Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth film in the well-regarded post-apocalyptic action series of the same name. The film, stuck in development hell for 30 years after the release of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hout. Fury Road is the brainchild of writer and director George Miller, creator of all Mad Max films. I find it surprisingly awesome that Miller stuck to the ideas he generated in the late 80’s and early 90’s all the way through to 2015. (There’s concept art dated 1990 of the prisoner mask Max wears for a good portion of the film.)
My parents and some of their friends went to see Mad Max and hated it vehemently. I was skeptical about the movie going in because of this. People say you can’t be wrong when it comes to an opinion. Nope, you can. I do not understand, it does not compute, how one cannot love this film. My brother and I have vowed never to trust my parents concerning entertainment ever again. Many want to preemptively label this film action movie of the year, and I am perfectly fine with that.
This is a wonderful film to look at. The aesthetics are extremely pleasing to the eye. I was actually super impressed with that aspect of the film. The first two minutes of the film comprise of a beautiful establishing shot and a very, very good opening monologue by the always-wonderful Tom Hardy. Oh yeah, after said monologue, he eats a two-headed lizard whole. Miller uses orange and blue hues to create something I can only describe as beautiful out of the Australian landscape. I was told I needed to see the film in 3D. Most films are shot in 2D and post-converted into 3D to make a cheap buck. I haven’t paid for a 3D film since the 2D showing of The Avengers was sold out in 2012, and I really needed to see it a 3rd time. This is not a crappy post-conversion. The 3D was used to marvelous effect here, and I definitely recommend seeing it in 3D if you can.
There’s not much dialogue in Fury Road; Mel Gibson only had 17 lines of dialogue in the original Mad Max. In keeping with said tradition, Max doesn’t talk much… actually, it’s just around 17 lines, nice touch. Hardy does a great job emoting simply with his eyes. Theron and Hout are great as well. I, however, think that anyone saying any actor involved should receive an Oscar needs to get their head checked. The film is definitely a contender for best visual effects, probably not Best Picture, sadly.
Don’t let the lack of dialogue trick you into thinking there isn’t a plot. Contrary to popular (my parent’s) belief, there was a surprising amount of plot in the film. It’s no Usual Suspects, but the film is not completely mindless. Really, really weird? Yes. But seeing as how Bartertown in Thunderdome was powered entirely by pig dung, and it’s a post-apocalyptic film, called MAD Max, no less, I’m willing to let that slide, and, in fact, compliment them on their commitment to creep me the crap out.
Max, sometime after the death of his wife and daughter (who he hallucinates about throughout the film), is captured by members of a cult/town called Citadel ran by Joe, a freaky dude. Max is a universal donor, and is used as a “blood bag” for wounded soldiers. He ends up as Nux’s (Hout) personal blood bag as they are sent to hunt down a revered warrior and “traitor,” Imperator Furiosa.
You see, one of the strangest parts of the film (that apparently ruined the movie for my parents) were Joe’s wives. You see, the members of Citadel don’t get much water, so they survive off of milk. Breast milk from said wives. I will admit that was a little too weird, but whatever. Aside from the milk wives, there are also the breeding wives. Joe takes his babies of the breeding wives and then turns them into warlords. That’s why Furiosa escapes with five wives. They are not his property. Long story short and without spoiling anything more, Max escapes Nux and begrudgingly teams up with Furiosa.
The action sequences in this film are phenomenal. Those I won’t spoil for you, but we were all staring in awe the entire time. I would explain one in detail, but sitting here right now, my friend and I can’t narrow one down to actually talk about because, well, they’re all frickin’ awesome. On top of that, Joe’s army has it’s own drum boy of sorts who plays a guitar that spews flames while attached to strings like some sort of puppet. It’s awesome.
There is down time between all this chaos, where a surprising amount of character development (although slim, I mean surprisingly comparatively, as I came in expecting next to none) takes place. My parents didn’t find the movie exciting, which leads me to believe they just might have an Ambien problem. This movie is possibly the most exciting and tense one I’ve seen in a very long time. The fight sequences were brutal and amazingly choreographed.
In closing, go see this movie right now, and don’t let anyone tell you it sucks. I legitimately regret not seeing this movie sooner. This is my film of the year for now and will definitely be picked up on Blu-Ray. This has also led me to consider disowning my parents. 🙂 I mean, SERIOUSLY!
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Kung Fury

Kung Fury is a short, 31-minute comedy film. The project was successfully backed on Kickstarter, and the full project was released on YouTube yesterday. Kung Fury was written, directed by, and stars David Sandberg. The hilariously over-the-top comedy film is meant to be both a parody and a homage to 1980’s martial arts films. There is also a cameo from David Hasselhoff.

