Love & Mercy

Just saw Love & Mercy – utterly fantastic in so many ways. The casting was superb, the music (both real and recreated) was spot on, the attention to detail between the time periods right on the money. It moved me to tears several times and their portrayal of the injustice Brian Wilson suffered without resorting to sensationalism was admirable. A big hand should also go to Atticus Ross for his amazing sound collages that use snippets of Beach Boys songs and studio outtakes to form mood montages throughout the film, let’s hope they get an official release at some point.
Paul Dano as a young Brian – superb, Paul Giamatti‘s Dr Landy was terrific and Jake Abel WAS Mike Love. John Cusack as the older Wilson wasn’t facially convincing but he got the mannerisms down although that half of the film was more about Landy’s battle with Melinda Ledbetter anyway. As a hardcore Beach Boys fan who’s read the books (official or otherwise) and waded through the bootleg sessions, it got the tone pitch perfect.

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Renegades of Rhythm – The Movie (VHS edition)

Just uploaded to the Pillage Roadshow YouTube account – the film of DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist‘s recent ‘Renegades of Rhythm’ tour where they played Afrika Bamabaataa’s records and formed a history of Hip Hop from some of the vinyl it was created from. Not sure if this will ever get a legit release due to all the licensing that would be needed to make it legal so this may be the only way to see it if you weren’t there. It was definitely gig of the year so far when I saw it in January. Thanks to Suki Majhail-McLean for the heads up.

Black Channels video collages


Loving these daily video collages by Black Channels – snippets and studio experiments from their new 10″ on Death Waltz Originals. Order it at Bleep, or Rough Trade (and get a free mix CD).


See more on their Instagram account.

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The The ‘Hyena’ soundtrack on Death Waltz

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A new The The record is always cause for celebration and the first on vinyl for over 15 years (not counting reissues) is an even bigger one. That this beauty appears on Death Waltz in a leather effect gatefold sleeve with 12×12″ booklet, obi strip, lobby card, coloured and etched vinyl is more than anyone could have hoped for. The icing on the cake for me here is that I introduced Matt Johnson to Spencer from Death Waltz, suggesting that he would be the best man to put his music on vinyl and release it to the world. He’s more than outdone himself and the soundtrack is a perfect fit for DW’s style and ethos. You can order it now from Mondo and listen below.

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Preview the whole soundtrack here:

Nicolas Godin ‘Orca’ video

This is pretty interesting, both visually and musically, ‘Orca’ – the first track from Nicolas Godin‘s debut album ‘Contrepoint’, due for release later this year on Because Music. You may recognise Nicolas as being one half of Air and although I’m never going to like that bitcrushed guitar sound there’s a lot going on here that makes me want to hear more.
Download the single here : http://po.st/OrcaSingle

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45 min cut of Blade Runner with B-roll and unseen footage

This is interesting, Blade Runner as you’ve kind of seen it before but not quite. I’m unsure where the Harrison Ford dialogue originates from (I don’t remember that much in the first cut) and if you’re not a fan of the narrated original then stop right here as it drives this cut and glues the shots together. But love it or hate it, it fleshes out the story that we all know in unexpected ways (Deckard‘s broken relationship for instance) but it gives away a little too much and Scott was ultimately right to drop it.

There’s certainly material in here that I’ve not seen before and I’ve seen and read a fair bit about the film, the soundtrack as well, there’s different material in here from that too. A scene with Gaff and Bryant that expands on the former’s role in the film is a revelation and, aside from the odd clumsy cut, it offers an new view on what the film could have been, and it’s full of clichés as a result. A couple of key scenes use dialogue to fill the gaps, the death of Zora and Tyrell are both dealt with in seconds and offer a powerful alternative to the graphic endings they come to in the film, showing via implication rather than as we know them.

