Judge, Jury and executioner, the 'judges', a futuristic cop-team who won't take no for an answer are faced with the influx of a new popular drug, aptly named 'Slo-Mo'. It's the job of Judge Dredd and his newly appointed rookie to investigate the drugs ring and ultimately 'bring em down'!
An oddly popular technique within comic book adaptations is to strip them down to the bare bone, where it simply becomes a basic (and usually corny) story about a badly dressed man with an unorthodox fighting style. All the positives of an accomplished series are diminished in seconds as we see our favourite hero's lose all their credibility, uniqueness and likability through scenes of careless ridiculousness. Of course their are exceptions, most notably being Christopher Nolan's batman series and of course the recent release of Dredd 3-D.
Contrary to many films of a similar theme, Dredd (or Dredd 3-D if you must) actually manages to live up to it's highly violent persona, which is something to be expected of from a graphic novel. Ignoring the 'warnings' over box-office intake through incorrect target market, Dredd produces a much deserved sturdy '18' certificate, wanting to portray a realistic representation of the comics and doing just that...x10. Armed with countless amounts of unique bullets, Dredd intelligently slaughters those who stand in his way through a plethora of mediums including, fire, explosives and good ol' brute force! Creating for a thrilling hour and a half of action in which no one person dies the same way. This hardcore action is aided by the exceptional use of Slow-Motion, used not only as a plot-device but also for some truly stunning visuals. Whilst a bullet tearing through a man's cheek may not be the most delightful of images it certainly helps to convey the brutal pain that the 'judges' deliver. Especially effective was the use of slow-motion within a POV shot, casting a eerily realistic shadow over the scene, as we follow the victim descending to his inevitable death through the building in an all to beautiful 3rd dimension. Being the only impressive 3-D film to date, Dredd takes this technological premise and uses it as an immersive technique rather than an ineffective money-grabber, by sending blood and similar debris/body parts flying at the screen. Never over-dramatized, the 3-D is always there but not always noticeable allowing the audience to become truly involved within the action.
Taking the reigns from the brilliant/diabolical performance of Sylvestor Stallone's chin is a difficult challenge for a majority of actors, which makes Karl Urban's performance all the more mesmerising. In a sense mimicking the work of Stallone, Urban manages to create the same aura of intimidation without the temptation of removing his helmet. Every judgement is brutal, yet voiced in a comedic style, as you begin to support this oddly likable mass murderer with morals. Following him in his activities is his undeniably useful rookie 'Anderson' carrying the ability to read minds, a premise initially shunted but which actually proved to be used extremely effectively. Poignantly used in the harrowing interrogation scene, this psychic ability, although debateably unnecessary, did insert some much needed change into the otherwise linear narrative, which wasn't aided by the tame leadership of the anti-hero.
Ma-ma, a babies first word and now apparently a threatening name for a diabolically sick ringleader, who aims to take over the city after she takes down the law. Quite an ambitious ask for a tame performance from the poorly casted Lena Headey, with her femininity protruding too much from the male-dominated gang. None of her commands felt genuine and once she grasped the mounted machine gun and mindlessly obliterated a whole floor, a huge dose of unrealistic stupidity seeped in.
An immersive narrative isn't wholly necessary here, a thrilling experience can be created through it's multitude of barbarically graphic action sequences. Delivering unprecedented creative techniques in order to convey unbearable pain and fear, Dredd certainly wipes the floor with the rest of it's comic book competitors. After all who wants to see some dumbed-down unrealistic action when you could see the whole picture in all it's explosive glory.
The dark re-imagining of classic fairy-tales has become a bizarre trend of recent cinema, all sharing the unfortunate traits of inconsistent tones and overall mediocrity. The newest of the bunch is Jack the giant slayer, hoping to scrub off the naff fairy-tale stereotype with its reimagining of the tale 'Jack and the beanstalk' by possessing an intelligently advanced narrative and militant towering giants.
