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Movie Review: Dredd (2012)

Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Online: IMDB, Wikipedia
Cast: Karl Urban (Judge Dredd), Olivier Thirlby (Cassandra Anderson), Lena Hedley (Ma-Ma)

Dredd is the newest film adaptation of one of several comics serialized in the British comic anthology 2000 A.D. The first time that I laid eyes on a volume of 2000 A.D. was back in high school during the early to mid-90’s. I was rummaging through the book section of the local Lifeline store for something new and interesting to read. There, sitting on one of the shelves was a stack of large comics, a new arrival that immediately intrigued me. 2000 A.D. was printed right at the top. Given my interest in comics, I began to flick through. Not far in I was introduced to Judge Dredd, an imposing figure that left a lasting impression on me. Overall, I loved the art style of 2000 A.D. and made a mental note to have enough money to get the volumes when I returned. Alas, the next time I visited the shop, the volumes were gone. Oh well.

Mega City One is one of several mega-cities created to protect humanity from the irradiated wastelands outside. Home to more than 800 million people, the government has brought into effect the Judge system for the worst crimes. These wandering judges are only able to deal with around 6% of applicable crimes, resulting in many crimes going under the radar.
Judge Dredd is one of a small number of judges assigned to his district. After coming back from a job involving dangerous driving, he is assigned by the Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) the task of seeing if a new rookie’s insight and psychic ability are enough to make up for some poor grades. Enter Cassandra Anderson, one of the most powerful telepaths on record. Anderson is an orphan with a vested interest in looking out for parts of the city that would otherwise be overlooked. As such, she decides to pick a job at one of the worst buildings in their district for their first job. The job turns out to be a lot bigger than the two anticipate.
Three men have been skinned and thrown to their deaths at a mega-apartment structure. The two judges quickly learn that it is home to one of the biggest drug lords in Mega City One, a former prostitute named Madeline Madrigal, otherwise known as Ma-Ma. What they initially believed to be a simple job result in them being pushed to their limits as they attempt to fight off hundreds of murderous criminals. Many will be killed before the night is through.

The screenplay for this film is apparently adapted from a miniseries that was serialized in the 2000 A.D. comic. The film begins with a quick overview of what has become of the world which leads to seeing Judge Dredd dealing with a job. In this simple sequence, we see how bleak the world is inside of the protective wall of Mega City One, are shown what a Judge is allowed to do and are also given a glimpse of the world of a Slow-Mo user. We later learn that Slow-Mo is the drug that Ma-Ma’s gang manufactures and peddles from their base of operations.
The action and gore are initially confronting but it is appropriate to the dark and gritty world setting. Innocents often get hurt and judges aren’t able to protect everyone. The role of a judge is not pretty because the world is not pretty. They have to make hard decisions and mete out judgment on the spot in most cases. The plot does an excellent job of emphasizing this in several of the scenes without being on the nose.
The film does a great job of making efficient use of each scene. None of the scenes felt wasted or contrived but instead helped moved along the story of this day in the life of Dredd and Anderson. The dialogue was also well-done, showing distinct differences in personality for each person. Dredd tends to internalize his thoughts whilst Anderson tends to be more open. There is a bit of a brain versus brawn thing going on but both characters still come off as perceptive and intelligent. We also see a certain amount of growth for the two main characters over the span of the movie as well.
The action scenes and special effects are well done, showing us some of the tools available for both judges and criminals. Technology such as implants, high-tech first aid kits, gnarly weapons and DNA-locking for judge weapons are all cool but they didn’t distract from the story. Tools and equipment were viewed as simply that. We also see these tools having limitations that Dredd and Anderson have to negotiate as they fight more and more members of Ma-Ma’s gang.
How was gender/sex dealt with in this film? It was refreshing seeing a movie showing a strong female character rather than telling. The reasons for Anderson’s badassery was four-fold. First up, she had training. Second, she was a psychic. Third, she had a unique perspective, allowing her to think outside of the box. She contributed because she felt an ethical responsibility to society to be a judge. Fourth, she was also willing to work with Dredd and take on board his advice without being dependent on him at all times. It didn’t matter that she was female either because she was such a well-rounded character.

