“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) dir. George Miller, scr. George Miller / Brendan McCarthy / Nico Lathouris, editor: Margaret Sixel

Believe the hype.  “Mad Max: Fury Road” is one of the most ferocious, heart-stopping, breathtaking movies ever made. When previews for this film started appearing several months ago, they looked amazing, but I stopped short of getting my hopes up because I’ve seen countless terrific, expertly edited trailers for films that wound up being much less than the trailers promised.  Then the reviews started pouring in and not only were they rapturous, they were better than most serious Oscar-contender films usually receive.  Again, I tempered my enthusiasm, because even mass critical opinion can be wrong.

But I was beyond pleased to see that not only did “Fury Road” live up to the hype, it exceeded it on many levels.  As much as director George Miller redefined action films with the first two “Mad Max” films back in the late 1970s / early 1980s, Miller tops himself with “Fury Road” with some of the most brilliantly staged action sequences I’ve ever seen in a motion picture.  I could try to describe what Miller does here, but it would sound lame, if not ridiculous or cheesy.  What Miller does here could have gone disastrously wrong, but he pulls it off beautifully. Trust me, you just have to see the film to know what I’m talking about.  A big part of Miller’s success is due to Margaret Sixel’s wonderfully insane editing.  If there’s a shoe-in for an Oscar this year, it’s for Sixel.

The biggest surprise about “Fury Road” is that while Tom Hardy’s titular character Max Rockatansky is in almost every scene of this film, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa character is the heart of the film.  Theron’s performance is not only the equal of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the “Alien’ franchise (the gold standard of female action characters), Theron exceeds the very high bar set by Weaver.  Furiosa is a character that has been living her entire life facing unspeakable horrors to not only gain the evil leader Immortan Joe’s trust, but to use that trust to escape Joe’s reign of terror and gain the freedom for Joe’s multiple concubines.  This is someone who has been operating on slow burn for multiple decades, someone who has had to keep her emotions close to her vest to risk her life to save the lives of others.  Theron’s character is not only brave, but is someone who has to constantly improvise when things don’t go according to plan.  If Theron does not receive an Oscar nomination for her performance in “Fury Road,” if not the win, it will be a grave injustice.

And this is not to slight Hardy’s performance as Max in the least.  Hardy is a more than worthy substitute for Mel Gibson who justifiably became a star after his turn in the first two “Mad Max” films.  Hardy portrays the right mix of bravery and insanity that we expect of Max.  But despite the “Mad Max” title of the film, this is really Furiosa’s story.  While Max (again) learns to regain his humanity, I hope this won’t be theme of future Max installments.  If both Gibson and Hardy can sell us on the fact that they’re not numbed-out nihilists by the end of “Road Warrior” and “Fury Road” respectively, hopefully whatever screenplays accompany future Max films will take the character further instead of repeating the formula again.  But again, this is not to slight “Fury Road.”  This is the first Max film in 30 years and if we need to be reminded of the original trope, that’s fine.  Just please, Mr. Miller, take the character further in future installments.

I’m afraid if I say anymore, it will dilute your enjoyment of “Fury Road” if you haven’t seen it yet.  Despite the unanimous critical praise, please note that this is an extremely violent film and if you are queasy about such things, you will not like this no matter what praise I or others bestow upon it.  But I will say that the hype is justified and “Fury Road” is a film for the ages, if not a classic.

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Why I Do What I Do … In the Unlikely Guise of a Review of “Baby Mama”

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First off, some major disclaimers.  I normally don’t talk about things I dislike on this blog.  And to be fair, the 2008 film “Baby Mama” is far from being the worst film I’ve ever seen.  It seriously doesn’t warrant the words I’m about to say about it.  But “Baba Mama” represents everything I hate about many movies, let alone TV.  And, more significantly, it also represents why I decided to do what I do with my blog.

“Baby Mama” is not a significant film.  It was not intended to win Oscars or blow minds.  I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it was even conceived with the notion that it would  make a dent … at all … in the psyches of the general public.  At best, it was designed to be a lightly funny diversion for people on a Friday night after a hard work week, with the mere intention to amuse.  If it amused any of you, that’s cool with me.  My last goal is to piss on any text that brought genuine joy to someone in any capacity.

