Posts Tagged ‘judge dredd’

What Dreams May Come (1998) – Vincent Ward (Dir.), Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra, Max Von Sydow

Aka "Jesus Visits Atlantis!" starring Robin Williams and Wishbone.

Aka “Jesus Visits Atlantis!” starring Robin Williams and Wishbone.

Well, after my last post, which has probably already been labeled “The Rape Post” (EMMY PLEASE), let’s talk about something fun, shall we? That’s right, boys and girls, it’s time to discuss VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER!

(Children cheering)

Welcome to the world of the Nielsons. They are pretty much the unluckiest group of people in the world when it comes to cars (Unless I’m talking about Pontiac. Amirite?). Yes, whether it’s saying goodbye to their kids headed to school or just traveling home through a tunnel, flying cars seem to follow these people wherever they go. At first I thought this was a murder mystery, but it was ridiculously easy to tell who the killer was (IT’S A 1992 CHEVY!). After the two kids get bumped off (you can tell they died because the screen went to a dissolve) Papa Nielson, Chris, (a post-Patch Adams, pre-Why Can’t I Just Die Already? aka Old Dogs Robin Williams) gets to feel what its like to be an IHOP special after the 1992 Chevy leaps, and I mean it fucking SOARS through the Lincoln Tunnel and kersplats him into oblivion. All that’s left is the love of his life and mother to two passed children, Anne. As life goes on, you can tell her emotional mood by whatever horrendous 90s wig the director managed to screw into her skull. Long luscious fake locks? Happy! Anna Wintour blunt bob that makes her silhouette seem like a mushroom? Suicidal! Lori Petty ‘Look Mommy I Did it Myself!’ pixie cut? Committed! Poor, poor Annabella Sciorra. I half assumed that the second half of the movie would be the flying 1992 Chevy coming back to finish the job, flinging itself through their mansion, the lone survivor of its brutality doing anything to escape its careening wrath.

But then…she commits suicide. Because, with that hair, wouldn’t you? Well…and two dead kids. And you’re only stability gone. And your dead husband constantly whispering unintentionally creepy things into your ear…

Okay, okay. This movie isn’t about a killer car coming after a family of beaming, bouncing bourgeoisie. We’re offered the sweet beginnings to a love story between two completely unconnected people, Chris and Anne, and the beauty of a budding partnership. Of course, as with real life, tragedy cannot help but crash the party like some drunk uncle asking to sleep on the couch because he just needs time to get back on his feet and, seriously this time, he’s absolutely not going to waste his money on the Midget Tossing Championships and, yes, he knows that’s an offensive term and he knows he shouldn’t use it but it sounds so much better than ‘Small Person Tossing Championships’, the point is…wait…hello? Hello?

Mr. Williams danced in the bloodied corpse of Bubbles the Clown, his entrails a cruel reminder of his acute case of paint-ititis

Mr. Williams danced in the bloodied corpse of Bubbles the Clown, his entrails a cruel reminder of his acute case of paint-ititis

Where was I? Oh yes. In the initial act, we see Chris and Anne, so inexorably in love, dragged through the muck as obstacle after obstacle is tossed in their path. Every day is a struggle. She’s an artist. He’s a doctor. She’s a pessimist. He is an unabashed and undeterred optimist. She expresses her feelings. He hides them. They are a yin and yang of emotional torment simply waiting for the levees to break. However, Chris dies and is thrust into the land of the dead, leaving Anne cold, afraid and alone before their tale can conclude. On the other side, Chris is met by an old mentor (Cuba Gooding Junior in his post-Jerry Maguire high, and pre-Snow Dogs ‘What Am I Doing with My Life?’ depression) who shows him the ropes of his own personal heaven. This afterlife, for Chris, is a vibrant impressionist painting, its very molecules globules of acrylic paint. The script does a perfect job of making sure how obvious and deep Chris’s obsession is with Anne. She’s his everything. Even his afterlife is inspired by her artistry.