All in all, the film has moved into my top ten favorite movies of all time. It is such an awesome film and I highly enjoyed it. I highly recommend this to anyone with a love of science fiction action stories. Given the strategic nature of some of the sequences, fans of Military Science Fiction will likely appreciate the film as well. You also DO NOT have to be a fan of the comics to enjoy this film. I also highly recommend that you check out the CinemaWins video on the film.

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Anime Movie Review: 5 Centimeters per Second

Language: English dub of Japanese production
Online: Wikipedia, IMDB, MyAnimeList
Genre: Drama. Slice of Life, Romance

I have held off watching this film for a while now because I understood from the reviews that it would be a more bittersweet slice of life romance. Given that I am a great big sook, I tend to avoid anything with too many feels. Why? Because feels usually results in me shutting down for a few days as I ponder the fates of those poor characters. However, realistically the world doesn’t always give you that happy ending that you so desperately crave.

5 Centimeters per Second is the story of the relationship between two people told in three parts, as told from the perspective of the pair Akari and Takaki, as well as Kanae, a girl with an unrequited love for Takaki but is aware that he will never feel the same way. It is about how distance can affect relationships even when we feel deeply about somebody. It is a sad story but one that I think many of us can relate to on some level.

This film is short. Even at an hour in length it still manages to pack a huge emotional punch. It is easy to care for each of the characters but we understand that sometimes life doesn’t always go as planned. This is the main point of the story, I think. When we are young, we have all of these high hopes and often want something to last forever. The real world doesn’t always play out the way that we want it. This makes the good times much more precious.
Makoto Shinkai creates such lovely stories and it is little wonder why people get so emotionally involved in his stories. He also does a wonderful job of translating them to the big screen, resulting in numerous awards and hype whenever one of his films are released. He’s also become a bit of a role model for up and coming storytellers as well because of it.

If you are willing to watching a short film that doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending, then you’ll probably appreciate this story. If not, then stay away because this film is not for you. *prompts grabs tissues*


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Movie Review: Buck

Buck Brannaman

Buck Brannaman (Photo credit: PunkToad)

Buck (2011) is a documentary that follows Dan “Buck” Brannaman, a chap that’s been running horse training clinics around the USA since the early 80’s. After his physical abuse at the hands of his father was discovered by a sports teacher, he was moved to a foster family. After coming into contact with Ray Hunt in his late teens, his childhood interest in horsemanship blossomed into his lifelong work with horses.

After offering clinics for around a decade, he came to the attention of writer Nick Evans, he became involved with the film The Horse Whisperer. Robert Redford‘s commentary on his dealings with Brannaman on the film and vice versa made me smile somewhat, proving Buck problem-solving skills. It wasn’t all smiles and rainbows, the film later showing a clinic of a rather difficult case of an abnormally violent horse that kept attacking people. Buck Brannaman is quite humble talking about his life and the people that have mentored him over the years.

This documentary may not immediately appeal to non-horse people, but its strength is in its discussion of psychology and human nature. It is about the human condition and how we address our experiences. Time and time again, we are shown the similarities between human and animal psychology. Like horses, human behavior often has to be decoded, which is where understanding ourselves and those around us comes in handy. In conclusion, I loved this documentary and recommend it to anyone with an interest in people and psychology.

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Movie Review: – Operation: Endgame

Operation: Endgame (2010) is a new release action-comedy about a super-secret USA government organization. Fool (Joe Anderson) is set to begin his mission to quickly learn that he has his job cut out for him. Within a short time, the government will tear down the operation, but not before the director Devil (Jeffrey Tambor), is murdered by stationary and Alpha team begins to wipe out Omega as the two rival teams try to find a way out before the self-destruct sequence levels the facility.

When I first saw the film on the shelf at the movie store, I didn’t realize it was anything but a straight action flick, but it became obvious within the first few minutes that I had some amusing dialogue to look forward to. Chariot (Rob Corddry) is given some of the best lines in the film. The amusing dialogue works well with the wonderfully-choreographed action sequences. Even though I suspected who the traitor was at the beginning, it didn’t ruin the rest of the movie. An all-star cast backs up a solid script that is sure to leave you satisfied.

 

P.S. Just an interesting note. As I was watching the official trailer, I noticed that Devil was wrongly listed as Emperor in the list of Alpha team operatives. However, they should have shown Tower (Brandon T. Jackson) instead, and listed Emperor (Bob Odenkirk) in Omega team instead.

