Monday 24 September 2012

Cinematic Dramatic 4x12 - Dredd

The Dramatics - THEY ARE THE LAW! Apparently, this fact is true when it comes to looking at the new Judge Dredd film. There's also Lawless to contend with so what punishment will the films be charged with?

via GeekPlanetOnline: Cinematic Dramatic Unfortunately, you will have to copy and paste the link to listen or use the handy links on the side!

Sunday 16 September 2012

Review: Lawless

Year: 2012
Director: John Hillcoat
Screenplay: Nick Cave
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, Jason Clarke

Synopsis is here

I went into Lawless completely forgetting that it was a John Hillcoat film. It doesn't take long for a fan to notice his fingerpirints however, as Lawless displays the most obvious of his themes and obsessions. Even the name of the film lays everything bear on the table. We're dealing with similar disorder within the likes of The Proposition or The Road. Once again arguing that the bond of family ties are strengthened during such times of tempestuous and desperate times.

Lawless has enough going for it to be recommended. It's attention to the period's detail in terms of look is authentic enough, with the pastel visuals only helping matters. We never reach the same heights as the likes of The Road, but the film gives a dignified nod to the westerns that Hillcoat loves. A silhouette homage to The Searchers near the end is a pleasurable example.

The struggles of the period are hinted at but never really placed in full focus. For instance; segregation, misogyny and poverty flitter around in the background. but we never gain any depth. We observe small scenes of the pain but never enough to provide insight. The segregated water fountains explain the situation, but a scene involving an African American funeral doesn't do enough to show how strong these brothers are needed within the community. It feels like an afterthought.

With such matters relegated to the background, Lawless often feels aimless and meandering. What's the main point that it's trying to pull across? That LaBeouf's Jack is a feckless coward that needs to grow some balls? This feels like the main thread and it's just not strong enough to be fully engaging. When paired with The Proposition, with it's tighter plot, leaner pacing and more purposeful intent, Lawless pales in comparison.

Lawless is also slightly wasteful with it's ingredients. The seems to be little point in having the likes of Gary Oldman and Jessica Chastain within the film other than to have their names on the posters. Their characters never really stand out or truly add much to the film. It's lucky that Guy Pearce is on hand to nash his teeth through the scenery like a wild dog, devouring all of the scripts best lines as if they were pork cutlets. Hardy's stoic older brother of little words has brooding to spare but is in no way the mans best work. As the lead LaBeouf seems to have perfected playing maddeningly annoying young twerps. The man has screen presence, he just happens to play characters I dislike. Mia Wasikowska, like Chastain, also needs more to do.

There isn't much more to say about Lawless other than it's a decent crime entry that does it's job for it's running time. It doesn't reach the heights of say Bonnie and Clyde, Public Enemies or The Untouchables, but it doesnt offend in any real way. Maybe that's the problem.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Review: Dredd

Year: 2012
Director: Pete Travis
Screenplay: Alex Garland
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

Synopsis is here:

I didn't expect to enjoy Dredd as much as I did. In fact I didn't expect me to as much delight out of it more than the new John Hillcoat film, Lawless, which I checked out the same day. But in terms of base sensory pleasure; Dredd's clear-cut, no nonsense vibe just brought more satisfaction to the palette. I'm not a Dredd fan by any real means (I could count the amount of 2000AD comics I'd read on two hands) but I always felt that a comic like Dredd needed the right kind of adaptation if it had to be a movie.

Danny Cannon's 1995 take on Dredd, reeks of the kind of studio changes that comic book fans despise. "Hey lets have Rob Schneider as a comedy sidekick!" "You know what Dredd needs? A Love interest!" "Why don't we ever see Dredd's face? Change it!" The result was a very uninspired blockbuster which doesn't illustrate the strengths of it's director (See 1993's The Young Americans or 1998's Phoenix) and isn't too far removed from Sylvester Stallone's 1993 hit Demolition Man in terms of tone.

The retread of Dredd (despite it's production issues), delightfully eschews that an anti-hero like Dredd should be given such a broad Hollywood treatment. The film seems to understand the dystopian world-view of the comics a hell of a lot more the last outing. Mega-City 1; we are told, is a meat grinder and the film expresses this within the environment perfectly. This is a world where life isn't worth the grit off the floor. The air reeks of disorder and the presence of the judges is almost meaningless due to the overcrowded population and rampant crime. The film begins with a high octane vehicle chase on a busy urban highway. When we first see Dredd, we get the feeling that this is merely just another day. We sense this, despite only seeing Karl Urban's wasp chewing mouth. Despite the dark and dingy tone, this is where the satire of the comic lies. When death is doled out so easily and casually, you need a radical right-wing judgement system to help thin out the numbers just a little more.  

With such a system in place, you expect a lot of gun play, and Dredd has more than enough to spare. The action isn't the best I've seen this year, that goes to the likes of the similarly structured The Raid, but the films set pieces are more than effective in relation to it pulpy story. Even the liberal use of slow motion comes off as more than just a gimmicky after thought, and shows itself as a properly realised idea to help bring the vision across. The film also deserves its 18 rating as the guts and gore flow freely.

