“Mad Max: Fury Road” Better Than the Original
By Skip Sheffield
A reboot can improve on the original. Case in point is “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which was reconceived by its originator, George Miller.
In development more than 10 years, the new “Mad Max” is bigger, badder and in many ways better than the 1979 original, which starred Mel Gibson as the sullen but explosive ex-Australian policeman trying to do some good in a world ruined and gone mad, ruled by barbarians.
All the reboot lacks is Max’s faithful dog, which added a most poignant touch to the original. The new Max is handsome 37-year-old British actor Tom Hardy. Hardy’s Max hardly has any lines. It’s all action stunts from the very first frame, when Max hears the approach of the murderous “War Boys,” who are ruled by the insane fascist despot, King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), outfitted in Plexiglas armour with attached breathing apparatus. In his supercharged hot rod Australian Ford, Max is herded, cornered, captured and put on a cage, with a Hannibal Lecter-style metal bridgework bolted on his face.
It isn’t the first or last time Max is in a seemingly hopeless situation. If Max didn’t escape there wouldn’t be a story. So of course he does, ultimately to team with rogue Imperator Furiosa (39-year-old South African actress-model Charlize Theron), who has double-crossed King Joe by veering off course to collect precious fuel to instead free five stowaway “wives” of the King, who are more like sexual slaves.
Although Theron is tarted up with a buzz haircut, a bionic arm and black grease over half her skull, Theron’s fine beauty still shines through. This will not escape Max’s attention.
The human characters are just sketches; secondary to the crazy machines and their amazing high-speed crashes in the Australian and African outback. The outlandish contraptions are a gearhead’s delight. According to Engadget magazine, 150 of the contraptions were constructed and at least half of them destroyed. My favorite is King Joe’s rig, which is topped by two 1959 Cadillac bodies grafted together.
Real live action is what separates “Mad Max” from such computer-generated cartoons as “The Avengers” and “Furious 7.” Miller even hired Cirque du Solelil artists to perform some of the acrobatic feats. Though the movie is two hours long it fairly flies by and leaves one wondering if there won’t be little Maxes and Furiosas in the future.
“Tangerines” Amidst War in Crumbling USSR
As if we didn’t need to be reminded again that war, especially sectarian war, is foolish, illogical, destructive and in short Hell, we have the relatively subtle Russian parable “Tangerines.”
Set in 1992 during the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, “Tangerines” takes place in the grove of the title, on which two Estonian immigrant farmers- the last in the village- are trying to hold on in Soviet Georgia to harvest the precious fruit before war between invading Abkhazia and defending Georgia destroys everything. Margus (Elmo Nuganen) intends to leave forever once the harvest is done. Ivo (Lembit Ulsak) is older and intends to hang on, as he has nowhere else to go.
During an intense skirmish a soldier named Ahmed (Giogi Nakashidze) is injured and rescued by Ivo and taken to his farm house. Ivo and Margus send his Jeep over a cliff to get rid of the evidence. Soon there is another skirmish in which another man, Niko (Misha Meski), a native Georgian, is injured. Ivo again provides a safe haven for him to recuperate.
Ahmed and Niko are on opposite sides of the conflict. Ahmed swears to kill Niko the first chance he gets.
“To kill a sleeping man is a holy thing?” Ivo challenges Ahmed, a Muslim mercenary. “There will be no killing in my house.”
One can only hope there are wise, compassionate characters like Ivo to counteract the blind hatred of most wars. One can only hope.
If you need some laughs with a cappella singing, also opening May 15 is “Pitch Perfect 2,” starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson.