Dredd – DVD Review

Karl Urban is Dredd.

Just needed to get that out of the way. Sylvester Stallone has nothing on Urban. This film was so simple but so frickin’ effective the visuals are stunning the acting from the three leads is perfect and comic book movies just keep getting better and better. Dredd was by far one of my favourite movies last year and now its on DVD so I can watch it again.

Set in Mega City One the story revolves around Judge Dredd, a law enforcer who has the power of Judge, Jury and Executioner and a young psychic rookie, Judge Cassandra Anderson. The pair are called to Peach Trees, a 200-storey slum ruled by Ma-Ma a drug lord who is responsible for the creation and distribution of new recreational drug Slo-Mo. When Ma-Ma finds out she has judges in her tower she orders a lockdown and tells the citizens she rules over to take the judges down or get out of the way, and so begins the fight to the top of the building for Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson.

With a plot line and main objective so clean cut and simple, the 95-minute film has plenty of time to have awesome fire-fights (and I do mean fire-fights), a little bit of back story (though none would suffice), and just the right amount of character development from both Dredd (Karl Urban) and Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). Lena Headey plays the drug-addled and psychotic Ma-Ma perfectly.

Stunning visual effects, near flawless acting, and enough explosions and gunfire to make any guy’s day. Dredd is the perfect man-movie.

5 Stars

Dredd will be out on DVD March 13

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This Is 40 – Review

A Judd Apatow movie that I actually liked.

This Is 40 claims to be a sort of sequel to Knocked Up. If it is a sequel it is definitely better than it predecessor.

The film follows husband an wife, Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) in the week that they both turn 40 (or 38 if you believe Debbie). They go through a lot of things you’d expect to happen over a few months rather than a week. Financial trouble, rebellious children, fights with each other, fights with parents at their children’s school (just one of the highlights in this film and a reason to stick around for the credits) and issues with their parents who both have second families.

Filled with heaps of pop-culture references including digs at John Goodman and J.J. Abrams, This Is 40 had me laughing for most of the film (and like I usually say, there is only one good rom-com a year… Shame this one was so early on).

3 Stars

This Is 40 is in cinemas now.

Gangster Squad – Review

The last good gangster movie that made much success in recent years was Public Enemies, set in Chicago, the traditional gangster setting. But Gangster Squad adds the Hollywood Flare in more ways than one. Set in LA in the 1940’s Gangster Squad is based on the real-life story of the secret task force of LAPD cops who formed the Gangster Squad Unit to take down Mickey Cohen and his stranglehold on the city.

The gangster squad unit is started by John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and is subsequently joined by four other detectives (played by Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña and Robert Patrick) the squad gains it’s final reluctant member after a hit on Mickey Cohen’s illegal casino goes wrong in Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling). Throw in Emma Stone as the typical female character in these sorts of films, the bad girl, turned damsel in distress when she gets caught up in the cross-fire between the two sides and you’ve got your stereotypical story that doesn’t do all that much to enrich the mind.

In saying that, the visuals are appealing and it is a nicely shot film. There’s a lot of colour that gangster films tend to leave out. This can probably be attributed to this film being set in LA, where the life was a little more glamourous than the windy city. Perfect example of the appealing and colourful visuals can be seen when Emma Stone is on the screen… y’know… just as a reference.

Overall the movie has a somewhat interesting story line but you only really feel connections to some of the minor characters when their lives are in danger (a young boy and a pregnant woman), you don’t feel much for the main characters… even the ones they spend time on making sure you realise that they have a family and that they are putting them in danger as well. It just didn’t do it for me. But it looked pretty.

3 Stars

Gangster Squad is in cinemas Now.

Wreck-It Ralph – Review

Wreck-It Ralph is a movie produced by Disney Animation Studios that looks and feels like it was produced by Pixar (it even has an animated short before the film starts). Whatever the arm of Disney this film comes from, the film is brilliant.

Wreck-It Ralph is set in Litwack’s Arcade, a simple neighbourhood arcade filled with games from all generations. One game that has stood the test of time in the Arcade is Fix-It Felix Jr. a game that features our titular character, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) wrecking an apartment building and the game’s titular character, Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) (you’ll never see this coming) fixing the building.

