Mad Max: Fury Road ****

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is the latest entry in a franchise that has not had an entry since 1986! Replacing Mel Gibson in the role of Max is Tom Hardy. George Miller, the legendary director, now in his 70’s, returns to the Wastland for more adventures after the society has fully broken down.

The result is the best action picture in many, many years. Where do I start with this film? Well first it contains a massive amount of practical effects and stunts. The action looks like there are real human lives at stake. This ups the intensity of the action and brought me to the edge of my seat.

Sure there is CGI in the film. There is a moment a massive chase takes place inside a giant dust storm. Within the cloud are multiple tornadoes. The sequence is pure spectacle and it is awesome. Still I felt like there were real actors in the mix which made it that much more incredible.

The story mostly centres around a character named Furiosa played by Charlie Theron. As the film opens she is smuggling out the five wives of Immortan Joe, a ruthless and disgusting warlord who uses these young woman to breed his own twisted view of humanity. His army are called the War Boys. They have no fear when it comes to sacrificing their lives for Joe.

Fate brings Max and Furiosa together, leading them on a journey to escape Immortan Joe as well as other vile gangs. The chase takes place through the Wasteland which looks more desolate than it did in the previous films. The film makes use of it’s gorgeous desert landscapes of Namibia where it was filmed.

If any movie gets you in to a theatre this summer, let it be “Mad Max: Fury Road”. It begs to be seen on the big screen. 3D or 2D is your choice. Trust me when I say this is a unique movie. It is one of a kind in this day and age. Hopefully it will inspire other directors to go back to the drawing board when it comes to how to film action.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron ***

  

“Avengers: Age Of Ultron” is the latest in this ever growing canon of Marvel movies. It is technically a sequel to 2012’s “The Avengers”. For those who pay close attention it is actually a sequel to “Iron Man 3″, “Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. Those three films are kind of required viewing. Anyway so did I enjoy this latest entry? Quite a bit actually. I have seen it twice now and it was better the second time. It does have some glaring flaws though mostly in that it spends too much time create plots for future Marvel films and not enough time developing the characters, esspecially the villain Ultron.font>

The movie picks up pretty much where Captain America’s latest movie left us. The Avengers have reassembled to take on Hydra forces. The opening scene has the super hero team trying to take down the fortress of Baron Von Strucker. Strucker has been experimenting with Loki’s staff from the first film. His experiments have resulted in the creation of two new characters with superhuman powers. There is Quicksilver who movies at incredible speeds and Scarlet Witch who has the power of mind influence.

The real antagonist of the film is Ultron who is an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. It was intended as a peace keeping program that has made the decision that mankind is the ultimate enemy of the planet and must be exterminated. He takes on the voice and persona of James Spader who is given some particularly delicious dialogue for a comic book movie.

His battles with the Avengers involves some large scale carnage created with more CGI than usual which did not really sit too well with me considering the first film made use of as much practical effects as they could. The sequences here are pretty cool but just don’t feel as real as they did in the first film.

Joss Whedon returns to direct this mega sequel and does an admiral job of cramming in as much smaller character moments as well as some great humour as he can. I can’t fault the guy for all the side plots the film introduces so that the characters can launch back into their on franchises. It is these scenes that I felt were not all that necessary or maybe they needed to be a bit more subtle.


Furious 7 ***1/2

“Furious 7″ is balls out anarchy in a good way. It probably has the most action out of any entry in the franchise so far. It comes with a plot that barely exists and seems uneven. I guess it is needed to justify having wall to wall action. It is also the result of having to re-write a film due to the tragic death of one of it’s leading actors.

Paul Walker past away during the filming of this movie causing the writers and director have to change the narrative drastically and it shows. The result is a paper thin story and villains who seem to pop up like a Whac-A-Mole game. Jason Statham for example really exists to join the action almost at random. Djimon Hounsou and Tony Jaa are apparently the central antagonists and I think they had maybe a few sentences of dialogue each.

The break-neck action is the highlight of this flick. Gone are the days of street racing and scraps. Now cars parachute out of planes, jump from skyscraper to skyscraper and escape drone strikes. All of this is acomplished with stunt drivers, traditional pyrotechnics and a healthy amount of CGI.

The last third of the film brings an emotional close to the character of Brian played by Walker. I am glad that the studio decided to send his character off in to the sunset as opposed to killing him off.

“Furious 7″ is the biggest film in the franchise yet. I still like “Fast Five” the best personally. How much longer this series can go on is anyones guess. I’m sure the studio did not predict six sequels when the first film dropped in 2001.


