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Day 1 of Harry's Fantastic Fest 2012 Edition: FRANKENWEENIE & DREDD 3D!!!

Hey folks, Harry here...  So Day 1 of Fantastic Fest 2012 was, for me, a fairly mainstream affair...  if by mainstream you're talking about a Black & White feature length stop motion animated feature and an unrelentingly triumphant badass bit of Independent British Sci-Fi Comic 2000 AD wow...   But yes, today was all about FRANKENWEENIE and DREDD 3D for me.

I actually saw the films on Wednesday, because I had to do interviews with Tim Burton and Karl Urban for my AINT IT COOL WITH (me) show...  (look for that in about 3 episodes.)   I wasn't happy about that, because I already had tickets in place to see the films on Thursday's debut day of FANTASTIC FEST - and I would always prefer to see these kinds of movies with fans, rather than a room of critics.   Critics seem to watch films with a distance between themselves and the emphatic bond that movie fans have with movies.   Give me Fan screenings all day long.   People that get high off of just being in a theater with like-minded movie obsessives.   It really doesn't get better - and that's the crowd for Fantastic Fest.

As much as I loved FRANKENWEENIE and DREDD 3D on Wednesday, today's screenings...  well, they're THE screenings for me.   

The interviews with Burton and Urban went great, both were absolutely game for the hijinks that "The Magic Basement" tends to bring out - but after seeing the two films the day before...  I was high as a kite on DREDD 3D.   FRANKENWEENIE was wonderful, but that first time I saw it, I was running on 4 days in a row of 3 hours of sleep a night.  I didn't fall asleep during the movie on that premiere showing, but my energy was low.

Today, kicking off the Fest at 6pm...  with Tim League in a Tuxedo...  Oh - I was totally in my Ginger Frankenstein makeup with a bolt going through my neck...   Yoko had her hair up with a Bride of Frankenstein streak in it...  and the Drafthouse had a ton of doggies that were having their own special screening of FRANKENWEENIE.   It was a cartoonish affair, but just knowing we were seeing the film with Tim Burton, Winona Ryder and Martin Landau...   well that was just a deterrent to global warming it was so fucking cool.   

If you've been reading AICN for the 16 years I've been writing here, you are well aware of my fetish for Stop Motion animated films and effects.   It is, frankly, my favorite film process.  Watching a feature length black & white 3D film made entirely through stop-motion...  well...  so happy.   I still love PARANORMAN most out of this year's stop-motion features... but Martin Landau's Science teacher - His science teacher is just stunning - and if you loved Landau's "PULL THE STRINGS" monologue...  his speech to the city's citizens...  well it might be my favorite monologue ever by Landau.  There's something so glorious to his Science Teacher - I don't know about y'all... but in the past decade and a half, there's been a bizarre political war against the very notion of science and education in this country - and it is Landau's teacher that kind of gives the same level of wow that Peter Finch's Howard Beale gave us, when he was finally mad as hell and wasn't gonna take it any more.   There's something amazing about seeing a 12" toy passionately assault the dimwitted denyers of the scientific method and logic.   

As society begins to darken the lanterns of learning with mythology, I worry about our world ever living up to the potential that we as a species have.   

NOT THAT THAT IS THE MESSAGE of Frankenweenie, but it is the part of the film that I most strongly react to.   The real story of Frankenweenie is a tale that Tim Burton has cobbled together from a life of experiences and observations about how children interact, the batshit awesome teachers that made us the people we are...   and of course the wild science and artistry of burgeoning would-be Mad Scientists that we all were as kids.  At least if you were a geek, that is.

The animation and 3D were beautiful, but I'd be wary of reading too many reviews, mainly due to the amount of gags that you shouldn't have spoiled for you.   

In the Q&A afterwards, the highlight for me was his response to being asked about whether or not he admired or had met Vincent Price...   Apparenly Vincent Price hung out a bit on the set of SPACE: 1999...  and Landau absolutely regretted never having the opportunity to work with Price in any way, but talked quite fondly about him.   Then, suddenly...  Landau started talking about Lugosi & Karloff...  Now, we all know Landau can do a killer Lugosi...  BUT HOLY SHIT, his Karloff story...  his voice...  Tears poured out of me as that wonderful hug of a voice that Karloff had came out of Landau.   For me, watching that...  it was such a gift.   I love it when folks that met people store a bit of that person's soul.  An artist as talented as Landau giving that bit of his life to us tonight, it meant the world to me and is the experience of Fantastic Fest that most likely will be my highlight of the year.

