I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. Keep checking back to see more recommendations for your holiday shopping. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. With conditions as they are, shopping won’t be easy this season. The nice thing about discs is that they’re so easy to get from places like Amazon that you can give a great gift and stay perfectly safe while you do it. Warner Brothers release of The Mad Max Anthology:
“Born with a steering wheel in his hand and lead in his foot, he is the Nightrider, cruising at the speed of fright! This is the Nightrider, and we ain’t never coming back. I’m a fuel-injected suicide machine…”
Long before Mel Gibson’s troubles involved real-life police officers and a bad case of “foot-in-mouth disease” that has made him his own worst enemy, Mel had more dramatic enemies to deal with. The unknown Australian actor was only 22 years old when he starred in the Outback production that would put both Mel Gibson and his native Australia on the filmmaking map. The movie was originally a very low-budget film. It was made in an attempt to show the world that America wasn’t the only place you could make a non-stop action film. When American audiences got their first glimpse of the unique post-apocalyptic showcase, they still didn’t get a real dose of Mel Gibson. All of the Australian actors, including Gibson, had been dubbed to lose the accents. If you saw Mad Max in the cinema in 1979 or 1980, you heard someone else’s voice coming out of Mel’s mouth. Too bad he didn’t have that option a few years back when he was stopped for a DUI and proceeded to offer up a rendition of History of the World according to Mel, only it wasn’t Mel Brooks. The anti-Jewish rant and belligerence has thrust the once-superstar into a decade where he hasn’t had a real starring role.
Mad Max (1979)
It all started back in the year I graduated high school. Mel Gibson wasn’t being followed around quite as much. Those days were decades in the future for a young and promising actor in 1979. He starred as “Mad” Max Rockatansky. He was a member of the Main Force Patrol. These cops drove around in supercharged muscle cars trying to keep the streets safe. But this was no modern world that Max and his pals protected and served. The film hints at a post-apocalyptic event that has left the world a bit less technologically dominated. Buildings are dilapidated and run down. We get the idea that civilization is only now at the brink of restoring some kind of normalcy to the savage world. Enter the Nightrider (Gil). He’s blown away some cops, and he’s on the run with his pedal to the metal. He’s taking out any patrol car he encounters along the way. This is death race 2000 stuff here. Only one officer stands in the way of his escape. It’s Max in his interceptor special. Max puts an end to the carnage by putting an end to Nightrider. That isn’t going to go over too well with the outlaw band of biker thugs led by Toecutter (Keays-Byrne). The gang terrorizes the local population and takes out one of Max’s friends on the force. The series of events has led Max to rethink his job, and he attempts to quit. He’s talked into taking an extended vacation instead, to think it over. So he gathers up his wife and young son and hits the back roads. Unfortunately, the family encounters the bikers, and after an extended game of cat and mouse, tragedy befalls Max’s family. Now he’s out for only one thing … revenge.
There are a few things that occurred to me as I watched Mad Max in high definition for the first time in over 20 years. I was quite taken with how unrecognizable the young Mel Gibson was on the screen. This was Mel’s second film and his first starring role. Even with that young, inexperienced mug, he manages to offer up a huge glimpse of why he would become the powerhouse star that he was before he derailed his own career. Gibson doesn’t really say, or for that matter, do a heck of a lot in this film. The final showdown doesn’t even come until the final 13 minutes of the movie. It’s not what he said or did that created this iconic character. It was his demeanor that made the world take notice. Mel was a natural.
The next thing I noticed was how little action there really was in the movie. It’s the kind of film you remember as being packed with action. The truth is, there is very little violence in the film. There are only a few action-packed sequences, but they are powerful scenes that dominate anything else the movie offers. The final few minutes of the film offer a Clint Eastwood “do you feel lucky” moment that tells us more about the kind of person Max has become, living up to the name that appears on the screen. It’s really not surprising that these are the images that have stuck with me the most over two decades.
Mad Max: The Road Warrior (1981)
In Australia it was merely known as Mad Max II. The problem was that not many folks in the United States and the rest of the world had seen the first film, and no one thought there was enough reputation to just use the boilerplate sequel designation. So for the rest of the world, it was known as Mad Max: The Road Warrior or just The Road Warrior. This is the film that started to really get the attention of the loyal fans of the franchise and allow it to last for as long as it has. It was also one of the films that James Cameron cites as his inspiration for The Terminator ,and indeed, it’s not hard to see that if you really watch the two films in a short amount of time. Honestly, I believe it has a much larger impact on T2 in both atmosphere and locations.
In this film, the future dystopian world is far more blatant than it was in the first film, where civilization still had organized police and government agencies. All of that is gone now, and we get that wasteland look from the very beginning where Max is now wandering in that wasteland scavenging for food and gasoline, the holy grail of the franchise. Max comes upon a small group of people trying to defend their cache of supplies, mostly fuel, from the many marauding band of futuristic pirates. They drive all sorts of vehicles that look like they could have come from steampunk or The Wacky Racers. A lot of customized cars, trucks and motorcycles who clash in the desert like gladiators in ancient Rome on their chariots. Mad Max is Ben Hur with gasoline. Max becomes somewhat of a hero as he tries to defend the group. There’s a 13-minute tanker action scene that becomes pretty much the iconic set piece of the film, and honestly the franchise, as it is often repeated in one form or another. There’s always now this long scene where a large vehicle is fending off a siege, and all at 60 miles per hour. Mel Gibson takes his place as a true star but literally speaks only a few dozen lines in the entire film. He’s Eastwood’s Man With No Name on steroids. This is also the only film in this collection with anything new in extras. There’s a really nice 45-minute feature on the franchise.
