Tag Archives: Mel Gibson

Max is Back!

Explosively revved-up reboot is big, brash, brutal & beautiful

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Starring Tom Hardy & Charlize Theron

Directed by George Miller

R

If Australian director George Miller never did anything else, he’d forever be remembered as the man who gave the world the post-apocalyptic road-thrills drama Mad Max. Miller’s movie, in 1979, was a low-budget landmark of gonzo filmmaking that became an action-adventure icon, spawning two sequels, both starring Mel Gibson and both directed by Miller.

Now Miller—who went on to produce, write and/or direct other acclaimed films, including Dead Calm, Lorenzo’s Oil, Happy Feet and Babe—has returned to where he started, and this explosively revved-up reboot, epic in every sense of the word, may become the crowning achievement of his already impressive career. It’s big, bold and brash and makes the loudest bang, by a long shot, of any movie this year so far—if not any movie of any recent year. It’s grotesque and gorgeous and glorious all at once, both brutal and beautiful, a thing of cinematic wonder and wizardry, a circus of eye-popping, old-school stunt work, and a crazy orchestration of such sheer, all-out gusto, spunk, energy, imagination and nerve, it makes most other blockbusters, superhero sagas and special-effect blowouts look like they were made with doodles, doodads and trinkets from a toy box.

Miller’s new Max grabs you from the first scene and never lets go as it establishes its central character, its parched desert setting and its harsh parameters. “My name is Max,” intones the figure we first see onscreen snatching a lizard from his boot—then popping it into his mouth and eating it. “A man reduced to a single instinct: survival.”

FURY ROADAnd then, BAM—Max (Tom Hardy) is off and running—and so are we—on a wild, wild chase across a bleak wasteland of sand, mud and rock, pursued by a banshee-like posse of freakish “war boy” cultists, and thrown by dire circumstance into the company of a ferocious, one-armed defector (Charlize Theron) and her precious cargo: the four young wives of the cult’s terrifying leader, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also appeared in the original Max).

FURY ROAD

Charlize Theron

Miller stages his story (written with collaborators Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris)—a ripping fable about a small group of people looking for redemption in a ruined, bizarr-o world of fire, water, gasoline and blood—with constant movement. His cameras, like his characters, almost never pause; they’re always sweeping, swooping, panning, scanning or tracking, adding to the persistent, insistent sensation of motion and danger, of never feeling like it’s safe enough to slow down.

The automotive stunts, chase scenes and fights are so extraordinarily, intensely over-the-top, they become things of art—manic, mad-hatter masterworks of coordination as men scamper over, under, through, in and out of all kinds of cars, trucks and monstrous hybrid vehicles as they roar along at great speeds, often colliding, frequently exploding—and, in one absolutely stupendous sequence, being sucked up into a sand cyclone.

Harding is terrific, Theron is even better, and Miller, well, this time he’s outdone even himself. Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t just the movie to see—it’s the movie so “max” you’ll need to see it more than once to marvel in all it is, all it does, and just how much it blows almost everything else away.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Old Soldiers

Stallone & Co. are showing their age in third testosterone fest

The Expendables 3 - Final One Sheet

The Expendables 3

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger & Mel Gibson

Directed by Patrick Hughes

PG-13

In the opening scene of this slam-bang, testosterone-fest reunion of aging action-movie icons, Sylvester Stallone’s character points to a frankfurter-sized finger of his meaty fist and a skull-shaped glob of silver—his Expendables “lucky ring.”

The Expendables franchise, about a group of super-covert, battle-scarred warriors hired to do the U.S. government’s dirty work, has indeed been lucky for Stallone. He’s had both his bank account and his ego fed by the success of the previous two movies, which he also had a big hand in either directing or writing.

In the movies, his team is “expendable” because their work is so dangerous, and their missions so secret, no one knows—or can afford to care—if they live or die.

How ironic—since the Expendables don’t seem expendable at all. They just keep coming back, again and again, and Stallone and his co-stars are a veritable, tried-and-true Hollywood guy-movie who’s who. These are some “dependable” Expendables.

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Sylvester “Rambo” Stallone (left) and Arnold “Terminator” Schwarzenegger are the alpha males in “Expendables 3.”

And if anything, they just keep getting more “expandable.” In this excursion, the grizzled, gung-ho wagon train links up former E-team stalwarts Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Wesley Snipes, Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Jet Li with new add-ons Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kelsey Grammer (yes, Dr. Crane from Cheers and Frazier!) and Antonio Banderas, and a group of younger Expendables-in-training—Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, boxing champ Victor Oritz and mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey, the sole female invited into the boys’-club sandbox of bullet-spraying machine guns, missile-launching bazookas, exploding trains, airborne boats, dive-bombing helicopters and ka-booming army tanks.

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Mixed martial arts fighter-turned-actress Ronda Rousey is the only female invited to play in the boys-only sandbox.

There’s a wisp of a subplot about the old-school Expendables (with their knives and guns) vs. the new young high-tech Expendables (with their computers and cameras and drones). But now, four years and three movies into the franchise, the just-plain-old Expendables are beginning to wear visibly thin, the plots have ground down to near nothingness, the wisecracks aren’t wise or crack-y anymore, and the original stars mostly lumber around like middle-aged slabs of spa-toned beefcake. And this movie, in particular, is so bloated with actors, there’s not much space for any of them. Some, like martial arts champion Jet Li, are relegated to little more than a cameo.

When the first movie came out, in 2010, it was an homage to Hollywood’s long tradition of Dirty Dozen-style, action-caper, military-mission flicks, as well as an adrenaline shot of career-rejuvenating mojo for Stallone and some of his action-movie pals from the ’80s and ’90s. Now, as Neil Young’s “Old Man” plays and Stallone’s character proudly watches his young protégés carouse in a barroom, it seems like the original Expendable is thinking about finally easing out of the picture—or at least making much more room for a younger, leaner, greener set of espionage and counter-terrorism experts.

At one point, Trench (Schwarzenegger) tells Barney (Stallone) he’s through. “I’m getting out of this business,” he says, “and so should you.” Maybe it’s finally time for Stallone to take that Expendables advice to heart.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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