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Entries in Mad Max Fury Road (3)

Wednesday
Aug262015

BLAST FROM THE PAST: RATING THE SUMMER REBOOTS.

What is a ‘reboot’? Some might argue that several of the films included in the list of seven below are ‘sequels’, such as Jurassic World, which references characters and settings from JP’s 1 through 3. But the ‘Jurassic Park’ brand (tellingly, not used in the reboot’s titling) was dated and damaged, as were The Terminator, Vacation and Fantastic Four franchises. True sequels, such as Magic Mike XXL, Pitch Perfect 2 and Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation, rode on the back of relatively recent, blockbuster instalments. A ‘reboot’ must regenerate interest in a moribund property; for a ‘sequel’, the hard work is already done.

So, as the US summer winds down, it is time to analyse which of the bigscreen rebrandings American moviegoers embraced and which failed the reboot test. (All figures in US$s as of 8/27; source – Box Office Mojo).

JURASSIC WORLD (June 12)
A dark cloud hung over a reboot’s theatrical prospects after Joe Johnston’s 2001 three-quel (despite its global gross of $370million). But the Jurassic Park brand has always been a cash-cow for Universal; home video, merchandising and a 2013 3D re-issue of Spielberg’s original kept that famous logo and all the associated thrills alive across a generation. Colin Trevorrow’s 2015 version garnered mixed reviews (Ed – One 2015’s worst films) but was the box office behemoth the filmmakers (and studio moneymen) anticipated.
Rebooted? Oh, yeah! Debuted at #1 in 69 international territories, earning box office records for the biggest opening weekend of all time domestically, internationally and globally; it only took a record 13 days to reach $1billion worldwide. The first sequel is slated for June 22, 2018.
Domestic - $639.6million; B.O. position - #1. 

MAD MAX FURY ROAD (May 15)
Delayed, then delayed again; reported friction between stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron; industry speculation that director George Miller’s remote shoot yielded hours of plotless visuals. Then, the trailer dropped, and the Internet went wild. Warner Bros spin doctors have already started the Oscar nomination buzz, citing Mad Max Fury Road as a type of transcendent enigma – the operatic R-rated action epic so vast in scale and ambition, the Academy dare not ignore it.
Rebooted? Certainly. But Fury Road was the culmination of a career-spanning vision; it seems unlikely Miller will turn around a quickie sequel. Plus Warners will be more circumspect about budgeting next time around; despite the buzz, opened at 3702 theatres for an ok $45.5million. The week before release, the suits would have projected a late summer total closer to $200million. The $220million global revenue is what will keep Max mad.
Domestic - $152million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #9

TERMINATOR GENISYS (July 1)
‘What-just-happened?’ plotting, disregard for franchise canon and that ridiculous title were just some of the major miscalculations star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Alan Taylor made in trying to breathe life and energy into the Terminator tradition. All that was lean and thrilling about James Cameron’s first instalment is all but gone in a clunky time-travel storyline that ground the film to a halt far too often. The stink spread quickly amongst Arnie’s US fanbase, who stayed away in droves…
Rebooted? …while international fans backed the Austrian Oak’s return to the Cyborg character to the tune of $263.6million (or 75% of its gross, and still counting). Whether the ageing action star will be back for a Genisys 2 may come down to foreign dollar involvement.
Domestic - $89.1million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #14


VACATION (July 29)
New Line Studios wanted us to believe that the four previous adventures of The Griswold clan were ‘beloved’ enough to warrant a reboot, and a vulgar, witless one at that. Star Ed Helms hasn’t found much love outside of The Hangover pics; here, he embodies a grown version of Anthony Michael Hall’s wise-cracking ginger Rusty from the 1983 original. Series veterans Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are shoe-horned in. The Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck and Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2 had left the R-rated comedy crowd fatigued by the time Vacation premiered.
Rebooted? These comedies are relatively cheap, so a new raft of decreasingly worthwhile sequels may eventuate.
Domestic - $52.4million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #18 