Chappie **1/2

“Chappie” is an uneven movie with a mix of solid characters and a few strangely idiotic ones. The title character is a police robot who gains artificial intelligence. Unfortunatly he has to start out with the mind of a child and basically learn and grow. His appearence is a mix of Johnny 5 and a skinless Terminator.

 

The director is Neil Blomkamp who is coming off of the entertaining “District 9″ and the awesome “Elysium”. This time his story is very uneven. There is a poltical backdrop about a robot police force which is similar to “Robocop”. The main story follows Chappie as he is essentially raised by idiotic gangsters. Hugh Jackman plays a bafoonish bad guy who seems put in to the story simply to have a menacing antagonist.

I am not sure where the real failiure of this film lies. It just seems to be a mess. There are a lot of plot lines that do not fit together very well and a needlessly violent ending where unappealing robots battle it out in a mess of metal and screws. This movie is just no where near as good as Blomkamp’s first two films. I am still stoked about his “Alien” movie though!

Unfinished Business **

What has happened to Vince Vaughn? Some where along the way he has ceased to be funny. My opinion is that he keeps picking generic, lazy scripts that do not cater to hish skill set very much. “Unfinished Business” should of been a riot. It has a good cast and a setup that should of lead to lots of R rated laughs. Instead we get a lot of profanity and gags that mostly fall flat.

“Unfinished Business” stars Vaughn as a small business owner going up against a major corporation for a big contract. This deal will finally legitamize his business as well as set up his family and employees for years to come. It does not help that his competitor is his former employer.

The deal takes him and his crew to varioius destinations across the world. I just wish that something more interesting could of happened at each location.

I think Vaughn has hit a point where it is time to do something new. He is in danger of making movies that are directed at the home market. Perhaps his upcoming role in the second season of HBO’s “True Detective” will provide a more dramatic role for him.

Focus ***



“Focus” finds Will Smith back on the big screen two years following “After Earth”. He also finds himself in R rated territory which is rare for him. It is nice to see him taking on more adult fare and plays well to his strengths. In this film he plays a con artist who takes a protege under his wing then falls in love with her.

Smith plays Nicky. The novice he begins teaching is Jess played by Margot Robbie. When their partnership becomes romantic Nicky ends it abruptly as he believes that there is no room for heart in the con game. Cut to three years later and Nicky is caught up in a con involving race car owners when Jess turns up out of nowhere, reigniting their feelings for each other which makes the game much more dangerous.

“Focus” was written and directed by the team of Glen Ficarra and John Requa who previously directed a little seen gem called “I Love You Phillip Morris” as well as the generic “Crazy, Stupid, Love”. “Focus” is a solid film by this team and contains some seriously entertaining set pieces but I did feel like it was half a story with a rushed ending. A lot of time is spent introducing us to these characters and their world which was truly fascinating. The third act of the film felt rushed and a bit contrived as if they did’nt know where to take it all.

Smith and Robbie are magnetic as Nicky and Jess. They play off each other rather well. Their romance also had some great chemistry. I think my favorite sequence was the betting that took place at the big game half way through the film. It starts out as small time and escalates in to potential danger. Its moments like this that the actors were at their best.

In the end “Focus” is an entertaining and well acted film. There are some short comings in the screenplay but it did not deter me from having a fun time with this flick.

Kingsmen: The Secret Service ***

Ten years ago director Matthew Vaughn made a phenominal movie called “Layer Cake”. It was a fast moving, frenetic crime thriller starring Daniel Craig. I recently rewatched it and it still holds up as great today. Since then he has developed an action style that has not really jived with me very well. I disliked “Kick-Ass”, “Stardust” and “X-Men: First Class”. “Kingsmen: The Secret Service” is an entertaining flick but still suffers from his shaky mix of frantic images and slow motion shots that do not make much sense.

 

 

Stil I did like this movie better than his recent efforts. I esspecially loved seeing Colin Firth break from his usual drama’s and comedies to kick some serious ass as a British Secret Service agent. At one point he dishes out a particularly brutal lesson towards some bar hooligans. There is also a shocking moment where he is brainwashed in to slaughtering an entire church full of people. If that is your cup of tea then boy is this the movie for you!

As much as I enjoyed this movie I am still at a loss as to why this type of action is such a draw for people. Don’t audiences want to be able to comprehend action sequences anymore? Don’t people want to see the stunt doubles perform their work clearly?