Saturday, September 22, 2012

Judgement is Here

The new Judge Dredd movie, Dredd 3D, stars Karl Urban as a law provider in Mega City One and Olivia Thirlby as rookie Judge Anderson. Yes, that Judge Anderson. This movie claims nothing to do with the Stallone-Assante-Schneider-Prochnow-von Sydow-Lane movie from 1995.

Judge Dredd is a British comic book first published in 1977 (making it the same age as my little brother).

The movie opens up with a brief voice-over by Urban slightly explaining the world. For those not familiar with Judge Dredd, it is a bad time to be alive. One megacity runs along the east coast from around Boston to south of the District of Columbia. Mortality rates are high, unemployment rates are high, and crime is so bad the “Judges” are created. In this dystopian future, the judicial system became so back logged that police officers were given the right to become judge, jury, and (when necessary) executioner. These are the Judges. The Judges are armed with special weapons (“lawgivers”), wear good equipment, and ride rad motorcycles (“lawmasters”). The movie does not spend much time going into the inner workings of the Judges, the hall of justice, and other background information such as those. It provides us with touch pieces we can relate to, twists them enough for us to realize they are different, and then shows them to us in this new world.

For me, that is exactly where this movie fails. The first Dredd movie made sure we understood the world. We knew what the judicial system was about. We understood what Judges were up against on a day to day basis. Here, we just know that Judges are similar to our police. We know the world is a gritty, ugly place. We do not know that the Judges are the ruling body of law in Mega City One. We do not know that Judges like Joe Dredd and his brother Rico were genetically created.

If you do not know the setting going into the movie, you will not know the setting leaving the movie.

That said, as a fan of Judge Dredd via the British comics and not the horrible DC comics, I thought the producers did several things correct. First, this movie is a “day in the life” look at what Judges go through. The movie opens with a chase sequence that ends poorly for the perp. By shooting the movie in South Africa, Americans will likely not recognize the scenery, lending it an otherworldly presence. The movie furthers the “day in the life” feel by only dealing with one real scenario – the investigation of three deaths in a “block.” There is no big, overarching metaplot about Judges losing control, ABC Warriors being used by an evil twin, or a big, dumb, resident of the Big Stinkie being reduced to a comedic sidekick whose best line is a “Cursed Earth Pizza” joke. Instead we receive a less than thirty minute intro to the movie with voice over, chase sequence, and introduction of the rookie Judge that Dredd must take out on the street and judge her performance.

That is what the comic did, issue after issue. It kept the main storyline in your face and focused. If there was a metaplot, it had to stay in the background. As a serial comic book series, it could not sit out front and hog the limelight. Yes, there were strips where the metaplot was in your face, but that was all that was in focus. It allows for the forest versus trees versus forest view.

The 3D special effects are put to great use in the movie. The bad guys control a city block, which in this case is a 200-story tall apartment complex, complete with shops and a medical center. Within this block, they produce a drug they call, “Slo-Mo.” The affects of Slo-Mo is that your brain processes everything in slow motion. The movie often switches view from our perception to that of the drug users, utilizing the 3D technology to give us insight into their world. Colors are more vibrant, streams of water can be seen instead of gouts of water, falling water droplets can be seen at different depths on screen, and the facial expressions of the users are slowed down to exaggerate the effect. There are not many combat 3D special effects in the movie. They are not needed.

Speaking of combat and violence, there is more in this movie than you might expect. If you find yourself thinking, “Oh, they won’t show that perp falling 200 stories and splatting on the deck,” you would be wrong. They do show it. They show bullets entering and exiting bodies. They show glimpses of skinning bodies. They show the remnants of those bodies that feel 200 stories and went splat. I would put the amount of violence and gore in this movie on par with Punisher:  War Zone. In fact, there is quite a resemblance between the two movies. Both are about ultra-violent ant-heroes going through a building killing bad guys. In fact, PWZ may have more plot to it than Dredd 3D.

