Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

One day kids turn on the local bully. But how far will they go to make sure he doesn’t bully them again?

I had been looking forward to seeing all of this film for quite some time after catching the beginning on television years ago. I finally got round to watching the ending and I must say I was slightly disappointed.

The whole film is very well acted by the young cast especially Brad Renfro and Rachel Miner who are what you’d call the main instigators of the piece. Nick Stahl is also great as the town bully who can go from being likeable to a hateful rapist at the click of your fingers. The supporting cast are all just as good and all help power the plot along.

The film looks really good, yet isn’t too glossy which is nice. It all feels very natural and in a way, quite documentary styley. This helps the film get across the fact that it is based on a true story (I’m not sure how closely it sticks to the facts though).

The film is very grim which is both one of its biggest saviours and its biggest downfall. The grimness is created through the fact that everything is played out very deadpan and nothing is hidden. Larry Clark the director doesn’t shy away from filming graphic sex and violence and he’s no different here. While there is a lot of sex, non of it feels ‘erotic’ of ‘sexy’, it is merely there because it happens in real-life. I would argue that he started off using it in this way but somewhere in his carrier decided he would use it extensively for exploitative reasons and to get his films in the public eye.

Some films use sex and violence to make a point. This uses it to shock the audience. There is no other reason for it but on the other hand, without it the film wouldn’t work at all. It relies on this shock to in turn keep the audience watching.  It also doesn’t help that by the end the characters are all unlikeable and unrelatable to.

Overall I’m happy to have seen it, but I’m not inclined to watch it ever again. 5/10

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A 27 year old suddenly get the dreaded news that he has cancer. The film charts his struggle to beat it with the support of his friends and family. But will it be that easy?

Straight off the bat, I don’t know if this film would’ve worked as well as it does without a strong actor in the lead role. Luckily they hired Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is an amazing character actor after being in such amazing films as ‘Switching Parents’, ‘Killshot’ and ‘500 Days of Summer’. He is amazing here in the role of Adam (a 27 year old cancer sufferer). He is believable throughout and it is a remarkable performance.

That isn’t to say the supporting cast aren’t any good. Seth Rogen is especially good in a role a little less comedic then the usual character he plays. There is no denying though that he is ultimately the comedy relief in what is a pretty deep story about some pretty rough subject matter. That isn’t to say the film isn’t funny though. At times it is hilarious, but it is never over the top and is always pretty grounded. This is helped by the films relationships. Rogen and Levitt play off one another really well and they do feel like two friends who have built up an almost brotherly love for one another over the years.

The film is technically superb with great sound design and some truly great cinematography. The film, for what it is looks beautiful. This really helps draw you into the film and never jars with the on screen drama. The direction is also brilliant from Jonathon Levine. It’s amazing how far he’s come from ‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’, which in my view was pretty bad in almost all areas. From 50/50 though you’d never know it. He’s since made ‘Warm Bodies’ which is yet another set up (which I’ll review at a later date).

Overall the film handles its subject matter very carefully and it pays off. It’s a film that makes you think ‘What if it happened to me?‘, while showing that it is something you can beat. It has some very interesting messages about life and death which stay with you long after watching. It’s a beautiful film about a hard subject. Well worth your time 8/10

Hirokin must stand against a powerful emperor to free the people of the planet Aradis and become their saviour.

Well…. Where do I begin?

The film stars Wes Bentley (from ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Lost’) as the titular character Hirokin. I wouldn’t really call him a samurai, more like a wanderer of sorts who just so happens to have a sword (No your usual samurai katana either). I kinda like the character and even like his wonderful 80’s mullet he has going. I like the fact that his morals seem to lay in the grey area between good and bad. He goes on about how he doesn’t want to kill, but happily kills within seconds of saying this. (Some may call this bad writing, Myself included, but i find it more amusing then annoying) He is not alone in changing his mind on a whim, everyone’s doing it.  I also love the fact that he doesn’t initially care about anyone else until the evil man attacks him.

As an ‘experienced’ sword fighter, he really isn’t very good with his weapon. It’s almost like he thinks he’s good with it when he really isn’t. He also doesn’t watch his back which you would’ve thought would be quite important when you get into a fight with multiple opponents. This leads him to failing in battle and being captured (tut tut tut). The other fights in the film are much the same. No one really seems to know what they are doing until the final battle which, although really anti-climactic, isn’t that bad. The problem is the fact the films seems to want to have a large scale ‘epic’ feel to the film but never does. Everything is done on a small scale and you never feel there is a bigger power behind it all.

