The World’s End (2013): Alien Invasion Meets “Hangover” Meets the Apocalypse

The World's End

    “The World’s End” is better on a second viewing but is not as good as “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz.” It’s a film that has too many similarities to the party comedies like “Hangover” and comes off weaker because of it, the arcs are also less apparent in many cases which hurts the overall story and there are a few other issues too I’ll get into further in the review, though I do still recommend this film and consider it good. It isn’t bad, I don’t think Wright and Pegg together are capable of creating a bad film.

   Being the 3rd film in The Cornetto Trilogy the film was directed by Edgar Wright and who also co-wrote the film with Simon Pegg and produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

     The film involves Gary King (Simon Pegg) getting his old childhood friends together to finish “The Golden Mile” where they hit up all the pubs in Newton Haven but conflict occurs when all of them have grown up while Gary is still the same Gary and soon they realize the unchanged town is more than it appears to be.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Cinematography – Bill Pope does a wonderful job on the cinematography creating a picture perfect image of the town and later a sci. fi. nightmare when the alien invasion is revealed.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack has lots of great rock and is good at capturing the mixed perspective of our drunk protagonists as well as the rising tension as the aliens slowly close in around them. Steven Price did a great job.

The Characters – The main characters are still great, and even a few of the minor characters even if they don’t have the same level of depth and comedy of the minor characters in other films.

Basil – David Bradley is back as the conspiracy theorist and one of the few people who doesn’t get turned into a blank by the network. He does a great job as the clearly mad man who in this instance happens to be right.

Oliver – Oliver is the guy who is all business and whose sister tends to be the but of jokes. Martin Freeman is awkward and does a great job as the one who is mostly doing things out of obligation. When he is turned into a blank (an android) he still keeps his personality as a Realtor after the world ends at the end of the film.

Steven – Paddy Considine plays the one good guy of the group whose arc is finally falling in love and starting a life with Sam as he shows that he is the most mature person of the group. He was a good minor character.

Sam – Rosamund Pike is awesome! In this she is great at setting boundaries with characters and also is able to find happiness and to save the guys when they are living their idiocy of the pub crawl as the Network slowly kills and replaces them with Blanks. She like Steven is one of the few mature characters.

Andy – Andy is Gary’s former best friend and played by Nick Frost. For him it is standing up to Gary and them resolving their issues with one another as Andy becomes the most hardcore drunk once the alien invasion is in full swing and is their biggest threat. In the end he becomes a child again but finds himself as the storyteller and friends again with Gary though he loses Gary after the World and Newton Haven are destroyed leaving an apocalyptic wasteland.

Gary King – Simon Pegg is great as the friend who is an ass and assumes privilege over everyone. His arc is realizing that he really is a mess up and it is at the end of the world that he finds his place in the world as a man fighting for the Blanks who are recreations of his childhood friends as they wander the wasteland together. He also no longer drinks as the end of the world solved his drinking problem. A better film would have been their adventures in the Wasteland not the “Hangover” type Satire that we got.

The Blanks – The Blanks are androids/robots until the end when they come into their own and deal with discrimination from the populace. Them as a sect of the people is wonderful to see and deal with and I wish they had received more development.

The Message – The message is to choose to be free and not conform even if the rest of culture sees you as a loser. To some degree I think this makes sense, at least in the political sense when dealing with fascism and control…but eventually you have to grow up as it seems Gary King does as he is a good survivor after the end.

Okay: The Satire – I never felt the films like “Hangover” were being fully satired, it was almost like celebration at times and the alien invasion story that was “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Day the Earth Stood Still”esque fell apart due to the Network being such a weak villain and idea. The satire was sill there and decent but the fact that it wasn’t as clear as “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” was obvious, also at the end of the day this film was just less funny.

The Cons: The Network – Villain that replaces people with robots blind to it’s will and apparently it part of a larger collective of aliens? The proposal struck me as full of crap and a okay satire of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” where a fascist alien collective wants to raise humanity up but sees they are too ruled by fear. Same deal here with the Network but it replaces those who don’t conform. So glad it left. Poor villain which brought down the script and story.

The Drunk Film Tropes – The guy who doesn’t drink gets drunk, Gary can’t remember anything, drunk man confesses feeling and gets the girl (Steven and Sam) and drunk man becomes a hero (Gary and Andy). These tropes are tired and they weren’t pulled off creatively at all.

   This is the weakest of the Trilogy but is a lot of fun on a second viewing. It is truly a good but not great film and it is not a favorite by any stretch of the imagination, but it is still a good film. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are geniuses at their craft and really, I’d so far recommend anything they’ve worked on and this film is no exception…with it’s flaws and all.

