Mel Gibson first made his name with 1979's "Mad Max." Credit: Provided
If you're like most people, you've probably ditched DVD and Blu-ray and do the majority of your home entertainment viewing with streaming. This is a shame, but that's for another column. But if you must dial up whatever Netflix or Hulu has on purest whim, here's some ways to make your viewing productive:
‘Mad Max’ Netflix Instant
This year’s Comic-Con went out on a high, courtesy of a reliably high-octane teaser for next summer’s reboot of “Mad Max.” Thankfully the blockbuster, subtitled “Fury Road,” will be directed by George Miller, who did the originals. In fact, those originals still hold up, even by today’s hypercutting action standards. And luckily they’re new to Netflix Instant.
Amazingly, the 1979 dystopian original — in which Mel Gibson’s Australian family man transforms into a hotheaded nomad — only saw a limited release in the U.S. (Its even better sequel, called “Mad Max 2” everywhere else, had to be called “The Road Warrior” here, because few knew who Mad Max was.)
Yet it had a profound effect on the way action cinema was made. George Miller’s style was, for the time, uncommonly kinetic. He favors fast cuts, but they’re not just about speed: Every image is bold, the camera often pushing uncomfortably close to the punkish grotesques who drive Gibson’s police officer to the brink. Every shot is precise and in the right place, which is to say often nailed down to cars hurtling down endless outback highways.
Today’s action films rarely have “Mad Max”’s precision, which is why the reboot’s trailer — which replaces Gibson with Tom Hardy, and also boasts a shaved-headed Charlize Theron — was so exciting: It looks like the kind of thriller you can actually follow. But in the meantime, the original films will more than tide one over.
Philip Seymour Hoffman played a charismatic cult leader in "The Master." Credit: TWC
‘The Master’ Netflix Instant
The only new Philip Seymour Hoffman performances we have left are in “Hunger Game” sequels, but he’s the kind of actor whose work rewards revisits. One of his most charismatic turns was in Paul Thomas Anderson’s gargantuan whatzit, with the late actor playing an L. Ron Hubbard-esque cult leader who finds himself mystified by a feral, untameable and very horny veteran (Joaquin Phoenix). The film rewards repeated viewing, but not because the plot is hard to follow (it isn’t). It’s not clear what Anderson’s getting at, which is the secret to its unique power.