Originally, I was going to avoid this. The trailers didn’t really tickle my fancy and Karl Urban is a bit hit and miss (Doom being a prime example). What Stallone did to the character in the previous, abomination of an adaptation (YOU NEVER TAKE OFF THE HELMET!!) also put me, and the legions of fanboys off.
The 2000AD comic stories were, and still are, different to the mainstream Marvel & DC fare. They are much darker, more sinister, and with more realism entwined in its stories than what we have come to expect from other stables. The first movie took some great elements from the 2000AD universe (the Angel Gang, ABC Warriors) and made them tame: disappointing.
Then there is the current trend of making movies 12A friendly with The Hunger Games being the most recent of casualties. So when Dredd was first announced I wasn’t buying it.
But then I started hearing good things.
Critic reviews were coming back as being very positive. Heck, on Rotten Tomatoes, at the time of deliberating on whether I should go see it or not, the rating was 90%! The certificate was not 12A but a full on 18. I also heard that the helmet does NOT come off! So I shed my preconceptions, donned the spouse on the arm, and bravely ventured forth to the eXtreme(!) screen at Vue Westfields.
You are first introduced to the action in a no holds barred chase through Mega City One. The city is shown in daylight, which may shock some who are used to cities of the future caked in never ending darkness (Blade Runner, the first Judge Dredd movie are just two examples). This expansive view helps to portray the vastness of the city using the host South African locations as fantastic backdrops. The mega towers in the city are just that: mega! These futuristic megaliths tower over the sprawling city below. These are self contained towns, if you like, rather than residential blocks and blend in to the Durban/Cape Town layouts perfectly. South Africa is now a hotbed of movie activity, and it should be welcomed if they can play host to movies like this and the fabulous District 9.
That initial chase sets you up well for the rest of the movie. It’s a throwback to all of those 80’s no holds barred action movies like Robocop, in fact the opening scene was so reminiscent of Murphy’s exploits, and others of its ilk that I felt like I was right back there, hairstyles and shoulder pads aside. During the chase you are introduced to a form of drug called Slo-Mo. When users take this substance their brain interprets everything much more slowly, this is shown by the film employing slow motion. It reminded me of ‘Bullet-Time’ in the Max Payne games and the method of filming is used several times to great effect throughout the running time.
It’s immediately obvious that this movie will not go on without a brutal bang or two. The violence is ongoing throughout and at some points even I found it difficult to watch (and hear!). Let me tell you now, if you ever wondered what a bullet through the mouth would look like in slow motion, this is the film for you, because it shows you, about a million times.
The gist of the plot surrounds the Peach Tree tower and its chief inhabitant, Ma-Ma, played by Lena Headey. A one time hooker who was scarred by her pimp and decided to take revenge in a very Lorena Bobbit manner. She then proceeded to take over the tower and build a drug empire, ruthlessly.
As an antagonist, Lena Headey comes off ok, yes she does evil things but there was always the impression that once Dredd got to her, it would be a non-entity of an encounter, ending with a bullet through the mouth……………….in slow motion. To counter her lack of presence, Dredd (and his psychic sidekick Judge Anderson played by the lovely Olivia Thirlby) are sent hordes of tower residents to take on. If you have stopped there, and are thinking: ‘Wait, isn’t this just like The Raid?’ You’d be right, but the guys in The Raid didn’t have a Lawgiver did they!?! No they bloody well didn’t.
Thirlby plays the Anderson character very well and she grows the character from the timid introduction into a fully fledged Judge by the end; her psychic powers growing with her as the chaos surrounds her and Dredd.
How about Karl Urban? Has he done the character justice? Does he get past the considerable handicap of only being able to use his chin to act? I’d have to give that a resounding yes! Dredd is not really a hero, he is a fascist, a thug, a bully, who just happens to be on our side. Urban pulls this off really well and I’d welcome him back with open arms if a sequel gets made.
One of the great things about this particular Dredd story is that it didn’t try to give us an Epic, it wasn’t an end of the world type scenario. They took a normal day, a normal routine check up and turned it into a movie. Ok, so the normal working day for Judge Dredd is most likely more eventful for him than us, but it worked. It was a great way to reboot the franchise on the big screen. Karl’s stoic performance leads well to some of the chuckle inducing one-liners he is given, which helps to add some welcome levity. It’s another good example of how script-writing and story writing can differ. A story can be incredibly basic but still succeed with a good screen writing, The Avengers is a case in point, and I believe Dredd is another.