Final Score: 8 / 10

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Terminator Genisys (2015): Terminator Referynce With a Great Missed Story

Terminator-Genisys-poster-final

    “Terminator Genisys” had the potential to be the best of the story, wholly original and able to stand on it’s own, without referencing any of the past “Terminator” films. Sadly I’d be expecting too much from the studios and writers for that to become a reality and because the film tries to be all the Good Terminator films it fails to stand wholly on it’s own. It isn’t the worst of the “Terminator Franchise” by any means and it is enjoyable in it’s own right, but it falls short because it lacked the confidence to continue on threads that weren’t dependent on past films.

    The film was directed by Alan Taylor, written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier and produced by David Ellison and Dana Goldberg.

    The story involves John Connor (Jason Clarke) leading the final assault on Skynet headquarters in the Post-Apocalyptic future of 2029. He suceeds but not before Skynet sends back the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to terminate Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). He decides to send back Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) in order to protect her. When he returns to 1984 he finds a Terminator has already been sent back to protect Sarah and the timeline has changed. It is up to them to stop Skynet before it comes online as the Timeline is in flux and the future has changed.

The Pros:  The Action – The action is really good in this. From the battle to reach Skynet’s Time Machine and shut down the core, to Pops against The Terminator and Pops, Reese and Sarah against the T-1000 and later on the fights against John Connor as the T-3000. Each fight was really well done and a pleasure to watch.

The Special Effects – The Special Effects are the best they’ve been. When the original Terminator travels back in time he looks nearly like how Arnold looked as he did in 1984. The Terminators also look great too having a dangerous and sleek look to them.

The Final Assault on Skynet – This is the story that I wish the movie had been. I wish we could have witnessed the consequences of the war like we did in “Salvation” and how it had shaped John Connor into someone who was willing to take any risks to defeat the machines and to live. In the end the decision to send Kyle Reese back is made as Skynet’s Avatar attacks and turns John Connor into a Terminator. It’s really cool and if that had been the film with the resistance dealing with the consequences of that it would have been perfect and possibly the best in the series.

J.K. Simmons – Plays a cop who is saved by Reese and pays them back later when the T-3000 is trying to kill them all. His character is wonderful as the one who has seen the robots but no one believes him. I liked the character and it was a nice touch that was different from the other films. Detective O’Brien is a great character.

Arnold Scharzenegger – Arnold is the best part of this film. We see him save Sarah Connor at the beginning and that he has developed an affection for her. It is the most range I have seen Arnold do and he truly is great at this role (Minus “Terminator 3”).

Pops – Pops is the protector and Guardian of Sarah Connor and saved her as a child. We see that his goal is to protect her and stop Skynet (like the one sent back in “T2”) and to this end he trains and prepares her for the arrival of Kyle Reese and “The Terminator.” When the Terminator arrives together they kill it and later he gets upgraded when he falls into the liquid good of the T-1000s in the final battle against the T-3000. He develops an affection for Kyle Reese and a sense of humor too.

The Terminator/T-800/Pops – This role is small but Arnold is great at looking and acting threatening, beating down Pops and nearly killing him if not for Sarah Connor’s sniper shot. It was a great though his defeat kind of defeated the purpose of Skynet’s last ditch effort to save itself…though the writers kind of ignore that when they throw in the T-1000 in the same timeline and later the T-3000. He is called Pops by Sarah.

Jason Clarke – Jason Clarke is carrying this movie with Arnold and lends a lot of humanity to the role of John Connor as someone trying to make a difference and survive in a cruel world where humans are going extinct. This leads to some tough decisions that come back to bite him later. Clarke is great as the threatening T-3000 too.

John Connor – John Connor is a man on the brink who has lost so much and forced his soldiers to make tough choices. This has cost him a lot and at the end when he is victorious his one moment of joy costs him his conscience as he is turned into a Terminator and no doubt turned on his own men he was protecting.

T-3000 – The T-3000 is a Nano Terminator and is one of the best of them as he can mimic almost perfectly and has all the knowledge of Skynet and John Connor. It takes everything to defeat him including Skynet’s last resort Time Traveling Machine to finally end the threat.

Okay: The Ending – Pops gets upgraded and everyone is in 2017. It was way too happy for me as we see Sarah and John begin to hook up, Pops respect Reese and Reese talk to his younger self and give him hope for the future. If they have sequels planned I have no idea how they will pull it off. There are no evidence of Terminators and everything feels done now without opening more cans of worms in the Timeline(s). Also, somehow the Skynet system core survived? I guess it fits the theme of survival of the story but we shouldn’t need an after credits scene to know that it does. That’s a bit too important to leave until after the credits.

The Cons: Kyle Reese – Jai Courtney can’t act. He is super generic and dull as a character and either has a blank expression or annoyed expression (sadly like Emilia Clarke in this film too) and the focus on him just brings down the plot. I didn’t care about his character because he didn’t feel real. He felt like a plot device and not like an actual human being.