FANTASTIC FOUR (August 7)
From director Josh Trank’s Twitter tirade (“A year ago I had a fantastic version of this”) to star Miles Teller’s Esquire interview backlash to the mainstream media’s bloodlust box office coverage, Fox’s Fantastic Four became the cause celebre of summer movie scandals. An expensive and troubled production makes for good copy. Yet, despite the public flaying from all quarters, it crept into the summer box-office Top 20 and clawed its way to $50million, plus $80million from overseas. (Ed. – We liked it).
Rebooted? Clearly, no. That said, should Fox turn over the negative to Trank and let him cut together the version he envisioned, perhaps give it limited engagements ahead of a home video push, it might be reassessed in a more favourable light. Frankly, what have they got to lose?
Domestic - $50.1million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #20 

POLTERGEIST (May 22)
Despite being heavily web-tracked throughout its development, Gil Kenan’s reboot of Tobe Hooper’s 1982 suburban haunting classic was met with a resounding ‘meh’ by patrons when it landed early in the summer. The original impacted a generation of teen moviegoers, capturing the social and cultural zeitgeist; the reboot, toned down to appease a PG13 mandate, was wan and uninvolving. (Read the SCREEN-SPACE Review)
Rebooted? Unlikely. Couldn’t crack $100million globally, suggesting only the ‘we’ll watch anything’ first-weekenders and melancholy 40-somethings were tapped. No chance the drawcard in the cast, Sam Rockwell (pictured, above), will reprise a role he seemed bored with the first time around.
Domestic - $47.4million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #22

HITMAN AGENT 47 (August 21; trailer, below)
Aleksandr Bach’s rebooting of Xavier Gens very minor 2007 vid-game adaptation landed with a thud, the core demographic of young males prefering a second helping of surprise smash Straight Outta Compton. The third DOA franchise hopeful for 20th Century Fox this summer (behind Fantastic Four and Poltergeist); the Murdoch stable couldn’t crack the US Top 10, their biggest hit being the Melissa McCarthy vehicle, Spy ($110million; #11). Canned by critics, HA47 may spawn straight-to-vid sequels but the brands theatrical pulse has flatlined.
Rebooted? No.
Domestic - $9.1million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #39


Monday
May182015

MAD MEN: WHAT MRA ADVOCATES CAN LEARN FROM GEORGE MILLER’S ANTI-HERO. 

I'm a white male aged 18 to 49! Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are.” – Homer Simpson.

Vocal sections of the Men’s Rights activism community have been bleating about the heroic central roles that women play in George Miller’s Mad Max Fury Road (no, I won’t provide links). As a director, Miller has always favoured strong female characters and attracted top-tier actresses to his all-to-rare projects (Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer in The Witches of Eastwick; Sarandon again, in Lorenzo’s Oil). Most importantly, what the MRA knuckle-draggers fail to realise is that powerful female characters have always been central to his Aussie action franchise. (WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD)

Pictured, above; Star Charlize Theron with Mad Max Fury Road director, George Miller.

MAD MAX
Joanne Samuel (Jessie; pictured, right, with Gibson).
Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky barely raised an eyebrow when Charlie copped a saucepan in the throat. When his best mate Goose got cooked, he had a hospital freak-out but began coping by taking some time off work (“Any longer out on that road and I'm one of them, you know?” Max says to his burly boss, Fifi.) But Max only went full-tilt ‘mad’ when they took his Jessie. The epitome of 70’s feminism strength and hippy loveliness, Joanne Samuel’s Jessie was the all-powerful feminine yin to Max’s borderline psychopathic yang. The ‘Mad Max’ we know today only exists because he was denied a strong woman counterpoint. As the clip below suggests, nor would you want to mess with the great Sheila Florence's gun-toting May Swaisey. So convincingly did Gibson embody the ‘unhinged widower’, he adapted the character into all his other career-defining roles – Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon series, William Wallace in Braveheart, and Reverend Hess in Signs. 