With Dredd now fixed, I’m aching to see what the same team could do with a Dark Judges story arc. I think every Judge Dredd fan on the planet is just aching to see the Dark Judges on the big screen; especially Judge Death! This would be a wet dream come true for me! …Well, uhm, enough about my fantasies… Wonder Woman *cough*.
As usual, I don’t like to give too much away in my reviews, as it will spoil the movie, so I won’t ramble on-besides there isn’t much to the plot, it’s really just a staging ground for an endless run of violence Dredd style, and a reintroduction nay, a reminder to what Judge Dredd is……………..The Law!
Solid 8.5/10 from me.
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Picture the scene:
You’ve had a hard day at work and fancy going to the cinema to unwind. Once you and your friend arrive and buy your tickets, you settle down in your seats with your loud sweet bags, which are scientifically-optimised to make as much rustling when touched as possible.
You then get your phone out to make sure it’s on loud; you don’t miss any important texts from your friends, and need it close by to tweet your every inane opinion (“Jony Dep is so fitt LOL”).
Finally, you lubricate your vocal chords to make sure that you can talk as loudly as you can for as long as possible. After all, what’s the point of going to the cinema if not to talk over the film you and everyone around you has just paid to see?
If this is you, I have a message for you: you are ruining the cinema experience for everyone around you.
And you are a dick.
The Prince Charles Cinema in London’s Leicester Square has a novel response to this phenomenon: ninjas.
So, back to the initial scenario: no sooner have you turned to your friend to declare the movie “boring” and “too talky” (30 seconds after the start, natch), you feel a soft breeze on your face, as, out of thin air, three black-clad, faceless martial artists descend upon you. In a non-confrontational, friendly but firm, way, the Cinema Ninjas explain that you are being inconsiderate, and are ruining other people’s experience. Since you are so flabbergasted, you simply nod mute acquiescence, and proceed to allow your fellow patrons to enjoy the film as the three spectral ninjas dissolve into the darkness.
The PCC has long been a great place to watch movies in London. With their astoundingly low prices (especially considering their central location), great cult film viewings, and passionate staff, catching a film there is always a pleasure. In their quest to improve the cinematic experience still further, their morphsuit-clad ninjas innovate in the never ending battle against what is often the worst part of modern cinema viewing: inconsiderate audience members. If that isn’t a good advert for the cinema (at the very least, a damn good publicity stunt), I don’t know what is. I say good on the PCC for clamping down on that rude minority, saving cinema for the rest of us!
Okay, I’ve heard it all before – “Dalton was crap”, “Don’t tell me you’re a Tim Dalton fan”, “He was worse than George Lazenby” etc etc etc.
I’m bored of it.
With Skyfall on its way, I felt now was a good time to offer why Tim Dalton isn’t just the strongest Bond, but why I consider the Living Daylights one of the best three Bond films ever made. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make this long and boring – and I’m not going to whitter on about the plot details of TLDs either.
But rather than go on ploughing your Connery, Moore, Brosnan and Craig furrows (sorry for the omission George, but nobody cares), isn’t it time you put your prejudice to one side and re-discovered the best and most complicated Bond portrayal to date?
A little historical context to set the scene; Dalton was asked as a 22 year old stage actor to play Bond in the movie On Her Majesty Secret Service. Dalton turned down the opportunity because he thought he was to young to play the character (note the respect for the role). We know what happened next.
Dalton was asked twice more, For Your Eyes Only(1981) and Octopussy (1983). It wasn’t until 1986 that he finally felt he looked mature enough to play Bond and was offered a three picture deal.
Dalton’s take on the character was to create a screen version of the brooding and methodical assassin envisioned by Ian Fleming in his original stories. Dalton was a RADA trained Shakespearian actor and certainly had no intention of smirking and punning his way through the role. He chose to go his own way. Goodbye super-villains hellbent on far fetched world domination plots, and hello to arms dealers, Afghan resistance fighters, complicated double-crosses and political assassinations. The familiar elements were preserved – the car, the locations, but anchored in a real cold war setting. The whole thing shifts along with an urgency that would have been a fantasy in any of Moore’s efforts but it asks a lot of the viewer to keep up. I can imagine myself as a kid trying to watch this, and I would have hated it – where were the spaceships? Hell, he even stays with just one woman throughout!
