Monday Movie: “Mad Max”

Original Mad Max Poster (1979) : MadMax

In a dystopian future Australia, the roads are run by violent marauders and gangs. Only a small few policemen stand against them, hoping to maintain some order and civilization. One such officer, Max (Mel Gibson) crosses paths with one of the more violent gangs led by a psychopath known as The Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne). When The Toecutter starts targeting Max’s partner and family, Max decides to take the law into his own hands, seeking revenge on The Toecutter and his gang.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Mad Max: Fury Road, and I was pleasantly surprised by the awesome action and insane moments. I decided to go back and watch the 1979 original, and the two barely resemble each other. Taking Mad Max on its own, there are some great moments of action and suspense. Max is a well thought-out and defined character whose vengeance-filled motives seem entirely justified. The other supporting roles, such as his partner Goose (Steve Bisley) and his wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) all play their parts well in establishing Max as an interesting character. In terms of action, it is much more limited than I expected. There are a few car/motorcycle chases and a couple gunfights. This makes it hard at times to actually see Mad Max as an action movie, since there are plenty of moments of down time.

All around, I found this movie to be particularly confusing. The pace is much slower than more modern action movies. It takes a while to establish the world, characters, and set up the villain. But once the movie does, it improves dramatically, as the villain and hero chase each other around through the back half hour of the short 90-minute run time. Mad Max might be great for someone who enjoys late 70’s and early 80’s action movies and viewers who can handle a slower pace. But if you’re looking for non-stop, edge-of-your-seat action, I suggest Fury Road instead.

Mad Max is rated R for violence and some sexuality.

Monday Movie: “The A-Team”

The A-Team (2010) | Movieweb


When a group of army rangers are framed for the killing of a high ranking army general, Hannibal (Liam Neeson), Face (Bradley Cooper), B.A. Baracus (Quinton Jackson), and Murdok (Sharlto Copley) must escape their various prisons and try to find the real culprit. But hot on their tail is both the army, led by Captain Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel), and a secretive and crafty C.I.A. agent who simply goes by Lynch (Patrick Wilson). Can this so-called “A-Team” catch the real criminals, or will the powers of the government catch up to them before they can clear their names?

The A-Team is based almost entirely off the 80’s television series of the same name. The movie acts as somewhat of a prologue to the television show while also being an homage to it. Fans of the original series may be presently surprised by Hannibal’s same level of craftiness, Face’s unabashed arrogance, Murdok’s insane antics, and B. A. Baracus still pitying fools just like Mr. T did over thirty years ago.

Beyond that, The A-Team shines as being an over-the-top action thriller, full of explosions, heists, car chases, and just about everything else in between. Hannibal acts as the leader coming up with complex and nearly impossible plans that stretch belief, such as maneuvering a tank and parachuting out of a plane by firing its cannon. But these kinds of impossible sequences are what make The A-Team so much fun. You have to stretch what you think is humanly possible, which might mean turning your brain off for the two-hour run-time.

And don’t worry, the plot is not complicated enough for you to have to think too hard. Though there are some classic movie twists, none should be too surprising for the average viewer. Characters grow in very predictable one-dimensional ways, and thus character development is a moot point. Instead The A-Team thrives on action around crazy set pieces, making it an awesome mindless popcorn spectacle, and nothing more.

*The A-Team is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking.

*The A-Team is available via Amazon Prime.

*review by Brennan Kress

Monday Movie: “Glory”

Glory is a Civil War movie about the Union’s first regiment of African-American soliders.

During the height of the Civil War, and after the Battle of Antietam, Col. Robert Gould Shaw is asked to lead the first regiment of African-American soldiers in the Union’s history. So, Shaw (Matthew Broderick) forms the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  And as his regiment grows, he struggles with both the reality that the Confederate forces will certainly kill him if caught, and the Union leaders who don’t respect the regiment and use them for manual labor. Shaw must not only make a fighting force out of untrained men, but also push for just the opportunity to fight in the war.