Sarah Connor – Emilia Clarke like Jai Courtney is terrible in this. She is flustered most of the time and she feels shoe horned in. We don’t see her arc to become a badass she just is that way because of Pops. She also doesn’t have much of an arc. She learns to love and not fear I guess but always loved Pops anyway so the arc is irrelevant and a poor attempt to hook her up with Reese for plot reasons.

Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese Romance – These two have no chemistry. Any times where there was supposed to be sexual tension felt contrived and tacked on and it felt like Emilia and Jai were just going through the motions.

Plot Holes – Who sent Pops back? How was the T-1000 around in 1984? How was  T-1000 sent back to kill Sarah Connor as a child? Are Time Machines around everywhere in the future? Are the Terminators from other Timelines? The plot is a mess if you think too hard on it, so major con.

Too Many Time Machines – See the plot holes above. Even Pops is able to build a Time Machine….which runs counter to the fact that in “Terminator 2” they were designed to only kill and couldn’t think on a deeper level. Now everyone has a Time Machine so story has no consequence. Everybody lives!

   This was a film that would have worked if we stayed in the future, or ended with Kyle Reese being sent back. From there the story would have been complete without having to explain the Old Terminator and hiding the fact that the writers don’t know who sent him back. We could have still had a good Terminator, the good Terminator could have protected John Connor after being reprogrammed and it having to kill John Connor after Skynet possess him, instead we get the entire timeline rebooted with Skynet pretty much destroyed and Reese and Pops alive. We get a story with no consequences with gaping plot holes, though I won’t deny the ride is enjoyable and Jason Clarke and Arnold are top of their game in their roles.

Final Score: 6 / 10. Would have been the best if we had just stuck to the future and consequences of the war on Skynet and filling in the blanks for “Terminator” and “T2,” without creating more plot holes in the Timeline (and creating more Timelines).

The Terminator (1984): A Good Thriller With a Decent Heroine Arc

The  Terminator Poster

    We begin the “Terminator Franchise Retrospect” with “The Terminator.” The last time I saw this film was back in High School and I really enjoyed it. On a second viewing it is still good, but I wouldn’t call it truly great. It has a few things working against it both in the looks of the future and in how some character exploration occurs…the main three characters are done really well though.

      The film was directed by James Cameron who also wrote the screenplay along with Gale Anne Hurd, who also produced it.

     The story involves a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) being sent to the past to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before she can give birth to John Connor, the revolutionary who is turning the tide in the war against the machines in 2029. John Connor sends by Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to protect his mother as Sarah Connor tries to make sense of it and survive against the powerful threat.

The Pros: The Premise – A.I. taking over the future and turning on humanity isn’t a new idea but it is presented really cool in this. We see advanced tech. that the Terminators possess versus the rebels who are just holding onto their lives. In this way the time travel plot to prevent or save this future is given power since we know the stakes from the idea.

The Opening – The premise of A.I. (Skynet) taking over in the future and the rebels fighting back and being enough of a threat for Time Travel to be a weapon to end the movement before it starts was really cool. I was drawn in immediately.

The T-800 – The Terminator is a great  threat and Arnold Schwarzenegger does a good job of making him feel like a threat. You see it try to blend in but also it’s complete disregard for life and single driven purpose to destroy Sarah Connor. Even after it’s organics are destroyed the robot fights on and is only stopped after it is torn in half and Sarah Connor crushes it.

Kyle Reese – Michael Biehn does a great job as Reese. His Kyle Reese is a man who grew up during the apocalypse and was given hope by John Connor as he grew up in a labor camp before he was finally saved. From here he became friends with Connor and we learn later becomes John’s father when he and Sarah Connor fall in love as they face off against the threat that is so much more powerful than either of them.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor’s arc is the arc that drives the series. She is the one in denial over what is going on and over the future but after she is saved by Kyle and saves him on multiple occasions she comes around and after the T-800 kills Reese she vows to live and prepare her son for the coming apocalypse. She goes from someone who was passive and a pushover to someone ready to fight and risk everything for a future where humanity has a fighting chance. It’s a pretty solid arc. Linda Hamilton does a great job.

Okay/Pro: The Action – The action is kind of hit and miss, there are times it is really good like when the T-800 raids the police station and slaughters everyone, and other times where it drags like when they think they’ve defeated it and the robot skeleton is revealed. This part was so chaotic it was hard to know what was going on until the very end when Sarah finally ends it.

Okay: The Script – It is an 80’s action film so there are a lot of catch phrases and one liners so that got a bit annoying after a while, Arnold’s delivery helped but by the end I was laughing over some of the one liners because it took away from the action and made the film feel stilted.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack was either really good rock n’roll or synthetic sci. fi. sounding music that didn’t always work. For this reason I cannot put the soundtrack as a pro but I won’t put it as a con either.

The Cons: The Police Department – The Police Chief is useless and the police are too as they target Reese and are unprepared for the Terminator at all. They put up a fight at least but they felt expendable, so a waste of characters.