What Dreams May Come was adapted from a novel by one of my favorite authors, Richard Matheson. He’s the gentleman responsible for the genius novella I Am Legend, which, after passing through the putrid digestive tract of Hollywood idiocy, has been defecated into theaters under numerous failed attempts to realize what makes it great (Will Smith’s growl-a-thon I Am Legend and the laughably dumb Omega Man with Charlton “Cold Dead Hands” Heston). His works, though classed as either horror or fantasy, have always operated on a purely human basis. Anyone who might take the time to read Legend’s svelte 200 pages will discover the twist missing from both filmic adaptations. Matheson, who died only about two months ago, was raised a Christian Scientist, so his view of humanity is gently askew from the mainstream. In this tale, he offers a different conception of both Heaven and Hell. It not-too-subtly borrows from Dante’s Divine Comedy as it explores the personal rapture that is a self-crafted infinite playground as well as the horror of being stuck in between worlds. In his world view, the afterlife is whatever you wish it to be. Its an eternal toy box. It doesn’t judge good from bad; there is no corporeal deity overseeing the operation. In fact, it is so blissful to suggest that perhaps humanity needs no babysitter. We simply are. Forever.

"In heaven, we do sex astronaut-style"

“In heaven, we do sex astronaut-style”

However, because Matheson is a fantasy writer, there are rules. For the first fifteen minutes, we enjoy Chris leaping off of Angel Falls and hitting the ground with nothing more than a light thud, flying about a floating city stolen from the Romance artists of old, fully equipped with Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, even wandering through the grandest library of all time. But all this pales to what Chris actively yearns for. Of course, he wants to find his two used-to-be children in this Baron Von Munchausen fantasy-land, but he’s actually waiting for his wife to find him after taking her sweet time sucking up all the life in her Land of the Not-Dead. What a selfish B. Well, Miss Nielson finally cashes her Suicide Check (with a delicious looking bowl of pills in yogurt. New breakfast idea! We’ll call it Etern-o’s: Meet Your Maker with this Important Part of a Completely Lethal Breakfast!) and crosses over. Unfortunately, seeing as no one told her the freaking rules, she apparently is stuck in Hell, more an incarceration of uncertainty than a dungeon of infernal torture. With Mr. Gooding Jr. telling him to give up, Christy (his very gubernatorial pet name) charges head first into the dark side of eternity.

Mr. Williams realized he was in trouble after running afoul of the National Face-Orchestra of Prague.

Mr. Williams realized he was in trouble after running afoul of the National Face-Orchestra of Prague.

After hooking up with a ‘Tracker’ (I know, I know, fucking fantasy authors) named Mox Von ‘The Exorcist’ Sydow, who, apparently, is still alive after suffering not only a chess game with death, but also the Sylvester “AAAAADRIENNNNNE” Stallone testosterific shit show that was Judge Dredd, the trio dive (literally) into a sea of pallid bodies and are wrenched through the rings of damnation. Funnily enough, it’s all naval-themed. Does Matheson just hate boats? What is this? Finally Chris finds Anne, lost and afraid, unaware of her own demise, plodding through a life that has already run its course. A board game missing all the pieces and players. There are twists along the way, especially a few that make my racially sensitive eyebrow arch into an ‘Um…Really?’ fashion. While the visual majesty of this beast is almost overwhelming, running the lengthy span of western art history, from modernity to impressionistic to Romance to Medieval, the director attempted a near-impossible task. Beauty attempts to seep through every seam. And there are some truly chilly images on hand, none more visceral than a sea of faces peering out of the wintered ground, all of them talking with no one to talk to. Also, Werner “The Weiner” Herzog is there. That alone is enough to make you shit your pants. The broad strokes work. They make the heart palpate.

