Tag Archives: Mad Max

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is the best new action movie that I have seen in years.  If you care about action movies, go see it now!

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much going in.  I assumed it would be yet another cynical cash-grab reboot of an old series. I figured it was made not because someone had a good story to tell, but simply because it was something people had heard of and the studio could bank on the affection for the original without having to bother developing a good movie that people want to see in itself.

I was debating whether to see it in theaters or wait for Netflix, when I saw that it had a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  At first I thought that was a typo.  But it isn’t.  The movie really is that good.

It is a spectacle movie.  There isn’t much in the way of character development, and no plot beyond “Good guys try to get away from bad guys.”  It’s just one long chase scene.  But what a chase!  It features amazing action, stunts, and vehicular madness that you’ve never seen before.  It’s done mostly with practical effects, which gives the movie a sense of physics and immediacy that you don’t see with CGI.  Now that anyone can put any fake-looking fake thing on the screen that they can imagine, our brains have stopped being impressed by CGI, and seeing something done for real makes a huge difference.

Fury Road is a rare reboot that is significantly better than the original.  But I’d go beyond that.  The action in Fury Road is so amazing, that I would say it completely negates the need to watch the original Mad Max series.  Everything in the original trilogy is just a lesser version of Fury Road.

Fury Road is awesome and you should definitely see it.

Movies We Still Care About – 1982

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • Star Trek II
  • Tron
  • Blade Runner
  • The Road Warrior

Other Notable Movies

  • Tootsie
  • The Dark Crystal
  • Secret of Nimh
  • Annie
  • Gandhi
  • First Blood
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Poltergeist
  • Conan the Barbarian

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Gandhi (Winner)
  • E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
  • Missing
  • Tootsie
  • The Verdict

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. ET
  2. Tootsie
  3. An Officer and a Gentleman
  4. Rocky III
  5. Porky’s
  6. Star Trek II
  7. 48 HRS
  8. Poltergeist
  9. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
  10. Annie

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. ET (98%)
  2. Blade Runner (91%)
  3. Star Trek II (90%)

There’s a long list of movies for this year, so I’ll try to keep the write-ups brief.

Movies We Still Care About

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial

This is another one of those movies that have become part of our culture and mythology.  I think the reason this connected so well with audiences, and continues to do so today, is that writer Melissa Mathison and director Steven Spielberg brilliantly took a (literally) alien experience that nobody has had, and used it as a metaphor for a universal experience everyone has.  Sure, we’ve never met an adorable extra-terrestrial who literally touched our heart before returning to his home planet.  But we have had similar experiences, both as children and adults, with a deceased pet or family member, or a close friend that moved away, or a lost love.

Given that Spielberg chose an image from E.T. as the logo for Amblin Entertainment, I think it’s safe to assume that Spielberg felt that E.T. was more important than his other early work, such as Jaws, Close Encounters, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

(WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

Before we get to the spoilers, here’s William Shatner yelling “KHAAAAAAN!!!”

This is widely considered the best Star Trek movie.  The Star Trek TV show aired at a time where episodes were independent and not part of an ongoing story, which meant that there couldn’t be any permanent changes to the recurring cast.  In contrast to modern shows like Lost and Game of Thrones which will kill off the stars at the drop of a hat, every episode of Star Trek had to end up with the main characters in exactly the same situation as they started in.  So imagine the shock of the audience of the day when at the end of Wrath of Khan, Spock dies.

Of course they undid this in the next movie, but Star Trek III will most definitely not be making this list.

Tron

Tron is a movie mired in its time.  The effects don’t hold up, the story is shaky, and it established the not-so-great tradition of completely absurd and nonsensical portrayals of computers that might as well be magic.  (Though at least Tron was meant to be fanciful, unlike the countless movies that came after it where the silly magic computers were meant to be a reflection of reality.)

But despite these flaws, it had a truly unique visual style that had never been seen before.  When I say “Tron,” you know exactly what to picture.  And it maintains a sense of fun that is quite rare for films to be able to pull off.  It’s the sort of film inspires enough affection that you look past all the problems.