Certain Future Scenes – There were some scenes where the rebels were fighting the Terminators where I didn’t know fully what was going on. I think that they made it too dark and didn’t really keep it focused all the time, which was a detriment as when things were clear it was really cool, especially Skynet’s Tanks and Planes.

   This film is a classic and it is well worth checking out if you have never watched it before. Arnold is great as the threatening T-800 and Linda Hamilton is wonderful as Sarah Connor. A lot of the issues can be tied to this being one of James Cameron’s earlier works so him being raw as a director and that it was just him and Gale Anne Hurd working on it, which means there weren’t eyes to flesh out the ideas and writing fully, given that it was just them. I still really like the premise though and can understand why this world turned into a Franchise.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985): Power Plays and Safeguarding the Future

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

      “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” was enjoyable but not great. I think a big reason for this is there isn’t a clear antagonist a lot of the time, way too many child actors which changes the tone and takes a lot of the dark out, which this film has. The Feral Children even don’t fully feel like Feral Children. They speak like they had an education, these are some of the things that took me out of it, even though Rossitti’s, Turner’s and Gibson’s performances are phenomenal and the story is enjoyable for what it is.

The film was directed, produced and written by George Miller and also directed by George Ogilvie and also written by Terry Hayes.

The story involves Max’s (Mel Gibson) arrival in Bartertown searching for his stolen supplies fifteen years after the defeat of Lord Humungus. From here he is pulled into the power struggle for control of the town between Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and Master (Angelo Rossitto). He is asked to kill Master’s bodyguard Blaster (Paul Larsson) but after being asked to kill him in the ring and learning that Blaster is mentally handicapped he calls out Aunty Entity and is kicked out of Bartertown where he ends up with a tribe of Feral Kids looking for a Messiah and must stop their delusions and save Master and Blaster from Aunty Entity.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of a power struggle in a post-apocalyptic town that an outsider is pulled into is a cool one. I also like that the antagonists aren’t wholly good or evil. They are each despots in their own way and both have a sympathetic aspect to them which helps drive the story.

The Power Struggle – I really liked the power struggle between Master and Aunty Entity. They are both compelling characters with Master being a small person who is best friends with a mentally handicapped man who is super strong who is his protector and helped him build the machines that provide energy to Bartertown, and there is Aunty Entity who controls the trade and is the law of the town and wrote the strange rules that govern the location and keep the populace sated in their blood lust. She wants Blaster taken out and Max almost fulfills it until he sees that Blaster was never evil nor Master wholly bad which leads to his exile as Aunty Entity takes over.

The Action – The action of course is fantastic! The most memorable action being the chase at the end where Aunt Entity’s forces are chasing Master, the Feral Children and Max who are on a train as they attempt to surround it and take it out and later when all except Max make it onto a plane and Max once again takes on the hoard giving the good characters time to escape and make a future.

The Characters – I liked the characters in “The Road Warrior” more, partially because they were just so much more compelling to see and there was more you could read into them. Here is is pretty concrete and depends too much on tropes, especially with the Feral Children not speaking like Children which took me out, besides the child actors, I did enjoy the characters.

The Collector – The Collector is the first we meet and he lets Max meet Aunty Entity after Max proves how dangerous he is. He is the one who measures and trades and is a slimy character. He is also connected to everyone in the town making him dangerous. We don’t truly see how dangerous though as Master and Aunty Entity take over once they are introduced. Frank Thring is great.

Blaster – Blaster is threatening and scary as long as you don’t see his face, but once his helmet is knocked off he is the most lovable character in the film and you see how deeply his friendship with Master runs as Master holds him when he is knocked out. He protects the kids too and has affection for Max for sparing his life. Paul Larsson is wonderful in this role.

Aunty Entity – Tina Turner owns this role and I wish she’d been given more to do than just lay down the law. She is in the final chase sequence but isn’t very smart as she unattaches the cart too early and Max rescues Master from her. She is honorable though and spares Max’s life as well as never actually killing him. She exiles him when he disobeys the laws of Thunderdome and she never kills Master as she wants to provide the energy so her people can live better. She is someone who was nothing before the apocalypse, but made the most of it to become the leader and ruler of Bartertown. She is the potential that exists in the new world, but also shows the ability of power to corrupt.

Master – Angelo Rossitto plays a character who is both bully and victim. We see him as a bully when he cuts the power before the attempt to kill Blaster by Max and later on we see him cradle Blaster and work with him in protecting the Feral children. He also salutes Max at the end for rescuing him. He is one of the brightest minds but he doesn’t do as much in his own escape as I would have liked. Gyro Captain used his machine a lot in the battle, while Master doesn’t use the Methane Factory much at all against Aunty Entity’s men.

