Remakes and Reboot Redux: Conclusion

I grew up reading Dark Horse Predator comics and Wizard Magazine. As I moved into other comics, I founds lots of characters to love, but one I always knew about but never read was Judge Dredd. I recognized the character, but didn’t know much beyond the iconic appearance until the last 5 years or so.

Judge Dredd (1995)

In the 90s the mega action stars of the 80s were looking for vehicles. As Sylvester Stallone’s biggest franchises, Rambo and Rocky shifted from classic to semi-farce (at least for a decade or so) Sly began looking for other franchises to be his next big thing. He tried it first with Demolition Man but went for a recognizable character film with 1995s Judge Dredd.

Since I didn’t know about the character at the time I admit I rather enjoyed the film. It went for a “big” story, introduces the world, the judges’ council, then immediately breaks into a story of a character trying to bring it down. It was still exciting, had great 90s special effects (love that bodyguard-bot), and good characters. Stallone made a great Dredd, he certainly had the look, and Diane Cannon was also effective as Judge Hershey.

It came out in the extended Lethal Weapon fallout when every character had to have a “buddy” comic relief aspect. They chose Rob Schneider to basically play himself and proves to be the weakest part of the film. The other aspect of it is Dredd sacrilege but is a direct result of the Stallone-vehicle reality of the movie. They show Dredd’s face. Constantly. Something the creators of the comic have consciously decided not to do (as he is the faceless embodiment of righteous but fascist judgment in Mega City).

It was a Judge movie but still a Stallone movie and also a 90s action movie. It was bright, colorful, and very much a product of the 90s comic movie industry, basic popcorn entertainment. Fun but tossable.

Dredd (2012)

After what a lot of fans consider to be mor Tinseltown than Mega City outing of 1995’s Judge Dredd 2012 brought a reboot in Dredd. With a faceless Karl Urban as the titular Judge, it made the gritty judge movie for the modern era. Films, even hero films, took a dark turn and Judge Dredd is perfect in a “dark” thematic world.

Karl Urban is excellent as Dredd. I didn’t even know it was him, and therefore accepted him more easily as the character. Olivia Thirlby is also fantastic as psychic Judge Anderson, a dynamic female character in modern action movies. Dredd doesn’t treat her like a woman, he treats her like a rookie. Only bringing up her gender when the possibility of capture by savage gangers is a possibility. Lena headey makes a for a sufficiently creepy villain as Ma-Ma and she’s surrounded by a circus of terrific character actors playing terrific characters.

One of the best aspects of the film is its “day-in-the-life” feel. It is a rousing action film, but in the end Dredd explains his miniature war in Peach Trees Mega block as “Drug bust. Perps were…uncooperative…” it looks great, is well-acted, and gives us a look at a different kind of comic character.

These movies show how these films are products of their time and both work very well. Essentially the 2012 Dredd ignores the previous version, but both were successful movies; the first a fun 90s-style action flick; the second a gritty, modern sci-fi crime movie.

Neither is overtly disrespectful of the origin material and the reboot classy-ly makes its own movie without deriding the original. So a viewer can watch 1995s Judge Dredd, enjoy the fun 90s glory of it; then watch Dredd and appreciate the millennium brutality of Mega City crime fighting.

That’s the current state of reboots and remakes in my opinion. Some are good, some are bad, but admittedly it’d be nice to see a brand new intellectual property out there… Til then… It’s Judgment Time Hollywood.  At least make more Apes and Dredds, and less Clash of the Titans and RoboCops

Seven Psychopaths: 10 Reasons to Love It

Seven Psychopaths
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Seven Psychopaths, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, is a movie after my heart. It is so well done it deserves a list of the best things, so here are 10 reasons to love (and watch) Seven Psychopaths:

1. It’s not Tarantino, but it feels like it. I’m a huge Tarantino fan, and when I saw Seven Psychopaths in the theater I didn’t know who the director was. I assumed it was Tarantino until I learned otherwise. It’s as close to a Tarantino film as you can get.

2. The dialogue. This is hard to do, especially do well, and there are many jabs and one-liners. Some are funny, some are smart, some are deep. The film is conversation heavy, but it’s good conversation and keeps the story going. People talk about things real people would talk about; for example, two gangsters killing time by talking about people who had been shot in the eyeball and survived. The dialogue one of the best parts of the movie.

3. The cast. My favorites: Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Bonny the dog. Other good stars: Colin Farrell, Michael Stuhlbarg, Linda Bright Clay, Gabourey Sidibe, Tom Waits, Michael Pitt. The movie is full of familiar faces and talent, and they blend well together.

4. Humor. Seven Psychopaths is listed as comedy/crime. This isn’t slapstick humor though; it’s dark humor (my favorite) and sometimes very wrong. But it is funny if you enjoy smartA remarks, language, and smart people.

5. Violence. It’s violent but not tasteless. It’s bloody but the realistic blood that you’d expect when someone gets an arm cut off or shot in the head. In a lot of movies now, “blood” is colored so it doesn’t look real or it’s not seen at all, but the blood in this movie looks like movie blood. It’s red and thick, but the shots hold long enough to establish it, not to mash it in your face. And it’s a gangster movie, so there’s plenty of shooting.

6. The story. Ferrell is writing a screenplay about seven psychopaths, and the psychopaths exist in real life. All the mini stories intertwine, and the main people involved try to write the ending. (The ending is often the most difficult part.) I can see if McDonagh’s own intentions and motivations come through Ferrell’s character. He’s tired of the stereotypical psychopaths and wants something you wouldn’t expect.

7. Music. The soundtrack is one of the best aligned with a film I’ve ever heard. It’s not one I’d want to own, but it pairs perfectly with the scenes, action and story. I’ve worked to this movie multiple times and perk up when a song comes on. Artists include: Hank Williams, P.P. Arnold, The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt, and The Walkmen. You may not know them by seeing their names, but you will know the songs when you hear them.

8. It’s refreshing. A lot of crap has come out in the last few years. However, this was a good movie that premiered in 2012, and not enough people knew about it. If all the Tarantino-style fans in the world saw this movie, it would have blown up. As a movie-buff, it’s nice to know there are still people in Hollywood who can make a good movie without it being based off an adolescent novel.

9. Creativity. The story, characters, dialogue, everything is creative and theatrical. It’s what a movie should be: entertaining and a world you want to live in for two hours. The story has not been overdone, and you don’t feel you’ve seen it before. Unpredictability is a good thing.

10. Love. Believe it or not, there’s real love in Seven Psychopaths. Walken and his wife, Bright Clay; Bonny and Rockwell; Waits and his runaway woman. The movie shows love is tough, but it stays with you into eternity. It’s not something you’d expect from a gangster movie, but Ferrell pretty much lays out the movie in the first 20 minutes. If you pay attention, you get it.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about the movie in the comments, so feel free to share!

Best Horror Sequel: Aliens

The film industry is built on sequels. In fact nearly the entire entertainment industry is built on sequels, reboots, and remakes. Of course the general perception is sequels, especially horror movie sequels, are worse than the original films and are usually just a cash-in to milk a franchise’s fans for more money. While I can see a point to this some sequels rise above that label and either build upon the first film’s successes or even improve it. When thinking of the best horror sequel one film always stands out to me…Aliens.

Yes it IS Horror: Before everyone goes on a rant that Jim Cameron’s follow-up to Alien isn’t a horror movie I provide personal evidence. I saw Alien and Aliens on the same night at about the age of 12. Alien I found interesting but slow and suspenseful. The creature looked great in quick, shadowy flashes and the scenes built suspense rather than fear. I was never afraid of the xenomorph, but I was afraid for the characters. That means it was a great movie, since I felt for the characters, but it didn’t scare me. Aliens however did scare me. One scene in particular had me checking under the bed and in the bathroom cabinets. The intense facehugger stalking scene where two of the little beasties are set loose on Ripley (of course played to perfection by Sigourney Weaver) and Newt (whose character’s dialogue still works its way into my every day speech). The tense nature of that scene, the fear and unknown presented by the monster and its location was relatable. Who has ever tried to smash a spider and missed? Then had the critter scurry out of site and stayed up all night watching for it to re-appear? That’s how I felt watching that scene. That’s why I checked all the nooks and crannies before bed that night. And in that one scene alone it proves its horror cred.

New Kinds of Victims: But it also transcends it. In most horror movies the protagonists are unwitting and helpless. Maybe they have a trick up their sleeves like in You’re Next that no one expected, but for the most part they are over their heads and faced with horrors they never anticipated and have to scramble to survive being picked off one by one. That’s not the case here. The protagonists are Colonial Marines, described in one scene as “tough hombres” and de-briefed by Ripley, who faced the alien creature before. They aren’t helpless, they are well-trained, tough, violent, and in the opening scenes of their landing show their precision and meddle. When the creatures turn up they’re simply lost at sea. It works even better than it did against the helpless crew of the Nostromo as we know these marines have handled problems like this before and are still terrified and overwhelmed by the xenomorphs. It works psychologically because you think if these people can’t stop xenomorphs what can? You identify with Ripley and Newt (and to some extent the colonists), regular non-marines who seemingly have no hope to survive. The aliens are wily, powerful, fearless, and the “Warrior” design is far more menacing than that of the original alien. The tone is sci-fi, action, and horror all rolled into one. The first film I can recall containing all those elements, and it’s this movie, rather than its predecessor, that spawned an entire new genre of horror-action-sci fi.

Lasting Impact: Finally it has serious, SERIOUS longevity in the culture. It is one of the most stolen concepts in modern media (Contra, Tyranids, Dead Space…etc…). Not only that but it battles with Scarface as one of the most quotable movies I’ve ever seen. “Game over man,” “Sweethearts,” “five-by-five,” all these quotes spawned from Aliens and even if they didn’t originate with the film you quote them from the film. If you don’t say “Game over, man; Game over” like Hudson you’re doing it wrong.

While trying to think of the “best horror sequel” I was torn. It came down between Aliens and Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Dream Warriors certainly changed the landscape of the Nightmare movies, but Aliens changed the nature of sci-fi horror. It was tense, scary, bloody, action-packed, and even had a final girl. It surpassed the original to become a movie classic and infiltrated modern culture to create new genres and new kinds of horror experiences.

So to me Aliens is by far is the best horror sequel.  Take it away Hudson: