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DREDD: UNDERBELLY

If you’re like me and you absolutely loved last year’s “Judge Dredd” adaptation Dredd a.k.a. Ddredd_underbelly_a_p_1redd 3D then you too have been waiting, probably not patiently, but waiting none-the-less for a sequel announcement. So far the closest we’ve gotten is the official petition to get another film made and this, “Dredd: Underbelly.” A one-shot comic book published by 2000 A.D. magazine: the original publisher of the “Judge Dredd” comics. If you have been reading IDW Publishing’s new series (which is actually pretty great) this is not tied to that either, it’s strictly a sequel to the film; existing outside of both the 2000 A.D. and IDW continuity.

The quality of this comic book is really quite great. Some serious love went into this. Knowing that “Judge Dredd” creator John Wagner was quite pleased with Dredd it’s easy to see that 2000 A.D. wanted to do right by him as well as the film makers. The writing by Arthur Wyatt and artwork by Henry Flint fit very well into the world of Dredd. I thought it was a little weird that Flint didn’t really go with Karl Urban’s likeness for Dredd, he looked a bit more like the traditional drawings of Judge Dredd, but that’s just me nitpicking. The art is really great overall and like I said really fits in perfectly with the film’s environments. Normally I don’t go into the technical production of a comic, but I was really impressed by the pages and cover. All are printed on heavy-duty magazine paper, a quality that’s even greater than most mainstream comic books, but being that it’s just a one-shot, I’m sure 2000 A.D. put a little extra into it. Good job all around.

Picking up only a few weeks after the film’s events the plot follows Judges Dredd and Anderson as they must team up again to solve a mystery and murders involving a new drug “Psych” that’s been filling the void left by “Slo-Mo” and the deceased druglord/gang leader Ma-Ma. This crosses over with missing/dead “Muties”, the mutated people that are unfortunate enough to live in “The Cursed Earth”, the irradiated wasteland that once was the United States outside of the massive Mega-Cities. Many Muties that have been trying to smuggle themselves into Mega City One are vanishing. Normally these transports are searched by Judges and the Muties are sent packing, but once in a while a Judge will be paid off and allow the illegal immigrants into the city’s walls.

While I really enjoyed reading this and it made me yearn not only for a film sequel, but to watch the first film again, the story was a bit weak by the time it came to a close. And if you know “Judge Dredd” there are many issues that were very light and very quick little crime stories, but being that this issue was put out to kind of get the masses excited for another film, I expected a bit more from the plot. It was a quick, consolidated story, but could have gone a little deeper into details. Still a decent read. In the end, if another film or films is made this is a good bridge between parts 1 and 2.

I am happy to report that the first printing of “Dredd: Underbelly” actually sold out in 48 hours, meaning that every single copy that was printed was bought up by comic shops around the world. A second printing is already in the works. I am hoping that between the stellar sales of the book and the unbelievable numbers that the sales from the bluray and dvd brought in, along with the high rental/streaming rates from Netflix will allow for a film sequel to get made. Unfortunately, while the film was reviewed quite well across the board, it was a total bomb at the box office. Probably due to the bad taste left in everyone’s mouth from Stallone’s 90′s flop Judge Dredd.

“Dredd: Underbelly” is available wherever comic books are sold and if you want to get in on the sequel petition you can go here: http://2000adonline.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=a6e40236aa24d482cfff600d2&id=62906ebdcc and don’t forget to like the “Make A Dredd Sequel” Facebook page. It really looks like the petition is helping to get the ball rolling.

B

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BAD BLOOD

On the look out for a new horror comic, but don’t want to get sucked into a life-long commitment? Here’s a new five issue vampire mini-series from Dark Horse Comics that’s worth a look.

The center of this story is Trick.  He’s a pretty normal high school student: He’s got a life-long best friend, a football career and plenty of stress. More-so than most. One night after school he’s attacked by a vampire. Immediately after biting him, the vampire is disgusted by Trick’s blood, poisoned by it. This kicks off a war between vampires (who have been in hiding a long time) and humans. Armed with the knowledge that his blood is toxic to vampires Trick decides to take it upon himself to become a vampire slayer of sorts.