The biggest omission is the whole end section with Batty before his big scene and the original ‘happy’ ending gets even more footage which changes the tone. Several lines later omitted possibly play on the ‘is Deckard a Replicant?’ mythos, Rachel proclaiming, “we were made for each other”, which to my mind is a genius line. All in all it’s a fascinating 45 minute look at what could have been and testament to the enduring power of the original that people keep on exploring its hidden depths.

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Star Wars seen from two different fan perspectives

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This bit of Star Wars fan fiction is doing the rounds on the web right now and with good cause as it’s visualised and told (wordlessly I might add) beautifully. From a short scene in Return of the Jedi, Daniel Warren Johnson has created an 11 page comic expanding outwards to before and after the event, imagining what led to and ultimately resulted from it.
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The scene is the one where as A-Wing pilot, realising he’s hit and little can save him, turns kamikaze and crashes headlong into Darth Vader‘s Super Star Destroyer Executor causing a chain reaction that causes it to crash into the Death Star surface. Warren Johnson says “For some reason, this A wing pilot MOVED me. Everything about this part of Return of the Jedi made me want to DRAW and CREATE. This is a fan fiction comic I made in April, just because I love this scene and I love comics.”
It’s superbly realised and heartbreaking despite the huge rebel victory that resulted as he’s added a human element to the mix. Also check out his sci-fi web comic, Space Mullet, while you’re there.

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Another bit of Star Wars fan fiction dealing with alternate viewpoints of the saga’s characters is the Tie Fighter animated short I featured a while back. I just noticed that there’s also a poster and extensive background character notes for the seven minute plus Manga-style film by Paul Johnson what has the Empire as the heroes (they always did have the best designs).

Mad Max Fury Road fan art

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There’s some ridiculously good fan art appearing for Mad Max Fury Road at the moment, now that people have seen the film and got a sense of how it plays out we’re seeing more than a collection of reworked promotion stills. Some are even creating alternate OST covers or DVD/Blu-ray sleeves. A lot of it is in the form of poster art but there’s also concept images and more cartoonish comic book stuff too. A lot of this was found on Deviant Art and I’ve tried to credit all the artists correctly.
(above: by zenithuk, below: sivadigitalart)

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(above: andyfairhurst, below: anakin022)

mad_max__fury_road_ost_custom_cover__3_by_anakin022-d8uey8d mad_max__fury_road_ost_custom_cover__4_by_anakin022-d8uexje (above: anakin022, below: edwardjmoran)

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(above: karcamo / journeyjaag, below: jouste)

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(above/below: Greg Semkow – the lower one may not actually be Mad Max fan art but it easily could be)

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(above: james bousema, below: gigicave)
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(above: eduardo vieira, below: camw1n, bottom: travis-lacey)

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Mad Max VFX, editing and shooting features

The Mad Max love continues with several fascinating articles about the making of different elements of the film. The above clip comes from the VashiVisuals site and concerns the editing and shooting strategies of George Miller.

ecf_100_before-660x279ecf_100_after-660x280There’s also a lengthy but fascinating look at the VFX work on the film over at fxguide with lots of before and after shots like the ones above. And if you still can’t get enough there’s an interview with Eric Whipp who colour graded the film here.

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Secret Cinema presents Star Wars

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I was honoured to play at both the Secret Cantina on Friday and the main site of the Secret Cinema presentation of The Empire Strikes Back yesterday. It opens this week on June 4th, a month after the launch at the Alexandra Palace and the Cantina Bar satellite venue at the weekends. At £75 a head it’s expensive but, having experienced what they’ve done, I can tell you it’s worth every penny and even the hardcore would be hard-pressed to nit-pick. You will never experience The Empire Strikes Back at a cinema like this, ever.
If you’re dithering over getting a ticket then don’t delay as the weekends are nearly all sold out going up to September when it ends its run. And if you’re going and not making an effort with your costume then you’re going to feel pretty under dressed on the day. I’d love to show you some photos of what’s in store but that would spoil it and if you’re going this summer I might just see you there…

