Movie of the Week: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

George Miller directs Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence and Emil Minty in this post-apocalyptic demolition derby where Max wants to get into an oil refinery surrounded by murderous biker punks.

I do this blog to keep track of all the movies I watch. Share my thoughts. Time capsule my viewing habits. Occasionally I watch an old classic… a firm favourite…. and I plain just don’t know what to write. I have too much to say about Last Action Hero. I cannot get my head around how perfect Raiders of the Lost Ark is. So they have gone unlogged. Notes on my pad I might never get around too… until I watch them again. Ruining my perfect record. I didn’t want that to happen with The Road Warrior. One of the most furious and kinetic pieces of physical action cinema ever made. So I’ll just say this. “Greetings from The Humungus! The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!”

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My Top 10 Australian Films

1. The Mad Max Series (1979-2015)
2. Gallipoli (1981)
3. Walkabout (1971)
4. ‘Breaker’ Morant (1980)
5. Tracks (2014)
6. The Proposition (2005)
7. Chopper (2000)

8. The Hard Word (2002)
9. Wake in Fright (1971)
10. Strictly Ballroom (1992)

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Vox Lux (2018)

Brady Corbet directs Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Raffey Cassidy in this fictional biopic of a pop star who came to fame after surviving a school shooting.

Much like Ash is the Purest White, this feels like a filmmaker taking stock of the first fifth of the 21st century. It also showcases an abnormally layered, ambiguous, spellbinding central character (Cassidy / Portman as Madonna / Britney inspired Celeste). Don’t get me wrong Vox Lux is an uneven film. Much of the run time is filled with knowingly detached, knowingly ironic character study soap. You aren’t entirely sure there is an endgame to the patience testing tantrums and tracking shots. But it is bookended by two bravura set pieces. That school massacre opener is vice tight and devastating. And the finale where Portman’s broken Celeste wiggles her sequinned heart out to autotuned hits is cathartic. Much like Bohemian Rhapsody, the razzle dazzle of a big concert finale jettisons all doubts, lifts your soul, obliterates any nagging loose ends. So there is an endgame. It is just elusive in its intention. Corbet apes his influences confidently… he loves Kubrick, Von Trier, Haneke and Bergman. But that expert deployment of music, that’s his own. Scott Walker’s score, Sia’s tunes. Wow! That uncertainty he makes us feel. We know the pot is boiling. We know the pot will boil over. Here’s the turmoil, here’s the steam but we never see it spill over into disaster. Willem Dafoe tells us what is happening. His detached narration is filled with mocking regret. Is he the devil? Are we? Corbet’s house style is precocious, lifted, but it makes you feel like you’ve fucking seen something.

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I Was Monty’s Double (1958)

John Guillermin directs M.E. Clifton, John Mills and Cecil Parker in this WWII true story about a struggling actor given the mission of impersonating Field Marshal Montgomery to distract to the dastardly Bosch.

M.E. Clifton plays himself – a former actor, working in the Army pay office who is enlisted into performing as a lookalike diversion for one the Allied’s key military figures. It is jolly little tale, full of pluck and patriotism. Perfect for teatime viewing. It only really sparks into something a bit more cinematically daring when embellishing the facts. A quite exciting kidnapping attempt is utter hokum but caps the rather talky adventure off on an action high.

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My Top 10 WWII War Movies

1. Dunkirk (2017)
2. The Great Escape (1963)
3. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)

4. The Thin Red Line (1998)
5. The Big Red One (1980)
6. The 49th Parallel (1941)
7. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
8. Went the Day Well? (1942)
9. Ice Cold in Alex (1958)
10. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Tales from the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood (1996)

Gilbert Adler directs Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak and Angie Everhart in this vampire comedy where a sexy Christian and a sleazy detective investigate a deadly whorehouse.

