Monday, September 30, 2013

Comparative Review: Dredd (2012) vs Solomon Kane (2009)

As a guy, I am naturally a huge fan of action movies.  As a geek, I am naturally a fan of the more esoteric action movies, like the sub-genres of sci-fi action, action horror, and so on.  Do these sub-genres actually exist outside of my own mind?  I have no idea, but I'm pretending they do for the purposes of this blog, as I am way too lazy to actually go look that shit up.

Judge Dredd, made way, WAY back in the forgettable 90's, with Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante, was a pretty decent sci-fi action movie for its time, and introduced the movie-going public to Judge Dredd, a genetically enhanced Enforcer of the Law in the Mega-cities of the near future.  Dredd, with Karl Urban, seems to be an episode in the life of Judge Dredd, either before or after the events of that 1995 movie.  If I had to guess, I would say it was before, which would make Dredd a prequel, though it felt more like the introduction to a TV series than a prequel.  If there WAS a Dredd series in development that was going to star Karl Urban, I am sorry I haven't heard about it, because from the look of this movie, it would have been very good.

Dredd (2012) begins with Judge Dredd on an assignment.  There is no character development in this movie on the part of Judge Dredd.  Audiences are assumed to be familiar with the character from past experience.  On the plus side, no character development is really necessary.  Dredd is tracking down and enforcing justice on a gang of drug-addicted murderers, and gets a rookie along for the ride so he can evaluate her.  Karl Urban plays Dredd in this movie, and though his voice is clearly recognizable if you've seen him in things like Red (with Bruce Willis) and whatever other movies he's been in, he never once, in the entire film, removes his helmet, which covers most of his face.  The rookie, on the contrary, never wears a helmet, which allows us to see that she's a relatively cute mutant chick.  And by mutant, I don't mean she has 3 eyeballs or anything, I mean, she's a telepath or something like that.  Her extrasensory abilities allow her to assist Dredd in tracking the gang members down and finding the source of the drug that's infesting the mean streets, and that trail leads to a giant skyscraper apartment building.  Unfortunately, an entire gang of murderous thugs calls this apartment building their home, and Dredd and the rookie cop get locked inside with them and a bunch of relatively innocent civilians who get caught in the crossfire.

I liked Dredd.  I saw a movie once where a bunch of cops are trying to clean a gang of thugs out of a giant apartment building like this when the zombie apocalypse happens, and it doesn't end well.  The tight corridors, maze-like hallways and multiple levels allow for some dizzying chases and escapades, and there's always a few innocents who get slaughtered along the way.  Dredd felt a lot like that movie, tense action and lots of firefights, explosions and the like to satisfy most action-junkies.  I can't say the stunts or action or whatever were especially awesome or anything, because Dredd didn't seem to break any new ground here, but there were a lot of flying bullets and enough gore to go around.  If this had been a series, or is going to be a series of Dredd movies, I'd sure watch them, just for the action.  Also, the lead gang-banger was played by Lena Headey, the queen from 300 and Sarah Connor from the Sarah Connor Chronicles.  And of course, currently playing as the Queen in Game of Thrones.  Can't forget that one.  Apparently she plays a lot of queens and Moms.  In any case, she's cute and plays a mean villain.  :-)

Solomon Kane was a bit of a fantasy-horror-action type of thing.  James Purefoy stars as Solomon Kane, an ex-pirate captain who ends up changing his ways out of sheer terror after an encounter with demons from hell.  Swearing off violence and raping and pillaging, Solomon is booted out of the monastery where he's been hiding from the forces of hell and accompanies a family of pilgrims who are heading to the New World.  Which, for those of you who don't know, would be the Americas.  However, before the nice family that has taken in Solomon can reach the coast and board a ship, they are slaughtered by a band of devil-worshipping thugs who kidnap the eldest daughter and whisk her away as a gift for the local land-owner, who has taken over Solomon's ancestral castle, imprisoned his father and generally mucked up Solomon's life from the get-go.  Solomon, never very successful at giving up his life of violence anyway, returns to full-on slaughter mode and gets to tracking down the evil thugs and dispatching them with gory vengeance.  All in the name of good, of course.

I wasn't particularly fond of Solomon Kane.  For one, it seemed like James Purefoy was having much more fun as the villain than he did as the hero.  it was almost like watching the Wicked Witch of the West pretend to be the Good Witch of the North.  It just didn't seem right, somehow.  Some of the action sequences were pretty decent, but for someone who is chosen because of his incredible fighting prowess, the sudden and inexplicable appearance of a pistol in his hand at an opportune moment seems, I don't know...  Too easy a way out, I guess.  This movie also seemed like the beginning of a series or a series of movies, but honestly, Solomon Kane isn't something I'd want to watch unless they picked a different lead actor.  James Purefoy makes an excellent villain, but as hero material, leaves something to be desired.

Of the two action movies, if you had only one to watch, I'd say go with Dredd.  It's solid action.  There's no surprises, and no quarter.  Almost gritty, I'd say, without a lot of futuristic special effects.  There's a lot of computer-generated special effects and a few scary moments in Solomon Kane provided by demonic appearances, which is always cool, but even they can't save that movie from being totally unwatchable a second time around.  Dredd was much better, and I'd certainly give it another watch if it ever shows up on TV or anything.  Both movies are currently available on Netflix, if nowhere else.

