Thursday, May 28, 2015

11 Reasons Why Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is Cinematic Gold

Like most film buffs out there, I’ve seen Mad Max: Fury Road more than once already and I've realized one thing: I’m ready for another watch! Actually, I’m seeing it tonight, on the silver screen, where it should be seen! If you haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road yet, stop whatever you are doing and watch it! This movie is a masterpiece and I’m using that term in the most literal way possible. Mad Max: Fury Road is George Miller’s best film to date, Miller finally made the Mad Max movie that he's always wanted to make. But why is Mad Max: Fury Road so freaking cool? Well, it’s a spectacle in every sense of the word, it's sensory overload! At times there’s so much coolness happening on the screen that I simply could not take my eyes off the screen! This does not happen often. Usually I’m rolling my eyes back at the stupidity I see in theater screens, but with Mad Max: Fury Road it was like watching a masterpiece unfold, like I was being a part of cinematic history by watching this one for the first time in theaters. So since this film has turned me Mad Max crazy, I’ve decided to count the many ways in which this film kicks ass, just to make sure that you, my dear readers, finally take the plunge and see this one in theaters. So kick back and relax, cause up next, I offer you 11 reasons why Mad Max: Fury road is the best Mad Max yet!

It’s Pure Eye Candy

Normally one doesn’t associate the post apocalypse with color because post apocalyptic movies are usually a bleak and dark looking bunch. Not so with Mad Max: Fury Road! On this film George Miller wanted to create a beautiful and colorful take of the apocalypse. This doesn’t mean that the movie loses its post apocalyptic look or feel. You’re not going to see rainbows and flowery fields on this film, this is still very much George Miller’s post apocalyptic wasteland, but the color palette that was used turns everything into intense reds, yellows, blues. It’s no wonder one of the characters says: “Oh what a lovely day!” Indeed.

The Post Apocalyptic Wasteland is Epic on this One

If you’ve seen the Mad Max trilogy, you probably noticed that the post apocalyptic wasteland grows with every picture. Where the first one only showed us a glimpse of society disintegrating, by the second film the post apocalypse shows its head and the craziness begins to grow. By Thunder Dome we have entire societies forming, trying to reinstate normalcy by adding a form of government with new rules and laws. But this growth is only natural, with each movie, the budget kept growing. For example, with the first film Miller had less than ten million dollars to fulfill his post apocalyptic vision, but for Fury Road Miller managed to get 150 million, so of course the post apocalyptic wasteland we get in Fury Road is more epic than what we’d seen in previous films. The society that we are presented with on this film has actually found a way to survive in the wasteland; a society whose main concerns are feeding, breeding and driving cars. They’ve even created a new religion where heaven is called Valhalla and you have to spray metallic colored spray on your mouth before you die serving your leader! The post apocalypse has never looked or felt more epic.

Say Goodbye to The Interceptor and Hello to Imperator Furiosa’s War Rig

In the first five minutes we are treated to visuals of Max, basking in the wasteland with his trademark Interceptor parked by his side. The Interceptor still looks every bit as cool and kick ass as it ever did, but Miller apparently wanted you to cut ties with the old movies and absorb the new one, so in the first few minutes during Fury Road its goodbye to The Interceptor which gets taken out of commission rather quickly. Of course, you came to see a Mad Max movie; you want more of that cool looking Interceptor. But wait, we are then presented with Imperator Furiosa’s War Rig which is this kick ass gigantic rig that Max drives for most of the flick, it’s just awesome looking. When you see how cool it looks in action you won’t have time to even remember The Interceptor. Of course, The Interceptor can never be replaced, but the War Rig is a fine substitute; at least for this film. And speaking of cars…

The Cars are Bigger and More Elaborate

Since this time around George Miller has a bigger budget to bring his visions to life, this time the cars are bigger and way crazier in design. I loved the cars in this movie! I was watching Road Warrior the other day and really, the cars in Fury Road leave the cars in previous Mad Max films in the dust. They are bigger and way more outlandish! You have to see them to understand but these are monster trucks, gigantic in proportion, with more fiery turbines and gigantic tires than you can shake a stick at! They are awesome to see in action!  Once again, you get the feeling that this is what George Miller always wanted to do with his Mad Max films, and since this is the most expensive Mad Max of all, he really wen't crazy with the designs for the cars. Everything is bigger and crazier! 

It Plays with Interesting Themes.

