Thursday, May 28, 2015

"TOMORROWLAND" TIMELY, UPLIFTING



















TOMORROWLAND
Starring George Clooney,
Britt Robertson,
Hugh Laurie,
Raffey Cassidy,
Pierce Gagnon,
Tim McGraw,
Thomas Robinson,
Matthew MacCaull
Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird
Runtime 130 mins.
Rated PG

 
           
George Clooney brings credibility to this solid sci-fi family fare from Disney. Directed by Brad Bird, "Tomorrowland" takes on the task of making another feature film from a physical feature of Disneyland and succeeds.
           
Casey (Robertson) understands machines and how things work. When her NASA engineer dad (McGraw) faces losing his job, she tries to help, and in the process meets Athena (Cassidy), who seems to be a twelve year-old girl, and finds a little round pin bearing a stylized letter “T” which, when touched, takes her to a strange land.
           
We’ve seen one of these pins before, because slightly earlier we find George Clooney’s character, Frank Walker, was also given one by the same girl, and he was also immediately transported to the same wondrous world.
           
One of the neatest things they manage to do with this movie is incorporate the 1964 World’s Fair, for which the It’s a Small World ride was built. Here they take what I consider one of the lamer rides and introduce an imaginative aspect which certainly improves it.
           
In "Tomorrowland," robots and jet packs abound. Robots, especially. "Matrix"-ish ones in suits chase Casey, Frank and Athena, and this provides most of the action as Casey looks on the positive side trying to ward off the end of the world.
           
Something else remarkable about this movie is the lack of a boyfriend required for Casey. It’s unique in film to see a smart, attractive young woman star in a story and be heroic without any aspect of romance. The real romance in "Tomorrowland" is entertaining a bright, positive future.
           
Naturally the film has its faults. There are a few holes here and there. For instance, why doesn’t touching the pin zap young Frank to Tomorrowland the way touching the pin takes Casey there? And why do the robots move and sound like people until we know that they’re robots, in which case they then sound slow and robotic?
           
Triflings aside, the enthusiastic spirit permeating this movie is a cinematic breath of fresh air. "Tomorrowland" doesn’t exceed the first "Pirates of the Caribbean," but it’s better than "The Haunted Mansion."
          
I’m inspired already. "Big Thunder Mountain." There’s a movie for imagining right there. "Matterhorn," there’s another....




Stewart Kirby writes for
THE INDEPENDENT
















Monday, May 18, 2015

REVVED-UP “MAD MAX” IGNITES BIG SCREEN





MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Starring Tom Hardy,
Charlize Theron,
Nicholas Hoult,
Hugh Keays-Byrne,
Nathan Jones,
Zoe Kravitz,
Abbey Lee
Directed by George Miller
Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
Runtime 120 mins.
Rated R

  
           
Thirty years after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, writer/director George Miller brings a slam-bang post-apocalyptic vision to the screen every bit as powerful as his cult sci-fi classic The Road Warrior.
           
In a dark and brutal future, vestiges of humanity tear around the desert in wicked cars. A warlord of sorts called Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne), who controls the water, leads his fanatical followers in a high-speed chase across a barren world to retrieve a group of women he has held enslaved. Their liberator, Furiosa (Theron), with the help of an escaped captive of Immortan Joe named Max (Hardy), tries to escape to the green land she recalls from her youth.
           
Of the three entries in what used to be a trilogy (Mad Max was released in 1979) the 1981 sequel, The Road Warrior, stands out as the best. Well aware of this, Miller takes everything that worked before and creates a high-octane picture with motion unlike any other. The entire film is one great chase, studded with nonstop action.
           
Set aside vague skepticism of anyone but Mel Gibson in the role of Mad Max. As the one-time cop reduced to a desperate, haunted loner, Tom Hardy does the character more than justice. Similarly, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa is as gritty and compelling as Max.
           
One of the strengths of the franchise in its original as well as rebooted form is the nasty gallows humor of this feral world. Talk about your side-splitters, remember the kid in The Road Warrior with the sharpened boomerang and the guy who tries to grab it? Good times. When hooting dregs vying bloodlust straddle hoods of speeding cars and open fire, we get a charge out of the extreme results, especially when we see bad things happen to the bad guys.
           
Fighting to the death for a little bit of gasoline having already been done, this time the focus is on protecting several women. Mindless minions of Immortan Joe, white males all, gleefully sacrifice their lives, diving from one careening vehicle to another like jacked-up zombies. The resultant feast of stylized action stays with the viewer long after the film has stopped.
         


 Stewart Kirby writes for





BANKSY’S “EXIT” BRILLIANT DEPARTURE































































































EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
Starring Banksy,
Thierry Guetta,
Shephard Fairey,
Space Invader,
Zeus,
Borf,
Buffmonster,
Caledonia Curry,
Debora Guetta
Directed by Banksy
Runtime 87 mins.
Rated R
  
           
The world’s most famous street artist, whose identity remains unknown, directed a film as daring, mocking, and inviting of interpretation as his politically-charged stencils. Wearing a hood, hiding his face, and altering his voice, Banksy explains that when a documentary about him was supposed to be filmed, he turned out to not be very interesting, and so made the film about the filmmaker, instead.
           
That would be one Thierry Guetta. Born in France and living in Los Angeles, we learn of Guetta early on that he could buy a bale of old clothes for $50, sell everything calling it vintage, and make $5,000. We also see that Thierry (pronounced “Terry”) carries a camera everywhere he goes, and is always filming.
           
When he visits France, he films his cousin, a street artist who calls himself Invader. Because everyone involved is breaking the law by providing unasked-for art on the sides of buildings, the artists strike quickly by night. Thierry finds he loves this.
           
After his return to Los Angeles, his cousin Invader comes to visit, and introduces Thierry to other street artists, notably Shephard Fairey, whose altered image of Andre the Giant’s face coupled with the word “Obey” was famously plastered all over the city. Thierry helps Shephard, and through their rapport, Shephard eventually invites Thierry to meet Banksy.
           
For Thierry to get to be Banksy’s Los Angeles assistant is like a book-lover getting to hang out with JD Salinger. When he accompanies Banksy into Disneyland, he films Banksy’s artful prank of propping an inflatable dummy in an orange jumpsuit with a black hood covering the head against a fence in view of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride. While Banksy slips away and changes clothes, Thierry gets nabbed, but successfully endures four hours of questioning during his detention in Disneyland.
           
We are left to wonder how we see any footage of this incident after Thierry says he deleted everything on his camera during questioning. However, questions of validity aside, Thierry’s resolve furthers his friendship with Banksy.
           
Eventually, we find that Thierry’s problem as a filmmaker is having no idea how to do it. He never even looks at his tapes. (This sort of makes sense when we learn the sad story that motivated Thierry to pick up a camera in the first place.) Realizing he needs to take over, Banksy suggests that Thierry go make some art of his own.
           
Presented with this holy mission, Thierry calls himself Mr. Brainwash, cranks out a couple hundred Warhol-esque Photoshopped images, has a gallery showing with a quote from Banksy supporting him displayed on a huge banner, and makes a million bucks.
           
Funny, informative, and always fascinating, Exit Through the Gift Shop will make you look at art—whether it’s sprayed on the outside of a building, or hanging framed on the inside—with new eyes.


 Stewart Kirby writes for