 

MAD MAX 2
Virginia Hey (Warrior Woman); Arkie Whitley (The Captain’s Girl; pictured, right).
The decimated wasteland of Miller’s amped-up sequel is ruled by leather-clad boy-gangs, lead by The Humungus (Kjell Nilsson). Women walk amongst them, but exist only to serve their crude, misogynistic lustings; the sole, sordid glimpse offered of a woman’s lot amongst the marauders is when a captured envoy is gang-raped. But when Max enters the more civilised realm of the refinery community, women characters emerge as strong, intelligent leadership types. Most notably, Virginia Hey’s towering action-heroine presence as Warrior Woman (clearly a foreshadowing of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa in Fury Road); and, Arkie Whitley’s nurturing, hopeful earth-mother, The Captain’s Girl. 

MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME
Tina Turner (Aunty Entity; pictured, below); Helen Buday (Savannah Nix); Justin Clarke (Anna Goanna); Tushka Bergen, Emily Stocker, Sandie Lillingston (Guardians).
In Miller’s third instalment, a woman not only takes a central role for the first time in the franchise but is also afforded the coveted ‘villain’ part. As the overseer of Bartertown, Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity is to the post-apocalyptic enclave as Gordon Geeko was to Wall Street – a decadent, ungrateful wallower in trappings of wealth manufactured by the hardship of the those below her (As she says, “I’m up to my armpits in blood and shit.”) The director adorns Turner with an MTV-noirish ambience; just as the biker bad-boys of Mad Max 2 were manifestations of base male urgings, Aunty Entity is female sexuality at its most alluringly dangerous. Post Bartertown, Max is escorted to a place of social and spiritual rebirth, aka ‘The Green Gorge,’ by Helen Buday’s Savannah Nix; borne of dreams and perpetuated by mythology, it is populated by the innocent and nurtured by Justine Clarke’s angelic Anna Goanna. This is the New World, a place fresh in formation, yet forging a new dialect steeped in tradition (“We knows now finding the trick of what's been and lost ain't no easy ride. But that's our trek, we gotta' travel it”). For Max, this is as close to the future that a life with Jessie once promised; though unclear to his damaged self at first, he has already chosen this path. Fittingly, Gibson’s tenure as the character ended amongst women and children, whom he both saves and who save him.

 

MAD MAX FURY ROAD (again, spoilers)
Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa; pictured, below); Zoe Kravitz (Toast the Knowing); Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (The Splendid Angharad); Riley Keough (Capable); Abbey Lee (The Dag); Courtney Eaton (Cheedo the Fragile); Megan Gale (The Valkyrie); Melita Jurisic, Gillian Jones, Joy Smithers, Antoinette Kellermann, Christina Koch (The Vuvalini).
The world promised by The Keepers of The Green Gorge did not pan out, yet the pseudo-English language seems to have stuck. Could the descendants of Anna Goanna’s tribe have survived as The Vuvalini? Is the fabled land sought by Theron’s Imperator Furiosa conjured from memories of The Green Gorge?  The mythology reinforces a narrative arc that brings Tom Hardy’s incarnation of Max back under life-reaffirming feminine ideals and fulfils his messianic role as ‘Captain Walker.’ It also ensures his righteous passage through the carnage of Fury Road and strengthens Miller’s thematic positioning of women as the keepers of the future world. Is it just a coincidence that the stillborn child of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s The Splendid Angharad is a son, or does his passing suggest a patriarchal future is already doomed? One wonders how the MR whiners might react to such a notion…

Wednesday
Jan212015

THE 10 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2015

Just how crowded is the film marketplace in 2015? In compiling this feature, Meet the Filmmakers had to cull the latest from James Bond; new films from Michael Mann, Guillermo del Toro, Robert Zemeckis and Quentin Tarantino; Pixar’s first theatrical title in two years; the final instalment of The Hunger Games franchise; and, Ah-nold’s return as The Terminator. As 2014 winds up, here are the 2015 films (with US release dates included) that are piquing our interest…