It’s sad really that the film tries to be bigger than it is. Mo-Sun clearly likes his science fiction and this can be seen throughout the movie. It takes things from so many other movies and books, but none more so than Frank Herbert’s masterpiece ‘Dune’. Say what you will about David Lynch’s version of ‘Dune’ but you can’t say it didn’t have that ‘epic’ vibe. It also helped that it had amazing actors, some great direction and a stunning source novel. This film however draws from it (sometimes horribly closely) but still doesn’t get it right. I decided to make a list of the comparisons I could find (it became an interesting game):

  •     DUNE:
  1.     Set on a desert Planet called Arrakis
  2.     Water is scarce meaning it is an invaluable resource
  3.     The planet’s natives , The ‘Freman’ are under oppression from an evil dictator.
  4.     Paul becomes an outcast and must find help.
  5.     Paul Atreides must conquer his fear and lead the Freman to victory.
  6.     Paul has visions of what’s to come in his future.
  7.     There is a power that Paul must master in order to win against the Baron. It is called ‘THE WAY’.
  8.     Paul fights one on one with the baron’s nephew Feyd-Rautha and wins.
  9.     Paul leads the Freman to victory but sacrifices his family name and his loyalty to the empire.
  •     HIROKIN:
  1.     Set on a desert planet called Aradis
  2.     Water is Scarce meaning it is an invaluable resource
  3.     The planet’s natives, The ‘Arid’ are under oppression from an evil dictator.
  4.     Hirokin is an outcast and must find help.
  5.     Hirokin must conquer his fear and lead the Arid to victory.
  6.     People have visions of what’s to come in Hirokin’s future.
  7.     There is a power that Hirokin must master in order to win against the villain. It is called ‘THE WAY’.
  8.     Hirokin fights one on one with the villain and wins.
  9.     Hirokin leads the Arid to victory but sacrifices himself to do it.

Quite similar wouldn’t you say?

These are the similarities in story but we also have things such as the production design (albeit on a much smaller scale), music, costumes, hairstyles. That’s not to say that it is only Dune that it ‘acquires from’. It happily draws things from ‘Mad Max’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Chronicles of Riddick’, ‘Highlander’, ‘Gladiator’, etc…

It’s quite sad really as when the film isn’t trying to be ‘Dune’ it’s not that bad. It has a special charm about it. What it does with its small budget is quite inspiring. The sets are pretty good (if little more than a few huts) and the costumes are all top notch (if you get around the similarities to other films’. One thing I really liked was the torture device they’ve created with some big claws that impale the victims. It’s quite an interestingly designed machine (probably stolen from somewhere else but oh well). The musical score for the film is top notch (even if it is a little overpowering at times)

The script is pretty awful and at times really annoying. This is especially true when the characters keep repeating the word ‘Gig’ as apparently adding it to words makes them sound more futuristic. It also doesn’t help that ever line is delivered like some dramatic ultimatum by every character. What starts off as mildly amusing quickly digresses into pure annoyance. The acting isn’t great either. Wes Bentley is watchable and does the job well but everyone else is cringe worthy (not always in an amusing way either).

Pacing-wise the film was OK. It never felt overlong although I’d say the ending wasn’t great. The film builds to a large scale finale but never delivers and is little more than a few people waving swords around (and Hirokin shooting his sword from its handle because he can).

I guess for a directorial debut it could have been far worse. But on the other hand it could have been a heck of a lot better.

What we have at the end of the day is a reasonably fun rehash of far greater films. It passes the time OK but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again. 5/10

I will begin by saying this will be my most controversial review so far. (I considered not even reviewing it but thought what the hell. Please don’t think less of me.) The review will also feature major spoilers……..

Right…..

Well let’s start at the beginning;

  • Twilight – I hated it. I thought it was poorly directed, awfully scripted and really badly acted. It instantly put me off Pattinson and Stewart and their hideously soppy relationship that was basically a more girl friendly take on Romeo and Juliet or even Underworld. I guess the visuals were ok but they couldn’t save it. 5/10
  • New Moon – I liked the fact the film had more scope then the first but I thought it was equally as bad. The script was just as bad and the acting although slightly better was hindered by the introduction of Lautner as a main character and love interest. The three way relationship annoyed me and just came down to lots of overlong glances between each of the characters. 4/10
  •  Eclipse – I don’t even know why I watched this but I’m kind of happy I did because it did contain a pretty awesome fight sequence that used the fact that vampires shatter when killed to create some brutal beheadings and violence. I also thought that the CGI on the wolves was really good. That being said, the script was still awful and the acting pretty bad (but much better than the first two). The directing was a noticeable step up as well with David Slade bringing some of the style from his previous vampire film ’30 days of night’ across for good measure. 6/10
  • Breaking Dawn part 1 – kind of enjoying the third film I held out a bit of hope for the fourth. Visually the film was brilliant and I thought the score was great. The acting was better than all of the previous films (probably because of the mature nature of the film) but that still isn’t saying much. What we have is essentially a build up for the 2nd part which is just boring. It’s padded out as a way of splitting the film and making more money from all of the twilight fans out there. There is the odd scene like the wedding that does carry some kind of emotion but the rest was just rubbish. There is also a ridiculous amount of sex (not particularly graphic but still kind of out of place in a film like this.) The film just made me annoyed at the fact that I’d have to sit through another 2 hours of another film to see how it all ends. 5/10

This brings us to the final part in the Twilight Saga. The film many regard as one of the worst films ever made. I only wanted to see it because I felt cheated at the fact the previous film didn’t really end and left on a cliff-hanger (the best way to make someone see another film). I sat down in front of the TV and prepared for the worst.

The first thing that shocked me was the great music that accompanied the amazingly well filmed title sequence. I don’t usually take that much notice of title sequences as they usually serve as simply a list of names and add nothing to the film itself (except for some, most notably ‘Se7en’.) This was a bad sign as the film was bringing me out of defensive mode straight away. The Time-lapse photography is really great and is stunningly beautiful at times. The sequence does feel like it’s building to a finale and has a certain ‘epic’ feel none of the other films had.

I will say that as soon as you see Pattinson and Stewart you can see that they have developed as actors (Pattinson especially). That is not to say that they are great in the film, but they are highly watchable. I think it is also the fact that Bella is now a vampire. For some reason this instantly makes her a cooler character and the red eyes are awesome. They feel comfortable in these roles after the previous 4 films and it’s nice to see them not really looking like they’re acting, more just being themselves.

One thing that I really dislike about this film and the previous films is how they make the vampires move quickly. It reminds me of the old ‘Flash’ television series where they just sped up the footage. I find it just looks really bad compared to some of the great effect that the filmmakers use in the film. I will say that the seemed to give up on the whole ‘make the vampires glisten in the light’, which made me happy as I always found that kind of stupid and pointless. While I’m on the effect I will mention that the wolves are stunning to behold and the animation on the fur especially is true art. They move like real wolves and the look like they have proper weight to them. On the other end of the scale is the baby. The CGI baby is almost as creepy as the Baby in the film ‘junior’ featuring Arnie’s face. The baby just looks awful and is laughable.  (This leads me onto the side note of how they could have had a baby in the first place as no blood is running around Edwards’s body. How would he essentially get it up? It’s a question that worryingly stayed on my mind for quite a while.)

From here we’re pretty much straight into the point that they are preparing for battle (they say they’re not, but they are). This film has already got a better pace than any of the previous films. It still has the awful script and some truly laughable scenes and lines but for some reason it didn’t bother me as much. It felt like the cast knew this and they were just having fun. Every line is delivered like a statement with dramatic pauses added to make the characters think. They knew they wouldn’t be making any more so they just thought they’d play it more tongue in cheek. The film is so much better because of this. In the preparing for battle the Cullens gather a group of vampires who all seem to have powers much like the X-men. you have the electric one, the one that controls the elements, the one that can make a shield, the one that can trick the mind, the over strong one and the big furry one (although technically he’s been in the saga from the first film). I kind of liked this gathering of people as it felt like it was building to something, unlike the previous films flat line pace.

I quite like this new group of vampires we are introduced to. They’re all pretty likeable and actually seem to have had a little thought put into them. (It really does feel like the build-up to a massive X-Men fight though.) Also, when Alice disappears with jasper it just reminded me of Gandalf going off in ‘Lord of the Rings’ and saying that he will come with the coming dawn. (This film just takes bits from everywhere.)

We get a cool back history of the Volturi which features a cool beheading of a lady and Dakota Fanning throwing a baby into a fire. I thought it quite extreme a thing for a character to do on screen for a film aimed at young teenage girls. But to be fair this film has the same style sex scenes we had in the last film which I again think may be a little too much. (It also does not promote safe sex. Vampires may not worry but I really think that we should not be promoting young teenage girls to be having children at an early age in the current climate we are living in.)

I really like the idea of Resesmee (Bella’s daughter) aging ridiculously quickly as I thought it may have been going for the darker angle of Bella having to accept that she may outlast her own daughter who she barely knows. Alas the film didn’t go down this route. It went for a much happier tone with Jacob possibly becoming her future mate. (Which I thought really weird. ‘Can’t have the mother so he’ll have the daughter’. They have a weird relationship.)

The Volturi arrive and the two ‘armies’ square off against one another on an icy field surrounded by trees. (They just step into a massive arena for battle). It is here we get the most brilliantly bad piece of acting in the whole film. Michael Sheen, who is usually a great actor, here portrays an over the top leader of the ‘bad’ vampires. He plays it brilliantly over the top but during this sequence he does this thing after touching Renesmee. He laughs. It may not sound like much but trust me when I say it is so out of place. I could understand an evil laugh but what comes out of Sheens mouth is a crazy high pitched laugh like I’ve never heard before. (Just check it out on YouTube. It’s both brilliant and awful at the same time.)

Alice then turns up and grabs Sheen’s hand. This is when all hell breaks loose and the epic battle music begins. The vampires rush one another and start battling. The music and the combat paly off one another like a classic heavy metal music video. Characters are torn apart and burned while others flip in slow motion and behead the enemy. I loved every minute of the battle and was so happy seeing some of the characters die. I thought it was a brave move until….

IT ALL TURNS OUT TO BE A DREAM (well a vision).

It was like ‘Dallas’ all over again. No one was dead (well they are vampires so they are kind of). I was so annoyed. I was literally shouting ‘NO!’ at the screen. Why did they have to screw up this awesome battle by making it not happen? It is such a cop out and is the films biggest let down. After this we just have a bit more bad dialogue and a romantic bit in that field of flowers from the first film (or second. I can’t entirely remember.)

