DVD reviews plus Wedding Band giveaway

FREEBIE

Roadshow Entertainment and the Newcastle Herald are giving away five copies of Wedding Band – the American TV series about all things wild and weddings.

To enter, send the keyword WEDDING, your name, address and daytime number via SMS to 0427842179, email livefreebies@theherald.com.au or fill out the coupon in today's paper. Winners announced on this page next week. 

You can see Jim Kellar's review of Wedding Band by scrolling down.

WINNERS

THE winners of Last Night of the Proms were H.Ryan, of Holmesville; E.Hall, of Aberdeen; S.Deakin, of New Lambton; R.Watson, of Speers Point; and K.Apthorpe, of Abermain.

REVIEWS

DREDD (MA) 

Lionsgate, 95minutes

THE latest addition to the Judge Dredd franchise leaves Sylvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd for dead. 

Granted, that’s not difficult to do.

Set in a post-nuclear desert wasteland, where survivors in gated cities live in dizzyingly high tower blocks, Pete Travis’s version of Dredd is gritty and violent (unsurprising, given that it is based on a popular video game where the quest is to kill anyone trying to kill you).

Dredd, played by Karl Urban, is a law enforcer in Mega City One. He is described in the film as ‘‘judge, jury and executioner’’. We discover why quite quickly. Dredd is big on monotone, small on personality, and we never see his face, due to it being covered by a mask from the nose up. His appearance, demeanour, robotic movements and monotone voice reminded me of Robocop and his infrequent one-liners evoked memories of Arnie in his Terminator days. Or Predator. Or Commando. You get my drift. 

In true cop action-flick form, Dredd is given a rookie partner (Olivia Thirlby) to ‘‘break in’’, who happens to be young, cute and blonde. She also has psychic powers, which we can only presume is a side effect of nuclear exposure. The pair are called to a 200-storey tower block in response to reports of skinned men falling from the sky. 

The slum tower is at the mercy of scar-faced ex-prostitute Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who is also a particularly sadistic drug lord. Her drug of choice? Slo-Mo which, as its name suggests, slows down the senses. There are many slow-motion scenes in this film. Too many. I found my senses slowing down and easing into a sleep pattern in response.

In a nutshell, Dredd and the rookie capture Ma-Ma’s right-hand man and, in turn, are locked inside the tower block by an angry Ma-Ma who wants them dead. 

Dredd succeeds in conveying the depravity, desperation, violence and lack of humanity prevalent in the new world. It’s almost tangible. Where it fails – as many games to film before it – is in the storyline. There’s only so many times you can watch people get shot, especially if it’s in slow motion. And we are not left with a sense of hope in the end – it’s a case of every man, woman or child for themselves. Rating: Two and a half stars 

– Lisa Rockman

RUBY SPARKS (M)

Fox Searchlight Productions, 104minutes

RUBY Sparks is a tale of fiction, fantasy, desire and typing. It’s a witty, appealing romantic comedy with a surprising edge, a cleverly written and deftly acted exploration of what happens when dreams appear to become reality, and the emotional stakes are raised.

It is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who had a break-out hit with Little Miss Sunshine. They are reunited here with Paul Dano (the taciturn Dwayne from Little Miss Sunshine), directing a script by Zoe Kazan, who also plays the title character.

Dano is Calvin Weir-Fields, a quiet, reclusive young man who made a major splash with his first novel and is now struggling with writer’s block. Holed up in his streamlined house in the hills, he starts to dream about a young woman.

His psychiatrist, Dr Rosenthal (Elliott Gould), suggests that he write about her. Somehow, in writing about her, Calvin also seems to have conjured her up in the flesh – Ruby Sparks is in his kitchen, making breakfast. The nature of creativity and desire,  the relationship between creator and created –  it provides an intriguing way to explore the nature of male fantasy.

Dano is plausibly uncomfortable, a young fogey who struggles with the notion of success, who is diffident, anxious and self-conscious. As the story starts getting a little darker, he finds a way to keep his character both comic and sympathetic.

There is a strong supporting cast, from Steve Coogan as a caddish fellow author to Annette Bening, playing a mother unnervingly hippy for the uptight Calvin.

Chris Messina is Calvin’s more archetypal blokey brother, who reacts to the possibilities of fantasy in a rather different way.

And in the deceptively challenging role of Ruby – a literal dream girl who must take on an increasingly solid sense of authenticity – Kazan (granddaughter of Elia, daughter of director Nicholas and screenwriter Robin Swicord) is a beguiling mixture of possibility and presence. 

Rating: Three and a half stars 

– Philippa Hawker

WEDDING BAND (M)

Roadshow, 3 discs, 401minutes

BIG weddings are more popular than ever, so why not make a comedy series that ties together the most common elements?

In the case of Wedding Band, the storytelling vehicle is a musical band of four guys who earn their beer money playing big weddings 

in the Seattle area.

There’s a little bit of every wedding movie here – some of The Hangover, a taste of Bachelorette, some of The Wedding Singer and a touch of Bridesmaids. As so many shows these days reflect, bad taste and lascivious acts are not out of bounds.

The four guys in the band are the key to making this show work. Brian Austin Green is the crazy bachelor in the group (and you will recognise him from Beverly Hills 90210). Peter Cambor is the good guy, the married one with responsibilities who just loves to escape to his youth via the band. Derek Miller is the Jack Black lookalike who’s a technical wizard that struggles with social graces. And Harold Perrineau is the smooth muso who’s got it all happening, including a career in the music industry. 

Sure, it’s a little contrived and a bit over the top. But this is comedy and your brain doesn’t have to work too hard to enjoy it.

Rating: Three stars 

– Jim Kellar

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