Good action direction is its own beast, a delicate balance of choreography, cinematography and editing that usually has two distinct goals: be exciting and be coherent. Those goals can be at odds, of course, as the more frantic and fast-paced an action sequence gets, the more likely it is to lose the viewer. 2002 was a watershed year for the actioner with the release of The Bourne Identity, which sported a super-fast-cutting editing style that worked brilliantly in its best moments; Bourne Supremacy, the sequel, doubled-down on this technique and arguably set the bar even higher than its predecessor. But many of the films that aped Bourne in the ensuing years failed to balance those two goals, resulting in messy fight scenes and chase sequences that were hard to follow. Heck, there are even a few moments in the trilogy-capping Bourne Ultimatum that lose the thread of logic in their haste.
I suppose that’s preferable to the other alternative, which is an action scene that focuses so intently on retaining an internal logic that it fails to be exciting (looking at you, Obi-Wan Kenobi). But neither are an issue in Mad Max: Fury Road, which is quite straightforwardly one of the best action movies ever made. The sheer amount of tomfoolery occurring onscreen should be utterly disorienting, with Max fighting his way over moving vehicles as they careen across the desert, pursued by several distinct war parties, some of whom have these pole-vault-looking thingies that launch attackers into the air high above those moving vehicles, and that’s not to mention the action of the landscape around them as sandstorms and falling cliffsides lend additional pressure from all sides…oh, and Max is literally chained to another person for like half of this. Follow all that?
Continue reading Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
- The Aussies cleaned up at the 88th Academy Awards last night, taking home a grand total of six for Mad Max: Fury Road. The Revenant and Spotlight won the bigger trophies, though, as did Brie Larson for Room and Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies.
- Major respect to Alicia Vikander for taking home a well-deserved Supporting Actress Oscar, considering she was pivotal not only in The Danish Girl but also the supremely under-appreciated Ex Machina and the summer’s best popcorn flick The Man from U.N.C.L.E., all of which are from 2015. 2016 better watch out.
- We somehow failed to recognize that the great Douglas Slocombe had passed away this year until the In Memoriam section of the Oscars rolled out. Slocombe is the man who lensed the likes of The Lavender Hill Mob and Raiders of the Lost Ark and had immense influence on how major motion pictures look today.
- Best quote of the night goes to Oscar winner Charlize Theron, responding on the subject of the best part of the Academy Awards by simply saying “the hamburgers.” Also, Best Human Ever also goes to Charlize.
Continue reading Film & TV News: February 29
- The D23 Expo was jam-packed with Disney goodies, primarily from Star Wars properties The Force Awakens and Rogue One. And a Star Wars theme park where I can go sit in a Mos Eisley cantina and listen to Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes live? Take my money!
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales officially reinserts Orlando Bloom into the franchise, reminding everyone of the existence of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Orlando Bloom.
- A Furiosa spinoff from Mad Max: Fury Road is still on the table, but no word on whether Charlize Theron (who had a hell of a time on the set of Fury Road) would be willing to return. Doesn’t seem worth it without Charlize, does it?
Continue reading Film & TV News: August 17
- The Cannes Film Festival is well under way, and buzz is strong on a lot of the films screened thus far. Yorgos Lanthimos presented The Lobster (Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz), Woody Allen presented Irrational Man (Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone) and Stéphane Brizé presented La loi du marché (with Vincent Lindon of La mustache), all of which played favorably. On the other end of the spectrum is Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees (Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe), which was met with a sea of boos.
- Jude Law has joined the tentatively-titled The Young Pope, a speculative HBO series about an American pope. That premise would be only vaguely interesting were it not for the presence of director Paolo Sorrentino, helmer of 2013’s The Great Beauty, as Pope‘s showrunner.
- David Lynch does another 180° and says the Twin Peaks revival is happening after all. At this point we’ll believe it when we see it, and even then we might not care.
Continue reading Film & TV News: May 18
On the surface, The Yards isn’t a whole lot different than James Gray’s debut feature Little Odessa. Both follow a young man with a rough past returning to his hometown after a long time away. Both explore the family dynamic in the wake of that return. Both watch as man and family alike are sucked back into old ways as if the place in which they all grew up would hold a dark fate regardless of how loudly they all raged against it. Both Little Odessa and The Yards, tragic movies about reluctant criminals, are criminally underseen as well (although they’re both now streaming on Netflix).
In Gray’s sophomore effort Mark Wahlberg is Leo, recent ex-con out on parole and returned to his ailing mother and his seedy extended family in Brooklyn. His good friend Willie is happiest to see him again, eager to reintroduce him to “the way things work”. Charlize Theron, James Caan and Faye Dunaway round out the impressive cast, but Joaquin Phoenix as Willie is the only one who mines his character for all he’s worth. If there’s anything that separates this feature from Little Odessa, it’s that the potential of The Yards is greater than the final result.
Continue reading The Yards (2000)