Tuesday, 18 September 2012


This film about Judge Dredd begins with a view of the post-apocalyptic Cursed Earth which lies to the east of Mega City One, the city which Dredd tells us is the city of 800 million people, covers are large proportion of the eastern seaboard of the USA is full of crime and has the Judges who act as police, jury and executioners. This is set in the twenty second century, although we’re not told this in the film.

Anyway the story is concerned with Judge Dredd and the rookie Judge Anderson being trapped in a tower block and having to keep themselves alive whilst a large number of gun toting gang members and drug dealers try and kill them. The two Judges are trapped in the lair of the deliciously named gang leader Ma Ma, the only motherly instinct she shows is being a bad mother from what I can see.

We are treated on occasion to some beautiful shots of people taking the drug, Slo-Mo, which Ma Ma’s gang peddles on the streets of the Big Meg. This does as well include shots of people being shot and killed in a number of imaginative ways. This does leave you with the feeling that drug dealers are thoroughly nasty people who are not altruistic at all.

I was initially annoyed with this film; Dredd began with chasing down a VW camper van on a highway, they're still maiking those in the 22nd Century? That got me thinking that this was not the Mega City One I remembered from the comic 2000 A.D., there were also nothing flying in the air, apart from a Department of Justice drone. There were also none of the bizarre, funny characters that used to appear in Judge Dredd comic strip, like Max Normal, Dredd’s crazed cleaning lady Maria or Walter the Wobot. Curiously there was a mention of a memorial for Fergee which could mean that this is a sequel to the monstrosity that appeared all those years ago.

Anyway, once you get past all that and the fact that Anderson is not a Psi Judge, and also someone that was she now never encased in Boing because of being possessed by Judge Death the film is quite watchable really. Well, there is gore and blood as I’ve mentioned as lots of people are killed in the film. It does make you feel better about the amount of crime in our world today and that we have a largely effective Police Service. One of the major plus points in this film in comparison with the other is that Dredd is unremitting in his quest for justice, doesn’t kiss anyone, keeps his helmet on, and really makes you thankful that he’s not needed here.

To Rome With Love

Woody Allen follows his recent films made in and about London, Barcelona and Paris with his love letter to Rome. We are treated throughout the film to shots of the stunning architecture of the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. We see young men riding scooters through cobbled streets and we see people eating meals at pavement cafés.

We also see though a city that’s full of American tourists and students that share the city with the Romans. They are introduced through a number of vignettes in which we discover what life in the city is like, or what Allen thinks life is like. The film has as well a number of characters that share Allen’s outlook on life, that have a number of neuroses and are quite frankly different versions of the character he’s been developing, at least, since his stand up days.

This is not unique, even to Woody Allen, he’s written this character for a number of other lead actors before, but I don’t recall others playing the part when he’s in the film. There’s the architect going headlong into a ménage a trois, an clerk who no-one finds interesting, a retired operatic impresario (played by Allen himself), and most intriguingly a newly married couple who both seem to be based on him.

As the story, or stories, progresses we are given a piece that is out somewhat like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There is the exploration of fantasy and dreams which adds to the surreal nature of some of what we see in the film. At times Allen explores daydreams about celebrity and success, but also explores what these statuses actually mean. He looks as well at what fantasises we have today, to be a celebrity, to sleep with your girlfriend’s best friend, to sleep with a movie star, to still be useful after retirement.

The surreal element of the film is heightened by the use of time. It’s apparent in the film that one of the stories takes place over one day, while the others seem to take place over a number of weeks, one takes place throughout the whole Summer. The stories though start together and end together, even though there’s that differential. One of the stories as well seems to have taken place in no time, as if it was a daydream in the mind of an ageing architect.

