Saturday, October 06, 2012

What I Watched In September

After the hideously bad 1995 attempt to turn the violent British comic book JUDGE DREDD into a big budget film starring Sylvester Stallone one would have been safe in assuming that the possibility of another movie based on the character rested somewhere in the realm of fantasy and could never happen. After all- that terrible cinematic waste bombed at the box office AND was freakin’ hated by the source material’s fans. It was everything you don’t want to be when making a film of its type- stupid, insulting, over-produced, poorly scripted, ineptly acted and wrong-headed in almost every choice made. And then they threw in shitty comic relief in the form of one of the most unfunny human beings on the planet earth. Disaster!

So I am stunned to report that a new Dredd film was made and released this past month and - even more surprising- it is completely awesome! This is exactly the kind of movie that anyone who has ever read the original comics has pictured. Its brutal, violent, slyly funny and smart in its depiction of a dystopian future that seems more likely than most presented onscreen. It is ROBOCOP  for a new generation. The wise choice was made to simply stage a day in the life of Judge Dredd as he takes a rookie Judge on her field test. This rookie is the mildly psychic Anderson and the fact that she is a female Judge doesn't stop her from being as tough and no nonsense as Dredd. The performances are perfect with the great Karl Urban proving that its possible to emote very well using just body language and his commanding voice. Dredd is never seen without his trademark helmet and Urban makes that possible limitation work for him as he advances through the mild arc his stoic character travels. Likewise Olivia Thirlby is excellent as Anderson showing a real skill at communicating an iron determination beneath an empathic face. And Lena Headey as the scarred drug lord villain continues to impress me as an actress worthy of bigger and better roles.

Mention should be made of the visual beauty of the film. DREDD is a truly rare thing- an action art film. All the dirty, grimy and nasty things shown in the movie are presented in a wonderfully artful and, dare I say it, beautiful fashion. The almost painterly deaths of certain characters and the energetic, stylized fight scenes are exciting and gorgeous to behold. I would love to see sequels to this film made if the same cast and crew could be enticed back.

The fourth in the BOURNE series ends up being one of the most satisfying. Focusing on a new character involved in the Treadstone debacle its story takes place during the events of the third film and fits very well with that one and the series as a whole. I'm becoming a huge fan of Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz is easily one of the best actresses of her generation. I'm not sure why she hasn't been more heavily praised over the last decade but her resume is incredible.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER is just as silly, hyper-stylized, over the top and fun as I expected it to be. Indeed, to have gotten any other type of filmmaking from crazed Russian director Timor Bekmambetov would have been a disappointment. I was happy with its sharp period detail work as well as its amusing take on our 16th president. Its fun in a way that few films try to be these days by being straight-faced about its absurdities and never winking at the audience. It will be a very hated movie but only by folks with a tiny imagination.

The fifth RESIDENT EVIL film is a bit of a mess. It holds together quite well for about the first half and then becomes a series of video game like set-ups and shoot-downs that get repetitive and - sad to say- dull. None of the movies since the first have been something I can rationally defend as 'good' movies but I have enjoyed them overall until this one. It just didn't have a good enough through line for me to like the story being so sloppily told. Its a lazy film and, although it has its moments, a lot of them seem stolen from other, better movies. Like the previous one this film ends with a set-up for a sequel that actually intrigues me but I now hope the next is the final installment. Its time to wrap up the story of Alice and the Umbrella Corporation before I turn against the entire thing.

THE WARRIORS (1955)- 7  a.k.a. THE DARK AVENGER (fun 'Black Knight' period Errol Flynn adventure)
BLADE RUNNER (1982)- 8 (the famed workprint)
BLOODSPORT (1988)- 6 (Van Dammage!)
ESPIONAGE IN TANGIERS (1965)- 6 (breezy Euro-Spy adventure)
MISSING IN ACTION (1984)- 5 (rewatch)
JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM (2012)- 7 (What happens when villains use Batman's plans to take down the Justice League?)
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012)- 5 (weak but still not terrible)
MERRY WIVES OF RENO (1934) - 6 (fun pre-code divorce comedy)
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012)- 6 (silly, over-the-top and entertaining)
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)- 9 (rewatch)
THE ADVENTURES OF GERARD (1970)- 6 (silly period comedy based on Arthur Conan Doyle character)
ROCK & ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979)- 8 (rewatch)
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (2009)- 3 (lackluster remake)
THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971)- 7 (nice possession tale)
DREDD (2012)- 9 (now this is how you make a Judge Dredd film!)


Kal said...

I loved Dredd too. It was a fantastic actioner that set a new bar for the genre. That slow motion death effect was very compelling.

Rod Barnett said...

It was a brilliant film and exactly what I and three buddies needed on a night out at the flicks.