Folks, I’m just a simple cougar.  I’m not here to try to impress you with fancy cinematic talk of mise-en-scène or leitmotifs.  No, what I want is to give you something that can take your mind off of that paper you should have started already and that is due in the next nine hours.  I want to present you with movies that will give your brain a rest from studying for that test you almost forgot about until your buddy asked to borrow your notes.   And this month, I kind of feel like I knocked it out of the park.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) [R]

Mad Max Fury Road PosterI’ve really been excited for this one.  As a big fan of the whole Mad Max series (yes, even Beyond Thunderdome), I couldn’t wait to see what director George Miller had in store for us.  I mean, the guy is 70 years old and his last directing jobs were for the Happy Feet movies so I was tempering my expectations a little but, still, Mad Max is his baby.

And was I ever rewarded.

Look, you could very easily disagree with me on this, but honestly, I think you are going to have a hard time coming up with a better made, more entertaining movie this year.  At least until Christmas when the new Star Wars and James Bond movies come out.

If you’ve never seen a Mad Max movie, don’t worry, you’ll figure out that Max is haunted by his past and really, that’s all you need to know from the previous movies.  The plot itself is simple.  Monstrous lord of the post-apocalyptic citadel, Immortan Joe sends his lieutenant, Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) out to get gasoline from another city.  But Furiosa has secretly stolen something important from Joe.  Joe leads a party to hunt her down and get back what she has stolen.  Max ends up wrapped up in the chase.

Honestly, there’s not a ton of dialogue and the plot is kind of like the cars in the movie, stripped down and built for speed.  What is incredible is how Miller is able to get so much from so little.  Every scene is filled with something that makes you say “Wow, look at that!” and yet, it doesn’t feel overloaded or nausea-inducing like a Michael Bay movie would.  It is a fantastic example of getting the most cinematic bang for your buck.

Mad Max: Fury Road is fun, frantic and exciting.  It’s very smart, very well made and is the best movie I’ve seen all year.  Just give it a shot.  You’ll be glad you did.

9 paws out of 10

Focus (2015) [R]

Focus 2015 posterWill Smith . . . you make it so hard, Will Smith.  I mean, I kind of love you but I kind of hate you to.  So it was with great trepidation that I decided to watch Focus.

But maybe that fear was misplaced.

I mean, yeah, After Earth and Men In Black 3 were both questionable.  But Smith has always been like that.  He’s thrown a few stinkers in there but generally you can count on his movies to be entertaining.

And such is the case with Focus.  Starring Smith and Margot Robbie of The Wolf Of Wall Street and the ill-fated Pan-Am TV series, Focus is the story of an accomplished con man who inadvertently meets, mentors and falls for a neophyte con woman.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Trust me, things get much more complicated.

And that’s where most of the criticism of the movie comes in.  I’ve read a bunch of reviews of Focus and the most common complaint is that the plot gets a little too muddled with “cons.”  You know, I didn’t feel that way myself.  I didn’t find it confusing or too light.  In fact, I’m almost a little ashamed to admit . . . I liked it.

Look, Will Smith is going to play the same guy he plays in every movie.  The plot is going to have holes that require you to suspend your disbelief.  But if you let go a bit, it’s also pretty fun and breezy and even a little romantic.  Plus any movie that ends with Barbara Lewis singing “Love Makes The World Go Round” is all right by me.  That song just makes me happy.

6.5 paws out of 10

As always, if you have a movie you think I should check out or you want to talk further about one of these reviews, drop me a line at collincougar@collin.edu or leave me a message on Facebook.