Film Review: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Also known as: Mad Max 3 (working title), Mad Max III (Philippines)
Release Date: June 29th, 1985 (Japan)
Directed by: George Miller, George Ogilvie
Written by: Terry Hayes, George Miller
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence

Kennedy Miller Productions, Warner Bros., 107 Minutes

Review:

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… Dyin’ time’s here.” – Dr. Dealgood

I always thought of this as the worst of the original Mad Max trilogy. However, revisiting it now, just after watching the first two, I think I enjoyed it more than the original. In fact, I have a lot more appreciation for this film after watching it this time. Plus, it was the first time I had seen it since before Mad Max: Fury Road came out four years ago.

Now this doesn’t have the hard edge of the other films and it does feel like a Hollywood recreation of the franchise with a bigger budget, the addition of Tina Turner (a huge star at the time) and the larger scope of the movie. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, though, and I think that Hollywood sort of legitimizing this film series with a larger, more polished production, is probably what gave it the cultural longevity it’s had.

You also have to keep in mind that these films are really all that Mel Gibson was known for in 1985. Lethal Weapon and a much more lucrative, mainstream career didn’t come until 1987.

What makes this work so well, is the fact that Mel Gibson is so comfortable in this role by this point. Even though we got to know him in the first film, everything changes when his family dies and then in the second picture, he was sort of an unemotional husk with just a glimmer of humanity shining through. Here, that hard, outer husk is torn away and we’re left with a man that has found a way to live again. At least, he’s found a surrogate family and something that he must fight for. While that’s similar to the second film, it’s a much more fluid and human journey here. You don’t feel like he’s just playing the hero because it’s something to do and he hates scumbags, you actually sense love growing inside of him.

However, as much as I love Tina Turner in this, her being the primary villain also tames this movie when compared to the others. She kind of likes Max throughout the picture and she’s just a tough woman trying to maintain order in a town full of shady degenerates. She’s not pure evil like Lord Humongous, Toecutter or Immortan Joe and that kind of makes the threat in this film feel like a minor one.

Granted, the big finale which sees vehicle mayhem and the inclusion of a train car is still quite good. I don’t enjoy it as much as the finale from The Road Warrior but it is very close in quality to that one. In fact, this finale is better shot, looks crisper and has some stellar stunts. However, it is less gritty and thus, not as badass as the finale from the previous film. But it is fun seeing the kids in the film get in on the action during this big chase.

Speaking of the kids, there are a lot of them in this movie. But all the ones that have lines and are key characters are really good. This movie could have gone south really quickly with its overabundance of child actors but they certainly add more to the film than they take away.

This is definitely a film with three acts and each act has a very distinct feeling and tone to it. From a narrative standpoint, this is the best structured film and tells the best story out of all four Mad Max pictures.

Beyond Thunderdome gets a bad rap from some and while I wish it had been more of an R rated film than a PG-13 one, I’m still pretty satisfied with it and I think it’s aged pretty darn well.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other Mad Max films, as well as other post-apocalyptic car and biker movies, most of which were ripoffs of this.

Film Review: The Road Warrior (1981)

Also known as: Mad Max 2 (original title), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (US)
Release Date: December 24th, 1981 (Australia)
Directed by: George Miller
Written by: Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannant
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Mike Preston, Max Phipps, Vernon Wells, Emil Minty, Kjell Nilsson, Virginia Hey

Kennedy Miller Productions, Warner Bros., 96 Minutes

Review:

“Two days ago, I saw a vehicle that would haul that tanker. You want to get out of here? You talk to me.” – Max

The Road Warrior is a good example of a sequel being better than its predecessor. Some people might disagree but this was the best version of a Mad Max film until 2015’s Fury Road was released. But this is, in my opinion, the best of the original trilogy that starred Mel Gibson.

The world is pretty much destroyed in this film. While we saw a world on the brink of collapse in the first picture, by the time we get to this one, the world has been reduced to nothing but desert, as least as far as we know.