The plot of the film: Renegade kung-fu cop Kung Fury must hack back in time with the help of Hackerman, the best hacker there is, in order to kill Hitler, a kung-fu champion known as the Kung Fürher. There is also a laser blasting killer arcade machine, laser raptors, vikings with miniguns, Thor, and a triceratops who is a cop known as Triceracop.

Much like the film itself (which, sadly, while still being funded enough to make the short film as planned, failed to meet the feature film stretch goal of $1 million), I will keep this short. Kung Fury might be the single most hilarious film I have ever seen, feature-length or otherwise. If not the best comedy film I have ever seen, it is certainly up there, and you need to watch it right now! If you need any further convincing, here’s a few GIFs.

To summarize, as Reddit user MrInYourFACE said, “I am not saying this is the best movie ever made, but it has David Hasslelhoff and a Triceracop.” The full film is available to watch for free on YouTube. And in case your wondering, no this is not the end. Kung Fury was screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival to critical acclaim, and Sandberg has signed a feature film deal.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a 2015 action-adventure spy comedy film directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring Colin Firth, Taron Edgerton, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Strong. It is based off the 2012 limited run comic book series The Secret Service by Mark Millar. This is the third time Vaughn has been involved in a Mark Millar adaption, and his second time directing one; Vaughn having directed the critically acclaimed superhero comedy Kick-Ass, as well as producing its disappointing sequel. Vaughn is also the executive producer on the upcoming superhero film Fantastic Four, helmed by Chronicle director Josh Trank and inspired by Millar’s run on the iconic superhero team. I rather enjoy Millar’s work and their film adaptions, as long as they are directed by Vaughn, so I am hoping this team-up of sorts continues on.

I have read The Secret Service, and despite the six issue series being disappointingly short, I enjoyed it very much. There are a lot of seemingly needless changes that were made between the comic and the film (standard operating procedure these days). Fortunately, these changes were needless because they were extremely inconsequential to the storyline. The film follows Eggsy, the street smart, foulmouthed son of a deceased Kingsman. The Kingsmen are an elite group of secret agents who operate out of a secret headquarters umderneath a tailor shop. Eggsy meets Harry, a Kingsman who’s life was saved when Eggsy’s father sacrificed himself. Harry owes Eggsy’s family, and also sees potential in the brilliant and talented Eggsy, held back by an abusive stepfather and other factors. Eggsy goes on a journey to become the next Kingsman.

Kingsman and the comic upon which it is based are love letters to the Moore-era Bond films. Samuel L. Jackson is a megalomanic millionaire with a lisp bent on culling humanity in the most hilariously ridiculous way possible. He also has an attractive female henchman with knives for legs… or something, I can’t really tell.

There are many overt references to 007 as well.

Part of me would call Kingsman a parody, but it doesn’t make fun of spy movies, it reveres them and the fun people had with them. Kingsman is to spy movies as Scream is to horror. They are self-aware to the fullest extent, and they are extremely entertaining because of it. Kingsman is hilarious, not because it says “the supervillian’s evil plan is stupid. Laugh at it!” It is hilarious because it doesn’t try to be a parody, if that makes sense. It doesn’t derive humor from the fact that Harry has a bulletproof knockout gun umbrella shield. It instead opts for the traditional approach to humor, something I greatly appreciated.

In terms of acting, I have to say I have no complaints. Mark Strong is great, Samuel L. Jackson pulls the villain off effortlessly, and newcomer Taron Edgerton is surprisingly very good and I hope to see him in more films. The real star, though, is Colin Firth. He is certainly the highlight of the film. I don’t think Firth, who was a strong contender to play 007 himself on more than one occasion, is acting when playing the upper crust bada** Harry Hart.

That’s another great thing about this movie. Matthew Vaughn’s hyper-stylized brand of action makes a triumphant return un Kingsman. The action sequences in this film are supremely entertaining. Sure, he speeds up the camera and resorts to CGI trickery when necessary, but you will not care. The three minute long church sequence set to Lynyrd Skynrd’s Free Bird is arguably a work of art.