When the arcade closes and everybody goes home the game characters can take a well deserved break. Some visit other games like Pac-Man, where Clyde (one of the Pac-Man ghosts) holds the Bad Guy Support Group or Tapper (a bar-tending game from the 80s) where the game characters go to blow off steam. However it’s in the support group that we realise that Wreck-It Ralph, after 30 years of wrecking, has grown tired of being the bad guy and for once in his life, just wants to be appreciated. And so begins Ralph’s search for a medal which he thinks will give him the respect he desires.

Game Jumping through Hero’s Duty (a First-Person-Shooter) and Sugar Rush (a candy-coated racing game) and simply moving through the bustling Game Central Station, Ralph meets many original and classic game characters. The world of the arcade and the way the games are all connected is beautifully constructed. Even the subtleties like the way cake splashes on a wall is done in an 8-bit video-gamey way. I especially liked the way the citizens of Fix-It Felix Jr. moved, with a slight jerkiness you would expect from a game developed in the 80s. The film is also filled with little homages to so many video games its a rights acquisition departments nightmare.

Wreck-It Ralph also has these very cute moments and towards the end of the film you’ve found that you have bonded with these characters so when it comes to the crunch you tend to feel something for them especially the cute brat Venellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) who in my opinion stole the show as Ralph’s pseudo side-kick. The other main character, Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun of Hero’s Duty (Jane Lynch, who seems to only be able to play one character these days) I found interesting at times but out of the four protagonists she was my least favourite. Rounding out the cast is King Candy the ruler of Sugar Rush (Brilliantly voiced by Alan Tudyk) as the films main protagonist.

This movie really has a sweet story and loveable characters and despite getting a tad convoluted sometimes, is a perfect film for the whole family. Kids will love the characters and the colour, and the older generations will love the homages to the arcade games from the 80s and 90s. A film definitely worth seeing these school holidays.

4 Stars

Wreck-It Ralph is in cinemas now.

Argo – Review

Set in the late 1970s Argo is based on the true story of a CIA operation that freed six diplomats from Iran during a revolt against the American embassy. The operation? Well to create a completely fake film production and disguise the six staff as members of the film crew.

Ben Affleck stars (as Tony Mendez) and directs in this film that recreates the now declassified ‘Hollywood option’. It stars Bryan Cranston as Tony’s CIA supervisor, Jack O’Donnell and John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the Hollywood contacts, John Chambers and Lester Siegel. Tate Donovan (as Robert Anders), Clea DuVall (as Cora Amburn-Lijek), Chirstopher Denham (as Mark Lijek), Scoot McNairy (as Joseph Stafford), Kerry Bishé (as Kathleen Stafford) and Rory Cochrane (as Lee Schatz) round out the cast as the six ‘houseguests’ who are protected by Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, played by Victor Garber.

The film is funny, insightful and suspenseful. I found myself very interested in the story despite the six ‘houseguests’ being more or less uninteresting maybe even whiny. The American stationed side of the operation (including the team at Hollywood) was much more interesting. Hell, even the Canadian ambassador was a better character. Now I understand that the portrayal is probably true to story but maybe just a little more vigour in the acting would have made it better.

Acting aside, this film is definitely one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Such an interesting story that until I heard about the film being made I had never heard of (Ah the life of a young person ay?). Affleck successfully directs this film. He pulls off the suspense expected from the story but successfully adds some humor and a few light-hearted moments to make this a very enjoyable mix of emotions.

I recommend this film for anyone who is keen to learn a little about American history, the CIA an maybe even the film industry (just a little).

4.5 stars

Argo is in cinemas now.

Brave – Review

Disney and Pixar create a new Disney Princess in the new movie, Brave.

Its a different take on Pixar films – similar to Up, its set in a slightly more real world than Toy Story, Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc. with Humans being (mostly) the only talking, intelligent creatures.

In Brave, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a princess of the DunBroch clan, daughter of Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Elinor (Emma Thompson). She is a bit of a tomboy growing up. Preferring riding, exploring and archery to more ‘princess worthy’ pastimes. She and her mother have never really seen eye to eye, but the final straw for Merida is to be married off to one of the sons of the other three clans. What to do? Follow the Disney rule… “Got a Problem? Go see a witch!”

