Judge Dredd

This summer has delivered some proper comic book adaptations. Starting off with a frankly fabulous Avengers Assemble that rewrote the book on superhero ensemble movies.

Then came the reboot of Spider man who although wasn’t a patch on Avengers, it was still a very well put together construct and certainly as good as any of Sam Raimi’s takes on Spidey.

Next up was Nolan’s concluding Dark Knight movie which set the bar for heavyweight, serious superhero film making. A beautifully staged superhero opera, no holds barred, even the 3 hours didn’t phase.

And then at the end of the summer came Dredd. Perhaps the movie with the least expectation, probably due to the appalling Stallone version and the perceived international lack of appetite for the niche British comic book icon. Certainly in the shadow of the big boys in 2012.

For Brit comic book readers of a certain age, 2000 AD and Judge Dredd was essential reading and supplemented the Marvel and DC universe ably. Dredd was the iconic star of the show and his savage brand of justice suited the times –  a kind of Dirty Harry in the future – judge, jury and executioner, all rolled into one. And I loved him. The character was relentlessly unmerciful and the stories were incredibly violent. The future world where Dredd lived was not a nice place to be and he simply reflected his world. I’m a connoisseur of the artists who drew him (don’t get me started) and the style influenced a lot of my early art.

The Stallone movie version of Judge Dredd was OK, but it arrived in a time of other average interpretations of comic book characters. So when the remake was announced it was kind of low-key. When I hear about a remake it’s always…OK, what’s the story, and why?

But do you know what? They’ve gone and secretly made a no compromise version of Dredd that I thought was impossible. The comics were genuinely so violent that any movie that tried to stay faithful would be delivering some pretty awful scenes. And yes, they’ve done that. The dark heart of Dredd and the city he judges is faithfully recreated in the 2012 movie, with Karl Urban (Bones in the recent Star Trek reboot) playing a stony faced Dredd – and full marks for this, not taking his helmet off once. Outstanding.

I suspect that only Dredd and 2000 AD aficionados will appreciate this movie, but boy, how they will. If they made any money from this, there’s plenty of Dredd content to use – The Cursed Earth or my favourite, the Judge Death story arc.

Anyway, here’s a few fanboy images to get your juices going – I thought it would be useful to compare the comic book Dredd with the movie version. They’ve done a cracking job.

Prometheus

I realise that I’m a little late to the party here, but I’ve actually got round to writing up my thoughts on Prometheus.

First up I’d say that the film is visually ravishing. Ridley Scott and his team of art directors and photographers have created one of the most beautifully inventive films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s really one for the geeks too with lots of references back to the original Alien film from 1979. In some ways the dense visual nature of the film hampers the story telling but there’s no denying it: it’s a treat.

I saw it twice and these second time I saw it was on the IMAX 3D which I have to say was spectacular. This film really was made for a screen as tall as three double decker buses with its pin sharp digital print and incredible 3D effects.

Visuals aside then, what of the story? Well it aims to tell the story before the original alien and how they came about and as such that works well. But what Scott has done is build out a wider narrative around the origins of life on earth and all manner of other things and to be honest I think it weighs itself down a bit with all this baggage. It gets a tad pompous at times but manages to keep focused on a taut and pacey action finale with exploding heads, spaceships and giant alien squid things.

Coming from a purely geek perspective it ticks all the boxes although I did have a few continuity issues such as the engineer / space jockey bit at the end but I’m being very picky. I can see how there have been some lukewarm reviews as Scott does try to do too many things with this Prometheus perhaps but I’m prepared to overlook these. On second viewing I found it more enjoyable – Ok some of the set pieces on first viewing blow you away but second time around they can be enjoyed for what they are.

This summer has delivered some amazing movies so far with rollicking adventures with The Avengers and esoteric SciFi with Prometheus. Next up is The Amazing Spider Man and The Dark Knight Rises. Watch this space!

From the sea to the land beyond

There’s not many bands that can completely rock out one minute and then play a sublime orchestral interlude the next, but British Sea Power are one of them.

Hot on the heels of their no holds barred Krankenhaus club night in Brighton, where every night was bonfire night, BSP appeared on the bill of the highly regarded documentary festival DocFest in Sheffield. They were playing their original score for director Penny Woolcock’s film From The Sea to the Land Beyond, a wonderful film using archive footage to capture Britain’s unique relationship with the sea.

From the remote Scottish Isles to nostalgic footage of seaside holidays, shipbuilding preparations for war, the brutal lifestyles of fishing folk to the majesty of the waves, this film really is a meditation on our coastline and how we have changed over the years – whilst the sea remains a constant to our island nation.

