REVIEW: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

CAST
Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises)
Charlize Theron (Prometheus)
Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class)
Hugh Keays-Byrne (Sleeping Beauty 2011)
Josh Helman (Jack Reacher)
Nathan Jones (Troy)
Zoe Kravitz (Divergent)
Rose Huntington-Whiteley (Transformers 3)
Riley Keough (The Runaways)
Abbey Lee (Gods of Egypt)
Courtney Eaton (Status Update)
John Howard (All Saints)
Following a nuclear holocaust, the world has become a desert wasteland and civilization has collapsed. Max Rockatansky, a survivor, is captured by the War Boys, the army of the tyrannical Immortan Joe, and taken to Joe’s Citadel. Designated a universal blood donor, Max is imprisoned and used as a “blood bag” for a sick War Boy called Nux. Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa, one of Joe’s lieutenants, is sent in her armoured semi-truck, the “War Rig”, to collect gasoline. When she drives off-route, Joe realizes that his five wives—women selected for breeding—are missing. Joe leads his entire army in pursuit of Furiosa, calling on the aid of nearby Gas Town and the Bullet Farm.
Nux joins the pursuit with Max strapped to his car to continue supplying blood. A battle ensues between the War Rig and Joe’s forces. Furiosa drives into a sand storm, evading her pursuers, except Nux, who attempts to sacrifice himself to destroy the Rig. Max escapes and restrains Nux, but the car is destroyed. After the storm, Max sees Furiosa repairing the Rig, accompanied by the Wives: Capable, Cheedo, Toast, the Dag and the Splendid Angharad, who is heavily pregnant with Joe’s child. Max steals the Rig, but its kill switch disables it. Max reluctantly agrees to let Furiosa and the Wives accompany him; Nux, left behind, is picked up by Joe’s army. Furiosa drives through a biker gang-controlled canyon to barter a deal for safe passage; however, with Joe’s forces pursuing, the gang turns on her, forcing her and the group to flee while the bikers detonate the canyon walls to block Joe. Max and Furiosa fight pursuing bikers as Joe’s car, with Nux now on board, surmounts the blockade and eventually attacks the War Rig, allowing Nux to board. However, as the Rig escapes, Angharad falls off in an attempt to protect Max and is run over by Joe’s car, killing her and her child.
Furiosa explains to Max that they are escaping to the “Green Place”, an idyllic land she remembers from her childhood. Capable finds Nux hiding in the Rig, distraught over his failure, and consoles him. That night, the Rig gets stuck in mud. Furiosa and Max slow Joe’s forces with mines, but Joe’s ally, the Bullet Farmer, continues pursuing them. Nux helps Max free the Rig while Furiosa shoots and blinds the Bullet Farmer. Max walks into the dark to confront the Bullet Farmer and his men, returning with guns and ammunition. They drive the War Rig overnight through swampland and desert, coming across a naked woman the next day. Max suspects a trap, but Furiosa approaches the woman and states her history and clan affiliation. The naked woman summons her clan, the Vuvalini, who recognize Furiosa as one of their own who was kidnapped as a child. Furiosa is devastated to learn that the swampland they passed was indeed the Green Place, now uninhabitable. The group then plans to ride motorbikes across immense salt flats in the hope of finding a new home. Max chooses to stay behind, but after seeing visions of a child he failed to save, he convinces them to return to the undefended Citadel, which has ample water and greenery that Joe keeps for himself, and trap Joe and his army in the bikers’ canyon.
The group heads back to the Citadel, but they are attacked en route by Joe’s forces, and Furiosa is seriously wounded. Joe positions his car in front of the War Rig to slow it, while Max fights Joe’s giant son, Rictus Erectus. Joe captures Toast who manages to distract him long enough for Furiosa to kill him. Nux sacrifices himself by wrecking the Rig, killing Rictus and blocking the canyon, allowing Max, Furiosa, the wives, and the surviving Vuvalini to escape successfully in Joe’s car, where Max transfuses his blood to Furiosa to help her survive her injuries. At the Citadel, the impoverished citizens are overjoyed at the sight of Joe’s corpse. Furiosa, the wives, and the Vuvalini are cheered by the people and welcomed by the remaining War Boys, but Max walks away, sharing a glance with Furiosa before disappearing into the crowd.
Fury Road is an exhilarating action fest that goes beyond its boundaries in creating what might just be one of the best action films ever made. Fury Road vigorously  blends emotion and brutality with drama and action to reignite Australia’s greatest film franchise and create the epitome of the action genre.
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REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS 1-4