With that, the two most sought after commodities are water and oil. But here, oil is basically gold as those who can still run their machines, have a strong advantage over those who can’t.

The story sees Max discover a community that has a good amount of oil but they are being threatened by a vicious gang that looks more like barbarians than normal, well meaning people. The evil gang, led by Lord Humungus, keeps the community trapped behind their walls as they use their vehicles to run down anyone who comes outside. Max strikes a deal with the nice people being terrorized and we see him have to take on these vile villains in the most high octane way possible.

The Road Warrior is both barbaric and fantastical but still grounded in a sort of gritty reality. It came out just before the ’80s sword and sorcery trend took hold and while it has strong similarities to the genre, it doesn’t rely on magic and monsters but instead, machines and human monsters.

The movie feels otherworldly but not in a way that it doesn’t seem plausible or reflective of a possible future for humanity. Coming out during the Cold War, regardless of this being an Australian film, adds a natural heightened sense of fear. George Miller made something that effectively tapped into those societal and political concerns while also making just a badass action movie that has aged well, despite its weird fashion sense. But that ’80s punk meets new wave look also gives the film some of its charm.

While the film certainly doesn’t need to rely on Mel Gibson, his inclusion here adds and extra level of gravitas and personality to the picture. But I also have to give some credit to bad guy character actor Vernon Wells, as the mohawked savage Wez.

The Road Warrior is capped off by a twenty minute action finale that sees the greatest vehicular chase scene in cinematic history for its time. And frankly, it’s only really been upstaged by it’s later sequel Fury Road. I could say that maybe some movies have had better car chases but what gives this movie something special is how there is a variety of weird vehicles from cars, trucks, motorcycles and even a gyrocopter.

I love this movie. It’s one of the top action films of the ’80s and arguably, all-time. It’s simple, it’s tough and it gets the job done while surprising you along the way.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: all the other Mad Max films, as well as other post-apocalyptic car and biker movies, most of which were ripoffs of this.

Film Review: Mad Max (1979)

Also known as: Interceptor (Italy)
Release Date: April 12th, 1979 (Australia)
Directed by: George Miller
Written by: James McCausland, George Miller, Byron Kennedy
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Geoff Parry, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Roger Ward

Kennedy Miller Productions, Crossorads, Mad Max Films, Roadshow Film Distributors, 88 Minutes, 93 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“I am the Nightrider. I’m a fuel injected suicide machine. I am a rocker, I am a roller, I am an out-of-controller!” – Nightrider

The original Mad Max is quite different than its three sequels. It exists in a time where things aren’t as post-apocalyptic as they would become by just the second film in the series. Granted, the apocalypse seems to exist already, to an extent, but the world isn’t as empty and desolate as what we would see just three years later in The Road Warrior.

Max is a cop in this film and it is his duty to intercept terrible people that terrorize the Australian highways. He’s got a badass car, a cool jacket, cool glasses and eventually, an even more badass car.

As much as I enjoy this film, it is actually my least favorite of the four movies to date. It is high octane and balls to the wall nuts when the action is at its peak but it is also the slowest moving chapter in the franchise. But it was also the template for what would come and George Miller would continue to get better and learn new skills as the series rolled on.

This certainly isn’t a weak film, it’s very good. It just feels out of place when looked at within the context of the whole film series. As its own picture, independent of the other three, it’s a really good demolition derby on screen.

I think the thing that holds this back is it is more of an origin story. The thing is, Max doesn’t really become Mad Max until the end when a biker gang murders his wife and infant son. But that intense moment comes late in the film, which only gives us the true Max for the last ten or twenty minutes.

But don’t get me wrong, the story is good and it is necessary to set the stage for what comes after this picture. I’m just not a big fan of origin stories but that’s not this film’s fault, it’s due to how many superhero movies I’ve seen in my three-plus decades on this planet. But if I am being honest, Mad Max predates nearly all of those movies so it certainly isn’t derivative in that regard.

