Dredd (2012)

Far too heroic of a poster for this movie.

Far too heroic of a poster for this movie.

Directed by: Pete Travis (I saw Vantage Point and thought it was an interesting premise ruined by trying to make it too twisty)

Written by: Alex Garland (he wrote 28 Days Later…), based off of the comic book hero Judge Dredd by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, Rakie Ayola, Langley Kirkwood, Domhnall Gleeson and, briefly, Evan Rachel Wood.

What it’s about: a notable law enforcement officer in the future trains a new prospect and ends up having one hell of a training day

B-Movie Alternate Title: Judge Jury and Executioner DREDD

Movie Mash Up: Like some sort of mix of Quarantine/[●REC]The Running ManThe Dark Knight + Training Day

What I liked: Karl Urban was perfect as Judge Dredd, a character I know absolutely nothing about (other than faint memories from old “Wizard Magazine” articles).  His performance was equal parts Dirty Harry and Batman.  Apparently there has been mention of how excessive the violence is in this movie, but I found it to be fine as it takes place in the context of this future world.  It’s not like 2012 where billions of people die and we’re supposed to laugh at the stupid fat Russian guy or whatever.  Olivia Thirlby continues to confound me, as she is clearly attractive but it’s a weird sort of attraction that I can’t put my finger on.  Plus, she’s a talented actress, though it was initially off-putting seeing her in such a hard boiled action movie.  I might not ever set out to watch it again, but I would certainly never turn down a repeat viewing of this movie.

What I disliked: Minor technical quibbles in regards to facial stubble on Urban’s face, as well as a sort of over-reliance on the Slo-Mo drug effects, but like I said, minor quibbles.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Oh heavens no.  I thought it was great, a dark, fun R-rated action movie, but the violence contained within should not be viewed by young eyes.  Even though they have already probably killed thousands of people already in their video games.

Rating: 4 /5

For some reason, all I could find were Lena Headey gifs for this movie.

For some reason, all I could find were Lena Headey gifs for this movie.


Across the Universe (2007)

Wrote this awhile back, and it’s a passable enough musical, deducted half a point because my Beatles love has increased.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of The Beatles (I have become at the very least, super interested in The Beatles since), I certainly do recognise their influence on pop culture the entire world ’round since their debut over 40 years ago. To say that they changed things would be a very large understatement. I’m also not super-familiar with their entire song catalogue, which is why when I saw the trailers for Across the Universe a couple months back, I had no idea that the song “I’ve Just Seen a Face” was a Beatles tune. I thought it was a super-catchy ditty, and the visual spectacle that unfolded throughout the trailer definitely made me want to see the movie, whenever it finally came out. Just from that trailer, I could tell that it was Moulin Rouge!-esque, but minus the almost freakishly odd Baz Luhrmann.

Screenplay writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais take a less anachronistic approach to incorporating Beatles songs into a full-blown musical feature film, placing the time period and characters of the film in the exact place where The Beatles became world famous. Jude (Jim Sturgess) is a young dock worker from Liverpool, heading off to the bright lights of America to find his father (Robert Clohessy) and seek out a change from the drearyness of his everyday life. Soon after arriving, Jude befriends Max (Joe Anderson) and meets Max’s younger sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), and all three of them eventually make their way to New York. Once there, they meet other like-minded individuals in the Janis Joplin-esque singe Sadie (Dana Fuchs), the shy introverted Prudence (T.V. Carpio), and the talented guitarist JoJo (Martin Luther McCoy). The film then follows these core characters as they deal with love, rock ‘n roll, drugs and the Vietnam War, all the while expressing themselves through the songs of The Beatles.

Apparently these characters are living in a world that has never known The Beatles, since none of the non-singing characters ever comes right out and says “Hey, why are you singing that Beatles tune?” Musicals are a strange beast to adapt to the screen, since the entire genre pretty much requires the biggest suspension of disbelief imaginable in films. It’s one thing to see an explosive action film and point out all the ridiculous contrivancies that pop up, it’s another to just accept that people are bursting into song as a means of communicating their inner emotions to others. That being said, Taymor finds a way to make it successful at least half of the time. Sometimes it comes across as forced, sometimes painfully predictable/on the nose, sometimes happily predictable, but there’s no way the structure of the film is going to please everybody.

This is a film that will garner more than a few Oscar nominations (it received only one in Costume Design), though more than likely only in the technical and costuming categories, not in the high prestige acting categories. That isn’t to say that the acting isn’t top notch, because all around the cast does a passable job with their performances. It’s hard to really quantify them as “acting” per se, since most of their work is simply singing the works of The Beatles. Still, the emotions, inflections and reinterpretations the cast puts into their vocal stylings are quite stirring and could conceivably jog a few tears from people, particularly T.V. Carpio’s nearly-heart-wrenching performance as Prudence. Taymor doesn’t put much into the development of the characters, so you take what you can get from the singing bits.

