Dredd 3D Movie Review 0 33

Dredd movie review

There are two ways you can look at the new Dredd movie; either as a brand new adaptation of the long-running comic book character or, like me, as a remake of the 1995 Sylvester Stallone version. Either way suffice it to say that Dredd 3D is a much welcome re-telling, bringing a gritty, violent and purposeful sensibility to it and solidly succeeding at what it sets out to do.

Taking place in a future where only 800 million people are left, “living in the ruin of the old world,” we follow Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) of the title as he takes rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) on an assessment mission at one of the more crime-ridden tower blocks of Mega City One. Controlled by gang leader Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who also controls the distribution of a new addictive drug known as Slo-Mo, the two judges have to battle their way up the 200 levels of the tower which Ma-Ma has sealed off.

Hard-edged and not afraid to show the unleashed carnage in all its bloody, messy glory, Dredd 3D is exactly the kind of big-screen version the character deserves. Filled with more bullets and dead bodies than you could probably count – giving this summer’s The Expendables 2 a run for its money (that’s saying something!) – and reveling in having Dredd spout one-liners in his trademark gruff voice, this is dementedly and perversely fun stuff. Though the 3D is ultimately needless, it’s not as distracting as many others released in the format.

The main conceit of the movie, that is a dangerous gang leader in control of an entire building and our “heroes” having to battle their way up to stop them, may seem like a total rip-off of Indonesian action sensation The Raid. And it’s true the plots, at least on first appearance, are strikingly similar. However, since Dredd 3D was already in the development stages at the time of The Raid’s release it can hardly be blamed. Also, as similar as they are in pure concept the specifics set it apart, namely the Slo-Mo drug which makes the user’s brain perceive events at 1% their normal speed. The way director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) presents this effect is startling and oddly beautiful, from water particles slowly floating through the air to stylistic shots of people getting a bullet to the face. The film is unashamedly violent, yes, but finds a beauty in that with this startling visual effect.

Urban is an inspired casting choice to play Dredd himself, bringing the necessary mix of no-nonsense attitude, imposing demeanour and the ability to deliver a good one-liner in a way that makes us laugh with him rather than at him. Not so strong is Thirlby who is slightly miscast as very much the supporting Judge in this 200 floor take-down. A joy to watch, on the other hand, is Headey who is clearly having a ton of fun chewing up the scenery as the ruthless Ma-Ma, sat atop her tower of criminals and addiction calling the shots. But Urban, as the title suggests, is kept at the centre of attention throughout.

Some might say the film is a little bit repetitive in nature as it is, essentially, lots of bad guys getting shot and blown up floor-by-floor for 90-odd minutes. But just like the aforementioned The Raid there’s enough going on here and a general commitment to keeping it as balls-to-the-wall as possible that it gets away with it.

Written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine), Dredd 3D is a tightly written action pic that doesn’t pull any punches and at a brisk 95 minutes it doesn’t waste any time getting to the point. Treating its decrepit futuristic world with welcome realism, allowing us to completely buy into it even as it throws special gadgets and a ludicrous drug concept at us, this is violently grown up sci-fi that doesn’t forget that it’s supposed to be fun.

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I’m a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features.

I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 420

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 452

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10