However, the short and long of it is that Dalton suffered a very mixed response after the extended stay of Roger Moore. Now listen, I grew up with Moore as Bond, and loved him at the time. But I was a kid. I find his Bonds un-watchable now. When The Living Daylights hit the big screen, global audiences were still in mourning for Moore’s bond, and found Dalton humourless. It seems that heady excesses of good story, three-dimensional characterisation and real world setting were too challenging for most. After all, where were all the puns and the evil bloke who plans to ravage the planet with some deadly plot? Where were Jaws and Grace Jones?
I’ll summarise my feelings by saying that Daniel Craig’s incarnation of Bond, so universally acclaimed (and of which I am a fan), is an echo of Dalton’s harder edge. While Licence to Kill was a weaker film, Bond had never been so tough (until Craig). You sense a seething anger in his characterisation, which bubbles just below the surface in every scene. It’s important to remember that Craig has hinted that Dalton’s brief stay in the role is his own favourite, elements of which he has built into his own portrayal (You don’t see him cracking many one-liners do you?).
Timothy Dalton was scheduled to play in his third instalment as Bond in the planned The Property Of A Lady (one of only 3 original Fleming titles yet to feature in the movie franchise by the way), when the film was canceled during pre-production due to legal wrangling between EON and MGM. After five years, Dalton’s contract obligation for a third film was over. He was asked once more to play Bond for Goldeneye but turned it down. To date, no one was ever asked to play Bond without a contract more than twice.
So listen, take a chance to check out Tim Dalton in one of the best Bond films ever made, and look up a copy of The Living Daylights (distinguished by being the last Bond to feature a score by the legendary composer John Barry, who had been with the franchise all the way (and it’s as strong as any in the series)). The film really is better than you think, remember, or have been told (if you’ve never seen it).
However, if you’re someone who doesn’t like grown up spy thrillers, with an intelligent plot, a complex leading character capable of cruelty and single-minded obsession when pursuing a mission, combined with a fine piece of acting, then maybe you should give it a miss and watch Spy Kids, Stormbreaker, or A View to a Kill instead.
Every year, when it’s Oscar season, we try to convince ourselves that this time, a film will win the Best Picture Oscar, not because it’s an ‘issues’ movie, not because it features great period detail and theatre-bred British talent, not because Harvey Weinstein has used his considerable heft to pummel the voters into submission, but because it’s genuinely the best film to come out in that 12 month span. Of course, this is a matter of opinion; but there are several films that over time have been proven to not be deserving winners in the year they won, and we thought we’d round up 10 of them, to point and laugh at.
It’s also worth pointing out that, while this is the Academy Awards and therefore, is ostensibly purely the opinion of the titular Academy, who have no responsibility to anyone but themselves, they are by far the most prestigious movie awards ceremony going, so it could be argued that they are the de facto ‘Kingmakers’, and should behave as such. A lot of the films that make up this list aren’t bad films, just not the best films made that year. A common complaint is that films are ‘Oscar bait’. Cynically-engineered to appeal to the Oscar voters and hoover up awards. This is perhaps exacerbated by the horribly skewed voters’ demographics, 94% of whom are caucasion, and also 77% male. So read on, to find out what we think are the 10 worst films to win this coveted award…
The new teaser poster for the forthcoming James Bond movie Skyfall dropped during the week, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I think it’s a belter. With so many generic copycat movie posters out there, it’s not hard to innovate. But even with that in mind, the whiff of originality emanating from this poster really stands out amid the stench of identikit dross currently attacking the senses outside your local multiplex. There’s just something about the use of the classic slanting 007 font, the evocative but oblique action shot of Bond, and the weather-beaten, straight lines of the Skyfall title that gives the poster real impact.
A tasteful trailer campaign and some equally elegant marketing thus far have built a steady buzz, and now because of that, the studio must be expecting Skyfall to make some serious dosh at the box office. Let’s just hope the unconventional (but, in my opinion, inspired) choice of Sam Mendes as director, the already iconic Daniel Craig, and the premium-level thesping of Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem and Judi Dench helps the film’s quality to match that of its marketing. Check out the poster below:
Check out the full trailer for the new Speilberg ‘Lincoln’ Movie.