Max – Mel Gibson is back and has “Braveheart” hair. When he arrives he is looking for the camels and supplies the Pilot stole from him but he is soon sidetracked when Aunty Entity hires him to take out Blaster. He succeeds but doesn’t kill Blaster and reveals her plan leading to his exile. From here he guides the kids out of their worship of the dead Boeing 747 pilot and through his fighting for them helps them bring about a better world, as Savannah the leader of the tribe mentions at the end. In this way his arc is similar to the arc “The Road Warrior” but with much less loss. Still great, but I hoped his character would change more. Maybe part of his point is his disconnect from others and sacrifice because he can’t live in any society? After watching more of the Franchise I’ll do an analysis of Max, might have to wait for the films after “Fury Road” though, no idea how that film and the future films will change him, if at all.

The Message – The message is safeguarding the future by dealing with the reality of people. The kids were the few good people left so Max risked everything to protect them, and with Master no longer being a bully they had a good person to guide them towards a new future. In this way he safeguards the future that the narrator and leader of the tribe expresses to us at the end. No matter how horrible the world may look, there are those worth saving who can make it better, and those people exist in each new generation.

Okay: The Ending – The action is great but their escape is too easy. The pilot who stole from Max has little to no reason to help them beyond survival and he changes from a selfish father to someone willing to risk everything for strangers. It struck me as too inconvienent and felt Spielbergian not like George Miller. Too whimsical and not enough crazy.

The Cons: The Feral Children – The Feral Children didn’t work. The idea of them worshipping a pilot who would return was cool and interesting but they didn’t talk like children. The Feral Child from “The Road Warrior” only barked, grunted and howled and it was only after he found civilization in the North that he could speak. This clashed with that, they felt fake and didn’t seem wild at all. The fact that none of them died also took me out, it just made Aunty Entity weak, especially after how the Humungus killed most of the cast from the last film.

The Pilot – He functions more as a plot device and is a different character from the Gyro Captain even though it is still Spence who played the Gyro Captain. He only exists so our heroes can make their escape. He is “The Eagles” of the Tolkienverse in this film and I wish they’d had a way to depend on their brains and working together to get out, especially since Master is supposed to be one of the most brilliant minds in this Universe.

The Tone – I really liked the dark tone that the movies have had, this one had moments of it but felt like a Spielberg film the moment we ran into the Feral Children Tribe as they were protected from all damage by virtue of them being kids and nothing bad happens to them. It took all the risk out of it and made it more of a family film, which clashed with the insanity, brothels and mortality of Bartertown.

This was a really fun film, though I have issues with how the Feral Children were handled and the tone though the power struggle and the main characters really carry the film for me. It is enjoyable and I would recommend this film, it was a lot of fun and though I don’t like it nearly as much as I liked “The Road Warrior” it is a fun different direction the series went in, even if I don’t like the direction (less death more child actors)…the world is still amazing. I am looking forward to “Fury Road.”

Final Score: 7 / 10

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981): Discovering the Reason to Fight for Humanity

mad-max-2-poster-art-by-chris-weston

      I hated the first “Mad Max” film but I got to say, after watching “The Road Warrior” I am giving this series another chance. What initially sparked it was a friend requesting I see the rest of the series months ago and after “Fury Road” being released. I plan to see the film soon so I plan on doing the reviews of the other two films of “Mad Max” that I haven’t reviewed. Those being this film here “The Road Warrior” and “Beyond Thunderdome,” both of which I’ve heard great things about and in regards to “The Road Warrior,” it deserves all the praise it has received. So much about this movie works, from the action, characters and the plot which I will get into greater detail later on.

     Here is my review of the first “Mad Max” film.: https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/mad-max-1979-stupid-action-with-no-interesting-characters/

     “The Road Warrior,” was directed by George Miller who was also one of the writers. The other writers were Terry Hayes and Brian Hannant. The film was produced by Byron Kennedy.

     The story picks up where the last film left off with the narrator recounting how the Cold War lead to the destruction of fuel leading humanity to become like animals fighting for what little remained. From here we pick up with Max (Mel Gibson) who after capturing the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) who was trying to kill him, learns about a town full of oil. He travels there and after saving a man from The Humungus’s (Kjell Nilsson) gang tries to make a deal for fuel but soon finds himself becoming their protector and having to choose between continuing to be alone or fighting for something beyond contracts.

The Pros: The Stakes – The stakes are high, oil is limited and everyone uses vehicles. The Facility that has the oil plans to escape to bring it North where there is talk of making a new civilized world but they are trapped because The Humungus has such a huge gang. These stakes force the selfish Max and Gyro Captain to think beyond themselves and to see a bigger picture again.

The Action – The action is awesome! Unlike “Mad Max” where they went on forever, the action here only goes on as long as it needs too, if someone is going to get caught or killed they won’t linger on it like in “Mad Max” which leads me to believe that Miller had grown a lot as a director by the time he made this film. The final chase where Max and a few warrior are driving the fuel truck is fantastic though as we see one truck used to devastating affect against a much larger force.