Even with the awkward mixtures of models and matte paintings, not quite perfected to the level of LOTR-ian brilliance, Mr. Ward crafts a fully realized and vibrant Elysium. Unfortunately, it’s most the other stuff that fails. His direction of actors, particularly of Mr. Williams, lacks specificity and too often is he allowed to shift into Patch Adams BS. Luckily, the piece holds together, even with the mangled and disjointed preamble to the car crashes. The script holds and, for once, we are offered a truly palpable conception of Soul Mates, two people so existentially conjoined that even until death they will not part. There is no way not to beg to the lords of all that is holy that Chris is successful in his search; and it’s all the more heartbreaking when he seems to have failed. What purports to be a musing on death, truly is a celebration of life and love. Matheson’s unabashed optimism surrounds, consumes and buoys this entire universe he offers. Upon being reunited (I mean, come on, you saw it coming), the pair of soul mates don’t decide to spend the rest of infinity hanging out like the good old days. They decide to return, to be reborn and find each other all over again.

"Chris, whatever you do, if they offer you the lead in Old Dogs...just say no. Think of the children..."

“Chris, whatever you do, if they offer you the lead in Old Dogs…just say no. Think of the children…”

Why? Why would they do that? Why would they give up this gift that forced them to brave Hell and high water (literally) to preserve? Why toss it to the wind and try again, allowing the fear of uncertainty to possibly rend them in two? Because that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s the point. If, in death, all things are equal, all things are at peace, if there is no war, no fear, no unhappiness, then perhaps life is the experiment with which to ensure that eternal bliss. What’s happiness without trials and tribulation? What is paradise if paradise is all we know? It’s a terrifying concept, death. It’s something I have probably dwelled upon far too long for someone of my barely-legal status (okay, solidly legal). Matheson offers a dream rather than a reality. It’s an eternal present where time neither begins, nor ends, its passage merely an illusion. Mr. Ward attempted and mostly succeeded at thrusting this tale into the world of dreams, though such a task, as the surrealists would tell you if they weren’t passed out from ODing on heroin, is impossible. All I know is that this movie is basically Inception…but it’s everything Inception attempted to be and failed. Why? Because this story isn’t about dreams. It isn’t about death. It isn’t even about fantasy. It is only about love. Love is that fickle and brutal beast that forces us back into life to try it all again.

Rest in peace, Mr. Matheson. You were a brilliant author. I hope you are offered the eternity you deserve. And, who knows, maybe we’ll get to see you again one day. Until then…

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Dredd (2012) – Pete Travis (Dir.), Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

“Judgement is Coming” – Coincidentally also the title of my new courtroom-based porno

There come moments in a boy’s life. Moments when he, no matter how pretentious, high-brow, self-important or, like a throat, ‘deep’ he thinks he is, there comes a calling. We know not from whence it comes, perhaps carried on the breeze of omnipresent testosterone flowing downwind of Chuck Norris, perhaps the mental eddies of a pyroclastic id finally breaking free of societal constraints and spreading through the nexus of the human imagination and reducing members of the male gender to barbarous, penile primates. Perhaps it’s simply ‘that time of the month’. Well, on a Thursday night, with all of my inaptly titled ‘bros’ previously engaged, I had a hunger. It is the hunger of the child who used to sit on the stairs and watch my parents watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It is the ephemeral calling of a deeply-seeded genetic warrior-culture long since dampened and whittled down to domestic complacency. And so, lost and energized by Ares, I smuggled a bottle of Maker’s Mark into the theater and joined four other random-ass strangers/brave compatriots in a viewing of Dredd. Within ten minutes, I realized something incredible, earth-shattering, world-spearing, Britney-Spears-in-2006-ing.

Being a boy is really, really, really dumb.

I’m not sure if any of you remember, but Mr. Sly Stallone inflicted a movie upon the world that was Judge Dredd back in the mid-nineties. Now, of course, at the time it had seemed like a sure buck. We had a star, no matter the extent of his genetic facial malefaction, a hot girl, the knight from The Seventh Seal, a villain played by an actor with an absurdly foreign name (seriously, who calls their kid Armand? Fraiser fucking Crane?), a well-known comic book series and, of course the most bankable element of all, Rob “Oh God I Just Remembered He Existed” Schneider. It was a delicious, hot, whorish mess of future-y stuff and explosions and plot twists and growling and Sylvester Stallone attempting English again after miserably failing in the Rocky series. And it was PG-13. This anti-hero of the comic-verse that was famous for ripping out enough criminal entrails to construct an entire strings section of a philharmonic (nobody ever really went for my 100% human flesh orchestra. Don’t know why… Racism, probably). Stallone’s version was a naughty as a 3rd grader’s joke book and about as compelling as one too. Still, seeing Max Von Sydow continuing to act in horrible sic-fi movies is a dish of schadenfraude that I can never pass up. It’s depressing, yet oddly delicious. Like Ben & Jerry’s entire business model!

