Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Thin White Dude's Guide To Alternative Halloween Movies

Hey there, folks, me again! Excuse that awful title. I hate using the word 'alternative,' as it makes me sound like someone who is well versed in the ancient art of (hipster) douchbaggery and an all-round highbrow elitist prick. However, being a movie fan I naturally found myself browsing the Internet at Halloween movies, and with people opening the floodgates for their chance to opine on the matter, I've decided to take the opportunity to do one myself. There is only two criteria really for this list:

1. It is not a commonly cited film (no Exorcists, Shinings, Halloweens etc.). 'Classic' horror movies continue to have their flag waved on a regular basis, and so my voice is not required where they are regarded.

2. It had to make me shit my pants (literally or metaphorically)

So, instead of doing a Top Ten, for reasons due to laziness and the fact that I'm sure everyone is bored to tears with Top Ten, here, in alphabetical order, are my Sixteen Picks For Halloween.

Audition (Miike Takashi) - Never before, and perhaps never again, will I be more scared. A psychological head-trip that will leave genuine scars. First time I watched it, I spent the latter half of the picture cowering behind a cushion. The second time, I nearly vomited. Intensity and controlled chaos at it's very best.

Bride Of Frankenstein (James Whale) - A classic, I know, but deserves merit on account of being half a century ahead of it's time. A riotous laugh of a picture that is perfect for drinking to, the camp tone and homoeroticism make it incredibly titillating. Furthermore, on top of it all, Boris Karloff's Monster hits home as hard as Shakespearean tragedy.

Bug (William Friedkin) - Exorcist director Friedkin jacks up the paranoia levels to maximum overdrive in this psychological thriller. Crushingly claustrophobic, the viewer is never quite certain as to what really is going on. A reflection of post-9/11 American trauma and what it can do to people, brilliantly depicted by Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon.

Cannibal Holocaust (Ruggero Deodato) - Controversial to this day due to depictions of sexual assault, brutality and (some genuine) animal cruelty. Director Deodato was arrested on obscenity charges, later amended to murder, because the courts believed it to be a snuff picture. Fascinating in that it predates the now-popular 'found footage' genre by nearly twenty years and has something important to say.

Coraline (Henry Selick) - The Nightmare Before Christmas director Selick spins another great yarn, based on Neil Gaiman's book of the same name. Doppelgangers and nasty doubles posing as real people create for some really scary moments. As beautiful as it is creepy, Coraline is a kid-friendly horror movie that is all the better for not patronising it's target audience.

The Crazies (George A. Romero) - 28 Days Later unquestionably has it's roots in this picture by The Godfather of Zombies. Romero uses the horror genre to say something about the world around him, and this story of a town cordoned off by the military after a biological weapon spill speaks volumes about the right to assume power. Deeply underrated, and as important as his 'Dead' films.

Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly) - A real treasure box of a movie from which so much can be gained. Anchored by an amazing central performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, it is horror, teen-comedy, bildungsroman, philosophical treatise, but above all, mesmerising. Just stay away from the Director's Cut though: some things are best left unanswered!

The Hitcher (Robert Harmon) - Identity crisis, existentialism, Rutger Hauer, you're thinking Blade Runner, right? Well, this film has all that in leaps and bounds, with Hauer's Jungian phantom seemingly transcending the physical realm in his prolonged torture of poor C. Thomas Howell. Superb on so many different levels.

The Mist (Frank Darabont) - Quite possibly the best horror movie of the best ten years. Frank Darabont's screenplay is airtight, with each character in the cast perfectly representing a part of the social microcosm that is trapped inside a supermarket. Without giving away spoilers, it has one of the most shocking endings to a film in history.

Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht (Werner Herzog) - Both an adaptation and an homage to Bram Stoker's Dracula and F.W. Murnau's 1922 Nosferatu, Herzog's work stands out in its own right. The character of Dracula is given a sense of pathos and tragedy, while the gothic atmosphere of dread is chilling and creepy. Eine symphonie des grauens, indeed!

The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona) - Between this and The Mist, 2007 was as about a good a year for horror film as we have got in quite a long time. A unique story that is striking in it's originality and its distinct lack of cheap shocks, respecting the audience for its intelligence. Belen Rueda delivers a spellbinding lead performance of depth and personality.

Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon) - Definitely one of the more bizarre things to come out of horror cinema in the 1980s (and that's really saying something!). Zombies, Frankenstein and Bernard Herrmann will never be the same again! A potpourri of extreme ultra-violence and ultra-laughter that will have you calling for some spare ribs.

Switchblade Romance (Alexandre Aja) - Has been criticised by a good number, but I think is one of horror cinema's most recent gems. Brutal both physically and psychologically, it has a wholly unique atmosphere to it. The fact that it manages to be a pure horror film while (very) subtly dealing with sexual and gender politics is quite an achievement.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tsukamoto Shinya) - An industrial hellride of violence, fetishism and gruesome transformations. Limitations imposed on the film by its budget are certainly worked around in form of innovation and creativity. No film carries the rocket-propulsion momentum of Tetsuo, and I doubt that anyone can ever replicate it.

Tony (Gerard Johnson) - An English horror movie that was little seen, and undeservedly so. A mixture of Ken Loach's social realism, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer and Taxi Driver, Peter Ferdinando's eponymous protagonist is a masterful portrayal of the levels of depravity one can reach. However miserable and oppressive the atmosphere, it is never anything less than hypnotic.

Videodrome (David Cronenberg) - One of Cronenberg's many great films, and certainly part of a wonderful period that also brought us The Brood, Scanners, The Fly and Dead Ringers. The venereal horror and body politic of Cronenberg is mixed here with a brilliantly realised eroticism of reality television violence and snuff television. Complete, immersive, cerebral, profound, brilliant.

So, there you have it. Each of these films is great in their own right, and while obviously there are many other great horror films, these are ones that deserve to be viewed on equal footing, but don't as often have someone tooting their horn. Eight of these films are new additions that have sprung up since the beginning of the 21st Century, six of them foreign-language pictures, two are in the black-and-white format and one of them is a remake. They represent a varied, unique sub-section of scary films that are fit for just about any Halloween screening. House party, orgy, date night, alone in the dark, you name it, these films have got it. I just have a brief amendment to make to my criteria:


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Transit

Directed by: Antonio Negret

Produced by: Joel Silver
Courtney Solomon
Moshe Diamant

Screenplay by: Michael Gilvary

Starring: Jim Caviezel
James Frain
Diora Baird
Elisabeth Rohm
Harold Perrineau
Ryan Donowho
Sterling Knight

Music by: Christopher Westlake

Cinematography by: Yaron Levy

Editing by: William Yeh
Joe Binford Jr.

