Doom | Reveal Trailer

So a trailer for a new Doom game was teased at QuakeCon 2014 – a pre-rendered clip showcasing one of the new demons we’ll undoubtedly be crossing paths with in the not too distant future.  As is the norm, the game will be developed by id Software and published by Bethesda Softworks (responsible for the BFG edition of Doom 3).  Though previously thought to be stuck in development hell, the ‘Doom 4 project’ has been seemingly revived and will be slated for a simultaneous multi-platform release.

Dredd 3D

Info:

Genre: Science-fiction, action, crime

Director/s: Pete travis

Running Time: 95 mins

Budget: $45 million

Released: 21 September 2012

Plot:

In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO – imdb

Review:

This one has been a long time coming, after the atrocious – Judge Dredd in 1995, you’d be forgiven for wanting to overlook Dredd for fear that it is merely a remake of the aforementioned travesty, but fear not, Dredd has done the science-fiction anthology – 2000AD, proud.

For starters, in case you didn’t know, 2000AD is a science fiction magazine originating in the UK, with Judge Dredd being the magazine’s longest running character since first appearing in issue #2, back in 1977.  It is also a well-known fact (assuming you know anything about Joseph Dredd) that in 35 years of publication, Judge Dredd’s face has never been properly revealed, always obscured by his helmet, apart from a couple of occasions where he was forced to remove it (though his face remains hidden in some way or another).  The creators of Judge Dredd decided that keeping the helmet on would reinforce the facelessness of the law, and Judge Dredd is the law.  Perhaps the biggest peeve of fans was Dredd removing his helmet (within the first 15 and-a-half minutes) in the 1995 film adaptation, for the majority of the film, a fact which is still brought up today as why the film sucked (though there are many, many other reasons).  Though Stallone certainly had the right demeanor and jawline to play a convincing Dredd, his rendition of the character was marred by a shitty script and poor production value.

Dredd debriefing Anderson.

17 years later and we have Dredd 3D.  This 2012 adaptation is faithful to the source material, filled with all the gratuitous carnage and violence a Dredd fan would expect (in true 3D I might add) and best of all, Dredd never removes his helmet.

Enter Karl Urban – the new face (or rather mouth) of Dredd, every bit as brutal and bad-ass as the Judge Dredd character should be.  Completely incorruptible and unwavering, Urban’s Dredd has been lifted from the 2000AD magazine.  Judge Dredd is the most infamous of the street judges (something of a legend), and just like the original source material, a judge has the power of arresting, sentencing and sometimes even executing criminals on the spot, without the bureaucracy of due process.

The visuals are quite amazing at times, more so thanks to the true 3D treatment.

The plot of Dredd is neither grand or of an epic scale, rather, it is a more intimate, ‘day-in-the-life-of’ story that closely follows Dredd and rookie – Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), Anderson is seemingly unfit for judge work, but being a mutant with powerful psychic abilities, she is assigned to Dredd for evaluation.  After they respond to a disturbance in a 200-story residential slum known as Peach Trees, the judges are forced to fight for their lives as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her gang (who pretty much run the place after wiping out all their competitors) place Peach Trees under lock-down in order to exterminate the judges.  What ensues is an hour of gratuitous violence and nail-biting action as Judge Dredd unleashes the full force of law in a brutal and spectacular fashion, with Terminator-like efficiency.

…enter Karl Urban – the new face (or rather mouth) of Dredd, every bit as brutal and bad-ass as the Judge Dredd character should be…

However, it is worth noting that while Dredd is hugely entertaining, it is also essentially the exact same film as 2011’s The Raid: Redemption.  Whether this is a coincidence or not, it’s difficult to determine which film came out with the screenplay first when you consider that Dredd has been in development since 2009.  Having watched The Raid: Redemption first, the plot to Dredd held no surprises for me.