On the other side, Glory follows four African-American soldiers in Shaw’s division. They are Jupiter Sharts (Jihmi Kennedy) a somewhat slow and stuttering friend to all, and Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher), one of Shaw’s childhood friends who must now understand that his friendship with Shaw takes a backseat to his mission as a soldier. Then there’s John Rawles (Morgan Freeman) a once gravedigger who becomes the first African-American Sergeant Major in the 54th. Lastly, there’s Trip (Denzel Washington), a hardened ex-slave who struggles to see his enrollment in the army as anything more than just a second form of slavery. 


Glory might be one of the best war movies ever made. On the one hand it provides the epic battle sequences that have made the genre famous, while also addressing serious questions of bridging ethnic barriers which is still all-too relevant today. Glory provides a mostly historically-accurate portrayal of the actual events. At the same time, it manages to have the characters almost self-commentate on the events. Shaw’s real-life letters make up much of the narration of the movie, which allows the viewer to begin to grasp the reality they are viewing. And so, for me, I came to better understand the plights of all the characters presented and wanted all the more to see them succeed.
Glory offers a brutal depiction of the life of the men in the 54th Infantry. It accurately depicts the racist policies that even the Union still had, and how it took brave abolitionists, and even braver ex-slaves, to push back against those ideas and fight together for one united country. 


Glory is Rated R for strong brutal warfare, gory images, and language.

Glory is available in the Logos.

*Review by Brennan Kress.

Monday Movie: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

In an apocalyptic future, Earth has become a desert wasteland. All of the planet is seemingly unlivable except one area where an evil tyrant named the Immortan Joe rules by having full control of a large supply of water. Not only does he control the water, but he controls the people by his army of War Boys, and his massive cars and trucks called War Rigs.

Against Immortan Joe stands Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who rescues Joe’s “wives” and embarks on a dangerous escape across the wasteland. With her is Max (Tom Hardy) who also escaped Joe’s grasp after being captured by him and used for his blood. Together, they brave the harsh wild on an exhilarating high-speed chase as Joe seeks to reclaim what he thinks is his.

Mad Max: Fury Road epitomizes a great action movie. The movie is, start-to-finish, an edge of your seat heart-racing thriller. The costume design, along with the set pieces (which are vehicles rather than places) instantly immerse you in this post-apocalyptic world. Viewers watch enraptured as the action unfolds, creating moments of stunning madness, and there’s more than just explosions to love. Director George Miller choreographs Cirque du Soleil levels of acrobatics into the action scenes. 

But, though the movie shines most in the action, it is more than that. Each character grows tremendously over the course of the movie. And questions of human dignity shine in strange ways, particularly in the development of one of the War Boys named Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a crazed worshiper of Immortan Joe, who is captured by Max and Furiosa. Through his experience with them and the women Furiosa is rescuing, he learns more about himself and goes from being a maddened zealot to a man willing to sacrifice himself for others.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a dark and violent display, matched by incredible cinematography and expert writing. It stands almost alone as one of the best action movies of the decade, and perhaps one of the best action movies ever made.

Mad Max: Fury Road is rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.

It is available on Amazon and Amazon Prime Video.

*review by Brennan Kress

Monday Movie: “The Lorax”

the lorax

Released in early 2012, The Lorax tries to recreate on the big screen what Dr. Seuss wrote in his 1971 children’s classic. The movie, obviously, takes many creative liberties with the story, creating characters, an entire organization, and making some of the movie a musical in its own right. However, even with these changes, the movie still portrays well Dr. Seuss’ real concerns about the destruction of the environment, but more importantly, gives hope that a generation may be able to change.

The movie primarily follows young Ted (Zac Efron) and his journey to find a tree to impress the high school girl he has a crush on named Audrey (Taylor Swift). The reason for this quest is that in Thneedville, where Ted lives, no real nature exists. Instead, trees and landscapes are manufactured and the air quality is so low that the citizens must buy bottled air from Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle). Mr. O’Hare, due to his massive wealth, practically owns the city and wants to do what he can to keep Ted from finding an actual tree, lest Ted make air for free. 

The only person who knows anything about trees is The Once-ler (Ed Helm) who lives outside of town and who Ted visits in order to learn more. The movie then cuts back and forth from the Once-ler, who is an aspiring entrepreneur interested in making a multi-use cloth called a “Thneed” and Ted’s own adventures back in Thneedville. The Once-ler, who cuts down a beautiful forest’s trees in order to make Thneeds, is visited by the Lorax (Danny DeVito) who speaks for the trees.