But this film offended me … enraged me, even.  And not because it was a terrible movie.  But because “Baby Mama” was so painfully mediocre.  The film would have actually been better had it been terrible.  Because at least I would have found something interesting about it.  Aside from one funny joke about whether a brown stain on a finger was poop or chocolate, absolutely NOTHING about this film made me laugh, let alone smile.  For me, it was the equivalent of watching the TV shows “Two and a Half Men”  or “Wings.”  Or the movie equivalent of eating a Burger King breakfast sandwich.  It wasn’t good.  It wasn’t terrible.  The experience of watching “Baby Mama” meant absolutely … f–king … nothing.  It was a void.

Where does one place the blame for a film like this?  Is it the cast?  I don’t know.  I can say with all honesty that I genuinely like all of the major actors in this film (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin).  I’m sure none of these talented people chose to do this because the script they read completely sucked.  I realize creative people do some things for the money.  But all of these people could have found a job doing something else if they didn’t find the project genuinely interesting.

The next suspect: the writer / director Michael McCullers.  This was (and as far as I know) the only film McCullers has directed, after writing credits on three “Austin Powers” films.  I’m sure he wasn’t expecting his first film to be “Citizen Kane,” but I think he probably thought this wouldn’t be a bad film to make his directorial debut on, considering that Lorne Michaels was a producer.  And you know what?  The film was competently made.  I didn’t see any glaring Ed Wood-style screw-ups.  Was it the script?  The “Austin Powers” films he helped write were huge hits and … to varying degrees … pretty funny.  Talented people can strike out creatively, but the fact that all of these talented people lined up behind it makes me think that maybe the original script had more going on with it than what resulted in the final product.  Especially when you consider that most major studio comedies go through a hellish “rewriting” process where as many as 20 anonymous writers may be hired to “punch up” the script to make it “funnier,” though in most cases, whatever original spark the script had has been beaten to death or taken out entirely.

So who’s to blame for how lame the final product is?  I don’t know.  And I’m not the one to point fingers.  Based on what I know about how movies are really made, the creation of “Baby Mama” was likely a classic example of a film run through the “machine” of a major corporate studio thinking more about “demographics” and “ancillary markets” than producing something of quality.   But then again, who knows?  All I know is that I didn’t have high expectations when I checked this DVD out of the library, other than to find something kind of funny and not too deep to watch for the end of a work week.  And what I saw was absolutely lacking of my, admittedly, minimal expectations.

Which leads me back to why I do this blog.  I’m not a film critic or movie reviewer, but I think I can say what I dislike about a film (or other text) in an intelligent manner.  However, auteur theory be damned, most movies are not the result of one creative power.  There are many people responsible for the creation of a film and to pinpoint what makes a particular film bad is typically based on which person behind the scenes can provide the most persuasive argument.  I’m not in the industry, let alone an insider who can intelligently say what made a major film get greenlit or why it went artistically astray.  All I know is what makes me laugh … turns me on … blows my mind … or make me question my existence.  And because I’m in my 40s and don’t know whether I have 2/3, 1/2, 1/3, or (yikes!) even less of my life left to live, I’d rather talk about those things I like in detail, than analyze things I dislike.

I’ve been doing this blogging thing for roughly a year now.  Dave’s Strange World has only been active approximately 9 months, but that’s only because my original blog (Dave’s Waste of Time) got unceremoniously yanked after 3 months to same vague violation of the “Terms of Agreement” … or something of that nature.  My blog may be a lot of “happy happy” talk about “great” or “awesome” or “terrific” things (I probably need a better thesaurus), but again, I’d rather talk about things that move me, than things that make me go “eh.”

Please note that anyone who has put their heart and soul into putting together something creatively, no matter how disagreeable I may find the final product, is far ballsier than I could ever imagine to be.  So even if I don’t like your creative endeavor, you get a pass from me for putting yourself on the line for doing far more than I’ve ever done.   And if you’re making people happy, then screw all of those people, including myself, who try to ruin your parade.