Kingsman uses its talented cast, director, and writers to deliver one of the most shamelessly entertaining films of the year so far, and it came out the very beginning of February, at that! Perhaps that is why it was so financially successful, news which made me very happy. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel. Matthew Vaughn must return to direct this one, or I will end up severely disappointed.

Transporter: The Series, Episode 1: Trojan Horsepower

Transporter is a French-Canadian television series. The series is a continuation of the moderately entertaining Jason Statham headlined film series of the same name. Frank Martin is now played by Chris Vance. The Statham flicks were by no means masterpieces of cinema, but Statham had enough charm and the movies themselves were fun enough to keep me entertained. I thought the same would be true of the TV show when I came across it on Netflix.
Sadly, this isn’t true. Transporter: The Series is by far the worst TV show I have ever watched, reality TV notwithstanding. I wasn’t planning on doing a review, I just thought this would be a decent Netflix watch this evening. I have taken it upon myself to warn you to stay far, far, FAR away from this abomination. I suffered through one episode, and I literally have no idea why. Subconscious punishment, I guess?
The pilot episode, Trojan Horsepower, begins with Frank transporting two (originally three) escaped prisoners to a funeral. Chris Vance and the prisoners then engage in the most emotionless, boring, wooden dialogue I have ever heard. Every passing moment it becomes more and more painfully obvious how limited the budget is for this production. It is just the worst. I can’t articulate how bad it is using words. I know that’s my job, but when it comes to this… I just… I can’t… Luckily, I found the full episode on Dailymotion here. Watch the first five minutes. It appears the show wasn’t content with being terrible, they had to blatantly rip-off the opening to the original film in flabbergastingly poor manner.
In the show, they decide via coin flip, and the loser, a convicted criminal, honors that and leaves.
It continues to get much, much worse. Disregarding the terrible acting, terrible action, terrible dialogue, and terrible production value, lets talk about the laughably terrible plot. After the opening sequence, Frank spontaneously decides to do a favor for his mechanic involving a hot chick and an eco friendly module that optimizes a car’s use of gas… or something. It’s completely fake, makes zero sense, and defies all logic and reality. On top of that, this favor breaks all of Frank’s rules, rules that he has never broken throughout the entirety of the franchise!
Frank ends up being chased by an evil corporation who wants the prototype device because… money. The action that ensues is pathetic. There’s nothing exciting about the car chases, nothing fun about the fight choreography… this show literally has no redeeming value. None. I wholeheartedly recommend you stay away from this series, and if, by some travesty you end up watching the show, you should destroy your device and then perform an exorcism just to be safe. I cannot unsee this, and I genuinely regret even clicking in the first place.

