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On this week's private Independent comics page: Red Meat ditches the office; Jen Sorenson does some video chatting behind the wheel; The K Chronicles finds a uniquely SoCal angle in the new Mad Max flick; and This Modern World has a privacy chat with a social-media boss.

Published in Comics

George Miller has been trying to follow up Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome for 30 years. He was all set to go with Mel Gibson in a fourth movie before setbacks.

Then, of course, Mr. Gibson said some very bad words, making him virtually unmarketable due to his temper and his generally poor outlook on things. So here we are, 30 years since Tina Turner put on that goofy wig and sang that lame song for Thunderdome. After a bunch of films involving talking animals (Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet), Miller is back in his post-apocalyptic world, messing around with fast rigs on desert landscapes. He also has a new Max—that being Tom Hardy. Charlize Theron is also along for the ride.

The results are a blast: Max Max: Fury Road is probably the franchise best when it comes to action. However, I prefer Gibson over Hardy for his Max portrayal. Hardy is good, but Gibson is the original and best Max—even if he is a total asshole.

The film starts off with a shot reminiscent of The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2)—and then it goes berserk. Max gets himself captured by a really disgusting-looking, villainous ruler named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and finds himself hanging upside down and providing blood for a pale, bald minion of Joe’s, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

Theron then shows up, head shaven, as Imperator Furiosa, a one-time loyal of Immortan Joe; she tricks him and kidnaps his wives, intent upon taking them to some sort of green promised land. When Joe figures out she’s making a run for it, his soldiers (who look a little like the cave creatures from The Descent) take off after her. This includes Nux—with Max strapped to the front of his car and wearing a face mask that reminds of his Bane getup in The Dark Knight Rises.

As far as plot goes, that’s about it. Theron and the wives try to drive really fast, and those pursuing her drive really fast, too. Along the way, they pick up a few other characters, and some folks get mulched under car wheels. You get the picture.

What makes Miller’s latest a cut above the rest is a major reliance on practical effects for the stunts. Sure, CGI shows up (and when it does, it’s very well done), but much of what we see is stunt people doing crazy, crazy things in front of cameras.

The folks who developed the look of this movie—from its terrific cinematography, to its costuming, to its incredible stunt work—all deserve praise and extra beers. The pounding soundtrack and the editing help make this a true pulse-racer. No matter how frantic the action gets, there’s a certain visual clarity to everything. It’s easy on the eyes, even when the edits are rapid.

Theron brings a nice bit of gravitas to this blockbuster. Sporting a CGI mechanical arm, face paint and a permanently stern expression, she is one badass rebel. While Hardy is fine in the Max role, the really great performance in this film comes from Theron.

Hardy actually spends much of the movie silent, especially in the early going. He looks great, even when he’s playing the part of a blood bag. Hoult actually manages to be quite moving under all of his makeup as the kamikaze who has a change of heart.

This is supposed to be the first film in a new trilogy, but it should be noted that Pitch Perfect 2 kicked its ass at the box office, so it isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Let’s hope that critical praise and word of mouth result in a healthy worldwide run for Mad Max: Fury Road. I want more.

Mad Max: Fury Road is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The year is loaded with intriguing movie releases! Here, we have listed but a small sampling. Keep in mind that all dates are subject to change, and the only thing that really matters is there is a new Star Wars movie coming out in December.

Well, actually, the fact that new Twin Peaks, Wet Hot American Summer and Evil Dead stories are going into production this year matters—but those are all happening on television. TV is getting really cool!

But we’re not here to talk about TV; we’re here to talk about the next 11 months of movies. Here we go!

Jupiter Ascending (Feb. 6): The long-delayed next picture from the Wachowskis (The Matrix) looks … goofy. Mila Kunis, who is quite lovable but simply can’t act, and Channing Tatum co-star. Tatum has what looks like Vulcan ears and some really bad haircuts in this one.

Fifty Shades of Grey (Feb. 13): If you are excited about this movie, I weep for you and the souls of your present and future children.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Feb. 20): If you are excited about this sequel, which is sans John Cusack … well, you are excused. It does look pretty funny.

Chappie (March 6): Neill Blomkamp (District 9) makes a movie about a kidnapped robot. I would much rather see that Alien 5 thing he was supposedly working on.

Insurgent (March 20): A sequel to Divergent, aka a sequel to a humongous piece of crap.

Zombeavers (March 20): This is a film about zombie beavers. I don’t think it is getting a major release, but I just had to mention it.

