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Million Dollar Movie

mad-max-fury-road-jumping-car-wallpaper

This one goes to eleven.

Remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the airplane is plummeting to the earth and we see the numbers on the speedometer getting higher and higher, faster and faster and finally it says: “Silly, isn’t it?”

I kept waiting for a cutaway to that line as I watched Mad Max: Fury Road. There were moments that I laughed out loud because there’s a Looney Tunes quality to the movies’ craziness–I don’t know what other response you can have. I didn’t find the movie thrilling or suspenseful or even tense. There are some scary moments, but nothing that freaked me out. I felt excited in an over-caffeinated way, but it’s so over-the-top, so fantastic, I almost immediately felt detached and after about 15, 20 minutes, bored. It’s magnificent but not for me.

I was talking to a friend recently about appetites and he called himself a pathological maximalist. Forgive the pun, but I kept thinking about that as I watched Fury Road.

The ads boast that the movie was made by “Mastermind” George Miller and that’s no stretch. This isn’t the work of a director. This is a finely tuned, well-realized orchestration from a mastermind. It’s not pure chaos. There is a keen sense of pacing, there are quiet scenes, with breaks in the action, but really I thought the whole thing was akin to watching two-plus hours of slam dunk highlights. It’s an extended guitar solo, an orgy of technical virtuosity, one stunt more improbable than the next. The technique is formidable and some of the images are captivating–though I dare you to recall any specific images after being bombarded by so many. But the story–which at times suggests Thunderdome as much as The Road Warrior–is corny despite its admirable political sensibility. The dialogue is so sparse that it is easy to laugh at–B-movie fromage. The early movies had that quality too but they also had more of a low budget vibe, a punk vibe. This is Cirque du Soliel, this is Vegas, Grand Theft Auto. Miller’s left punk behind. This is rock opera video game for the hyper modern age.

I’ve read Tom Hardy, who plays Max, say that he had no idea what Miller wanted him to do during filming and I think that comes across. Not that it matters–Max is just an action figure who is playing the role of second banana (the lead is played by Charlize Theron). But it’s too bad because I liked Mel Gibson’s tortured hero of the early movies. (And I liked his dog.) There is nothing of the immediacy and realism of the first two movies here. Even if they were cartoons, there was a semblance of credibility, too Here, Max is captured, chained, and when he breaks free, instead of collapsing from fatigue, he springs to life like the Hulk.

I suppose this movie is in step with the times. Maybe that’s why the critics have fallen all over themselves writing about it. How can you ignore not admire such technical brilliance? But this is the kind of roller coaster that doesn’t appeal to me. It’s remarkable and if you like your thrills and spills larger than life you’ll dig it.

The rest of you can spare yourself the pounding.

 

Million Dollar Movie

MadMax2

The Road Warrior is one of my favorite action movies. Mad Max is creepy as hell, too. The thing about the first two Mad Max movies is that for all the unrelenting action, and despite the fantastic premise, it’s all rooted in credibility. I always felt that part of Miller’s achievement was to make you believe you are there–with these guys coming after you. They are a comic book–and the third movie went someplace that didn’t really appeal to me)–but realistic in a strange way; that’s what made them so frightening and effective. (The second movie also has some nice comedic touches).

Plus, I liked Max’s dog.

The new one looks pumped up with the action and pyrotechnics. I hope that same sense of urgency and credibility exist.

Mad Mad: Fury Road is supposed to be dope. Think I’ll have to cart my ass to the theater for this one.

Over at Esquire, our pal Scott Raab profiles Charlize Theron:

Her career is pure stardust.

She was a teenage model in Italy, came to New York City at eighteen, and left for Los Angeles when her knees gave out for good; there she was discovered by her first manager, who was in line at the bank where she was trying—loudly and without success—to cash her last New York modeling-job check to keep her room at the Farmer’s Daughter, formerly an L. A. fleabag. But Theron came up hard in a hard country, on a hard continent.

“On the street where I was raised—75 percent of the people who lived on that street are not alive anymore. For no reason. For nothing. Life means nothing. In my formative years, I was in an environment that was filled with turmoil—political turmoil—in a world that was incredibly unsafe. And still is. In the early nineties, we were number one in homicide in the world. In HIV/AIDS, we’re still number one. We were number one in carjacking; I think we’re now number three. It became a place where the value of life—there was no value of life.

“You can’t oversimplify it; it comes from a very real place. It’s sad, because the people are good. They’re good people, and they’re resilient people, more than anywhere else in the world that I’ve ever come across. There’s something about South African flesh—we get up and we move forward, and we sometimes don’t take a moment for a little bit of self-awareness or self-pity. We’re such beasts at having to survive—I have the utmost respect for that, but it’s not the healthiest way to go through life. We’ve become a generation in South Africa that is driven by very valid anger, but the cost is coming at such a high level—and that’s a painful thing to watch. A lot of my emotional drive comes purely from the fact that I was born on that continent, and that I was raised there, and that it was different. I have a very strong relationship with Africa, one that’s built on lots of love and massive pain.”

Million Dollar Movie

I don’t go for horror movies. Sure, I watched a mess of them when I was a kid–”The Exorcist,” “The Omen,” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” I also saw “Halloween,” and “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “I Spit On Your Grave,” all that stuff and more. I had a stronger constitution then. Now, I just don’t like being scared.

I even worked on a “horror” movie, was the assistant film editor on “The Blair Witch Project II,” although the scariest part of that project was the silence in the screening room after the executives saw the first cut. Scary for the director, I should say, I thought it was pretty funny.

Anyhow, horror movies aren’t the only ones that are scary. Heck, you could argue that “The King of Comedy,” is Scorsese’s scariest movie (and that “Taxi Driver” is his funniest). I’ll never forget the final shot of “Planet of Apes,” when I was little and hiding under the covers wondering about the big questions of life.

The movie I can’t get over, though, is “Mad Max II,” aka “The Road Warrior.” Scared me as a kid and makes me jittery when I watch it today. It’s a comic book but an effective one. Watch this scene and tell me you don’t get nervous in spite of how silly it all is.

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