Viewed – 06 May 2013 Blu-ray
I recall enjoying the British science fiction comics 2000 A.D. and Judge Dredd Magazine throughout my childhood and often wondered what a movie adaptation would be like. Over the years since I discovered that perhaps this rich universe wasn’t quite so easy to adapt after witnessing the fun but disappointing Judge Dredd movie starring Sylvester Stallone, who seemed miss-cast in such an iconic role. However now we come to the second attempt to bring this character to the big screen, and rest assured, they seem to have got it (mostly) right this time.
Karl Urban stars as Dredd, one of several future cops who are basically judge, jury and executioner on the mean streets of Mega City One, America’s last surviving city in the middle of a wasteland. Teaming up with psychic rookie ‘Anderson’ (a complex Olivia Thurlby) and called out to a routine triple homicide at a large apartment complex, these two mismatched law enforcers soon find themselves trapped in the building after the mobster ruling over it, Ma-Ma (a wonderfully evil Lena Headey) locks it down. Echoes of Korean martial arts actioner The Raid immediately entered my mind along with thoughts of the first Die Hard movie, and to be honest I was shocked. The Judge Dredd comics had a huge world to pick from with many characters and locations … and the movie chooses to stick to this one, claustrophobic setting? Okay … well let me just say, it works a treat delivering a violent and intense experience that not only perfectly captures the character of Dredd (and fans rejoice - Karl Urban never removes his helmet) but also delivers a full on action-fest.
Director Pete Travis has made a very stylish and enjoyably gory movie that hits hard. Africa’s Cape Town standing in for Mega City One is stunning in it’s architecture and the subtle use of CGI helped create a believable futuristic world without overwhelming. Slow motion effects showing the use of a black market drug are also impressive, and overall I had a great time. Yes for such an iconic character and universe – there is so much more that could have been done here, but perhaps playing to it’s strengths rather than blowing the budget was the right choice.
Verdict: 4 /5
- Movie Review: Dredd (2012) (johnreviewsmovies.wordpress.com)
- Karl Urban is the law – Review of Dredd (2012) (filmdays.me)
- Get Ready to Experience the True Colors of the Law in Judge Dredd Classics! (graphicpolicy.com)
Viewed – 01 April 2013 Blu-ray
25th Anniversary Edition
Director Rob Reiner has been responsible, in my opinion for classic after classic, especially during the eighties with movies like Stand By Me, Misery and When Harry Met Sally, but many will know him for this perfectly pitched fantasy fable that pokes fun whilst also offering a tribute to movies like Legend and LadyHawk.
Starring Robin Wright (before she was Penn) as a farm girl named Buttercup, and Cary Elwes (everybody’s favorite comedy heart-throb) as her farm boy love-interest, this is a simple love story with added swashbuckling, masked avengers, a giant, miracles and perfect narration by Peter Falk (Columbo). At it’s heart its a comedy, and a dry one at that, with some great lines (As You Wish, You Killed My Father … Prepare To Die, He’s Only Mostly Dead!) and some great talent throughout the cast (look out for cameos from Peter Cook, Billy Crystal and Mel Smith). Reiner’s direction is perfectly paced, telling the story with a bunch of larger-than-life characters, including a great boo-hiss villain in the shape of Chris Sarandon’s Prince Humperdink …. and let’s not forget ‘that’ theme tune.
As a movie I grew up loving, watching it now with more mature eyes, it stands the test of time well. The script is still sharp and quotable, the performances just right, without getting too silly, and overall I had a great time. I think it lacks a bit of spectacle, some of the effects and scenery look fake as hell, and the climax lacks a bit of impact. However this is one of those movies where the moments you loved, are still great and the characters are all as fun as you recall – even if by today’s standards it all seems a little corny and cheap. I still say its a classic though.
This 25th Anniversary Blu-ray is pretty impressive. The image is crisp and has much more detail than I could have expected, the colors especially popping (check out Prince Humperdink’s red outfit and gold crown), whilst the sound is clear and punchy. I noticed a few moments of slight lip-sync, but that could have been my player (PS3) and when I came to watch the disk on my second player (a Pioneer) it wouldn’t play at all (!). Very odd. Extra’s consist of all the special features from the DVD special edition (two commentaries, a documentary, 1987 featurette, photo galleries, Cary Elwes on set video diary etc) as well as all new features including a new documentary covering the movie’s cult appeal, as well as several other featurettes). So despite a few technical hiccups I experienced, this is otherwise a home-run.
(the movie) 4 /5
(the Blu-ray) 4 /5
- The Princess Bride (R/I) (PG) | Close-Up Film Review (close-upfilm.com)
- The Princess Bride’s 25th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-Ray Coming Soon (geeksyndicate.co.uk)
- Mandy Patinkin on his favorite ‘Princess Bride’ quote (newyork.newsday.com)
Viewed – 16 March 2013 Television
Not sure what made me take so long to get around to seeing this. Perhaps it was the ‘meh’ of another post-apocalyptic scenario? But then again we have Denzel Washington in the lead role, so after several recommendations from friends, I thought I’d finally check it out.
