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Showing posts from January, 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… dyin’ time’s here!

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Time was kind to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. As in, it was such a long time since I’d seen the “final chapter” of the trilogy, it had dwindled in my memory to the status of an “alright but not great” sequel. I’d half-expected to have positive things to say along the lines of it being misunderstood, or being able to see what it was trying for but perhaps failing to quite achieve. Instead, I re-discovered a massive turkey that is really a Mad Max movie in name only (appropriately, since Max was an afterthought). This is the kind of picture fans of beloved series tend to loathe; when a favourite character returns but without the qualities or tone that made them adored in the first place (see Indiana Jones in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, or John McClane in the last two Die Hards). Thunderdome stinks even more than the methane fuelling Bartertown.

I hadn’t been aware of the origins of Thunderdome until recently, mainly because I was content to leave its memo…

What do you do in the group?

Starred Up (2013)
(SPOILERS) Jack O’Connell can do no wrong right now, it seems. Except maybe taking a supporting role in a 300 prequel. In the space of a couple of years he’s earned his place as the next big British star. The trio of Starred Up, ’71 and Unbroken (Angelina came-a-calling) have cemented a rightfully acclaimed reputation as an immediate and visceral performer. He’s got gigs with Jodie Foster and (maybe, touch wood) Terry Gilliam coming up; it’s probably just as well he didn’t land Reed Richards. Which is a round about way of getting to his performance in Starred Up. It’s a powerhouse turn, one that almost, but ultimately can’t, make up for a movie unable to decide if it’s a serious picture about rehabilitation or your shiv-wielding genre staple replete with vicious guards, duplicitous prison overlords (not Noel Coward), and psycho wardens.

What’s surprising about this, perhaps, is that screenwriter Jonathan Asser has based the picture on his own experiences working with o…

But I wanna see The Blob!

Jersey Boys (2014)
Unlike Hudson Hawk, I never did want to sing like Frankie Valli. So maybe the intrinsic appeal of this Clint Eastwood not-musical (I expect he swore of them after Paint Your Wagon), based on the broadway musical, is probably rather lost on me. It isn’t dislikeable as such, but it’s so slight and effort-free and really rather dull. Jersey Boys is so lightweight, it’s in danger of floating off into the firmament at any moment. A film so conscious that it’s diet-Goodfellas in tone and approach, it even overtly references its inspiration. Repeatedly.

Jersey Boys is also fairly poor name for a movie; what works in the realm of musical theatre may not translate to the big screen. Maybe The Four Seasons wouldn’t have cut it either, but the title doesn’t have pulling power. Musicals are hit and miss as cinema properties, of course, but – I don’t know how it went over on stage – you’d barely know this was one. Sure, it’s got the songs (sung impeccably by John Lloyd Young as Val…

On the roads it was a white line nightmare.

Mad Max 2 (1981)
Much has been written in praise of Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior over the years, rightly noting its enormous influence (albeit in tandem with a number of other science fiction opuses in the surrounding five years), but mostly concentrating on its abiding status as a remarkably executed, fantastically taut, kinetic thrill ride. This sequel sees George Miller coax and expand the kernel of the original, teasing out the mythical elements therein and producing a big, bold, super-charged action engine.

Mad Max 2 is an economical picture in storytelling, terms, just as its director recognises that grand spectacle is most effective when characters have been fashioned as easily identifiable “types”. Much has been made of Max speaking only sixteen lines (Miller has reportedly taken a similar approach with Fury Road), and Miller continually plays with his presence as the mythic outlaw; Max is defined as much by the reaction of others to him as anything he does, and because he is so t…