 

 

 

The archive black and white footage inevitably brings an honesty and integrity to the work with people filmed doing everyday things looking at the camera in a mysterious, odd way. It was struck that 100 years ago cameras were rare things where now we all carry one in our pocket in the form of a mobile phone. Interesting too how the more recent colour footage didn’t quite carry the gravitas of the early monochrome – I think I prefer my history in black and white.

From The Sea to the Land is a unique project commissioned by Sheffield DocFest and Crossover and this was definitely an evening to savour. The might and power of BSP’s music matched the epic maritime scenes whilst their tender and delicate compositions transformed everyday scenes into a moving tableau of British life.

 

Special mention to Carl Milner for his rather wonderful images from the performance.

Paramount’s Top 100 Movies

The cool folk over at DKNG Studios have created a lovely poster celebrating the top 100 movies by Paramount Pictures in the past 100 years – how many can you identify?

Planet of the Apes Pinup

This rather engaging portrait is from the original Planet of the Apes film (the one with Charlton Heston).

It is of course, Zira played by Kim Hunter.

Kim Hunter is probably better known for her best supporting actress Oscar in Streetcar Named Desire and David Niven’r love interest in A Matter of LIfe and Death. She then went on to play what in my eyes is her career defining role – as Zira the chimpanzee doctor. I’m not being facetious either. Acting under layers of makeup and prosthetics takes some doing and Roddy McDowall wrote the book on it of course.

Of course, the apes are all CGI these days (usually Andy Serkis) and brilliant though they are, I love a bit of old school acting under award winning makeup. John Chambers won an Oscar for his ground breaking makeup for the original Planet of the Apes which to this day almost fifty years later still looks amazing.

Walker on 34th Street

Here’s my homage to Star wars day. I know it’s a day late but it’s been one of those weeks.

It’s always a thrill to see a fictitious Star Wars icon in  the real setting of New York city and this Walker is no exception.

Avengers…Assemble!!

Ok, so by now you know I love comics, Marvel, movies and every geek angle so this post won’t come as a big surprise.

The new Avengers film was released in the UK this week and it is a hotly anticipated (if that’s a real phrase) climax of a series of in my opinion quite good marvel superhero movies over the past few years. The individual superhero films in themselves have been curates eggs ranging from the huge commercial success of Iron Man to the cerebral first Hulk to the intelligent Brannagh Thor and the lovingly crafted Captain America by Joe Johnstone.

So this film, in certain geek circles, was the film of 2012. Even with a new Spidey, Ridley’s Prometheus and Nolan’s Batman swan song this was THE film of the year.

If I’m honest I didn’t too expect much. These kind of films are notoriously hard to pull off. A duff director and a studio breathing down their neck is all it takes to mess it up. I would have been happy with an honest reflection of some of my boyhood comic book heroes.

Here would be an appropriate time to reflect on what the Avengers actually meant to this working class lad from Bramley. I often play my ‘brought up in the seventies in tougher times’ card but its hard sometimes to convey how important comics were to me when I was growing up. The weekly trip to the newsagent was a ritual that contained so much: anticipation, dedication, preoccupation and ultimately imagination. Comics loomed large because they burned bright in my life before girls and punk rock changed it all forever.

The Avengers were exotic and cool. On top of that they were a team – a team that importantly didn’t get on. They were a mixed bag of screw ups and weirdos really and this was quite a break from the DC teams like JLA (no, not JLS)  where they all saw eye to eye and it was all for the common good. There was a delicious thrill around the Hulk and Iron Man on the same team – how would it work?

Obviously the artists fascinated me too – the first Avengers cover still gives me a thrill with the fairground barker copy and sensationalist headlines (they still had to sell books) and the modern edge to the art looked fresh. Avengers has been through hosts of artists over the years but no-one touches my all tame favourite John Buscema. His was a sinuous and fluid Avengers of its time at once fresh and classical.

So back to the movie.

If you’re looking for a sensible review of the film, go see what Philip French of Cosmo Landesman has to say.

All I can say is the film filled me with joy and the 11 year old boy from Bramley would have cackled with glee just as much as I did when the Avengers eventually assembled. Hulk smashed, Iron man wise cracked, Thor was pompous and god-like, Cap was idealistic and out of time and the newbies Black Widow and Hawkeye followed up the rear. I loved the film and I don’t mind saying so. It has its faults but Joss Wheedon does it justice and that’s all a geek can ask, he clearly cares about the characters as much as the action and that delivers a state of the art superhero film. And the bad guy is good too which helps.

One minor Office Dibble: the 3d was good but I want to see it in 2d – the ‘Real  3d’ was a real pain, too dark and gloomy and not that exciting. When will they stop selling this half assed, misguided technology.

Anyway.

It’s funny when I think back to a more innocent time when comics were fringe activities for odd bods like me who dressed up as apes on a weekend (don’t ask) – and now they’re centre stage in the global entertainment world.

I knew back then The Avengers were important – it looks like I was right.