This is where the movie’s primary message comes in. The Lorax hopes that the Once-ler will learn to co-exist with the trees and the animals in the forest. But the Once-ler struggles with low production due to his unwillingness to cut down trees, and as he becomes more and more popular and his business more and more lucrative, the desire to cut down the entire forest becomes more and more real.

Opposite to The Once-ler stands Ted (who is not in Seuss’ original work, at least not named) who wants to rebuild the forest. First to impress a girl, but then when he realizes how much his world needs those trees. In doing so, the movie tackles large issues on natural preservation, and the dangers of industrialization that ignores the well-being of the planet. The movie has an incredible cast with some fun and child-friendly dialogue. The art style highly reflects Dr. Seuss’ own style which makes the movie fit right in with the world Dr. Seuss created. Colorful, funny, light-hearted, and yet surprisingly deep, The Lorax is a great movie for kids, adults, and everyone in between.

 

The Lorax is available in the Logos.

The Lorax is rated PG for brief mild language.

*written by Brennan Kress

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Breakfast Club”

The 1980s were filled with a plethora of teen dramas and coming-of-age stories.  Those living through the 80s as teenagers or young adults were generally considered Gen X and are often associated with being cliquey, cynical slackers with a sense of rebellion and a lack of adult supervision. Acclaimed writer and director John Hughes would personify these social archetypes in his hit film The Breakfast Club.

The film takes place on a Saturday in a high school’s library, where five students have been sentenced to detention for the day. Each student represents a various clique in school. First we have Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) as a typical upper-class popular girl who comes off as stuck up and cold. Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) is a star athlete with a short temper. Next comes Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) who, due to his scholastic successes and social awkwardness, has been labeled a nerd.  The next character is that of Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy); Allison is considered a social pariah due to her strange and nihilistic behavior. Lastly, we are introduced to the bad boy of the group, John Bender (Judd Nelson). John is angry at everyone and everything in the world. He lives a rash and anarchistic lifestyle and challenges every social taboo.

The antagonist to this group is the Vice Principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason). Principal Vernon is a cruel authoritarian who cannot or refuses to understand or sympathize with the current generations of kids he oversees at the school. He is determined to prove to those unwilling to follow the rules that they will never amount to anything.

As the day progresses, the group goes from being at each other’s throats to slowly coming to realize that each of their problems at school or at home aren’t so different. They leave seeing each other as individuals and wish the world would see them that way too.

The Breakfast Club is easily one of the most identifiable films of the 1980s. It holds its place in the nostalgia of anyone who grew up during that time period and continues to inspire countless teen dramas today. In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

The Breakfast Club is available at the Union University Library. Please note: it is Rated R for language.

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Star Wars is as popular a franchise as it has ever been, and with the release of Solo, the franchise told an origin story of one of the most iconic characters: Han Solo. The film was directed by Ron Howard after there was an uproar by Disney executives and the film’s actors, who felt that the previous directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, had taken the wrong approach. As much as seventy percent of the film needed to be reshot as a result.

The plot of the film centers on a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) growing up on the crime-ridden world of Corellia. Han dreams of getting off-world, becoming a pilot, and making his fortune in the galaxy with his childhood friend Qi’ra (Emilia Clark).  These dreams are soon put on hold as Han is forced to join the Imperial Navy. Han dislikes war and serving the Empire, but he is soon court-marshaled for insubordination and desertion.  However, he befriends and teams up with a ferocious Wookie named Chewbacca, and the two make their escape.

Desperate and short of options, the duo join a thieving band of mercenaries led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) in order to survive.  The band of brigands are on a hunt for a powerful fuel source that can be sold illicitly on the black market. They are in debt to a powerful underworld criminal Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), who orders them to take on the impossible task of stealing the fuel and then smuggling it back through hostile territory. Han agrees because he sees it as a way of redeeming himself to Qi’ra and wining back her affection.

What follows next is an exciting, fast-paced heist that tests the courage and morals of the band as Han begins to become the scoundrel who fans are more familiar with. By the end of the film, Han has to walk a fine line between doing what’s right and surviving in this morally gray, dog-eat-dog galaxy.