With an imaginative and accomplished tale acting as the baseline plot, Jack the giant slayer does a brilliant job in making the story fresh and original providing an intelligent twist in the tale. Hollywood influence may have given the story an air of predictability throwing in a king, a princess, a blatant villain and the 'average Joe' underdog as Jack, however this shows to coagulate with the original tale feeling like a warm and assuring bedtime story. Taking a while to find its feet we find ourselves procrastinating in the human kingdom of Cloister for perhaps a little too long as Jack is introduced, to instant appeal, and the plot is set in stone as the familiar tale plays out with Jack's purchase of the magic beans. Soon enough once the princess spontaneously and coincidentally turns up on Jacks door on a thunderous evening, the bean fertilises and reveals the stories anchor of the beanstalk behemoth as the princess is unwillingly pulled along with it, prompting a rescue.
Once the realistically laborious task of reaching the top is achieved, we are introduced to the giant's kingdom and the dirty, disgusting giants themselves. Despite aesthetically looking like CGI blobs the giants act in a way which is playful and dumb without being childish and terrifying, providing a handful of laughs as well as moments of surprising disgust. Unlike the dark twist in other recent fairy-tale adaptations, this gritty feature in Jack the giant slayer works to excellent effect acting as a necessary and relevant asset to the story. Marked with a 12A certificate, the violence consistently pushes the boundaries feeling surprisingly grim at times as the knight's gallop from bloodthirsty giants, ripping bystander's heads off and discarding their bodies as trash. This however never feels out of place, like an overactive childish imagination nothing is beyond violent reason. This does not excuse however the bombardment of whimsical dialogue that is spoken from the mouths of these stereotypical yet enticing characters. No child let alone adult audience member wants to witness a statement of love to one another as Jack and the princess descend the tumbling beanstalk before they nonsensically and unnecessarily swing to safety on a vine. Scenes such as this one appear sporadically throughout the film momentarily disrupting the even tone for something more undeniably idiotic.
Jack the giant slayer should certainly not be compared to its dismal cinematic fairy-tale counterparts proving to be far more original and creative in its narrative, paving the way for a thoroughly enjoyable family romp. Its chances of success are squandered by a perhaps expected whimsical shroud of dialogue and slap-stick scenes of action, however this doesn't distract from the heavily immersive and entertaining story at hand.
6.5/10- A simple yet delightful twist on the classic tale.
As universally recognised as it was, many were oblivious to the pain-staking years of effort that went into the hunt for 'Osama bin Laden'. Unlike various similar situations this hunt was largely a silent one, done behind the closed doors of CIA offices instead of the brutal front line, suggesting that perhaps Kathryn Bigelow's newest Oscar contender 'Zero Dark Thirty' isn't the action spectacular that many expect it to be.
With Oscar nominated Jessica Chastain leading the hunt as 'Maya' a CIA officer, this film largely follows her inner struggles of desperation as her job and patriotic pride hang on thin strings, and for the majority her performances truly drives the film along with the remaining male cast running obediently behind.She leads the narrative as thin as it proves to ware, showing to be of smaller substance as initially perceived with many scenes showing almost identical subject matter to the previous. It's largely brilliant in captivating it's audience through political discussions and the tedium of the lengthy hunt, however its not helped by it's occasionally poor screenplay that acts as irregular comic relief as unknown sub-characters blurt convoluted phrase's with near to no following explanation. Almost inevitably a huge sense of 'deja-vu' is felt as the film procrastinates in it's progression through bogs of unnecessary dialogue .This may be an unintentional positive however as that's how the process played out in reality, this wasn't a months work as most CIA thrillers display it to be, this was a 10-year hunt, constant revisits to the 'drawing board' are to be expected.