Blade Runner

Blade Runner ushered in the film genre of bleak gritty (but not post-apocalyptic) sci-fi.  A product of the malaise of late 70s and recession of the early 80s, it posits a future world with amazing technology but where the lives of ordinary people are kind of crummy.  Like E.T., it uses an alien experience to highlight a common aspect of the human experience.  In the feelings among replicants and the way society treats them, we see a mirror of alienation and failure to connect among real humans.

It features a stunning production design and a vision of the future that is the most accurate of any film I can think of.  No, we aren’t likely to self-aware replicants indistinguishable from people in the next five years (the film is set in 2019), but you’d be hard-pressed to tell the cityscape in Blade Runner from modern-day Shanghai or Tokyo.

The Road Warrior

Quick, imagine how people would dress in a post-apocalyptic world.  You probably pictures a bunch of leather, chainmail, and possibly some repurposed football pads.  You know, stuff like this.

But if you really think about it, people in a post apocalyptic world would really be dressed more like modern-day homeless people, or the stereotypical castaway on a deserted island.  But because The Road Warrior has become such a part of our culture, you immediately thought of the imagery that doesn’t actually make any sense.

Other Notable Films

Given the sheer number of memorable films from this year, I’ll have to give short shrift the other notable movies in order to keep this post at a reasonable length.  Please don’t take that as me insulting your favorite movies.  If you love these films, I encourage you to write up your own thoughts about them in the comments.

Tootsie

Tootsie was a feminist movie for the time that would probably be considered mildly offensive today.  It’s based on the idea that a man pretending to be a woman can be better at it than an actual woman.  Plus the hero is trying to lie and manipulate his way into his dream girl’s pants, the dream girl is treated like a prize rather than a person, and while he’s pursuing her he’s also sleeping with/taking advantage of his emotionally vulnerable friend who’s clearly in love with him.  (The idea of lying into the pants of a woman as a prize is still a common trope, but you wouldn’t expect it to show up in a feminist movie.)  On the other hand, audiences of the day really connected with the idea of a man finding out what it’s like to be a woman.  And Dustin Hoffman turned in an excellent performance.

The Dark Crystal / The Secret of NIMH / Annie

I’m lumping these three together as movies that were beloved by children during the 80s.  If you weren’t of the right age to enjoy these when they came out or were frequently re-ran on television, you probably don’t have strong feelings about them.  But if you are of the right age, these were a major part of your childhood and you still have quite a bit of affection for them.

Gandhi

Biopics are a strange genre, because a life is not a story, and it’s hard to portray a life in a way that works on film.  That’s why most biopics end up being about substance abuse, mental illness, or a specific event.  Those are things you can wrap a story around, and get out the details of the person through that mechanism.  Gandhi is a rare biopic that avoids this.  However, when you look at a Biopic of someone who is extremely well-known, over time the legacy of the film gets overshadowed by the legacy of the person.  We remember who Gandhi is and what he did, rather than the movie about him.

First Blood

When you think of Rambo, you think of him killing bad guys by the dozen.  But that was Rambo II.  (Or III, or John Rambo).  First Blood is a drama about a Vietnam veteran who is abused and snaps after being pushed too far, taking an entire town hostage.  It’s a bit weird that this drama was followed up with cheesy hyper-violet action movies, but it was the 80s and everyone was either ten years old or on cocaine.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

This was the forerunner of the “alienated teen” genre that became popular later in the 80s.  And there’s this scene. (Not safe for work)

Poltergeist

“They’re here…”

Conan the Barbarian

“Conan, what is best in life?”

“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.”

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Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.