The first one was a revenge flick, the second one was purely about survival and the third one was about Max the savior. What’s this fourth outing about? Well, on this film Max plays the savior once again, helping Imperator Furiosa and her five lady friends reach ‘The Green Place’. In this sense, Fury Road felt a bit like Thunder Dome. Yet this new film also plays with new themes to the series, namely, it’s all about feminism. On this film, Immortan Joe treats women like breading cattle. For Immortan Joe, women are for procreation and for drinking their delicious breast milk. It is alluded that they are objects to him, which is why the five wives run away with Imperator Furiosa, leaving graffiti all over Immortan Joe’s chambers that read “We are not things!” and "Our babies will not be Warlords!" Also sending a message of peace. So Immortan Joes wives run off in search of their freedom, hopefully to a place where they can be treated as human beings.The film also touches upon politics and religion through the characters of Immortan Joe and his crew of zealot followers. They will do anything to serve the Immortan, but at the end of the day, it's all a facade. Immortan Joe is a sick man, lying to all of his followers. Ultimately, they learn that a god can die.   

It Isn’t Centered Around Max, Yet the Movie Still Manages to Grab You

This is probably the only hiccup I found in this film, that it wasn’t really centered on Max, it's Theron's Imperator Furiosa who takes center stage. But, on my second watching I realized this really doesn’t matter. Aside from the fact that Theron's character is great, and their story a good one, this wasteland is such an interesting place, filled with so many crazy characters and cool looking cars that I realized that the real star of these films is the world that Max inhabits. It is so rich, so well constructed. Sure Max is the driving force at the core of these films, but the world he inhabits is really what wows us. I’m sure Miller will give us more of Max in future films, but the star of the show will always be The Wasteland Miller has created. Even the title of the proposed next film lets us see what these films are all about. The next films title is: Mad Max: The Wasteland.

It Is George Miller’s Best Film to Date, Period.

I’ve seen all of George Miller’s films and he has a pretty solid repertoire. First of course there’s the Mad Max franchise, but then we have the ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet’ segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie (1982 ). Millers segment was so good that they used it to close the film with a bang. The Witches of Eastwick (1987) is a great film about Satan (played by Jack Nicholson) falling in lustful love with three witches played by Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher. It’s an awesome comedy, from the bygone era when they made comedies for adults. Its script explored the nature of men and women, relationships and sex. The film also has some excellent visual effects. Then Miller went with a dramatic film called Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), a story about two parents who never gave up in trying to find the cure for their sons decease. Then he made three children’s films one after the other: Babe: Pig in the City (1998), Happy Feet (2006) and Happy Feet Two (2011). I’m of the mind that Miller made these in order to make the studios happy so they would give him the money to make Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). To me Fury Road is the culmination of all of Miller’s cinematic knowledge. Mad Max: Fury Road is without a doubt in my mind Millers most amazing, escapist fantasy. The cinematic wizardry displayed in this film and the sheer understanding of what makes a film amazing could only come from a master with the knowledge and experience that Miller has acquired through the years.  

Computer Generated Effects Do Not Take Over the Film!

This is something we hardly see today. A film that was actually shot in front of the cameras and not inside of a computer! Do you know how I’ve longed to see a movie like this one? Only a handful of directors have resisted giving into using computer effects extensively, Tarantino and Scorsese come to mind. These are directors who understand that a film simply looks better when it’s actually shot on film in front of a camera, with actors and sets. Nothing can replace that realistic, tangible feeling you get from capturing visuals through the lens of a camera. Of course Miller uses computer generated wizardry as well, but he uses it to enhance what he has already filmed, to paint a landscape, a vast colorful wasteland. In no moment do you feel that you are watching minutes upon minutes of entirely computer generated images. Nope, on this film the cars blow up in your face and the fire and brimstone feels and looks real. Thank you mister Miller for that! Lovers of film were missing that real, tangible cinema!

Intensely Evil Maniacal Villains are Back!