That's it for this month!  Prepare yourselves for the HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE REVIEW-A-THON starting tomorrow!  W00T!  That time of year is here!  Horror movies!  Yay!  Yippeeee!  Wheeeeee!

Yea, I know.  I don't get out much nowadays.  I'll take my thrills where I can find them.  :-D

Monday, September 23, 2013

Comparative Review: Lockout vs Parker

I'm reviewing two movies at once tonight, just because I've been behind on my posts and I been watching a lot of movies.  Lockout (2012) is a sci-fi action movie with Guy Pearce, Parker (2013) is an action / crime movie with Jason Statham.

I'm going to review Lockout first because I saw it last night.  Now both of these are action movies that feature a strong male lead.  These are not chick flicks.  lol  I have heard Lockout described as an action comedy, but it's really not.  Much like Die Hard was not an action comedy.  Sure, Bruce Willis had some funny lines, and he had a sense of humor, but it was not a comedy.  In that sense, neither is Lockout.

Lockout is set a few years in the future.  A supermax prison (super maximum security for the most hardened and dangerous convicts) has been constructed in earth orbit, where the prisoners are actually in cryogenic suspension while serving their sentences.  I never really understood the purpose of cryogenic prison terms, I mean, basically the criminal goes to sleep, wakes up many years later without having visibly aged, and is what, free to go about his business as if nothing happened?  Seems goofy.  Anywho, there's an agent, and who he works for is never really clear, but apparently he's one of the good guys.  He takes the fall for a crime he didn't commit, and is about to be processed into jail when the supermax in space, called MS-1, has a riot.  All the prisoners get freed from cryo-prison, and the president's daughter had the bad luck to be visiting it at the time.  This agent (Guy Pearce) pretty much jokes his way through about every situation imaginable (which is where the comedy comes in), but he's offered the chance to get a pardon if he can escape the facility with the president's daughter.  To be honest, I'm not really sure why it's called Lockout.  But there you go.

I liked Lockout.  It didn't seem to get many stars from the average Netflix reviewer (I usually check the reviews before I watch a movie), but the action was pretty steady and things seemed to move along pretty well.  Production quality was good and the special effects were excellent.  I wasn't really fond of the fairly outrageous climax, but eh.  Other than that the movie worked pretty well.

Parker is the story of a small-time criminal who gets the chance to go big-time and turns it down.  Probably a smart move, but his cronies don't like his choice, and decide to oust him out of his share as well as his life.  Since it's a jason Statham movie and he plays the part of Parker, you know where this is going.  Mr. Statham is pretty reliable on his action movies, but unfortunately this movie is marred by the part played by Jennifer Lopez.  It's not that her acting was the problem, but that Mr. Statham's usual action sequences seemed to be overshadowed by Ms. Lopez's involvement.  I guess it made him seem more human that usual, more vulnerable, and that really didn't seem to do him much good.  Don't get me wrong, the guy seems to be damn near indestructible in this movie, but his reliance on anyone else, or in this case, several people, seems to make this less of an action movie and more of an almost-romance, but it never works out that way, so...  I guess that's why THIS movie didn't do too well.

I hope I haven't given too much away about these movies.  I mean, one a jason Statham movie, so you pretty much know how his movies go.  The other one wasn't as predictable but there was a lot of action too.  I would say Guy Pearce's action style is very similar to John McClane from Die Hard.  Seems to get his ass kicked more often than not, but gets the job done.  Unlike Jason Statham, who never loses a fight, and doesn't have as many witty one-liners.

Honestly, if I had to recommend one movie out of these two, and they are both decent action movies, I would say Lockout was actually the better of the two.  The science fiction elements almost make it a different genre, but both movies are basically about kicking ass, shooting people and blowing shit up, and what the hell else do you want in a movie, anyway?  Just an enjoyable hour and a half or two hours, and a high body count!  There you go.

Another matchup coming soon!  One more week til the annual Horror-movie review-a-thon commences!  I've come up with my own drinking game for my review-a-thon!  Every time I get upset because there's no nudity, you take a shot.  Every time I use the word "rewatchability," you take two shots.  If your liver isn't shot to hell by the end of October, you get to try again next year!  lol

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fall TV Season - Sleepy Hollow

It's almost that time of year again!  :-D

I'm so excited!  HORROR MOVIES!  When I can revel in the horror that is the fear and chaos of someone else's imagination, instead of the fear and chaos that is my life.  lol  My October Horror movie review-a-thon starts in nine days!  Time to whet my review-whistle and start reviewing the Fall TV season so i can prepare myself for the daily grind of writing Horror movie reviews.  lol  As if watching horror was a grind!  heh  But, on to the review of Sleepy Hollow!

