Mad Max: Fury Road
Though “Mad Max: Fury Road” has been out for weeks, let me revisit an old review for two reasons. First, it remains the best film to be released in 2015. Second, I would rather be strapped to a pole and forced to watch Donald Trump’s racist comments about Mexican immigrants than be reduced to the level of reviewing semi-porn films like “Magic Mike XXL” and “Ted 2.”
Director George Miller has brought Max roaring back to life in a futuristic world that is little more than an apocalyptic wasteland. With water disappearing and humans reduced to resembling colorless zombies, a psychotic villain named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) leads a bloodbath of mystical proportions. It is ironically summed up by Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of Immortan’s avenging angels, “What a lovely day”.
Max has only one goal, and that is to survive. From the opening scenes, Thomas Hardy recreates Max as a guy of few words whose initial pursuit and capture is both overwhelmingly violent yet emotionally captivating.
The last two-thirds of this brilliant film is actually a chase scene where Immortan Joe and his gang of traveling fanatics are pursuing a woman known as Imperator Furiosa as she tries to flee in a large tanker truck. Furiosa is trying to help five young “brides” escape from Immortan’s bondage where they existed as part of a hare
m designed to bear his children. Immortan unleashes a fury that makes the Pharoah’s biblical pursuit of Moses look like child’s play.
Charlize Theron’s performance as Furiosa, which must be remembered at Oscar time, embodies a woman trying to flee unimaginable brutality as she tries to find protection in her distant homeland. Initially looking as little more than cheap Vegas strip performers, Furiosa and her five young cohorts soon form a nasty Band of Sisters. When you also consider that these women are joined by a small group of older female survivors known as the Vuvalini, you soon see why Immortan learns the true meaning of the ancient phrase, “The bitch is back!”
It is giving nothing away to say that Max eventually escapes captivity and reluctantly joins Furiosa and her female gang. Max and his ass-kicking female accomplices are helped when Nux leaves Immortan’s crew to join Furiosa after falling in love with one of the fleeing brides. Hoult is a joy to watch, as proven by previous performances from 2013, “Warm Bodies” and “Jack the Giant Slayer.”
While Immortan is a loathsome jackal wearing a facial covering that makes him look like a hound from hell, give him credit for his love of music. When have you ever seen an army led into battle accompanied by large drums and a giant electric guitar being played on a souped-up attack vehicle?
This is a rousing film where Max remains haunted by the previous loss of his wife and child. Opposite him is Furiosa, a woman who seeks nothing other than redemption. Though drawn to each other, neither remains capable of love, as such a commitment is inconsistent with staying alive.
Miller has again created a world where mankind has literally destroyed Earth’s environment. He doesn’t try to say how, but merely calls upon you to watch a decaying society run by an amoral totalitarian regime resembling ISIS or Boko Haram.
Could that be Earth’s future?
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
As we watch sequel after sequel dominate the big screen, it is a relief to find a film that plows new territory. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a creative work of art from beginning to end, and to paraphrase an old “Star Trek” theme, it takes us on a journey never gone before.
The title of this film has meaning, and that is giving nothing away. As you watch a teenage girl named Rachel (Olivia Cooke) confront a harsh cancer diagnosis, you feel like you are watching another version of “Inside Out.” Only here, her central control system is dominated by anger, hope, friendship and despair.
The film centers around two high school seniors, both living uncertain lives. Greg (Thomas Mann) is frustrated by controlling parents (wonderfully played by Nick Offerman and Connie Britton) who, among other things, find the need to continually search his room. His only meaningful outlet is with a black friend, Earl (RJ Cyler in a memorable role), with whom he makes some spectacularly inventive movie spoofs of old classics. For example, “Midnight Cowboy” is called “2:58 P.M. Cowboy.” These kids are very funny.
On the other hand, their small movies are shown to no one, and Greg’s life changes dramatically when his mother forces him to go visit a friend’s daughter who has been diagnosed with leukemia. He hates the thought of pretending to build a friendship on nothing more than an order from a parent, yet an unexpected relationship blooms with the above-referred to Rachel that will leave you alternating between laughter and tears.
Earl gets involved with this caustic duo, and the movie explodes on an emotional level that you will simply have to see to appreciate. While Earl is a kid from the poor side of town who has more common sense than Greg, it is Cooke’s role as Rachel that rises to an unforgettable level. She wants no pity and continues to find relief from an escalating illness that is destroying her by watching the crazy films made by Greg and Earl.
A friendship that Greg wanted to avoid begins to control his life. As Rachel’s condition worsens, he stops attending school to try to provide her with some relief. Their grief becomes yours, so come prepared.
This is anything but a romantic film, and these three characters wrestle with life and death in an enthralling fashion. In the end, you are left wishing that there was a way to simply tell Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, “thank you.”•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.