After that, Yoko, Father Geek and I returned to the very same screen to watch DREDD 3D, which was hosted by Mondo's Mad Genius Justin...   and in attendence was Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and screenwriter/producer Alex Garland.  Now the key reason I've been dying to see DREDD 3D was Alex Garland's involvement.   Just the idea that the screenwriter behind 28 DAYS LATER... and NEVER LET ME GO had penned a JUDGE DREDD movie...   Then, had a small enough budget that they could actually make exactly the film that should reintroduce Dredd to American audience with the propulsive power of a rail gun.   This flick...   OK - when I saw the film on Wednesday, it was at a tiny screen at a non-Alamo Drafthouse.   The projection was a bit shit.   The proximity to the screen and sound that just wasn't wow-worthy...  but I came out of the theater beaming about the film.

When my parents divorced, Dad would send me Geek Care Packages...  They'd be filled with modern comics, computer programs for games that I could program into my tape drive on my SuperPET, Hollywood Makeup supplies and in and amongst these kid treasures would be new issues of 2000AD and I ate it up.  There was really nothing like it.   When Stallone announced he was doing it, I was excited.   In fact the Blu Ray is out - and man, that film scrapes the sewer for the sheer enormity of fecal matter that the film reeks of.    People like to blame Deuce Bigelow for the suckage, but that film sucked on the page.  The script and the decisions tonally on that film just plain blew.   It came at the wrong point in Stallone's career - we was sliding into self-parody and we suffered loyally through it, and sure enough, Stallone came back swinging.

That said.  Karl Urban's Judge Dredd...  well, it is exactly what the doctor ordered.   And Olivia Thirlby as Judge Anderson on her rookie test run as a Judge...  well, when I realized they were doing a rookie story on Judge Anderson, I was concerned.   It is an incredibly delicate balancing act to create a real great female action character that still feels feminine - and isn't a damsel in distress or such an incompetent that if she does turn it around, it just feels disingenuine.  Nope.  Alex Garland gets Judge Anderson, and Olivia plays her perfect.   I don't get the feeling that she's scared of anything, but her own capacity to make the difference that she knows she's capable of.   But when the butterflies fly away and she makes a turn in her character...  to the exact awesome FUCKING A - Anderson...   Well, I kinda wanted to squeal with joy.   Judge Anderson is one of my all time favorite female comic characters and Olivia nailed her.   Garland gives us a perfect introduction to her - and guaranteed, by the end of the film you're gonna just love the hell out of her.   She rules.

Another level of badassery in DREDD 3D was the cinematography and the visual effects.   I'm gonna lay a lion's share of that awesome cleanly upon the head of Anthony Dod Mantle, the DP on films like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 28 DAYS LATER, ANTICHRIST, MANDERLAY, 127 HOURS and now his first foray into 3D...  DREDD 3D.  The eye candy you have waiting for you is exquisite.   The violence captured in a manner unlike anything we've seen.   Genuinely shocking stuff.   This is a film that when they decided - ok, let's do this 3D - they embraced it - and then developed things that are just jaw-dropping in 3D.   This is HARD R - and god bless them for it.

Now, I know - I haven't mentioned Karl Urban, but really...  It's ok, he just managed to out-Dredd the hell out of Stallone.   Karl's DREDD is a  Clint Eastwood raspy badass...   Urban said the voice came from a description of Dredd's voice in the comics that described it perfectly...   I can't quite remember the exact line, so I won't butcher it...  but it is a good ol Bourboun & Honey voice.   A voice that feels like a fist exploding your nose.   

Watching the film for a second time today, as it began to wrap up I found myself upset.   I want to watch this film on repeat.   I just would like to just watch this film for the next couple of weeks.   It's so exactly what I was hoping this would be - a smart dead-to-rights initial Judge Dredd outting - and if you folks make this film a wild and unexpected super success...   We'll get the Scorched Earth roadtrip to Mega City 2....   and if that's successful, Judge Death & crew are coming to close out the trilogy.   With Garland writing, with Urban and Thirlby aboard as Dredd & Anderson...  I'm a believer.   