I really enjoyed Jonathon Maberry’s writing. It was quick and clever and just well done overall. Tyler Crook’s artwork isn’t really my cup of tea, but by the end of issue one it started to grow on me. Nothing against Mr. Crook’s work, I respect all artwork (especially that of an Eisner Award winner), but it just isn’t my favorite style; especially for a horror book. I tend to be picky though. I really like these characters. A lot. For me to really take to characters immediately in a comic is rare and that is a testament to Maberry’s writing. The horror is done well, in both supernatural and real world terms. I was impressed with the plot as a whole. It had both great character details and plot twists that I had not considered before actually sitting down to read it.

I love finding great limited run comic books and I think “Bad Blood” is going to be added to my list. Definitely looking forward to how it all plays out.

B+

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47 Ronin

While I was intrigued by the trailer for 47 Ronin, I felt like it had the very real potential to end up being a giant fantasy action turd like Immortals or something like that. I was going to hold off on seeing it until it hit bluray, but after seeing a lot of really positive fan reviews I decided it would be a fun time…and I was correct in assuming this.

Keanu Reeves stars as Kai, a half-Japanese, half-British outcast who was abandoned as a baby and reluctantly raised until he was a teenager by a mysterious group of warriors deep in the Tengu forest. One day after abandoning this secret cult he is discovered by a Japanese lord, Asano, his family and his legion of samurai. They take him in, continue to raise him and allow him to live in their land, Ako. While they take care of him and clearly care for him, being that he is a “half-breed”, he is never seen as an equal. Though trained like one and living among them, he can never be a true samurai. The only person that treats him as a true equal is the lord’s daughter, Mika (played by Ko Shibasaki); though it’s clear that she loves him as more than just an adopted brother.

After years of peaceful living, the Shogun, the man who rules all of Japan comes to Ako with another lord, Kira, to meet with Asano. During this time a witch puts into motion a plan that will rip apart the Japanese territories and bring dishonor to Asano and his samurai. Mika is forced to marry Kira, Kai is sold into slavery at a Dutch colony and Asano’s samurai are dishonored and banished from Ako forever and are called ronin, samurai who have no master or honor. This starts a quest for revenge, led by Asano’s head samurai Ôishi, against those who have wronged them and to regain their honor. Ôishi is played by the great Hiroyuki Sanada. He was seen last year as the villainous Shingen in The Wolverine. It was great seeing him as a famed hero, rather than being typecast as a baddie. He’s great in this role and brings out a stoic, yet intense performance that still allows for his true feelings to come through.

The thing about this movie is that despite the trailers making it out to be a mile-a-minute ridiculous action-fantasy movie; it’s actually a realistic look at Japan in 1701 with magical and supernatural elements sprinkled throughout. It’s this detail that makes the movie so much better than expected. Rather than throwing CGI creatures and ridiculous fight scenes at us in every frame, we’re given plenty of room to breathe and take in some truly gorgeous cinematography. (Don’t worry there are plenty of creatures and ridiculous fight scenes.) There are scenes of Japan’s countryside and mountainous regions that are simply breathtaking and reminded me of Peter Jackson’s use of the New Zealand wilderness used for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

One of the best sequences in the film shows Ôishi searching for Kai in the Dutch island colony. While stuffed with digital pirate ships and scenery, there a lot of excellent set pieces and practical effects used. The blending of the two works so well in bringing together the grounded and fantastical realities. Kai fights a giant in death match that’s a blend of Pirates of the Caribbean and Escape From New York. Trust me, that makes sense when you see it. It’s a kick-ass swash-buckling scene and brings another dimension to a great story. The film as a whole is, without a doubt, a feast for the eyes.

Directed by newbie Carl Rinsch, who has previously only directed shorts, but he definitely has an eye for it. (He was originally hand-picked by Ridley Scott to direct the Alien prequel before it was changed into Prometheus.) I’m definitely excited to see what he signs on to do next. Now look, this isn’t gonna win any Oscars, for the most part the acting isn’t all that great, aside from a few decent performances here and there. Keanu is, well, Keanu. And it’s not like it’s something you’ve never seen before, but it is a hell of a fun movie and does the real story of the forty seven ronin justice while adding some of that supernatural flare to make a great movie. It hasn’t been a hit with the critics, but it’s pleasing fans, like this one, and that’s what matters  For a fun time at the movies or a good rental for a movie night at home; I recommend 47 Ronin.

B+