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics and fans alike. It can be difficult to appease everyone while not upsetting the established nostalgia of a character already played so well by Harrison Ford. Due to the reshoots and rewrites, Disney felt it underperformed with an over-blown budget and only breaking even at the box office. I, however, was pleasantly surprised by the film. I’m definitely a fan of the franchise’s off-shoots like Rogue One and The Mandalorian.

Solo is a fun film that adds depth to the ongoing legacy of the Star Wars universe. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a watch.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is available at the Union University Library. It is rated PG-13.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Bedazzled”

The late great director Harold Ramis has many fantastic films in his long and storied career. He always had a natural bent towards comedy, and most of his characters in his films tend to be very relatable to the audience. His remake of the 1967 film Bedazzled is one of my personal favorites as a comedic take on the popular tale of Faust.

Bedazzled’s  story centers on our protagonist Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser). Elliot sees himself as a hopeless, down-on-his-luck loser. He is socially awkward, and his co-workers constantly dodge his attempts at friendship. On top of it all, he is deeply infatuated with a woman he works with, Alison Gardner (Francis O’Conner). Elliot feels that if he could win her heart, he would finally be happy and his life would have purpose and meaning; unfortunately, he is too nervous to actually ask her out and feels he has little to offer her anyhow.

It is at this moment, while bemoaning his situation, that Elliot says he would give anything to be with her.  Suddenly, a mesmerizing and seductive woman strikes up a conversation with him. She asks if he is happy with his life and offers to make the world love, respect, and even fear him. Elliot wonders how this strange woman can know so much about him and his deepest desires. She informs Elliot that she is actually the Devil and has come to grant him seven wishes in exchange for his soul. The Devil is portrayed by Elizabeth Hurley, and she is instantly captivating, sharp-witted, and devious.  Elliot agrees to the offer and begins to make wish after wish, but it appears that the devil corrupts each wish and nullifies Elliot’s goal of having Alison fall in love with him. After a while Elliot starts to doubt himself further as he tries to come up with a full proof wish and beat the Devil at her own game. Will he come up with a perfect wish or will he find some other way of getting out of the contract?

This really is a fun and light-hearted take on a famously dark story. It’s a rather zany comedy, but it does have a positive message in the end which proves memorable.

This film is available at the Union University Library.

* It is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive material.

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Blade Runner”

Director Ridley Scott has a long history of making epic and awe-inspiring films and Blade Runner has got to be at the top of that list. Its affect on the science fiction genre as a whole cannot be overstated. It has also heavily influenced both video games and anime for its style and futuristic prospects of what the world may evolve into in time.

The film is set in 2019 Los Angeles in a dark and dreary dystopia, where mankind has adapted to become a technocracy influenced by powerful corporations. Man has mastered interstellar flight and colonies are forming in space. The key to this success has been through the use of androids called “Replicants” who have become so life-like and self-aware that they are nearly indistinguishable from humans and as a result banned from Earth. If a Replicant manages to smuggle themselves to Earth, the police hire a “Blade Runner” to track down the android and kill it.

This brings us to our protagonist, Rick Deckard, a disillusioned former cop who was famous for his ability to eliminate Replicants. Deckard is played by Harrison Ford, who was just coming off the success of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Deckard is tasked to hunt down four Replicants who have committed several murders and illegally entered the city. They are led by Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer. Batty is a combat synthetic soldier with advanced tactical training and genius levels of intelligence.

Deckard travels to meet Eldon Tyrell of the Tyrell corporation, who is responsible for creation of the Replicants. While there, he learns there is a psychological test designed to trigger an emotional response in Replicants in order to distinguish them from humans. He also meets Dr. Tyrell’s daughter, Rachael (Sean Young), and soon becomes infatuated with her.

The next phase of the plot involves Deckard hunting the Replicants down one by one while also pursuing a relationship with Rachael.  The Replicant leader Roy Batty soon learns that he and the other Replicants have a built in half-life of a little more than three years. Realizing this, he seeks to meet his maker and acquire more time to live. In the final phase of the film we see Deckard battling the Replicants in a life and death struggle.

The themes expressed in this film are as numerous as they are profound.  In the end we are left questioning the very nature of humanity as the Replicants struggle to survive. They have hopes, dreams, memories, and the fear that all self-aware beings share: the fear of death.