Conclusion

Dredd does not attempt to be of an epic scale, there is no over-the-top plot to overthrow the world, there is no love story between Dredd and Anderson (rather her presence signifies the ‘human touch’ allowing audiences to connect with the film) and most importantly, there is no helmet-removing nonsense.  Combined with a kick-ass soundtrack, Dredd is pure, unadulterated entertainment – if you’re partial to films being violent and meaty of course…

Grade: A

Rapid-Fire Reviews | Starship Troopers: Invasion

Info:

Genre: Science-fiction, animation

Director/s: Shinji Aramaki

Running Time: 88 mins

Budget: Unknown

Released: 21 July 2012 (Japan)

Okay, first thing’s first.  I feel that I need to clear up the first bit of bullshit about Starship Troopers: Invasion.  Claiming that this film is – “A fast-paced thrill ride that tops the original”, as it says on the cover is a ridiculously stupid statement, clearly designed to manipulate people into buying the film, as it is simply not so.  The original Starship Troopers (1997) was (and still is) an amazing film, filled with space marines, giant bugs and gratuitous violence, placing it among my all-time favourite sci-fi flicks.  Filmmakers attempted to replicate the awesomeness of the original with two sequels – Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004) and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008), but they turned out to be such a load of crap that needless to say, when Invasion came along, I completely overlooked it until I realized it was animated.  While Starship Troopers: Invasion has all the aforementioned ingredients that made the first film so great, it definitely lacks the energy and originality that gives a film everlasting re-playability.  The animation is great, seemingly photo-realistic at times, in a similar style to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and everything from the bugs to the space-cruisers have been faithfully recreated in CGI.  A notable difference is the mechanized power-armour that the troopers wear (resembling Master Chief somewhat) as opposed to the regular uniforms of the infantrymen as seen in the first film.  The characters in Invasion are relatively one-dimensional, expendable and utterly forgettable, lacking any modicum of soul that made their predecessors so interesting.  Even though some of the characters return in this sequel, including – Carmen Ibanez, Carl Jenkins and Johnny Rico (resembling Big Boss), they are a far cry from their former, charismatic selves.  My only other gripe with this film is the ‘Invasion’ title.  The bugs only get to Earth in the last twenty minutes, and there’s no actual invasion as the troopers manage to contain the bugs within the confines of the ship that brought them to the planet, so not exactly the all out mankind vs. giant alien bug brawl it should’ve been.

Conclusion

Starship Troopers: Invasion isn’t without its good points – there is plenty of action and gore present in the film and the animation is pretty damn good.  A few new bugs keep things interesting and though Invasion pales in comparison to the original film, it proves to be vastly superior to the last couple of sequels.

Grade: C

Rapid-Fire Reviews | Himizu ヒミズ

Info:

Genre: Crime, drama

Director/s: Sion Sono

Running Time: 129 mins

Budget: Unknown

Released: 5 September 2011

Himizu (Japanese Shrew Mole) has earned a certain amount of acclaim in the Japanese film industry as well as in certain Western circles for being a ‘masterpiece’ or ‘extraordinary’ however I cannot fathom as to why that is as this film is utterly pointless.  Himizu focuses on two teenagers who live a dystopian existence after the tsunami disaster in May 2011. Even though the disaster is used as the backdrop of the film to exemplify the hopeless dreariness of the situation, it pales in comparison to the dreary protagonists.  Sumida lives with his mother in a boat house, in no time she abandons him and soon after he kills his father – a worthless man who frequents the home in search of cash and alcohol.  In the beginning Sumida still goes to school and is stalked by Keiko who spends her time coating her bedroom wall with pages of random quotes that Sumida makes throughout the day.  Soon enough Keiko begins to speak to Sumida and when he stops going to school, she starts spending her days at Sumida’s home, even though he has absolutely no interest in her.  Himizu won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor and Actress, which is quite confusing as both protagonists display the usual amount of over-acting, and nonsensical garbage lines synonymous with many Japanese dramas, such as Sumida himself shouting “Sumida! Don’t give up!” Himizu is basically two hours of exaggerated teenage angst, screaming, pointless crying, abuse (as Sumida and Keiko slap one another around repeatedly) and stupidity as Sumida ‘descends into madness’ after slaying his father, deciding to “punish bad guys” in the last hour of the film which equates to him walking around town covered in paint (some of which he consumes), carrying a knife around in a bag which he never actually uses.  Adding to the melancholy of Himizu is the use of Mozart’s Requiem repeatedly throughout the film’s duration, two hours of the same musical composition, really?  What makes everything worse is the fact that Sumida’s misery is self-inflicted, as he never acknowledges or accepts the help of the people (squatters on his property) who actually care for him or try to help him, as he occupies his time with pointless screaming, loitering and for the most part – rolling in mud.

