by Tom Doty
After a token set of releases last week, the new year got underway with some comic book-styled action and a very cool kid’s movie.
“Dredd” — Fans of the futuristic comic series “Judge Dredd” can now throw out the Sylvester Stallone version and feast on this upgrade. Karl Urban takes over as the law officer charged with patrolling a crime-ridden future (Mega City), where crime is so rampant that the criminal justice system now consists of cops who are also expected to try cases and dispense judgment in the field. Dredd is assigned a rookie to supervise, the shapely Judge Anderson, but the pair are soon up to their necks in trouble when they are trapped in a criminal’s mega-plex and hunted by her minions. Great stuff that hits the ground running and doesn’t feel the need to try and soften the characters.
“Frankenweenie” — Tim Burton is back with a remake of his own freshman effort about a boy and his dog. This is one cool movie that blends harsh black-and-white landscapes with animated characters and puppets for an odd look that suits the story. The tale finds young Victor at a loss when his dog Sparky passes on. That is until he decides to use his knowledge of science to restore old Sparky. The only problem is keeping the deed a secret from the narrow-minded locals. What a cast, too, as Burton assembles Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder and Martin Landau.
“Game Change” — HBO produced this hilarious look at the John McCain campaign of 2008. When his handlers realize he is slipping in the polls, they decide to pick the ultimate running mate to bolster his supporters. Unfortunately, they are more interested in pushing voter buttons and underestimate the electorate by going with a certain governor form Alaska. The film focuses on how these guys failed to do their homework when choosing Ms. Sarah Palin for a job that she just wasn’t ready for and their efforts to bring her up to speed and sell the voters on their choice. This all works thanks to inspired direction by Jay Roach (“Austin Powers”). He manages to wring a lot of humor from the story without pratfalls, thanks to a good script and marvelous performances form Julianne Moore, as Palin, and Ed Harris, as McCain.
“Sleep Tight” — Your best bet for the week is this foreign creep fest from the director of “REC.” The story will totally get under your skin and tickle your inner paranoia, as it centers on a complete stranger who decides to wreck someone’s life. It all takes place in an urban apartment building, where a morose doorman decides to teach a lesson to an overly cheerful tenant. His quest soon crosses over into obsession as he goes further and further in his efforts to convince this person that life is out to get them. This one will make you think twice about being nice to strangers .
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