Mega Mad Max vehicle round up

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I’m still buzzing about seeing Mad Max this past weekend (I went a second time on Sunday evening) and the web seems to be aglow with positive reviews and articles on everything from Dayna Grant, Charlize Theron‘s stunt double, to how they realised the bungee hanging guitarist in the red onesie. I want to focus on the vehicles and concept designs that led to them in this post and you’ll see how closely they were followed and realised in the final film.
Above we see a mock up – by comic illustrator and concept artist Brendan McCarthy, also co-writer of the film – of a proposed graphic novel for Fury Road, the fourth installment of the Mad Max saga. Below are designs for vehicles and characters that he worked on, amazingly dating from 1997! Brendan has a new website that these were taken from that includes tons of his other comic and film work, he’s the master of psychedelic imagery, few can portray altered states as he can so make a note of anything you missed if you take a look. Incidentally, there’s an official comic debuting this week, published by Vertigo, DC‘s more indie offshoot, that digs into some of the character’s back stories.

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Tony ‘Riot’ Wright, an associate and sometime collaborator of McCarthy’s, was also invited to Australia to provide storyboards for the film in 1999 but ended up doing concept designs. He posted these images and more on his blog with some background to his involvement.

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The task of realising these images in the flesh (or should that be metal?) was down to production design, Colin Gibson and I managed to snag this extensive interview with him from the film’s press people late last week. *WARNING – possible spoilers in the text but Colin does have a very poetic turn of phrase*

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On Mad Max: Fury Road, you were faced with the task of making vehicles that look cool but that are also sturdy enough to survive the rigors of filming in the Namibian desert. That has to create a ton of difficulties, marrying the machine to the role.

COLIN GIBSON: They had to perform, and, like any other character, had a part to play in fleshing out the story and making believable the world they inhabit. Technically, the desert terrain and climate made for logistic problems (overheating, wear on suspension, clogged aspirators, etc), but those very antagonisms added to the beauty and sheer physics of the action with swirling dust, spat sand and airborne vehicles. We design to the story and react to the reality, and each adds truth to the other. Further, we designed the design process to resemble as much as possible the HOW of the Warboys: scavenge, assemble, increase grunt, weaponize, increase grunt, add cup-holder, set off to war with v8 roar…

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There’s a classiness to the muscle cars and some of the older models that makes them timeless, but also kind of harkens back to a time when you actually drove a car.

COLIN GIBSON: Well, that was part of the ethos. There’s the double helix of film design, one strand the requirements and logistics of the film-making, one the truth and logic of the story and the world we are in. Mad Max was set at the end of the ‘70s, and we wanted to use that as a starting point, yet now it’s far further into a future in freefall toward feudalism. So, why are we still using these cars? How do we justify this look? We have basically three fantastic reasons…

Number one, if you’re going to go to war you want heavy Detroit steel rather than carbon fiber. Number two: the analog/digital divide…You also want something you can fix yourself that has balls and grunt, but that is also mechanical, as opposed to computer chipped and plugged in. Number three, in a world of scarce resources and lost beauty, I can’t see anybody schlepping a Corolla halfway across the wasteland to save.

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Tell us about the rolling nightmare called the People Eater? It looks like it’s got a Mercedes chassis to it.

COLIN GIBSON: Yeah. In [director] George [Miller]’s mind, the People Eater truck was always representative of the corporate industrial military complex. A horizontal cracking tower on wheels, refining fuels from oil even as it hurtled across the desert. The head of Gas Town is pretty much large, bald, and be-suited—a bean counter who drives to kill and kills to acquire; he’s all about bartering fuel for water and munitions, so the story required his vehicle to be huge, corporate, military …and it was fated to explode in a massive climax. With the People Eater chassis, I was lucky enough that a wedding company closed down and their pair of old Mercedes stretch limos were up for sale, cheap. So, they became him. And then we did a little lattice cut-out instead of windows, as glass was rare and because he always struck me as Sydney Greenstreet in a Casablanca Café—a large, corpulent man counting coins in the back of a casbah.