Yes! Finally! This is something I loved from films that came out of the 80’s the villains where insane and maniacal! Absolutely psychotic! Memorable! Hell, sometimes the villain would steal the show and become the main character of the film. Remember those days when we’d get villains like Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989)? How about Clarence Boddicker, the crazy bad guy from Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987)? Still remember them don’t you? That’s what you call a memorable villain. Sadly, Hollywood’s current idea of a villain is a banal one. Today’s films are filled with lifeless villains you could hardly tell apart from the good guys. For an example of this watch the Robocop remake, blah. Invisible villains seems to be the order of the day at Hollywood. Thankfully, truly evil bat shit insane villains have always been one of George Miller’s specialties. Remember The Toecutter from Mad Max (1979)? That guy scared me as a kid! How about Lord Humungus from Mad Max 2 (1981)? Totally insane, that one even went for sadomasochism! Immortan Joe is another fine addition to the list of insane villains and it’s the kind of villain I love. Over the top, crazy looking and relentless! Boy, I had truly been missing these kinds of memorable villains in my movies. Thank you George Miller for bringing that back!

It Feels Like the 80’s Again!

The ideas in this film are so crazy that they bring to mind the 80’s, a decade when the craziest films would get made. I mean, who the hell green lit Dead Heat (1988) you know what I mean? But suddenly, there you are, watching a zombie cop, fighting a re-animated dead cow and you’re left wondering just how the hell did this movie get to the silver screen? Who the hell said sure, here, take 5 million dollars and make that zombie buddy cop movie you always wanted to make? I don’t know, but it was the 80’s and crazy movies like that one would get made left and right and get released in theaters! Nowadays seeing a movie of such a crazy nature released theatrically is a rare thing. Machete (2006) and MacheteKills (2013) are two rare exceptions. Want to make a movie about a baby crazed, milk drinking villain who runs a post apocalyptic society with an iron fist and likes to chase heroes through the dessert on monster trucks? Sure, here you go Mr. Miller! And you say you want a truck with a rock and roll stage on it, with flame throwing guitars? Sure, here’s 150 million! Do your best! Make your masterpiece! And thank the movie gods, Miller did just that!

Mad Max: Fury Road is Why We Go to the Movies!

We go to the movies to escape our reality, to let our minds go for a while and escape the every day life. We want to see something grand, something amazing and Mad Max: Fury Road offers us that and then some. It's non stop action from beginning to end, now go and watch this masterpiece before it leaves theaters. This kind of film only comes around once in a blue moon. It’s a special kind of film, the kind that is crafted not by a studio but by a filmmaker who truly wanted to make it. Mad Max: Fury Road is the reason why we go to the movies, now go watch it where it’s meant to be seen: in the theater!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Original vs. Remake: Poltergeist (2015) vs. Poltergeist (1982)

So it’s time for another episode of Original vs. Remake, because Hollywood is obsessed with retelling successful stories from the past in a bland, less intense fashion. I’m beginning to notice a trend on my ‘Original vs. Remake’ articles, the old ones always win! I’m not biased, I always give remakes a chance, because there’s always the odd chance we might get a good one. Unfortunately, 99.9% of the time remakes are shit, or as is the case with this new Poltergeist remake, a lesser version of the original. The original Poltergeist trilogy started with one fantastic film: Poltergeist (1982), a Tobe Hooper film. Tobe Hooper as some of you may know is one of the masters of horror. He was the guy behind the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Salem’s Lot (1979) amongst a slew of other horror films. Hooper’s Poltergeist was a film that captured the imagination and frightened audiences back in 1982, why? Because it was a spectacle, it was made to wow us and frighten us. It wanted to make us squirm in our seats. The filmmakers didn’t just want to tell a spooky story, something they did splendidly well anyways, no, the idea behind the original Poltergeist was to razzle dazzle us as well, give us a magic show. And that they did, the supernatural shenanigans were an awesome spectacle to behold. When ghosts appeared, you knew you were in for something special. That’s one of the elements I loved the most about Poltergeist (1982), the effects. The guys at Industrial Lights and Magic really went the extra mile to do something awesome.

 I mean, back then they’d actually have to build the ghosts from the ground up, which of course gave the visuals a tangibility that is sourly lacking in the new version. Those slimy tentacles that caught little Carol Anne looked freaking real, not so with the computer generated ghosts on this new version. I will admit that the visual effects on the new one are slick looking, but they are simply put not better than the original. Those days of cool effects seem to be gone forever, replaced by computer animation and it’s really sad. That artistry that the Industrial Lights and Magic guys pulled off, it was pure magic and illusion. I long for movies that mix both things, the practical with the computer generated. When a filmmaker uses computer generated images to enhance, not to take over the visual effects…then it’s magic. A recent example of this would be the awesomeness that is Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Sadly, everything is computer generated today, and it takes away from that feeling old movies had of being a magic show. I sincerely miss that.