***In the first of an occasional series, RBT’s contributors explain why they hate cinematic icons, beloved to the rest of us. First up is Tom A on Wes Anderson…***
First off, I just want to say that, as weird as it sounds, I want to like Wes Anderson. He’s everything I should like in a director: he’s visually stylish, he attracts great acting talent, has great taste in music, and he’s a genuinely original voice in film today. I should like him, but I just… don’t. With his outsider-sympathy, quirky, out of time characters, and droll scripts, that he is virtually scientifically-engineered to appeal directly to a specific strata of society, who doubtless model their life on his autumnal-hued, corduroy-textured, 60s British-Invasion-themed aesthetic. His devotees are so numerous that they have a name.
I am no Wesbian.
I sort of like Rushmore, but if anything, the carefully ordered world his movies inhabit, with its deliberate prissyness just rubs me the wrong way. It’s all so about the aesthetic that it feels like nothing spontaneous is ever likely to happen. But also, what’s up with the pacing of his films? I love a slow-burn, quiet film, but his films just seem to have climaxes that come out of nowhere, and endless builds that result in no pay-off. So much stuff happens to Jason Schwartzman’s character in Rushmore, that I completely lost track of his life by the end of the film.
Watching his films is like being in an immaculately-clean, but retro-styled house that is so artfully laid out, so delicately composed that you daren’t touch a thing. In fact, you just sit on the sofa (without-god forbid-putting all your weight on it), praying that you wiped your feet properly on your entry. It’s so bad, in fact, that you wish you actually did step in something on your way over, just so that something would happen that doesn’t obey his stringent aesthetic policy so precisely.
His characters, with their studied intellectual eclecticism, and penchant for unusual interests begin to nauseate with their incessant posturing. His taste in music, while good, is shoved down your throat so hard that it comes out of your rectum, and don’t even get me started on The Darjeeling Limited.
I can sort of see why people would like him, there’s a lot to admire, for sure. But I just can’t get past his pretentiousness (and boy, do I ever like some pretentious filmmakers; Terrence Malick, anyone?). You know what, though, I am glad he exists, I’m glad that there is such a distinctive voice out there, making films. I am also glad, however, that I won’t have to see another one of his films again.
Wes Anderson: I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.
First scenes in movies are like the opening lines in a novel. Fundamental.
As you settle in your cinema seat, juggling popcorn and a giant soft drink, these are the moments which pull you from reality into another world, that cause you to stare and stop shifting. In those opening seconds, the impression created is something that will influence the rest of your viewing.
It’s not that a film cannot redeem itself from a weak start, or even a low key one. But what an opportunity for a director to grab your attention, and retain it. If the film is great, you’re with it from the very start. If it’s not, you’ll still remember the opening scene.
Yep – First impressions last.
So I got to thinking. Of all the movies, what would happen if I tasked myself with listing my five favourite opening scenes? Scenes that, regardless of how long since I first saw them, have lived on in my head.
Tough? Certainly. I had to pick openings that have stayed with me, regardless of the rest of the film (I’m happy to say that four out my five I class as truly great films).
So without further ado, my five top film openings are as follows:
5) 2001 A Space Odyssey – Much celebrated and unlike anything else. The scenes that Kubrick put together revealing the dawn of civilisation are disturbing, haunting, epic and awe-inspiring. The bone-toss transition to spacecraft a piece of Kubrick genius. Not a word is spoken, and yet you are glued to every gesture, sound and shot of barren landscape. Not to
mention the Monolith.
4) Narc – Perhaps a strange choice, but I just can’t forget this brutal opener, which hits you like an unexpected stomach blow. Within a manic 45 secs, a chase on foot sees a junkie inject an innocent bystander with heroin, another man shot, as well as a pregnant woman left with blood and urine pouring from her as Jason Patric (good? bad? – at this stage we have no idea, after all he did shoot her) crouches over her screaming as sirens draw closer. The remainder is pretty weak, but I’ve never forgotten the first minute.