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Megan Fox (New Girl)
Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas)
Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Rachael Taylor (The Darkest Hour)
Anthony Anderson (The Departed)
Jon Voight (Mission Impossible)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Michael O’Neill (Secondhand Lions)
Kevin Dunn (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Julie White (Monsters Vs Aliens)
Zack Ward (Bloodrayne 2)
Travis Van winkle (Meet The Spartans)
Bernie Mac (Bad Santa)
Tom Lenk (Angel)
J.P. Manoux (Birds of Prey)
Odette Annable (The Unborn)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Darius McCrary (15 Minutes)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
Jess Harnell (Wall-e)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Colton Haynes (Arrow)

Searching the galaxy for a troublesome energy cube, the Autobots, lead by Optimus Prime (voiced robustly by legend Peter Cullen), have arrived on Earth. Teaming up with a teenager named Sam (Shia LeBeouf) and innocent bystander Mikeala (Megan Fox), the Autobots set out to complete their mission; but when government agents interfere (led by John Turturro and Jon Voight, with soldiers played by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson), it awakens the wrath of the Decepticons, who free their leader Megatron (Hugo Weaving) from his ice prison and put Earth in their crosshairs as they challenge Prime for control of the all-powerful cube.

Granted, these aren’t your granddaddy’s Transformers. Souped up to resemble high-tech living robots while fighting and the latest in automobile trends in car form, Bay and the producers have mucked around considerably with the look of the Autobots and Decepticons, putting the infamous flames on Optimus Prime and turning Megatron into an alien jet. Supporters of the all-holy “G1” have every right to scoff, but “Transformers” has a wonderful way of making these ludicrous alterations fit into the bigger, slicker picture, pressing down hard on the extraterrestrial angle of our visitors. It’s only a matter of moments before you buy these reinvented incarnations of popular characters and another few seconds before you start to root for their victory and defeat.

Running at 140 minutes, Transformers never runs out of juice.

 

 

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Megan Fox (New Girl)
Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas)
Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Ramon Rodriguez (Need For Speed)
Kevin Dunn (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Julie White (Monsters Vs Aliens)
Isabel Lucas (Red Dawn)
America Olivo (Bitch Slap)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
Jess Harnell (Wall-e)
Tony Todd (Wishmaster)
Frank Walker (The Simpsons)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Michael York (Logans Run)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)

A sequel to the 2007 movie that brings us back to the main characters from that. Two years have passed for then. Sam is off to college and is getting along nicely with girlfriend Mikaela. He’s also trying to distance himself from the whole alien robots whom he got involved with in the first film. The good guy Autobots are helping the military destroy the evil deceptions. But the latter have a whole new plan that involves a figure from their history. As that kicks into action, nobody is safe, and it’s time for Sam and Mikaela to help save the world again.

This builds things up to a much greater scale than the first film, and it brings in a lot more of the robots, both good and bad ones. This is the right decision but there’s so many new characters, few of whom get anything other than cursory introductions, that those who don’t know the transformers characters from other media might be a bit confused. There were times when I thought a scorecard would have helped. Some have rather silly voices and some are used for comic relief, but these ones do at the same time have a fair amount of character as a result, so they work.

The plot also being move involved means you do have to work at it, a little more than you might expect from a piece of escapist entertainment. And yet, whilst it’s not as focused as the first film, it does come up with a big action battle climax.  As humans and alien robots alike battle evil forces and strive to do the right thing and are quite prepared to put their lives on the line, it’s not hard to find yourself rooting for them all the way.