The look and feel of the movie is dark and gritty. I have seen it referred to as “neo-noir” and it does appear to fit that moniker. We see the tall blocks, we see waste and trash, the hall of justice stands out in cleanliness and sterility. Judge Dredd has the look of a mean Dirty Harry* combined with Mad Max's leather, while rookie Judge Anderson is cleaner, more innocent looking. Shadows abound in this movie, providing depth and potential for meaning. Judge Anderson also provides subjectivity against Judge Dredd’s more black and white world-view. She has a life background that provides her the ability to see more possibilities while on the job than review, arrest, judge. The action is hard boiled with the Judges and perps playing for keeps in this non-stop action flick. You want machine guns? You get them. You want gas grenades? You get those, too. You want lawgivers that don’t like incorrectly DNA-coded hands trying to use them? Yes, you will see what happens to those perps, as well.

At the end of the day, this is a movie for fans of the Judge Dredd comic book series who want an over the top, action packed, helmet never being removed, gore fest where at the end of the day, perps are adjudicated.

*Has anyone else noticed that Arnie appears to be doing an impression of Clint Eastwood in the trailers for The Last Stand?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

South Bend Games Day player sign up is alive!

Player sign-up is live!

Players can sign up at the website [] or via email addressed to, please put South Bend Games Day in the title

Session One:  1:30pm – 5:30pm
Game One: Dragon Slayers
GM: Nick G
Rules:  Fiasco
Publisher:  Bully Pulpit Games
No familiarity required
3-4 players
“The bumpkins in this pissant mountain town could never have taken down that dragon. Their biggest hero hasn’t seen battle since Drozzek rode down from the Smoking Mountains three wars-to-end-all-wars ago. So yeah, we rode into town, a bunch of outsiders ready to solve that problem. And no, we don’t care what they think. And yes, we’re heroes. These yokels should worship at our feet. They sure as hell didn’t slay that dragon. That’s our dragon, and its gold is our gold. So unless you’re bringing us ale and wenches get the hell out before we transform you into a turkey and serve you for dinner.”

This play set, written by Logan Bonner focuses on the fallout after a group of gung-ho fantasy adventurers wipes out a mythical monster, and then sticks around to reap their well-earned rewards.

Game Two:  Legend of the 5 Rings, 4th ed
GM:  Jim
Publisher:  AEG
Rules taught, no familiarity required
Characters provided
3-4 players

Game Three:  Microscope

GM:  Lowell F
Publisher:  Lame Mage Productions
Rules taught, no familiarity required
3-5 players
A collaborative history-building rpg/social game. Depending on # of players we may use a slightly streamlined approach for scenes. Players will decide on the kind of world and then craft a history for it over the course of play.

Game Four:  Who Dun It?? A Mystery

World of Darkness (2nd and 3rd edition, NOT new WoD)
Published by White Wolf
Full understanding of the rules required
Number of Players: 4-7
A Werewolf, Vampire, Demon, Mage, Fae, Wraith, and a Hunter wake up in a mysterious, old mansion, unaware of who they are or how they got there. Or even why they haven’t tried to kill each other yet! Can they figure out how to get out of their perplexing prison, and why they chose to meet in the first place before the crumbling mansion disappears into the Maelstrom of the Lower Umbra over which it floats and destroys them all?

A who-done-it, locked room mystery, set deep in the bowels of the World of Darkness. Come; sit and despair with us.

Session Two:  7pm – 11pm
Game Five:  Savage Worlds
GM: Rich
Savage Worlds from Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Rules taught
3-5 players

Game Eight:  Star Fleet Battles :  Survivor!
GM:  Randy B
Publisher:  Amarillo Design Bureau
Basic rules understanding needed
4+ players
A hostile dilithium crystalline entity has assimilated a nearby convoy. Multiple ships from different empires have been sent to collect vast amounts of loot. Can you survive the monster and each other?

Game Seven:  The Tribute
GM:  Jason F
Pathfinder RPG by Paizo Publishing
Basic familiarity required, characters provided
4-6 Players
The Feast of the Dragon is interrupted by news that the envoy carrying the dragon’s tribute was ambushed! There are survivors, but the tribute must be paid. A 7th level Pathfinder.

Game Eight:  Eclipse Phase:  Mind the WMD
GM:  Derek S
Publisher:  Posthuman Press
Rules taught, no familiarity needed
Characters provided, percentile dice required
3-4 players
An introductory adventure into the world of Eclipse Phase. The party is sent on a mission investigating rumors of a black market weapons dealer offering some sort of devastating weapons technology for sale.