I have actually *gasp* been to the cinema this year now – there was no way I wasn’t going to go see Mad Max: Fury Road (from the safety of a very comfortable sofa at the back of the sensibly-sized local screen, watching in 2D), but you could be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the fact I have also seen San Andreas (yes, I love @katejkatz that much).
The return flight to the US was a disappointment on the entertainment front. I failed to watch Big Hero Six on the way out (derivative trope-tangle, although it gets points for carefully considering what sound effects to supply for its inflatable hero) and listened to Thor: The Dark World as it was mostly too dark to actually show up on the terrible back-of-the-chair postage stamp screen (I still enjoyed this far more than the snoretastic first instalment). On the way back, I gave up on Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – The Hunt for Red October remains the only Jack Ryan film that has entertained or engaged me, and halfway through Shadow Recruit I just didn’t give a damn. Thankfully, I had my Kindle.
Mad Max: Fury Road, by contrast, lives up to the hype. If you don’t care for previous Mad Max outings, don’t bother – but if you enjoy ‘Top Gear goes dingo’ (props to for that excellent description) then this is more of the same: a man of few words tearing around the desert chasing a thin plot supported by little more than great art direction, trying to evade hordes of insane Frankendrivers with spiky weapons. This one has the added value of the ever-excellent Charlize Theron as a one-armed hard-woman flying the flag for women holding their own post-apocalypse. Is it problematic? Probably. Is it feminist? Sort of. Does it matter? Not really. Awesome silliness.
…speaking of which, San Andreas. This is strictly popcorn fare of the silliest sort. You (should) know exactly what’s going to happen at any given point, and as long as your expectations for script and acting are basement-level, then you won’t be disappointed. The Rock Dwayne Johnson must team up with his nearly-ex-wife to rescue their daughter from San Francisco as The Big One finally rips California apart, while Paul Giamatti chews his way through the scenery as the scientist who knew it was coming, dammit. Best enjoyed as unintentional comedy after several cocktails (judging by how hard we laughed all the way through, and how much this annoyed the teenage boys trying to take it rather more seriously – I think we undermined the dramatic tension or something). Expect many offences against science, which could be really annoying if you haven’t had enough cocktails. Did I mention we’d been drinking excellent cocktails?
To make up for this, I finally saw Whiplash when we got home. This nasty little outing left a bad taste in my mouth, but remains an excellent film with a stand-out performance from JK Simmons. A first year drummer at the country’s finest music school is selected for the jazz band, where his abilities and his temperament are tested to their limits – and beyond – by the megalomaniac bully who conducts it. As a study of obsession, this is remarkably good; but I (inevitably) bridled at the all-male band and the array of highly-gendered insults thrown at them as ‘motivation’ – and struggled with the way the film ultimately upholds the conductor’s philosophy rather than unambiguously considering him a vicious bully in spite of the human cost of his methods. But that’s me. As I say, it’s very good and well worth watching. Warning: also contains awesome jazz.