Movies We Still Care About – 1979

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Alien
  • Life of Brian

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Kramer vs. Kramer (Winner)
  • All That Jazz
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Breaking Away
  • Norma Rae

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Kramer vs. Kramer
  2. The Amityville Horror
  3. Rocky II
  4. Apocalypse Now
  5. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  6. Alien
  7. The Muppet Movie
  8. 10
  9. The Jerk
  10. Moonraker

Other Notable Movies

  • Apocalypse Now
  • Kramer vs. Kramer
  • The Muppet Movie
  • Mad Max
  • Meatballs
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture

 

There are lots of films people still remember from this year.  I had some difficulty deciding which ones count as movies we still care about.  I’m sure there will be lots of disagreement in the comments.

Movies We Still Care About

Alien

Alien is widely considered to be among the best horror films of all time.  I can’t think of a better sci-fi/horror.  It’s a masterpiece of slow-build suspense and terror.

The only flaw in this movie is that it loses a lot of its impact once you’ve seen the alien.  So it doesn’t hold up quite as well on repeated viewings, or if you’ve already seen any of the sequels, or if you’ve seen any of the myriad references to the xenomorphs that have become mythology over the last 35 years.

But even if you won’t be able to replicate the experience of watching for the first time, this still holds up in every other way, and is worth revisiting.

Life of Brian

Life of Brian isn’t as funny as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but then again, what is?  But while Holy Grail was just silly fun, Life of Brian did an excellent job mixing humor with social commentary.  For example, the brilliant “You’re all individuals” scene.

This was the Pythons’ only foray into telling a complete story, rather than a series of unrelated or quasi-related sketches.  Or course it was riffing off the Gospels, but it works.  And the audience knowing the story they were spoofing made us appreciated the choices they made when they deviated from that.

Other Notable Films

Apocalypse Now

This is considered an all-time classic.  It’s discussed in film school.  It’s full of famous quotes such as “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” and “The horror, the horror.”  Plus everyone knows the attack helicopters playing Ride of the Valkyries.  It’s one of those movies that everyone is supposed to respect.

But I don’t include it in the list because I’m not convinced that anyone outside of film snobs actually likes it.  It’s rather dull and plodding, with a barely coherent plot and characters that are intentionally designed to keep you from caring about them.  It’s one of those movies that people only pretend to love because they think it makes them sound sophistimacated.

Kramer vs. Kramer

Another one of those movies that is considered great and discussed in film school, but that few people actually like.  Plus it doesn’t have all the cultural touchstones that Apocalypse Now has.

The Muppet Movie

I grew up watching the late 70s/early 80s Muppet movies over and over in reruns.  (The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan.)  These movies and the Muppet Babies cartoon are where I formed my impression of the Muppets, and I thought they were great.  The films did an excellent job of appealing to both kids and grown-ups.  (I haven’t revisited Muppet Babies as an adult, so I’m not sure how that holds up.)

It was somewhat of a surprise to me a few years ago when I checked out the 70s Muppet Show, and found that it was quite lame.  Just a lot of joke-free versions of the Muppets singing songs, and some variety show fare that had already been played out long before the 70s.  I can’t offer an explanation as to why the movies were so much better than the show, but they were.

However while I have a personal fondness for The Muppet Movie, I don’t think it still has much widespread appeal, so I can’t quite count it as a movie we still care about.

Mad Max

References to Mad Max have risen to the level of mythology.  Mad Max has become a synonym for post-apocalyptic civilization, barren wastelands, and a certain style of dress.

But the thing is, when you close your eyes and picture something out of Mad Max, you’re almost certainly picturing its sequels The Road Warrior or Beyond Thunderdome instead. The original Mad Max was a small budget revenge story that wasn’t set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and doesn’t feature any of the iconography that people imagine when they hear the name.  So while The Road Warrior is something people still care about, the original Mad Max is not.  (Even if they erroneously think they do.)

Meatballs

This created the summer camp movie, which became its own genre in the 80s, and has been spoofed and referenced countless times.  But on the other hand, when’s the last time you actually watched Meatballs?  When’s the last time anyone you know watched it?

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

We still care about Star Trek.  We still care about several Star Trek movies.  But even hard-core Trekkers don’t care about the first movie, or consider it to be remotely worth watching.

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Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.