January Film Diary, Part 3

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Loved it. It lived up to the hype as best action movie of the year, if not the last few decades. Gorgeous Australian (and African, see comments) landscape.  A western at heart, the greatest chase movie I’ve seen in ages, and efficient world-building. So where’s the Furiosa action figure? 

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Shoot First Die Later aka Il poliziotto è marcio (1974). Handsome Luc Merenda again (last seen here in Kidnap Syndicate), this time as a golden boy/celebrity detective who’s actually on mafia payroll and living in luxury on the proceeds. When the mob demands he take advantage of his father’s position (as police chief in a nearby town) to hide a report, he faces dad’s disappointment and a downward spiral that destroys his career while Conte rises from mob lawyer to new Don. I really enjoy these Eurocrime films, they play like classic noir dressed in bellbottoms, and sure enough, I saw J&B Scotch featured prominently once again.

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Femme Fatale (2002). A couple years ago I bailed out of this Brian De Palma movie after a half hour because I thought it was ridiculous. Gave it another chance and “got” the story after making it to the explanatory twist. In many ways it’s no less ridiculous, but my patience was rewarded and now it’s one of my new favourite guilty pleasures. De Palma goes full Hitchcock in this explicit (a little sleazy) and ultra-stylish tale of femme Rebecca Romijn (still -Stamos back then) double-crossing her gang and walking away with $10 mil in diamonds after a daring heist at Cannes. She runs into her doppelganger, a woman who then commits suicide, providing Romijn with the perfect new identity and getaway to a lush life as a politician’s wife (this is where I exited last time). Seven years later his ambassadorship brings her back to France where a paparazzo’s (Antonio Banderas) snapshot exposes her to her old gang, still looking for revenge over her betrayal. She applies her seductive skills to get the photo and then uses Banderas as her sucker in a kidnapping and ransom scheme.

It’s far-fetched but totally absorbing, and probably a love or hate it movie with enjoyment depending on how much you value beauty, artistry and showy filmmaking over credibility. You have to buy that a big part of this is a dream, and I usually hate that trick, but in this case it worked beautifully, because after Romijn wakes up there’s still a lot more movie to go, and she chooses a different adventure. She saves her doppelganger’s life, and because that woman lives to carry out the next bit of kindness, all the dominoes fall differently toward the repeated ending. It also depends on how much you like the acting of Romijn and Banderas; some say they can’t, but because both are good at comedy they give it a bit of a knowing wink and awareness that it’s all a game. As her doomed tool he gets some hilarious scenes, and she’s an ideal devilish temptress. In the opening scene she’s watching Double Indemnity to warm up for her epic double-cross and it should have clued me into the movie’s goal of imitating and playing with the ultimate femme type and thriller structure. I loved Ryuichi Sakamoto’s theme “Bolerish,” a gorgeous variation on the Ravel classic.

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Chappie (2015). A messy, half-baked variation on Short Circuit and RoboCop. A robot police force patrols Johannesburg, their inventor (Dev Patel) wants to give them consciousness while co-worker Hugh Jackman (playing it like a psycho on safari) wants the company to use his superior enforcement machine. Right after Patel awakens one bot’s consciousness, the childlike thing–Chappie–falls under the influence of a gang of thugs (rap group Die Antwoord) who raise it like a delinquent and train it to be their obnoxious accomplice. Chappie ends up humanizing the thugs while questioning his “maker” about the purpose of life and death and where his soul will go after the battery dies. Lots of ambition, touching bits here and there, like an adult Disney movie with goofy gangsters and a cute swearing robot, it had its entertaining moments but nothing developed enough to add up to a good movie.

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6 thoughts on “January Film Diary, Part 3”

  1. Interestingly enough, Fury Road was mainly shot in the Namib Desert near Swakopmund, Namibia with later filming in Potts Hill and Penrith Lakes (in Western Sydney). Initially I thought it was all Australia as well until I watched the special features on the Blu-Ray version.

    There’s also an excellent feature at the end of the bonuses composed of clips of car wreck footage that shows it was indeed all real (plus some great stuntmen and very-well articulated dummies). I read that 90% of the effects were practical and there was a lot of digital work in terms of making those rich colors pop off the screen so well. Some scenes were even shot day for night and tweaked afterwards, which is pretty awesome because you can’t tell at all.

    Furiosa figures would be lovely. I’ve only seen fan-made versions (that look great), but nothing official as of yet. I’ll be at Toy Fair next week here in NYC, so I’ll poke around, ask questions and let you know what’s what.

    I wonder if J&B paid for that placement or was it just the on-set liquor of choice? I’ve seen it in a few Italian films from horror to comedy and it’s amusing and baffling at the same time! Chappie was a total disappointment for me because I wanted Blomkamp to make a better film and not just another good-looking one with well-done CG effects. Ah well.

    Femme Fatale should be seen with De Palma’s Raising Cain as a wacky double feature. Both films are kooky fun and yep, flawed as heck. But there are laughs to be had because the casts seem to be in on what the director was aiming for. I can’t say much for The Black Dahlia, though. That film annoyed me to no end (but still has one or two moments that work).

    1. Thanks for adding all that, fascinating how they made this look they way it does. Gorgeous landscape and colour cranked to maximum comic book–brutal and beautiful. Those stunts are just insane magic and the thing is deep too, if you want to read more into it. Yes, do report back after Toy Fair 🙂 eagerly awaiting.

      Another blogger noticing the euro-crime booze actually asked whether there was a JB placement deal back then and the company said they never knew of one, but being mafia movies perhaps there was a deal someone couldn’t refuse.

      Haven’t seen Raising Cain so will do that, thanks, never can have too many kooky guilty pleasures!
      Thanks!

  2. I didn’t enjoy Fury Road and didn’t think it lived up to the hype. Lots of talent, lots of noise, but not much in it for me. Thought the whole superwoman-action-hero thing was exaggerated.

    1. We can’t all like the same things 🙂 I’m the last to fall for hype but I bought and enjoyed every bit of this. I liked that the characters and women especially were surprisingly complex and very human given how fast they’re all introduced. And it’s not a one-note man-hating message which would have turned me off.

  3. I’ve only seen “Chappie” out of this list. I agree it’s not a great movie, which is a real shame because individual elements are quite remarkable (casting, location, Chappie himself). I wasn’t the least bit interested in “Fury Road” until it was nominated for all those Oscars, but here’s my chance to become a bandwagon fan.

    1. Yes, in Chappie so many things are cute, poignant or funny, but it didn’t feel well knit together, I guess and it is a shame when you see it so close to being something special. I followed it up with another 2 robot movies. Fury is not going to be for everyone, I know, but I was agog and gobsmacked, as you can see.

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