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

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+

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+

Slight Changes.

I know a lot of my followers on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter come to this blog for my reviews and I just wanted to let you know that while I am keeping this blog, my new reviews of horror and sci-fi/horror films will be at http://www.horror-movies.ca. The guys over there have been gracious enough to give me a shot writing for them, based on my writing posted here. So thanks for reading my stuff, it’s helped me out a lot. My reviews and discussions of everything else will still be here. Each time I get a horror review published over there I’ll post the link here. Thanks again.

The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse

Being familiar with “The Living Corpse” comic book I was interested in checking this out. I thought an R-rated animated flick based on the comic would be a great addition to the property if done right. Key words being “if done right.” Now, not being an insane fan who knows all the ins and outs of the books I really wasn’t sure how close this was sticking to the source material. I figured I’d enjoy it anyway because I love comic books and have been a zombie fanatic since I was but a young horror geek.

The story starts out like this: During the start of the zombie apocalypse a man named John Romero (cute reference…) is resurrected and while attacking his old neighborhood with the zombie horde he miraculously regains his former personality and stops himself from eating his own son. He runs away to avoid being killed (again) by a S.W.A.T. team that’s storming into the houses. He ends up seeking out information in the underworld while his son is whisked away to a boarding school. Then there’s a mishmosh of ideas and plot points thrown around, but nothing ever really comes together, nothing is explained well, especially a random time jump of 15 years in the middle of the film. There’s boarding school bullies, mad scientists and monkey-demons with worm-y snot tendrils and it’s all very dull and boring. I had a very hard time getting through this movie that’s under 90 minutes and I’ve sat through some real clunkers.

One of my biggest complaints is the animation. It pays homage to the great comic book artwork, which I knew quite well, but being a low-budget computer animated film it far from captures the quality. In fact the whole thing looks like a cut-scene from the days of the original Playstation. It’s very disappointing. On top of that the voice acting is sub-par and matching it up with poor animation just added to this disjointed film. This movie would have been serviced much better by some dark and moody 2-D animation. I really wanted to get into this movie, but I just couldn’t. This movie is like a one of the misfit toys. It doesn’t really belong anywhere. The animation and dialogue isn’t mature enough to captivate adults, but it’s a little too bloody and horror-centric to be good for small kids. Maybe it’ll appeal to some Hot Topic teens.

A decent example that this film could’ve looked to is Mike Mignola’s The Amazing Screw-On Head. While not the greatest piece of Mignola’s work to be adapted, it’s a solid dark and creepy, 2-D animated short film that completely captures his art style and was made on a small budget with good actors voicing the characters.

I recommend skipping this one, unless you are a huge fan of “The Living Corpse” comic. There are much better horror-comic films and zombie movies to spend your time on.

D

Frankenstein’s Army

I should have written this the night I watched it, but I was too busy sending out quick Facebook posts and tweets about it.

About two weeks ago I sat down on a chilly October night to watch my latest rental, Frankenstein’s Army. I had seen a trailer for it on another horror DVD I had rented and rented it solely based on the creatures shown in the trailer. It looked ridiculous and seriously awful and I figured, what the hell? It  would probably have a couple good monster scenes and the rest would be a bland B-movie with no character to it that I’d shut off half-way through and toss back in the mailbox.

So I put on the film and it starts out as a pretty straight-forward WWII flick; which slowly moved along as we get to know the main characters. A small band of Russian troops are heading into east-Germany at the end of the war. Eventually they come across a secret Nazi laboratory in which Viktor Frankenstein, grandson of the in/famous Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Nazi sympathizer, is using his grandfather’s journal as a guide to build an army of grotesque creatures made from body parts of fallen Ally soldiers. This includes some of the Russian soldiers who are killed early in the film, much to the dismay of our surviving heroes.

I was so wrong about it being a crappy movie that’d I’d probably shut off half-way through. This was one hell of a fun horror/sci-fi flick. It goes from war movie into a gloriously bat-shit crazy “grindhouse” style, creature feature gore-fest. Plenty of icky moments for all horror fans to enjoy. Once things get going there are true moments of dread and horror throughout. All of the monsters are a stroke of nightmarish genius. It was great to see a movie that (even with a smaller budget) showed true creativity and ingenuity when it came to the design of each creature. And really, is there anything better than practical and make-up effects? I say nay-nay. They were like something out of Re-Animator, Hellboy and Castle Wolfenstein all smashed together. My comparison just brought me to my next point: Aside from the monsters, mad scientist Viktor is one of the true standouts in the movie. He’s played pitch-perfectly by Karl Roden, who is probably best known to U.S. audiences as Rasputin in the original Hellboy movie. He is truly insane in the role. He ignores the warnings of his ancestors and believes that the work he is doing is for the greater good of humanity. He sides with the Nazis for the same reason.

All in all this is a solid B movie. Lots of fun, but don’t expect any acting awards to be handed out. At a quick 84 minutes, there is thankfully very little time for anyone to get bored with this movie. A lot of fun for fans of the genre and I highly recommend it. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Enjoy it horror fans!

Ash and the Army of Darkness

Dynamite Comics is doing a serious overhaul of their leading series Army of Darkness. As most of you know AOD is based on the third film in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. Over the years Dynamite has had some serious success with the title, thrusting Ash and his trusty chainsaw through various dimensions, time periods, crossovers with horror movie royalty (Herbert West: Re-Animator, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees) and even teaming him up with a new female hero. It’s been a mighty fun series, but they felt it was time to take it back to basics. As far as I can tell this new series will not negate the events of the previous series, but we are going back to the beginning…of the end.

Picking up EXACTLY where the film Army of Darkness ends, issue #1 opens with the final battle in S Mart…Gimme some sugar. We learn why that deadite shows up at the store after Ash returns from the Dark Ages. Of course everything goes to Hell and Ash is reluctantly thrown back into action.

Written by the great Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) with awesome, franchise-worthy art by Dennis Calero Ash and the Army of Darkness #1 was a really good starting off point. As a huge fan of the franchise, Niles’ writing is fun and absolutely evokes Raimi’s along with the style we’ve grown used to through previous comics and Evil Dead video games. I hoped for a little bit more in terms of storytelling, but it was still fun nonetheless and really if it has Ashley J. Williams, chainsaws, boomsticks and deadites I’m gonna be happy. As of now the series is set up as a 12 issue arc. We’ll see if they stick with this title or go back to their original series, either way Evil Dead/Army of Darkness fans have plenty to be happy about.

Hail to the King, baby!

B+