“Mad Max: Fury Road”
It’s been 30 years since director George Miller left Mad Max behind in the Thunderdome. Now, Miller and Max return to the brutal wasteland, switching Mel Gibson with Tom Hardy for Max and offering a reboot of sorts.
All the trademarks are back. The car chases are an art form of stunt work. The makeup and costumes plume with pomposity and outrageousness. The sets walk the line between updating the franchise and keeping to the iconic themes.
Miller adds a superstar like Charlize Theron and the promising talent of Nicholas Hoult, then renders them almost unrecognizable and makes them act without dialogue for long stretches. Hardy inhabits the role of Max with confidence and ensures the franchise is secure and moving in a natural progression without Gibson.
In the end, Miller delivers an action movie masterpiece. It all happens in a furious pace that’s worth a watch.
“The D Train”
Jack Black’s big decade was the 2000s. That’s when he was starring in big budget blockbusters. But Black still works plenty. He recently did an HBO series, “The Brink,” and he pops up in a movie here or there. He’s just gotten happy with smaller roles and smaller films.
Here’s a little movie where he plays a forgettable guy who wants to be memorable so he tries to attach himself to the most popular guy from high school, played by James Marsden, and convince him to come to their 20-year reunion. Things get weird, and Black’s character spins out of control as he tries to play outside his means.
There are times when this is fun to watch. These are usually when costars Kathryn Hahn or Jeffrey Tambor are on screen. They add an awkward dimension to the scenes, and seem to bring the most out of Black. Things come a little too easy for Marsden though. Black is best when he squirms, and he fidgets just enough to make it barely worth a watch.
“I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story”
Caroll Spinney got his beginnings on “Bozo’s Big Top” back in 1966 and has spent the last 50 years helping kids learn and build imaginations. His biggest impact began in 1968 when he hooked up with Jim Henson for “Sesame Street,” and took up the alter egos of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
Made with a little more than $100,000 in fan donations, documentary filmmakers Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker create a labor of love through interviews with other puppeteers, actors and producers. The 78-year-old Spinney comes across as sweet and relentless and incapable of retiring. This documentary doesn’t offer much in the way of drama.
Instead, it offers glimpses of what it’s like to be behind and inside the bird and the trash can. There aren’t many bells and whistles, but it’s still fascinating – worth a watch.