Let’s return to the present. We have Mr. Travis and his new rendition of the Dredd legend. I’m not entirely sure what occurred during the signing of the deal, but when he pitched his concept of a Dredd grittier and meatier than an Arkansas breakfast, the executives seemed to have said “PERFECT! Let’s do it! Except…you get no budget and it has to be in 3D”. Thus, Dredd 3D was born. I was lucky enough to wait until all of the 3D screens were occupied by Adam Sandler’s recent cinematic equivalent of a creampie so that I didn’t have to endure 90 minutes of bullets careening towards my Maker’s Marked face. This thing is lean, mean and…well, it’s cheap. Really, really cheap. Once again, we are treated to a distant future that looks oddly similar to Detroit where clothing is pretty much the same, skateboards are the same, cars are the same and…well…everything except a few monstrous structures is completely unchanged. Is this because Travis is commenting on how we, as a society, are slowing our progress to a Godot-esque crawl with our dependence on technology and our lack of true innovation…or that he didn’t have enough money to hire a real art director? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

This is one of dem ‘classy’ joints.

What’s the story? Okay, so there’s this Judge. His name is Dredd. He murders people. Like…a LOT of people for the law. He has to take a rookie out on her final evaluation, the hauntingly, obsessively elfish Olivia Thirlby (who, for some reason, has psychic powers. Whatever). Well, they take in the wrong black dude and suddenly Cersei from HBO’s award-winning adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (bow down, you weaklings, under the might of the MARTIN) decides that she wants ‘all y’all mutherfuckers dead’. What ensues is shooting, murdering, more shooting, some explosions, slow motion and even more shooting. That’s it. It’s 90 minutes of killing. And that’s it. No wit. No charm. No pathos. No pace variation. Nothing but the truest form of expression: death. I haven’t witnessed a film with shallower intentions since Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj. There is no pretense of character, arc, theme or challenge. Cersei wants them dead. They don’t want to be dead. LET THE GAMES BEGIN.

Here I come to a crossroads. There is an Andrew, smart, witty, generally engaging and a dawg with the ladies, a veritable James Bond of such suavity, he could convince Queen Elizabeth to play a game of ‘Catch the Sausage’, who would view such primal and basal material as entirely lacking in point and time-worthiness. And then there’s the Andrew who plays video games, lives in his mother’s basement, giggles with glee as Ash replaces his hand with a chainsaw and watched the entirety of Sucker Punch without vomiting or grievous bodily harm (it took more willpower than you could ever imagine). Sometimes the id loves to play. Sometimes it’s delightful to see drug-chuffing perps gunned down with absurdly over-compensating artillery. I thought this was the Andrew in attendance of that film last night. I was sorely mistaken.

Thug: “What shampoo do you use?” Olivia: “It’s called L’Oreal-I’m-Going-To-Rip-Your-Nuts-Off. It’s for damaged hair.”

