Bad Land: Road to Fury (Jake Paltrow, 2014)

Originally titled Young Ones for its US release, Bad Land: Road to Fury has seemingly received a name change in an attempt to capitalise on the hype surrounding the forthcoming Mad Max: Fury Road. Despite the presence of that film’s co-star Nicholas Hoult, plus desert vistas and a post-apocalyptic setting where a fleeting water supply is a key plot point, Jake Paltrow’s sci-fi Western has little in common with the Mad Max series. It actually resembles, of all things, the sprawling 1956 land epic Giant

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Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg, 2015)

At first glance, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 Brit-lit classic Far from the Madding Crowd might seem like a strange career choice for director Thomas Vinterberg, he of former Dogme 95 leanings. Upon closer examination, however, his handsomely-mounted follow-up to 2012’s The Hunt shares many thematic similarities with that film, as well as his 1998 breakthrough Festen. All three concern people’s standings in their insular communities upended by chaotic circumstances; a few all too predetermined but most of them unpredictable twists of cruel fate…

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Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015)

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, James Spader voices the eponymous villain, an entity of artificial intelligence that can inhabit seemingly any mechanical host around the world that it sees fit; break one body and you’ll just find him in an ever bigger one. Ultron is the superhero film embodiment of the ghost in the machine. Age of Ultron’s writer-director Joss Whedon, meanwhile, is the human in the too-often homogeneous Marvel machine, packing his second Avengers film with wit, pathos (as a result of characters’ palpable emotional vulnerability), and some actual thematic thrust regarding the concepts of invincibility, the transient state of human existence, and America’s knack for trying to prevent conflicts that haven’t even started with methods that doom people anyway. The symphony of destruction works because this blockbuster behemoth has an actual soul…

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