TIFF 2012 – Dredd 3D Review (Matt Hodgson)

Toronto International Film Festival 2012

Dredd 3D (2012)

Starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, and Lena Headey

Screenplay by Alex Garland

Directed by Pete Travis

Making my way to the Ryerson theatre 90 minutes before showtime, I could only mutter a few expletives under my breath as I realized that the line for the first Midnight Madness film, Dredd 3D, already wrapped around the corner of Gerrard and Church. I thought I was prepared to get back into the fray, but it looks like my tactics will need to be reevaluated. The Toronto International Film Festival can feel like a bit of a chore at times: buying tickets in the nick of the time, waiting in a massive line to pickup the tickets, standing in line for over an hour to get a good seat for a busy screening, but in the end it’s all worth it. This is the only time of the year that Hollywood actually comes to Toronto, and if you’re willing to shell out some cash, you can feel like part of the festivities and see some amazing movies in the process. Unfortunately, my own euphoric feelings toward the festival will have to be put on hold for 24 hours.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Having already waited in line for nearly an hour in order to secure what I had then determined would be a mediocre seat at best, a festival volunteer started making her rounds informing everyone that the screening of Dredd 3D would be delayed by at least 30 minutes due to a fairly large hiccup in the schedule earlier in the day. In actuality, it turned out to be delayed by an hour and midnight is the worst time for a delay of that magnitude if you would like your audience to stick around and actually be awake for the screening. But accidents occur, and I understand that, however the next issue seemed more like a slap to the face. Upon entering the theatre, I was very disappointed to see that over 200 seats had been comped and reserved for various VIPs – nine rows smack dab in the middle of the theatre! It felt wrong to relegate most of those who had paid for a ticket and waited since 10:00 – 10:30 to second tier seats, but maybe it wasn’t such a big deal for others. Fortunately, Colin Geddes did a marvelous job waking up the tired crowd and Dredd turned out to be a great way to kick off the madness.

Dredd 3D is, of course, about the iconic comic book hero Judge Dredd. Living in a dystopian future where small suburban residences have been replaced by massive towers which house thousands of citizens, the Judges from the Hall of Justice are the only ones still holding people accountable for their crimes – they are the law. Equipped with intimidating helmets and motorcycles, and a large handgun featuring a multitude of settings, ranging from basic bullets to an incendiary attack, the Judges may be few but they are certainly feared. As we join Judge Dredd (Urban), we are introduced to a new street drug, Slo-Mo, that has gone from making ripples to waves within the population of the city seemingly overnight. The drug affects the brain and seemingly slows down time to a crawl, not only that but it appears to be extremely addictive. Dredd and Anderson (Thirlby), an unlikely judge in training with some strange powers, investigate a triple homicide only to find themselves trapped in the heart of a Slo-Mo operation and severely outnumbered by the murderous MaMa (Headey) and her vicious thugs.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

I went into Dredd 3D expecting a good time, but even then it still managed to pleasantly surprise me throughout. This was the first 3D movie to ever screen at Midnight Madness, and I’m sure there was a bit of trepidation amongst the crowd for this reason, but TIFF and the filmmakers really delivered. The glasses provided to the audience were of the highest quality, not those flimsy, collapsible ones that look like sunglasses. Also, although Dredd 3D did not always use the 3D effects to its advantage, there were some remarkable shots of the cityscape and dizzying shots from immense heights, so dizzying that I actually felt in personal danger for a couple of them. That was an amazing feeling to have while sitting in a cinema! Other 3D shots were a little uninspired at times, but at least they didn’t distract too much from the movie itself.

Urban was very entertaining as Dredd, and despite an odd vocal slip (a completely different voice for a few minutes early on), his version of Dredd was a treat to behold. Urban used what sounded like a toned down version of Bale’s Batman, with a few cartons of cigarettes added for the right degree of raspiness. The one-liners delivered by Urban were absolutely spot on most of the time, and when accompanied by Urban’s unwavering frown they were often downright hysterical. Thirlby did a decent job as Anderson, the fledgling Judge, while Headey seemed like she was going to deliver a deliciously evil performance early on, but for most of the movie seemed more like a Lannister (GoT) than a drug dealing kingpin.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Finally, the reason why people are going to be talking about this movie – the violence. Unless I missed something, I don’t think I’ve ever seen violence this visceral and this beautiful. Thanks to the the effects of the Slo-Mo drug, throughout Dredd we are often treated to slow-motion encounters between Judge Dredd and his hopped-up enemies. I don’t crave onscreen violence, but witnessing the amazing effects in Dredd 3D was nothing short of jaw dropping, or is that jaw exploding? My only criticism about Dredd 3D is that the action sequences are often a little uninspired, although they get pretty good towards the end of the movie. It feels like Judge Dredd just keeps pressing forward through hordes of bad guys, dispatching them easily with his devastating arsenal, however it would have been nice to have some exchanges with some actual gunfight choreography.