We then get a really beautiful credits sequence that sums up all of the characters that have come and gone throughout the 5 films. This sequence is possibly the most moving, romantic feeling scene in the whole franchise. It is a really great finale after the annoying ending of the actual film.

So it’s pretty obvious that I did enjoy this film. It was just pure guilty fun. I would argue that none of the other films are needed and that this film would work even better if it were entirely stand alone. You don’t need to know how she became a vampire or any of the padding that came before. You could just have this. A nice well-paced piece of guilty fun. You even get a little recap near the end which would work better if there were no films before it. I wanted to hate this film but I just couldn’t. It delivered what it’s been trying and failing to give for the last 4 films. FUN!

I advise people to watch this film without seeing any of the others as it is really what all of them seem to aspire to be. It’s the most adult, most well-acted and the best directed (it feels so different form part one which was also filmed by Condon). It’s really worth a shot and is nowhere near as bad as people say it is (I was expecting the worst but I don’t know if I’d even call it bad) It’s not going to be for everyone and there are those that have already made their minds up but for those who are open minded just go into it expecting fun. Its guilty entertainment and great fun.

7/10 (It may have gotten an 8 if they had the balls to not make the battle a vision.)

A remake of the classic 1980 musical focusing on the trials and tribulations of a group of aspiring students at the New York Academy of Performing Arts.

Let me begin by saying that I was never really a fan of the original film. The only scene that truly stood out for me was the dance number in the street. Nothing else really captured me. So I went into this remake with quite a lot of hesitation (even though I like a lot of musicals). I had heard the worst about it and heard some scathing reviews but I still thought I’d give it a shot.

I’m happy I did as I will honestly say that I find this version far superior in every way to the original. (I know many won’t agree and that’s fine)

So what did the film do so right?

Well firstly I thought it was a beautiful film to look at. the cinematography is truly brilliant and each shot is stunning. This is especially true of the various musical numbers that litter the piece. They are brilliant to watch and just stand out. The score is also amazingly strong beginning with a great remix of the Fame theme and through to the amazing final song which sums up everything the characters have been through. some may not like the modernised songs but I really think that they work in the film. The music and the visuals play off one another to create an almost theatrical feel to everything that helps express many of the films emotional moments.  The final song brings an uplifting end to an emotional story, while never feeling over the top.

There are lots of characters in the film, all of which seem to be written really well. It never feels like it focuses too much on one person and throughout it’s 2 hour run time gives each character a spot in the limelight. Even some of the teachers get some time in the spotlight which is nice. It’s a nice change that the characters aren’t perfect and that they each contain the flaws that real humans do. They also face real problems with real outcomes. None of this is more evident then the attempted suicide towards the end which really does highlight how much a person can truly live for what they want to do.

The structure of the classes that they attend also seem to be realistic in terms of art schools. they learn a bit of everything until their final year when they can specialise completely in the craft of their choosing. I think this is what helped me get into the film more as I could semi relate to the school itself and felt like it was run how a real school would be.

There are some truly cheesy moments of courting between some of the main characters but to be fair the love story angle isn’t over emphasised and is simply the story of two of the characters. Unlike most musicals that over present this love angle, Fame doesn’t. It highlights all aspects of life which happens to include love but never sets out as that as it’s backbone to the story.

Over all I really liked this film and can happily watch it again and again without ever getting bored. 7.5/10

Growing up, it was all about running around the garden shouting the names of dinosaurs while holding our ‘morphers’ in front of us. We’d then fight each other like we were shown on television (this may be one of those times when violence on TV kinda did cause violence in the youth).  We’d continue this until the enemy was vanquished; we were called in for dinner. Or the program we that taught us these fight moves came on. That program was MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS.

Fast forward almost 20 years and the show is still going. It has lost most of the magic that once made it so great and made it truly stand out from everything else on TV but still its legacy continues. I remember the afternoon they aired the first episode in the UK. Me and a friend sat there glued to the screen (not literally), we had seen nothing like this before. Taking the kung Fu from its Japanese predecessor and the likeable American teens reminiscent of those from Saved by the Bell, Power Rangers broke new ground. Of course years before there were the badly dubbed episodes of shows like ‘Monkey’ and ‘The Water Margin’ but this was straight out of the west and just felt fresh.

The main group of rangers has changed over the years but during the first 3 amazing seasons (some of this team appeared in the third season), one movie, and one sequel series (Zeo) we had the best team of all Tommy, Billy, Kimberley, Rocky, Adam and Aisha.

I remember that as a kid the sheer amount of violence in the series was captivating. It was something you just didn’t see as much of in a single show. Sure you had things like Thundercats and He-man, but they were animated. Now we had real people beating up other real (when they’re not models) people. The media were all over this yet they never really won. I guess they’ve toned it all down a bit since the original 3 series and film but there is still a lot of fighting.  Power Rangers was essentially a combination or fighting, explosions, monsters, more fighting, bigger monsters and even more fighting.