Furious 7 (April 3): I’m thinking some cars drive around really fast and stuff in this one.

Ex_Machina (April 10): Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later, directs this film about the complications of a world part inhabited by very realistic robots.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1): Super-mega summer-movie season basically kicks off with the second Avengers movie. This one has Steff from Pretty in Pink (James Spader) voicing the evil title character.

Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15): After many false starts and the jettisoning of Mel Gibson, George Miller brings his iconic character back with Tom Hardy in the big role, and Charlize Theron sporting a shaved head.

Warren Beatty Movie That Has No Name Yet (May 21): Warren Beatty plays Howard Hughes … old Howard Hughes. Beatty directs for the first time in 17 years.

Tomorrowland (May 22): George Clooney stars for director Brad Bird in a film that may or may not have something to do with the Disney attraction. This is a passion project for Bird, who passed up directing the next Star Wars in order to make it.

Entourage (June 5): I went through an Entourage phase. It ended well before Sasha Grey joined the cast.

Jurassic World (June 12): Judging by the trailer, this looks awful. Like, really awful. Domesticated raptors running along Chris Pratt’s motorcycle? What are they thinking?

Inside Out (June 19) and The Good Dinosaur (Nov. 25): These would be the TWO Pixar movies you are getting in 2015. Feel blessed.

Terminator: Genisys (July 1): Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been box-office poison as of late, looks to perk things up in yet another cyborg movie. It looks better than that Jurassic Park sequel.

Ant-Man (July 17): Edgar Wright was supposed to direct Paul Rudd in the latest from Marvel. He is not directing any more. I am worried.

Poltergeist (July 24): Normally, I would not be excited about yet another remake. But this stars Sam Rockwell, so I am marginally excited about yet another remake.

Pixels (July 24): Adam Sandler and other nerds are hired to fight 1980s-era video game-villains attacking New York City. This may be one of the greatest films ever made. I’m not being sarcastic.

Fantastic Four (Aug. 7): Fox is trying again. Miles Teller of Whiplash fame plays the rubber guy; Kate Mara plays the invisible woman; Michael B. Jordan is The Human Torch; and Jamie Bell (yes, that Jamie Bell) is The Thing. Sounds really weird.

The Walk (Oct. 2): When Philippe Petit walked between the Twin Towers on a tightrope in the 1970s, I was a totally freaked-out little kid. Now, with Robert Zemeckis directing and Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring in a re-creation of one of history’s greatest stunts, I expect to be totally freaked out as an adult.

Vacation (Oct. 9): Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo return, but this one is more about a grown-up Rusty (Ed Helms) taking his family on a trip. It all seems kind of farty.

Crimson Peak (Oct. 16): This gothic haunted-house story is another one of the projects Guillermo del Toro wanted to make instead of getting bogged down in Hobbit hell. Based on Pacific Rim, del Toro made the right choice. I’ve got a good feeling about this one.

Knock Knock (Oct. 28): Let’s see if Keanu Reeves can stay on a roll after John Wick. This one is directed by Eli Roth, who also directed Cabin Fever, Hostel and The Green Inferno, a cannibal movie that got caught up in litigation and was supposed to be released in 2014, but wasn’t. Actually, I’m far more interested in seeing The Green Inferno than Knock Knock.

Spectre (Nov. 6): James Bond is back with both Daniel Craig and Skyfall director Sam Mendes returning.

The Peanuts Movie (Nov. 6): Charlie Brown gets an updated, more detailed look, and it seems like they’ve done a good of job nailing the voices. I will be there, York Peppermint Patties in hand.

The Hateful Eight (Nov. 13): Quentin Tarantino does another Western. Django Unchained was his weakest movie, but I do cherish the idea of Tarantino going wild in the West again.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2 (Nov. 20): The games come to a conclusion, and Jennifer Lawrence gets freed up to do other things. Rumor has it she wants to be a Ghostbuster.

Midnight Special (Nov. 25): Jeff Nichols, the man who gave us Mud and Take Shelter, returns with Michael Shannon as a dad who discovers his son has special powers.

Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens (Dec. 18): In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new Star Wars on the horizon, and J.J. Abrams, the man who made Star Trek cool again, is at the helm. Harrison Ford … Han Solo. That is all that needs to really be said about this.

Mission: Impossible 5 (Dec. 25): Yes … Cruise is still making these.

Published in Previews and Features