This film feels small though. Especially when compared to the installments after it. That’s also not a bad thing but everything after this has more of an epic feel to it. Also, the world is much more threatening once we move on past this chapter.

Mad Max is a solid motion picture and a good framework for the character and his world. I just seem to get more enjoyment from The Road Warrior and especially from Fury Road, which is damn close to perfection.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: all the other Mad Max films, as well as other post-apocalyptic car and biker movies, most of which were ripoffs of this.

Film Review: The Wolverine (2013)

Also known as: Wolverine 2 (working title), Wolverine: Inmortal (Spanish language title), Wolverine: Samurai (Japan)
Release Date: July 16th, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Based on: Wolverine by Chris Claremont, Frank Miller
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Brian Tee, Patrick Stewart (cameo), Ian McKellan (cameo)

Marvel Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 126 Minutes, 138 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“Your grandfather called me a ronin, a samurai without a master. He said I was destined to live forever, with no reason to live.” – Logan

The Wolverine did a pretty good job of making up for the mostly terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie. Also, it was the film I wanted instead of Origins because when I first heard that they planned on a solo Wolverine film, I immediately hoped that they would tap into his Japan stories. I just had to wait a few more years for that, I guess.

Everything about this film is really good, except two things.

The first, is that it was drawn out a bit too much. I felt like it could have been whittled down by twenty minutes or so and had a much better flow to it.

The second, is the villains. I loved the story but the baddies were weak as hell and really uninteresting.

Viper has never been a character that’s been a big deal in the comics and I’ve never really cared about her. In this, she just never felt like a real threat. She spits acid but in a film where the hero is Wolverine, who heeled from a nuclear bomb blast in the first five minutes. So now I’m supposed to worry about him getting acid spit in his face?

The other villain is a more well-known character from the comics, the Silver Samurai. However, he isn’t really the Silver Samurai here, he’s just an old dying Japanese billionaire wearing a mecha suit. Sure, the suit is adamantium but whatever. Tear that shit open like a tin can and squash the dude’s head like a grape. And again, he’s just not the real Silver Samurai.

Getting back to Viper, she stuck out like a sore, disfigured thumb. The reason why is because her acting was abominable. Everyone else in this film gave great performances. I don’t think it’s her lack of experience in acting that’s the issue, it’s just that her poor performance is greatly contrasted by how good everyone else is in this. She would blend in to a lesser film but every scene that she is in here, is bogged down by her performance. It really hindered key moments in the film.

Getting to the positives, there are more of those.

The story is great and I do love how it develops and evolves. It could have used better pacing but once you get to Japan, things really pick up and there is just a bit in the middle that could have been edited down because I didn’t need as much attention given to the romance story as this film felt it needed.

All of the action sequences are executed superbly, most of the CGI is pretty good and Hugh Jackman proved that he is perfect as this character, even if hardcore fans still complain that he’s too tall.

I also really enjoyed Rila Fukushima’s Yukio. She kind of made a good sidekick in the movie and I wish she had carried over into Logan, even though it was set well into the future.

James Mangold did a fine job resurrecting this franchise. This was a good first outing for him with the character, which only helped to make his Logan pretty close to a comic book movie masterpiece.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other films starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Film Review: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Also known as: Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil: Insurgence, Resident Evil: Rising (working titles)
Release Date: December 13th, 2016 (Tokyo, Seoul premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Paul Haslinger
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, William Levy, Iain Glen

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Screen Gems, 106 Minutes

Review:

“We’ve played a long game, you and me, but now it’s over.” – Dr. Issacs

I think that the things I’m looking for in these movies are different from what others are seeking. The reason I say that is that I’ve heard really bad things about this chapter in the series yet this was the best movie out of them all, as far as I’m concerned.

I think that the extended break mixed with the experience of what worked and what didn’t over the course of the five previous films, allowed Paul W.S. Anderson to weave his best tale yet and frankly, this one surprised me and took things in a direction I wasn’t anticipating.

Also, I watched all of these movies over the course of a week and didn’t have a decade and a half to ponder this series, its direction and the reveals that each chapter brought to the series as a whole.