Craig T. Nelson fights some ghosts in Poltergeist (1982)

Why is the modern horror film so toned down these days? It’s all about one of the worst inventions ever made, the dreaded PG-13 rating. It’s sad, it truly is. I mean on the first one, the tree that comes alive and tries to eat poor Robbie Freeling looked like some sort of monster, trying to gulp down the little kid, on the remake they toned that whole scene down. The tree tried to eat the kid on the original film! Not so in the remake. Here the tree grabs the kid, that’s it. I guess anything that was too crazy was eliminated; it’s the Modus Operandi of modern Hollywood. The producer, Sam Raimi, knows what horror fans want in a horror film, he’s given us some of the best horror films ever; the Evil Dead films. Yet he is playing ball with Hollywood, producing the kind of films they are asking of him, not the kind of horror films he would make. Hollywood doesn’t seem to care that people like cheesy, people like crazy ideas and concepts, that’s why we go to the movies! We don’t go to the movies to see “reality”, we go to see escapism, at least in these kinds of movies we do. So when a tree is going to come alive and eat a kid, we want exactly that. Not a toned down version of that.  

Honestly it’s starting to feel a whole lot like George Orwell’s 1984 around here. In that novel the government doesn’t allow people to feel intense emotions, everyone’s supposed to be emotionless all the time, all this because intense emotions supposedly lead to war and all that. In reality, it was a technique to control the masses, keep them from revolting against the oppressive government, to keep them from expressing themselves, saying what they want and feel. I think a similar technique is being used in Hollywood films of today. Why is Hollywood so afraid to be intense? Is there something wrong with feeling intensely? I want that spine tingling feeling, I want that jolt, that’s why I go to see horror films; afterwards I go home to reality. But for two hours, I want to escape man! There was a time when the occasional good remake would slip in, but nowadays, wow, all the remakes are just bland renditions of the original. Total Recall (2012)? Bland. Robocop (2014)? Beyond bland and back again. Poltergeist (2015)? Bland again. It’s just sad. Let’s count the ways in which this new Poltergeist film is bland when compared to Tobe Hooper’s original special effects extravaganza.

The Freaky Bowens

First, as is to be expected, there were a few changes, for example, the family in this new film isn’t “The Freaky Freelings! The family whose house disappeared!” Nope, these are the Bowen’s the family who goes through everything the Freelings did; only they aren’t the Freelings. Why the change? Why is the little girl not Carol Anne? Isn’t yelling out “Carol Anne!” a million times one of the most iconic things about the old Poltergeist movies? I mean, seriously, you could have a drinking game every time they say Carol Anne in the old movies! Trust me; you’ll be passed out half way through the movie! But no, on this one we get a little girl called Madison, and she isn’t even blonde. But whatever, those are minor changes right? What really pissed me off where the major changes, like the whole softening up of the horror elements, which I didn’t get because from inception, Poltergeist was always a straight forward horror film, it meant to horrify you. These films weren’t afraid to push the limits; they wanted to scare your pants off. In contrast, this new Poltergeist film feels like its holding back, like it doesn’t want to scare you too much for fear of losing its coveted PG-13 rating. And that’s really what it’s all about these days, retaining the PG-13 rating so you can reach a wider audience and make more millions. Because if it’s rated ‘R’, then the kiddies cant pony up their allowance to see the movie, because theaters won’t sell tickets to an ‘R’ rated film to a minor, right? Stop me if I’m wrong, but this never happened to me, ever. Maybe where I live things are done differently, but I was never stopped from seeing an ‘R’ film by the theater! Does this really matter? It’s so sad that the quality of our horror films is decided by this factor.