Distributed by: After Dark Films

Release date(s): April 20, 2012 (United Kingdom)
May 11, 2012 (United States - limited release)

Running time: 91 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $5 million

Box office revenue: (Unavailable)

Ahoy there folks, I told you I had got my mojo back! Right so, I've done my review for the month of September, and Dredd came out on top, an extraordinarily cerebral experience, and it's a damn shame that it tanked at the American box office. Anywho, I'm proceeding forth into the month of October, and I can tell you that I have seen not only this, but also ParaNorman and Mercenaries already, and there will be plenty more on the way, so, as ever, keep your eyes posted!

Okay, so today's film is Transit, another production made in collaboration with executive producer Joel Silver and After Dark Films under the After Dark Action label, the second I've seen in as many months, along with Dragon Eyes. Like that film, I found this while scouring the bargain bins of Tesco, gabbing on the phone to a reliable source as to the film's release date. After fitting my criteria, I decided to purchase Transit, and lo and behold, a few days later, it was ripe for reviewing. Plot synopsis is simple: an armoured truck is subject to a heist by masked robbers, who take four million dollars from the vehicle, killing all potential witnesses. Police catch wind of their trigger-happy antics, and knowing they fit the profile on the police description reports, they decide to hide the money in the sleeping bag of a family who are on a camping trip, so they can cross the border without garnering suspicion, and catch up with them at a later point. End of!

To start with the good about Transit, I must flag up the performance of Jim Caviezel, who plays Nate, the father of the family. Having to deal with a lot of different aspects of his character's personality, Caviezel anchors the film with a relevant amount of complexity and never going into the amateur dramatics. He plays it as a subtle straight man who, despite the film's tone, is ultimately vulnerable, and this vulnerability is what separates it from the rest of the pack. Tonally, as I suppose is to be expected with After Dark, it is more or less of the B-movie/exploitation film aesthetic. As far as the script's structure, it is straight-up and no-nonsense, but despite the tone, you do feel a strong level of tension, in that these characters are all human and vulnerable. They accumulate injuries that play a part in dictating the course of the film, and I have to admire how it pays attention to little details like that. It means that the simple central concept, which is akin to something like Steven Spielberg's Duel, never runs dry. It's ninety minutes tops, and as a result stays pretty lean. Also, despite being a low-budget affair, it stays creative and thinks around any potential issues, and as such, technically it also works well. It's a solidly shot and edited film, and certainly in terms of bottom-of-the-barrel direct-to-DVD films, it's pretty damn good. In fact, Transit is a way more intense, better action movie than much of what we get stinking up the theatres. Not only that, it does have that engaging, popcorn/grindhouse feeling, and actually reminded me of Wes Craven's Last House On The Left. Finally, kudos to director Antonio Negret for keeping control over the proceedings. This really could have been a complete shitstorm of a film, but because Negret is able to reign himself in, despite this being more or less an exploitation film, I found myself enjoying it a good bit.

I did enjoy Transit, but it is not a flawless film, and contains a number of issues that deny it from being great. Look, I'll just get the music out of the way, surprise surprise, I didn't like it. I'm just gonna say that I didn't like it because it was too predictable and dictated the mood of the film too much, when I would have went with it anyway. I know I'm like a broken record on this subject, and I'm sick of yammering on about it myself, but goddammit, I know if I don't like music! Please, readers, do understand my hypersensitive hearing is as much a curse as it is a superpower! (At this point I left the laptop and cried to myself for a few hours) Anyway, excusing the degradation of my emotional state, there are other issues with Transit. The script, when it abides by structure, is good, but any time it tries to go under the surface of it's characters, it flounders and reveals itself (and them) to be mere charicatures and steeped in cliche. If you leave the audience to their own devices, they'll develop their own ideas, and I think it was a big mistake to tell us everything, particularly in the nature of the antagonists and Nate's secrets. Finally, although I know this is nitpicking, at times the film's editing, in correlation with special effects, stands out like a red flag and highlights, instead of hides, their flaws.

Notwithstanding these niggling issues in the character development department, some dodgy effects shots and a troublesome score, Transit is a good movie. Jim Caviezel is a strong lead, and tonally it is an interesting mixture of B-movie/exploitation-flick and a realist action film. It's technically solid, and when the script decides it is sticking to task, it's structure is pretty good. Finally, I think director Antonio Negret certainly shows promise, at least in the action genre. He's working with Karl Urban on his next film, so here's hoping things go well for them! Transit is a solid, tense chase movie that stands out from the pack.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Meh! (Too much Uni work to care about doing! I hate the disproportionate distribution of marks per year in Uni! Sixty-per-cent in my final year? Get tae ahem!)

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Thin White Dude's Movie Of The Month: September 2012 - Dredd

An exercise in structural efficiency, Dredd is one lean machine of a movie, getting swiftly through its ninety-minute running time. This is the exploitation/B-movie that Quentin Tarantino has been trying to make for years. With a terrific central cast, ingenious design, excellent cinematography by Antony Dod Mantle, a tremendous score by Paul Leonard-Morgan, tight script by Alex Garland and strong directorial contributions from Pete Travis, Dredd is the most fun you'll have in the cinema this year.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.0/10

Runner-Up: Samsara - The synchronous harmony of visual splendour and sonic elegance of Ron Fricke's film is enough to sell you on it alone.

Second-Most Deadly Disease: Dragon Eyes - Has it's strengths, but still a very flawed movie, and certainly one of the worst lighting in years!

