SCREEN TIME: The franchise and the furious

‘Furiosa’s only flaw? Following a masterpiece

1   Furiosa
Photo credit: Jason Boland/Warner Bros. Pictures
MAD JACKED: Chris Hemsworth plays a high-octane warlord in ‘Furiosa,’ a prequel to ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.’

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga conveys more ideas in any five minutes than most action movies have in their entire run times. Director George Miller’s prequel to his 2015 masterpiece Mad Max Fury Road tells a more straightforward revenge tale as he fills in the backstory of Furiosa, Charlize Theron’s one-armed, truck-driving warrior in the post-apocalyptic outback.

One detail in particular sticks out when young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) is stolen from her idyllic home by marauding scouts. As Furiosa’s mother (Charlee Fraser) pursues the raiders across barren dunes, the trussed-up girl resolves to slow down her kidnappers by biting through a motorcycle fuel line so the vehicle will run out of gas. With no dialogue, the moment instantly conveys the story’s stakes, the setting’s scarcity of resources, the protagonist’s ingenuity and determination.

If Mad Max: Fury Road never existed and audience’s introduction to this phase of the Mad Max series was Furiosa, viewers would be jubilant. Furiosa displays sci-fi/action filmmaking on a level audiences seldom see in a given year. But it’s a follow-up to Fury Road, a nominee for 10 Oscars and one the great films of 21st century so far, so Furiosa, perhaps inevitably, exists in its predecessor’s shadow.

Like a Dickens novel in an Australian wasteland, the film follows Furiosa’s growth following a youthful tragedy. She falls into the clutches of Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), a savage, swaggering warlord who shows surprising paternal instincts towards her. But Dementus picks a fight with the Citadel, a stronghold ruled by Fury Road’s Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme). Furiosa switches from a potential child-bride to an apprentice mechanic disguised as a boy, eventually played by Anya Taylor-Joy. But she never relinquishes her motivations to return home and extract revenge on Dementus, not necessarily in that order.

Not surprisingly, Miller and his kamikaze team of stunt player and special effects wizards craft breathtaking action scenes, just not so many as Fury Road, which unfolded like 120 minutes of money shots. Furiosa is arguably the most theatrical and narratively self-conscious of the films in the 45-year franchise, featuring chapter titles and some flatter, more painterly visuals. You can almost see the influence of Miller’s Babe movies in the new film’s more dreamy, storybook quality.

Taylor-Joy and Browne convey the character’s ruthless willpower at different ages, despite precious little spoken dialogue. (When she has lines, Taylor-Joy’s delivery sounds remarkably like Theron’s voice in the original.) Tom Burke providers her with an effectively soft-spoken mentor and love interest, but the film’s standout performance is Hemsworth’s. Recalibrating the comedic energy he’s been bringing to Marvel’s Thor, Hemsworth presents Dementus as a physical threat who’s also a ball of insecurities, overcompensating to project strength and confidence he doesn’t really feel.

Furiosa has a problem of most prequels, in that if you’ve seen the first film, you already know the outcome of major plot points. The narrative inevitably hits a ceiling when you know who will definitely survive the running time. We see spectacular roadside attractions like Gas Town and The Bullet Farm, which Fury Road only mentioned, but it’s the kind of prequel that spends less time staking out new territory than covering old ground.

If Furiosa suffers when measured against Fury Road, it thrives in comparison to the vast majority of multiplex fare. Even if it’s the third-best Mad Max movie after its predecessor and 1981’s The Road Warrior, Furiosa leaves its cinematic competitors in the dust.

Sun., June 2 and Mon., June 3

The Muppet MovieKermit the Frog sings “The Rainbow Connection” then sets off across the country, gathering the rest of the beloved Muppet ensemble en route to Hollywood. This screening of the Muppet’s first big-screen venture celebrates its 45th anniversary.
Sun., June 2 and Mon., June 3. Atlanta area theaters. .


