In this rebooting sequel of a remake Tom Hardy stars as the titular Mad Max as writer-director George Miller returns to his post-apocalyptic Australian franchise without its former star Mel Gibson. After being kidnapped and used for his blood Max finds himself teaming up with the no-nonsense Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as she seeks to escape an oppressive patriarchal cult led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). In an armoured tanker they storm across the desert with Joe’s five wives and a reforming cult member (Nicholas Hoult) in tow as an entire army of assorted maniacs barrel after them. With mere minutes of pause Mad Max: Fury Road is otherwise a relentless two hours of chase movie filled with numerous stunts, spectacular visuals, and as little dialogue as possible.
As far as reviewing this film as an entry in the genre there is little more to say that hasn’t already been said. The stunts are remarkably authentic and well choreographed and, with the film being non-stop road chase, there are fewer moments not involving a stunt than those that do. Despite the chaos ensuing all around Miller executes controlled direction with the melee never getting beyond comprehension and the peril never seeming artificial. Everything looks beautifully imperfect; cars are rusty and dirty, characters are scarred and dirty, and a thin layer of dirt covers everything else. The acting mostly requires stern voices and sterner faces but both Hardy and Theron are skilled enough to let a little humanity slip through.
As an action movie then Mad Max: Fury Road is a success but the real question emerging around the film is not whether it is a good film but whether the film is feminist or not.
Those that say that Mad Max: Fury Road is flying the feminist flag look to Theron’s Furiosa for proof. Here we have a strong female lead who not only drives, fights, and smoulders on par with Max but is actually acknowledged as surpassing him in certain skill sets. It is certainly refreshing to see such a commanding female presence in a film that would otherwise be about a man fighting other men to save some vulnerable women in their underwear.
What makes me hesitant to award Max the Feminist of the Year Award is the fact that the vulnerable women in their underwear are still ever-present. Joe’s wives are played by a mixture of models and actresses and never find their way into more substantial outfits than the off-white, occasionally see-thru, rags they were rescued in. When Max first sees the five wives they are hosing one another down outside the truck with predictable consequences for their outfits. Considering a lot of the plot revolved around how scarce water is their Lynx advert worthy showering looks all the more sketchy.
In defense of the five wives, as they will now forever be known, they do all have names and personalities and collectively allow Mad Max: Fury Road to pass the Bechdel test but I remain unconvinced. I feel as though either Furiosa was there to compensate for the wives or the wives were there to compensate for Furiosa. I just can’t decide on who was compensating for who in order to try to appease both feminists and misogynists.
As an action film Mad Max: Fury Road is a huge success with eyeball pleasing nonsense for a full two hours. As a feminist manifesto I am less convinced by the film but there’s no proof it ever even had that agenda.
Mad Max: Fury Road is in cinemas now.
What starts off as a grim tale in small town America quickly moves into a European romance before slowly evolving into a monster movie. It does all this with a healthy dose of humour and a sincere amount of heart. Spring is unlike anything I’ve seen before and is certainly not the film I was expecting from the opening scene.
The film opens on Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) losing his final family member, his mother, before getting drunk in a bar and beating up a local thug. With the possibility of being sued or attacked Evan does what any self-respecting film character would do; he flees the country. In Italy he stays in hostels before quickly finding work on a farm and falling for the charms of local girl Louise (Nadia Hilker). Despite initially rebuffing Evan’s advances Louise slowly falls for the foreigner over the course of a week and the independent life she leads is threatened by this change.
So far we have the plot of a wannabe Richard Linklater film. Spring certainly lives up to the comparison with a witty script from Justin Benson and impressively controlled direction from Benson and Aaron Moorhead which includes some admirable camerawork. Where this film swerves away from the emotional drama it sets up is in the sudden introduction of a decidedly fantastical element that puts Evan’s life at risk and threatens to end their budding romance before it can begin. What that element is I am hesitant to reveal but suffice it to say that Evan sees a much less attractive side to Louise and must prove his loyalty by dealing with a peculiar genetic abnormality.
What makes Spring the enjoyable feature I experienced is the fact that it refuses to stick to a genre or conform to any conventions. After starting with an American indie aesthetic it doesn’t feel jarring when the plot takes in fantasy/sci-fi elements as the directors make the plot fit their style and not the other way around. Having wild events take place in a grounded reality makes the unbelievable seem that much more believeable and allows the audience to swallow what they are being shown.
Spring is a romantic comedy sci-fi drama with a real sense of fun. I didn’t know what I was getting to when I trotted along to the screening and giving this film the element of surprise is highly recommended. Leave your scepticism at home and give this unique slice of cinema a try.
Spring is on limited release in UK cinemas.
Within moments I could tell that Tokyo Tribe was going to be unlike anything I had seen before. Music was blaring out over a Tokyo street at night, young people rushing about, and as an elderly woman scratched a record our narrator began to rap. This is the world of Tokyo Tribe; one of testosterone, violence, glamour, and hip hop. Based on a popular Manga series by Santa Inoue Tokyo Tribe is no simple adaptation; it is a two-hour rap musical extravaganza about warring gangs in a near-future Tokyo.
This is a film of endless extremes without any respite from its barrage of loud, bright, unashamed chaos. I was sleep deprived going into the screening but left with my mind buzzing as images from the cavalcade of cinematic excess flashed through my brain. While jarring at first once Tokyo Tribe settles into its stride the enthusiasm it has for its unique brand of storytelling is infectious. All that was left for me to do was to sit back and take it all in, occasionally shaking my head in disbelief.