Avoid Like The Plague: Total Recall - Despite excellent design, it's a failed exercise and an ugly dullard of a film.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Sweeney

Directed by: Nick Love

Produced by: Allan Niblo
Rupert Preston
James Richardson
Christopher Simon
Felix Vossen

Screenplay by: Nick Love

Story by: Nick Love
John Hodge

Based on: Characters by Ian Kennedy Martin

Starring: Ray Winstone
Ben Drew
Damian Lewis
Hayley Atwell
Steven Mackintosh

Music by: Lorne Balfe

Cinematography by: Simon Ellis

Editing by: James Herbert

Studio(s): Vertigo Films
Embargo Films

Release date(s): September 12, 2012 (United Kingdom)
February 14, 2013 (Australia)
February 21, 2013 (New Zealand)
February 28, 2013 (Germany)

Running time: 112 minutes

Country: United Kingdom

Language: English

Production budget: £3 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $7, 080, 489

Rightio folks, I've got my crazy mutt of a twenty-one month old yellow labrador on the couch beside me, so I'll do my best, but don't expect me to be able to devote all of my attention to obeying the proper grammatical conventions of rhetoric here. Not that I'm too good at keeping to it at the best of times anyway. This review will be followed by a Review Of The Month for September, seeing as how I'm backwards at doing things and I don't give a shit if it is most of the way through October. Speaking of October, as I've mentioned, I've been scouring the straight-to-DVD cheapy barrel, and I'm going to start using all my cinema freebies, so expect a wad-load (saves me saying shit again! Whoops!) of films for October. I've already got started with After Dark Films' Transit, and I've been to see ParaNorman in The Strand, so, ladies and germs, as ever, keep your eyes posted!

So today's film that'll be getting the proverbial prognosis is The Sweeney. The film is directed by Nick Love, director of works such as The Football Factory and The Business. Now, his films have not got the best of critical reception to put it lightly, and granted, he doesn't help himself with things like that ridiculous audio commentary on Outlaw, but he is an interesting filmmaker who doesn't deserve the flak that he gets. This is a bit of a pet project for Love, who has been trying to get his adaptation of the 1970s television series starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman made for a number of years. It stars Ray Winstone as Jack Regan and Ben Drew (aka Plan B) as his partner George Carter. Damian Lewis, Hayley Atwell and Steven Mackintosh round out what is, certainly in a UK film, an all-star cast. I'm not getting into plot synopsis, so lets get right down to it!

Speaking of the cast, this is a terrific line-up, with just about everyone playing their role well. Thank goodness there's a no-show from Nick Love regular Danny Dyer, who just would have stood out in this group like a sore thumb. Ray Winstone is solid as ever playing Jack Regan, and if you're going to get someone to play this part, it should be him. He carries a raw and rugged quality to him, making his good cop by way of bad cop routine work well, but importantly he never forgets to inject Regan with a sense of pathos and humanity, without fallowing into over-dramatic territory. Also strong is Ben Drew, whose character of Carter really could have been fumbled or miscast (I'm thinking of a Mr Dyer), but Drew has a natural confidence in his abilities, bringing a unique edge to Carter that plays well off of Winstone. Another character that could have been poorly presented is Hayley Atwell's Nancy Lewis, but Atwell makes her charming, sexy and engaging, and her natural screen presence subtly proves once again that she is one of the fastest rising female actors in the world. In lesser capacities, Steven Mackintosh and Damian Lewis fill out their roles well in their given screen time, without taking away from the central cast and doing their job properly. Much words of praise must be lavished on The Sweeney's production value. Of course, films made with American backing have far larger budgets, but at a £3 million pounds affair, even by UK films standard this is for all intents and purposes a low-budget film. So, it is with great pleasure that I get to see a pretty full-on action movie that matches the big-budget Hollywood affairs in terms of intensity, and the fact is that the effort that is made in the film's design and that it is so well-shot on location (by cinematographer Simon Dennis) that I would have guessed it to be a movie budgeted at around the thirty to forty million mark. It is a testament to the good job that director Nick Love has done that the film is able to be this convincing despite it's low-budget and make us care about what's going on and not how dodgy the sets might look. Also, I've read during the course of my research that the £3 million pound budget was provisional, and that Love managed to bring the final production costs under £2 million pound. Not only is that an incredible achievement in production efficiency, but the fact that it does not come at the detriment of the film and stop me from being convinced is really something. This is a technically proficient film, and it shows the control and strengths that Nick Love has as a director.

There is much to be admired about The Sweeney, but it does not come without its problems. Nick Love is an interesting writer-director, but this is one of those cases were it would have been wise to bring in another collaborator to work on the script. Love's intent is obviously to make it feel something akin to Heat, a big, sprawling epic with a story that takes a long time to unravel in the diegesis. However, instead it feels too much like something episodic, and that too much is being crammed into a two-hour film. Also, because there is so much going on this short space of time, it has a paradoxical effect in that it feels way longer than two hours. Most movies would do better to take after the example of Dredd, a smaller story that is an exercise in structural efficiency and gets everything done in a snappy ninety minutes. Here, it feels like it is dragged out too long. Also, no surprises here, I wasn't fussed on the music. I respect the fact that this does at times feel like a big-budget movie, and indeed, The Sweeney could tackle many of them full on, but the score here, which sounds too much like a compilation of work from Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, is just out of place and doesn't work. (Incidentally, just found out in my research that Lorne Balfe did work in various capacities on the Nolan Batman trilogy, and has worked on numerous occasions with Hans Zimmer, so the similarities perhaps aren't coincidental) It is consistent a presence in the film, and really takes away from the legitimacy of the drama unfolding. I wanted to get more involved with the film, but this score (yes, reeking of EHO!) was like a phony underscore that ran throughout and denied it that greater sense of being.

These things being said about a script that requires some rewriting and music that is way out of kilt with the rest of the film, The Sweeney is a good film. It has a terrific ensemble cast, with Winstone, Drew and Atwell stand-outs. Also, the film has excellent production value, especially given that it is such a low-budget affair, by both Hollywood and UK-film standards. Much of this can be put down to the cinematography by Simon Dennis and on top of the strength and directorial confidence of Nick Love. Say what you will about the script, he has done a good job of maintaining the singular goal of making a quintessentially British action movie. He faced issues with studio executives, who wanted to Americanise the film, but Love stuck to his guns, casting all-UK actors and shooting every scene in the UK. Proof that you don't need to be armed with a big-budget and James Bond to make a UK blockbuster.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Bloated (an indulgent weekend of alcohol, loud music and junk food will have to be neutralised by some hardcore gym sessions during the week!)

