Reviews: Thrilling ‘Furiosa’ hits mark while ‘The Garfield Movie’ falls short

Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (Courtesy/Warner Bros.)

Co-writer/director George Miller delivers again with “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” a post-apocalyptic prequel to his 2015 feature “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

The new film unfolds the backstory on Charlize Theron’s Furiosa character from the 2015 movie, but sans Theron. Anya Taylor-Joy and Alyla Browne play younger versions of the titular character in this bold and kinetic film that is a bit more measured than its berserker-paced predecessor, but just as entertaining.

The movie isn’t a rival for this year’s best film so far in “Dune: Part 2,” but it is more fast-paced and action-packed. The movie clocks in at just under two and half hours, but the film’s driving nature leaves you little time to check your watch.

The script by Miller and Nico Lathouris is inventive, free-wheeling, and fun, and its brought to life by the expert eye of Miller and cinematographer Simon Duggan. The action-epic isn’t necessarily original, but it did keep me on the edge of my seat with grand set pieces and exhilarating action throughout. The score by Tom Holkenborg stands out, as well, amping up the film’s energy to epic levels.

Taylor-Joy has developed into a formidable action star as well as skilled actress. She takes over the role from Theron with aplomb. The 14-year-old Browne is nearly as strong as the adolescent Furiosa, who is kidnapped from her homeland and bonded to the great Biker Horde of Warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth).

A great villain always makes the heroes better, and Hemsworth supplies the film and his co-stars with a memorable antagonist. He chews the scenery as Dementus with a devilishly delicious and charismatic performance that makes one wonder what he might have brought to the role of Loki in the Marvel Universe if he had been cast as the evil brother rather than the noble Thor.

While roving through the desert wasteland, Dementus’ forces encounter the Citadel, ruled under the iron thumb of The Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme). Furiosa comes into her own as a warrior as the two battle lords grapple for hegemony.

With epic set pieces and ample action, the movie is an exciting thrill ride that sets a fairly high bar for action and adventure films during the rest of this summer. The movie isn’t what I’d consider an instant classic, but it’s a better-than-average action film with solid sci-fi/fantasy trappings.

(R) 2 hr. 28 min.
Grade: B

The Garfield Movie

(DNEG Animation)

By my estimation, “The Garfield Movie” is about 40 years too late to the party, and unfortunately the party this movie throws isn’t very entertaining.

In my youth of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Garfield was the cool “new” comic strip that was all the rage among the elementary-school set as well as older readers of the newspaper section known as the “funny page.”

Today we barely have printed newspapers, and I honestly couldn’t tell you if the statewide paper still runs the “Garfield” strip on Sundays or not.

By the time the lasagna-loving, nap-taking, deadpan orange tabby made it on television with holiday specials and a Saturday-morning cartoon series in the mid-1980s, I felt I had aged out of the character, especially as a cartoon.

Oh I still read the comic strip in my daily consumption of the newspaper, but Garfield’s better days had passed by the 1990s. The sardonic gags about Mondays, the stupidity of dogs, and the quest for even more lasagna were as stale as a week-old donut.

Flash forward a decade and half when the venerable fat cat was translated to the big screen in two less-than-average films — “Garfield: The Movie” in 2004 and “Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties” in 2006 — in which a cartoon Garfield interacted with live-action actors. Admittedly I did not see either in the theaters, and labored to get through them on television. Even the voice work of a slumming Bill Murray failed to get me over the hump.

The latest Garfield film is clearly not aimed at me. It’s for kids and their parents. I will say the first 15 minutes of the computer-animated comedy did stroke my nostalgia for the character as we see how the irascible house cat met his love-lorn owner Jon (voiced by Nicholas Hoult) at an Italian restaurant.

I smiled through the subsequent montage of the greatest hits adapted the comic strip, but when the film got down to the business of telling its story about the reunion of Garfield with his estranged father Vic (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), the movie lost me. Hard.

“The Garfield Movie” is a less-than-average animated effort in my estimation that I don’t recommend. It’s full of annoying product placement and unfunny cell-phone jokes, but my biggest gripe is the decision to make a movie about daddy issues that is primarily aimed at elementary-age children and their parents. That’s weird and gross.

(PG) 1 hr. 45 min.
Grade: D

New in Local Theaters – May 24, 2024

  • Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (R) 2 hr. 28 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight
  • The Garfield Movie (PG) 1 hr. 45 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight
  • Babes (R) 1 hr. 44 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square
  • Sight (PG-13) 1 hr. 40 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle

Classic Corner – Favorite Films Year by Year (1995-99)

Today in the Classic Corner, we have the first installment of a new feature where I’ll be running down a list of my favorite movie from each year starting in 1999. Each week, I’ll look at five years going backwards to 1930. Once that’s completed, I might start back with 2000 and move forward.

Admittedly, this endeavor is more than a little self-indulgent. While my cinematic taste runs fairly mainstream, it is no more valid than anyone else’s. When it comes to our favorite movies, we might not agree, but our choices are our own, and the reasons are on point no matter what they are.