The animation is, as always, beautiful. Merida’s wild red hair and the fur of the bears (I know there are no bears in Scotland but it all makes sense in the film) flows and moves as if it was real. Pixar just make things one step more beautiful every film they make. Only flaws in this film I could point out is that the story seems a little forced at some points or even sped up for very little reason. It can sometimes seen a little obvious at points.

Bottom Line: Brave is a really nice take on Scottish legend and is a great film for the whole family. It provides a strong female role model for young girls as well as some very good comedic moments usually from Fergus or Merida’s three younger brothers.

3 Stars

 

La Luna

La Luna is the Pixar short that is attached to Brave. It is a lovely little film perfectly executed with very little dialogue that isn’t even dialogue it’s mumbling gibberish. The film is about Bambino and his first outing with his father, Papa and grandfather, Nonno as they go to clean up stars that fall on the moon.

Bottom Line: La Luna is Sweet and Mesmerising.

4.5 Stars

Brave is in cinemas now. La Luna appears before the main feature.

In Time – Review

Who wants to live forever? What if living forever came at a cost? Like, someone else’s life?

Thats the issue facing Justin Timberlake’s Will Salace in New Zealand born writer-director, Andrew Niccol’s In Time.

In time starts out like many sci-fi films, an almost blatant set up of the world the film is set in. In this dystopian future, time is litterally money, spend it wisely or watch as it runs out before your eyes. On top of that, in what i’m assuming is a ploy to have a cast of young, attractive actors, you stop aging at 25. Thats when your 1 year clock starts.

Justin Timberlake is Will, a 28 year old who lives in the ghetto with his yummy mummy played by Olivia Wilde. He and his best friend, Borel, Johnny Galeki (Leonard from the Big Bang Theory), work every day in order to get enough time to make it to the next… With a little on the side for the bar in Borel’s case. The major threat in the Ghetto is not the police (known here as Timekeepers), it is the mobsters known as Minutemen (yes, they really worked hard on names), led by Fortis, played by a ridiculously old looking Alex Pettyfer. Amanda Seyfried plays Sylvia Weis, daughter of one of the big wigs in New Greenwich (again, these names must have been so hard to come up with), Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser). The only other character worth talking about is the head Timekeeper who is investigating a suicide that is thought to be a murder, committed by Will… Cillian (I can’t believe he doesn’t have a bag on his head) Murphy, who plays the highlight of the film as Timekeeper Raymond Leon.

Niccol is obviously a big fan of the dystopian, having written and directed Gattaca and S1m0ne, and in In Time he looks at the classic Metropolistion* concept of those down below serving those up above. The film also looks at themes of greed and selflessness and how they can become the exact opposite of what was intended. JT’s character realises that he can give all the time in the world but the higher-ups can never truly lose. His take on the value of time is an interesting one and it got me hooked when I first heard about the concept. The acting was average with as I said before, Cillian Murphy being the stand out for me. I question Sylvia’s character motives as she quickly shifts from the rich and well off to the Bonnie to Will’s Clyde. And yes, there is a resonating Bonnie and Clyde reference throughout the whole movie and Amanda Seyfried looks sexy with a gun.

With some funny one-liners and some nice sort of action In Time is a good fun movie… don’t go to see it if you want a super meaningful movie but if your up for a bit of ‘on the run fun’… in a similar vein as The Island, this is definitely a movie worth going to see.

3 Stars

In Time is now showing in cinemas.

*Metropolistion – Reminiscent of the German Expressionism great, Metropolis… A Nicholas Linde New Word.

Cowboys and Aliens – Review

Cowboys.  Aliens.  Cowboys fighting aliens.  James Bond and Indiana Jones vs. otherworldly Martian scum.  A horrible conglomeration or a whole lot of awesomeness?

Cowboys and Aliens, directed by Iron Man’s Jon Favreau, centres on Daniel Craig’s character Jake Lonergan.  Your quintessential tough guy from the west, Lonergan wakes up in the middle of the desert, with no recollection of who he is, or what the funky contraption locked around his wrist might be.  After discovering he is able to deliver damn good ass-kickings, he swaggers into the little-old town of Absolution.  Lonergan wastes no time in giving the local shit-stirrer Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano) what for.  Cue some ominously familiar shaped lights in the sky and tendrils viciously yanking the townspeople away.  It’s here we find out Lonergan’s bracelet is a whole lot more than a pretty fashion accessory.  Now it’s up to the rag-tag bunch of gun-toting men (and woman) to get their people back.