The Story – The story is told by a mysterious narrator recounting the past and in the end we learn the narrator was one of the folks Max saved which changed the character to later become the leader of his people as he was shaped by the events and how the people changed in coming together against The Humungus.

The Characters – The characters in this are all memorable, partially because they are all mad and have been changed radically by the losses they’ve experienced in their lives but also because the actors do a great job with the characters they were given.

Wez – Wez is The Humungus’s Dragon and is a gay villain who is actually threatening! So often in fiction if a villain is implied to be gay or is actually gay they are made to be weak and shamed by those around them. Not Wez, Wez rocks as a warrior and fights to the end. He wins almost every fight he gets into and survives up until he’s fighting a truck on his own. He also has a partner the Feral Kid kills which sets off his vendetta against the Facility and Max to an even greater degree. Vernon Welles does a great job.

Gyro Captain – When we first meet the Gyro Captain he is holding an arrow to Max’s head but is only stopped by Max’s dog. From there he is Max’s prisoner and servant until he proves his own in combat and makes the choice to stay with the Facility Survivors which leads to them eventually making him their leader. His arc is coming to care about more than just those who can get him something like gasoline or sex and in the end he risks it all for strangers which is a big reason he becomes their leader. Bruce Spence gives a lot of depth to this mad character.

The Warrior Woman – The Warrior Women is the main military leader in the Facility and she doesn’t trust Max until Max proves his value. After she doesn’t end up with him, which made me happy. Her arc is learning to trust but that isn’t emotionally manipulated into romance. She dies in the final battle but not before taking out a bunch of The Humungus’s men. Virginia Hey is wonderful in the role and I wish her character had got more screentime.

Pappagallo – Pappagallo is the idealistic though in some ways corrupt leader of the Facility. He wants to lead them North to a better land where they can make a world without dealing with raiders and rapists who own the wasteland. In the end he risks everything for this dream including his life when the Humungus kills him. His con is he doesn’t take no for an answer when Max turns down his dream quite a few times. He shows that he is a zealot and is at least somewhat delusional. Michael Preson brings great subtly to the role.

Max – Mel Gibson’s character actually has an arc in this film! In the beginning he is just after fuel and survival and can’t see anything beyond that. After staying in the Facility though he is willing to risk his life so that they can transport the fuel to rescue. He loses his dog in this and nearly his life to Wez but he never takes things personally. Part of me wonders how much he is able to feel at this point, since the empathy we see him present seems learned. He’s forgotten who he was and only exists as a survivor until the purpose he receives in fighting for others  though he does not stay with them, showing he is still searching for a reason to live for.

The Humungus – Kjell Nilsson is fantastic as this narcissistic madman! He’s the king of rock and roll and the Ayatollah of the Wasteland. He is articulate too (like Bane) for speaking behind a metal hockey mask. He is also dangerous too and he and his forces kill most of the Facility’s defenders in the final battle with the Truck. He himself kills Pappagallo. What an awesome villain. He preys on their fears and is evil and knows it. Also he has a great name. The Humungus is such a great villain name.

The Feral Kid – The Feral Kid is the future narrator who later leads the group. Throughout the film he doesn’t talk and only howls, growls and grunts. Eventually he learns speech in the North though recounts the story. Max was a such a major part of his life and inspired him to fight and lead and through it find his humanity again. Emil Minty does a good job in the role.

The Messages – The main messages were those who control fuel control the world, and that that drive for it makes men savages, which we see to this day. Resources drive humanity into savagery which “The Road Warrior” expresses beautifully through Humungus and his gang and Max and the Gyro Captain. The other message is that other people can give us a reason to look beyond ourselves and that no matter how horrible humanity can be, there are those worth fighting for.

Okay: Backstory – The world is so lived in this wasn’t as big of an issue for me as the characters in their mad forms were compelling already but I still wish we could have got what drove the Humungus and Pappagallo to be who they were.

The Cons: The Soundtrack – The music isn’t memorable at all, I’d call it forgettable standard fair but it left no affect on me.

  This is a really good film and solves a lot of the problems I had with the first film. Max is a compelling character this time, The Humungus is a fantastic villain, the minor characters have quirks but don’t feel like caricatures as they change and grow throughout the plot and there are actual stakes! I cared about what happened to the members of the Facility and what happened Max. This I believe is due to the acting and writing that were so great in this film. Suffice to say I can’t wait to see “Beyond Thunderdome” and “Fury Road” after this.

Final Score: 9 / 10.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014): Selling the Revolution

Mockingjay Part 1

 “The Hunger Games” movie series is in many ways superior to the books. We see aspects of characters we never saw before like President Snow or Plutarch and visually get to see much more of Panam. In the lead up to Part 2 of “Mockingjay” I’ll cover the films and explain why to me they lend much more to the books even though we don’t see as much into Katniss’s mind. They add more in the best way possible, even if the final product isn’t always great (“Catching Fire”).