I was on the whole pleasantly surprised by this film. I had expected that with its title the film would be over sentimental, it’s largely anything but. I suspected as well that this would be more evidence of Allen’s waning powers. I think what works though is that he’s not too proud to look ridiculous and that he’s not afraid to let someone else be the star of the show.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


Bears in Hollywood have had a number of different depictions over the years. There’s the straightforwardness of Winnie The Pooh and Yogi Bear. A bear in A.I. Artificial Intelligence was given a persona that allowed him to become friends with the ersatz boy, David. Lotso Huggin' Bear displayed malevolence and a need to control other toys in Toy Story 3. Added to these luminaries and more is Ted.

He came to be one Christmas when young, John Bennett wished for him to be real, as he didn’t have any other friends. Through the years John and Ted became inseparable, Ted also grew up with John to become a foul mouthed, drug taking, hard partying plush toy. He’s really an anti-Woody in that he doesn’t need to be played with in the same way, he has no air of innocence and he certainly isn’t noble. At times Ted comes across like Brian from Family Guy. Albeit less urbane and not as well read, Brian likes to drink cocktails as well, I may be wrong but I’ve never seen him use a bong. They do have a similar taste in women in though.

The conflict in this is that John has a girlfriend who lives with him, and therefore Ted. In a way this makes the film a bit like You Me and Dupree in that the girlfriend has John decide between her and his childhood friend. The film is funnier than You Me and Dupree, but then if you’ve sat through that you’ll understand that everything is relative.

That’s the shame of this film really. I like the bits with Flash Gordon and Tom Skerett, and there are some lovely surreal touches. But when you consider that this is made by Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, American Dad and the Cleveland Show you might expect more from this. You may think that there should be ore to the plot when there’s so much character development. You may just think that the whole think is underwritten. This is another shame when you consider the way MacFarlane can juggle a number of storylines in 24 minutes and take you down a number of blind alleys.

I was left feeling that it was a very odd but distinctive film, due to the appearance of the badly behaved bear. I felt frustrated all the way through, I’m not sure if we’re supposed to believe in this world were whenever some people speak they appear to be lying even though they’re telling the truth. Perhaps though this would be the world where Peter Griffin could have become president. At the end I was unhappily left with the feeling that this film could have been so much better.

The Imposter

This documentary tells the story of the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay from his family's home in San Antonio, Texas in 1994 and his apparent reappearance in Spain in 1997. We know from very early on that this was not Nicholas, that it was someone who took his identity. Nicholas had blonde hair and blue eyes with a fair complexion and was a teenager. His imposter was 23 had dark hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. He spoke English with a non-native accent. For one reason or another he made Nicholas's family believe that he was Nicholas, that their son had been found.

The majority of the film is based on interviews, in the main with the imposter and Nicholas's mother, sister and brother-in-law. With hindsight I got to thinking, how much do we really know about this guy? Also we know he's basically untrustworthy about so many things, he smiles when he talks, is he spinning us another yarn. I can imagine that he knows how to make the best of a bad situation though; he knows how much truth he can get away with telling as well as how many lies.

He pretended to be Nicholas and got himself in very deep, ending up living his family in Texas and living his life. I suppose Bob Dylan did say 'when you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose'. That seemed to be his motivation, not to be himself. He said at the beginning of the film that he wanted to be treated like a child, as if he wanted to start his life again. The essence of his story is not unique; there was an adult who did this in Scotland a few years ago as well, but he didn't deceive a family as far as I know.

When things began to unravel he made some pretty strong allegations about the family. This really calls into question what and how we believe. If someone says 'I was lying before, but I'm telling the truth now' do we believe them? Such is the nature of documentaries that I suppose we need to be thinking, how much of this is the documentary makers emphasis, what are they not showing us? Everything may be true but do we know the entire context, all of the motivations. I must admit that my judgement was slightly coloured at the beginning of the film when the sister didn't seem clear as to where Spain was. Would I then have believed her any less? I did wonder as well as to whether the family would have more annoyed with the imposter for stringing them a line or with themselves for not seeing through him.