As an action movie with a lot of horror and sci-fi thrown in, this was satisfying. Also, it did give the audience fan service but it didn’t trip over itself like the previous movie, which was bogged down by too many cameos and a mostly incoherent plot.

By this point, I’ve accepted the flaws that bothered me in the earlier movies. Six deep into this series and some of those flaws have really become tropes. Especially the Hong Kong style wire work during fight scenes, the imperfect CGI and the overabundance of green screen scenes. In regards to the CGI, it does get better with this movie.

I liked how this film was structured and the longer running time gave it a bit more room the breathe. It felt like it had more of a three act structure than the other chapters. First, you have the beginning where Alice wakes up in D.C., gets her mission and then runs into trouble on her way back to Raccoon City. Then you have a second act where she and a group of heroes defends Raccoon City from a literal zombie army. The third and final act sees Alice and some of the survivors storm the Hive to end the Umbrella Corporation once and for all.

The plot isn’t complicated but it’s well layered, is more dynamic than some of the other RE films and it has a good MacGuffin with a satisfying ending that leaves the series on a hopeful note, as opposed to the doom and gloom each previous film left you with. To be honest, I’d like a seventh film featuring Alice on her last adventure before the Earth resets. But the ending is still fine on its own.

Seriously, I am baffled by this movie. It shouldn’t have been as good as it was, all things considered. Maybe the fifth one set the bar really low and I didn’t expect much from its follow up. But again, this is my favorite Resident Evil film in the series.

Also, zombie dragons.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Film Review: Queen of the Damned (2002)

Also known as: Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned (complete title), Interview with the Vampire II (working title)
Release Date: January 10th, 2002 (Côte d’Ivoire)
Directed by: Michael Rymer
Written by: Scott Abbott, Michael Petroni
Based on: The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice
Music by: Richard Gibbs, Jonathan Davis
Cast: Aaliyah, Stuart Townsend, Marguerite Moreau, Paul McGann, Vincent Perez, Claudia Black, Lena Olin,

Village Roadshow Pictures, NPV Entertainment, Material Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“You’re beautiful to me because you’re human. Your frailty. Your short years. Your heart. All that suddenly seems more precious than anything I’ve ever known.” – Lestat

I think that most fans of Anne Rice’s work were happy with the 1994 film version of Interview With the Vampire. It would have been nice to see her Vampire Chronicles continue with that same cast and team but its sequel, The Vampire Lestat, never really materialized.

Eventually, Rice was pushed out of the project, the studio took over and we got this abomination, 8 years later.

I remember seeing the trailer for this and almost losing my shit in the theater. How could something so perfect be followed up with something so flawed and soulless? I never really wanted to watch the movie but my girlfriend, at the time, brought it home from Blockbuster one night and I was subjected to this heinously inferior creation that set adaptations of Rice’s work back decades. In fact, we’re still waiting for more Vampire Chronicles adaptations, 16 years later.

So what’s wrong with this movie? Short answer: everything. Long answer: read the next several paragraphs.

To start, this was made without the care that Neil Jordan and Anne Rice had with Interview With the Vampire. In fact, this doesn’t even have respect for the work it is based on. It was a quick, cheap and sad attempt at cashing in on something people craved without any wherewithal of what made Interview so damn good in the first place. Frankly, I’m pretty sure they never really cared about that to begin with and chances are, the filmmakers didn’t even watch that film or they found it boring because it wasn’t littered with nu metal or rap rock songs.

This was a film that tried so fucking hard to be edgy but it failed to understand what edginess is and that it really had no place being tied to the source material, as Interview was edgy in its own way. A way that showcased its eloquence and fit within the style of what that film was. Queen of the Damned was the forced edginess that makes most people laugh like when they see wealthy white teenagers wearing t-shirts that say “fuck you” or “suck my dick”. It’s cringe edginess.