      I enjoyed a lot of things about this film but thing that splitting it into 2 parts was not needed. When Nolan can put out a 3 hour movie a book that isn’t all that long should be able to be completed in at least that time (“Hobbit” at most should have been two films). I’ll get into the details of what I think in the assessment though in regards to “Mockingjay Part 1.”

    The film was directed by Francis Lawrence, produced by Nina Jacobson and John Kilik and written by Danny Strong and Peter Craig. The film is of course based off of the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins.

     The film picks up where the story left off after “Catching Fire,” with Katniss in District 13 dealing with the loss of Peeta and being given the choice to become the symbol of the revolution against the Capital or to give up. When it’s revealed that Peeta is being used as the Capital’s mouthpiece her situation becomes more dire as District 13 sees her as a traitor and she realizes that 13 must act if the revolution is going to have any chance of success. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The soundtrack – The music in this one is amazing! From Katniss’s hang man song and the lived in feel of the soundtrack that rises to heights during the pivotal battles and goes quite when the scenes demand it.  James Newton Howard did a great job.

Plutarch – RIP Phillip Seymour Hoffman. For one of his last performances he truly owns this character and role. In the last film we didn’t know him or his motivations but in this we see how driven his character is at painting a narrative to defeat the Capital. We see it in him putting Katniss out in the field to get the moments of passion needed and in how he is able to get President Coin to compromise and work with Katniss. In this we see just how well he sees the big picture and he’s around to give Katniss the wake up calls she needs to get out of herself throughout the film. I don’t remember him being as present in the books, but getting his perspective gave so much to this film.

Cressida – Natalie Dormer is fantastic in this role! Her character is one who fled from the Capital in order to join the rebellion because of how Katniss’s actions during both Hunger Games inspired  her to leave her life behind. She is great as we see how passionate and driven she is and in how she tries to keep Katniss focused and keep Plutarch’s narrative going as we see her interviewing Finnick at the end as he tells the story of how he and other victors were used as playthings in the Capital and the secret of poison that Snow used to get rid of rivals and keep power.

President Coin – Julianne Moore is great as this very complex character. We see some of her ruthlessness in the rules that District 13 has but we also see her kindness as she reaches out to Katniss on multiple occasions. In the books she was just a force of nature who Katniss didn’t trust…Moore makes her an actual character who functions as more than just as an antagonist. I liked this, it was an improvement from the book.

Effie – Effie has some great moments as she grows beyond her privilege and grows to value the human connections she has. She still knows she’s awesome which gives some great scenes with characters and she is still professional and all about her job which I think helped her character adapt. Elizabeth Banks did great.

Finnick – This character was one of the few things I liked about the book and the film as he always struck me as complicated and his ego was all show. We see more that in this as his vulnerability really comes through and you see just how much the Capital hurt him using him for favors. His story is tragedy, though he does get his love again at the end of film. Sam Claflin owns this role.

President Snow – Snow is evil and he knows and is willing to go to any lengths to keep power. That comes through in this though we could have seen more of other District fights and the cruelty that Finnick speaks about. The human we saw in the last film is still there but he has fully embraced the role of antagonist in this film and he is a good antagonist as we see his plans be successful on quite a few occasions. Donald Sutherland continues to rock this role.

Katniss – Jennifer Lawrence got famous from this role for a reason…she knows this character and it shows. In this we see her strength, vulnerability and conflict as she faces the hard choices that come with rebelling and being the symbol of a rebellion. Curious to see if they’ll change anything in the books in Part 2 as we actually didn’t get as much character growth from Katniss as we could have because of how the scenes were stretched.

Okay: Peeta – Josh Hutcherson did alright but he does not have the charisma he needed to carry his role as the Capital’s mouthpiece. His best moment is the moment where he’s vulnerable and when he’s crazy at the end. Beyond that I wouldn’t really call his performance good. For what it’s worth it wasn’t bad either though.

Okay/con: The Ending – The Ending is much better than the cliffhanger that was “Catching Fire” but still feels unfinished. This is my biggest issue with breaking movies up as it leaves things empty or forces stretching of scenes which was also another problem with this film. The ending is powerful but the speech feels hollow in that we don’t know how many other Districts have come over because of Katniss’s actions. We only really see 8 so it is still small and in the rising action phase even though it ended with President Coin giving a great speech and Katniss left facing a broken Peeta. The ending of Part 2 may redeem it and make it a pro, but taking it as it is…it is unfinished.

The Cons: Slow Start – The beginning is really slow. We are given some good action of flashbacks with Peeta and Katniss facing her trauma…but it doesn’t go anywhere. It takes others to force her into action rather than herself.

