Film Review: Dredd – Directed by Pete Travis

Pete Travis brings us a storm to DVD this year with his 2012 hit, Dredd. Travis brings us a graphically modernised view of the 1995 film by Danny Cannon complete with guns blazing and a brand new suit. This is, by anyone’s standards, an action film through and through.

The film is set in a futuristic world where judges (kick-ass people on blocky motorbikes) are sent to seek out criminals and give them their sentence. We focus on two such judges in particular: Judge Dredd and Anderson. Anderson has to prove she’s worthy of full Judge-ship by understudying Judge Dredd on a job. She gets to pick and unknowingly chooses the worst option imaginable. They end up trapped, inside a gang-block owned by psycho Ma-Ma who loves to kill people in inventive ways. For such a basic story, the film carries it through quite well. There’s true tension running through its veins as Dredd and Anderson hurry through the many intertwining corridors to escape the goons chasing them. This then leads to where things step up a notch and we see some proper action as Ma-Ma herself gets involved in annihilation.

Style-wise this film is beautiful. From the sleek black uniform of Judge Dredd, to the city shots and the slow-motion action sequences, everything looks great. The slow-motion is used very well, making the action picturesque and deadly. One scene where Ma-Ma is in the bath is shown this way and the movements of the water is intensified as beautifully as the blood splatter when some unlucky thugs are thrown down the centre of the tower block. The falling scene is particularly effective, in terms of visual effect, as you see from the eyes of the character for a few seconds and you feel like you’re actually falling. You can sense that some of the shots, such as this one, were included for 3D bonuses, but they’re integrated so well into the film style that it doesn’t bother you when watching on DVD.

Overall, Dredd was a good action film. The visuals were pristine, the slow motion well used and, while having a basic plot, worked quite well. The main antagonist could have been harder to kill to make her more intimidating, but as a character she was interesting. But this is definitely an impressive show.

Rating: 7/10

Fiction Review: The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

The Bellwether Revivals is the first book of young author Benjamin Wood. It was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award in 2012 and sold in several countries including the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. The book tells an interesting story of Oscar Lowe and his experiences with the Bellwether family. Following a flighty romance with Iris Bellwether, Oscar finds himself pulled into a Cambridge University social group and society of wealth. He meets a trove full of interesting characters including Eden, whose relationship with his sister is shrouded in mystery. Oscar finds himself in a whole new world, compelled into discovering the secrets surrounding the Bellwether family.  Benjamin wood works characters well and his novel is fuelled by it. You grow to understand Oscar and make his journey with him. The relationships between Oscar and other characters are well constructed and expressed, including his relationship with patient Abraham Paulson that is both intimate and touching.

The story is fairly slowly paced and the character interactions, while detailed, can slow down the piece. It feels through a large part of the book that more needs to be happening. We’d get to know Oscar even more if there were more scenes that were less ‘day-to-day’. However, the scenes we are given are devoted to the build-up of other characters, which is worth it in the long haul. The character Eden Bellwether is extremely interesting and becomes almost the focus of the novel. We learn a lot of background information about both him and his sister Iris, which help to strengthen the plot, while the topic of psychology and psychological disorders is beautifully weaved in. The last half of the book, with the introduction of Dr Crest, is by far the best: where the plot truly gets to work.

The only thing that let the book down was the climax. While the idea was good, the main characters got involved in the scene way too late. By that time the action was already over. It was like you’d gone for a toilet break in an action movie, missed the boss battle but caught the after-effects. The character reactions were effective generally but you couldn’t help but feel something had been missed. However, overall the novel was a good read and I’m looking forward to his next book, which is due to be published by Simon and Schuster publishers in 2014.

For more information on the author, Benjamin Wood, check out his website at: http://www.benjamin-wood.com/

Rating: 5/10

TV Review: Dr Who (The Snowmen) – Aired BBC1 Tuesday the 25th December

With an endless quest to wrap complex storylines into an hour, the new series of Dr Who presented us another of its’ Christmas episodes. This episode was no exception. While entertaining, the whole thing was rushed. It could have been a captivating two parter… or a series of episodes that showed more detail with a sense of mystery and better character depth. Instead we were served an oddly paced episode where the best part was a ‘revelation’ at the end. The doctor seemed to take one look at the new girl in town and fell head over heels in an instant. Is he too cool to say ‘hi’ anymore?

However quickly introduced, Oswald was a charming as ever. The end of the episode sets up her continuation in the series and it looks as if they’re going to play it quite well. However, it could go either way. It seems the plot is building up so much as the series progress that the writers are drowning in it. It’s what’s makes the doctor seem so bewildered and indecisive: one series he’s upset and not letting people travel with him, next series he’s letting people, now he’s not again but suddenly he is? Or is he? Who Knows?

The other elements of the episode were ok. The monster wasn’t scary, but the monsters snowy ‘henchmen’ looked pretty cool. The other characters were annoying and unnecessary, but I guess the Sontaran was alright for the humour. But… where was the message? Where was the Christmas spirit? It’s almost like the writers were so pressured with trying to make this a turning point for the series that they forgot that this was a Christmas episode. They should stop this new ‘let’s make less episodes’ strategy and just get back to writing good quality episodes.

4/10