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Total Recall

Directed by: Len Wiseman

Produced by: Neal H. Moritz
Toby Jaffe

Screenplay by: Kurt Wimmer
Mark Bomback

Story by: Ronald Shusett
Dan O'Bannon
Jon Povill
Kurt Wimmer

Based on: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick

Starring: Colin Farrell
Kate Beckinsale
Jessica Biel
Bryan Cranston
John Cho
Bill Nighy

Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by: Paul Cameron

Editing by: Christian Wagner

Studio: Original Film

Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Release date(s): August 3, 2012 (United States)
August 29, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 118 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $125 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $178, 454, 768

Aloha folks, as you can see, the reviews are coming in with a bit more regularity (perhaps at the expense of Uni work). As mentioned in my previous review for Dragon Eyes, I have acquired copies of Mercenaries, Transit and Dead Heads, and also have copies of Rampart and Chronicle. Also, having a ton of free cinema vouchers and with a good few new releases that have piqued my interest (Taken 2 in particular, given it's 12A-certificate after an 18-certificate predecessor), so, as ever, keep your eyes posted.

So, here we have Total Recall. This is the second film by the name of Total Recall to be based upon the 1966 short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick. Whether you know or not, I'm gonna tell you that I'm a massive Philip K. Dick fan, so it is to my great shame that I can't say I've read the short story (the Minority Report short collection is sitting upstairs in my bookcase), but I have seen and love Paul Verhoeven's 1990 film with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although it is interesting to think what David Cronenberg would have done with that, Verhoeven satirical take in the vein of his 1987 classic Robocop was a perfect blend of Dickian trademarks, Verhoeven and a Schwarzenegger action vehicle. In this, the 2012 version, Colin Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, a seemingly happily-married (to Kate Beckinsale) factory worker in the United Federation of Britain (UFB), one of the two remaining territories on Earth after chemical warfare, along with The Colony (Australia). Suffering from violent nightmares, his co-worker convinces him to try out Rekall, a company that implants in him artificial memories. However, the process triggers a reactivation of legitimate memories of his time as a spy, and all hell breaks loose. You get the point, and I can't be arsed getting into much detail about plot synopsis!

To start with the good, the film sets a pretty high standard where design is regarded, and I'm not just talking about one element, I'm talking about the whole mise-en-scene. Granted, sometimes it does feel like it's on a soundstage, and it certainly owes a dept to Steven Spielberg's 2002 film Minority Report, but I couldn't tell what was an effect and what was part of the physical set. Everything has a feeling of believability, entrenching it in reality even though it is a fantastical science-fiction story, and as such, there is a sense of legitimacy to the film and it's intentions. Also, Paul Cameron's cinematography is a strong touch to the film. Given that there is much to show in terms of the design, it is good that he manages to shoot in a stylistic way to display these things, while attempting to keep things focused on the actors. Finally, while character-wise they might not have much to do, the principals of the cast (Farrell, Beckinsale, Jessica Biel) to a decent job of filling the shoes of their roles. Farrell has of late proved himself, like Robert Downey Jr., of being able to be a believable and engaging leading man in action films, but retaining an everyman quality absent in many action stars. Also, Beckinsale is the one who has the most to do here, and does her best to do it, despite the obvious deficiencies in the script.

Which brings me to the negatives. Obviously, if we are to follow a train of thought, it would be natural to talk about the script, and that I certainly shall. Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, each of whom have been involved in interesting projects in the past, seem to have attempted in their collaboration to achieve too much, sticking their hands in too many bean jars, but not coming up with much content from each of these metaphorical jars. For instance, the actors, good as they are, are acting above what is written on the page, for their characters lack a genuine depth or three-dimensionality necessary for us to connect with them. Also, although the structure is decent, following an easy, digestible three-act design, ultimately the story itself and the various themes that the film is trying to engage with simply don't work. Is it a character study? Is it a war film? Is it a balls-to-the-wall action film? Is it a satire on mass consumerism that ultimately dwarfs all semblance of humanity and consciousness, or lack thereof? Ultimately, it is none of them. Also, no surprises (AGAIN!), I wasn't fussed on the film's music. As I've said before, I like Harry Gregson-Williams, but some of his film work is just 'musician for hire' fare, and I think that there could certainly have been more original things done with this collaboration between he and electronic group Hybrid. On a smaller note, Bryan Cranston is horrendously miscast. Anywho, I must also say that a good bit of the issues fall down to director Len Wiseman. Once again, I like Len Wiseman, but I think that he has let so many elements go out of his control (the script especially) so that the film ends up being a turgid mess. I'll try to make this clear here, but the film consistently inconsistent, so hear me out. The script dictates the direction any film goes, that's where things are developed, from the bottom up, so to speak, and as such, it brings the inconsistencies with trying to do so much. However, Wiseman, being a director who is usually able to control things, applies the same, almost workman aesthetic to Total Recall, and it just doesn't work. He should really have just decided to let chaos reign, because there are two different aesthetic at work here, and we get Total Recall's consistent inconsistencies. I hope I made my point clear, as I understand my train of thoughts are completely all over the place right now. It just baffles me that a film so messy and crazy can also be like an incredible, unpredictable dullard in conversation.

There are things to admire about Total Recall. I think there is a strong cast, the cinematography is good, and from an overall design standpoint, the film looks terrific, so hey, well done to everyone involved in the development of the film's mise-en-scene. However, even if everyone's heart is in the right place, and I do think they are, Total Recall is a failed exercise. It leaves you with a really strange, putrid and kind of sickly feeling, in that you are able to appreciate the illusive veil of maya that the film creates, but you can still see through the veil and underneath there is an ugly dullard who is someone that you just would not want to spend two hours of your life with.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 3.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Tired (I'm getting fatigued thinking of ten hours in Belfast City Centre tomorrow, and I ain't even working!)

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Dragon Eyes

Directed by: John Hyams

Produced by: Joel Silver
Moshe Diamant
Steve Richards
Courtney Solomon

Screenplay by: Tim Tori

Starring: Cung Le
Peter Weller
Jean-Claude Van Damme

Music by: Michael Krassner

Cinematography by: Stephen Schlueter

Editing by: Andrew Bentler
Andrew Drazek
Jon Greenhalgh

Distributed by: After Dark Films
Dark Castle Entertainment
Silver Pictures

Release date: April 9, 2012 (United Kingdom)(DVD release)

Running time: 91 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $3 million (estimated)

Box office revenue: (Unavailable)

Hey guys, me again, just doing my usual little preamble before getting to the crux of the review. I've once again been plunging into the depths of the direct-to-DVD bargain bin, and have come out today with the purchases of Mercenaries, Transit and Dead Heads. Judging from other reviewing sources, it looks like a real mixed bag of films. So, along with these, the latest releases in theatres, and a certain film involving found footage of a house party which I will be doing my best to get a look at, there's plenty more on the assembly line, so keep your eyes posted!