10. ANT-MAN (July 17)
News of Marvel’s latest was all the Internet could handle when director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz; Shaun of the Dead) announced his new film would be the comic giant’s niche cult-hero, Ant-Man (pictured, above). But when ‘creative differences’ led to his departure well into pre-production, fans braced themselves. The replacement – Hollywood journeyman Peyton Reed, best known for the cheerleader romp Bring It On; the star – Paul Rudd, a solid if safe choice who’ll be playing darker than his on-screen persona has ever allowed; ace in the hole – Michael Douglas, who stuck with the project despite the departure of Wright.
HIT/MISS – Guardians of the Galaxy gave Marvel Films the creative shot-in-the-arm it needed and if Ant-Man finds its own, fresh voice, expect big things. If it proves to be a ‘boardroom’ film, pandering to shareholders needs and playing safe, fans may revolt given the missed opportunity Edgar Wright’s departure represents.

9. PEANUTS (November 6)
The estate of the late Charles Shultz must be licking their lips now that the cartoonist’s iconic group of friends is getting the Hollywood 3D animation makeover. Charged with making 1950’s suburban kids relevant today is Steve Martino (the colourful, if a bit one-note, Horton Hears a Hoo!; the uninspiring Ice Age: Continental Drift). The comic strip ended a 50-year run in 2000, so the key under-10 demo will have to rely on Mum and Dad to upsell the backstory. The animation (as seen in the teaser trailer) finds an intriguing balance between old and new, but is it too cutesy in the Pixar era?
HIT/MISS – The potential for merchandising profits is too huge for 20th Century Fox to drop the ball here. They will make sure it connects.

8. TOMORROWLAND (May 22)
In the can for over a year (it was originally slated as a summer 2014 release), Tomorrowland is Brad Bird’s latest, a filmmaker who has yet to put a directorial foot wrong (The Iron Giant; The Incredibles; Ratatouille; Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol). Despite its extended post-production period and high-profile leading man, George Clooney, the fact is very little is known about its plot; two teens create a device that can propel them through time and space in an instant, bringing them to the Utopian society of the title. Or something like that.
HIT/MISS – It’s Bird’s long-in-gestation passion project, and his instincts have been spot-on so far. Despite the difficulty Hollywood execs have selling a fresh idea and with the charming Clooney to woo the talk show circuit, it’s a hit.

7. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (May 15)
Dr George Miller’s reboot of his own iconic creation, the ‘Road Warrior’ lone cop Max Rockatansky, has travelled its own long, bumpy highway to its May 2015 release. Originally aiming for a 2014 slot, industry buzz suggested that the post-production period was going to be immense. Seems Miller (pictured, right; on location with star Tom Hardy) shot logistically daunting and wildly spectacular stunt sequences yet neglected that other crucial element – a plot. Allegedly, the mantra during the shoot was “We’ll fix it in post.” On-set tension was also cited; reports hinted at bitterness between stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.
HIT/MISS - Which will all mean nothing when Mad Max Fury Road opens to huge figures. It is yet another reboot, sure, but Max is an iconic film figure that crosses generational demographics. He will rule the early US summer landscape.

6. UNTITLED STEVEN SPIELBERG PROJECT (October 16)
Never underestimate Spielberg, the most commercially successful filmmaker of all time. His most recent film was 2011 Lincoln, a 2½ hour historical drama that would take an extraordinary US$182million domestically. Prior to that, he broke new technological ground with The Adventures of Tintin and survived the worst reviews of his career to turn Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull into a blockbuster; even the noble failure War Horse took US$180million globally. In 2015, he reteams with Tom Hanks, with whom he has crafted some of his best late-career work (Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can and, yes, even the unfairly-derided The Terminal) for a Cold War thriller that recalls arguably his best film of the last decade, Munich (pictured, left; the star and director on-set).
HIT/MISS – Hit, of course, but skewing older and dependent upon critical raves to breakout. With Joel and Ethan Coen supplying the screenplay and Hanks’ resurgence in full swing after Captain Phillips and Saving Mr Banks, the October release date pins it as an Oscar contender. 

5. JURASSIC WORLD (June 12)
Spielberg again, but wearing his producer’s hat for this fourth trip to an island of the coast of Costa Rica. Is it a sequel? Is it a reboot? Whatever; that kind pre-release analysis will count for nought when this drops June 12 and becomes one of the biggest films of the year. The unknown factor is director Colin Trevorrow, who showed great skill with character chemistry and gentle fantasy in Safety Not Guaranteed, but has no runs on the board in the blockbuster, effects-heavy, summer tentpole stakes. Trump card – Chris Pratt, in his first action hero role since Guardians of the Galaxy. And new-look dinosaurs. And Spielberg.
HIT/MISS – Come on, really?

4. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (February 13)
EL James’ literary phenomenon made the complexities of a BDSM relationship palatable and smoothly stylish to the masses. Converting that to the bigscreen will be a tricky task; no one is pretending these airport novels were Pulitzer-worthy, but they envisioned a world of intricate intimacies that built a big, passionate following. That could easily unravel when translated to a commercial film template (pictured, right; stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson). Perhaps fittingly, everything we’ve seen about the film to date – the young, pretty stars; the trailer; Beyonce’s contribution to the soundtrack – reeks of style over substance. Slotting the World Premiere for the prestige Berlinale suggests a high level of confidence in critic’s reaction, but that could backfire if the knives come out.
HIT/MISS – Will open huge, but word-of-mouth will be crucial. At best, it will set pulses racing and upscale audiences talking, ala 9½ Weeks or Fatal Attraction; at worst, it is this years Showgirls. Reports that multiplex audiences were giggling at the trailer is not a good sign; European filmgoers will probably wonder what all the fuss is about. Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho; The Canyons) pitched hard for the gig, but studio types found his take too raw (read; commercially risky).

3. THE MARTIAN (November 25)
His output has grown erratic, but news of a ‘Ridley Scott sci-fi adventure’ still quickens the pulse (pictured, left). This adaptation of Andy Weir’s cult novel posits Matt Damon alone and trying to survive all Mars can throw at him until his rescue craft arrive. Big plusses are co-stars Jessica Chastain and Kate Mara (in for quite a year, with her Fantastic Four reboot also pending). Next up for Scott will be the Blade Runner sequel, so here’s hoping The Martian will be a return to form.
HIT/MISS – Dunno. Scott is having a rough trot, with Prometheus, The Councillor and Exodus Gods and Kings all earning blah notices and mid-range box office; the last movie that took us to the red planet was the infamous John Carter; big, ambitious sci-fi films like Interstellar and Gravity divide opinion (though, admittedly, rake in the bucks).

2. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (May 21)
All the gang are back, this time to take on James Spader’s bad guy Ultron in writer/director Joss Whedon’s follow-up to his own 2012 box-office behemoth. Expect more of the same city-wrecking, hulk-smashing entertainment, as only Marvel can deliver (over and over again, it would seem). New cast members Elizabeth Olsen (as Scarlet Witch) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (as Quicksilver) were hot when cast, but their blah chemistry as husband-and-wife in Godzilla may see them pushed into the background in all key art (Johnson is nowhere to be found in the latest trailer).
HIT/MISS – Early footage feels a little too much like those clunky, grinding Transformer films and the wheels will fall off this whole Marvel superhero tentpole trend eventually. But not in 2015 - this is a certifiable blockbuster.

1. STAR WARS: EPISODE VII - THE FORCE AWAKENS (December 18)
The teaser trailer broke the web, with 20million YouTube views on its day of release. Director JJ Abrams, a Star Wars devotee, further appeased fans by bringing in veteran scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan, the man who penned The Empire Strikes Back. Casting news, whether new players (Daisy Ridley, Oscar nominee Oscar Isaacs, Adam Driver) or the return of old friends (Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill), ran across all media, fan-based or not. Word is that the plot takes place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, but no details have been forthcoming.
HIT/MISS – Invincible against any and all outside influences. Critical reaction, box office competition, the unpredictability of the weather – The Force Awakens is the four-quadrant event film of 2015.