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Road rage

It’s been 30 years since George Miller directed Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, after which he and star Mel Gibson went on to careers in Hollywood. For Miller, however, you can go home again, because he’s back at the helm of Mad Max: Fury Road, and he hasn’t missed a trick. It could be argued he’s come up with a few new ones.

This is a futuristic freak-show in the best Mad Max tradition, filled with grotesque characters, demented (and often demolished) super-vehicles, and blistering, breathtaking action – all of it set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic landscape.

At the forefront is our hero, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), former cop, present wanderer, and all-around man of action. In this future, both the strongest and the strangest survive … until they cross paths with Max, at which point all bets are off.

Like the earlier films, the vast majority of the action sequences in Fury Road are achieved through practical means, although some CGI has been employed – understandably – to achieve results that are well nigh seamless.

Admittedly, it’s tempting to wonder what the film would have been like had Gibson, the original Max, reprised the role, which isn’t necessarily age-specific. Whatever his off-screen problems, Gibson is a talent, and not unlike Sean Connery and 007, will forever be linked to Max.

Hardy, himself a charismatic presence, does well enough in the role, doling out as much abuse as he suffers, and Charlize Theron strikes a blow for futuristic feminism as heroine Furiosa. Ironically, Hugh Keys-Byrne, who played the principal heavy in the original Mad Max, does so again – although the character here is called Immortan Joe.

In addition to the action scenes, symbolism remains a component of the Mad Max. In (very blunt) Biblical overtones, Max is the savior who emerges from the wasteland to deliver the innocent to safety – and, of course, to deliver wrath upon evildoers. Hell hath no fury like Mad Max. This is one summer movie that delivers everything it promises. Even the 3-D’s terrific.

A Swedish treat

The screen version of Jonas Jonasson’s international best-seller The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (never mind the original title) has become one of the biggest hits in the history of Swedish cinema – and its imaginative, often ingenious sense of humor translates beautifully.

The title character, Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson), isn’t senile, isn’t depressed and isn’t a grumpy old man. But he’s a little restless, so on his 100 th birthday he climbs out the window of his retirement home – located on the first floor – and embarks on a comedy of errors that, it transpires, mirrors his entire life.

A suitcase full of cash, chance encounters, a couple of accidental fatalities, a kidnapped elephant, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, being at the right place at the right time, and Allan’s lifelong proficiency with explosives are among the components that comprise his current, unpredictable journey.

In flashbacks, narrated English, Allan recalls the circumstances of his life. Not unlike Forrest Gump, Allan tended to find himself in the midst of history being made. That he wasn’t recognized for it doesn’t faze him. Actually, nothing fazes him. He takes everything in stride, remembering what his mother told him on her death bed, which was not to think too much.

Director/producer Felix Herngren, who also penned the screenplay with Hans Ingemansson, orchestrates a colorful, wryly satirical tone reminiscent of Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers, augmented by Matti Bye’s delightful score and a wonderful company of actors. Gustaffson, one of Sweden’s top comedy stars (yes, there is such a thing), nimbly pulls off double-duty as Allan both young and old, and winning support comes from Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg, Mia Skaringer, Alan Ford and Ralph Carlsson, the latter as an aging detective considered by colleagues to be over the hill. But like his quarry Allan, just give him some time. He’ll make it over that hill. (In English and Swedish with English subtitles)

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared opens Friday at a/perture cinema, Winston-Salem.

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