As such a fan of the TV series I was so excited to see that they were making a feature film. I remember dragging my parents to the cinema to see what I hoped would be the ultimate Power Rangers experience. I wasn’t disappointed. The film blew my mind. The monsters were bigger, the villain more over the top, the fights were bigger (it was the first film I saw where a person backflips over another person). In fact it was just like an extended episode with a much bigger budget.

But has the film held up 19 years on?

The short answer in my eyes is yes. It may not be worthy of any awards but it is still a fun (violent) adventure film for children. Let me get the violence out of the way first. Unlike the series where the bad ‘lackeys’ were made of putty and kind of ran away clutching their chests when defeated, the film features ‘lackeys’ made from ooze. During one of the big (pretty well choreographed) fights in a construction yard, these villains are exploding from punches and splattering everywhere. If you changed the ooze for blood the film would easily have to be cut. There is one moment when a skip is dropped on a few of these Ooze creatures and they get crushed, ooze seeping from underneath. As a kid you don’t really question it but now it’s a bit close to having blood splattering everywhere and occasionally a little uncomfortable. The rangers don’t seem fazed by all this ooze exploding onto them, in fact they don’t seem fazed about killing anything that doesn’t look human (watch out E.T). The fights themselves are surprisingly well put together and are actually quite fun to watch.

The money has really be invested wisely while making the film as the locations and the costumes also are a massive step up from the series (they now have leather suits instead of spandex). There is also a far more varied variety of locations from forests to temples to cities to construction yards. It gives the whole film more scope and a more ‘epic’ feel.

Another thing the film gets right is the rangers themselves. They are all likeable and believable. They feel like real teens (well ok mid 20 year olds) who want to help and save the day. Many children’s shows feature annoying characters that whine and moan every step of the way. Here we actually have a good team of people that feel like the know each other (most worked together on the series) and trust each other to get things done.

I love this film. I really do. It brought back so much nostalgia. But that isn’t to say it’s perfect. Far from it.

The biggest flaw in my eyes is the use of CGI over miniatures. I’ve always preferred model work as I find it ages far less and looks more believable when done right. Just look at Star Wars a new hope. Not the redone version but the original. Sure it’s looking slightly ropey, but it always did. It hasn’t aged though. Now look at this film or the feature film version of ‘Lost in Space’. They look pretty bad. This especially. The Zords look terrible as does the ridiculous gigantic version of Ivan Ooze (the villain of the picture). It is horrible to watch. CGI can be used very effectively as can be seen in things like ‘Lord of the Rings’ but even then I find that any characters generated on a computer age quite quickly. I find CGI is better used to enhance what is already there or sculpting part of landscapes. The more hidden, the better.

I also didn’t care for the side plot of the film with all the parents of Angel Grove (home of the Power Rangers) turning into zombies under Oozes control. I’d have preferred to stick with the rangers training in the way of the ninja.

As a standalone film I think it is a great bit of entertainment. As an evolution and companion to the TV series I’d say it’s a complete success (excluding the CGI). I’d say it’s well worth a watch for nostalgia fans and a must see for current fans of Power Rangers who missed out on the very best of it… 7/10

GO GO POWER RANGERS!!!!!!!

 

Say what you will about the insane amount of dance films that have come out in recent years but I’d argue that most of the haters haven’t actually watched the films they claim to hate. I belive it’s more of a ‘I won’t like that kind of film’ mentality that sways judgement without even giving the film the benefit of the doubt. I would’ve had the same mentality (heck, I did for a while) but then I decided to give some of the films a shot and you know what …. I kind of enjoyed some of them. I would even say that I really liked some of them.

Before you stop reading, hear me out……

At some point a few years ago I caught ‘Step Up 2’ on Tv and thought it was awful except for the final dance number which I thought was incredibly well choreographed and really well filmed. This in turn led me to start checking out some of the other dance flicks out there to see what the dance numbers were like.  I grew to kinda enjoy big ensemble dance numbers as well as just good choreography (in a way I kind of enjoy the dances in films much like the fights in martial arts films).

For some reason I was really interested in seeing Step UP 3 (will review at a later date) when it came out and after seeing it became really excited about the prospect of number 4 (to a lot of mockery from friends). When it was finally released on dvd I didn’t hesitate picking it up.

I watched it and was like ‘WOW’. The dances are amongst some of the very best I’ve seen in modern films and to be fair the acting isn’t all that bad. One of the things the film does 100% right is the fact it focuses on the dance numbers more than the rather basic plot (your usual Romeo and Juliet-esque love story). I was hooked from the first dance to the very last and thought that all of them were amazing (especially the one in the offices of the big land grabbing cooperation (oh yeah there is the other side of the plot about the lead female’s father trying to buy up land to turn into hotels.)

Ryan Guzman and Cleopatra Coleman are both great in the two lead roles and actually look to have a spark between them in the more romantic scenes (again generally dance numbers).