Actor Rutger Hauer unfortunately passed away on July 19th of this year.  During filming, Hauer rewrote his character’s final lines in the film, and they have been praised ever since as one of the most moving speeches of all time in the sci-fi genre. In memory of the late great Rutger Hauer I’ll shall share it here:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Blade Runner has left quite a mark on pop culture and cinema and I do believe we will continue to see its influence in novels and films for years to come.

Blade Runner is available at the Union University Library.

* Please note it is rated R for violence, brief nudity, and some language.*

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”

If I was to be asked, “What is one film that meets nearly every qualification you would need to earn the title of a perfect action adventure film?,” I could think of none better than Raiders of the Lost Ark.  When it was first written by George Lucas, the origin and character concept behind Indiana Jones was paying homage to the campy adventure serials of the 30’s and 40’s. Lucas sought out Steven Spielberg to direct the film, who would go on to direct the rest of the  franchise.

The film begins as we are introduced to our protagonist: Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford). Jones is an adventuring archeologist, professor, and explorer with a vast knowledge of history and various cultures. His iconic outfit of choice includes a leather jacket, a weathered fedora, a satchel, and a bullwhip. Jones is hunting a lost Peruvian treasure and must brave the dangers of booby traps and betrayal. Upon his apparent successes at acquiring the treasure, he is met by a rival archeologist: Rene Belloq (played by Paul Freeman). Belloq believes himself to be the superior to Jones in every way- constantly one step ahead, always ready to capitalize on Jones successes. Belloq acknowledges the nature of his character when he compares himself to Jones:

You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.

After escaping, Indiana Jones returns home to America only to be met by U.S military intelligence officers. They proceed to inform him that Nazis, at Hitler’s order, have been seeking out all manner of occultist and religious artifacts and are currently attempting to find Jones’s mentor Abner Ravenwood, who possesses an Egyptian artifact that may hold the key to finding the lost Ark of the Covenant. Jones comes to the conclusion that the Nazis want the Ark in hopes of making them invincible. He agrees to seek out his to find his old friend and keep the Nazis from obtaining the Ark.

Upon learning the location of his friend, Jones learns that Abner had died and the amulet he needs is in the possession of Abner’s daughter, Marion.  Marion Ravenwood is played by Karen Allen. Jones and Marion were once romantically involved, but he ended up abandoning her, which she resents. Marion demands that Jones leave her alone.

At this point we are introduced to a sinister Nazi officer, Arnold Toht (played by Ronald Lacey). Jones springs to help Marion escape Toht, and the two decide to travel together to search for the Ark. Upon reaching Cairo, Egypt, Jones reaches out to his friend Sallah, a well known digger who has information on where the Nazis are searching for the Ark. Sallah is played by John Rhys-Davies. The rest of the film is a back and forth struggle to locate the Ark and keep the Nazis at bay, leading to fantastic action sequences and one after another heart-pounding close calls.  The film’s dynamic conclusion will leave you satisfied and awed. Harrison Ford’s performance stands out with his ability to play a no-nonsense, “man’s man” character.  Jones’s character growth in the film is subtle but noticeable. He starts out as an overconfident skeptic but, as the story progresses, he rekindles his love for Marion and gains a new found reverence for holy relics.

This film began a beloved franchise that would include three more feature films. Raiders of the Lost Ark, in my opinion, is the gold standard of how to do an adventure film right. Adventure films should have a simple but pragmatic protagonist who is thrust into an ever increasing series of puzzles and dangers. Indiana Jones relies on his background knowledge and expertise in history and archeology to overcome many pitfalls both figuratively and quite literally at times. He is quite well-versed in old fashioned fisticuffs and is not above using a gun when needed. His use of brains, brawn, and no small amount of luck make him the iconic character that he is.

Raiders of the Lost Ark went on to be nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture. Its innovative practical effects as well as its set design and sound are superb. The film’s score is by John Williams and is unforgettable. Along with Star Wars, this franchise was always one of my favorites growing up.  This movie is rated PG, but please be warned: the rating system was different at the time and it’s closer to PG-13 for modern audiences (mostly due to some violence with in the film).  Raiders of the Lost Ark is available at the Union University Library.