Karl Urban is fine. It sounded as though his dialect coach had made a morning blended vat of concrete, Cuban cigars, the worst whiskey in the world, burning rubber tires and Phyllis Diller to drop his vocal cords into a spectrum of such gravel-ness that even my driveway is telling him to ‘dial it back a notch’. He never gets to take off his helmet so when he gets into a fight with another masked Judge (Spoilers…I guess) the pair of so indiscernible you just have to wait until the end and assume the dead one skewered on his own windpipe probably isn’t the hero. Also, we have the lovely Lena Headey looking as though she went tet-a-tet with a weedwacker and lost. She made Drew Barrymore’s teenage years look like Orphan Annie’s. Either Ms. Headey, after spending her finer moments in Westeros all year, was simply too tired to offer a performance of any perceivable worth or her acting is simply too subtle for this bull-ball-testosterone-injected mess of a movie. Finally, we have the exquisitely attractive miss Thirlby who, somehow in a future where everyone apparently applies a thick layer of biological waste to their skin every morning (‘This is Obama’s America!’), is as pristine as decorative knob on polishing day (tee hee. Double entendre!). The effect is so unnerving in this grime-tastic universe Travis has constructed that it’s almost as though someone stole a prop head from the Lord of the Rings and affixed it to some Judge armor. She floats from scene to scene, a removed beacon of beauty and brilliance, never once integrating into the grander aesthetic. She is barely even objectified! We get a total of .3 seconds of some thug’s fantasy and a whole lot of unflattering kevlar. It’s as though someone cast the fucking Keebler elf in The Expendables. A really, really pretty Keebler elf that was in Juno. It’s that jarring.

I tried. Guys, I really did. I waited to see what entertainingly brutal ends Dredd would dole out like popsicles from an ice cream truck (note to self: sitcom spin-off idea). I witnessed the dude’s head ignite, the bodies exploding into a shower of crimson carnage after falling 200 stories and an adam’s apple crushed into a man’s spine. I watched and I ‘meh-ed’. Am I so desensitized that when the guy’s hand exploded all I could muster was a, ‘yep, saw that coming’. This film, objectively, was one of the most violent movies I’ve seen in…well, months. Yet there was no creativity, nothing I hadn’t seen before. Granted, the scenes of narcotic-induced slow motion was anatomically fascinating, seeing exit wounds blossom in flowers of gore and Mama’s vertical end had a kind of violent poetry to it…but that was it. Otherwise, it was simply scene after scene after scene of Dredd murdering people. Not cleverly. He just shoots them. He kills so many goddamn people it’s absurd. Legions upon legions. AND I WAS BORED. What the fuck happened to me? Is this the new colosseum? I mean, it made sense for him to murder all those druggies within the context of the film and, to his credit, he does it extremely efficiently. Am I not entertained? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Have the Saw films gone to my head? Now, does a character’s death have to be more elaborate than a fucking Rude Goldberg machine? Will I suddenly march over to Mufasa in The Lion King and say “Sorry dude, a stampede of wildebeests won’t cut it. What happens if they’re carnivorous and begin eating you and THEN they drag you five miles in a victory lap, all the while peeing on your corpse? I think that would be much more affecting. STOP CRYING SIMBA, I’M TALKING TO YOUR CORPSE OF A FATHER.”

“Have you see my brother? He’s about yay high, ugly and played by Peter Dinklage? Tell him his sister has something to shove up his ass.” ~ Cersei 2.0

It would seem as I have ‘aged’ and ‘matured’ and become ‘less of a shit-head’, my love of raucous and explosive bouts of boyish id has waned. Now, as I’m confronted with video games where disembowelment, dismemberment and debasement of functional organs are not only commonplace but greatly encouraged as well as innards-soaked epics of glorious gore, I open that cookie jar of my youth and reach in, ready to enjoy myself that sweet sugary nectar that is indulgence incarnate. But it doesn’t taste so great. I find myself asking, “But…but why? Where is the character? The point?” I mean, I still love the shit out of Die Hard, Indiana Jones and Inglorious Basterds. They’re dumb action right? WRONG. They have likable protagonists, grander themes, plots snakier than Madeusa’s beautician. Dredd has none of that. Its final attempt at holding a place in my memory is to eviscerate victims in increasingly hilarious fashions over its thankfully truncated runtime. Otherwise…what’s the point? Why are we watching in the first place? Is it even worth it anymore? Oh no…Have I been infected by ennui? Has my film-watching self become French?  What has become of my snarky British heritage? Has it been inevitably tinged with peppered sauce of sarcasm? The soft cheese of pretension? The Chateau Lafite of wearing turtlenecks? NO! It cannot be! I can feel my awesomeness melting away and replaced by the croissants of international judgement! Nooooooooooo! Please! Somebody save me!

Merde.