Tue., June 4

Brokeback Mountain Tuesdays in June, Out on Film hosts Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema’s Retro Replay Pride series of beloved LGBTQ films, beginning with the classic, Oscar-nominated Western romance starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
7 p.m. Tue., June 4. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive. .


Fri., June 7 - Sun., June 23

Atlanta Children’s Film FestivalThis annual festival of kid-oriented movies offers two weeks of in-person and virtual activities, including a film camp, workshops and screenings of independent films made by young people as well as grown-ups.
Fri., June 7 - Sun., June 23. Multiple Atlanta locations. 678-954-8441. .


Fri., June 7


WHATCHA GONNA DO?: Martin Lawrence (left) and Will Smith return as wisecracking cops in ‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die.’ Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

Bad Boys: Ride or DieOscar winner and Chris Rock slapper Will Smith reunites with Martin Lawrence for the fourth Bad Boys action comedy, with the Miami cops forced to become fugitives to clear their names. Partially shot in Atlanta, this is helmed by Adil and Bilall, directors of the previous Bad Boys installment.
Opens Fri., June 7. Atlanta area theaters.



KNOCK AT THE CABIN: The supernatural thriller ‘The Watchers’ stars, from left, Oliver Finnegan, Olwen Fouéré, Dakota Fanning, and Georgina Campbell. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The WatchersIshana Night Shyamalan (yes, the daughter of Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan) helms this eerie thriller about four strangers trapped in the remote Irish wilderness by sinister, unseen creatures. Dakota Fanning stars in this adaptation of a novel by A.M. Shine.
Opens Fri., June 7. Atlanta area theaters.



Fri., June 14

PANIC ATTACK: Anthropomorphic emotions Joy (Amy Poehler) and Anxiety (Maya Hawke) try to sort their feelings in Pixar’s ‘Inside Out 2.’ Photo Credit: Courtesy of Disney/Pixar.

Inside Out 2In Pixar’s sequel to the beloved 2015 film, young Riley becomes a teenager and new emotions make her psyche even more complicated, with upbeat Joy (Amy Poehler) dealing with Anxiety (Maya Hawke) and other intruders. The first Inside Out was one of Pixar’s best films of the last decade, but this time director Pete Docter and supporting voice actors Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling are not returning.
Opens Fri., June 14. Atlanta area theaters.



Fri., June 21 - Sun., June 23

Atlanta ShortsfestThe 15th annual celebration of films under 45 minutes puts a spotlight on short form work from multiple different countries and genres.
Fri., June 21 - Sun., June 23. Limelight Theater, 349 Decatur St. SE, Atlanta, GA 30312. .


Fri., June 21

Serial MomJohn Waters’ black comedy features a terrific performance by Kathleen Turner in the title role of a perfect suburban housewife who’s also a merry murderer. Wussy Mag hosts a 30th anniversary screening, featuring in-person guest appearances by Mink Stole and Peaches Christ.
7 p.m., Fri., June 21. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. .



Fri., June 28


OPEN RANGE: Kevin Costner gets back in the saddle to direct and star in the sprawling Western epic ‘Horizon: An American Saga: Chapter 1.’ Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Horizon: An American Saga: Chapter 1Kevin Costner directs, co-writes and stars in this old-school epic about the American West, featuring Sienna Miller, Michael Rooker, Danny Huston, Sam Worthington and many more. The film’s Chapter 2 is due for release this August.
Fri., June 28. At area theaters.




HUSH NOW: Lupita Nyong’o and Djimon Hounsou try to survive an alien invasion in the prequel ‘A Quiet Place: Day One.’ Photo Credit: Gareth Gatrell

A Quiet Place: Day OneAs the title suggest, this prequel to the prior two Quiet Place sci-fi horror films takes place on the first day of the alien invasion. Lupita Nyong’o and “Stranger Things’” Joseph Quinn try to survive when sound-sensitive monsters wreak havoc on New York. From the director of that great Nicolas Cage drama Pig.
Fri., June 28. At area theaters.