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Weekend Movie Buzz


With the holiday weekend arriving and the summer movie season already well under way, here are some recommendations for anyone with the urge to watch movies the old-fashioned way (in theaters).

What to see if you want a summer blockbuster: Mad Max: Fury Road MadMax

In today’s Hollywood, a “rebooted” 30-year old action/sci-fi franchise should normally be cause for concern. However, instead of handing the reins over to whichever flavor-of-the-moment director and a dozen un-credited screenwriters, the powers that be allowed original Mad Max auteur George Miller have another crack at the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Australia. The result is one of the best-reviewed films of the year, a pre-packaged blockbuster that has defied the odds and even managed to win over the crowds at Cannes. Plus, Charlize Theron’s punk heroine Imperator Furiosa provides the type of strong female action lead absent from so many other sci-fi and superhero tent pole films.




What to see if you also want to take the kids: Tomorrowlandtomorrowland

Admittedly, it’s a weak crop of family friendly films right now, at least until Pixar’s Inside Out hits theaters later this summer. In the meantime, parents and children both will have to settle for Pixar alum Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles) giving us a live action look at his vision of Tomorrowland. For a movie hatched directly from the Disneyland theme park, it might not have the surprising ingenuity of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, but it also won’t be as tedious and tiresome as the last Pirates adventure. If nothing else, Bird and the Walt Disney Company offer a wild ride of impressive visuals and the always reliable presence of George Clooney. Amid the unending slew of apocalyptic and dystopian films, it’s somewhat refreshing to see a movie that still looks towards the future with the can-do optimism of a different time.



11190775_oriWhat to see if you want to think about modern warfare: Good Kill

So much for feeling glass half full about the promise of technology! Andrew Niccol’s Good Kill presents a portrait of an American drone pilot, someone who fights the war on terror in the same way most teenagers play videogames. Ethan Hawke – one of our most underrated actors – delivers yet another subtle, nuanced performance as a man who tries to wrestle with the complex issues surrounding how the United States military currently combats terrorism overseas. Films centered on a politically charged topic can often feel heavy handed, but Niccol’s film manages to take a strong stance without ignoring the human side of the debate.




What to see if you want to go off the beaten trail, literally and figuratively: Slow West

Mainstream westerns are more or less a relic in Hollywood these days, but independent and foreign filmmakers still love the genre. British director John Maclean offers a fresh take of love and violence on the American frontier. True to the title, Slow West takes time to develop its story and characters, but for viewers with an appreciation for narrative pacing, the film delivers its rewards. Fans of recent “thought” westerns such as Kelly Reichert’s Meek’s Cutoff or Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford are sure to find another gem here.





What to see if you haven’t read the book: Far From the Madding Crowd

With final exams coming up, there’s still time to brush up for that Brit Lit class without cramming to finish Thomas Hardy. With Brits now making all our westerns, it’s up to Danish director Thomas Vinterberg – known to foreign cinephiles for The Celebration and last year’s The Hunt – to present a faithful adaptation of Hardy’s romance that’s more than just elevated “Masterpiece Theater” (not as if there would be anything wrong with that, mind you). This film version manages to present a fresh take on a classic novel without reverting to any of the usual gimmicks, interpreting the work through lush cinematography and crafted performances. There’s an understated confidence in this kind of filmmaking that is often hard to find at the cine-plex.

Adam Dunlop-Farkas is a freelance journalist and screenwriter who lives and works in Los Angeles.

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