John Wick

John Wick is a 2014 action film starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, and Willem Dafoe, featuring Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, Dean Winters, and John Leguizamo. It was directed by newcomers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.
Stahelski and Leitch have worked as award winning stunt doubles in Hollywood since the 90’s. Leitch was the stunt coordinator for the Matrix trilogy. This experience, as well as both men’s love of Hong Kong cinema, Japanese animé, video games, and martial arts, have led them to create what I believe to be one of the most entertaining American action films ever made.
There’s not much in the way of plot, and it’s amazing. John Wick is meant to be a homage to the brilliantly cheesy B-movie action films of the 80’s. Bloodsport, Roadhouse, Hard Target, Under Siege. The type of terribly awesome films you are excited to see on late night TV. Keanu is perfect for this role, because he honestly can’t act for crap. Sure, The Matrix, Speed, and Point Break deserve their cult status, but certainly not because of Reeves. In John Wick, he gives what just might be the most hilariously hammy performance ever seen in a wide-release Hollywood film, only rivaled by Eddie Redmayne’s in Jupiter Ascending, so I’ve heard.
The above paragraph may make you say “Everything you just said makes it sound like a terrible film. I’m really confused.” The thing is this film isn’t trying to to trick you into thinking it is deep. Like Kingsman, it is ridiculously self-aware. Allow me to explain. The Denzel Washington thriller The Equalizer focused on character development… way too much. Everyone seeing the film came to see Denzel kill people, and he doesn’t kill anyone for a solid 45 minutes. It took itself seriously, and it was a problem. I remember watching the movie and asking “Can you get on with this already?” The vast majority of a film about a bada** killer involves him not being a bada** or killing anyone. See my problem? It tried to be a “real movie,” not the action film I wanted and others paid money to see. It even spends a good amount of time waxing philosophical and wasting time on the “I left this life behind” BS. 
The plot concerns John Wick. John Wick is a former assassin who stopped assassin-ing because he fell in love and married Bridget Moynahan. She dies in the first two minutes from… something, probably cancer, it goes unexplained, who cares? Moynahan is only on-screen for eight seconds of film via home video footage seen on John’s phone. As a parting gift to help him cope (and a plot device), his wife had arranged to have a puppy unceremoniously delivered to him via… FedEx shipment, apparently? John bonds with the puppy (who craps $5,000 of CGI). John has a really cool ’69 Mustang, too. At a gas station, he encounters a bunch of disrespectful idiot Russian gangsters who are offended because he refuses to sell them the car… which he is currently sitting in… and driving… and is obviously not up for sale. It’s stupid in a funny way, and I actually really appreciate they didn’t go for the big conspiracy route. So the gangsters follow him. beat him up, take the car, and slit the dog’s throat. There’s no “That isn’t who I am anymore” crap no one cares about. The lead gangster is the son of a mafia boss played by Michael Nyvquist (the Russian dude in every movie that needs a Russian dude, he was the Russian dude in Shooter). Boss dude Viggo knows this is bad, and proceeds to explain how dead his son will end up. I didn’t know expository dialogue could get me excited, but it does.
Viggo makes a comical phone call trying to reason with John.
The phone call was an utter failure. Which leads to this.
And this
And also a fight with Adrianne Palicki
Leitch and Stahelski, though brilliant in their craft by the looks of it, didn’t come up with this stuff on their own. They have openly stated they took inspiration from John Woo’s The Killer  (which also influenced Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez) and Woo’s signature gun-fu style, because it’s awesome. There are also hints of The Raid in there as well.
Leitch and Stahelski were driven to John Wick because they wanted to prove that 2nd Unit guys (read: not director, producer, or writer) can direct. They can. John Wick doesn’t have much in the way of plot, but it wasn’t ever supposed to. Killing a dog is motivation enough, we’d all rampage in that situation. That’s the point. What it does have is an impressive amount of worldbuilding. With the introduction of the gold coins, Charon, Winston, the Continental Hotel, and Charlie and his cleaning crew, a fully functioning comic-esque universe is now in play, with infinite possibilities for the sequel. The action sequences are memorable, most of the performances are great, with Leguizamo and McShane playing it straight, no cheese, and pulling it off without a sweat.
John Wick is the action movie all other action movies should aspire to be. Similar to the films that inspired it, John Wick will assuredly achieve cult classic status, garnering critical acclaim and a loyal fanbase. The men behind the camera are in high demand, and rightfully so. John Wick is the antidote to the movies that try to be something they are not and should not be. I own this movie, and I’m glad I do. I am eagerly awaiting John Wick 2 and whatever else Leitch and Stahelski have in the pipline.

Leon: The Professional

Leon: The Professional is a 1994 French action film starring Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, and Gary Oldman. It is directed by Luc Besson, also known for The Fifth Element, Transporter 1 & 2, and many other fun, stylistic thriller films.

Leon is a simplistic assassin living in an apartment across the hall from Matilda and her terrible family. Her Dad’s a drug dealer, her sister’s a jerk, and her mom’s a ditz. The only member of Matilda’s family she doesn’t hate is her brother, who has no lines in the entire film, which I found odd, not that it matters.

Matilda’s family is murdered by the Beethoven-loving psychopathic DEA agent Norman Stansfield. Matilda was spared after going to buy some groceries. Stansfield is a legendary villain, and he is actually considered an acclaimed role for Oldman. You can see why. His antics were intended to bring an amount of comic relief, and many of the character’s lines from the film are now popular internet memes.

                                            
                                         Ladies and gentleman, Gary Oldman, (over)acting extraordinaire
Leon begrudgingly takes Matilda in and teaches her how to become an assassin (a “cleaner”). Matilda, in return, teaches him how to read and takes care of his plant. They, as expected in these types of films, form a father-daughter bond.
That’s really all I can say about the plot. It’s pretty great, actually. Jean Reno is very good as always, Natalie Portman actually acts in this film (cough Star Wars cough), Gary Oldman is amazing.
For an action flick, some scenes were genuinely heartwarming. I also found some scenes to be… strange. Borderline sexual even. I don’t know what was up with the soundtrack, which included songs such as Bjork’s “Venus As A Boy” over an assassin training/plant watering montage. My one problem with this movie is the awkward sexualization. Not to sound ignorant, but maybe it’s a French thing?
Leon was partially the inspiration behind the supremely entertaining 2014 Action/B movie love letter John Wick (Which I might do a review on today), and it’s easy to see why. The final 15 minutes of the movie contains some of the most ridiculously B.A, moments I’ve ever seen.
Despite some occasionally strange and awkward moments, Leon: The Professional is quite deserving of it’s cult classic status, and is a must-watch for any fan of action, or fans of the remarkable Gary Oldman.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Mild Spoilers)

