Film Review of the Week


Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (15)

Review: Bookmarked into five chapters with enigmatic titles such as The Pole Of Inaccessibility and Lessons From The Wasteland, director George Miller’s turbo-charged prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road bolts together an origin story spanning 15 years for the imperious warrior originally embodied by Charlize Theron. Portrayed here by Anya Taylor-Joy in womanhood and Alyla Browne as a snarling youngster, Furiosa is anointed “the darkest of angels, the fifth rider of the apocalypse” as she rampages between the co-dependent strongholds of The Citadel, the Bullet Farm and Gas Town.

The character’s “purposeful savagery” is an apt summation of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga – a brutal tale of self-preservation and retribution punctuated by spectacular stunt-filled action sequences that deliver injections of adrenaline. Running almost 30 minutes longer than the Oscar-winning Fury Road, Miller’s prequel trundles on narrative exhaust fumes in a plodding middle act, relying on those breathlessly staged, large-scale set pieces of automotive carnage for momentum.

The film’s timeline guarantees safe passage for half the cast, whose characters manifest in Mad Max: Fury Road, and spotlights the likeliest casualties in a brutal tug of war for dwindling natural resources. Taylor-Joy is glowering and wordless for extended periods and copes magnificently with the rugged physicality of her role. Co-star Browne as the adolescent Furiosa is even more impactful in her chapters and deftly tugs at the heart. Embellished with a distracting prosthetic nose and prominent rock ’n’ roll codpiece, Hemsworth embraces camp psychosis as an antagonist who tastes young Furiosa’s tears and professes them piquant and zesty.

Ten-year-old Furiosa (Browne) lives in the Green Place of Many Mothers, a hidden enclave of abundance, at a time when “mankind has gone rogue” and food, water and fuel are highly coveted. A marauding biker gang snatches the girl from her defiant mother, Mary Jabasa (Charlee Fraser), and spirits Furiosa away to their bombastic, self-aggrandising leader, Warlord Dementus (Hemsworth). “Make yourself invaluable and Dementus will look after you,” heavily tattooed sage, The History Man (George Shevtsov), counsels.

Furiosa heeds these words and eventually defects to The Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), who rules The Citadel with feral sons Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones) and Scrotus (Josh Helman). As the resourceful tyke transitions into womanhood (now played by Taylor-Joy), Furiosa aligns with Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), who drives a war rig to trade the Citadel’s fresh produce for weaponry and fuel from the Bullet Farm and Gas Town. Dementus interrupts the vital supply chain and declares war.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga dovetails perfectly with Fury Road, which begins with Furiosa fleeing The Citadel with five of The Immortan Joe’s precious wives. From a storyline perspective, the prequel is less compelling, particularly once the title character is in her mid-20s and has actively manoeuvred herself into a position to wreak revenge. Production design and costumes are jaw-dropping, completely immersing us in a world where bombastic men reign with cruelty. They reap what they sow.

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The Garfield Movie (U)

Review: In an amusing opening sequence, which flatters to deceive, the eponymous round-bellied tabby (voiced by Chris Pratt) promises to tell us the story of how he ‘adopted’ his long-suffering human owner Jon Arbuckle (Nicholas Hoult). “You will not be disappointed,” grins Garfield as lovable beagle Odie (Harvey Guillen) scurries around him. Alas, Garfield may be the cat who always gets the cream – or rather an endless supply of lasagne conveniently ordered and delivered via app – but director Mark Dindal serves us a disappointing computer-animated adventure made from the cold leftovers of far better films including Chicken Run and The Secret Life Of Pets.

Based on characters created by Jim Davis for a comic strip dating back to the mid-1970s, The Garfield Movie is a victim of an uninspired script that opts for the most obvious punchlines or bypasses them entirely. Thus, rapper Snoop Dogg’s onscreen alter ego is named Snoop Catt, Garfield’s streaming service of choice is Catflix and when the gluttonous puss becomes embroiled in a hare-brained Mission: Impossible-style heist, he once again addresses us to camera: “I do my own stunts. Me and Tom Cruise.”

Dindal’s picture does not self-destruct after five seconds thanks to a spirited vocal performance from Hannah Waddingham as a feline criminal mastermind, who is one swish of a tail shy of full-blown, caterwauling madness. Pratt’s casual embodiment of the title character lacks the delicious deadpan delivery of Bill Murray’s Garfield from the live-action films while Hoult’s owner is stranded on one end of a telephone helpline that stubbornly refuses to connect Jon to a human being. We share his frustration.

As a cute, wide-eyed kitten, Garfield (Pratt) is abandoned by his father Vic (Samuel L Jackson) and left to fend for himself in an alleyway. Many years later, an unexpected case of catnapping reunites Garfield with his larcenous pater, who is heavily indebted to diabolical feline Jinx (Waddingham). Vic must steal over 1,600 quarts of milk from Lactose Farm or her snarling henchdogs Roland (Brett Goldstein) and Nolan (Bowen Yang) will dole out some not-so-cartoonish violence. Vic, Garfield, Odie and lovesick bull mascot Otto (Ving Rhames) join forces for the outlandish robbery and the intrepid thieves pit their paws and dull wits against the farm’s wily head of security, Marge (Cecily Strong).

The Garfield Movie pales next to the sarcasm-soaked comic strip that inspired it. Three screenwriters ply diluted humour that does not specifically target parents or children and they neglect to arm a gifted ensemble vocal cast with zinging one-liners as the running time slinks well beyond 90 minutes. Animation is colourful and crisp with discernible detail on animals’ fur ruffling in the wind but Dindal’s film is Garfield in name alone.

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