Right, so today's movie stepping up to the plate is Dragon Eyes, a new film released direct-to-DVD by After Dark Films, who are do a great job of distributing little-seen genre movies and, regardless of the varying quality of releases, have become one of my new favourite distributors. The fact that they are able to get their films put in supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda is an admirable feat. Anyway, Dragon Eyes is their debut release under the After Dark Action brand, and is a martial-arts action movie directed by John Hyams, who is noted for his work in the genre and making documentaries on MMA such as The Smashing Machine. In Dragon Eyes, St. Jude Square is the residence to numerous drug-dealing gangs, all of whom are working below Mr. V (Peter Weller), who really running the whole regime. Everything is going ship-shape until the mysterious Mr. Hong (Cung Le) arrives in town and begins to shake up the order of things, pitting the gangs against each other and using the martial arts skills taught to him in prison by mentor Tiano (Jean-Claude Van Damme). So, very much an old-school martial-arts film. Let's have a look!

To start with the good, I'll mention the three actors who impressed. Cung Le is a charismatic lead as Hong. It reminded me of what was so accessible about the performances of Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone westerns. I mean, when you consider how successful Jet Li is in America. Jet Li in Hong Kong, yes, but Jet Li in America, no no. Aside from Danny The Dog, Li is in English-language films more wooden than a Mu Ren Zhuang. Cung Le here is engaging and from the evidence presented here, I think that there is certainly a career in this for him outside of the Octagon. Also strong in this is Peter Weller. He plays such a good bad guy here, and has a florid, hypnotic voice that has a way of making you pay attention to him whenever he's onscreen. There's a terrific interrogation scene where you just get the impression of Mr. V not just as a really nasty person, but as someone who is intelligent and charming. One of America's most underrated actors, the naturally gifted Weller is always a screen presence whose occupation of space I enjoy. Lastly on the acting front, Van Damme is good as the obligatory mentor Tiano. It's interesting in that since JCVD Van Damme has been getting a lot of supporting parts lately that find him philosophising on the dark side of human nature, and he's doing it pretty well here, as well as displaying his trademark roundhouse kicks. Also worthy of mention is the script by Tim Tori. It ain't chopped liver that's for sure, but he writes a neatly-structured, straight-up action pictures with no frills or flab on it. Instead of sugar-coating it with subplot after subplot and trying to make it into a piece of social critique, it's a nuts-and-bolts exploitation film script. Finally, the fight choreography is terrific. It was a wise decision by director Hyams to let Cung Le choreograph the film's fight scenes. He has a unique fighting style that mixes Sanda, Kickboxing and Wrestling, and Le knows how to accentuate the positives of the styles that he is versed in. So, not only is the action fresh and innovative, it is hard-hitting and brutal. In that regard, I must also praise the sound designers/foley artists, who have made these visually arresting strikes carry an aural weight to them. Also, the production designers' work has also contributed to the mise-en-scene established around the fight scenes. It's not often I sit there and go "Blimey!" at action-movies, I'm almost immune to violence in film these days, but Dragon Eyes does certainly feature some of the most hard-hitting action scenes in a martial-arts film outside of the work of Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai's Muay Thai Stunt team.

These nice things being said, it is a shame that these individual parts do not make a wholly satisfactory film. Tim Tori's script, which I admire for how forthright it is in it's attitude, is problematic in that the overall story structure has been done so many times before that you can see all of it's machinations, twists and turns laid bare by the time you get around twenty minutes in. Also, Stephen Schlueter's cinematography is dodgy in terms of it's aesthetic. It's obvious that they were going for a certain visual style, but the problem is that the style is at odds with the mise-en-scene and makes the film look really cheap. Furthermore, the terrible lighting ensures that while you also at times have to squint to see what is going, that the filmmakers are trying to cut corners to hide the fact that they are working on a low-budget. Ingmar Bergman never had any issue getting funding for any of his movies not just because they were usually low-budget, but because he had enough ingenuity to be able work around any problems created by budgetary constrictions, and his solutions usually did not involve turning down the lights! This is definitely the worst lighting I can remember seeing since Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Also, the editing is at odds with the bare-bones raw edge that the film is trying to achieve. Introducing each of the characters in typeface that reminded of the Grand Theft Auto series, and little things like this just clash with the overall aesthetic. Finally, as perhaps expected from many of you, I was not a fan of the music, which was pretty unoriginal and more or less has a peripheral purpose, in that it is connected to the film, but not really a part of it, and may as well exist as a perfunctory piece outside the film's diegesis/meta-diegesis. Not quite Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra, but getting there!

Despite being a very flawed movie in many ways, particularly as a technical film, but Dragon Eyes is still a decent watch. Cung Le is a unique martial artist, whose choreography is one of the film's highlights, and he himself is a likeable and engaging screen presence. Also good in a supporting capacity is Jean-Claude Van Damme and in particular Peter Weller, who here plays such a good bad guy. Tim Tori rights a nuts-and-bolts, straight-up script and director John Hyam has made some strong decisions in accentuating star Le; the choreography of the fight scenes is impressive, and the mise-en-scene and sound designers have done a good job in putting over the legitimacy of the film's martial arts spectacle. It's a double-edged sword with much wrong with it, but still a decent watch.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cool (catching up on a month or two worth of reviews)

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Three Stooges

Directed by: The Farrelly Brothers

Produced by: The Farrelly Brothers
Bradley Thomas
Charles B. Wessler

Screenplay by: Mike Cerrone
The Farrelly Brothers

Based on: The Works of The Three Stooges

Starring: Chris Diamantopoulos
Sean Hayes
Will Sasso
Jane Lynch
Sofia Vergara
Jennifer Hudson
Craig Bierko
Larry David

Music by: John Debney

Cinematography by: Matthew F. Leonotti

Editing by: Sam Seig

Studio(s): C3 Entertainment
Conundrum Entertainment

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Release date(s): April 13, 2012 (United States)
August 22, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 92 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $30 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $53, 010, 663

Aloha there folks, I'm getting a bit of momentum back on the reviewing side of things. I must say though, that much as I try to watch movies online for free, it rarely seems to work out. The picture quality is usually awful, and I tried watching Project X there (which I will be addressing properly soon), and the thing conked out on me after watching the first half hour, so frankly, I just gave up on it and played some Max Payne 3. Anywho, there's plenty more on the way, and I have now DVD copies of Chronicle and Rampart to review in the near future, so, alongside the current cinema releases, keep your eyes posted.