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There’s a Volkswagen Bug that we used for one of the Gas Town vehicles and we decided to make it the vehicle that tracked with him, like the fish that track with sharks to eat the parasites, the remora. (We were desperate to use a Volkswagen, and the lead Imperator of Gas Town has a domed bald head, is quite round and corpulent, so the Beetle became the perfect choice). It was beaten back to bare metal because it gave us the shiny, chrome dome; we aped the piping, drums, coils and condensation vats in shape and color to mimic the larger unit and viola, the beetle is reimagined, recycled and reborn.

Did you apply that same logic to each vehicle?
COLIN GIBSON: To each vehicle. We built close to 150 vehicles total but there were eighty-eight set characters.

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The Mad Max Interceptor is very iconic in signature, but you’re not overly bound to expectations. Did you feel you had something of a blank canvas to adapt it for this story?

COLIN GIBSON: A blank canvas that absolutely must be filled with ‘Interceptor.’ We open with Max’s car as the last remaining beat of the Mad Max world, last gasp of a legend lost to fight or flight, running on fumes, rolling on rags, rust to dust… We pass the baton, we hand the dim memory of myth to the new Max, and we wipe it out in the opening scenes of the film. It’s there and then it’s not. And a little later, we do as the Wasteland does, what man is forced to do—salvage and recycle—and the Interceptor returns, ground bare and rebuilt, jacked up and juiced, four-wheel drived and double aspirated, weaponized to wreak havoc in an ever more brutal future. Max must do battle with his own past.

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Does Immortan Joe have two cars in the film?

COLIN GIBSON: The Immortan Joe really owns all the vehicles in the Wasteland, his fiefdom, his armada, all the steering wheels his, the vehicles gifted to the Warboys only to further his ambitions. The Immortan takes over a monster truck at one stage to navigate an avalanche-strewn canyon and jockey his son to battle, but his real vehicle—the Giga-Horse—is probably my favorite because it was built from the ground up. Deep in the dim, dark Rev-Head past, the glory of a Cadillac’s tail fin still haunts the imagination. The glory days before the Fall, a snatch of song tugging at the heart, the gas-guzzling joy of once having been able to put one arm out the window and your other arm around the girl, hit the accelerator and live, be someone … a luxury long lost.

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So, in a world where there is barely one of anything, only the Master may have a pair. We took great delight in taking a couple of 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Villes, tail fins akimbo and red rocket brake lights glowing, cutting them down the center, mounting them one atop the other in flagrante delicto, tipped at a rakish angle over a pair of giant blown V8s, slaved through a custom transmission to harmonize in a deep bass rumble and drive two-meter-high double rear wheels into the Wasteland.

madmax_doofwagon In the trailer, we see a vehicle with a rocker swinging from it while shredding on his guitar as this armada storms into the Wasteland. What can you tell us about that?

COLIN GIBSON: The Doof Wagon. This is an army scavenging across the Wasteland for what’s left, fighting over the scraps, and every army needs a Little Drummer Boy. George imagined one bigger and louder than ever seen before, something raw and raucous to drive the troops on to glory or to death. So, the kid with a drum became Spinal Tap on wheels, a high-speed, high volume wailing rock concert hurtling across the bloodied terrain, Taiko drummers strapped to repurposed metal ducting beating a brutal rhythm for Coma the guitarist, blind and bungee-slung, before the last Marshall stack in existence in the moshpit at the end of the world.

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Can you talk about the Bullet Farmer vehicle, what it is and what it does? That’s an inspired look.

COLIN GIBSON: Yeah, but that was inspired by the story. When you’re in a long and constant chase, you need to come up with punctuation, and George, in his storytelling, had some great punctuation—beats that vary the speed and flow of story, let you catch your breath and expand your sense of the personal dramas unfolding. The toxic storm, the endless dunes…

Another of the main punctuation points is the Night Bog, which stops a lot of the vehicles because it’s basically a huge, endless bog. And what can go through a bog but a tank?