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
The last of the Mel Gibson films was also the higher budget. It has some of the franchise’s best lines but is arguably the weakest of the three films. This is the first time the series looked for gimmick over raw energy and action. With a role written specifically for Tina Turner, the film attempts to be more grandiose, and that’s not really what drives fans to these films.
Max is trying to take a group of children who look and act like they came out of the Star Trek episode Miri and get them to the remnants of a city. Because of his clothes, they think he is a soldier who was promised to come and lead them home. He takes on the role that’s as sacred to these kids as Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Along the way he happens upon a community where there is a power struggle between the Queen named Auntie Entity, played by Turner, and a powerful grunt who keeps the city in power by extracting methane from crap. Max bungles into a deal that leads him in a fight to the death in the famed Thunderdome. Two enter. One leaves. If you forget the concept, don’t fret. They mob will remind you at least 197 times.
Of course, it really boils down to those crazy vehicles and the road action and energy.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
By Jeremy Butler
It is one of the most anticipated movies of the summer and another subject in the category of “can Tom Hardy do no wrong? “ Mad Max: Fury Road is the reimagining of the iconic film that helped launch Mel Gibson’s career decades earlier. This is not new territory in Hollywood by any stretch of the imagination; remakes have happened so often in recent years that they have practically become their own genre. However, I would like to point out something that will hopefully set this film apart in the eyes of the audience: how often do you see a remake that is overseen by the creator of the original film that you know and love?
OK, OK, perhaps this is not entirely new territory as well, except I am certain that Mad Max fans all over the world leaped for joy when news broke that the architect of the originals, George Miller, had decided to helm the remake as well. Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that is the underlying reason that many of you folks intend to see the movie. And it is in that spirit that I would like to impart a piece of advice upon the future audience: put the past out of your mind when you are watching this. It is not a continuation; it is an origin story. Yes, I know that it seems like a simple concept, and maybe I am rehashing thoughts you have already had, but for argument’s sake, just do what I ask, and I promise you will have a far better experience.
When the story starts, we are thrown right into the thick of things. A mildly irritating voiceover from Hardy informs that the world has changed; a global catastrophe has remade the world into a barren wasteland where resources are limited and survival is low. When we meet Max, he is on the run from a group loyal to Immortan Joe, a tyrannical leader of a desert wasteland. Joe is in control of all the resources needed for survival such as water, weapons, vehicles, gasoline, and milk (wait till you see where it comes from). In this vast world of nothingness even people are treated as property, which leads us back to the reason the gang is pursuing Max, who is a universal blood donor. Despite valiant escape attempts (emphasis on attempts), Max is captured and taken to the wasteland.
Around this time, Immortan Joe is sending one of his disciples Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to secure more gasoline from a neighboring society that Joe is allied with. Furiosa, however, has her own plans, which she sets in motion on the road: she has stolen Immortan Joe’s most prized possessions, the five wives: five young women Joe has married and plans to use as breeders to continue his bloodline. Discovering the betrayal, Joe and his army ride out in pursuit of Furiosa, and through happenstance Max is taken along for the ride. During the pursuit, Max manages to free himself, and his path crosses with Furiosa. Tension arises, and though the two don’t fully trust each other, they recognize that they will to work together to make it across the wasteland to a safe haven, all while under heavy pursuit.
All in all this is a very enjoyable experience, one of the better action movies that I have seen this year. The film is not big on backstory or formal introduction, as I went through a majority of the film without knowing most of the characters’ names. There were the few that were spoken aloud such as Max, Furiosa, and Joe; however, many of the characters’ names were not readily used, or if they were, not much emphasis was placed on them. This in the long run is trivial in comparison with my real issue with the story. I would have liked to have had a little more backstory on how the world collapsed. We see the destruction, but there is no real explanation for the events that led to it.
Another thing that was downplayed was Max’s history. Virtually nothing is revealed about him other than the display that all his mental faculties aren’t quite there. Earlier trauma is hinted at, and I can’t help but feel that a reveal of that trauma would have gone a long way toward making it possible for me to identify with the character. It is still a compelling story with hardcore action sequences, but these omissions did do some damage to the overall success of the film. Not irreparable damage, but some damage.
Not going to spend a lot of time on actor portrayals, because the fact of the matter is that many of the talents in this film are seasoned veterans at the peak of their art, but I will take the time to mention Nicolas Hoult, who played Nux in the film. Hoult, who is no amateur by anyone’s measurement, does an admirable job of stealing focus away from the more high-profile Theron and Hardy. It goes without saying that Theron and Hardy did their characters justice. I will say that it took me a while to like Theron’s character, who in the beginning seemed cold and distant, even vindictive, when she essentially deceived a pack of loyalists into becoming unwitting traitors. These feelings went away rather quickly when it became evident all the character had lost and what she was willing to give up to succeed in her mission. OK, I will mention Hardy, and then I am done. Hardy makes the character his own in my opinion, despite the fact that the audience knows next to nothing about his backstory, we know that he is in possession of a very moral code. His character is also very stoic in the fact that he speaks in short sentences, but the words he uses convey serious meaning.
All of these films look great in 4K. This is truly one heck of an upgrade. The transfers retain the nice grain and atmosphere while cleaning up things associated with age and decay of original low-budget film elements. You also get new wonderful Atmos audio tracks that bring these engines to life like never before. If you have an action fan on that Christmas list. this one is a no-brainer. “They say people don’t believe in heroes anymore. Well, damn them! You and me, Max, we’re gonna give them back their heroes!”