There are some simply wonderful and beautiful scenes throughout Across the Universe, but as a full-length feature film, it works better as a wondrous trailer. It’s definitely worth giving a view if you have the chance, or if you’re a diehard Beatles fan I suppose. Keep an eye peeled for a couple of fun celebrity cameos from the likes of Eddie Izzard, Joe Cocker and Salma Hayek. And Bono too I guess. As a complete package, the film is a bit lacking in the emotional resonance department and there’s a bit of dragging throughout, but otherwise is a relatively enjoyable way to spend a couple hours.

2.5 / 5

The Wrestler (2008)

Being an almost lifelong professional wrestling fan is tough (there were a couple years in junior and senior high I didn’t watch).  Nowadays, there’s nerd chic, and it’s soooo cool if you’re a sexy girl and wear glasses and play video games.  Nerd doesn’t mean nerd anymore.  However, outside of small windows of extreme popularity (Rock ‘N Wrestling, WWF Attitude) it is still considered somewhat embarrassing to be a wrestling fan.  It doesn’t matter how logically we defend it, we’re looked down upon by people who have no problem watching soap operas, reality TV shows and sparkling vampire movies.

However, ever since this movie was released, there seems to have been a bit of begrudging acceptance of professional wrestling as an art form in the media.  Well, not mass media, but knowledgeable pockets of it.  Even after seeing it a few times, I don’t know if it’s something I’d want to show people as like a love letter about why I still watch wrestling.  For one thing, it’s one of the most depressing movies ever in my estimation.  Sure, there’s celebratory elements to it, and there’s a lot to be said for a character that is willing to sacrifice so much for the thing he does, but it is bleak and sad.  It somewhat confirms what Beyond the Mat showed us way back in 1999: wrestlers lead fucked up lives.

Thankfully, director Darren Aronofsky treats the subject matter with respect, unlike that cinematic implosion Ready to Rumble which is ironic because R2R was created to promote wrestling, not demonize it.  The cinematography is gritty, raw, feels like a documentary at points.  The performances are astounding, and I’d say that the only reason Mickey Rourke did not win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson was because the Academy looked down upon him originally stating that he would be wrestling at WrestleMania XXV.  Sean Penn won that year for Milk, which was an alright performance but nowhere near as otherworldly as Rourke’s.

Even as a wrestling fan… actually, I’ll say that especially because I’m a wrestling fan, this is a hard, depressing movie to watch.  I know all to well how close to reality this movie is.

4.5 / 5

The Ides of March (2011)

Ever since I was first turned on to “The West Wing”, I’ve had an interest in well-written American political movies.  Much like my adoration of baseball movies, this interest does not translate over into day-to-day life as I’m more apolitical than anything.  Or apocalyptic.  Something.  Anyways, I enjoy both George Clooney and Ryan Gosling and had intended on seeing this movie no matter what it was about, so I purposely did no research at all and went in blind.

Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) is pretty much the Barack Obama of this political thriller, a charismatic and popular and different choice for the American people.  He has two of the brightest campaign managers working to get the Democratic nomination for him, the veteran Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the idealistic Stephen Meyers (Gosling).  Through an interaction with the opposing Democratic candidate’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), Stephen ends up playing a high stakes political game to salvage his young career.

Clooney also directed the movie, as well as helping with the screenplay which itself is an adaptation of the play “Farragut North” by fellow screenplay writer Beau Willimon.  Clooney appears to direct a movie every three years, and while this isn’t his best so far (that would be Good Night, and Good Luck.) it’s also not his worst (Leatherheads which I still enjoyed).  For the most part it’s an intriguing look into the backrooms of politicians, probably making them far more interesting than they actually are.  Pretty much what Aaron Sorkin did with “The West Wing”.  It’s well acted, well shot, well written, a solid movie all around, just lacking something that I can’t place my finger on right now.

Might as well call this blog Clooneymovieaday at this point.

4 / 5

The Conspirator (2011)

I’m not a big history buff, so when I watch a movie about interesting events that took place in the past, this leads me to researching historical figures on Wikipedia for hours.  Since American history is more important and therefore more interesting than Canadian history (/sarcasm), I tend to know more about their events than my own country’s historical past.  We’re so bland.  Anyways, Robert Redford directed this about the trial that took place after the assassination of President Lincoln and the kangaroo court that eventually strung up Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) as a co-conspirator in the murder.  The Co-Conspirator isn’t as easy to market I guess.

It’s a weighty, conspiracy (shocking!) , law and historical picture.  Redford tends to have a methodical approach to pacing, and depending on the tale, it usually serves him well.  This one was alright.  Look at the tags below for the major cast players, and some of the names might surprise you.  Nobody is terrible, and the movie is decent enough.  I’ll single out James McAvoy for completely losing his accent and carrying the film on his shoulders.  I don’t really have much to say about it I guess.  It’s decent, but not everyone’s going to be interested in it.

3.5 / 5