So, today's movie is The Three Stooges. This project has been in development for well over a decade, and the Farrelly brothers, who have helmed the film, had at various points, Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Jim Carrey penned in to play the parts of Moe, Larry and Curly respectively. Indeed, Jim Carrey had put on over forty pounds to play the part, but dropped out over health concerns due to the weight gain. In the end, Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso play the eponymous Three Stooges. In this film, taking place in a contemporary setting, The Three Stooges are adults still living in their orphanage as unwanted children, and when their orphanage runs into financial trouble, they decide to take up the task of finding $830,000 in order to stop it from closing. However, in the process they get themselves entangled in a nefarious murder plot involving a woman named Lydia (Sofia Vergara), who plans to have her husband killed so she can inherit his fortune and be with her lover. That's all the plot synopsis I'm gonna give you, because frankly that's all you get. Let's take a look, shall we?

Now, in the context of having mentioned that previously star-studded cast, I must say that as a trio Diamantopoulos (trying not to type that name again!), Hayes and Sasso have done a very good job. I think the fact that I, along with much of the audience, might not know them beforehand helps make us buy them more quickly as the characters. Their chemistry is terrific, and it is on the power of this chemistry and how good their comic timing is that we are able to continue to watch this movie with a strong level of enjoyment. Also, I was a big fan of the film's editing and sound design. It's obviously a nod to the old Three Stooges use of sound as a source of humour. If you look, for instance at Laurel And Hardy, their sound effects were usually realistic, but The Three Stooges live-action shorts always sounded like a Looney Tunes animation. The contrast of what we aurally expect to hear with what we are offered is one of the film's unique characteristics. Furthermore, the fact that we rarely get to see slapstick humour of this variety any more (todays equivalent to slapstick is things like The Hangover) makes it stand out from the pack. (Quick but relevant digression: ice-cream van just went past the house playing Three Blind Mice!) Also, in terms of gags, the film is pretty well-written. It is essentially just a collection of Three Stooges sketches as narrative film, but whenever you get past the basil-exposition stuff, some of sketch-scenes, which last up to five-minutes, are damn funny. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't laugh consistently throughout these scenes, even in the obligatory pop-culture reference stuff with the Jersey Shore crew and their interactions with The Three Stooges. Finally, I'd like to praise the Farrelly brothers. Usually, I have no problem with their brand of humour, but it just would have been inappropriate with this project. They reign themselves in and the PG-rated humour comes over well and a welcome reminder that comedy films do not have to be all-out and gross-out in order to be funny. And Sofia Vergara looks fine!

Now, The Three Stooges was a good laugh, but it must be said that there are a number of key issues, most of which emanate from the script. The sketch-type gags work well, but there is a flimsy framework around these strong foundations. None of the characters besides the Stooges get any sort of genuine development whatsoever, to the point that you simply don't care. Also, earlier on I mentioned Laurel And Hardy, the fact is that when they made features, it wasn't just a series of gags held up by lame expository details, THEY HAD PLOT! In the absence of the plot, we get a really piss-poor excuse to throw the Stooges into a contemporary feature film, in which we have bad characters, every plot convolution ends up in their cliched machinations, and Jennifer Hudson sings (predictably enough!). Also (here we go!), despite my liking the film's sound design/effects/editing, I was not pleased at John Debney's score. I accept it during the comic scenes, where it takes a secondary role, but during the Basil Exposition 'Oh, Aren't Things Getting Serious' scenes, with it coming to the fore, it is terribly intrusive and irritating, and aurally reeks of the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra! The E.H.O. appears in various films in various forms, but they all produce the same feeling and as such may as well be the same music.

Now, I have ripped into The Three Stooges because it does have outside of the sketch-gags, frankly, a shitty script with no redeeming qualities and a godawful musical score when it becomes prominent. However, despite knowing that this and the fact that the movie itself may well be terrible, I must confess that I did enjoy it. I solidly laughed throughout, even through my awareness of the film's obvious issues, I liked the three leads, the sound editing/design/effects, the comic timing, the gags and that the Farrelly brothers, for all their ridiculousness (Bill Donohue must have had a field day with this), have managed to appropriately restrain themselves and deliver a good film. It is proof that a PG-rated film can be just as good, indeed funnier, than a lot of the R-rated frat-boy comedies that studios are ramming down our throats today. A great throwback!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Good, good (got some beer, ooooooo yeah! Macho Madness runnin' wild!)

P.S. To put things into (retrospective) context, I do like The Farrelly Brothers, but humour like There's Something About Mary or Stuck On You wouldn't have been appropriate here. I like that they went more the Dumb & Dumber/Shallow Hal direction.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Samsara

Directed by: Ron Fricke

Produced by: Mark Magidson

Written by: Ron Fricke
Mark Magidson

Music by: Michael Stearns
Lisa Gerra
Marcello de Francisci

Cinematography by: Ron Fricke

Editing by: Ron Fricke
Mark Magidson

Studio: Magidson Films

Distributed by: Oscilloscope Laboratories (United States)

Release date(s): September 11, 2011 (TIFF)
August 24, 2012 (United States)
August 31, 2012 (United Kingdom)(limited release)

Running time: 99 minutes

Country: United States

Box office revenue (as of publication): $1, 604, 125

Hey gang, another week gone and the reviews have been slow, how bloody predictable of me! Regardless, I have been watching films in between rounds of Wagner's Tristan And Isolde, Friedrich Nietzsche and Melmoth The Wander (and soon Dostoevsky's Demons), so as usual keep your eyes posted! In a deviation from format, I'd like to flag up ten movies that I have seen this year outside of the reviewing sphere that I think would be of interest to my readership: Boogie Nights, Get Carter, The Firm, Bride Of Frankenstein, Gods And Monsters, The Big Boss, Chungking Express, Cross Of Iron, 4 Months 3 Weeks And 2 Days, Festen and The Searchers (I know, that's eleven!).