But the visceral impact of the violence is bolstered by the films economical storytelling. What we see has more impact because the efficient use of it's story. As I mentioned before, the film has similar elements to The Raid. However, Dredd's more polished use of character and plot line gives us more grip on the world at play.

It also helps that Dredd's secret weapon, lies in one of it's secondary characters. Olivia Thirlby as psychic rookie Judge Anderson, provides the moral lifting of the film. Thirlby is the perfect compassionate foil for the black and white, down the line viewpoint of Urban's Dredd. Urban is also impressive, acting with only his chin for the most part, his Clint Eastwood impersonation is reminiscent of Dirty Harry, which is of course an influence on the original comic. Urban's lesser known profile also helps get around the problem the first film had, having to balance the fact it had a bonafide action superstar to contend with (See also The Expendables). Lena Headey brings up the rear, with a formidable villain in Ma-ma. A role that could have easily been filled by an OTT character actor display. Headey brings menace with a more subdued display. Managing to command hundreds with merely a nod or a glance.

Dredd retains the pulpy roots of it's comic books, and provides 95 minutes of competent, straight edged, B-movie thrills with little of the meandering and pandering that has hampered some of the larger action films of the year. It's what I got out of it; and hopefully, the fans get that to.

Friday 14 September 2012

Review: Total Recall

Year: 2012
Director: Len Wiseman
Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Byran Cranston, Bill Nighy, Bokeem Woodbine, John Cho

Synopsis is here:

After finishing The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex by Mark Kermode (light and witty), one of the main points that stayed with me was the chapter about Mainstream movies being better. Kermode believes that due to the fact that films no longer truly flop and merely "under perform", and that the studios that finance said production don't actually risk that much as they don't really lose money, should we be getting better quality movies? Now of course "better" and "good" are of course to the eye of the beholder, but as always I feel that the bequiffed one has an interesting point.

Kermode's words ring particularly true when it comes to the likes of something like Total Recall; an unbelievably, unremarkable and not at all daring Total Recall remake. However I would trade the word better with "stranger" for this particular entry. Reason being; if you're going to remake a Paul Verhoven adaptation of a Philip K Dick short story, you should make it stand out. Unfortunately, safe bets the talking in Hollywood, and they do it louder than middle aged bass playing critics, or live T.V producers who blog about movies for a hobby. Hence why Total Recall is a completely average footnote of the cinematic book of 2012.

The main issue is Total Recall has the used stench of other films hanging off it like burnt offal although it will smell like sweet pork to someone who may not be too bothered about their sci-fi or never got the fuss of the big dumb Arnie original. This film shows the generational gap between film-makers more than you think. We are now plunged fully into the directors who plunder and pilfer from other films and video games for no other reason than they remember it and it looks cool. Wiseman nabs all the artificial elements he can find from the likes of the original film, Blade Runner, Minority Report, I-robot and whatever Xbox games he had in the house at the time but does little else to the film to make our time with the mish mash world he's created fulfilling. This remake thinks it's a decent idea to discard the ambiguity that made Verhoeven feature such a stand out. Arnie is a naff actor, but Verhoeven is a learned director, with his original, wanting the viewer to second guess the intentions of it's lead and situation.  TR2012 cuts all this for the "simple" approach, as if the audience couldn't comprehend the identity crisis that featured in the original.

In fact, so much is hollowed out from the original film that the film becomes frustrating. For instance; Quaid's exotic relationship with Melina, the girl of his dreams/reality, was so different from his blonde haired, blue eyed wife it caused an entertaining dynamic. Melina 22 years ago wasn't just different in looks but in personality. A head strong rebellious latina, supported by a feisty performance from Rachel Ticotin. Fast forward to our remake and we get a bland portrayal by Jessica Biel whose only characteristic is to look slightly forlorn that Farrell's Quaid can't remember his own birthday. Such lazy reimagings crop up everywhere as Wiseman's film decides to take the road most travelled. Character actors such as Nighy and Cranston are wasted and the only person seeming to have any fun is Beckingsale's Lori. But then again that is the directors wife we're once again watching in tight clothing holding weaponry (see also Underworld) .

For all the arguments placed on Christopher Nolan's head for his two recent blockbusters (Inception and The Dark Knight Rises) and Ridleys Scott's hyped yet flawed return to sci-fi (Prometheous), Both directors can at least say that their far reaching influences allowed to bring more to proceeding than just the plain surface. Their films have brought months of argument and debate, but at least they have something in there to rouse such heated talk. They have the main source yet manage to bring more to the game.

Total Recall 2012 gives us nothing but gloss and sheen. Verhoeven knew the power of ultra violence and the general insanity of the whole thing. This retread however, is happy to contend with platform game pilfering and Blade Runner cloning. The film doesn't even seem to understand why it's taking certain aspects. Case in point, a three breasted cameo that find its way into the film early on. If you took away the original reason for said cameo to be there in the first place (Mars) why bother with the hark back? Nostalgia be damned, not even the slick action that takes place, can shift the annoyance.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Cinematic Dramatic 4x11 - Total Recall 2012

Get your ass Confused? We are too as The Dramatics see the remake of Total Recall and ask themselves the simple question of "Why?"

via GeekPlanetOnline: Cinematic Dramatic