3) Bladerunner – My favourite movie of all time. The text telling you it’s Los Angeles in 2019 fades before revealing a vista somewhere between a nightmare and something beautiful. Flames and flying ships surround the viewer, before we cut to a screen-filling eyeball reflecting this futuristic depiction of Hades, and then cut back again as the Tyrell Corporation looms into view. The music by Vangelis is suitably otherwordly, and sends a shiver down my spine every time. Visionary, poetic and truly, truly beautiful.
2) Star Wars IV:A New Hope – A planet, a moon, a small spaceship followed by a bloody BIG one. Well known, well celebrated. This changed cinema forever. Enough said.
1) Once Upon a Time in the West – A lesson in pure filmmaking indulgence. This 12 minute opening is a slow moving puzzle depicting three cowboys waiting at a station. What for? We don’t know. The scene is wonderfully constructed, using sound and editing to build the mystery. There’s humour and tension, but no rush. Everything unravels towards a moment of pure and sudden violence as Charles Bronson arrives. The result? We have lots more questions, but are already hypnotised. Like the rest of the film, Director Sergio Leone delights in taking his time. Thank God, because when cinema is this good, there’s nothing better than wallowing in it.
So that’s it – my top five.
Agree or disagree?
I don’t care.
***Joseph Kahn‘s self-financed Detention never got a theatrical release in the UK, and had an extremely limited run in theatres in its native US. With this in mind, it’s clear that the distributors acquired the movie with one eye on the DVD market, which makes it somewhat fitting that I finally caught up with it on that scion of the physical media formats: DVD.***
Detention is a film for teenagers. It’s so specifically aimed at teenagers that, with its constant quick-cutting, ADD cultural references to YouTube, text messages, Slasher Flicks and John Hughes, it could only be more ‘teen’ if it was composed entirely of text speak. Preferably in 140 characters or less.
It’s got a plot, but since that doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the film, it’s barely worth outlining… don’t worry, I will anyway. Essentially, a movie-inspired serial killer called Cinderhella is stalking the halls of a high school populated by the kind of pop-culture savvy, wise cracking, clique-defining kids that could only exist in this kind of film. It culminates in a Saturday detention organised by the Principle, unintentionally trapping them with their own hunter… Plot-wise… that’s about it. Since so much of the running time is taken up with trying to reach ‘the kids’ with their cultural touchstones, the story is, at best, secondary.
The film stars Josh Hutcherson, flush from his recent mainstream attention-garnering role in The Hunger Games (despite a lengthy filmography before that), and he also produces it. Hutcherson and his up-and-coming cohorts throw themselves enthusiastically into their various smartass roles. Joseph Kahn, the director and co-writer, is best known as a prodigiously successful music video director. His quick-cutting, bubblegum, MTV-friendly style is perfectly showcased in, and suited to, this film. His only prior full-length effort, 2004’s Torque, was an action film best described as The Fast and the Furious but more over the top (yes, that’s possible!).
The Teen Tenner is an elusive beast to ensnare (often quality is not deciding factor in a film’s success), but when a film so sets its stall out to court that most fickle of demographics that its ratio of pop culture reference to actual character-building, story-defining content is at least 5:1, you know they’re playing a high-stakes game…
And you know what? It sort of works.
The constant quick-cutting editing, the bombardment of music cues, the bright colours, fourth-wall demolishing dialogue and heightened acting could well attract the kind of teen who spends hours watching MTV whilst using Facebook on their iPhones. It’s hard to get bored watching this film, even if it is hard to actually feel anything. When a character refers to another as “more concept than reality”, you know that this tightrope will be a hard one to walk, but there are laughs in there, and real ingenuity in the visual effects. The self-consciousness of the dialogue mirrors that of the most insecure and image-cognisant teen, and, while entertaining, makes it hard to believe them as real people, even within this hyper-reality.
Detention is trying something different. It’s smarter than Not Another Teen Movie. But by virtue of the fact that it’s written and made by adult men, it also comes across like an ageing hippy guidance counsellor type trying to relate to the kids on their own level by talking about Twitter and Justin Bieber. Ultimately, characters who are believable and relatable, rather than trendily postmodern, and story lines that are coherent and engrossing, as opposed to inconsequential and disposable, will always resonate better with people on the whole. As interesting and unique as Detention is, even its much-maligned target demographic likes to feel something once in a while when watching a film.
A mess, but a unique and audacious one.