So, we needed a tank, heavily armed, that could do over 60 kilometers-an-hour, keep up with the progress of the other vehicles, and be ready to be unleashed at this point. There’s a company in the States that builds tanks for mining and also for the U.S. military, and we were lucky enough to have them customize a ‘Ripsaw’ for the film. We adapted one of those, exchanged their diesel engines with a water-cooled Merlin V8, then gave it a brassy muscle car body, aviation parts styling, a shark mouth finish of bullets as teeth … and an enormous armory.

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The motorcycles of the Vuvalini are some impressive machines.

COLIN GIBSON: For the Vuvalini’s bikes, we wrapped some feminine detail and nomadic styling around the leather seat of a repurposed Harley or BMW to give you the last thrill of your last ride before these lovely old bikie chicks took you out with a single shot. Heavy touring motorbikes are not necessarily built for swinging around sand dunes at high speeds with an 80 year-old woman on board, but our bike mechanics and [second unit director / supervising stunt coordinator] Guy Norris and his team did a fantastic job making them do things that we tried to pretend we had designed them for.

There are a lot of motorbikes, and, again, for punctuation and for momentum, there are specific stunts asked of particular tribes. One of the splinter groups that lurks in the canyons, the Rock Riders, are basically hyenas on motorbikes: attack units working almost vertically over rocky terrain. Trail and Trial bikes alike were redesigned and rebuilt for the fantastic riders filling these roles.

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You’ve been working on this project for over a decade in one form or another?

COLIN GIBSON: On and off. I went out looking for locations after George offered me the film in 2000, and had a fantastic time traveling the world visiting all the places no one wanted to go. As it turned out, they all had different flavors of the epic and fantastic, but very few of them had more than one or two, and very few satisfied the logistics of a large crew and a difficult schedule. We were generally missing the huge, rocky canyons in most of the places, because they just didn’t seem to abut a beautiful desert.

Namibia was a great choice because it had the advantage of having four or five different looks. I came back convinced that it was the spot because It had many flavors of desert (sand dune, gibber plain, salt lake and rocky riverbed) and yet, at the end of the day, there were two little seaside towns—one of German and one of English extraction, but all African—where you could have a beer and watch the sun go down and eat German pork knuckle. And then the next day you could be out surrounded by a 360-degree view of absolutely nothing.

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On such a nomadic production, does that present new challenges to your gig in terms of not having the kind of control over everything you’d have in a studio shoot?

COLIN GIBSON: No, I think it’s a great thing. I don’t want control over everything. The director does. You know what directors are like—they can’t keep their sticky fingers off every pixel. [Laughs] We desperately embrace all that comes our way, just the same as with the design process. If you’re going to build from salvage then you can only build from what you can find, and that arm tied behind your back forces ever more creative solutions.

The War Rig looks the way it looks partly because [concept artist] Peter Pound did such a great job imagining it through the original storyboard process, but also because I had to build four of them and therefore needed eight of a particular vehicle from the ‘40s or ‘50s to give me a hot rod look that I could actually find for real. Enter the Chev Fleetmaster, a ubiquitous hulk rusting in paddocks all across our wide, brown land.

This design ethic allowed us to be true to the philosophy our Warboys also had to follow: dream what might have been, salvage what you may, build to do battle and make a fetish of your love and lust. I think that’s what gives us an internal logic and a truth, that we build the machines and pit them against each other and the elements, mankind struggling as ever against itself and against physics. What goes up, comes down; what goes fast, stops hard. History.

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So, there’s a certain element of jazz with the unreliable terrain and atmosphere?