I've always loved the legend of Sleepy Hollow.  The idea of a Headless Horseman, practically an inescapable force of nature, seemingly mindless, but with ruthless cunning and a palpable sense of evil emanating from the gaping hole of a neck where his head used to be.. well shit, I think I just soiled myself.  Ever since I saw the disney cartoon about the headless horseman when I was a kid, narrated by Bing Crosby, of all people, I was hooked.  Poor Ichabod, a helpless school teacher, is matched up against the Headless Horseman, the decapitated ghost of a hessian mercenary, much to Ichabod's detriment.  There are many who would say that it was jealously what killed Ichabod, that his catching the eye of a local beauty made the son of the local magistrate jealous, and that jealous rival for the beauty's affections was Ichabod's undoing.  Some would say that his murdered body lay still in those swamps around Sleepy Hollow, waiting to be found.  But you and I know.  We know the truth.

So I was psyched as soon as I heard about this show.  Which was probably about ten minutes before it aired.  But still, psyched.  But they switched everything around on me.  Ichabod Crane wasn't a helpless school teacher, transported 250 years into the future to deal with the Headless Horseman in modern times.  No, Ichabod Crane was some sort of revolutionary war hero / James Bond style secret agent.  Sure, he was born british, but sided with good old George Washington.  And he personally beheaded the horseman in battle.  That certainly doesn't add anything to the Headless Horseman's mystique, or make me fear him any more, quite frankly.  I mean, sure this guy Ichabod is supposedly some sort of master swordsman, fearless in battle, intelligent, cunning...  nah, I'm not buying it;   The guy's name is Ichabod.  And who the HELL names their kid Ichabod?  Honestly?  Ichabod?  Ichabod Crane?  Come on.  Not a very heroic name, by any means.  "Say, Horseman, who took your head?"  "Well, I'm in battle, cutting down guys left and right, and this guy named Ichabod comes along and..."  "Wait, wait.  What'd you say his name was?"  "Ichabod."  "HAH!  Are you serious?"  "Yea, so he comes along and-"  "Are you seriously telling me, a guy named ICHABOD took your head?  BWAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!"  After that, the Horseman was probably the laughing stock of the Headless Community.

So, now that they've made Ichabod a musket-toting Ninja, what do they have to do to the Horseman to make him seem more fearsome?  They made him one of the four horseman of the apocalypse.  Yea, so apparently, the show's going to be one of those supernatural-flavor-of-the-week type shows, with random appearances by the horseman.  Now don't get me wrong, there's demons and devils and all sorts of creepy shit going around in this thing, so it looks promising, but I don't know how much I'll be able to get into it.  I would have LOVED the idea of a scared-shitless Ichabod trying to wrap his brain around being transported 250 years into the future to try and escape the headless Horseman's wrath AGAIN.  I mean, if you remember the legend, both ichabod Crane AND the headless horseman disappeared that same night.  Supposedly because, once the headless horseman took ichabod's head, he didn't need to go around hunting for more.  But what if they just went into the future, maybe at the mere moment of Ichabod's supposed death?  I think it's GENIUS.  But that's not what this show is about.  Ah well.  Maybe in the next retelling.

Something else that had me TOTALLY PSYCHED for this series.  First thing I see once the show starts is one of my favorite actors playing the sherriff.  Clancy Brown.  Who i instantly recognized and had NO IDEA what his name is because he's been in hundreds of things but never became famous.  I was THRILLED.  And then... he dies.  lol  Yea.  9 minutes in.  I should have known.  Minute I like an actor in one of these things, BAM he's a dead man.  Sigh.  Now seriously that would have been a good show, Clancy Brown as the Sherriff, fighting against the Headless Horseman, while a scared ichabod ran around trying not to piss himself.  That's good drama right there.  But no.  No.  Sherriff loses his head, as it were.  I love how the deputy calls it in, too.  "Officer down!"  LOL  Yea, send an ambulance for that.  See if you can sew that back on.  lol  interestingly enough, that makes at least twice in Clancy's career that his character lost his head.  Yes, that's right, he was Kurgan, facing off against Christopher Lambert in the Highlander.  Unfortunately, no spectacular pyrotechnics or gouts of blood marked Clancy's demise in this one.  This is network TV, after all.

So what I am left with is a mamby-pamby flouncy-dressed revolutionary war-era secret agent, paired with a cop who was about to transfer out of the department.  I really hope they play up the scary shit, because I really can't identify with either of the show's main characters.  But I am hopeful.  I never really got into Supernatural because, well, let's face it, it's a sausage fest, and I'm a straight guy.  I tried to watch the Walking Dead, but it just got so predictable and boring, I could tell you what was going to happen at the end of the hour by the first 5 minutes.  Vampire Dairies, well.  I'm not an emo teen.  Which left me with NOTHING.  I haven't been this bereft since Buffy went off the air, and finally, there's hope on the horizon.  Maybe there will even be some other good shows coming out this fall, who knows?

Sleepy Hollow airs monday nights at 9 pm on FOX, at least, where I am.

Horror movie review-a-thon in nine days...  So PSYCHED!  Time for some SCARY SHIT!  Been saving up aaaalll my horror movies on Netflix, just for next month.  Waiting patiently, like a monster on the prowl...  (spooky music plays ominously)

Can't WAIT!  :-D