A big example of this type of cringe edginess comes in the form of the film’s music. In the books, Lestat’s music is described to be otherworldly and it’s powerful and magical enough to resurrect a long dead vampire queen from thousands of years of sleep. So how did they make this work in the film? They didn’t. Lestat’s music was nothing but Korn songs that the actor lip synced. Fucking Korn. Now I don’t hate the band but c’mon, Korn? Really?!

Also, the film was terribly cast. I guess Stuart Townsend has the look part down but he certainly didn’t have the presence of Tom Cruise’s Lestat. And really, on paper, Cruise looked miscast but he made it work and put in one of the greatest performances of his career. But we got Townsend, a guy who also failed at being a convincing Dorian Gray, another literary character of greatness. He would ruin that character a year later in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Then you have Aaliyah, the top billed star who only appears in brief glimpses and not in full until the last half hour of the movie. Her accent was terrible, her inability to act was baffling and nothing about her seemed alluring or threatening. Once her and Lestat do come together, there’s no character development to their story and there is absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. It’s really embarrassing to watch.

You also have the parliament of vampires or whatever they’re called. Most of them looked ridiculous and like they were handpicked out of a crowd at a My Chemical Romance concert, even though I’m not sure if that band even existed yet.

This movie hurts my brain. I didn’t want to revisit it but since I just recently got reacquainted with the greatness that is Interview With a Vampire, I felt that I should re-familiarize myself with this, which really is the antithesis to everything its predecessor was.

Do yourself a favor. Never watch this. It’s beyond bad. It’s not even the sort of bad that becomes good. It’s the worst kind of film and shouldn’t exist.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other early ’00s vampire movies that were far from great like Dracula 2000 and The Breed.

Film Review: Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

Also known as: Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil 3: Extinction, Resident Evil 3: Afterlife (working titles)
Release Date: September 20th, 2007 (Las Vegas premiere)
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Charlie Clouser
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, Mike Epps, Iain Glen, Ashanti, Christopher Egan, Spencer Locke, Jason O’Mara

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Capcom Co. Ltd., Screen Gems, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Climb the Eiffel Tower with a high-powered rifle. A few years ago, that would’ve caused a stir. Well… Let the good times roll!” – Chase

This film series keeps surprising me. The reason I say this is because I didn’t have high hopes for it. The first one was decent though, then the second one was a bit better and then this one was even better than the first two. Now I don’t think that this trend will continue but being three deep into a six film series, it’s an impressive feat.

However, I think it might have something to do with the direction of the films.

You see, all of these are written by Paul W.S. Anderson. However, the first, the weakest of the first three, was directed by him. Then two and three were directed by different people before Anderson went behind the camera again for the last three. I’m not trying to knock Anderson but maybe he’s just got that George Lucas thing. He can direct but he’s better being the architect and then handing it off.

From what I hear, the back half trilogy of films isn’t as good as the first three. I’ll have to see if my Anderson theory is correct, once I watch those in the very near future.

I guess I really liked this one the best, so far, because it mixes Resident Evil and Mad Max, as our survivors traverse the desert in an effort to find something better than post-apocalyptic wastelands and deadly threats. We even get to see our heroes go to post-apocalyptic Las Vegas and fight hordes of zombies there.

Eventually, the survivors make it to the Umbrella Corporation’s secret bunker in the desert, an Area 51 like hideaway with labs and all types of crazy shit. The evil scientist from the previous movie returns and becomes a creature similar to Nemesis.

The big discovery of this movie is that Alice has been cloned dozens of times over. I’m not sure what that will mean beyond this film, if anything, because where the characters were at the start of this chapter was very different than where they were at the end of the previous movie. There was a time jump but some key characters are missing without any explanation.

Anyway, most of the action stuff was okay. The CGI still isn’t great and my Fire Stick (or Internet) had a hard time with the bird attack scene. My TV looked like a pixelated shit show. The rest of the film looked okay but I’m still not crazy about Alice’s Hong Kong fighting style, as it pulls me right out of the movie.

But for what this is, it isn’t bad and I’d watch the first three films again.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.