Aiding in Maya's hunt is 'Dan' (Jason Clarke), a fellow CIA officer with perhaps more brutal tactics than the initially disgusted protagonist, displaying controversial scenes of reportedly 'stylised torture scenes'. This is in fact far from the case with Zero Dark Thirty only providing an all too realistic depiction of the torture involved with such a brutal hunt, little felt stylised with most feeling aptly uncomfortable. In fact looking on the whole the most poignant of positives that this film beholds is in it's terrifying authenticity, every scene of violence is seen through the lens of reality with little left to the imagination. With the majority of the film being dialogue between political and military figures, it comes as quite the expectation to see the resulting raid and assassination, and although it lasts for around 25 minutes it certainly proves to be one of the most accurate and exhilarating action scenes in recent memory. Transitioning between night-vision POV and 3rd person personal view, this scene is a perfect example of directorial excellence, with the audience feeling part of the troop as they squeeze through tight spaces and detonate intense controlled explosions.
In comparison to Zero Dark Thirty's Oscar nominated, declassified counterpart Argo, this picture proves to be significantly more indulging and interesting, containing a much broader and largely stronger narrative. What this lacks however is dramatic flair with interest barely maintained during the seemingly unnecessary sections of repeated dialogue. It does however significantly pick up towards the end, showing Bigelow's directorial finesse proving to be crucially accurate in it's depiction of silent and dramatic warfare.
7.5/10- As disturbingly dark as it is terrifyingly realistic
Ang Lee, director of the truly fantastic and the dismally underwhelming, it seemed as though after his momentary downfall with 2003's Hulk that he would never return to the bright limelight of the blockbuster. It may have taken him nine years to do so but Ang Lee has returned to serve a dose of fantasy in the form of the beloved novel Life of pi, and whilst it may not be a blockbuster for the masses it is certainly a blockbuster none the less boasting high end CGI and a typical third dimension to match. Issues arise whilst analysing the narrative : a boy and a tiger (named Richard Parker) find hope in each other after the ship carrying them sank and there're left stranded on a stray life raft. It may not be the most relatable and linear of narratives present however that's where it's true triumph stands, Life of pi manages to bring intelligence to the mainstream blockbuster in a way which is subtle and undeniably beautiful.
From it's exterior it seems as though Life of pi is simply a convoluted fantasy tale, it's not until you begin to watch the film that you know it's going to be about so much more. Beginning at Pi's childhood we see his controlled upbringing and also his introduction to religion in particularly large doses. A familiar cinematic route is to take sides on a certain view on religion rarely braving to speak a unique mind, Life of pi however is very different doing just this with controlled understanding and intelligence showing zero tolerance to religious injustices. Pi grows older leaving the humor of the first half in it's rightful place, taking upon a more serious meaningful tone till the point where Pi becomes stranded and the film disembarks on a cinematic journey of wonder.
With a very large majorety of the film shot with CGI settings and characters, Life of pi did a fantastic job in riveting the audience to the story making the CGI become seamless and irrelevant. Unlike many blockbusters of a similar nature the CGI is used sparingly only to enhance the visual features and sustain disbelief. This creates for some truly momentous scenes of pure beauty creating a visual spectacle like no other, treating the senses to incredible settings and creatures that only look more fantastic in the third dimension. It's much deliberated but the 3-D in Life of pi is truly astounding and not to be missed, immersing the audience into the wildlife and surrounding scenery to the point where you felt transported to the world yourself. The connection made not only between audience and scenery but also audience and protagonist is astounding, we believe his every action and hope for his well-being. Never before have seemingly in-cohesive characters managed to create a narrative that is as compelling as it is sustainably intriguing .Every performance was fantastic with emotion forcefully driving each character and their subsequent actions, most notably the performance of young lead of Suraj Sharma was outstanding especially considering the fact that a lot of the acting was done against non-existent characters on blue screen.
With early critics stating that Life of Pi was 'unfilmable' the finished result simply goes to show that any book can be transcribed if enough thought and emotion is inserted into it. There is an overwhelming triumph surrounding Life of pi and it's responsible director Ang Lee, once again displaying that he is a truly influential film maker capable of anything. The extent to which this film connects to the hearts of the audience is touching and unprecedented in a year of soulless dramas. Life of pi is a cinematic epic that will be remembered for years to come, proving to be majestic without being pretentious.