Dredd 3D was a great start to my personal TIFF schedule, but more importantly an amazing start for Midnight Madness. Anyone interested in dystopian futures, arsenals of weapons, amazing special effects, or Judge Dredd should under no circumstances miss this one.

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TIFF 2012 – Top 10 Most Anticipated Genre Movies (Matt Hodgson)

For cinephiles in Toronto the time is nearly upon us to walk into the fray known as the Toronto International Film Festival. It may be busy as hell and it may cost a few bucks more than $20 for a ticket, but it’s all worth it as there is no better time during the year to watch the latest and greatest in terms of film. Here at Entertainment Maven we have been posting about our most anticipated selections for this year’s festival. Personally, I will watch anything so long as it is reputed to be good or looks good, but I have a soft spot (or dark spot) in my heart for anything ‘genre’ related. Sometimes difficult to define, to me a genre film features something wicked, weird, or fantastical. Below are the top 10 genre films that I am looking forward to checking out at this year’s fest. You should too, because they look incredible!

10. Thale

Out of Norway comes a tale (hah!) about a fantastic creature found by two forensic clean-up men in a cabin deep in the woods. Helmed by a first time director, I don’t really know what to expect from Thale, but that is half the fun. It looks original and will hopefully defy the cliches typically found in backwoods cabin movies.

9. No One Lives

The latest offering from Ryuhei Kitamura, the man responsible for Versus and The Midnight Meat Train. The story about road bandits and less than helpless victims sounds very similar to last year’s runaway success, You’re Next. Here’s hoping this recurring formula proves to be a winning one at Midnight Madness.

8. Motorway

A cocky young cop tries to take down one of the best getaway driversĀ  in Hong Kong. I don’t even need to know anything else about this project because it sounds like it will be action-packed from the first minute to the last. The Raid with cars? We’ll have to wait and see!

7. Painless

Painless may be the most intelligent horror/thriller on the docket. The story is about a young neurosurgeon who miraculously survives a devastating car crash, only to learn about his past which may or may not involve a history of bizarre experiments. The script was also co-written by one of the writers responsible for [REC]. Sign me up!

6. Berberian Sound Studio

Berberian Sound Studio could possibly be a Giallo movie that takes place behind the scenes during the making of a Giallo movie. This has the potential to be a taut thriller in a unique environment that has been lost in the annals of time. I’m really expecting a lot from Berberian, I hope my expectations aren’t too high.

5. Sightseers

The next movie from Ben Wheatley, the director of last year’s Kill List. Kill List just happens to be one of my favourite films from last year. A remarkable movie that sucks you in from the beginning and doesn’t loosen its grip until well after the final credits have rolled. Sightseers looks to be more similar to Wheatley’s first film, Down Terrace, but who knows what to expect from this talented director.

4. Dredd 3D

I was ready to write off Dredd 3D as mainstream crap, but after watching the first 20 seconds of the trailer the movie has rapidly climbed my ‘most anticipated films’ list. Dredd 3D looks like Strange Days on crack, and that is a very very good thing.

3. The ABCs of Death

The ABCs of death is an ambitious project: 26 directors around the world agreed to make 26 short films about the brutality and beauty of death, with each letter of the alphabet corresponding to a word, which in turn describes a certain way to die. Entirely fictional (I hope), ABCs has the potential to be one of the most talked about movies at the festival.

2. Seven Psychopaths

In Bruges happens to be one of my favourite movies of recent memory, so much so that I actually went to Bruges simply because of the movie. Seven Psychopaths is the latest offering from Martin McDonagh, the man responsible for the previously mentioned Belgian crime/thriller. Featuring an all-star cast and an outrageous storyline. Seven Psychopaths will hopefully be one of the best movies of the festival.

1. John Dies at the End

Finally my most anticipated genre film of 2012. John Dies at the End is one of the most hilarious, outrageous, and charismatic books that I have ever read. I can only hope that the cinematic translation will be of the same quality. If you like ‘weird’ then you can’t miss this film!

See you at TIFF!

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