a defining moment for him.

The lovely folk over at Movie Writing have written a full review that I will reblog in order to give more background info on the film plot etc.

Lawless is focused on justice. Outlaws who deserve justice due to the frankly abhorrent Special Deputy played with menacing finesse by Guy Pearce.

At the end of the day human nature craves justice for those who are wronged regardless of their circumstances. The men portrayed are criminals but the injustices they suffer are greater therefore we empathise and will them on to prevail.

Justice is a biblical concept, we should seek justice for the oppressed, for the abused, for those who have experienced wrongs in fact we are commanded to in Isaiah 1:17
“Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Micah 6:8  also tells us
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Lawless is potentially one of the films of the year. It is also a  cry to remember that everyone is entitled to justice.

 

A great review of Lawless is here by Amy at Movie Writing

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility – Film Club & Church

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So after much discussion it was decided that our church (Fitzroy Presbyterian in Belfast) should start its own film club. This is not purely for film addicts but an opportunity for those within the church community to get together in a social setting and enjoy a good film, catch up with friends and hopefully make some new ones. Also by using our local cinema as a venue we hope to become a more visible presence in the community we serve.

However once the idea becomes reality and the green light is given then the power and responsibility aspect comes into play. I have am co-ordinating operations and have selected our first film. It took me a while as I wrestled with the question – ‘how do you choose a suitable film for a church film club’? Throwing myself in at the deep end I opted for (the Nick Cave scripted) Lawless.

This tale of brother bootleggers and gangsterism could potentially be one of the films of the year. Certainly there is enough star power to make it a contender (and Shia Leboeuf is in it too). On making my selection and letting people know the plan I THEN decided to watch the trailer and panicked. There was a lot of guns, and lots of shots of punches being thrown and I wondered have I got this right? Is a film which contains a lot of violence suitable for a church film club.

I came to the conclusion that it will depend on how the portrayal of this violence is played out on screen. Often violence can be intentional in order to give insight into a particular character and their mindset.

Martin Scorsese is the master of this. His films are often violent but,for me, never without purpose. Watch Joe Pesci’s performance in Goodfellas or Raging Bull, these are perfect examples of violence being used to highlight the unstable nature of the individual portrayed. Without it the character would lack threat and menace. The audience would never be on edge at the appropriate moments when he is on screen if his violent tendencies were not correctly portrayed.

Violence is not something Christians should shy away from (the Bible is full of it!) and the world we live in is becoming increasingly violent. Conversations need to be had about its use in film and how the far reaching impact can be negative if used in the wrong way.

Hopefully our film club will provide the platform for that. I will keep you posted as to how we get on.