Conclusion

You’d be hard-pressed to take anything from this film as I certainly didn’t.  Himizu is a 129 minute waste of your life.  Circular, pointless and dreary, filled with forgettable performances and a senseless ending.  However, if there’s one film I would like to see Sumida and Keiko in, it’d be Battle Royale.

Grade: F

Rapid-Fire Reviews | The Amazing Spider-Man

Info:

Genre: Superhero, action

Director/s: Marc Webb

Running Time: 136 mins

Budget: $230 million

Released: 13 July 2012 (South Africa)

After a decade of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man (three films to be precise), Marvel Entertainment have rebooted the franchise with fresh faces, a new Spidey costume and an ‘alternate’ storyline, labeling this film as ‘The Untold Story of Spider-Man’Untold eh? Well, I find that rather confusing since The Amazing Spider-Man is essentially identical for all intents and purposes to 2002’s Spider-Man, which was a superior origin story.  And that’s just it, The Amazing Spider-Man is yet another origin story, that does not add anything new or creative enough to justify its existence.  Seriously, how many damn times do we need to see uncle Ben get killed, or Peter Parker being bitten by the spider that gave him his powers? It’s ridiculous, and to exacerbate matters further, The Lizard is the lamest villain out of all the bad guys put to screen, I think Peter Chao said it best – if you were a super-powered lizard man, with super lizard powers why on earth would you want to make every other human being a lizard person? It would render your powers useless as you’d effectively be putting everyone on the same level as you.  There’s also been a lot of debate over who the better Spider-Man is, Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, with Spider-Man 3 being referenced continuously as the reason for Garfield being superior.  Then again, it is a given that fan-boys would attack the weakest link of the series as opposed to its greatest strength, or has everyone forgotten just how good Spider-Man 2 really is?  That’s not to say that The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t worth watching, it has its moments, one scene involving a battle in the school’s library was quite entertaining and the addition of web-shooters is a nice touch, it’s just not enough to make this film truly great…or good for that matter, despite imdb’s ridiculous 7.6 rating.

Conclusion

We really, really did not need another origin story, as a continuation of the series would have enabled film-makers to focus on a completely new story as opposed to yet another retelling.  The Lizard is a shitty, uninteresting villain, that epitomizes the tired plot device of – Good-scientist-has-accident-and-turns-into-mutated-villain, and Andrew Garfield doesn’t seem to fit the Peter Parker mold all that well.  Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man serves as a 136 minute distraction at best, lacking any originality that may have warranted a second viewing.  Disappointing.

Grade: C-

The Dark Knight Rises

Info:

Genre: Superhero

Director/s: Christopher Nolan

Running Time: 165 mins

Budget: $250 million

Released: 27 July 2012 (South Africa)

Plot:

Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham’s finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy - imdb

Review:

Before I begin, please be warned that this review does contain spoilers, usually I avoid commenting on aspects that would give away certain things about a film, however with The Dark Knight Rises it would be too difficult not to as the film is difficult to quantify given that it is just shy of three hours and that there is a myriad of things happening throughout its duration.

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.

The Dark Knight Rises is the long-awaited (and much-anticipated) conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise.  Set eight years after The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has since given up the cape and cowl and has been reduced to a recluse after Rachel Dawes’ (Maggie Gyllenhaal) death, refusing to see anyone, Bruce spends his days hidden away in his manor and as a result of this, Wayne Enterprises dwindles along with his fortune and reputation.  Bruce Wayne giving up on being Batman was the first thing that surprised me, as I assumed that The Dark Knight Rises would revolve around a more worldly, and finely tuned Batman whom had been fighting the good fight for the last eight years after defeating the Joker (Heath Ledger) but this is not so.  In fact, Batman has devolved somewhat in the sense that he’s been out of the game for such a long time that when trouble once again rears its head, one cannot help but get the feeling that he is hopelessly outclassed and you’d be forgiven for thinking so as Wayne hobbles along on his walking stick (due to the injury he sustained after the fall with Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight), further compounding his problems.  It would seem that The Dark Knight Rises is more about Bruce Wayne than Batman, as Bruce struggles to come to terms with the fact that he can no longer be Batman.  Bane’s arrival compels Wayne to become the Batman once more, and with Rachel gone, Wayne has nothing to lose except for his life, a fact which Alfred (Michael Caine) reminds him of when he tells him that the world needs Bruce Wayne not Batman and that Bane is not to be underestimated.

