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Weekend Movie Preview: ‘Dredd 3D,’ ‘End of Watch,’ ‘Trouble with the Curve’ & More

September 21st, 2012 12:00pm EDT

Dredd 3D Poster The perils of law enforcement is a major theme at the box office this week with the release of “Dredd 3D” and “End of Watch.” Although they are two very different types of movies about cops, both are immensely enjoyable in their own ways. That’s why they’re my picks for this week. Also arriving in theaters are “Trouble with the Curve,” “House at the End of the Street,” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

MY PICK: “Dredd 3D” and “End of Watch”

DREDD 3D

Much of America in the future has become a wasteland. Stretching from Boston to Washington DC is Mega City One, a sprawling violent metropolis. The only keepers of order are urban cops called Judges who have the power to act as judge, jury, and executioner. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), the ultimate Judge, is assigned the difficult tasks of eliminating a drug epidemic and evaluating a rookie (Olivia Thirlby) at the same time. Dredd and his new partner are put to the test when an investigation takes them to a 200-story slum controlled by the kingpin Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her gang of murderous thugs.

Director: Pete Travis (“Endgame,” “Vantage Point”)

Writer: Alex Garland (“Sunshine,” “28 Days Later”)

Based On: Characters created by Carlos Ezquerra and John Wagner

MY TAKE: “Dredd 3D” is everything Sylvester Stallone’s “Judge Dredd” flick should have been and then some. That’s because it takes a more grounded approach to the Judge Dredd character. Since we now live an era where fan opinion is important, Hollywood is more interested in delivering a core followers what they want, than producing mediocre crap that no one likes. And thank god, because I’m certain that’s why Judge Dredd works better now.

“Dredd 3D” is a dark, dystopian tale that’s one part gory action flick, one part social satire, and one part tense thriller. The violence and the satire are very much an amusing throwback to classic films of the late 80s/early 90s such as “The Running Man,” “Robocop,” and “Total Recall.” Like those movies, thankfully “Dredd 3D” doesn’t take itself too seriously. Dredd has some hilarious one-liners, including a well-placed moment for his catchphrase “I am the law.” Karl Urban’s deadpan delivery and brilliant Stallone-like perpetual grimace just add to the fun.

This movie makes bloodshed look oh so sexy, with its slow motion 3D sequences. The filmmakers use a hilarious winking excuse for this extreme time dilation: crooks in the story are addicted to a drug called SLO-MO which makes seconds seem like minutes. While the trick is enjoyable most of the time, it comes up just a bit more often than I would like.

The most unexpected part of “Dredd 3D” is its badass female villain. In a movie world with very few strong female characters, it’s exciting to see filmmakers go with the bold choice of a female baddie. I love that she’s just as ruthless if not more so than many bad guys I’ve seen recently. Having a dastardly kingpin like Ma-Ma as a foil for Dredd makes you root even harder for him.

My Grade: B+

END OF WATCH

Two LAPD beat cops (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) are marked for death after they make a series of busts that disrupt operations for a powerful drug cartel.

Director/Writer: David Ayer (Director of “Street Kings” and writer of “Training Day”)

Notable Supporting Actors: Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, David Harbour, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, Cody Horn

MY TAKE: Intense, gritty, and grotesque. These three words summarize David Ayer’s cop drama “End of Watch.” This gut wrenching flick is like an uncensored version of the show “Cops,” that’s so emotionally charged that it makes Ayer’s own “Training Day” look wimpy.

The reason it’s so affecting is its compelling use of found footage storytelling. Your ride along with Gyllenhaal’s Brian Taylor and Peña’s Mike Zavalas can be funny when they’re joking around and exciting like a first-person shooter during the tactical sequences, but it’s mostly twisted voyeurism. That’s because you witness horrific acts of violence and squalid crime scene conditions that the camera lingers on, almost as if to say “Can you believe how disgusting this is?” For found footage there’s surprisingly high production value, especially in the film’s romanticism for the Los Angeles scenery at night. There are some choppy moments as expected though, mostly when the characters are involved in fisticuffs.

“End of Watch” is a police tale, but Ayer’s movie is very much a character drama. Gyllenhaal and Peña both give truly convincing performances to get you to buy their brotherhood as partners. At points though, Ayer seems to get so distracted building up their relationship, that the angry drug cartel who want to kill them seem like an afterthought.