Avengers: Age of Ultron is not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination. It is not Oscar material; it is, in fact, a flawed movie. But it’s amazing. The story begins with a raid on the last remaining HYDRA stronghold. It has been criticized for being very cluttered and a little bit confusing. I would agree with this; Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff are an item, despite The Avengers leaving them off as friends/colleagues, with no indication of romance as far as I could tell.

One of the things most Marvel Studios projects have is charm and a sense of humor. From the outset, especially having dived into the dark world of Daredevil less than a month earlier, I was very glad to see Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, and Jeremy Renner spouting some very charming, funny dialogue. The action sequence was very entertaining and comic-like.

Aside from the Banner/Romanoff thing, I feel another pitfall was the twins, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. Not their characters, but the fact that they were written quite thin, I feel. There’s not much for them to do except ruin The Avengers’ day. There was a lot of wasted potential there that I feel could have easily been tapped into if the film simply had a longer runtime. In fact, I feel all of the issues I had with the film would most likely have been solved if Joss Wheedon had stuck with his original 3 and 1/2 hour runtime. That sounds long, (OK, that is really long) but would anyone seriously have minded? I certainly wouldn’t have. A lot of great movies are 3-hours long, I feel Wheedon could’ve easily cut out 20 minutes, and then left the rest, three hours 10 minutes is manageable, right? That extra forty minutes would’ve left a lot of breathing room, because I feel a part of the problem as a whole is that the movie never stops, ever.

Tony Stark and Banner discover Ultron, and decide to check him out. Literally the second they leave the room, Ultron wakes up and immediately decides in order to maintain order, humanity must be culled in true Skynet fashion. He escapes, and the rest of the movie is a chase from South Africa to Eastern Europe, with a small amount of character development brought out through nightmares and such.

Speaking of South Africa, another pitfall is the promising reveal and disappointing and confusing disappearance of the king of mocap himself, Oscar-winner Andy Serkis. The character of Ulysess Klaw seems extremely interesting, and I am psyched that he is most likely going to be heavily featured in the upcoming film Black Panther. You don’t get to see much of him in Age of Ultron, though. He shows up, a very intriguing, intimidating conversation with the Maximoff twins, and then just kind of goes away. That’s it. One of the most overlooked and talented actors in modern Hollywood, and he’s there for five minutes, not even.

So yeah, plot and pacing is not this movie’s strong suit, at least not in the theatrical cut. What it does have in spades, is straight up B.A. action, very well done CGI, charming characters (Granted, most of the characters were previously fleshed out over the course of the preceding ten films), easter eggs, and funny jokes.

The Hulkbuster vs. Hulk fight was great. I’d like to mention that one thing I’d really like to commend the film for is it’s acknowledgement of destruction and innocent bystanders. A big issue a lot of people had with Man of Steel was it’s attitude of “what civilians? They don’t matter!” In Ultron, it’s very apparent that the Hulk willingly causes probably billions in property damages and probably quite a few civilian casualties, an event that will probably come into play in Civil War that has a tremendous effect on Bruce Banner’s psyche.

The coolest part of the movie for me was probably The Vision. I will attempt not to spoil much about him for you, but I hope to see a lot more of him. I’ll leave it at that.

Despite a rushed and somewhat incoherent plot, the exciting visuals, promising and charming characters both new and old, and dialogue by the always sarcastic Joss Wheedon, I am happy to say this might be the most entertaining Marvel movie thus far. It’s not as “good” as The Winter Soldier, sure, but I feel it is a sight to behold nonetheless. Speaking of which, the Russo Brothers moving to replace Joss Wheedon as the “general managers” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a great move. The pair behind not only The Winter Soldier, but also Community and Arrested Development, have the potential to make Infinity War Parts 1 & II legendary films and possibly solidify the MCU’s place in pop culture

Summary

Plot: C
Characters: B
Script (Dialogue): A
Action: A
Acting: A
Fan Service: A
Final Grade: B+