I’d say that this film is well worth seeing, or even trying. It’s much better then one would think (especially for the fourth film in a franchise). I’d even say that this is possibly the strongest of all the Step Up films. It’s brilliantly directed, amazingly filmed and a great piece of fun….  8/10

 

I’m here today to compare and figure out which is better, Judge Dredd (1995) – directed by Danny Cannon or Dredd (2012) – directed by Pete Travis?

Firstly I know that it’s not good to compare movies and it’s better to take each movie on its own. But having tried to write separate reviews for each of these films I just can’t help it. As such I have decided to do a proper ‘VS’ section on this blog with these films being the first comparison.

One of the reasons I find it impossible not to compare the films is because I grew up reading Judge Dredd and still read it now. As such I have very strong feelings towards the character and his world, meaning I automatically analyse any media based on the property (sometimes unfairly, but most of the time I think I can clearly justify my reasons.).

 

BASIC BACK STORY OF JUDGE DREDD

In the future the world is a scarred wasteland after international conflicts leading to mass nuclear warfare. Most of the world is radioactive ‘hell on earth’ and is known to the people of the few surviving cities as ‘The Cursed Earth’. In the dystopian city of Mega City One (the main location for the Dredd comics), crime is an everyday thing that people take for granted. Gangs attempt to rule the city and the only things standing in their way are the ‘Judges’ (Judge, Jury and Executioner all in one). Of all the Judges in the city, one if feared above all others, ‘Dredd’. (Essentially Dredd is the ultimate badass who will only give up when he’s dead.)

The idea of Judge Dredd is simple at heart but can be as complex as the writers of the comics want to go. Dredd was spawned in issue 2 of the British comic publication ‘2000ad’ in 1977. This joint creation by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra was an instant hit and is now known the world over in almost all mediums (books, films, comics, videogames, board games etc…) Only 2 official feature films have been of the character. One in 1995 directed by Danny Cannon which came out to a pretty negative reaction and the other directed in 2012 by Pete Travis which aimed to fix the problems people had with the 1995 picture.

So let’s begin the review/comparison:

PLOT

Judge Dredd (1995) –

Dredd is convicted of a murder he did not commit and is sentenced to life imprisonment (after the Chief Judge stands down in order to spare Dredd’s life.) The true culprit of the murder sets about to take over the law department so he can rule over Mega City One. Dredd must find a way back into the city and clear his name before it’s too late.

Dredd (2012) –

Dredd and new recruit Judge Anderson are sent into Peach Trees (a 200 storey tall slum block – essentially a vertical city) to investigate the murder of three drug dealers. After raiding a drugs den they soon find the Owner of the block won’t let them leave easily and has locked down the entire block. Dredd and Anderson must find a way out before they themselves become bullet ridden bodies on the floor.

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Two similar films with two very different plots.

  • JUDGE DREDD: The 1995 film has the sort of plot that seemed very popular in the 1990’s and unlike most people I don’t see it as that much of a problem. You could argue that there are hundreds of Judge Dredd storylines they could have used (especially the ‘Judge Death’ storylines) but instead they go with a pretty formulaic ‘man sets out to prove his innocence’ story. Many critics and viewers a like didn’t like the simplistic story and the fact that the plot was very ‘Americanised’, but I think it works and to be fair Dredd has always been quite ‘American’ in style (It’s even set in America). It may not pick holes in the political system as much as the comics but it does the job. One thing that the story does really well is ‘scope’. We get a look at a large chunk of Mega City One and even get a look at the wasteland outside its walls. The plot also incorporates many other characters from the Dredd universe (as well as a few other 2000ad properties). Overall I think the plot works as a great introduction to the character of Dredd and proves to be an above average sci-fi plot. 7/10
  • DREDD: The 2012 film is much smaller in scale compared to the 1995 picture as it is mainly set in a large tower block. It tries to explain the city but struggles because of its limited locations. The story does feel like the sort of tale that is in the comics which is good, but what works in comics does not mean it’ll work in a padded out feature film. There just isn’t enough story to fill out the full run time of the film as essentially it consists of them trying to escape then deciding to go kill ‘Ma Ma’ (the head gang leader). It’s sufficient but really is as simplistic as they come. Also for a film which aims to make the story ‘more like the comics’ it fails to explain factors such as the Psi-Division (a select group of psychic Judges – one of which being Anderson). 4/10

CHARACTERS

DREDD

The main character of both films is of course the title character ‘Judge Dredd’. Both films provide a very different take on the character. (In my view neither is perfect):