So what else did they change? Well, let’s see, anything that was too edgy or horrifying; two elements that any horror movie should have in spades. For example, remember how Steve and Diane Freeling smoked weed in their room and were being all sexy with each other? For this new one, they switched the weed for alcohol, which immediately takes off that imperfect, free spirited feeling that the Freeling family had in the original. They weren’t a perfect family and because of this they felt real. Mom and pop were struggling to survive, but they still knew how to have a little fun, smoking a dooby in their private chambers after the kids were tucked in. There’s a scene in which their eldest daughter flipped the finger on the men who were working on their pool when they started saying nasty things at her. So anyhow, say goodbye to that edginess the Freelings had, this new family is pretty much the picture perfect American family. The father, portrayed by a “gimme my paycheck” Sam Rockwell doesn’t have a job, but you’d never know he’s worried about this because his portrayal of the father figure without a job is very unrealistic. He doesn’t seem to be worried that he’s got no money to feed the kids. Is he supposed to live on his credits cards forever? These problems are presented, but never dealt with in a realistic manner. I know I’d be freaking ripping my hairs out of my head if I had three kids and no job. And how about the chemistry between the parents? It’s nothing like the magic that Jobeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson had in the original film. That relationship I bought. The one in this new one is Non-existent. Sam Rockwell, I’m sorry to say, was not truly invested in this film. In the original, both Jobeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson displayed emotion, I bought them crying out to Carol Anne, here, it’s like they are ashamed to be talking about ghosts and “the other side”. I guess we can chalk that up to modern cynicism.

Then we have the ghosts, which are decidedly a whole lot less horrifying. On the old film, the ghosts showed their ugly faces all the time, I remember that spider like creature that came out of the closet, which sadly doesn’t make an appearance on this one. There’s no slimy, sinewy tunnel to the other side. On this one the ghosts are relegated to being shadowy creatures that we hardly ever get a look at. The old film reveled in showing us the ghosts. When the ghosts showed up, you were going to be wowed. Not so here. The spectacle is gone. They don’t want to scare you too much. The best example I can think to explain the dampening of the horror elements in this film is the pool scene. On the original, the Freelings are building a pool, so they got this muddy hole next to the house. And of course, as anyone who has seen the original knows, the house was built on top of the cemetery, so when it starts to rain and the earth loosens up, we get that awesome scene in which all the corpses start popping out of their caskets, apparently trying to grab Diane Freeling as she screams in horror. On the remake, it was almost funny….we only get one little cgi skeleton that pops out of the ground, for 5 milliseconds. On the original, that scene just went on and on, horrifying us with its real, tangible skeletons. On this one, it’s a freaking joke. That was one of my favorite scenes from the original! Want another example? They even took out that scene where the guys face melts as he looks at himself in front of the mirror! How could they! The bastards!

So anyhow, I’m sorely disappointed with this remake. It’s another fine example of how violence and horror is being toned down on purpose by the powers that be. Hey, Hollywood, check this out. I want horror movies to be scary. When I go see a movie about ghosts, that’s what I want, I want to see the ghosts, I want to see something that’s intense and scary. Bottom line my friends: the original Poltergeist is still the superior of the two films. It has the spectacle element, it had the horror element turned up to the max and it had a family I could believe in, with some real heart and chemistry.  At the end of the day, that’s really what the Poltergeist movies are truly about, family. As for this remake, I wouldn’t say it’s a horrible film. Its well shot, looks pretty and in a surprising twist, actually take us to “the other side” without being overtly cheesy like Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986). It introduces a couple of innovative concepts, like sending a drone with a camera into the other side to check it out, gotta hand it to them,  that was a cool idea. I went into this one wanting to hate it, but it kind of warmed up on me, but there's no denying it was missing that edge. Sorry. 

It’s also a perfectly good movie to get your 10 year old kid started with horror films. Why? Because it’s an extremely light horror film which probably has something to do with the fact that it was directed by Gil Kenan, the director behind the children’s horror film Monster House (2006). Sadly, I don’t think he was the right guy to direct this film; we needed somebody with more of a horror loving heart, a true horror connoisseur. I mean, we went from Tobe Hooper to Gil Kenan? Something’s not right there. Why not give today’s horror masters a chance? Sadly, what Kenan did was take away what I loved about the original, a film that wasn’t afraid to scare us at the while still being a family film, which is an odd mix. Kenan treated this one like it was another kid’s film, which I think was a huge mistake because audiences are expecting something along the lines of the horrifying spectacle that Tobe Hooper and Stephen Spielberg gave us back in ’82. And it’s a bad thing to play with audiences expectations, especially when it comes to a remake. Yes my friends, the original Poltergeist was a strange bird. It was the first family oriented horror film that didn’t forget it was a horror movie and that it was there to scare us. Worst part of this whole ordeal? The original Poltergeist was rated PG, a whole rating beneath PG-13 and as it turns out, it was far scarier. Go figure!

Poltergeist (1982) Rating: 5 out of 5

Poltergeist (2015) Rating: 3 out of 5     


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