Right, todays film up for discussion is Samsara, the new film by Ron Fricke. Real freaks for this blog (if there are such people) will know that Ron Fricke is, as a cinematographer, a member of The Thin White Dude's Hall Of Fame. Now, this might sound silly, but it is largely off of the strength of one film: Koyaanisqatsi. I became acquainted with this film a number of years ago now, and at the time I thought it was (and still is) one of the most extraordinary films I have ever seen. Indeed, it too is in my Hall Of Fame as a documentary film. It is rather an unconventional documentary, in that it (and Godfrey Reggio's later Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi) contain no dialogue whatsoever, with the film being driven by a harmonious synchronisation of images and music, creating a loose narrative of sorts.  This genre, which has it's ancestral filmic roots in Dziga Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera (recently declared by Sight And Sound the 8th greatest film of all time), is something that I am interested, particularly in relation to silent cinema, in that these filmmakers have all the privilege and technology of sound cinema, yet actively choose to make a movie in this way. Following on from his 1992 film of Baraka, Ron Fricke's Samsara "explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man’s spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation." I know, that's lazy, but I didn't feel I could put it better than that synopsis on the film's official website, which can be found here:

Starting with the good about Samsara, I have pay note to the cinematography. Ron Fricke, master of his craft, has went for a striking visual style. For starters, it is filmed on 70mm cameras instead of digital, but after being shot they were transferred to Digital Cinema Package, so we get an extraordinary combination of film and digital technologies. The clarity and quality of the image is thus down in many ways to the editing software, before we even get to talking about cutting the film. Also, for all it's technical qualities, the film wouldn't be as good if they didn't have something worth capturing. The subjects engage and convey emotion, very much akin to the power of montage as demonstrated by the Lev Kuleshov Effect/Experiment, without any words to the audience, who are left (mostly) to develop their own ideas. Images of a fascinating nature are littered throughout this film, and the way Fricke shoots them is as such that your eyes are opened to looking at the world, both one we recognise and one we don't, in an altogether different way. Also praiseworthy is the film's music. Man, am I on a good one, two films in a row with me actually digging the sonic vibes! This is a real potpourri of sounds, with Michael Sterns contributing an electronic/ambient side to the story, alongside Marcello de Francisci (who unfortunately in the course of my research I have been unable to find much detail) and the incomparable Lisa Gerrard. Edited without a soundtrack, Samsara is for all intents and purposes a silent film, and the three composers have each done a great job of interpreting what is before them. Their contributions elevate the images beyond a purely visual stimulus, and make them seem poetic and transcendental in nature. The only other major aspect to the film I have to praise is director Ron Fricke. The proverbial architect behind this project, you have to admire the time and effort that has been put into the project. I mean, the film took four years to shoot, and was made in twenty-five countries across five continents, and the effort that Fricke and his crew have went to bring this to the screen is up there for the audience to behold. Also, it is remarkable that someone in this day and age (feel free to refer to me as Old Man River for that phrase) has the singularity of artistic intention to make a film of worth, beyond a purely stylistic aesthetic, in this way, given the abundance of access to technology that even filmmakers on a low-budget have available at hand. 

That said (here we go!), for all that I think is good about Samsara, there are a few problems to deal with. Of course, as you have seen, you can't really judge a film such as this by the standard criteria, so, in criticism, I will express myself as best I can. I agree with some of the sentiments of Kenneth Turan, who described it "as frustrating as it is beautiful." One of the strengths of this genre of film is that a lot of it is left open for audience interpretation. With Samsara, there are a number of instances where the mostly strong montage flounders into predictability. Heading into easy territory, it also leads the viewer towards a conclusion, as opposed to letting them find one. Also, at the heart of the film's central thesis is a simplicity that frankly does not require a hundred minutes of screen time in order to express it. Samsara is consistent, but this creates an ill-at-ease atmosphere tonally in parts.

For all its flaws, which are more on the basis of a consistent issue of tone and general direction that the audience is led down, Samsara is still a very good film. You will doubtless be treated by the harmony of visual splendour and sonic elegance of the piece. Furthermore, it is rare to see movies like this from filmmakers like Fricke who care for it beyond a purely stylistic standpoint, and as such, you do have a sense that everyone involved here cared for the project.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cool

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Dredd

Directed by: Pete Travis

Produced by: Alex Garland
Andrew MacDonald
Allon Reich

Screenplay by: Alex Garland

Based on: Judge Dredd by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

Starring: Karl Urban
Olivia Thirlby
Lena Headey
Wood Harris

Music by: Paul Leonard-Morgan

Cinematography by: Anthony Dod Mantle

Editing by: Mark Eckersley

Studio(s): DNA Films
IM Global
Reliance Entertainment

Distributed by: Entertainment Film Distributors

Release date(s): July 11, 2012 (San-Diego Comic Con)
September 7, 2012 (United Kingdom)
September 21, 2012 (United States)

Running time: 95 minutes

Country(s): United Kingdom
South Africa

Language: English

Production budget: $50 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $21, 048, 563

Hey gang, me being my usual backwards self again. For the next couple of weeks I'll be posting my reviews for films from the month of September and will follow them with a little bit of a thing I like to call my Movie Of The Month. Yes, I know it is October now, His Royal Dudeness has been slacking a bit, but I write the rules on this blog so I suggest you learn your place, you bunch of degenerate ingrates, and show me a bit of respect! Just kidding, all jokes and egotism of Nietzschean proportions, I will be getting down to looking at Samsara, The Three Stooges, Dragon Eyes, Total Recall, Lawless and Keith Lemon: The Film for the month of September so keep your eyes posted!

Right well, today's movie up for debate (on the proverbial dinner plate, huh, huh, I make jokes, jokes are funny!) is Dredd. This is a movie I must say I saw as much for the fact that I am a huge fan of the 2000AD comic Judge Dredd as for the purposes of reviewing. I was introduced to Judge Dredd at the age of probably about five or six by my uncle, and having had the experience of reading The Beano and The Dandy on a weekly basis, the violent dystopian future of Mega-City One, heading up by a badass, borderline fascist Dirty Harry-type hero in Judge Dredd blew my mind. In relation to this film, everyone has been chomping at the bit to dig up the grave of the 1995 adaptation with Sylvester Stallone. I haven't seen that film in years, but I always remembered loving the opening block war scenes, which is about all the scenes we see Dredd keep his helmet on. Yes, I'm a Dredd Helmet mark! Anyway, after that adaptation, we have this one here. Dredd, or Dredd 3D as some cinemas have been marketing it, stars Karl Urban as the eponymous Judge, who is saddled (on account of the Chief Judge) young rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is being given a field assessment as to whether or not she qualifies as a Judge. While investigating a 'routine' triple-homicide in Peach Trees, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), the drug lord and kingpin of the two-hundred storey tower block, seals them in as they gather information about her dealings of Slo-Mo. So, what we get essentially is what a sort-of day in the life of Judge Dredd with this film, and with these things said, let's get right down to the review.