Not Enough of the War – I wish that we could have seen more of the war beyond the rescue of the tributes and a few fight sequences. There is war going on all over, show us more of this suffering world.

    This was a really good film and I would highly recommend it. It might be the best in the series but I’ll know that for sure depending on how Part 2 goes and after rewatching and reviewing the first two films. The actors got this even if the script doesn’t always and the world is still so rich even if we don’t get enough time in it. I am looking forward to seeing how it ends, even if I wish it had just been one film. If you like the books, chances are you will like this film and it is worth taking a look at.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10.

Mad Max (1979): Stupid Action with no Interesting Characters

Mad Max Poster

      After being spoiled by “Snowpiercer,” I was expecting more from the Post-Apocalyptic classics…especially the ones that spawned franchises (“Planet of the Apes” series did well at least). After this, I may watch the others in the lead up to the new “Mad Max” film coming out, but if the story and characters don’t improve I’m going to tear it apart as harshly as this one.

      The original “Mad Max” was directed by George Miller who also wrote the screenplay and story, produced by Byron Kennedy who also helped write story and James McCausland who did the screenplay with George Miller. The fact that it looks like they knew what they wanted makes how much it failed to deliver all the stronger.

     The story takes place in a world where law and order have broken in a dystopic Australia and the gangs rule the streets, with the police only functioning as a stronger group of gangs trying uphold the law that once was. Corruption is rampant and the main gang who targets the main character Max (Mel Gibson) for killing one of their boys Night Rider begins reeking havoc all around when they come for revenge. From here the story unfolds as Max is given reasons to seek revenge, and reasons to stay on the police force and stick to the status quo. This conflict eventually comes to a head and the story unfolds from here.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The World – As much as the characters in this world are one beat and uninteresting and uncompelling…the world they come from is quite rich. From vehicles being the thing everyone needs and basis of power being number of vehicles makes the energy crisis feel real, as the more vehicles and gas…the more power you have. The government is powerless against the gang and government in name only as the world lives in true anarchy. This is the slow reveal over the film and the one thing I really liked about it.

Okay: Max – He has character I guess? When is son is killed and wife is killed he goes and gets revenge on Toecutter’s gang who had also killed his partner Goose earlier and raped two innocents. You get why he’s complacent as his family represents the ideal of safety that he is trying to hold onto. Eventually everything is too much though when he loses that and he snaps like everyone else around him. This isn’t a pro since it happens only at the very end and the structure is horrible in how they do it…I also never got his attachment to his family. They weren’t really characters. He succeeds in revenge and a franchise is set up as he drives off into the sunset. Honestly, “El Mariachi” did the action and revenge thing a lot better.

The Action – There are some good motorcycle and car fight scenes but that is about all the movie has going for it.

Goose – Max’s partner has some personality at least, he’s sensitive (helps comfort a victim of Toecutter’s gang the Acolytes) and also has suave, arrogant charm. When he dies it is one of the few character moments in the film since Johnny Boy is now regretting his quest for revenge. This comes out of nowhere though as well as Goose just taking off on his motorcycle which leads to them trapping him. At least this character was a little fleshed out at least.

The Acolytes – They aren’t great antagonists as I never understood their motivation and what drove them to insanity and destroying of peoples’ lives…but they at least felt like a threat, so I’m putting them in the okay. Toecutter does feel foreboding in every scene he’s in.

May – We don’t get to know her character but she tries defending Jessie and Jessie’s son from the Acolytes with a shotgun. Her moment with the shotgun is pretty cool, but she doesn’t really feel like a character.

The Cons: No Strong Women – Every woman who fights back gets killed, there is a rape…women exist as perpetual victims in this and that isn’t fair. It’s giving the heroes the most basic of motivations and taking away the times they do stand up for themselves…for example Jessie knees Toecutter in the groin, sadly minutes later and he and his gang mow her down and she’s left in a coma. Even May with the shotgun is powerless and the only one who apparently knows how to do it is Max but all Max does is stare angrily and do things that anyone can do (burning Johnny Boy alive, getting the car with the powerful engine and running down the Acolytes). Why even have female characters if they only function as props? That really annoyed me and it brought down an already weak story.

       I would not recommend this movie. I know it’s a classic and some people love it…but I don’t care about Max or any of the characters because we mostly see them doing one of two actions – killing or running. That isn’t enough to get to know a character so they in the end only function as tropes…from the cop out for revenge (which Gibson would do better later), the damsel in distress (every female character for the most part), the mindless bullies (the Acolytes) and the corrupt leaders (the politician and police chief who do nothing but allow Johnny Boy out). “Snowpiercer” was depressing and had a larger point and gave every character their due…this had no point beyond destroying one-dimensional baddies and having the “Good” cop go “Bad.” That’s it.

Final Score: 3 / 10. Stupid action in an interesting  world is entertaining but not enough to carry this script. This is one of the worst films I’ve seen in a while.