To temper my opinion and add a little variety, I’m also listing both the top-grossing film and the Oscar-winning film for Best Picture for each year. While it’s a small range, it’ll give readers a reminder of a few films that came out that year.

For some years, I’ll list an honorable mention and others I won’t. This is meant to be fun and is just one film buff’s opinion.

In some instances, a movie like “Titanic” is listed under two years. The movie opened in December 1997 and won the Oscar, but it was also the top-grossing film of 1998 because that was the year it made the majority of its money. “Titanic” was so popular, it stayed in theaters for more than a year.


Top Grossing: Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace
This much-maligned prequel to the original “Star Wars” trilogy was a box-office smash. While it does pale in comparison to the original three films, this movie is still as fun as it is frustrating for many fans of The Force.

Oscar Winner: American Beauty
This black comedy about a suburban family in quiet turmoil is worth revisiting for its moving yet ironic plot and performances by a stellar cast, led by the problematic Kevin Spacey. The film is too dark and cynical to be a favorite of mine, but there is no denying it’s well made and an interesting watch.

My Favorite: The Sixth Sense
By far this is writer/director M. Knight Shyamalan’s best film, and it is up there for star Bruce Willis, too. Haley Joel Osment gives one of the best child performances in Hollywood history in a masterfully crafted movie that I did not figure out until right before the big reveal.


Top Grossing: Titanic
I’m not the biggest fan of James Cameron or Leonard Di Caprio, although I certainly acknowledge that both have done exceptional work over the years.As much as I would like to be a contrarian, this is an engaging love story that holds up fine two decades later.

Oscar Winner: Shakespeare in Love
The movie is an enjoyable romantic farce about an interesting topic. It’s definitely worth seeing, but it’s one of the most lightweight Oscar winners in history.

My Favorite: There’s Something About Mary
Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” should have taken on the Oscar, but my favorite movie of the year was the Farelley Brother’s gross-out and highly offensive comedy, “There’s Something About Mary.” I’ve never laughed harder at a movie in the theater than this film. I don’t think it’s even close. I was nearly rolling in the aisle. I think I embarrassed the two friends I saw it with I was laughing so hard.


Top Grossing: Men in Black
I’ve always enjoyed sci-fi, Tommy Lee Jones, and Will Smith, but somehow the mixture just didn’t work for me with this overly long film.

Oscar Winner: Titanic
Director James Cameron deserved the Oscar for this film that took the nation by storm. It’s probably been since the movie first came out on DVD since that I’ve seen it all the way through. It might be time for a rewatch.

My Favorite: L.A. Confidential
This is the movie that made a star out of Russell Crowe. Guy Pearce has not fared as well over the years, but the two combine to make perfect oil-and-water partners in director Curtis Hanson’s masterpiece of political intrigue and police corruption, set in the underbelly of 1940s Los Angeles.


Top Grossing: Independence Day
To me Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day” is the most entertaining alien invasion movie ever made. The film catapulted Will Smith to stardom, and gave Bill Pullman the hero’s role of his career. The movie brought the shock and awe, and it holds up well today.

Oscar Winner: The English Patient
Director Anthony Minghella’s film starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliet Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas is a beautifully shot sweeping epic that probably should have won Fiennes an Oscar. A meaty and rewarding movie that’s a perfect watch for a stormy or wintery day, when getting out of the house isn’t an option.

My Favorite: Jerry Maguire
Tom Cruise is a movie star of the first order. He has undeniable charisma and a likability quotient that’s off the charts if you can reconcile his career with his creepy beliefs in Scientology. I’d argue Cruise was at the height of his powers when he played sports agent Jerry Maguire. Renee Zellweger and cute little Jonathan Lipnicki give excellent support in this romantic-drama expertly directed by Cameron Crowe. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Jay Mohr also give the performances of their careers in supporting roles. Gooding won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role. It’s a near masterpiece by Crowe, only topped by “Almost Famous” from 2000.


Top Grossing: Batman Forever
It kind of shocked me when researching this article that “Batman Forever” was the top grossing film of 1995. As a dyed-in-the-wool Batman fan from my childhood, there were things about the film that thrilled me, but overall I felt the movie missed the mark by a mile, starting with the off-kilter performances of Jim Carrey as the Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face. Ultimately Val Kilmer was a decent Batman in a mediocre to bad movie.

Oscar Winner and My Favorite: Braveheart
Again another controversial pick because of director/star Mel Gibson’s racist diatribes from years ago. I certainly don’t support or condone that type of speech, but Gibson is a talented performer and a gifted director. “Braveheart” stands as perhaps his greatest work. The historical drama tells the tragic tale of William Wallace, a Scottish warlord who leads his people in battle against the British. It’s a savage, brutal story about the fight for freedom that ends with the public torture and execution of Gibson’s Wallace. Many such historical dramas have been made before and since, but “Braveheart” stands as one of the best. It’s both harrowing and inspiring.