The film is not perfect and does struggle with pacing and with its female characters. This is a man’s world where most women are left in the background and occasionally feature as literal set dressing. As with everything else in the film depictions of misogyny are turned up to eleven and it can be hard to tell whether the film is portraying misogyny or simply perpetrating it. That said the stand-out performance of the film comes from Nana Seino as the mysterious Sunmi who turns her role as a potential victim on its head and fights back with more force that her stature would suggest possible. Nana Seino is terrifyingly good and delivers a display of incredible skills across the film’s demanding range through acting, martial arts, acrobatics, and rap. Seino is my hero.
Director Shion Sono has created something completely new with endless creativity. The Japanese action hip-hop musical is not a genre you can prepare for and if nothing else Tokyo Tribe will surprise anyone who dares approach it. Whether or not it then succeeds to delight you depends on how easily you manage to embrace the madness and give in to a film that takes control and doesn’t hold back.
I think I loved it but I may just be suffering from PTSD.
Tokyo Tribe is on limited release in UK cinemas now and available on DVD and Blu-ray from 15th June.
It has to be seen to be believed though I can’t promise you will comprehend it.
Saturday night brings with it the annual European celebration of all things glittery. With David Cameron and Nigel Farage set to pull us out of the EU could this be our final year in the competition? Almost certainly not… Regardless the show is sure to be a mixture of bizarre and fantastical performances and something best watched with a group of friends voting on the countries they think have performed the best.
To help you enjoy yourselves I have once again put together a spreadsheet to help you recreate the Eurovision voting process in your own home. This is so that your party can better handle the mathematical part of the evening once all the songs have been sung and booze has been drunk. Two years ago we had that year’s version of this spreadsheet projected onto the wall and had a whale of a time. Without the spreadsheet how would we have known how to have fun?
Before you turn on BBC One at 8:00PM give everyone who will be voting some paper so they can make notes on each song against whatever metric they think is important to the Eurovision contest. For some it is singing talent that matters, for me it is all about being flamboyant. It is up to everyone to come up with their own top ten ranking out of all the performances.
Once all songs have been performed everyone then makes sure they are happy with their personal ranking and perhaps hilariously messes up their neighbour’s notes/scraps of paper before apologising and blaming the drink. After this it is time to collate the votes. To the spreadsheet!! Click on the Excel symbol to the right and within moments you will have your very own Mild Concern Eurovision 2015 Party Score Collation Spreadsheet for Maximum Fun and Mathematical AccuracyTM.
It is all pretty self-explanatory, I hope, but here’s a quick guide. When you first open the spreadsheet make sure you have macros enabled. If you see a warning like this…
…deal with it.
The first thing you see with be an empty white box. Type in the first voter’s name and hit Enter, then continue until you can see everyone’s name in the list. If someone goes to the loo at this point and is pretty forgettable they may be in trouble. Once you’re done click on the grey button.
Now you are at the heart of the spreadsheet. The table to the left will show you which country is winning based on your party’s votes and the table on the right is where everyone enters their scores. When prompted each person should list their top ten countries to the group, preferably with reasons and a generic European accent, while the Spreadsheet MasterTM uses the drop-down lists to put these countries into the table. Once all ten are entered the voter should verify the list, salute the Spreadsheet MasterTM (optional), and they will hit the “Submit Scores” button which will… submit the scores (I told you it was self-explanatory).
Once everyone has voted you will have your winner! What mathematically accurate fun we’ve all had in replicating the voting process of the Eurovision Song Contest. If only all parties had spreadsheets…
Despite my long-held admiration for Felicity Jones and endless praise for the film I somehow managed to miss The Theory of Everything when it was in cinemas. Perhaps I was annoyed at having to share Jones with the rest of the general public or, more likely, nobody wanted to go and see the film with me knowing that I’d be slack-jawed throughout.
The Theory of Everything follows the romance of Stephen and Jane Hawking (Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones) from their first meeting at University and through their marriage as Stephen slowly becomes more and more dependant on Jane thanks to the onset of motor neurone disease. Tellingly most coverage of the film has focussed on the acting; to some degree on Jones’ performance as the ever-burdened wife but mostly on Redmayne and his brutal portrayal of a man slowly losing control of his body.
The praise for Redmayne is certainly well deserved as he audibly and physically transforms himself throughout the film from a sprightly young student to a wheelchair-bound professor. Most importantly what Redmayne manages to do is maintain the spark and personality that is such a vital part of the real Stephen Hawking. While he may end the film sitting almost immobile in a wheelchair Redmayne’s Stephen never loses his energy. Alongside Redmayne Jones brilliantly plays a woman not just dealing with raising two young children while coping with a demanding husband, but also shows the pain of a deeply religious woman whose husband does not respect her beliefs.
Together Redmayne and Jones portray a couple deeply in love who find their relationship straining when one loses their physical capabilities and the other struggles to find the emotional strength to carry on. Neither are passed off as saints as they both show signs of selfishness and weakness as their love for one another stumbles. It should definitely be noted that this is not a film about a science but a film about love. And while we’re at it, as a great narrator once said, this is not a love story; this is a story about love.
The film is undoubtedly moving and is as good as it is simply because of its strong lead performances; failing to truly wow with its script or direction. As I look back on the film I find I am left with a sense that some of the less loving emotions between Jane and Stephen may have been watered down. Their marriage was far from perfect, understandably considering the circumstances, and the lack of real anger in an otherwise emotionally open film felt suspect. Luckily the actors are skilled enough to distract you from second guessing while you watch the film itself.
These quibbles aside The Theory of Everything is a great showcase for two young British talents, though I suspect they have better films left in their careers. A film worth watching, just maybe not worth watching twice.
(But only just)
This being a period British film looking at people and emotions rather than explosions and special effects the extras on the Blu-ray are limited. What you get are a good number of deleted scenes and a brief documentary Becoming the Hawkings focussing on Redmayne and Jones preparing for their roles.
As far as I can tell the DVD has no special features. The horror!
The Theory of Everything is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.