Brash and diverting, just not very good. The scares and action are haphazardly shot. They have energy but no consistency. The sex appeal is supplied by Angie Everhart’s villain, Eleniak strangely wants to stay prim and proper, spoiling some of the intended fun. The comedy is strange. A third of the way in SNL alumni Dennis Miller turns up and tries to turn all the cleavage and rubbery fang silliness into Fletch. He improvises his socks off, twisting dialogue into something that sounds funny in his head even if it derails exposition or logic. Where Chevy Chase is detached and charming, Miller comes across as desperate and pugnacious. He certainly mixes things up on what would have been a forgettable throwaway production, though more often than not for the worse.

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Two Graves (2018)

Gary Young directs Katie Jarvis, Cathy Tyson and David Hayman in this British crime drama where a derelict power station serves as the site for kidnapping, revenge and drugs.

I watched this to see what Fish Tank’s Katie Jarvis did next. The results are not impressive. The variable cast struggle with a convoluted script, written by someone who has never learnt the storytelling lesson, show don’t tell. Amateur hour stuff.

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6 Days (2017)

Toa Fraser directs Jamie Bell, Abbie Cornish and Mark Strong in this police procedural true story of when the SAS were brought in to end the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege.

A news story I was too young to remember but whose imagery seemed to be a mainstay of news reporting throughout my childhood. I worked around the corner from the location for many a year. The action is involving but Bell and Strong seem at half power in underwritten roles. Abbie Cornish is well cast as Kate Adie. Unlike Entebbe this doesn’t give you a greater psychological understanding of the terror attack. Maybe the other film is more interesting for focusing on the antagonists rather than the dry bureaucrats and grizzled soldiers.

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Death Race 2000 (1975)

Paul Bartel directs David Carradine, Simone Griffeth and Sylvester Stallone in this Roger Corman produced futuresport sci-fi.

Religious corporate fascists have taken over America. They mollify the masses with a hit and run murder race that takes place across the breadth of America. The contestants score points by running down pedestrians. The population is entertained and culled simultaneously. The production has a cheap tits and ass exploitation charm. The satire is strange and the violence lurid. You can see its massive influence on 2000AD in every frame. I enjoy it more every time I watch it.

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The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

Krzysztof Kieślowski directs Irène Jacob, Irène Jacob and Philippe Volter in this existential drama where a singer and a music teacher lives parallel lives in Eastern Europe and Paris respectively.

My second attempt to get my head around this and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it. It seems to be about fate and loneliness. We are all puppets, like the beautiful marionette we see at a central point. I think it is an experience where you can pull at any philosophical thread and walk away with your own theory on it. Or you can just be seduced by the rich, waking dream beauty of it all. Sławomir Idziak’s cinematography is like a creamy golden broth, warm and fluid. He frames the captivating Jacob as if she were an angel… an angel who takes the bus, makes trilling phonecalls and goes to cafes. A sumptuous mystery I’ll certainly get lost in again over the next decade.

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Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Sean Durkin directs Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes in this drama about a young woman who escapes a cult only to find life at her sister’s lake house alien and disorientating.

A solid, well acted piece of indie filmmaking. We get the rundown of how a Manson-style sex cult indoctrinates its members in a unsensational yet queasy way. We get thrown into Martha’s paranoia and confusion as she struggles to reconnect with her sister and process the abuse she has been a party to. Durkin plays with the formal process, flashbacks are smoothly moved in and out of so we often don’t know for sure what timeframe we are in. Equally our moral understanding of the multi-named lead is eroded as she suddenly becomes more culpable and corrupted than we earlier assumed. Gripping.

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Tolkien (2019)

Dome Karukoski directs Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins and Colm Meaney in this biopic of The Lord of the Rings writer.

Dull-Kien. There’s 15 minutes set in the trenches of WWI peppered around the running time where the chaos of war morphs into Middle Earth imagery. That’s solid. The rest of this is rich people with rich people’s problems. My least favourite sub-genre, nobody even gets buggered gently.

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