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas)
Tyrese Gibson (Fast 2 Furious)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy)
Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading)
John Malkovich (Red)
Kevin Dunn (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Julie White (Monsters Vs Aliens)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Ken Jeong (The Hangover)
Scott Krinsky (Chuck)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Jess Harnell (Wall-e)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
James Remar (Flashforward)
George Coe (The Entity)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)

The story,  involves a Transformer named Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), who crashed on the moon in the 1960s and is re-awakened by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) in the present day. This sets in motion a chain of events that build to a Transformer war, with Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving) on one side, and Optimus on the other, with the fate of the human race dangling in the middle.

Eventually, we are returned to Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the protagonist from the last two films, and his girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Sam is irritated that after his participation in the battle between Autobots and Decepticons, he’s been out of college for a few months and still doesn’t have a job with the military, or with anyone at all, for that matter. LaBeouf makes these scenes work. Carly’s boss, Dylan (Patrick Dempsey), ribs Sam by referring to a car as “trying to evoke the curves of a woman,” while both Dylan and the camera stare lecherously at Carly.

Ultimately, Bay’s primary success here is casting. In addition to Dempsey (pleasingly cynical), Dark of the Moon boasts an elaborate roster of recognizable, exceptional professionals, like John Malkovich (ridiculous), Frances McDormand (deadly serious), Ken Jeong (psychotic), and Alan Tudyk (over-the-top), who give the film color around its big silly edges. McDormand in particular adds a level of gravitas to the first half of the movie that really greases the wheels, and even though she’s relegated to the far back in the last third, she shares her time with returning player John Turturro, with whom she has amusing chemistry. Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, and Julie White also return.

Everything else is action, action, action. This time, Bay is better with his action geography and choreography, illustrating fights from a distance and turning down the dust clouds a little bit. The 3D often helps, adding a dizzying sense of height to moments such as several characters leaping out onto the side of a tilting glass building, or troops in gliding suits diving out of falling helicopters and soaring an improbable distance across the city.

 

 

CAST

Mark Wahlberg (The Lovely Bones)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Kelsey Grammer (X-Men 3)
Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel)
Jack Reynor (Macbeth)
Titus Welliver (Lost)
Sophia Myles (Underworld)
Bingbing Li (The Message)
T.J. Miller (Deadpool)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Erika Fong (Power Rangers Samurai)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
John Goodman (Red State)

After the monstrous success of his first Transformers trilogy, Hollywood outlaw Michael Bay parted ways with star Shia Labeouf and began a new chapter in his franchise. Mark Wahlberg joins the cast and gives an agreeable performance.

The United States Government no longer supports the Autobot/military alliance, and a shady CIA unit dubbed Cemetery Wind is responsible for hunting down the Decepticons hiding on Earth. Blue-blood inventor Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) struggles to support his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) without a steady paycheck, but discovers a rundown semi-truck cab in an abandoned theater that turns out to be a heavily damaged Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen). Optimus reveals that the CIA is using Deception bounty hunter Lockdown to kill the Autobots, and helps Cade and Tessa escape a Cemetery Wind ambush. They rejoin Autobots Bumblebee, Hound, Drift and Crosshairs, and discover that multinational corporation KSI has recreated Transformium, the unstable metal found in Transformers. This leads KSI head Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) to create his own warriors from Deception leftovers, including deadly Galvatron.


As expected, Bay creates a film on a bigger scale than his last outing, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The practical sets and action sequences are absolutely immense, and Bay again shoots heavily in Detroit, which doubles for Hong Kong.

These films have always been pretty funny, and, while Kruger’s writing will not be winning any awards, it has improved from the Mudflap/Skids jive-talking nonsense of Revenge of the Fallen. Tucci is always funny in tense situations, and comedian T.J. Miller gets some laughs as Cade’s borderline annoying best friend. Wahlberg is a different he gives a committed performance here, and makes the dialogue believable. I like that Bay and company made Cade a single dad, and Peltz’s Tessa is surprisingly not annoying.

The first hour, set at the Yeager homestead in Texas, is my favorite. I enjoyed watching Cade and Tessa meet Optimus and flee from Cemetery Wind. Scenes on Lockdown’s imposing prison ship are also good.  This was intended to be the first film in a new trilogy,with transformers 5 already in the pipeline. The last scene opens the transformers cinematic universe, leaving it open for the fifth to explore further the transformer mythology.