And Yoko, who had zero knowledge of Dredd as a comic or as a Stallone film, flipped out for this.   This is the sort of awesome that you only ever got out of 2000 AD - it isn't a huge film, but this is that perfect story that introduces you to enough of the world of Judge Dredd, the concept of the Hall of Justice, the characters of Dredd & Anderson - and at the end...  all I want is more.   Now.

Tomorrow I'm finally getting to see Massawyrm's SINISTER - so I'm told I should shit before the movie, because it will scare the shit out of me, according to Massa.   Moriarty liked the film, so I'm confident it must be amazing.

The best part of FANTASTIC FEST though - beyond the movies - it's just the attendees.   The folks that travel from the distant latitudes and longitudes...   that speak English barely...   The conversations and the general since of cinematic brotherhood...  well, as Tim League's partner on this festival - I realize - we've done it just right.   Ok, I've got to get the Frankenstein off my face and hit the sack...  More tomorrow!

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 21, 2012, 3:12 a.m. CST

    first is so lame :-)

    by billyhitchcock1

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 3:39 a.m. CST

    by justmyluck

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 3:42 a.m. CST

    *Karloff? That limey cocksucker can rot in hell for all I care!*

    by justmyluck

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 4:04 a.m. CST

    wow, may actually see dredd now! thanks harry.

    by billyhitchcock1

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 4:05 a.m. CST

    It's called Dredd.

    by Yer_Maw

    Marketed with the 3D thing, sure, but the actual film is called Dredd. Just saying. unless it's actually been retitled for the US, which I doubt.

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 4:08 a.m. CST

    I agree with everything else ...

    by Yer_Maw

    ... Harry says about the movie though!

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 4:53 a.m. CST

    Alert the media! Harry was NOT profoundly disappointed!

    by Mr. Pricklepants

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 5:20 a.m. CST

    Speaking as a Brit

    by FieldmanNo.1

    I am very pleased that Harry likes Dredd. It's like when an American tourist comes over to London and reminds the locals how lucky they are to be living in such an interesting, beautiful city. This needs to be the R (or 18) comic-book franchise that Blade once was.

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 5:51 a.m. CST



    Judge Dredd is so much cooler than BLADE if they continue to grow the franchise. A progressive franchise. DREDD is intensely cool!

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 6:34 a.m. CST

    Karl's DREDD is a Clint Eastwood raspy badass...

    by RocketFuckingMan

    Stick that on the poster. Dredd does indeed rule too,better than DKR I thought.Glad ya liked it Harry. (Sounds like a saw cutting through bone) his voice :)

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 7:23 a.m. CST

    Agreed headgeek: Imagine the possibilities

    by FieldmanNo.1

    The Cursed Earth? Chopper surfing the skies? Maybe even Dredd heading to Space to seek the 'Judge Child'? I need a rest now. Too much thrill-power.

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 7:30 a.m. CST

    Cursed Earth, Harry

    by chuffsterUK

    Not"Scorched Earth".

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 8:12 a.m. CST

    The comics...

    by ClancyWiggum

    I actually remember reading the story arc with the road trip to Mega City 2. I remember that being awesome. Also: Was there a dinosaur at some point in the comics? I seem to remember a cloned T-Rex called Satan, but I'm not entirely sure that was Dredd. I HAS been almost 20 years. The Judge Death stuff is so weird and out there, I have a bit of a hard time seeing that working in a movie. Then again, there is a story structured much like the one in this movie where Death locks himself in a building, resurrects the Dark Jadges and starts "sentencing" the inhabitants. Anderson helps Dredd get in and then he deals with the situation. -"Gaze into the fist of Dredd!" I had a big old smile on my face writing that. So badass.

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 8:40 a.m. CST

    The Cursed earth

    by kw

    @Clancy, you are thinging of the Cursed Earth story line, where Dredd goes to MC2 with the antidoe to the 2t(fru)T virus. Great story as you get to see the Killdozer and I belive it has never been reprinted in full owing to copyright issues with Macdonalds and Burger king. Trex is Satanu, though I always got that mixed up with old one eye from the flesh seris.

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 8:42 a.m. CST


    by kw

    proof reading is such a usefull skill

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 9:07 a.m. CST


    by ClancyWiggum

    Yup, that's it. Makes me want to find my old comic books, I actually think I might have them lying around somewhere at home. Also, I wrote "jadges", so I'm no stranger to misspellings. :)

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 10:24 a.m. CST

    Better dead than Dredd!

    by Judge Anderson's kinky boots

    Glad you liked Dredd Harry! Easily one of my favourite films of the year so far, if not the favourite. And high in my top five comic book movie adaptations of all time. Dredd is simply that good! Now go watch it or suffer bland, anemic comic book movies for the rest of time!