If you go into it expecting an intellectually stimulating storyline with soul searching characters and emotions galore, don’t.  Go see, I dunno, The Smurfs or something.  This is a no holds barred shoot-em-up Western crossed with heavy SFX and CGI aliens.  It’s exactly what the title says it’s going to be, and, it’s actually pretty decent.  Daniel Craig plays Lonergan straight and narrow.  Silent and somewhat stereotypical, but it works with the clichéd dynamic of the film.  Olivia Wilde plays the mysterious Ella, whose relationship with Lonergan is a bit disjointed and unusual.  I suppose they had to put a pretty lady in there somewhere though, didn’t they.  But its Harrison Ford’s Woodrow Dolarhyde that I was most anticipating, and his menacing exterior coupled with moments of genuine but subtle tenderness do not disappoint.

This is an enjoyable piece of mindless, explosion ridden gun slinging entertainment.  Have fun, go along for the ride.  The battle scenes are effective (the sound effects were actually a standout), there’s a little comedy, a little romance, a little bit of everything that makes a blockbuster.  It’s a film that’s not ashamed of what it is.  The alien’s themselves are quite unique, in that their motive is exactly that of the humans of the set time period.  And I’ll say no more.  They have absolutely no empathetic qualities.  And that’s ok.  (And boy, they look disGUSTING.)

In short, a fun mindless action-western romp that’s extremely likeable, clichéd and unashamed.

2.5 Stars

Cowboys and Aliens is in cinemas now.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Review

“Get your paws off me you dirty ape!”  “You finally made a monkey out of me.”  These, to whom it may concern, are two lines dreadfully sung by Troy McClure featured in The Simpsons episode ‘A Fish Called Selma.’  It also represents the breadth of my knowledge about The Planet of the Apes before my voyage to its prequel.  To the uninitiated, fear not.  You don’t need to have seen the original to understand the storyline.

James Franco plays Will, a determined scientist developing a substance that potentially serves as a cure to Alzheimer’s disease.  Sticking to the good-old-fashion laboratory formula, the team continually test the serum on assorted apes throughout its development, one of which begins to show a marked improvement in mental capacity.  Jumping the gun, Franco and his stereotypically greedy boss (I swear you can almost see the oversized dollar signs in his pupils), present said primate to investors, however things go disastrously and the project is left in ruins.  Out of the chaos, Franco stumbles upon a baby chimp whose green flecked eyes (a side effect of the serum) indicate that this ape’s got potential.  Therefore Franco decides to play daddy and names him Caesar.

Overall, meh.  Performance wise, Franco strikes me hot and cold.  Yes, we feel him connect with the animal that he’s raised essentially as a human (teaching him sign language, clothing him), yet the first time they’re torn apart, it just didn’t feel like it HURTS Will enough.  They built it up as a father son relationship.  Care a little more dammit!  Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto plays Will’s love interest, who serves little more purpose than to run, offer the occasional titbit of opinion and stare in a concerned manner.  Forgettable.   John Lithgow solidly plays Will’s Alzheimer’s riddled father, a role in which he is allowed two opposite elements of mental stability.  You can tell he enjoyed the challenge.

However this is Caesar’s movie.  The visual effects crew at WETA Digital have again shown the fruits of motion capture done right.  Of course, this couldn’t have been possible without the extraordinary talent of Andy Serkis, king of the funny dots on your face.  It’s the eyes that have it in this film.  At one point I felt quite apprehensive at the impending presence of the monkeys, even though they aren’t even real!  A testament to the successful collaboration of the physical and digital.  One of the most fascinating elements of the film is the progression of Caesar’s character, from innocent baby to a somewhat malicious leader of a revolution.  Special mention: when Caesar speaks English.  Perfectly timed and quite affecting.

However a lot of the film feels like a giant cliché.  Sometimes it feels like the writers got stuck trying to represent CHIMP DOMINATION, resorting to the ridiculous.  The majority of the characters seem a bit one dimensional, the stereotypical villains in particular, so you don’t really give a rats when the inevitable happens.

Overall, predictable, but has its moments.  Go for the chimps, not the people.

P.S. This movie is a giant spoiler for Planet of the Apes.  Just sayin’.

3 Stars

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is currently in cinemas now.

This review was by Danielle Muir.