In the interest of not falling any further behind the release schedules than I already have this year, here are three reviews of new films I’ve recently seen.
Mad Max Fury Road:
This was one of the films I was counting down to in my big list of trailers months ago. In the end, I didn’t rush to the cinema to see it, but I got there eventually and was pleasantly surprised.
Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), former cop and now vigilante, has been caught by the forces of Imortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), hoarder of water and beautiful women in a world where both are scarce. Eventually working himself free from his forced use as a living blood bank, Max aids rebellious Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in enabling the escape of Joe’s wives from their imprisonment.
Going into the film I was unfamiliar with the world of Mad Max, but it was everything I expected. Super weird, super gothic, and indeed the post-apocalyptic desert setting is one from a forgotten age of cinema. There are no ruined cities or anything! It’s a singularly freaky world though – nuclear radiation has led to mutations and ugliness in large amounts, and I didn’t quite expect things to be as unpleasant as they are.
The film is basically a non-stop car chase, with minimal dialogue and maximum action. It very much encapsulates the filmic goal to “show, not tell” – indeed, the eponymous madman has fewer lines than his co-stars. The plot (of the escaping women who wish to drive their own destiny) is an empowering one, and given that the film really ends up being “Furiosa ft. Max”, it makes for a refreshingly up-to-date feeling from a film which could just as easily have been stuck in the past.
You certainly don’t need to be a Mad Max devotee to enjoy this film. I think it would certainly be a bonus to know a little about the setting of the story, but it is still a very enjoyable and exciting film. If you can still catch it on the big screen, do, because every shot is choreographed for maximum visual impact. If nothing else, George Miller has crafted a visual masterpiece with Mad Max Fury Road.
Audiences are becoming a little wary of Pixar these days. Even though the interminable Cars is now almost 10 years old, the concern that not every Pixar film is a gem remains at the back of people’s minds.
Fortunately, Inside Out defeats these concerns beautifully. A delightful film about a small Minnesota family forced to relocate to San Francisco to support the father’s career, Inside Out focuses on the mind of the child, 11-year-old hockey lover, Riley. Riley is impacted hard by the move, such that she tumbles into depression.
Of course, we see this happen from the inside – in a clever visual metaphor, the emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) are personified into cute little characters, each of whom are responsible for handling how Riley reacts to situations. When the depression sets in, the way it happens in the mind is that Sadness, through her inability to not touch all the memories and make them sad, ends up being sucked down a chute into Long Term Memory along with Joy. This leaves Disgust, Fear, and Anger alone and in control of Riley’s everyday life, which predictably does not go especially well. Meanwhile, Joy and Sadness must find their way back up to the control centre before all Riley’s core memories and personality fall away.
Inside Out is a remarkably touching and effective way of examining depression and mental health. Nobody likes to see a sad kid, and so by using Riley as the example, the audience is easily convinced to sympathise with her. It encourages us as adults to have conversations about mental health, and to know that it’s okay to talk about it. It should certainly have the same effect on kids. I especially approved of the realisation by Joy that happiness is not just an isolated emotion – maturity is recognising that all emotions have a role to play in generating good memories.
There are plenty of laughs and plenty of pathos (in perhaps the most literal use of that word ever) to be found in Inside Out; the cinema could have been flooded with tears at some points, given how many people were weeping! Please, please go and watch this film, and please, if you have mental health issues, please never be afraid to discuss them with someone.
Another sequel in a 30 year old series requiring no further entries after Terminator 2, this fifth instalment sees a reboot of the timeline set up in the original two films, basically ignoring the second two. However, in contrast to the tedious Terminator Salvation which preceded it, this film has three things going for it – nostalgia value, an absence of Christian Bale, and the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to his most iconic role.
The first two acts play like a best-of from the original two films. After a protracted battle in 2029 to prevent the original Terminator (T-800) being sent back to 1984, Kyle Reese is also sent back to 1984 by John Connor, as happens originally, and when he arrives there are clear throwbacks to his original movie behaviour in that year. However, in a bizarre twist, the liquid metal T-1000 (from Terminator 2, implied to be the same character but now played by Lee Byung-hun) has appeared in 1984 instead of 1995 and begins chasing Reese. Upon being rescued by an anachronistically tooled up Sarah Connor, Reese discovers a T-800 was sent back to 1973 to protect Sarah when her parents were mysteriously assassinated. Then the original, evil T-800 arrives in a mix of CGI and archive footage, and 1984 Arnie battles 2015 Arnie. Then the T-1000 gets involved, the good guys win, and then time travel to 2017 to prevent the activation of Genisys, a new iteration of Skynet which causes an alternate timeline in the future through manipulating John Connor in 2029 and sending him back to 2017…and my goodness, if the screen treatment for this film made as much sense as the above paragraph, it’s a wonder the film made it to theatres!
People constantly complain about the time travel story arcs of the Terminator series, but I have an answer for them – DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. The series knows it’s running on hokey theory that makes no sense and causes paradoxes galore. Its box office receipts tell us that audiences certainly don’t mind. What we want when we see a Terminator film is non-stop action, mystery, deception, explosions, maybe a couple of laughs, and a satisfying resolution which also warns us about our reliance on machines.
Certainly this one has that in droves, especially the warnings – it’s emphasised that it’s possibly an issue that when everyone has some sort of electronic computer device, and we enable clouds to connect all of them, we could essentially be letting evil programs like Genisys/Skynet in through the back door. The nerd in me is like, “Oh yeah, whatever, cloud storage is amazing,” but I have an increasingly noisy little Luddite in my brain who really despises Facebook, Apple, and Google, and stories about Skynet only serve to awaken those concerns in me…before I get home and start playing on my phone again.
Anyway, blah blah blah. The casting (of people who aren’t Ah-nold) is brilliant. Emilia Clarke (the white-blonde haired female lead in Game of Thrones) steps successfully into the shoes of Linda Hamilton, and keeps the badassery going nicely, whilst also showing a nice little comic ability in her interactions with her T-800, “Pops”. Kyle Reese is reimagined and deepened by Jai Courtney, and the idol worship in his relationship with John Connor lends credence to his reasons for volunteering for 1984. It’s a shame he doesn’t really get a chance to develop much chemistry with Clarke, but to be honest this mirrors the original film. Australian Jason Clarke (no relation to Emilia) is John Connor, and brings a very laconically Aussie swagger to John Connor, especially his evil 2017 iteration. I thought I would find his performance cringeworthy given the soundgrabs in the trailer, but he does an excellent job in bringing a new version of John Connor to the screen. He’s certainly a damn sight better than 90’s Mullet Kid from Terminator 2. Also, The Eleventh Doctor, billed here as the more grown up Matthew Smith, instead of Matt, has a surprise turn as a villain!
It’s worth noting that there are several unresolved plot points in this film which leave the door open for a sequel, which makes sense as this is planned as a trilogy. However, if they’re as well choreographed and filmed as this one, then that’ll be okay.
Yes, this film probably didn’t need to be made. But I’m really glad it was, because it has truly redeemed the series from the dark stain of Terminator Salvation. It’s not the best in the series, but it’s certainly at least on par with Terminator 3. Terminator Genisys is also be worth seeing on the big screen if you can, because it really is quite spectacular.