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 1:36 p.m. CST

    I truly hope that Dredd is a success.

    by Stegman84

    They've done the character right, and the potential to eventually turn this into the violent, satirical sci-fi equivalent of the Bond franchise is huge, if audiences support it. The Cursed Earth, Luna 1, The Day The Law Died (Judge Cal), The Judge Child, Block Mania/The Apocalypse War, City of the Damned, and of course Judge Death, just for starters, there's just so much great material there ripe for cinematic pickings. And that's just from the first few years of the comic... Dredd is one of those characters that might take a film or two to truly build up to franchise potential amongst the masses, but once they get their feet wet, just so long as the films maintain the quality, the sky is the limit. Please support the film folks and go see it, not only because of the franchise potential of the film, but just to show that if film-makers respect the material then audiences will reward them for it.

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 3:03 p.m. CST

    Dredd is not going to be a success

    by jack

    Maybe in home cinema but not in its theatrical run.

  • Sept. 21, 2012, 6:52 p.m. CST

    Watching the Stallone turkey

    by UltraMeerkat

    The production design (excluding the Judge uniforms) is amazing, especially the ABC robot and Mean Angel. Rob Scheidner? I've had gall bladder infections that were funnier. If you transplanted the screen play, actors and costume design from Dredd 3d into the Stallone shitpile, you'd have a near perfect movie.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 11:55 a.m. CST

    Our theater never got "Dredd." Those fucks.

    by Chris

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 2:19 a.m. CST

    I liked Dredd

    by Keith

    **MINOR SPOILER** The only bit I didn't understand is when the perp they've been dragging around grabs Anderson's gun and takes her hostage. My first reaction to that was, "Wait, but those judges' guns..." Later on, what I thought might happen is exactly what DOES happen. And Anderson and Dredd must have known it too. So why did they both allow the perp to get the upper hand in that situation? As an adjunct, Ma-Ma wants Dredd and Anderson to look like they've died in a crossfire with the criminals in the building. So why then try to shoot Anderson with her own gun when there are hundreds of others of regular guns available? ANYHOW, it was all good fun. It made me think of Singer's first X-Men: done on a tight budget, but good enough (one hopes) to warrant a sequel and widen the scope. (As it happens, I thought the final act of X-2 was botched and I much prefer the original movie, but I seem to be in a minority there.) I don't really want a second movie to be the Cursed Earth epic; I want to see a lot more of Mega-City One and its satirical craziness. It was always the biggest star of the comic book. Cursed Earth can come later.

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 3:02 a.m. CST

    I loved Dredd! Trilogy

    by Chuck_Chuckwalla

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 3:03 a.m. CST

    Trilogy please. (Damn iPad keyboard)

    by Chuck_Chuckwalla

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 3:07 p.m. CST

    Went to Dredd 3D sunday afternoon (today)

    by rben

    not a lot of people in the theater. not a good sign. oh, and i enjoyed the movie. maybe more people at night? (?)

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 11:13 p.m. CST

    MisterDarcy (*RE: Minor Spoiler*)

    by James Taylor

    Wasn't he holding the gun to her head? He may not have been able to use it correctly, but they go big-bang real good - they don't need a bullet coming out of the end to kill you that close ;)

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 6:34 a.m. CST


    by Johnny Wrong already is a success. Both critically AND it was Box Office No.1 in a notoriously bad week in the UK. So yes, success. Sequels WILL happen.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 9:10 a.m. CST

    Harry's grammar

    by TheMachinist

    Felt like I was reading Morse code, with all the ...'s in there. Agreed on Dredd, it's one of the more badass movies out there.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 3:50 p.m. CST

    The Cursed Earth

    by Ricky302

    It won't work as a movie, people will complain (as they did with the comic) that Dredd could have flown the cure for the virus to Mega City 2 instead of having to drive all the way there.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 3:56 p.m. CST

    Great American Video Store Doc

    by I am the most horrible

    Help make this documentary great!

  • Dec. 14, 2012, 5:54 p.m. CST


    by Kim Howlen

    A great story about a boy and his dog. I loved the animation. Frankenweenie was amazing.