COLIN GIBSON: Oh, it’s an undeniably necessary component. I use the jazz riff concept when you’re working within the trope of post-apocalypse, which has been beaten to death by a whole bunch of B-grade knuckleheads who think welding some barbed wire to a Camaro gives you the future of civilization. Really it’s coming up with a weirder instrument and playing in a different place, and yet still catching bits of old standards. So it really is jazz. You’ve hit the nail on the head. And jazz works better. There’s nothing better than hearing a little Charlie Mingus over the roar of a V8 in an ever widening desert…

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If, after a post as relentless as the film, you’re still fiending for more there’s an article with Jacinta Leong about the actual building of the cars here with detailed plans of some of the main vehicles.

Mad Max : Fury Road review

Mad-Max-Fury-Road-Banner-Charlize-Theron-Tom-HardyCurrently sitting at 99% on Rotten TomatoesMad Max: Fury Road – believe the hype, it’s everything that the trailers promised and more. From the start the pedal is down and it doesn’t let up for the first 30 minutes as characters and chases are thrown at you relentlessly with little or no knowledge of who or why. Not that it’s hard to work out but it’s refreshing that there’s no pandering to the audience and little dialogue so keep up at the back there or become road kill.

The film looks stunning, worn, gritty, dirty, it would probably smell of sweat, piss and engine oil too if it was in smell-o-vision. The vehicle and character design is out of this world, taking its cues from British artist and co-writer Brendan McCarthy‘s early concepts and superbly translating them onto the screen. Imagine the 2nd and 3rd Mad Max films with bigger budgets and the colour saturation turned up. The yellow, rust and orange palette of the posters radiates out of the screen, forget those sepia-toned initial press shots that were photo-shopped to within an inch of their life and made it look cold and windy, the film blazes as hot as fire.

madmax3dThe vehicles, machines and stunts are said to be 90% real with little cgi and it shows. You’re more aware of what was taken out than what was added – the safety ropes on the multiple stuntmen flying through the air in most scenes and half of Charlize Theron‘s arm as she sports a stump with robotic arm. Not that it’s ever explained or even matters how this came to be, like most of the look of the film, it simply looks cool and adds to several different moments that would have played differently had she been fully able-bodied.

Theron is actually the star of the film, a physical match for Max, a better shot and a she saves his arse at least as many times as he does hers. She’s the Tank Girl we never got 20 years back and thankfully there’s no unnecessary romance, more a grudging respect, the Future may belong to the Mad as the posters proclaim but the film belongs to her. Tom Hardy is decent as Max but with maybe a pages worth of dialogue he doesn’t have the impact he could have had and when he does speak his accent wavers from Aussie to.. I’m not entirely sure, he doesn’t seem to make up his mind. It’s a small gripe as he looks the part and certainly kicks enough arse to make Mel Gibson look like a wimp although it’s not in comparison I’d want to make, Hardy plays Max differently that’s all.

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Other small gripes, the music is uneven, either overplayed in the few sentimental scenes or not rawk-ous enough in some of the chases where a blind guitarist swings on bungee ropes whilst thrashing out riffs to motivate the War Boys into battle. I had visions of Marilyn Manson‘s ‘The Beautiful People’ as being the perfect soundtrack for some of the scenes, short, sharp shocks metered out to a marching band glam beat. Again though, small gripes.

As exhilarating rides go the first and last acts are flawless examples of fast-paced, relentlessly brutal roller coasters that will take some beating. There’s a fragmented and slightly baggy middle to the film including night scenes in blacks and blues that contrast nicely with the oranges and yellows of the day. I’m hoping that the film will inspire a whole new generation of artists, film-makers and writers in the same way that the originals did, spawning a host of copycats as well as pushing some of Hollywood to follow suit and back away from heavy CGIwork.

I saw it at the IMAX in 3D (thankfully used sparingly here) and enjoyed it’s use far more than in The Avengers where it felt forced in every scene. I ducked at least once as things flew at the screen and only one scene gratuitously played to the effect, tellingly one of the only obvious CGI moments it must be noted. Go and see it, it’s worth every penny, ‘More Please’ Mr George Miller.

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