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Movie: The A-Team

Screenshot of intertitle from The A-Team
Image via Wikipedia

The A-Team (2010) is a re-imagining of The A-Team franchise. In spite of suggestions by other reviewers that the story was cheesy, I found the script to be solid as a rock and with enough complexity to appeal to a mature audience while at the same time staying true to the vibe of  the original series. One of my other concerns going into this movie was the use of CG, but it really did work well for the ridiculous action sequences in this film.

  • Col. Hannibal Smith: Liam Neeson is very convincing in the role of Hannibal, paying tribute to George Peppard. I would add that Peppard is one of my favorite actors from the late 60’s and early 70’s, with good looks and smarts to match.
  • Lt. Faceman “Face” Peck: Bradley Cooper seemed like an odd choice for the character, but after seeing him play the role I am at a loss as to why I ever doubted him. He is Face down to a “T”. In fact, I agree with my husband in his believe that Cooper’s role makes more sense than that of Dirk Benedict due to the script.
  • B. A. Baracus: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson plays a convincing Baracus, with a host of phobias that are a direct result of the team’s pilot and resident crazy-man, Murdock. He doesn’t try to emulate Mr. T either, but breaths life into a formerly two-dimensional character.
  • H.M. Murdock: I haven’t seen a lot of Sharlto Copley‘s roles before, but he does a smack-on job on the character of Murdock. IMHO, the script played to his strengths and was a lot less tedious than his role in District 9.

I won’t spoil the film by going into too much detail, but I will say that the fresh cast and modernization of the concept explains the origins of the group and opens up the possibility for a bunch of future films. It offers enough to keep the cult followers happy, while giving newcomers a worthwhile comedic action flick. All in all, I really loved this film and highly recommend it.

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Movie Review: The Spirit

The Spirit (2008) is the Frank Miller adaptation of Wil Eisner classic comic book series. It is the story of Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht), a New York cop who is shot and dies in the line of duty. This results in the crusader changing into The Spirt, a man who can heal at supernatural levels and is tough to boot. His arch-enemy Nazi megalomaniac mega-villain Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) is always there, making Denny’s attempt to rid the city of filth a difficult job.

The film itself revolves around Octopus’ attempts to gain the blood of Heracles, genetic material that will make him into what he believes to be a god. This will put Denny on the trail of his old flame, Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), who managed to gain possession of the artefact during a heist. So begins a host of weird interactions and action sequences that will lead to an inevitable showdown between the Spirit and Octopus.

What can you expect from this film though? Well, first up you can expect similar film techniques, sequences and writing to Frank Miller’s previous two films Sin City and 300. You can also expect a decent cast including Dan Lauria (Jack Arnold from Wonder Years) as Dolan,  Stana Katic (Kate Beckett from Castle) as gun-toting Morgenstern, Scarlett Johansson (Iron  2‘s Black Widow) as Octopus’ main assistant Silken Floss, Paz Vega (Flor Moreno from Splanglish) as insane femme fatale Plaster of Paris, Jaime King (Jade from Bulletproof Monk) as Spirit’s doctor Lorelei Rox, and the feline acting talents of Arthur the Cat in his first major role. Other faces you will no doubt recognise from film and television.

Miller does a great job of making the film true to the genre and era, giving the streets a great vibe, and offering the right amount of cheesy lines and cliche to keep the film amusing. However, be warned that the film is very camp, so stay clear if you find the likes of The Middleman entertaining. I don’t know if Miller intended this, but I found the dialogue and fight sequences to be highly entertaining. The main hero and super-villain are also nutty as a fruitcake, which might also put people off the film, but I quite liked the bizarre flaws of Spirit and Octopus. For example, Denny has a high libido, resulting in him trying to charm the clothes off of all the woman around him. This is somewhat complemented by his own animal magnetism. As for Octopus, the villain has anger management issues and take pleasure in finding new ways to kill his test-tube created cloned minion army.

In conclusion, I thought this film was hilarious. However, some of the elements might put people off, and you’ll either like the movie or hate it. I doubt that there would be many people that could repeat the film immediately after watching it, but I would certainly watch it again. As a parting gift, here’s the trailer for the film:

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