10/10- Rich in meaningful messages which will remain with you for days prior. A true beauty.
After the worldwide success of the universally praised Lord of the rings series it was almost inevitable that it's child friendly predecessor would follow suit with a feature film adaptation. Many years later after much cast deliberation and technical issues, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has wondered onto our screens boasting a crystal clear higher frame rate as well as the modern blockbuster necessity 3-D. With much hype to live up to The Hobbit didn't have a particularly easy task, transcribing the innocence of the children's novel with the previously established gritty world of middle-earth ; and whilst it was pleasant to revisit Tolkien's universe, the Hobbits journey felt slow, forced and tediously childish.
A seemingly forgotten fact surrounding The Hobbit, is that it's very much a children's novel, following the adventure of a mythical Hobbit being taken on a quest to a mountain guarded by a vicious dragon. It's a classic children's novel with obvious coinciding themes. However the problem lies when Jackson attempts to merge the gritty sensation of Lord of the rings with the totally contrasting themes of The Hobbit. This results in a giant mess of Dwarves, dragons, necromancers and nonsensical folk-law A clear target demographic is not present and in an attempt to appeal to everybody it coincidentally appeals to nobody. One scene you find yourself in the company of a jolly naturalistic wizard tending to the needs of the local wildlife, the next he's being confronted by the deeply intimidating shadow of the necromancer. This unproductive contrast between every scene makes for a totally inconsistent tale of messy fantasy.
Many of the cinematic issues with the Hobbit come as a result of the brilliantly told, yet undeniably faulty tale of the novel. Most notably the Dwarf pack was simply too large for the audience to care for each one of them, so in an attempt to display individual personalities Jackson tries to give each one sufficient screen-time yet even still, the most memorable ones are the ones which are simplistically stereotyped for the joys of a younger audience. Characters are forgotten as the story becomes overwhelmed with sophisticated ideologies instead of focusing on character depth, which it's Lord of the rings counterparts achieved with excellence.
CGI which was previously used sparingly as a tool to sustain an audiences belief and enhance the visuals, in the Hobbits case has now become an easy way to show off the worst of a wonderful universe. This overindulgence of hackneyed special effects detracted from the story completely, forcing you to think that your watching a low budget B-movie rather than a cinematic spectacle. This extensive use seemingly poor CGI, wasn't aided by the technical addition of a higher frame rate, only highlighting the prosthetic and computer animated negatives. This unrepresented technology did near to nothing to enhance the viewing experience of the audience with the exception of the fluid movement and crisp imagery during the establishing shots of vast nature. It's increasingly useless counterpart of 3-D followed in an all too familiar suit, proving to be useful in the first 5 minutes yet simply being an irritating 'dimmer switch' in the events proceeding.
The novel, although providing some nuisances does however provide the sturdy foundations for this epic adventure tale, which in itself is sweet and nostalgic. Displaying scenes of creative imagination for the most part, despite it's obsession with special effects. The novel however is transcribed in a bizarre fashion, dragging each chapter to unbearable lengths in the hope that they'll fortunately piece together making the shape of an 'epic trilogy'. The obsession of money is a clear drive behind the narratives procrastination, with greedy box-office numbers getting the upper hand on cinematic beauty.
Much of this films faults come as a result of it's tonal inconsistency, which is a shame as there's much to be admired here if it wasn't for the sticky facade of issues. Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins is the link desperately holding the story together, providing a performance that was not only relatable but also innocently charming. The best scene, displaying middle-earths magic once more, appeared from the magnificent chemistry between the performances of Freeman and the iconic Lord of the rings creature, Gollum. This scene perfectly encapsulates the excellent performances of both actors as well as being one of the few scenes which truly balances witty humor with child friendly storytelling. Issues arise when observing the bigger picture, with two more installments on the horizon and little explained in 'An Unexpected Journey' the Hobbit needs to rethink it's demographic and find harmony in it's tones.
65%- Middle earth is as much missed as it is infested with issues.