  • JUDGE DREDD: The title role is held by Sylvester Stallone that many seemed to agree made a great Dredd until he takes his helmet off (not because it is Stallone underneath but because in the comics he rarely removes his helmet and even when he does you never see his face. in the 35+ years the comic has been running his face has never been shown clearly.) for many this was enough for them to instantly dismiss the film as a whole. For me I honestly didn’t mind. The main reason he takes his helmet off is because when you have a film with Stallone in you kind of have to show his face (well you kind of did in the 90’s.) You also have to remember that Dredd wasn’t as widely known around the world and as such was a gamble they hoped would pay off after the success of other comic book films in the years previous. (Without Stallone I doubt the film would have been made and I doubt he would have done it if you never saw his face.) Enough about the helmet issue. In my view, Stallone plays the part pretty much perfectly. He may not be the best actor in the world but his lack of acting and ‘woodenness’ help portray the cold character from the comics. (This is not to say I don’t like Stallone in other films. I think he can be a good actor and he usually does the job put before him, pretty admirably.) In this film he delivers each line like the character from the comic (even when he’s trying to add an emotional depth to the character). He also has the physical presence that Dredd is meant to have helping you believe why people would both fear and respect him… Stallone pretty much carries the film on his back with his portrayal of Dredd and as such you’ve got to commend him. 8/10
  • DREDD: For this version of Dredd we get the actor Karl Urban. Although nowhere near as big an actor as Stallone, Urban has in recent years been in some of the biggest films such as ‘Star Trek’ and ‘the Chronicles of Riddick’. He is a great actor and in terms of acting is far superior to Stallone. This is where my problem with him as Dredd lies. Dredd is meant to be ‘cold’ and doesn’t ever really show emotion (even though Stallone’s tried to). Urban just doesn’t have the coldness. He delivers each line with too much emotion and it just feels forced (almost like he trying to imitate Stallone’s ‘non-acting’) He also doesn’t have the presence that Dredd has in the comics. In the film he just feels like a member of a S.W.A.T team. For me I just didn’t believe in the character and as such just found him a kind of failure (Which I find sad as I usually really like Urban as an actor). 4/10

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS & VILLIAN

Interestingly both films use different supporting characters from the comics, so this is less a comparison of the actor’s portraying them and more on the strength of them as how they fit into the story.

  • JUDGE DREDD: The main supporting character in the film is ‘Fergee’ played by comedian Rob Schneider. When I first watched the film I didn’t like the comedicness of the character as I found it detracted from the reasonably dark storyline. Having reread many of the comics from the 90’s (and even many of the more recent ones) I kind of like the character now. It’s where the humour from the comics kind of comes through. He’s not great but he plays off Stallone pretty well. The main female in the film is ‘Judge Hershey’ played by Diane Lane. She is a strong female character and does all of the ‘thinking’ in the film. She is the character who is ruching against time to try and clear Dredd’s name. She is a good actress and she is great here. The main bad guy in the flick is ‘Rico’ played by Armand Assante. He does the job as a villain but never feels truly threatening enough for me. I find that you always need a villain equal to or more powerful than the hero. In this I didn’t ever feel that, He only managed to win against Dredd at the start by faking footage and faking Dredd’s uniform. I guess in the grand scheme of things he gets the job done but he never a great character (I think the problem is the character instead of the actual acting). Max Von Syndow also does an admiral job as Chief Judge Fargo. AS a whole everyone does a very good job. 7/10
  • DREDD: ‘Judge Anderson’ is the lead female in the 2012 adaptation and is played amazingly well by Olivia Thirlby. Anderson is a regular character in the comics and it is nice to see her translated well onto film. As the film focuses on the beginning of her career she only begins to become as badass as she is in the comics towards the end. But this doesn’t stop her being great. The problem we have is I think that she’s a far stronger character in this film then Dredd and as such I feel this impacted on the whole film. I didn’t care about Dredd and was just keen to watch Anderson’s development. The villain of the picture is Madeline ‘Ma-Ma’ Madrigal played by Lena Headey and again she never feels ‘evil’ enough. She’s probably a better villain and more comic like then ‘Rico’ from the ’95 film but she still isn’t amazing. You see some of her power coming through but never the full extent of how strong she is (considering she led her gang to take over the entire block). There are a few other incidental characters that do the job but no one else is standout. 6/10 (For Thirlby’s portrayal of Judge Anderson alone.)

VISUALS & AUDIO

Being comic book adaptations, both films aim to try and recreate the look of the comics. As with everything both take very different routes to doing so:

  • JUDGE DREDD: The 1995 feature uses model work and Matte paintings to help create the dystopian future for Mega City One. As such the effects haven’t really dated; they look like they did when the film was released. The director was very clever in filming almost everything in the city at night, thus helping the dark feel of the city. The ‘Cursed Earth’ bits are done during daytime which helps emphasise the vastness and the bleakness of the hostile terrain. Both play off one another perfectly and help create a great looking Judge Dredd. Dredd has always been one of the ‘darker’ comics and as such that is how I feel it should be filmed. The whole visual style is much akin to films such as ‘The Crow’, ‘Dark City’ and even ‘Blade runner’. It works really well. The costumes, weapons and vehicles all look like they’ve been pulled straight out of the comics and they are what I remember from when I was young and reading Dredd. Even the ABC warrior is great (although possibly slightly misplaced in this film). It is really well done and looks like it did in the comics. The music is typical of the sort of film it is with a strong score running through it. Nothing much to fault at all 9/10
  • DREDD: This is a tricky one because the film does look very ‘comic-booky’ but it gets boring very fast (at least for me it did) the outside shots look very ‘fake ‘ and CGI which is a shame and I think that it’ll look even worse it years to come. The film also uses a lot of slow motion which does look really good, the first few times then it just gets boring. They use ‘Phantom’ Cameras to film at a ridiculously fast speed meaning they can pretty much slow it down and pause a rain drop if they wanted to. It’s an amazing bit of kit but it can get boring. (It’s not even like its brand new technology or even the first film to be using it. Lars Von Tier used a Phantom camera in 2009 on his film ‘antichrist’ which used the tech a lot more artistically. Even the Jackass franchise used the same tech.) On one hand it does feel like a comic but on the other, the hand that looks at the film as a series of moving images, it sees it as a simple way of padding out a flimsy story with a shortish runtime by an extra 25%. The costumes, weapons and vehicles all feel too different from the comics and from what I remember. They also look far less practical and far more ‘silly’ some of the indoor sets look great but they can’t make up for everything else. The audio takes a very industrial feel which kind of works but sometimes just feel like there are faults in the soundtrack. It’s not bad and I can see what they were going for. They just failed to deliver 5/10

FUN FACTOR

This is where things become even more subjective but I will try to explain my reasons for enjoying/not enjoying each film:

  • JUDGE DREDD: I love this film. It is the definition of a well-made guilty pleasure. The story keeps the pace on-going and Stallone is always watchable on screen. The humour between him and Schneider is great and works really well. I just find this film a great piece of entertainment every time I see it. There are always bits I forget about as well which always gives the film a reasonably fresh feeling. It’s never boring and always enjoyable. 8/10
  • DREDD: I wanted to love this film. The first time I watched it I got around an hour in and just wasn’t enjoying it at all so I turned it off. I thought maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to fully enjoy it. I decided to give it another chance recently and was kind of excited to do so. I don’t know why I was so excited. To be fair it was slightly better than the first time but only marginally. I just found it poorly scripted and really badly paced. I got almost no enjoyment out of it at all and what little I did was from the character of Judge Anderson. 3/10

VERDICT

It’s pretty obvious which of these films I preferred before working out the average score (rounded up) based on all of the above sections. But let’s do it anyway:

JUDGE DREDD – 8/10

DREDD – 5/10

There we have it. I honestly think that the new film was a massive step backwards, both in terms of Dredd films but also Comic book adaptations. The ’95 flick has its problems but they are nowhere near as bad as the problems with the new film (which focuses all on ‘fancy’ visuals instead of story, characters, script, or anything else important.) This is just my opinion but if you want to see the better of the two Judge Dredd films watch the 1995 one (ignore the new one. It’s not even really worth a watch)

For a film with a tag line ‘A bullet made the orphans. Revenge makes them dangerous’, I was expecting a cheap 80’s action flick. It delivered one part of what I expected, The cheap part.

It looks and feels like a movie filmed on cheap film stock by a film crew who were just out of college. It just looks ‘studenty’ and ‘cheap’. I don’t mind bad-looking films as long as they have something that provides me with entertainment (things like ‘Toxic Avenger’, ‘ Maniac Cop’ etc.) This film wasn’t entertainment really. It was boring, poorly scripted and just not really worth the time.

The ‘Bullet’ of the tagline is featured in a boring flashback that the filmmakers keep cutting back to throughout the duration of the movie. It almost feels like the flashback is a way of breaking up the tedious and boring story. (what little there is)

There’s a scene at the beginning with a shotgun rigged to a piece of cat gut. That’s probably the most interesting thing in the whole film (until we see the man who got shot at point-blank range in the scene after with juts a wounded arm.)

It’ s just a bad film that has no merits at all other than the fact that the director made a piece of film that runs from point A to point B in a reasonably coherent fashion.

Not really worth anyone’s time 1/10

Taken was one of those films that never needed a sequel. It was a pretty self contained revenge/rescue picture in which Liam Neeson punched a load of people in the throat. Come 2012 and they decide that in fact they should make a sequel, but this time instead of his daughter being kidnapped it would be Mr Neeson himself (and his wife, but she’s not that important)

I was never a big fan of the first film. I found it boring thriller with a poor script and some poor action sequences (except for Neeson’s throat punches.) So I was not excited at the prospect of a 2nd film. I put off watching it until this evening as I had nothing else I could be bothered to watch.

Boy, was I surprised…….

I really enjoyed it. Yes it has a poor plot and some awful dialogue but it was just fun. It focused almost entirely on action and it did the action really well. It kinda harked back to old school action flicks from the early 90’s. It’s pace was good and I never found myself getting bored. The fight sequences were well choreographed as well as a long car chase (which as car chases go, was very good.)

There are a few things that annoyed me such as the fact that no one seems too bothered by the random explosions that are going off around the city as Neeson’s daughter throws grenades so he can triangulate his position on a map (it is pretty far-fetched.) I think this is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the film. It never really felt it was taking itself too seriously (unlike the first one).

I’d say it’s well worth a watch and should provide a good couple of hours of mindless fun…. 7/10