Mad Max: Fury Road 3.5/5 stars
Max is back! Cinema’s famously pissed-off Antipodean returns to the big screen after a 30-year long hiatus in Mad Max: Fury Road, the much-anticipated petroleum-fuelled reboot of the original Mad Max franchise. Described by the film’s director George Miller as a “western on wheels”, Fury Road plunges us once again into a post-apocalyptic world of scorched desertscapes, wildly unhinged cyber-punk characters and plenty of car-crash carnage.
In this latest incarnation, Max is captured by Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who looks scarily like the Predator’s grandfather), a tyrannical cult leader who, with the help of his War Boy army, rules over a high-walled citadel in the middle of the vast desert. Max soon finds himself forcibly strapped to the hood of an ill War Boy’s car and used as a human blood bag. Meanwhile, one of Immortan Joe’s faithful female soldiers, the splendidly named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), has secretly smuggled out all five of Joe’s enslaved wives in a redemptive bid for freedom. Upon discovering this betrayal, Joe, along with his entire army of War Boys, sets off in hot pursuit. And so plot goes out the car window and one of the longest chase scenes in recent cinematic history begins.
Sensibly, Miller has chosen not to re-cast the original films’ now ageing (and highly controversial) star Mel Gibson, which would have inevitably led to some unwelcome Taken-style geriaction scenes. Instead, Miller has placed the capable Tom Hardy in the driver’s seat as the eponymous Max, a brooding loner of few words still deeply affected by the traumatic death of his family. After coming across Furiosa and the five wives in the desert following a savage sandstorm, Max reluctantly agrees to team up with this band of determined women. The relationships between these characters allow Miller to explore the themes of survival and solidarity, as Max and his female company soon become united by the will to stay alive and the desperate hope of a better life in such an inhospitable world.
Miller intentionally keeps dialogue to an absolute minimum throughout, instead preferring to foreground the movie’s impressive visuals. Spectacular chase sequences involving heavily armoured vehicles, eccentric costume design, and outstanding stunt work all add to the film’s thoroughly demented atmosphere. Yet it is precisely the overblown relentlessness of the numerous high-speed action sequences which may leave certain cinema-goers suffering from action movie burnout.
A unique cross between a traditional western movie and a crazed Manga comic, Fury Road literally races along at full-throttle, offering enough entertainment and originality to suggest that the Mad Max franchise has plenty of mileage left in it yet.
El viaje del acordeón 3.5/5 stars
Documentary films rarely get commercial distribution in Colombia, and when they do they can be hard to find, coming and going like shooting stars.
El viaje del acordeón follows the story of Manuel Vega, a gifted accordion player who competes every year in Valledupar in the hope of being crowned rey del vallenato, the highest award in the Colombian vallenato music scene. Accompanied by his friends and bandmates Jairo Suárez and Dionisio Bertel, he reaches the final stage of the 2009 Festival de la leyenda vallenata but, once again, he fails to win.
The band will try again in 2010, but for now they want to explore new territories, both artistically and geographically. They decide to embark on a journey to Trossingen, Germany, the birthplace of the Corona, Colombia’s most popular accordion. They have been invited to collaborate with the Hohner Accordion Orchestra, to see what happens when two very different musical traditions collide.
The instrument is the link between these two worlds. English director Andrew Tucker was inspired when he first visited Colombia and listened to vallenato music. Wanting to delve deeper into this odd relationship between German folklore and Colombian popular music, he teamed up with Colombian filmmaker Rey Sagbini to make a movie that took four years and 16 transatlantic trips to complete.
When Manuel and his band arrive in Germany, the culture shock is inevitable. They can’t speak the language and, at times, they even seem clueless when interacting with the locals. But as soon as they start playing music, you get the sense that they are totally in control.
It’s easy for the audience to relate to the musicians. We want them to thrive, and in return, they provide us with exquisite performances such as the concert in Trossingen. However, this is perhaps the most endearing moment in an otherwise underwhelming movie. Don’t get me wrong, the people and the situations described in El viaje del acordeón are very interesting, but there is something missing in the way the story is told.
This is a film about music that ironically lacks rhythm. Far from the contemplative tone that seems to be in vogue among Colombian filmmakers, the directors took a linear storyline with sober, straightforward editing that entertains but sometimes overlooks some potentially important details.
In all fairness, the film never becomes boring and it keeps the audience engaged throughout its 79-minute run. The musical numbers are spot on every time. Tucker and Sagbini manage to deliver a well-rounded story about perseverance and the universality of art. However, they could have exploited more narrative opportunities in such rich characters during their amazing journey.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 3/5 stars
I have always been of the opinion that many movie sequels fail to live up to the first part. This was at the back of my mind when I went to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The sequel turned out to be better than I had expected.
The cast is full of charisma and charm, characters who manage to capture our emotions amid their conflicts and love stories. The central theme is that life can be enjoyed at any age and love can arrive at the most unexpected moment, making this film thoroughly encouraging and uplifting.
Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) capture the fear some people feel when love resurfaces after a long time; intensifying with the extraordinary presence of Muriel (Maggie Smith), filled with the sadness of resignation, but also with an innate wisdom from a lifetime of loneliness.
Madge (Celia Imrie) is a sexy and sensual woman who, despite her charms, is completely alone. Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle play Norman and Carol, a couple who love their own rules and defend their freedom as individuals. They are joined by Guy (Richard Gere) and begin to discover their true desires thanks to the magic of the Marigold.
With a star-studded cast, it is the less remarkable performance of Dev Patel as Sonny that fails to convince, at times exaggerated and overwhelming. The film also fails to accurately capture enough of the exotic and chaotic magic of India.
On the whole, the film manages to deliver a powerful message, forcing us to reflect upon our own lives and loves.