Ayer’s flick is the ultimate cautionary story about being overconfident. The cops in “End of Watch” play everything fast and loose, with no regard for the consequences of their actions. As the saying goes, “Play with fire, and you’ll get burned.” (Insert other clichés here.)

My Grade: B+

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE

Gus (Clint Eastwood) is an old baseball scout who’s losing his eye sight. His daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) comes to his rescue though, by joining him on a recruiting trip and lending her eyes. However if Gus can’t pull it together and make the right calls, this outing could be his last.

Director: Longtime Eastwood producer Robert Lorenz making his directorial debut

Writer: Newcomer Randy Brown

Notable Supporting Actors: John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Ed Lauter, George Wyner, Matthew Lillard, Robert Patrick, Chelcie Ross

ORIGINALITY RATING: High. The idea of a grown woman getting closer to her father by helping him with his sports job is pretty original. It has great dramatic and comedic potential. This trailer leans extremely hard on the humor and upbeat music, almost to the point where you forget there are supposed to be serious moments too. Clint Eastwood is at his most crotchety, saying ridiculous things in his gravelly voice like “Get out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill you.” There’s even a nice romantic angle between Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake’s characters. And although it’s reassuring to see that they have good chemistry, the trailer gives away too much of the movie. I wish it left more to my imagination. I’ll probably catch this one before the year is out, but I’m not rushing out to see it.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT: Sports buffs who can’t get enough movies about America’s pastime. If like stories that tackle the challenges of aging and show how people can still find meaning in their twilight, then you should see “Trouble with the Curve.”

HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET

A mother (Elizabeth Shue) and a daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) move into the home of their dreams, in a quaint rural town, which is harboring dark secrets. They quickly discover that they live next door to a house where a young girl murdered her parents. And when the daughter tries to befriend the surviving son, she learns that the terror is far from over.

Director: Mark Tonderai (“Hush”)

Writer: David Loucka (“Dream House,” “Boderline”)

Based On: Story by Jonathan Mostow

ORIGINALITY RATING: Low. I’m still incredibly amused by the fact that the Twitter hashtag for this film is #hates. It’s only one letter away from hate, a word people will likely use to describe their feelings about this horror flick. Its title is so generic and forgettable, that I almost accidentally typed “The Last House on the Left” instead of “House at the End of the Street,” while working on this column. Probably the most original thing about this movie is its trailer, which starts immediately with the scares instead of building up to them like most previews. From there you see a series of clips that go backward chronologically in time. If the actual movie employs unexpected tricks like that, it might be worth watching.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT: Horror junkies with a preference for haunted house style flicks. If you appreciate Jennifer Lawrence’s dramatic work and you’re interested to see if she’s versatile enough to handle horror, then you should catch “House at the End of the Street.”

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

An introverted high school freshman (Logan Lerman) is taken under the wings of two seniors (Emma Watson and Ezra Miller) who educate him about the real world.

Director/Writer: Stephen Chbosky (“Rent,” “Jericho”)

Based On: Chbosky’s novel by the same name

Notable Supporting Actors: Dylan McDermott, Tom Savini, Paul Rudd,

ORIGINALITY RATING: Low. I’ve never read the book that inspired this movie, but if it tries as hard as this trailer does to make the film seem inspirational, then I want no part of it. The music is overly upbeat, and the title cards use sappy language like “Charlie never stood out. / Until he found friends that let him in.” Aww, he had a rough time in high school? So did everybody. Join the club. Adding to those annoyances, both of Charlie’s friends seem to talk in obnoxious quirky catchphrases like “Let’s go be psychos together,” and Miller’s character goes over the top with being flamboyant. I can only hope that there’s a deeper story here that’s being overshadowed by puke-worthy, cutesy, intellectual moments chopped together in this trailer to make it suitable for mass consumption.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT: Fans of Stephen Chbosky’s coming-of-age book who are thrilled to see the author in complete creative control. If you’re smitten with Emma Watson or curious to see how she does in her first major role since she wrapped the “Harry Potter” series, then you should check out “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

Related: Dredd, End Of Watch, House at the End of the Street, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Trouble with the Curve, Starpulse Exclusives, Weekend Movie Preview

Photo Credits: © Lions Gate Entertainment, © Sole Productions, LLC, © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved, © Relativity, © Summit Entertainment

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