The first thing I must say from the get-go is that there is a lot to be said about Dredd, most of which is very positive. Karl Urban's performance as Dredd is easy to overlook, given that much of his face is obscured by the helmet, but don't let deny the work he has put in. Much like Peter Weller in Robocop, Urban's movements are almost that of a mime, letting his body speak physically to compensate for the lack of facial expressiveness on the character. Speaking of expressions, the downturned frown of Dredd that is plastered on his face throughout, combined with Urban's physical performance, appropriately give Dredd a symbolic nature, and in many ways, Dredd is an extremely subtle character study. Also, his vocal delivery is spot-on, never overdoing any of the lines, and speaking with a tone that Out-Eastwoods Clint Eastwood for raspiness. For a film that is so outright macho in its violent, gung-ho tone, it features some great female acting. Olivia Thirlby's Anderson, if miscast, could have been an annoying character. Instead, Thirlby carries her with restraint, wisdom and acts with confidence against the potentially all-consuming character of Dredd. Her Anderson is a likeable and thoroughly charming rookie, whose arc is believable, and Thirlby's physical presence allows us to believe that although she may be, as a good-looking young woman, a potential victim to the violence of these gang members, there's a good chance she might kick their ass! On the other side of likeable, we have Lena Headey's Ma-Ma. As thoroughly violent and despicable a sociopath as has ever hit the big screen, Ma-Ma's lack of emotional reaction to the havoc she is raising around her is terrifying. Throughout the film, we are in genuine fear for what might happen if she digs her claws in the judges. That's just the acting! Technically, though on a $50 million budget, small by Hollywood standards, the film is excellent. The opening CGI shots of Mega-City One look terrific, and the Slo-Mo sequences, though clearly designed for the 3D market, dazzle in the 2D format. This is down to Anthony Dod Mantle's keen eye as cinematographer. As some you may know, I'm not always a fan of digital cinematography, but with Dod Mantle I'll make an exception. Over the years, with films such as Festen and 28 Days Later, he has proved the legitimacy of digital photography's artistry. In Dredd, he heads onto new boundaries with the 3D format. Don't get me wrong, this is a dark, nasty, violent film, but there are some moments of real, genuine beauty with the Slo-Mo sequences. Also, outside of the Slo-Mo scenes, the film is well-lit, so that despite the darkness, we can see what's going on, while still experiencing the sheer overbearing onslaught of the main characters. I must also compliment the film's score. Yes, that's right, I'm complimenting the music for a film! Paul Leonard-Morgan's post-industrial beats are a perfect sonic soundscape to Dredd. The bass pulsates like a hypnotic heartbeat, following the traditional Hollywood format, but the instrumentation is unpredictable and is constantly threatening to attack you. Like the cinematography, it has its moments of beauty, but when things start happening, SHIT GETS HEAVY! I'm listening to it as I review the film, and it immediately conjures up everything I liked about the movie. Also, from a design standpoint it is outstanding. The sound design, working in correlation with the score, is of note. Granted, I heard foley effects that I remember from GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64, but man, as much of the film's atmosphere is about the sonic soundscape as it is the visual side. Speaking of which, the film's whole mise-en-scene, production design, costume/hair departments, stunt teams, all have put their time into making the best film possible. A lot of the ingenuity of the film, especially where the budgetary constraints are regarded, must be put down to Alex Garland's script. By confining Dredd and Anderson to a small space with a basic premise, Garland works, pardon the visual metaphor, from the bottom floor up to the top, developing a strong, well-laid out world for the characters to inhabit. Also, this is as tight a script as I have encountered for a film in ages. At ninety-five minutes, Dredd is one lean machine of a film with no excess flab around its edges. It has a nice, consistent and engaging structure that doesn't let up from the moment the film starts. Garland has painted Mega-City One as one cruel, vicious nightmare of a place. Dredd is an extraordinarily violent mainstream film that will have salivating at the prospects of digesting. One has to admire that Garland has went for this tone, and never cops out, not once, and he makes no bones for the fact that Judge Dredd is as violent and singular as Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry. Finally, director Pete Travis keeps what could have been a pure exercise of self-indulgence on the part of Alex Garland restrained and under control. Like Urban, Travis' part in the production cannot be overlooked, as he reigns this in and keeps it as lean as is possible. 

So, yes, needless to say I liked Dredd. However, I will not go so far as to say the film is flawless. Some of the dialogue, while featuring some excellent black humour, comes across more as stilted than funny. Also, the film's biggest problem is not so much what the film is, but what it isn't. The fact is that you can tell that Dredd, in its overall design, is meant to serve as a precursor to future instalments. I think it will stand alone as a film, but you do feel like the best is yet to come.

Whether or not the best will ever come is another matter. Dredd, despite opening at number one in the U.K. box-office, against other openers Lawless and Anna Karenina, has struggled at the U.S. box-office. While figures mean nothing as to the film's overall quality, I would urge you all to go and see this movie, and not just because I got to see the Judge Dredd movie I wanted to see, but I think that this an excellent film that many people will want to see. In a world of so many watered-down, compromised works of art, this stands out. Ultraviolent and unashamed of it, Dredd features three great performances from Urban, Thirlby and Headey, a well-established mise-en-scene and a powerful sonic soundscape. Furthermore, it is an ingeniously designed film which is beautifully shot, has as tight a script as I can remember, and a director whose contribution cannot be denied. This is the exploitation/B-movie Quentin Tarantino has been trying to make for years. I shit you not, this is the most fun thing that's gonna be in the cinema all year!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Amped (frankly, you could get high off of this movie. I've put thought into it, and I've got an answer for my own question: "Dude, having seen Dredd twice already, would you see it again?" "Yes, Brain, I would see this movie again. I want to see it before it gets out of the cinema, and I'm gonna to buy it on DVD. Thank you, bye!)

P.S. Mark Eckersley's editing was good too. Just thought I'd throw that one out there!