Denzel plays a lone drifter in a wasteland version of America following what appears to be a nuclear war. He carries with him a book as his only companion, reading it each night, and continues on his way, foraging for food and supplies as he finds them. However a local bar owner in one town is also searching for a sacred book, and will stop at nothing to get his hands on it, believing it holds the key to taking control of a destroyed world. Directed by The Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society, From Hell) this certainly looks the part and boasts several decent action sequences, with Denzel proving the ultimate apocalyptic bad-ass. Co-starring the gorgeous Mila Kunis (Black Swan) as well as Gary Oldman as the ruthless villain this is an intriguing and entertaining movie only slightly let down by a clichéd setting and rather simplistic characterization.
As an evenings viewing this proved fun, if undemanding and yes, could have been a lot deeper than it was. The plot is nothing special and took a bit of time to get going. Also some developments towards the end just left me thinking ‘oh come on…’. That being said, Washington as always was great and supported well, especially by a scene-stealing Oldman … so if you are into such concepts – this is still worth a look.
Verdict: 3 /5
- The Book of Eli (prayerwalkerwiththee.wordpress.com)
- Gary Oldman Joins ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (screenrant.com)
- the book of eli/albert and allen hughes (onderhond.com)
- The Book of Eli (gobeyondblog.com)
Viewed – 20 February 2013 Blu-ray
John Carter is a down on his luck Civil War veteran who tells tall stories of caves full of gold, whilst being hunted by the authorities in 1868, trying to recruit him back into the army. Yet on actually finding the professed cave he has been seeking, Carter stumbles upon a strange figure within, and following a struggle, takes in his hand a golden medallion – and is suddenly transported to another world.
So begins the story of this man who discovers a civilization living on Mars (locally referred to as Barsoom) and soon lands himself in trouble with the local tribes people. Based on the book by Edgar Rice Burrows (creator of Tarzan) this fantastical movie is full of spectacle and interesting characters, and felt like an amalgamation of movies like Planet Of The Apes, Star Wars and Avatar – no bad thing. Lead actor Taylor Kitsch may be a poor man’s Johnny Depp, boasting a performance that jumps between heroic and arrogant, leaning more towards cocky for my liking, but carries the story well enough. Supporting cast fair slightly better, with the always reliable boo-hiss Mark Strong as one of a race of supernatural beings, and a feisty Lynn Collins as Princess Thoris, the token eye candy (and then some), but spars well alongside Kitsch. Effects-wise this delivers some impressive CGI, the tribal race oozing personality and emotion, stealing the movie at times from their real-life co-stars (helped clearly by good voice work from Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton). The action also is exhilarating with aerial battles and vast ground assaults, as well as a stand-out arena sequence.
At times the overdose of CGI does get a bit much, and I longed for some practical effects, and with a lead character who is at times unlikable, this doesn’t quite make for essential viewing – but more so one of those movies you might have over looked, but really shouldn’t have.
Verdict: 4 /5
Viewed – 02 February 2013. Blu-ray
I am not sure why I’ve taken so long to see this acclaimed entry in famed Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli’s cannon. Telling the story of a young woman who is cursed by a witch and turned into an elderly lady. As a war ravages the city where she lives, she takes refuge in wizard Howl’s legendary moving castle. Can she lift the curse, or are Howl’s own problems more pressing?
Directed by studio head Hayao Myazaki (Ponyo, Princess Mononoke) and boasting quite boundless imagination and visual beauty, this is one of those movies that you can easily lose yourself in. The story is utterly charming, told gracefully and packed with ideas. Voice acting from Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer and Billy Crystal (as a lovable fire demon) amongst others is also enjoyable and although at nearly two hours it can feel a bit hard going, this remained classic fantasy storytelling that kept me glued throughout.
I think compared to similar Ghibli movie Spirited Away; being based on the children’s novel by British writer Diana Wynne Jones helps it break free from the studio’s otherwise very Japanese style. Sometimes the bizarreness of Ghibli can leave me cold, but that wasn’t the case here. Although, what was that war about? Never the less, an enchanting, very well made and totally gorgeous evening’s entertainment.
The blu-ray from Optimum is very pleasing. The image is vibrant and sharp. Some slight juddering during fast movement seems evident occasionally but not very noticeable. The soundtrack in DTS HD Master Audio is immersive and full of little details, with the music and quality voice acting all impressing. Extras consist of several featurettes, including Myazaki’s visit to Pixar as well as behind the scenes voice over footage. Sadly many are in 1:33:1 format so we get ugly black boarders either side of the screen.
(the movie) 5 /5
(the Blu-ray) 4 /5