One of the most explosive duals ever put to screen.

Enter Bane – played by the brilliant Tom Hardy, Bane is the first notable character seen in The Dark Knight Rises as he makes his brilliant escape from CIA operatives in an opening scene involving men in tactical gear, extracting him from a plane mid-flight.  As many will agree, a good villain can either make or break a story, or steal it all together, much like the late Heath Ledger’s sterling performance as the Joker in the previous outing.  Needless to say, there will be an immediate comparison between the Joker and Bane, as viewers will attempt to determine which villain is the best and I believe this will be a difficult decision because both villains are equally great, but for different reasons.  Ledger’s Joker – a self-proclaimed ‘agent of chaos’ was creepy and menacing, from his voice to his mannerisms, including small details like constantly having to lick his lips due to the scars on either side of his mouth which created a perpetual grimace.  The Joker was all about creating madness and destruction, and proving that he could bring anyone down to his level.  Bane however is different, the first thing you’ll notice is the voice.  Bane wears a special headgear that garbles his speech,  and in order to make the character more menacing, Tom Hardy created a voice that would contradict his body, and it worked beautifully.  Obviously, Nolan had to change the Bane character in order to suit his stark version of the Batman universe and so instead of having Bane’s mask/suit inject him with the drug known as Venom (as seen in the comics), the mask in the film acts as an anesthetizing dispersal device that keeps Bane’s pain (after receiving grievous injuries to his face) below the threshold of being excruciating.  What makes Hardy’s Bane even more dangerous is that he used to be part of the League of Shadows before he was ex-communicated from the order. So not only is Bane masterfully trained and physically superior to Batman, he also proves to be a masterful tactician who manages to create more damage and anarchy than the Joker ever did, through a carefully laid out series of plans, raising the bar to a nuclear level.  As I stated previously, this film isn’t so much about Batman as opposed to Bruce Wayne, and in comparison, Batman has minimal screen time compared to Bane and Wayne.  There are two relatively short battles between Batman and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, namely the first encounter between the two which is absolutely brutal as a frustrated Batman is pushed to the limit and beaten to an inch of his life complete with the infamous knee-to-spine scene and a final battle that has the hero and villain going at it in broad daylight, amongst hundreds of other people in one of the most electric and furious fights put to screen.

Batman returns with a few new toys.

Cue the love interests, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).  Anne Hathaway portrays Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, but is never referred to by that moniker as the newspapers call her the ‘cat burglar’.  Nolan’s version of Catwoman is far more reserved than Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of the character in 1992’s Batman Returns or Halle Berry’s appalling performance in 2004’s train-wreck Catwoman, forsaking the cat-suit in favour of a polyurethan-coated spandex one and a sort of visor that resembles cat ears.  Marion Cotillard portrays Miranda Tate, an executive board member of Wayne Enterprises who attempts to get Bruce Wayne to rejoin society and continue his father’s work.  Cotillard also represents one of the films twists with her dual identity.  Initially the viewer is thought to believe that Bane is the son of Ra’s Al Ghul, however this is a misdirection as Tate turns out to be Talia Al Ghul and Bane her protector, though I’m sure that anyone who follows the comics will know that Ra’s had a daughter and not a son.

Though Batman doesn’t have access to the Tumbler (pictured), Bane manages to secure an entire host of them from Wayne Enterprises ‘off-the-books’ R&D department.

Another new character to the series is John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young police officer who uses sharp powers of perception and deduction to determine the identity of Batman.  Soon enough Blake is promoted to detective by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), and together with his aversion to the Harvey Dent coverup as well as his growing distaste for firearms, it would seem that Blake would be the ideal candidate for Batman’s successor.  As the film reveals John Blake’s legal name – Robin John Blake, his candidacy as the Bat’s heir is solidified.

So is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight? It’s a question and topic of debate that will carry on between movie goers for ages to come (I myself was asked this same question today) but it is a very difficult question to answer because both films are very different from one another.  The Dark Knight is a magnificent film, but for Christopher Nolan to succeed with a third and final installment it had to either match or surpass its predecessors.  Needless to say, whether you watched the write-ups or trailers of The Dark Knight Rises before actually watching the film itself, it would be impossible not to have high expectations as The Dark Knight set the benchmark for excellence, combine that with a plethora of media hype and hyperbole for this latest entry, and you’re going to have some pretty insane expectations of The Dark Knight RisesThe Dark Knight improved upon Batman Begins with the evolution of Batman himself with an improved suit, Batmobile (Batpod anyone?) and skill-set which he put to great use in order to defeat the Joker.  Since Bruce Wayne has been out of the scene for eight years in The Dark Knight Rises, his suit remains unchanged since the second installment and he is without the Tumbler (Batmobile) since its destruction from taking an RPG hit from the Joker.  As for Bane, he proves to be just as menacing as Ledger’s Joker, and far more sinister, given his imposing physique and his ominous body-language, not to mention the fact that he is also a far more capable fighter than the Joker, which is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt as he violently thrashes Batman.  Bane is not only physically challenging, as his mental faculties and abilities as a tactician rival that of Bruce Wayne himself and being as intelligent as he is, Bane also has some of the greatest lines in the entire trilogy.

Bane makes his escape from CIA custody.

Notable Bane quotes:

Gotham, take control… take control of your city. Behold, the instrument of your liberation! Identify yourself to the world!

Calm down, Doctor! Now’s not the time for fear. That comes later.

When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.

Theatricality and deception, powerful agents for the uninitiated. But we are initiated, aren’t we Bruce?

Ah you think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!

You fight like a younger man, with nothing held back. Admirable… but mistaken.

John Blake aka Robin.

Needless to say, The Dark Knight Rises isn’t perfect.  For one thing, I found it strange that a man (Bruce Wayne) who had been reduced to a recluse for eight years over his beloved’s death would so easily bed Miranda, whom he’s never taken interest in or doesn’t even share chemistry with, so Miranda/Bruce hookup – pretty stupid.  But perhaps the one thing that really cheapens the film is Nolan’s cop-out ending where Batman flies (in the Bat – essentially the bat-jet) over the ocean away from Gotham as he carries a neutron bomb which detonates, seemingly killing Batman.  Batman’s death would have made a poignant ending and would have remained in character with Nolan’s style but this was not so as Bruce Wayne programmed an autopilot into the plane (another one of the twists) some six months earlier, which he used to escape the blast.  What makes the ending worse is that the audience is made to feel the sadness and anguish of his death with the funeral and perhaps worst of all, the scene where Alfred breaks down with grief, only to have that all snatched away by an implausibly ‘happy’ ending.

Batman’s new vehicle – The Bat.

Conclusion

The Dark Knight Rises sets a new precedent for superhero films, in that it is a deep, thought-provoking and action-packed film that will demand your utmost attention from start to finish.  The Dark Knight Rises is a relentless film in that it requires you to constantly pay attention for the film is extremely long and has a lot to tell.  In my opinion, The Dark Knight Rises must be seen at least twice in order to fully appreciate all its many intricacies as the way you’ll watch it the second time will change because you’ll know who’s who with the result that you’ll focus on those characters more like Miranda for example, in order to see the signs and events that led up to her betrayal.  While many may agree that Heath Ledger’s Joker was a superior villain, Hardy’s portrayal of Bane is not to be overlooked as his representation of the infamous villain is perhaps one of the most impressive performances ever.  Overall, The Dark Knight Rises is a brilliant film (though not without flaws) and a worthy conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s superhero trilogy.  Highly recommended.

Grade: A+

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